The year it all went online: Reflections on #EDUC90970

Had I not enrolled in #EDUC90970 this year I imagine my rapid (aka forced) transition to online learning would have been significantly more stressful. I still remember the day in late March when all staff were notified via email that due to the hasty spread of COVID-19 we would be moving to remote teaching effective immediately. Fast forward nine months and online teaching is still the reality, albeit I’m now more pedagogically informed in my methods and not ‘flying by the seat of my pants.’

When I reflect on my experience in #EDUC90970 the biggest lesson by far was that simply moving a subject online does not constitute online learning! In this reflective blog I outline how relevant learning theories have informed the design of my online subject and how such frameworks have informed teaching and learning activities.

A self-directed learning choice I made in this subject was to explore the concept of cognitive load and the impact on learning. One of the strategies that resonated most with me is to ‘use worked examples to teach new content or skills’ (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, 2017). I admit it has taken me a while to adjust to using this strategy. Prior to undertaking the GCUT I would have firmly argued that the best approach is surely to have students solve the problems for themselves otherwise how will they learn?. Rather than ‘handing them the answer on a silver platter’ providing worked examples frees up working memory as the student can focus on how to solve the problem rather than just focusing on finding the correct answer. In an online learning environment we can achieve this by providing exemplars of learning tasks or how-to guides for interacting with online content e.g. step by step instructions on how to create and upload a blog or video modelling of skills. The worked example thereby becomes a steppingstone to independent learning and enables application of skills to more advanced problems.

#EDUC90970 resulted in development of a proposal for a subject I’ve been teaching for the last 4 years, now revamped for the online environment. It is underpinned by two learning theories; constructivism and the PAH continuum.  Constructivism, a model where opportunities to assimilate new learning to existing knowledge through methods designed to gauge student understanding are utilized (Alt, 2014) e.g. problem or inquiry based learning where students interact and participate in collaborative learning and groupwork to facilitate social construction of knowledge. The flipped classroom is one way I applied constructivist theory in the virtual learning space. The Pedagogy- Androgogy- Heutogogy continuum (PAH) was used to frame activities most aligned with an androgogy framework using role-play, simulations and self-evaluation where the learners brings their real-world experience to experiential tasks in the classroom. 

I had a lot of fun experimenting with online collaborative group tasks. Having been inspired by this educator’s tips on how to turn googleforms into an escape room I decided to take the idea one step further by creating a more immersive escape room using SeekBeak. The room I created integrated subject content and collaborative problem-solving tasks that allowed students to work together in teams with the goal of escaping the room (e.g. solving all the clues) first. Who said learning can’t be fun!

Taking the knowledge learnt from #EDUC90970 I have now directed my focus on developing ways to assess students’ knowledge in a simulation based digital environment. The first step has been to apply for a teaching a learning grant that will facilitate development of simulation videos using the interactive technology of H5P branching. The longer-term vision is to integrate applications of VR into my teaching practice. My research for the most part resulted in information about how VR can be used in the therapeutic context to treat clients but much less in relation to how we can use it to train novice psychologists and counsellors. Such clinical simulation methods have been used successfully in other psychology training programs Wilkinson and Bazile (2019) and in paramedicine (Cochrane et al., 2020).

References

Alt, D. (2014). The construction and validation of a new scale for measuring features of constructivist learning environments in higher education. Frontline Learning Research, 2(3), 1-27. https://doi.org/10.14786/flr.v2i2.68

Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation. (2017). Cognitive load theory in practice, Examples for the classroom. NSW Department of Education. Retrieved from: https://khsbpp.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/cognitive_load_theory_practice_guide_aa.pdf

Cochrane, T., Aiello, S., Cook, S., Aguayo, C., & Wilkinson, N. (2020). MESH360: A framework for designing MMR enhanced Clinical Simulations [Journal]. Research in Learning Technology, 28(Mobile Mixed Reality – Themed Collection). https://doi.org/10.25304/rlt.v28.2357

Wilkinson, T., & Bazile, K. (2019). Counseling students’ experiences viewing virtual reality case studies. Teaching and Supervision in Counseling ,1 (2), 85-97. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7290/tsc010206   

Taking ‘Working with Groups’ online #EDUC90970

This week I presented a proposal for a subject I’ve been teaching for the last 4 years but has now been revised and revamped for the online environment. As a result of COVID, we (by which I mean academics) have all had to make rapid changes to teaching online. What I’ve become acutely aware of through participating in #EDUC90970 is that simply moving a subject online does not constitute online learning! In this blog I outline how relevant learning theories have informed the design of my online subject and how such frameworks have informed teaching and learning activities.

