Effective Communication

“The key to successful project management is effective communication—sharing the right messages with the right people in a timely manner” (Portny, et al., 2008, p. 357). Effective communication is perhaps a subjective concept. What works well in one circumstance may not work well in another. This could also hold true from situation to situation.

The three messages this week left me with different interpretations when I progressed through them. My impressions changed further after listening to each message then replaying the previous messages and comparing them.

My impression of each message

Email – there was a muted sense of urgency. It was clear that the information was required, with haste. However, I did not feel as if the information was being demanded immediately. The wording was more formal than the face to face message and the words were chosen carefully in order to minimize misunderstanding (Portny, et al., 2008). Duthler (2006) posits that “electronic mail allows communicators more control over planning, composing, editing, and delivering messages than face-to-face communication” (p. 501). Duthler argues that this control might lead to communicators creating more polite speech. This explains why the content of the emails appears very polite. The precise and unambiguous nature of the message should further understanding (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.).

Voicemail – vocalics and paralanguage communicate the urgency to provide the requested document. In my opinion, Jane sounds very mechanical on the recording. This is likely because when communicating via voicemail communicators can rehearse but cannot make changes to the message once recorded. This mechanical sound could be due to the dissonance between the plan and actual performance as well as the need to manage speech cues.

Face to face – Tone, pace and body language used in the face to face message gave me the impression that the message was not as urgent as the email and voicemail implied.

Which form of communication best conveyed the true meaning and intent of the message?

I had a hard time deciding which one method best conveyed the true meaning and intent of the message. I felt both the voicemail and email adequately conveyed the intended message. However, in actuality, I would perhaps first make contact via telephone or face to face then send an email to follow-up. Dr. Stolovitch suggests important communication is best delivered live (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.). He further notes that these should be documented.

Lessons learn from this exercise

Communication is critical to the continued success of projects and other business activities. This activity highlighted how different media can be interpreted and misunderstood. The prevent misinterpretation of my communication I should utilize more than one medium. First I should always seek to communicate in person then use emails or other forms of formal written communication to document what was said and when (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.).

References

Duthler, K. W. (2006). The politeness of requests made via email and voicemail: Support for the hyperpersonal model. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 11(2), 500-521.

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Communicating with stakeholders [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Defining Distance Learning

Before Walden

Before starting my studies at Walden, I would define Distance Learning as “online learning” and “correspondence learning”. My exposure up to this point was completing MOOCs and one online course in my degree program which was more of a one-way video conference. I’ve also participated in Bible correspondence courses and have family members who participated in other correspondence courses over the years. However, I’m sure I never knew these correspondence courses are the foundation of distance learning until this week in our course. With my limited experience and knowledge under my belt, my definition of distance learning back then would be:

Distance learning occurs where learners and facilitator make use of technology to convey new knowledge and or build on existing knowledge.

At Walden

After one year with Walden, my definition and appreciation for distance learning have changed. This week’s resources included a Distance Learning Timeline Continuum (n.d), which exposed me to the growth of distance learning over the years. I was surprised to learn that distance learning dated as far back as 1833 when European newspapers offered examination courses through mail correspondences! The continuum and other resources highlight how distance learning is continually changing and perhaps will continue to change to meet the needs of its consumers. Tracey and Richey (2005) explained how legislative changes in the USA paved the way for their development in distance learning. In fact, it was these changes that allowed universities such as Walden to increase their course offering with the inclusion of undergraduate studies.

As distance education evolved over the years so too did its moniker. Over the years distance education has been referred to as “distance learning, open learning, networked learning, flexible learning, distributed learning, independent study, learning in connected space and, today, on-line learning” (Tracey & Richey, 2005). We know though that while the term “distance education” may have over time been used interchangeably with the terms previously listed they are not one and the same thing. They all in varied degrees could be seen as distance learning but by strict definition they are not distance learning. I equate this to the ever confusing math fact: a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not always a square. Take for example open learning, it implies that the learner has the choice to determine when, where, how, and what they learn (Calder & McCollum, 1998). On the contrary, while distance learning does allow the learner to determine where and when they will participate, they cannot necessarily determine what they will learn. This is because distance programs are generally “a structured learning experience that can be engaged in away from an academic institution, at home or at a workplace” (Tracey & Richey, 2005). The work of Calder and McCollum (1998) illustrates that the use of these terms are based on one’s perception and not necessarily a theoretical point of reference.

