Image of mountaineers with quote by John Dewey.

What is Experiential Learning?

You may have heard the terms experiential education and experiential learning. Both terms identify learning through experience as a foundational understanding. However, experiential learning is associated with individual learning.

Traditionally experience-based learning in higher education has been presented as educational opportunities complimentary to classroom instruction. These experiences might include clinical experiences, cooperative education experiences, apprenticeships, fellowships, field work, volunteerism, study abroad, practicum and internships, service learning, and student teaching experiences. These types of learning experiences are offered in and across many different disciplines (Giesen, 2012). These familiar experiential education programs demonstrate the value of individual experiential learning. But, the question remains: Is experiential learning a viable approach for online instruction?

Understanding the potential for experiential learning for online courses turns upon recognizing experiential learning as a process. The experiential learning process has been described as a cycle of learning (Kolb and Kolb, 2018). The model below illustrates The Experiential Learning Cycle.

Model of experiential learning showing sequence of Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualization, and Active Experimentation.

Experiential learning is understood as constructive pedagogy approach that is highly student centered. The Experience Learning Cycle begins with a concrete experience of some kind. Commonly we think of this as a real world event. That experience is followed by reflective observation of the experience, abstract conceptualization of what was learned, and the application of new learning via active experimentation. That experimentation is integrated as part of the next concrete experience.

The interactive and progressive nature of the experiential learning cycle is considered a driver of personal growth and development. The dialectics between concrete experience and abstract conceptualization as well as reflective observation and active experimentation are theorized to drive motivation for learning. 

Online Experiential Learning In Practice 

Problem-based learning, case-based learning, and  project-based learning are examples of design models that may include learning via experience in the real world (Bates, 2014). These models are often used as a way of bringing engagement into online instruction. So, if you have been incorporating these models of learning in an online course you are engaged at some level with experiential learning. But, what if you wanted to design an experiential learning assignment that does not fall within one of these models?  What might that look like?

Let’s examine the application of the experiential learning cycle to an online learning experience in a course recently offered through Ecampus at Oregon State University. The asynchronous course, Introduction to Organic Agriculture Systems, is a survey style course with an enrollment of students from Oregon and more distant.

Let’s step through The Cycle of Experiential Learning with an assignment from this course as our sample context. Hopefully it will reveal some insights into both the process of experiential learning and its practice.

1. Concrete Experience

The concrete experience for this course was an organic scavenger hunt assignment that was to be completed in the first week of the course. Although the overt activity of was a guided scavenger hunt the learning experience focus was to begin to learn systems thinking in organic agriculture. This is important to identify, as it is the authentic learning goal of the experiential learning.

As the professor framed this assignment: “This introductory activity will provide you the opportunity to explore organic availability, marketing, and farming in your community.”This concrete experience is the direct experience of organics in the student’s community.

The objectives of the scavenger hunt were to:

  • Identify organic products and marketing techniques that differentiate organic from conventional products
  • Conduct a survey of organic availability in your local store and region
  • Participate in hands-on exploration of different components of the organic system

Students were provided with a detail scavenger hunt instruction set and told to complete there first part of the assignment in a local store using an organic scavenger hunt questionnaire-work sheet. Time estimates for completion of the scavenger hunt was up to three hours at the store site. Completed work sheets were turned in to the instructor.

The key to this assignment is the real life exploration of the local organic system. Although this will be elaborated on in subsequent weeks of the course, this concrete experience will become a touchstone students can reference as they build new knowledge and skills in systems thinking in organic agriculture.

2. Reflective Observation

Part 2 of the scavenger hunt assignment includes independent student work guided by questions that ask about the presence of organic farms in the student’s area, type of organic farms, scale of the farms and evidence of their independent research work.

This element of the assignment encourages students to search for, identify, and reflect upon gaps in the local organic system in their own backyard. This work encourages students to reflect upon their own concrete experience, the quality of their work, and its linkage to understanding systems thinking.

