Adaptive Learning

adaptiveLearningRealizeITI was intrigued today as I listened to the presentation Adaptive Learning: Learning Theory and Real Application from Online Learning Consortium International Conference .  As we continue to gather data from learners as they use several kinds of media to learn online, this type of course design seems more possible, certainly more personalized. One article explaining adaptive learning rather than personalized learning more fully. The Great Adaptive Learning Experiment helped me sort some of the ideas presented.

You’ve got something to read, something to watch and a few multiple choice questions to answer. I think we can innovate there….

Let’s say you want to teach engineers how to build a bridge,” he said. “Do you want them to read something, watch something and then answer a multiple choice quiz, or do you want them to build a bridge with a simulator that gives them specific feedback and specific activity based on that?”

I’m hoping adaptive learning is an experiment in creating simulated problem solving and students doing rather than a sophisticated feedback machine. I remember the “individualized instruction” offered by computers more than a decade ago. They didn’t help students who were struggling with concepts.

…many of the offerings are just binary ‘if you get this question wrong you go here; if you get it right, you go there’ kinds of things. True adaptivity isn’t just about understanding that the kid got the question wrong, but why the kid got the question wrong.” the

I’m pleased we’re experimenting with possibilities. Data from learners engaging online will tell us what works.

image is from Knewton platform

When Do You Create your Online Course?

When I talked with a group of faculty at the Teaching Professor Technology Conference October 11, I asked TPtech14pollthis question in a poll, When Do You Create your Online Course?  Only some of the people responded, but I was not surprised by the results. 36% of the responses were “while I am teaching the course” because in their reality, they were asked to teach, online or in-person, only weeks before the course began.

My presentation was about “What’s Different about Teaching Online.” After polling the audience, I talked about the 12 week course we had developed over three years for faculty to help them prepare to teach online. The same reality struck course participation. Many dedicated faculty could not continue to commit that much time to learning to teach online when they were already teaching, often with an overload.

At the same time the way we communicate personally and professionally began to change. Our communication technologies made it possible to connect with each other seamlessly and often.

What information is essential for faculty learning to teach in this new open networked world? What type of Just-in-time information about teaching can make a difference in the way they establish communication with and among their students?

people sharing contact info through smart phones

In the online classroom, it is the relationships and interactions among people through which knowledge is primarily generated.
Palloff, R.M. & Pratt, K.(2007).Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom, (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Wiley, p. 15)

Ultimately e-learning is not about technology, it is about flexibility, connections, and community…sound pedagogical ideas must be merged with the astounding capabilities of the new and emerging communication technologies.
Garrison, D.R. (2011). E-Learning in the Twenty-First Century (2nd ed.)  New York, NY: Taylor & Francis. (pp. 73-74).

I wish I already had the answers to the best way to support faculty learning to teach with connected learning principles using the networked world. It will be an intriguing exploration of collaborations in design.

Why Now?

Hypermedia: Why Now?
by Jon Udell
…for the most part, publishers can just assume that an internet-connected computer will play sound as well as video. This was a long time coming, but we’re finally there.

…merely reading isn’t enough. Deep skill in reading cannot be attained without deep skill in writing. Thus we teach not only attention to others’ words, but adaptive skills and strategies in creating those words ourselves. Now, students are going to film school not simply to land a job in the film industry, but to master the skills and strategies of sophisticated visual and aural communications.
We’re living through a radical transformation of our communications environment. Since we don’t have the benefit of hindsight, we don’t really know where it’s taking us. And one thing we’ve learned from the history of communications technology is that people tend to overestimate the short-term impact of new technologies — and to underestimate their long-term implications….”
…a transition from a world in which the PC really was the computer, to one in which the network is effectively the computer. It has led to the emergence of “cloud computing” … by John Naughton

books on a shelf

What’s possible now in education that has not been possible? Each of us can create and publish our own story. We can use text, images, audio, music, and video to our unique purpose. Five years ago we had text. Downloads were impossible in the remote places I was teaching. The difference between reading a text and having the author read to you is, for me, huge in gaining the understanding the author is trying to convey. Now add an image or a movie of the story, accompanied by the music that touches our imagination as we watch and listen. Then share the lecture that tells the opposing view.

The best part of this as an educator is that I can have my students listen and watch the best of the lecturers, the best of the thoughtful practitioners, and the worst. I can comment, make connections, and help students see the difference in the information being presented as true, whether the medium is text or “sophisticated visual and aural communications.” In that conversation, we learn. The network allows many perspectives to be heard in that conversation. We can ask our students to retell the story in their own medium, and remix the concepts to fit their own understanding in context. The network of listeners in the open conversation will be sure to add their opinion if the new story doesn’t fit.

