So far we’ve focused on finding the “perfect blend” of learning elements to build the optimal online learning experience. Part of the challenge in creating an online experience with the same richness one gets in the classroom is trying to replicate the feedback classroom students receive from the instructor and peers. This feedback provides critical informal checkpoints that students use to validate their learning and make sure they’re on track.
Frequent feedback helps students practice what they learn. In online learning this type of feedback can be achieved with “test your knowledge” questions and quizzes that pinpoint areas of strength and weakness, 24-7 access to online subject matter experts, and discussion forums and Wikis moderated by credible SMEs and class peers that enable students to share information. I know nobody really likes to be tested, but in an on-line learning environment, self-assessment and sharing our perspectives with others (as is done in a traditional class) is a key element of constructing our own learning.
In the March 2011 issue of Chief Learning Officer, Norm Kamikow cites motivation research conducted by Daniel Pink. In his latest book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Pink notes that it isn’t “the carrot or fear” that motivates us, it’s autonomy, mastery, and purpose. What’s the take away here? People want to feel in control, and they want to succeed. In an online learning environment, it’s imperative that students can gauge where they are along their learning path. In addition, they must feel as though they are in control of that journey.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, each of us constructs our meaning of new concepts. One of the greatest benefits of a classroom is the informal feedback you get from the instructor and peers. As learning professionals, we must ensure our distance learning experiences offer the same robust feedback mechanism. Ken Blanchard once quoted, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions”. A champion takes control of their destiny, and learners want the same. Let’s eat!