Learn While Doing: Course Innovations in Real Time

Published by Brett Christie, PhD
on Mar 30, 2021

We recently learned there are approximately 20,000 learning designers in the US compared to over 1,500,000 faculty creating online courses. 

Additionally, a study we conducted last summer with 475 higher ed faculty revealed:

  • Nearly half were simply mirroring their face-to-face instruction
  • Only 22% were designing their courses differently for online
  • More than 40% had never taught online or had only taught online for one to two terms

But here’s an even more startling fact: faculty were spending nearly 49 hours prepping an online course for the first time. Converting an existing course for online? Twenty-three hours. 

With this reality, how do higher ed institutions support faculty development in a way that scales both the reach and effectiveness? In our recent webinar, Learn While Doing: Course Innovations in Real Time, O’Donnell Learn CEO and Founder Carrie O’Donnell and I share best practices, models, and tools for creating a campus-wide shared understanding around learning design – and keeping the development momentum going once it starts.

Formal faculty training is typically provided through seminars, bootcamps, showcases, online how-tos, FAQs, guides, etc. According to Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist who specialized in memory and learning, retention for this style of training drops to 75% after just one day. In fact, his “Forgetting Curve” shows retention plummeting to 30% within a week and after just one month it’s less than 15%. Not a great outlook for programs scheduled in June and course development beginning after the summer break.

The good news? While Ebbinghaus’ research was based on personal experience versus empirical date, ongoing research to date (including that of John Dewey and Roger Shank) has demonstrated that taking a “learn by doing” approach and staging it out over time dramatically increases learning and retention. Best of all, learn by doing is not difficult to implement. Simple changes to include hands-on, active learning, collaboration, social learning, microlearning, and 1:1 support can go a long way to increasing retention and affecting change.

Creating a Shared Understanding Around Learning Design

Purposeful Learning Check is essentially the starting point for our Purposeful Learning Framework. This key tool helps faculty rate their courses based on 30 purposeful learning objectives and determine which areas to improve first by coming away with a Course Enhancement Plan. The goal is making consistent and incremental course enhancements throughout the term, learning what works, and iterating adjustments as needed.

The Purposeful Learning Check is a free and open resource for higher education. It provides an excellent first step to creating a shared understanding around learning design on your campus. Register to explore this and the entire Purposeful Learning Framework module on our Learn Platform.

Jumpstart Bootcamp provides a cohort of faculty with a learn by doing sequence of modules around course development. It combines formal training, hands-on learning and real-time 1:1 support. Participants experience learn by doing best practices through the lens of the student in bite-sized synchronous and asynchronous segments. When the bootcamp wraps, each participant leaves with an individualized Course Enhancement Plan and an in-depth understanding of how to create effective learning experiences. 

Lunch & Learns offer an excellent opportunity for peer-to-peer learning and sharing following formalized, group training. Grounded in community and practice, this ‘bite-sized topics’ model helps keep the momentum (and retention) up with ongoing demonstrations or showcases of applying what was learned to existing challenges St. Francis College actively uses this model to expand their Jumpstart training beyond the core participants to other faculty.

Microlearning is designed to provide learning in context, giving the learner what is needed ‘now’ to move forward. Microlearning presents bite-sized segments of content followed by an opportunity for the learner to try what they just learned. For example, for faculty development, this might look like a series around using low stakes assessments to improve the learning experience. What’s learned can immediately be assimilated into faculty’s current courses. To see an example of microlearning in action, explore the Purposeful Learning Framework module mentioned earlier. 

These are just a few models that can be used to begin developing an institution-wide shared understanding about learning design best practices. Remember, scaling your efforts to support faculty will be most successful through an on-going, intentional approach designed for incremental growth over time. 

A replay of the entire webinar is available here.

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“See each other for the humanity that holds us” Lessons in Trauma Informed Pedagogy from Mays Imad

Published By Cathryn Mattimore
on Oct 20, 2021

O’Donnell Learn recently hosted a webinar led by Mays Imad, Ph.D. as a part of its recent Purposeful Learning Festival focused on mental health and wellness. Dr. Imad is a thought leader in trauma-informed pedagogy and a professor at Pima Community College based in Tucson, Arizona where she is also the coordinator of the Teaching & Learning Center. As a current Master’s of Education student at Northeastern University who also lives with mental illness, I was excited to learn more about using the classroom, virtual or traditional, as a safe place for learners to heal and grow. I met virtually with Dr. Imad to hear more about her teaching philosophy, beliefs surrounding mental health, and ways to ensure student success in uncertain times.

Higher Ed Has the Toolset, But Do They Have the Mindset to Future-fit?

Published By Joana Jebsen
on Aug 12, 2021

Imagine a fresh-faced eighteen year old, naive to the great big world ahead, hoping for an acceptance into an accredited two or four year college. They’re navigating the long hall towards their college counselor’s office, reviewing the list of schools in their mind, while envisioning a future of friends, inspiring courses and eventually a career, a life. College, whether community or four year, will be their first steps towards adulthood, towards maturity, or so they think.  What they don't know, what they aren’t told, is that most higher education is unequipped to prepare them for life. The real responsibilities they’ll meet when they exit campus are not delineated, explored or taught in school.  To make matters more complicated, the notion of the “traditional student” no longer exists. Students are opting out of four year residential colleges for two year schools and online programs. They’re also delaying the start of college in pursuit of a career. Additionally, there’s been an enormous uptick in adult learners, with families, who start school later, or attend school in tandem with a job. It’s clear: there’s a broken talent pipeline. And an enormous question: is higher education fit for the future?

Looking Back/Learning Forward: Lessons For the Now Normal

Published By Brett Christie, PhD
on Jul 20, 2021

Looking Back, Learning Forward, a motto and mindset to utilize as we envision the future of distance education and fuse historic learning practices with modern lifestyles. I recently co-hosted a webinar with Dr. Jim Julius, Faculty Director of Online Learning at Mira Costa College, where we walked a group of educators through insights gathered over the last fourteen months of online learning. If one thing is clear, it is that it’s been a journey for everyone: faculty, students, education consultants, learning designers, institutional leadership, and families alike.