Learning Theory and Frameworks

The teaching and learning activities of this subject are aligned with two pedagogical frameworks. The first is constructivism, a model where opportunities to assimilate new learning to existing knowledge through methods designed to gauge student understanding are utilized (Alt, 2014) e.g. problem or inquiry based learning where students interact and participate in collaborative learning and groupwork to facilitate social construction of knowledge. The flipped classroom is one way of applying constructivist theory in the virtual learning space.

The second framework that learning activities are supported by is the Pedagogy- Androgogy- Heutogogy continuum (PAH). Activities are most aligned with an androgogy framework which asserts that learners use life experience as a foundation to cultivate self-directed learning (Knowles, 1984). Types of activities that fall within this paradigm are role-play, simulations and self-evaluation where the learner brings their real-world experience to experiential tasks in the classroom.  

Ecology of Resources

The amount of resources available to support the online classroom are almost endless. This EOR will no doubt shift and change as I develop greater mastery over more and more online tools but as a starting point I was quite amazed at the number of resources I now feel comfortable teaching with. Merely 10 weeks ago this visual would not have looked so exciting! Technology tools such as PollEverywhere and Zoom Breakout rooms can be utilized as learning resources to facilitate recall of content knowledge and subsequently stimulate small group discussion. Both tools in my experience promote interactivity of the class and also support greater inclusion of international students. Arkoudis et al. (2011) assert that interaction between local and international students can be enhanced through dimensions such as tailoring collaborative environments.  Feedback Fruits is a tool that I hope to learn more about during the development of my online subject due to its capacity to enhance assessment tasks by enabling students to give and receive feedback.  

Learning Activities

Photo by Matthias Zomer on Pexels.com

I’ve had fun in recent weeks experimenting with online collaborative group tasks. Having been inspired by this educator’s tips on how to turn googleforms into an escape room I decided to take the idea one step further by creating a more immersive escape room using SeekBeak. The room I created integrated subject content and collaborative problem solving tasks that allowed students to work together in teams with the goal of escaping the room (e.g. solving all the clues) first. Who said learning can’t be fun!

References

Alt, D. (2014). The construction and validation of a new scale for measuring features of constructivist learning environments in higher education. Frontline Learning Research, 2(3), 1-27. https://doi.org/10.14786/flr.v2i2.68

Arkoudis, S., Watty, K., Baik, C., Yu, X., Borland, H., Chang, S., Lang, I., Lang, J. & Pearce, A. (2013) Finding common ground: enhancing interaction between domestic and international students in higher education, Teaching in Higher Education, 18:3, 222-235, https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2012.719156

Knowles, M. (1984). The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species (3rd Ed.). Houston: Gulf Publishing.

What can VR do for psychology training…a lot it seems! #EDUC90970

Photo by Hammer & Tusk on Unsplash

To be honest VR is something I have been fearful of, not in the sense that it causes me great anxiety but to the extent that it has seemed something too overwhelming to understand, let alone teach with.

I can thankfully say I no longer view mixed reality tools in this way, largely due to reading about the experience with clinical simulations for paramedicine (Cochrane et al., 2020). Since watching Stephen Aiello’s YouTube video and hearing from him in class this week I have been looking into applications of VR in the teaching of psychology. My research for the most part resulted in information about how VR can be used in the therapeutic context to treat clients but much less in relation to how we can use it to train novice psychologists and counsellors.

A few researchers who I would call ‘cutting edge’ (given that they conducted this research over 10 years ago) have explored use of virtual reality technologies in the training of psychologists. Wilkinson and Bazile (2019) used augmented and immersive reality to create virtual role plays. The VR headset allowed students to watch the role-play from the first-person perspective and experience what it would be like sitting in a room with a client. Students highlighted the authenticity of the simulated experience; researchers reported that whilst observing the students during simulation they frequently made use of non-verbal gestures such as nodding their head which is indicative of a real-life response. As a practicing clinician I can certainly see how this experience would exceed the traditional role-play as a more authentic learning opportunity.

Parsons et al. (2008) reported on the use of Virtual Human Agent (VHA) technology to create a role play with a Virtual Patient (VP). They found that as the VP could interact with the novice clinicians this enabled them to behave as they might normally during a clinical encounter.  What I found interesting as I explored VHA further was that the technology is now so advanced that virtual agents are being used to deliver health care information and support! The caveat here is that such VHA are not being used in place of an actual human but in situations where supply outweighs demand. Still, the mind boggles.

Creating my own immersive reality tools to use in my teaching still feels a little beyond me at this point, unless it was tackled as part of a team, but use of virtual reality technology such as SeekBeak may be an initial step I could take. I for one really enjoyed exploring this technology and can see many potential uses in creating authentic learning experiences for psychology trainees. For now, immersive reality can be a vision for the future, especially since we are all also still in lockdown and video creation in public places feels like a dream…..

