Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Creating Hybrid Learning Experiences--Part II- Simulations-- Return to the Kobyashi Maru Scenario

In the previous post, it was suggested that one way to bring order to E-Learning would be to create irresistibly engaging learning experiences by using hybrids of the different versions of E-Learning that are often mentioned. The hybrid mentioned  in the previous post was the combination of project based learning with problem based learning but as postulated it is incomplete. In order to have a level of engagement for the learner that leads to deeper sustained learning, it should be linked to a form of learning experience that is really coming into its own in the online world and that is the simulation.

Simulations are not new. They have been used to train aircraft pilots, medical personnel and shuttle Astronauts for years. However, with the great advancement of technology as it relates to the online world, more and more disciplines are using virtual reality simulations in order to engage their members in essential learning and refinement of skill sets. It is within this type of environment, that both problem solving based learning and project based learning can be employed as a part of the previously mentioned hybrid. Besides the need to assess developing skill sets for members, other elements that come into play in order to complete individualized profiles are:

  1. Measures of individual and group emotional responses and group collaborative efforts when confronted with an unexpected event.
  2. Measures of innovative thinking in solving a problem.
  3. Measures of recovery time in the resolution of a challenging problem in which primary solutions failed.
The more realistic the immersive simulation is the more authentic the responses will be.


Return to the Kobyashi Maru Simulation--Cheating or Innovative Thinking?

 One of the keys to the use of such a hybrid learning experience is effective and focused collaboration on the problem that is presented in the simulation. This means the coordinating of the talents of each collaborator to arrive at an effective solution. In such a situation, divergent thinking is to be encouraged because solutions to challenging problems are not all arrived at by taking the same path. This is where ingenuity can lead to an innovative solution to a problem.

"Unfortunately, in many of our societies our education systems have stressed and rewarded conformity rather than individual ingenuity which has been seen as an oddity and often pushed to the side."

In the digital age where a culture of innovation is the "gold ring" that business and education organizations are striving for, individual ingenuity is something that should be nurtured and prized rather than conformity to paths that have always been followed.
Consider a lesson on ingenuity and innovation from the science fiction movie, Star Trek. In the movie, as well as in the earlier t.v. series, a problem solving scenario was presented in the form of a simulation called the "Kobyashi Maru" simulation.

The Kobyashi Maru Test

The KM is a test given to all command-track cadets in Starfleet. The test takes place in a simulated version of the USS Enterprise’s bridge. The test candidate assumes the role of captain for the duration of the simulation. The simulated scenario is as follows. The Enterprise is on patrol near the neutral zone between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. It receives a distress call from a civilian freighter named The Kobayashi Maru. The freighter, which is located within the neutral zone, has struck a gravitic mine and needs to be rescued, otherwise the crew and passengers will perish. While rescuing the ship is what every commander would like to do, the problem is that entering the neutral zone risks a confrontation with the Klingons. Sure enough, this is exactly what happens: when the Enterprise enters the neutral zone, three Klingon battle cruisers decloak and attack.

The test is programmed in such a way that, once you enter the neutral zone, there is no way to “win”. In other words, there is no way to successfully rescue the Kobayashi Maru while at the same time avoiding death at the hands of the Klingons.  Everyone is supposed to fail the test, at least superficially.

So, the question is, given the stakes set in the simulation, did Kirk in fact cheat or did he in fact demonstrate a high level of ingenuity and innovative thinking in finding a solution in a test that no one was suppose to pass? I would suggest to you that the conformity viewpoint would be that he cheated because everyone is expected to conform to rules that favour a no win scenario.

Is this the type of thinking, the conformist viewpoint that pervades our education systems, the path to solving complex real world problems both in business organizations and in education and ultimately in our societies?

The hybrid combination of project based learning, problem based learning and simulations in online environments is a recipe for irresistibly engaging learning experiences that will enable learners both in education and business to change a stagnant, dying learning culture that is out of synch with this digital age. As instructional designers, instructors, corporate trainers, learning principles leaders and life long learners we have a great opportunity to nurture the ingenuity and innovation that we have seen glimpses of in the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Tesler and others if we collaborate in the effective design of such learning experiences by using our own creativity and the tools that are readily available online. E-learning can take on a completely new an exciting dimension in a world in need of ingenious solutions to complex problems.

