Week 2 Readings and Resources

Site: SCoPE - BCcampus Learning + Teaching
Group: Facilitating Learning Online - FEB2015-OER
Book: Week 2 Readings and Resources
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Date: Sunday, 19 May 2024, 4:50 AM


Week 2 Readings and Resources (Adult Learning Online)

Teaching Adults Online

The readings this week are grouped into 3 clusters:

  1. Teaching Perspectives/Learning Styles
  2. Online and Adult Learning
  3. Learning Theories (general overview and reference)

We want you to think about how you teach and why? What values and assumptions and experiences do you bring to the experience of teaching online? We've provided a link to one instrument that might help you reflect and some readings about teaching perspectives around online learning.

We want you to reflect on what you know about the way adults learn and then, to consider how adults learn online. Much of the research on adult learning principles is derived from face-to-face education in traditional settings. We ask you to broaden your consideration of learner diversity and the potential affordances of our increasingly networked world with the easy access to powerful technological tools for learning.

We want you to reflect on what you know about learning theories so we've provided resources that offer an overview (or, a reminder) of these schools of thought. Remember that most well-known theories are derived from face-to-face learning environments and, the older theories didn't take into account some of the things we've learned about how adults learn differently than youth or children. 

Learning Styles / Teaching Perspectives

The idea of "learning styles" (or, "preferences", as they are often called) is an interesting one. The main idea behind Learning Styles is a widely adopted and accepted idea in Education: people learn in different ways.

On one hand, it seems like one of those "motherhood" statements. For example, as Richard Felder notes, Students preferentially take in and process information in different ways...it's hard to disagree with that. And people believe it (how often have you heard someone say, "Oh, I'm a visual learner?")

On the other hand, it's not without controversy. In this week's readings, there are two "con" pieces that illustrate how learning styles may not hold up as promised under strict research scrutiny.

We wanted to provide this balanced view. The ideas behind Learning Styles are very useful to have in mind, but they aren't a solution to every teaching challenge. You don't, for example, want to spend a lot of time, "diagnosing" learning styles and changing everything, every time, for every learner. That's not the point.

The point is, to be aware of different ways that people can/do/prefer to take in information, and therefore the different ways you can make information available, online. Having the idea of learning styles in your mind, for example, may inspire you to seek (or create) a piece of audio, or video, or an image to communicate, instead of text-only resources.

Online and Adult Learning

Seminal research among adult learning theorists (e.g., Knowles, 1973; Merriam and Caffarella, 1999; Merriam, 1993) revealed that:

  • adults continue to learn after completing their formal education
  • adults learn differently than children
  • adults learn in purposeful, self-directed ways

Malcolm Knowles was a big name in adult education. He argued that adults...

  • need to know why they need to learn something
  • need to learn experientially
  • approach learning as problem-solving
  • learn best when the topic is of immediate value

Although Knowles' research (and others who contributed to ideas about adult learning) caused a paradigm shift in the way courses were designed and how teachers taught, the world of higher education has become increasingly complex.

Due to many changes in society, teachers needs to be sensitive to the learning needs of an increasingly diverse audience; adult learners come from different cultures, are at various stages in their educational path, experience different demands from personal circumstances and work demands, and have far greater access to educational choices due to the development of an increasingly connected world with ubiquitous access and mobile devices.

The array of learning technologies, the pace of change in different academic fields, the possibilities introduced by educational technologies, and a renewed emphasis on experiential, inquiry, project-based and mastery learning approaches, makes the task of teaching adults effectively online one that requires all the creativity and skills that teachers can apply.

We hope that you'll share what you know and have experienced about teaching adults, and explore new ideas around improving your practice in the online environment.

How do we meet the needs of adult learners online?

Certain strategies and approaches seem to work well, including providing choice and inviting adult learners to leverage their experience, using coaching, dialogical models, and team-based learning reinforce a facilitative rather than directive approach to instruction. And meeting adult learners where they are, with active (experiential), relevant, applicable learning experiences will go far to support engagement and ultimately learning.

Learning Theories - a Primer

We've provided some resources you can use to refresh your memory of beliefs about how people learn and to allow you to look up specific learning theories if you choose.

Here is an overview of the big ones: behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism. "Connectivism", a theory articulated by George Siemens and Stephen Downes in 2005,  is increasingly discussed these days in the "networked" and "information" age, where subject knowledge is changing rapidly and learners have unprecedented access and connectivity due to digital networks.

What do you know/believe about learning? Like many, you probably have an eclectic view that draws from more than one theory.

How does learning occur? Black box - observable behaviour main focus Structured, computational Social, meaning created by each learner (personal) Distributed within a network, social, technologically enhanced, recognizing and interpreting patterns
What factors influence learning? Nature of reward, punishment, stimuli Existing schema, previous experiences Engagement, participation, social, cultural Diversity of network
What is the role of the memory Memory is hardwiring of repeated experiences - where reward and punishment are most influential Encoding, storage, retrieval Prior knowledge remixed to current context Adaptive patterns, representative of current state, existing in networks
How does transfer occur? Stimulus, response Duplicating knowledge constructs of "knower" Socialization Connecting to (adding nodes)
What types of learning are best explained by this theory? Task-based learning Reasoning, clear objectives, problem solving Social, vague ("ill defined") Complex learning, rapid changing core, diverse knowledge sources

Read and View

Some of these articles are short, and others 

Teaching perspectives

Learning Styles

Note:  If you're already familiar with learning styles, watch Professor Willingham's short video and scan the Pashier, Rohrer and Bjork article.  

  • Conner, M. (2002). Introduction to Learning Styles. - good overview of main types of learning styles - perceptual modalities, multiple intelligences, "mind styles", Kolb, MBTI

  • Felder, Richard M. & Soloman, Barbara A. (n.d.). Learning styles and strategies.
    Note: This piece suggests specific study strategies for learners who may not be receiving information in their preferred "mode" or "style".

  • (YouTube, 6:55 min). Professor Daniel Willingham describes research showing that learning styles are a myth

  • Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning Styles: Concepts & Evidence. Psychological Sciences in the Public Interest, 9 (3), 105-119.

Teaching in a Connected World

Note:  Read at least one 

Online Learning Theories:

Learning Theories - review

Note: These resources are intended to refresh your memory of specific learning theories or to visualize the different beliefs about how people learn. Dig in according to your own interests. 

Learning Styles Assessments

Note: If you are intrigued by the idea of learning styles,  take a Learning Styles Assessment to see what you think about the results...or, just look at the questions - this is a good way to get a feel for the assumptions/ideas behind learning styles. You may also find this resource useful. 

  • Solomon, Barbara A. & Felder, Richard M. (n.d.). Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire. North Carolina State University.
    (44 brief questions, scored on web) is an online instrument used to assess preferences on four dimensions (active/reflective, sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal, and sequential/global) of a learning style model formulated by Richard M. Felder and Linda K. Silverman.

Insights from Experienced Faculty: Facilitation

coffee cup

This resource contains 5 very short video clips (3 on this page, 2 on the next) from faculty who either are or could be your professional colleagues.

Grab a cup of tea, coffee or a glass of wine, sit down and take a relaxing 10 minutes (includes sips between videos) to hear a few of their thoughts. Keep their insights in mind as you work through this week's activities.

Doug Hamilton (1:02)

Jen Walinga (1:18)

Alicia Wilkes (1:28)

Insights from Experienced Faculty: Instructor Presence

Alicia Wilkes (1:20)

Doug Hamilton (1:28)