Online Course Review - ODL 600: Adult learning Theory
Exploring Adult Learning as a Team
LLG 2: Adrianna Choquette, Alin Mocanu and Gabriella Testa
The world of adult learning is an ever changing one and is considered to be in a technologically disruptive state. For example, trends in the rise of areas such as alternative credentialing and shifting demographics has been changing the landscape and platforms for adult learning (Riddell, 2015). The purpose of this discussion is to evaluate the strengths and opportunities for change with alternative credentialing learning platforms as well as the key adult learning theories that are present in this learning experience through the lens of a team.
LLG 2 KOLB LEARNING STYLE PROFILES
The LLG 2 team evaluators consist of Adrianna Choquette, Alin Mocanu and Gabriella Testa. All three individuals are students enrolled in the Adult Learning Theory course at Saint Joseph’s University. The team was asked to evaluate two online adult learning courses and discuss the key experiences, observations and overall impact of each course according to each individual’s Kolb learning style inventory profile (David, 2007). LLG 2 is comprised of a diverse group of learners. More specifically, Adrianna’s Kolb learning style is “Initiating” where a key focus is on initiating actions to deal with experiences and situations. Alin has the “Experiencing” learning style which finds meaning in deep involvement of experience. Finally, Gabriella’s style represents “Imagining” which represents imagining possibilities by observing and reflecting on experiences.
ADULT LEARNING PLATFORM: MOOC DESCRIPTION
LLG 2 selected two MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) to participate in and evaluate together as a team. Course titles were selected according to personal and professional interests. The first course “Speaking to Inspire: Ceremonial and Motivational Speeches” by Matt McGarrity of University of Washington entails learning about what most makes a memorable speech in terms of inspiration, entertainment and praise. The second selected course for enrollment “Influence” by Cade Massey of Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania consists of learning about the depth of meaning in the act of influence and the art of persuasion and leveraging power in reaching professional goals.
Both MOOC courses allowed LLG 2 to experience the structure, pace and overall impact of the adult alternative credentialing learning platform. Similarly, both allowed the group to experience and observe the strengths that both courses offered to the diverse Kolb learning styles of each member. LLG 2 first participated in the MOOC “Speaking to Inspire: Ceremonial and Motivational Speeches” by Matt McGarrity of University of Washington. Overall, the group enjoyed aspects of the course. Alin, an “Experiencing” learner enjoyed the first course most, while Adrianna and Gabriella preferred the style of the second course more according to their learning styles “Initiating” and “Imagining”.
For example, Alin was very drawn to the speaker’s energy and the design of the course that included a set of short quizzes featured after a few video lectures to support the key learning pearls. This allowed Alin’s learning style preference to directly apply what he had just learned. He also liked the group poll feature where he was able to see what other learners thought about a question and a “what about you” section that allowed the learner to pause and think about what was just discussed and apply it personally.
Adrianna’s learning style “Initiating” was drawn to the learning design that included check boxes showing a module’s completion as well as the fact that the topics were grouped versus a simple serious of videos to watch. Gabriella’s learning style “Imagining” was most receptive when visuals and bullet points were included in the discussion as well as descriptors in the beginning allowing the learner to know what would be covered and lesson summaries at the close of each module to reinforce key pearls.
The second MOOC experienced by LLG 2 “Influence” by Cade Massey of Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania was most enjoyed by Adrianna and Gabriella. Both felt most engaged in the beginning of this course versus the first. Gabriella was receptive to the speaker’s voice pitch, pace of speech, variation in body language and hand gestures, and use of space and visuals behind the speaker as he spoke. She also was inspired by the use of motivational quotes and case studies that allowed her learning style “Imagining” to observe and reflect of the case experiences. Adrianna’s learning style “Initiating” was receptive to the short and sweet video lectures, stories that were chosen on a spectrum in terms of good and bad examples of what was being lectured and the survey that was included before the course began to enable self-reflection. Alin, enjoyed the stories that were illustrated and discussed to reinforce what was being taught and gave the learning more meaning.
AREAS FOR OPPORTUNITY
Although both courses, Influence and Speaking to Inspire, had a lot of strengths, we also found a few areas of improvement. For example, Influence had a required length for the paper that students were supposed to write which can be detrimental to creativity as students could be more concerned with meeting the length requirements instead of focusing on the quality of the paper. The module observed was not very interactive; it was set up as a bunch of video lectures followed by a written assignment as already mentioned above. Both Alin and Adrianna agreed that they would’ve much rather see the community being involved more by adopting a similar approach as “Speaking to Inspire” where quizzes or polls were set up every so many videos. Interactive learning is also favored by Harvard Professor of Physics, Eric Mazur who stated in an article published on Harvard.edu that “Active learning, not passive learning makes it impossible to sleep through a class” (Anderson, 2014). According to the same professor, an interactive style of learning allows student to better retain the information communicated during the class. Interactive classes fit in better with Alin’s learning style “Experiencing”
Speaking to Inspire had its share of opportunities as well. Adrianna found that the slides were changing too fast, making it impossible to take notes, which can then become frustrating as the student needs to rewind and fast forward in order to take proper notes. On the other hand, because she is a visual person, Gabriella thought that the white background used to film the video and the speaker’s hand gestures, were very distracting making it impossible for her to concentrate. Last but not least, she would’ve also liked to see a change in his tone of voice. The lack of fluctuation in his voice, made it difficult for her to follow his lectures.