3. Abstract Conceptualization

In week three of the course students were assigned a course discussion to share their findings from the scavenger hunt with peers. Here they compare and contrast their scavenger hunt findings and observations. In particular, students were asked to connect the social, environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability in organic agriculture to their observations taken from the scavenger hunt experience. Additionally students were asked to review other student work from different locals and explore common understandings about organic agriculture systems.

The value of this exercise from an experiential learning perspective is the application of concrete experience to more abstract concepts described by others or found in other agricultural regions. This provides opportunities for the re-conceptualizing of prior experiences with the goal of expanding on the process of organic agriculture systems thinking.

4. Active Experimentation

The Cycle of Experiential Learning rounds out with planning and applying new learning about organic agriculture systems thinking to a future concrete experience. Abstract conceptualization completed in the previous discussion will contribute to the formulation of new questions and ways of examining a local organic agriculture system. Students will likely apply these ideas to ongoing organic agriculture systems thinking in the course. In this way prior reflective observation becomes the root of new questions and predicted results for the next learning experience in organic agriculture systems thinking.
 

Final Thoughts

The final project of this course is the production of an organic systems map that explains the relationships between organic system stages (i.e., production, processing, distribution/marketing, consumption, and waste) and the dimensions of sustainability (ie. social, environmental, and economic).

In order to complete the final project students learn a great deal between their initial scavenger hunt and the final project. Their original concrete experience in systems thinking will likely inform decisions about how to re-apply new organic agriculture systems thinking.

The experiential learning assignment we just examined only works if students perceive that moving through the cycle of experiential learning addresses an authentic learning need. As the course is focused on introducing organic agriculture systems the idea of learning systems thinking makes sense. It captures the fundamental truth of what is expected to be learned (Jacobson, 2017) making the learning appropriate.

What Now?

As you explore the possibility of using experiential learning in your online course it is valuable for you to first consider formulating answers to a number of questions.

  • What is the authentic learning needed?
  • What concrete experience provides students with access to that learning? 
  • How will students carry that concrete experience through the cycle of experiential learning?
  • How will you provide the opportunity for concrete experiences for remote learners in a way that fosters individual learning and contributes to large scale learning in the course?

As you explore experiential learning for your online course revisit the model shared in this article. For help in this process contact your Ecampus instructional designer. They can help focus the key questions and suggest instructional strategies and tools to help you achieve your online experiential learning goals.

 

References

Bates, T. (2014). Can you do experiential learning online? Assessing design models for experiential learning. Retrieved from https://www.tonybates.ca/2014/12/01/can-you-do-experiential-learning-online-assessing-design-models-for-experiential-learning/

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Giesen, J. (2012). Experiential Learning. Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, Northern Illinois University. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/facdev/_pdf/guide/strategies/experiential_learning.pdf

Jacobson, J. (2017). Authenticity in Immersive Design for Education. In Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Realities (Ch 3). Singapore, Springer Nature.
Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-981-10-5490-7

Kolb, A. & Kolb, D. (2018). Eight important things to know about The Experience Learning Cycle. Australian Educational Leader, 40 (3), 8-14.


Experiential Education Resources

Association for Experiential Education
http://www.aee.org/ 

Journal of Experiential Education
http://www.aee.org/publications/jee 

Experience Based Learning Systems Inc.
https://learningfromexperience.com

Experiential Learning & Experiential Education
http://www.wilderdom.com/experiential/

Two cartoon men argue over a drawingDifficult Conversations

We all have conversations that are difficult from time to time. These are stressful, can make you (or the other person) feel bad, and they can take a lot of time to work through.

Frameworks for conversations allow the participants to approach these conversations with some tools to help those conversations stay productive and turn the temperature down at the same time. By using these frameworks, you’ll help make this conversation not personal, be able to calm the situation, and arrive at better solutions, sooner.

What are these difficult conversation frameworks? Let’s get started!