My distance education definition

Regardless of the moniker used Simonson, Smaldino, and Zvacek (2015) maintains that distance education has four components: they are institutional based, there is a separation of learner and facilitators, they involve interactive telecommunication, and the sharing of learning experiences. With this in mind I propose the following definition to guide the discussion here:

Distance education involves the sharing of learning experiences, at any level, via interactive telecommunication technologies where both learners and facilitator are separated by time and space but are members of the same institution.

Distance education in the future

The evolution of Distance education has kept pace with that of technology. Throughout the history of technological innovations, there is some evolution of distance education directly using those innovations (Tracey & Richey, 2005). This close correlation means as we see improvements in technology, likewise will we see improvements in distance education. I do believe that there are areas that could evolve even more with today’s technology. Areas such as teacher-student and student-student interaction could be enhanced through the use of video conferencing. The use of virtual reality, whether coupled with gamification or on its own could also play a major role in the evolution of distance learning today. This has been explored but more research can be done in this area. It could allow for personalised instructions and specifically for VR, the exploration of complex concepts via distance education. However, it should be our goal not just to strive for utilization but the effective employment of the new technology that will result from research (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008).

References

Calder, J., & McCollum, A. (1998). Open and flexible larning in vcational education and training. New York: Routledge.

Moller, L., Foshay, W. R., & Huett, J. (2008). Implications for Instructional Design on the Potential of the Web. TechTrends, 52(3), 70-75.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th ed.). Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Tracey, M. W., & Richey, R. C. (2005). The evolution of distance education. Distance Learning, 2(6), 17-21.

Reflections on EDUC 6115-1

It has been eight intense weeks for me. I’ve learned a lot and have a deeper appreciation for learning theories and their role in the process of learning and instruction. I think the biggest surprise over the period was how the new information changed my view of how I learned. When initially asked to diagram my learning network I honestly thought it would be small. As I started to list my connections I realized how extensive my network was and how truly dependent I was on it. I found that my conviction on which theories best explained how I learn was easily swayed once I was exposed to new theories such as connectivism and adult learning theory. I am now certain that no one theory explains how I learn, they all collectively explain the learning process and in some cases seek to build on existing knowledge about learning. Even more surprising was the role that motivation plays for the adult learner.

Schunk, Pintrich, and Meece (2008) defines motivation as “the process whereby goal-directed activity is instigated and sustained”. There are two types of motivation: intrinsic (within the learner) and extrinsic (external factors). Before starting this course, I erroneously had the view that all I needed was intrinsic motivation. ARCS motivational design process put forward by Keller (1987) provides a systematic approach to incorporate motivation in an online course design. Keller focuses on four areas: Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction. “Research has demonstrated that each of these elements promote learner persistence and ultimately, mastery of e-learning content” (Marshall & Wilson, 2013). My rocky road with this module proves Keller right. Initially I was upbeat and eager to learn, as my intrinsic motivation waned I believe the motivation designed in the course took over. When the bulk of work left me feeling like I was about to drown, I didn’t. I found that extra push to complete each assignment. When the final week came and I was presented with ARCS I was completely lost, I was interacting with this for the first time and for the life of me after reading the assigned literature I just did not get it. I spent countless hours researching and reading more on the approach until I could final say “yes, I think I have it now”. I cannot identify one particular thing that kept me going, but the fact that I’m at the eighth week and doing this reflection suggests that I made it through.

My experience has taught me the importance of motivation in the courses I will eventually design. As Marshall and Wilson (2013) stated so eloquently: “learner motivation is an important element of any instructional endeavor”. Ormrod, Schunk, and Gredler (2009) reveals that motivation increases an individual’s energy and activity level; directs an individual toward certain goals; promotes initiation of certain activities and persistence in those activities as well as affects the learning strategies and other cognitive processed an individual brings to bear on a task. The authors further explains that students who are intrinsically motivated, as opposed to extrinsically motivated, perform better in the learning environment. Despite this, they maintain the importance of extrinsic motivation and further explains that a particular motivation can be both instrinsic and extrinsic. There may be cases too where extrinsic motivation results in intrinsic rewards.