Next.....Other possible learning experiences that promote intense engagement.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

E-Learning: Creating Hybrid Learning Experiences--Project Based Learning and Simulations--Part I

If our goal is to create irresistibly engaging learning experiences for both the education sector and the business community then we need to ask what we need to do differently? As mentioned in an earlier post, engagement of learners needs to occur on a personal level. It is not just an intellectual exercise but it must involve the emotional and creative side of people. We don't achieve this level of engagement through pretty visuals,even though they may help. We need to recognize that the learner is a breathing, thinking, creative and emotional being who possesses a natural curiosity about things perceived through the senses. They thrive on challenges that engage them on multiple levels without overwhelming them. It is what we do to reach these levels that is the focus of this post.


Project Based Learning and Simulations: Engaging Hybrid Learning Experiences

 One of the key skill sets that we want learners to be able to acquire is to be able to work collaboratively to solve complex real world problems. Whether this occurs in the business organization or in education organizations, it is a necessary skill set for innovation in a digital world. One of the realizations that we have come to recognize as important in the online world is that learners demonstrate deeper sustained learning by doing so it makes sense to design learning experiences that engage them in challenging, thought engaging, creativity engaging experiences where in the end they create something out of their collaborations. When appropriately challenged in a collaborative group they are quite capable of pooling and directing their talents to solving real world problems.

Stanford University in California, USA has established what is called a  "Problem Based Learning Initiative"  in which they seek to focus on the very qualities in learners that are necessary for engagement of learners on a personal level. According to their initiative:

Your first question will be:

"What does Problem-Based Learning (PBL) have to do with Project-Based Learning?"

At first glance you might assume that they are the same thing but they are not! Both these approaches have enough in common that a digital symbiotic relationship is forged. Project-Based Learning depends on the exercise of the principles of Problem-Based Learning and Problem-Based Learning receives direction and enhancement from Project-Based Learning.

As stated by the Stanford University "Problem Based Learning Initiative", Problem-Based Learning may be defined as:

" PBL is a curriculum development and delivery system that recognizes the need to develop problem solving skills as well as the necessity of helping students to acquire necessary knowledge and skills."

 If you take this hybrid of these two approaches and then design the learning experience in the context of a simulation, this adds another dimension to the online environment that is intriguing, challenging and intensely engaging for the learners. It is along the lines of serious game based learning. It also leads to the potential of unlocking innovative thinking in which the learners create or make something in order to solve a real world issue but done within an online environment and using online tools. This concept is what is at heart of the relatively new "Maker Movement".

Credit: Brian Oatway
 In such an environment, learners immersed in the tasks will show not only intellectual engagement but also emotional, sensory, and moral engagement. A state of flow among collaborative workers will develop where intrinsic motivation is the raw driver of the learning taking place.

I have already bridged this idea before in earlier posts:
  1. Smart Pedagogy III: Time Portal-Journey to the Other Side (The Manhattan Project)-May 31,2014
  2. Super Bug Pandemic Scenario--Aug. 2, 2014
  3. E-Learning of the Future--Ebola and North American Response scenario --Nov. 21, 2014
  4. Search for the Emerald Key---Dec 27, 2014-Jan, 2015   

Next---- The use of simulations as a component of the hybrid learning experience titled: "Return to the Kobyashi Maru Scenario"

Friday, August 7, 2015

Global E-Learning: The State of E-Learning in India and China

The countries of India and China are the rising stars in their area of the world  in the development of  self-guiding E-Learning  for their populations now and in the future.

The ancient country of  India has a long tradition for the pursuit of  learning, science and technology. One of the world's first universities, Nalanda University, was first established as a Buddhist institution of learning in the 5th century AD and lasted continuously for 800 years until the 12th century AD. Its architecture suggested a seamless co-existence between man and nature, between living and learning.

Credit: www.the

On Sept. 1, 2014, the ancient university, Nalanda, was re-opened for classes. The following is an artist's rendition of what the new campus will look like:

 Interest in the pursuit of Education, Science and Technology in India is still a high priority for its people. According to E-Learning statistics published in Jan. 2015 (E-Learning Industry, Christopher Pappas), the two countries with the highest growth rate in the adoption of self guiding E-Learning were India(55%) and China(52%) respectively. With respect to mobile learning products, it is worth noting from the article:

"...While in 2012 the top buyers of mobile learning products and services were the US, Japan, South Korea, China , and India, it is expected that by 2017 the top buyers of mobile learning products and services will be China, US, Indonesia, India and Brazil..."

With respect to China, it too has a long history of the pursuit of knowledge and education. Ancient Chinese academies set up to pass on wisdom to their populations. This was especially evident during the Tang Dynasty.

