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Here are some notable quotes about the world of online learning from the past several months.

On addressing distance education regulatory burdens

“A major initiative to ease the regulatory burdens of online learning across state lines found its first ally this week as the state of Indiana joined the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA).

SARA is a nationwide attempt at making distance education courses more accessible to students living in different states.”

Jake New, editor, eCampusnews.com

SOURCE: “Indiana clears online learning regulatory hurdles,” eCampusnews.com, February 25, 2014

On MOOCs as a gateway for prodigies

“If innovation in its many forms is the currency of the future, could MOOCs emerge as a tool for finding the unknown geniuses of tomorrow? That’s what universities from Harvard to Duke to MIT to the Berklee College of Music in Boston believe. They are rushing to use online courses as a way not just to bring education to vast numbers of people who normally wouldn’t have access, but also to use them as a way to conduct a global talent search. It’s like “American Idol” for the Einstein set.”

Laura Pappano,correspondent, Christian Science Monitor
SOURCE: ““How colleges are finding tomorrow’s prodigies,” Christian Science Monitor, February 23, 2014

On using online learning to deal with severe weather

“Online learning is getting a boost at area colleges and universities this semester, as snow, ice and power outages continue to force closures at a rate not seen in recent memory.

With some schools already having closed for as many as seven days, mostly since the start of the second semester, schools are asking professors to use more online lectures, journals, blogs, quizzes, database research and other methods that don’t require face-to-face meetings, officials said.”

Susan Snyder, philly.com
SOURCE: ““Universities use more online learning to deal with winter woes,” philly.com, February 13, 2014

On the schools of education and online learning

“Technology is swiftly assuming a dominant role in classrooms, and in students’ lives. Many observers have raised doubts about whether schools of education are providing future teachers with the skills they need to address blended learning, and whether they’re using digital tools to improve instruction.

Faculty members at Clemson’s school of education and at a number of other higher education institutions are determined to address the issue head-on.”

Robin L. Flanigan, Education Week

SOURCE: ““Teacher Colleges Seek to Shift to Digital Age,” Education Week, January 27, 2014

On higher education online growth

“Online learning activity in higher education shows modest improvement. The overall number of students enrolling in online courses has increased year over year by over 400K, though the annual growth rate has dropped from 6% to 9%. This drop in growth is compounded by retention fears: 40% of academic leaders believe retaining students is a greater problem for online courses than it is for face-to-face courses. Babson reports the total number of online learners at 7.1 million, though industry consultant Phil Hill feels that number is closer to 5.5 million as outlined in the longitudinal data from NCES’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.”

SOURCE: “Survey Captures Online Learning Attitudes in Higher Ed,” edsurge.com, January 21, 2014

On working papers by Harvard and MIT on MOOCs

““A fixation on completion rates limits our imagination of what might be possible with MOOCs. A better criterion for success might be for students to complete more of the course than they thought they would, or to learn more than they might have expected when they first clicked on a video or course forum.”

Andrew Ho, professor, Harvard’s Graduate School of Education

SOURCE: “Harvard and MIT release working papers on open online learning,” Harvard Gazette, January 21, 2014

Copyright © 2014 MindEdge, Inc.

One common framework employed in designing instruction is Bloom’s Taxonomy, a pedagogical tool that helps trainers and educators organize learning activities by the type of thought they ask of students.

A committee of educators chaired by Benjamin Samuel Bloom, an educational psychologist, proposed this systemic approach, published in Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives in 1956.

Bloom’s Taxonomy had helped provide a common language for educators. The model has three distinct learning domains: Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor. Within each domain, learning falls into various levels. It is generally true that mastery of higher levels of learning (such as synthesizing ideas to make something new) requires mastery of knowledge and abilities at the lower levels (such as comprehending the writing of others and being able to recall specific facts at will).

The Cognitive Domain

Learning in the Cognitive domain involves the development of skills of knowledge, comprehension, and critical thinking. Most online learning courses have the bulk of their objectives in the cognitive domain. There are six levels within the Cognitive domain (listed below in order of least demanding to most demanding):

  • Knowledge (Remembering). Requires the indication of memory of materials previously encountered.
  • Comprehension (Understanding). Requires demonstrating an understanding of those facts by sorting, comparing, and describing them, and by reducing them to more essential ideas and facts.
  • Application (Applying). Requires the use of knowledge in a new and different way.
  • Analysis (Analyzing). Requires the examination of information, the reduction of ideas and facts to more fundamental ones, or the identification of causes.
  • Evaluation (Evaluating). Requires that one present and defend judgments based on the information that has been learned.
  • Synthesis (Creating). Requires compilation of information in different ways.

The classic pyramid of Bloom’s Cognitive domain shows the six levels with the least complex level at the bottom and most complex level at the top.

The progression of the hierarchy in this pyramid diagram has received some criticism over the years. One point of disagreement is whether evaluation or synthesis is the highest level of learning. Bloom’s original hierarchy set evaluation as the highest level, though recent education scholars now believe synthesis/creation to be at the highest level. Other critics argue that while the first three stages of the hierarchy do occur in progression, the final three are actually parallel to one another. In addition, it has been suggested that the categories should actually be identified in verb form since performance words tend to be verbs as well.

