Our learners are social: Television has talked to us for decades, but it never listened!

I have enjoyed this month’s issue of Wired, especially an article from senior writer, Mat Honan. I couldn’t find his article on the web, otherwise I would have just linked to it. I heard from him on Twitter today that the full article will be made available soon. This is a continuation to my previous posting, Our eLearners desire something human. The best designs let something human look back at them. Below you will find another except from his article and I have continued some thoughts, added some images, and thoughts to facilitate a conversation about social presence in eLearning which I have been writing and presenting about lately.

Originally written by Mat Honan on Wired Magazine. May 2014

“This instant Internet, ubiquitous and pushed to our smartphones, lets us experience events not only as they happen but together—even when we are physically apart. It’s bit watching something at the same time as someone else; it’s watching it with them. We’re not just broadcasting anymore; we’re conversation-casting.

Television has talked to us for decades, but it never listened. While we all watched events like the moon landing at the same time, we did so in pockets of isolation. This is why the so-called second screen has triumphed over the first. It’s why “second screen” is such a colossal misnomer the phone is the first screen—always with us and always on. And it has made our big screens more vital. By combining the two, we connected ourselves.”

As Mat discusses, we are truly connected, always connected, and it allows us to experience something that has been around for 50+ years in an entirely new way. “Television has talked to us for decades, but it never listened.” For decades we have often been designing and experiencing eLearning in the same way. Similar to a fast food restaurant. We drive up, everything is organized with a very clear menu of what we want to eat (i.e., learn), then we order exactly what we want, accomplish our objectives, and drive way. Depending on the objectives of the learner (or goals), objectives of the course, and even objectives of the institution, sometimes learning can be quick, cheep, and easy. Some MOOCs are designed this way.

ordering_fast_foodImage: (CC BY-SA 2.0) Keenon Lindsey, Flickr

Originally written by Mat Honan on Wired Magazine. May 2014

“Thanks to this, live TV has never been better. The ability to comment immediately and have anyone respond has given live television a power-up; it has provided motivation to tune in to things we might otherwise skip or TiVo. Because a show isn’t just something to watch anymore—it’s a way to connect.

This should scare the hairpiece off any TV exec mulling a tape delay. Take the Grammys, which were televised separately on the East and West Coasts. By the time the show aired in California, it felt like a nonevent. Search Twitter analytics service Topsy for the terms “grammys” or “#grammys” and you’ll find 4 million tweets while the show was live…. And 470,000 during the recorded broadcast.”

But then there are courses with the human element. Look at this image below of this home cooked meal. You see something very different here and feel something very different.

chatting_at_dinnerImage: (CC BY-NC 2.0) Rasmus Andersson, Flickr

Here you are part of a group and contributing to the conversation. Just as with the 470,000 watching the Grammys, you are interested in what is being talked about. Perhaps you want to design experiences that can make your students feel a part of the conversation? There is much that can be discussed in terms of how to write discussion questions, using emerging technologies, personalizing feedback, etc.

So whenever I am designing an eLearning experience, I believe we need to think of ways to put the student in the center of our designs. Then try to figure out different events, activities, assignments, etc. that will get them to interact more with each other, their instructor, and the content.

So we have student-to-student, student-to-instructor, and student-to-content…. Types of interactions.

  • Student-Student may be designing group work activities, writing discussion questions in a way that fosters interaction
  • Student-Instructor may be designing activities where the instructor can provide some formative feedback. Depending on the expectations of the learner, the institution, etc. maybe students need to have that one-on-one interaction with their instructor.
  • Student-Content but a designer might also be trying to figure out how to engage students more with the content with something interactive.

If you are reading my blog, the term “gamification,” is nothing new. But gamification isn’t just confined to a flash based element or object. The entire course can be thought of as a real world problem. Students can all be involved in a scenario. Much to be said here.

When I teach my capstone web design class I have the students “pitch” their web design idea to the class as if we all were their client. By merely adding this scenario I have seen greater retention and more creative projects than I did prior to using this simple scenario that involved nothing but some text on a page describing it and then having students to the class as their client in the discussion area. But yes we did do some fun stuff like having them come up with a name for their company.

But think about it. If you ask someone about a class they took and what they liked. Ask them why? They will 99% of the time mention an activity, game, etc. that they played within the class, connected with other students, etc.

More on social learning to come in the next posting.

About DaveHallmon

With experience in web, graphic, and instructional design, Dave maintains a balance between what is efficient and effective in every message. He always focuses on the why and how rather than "just doing it" to get the job done. By day he works at a leading university designing online courses that support 9,000 students in 64 countries. He works directly with faculty to brainstorm, design, and develop their online instruction utilizing the Adobe suite. He also teaches for the university as an adjunct faculty member in the area of web design. By night he is a devoted husband, father, freelancer, and adventurer of the outdoors. His other interests include LifeHacker, Science Fiction and Hayao Miyazaki movies, Settlers of Catan, and coffee with friends. He currently lives in St. Louis and has an M.S. in Instructional Design and aspires to pursue a professional degree in content marketing and strategy. Visit the links below for more information about his interests and design work.
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5 Responses to Our learners are social: Television has talked to us for decades, but it never listened!

  1. lizk912 says:

    I am currently a MSN student focusing on nursing education. The majority of my courses are either online or hybrid. In both course types, I find a disconnection with classmates and the instructor. However, this gap is more prominent in the exclusively online courses.
    Discussion boards are designed to simulate classroom conversations between students and faculty on a topic. To me, discussion boards are more like writing a paper than an actual classroom discussion.
    I understand the trend today is towards online learning. However, more needs to be done by instructors to create a true classroom atmosphere in the online world. In my opinion, technology cannot replace human interaction; but with the right course activities, interactions in the online environment can be optimized.

    • DaveHallmon says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you so much for sharing. I would bet that 90% of eLearning students out there if not more feel how you feel. Social presence online is something that we have been discussing for the last 5 years or so but it is often not considered as important. Some view eLearning more as a different way to teach rather than trying to give a similar classroom experience.

      Some forget that what makes an effective online instructor is the same that makes a good on ground instructor! Content expertise, attentiveness to students, timely responses to student questions, and being organized are just a few of the important qualifications of a successful teacher regardless of the medium.

      Thanks again for your thoughts. I hope you will share more. Let’s connect on Twitter?


  2. Pingback: Our learners are social: Television has talked ...

  3. Pingback: How will social media change the #WorldCup? | coffeeanDesign

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