From World War 1 to Cryptocurrency: A Tale of Two Learning Modules
Joan Jensen, Tammy Korgie, John Niklos and James Waldron
St. Joseph’s University
ODL 600, LLG 5, Spring 2018
On behalf of the our learning group, LLG 5, welcome to our blog! We are eager to share our thoughts with you about the two learning modules we reviewed and the greater context of adult learning. So let’s get started.
Who We Are and How We Learn
First, we’ll introduce ourselves through our learning styles as determined by the Kolb Learning Style Inventory (Kolb & Kolb, 2018). This way, you’ll better understand our individual lenses and preferences.
Joan: My learning style is Experiencing, which means I find meaning from deep involvement in experience. The learning strengths of the Experiencing style are: open to new experiences; strong intuition focused on reflection and action; and building deep personal relationships. Challenges are: understanding theory; systematic planning; and critical evaluation. My learning flexibility score was 0.89.
John: Balancing is my learning style: the ability to adapt; weighing the pros and cons of acting versus reflecting and experiencing versus thinking. It balances Concrete Experience (CE), Abstract Conceptualization (AC), Active Experimentation (AE) and Reflective Observation (RO). The learning strengths of Balancing are: flexibility in moving around the learning cycle; the ability to work with diverse groups of people; and creative insights. The learning challenges are: indecisiveness; potential to become a jack of all trades, master of none; and sustained commitment. My flexibility score is 0.84. Learning is fascinating to me and I adapt my learning style to the situation to ensure that the ultimate goal of learning is always achieved.
Tammy: My learning style is also Balancing. Balancers can switch their approach as needed between thinking, feeling, acting, and reflecting. This flexibility is an advantage in the varied learning situations of school, work, and daily life. However, the indecisiveness that comes with it can be a drawback to choosing or getting started. My learning flexibility score was 0.83; I show the most flexibility toward Acting, Experiencing, Reflecting, and Analyzing.
James: My learning style is Imagining, by observing and reflecting on experiences, I can imagine possibilities. Learning strengths of the Imagining style include: awareness of people’s feelings and values; listening with an open mind; and imagining the implications of ambiguous situations. Challenges are: decision making; taking leadership; and timely action. My learning flexible score was 0.96 which means that I tend to modify my learning style to meet the demands of different situations.
What We Reviewed
Module 1: A Brief History of Money: a MOOC on bitcoin and decentralized digital currency, from the University of Nicosia. This was a video of the professor on YouTube, and was a straight lecture with no graphics or visual aids. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UBzOPLRXSg
Module 2: World History - World War 1 and Its Aftermath: a free online course from Khan Academy, found on Alison.com. In this course, we could not see the professor, we could only hear him. It was a combination of text, maps, photos and a SmartBoard, where the professor could write and it would show up on the screen. https://alison.com/course/world-history-world-war-1-and-its-aftermath
Initial Impressions of Module 1: the BitCoin Module
Tammy: Wow, what an introduction! Too long. The course was 80 minutes long, and about 26 minutes of it was introduction about the course and information about the university. In defense of this long introduction, it was the first session. However, for an online course, it may be a good idea to make a separate introductory video. My attention waned from the beginning.
Joan: The introduction, as well as the question-and-answer segment that followed, could have been explained in a quicker way with more detail if there were more visuals or a PowerPoint. The time felt as though it was dragging. I was anxious for him to get to the point of the lecture.
James: Agreed. Most of it was introduction and background of the school and program. The information he presented was based on questions from the students who were watching live. There was really no structure to the lesson, no agenda. I felt that there wasn’t enough information presented to warrant watching for over an hour.
John: It was not worth watching for me. Actually, it was a little arduous! I had to re-watch certain parts several times because it just wasn’t engaging. And there weren’t cited facts. A lot of “I thinks” and “I believes” and “maybes.” However, I have some knowledge on Blockchain and cryptocurrency so I have higher expectations.
Tammy: I’m the opposite of John in that I know very little about BitCoin. It’s a topic I should know about, but I just can’t make myself interested! Although there were bits of information I found interesting, I found my mind wandering and I’d have to constantly pull myself back in. If he would have used visuals or other techniques to bring students back to attention, it would have been more effective.
James: I was shocked that there were over 4000 students taking the class! I do think that the facilitator did a nice job of explaining the reasoning for someone to learn this information. Sharan Merriam and Laura Bierema point out that adults need to know why they need to learn something and how to take that new knowledge and apply it to their lives (2014).
Joan: I found the questions and answers to be interesting; however, there wasn’t a sense of emotional connection. He could have added images, videos, or simulations of some sort to help our brains, which recognize symbols and images first, then words and logic: “a picture is worth a thousand words” (Taylor & Marienau, 2016, p. 74).
Initial Impressions of Module 2: the WW1 Module
John: While I didn’t care for this course at all, I really did like how he switched up visuals. He used colors as identifiers. I like his voice. It wasn’t boring. I love that it was broken down into modules. It had sections. Each piece was digestible. It kept the course from seeming overwhelming or too long. The platform, however, was not good. Too many ads!
Joan: For putting years of war information in just a short hour presentation, I think he did a great job. I was “ready to learn” and eager to complete this task for our assignment (Merriam and Bierema, 2014, p. 47). Watching the presentation, my interest did drift somewhat, but overall it had great value.
James: I really enjoyed this course. It was a great overview of WWI without getting too bogged down on details. The content was interesting and the use of visuals helped to get his point across. It is worth the time invested if the viewer has no knowledge of the subject. If the viewer has more than the basic amount of knowledge, they might not find it very informative.
John: I love history. I just couldn’t get into this. I guess to some extent I still expect online or virtual courses to provide some of the same excitement and engagement found in traditional learning environments. Maybe a fun little quiz after each section or throughout each section. Icons and funny photos would have been cool too.
Tammy: I really did like this course: the way the content was organized into segments, the use of maps and photos, and the speaking style of the professor were all good. However, I found myself getting physically restless and distracted during this module and the BitCoin module. It made me think of the value of physical movement in learning to disrupt that “checked-out, daydream state” I sometimes found myself in (Taylor & Marienau, 2016, p. 116). Or, as John suggested, even a fun quiz after each section could have added to the course, and met a bit of my need for interactivity and movement.
As we continue our journey as adult learning facilitators in any setting, or ALFAS (Taylor & Marienau, 2016), it is important that we recognize effective teaching styles and learning environments. We must be willing to use the most effective approaches for the situation--despite discomfort we may have in learning or using these approaches (Taylor & Marienau, 2016).
With the increased use of online courses such as the two modules we reviewed, we have concluded that the importance of visual aids and the creation of excitement cannot be discounted. As reviewers, we disagreed on whether or not a topic was interesting or important, but we were in agreement on the presentation styles. Are the days of the talking-head video or straight lectures numbered? Maybe not entirely, but adult-education designers may want to consider the brain’s need for stimuli beyond the spoken word (Taylor & Marienau, 2016).
Kolb, David A. & Kolb, Alice (2018). Individualized feedback reports: Kolb Learning Style Inventory 4.0. Korn Ferry Hay Group.
Merriam, S.B. & Bierema, L.L. (2014). Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Taylor, K. & Marienau, C. (2016). Facilitating Learning with the Adult Brain in Mind. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.