This course has further taught me that learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation have a symbiotic relationship. While each stand independently, they all rely on each other to work in a learning environment. If I consider adaptive learning technologies (educational technology) as an example, they rely on learning theories (constructivism, cognitive learning theory, behaviorism and connectivism), information is usually presented using varying styles (text, graphics, audio, video and music) and motivation (extrinsic and intrinsic rewards) is built into the design to assist learners with mastering the content.

My future as an Instructional Designer will most certainly be shaped by what I’ve learned these past eight weeks. The creation of effective instructions must consider what the learner outcomes are. One must bring to bear on the design the various learning theories and how best to structure the lesson for best retention. I will also include a variety of media and activities to aid the learner with understanding and understanding in a way that is meaningful to them. My design will also incorporate motivational tactics to gain the learner attention and keep them attentive throughout the course, demonstrate course relevance and build their confidence all in an effort to ensure their success.

References
Marshall, J., & Wilson, M. (2013, October). Motivating e-Learners: Application of the ARCS Model to e-Learning for San Diego Zoo Global’s Animal Care Professionals. Retrieved from http://www.jaidpub.org/: http://www.jaidpub.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/JAIDOctober2013MarshallWilson.pdf

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition ed.). New York: Pearson.

Schunk, D., Pintrich, P., & Meece, J. (2008). Motivation in Education: Theory, Research, and Applications. Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall.

Making my network work

I have a curious mind! I thirst for knowledge and generally pursue this relentlessly until I find suitable answers. One random thought will stay with me all day until I can find the time to do the necessary research to address it. I usually start my search at Google then proceed from there to look at websites, blogs or through books that have more information. My laptop, tablet or smart phone are usually never too far away as one of these are my tools to search the internet for new information.

Let’s take a look at my learning process for a few minutes. Let’s say for example, I’m a new employee and we have a vacancy at my office that must be filled. I’d first read through the policies related to recruitment then speak with my HR Manager to get further information. Once we have possible candidates it’s time to prepare for the interviews. A review of the job description and applicants’ resumes would now need to be done. As a newbie, I’ll need help with interview questions so I turn to blogs, websites, my HR RSS feeds and textbooks. After the interviews I speak with my manager to get some feedback on my performance. This is what Siemens (2006) calls a learning network. Siemens defines these as “structures that we create in order to stay current and continually acquire, experience, create, and connect new knowledge”. They also “exist within our minds in connecting and creating patterns of understanding”. Learning requires the connection of several nodes (information sources) in your learning network and knowledge may reside not only in humans but machine and is facilitated by technology (Siemens, 2006).

Over the years my learning network has certainly evolved. Years ago new information could only be acquired in the classroom, from family and friends or reading through tomes in my local library. As computers got cheaper and Internet became widely available in Jamaica my network slowly started to evolve. No longer was I dependent solely on what I learned in a classroom, I could now feed my almost insatiable need for knowledge through websites and other online resources. Back in the early days Yahoo’s directory search was my first point of reference, I could find almost anything there. Now my go to is Google. As my career took me in several directions my network evolved even more. From year to year the resources I relied on would change and so too would the knowledge I needed.

Connnectivism suggests that learning is done in a networked environment. Davis, Edmunds, and Kelly-Bateman (2012) further notes that learning and knowledge “rests in diversity of opinions”. The theory speaks nothing of the construction of knowledge nor does it specifically address the role of experience in learning. I agree that I do learn through my vast network of people, technology and resources. However, the information I gain through this network is usually assessed and not necessarily taken wholesale and as facts. I usually take care to review several resources and compare, contrast and evaluate information to determine what should be included in my new knowledge base on my experience and the experience of others. Given this I believe that connectivism does not completely explain how I learn. I learn best through a combination of constructivism, connectivism and adult learning.

References

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2012, January 26). Connectivisim. Retrieved from Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and Technology: http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Connectivism

Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing Knowledge. Lulu.com.

Neuroscience and Information Processing

Our focus this week in my course at Walden has been on Neuroscience and Information Processing. Picture4Emphasis was placed on the brain’s functions during different parts of the learning process, including cognitive information processing, information retrieval, and problem solving. This posts will focus on two resources that provides further information on Brain-Based learning, i.e. learning that is based on studies on how the brain works, and information processing.

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