Applying Bloom’s Taxonomy to Learning

By focusing on the way learners process information and establishing six levels of cognitive learning, Bloom’s Taxonomy helps instructors to move students beyond simple knowledge, or fact-gathering, to more challenging orders of thinking, such as understanding, applying, analyzing, and synthesizing.

Based on a given level of cognitive learning, the system can be used to help:

  • define learning objectives for a course or program
  • formulate questions and assignments
  • establish assessments, essay topics, etc.
  • evaluate student discussions

Bloom’s Taxonomy can be a helpful guide in assessing the way material will be presented and taught and how a given pedagogical approach matches up with any learning outcomes that have been established.

Engaging Learners at all Levels

While much effort has been put into discussing the most accurate order of performance skills, it’s best to not slavishly adhere to methods that require students to master lower level thinking before engaging in higher-level thinking. It often seems that as we learn, we employ skills at multiple levels simultaneously, or a student may skip from the first to the fifth step when learning some new information.

The fact that lower-level skills (such as recall) seem easier to teach and easier to test for has, in the past, led to poorly-constructed educational resources that bore the learner with constant drilling before helping the learner to engage in more thought-provoking and interesting applications of these skills. Scaffolding can help learners master less complex skills even while engaging them in real-world tasks.

Copyright © 2014 MindEdge, Inc.

MindEdge Learning has introduced adaptive learning in many of its Online College Courses and will be expanding its use in many courses and simulations. We thought it might be helpful to answer some of the basic questions about adaptive learning that we’ve encountered.

What is adaptive learning?


We prefer a simple definition: adaptive learning (AL) is online learning technology that provides personalized and individual attention for students.

It’s learning that anticipates and meets the student’s needs so that she or he learns more thoroughly.

Looking for a more formal definition? Education Growth Advisors sees adaptive learning as “…a sophisticated, data-driven and in some cases, non-linear approach to instruction and remediation, adjusting to a learner’s interactions and demonstrated performance level and subsequently anticipating what types of content and resources learners need at a specific point in time to make progress.”

Why should educators employ adaptive learning?

When properly employed, adaptive learning helps both students and instructors. Students can be guided into exercises and drills that help them achieve mastery of difficult material. They can also access enrichment material and explore topics in greater depth.

For instructors, AL can assist by diagnosing roadblocks for students and allowing teachers to focus on areas of needed improvement.

Time is a limited resource. Adaptive learning holds out the promise of helping students and instructors use their time more effectively. Whether in a blending learning environment (where students spend time in the classroom and online) or in a virtual setting (where all instruction and interaction occurs online), AL can fill those gaps in comprehension that can hold students back.

Does MindEdge Learning have a specific approach to adaptive learning? How is this approach different?

Yes, MindEdge approaches AL from a somewhat different angle from other organizations. We begin with the notion that an online course in an introductory subject (such as an Introduction to Financial Accounting or Composition 1) should contain all the learning content necessary for basic mastery. But we know that may not be enough for some students.

So, in response, we’ve built our AL by focusing on what we call common pain points, those parts of a learning experience where a student experiences difficulty learning. How do we know what these pain points are? We start by asking experienced instructors where they’ve seen students struggle. Then we build AL content to address those difficult concepts or skills.

MindEdge AL relies on the “wisdom of educators” as opposed to the “wisdom of crowds” approach taken by those AL systems that are driven by aggregated data on student performance. We didn’t think guiding students down a learning path established by his or her peers would be as productive.

How do you specifically help students with these pain points?

We’ve worked with learners long enough to know that presenting concepts in different ways can help comprehension. Thus our AL “Extra Help” includes video commentary, slide shows, games, charts, exercises, and annotated problems. This variety of learning elements means that students are encouraged to tackle difficult or challenging material from different perspectives.

There are several layers of “Extra Help” instruction. Each layer addresses the same content in a different way or teaches more fundamental skills that the learner may be missing and that may be contributing to a lack of mastery.

Do students have to use your adaptive learning as they progress through a course?

No. And that’s the idea. If a student is making excellent progress and doesn’t need AL help, then he or she doesn’t have to access it. We do have an “opt-in” feature that allows learners to navigate to AL “Extra Help,” but it’s elective.

Some MindEdge AL offers optional enrichment content for the student who wants to learn more—but, again, this is elective, not mandatory.

What are the initial results for students using MindEdge AL?

We’ve found high levels of usage by students using courses with MindEdge AL, with an overall 70 percent participation rate. (This is based on a statistically-significant sample). Our system allows instructors to monitor student progress through AL content, and only 2 percent of the time do those who engage in the AL content fail to successfully complete the material (and when this occurs, it allows the instructor to offer more targeted assistance to the student).

Where can I learn more?

MindEdge has released “Innovations in Adaptive Learning,” a white paper on the company’s new adaptive learning (AL) program. It can be downloaded by clicking here.

If you are interested in learning more about how you could bring adaptive learning to your school or institution of higher learning, please email Mark Sullivan at: msullivan@mindedge.com.

Copyright © 2013 MindEdge, Inc.

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