The Claned online learning model


 | By 

Chris Hutchinson

The dif­ference between a failed online learning program and a suc­cessful one can often depend on how much rel­evance and engagement you bring into the learning process. Because online learning can some­times feel isol­ating and far removed from real-life, the oppor­tun­ities to dis­engage and lose motiv­ation are plen­tiful. As such, you should give your online learners plenty of oppor­tun­ities to apply their know­ledge as close to real-life as possible. 

For example, if you need to learn how to use a piece of equipment or product that you will even­tually need in front or alongside cus­tomers, practice during the learning process will give you the con­fidence needed to deliver when the cus­tomers come along. 

The same is true for your learners when you allow them to practice, espe­cially within their learning group, demo to one another and give and receive feedback. These activ­ities allow learners to apply the know­ledge they have gained in situ­ations that are essen­tially free of the pressure and stress present in a real-life demo, allowing them to focus on what matters. In this par­ticular activity, there is the bonus that learners can learn from each other through obser­vation, strength­ening the overall learning. 

Your online learners, in any context, should get the oppor­tunity to apply their know­ledge in a real­istic and relatable context. Offer up tasks and activ­ities where they can use their new­found skills and know­ledge to do things, add a good dose of self-guided instruc­tions and col­lab­or­ation tasks, and you have yourself a hyper-rel­evant and inter­active online learning group. Not only that, but you have also sig­ni­fic­antly reduced the learning curve between getting the skills and applying the skills outside of the classroom. 

Claned’s learning model centres on self-guided explor­ation, diverse content delivery, group dis­cus­sions and peer interaction. 

Too often do we hear stories, stats and studies about the short­comings of online learning – e.g. the massive (around 90%) drop-out rate of MOOC’s, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t be this way. Often it’s not the content that’s the issue but the delivery method, lack of com­munity, inter­action and social­iz­ation that happens around learning. 

By taking inspir­ation from world-renowned Finnish edu­ca­tional prac­tices and leading research on how learning happens, Claned brings a more social, engaging and effective way to do online learning. 

Here are six tips to use when designing your learning program in Claned. 

1. Include real-world activities and challenges 

Keep your learning tethered to realize situ­ations and chal­lenges - Do this by providing learning materials, activ­ities and assign­ments that are mod­elled after real-world chal­lenges, or both. For example, An entre­pren­eurship course may include inform­ation and activ­ities about making business plans, grant writing, and market research, but merely telling people how to do these is often not enough for people to succeed in real-life. Putting the learners into groups with an assignment to actually do these things and behave as though the group is a startup is a great way to get them to practice and apply the learning and work in an authentic context – who knows, you might even help to launch a new venture! 

When online learners apply what they are learning in a real­istic context, they get to incor­porate ideas, con­cepts and pre-existing know­ledge from their daily lives and see the effects of adding new inform­ation when approaching these problems, instead of merely mem­or­izing theories. 

Incor­por­ating real-world activ­ities and assign­ments that mimic the types of obstacles and chal­lenges they face or will face into an online learning course, they see the overall learning program as more rel­evant. It boosts their intrinsic motiv­ation to engage. 

For example, a team-building activity wherein online learners must resolve con­flicts and com­mu­nicate with their col­lab­or­ators to hone their Project Man­agement skills. These are all chal­lenges that any team faces when solving a problem or devel­oping a product. While tech­nical know-how is undoubtedly a critical com­ponent in the process, so-called “soft-skills” such as col­lab­or­ation, com­mu­nic­ation, and nego­ti­ation arguably play an equally important role, without which the real-world problems will not get solved. Having the oppor­tunity to practice these alongside their core expertise is an invaluable learning oppor­tunity and can make the dif­ference between success and failure out in the world. 

2. Activate Higher-order thinking 

A core com­ponent of most modern models of learning is activ­ating “higher-order thinking”. Higher-order-thinking refers to the cog­nitive and meta-cog­nitive thinking that goes on when we learn – that is, reflecting on what you know, what you don’t know and what you need to know to solve a problem or apply new know­ledge. It also refers to how indi­viduals syn­thesize new expertise into their mental model – this involves con­necting past know­ledge and exper­i­ences to the new know­ledge gained. When this process happens, we can say that learning has occurred because after­wards, the way an indi­vidual approaches a task problem has changed. They bring a new per­spective with fresh inform­ation as part of their mental tool-kit for com­pleting tasks and solving problems.

Higher-order thinking is how your learners move from a receptive mode of inform­ation con­sumption into more active engagement modes such as reflection, ana­lyzing and exper­i­menting with new know­ledge to solve prac­tical problems. 

Example:  Jerremy wants to build a robot. He has an under­standing of mech­anics and cir­cuitry from pre­vious studies but doesn’t know how to code. After being shown some dif­ferent coding lan­guages and under­standing their purpose and cap­ab­il­ities, he can incor­porate that with his existing know­ledge and select the most appro­priate one to base his robots fea­tures and purpose. Now Jerremy is excited and focused – ready for the next steps 

Learners should have the oppor­tunity to form their assump­tions based on data and pre-existing know­ledge and assign meaning to the eLearning content they receive during their studies. 

