Friday, April 6, 2012

Teaching and Learning Online Series - Part 4

Starting out Strong and Establishing Learning Communities – does this help adults learn experientially and problem solve?
By Dr. Vanae E. Morris
Adult learning principles state that adult learners need to learn experientially, which means an instructor needs to use “techniques that tap into the experience of the learners, such as group discussions, simulation exercise, problem solving activities, case methods, and laboratory methods instead of transmittal techniques [think lecture]. Also, greater emphasis is placed on peer-helping activities” (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2005, p. 66).
Starting out strong in an asynchronous online course requires a few more considerations than when starting a face-to-face course. Because your students may not “see” you in an online course, starting the course with a welcome to class announcement or note and including an introductions forum that allows you and your students to introduce who they are is an important first step in creating an online community of learners. The second step is to have a detailed syllabus and schedule, and if you determine that you would like to use Weimer’s (2002) Five Key Changes to Practice, you and your students could work collaboratively together to establish these course documents (see the (Em)Power in the Classroom series).
Remember from Part 2 of this series, a learning community describes a collegial group who are united in their commitment to learning. They share a vision, and work and learn collaboratively. Providing opportunities for your students to experience a variety of large group, small group, and individual work experiences helps to create that sense of community. This variety of groupings also allows for experiential learning as dictated by adult learning principles. I think Cross (1981) said this best when stated, “The role of educators in the learning society is to develop gourmet learners and to be responsive to their interests by providing a wide range of high-quality educational options” (p.251).
Cross, K. P. (1981). Adults as learners: Increasing participation and facilitating learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Knowles, M. S., Holton, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2011). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development (7th ed.). New York: Elsevier.
Weimer, M. (2002). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice. San Francisco: CA: Jossey-Bass

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