Change Advocate Hats

When working with someone, often we come in with our own hat on. We know what we are going to bring to the table and what we’d like the other person to contribute. Before you even come to this meeting, you should try on another hat. Try the hat of the person who you will be meeting with, what might they expect? Is there a third party affected by the decisions that you’ll be making? Try their hat on. Seeing things from another’s perspective helps us to have a better understanding of what they might bring to the table.

Go to the Neutral Zone

Action and re-action is part of who we are as human beings. These are two ends of a rope that can cause frustration when we don’t take a step back and view. When one person tugs at the end of the rope, the other end’s reaction is likely a huge step forward and then a quick tug back. The two people on the ends could keep tugging back and forth causing actions and re-actions but they might not get anywhere. If you can step away from those two ends and take a look at the whole picture, you can see that neutral zone where you can look at underlying issues that might be causing the tug-of-war. Even having one party step into this neutral zone takes away the constant back and forth and diffuses the difficult or possibly heated conversation allowing the parties to move forward.

Phone-a-friend

I’m sure this is familiar to those who’ve watched a popular T.V. show a “few” years ago. What we are talking about here is an outside source that can aide in the conversation. This could be a research article showing why a suggestion would be the right approach, a colleague that has had a similar experience and can talk to the success of an option, or bringing in facts and figures to support suggested approaches. Whatever it is, that “friend” can help provide support while deciding on a course of action with an outside opinion, not another tug on an end.

 

Personally, I’ve used each of these in conversations before and each one of them has helped multiple times. Do you have other frameworks or tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

Whether you are a new or seasoned online instructor, understanding how to establish and maintain instructor presence is a commonly shared challenge. What is known about online learners is they want to know their instructors are engaged and regularly interacting in the course. Students also express how important it is to know that their instructors care about them.

There is a natural distance inherent in online classrooms which necessitates purposeful actions and intentional structures to prevent isolation and to foster connection. There is great news… this distance can be overcome!  Moreover, research has indicated that instructor presence has a relationship with perceived student satisfaction and success. Being there for your students can make a difference!

Being present goes a step further beyond students perceiving that their instructors are there. By definition, instructor presence is “the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social process for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes.” This may sound like a significant undertaking, but rest assured that you can craft your presence over time and that you have ample support from the Ecampus team. We can help bring your ideas to life!

Keep in mind that curating instructor presence will be an evolution. Learning environments and experiences are dynamic. In addition, the composition of students will change each term, so learner needs and wants will continually shift. Strategies used within a specific context may not work for another, and that is okay.

Let’s get started!

Try starting out small by exploring different ideas. Don’t be afraid to change directions if one approach doesn’t work. With all that said, what are some strategies for establishing and maintaining presence which can be leveraged today?

Establishing presence

  • Welcome announcements
  • Instructor introduction video
  • About your instructor page
  • Course overview video
  • Virtual office hours or individualized virtual sessions to connect with students
  • Personalized language to humanize the learning experience

Maintaining presence

  • Non-graded community building spaces to connect around complex learning activities
  • Announcements to send regular updates, reminders, and check-ins
    • Tip! Announcements can also be leveraged to share and highlight valuable connections, expand upon those insights, and provide relevant resources for learners to explore.
  • Monitor learner progress
    • Regular and timely feedback which is clear and actionable
    • Outreach to learners who are struggling or engagement is lacking
  • Present content in diverse ways
    • Module overview videos
    • Audio recordings (e.g. podcast)
    • Screencast demonstrations
  • Engage in course discussions
  • Solicit student feedback
    • Tip! Consider adding a short anonymous survey in the middle of the course.

As ideas begin to percolate, please do share those with your Instructional Designer so that together you can explore different strategies and tools that will work best for you.