In the real world, inform­ation that we’ve stored in our memory can be used in various ways, not simply in con­textual set­tings. As an example,  You are in a new city or area, using the map for the first time to find a coffee shop, the fol­lowing day, in the same spot you need to find a sandwich place, it would be just a little easier as you can call on learnings from the day before to find your way around. 

Sim­ilarly, your online learning design should encourage learners to bring outside know­ledge into their existing rep­er­toire to help them com­plete assign­ments and assim­ilate the new know­ledge into their internal models. A great way to accom­plish this is by cre­ating spaces within courses where learners can upload activ­ities and tasks that ask them to put the know­ledge and subject matter into their own words. Cre­ating present­a­tions, infographics, videos, or other learning materials are all excellent examples of such activities. 

3. Invest more time into sparking collaboration 

Online col­lab­or­ative pro­jects allow learners to explore dif­ferent per­spectives and benefit from the exper­ience of their peers. At Claned, we put a big emphasis on social inter­action and engagement during learning prac­tices. While most learners are happy to par­ti­cipate and enjoy these activ­ities in the online learning space, many need reminders to help bring them back into the learning exper­ience and alert them to ongoing tasks. It is, therefore, crucial for you as an online course creator or an online course facil­itator to plan these instruc­tions and reminders into your design and workflow. Many course cre­ators provide these in the inform­ation packet or page offered at the start of the online course, but that’s not suf­fi­cient. Go a step further, add instruc­tions and reminders inside indi­vidual learning materials, and ask them to use the com­menting and question tools to provide an excellent social engagement. Encourage peer-based feedback in your online col­lab­or­ation group pro­jects.  Online learners can identify per­sonal areas for improvement, so lean on those skills and expertise in the learning group bridge the learning gaps. 

4. Ask thought-provoking questions that lead to discussions and self-refection 

Some­times, all that is needed is a care­fully crafted question to ignite an online dis­cussion and enhance your eLearning course’s rel­evancy. By encour­aging learners to think inde­pend­ently and explore problems from mul­tiple angles, they may dis­cover the inform­ation they oth­erwise might not encounter. For example, asking a question that prompts them to research the subject matter and explore dif­ferent per­spectives requires learners to seek answers inde­pend­ently. They evaluate the inform­ation, combine it with their pre-existing know­ledge and determine the best course of action based on what they have learned. 

5. Avoid the use of abstract language as much as you can 

Using real-world examples, stories, and case studies in your materials help learners draw con­nec­tions between the often con­ceptual and the­or­etical nature of learning materials with their day-to-day exper­ience.  An example of a sales employee using their com­mu­nic­ation and active listening skills to address a cus­tomer’s con­cerns provides a better context than a speech on the more abstract sales strategies and cadences. 

Use real-world examples in online learning

In the sales­per­son’s example, your learners might more easily imagine them­selves apply the same tech­niques; perhaps it even brings to mind a situ­ation they exper­i­enced where those skills would have been helpful. The point is to get learners to see how they would apply those same skills to improve their work per­formance. Even a learner who doesn’t deal with the par­ticular topic (in this example, sales) can still assim­ilate the fun­da­mentals and use them differently. 

6. Use a problem-centered approach 

At the heart of any learning are real-world problems, which learners must be able to solve. Chal­lenges that we encounter in our daily lives become a focal point. Problem-based materials and exer­cises allow learners to seek answers and figure out how to solve a problem or overcome obstacles using all the resources and know­ledge. Using problem-centred activ­ities provides oppor­tun­ities for learners to see them­selves inside the subject matter. Learners are more likely to par­ti­cipate when the ideas or con­cepts presented are familiar. 

An effective way of doing this is building your online course around a central prag­matic problem, fic­tional or oth­erwise; you can even ask your learners to send in sample problems ahead or at the start of the program. 

Then layer your course materials around this problem as sorts of pieces in the puzzle. Ask the online col­lab­or­ation groups to work on dif­ferent parts and bring them together in the joint ses­sions. Offer the topical facts and stats as fun­da­mental know­ledge blocks to help them decide which pieces to fit together or open their mind to diverse solu­tions res­ulting from varying com­bin­ation of parts. 

Recog­nizing the need for and advantages of online learning is critical in today’s fast-paced world; perhaps of equal importance is under­standing that online learning needs to take a dif­ferent approach than tra­di­tional formats. It’s an exciting frontier because we get to play with ideas, new tools, and create solu­tions, but it’s cer­tainly not without its chal­lenges. At Claned, we see that as a big part of our jobs to help find the solu­tions and provide the answers and tools that will support learning make the leap to digital. By util­ising the tech­niques out­lined here, you can build learning exper­i­ences that are not only effective but fun and engaging – which, if you’ve been paying attention – are really 2 sides (3 sides?) of the same coin. 

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