ADULT LEARNING THEORIES APPLIED
Across both online courses, the group had the opportunity to better observe varied teaching techniques and also, reflect on the effectiveness of those styles. As we dug deeper into applied learning models, three models of Knowles, McClusky and Mezirow stood out in our experiences.
Knowles theory of andragogy posits that adults are more problem than subject centered in their learning (Merriam, Caffarella, Baumgartner, 2007, p. 84). In our team discussion, we all entered “Speaking to Inspire: Ceremonial and Motivational Speeches” course with high expectations as it was a subject we all cared about. Yet, after a short time in the course, part of our group no longer felt empowered to continue learning. While we all will have teachers or presenters with a more motivating style, we all approached the course with an interest in a subject; however, without a motivating factor of needing to create a speech or little insight as to how we could apply this framework to current public speaking problems, the course soon lost interest for some team members.
For the second course “Influence,” the teacher set the stage in the first few videos on why we needed to be able to influence others. The professor made the subject relatable, brought in real life examples – some more accessible than others – and helped us understand, to Knowles theory, why we needed to learn something. Though both courses were subject-specific, the lens presented in our “Influence” course was around understanding the problem and why we needed to leverage influence; whereas, the subject of creating a motivational speech became more about the end outcome.
In McClusky’s theory of margin, the capacity for learning is influenced by the load an individual is taking on (Merriam, Caffarella, Baumgartner, 2007, p. 93). At the start of the “Influence” course, the teacher asked for a survey to completed, in which he asked the following:
How much time to do intend to give this course?
To what week do you anticipate participating?
What are you giving up to do this course?
As McClusky’s theory of margin outlines, the teacher was working to understand our perception of the load we’re taking on and the power we have in investing in additional learning.
Finally, Mezirow’s model focuses on an adult’s ability to make sense of their life experiences. Mezirow believes learners should exercise control over their educational decisions and through that, become more empowered to continue their learning (Merriam, Caffarella, Baumgartner, 2007, p. 133). In both courses, we were led through online videos and though we had a week-to-week assignment, we could pace ourselves through the material. While the groupings of videos and length of individual videos varied between the courses, it was motivating to the group to decide how long they invested in each video and recognize the moments they became distracted. Even though we only spent one week in either course, another key component of Mezirow’s learning theory is the dynamic of discourse and reflection. Both courses tried to integrate reflective practices, whether through weekly assignments, mid-video polls or simply offering further questions to explore. Neither course worked to push discourse as a part of the learning environment. The discussion boards were rarely used and while some counterpoints were presented in the videos, a deep questioning or discourse was not a central theme. Though Mezirow contends it is a central point to a learning experience, one week within two courses is not a fair snapshot with which to judge the entire course. It was, however, something to watch for in the continuation of either course.
With the experiencing, initiating and imagining learners within our group, the two courses of “Speaking to Inspire: Ceremonial and Motivational Speeches” by Matt McGarrity and “Influence” by Cade Massey were topics of interest for the group. Yet, the actual courses appealed to team members in very different ways. Though the team’s learning styles aligned with different aspects of both, the courses brought their respective strengths and, as always, with varied learning styles present, brought areas the courses could be improved. In examining the three learning models of Knowles, McClusky and Mezirow, we learned that all are needed and present to enrich a learning experience. Yet, no matter the course, the model or the theory, as we continue to enhance our learning experience, we must also keep in mind the central theme of our work on learning: never stop.
Anderson, J. (2014). The Benefits of Interactive Learning. Retrieved from https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/14/11/benefit-interactive-learning
David, L. (2007)."Experiential Learning (Kolb)," in Learning Theories, February 13, 2007. Retrieved: https://www.learning-theories.com/experiential-learning-kolb.html.
Massey, C. (2017). Influence. Coursera, 2012. Retrieved: https://www.mooc-list.com/course/influence-coursera
McGarrity, M. (2017). Speaking to Inspire: Ceremonial and Motivational Speeches. Coursera, 2012. Retrieved: https://www.mooc-list.com/course/speaking-inspire-ceremonial-and-motivat...
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Riddell, R. (2015). These 10 trends are shaping the future of education. Education Dive. Retrieved: https://www.educationdive.com/news/these-10-trends-are-shaping-the-futur...