Sept 18, 2008
E-Coaching Tip 60 (#2 Fall 2008)
Personalizing Learning Content so that Students Grow with the Course Experiences
Is your course meaningful to your students or are they just swimming through a pool of content? When the course ends, will they wipe themselves off and toss a content towel aside, scattering the bits and pieces of your course about and emerge with no perceptible content growth or new skills?
In teaching we always struggle between the challenge of either (1) "covering" the content or (2) engaging the learners in problem-solving and simulations. On the one hand, we can "cover" the content with students only developing "awareness"'; on the other hand, designing for personalized and customized problem-solving and projects can leave students "clueless" about some aspects of the discipline. What to do?
Here are a few bullet points from the plethora of pedagogical advice for addressing the challenge of "covering content" and engaging and personalizing learning." One or two of these might really hit the mark for you and your course!
Recall that all students and particularly, working professionals and adults " bring their own personalized knowledge, skills, and attitudes to the learning experience." (Boettcher, 2003) While it can be very time-consuming to get to know all the students and apply and link content for the students, adult students can be challenged and tasked to do much of this for themselves and as members of small teams. Looking for a great story about the value of a key concept such as making use of the new social networking tools for communications in business? Challenge your students! Or maybe just a team of two!
Types of Content Resources -- Ensuring the Learning of Core Concepts
What can you do to increase student engagement and integration of the course content, but still ensure that students are aware of the core concepts? Here's one strategy: Take a fresh look at your course content and identify the core concepts and principles. All other course content is application, practice and integration. All content is not equal or particularly important!
One model for examining the content in your course is shown in the graphic called Types of Content Resources.
The innermost layer represents the core concepts in a course. This is foundational content. (If you examine your course, you might determine no more than ten core concepts that truly form the framework and are undeniably fundamental concepts.) The second content layer focuses on initial practice experiences applying the core concepts to simple problems; the third, experiences using the core concepts to solve novel problems; and the fourth, experiences of students' own choosing applying concepts.
The goal for all students is to master a slightly off-center slice of the pie that includes the whole of the core concepts. The dotted lines indicate the slice of the course content that one student might master. As a student develops expertise in the content experiences, a student will increasingly be directing and customizing the learning according to their own needs and priorities. This content approach also illustrates the power of the learning community in a course as learners tap into different sections of the body of content. Student lives and experiences bring some content to the foreground; other content remains in the background and might not be part of any one course.
The Future of Personalizing Learning -- For the Experienced Online Instructor
Ongoing technological research on tools and strategies for personalizing learning are working on some of the following tools for our future teaching and learning:
Do you have teaching strategies that you find effective in personalizing and customizing learning? Write to us (Judith Boettcher and Rita-Marie Conrad) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aleven, V., Sewall, J., McLaren, B. M., & Koedinger, K. R. (2006). Rapid authoring of intelligent tutors for real-world and experimental use. In Kinshuk, R. Koper, P. Kommers, P. Kirschner, D. G. Sampson, & W. Didderen (Eds.), Proceedings of the 6th IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (ICALT 2006), (pp. 847-851). Los Alamitos, CA: http://ctat.pact.cs.cmu.edu/pubs/CTAT-ICALT2006.pdf
Boettcher, J. V. (1998). Let's Boldly Go... to the Education Holodeck. Syllabus. Vol. 11: 18 - 22. Watch for this at www.designingforlearing.info/
Boettcher, J. V. (2003). Course management systems and learning principles --- Getting to know each other…. Syllabus. 16: 33-36. http://www.campustechnology.com/article.asp?id=7888
Chung Lee, Johnny. Head Tracking for Desktop VR Displays using the WiiRemote http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd3-eiid-Uw (J. Lee is from Human-Computer Interactive Lab at Carnegie Mellon U.)
E-Coaching Tip 43 (Summer 2007) Customizing and Personalizing Learning
Ecoaching Table of Contents