As Naughton suggests, print changed who learned. Books made it possible to hear the conversation when you couldn’t hear the lecture. This new networked “radical transformation of our communications environment.” will certainly change the place where we learn. How will we imagine teaching in this environment??




What’s Coming

The Teaching Professor Technology Conference audience loved Alec Couros’ message. I, too, enjoyed his talk and his message about networked, connected learners — what’s possible and what’s coming.

My presentation about the differences in teaching online was also well received, but in the response to both talks, I heard “It will take a decade for the rest of us to catch up to these ideas” about connected learning and networked open courses. Yet the conference program had great ideas, especially about blended learning strategies and blogging, active learning and collaboration. The enthusiasm of the people attending was obvious in their questions and comments. The teachers I’ve met in my several years of attending conferences and working as a faculty consultant have always been interested in doing the best job they could for their students. I hope the concepts of open, connected learning and blending course activities between the classroom [virtual & f2f] and the web will be adopted more quickly than predicted, as the communication tools evolve. The yet unimagined possibilities hold much promise.

Create Connected Significant Learning

As I read more about the Principles of Connected Learning, I find they map well to the models of learning design we’ve been using. For example,  Significant Learning is one taxonomy model for describing types of learning developed by Dr. L. Dee Fink, author of Creating Significant Learning Experiences (Jossey-Bass, 2003).  Significant Learning

significant learning model

“What do you really want your students to know – to become – as a result of your class? One, two, five, or 20 years later, what influence should your class still be having?”

Fink suggests six potential categories of goals:

Foundational knowledge: Content, information, ideas.
Application: Skills, critical thinking, creative thinking, problem solving, managing.
Integration: Connecting your class to the rest of their lives.
Human dimension: What should students learn about themselves or other people?
Caring: Developing new interests, understanding values.
Learning how to learn: Becoming life-long learners, knowing how and where to find more information and how to use that information.

The principles of Connected Learning are Interest Powered, Peer Supported, Shared Purpose, Academically Oriented, Production Centered, and Openly Networked. Both sets of principles are based on connecting learning activities directly to the people and events in our lives, both in and out of classrooms. The value added with Connected Learning is being openly networked across the world with other learners and other experts, exploring their perspectives and values, creating the Human Dimension. Connected learning makes significant learning more achievable for our students.

Gives Prompt Feedback

Getting feedback on a performance feels great if it’s positive.

“Gives Prompt Feedback” is one of the Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education (Chickering & Gamson, 1987)

Knowing what you know and don’t know focuses learning. Students need appropriate feedback on performance to benefit from courses. When getting started, students need help in assessing existing knowledge and competence. In classes, students need frequent opportunities to perform and receive suggestions for improvement. At various points during college, and at the end, students need chances to reflect on what they have learned, what they still need to know, and how to assess themselves.

Providing ways for students to assess their own work and the work of their peers would help them learn to critique and understand the critiquing process. Peer/self assessment won’t always replace feedback from an expert but it can certainly be helpful to use specific criteria and focus questions when learning the process of evaluating your own work compared to others.

What is a simple way to present these criteria and questions for students to use? Forms could work. I’m searching for good questions. I’m also wondering if the feedback given would help other students if it were available? Open assessment feedback is a larger question…

Open, free access to quality learning – Our Goal?

I’ve been reading several articles suggested by the I’ve quoted a few ideas below that begin to define my thinking in response.

The principles of connected learning suggest “student experiences of social connection, self-expression, relevance, and interests … are at the core of connected learning.” Describing the Why of Connected Learning

“Learning will come unbundled from the pursuit of a degree just as songs came unbundled from CDs.”

“Demand for knowledge is so enormous that good, free online materials can attract extraordinary numbers of people from all over the world”

“The audience for education [is] people ill-served or completely shut out from the current system…”

“It’s possible to educate a thousand people at a time, in a single class, all around the world, for free”

Napster, Udacity, and the Academy by Clay Shirky

Much like Clay Shirky’s example of listening to live musicians vs recorded music, how do we reproduce the individual feedback of an expert when we are learning? If you define teaching as content presentation, then offering the lectures of fascinating experts is much like listening to recorded music, valuable and inspiring, and often better than many faculty could provide. We can provide focus questions and examples of possible responses. We can automate feedback on exams. We can provide activities that support student learning by having them produce and do authentic problem solving. Peer and self assessment techniques can be a valuable means of supporting learning.