References

  • Budhai, S., & Williams, M. (2016). Teaching Presence in Online Courses: Practical Applications, Co-Facilitation, and Technology Integration. The Journal of Effective Teaching,16(3), 76-84.
  • Ekmekci, O. (2013). Being There: Establishing Instructor Presence in an Online Learning Environment. Higher Education Studies, 3(1), 29-38.
  • Jaggers, S., Edgecombe, N., & West-Stacey, G. (2013, April). Creating an Effective Online Instructor Presence. Retrieved from https://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/media/k2/attachments/effective-online-instructor-presence.pdf
  • Ladyshewsky, R. K. (2013). Instructor Presence in Online Courses and Student Satisfaction. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 7(1). doi:10.20429/ijsotl.2013.070113
  • Sandercock, I. (2014, October 14). The Importance of Instructor Presence in Online Courses. Retrieved from https://teachonline.asu.edu/2014/10/important-instructor-presence-online-course/
  • Smith, T. (2014, September 30). Managing Instructor Presence Online. Retrieved from http://teachonline.asu.edu/2012/08/managing-instructor-presence-online/#more-1069

This article is the first of a two-part series on producing video interviews featuring guest experts for online courses. Part I focuses on planning while Part II will address the faculty role in the video interview production process.

Part I: Planning With A Purpose

Interviews of guest experts are valuable forms of course media because they can serve a number of instructional purposes. Traditionally classroom instructors might consider including guest experts as part of instruction to…

  • Connect learning with an authority in the field.
  • Communicate what the practices are in a given field.
  • Describe the nature of work of a professional in a given field.
  • Show important work environments or processes.
  • Introduce a second, collaborative voice to instruction (Laist, 2015).

One of the common ways instructors incorporate the expert’s voice into a course is by inviting a guest speaker into the classroom. Or, class members might travel to a field location where the person being interviewed works. In both cases the experience of the guest expert interview is live and located where the interview occurs. The synchronous live interview, a staple of on-campus courses, is problematic for online instruction.

Online instruction is shaped by the nature of the online environment. Asynchronous class sessions, the remoteness of learners, and limited access to field sites would seem to limit the use of guest experts. Ecampus instructors are moving beyond those limitations by creating carefully planned and professionally produced video interviews of guest experts in order to leverage the instructional benefits of interviews for their online courses. An example of this is a media project produced for Dr. Hilary Boudet’s course PPOL 441/541 Energy and Society, offered by Oregon State University’s School of Public Policy.

Dr. Boudet worked with the Ecampus video team to re-imagine a traditional live field site visit to the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab at Oregon State University as a series of guest expert video interviews. Dr. Boudet carefully planned the interview process and served as the on-camera host in the video interview series. Three OSU scientists served as the guest experts in the on-site interviews. Because of careful planning, primary interviews and recording were completed in half a day.

The guest expert interview recordings, and subsequent video editing, resulted in the production of four videos ranging in length from ten to twenty minutes each. The interviews represent approximately one hour of video content for the PPOL 441/541 Energy and Society course. You can view the first of the four video interviews by clicking on the image from the video below.

 

Image of Dr. Boudet and Pedro Lomónaco
Hilary Boudet interviews guest expert Pedro Lomónaco.  Click on image to watch the video.

 

As the video interview planner, Dr. Boudet made a number of key decisions regarding video interview structure and content. We will highlight these decisions as answers to the 5 W’s of video interviews: Who, What, When, Where, Why and also How.

You may want to think through answers to these questions when you plan a similar project. Let’s take a look at each of these questions in the context of the PPOL 441/551 video.


Why are you doing the video interview?

In the case of PPOL 441/541, Dr. Boudet wanted to capture the instructional value of a field site visit and conversations with scientists related to that site. So being on location was essential. She wanted to show the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab and use it as a vehicle to discuss how the lab and Oregon State University researchers contribute to the larger social conversation about wave energy and social issues related to its use in coastal communities.


What is the subject of the video interview (s)?
Dr. Boudet identified four independent but related topics she wanted to address with the guest experts. The topics are listed below.

  • Introduction to the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab
  • Introduction to Wave Energy Technology
  • Human Dimensions of Wave Energy
  • Community Outreach and Engagement

Each of these topics fits well within the learning outcomes for the Energy and Society course. In this instance, Dr. Boudet had a clear story arc in mind when selecting topics. She structured the video segments to address each topic and conducted each interview as its own story that supported the larger learning arc. Having a clear vision for the use of guest expert video interviews helps guide video production on-site and also informs the final video editing process.


