The augmented classroom : some thoughts shared at WiziQ EdTech 15th October 2015

The augmented classroom lecture: engaging the learner in an online learning environment

……..some thoughts shared at WiziQ EdTech 15th October 2015

There is a well known saying ” when the learner is ready, the teacher will appear” and therefore the most important element of learner engagement has to be put in place, well before the learning session happens.
The modern pedagogy of ‘ Flipped Learning’ facilitates this, by providing access to resources before the learner comes to class. By perusing the content, attempting a few tasks and writing in advance questions to ask the instructor in class, provides a degree of engagement very supportive to the learning experience. But to be really effective, creating a ‘learner profile’ and aligning the instructional intervention to the ‘learner disposition’ is essential to learner engagement.
Such aspects of learner engagement are common to online as well as face to face learning. Some degree of learner engagement has also been possible in well written textbooks, that pose interesting questions to stimulate curiosity as well as learning. A traditional face to face teaching session also allows for learner engagement in multiple ways in the hands of an experienced teacher.
But online learning, and it’s more recent form of mobile and handheld learning, allows for completely new ways of learner engagement.

We must appreciate that in online learning, unlike a traditional lecture, workshop or seminar which is synchronous with all concerned being located within the same physical space and in the same time slot.
In the online learning environment, there is possibility of a space shift ( learners may be located in different places), there is a time shift ( learner’s access learning at differing times depending upon what suits each person), and finally there is a device shift ( we are not looking at the same screen or whiteboard, but on our own devices which may be Windows, Androids or iPhones or another platform, in a Bring Your Own Device BYOD world).

This model of learning a-synchronously is a new and limiting experience for many. But a new dimension of social learning is more easily and effectively implemented in the online world. The value of the diversity of the learning cohort that harnesses its cognitive surplus is non-linear and following Metcalfe’s law actually increases as the square of the number of learners in the cohort.
Related to this is the question of what is the right size of the learning cohort? In a 1926 essay, with the title ‘ On Being the Right Size’, JBS Haldane addressed this question, and with reference to the animal world drew attention to the fact that “for every type of animal there is a most convenient size, and a large change in size inevitably carries with it a change of form”.
Towards the last part of the essay, he extends the idea to suggest that ‘ just as there is a best size for every animal, so the same is true for every human institution’.
So what is the desirable size of an engaged learner cohort? Certainly not millions, which is the target of MOOCs, which seem to have got carried away by the possibilities of broadcasting technologies. So neither cMOOCs nor xMOOCs can grow without limits, as learning is not equal to broadcasting, and just because something has been broadcasted successfully it does not mean that it has been learnt effectively and caused the desired change in behaviour.
The quest for the right size of an online learning cohort then takes us to Robin Dunbar, who has a number named after him to describe the number of persons with whom we can maintain meaningful social interactions. The value for the Dunbar number is typically considered to be 150.
So, to have meaningful learner engagement, I have proposed the phrase ‘ the augmented classroom’ that comprises Flipped learning, mastery learning, personalisation and social learning. I have been exploring this in a variety of course topics such as ” Becoming an UberSmart Self-directed learner” and ” Learning to live a quality life with Diabetes” and have found the use of whatsApp in a group of about one hundred ( about the Dunbar number), as very satisfactory to the entire group. We evolved a protocol for maintaining the main flow of the course, sharing experiences but not getting diverted and the general feedback from a very highly cognitively evolved cohort of vice-chancellors, Professors and Principals of Schools was that this was a model that can be taken further for one credit or half credit courses.
To summarise as operational recommendations: one can use a platform like WiziQ for Institutional type needs, use WordPress site pages for static course content ( that doesn’t change during the course term) and WordPress Blog Posts for more dynamic content/readings, and finally a whatsApp chat group of about 100 for engaged learner interactions. While the group size is limited to 100, there can be several concurrent groups.
This then is the way ahead for a massive delivery of high quality engaged learning experience.
And applicable across all stages of the life-span.

About mmpant

Prof. M.M.Pant has a Ph.D in Computational Physics, along with a Professional Law Degree, and has been a practitioner in the fields of Law, IT enabled education and IT implementation. Drawing upon his experience in world class international institutions and having taught in various modes of Face-to-Face, Distance Learning and Technology Enhanced Training, Prof. Pant is now exploring the nature of institutions which will be successors to the IITs, which represented the 1960s, IIMs, which represented the 1970 and Open Universities which were the rage of 1980s & 90s. He believes that the convergence between various media and technologies would fundamentally alter the way learning would be created, packaged, and delivered to learners. His current activities are all directed toward actual implementation of these new age educational initiatives that transform education in the post Internet post WTO era.. Prof. Pant, has been a Former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and has been on the faculty of IIT – Kanpur (the premier Engineering institution in India), MLNR Engineering College and Faculty & Visiting Professor - University of Western Ontario-Canada. He has been visiting scientist to research centers in Italy, England, Germany & Sweden and has delivered international lectures with about 80 papers published. During his association of almost 15 years with the IGNOU, Prof. Pant has served as the Director Computing and has been the Member of All Bodies (i.e. School boards, Academic council, Planning board, Finance committee and the Board of management). With his interest in Law, backed with practice of Law in a High Court, and his basic training in Science and IT, Prof. Pant has been particularly interested in the Cyber Law, Patent & trade mark issues, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues etc. and has been involved with many activities, conferences on “Law & IT” Prof. Pant is presently; • Advisor to Media Lab Asia - Chairman of working group on ICT for Education, chairman of PRSG handling projects on ICT for education. • Lead Consultant for an ADB funded project for ICT in Basic Education in Uzbekistan • Member of the drafting Group for India’s National Policy on ICT in education • Chairman of the group creating books for class 11 and 12 students on ‘Computers and Communication Technology’ appointed by the NCERT • Preparing a ‘Theme Paper” for the NCTE in the area of ICT and Teacher Training • Advisor and mentor to several leading Indian and Multi-national Companies in the area of education. Prof. Pant has in the recent past been ; • Member – Board of Management – I I T, Delhi for 6 years (two consecutive terms) • One-man committee to create the Project Report & Legislation for Delhi IT-enabled Open University • Advisor to the Delhi Government on Asian Network of Major Cities Project (ANMC-21) distance learning project in association with Tokyo Metropolitan Government. • Chairman Board of Studies, All India Management Association With his mission to create and implement new business opportunities in the area of e-learning & learning facilitation, Prof. Pant has promoted Planet EDU Pvt. Ltd., as its Founder & Chairman, along with a team of highly experienced and skilled professionals from Education & Training, Operations, IT and Finance.
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