When I reflect about what we had talked about this past week in Alec’s class (accessibility, cultural/ideological/philosophical and pedagogical considerations), I cannot help but compare to the approach taken by dental professionals when promoting oral health to their patients. This approach is universal for all health professionals when providing care. Not all patients have equal access to care. Many experience barriers such as income, lack of services in their community, social support, education, coping skills, age, gender and culture to name a few. As practitioners, we must investigate what obstacles stand in our patient’s way in obtaining optimal health. We gather information about their health, any concerns they may have and use our assessment findings to come up with a care plan for their needs. This may require testing and collaborating with others to determine what is required. We need to communicate in terminology they understand and if they do not speak the same language, use pictures, interpreters or other means to effectively get our message across. We then evaluate if our care plan was successful and outcomes were reached. If they were not, we modify our approach and try again. Outcomes are more successful when patients are involved in this process so they take ownership of their problems and develop critical thinking skills so they make healthier choices. We cannot use a “recipe card” approach for everyone because our patient’s needs are all different.
The same can be said for educators understanding what is preventing their students from meeting the desired learning outcomes. When developing curriculum, accessibility issues must be considered. Our learners may require accommodations to how we deliver content or evaluate them. They may have cultural beliefs against using technology or may not have the understanding on how to use it. Everyone needs are unique and education must be personalized!
Each student learns differently. We all know that students have unique learning styles and learn at different rates. They excel when their preference of learning is used. Some like structure while others prefer flexibility. Our learners are becoming more culturally diverse because of globalization. Personalization takes into account each students needs, skill level and learning abilities. This can pose many challenges when educators are designing and developing courses. Pedagogical considerations are still required regardless of how the content is delivered. The one constant complaint that I hear about online content is that it is less personal or interactive since the learner may be taking the course independently and asynchronously. Students may not have the ability to interact with others in the class but is this the fault of the mode of online delivery or how it was developed? Are we using the online tools available to promote interactions and allow students to be engaged and take ownership of their own learning? As conditions change and technologies advance, we must design content that is engaging and interactive. It is no different when we lecture face to face and do not give students opportunities to work in groups, ask questions or participate in discussions with the teacher and other students. Students can learn from one another and the teacher can also learn from the students.
The article entitled “Designing learning and assessment in a digital age” provides a guide that focuses on elements of learning and assessment in a digital environment. The article introduces a model of online learning and highlights four necessary components: Discover, Dream, Design and Deliver. We need to discover important aspects of our learners that may affect how content is delivered. We need to dream of where we are trying to accomplish, design and deliver how we are going to get there.
Within the article, a learning design process is recommended as illustrated below. Within this design process the learning environment, intended learning outcomes, learners and other people are considered when creating a digital learning environment. This is personalizing the learning for the intended audience so that learning outcomes can become realized. All stakeholders need to be considered and supported and this includes not only the students but the educators as well.
When Lori and I created our online Interprofessional course we used a survey to investigate our students’ needs and explore any potential barriers that they may encounter accessing our course. Is this possible to do each year? Maybe not, however, as educators we must ask ourselves if using the same delivery modality is practical for the new learners we are trying to engage. When students are not progressing as expected, we must look at the reasons why this is happening and try to personalize our approach for that type of learner. This is not easy and requires a lot of effort. Trying to motivate the unmotivated is never easy. Try getting people to floss on a daily basis! The strategy I employ is motivational interviewing. This requires you to involve patients in their own learning and goal setting. If they understand why it is important, how it can lead to a better outcome and be involved in the process, they will more likely change their behavior. We need to give students more control over their learning environment and step back from being the “expert” in the field. Simply supplying information in a lecture type environment does not work for everyone. Using multiple formats and delivery methods makes learning less routine and redundant. Educators should be more like coaches helping guide their students along the way. This is more practical for adult learners but we are trying to get them to be life-long learners for their continued growth and development. Online and blended courses will be more successful if our learners have these essential skills. Since many students are not exposed to online courses at younger ages, we need to start developing these skills at a younger age. Students are already familiar with using the internet, communicating with one another remotely and researching information from a variety of different online sources. We just need to ensure they apply those same skills in an online learning environment. Our workforce will also be able to adapt and evolve to an ever-changing landscape.
The article, “Personalized eLearning: A Customized Approach to Accelerated eLearning” provides recommendations on how to design online content in a personalized way. It suggests that educators personalize their welcome message for each student. Jake Heimpel from D2L showed us this feature when he reviewed Brightspace. Other ways to personalize content include: allowing students to choose their own avatar, flexibility in content sources or evaluation methods such as blogs and social media, personalization with the use of photos and goal setting and recognition of everyone’s own unique individual competencies with the use of customized evaluation methods and remediation assignments. Students need to be more involved in the learning process and feel that the content has been delivered for them personally. As the article states, “The age of “standardization” and “One-size-fits-all” no longer applies. Today, especially where technology is so ubiquitous in every aspect of our lives, “personalization” has become very important – be it in manufacturing, services or retail business. Personalization is needed to make a product or service more endearing to the target audience, and this is especially true for eLearning.” Educators play a valuable role to ensure the content created meets the needs of every learner.