Wish List 2016

Instead of posting a review of 2015 or predictions for 2016, I thought I’d do a wish list. Because, really. Did things change all that much last year? Are they likely to change dramatically this year? Exactly. Still, hope springs eternal and all that.

Here are my top ten wishes. I know some of us are already doing some of them. I wish that some day they’ll come true for all (does that make eleven wishes?).

10. A True Learning Management System – Most LMSs are great at supporting administrative tasks (managing enrollment, grading, and such) but I wish they were just as good at supporting learning. I wish there was an LMS that would help learners manage their time, mark their progress, and get answers when they’re confused.

9. Better Use of Time – Most adult learners work all day, then come home to take care of family and chores. It’s hard for them to spend two hours reading and writing when they don’t even get started till 10:00 at night. I wish we could serve up meaningful learning in smaller doses that they could fit into short breaks throughout the day.

8. Connection – Learning is largely social, but learning online is solitary. I wish we could help learners feel connected, while still respecting the flexibility that makes online learning attractive.

7. Instant Feedback – I wish we could give learners ways to make sure they’ve understood complex topics–while they’re engaged in learning–before they have to turn in work for a grade.

6. Personalized Learning – I wish there was a way to let students skip the stuff they already know, while giving extra help when they need it. I wish that adaptive learning systems really lived up to their promises. For Higher Education, I also wish we could pull the plug on “seat time” as a measure of learning.

5. Direct Assessment of Learning – In distance learning, it’s extremely difficult to observe directly how our learners are applying what they’ve learned. Too often we have to ask them to reflect on their experience and write a paper about it. I wish there was a better way.

4. More Modes of Learning – There are lots of good reasons for learners to know how to read critically and write clearly. I just wish we could mix it up more, especially with some experiential learning.

3. Active Learning – I wish we could stimulate learners’ natural curiosity by giving them interesting problems to solve and then supplying the tools and information to solve them. I also wish we could recognize that watching videos or listening to (ahem) “podcasts” are still passive experiences.

2. Improved Course Architecture – The structure of content is just as important as the quality of the content. I wish all courses had clear learning objectives, and that assessments always matched the objectives. I wish all courses were designed so that each step built logically and explicitly on the previous step.

1. Relevance and Value – I wish we could deliver learning experiences that always provide value to learners, either directly (by supplying a needed skill) or indirectly (by preparing them to learn something important later).

How about you? Do you have a wish for adult learning? Share in the comments.

(by Rissa Karpoff)

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