Friday, September 17, 2010

Looking ahead to the end (of the year)..

I was taking a look at my 2010 list of things to think about. Towards the top of the list are:

+ get started on becoming a storyteller

+ figure out what the workflow for designing a 508 compatible elearning course is

+ research the role humanism plays in the (e)learning experience

There are other things on my list but these are the heavy hitters because, well, they've caused me some amount of pain over the last year or two. Take storytelling for example. You, me, and every one else on the planet have a lifetime's worth of experience we take with us everywhere we go; our life experience is a kind of story that, to one degree or another, we hide or share with others. I'm keenly interested in the latter: sharing stories. I think there are two significant ways that stories can be shared. The first way to share a story is over a campfire with friends or at bedtime with a loved one; hopefully you've had the chance to experience on or the other or both. The second way I think a life story can be shared is during a learning experience. If I can fashion a learning environment where information is presented in such a way that it touches on some experience in your story then, perhaps, the learning can come easier, last longer, and be applied to some problem or opportunity quicker.

Here's where I'm going with this: when I was a boy mama used to tell me the story at bedtime about the grasshopper and the ant. Maybe you've heard of it. The moral of the story, I think, is that a lifetime of hard-work and thrift offer significant rewards later in life. The problem, for me anyway, is that at the time I heard the story I hadn't lived much life yet: my story didn't include much within it that the bedtime story could touch. It wasn't until some years later that I figured it out. In my case, with this learning experience, the learning didn't come easy and I wasn't able to apply it to my life until quite a bit of time had passed.

Another thing I want to figure out is how to design an elearning course that meets the needs of my target population of learners. 508 is an amendment to the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 508 mandates that digital information be accessible to people with disabilities. It has had some significance during my professional life: I produce courses that people take online to learn stuff. To be able to learn what a course contains a learner has to be able to access and experience the information within it. Lately though 508 has caused me some amount of consternation.

Here's what I mean: say I'm asked to produce a course to show someone how to become a harbor pilot. One of the things a harbor pilot has to be able to do well is guide ships into and out of a harbor. Could someone who is blind be a harbor pilot? I don't know the answer to that one but let's say that the answer was no. If the course had to be 508 compliant does the learning experience have to be dentical for persons who are blind and persons who can see? I don't have a good answer to this one either. What I've done to date is design courses that were mainly text-based that screen readers would have no problem with.

Is producing an elearning course in this manner best practice? I don't think so. This is why I'm trying to figure out what a workflow would be for determining when and how a course should and can be 508 compliant: effective and accessible. I'd like to be able to use simulations in more of the courses I produce, but I haven't quite figured out how to reach everyone yet.

The third thing I want to figure out before the end of the year is actually going to be the subject of my dissertation research project: how to make elearning courses more human. By this I mean how might an elearning course be designed so that a wider audience than exists now could learn from it. Most of the elearning courses I produce are taken by learners that never come into contact with other learners; more often than not there isn't even an instructor. Some learners don't perform well using this model. I want to learn if there is a way to make the online learning experience more accessible, in meaningful ways, to a wider audience. Part of this involves helping the learner feel less isolated during their learning experience.

I hope to report out what I learn about these topics in this blog between now and the end of the year.


1 comment:

  1. Have you thought about integrating a social graph into the elearning experience? For example Facebook Connect or Google Friend Connect. That would allow the learning experience to be more social and collaborative. You could share notes, references, and links with each other and have discussions.