How can we “unbundle” teaching from content presentation and certification? Quality teaching is about helping individual students in particular make connections among concepts, giving feedback on student products, diagnosing difficulties with learning, facilitating the conversation among a community of co-learners, supporting peer collaboration, providing direct instruction in response to student questions in the moment  … How many students can one teacher teach?

We can now provide open access to organized content and continue to improve that access. How can we provide a space for thousands of learners to become a commons – a community of practice/inquiry –  for peer collaboration and individual feedback from an expert?  We know meaningful connection to a faculty member/mentor matters to students’ success. How do we make it possible to also teach to the many?


Why I Teach

Just listened to Mike Wesch’s question — Why we need a “Why?”   when we teach. I’ll attempt to describe my personal Why?

There was a time, decades past, when I was criticized because there was too much movement and talking in my classroom. I had moved my students’ desks out of rows and into groups so students could talk with each other (cooperative learning, serious play) about data and how they might represent it in graphs.

Even though it was messier and certainly noisier, I felt then that the students, especially the English Second Language students, were doing authentic problem solving and asking questions together — learning.  Connected Learning describes this principle as Peer supported. It involves curiosity and fun, shared purpose and doing. It was the conversation that made the difference — the conversation about why.

That was the year I purposely questioned my choice to teach as a profession. And decided I would continue to study teaching and learning. That was the same year they added a computer lab… It’s been an amazing journey and I’m pleased to be part of this current conversation that emphasizes the construction of knowledge by learners studying together.


Using Contracts and Forms to Support Groups

Peer-Supported. Connected learning encourages participation in peer-led learning, assessment, and feedback. Peers often are the better sources of performance feedback. In addition, working well with others is a prerequisite for success in the increasingly team-oriented work environment. But groups are not necessarily automatically successful. In our site forum, Dianne Simons provides an excellent description of how she organizes groups in her courses.

I provide clear small group expectations on two levels – task and interpersonal (product and process) and I use peer review forms that “spell out” those expectations… the secret of small group learning is to prepare students and to make the expectations explicit. It is also to “teach” that the groups are intentionally designed to address product and process.

Students do not always have positive experiences working in a group. By providing information about ways to establish working communication among group members, we prepare them to understand the process of small group formation and the best ways to create a product together.

An example of a group contract:people sharing contact info through smart phones

(1) How will you communicate?

(2) How often will you be expected to check for any updates from your group members/teammates?

(3) Will there be a permanent group leader?

(4) Who will be assigned to post the group’s assignment solutions per the due date policy in our syllabus?

(5) What will be your group’s policy, if any, on absences and covering for one another if need be?

(6) What policy will you have in place in case of resolving any intra-group conflict that may arise?

(7) Any other issues you deem as important


We often find that being able to critique the engagement of the other members of our small group eliminates the possibility of one member benefiting from the work of the group without contributing. It also provides an opportunity to learn critiquing skills.

This example set of Peer Review questions can help describe your expectations of group work and gather information about individual student involvement with their group, separate from project grades. These questions can be provided as a document to students, but a Google form and linked spreadsheet can make the process of Peer Review easy to organize that keeps student responses anonymous.

• Use one (1) peer review form for rating each group member. For example, if your group has 5
members, you would need to complete 4 review forms (1 for each of your peers).
• Complete your forms on your own. Do not “grade-fix” with other group members. Orchestrating high reviews for each other will not benefit you if you have done much of the work.
• Rate each member’s contributions to the project by circling the rating (1 to 5) which corresponds best to the person’s performance.
• Be honest. Accurate ratings will help differentiate the grades received in accordance with each
person’s contribution. Giving everyone the same rating probably is unrealistic and will not help reward the better performers for their efforts.
• Your peer review forms are due along with the group project.

This link provides the Google form with possible questions. Make a copy, edit questions, and rename for your own use in your own Google drive. Form settings must be unchecked. Confirmation page settings:  Do check “Show link to submit another response” so students can fill out the form for each member of their group. Do NOT check “Publish and show a public link to form results” to keep responses anonymous. or “Allow responders to edit responses after submitting”

Please share your own strategies for establishing Peer-Supported work by commenting on this post or adding your ideas to the forum in Participate.

Joining Connected Courses

Today I moved my blog space here to ALT Lab I’m exploring the practice of open narration of my thinking and work, as well as learning more about connected learning principles and syndicated course sites. I’ve also signed up to participate in the since it’s all about exploring “how openness and collaboration can improve your practice and help you develop new, open approaches.” If you’d like to participate as well, learn more

I’m excited about the conversations!