Friday, 23 September 2016

Blend of learning theories and practise

Impressions from the IDS Learning Event which took place at Strathmore University in July 2016

Theory versus Practise

It was a vivid reminder of how learning theories simply laid out (such as constructivism, behavioural and cognitive) can be used in a practical sense in the classroom environment to enhance teaching and learning. It was contended that most students are “passive learners” operating at the surface level. This, it was said, has a lot to do with the teaching style.

It is based on this premise that activity-based learning should be encouraged, and measured by use of continuous feedback (avoid long lectures).

It is clear that if the content is too simple, then this leads the learner to boredom but if the content is too complex, then the learner switches off. This is what is expressed as the zone of proximal development.

Use of technology

Technology is mainly used in a restricted manner, handing in assignments and retrieving notes. The use of technology can be enhanced by identifying variables in the teaching and learning environment that can be used to measure learning activities, and if used effectively, can also predict performance and provide clues to points of intervention to facilitate set learning outcomes. I see this as an appeal to the “affective domain” in teaching, where the term “appreciate” (or favourable feeling toward) the outcome also becomes an objective in itself.

Impact on overall administration

The administrators in general are interested in variables such as retention and pass rates. Factors affecting these variables include personal factors, in this regard, Strathmore University appears to do much more than other peer universities through the mentorship programme. This is not the case with the experience from other universities, especially those with high enrolment numbers and a largely online offering of their academic programmes.

Are we doing enough to encapsulate the above?

In the blended learning project at SBS, for instance, a unit such as Strategic Management (offered by Dr. Fred Ogola) was offered as a blended (online as well as face-to-face sessions) as opposed to his other classes which were purely face-to-face. The difference this time was the use of impactful short video sessions (max. 7 minutes, with enhancements by use of technology), a pause to allow reflection followed with a request to the students to answer some questions (activity); then the next session proceeds, following a similar pattern. This type of approach was well received even with fellow faculty members and is now the prototype of how a blended session ‘should look like’.

What was the success factor?

The faculty was primed and given an opportunity to script his class, precise and to the point. The take away is that a session of 10 minutes would be equivalent to a 45 minute, or more, session in class. The session is controlled, students are able to interact with the content at a self-directed pace (containing the student within the proximal zone of development) and if need be, the student can rewind. At the end of the session, every student is "carried along" in the class. This is an enhancement to the teaching and learning environment. This is evidence of learning theory put into practise in an innovative way.

The above model has also been done with Geoffrey Injeni, by his own words ‘this is wonderful’.

Currently, faculty with the MBA for Executives are being lined up to pursue this approach.

David Shikuku is a consultant at Strathmore University and the technical lead in the Blended Learning Project. He has 20 years work experience spanning many areas including: accounts, logistics and warehousing, sales and marketing, project management and is currently completing his MBA (UoN).  David Shikuku holds a B.Ed (Maths) UoN, Diploma in Information Technology (IMIS), Agronomy (Yara). He has an affinity towards operational excellence helping deliver on overall strategic objectives. 

1 comment:

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