Credit: www.absolutechina
The curriculum was largely based on the learning principles of Confucius (551-479 BC).

Credit: www.Jeanrick Nunez

Credit: www.Jeanrick Nunez
Today, China continues to pursue Science, Technology and Education as witnessed by some of its more modern universities such as Soochow University in Suztou.

So, both countries, India and China are moving ahead in pursuit of the next frontier in learning, E-Learning. This brings me to my appeal to hear from these countries in regards to advances in E-Learning.

The Appeal for Thoughtful Collaboration and Exchange of Ideas
The purpose of this appeal is to open conversations that will allow all of us to truly understand the "mosaic of global E-Learning". I would like to entertain these conversations in the professional forums on E-Learning in but you can also comment in the blog. I will transfer any comments into the appropriate forums. The conversations should elaborate on three main questions:
  1. What is the state of E-Learning in the education sector of your country?
  2. What are a few successes you can highlight that you have experienced in E-Learning in your country?
  3. What are a few serious challenges that you see now and in the future for E-Learning in your country?
Who Should We Hear From?

 Naturally, we would like to hear from all those who are involved in E-Learning in some way. Government officials, higher education, instructional designers, educators, corporate trainers and even students taking E-Learning.
Framing Your Responses

In order that conversations not be cumbersome, I would suggest the following:
  1. Identify the country you are from
  2. Identify your professional role
  3. A brief response to the questions
If you are reading this and know of an Indian or Chinese colleague who might be interested in contributing to this discussion, then please share this via Facebook, Twitter or any other social media means. Conversations only work if there is more than one person involved.

I must say that so far, we are dealing with many countries who are a little shy about sharing their stories but I would like to assure them that we are not looking for you to share state secrets or proprietary methodologies;)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Ground Zero---Designing Irresistibly Engaging Learning Experiences--Part I

In the last post I suggested that engagement in learning experiences has to happen on a deeper personal level. If you observe a person who is strongly engaged in an event, the realization that you come to is that their response to the event is not just on an intellectual level but also includes a response on an emotional level. You can see in their faces a whole continuum of emotions that wash over them as they proceed through the event. This can be seen when people watch their favourite sporting event or play a competitive online game.


 They become a part of an unfolding story and take on the role of a collaborator with others in that story. This explains part of the addictiveness of role playing video games. The games take you from an intellectual participation and translates it into total participation where you receive immediate feedback from the decisions that YOU make and YOUR decisions and actions influence how the story unfolds.

Without this level of engagement, learners or employees are just going through the motions and will not incorporate what they learn from training or education sessions into their mindset or repertoire of doing things. In the past, a "carrot or stick" approach was used in the corporate organization and also in the education sector. In this digital age, the use of negative motivators does not work with respect to learning and actually results in the learner covertly seeking ways to undermine the initiative out of a combination of frustration and fear while maintaining the illusion that they are on board with the knowledge and skill sets being presented. For a company hoping to engage its employees, such a toxic relationship will lead to disaster.
In education in an E-Learning environment, it means that the learners will quickly disconnect from their learning and seek diversions.

The point is:

"Engagement will not happen unless the design has the necessary elements in it to engage employees. The design of the learning experiences and the nature of delivery is ground zero for engagement."

Understandings About Multilevel Engagement

If we learn anything at all about engagement at a personal level is that it is important to know the learner. This is something that instructional designers, corporate trainers and instructors have known and it is a given for any training professional who is engaged to design learning experiences for a company.

However, the mistake that some trainers and instructional designers make is the belief that knowing the learner is a single static event from which they may move on to starting the design.

"The simple truth is that the learners themselves are not completely aware of what engages them in learning. Surveys and one to one interviews are only snapshots in time and are not a dynamic picture of ongoing personal learning."


One suggestion on how to arrive at a solution to this problem is to consider giving learners what may be called a "test drive" of a variety of interactive, collaborative activities in order to gauge their responses to different types of engaging activities. For the designer this will accomplish the following:

  •  It will highlight potential problems in the use of interactivity
  • It will give you a reading on the kinds of collaboration configurations that will produce the best results
  • It will give you a picture of performance benchmarks which you can realistically compare with other companies in your sector
  • It will give the learner an opportunity to discover interactive activities that perhaps they had not experienced before and learn more about what they find engaging in an non-threatening environment. From this you and they can begin a learning profile for the learner and plot a path for growth to the benefit of the individual and the business


Next----Specific Interactive Learning Activities, the Importance of Creating Flow and E-Learning