On virtual classrooms

Dr. Ann Kwinn spoke to the ISPI Potomac Chapter in September on “Getting the Most Out of Your Virtual Classroom.” As with other material I’ve read or heard from Clark Training and Consulting, she talked about research-based ways of dealing with learning.

Five main areas:

  • Attention: how to present information so as to attract and maintain attention
  • Managing cognitive load: coping with the limits of working (i.e., short-term) memory
  • Rehearsing and encoding: techniques to process (rehearse) new information in order for it to be stored (encoded) in long-term memory
  • Retrieval: transfer of information from long-term to working memory
  • Metacognition: “thinking about thinking,” monitoring systems the learner can use (define goals, select strategies, monitor progress)

She focused on only a few techniques (given the 90-minute time limit). She discussed inductive events at some length. She referred to research claiming that in the typical instructor model, the instructor is active two-thirds of the time:

Present content → Provide examples → Ask Qs / Practice

An inductive approach makes the learner active two-thirds of the time:

Provide example → Derive content → Ask Qs / Practice

She referred (very briefly) to work in this area by Beishuizen, who seems to be J. J. Beishuizen of the Netherlands. A phrase I liked contrasted meaning taking (e.g., receiving) with meaning making (induction and the “derive the content” approach).

One questioner asked about real-world challenges to some of Kwinn’s recommendations — e.g., in a call-center environment in which an indvidual’s time is closely monitored, can you realistically assign “outside reading?”

I haven’t had great success with prework (either doing it myself, or especially asking for it to be done as part of a course I’m doing). This topic falls somewhat outside Kwinn’s presentation, though I do think it highlights a gap between the learning ideal and the workplace reality.

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