References

Cochrane, T., Aiello, S., Cook, S., Aguayo, C., & Wilkinson, N. (2020). MESH360: a framework for designing MMR-enhanced clinical simulations. Research in Learning Technology28. https://doi.org/10.25304/rlt.v28.2357

Parsons, T. D., Kenny, P., Ntuen, C. A., Pataki, C. S., Pato, M. T., Rizzo, A. A., St-George, C., & Sugar, J. (2008). Objective structured clinical interview training using a virtual human patient. Studies in health technology and informatics, 132, 357–362.

Wilkinson, T., & Bazile, K. (2019). Counseling students’ experiences viewing virtual reality case studies. Teaching and Supervision in Counseling ,1 (2), 85-97. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7290/tsc010206   

The beauty of a worked example #EDUC90970

No doubt at some stage in your own educational journey you have experienced a class or course where the teacher moved too fast (for you) or the material was so complex you felt you barely learnt a thing. Sound familiar? If this has happened to you, cognitive load likely had something to do with it.

Cognitive load theory was developed by John Sweller, an educational psychologist in the 1980s (Paas, Renkl & Sweller, 2017). The theory offers a way to understand how the ‘weight’ of a task can influence our ability to transfer the information from working memory into long term storage. As a psychologist I have assessed the memory capacity of clients many a time and understand the limitations of our mental scratchpad, what cognitive load theory has taught me as a teacher is how to maximise the capacity of this scratchpad through pedagogy.

A range of strategies are recommended by the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (2017) designed to optimise cognitive load. One of the strategies that resonated most with me is to ‘use worked examples to teach new content or skills’. I admit it has taken me a while to adjust to using this strategy. Prior to undertaking the GCUT I would have firmly argued that the best approach is surely to have students solve the problems for themselves otherwise how will they learn? I understand now that this viewpoint creates unnecessary cognitive load for students, to the extent that it negatively impacts learning as unguided problem-solving places heavy burden on the working memory.
Rather than ‘handing them the answer on a silver platter’ providing worked examples frees up working memory as the student can focus on how to solve the problem rather than just focusing on finding the correct answer. In an online learning environment we can achieve this by providing exemplars of learning tasks or how-to guides for interacting with online content e.g. step by step instructions on how to create and upload a blog or video modelling of skills. The worked example thereby becomes a steppingstone to independent learning and enables application of skills to more advanced problems.

References

Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation. (2017). Cognitive load theory in practice, Examples for the classroom. NSW Department of Education. https://khsbpp.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/cognitive_load_theory_practice_guide_aa.pdf

Paas, F., Renkl, A & Sweller, J. (2010). Cognitive Load Theory and Instructional Design: Recent Developments. Educational Psychologist, 38, 1-4. doi: 10.1207/S15326985EP3801_1.

Becoming a digital resident…..more than an endless stream of notifications

Having an online presence takes commitment and in my experience, requires a great deal of divided attention. Having completed my V and R map (see image) what stood out so acutely was just how many platforms I interact with in the context of both my professional and personal life. Albeit COVID has played a significant role here but even BC (before COVID) my digital footprint was a firm Size 8. Maintaining this presence requires a fair investment of time, which is not in itself a negative, especially when the investment builds your academic profile and community of networks. However the dilemma inherent here is the battle between balancing an active online profile with a desire for less screen time.

The digital landscape, namely social media moves at lightning speed and those who are not good at fighting FOMO are futile in resisting the urge to respond to a constant stream of notifications. When viewed through this lens however, becoming a digital resident can appear a full-time job and creates an overwhelming sense of ‘never quite catching up.’ Such a perspective views one’s online presence as something to do rather than a way to be, where the mode of interaction is a means to an end, a perfunctory way to deliver content, a visitor mentality (White & Le Cornu, 2011). What resonated strongly with me is how White and Le Cornu (2011) describe the process of thinking for visitors and residents, whereas visitors do their thinking offline and post statically, residents use the online space to express their opinion and connect to a virtual community.

Shifting perspective to more of a resident mindset then enables one to see interaction with technology and the online space as an extension of their identity, a representation of critical thinking and professional work. This is where communities of practice come in, engagement in a process of collective learning with others within a common domain (Wenger & Traynor, 2015). Being able to view contributions to the online space as a way to connect with peers rather than be judged by them may be the mindset I need to adopt to move further along the visitor/resident coninuum. Resident here I come!

References

White, D.S, & Le Cornu, A. (2011). Visitors and residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v16i9.3171

Wenger, E., & Traynor, B. (2015). Communities of Practice: A brief overview of the concept and its uses. Retrieved from https://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/

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