Where will the interview be recorded?
Prior field visits to the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab helped Dr. Boudet work with both the guest experts and video production team in thinking through locations for interviews and what needed to appear in the video. Understanding the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab also helped in deciding what aspects of the lab and props would be ideal to record for each video interview. It is clear What and Where are two closely related planning questions. In general on-site video production requires a large space for staging and a quiet space for recording. The interview recording site must also be relevant to the subject being addressed. If you do not have a recording space available Ecampus has a studio facility that can be used.


Who is to be interviewed?
Dr. Boudet had a clear plan to bring expert voices into the video interview. The guests to the class served as scientific experts as well as guides to the facility being visited. In the case of the PPOL 441/541 video interviews, Dr. Boudet chose to have the scientists appear on screen and to also appear herself. This is a key decision that shapes the planning and production process of the video interviews. As you might imagine, the technical demands of having one person on camera is different from having two people. Recording equipment needs and subsequent editing approaches are impacted by the number of people included “on camera” in any interview scenario.


When will the interview occur?

Scheduling interview recording involves coordinating your own schedule with Ecampus video staff and your guest expert(s). In the case of PPOL 441/541, Dr. Boudet arranged to have all interviews recorded at the same facility but in different spaces. Additionally, the interview times were coordinated to facilitate the video production team being present for a large block of time when all guest expert interviews could be recorded. After primary recording, the video production staff returned briefly to the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab to record b-roll content; shots of the facility without any people. This is a common process in video production.

The last important question to be asked is…


How will you prepare?
Part of preparation for a video interview is embedded in the answer to our previous questions. But preparing the content of the actual interview also requires planning. Dr. Boudet prepared a list of questions that she wanted to have addressed as part of the interview. She shared the purpose of the interview and her questions with the guest experts in advance. This collaborative effort contributed to a clear understanding of the intent of learning for all parties.

Sharing your questions with interviewees can be helpful. Asking guest experts not to memorize answers but to prepare with bullet points in mind will help the interview feel spontaneous.

There are obvious types of questions you will want to avoid. For instance, yes or no type questions can stunt an interview. Remember, the idea is get the instructional information you need. Be prepared to ask a question again if it is not answered the first time. Or, ask for clarifications to a response as part of the interview. Also provide opportunities at the end of the interview for experts to add anything they like. Remember you might get some great information and if it is not useful it can be edited out.

Preparing the physical interview space and interviewees is part of what the Ecampus video team does. They can provide tips on how to dress for a given interview, where to stand, where to look, and how to stage the interview space.

Now that we have answered some of the key questions in the video interview planning process watch the sample video posted above again. Can you see or hear the answers to the questions we have addressed?

About Part II:

Planning a guest expert video interview with a clear purpose in mind will shape the relevance, structure, and focus of the final video interview. In Part II of this video interview series, we will address the second half of video interview creation process; faculty collaboration with Ecampus video staff in the final stages of video interview production

References

Laist, R. (2015). Getting the Most out of Guest Experts Who Speak to Your Class. Faculty FocusHigher Ed Teaching & Learning. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/curriculum-development/getting-the-most-out-of-guest-experts-who-speak-to-your-class/

 

Special thanks to Hilary Boudet, Heather Doherty, Rick Henry, Chris Lindberg, and Drew Olson for their contributions to this article. 

The instructional designers at Ecampus held a Research & Development Day recently to explore the topic of user experience (UX) design as it applies to Ecampus courses. As part of that day, fellow instructional designer, Dorothy Loftin and I explored how Canvas functions when used on Mobile Devices. Below are some findings from our testing.

Generally, we found that iPads work great as long as a student accesses the course through a browser. It was using the Canvas App (necessary on a smart phone) that presented changes and challenges in functionality. The good news is that many of these can be addressed with a few additions in course design. These additions should not significantly alter the experience for students who are using desktop and laptop computers. Today, I will present one of those strategies.

The most significant impact we experienced in using the Canvas App is navigation, how a student gets to content, activities and assessments. It can take quite a few clicks or taps to get to a specific page in Canvas using the mobile app, or to get from one page to another, and the navigation can vary depending on the device used. This may negatively impact the student user experience, distract, and generally increase cognitive load.

Navigation Strategy

One strategy to improve navigation is to provide alternate links for students to jump to commonly needed items in your course. Turns out, this can also benefit students who are on desktops or laptops.

The Home Page that I often use is immediately available for users on all devices. I have added links and buttons so students can jump directly to important sections of the course from here. This turns the Home Page into more of a landing page with quick links.

Page View in Desktop Browser Page View on iPhone
Desktop browser screen grab iPhone Screen Grab

The buttons take a student to the Module Page for a particular week. Module Pages, on the App, present students with links to all content and activities for that week. I limited the buttons to 3-across to make clicking them on a phone easier. As you probably notice, the App translates buttons into links. So, simply providing a list of text links would also work on multiple devices.

This Strategy to improve navigation can be used on any page where you want a student to be able to move quickly to new material, reducing frustration and cognitive load by making the navigational journey more immediate.

How to do it yourself resources:

By Christopher Lindberg

If you are considering developing an online course with Ecampus, you may be curious how you will translate your lectures to the online format. There are several effective online lecture presentation formats available to faculty. They differ in the type of video recording required and the kind of post-production work required after the initial recording.

Image listing 4 formats for online lecture presentation: Video, narrated lecture, light board, and interactive video.
Online Lecture Formats: Qualities & Complexity

Each of the presentation formats can be effective, however the more complex types can offer additional advantages for your students. Why should you consider producing the most challenging of the five online lecture formats? To answer that question, we need to understand what exactly an interactive video lesson is. Let’s start by first looking at a sample interactive video lesson used in a fall 2017 course titled The Biology of Horticulture (HORT 301). You can watch a four minute excerpt of the twenty-minute interactive video lesson by selecting the image below:

Still image from video of Dr. Ryan Contreras teaching using an interactive video lesson in the Biology of Horticulture (HORT 301).
Dr. Ryan Contreras teaching using an interactive video lesson in the Biology of Horticulture course. Select image to watch the four minute video.

As is seen in this excerpt the interactive video lesson has as its foundation a video recording of a Lightboard presentation. Layered over that recording are interactive elements that control video playback—sometimes pausing, other times auto-advancing to specific clips—or to progress through the lesson, trigger a student’s input of feedback, and, most importantly, increase the amount of student engagement in the lesson. In the case of HORT 301 the interactive element prompts the solving of a temperature indices formula. The base video could have been used by itself. However, it is the melding of the Lightboard presentation with the interactive feature that makes the interactive video lesson a highly engaging presentation for the online environment.

The model below proposes how the elements of personal and mediated communication immediacy are brought together to make an interactive video lesson a compelling experience.

Model showing proposing how mediated communication and personal communication of an interactive video complement each other in an interactive video lesson.

In this project instructional design, in conjunction with visual design, video staging, and interaction design, was focused on solving the issue of how to teach a self-paced formula-drive lesson in the online environment. The result is an interactive video lesson that presents as a unified visual space that fosters an actual “see through” psychological perspective. Although clearly a media production, this approach to online lesson presentation implies an unmediated learning experience.

It is enhanced by the camera literally seeing through the Lightboard glass to the instructor conducting the lesson fostering a sense instructor presence. This type of interactive lesson design is desirable because it presents classroom-like learning in a student-controlled online environment. The result is an interactive video lesson that is new in design format but familiar experientially.

Is Interactive Video For You?
A decision to adopt this approach to lesson design will likely be successful if you have a lesson that is formula driven. Certainly math subjects and many science subjects might benefit from this approach. Is it also applicable to humanities courses? Can you imagine teaching language, music, or poetry with an interactive video lesson? If you can, contact Ecampus. We would be glad to help you adopt this approach to lesson design for use in your online course.