LEARNing something new

 CTE has been intimately involved with the move from UW-ACE to Waterloo LEARN.  Several of us  from the Centre were on the LMS selection committee and many have been key players in designing and executing instructors’ first learning experiences on the new system. We all are feverishly getting courses up and running for instructors who are offering winter courses and instructors are, in turn, working on these courses for their students. In the background neurons are firing and being rerouted as we all learn something new.

Watching the campus as a whole learn LEARN is an interesting experience and a valuable one as we all struggle with learning something new. It’s a great chance for instructors to experience what students experience as they grapple with a new concept or paradigm. I know that learning this new system isn’t quite the same as understanding the theory of relativity or the lac operon, but the experience of being a novice at something can be enlightening for us all.

For example, once instructors make the decision to sit down and grapple with learning the new learning management system, LEARN, they are very motivated. However, that motivation usually develops at a time when using the system is relevant for them. Sound familiar? Most busy students aren’t very interested in learning something new until it is directly relevant to what they are doing in their “here and now”.

To develop mastery, students ideally acquire the appropriate skills, and then integrate them together and apply them in a meaningful real world situation. That real world experience is fast approaching as January 3rd looms on the horizon, and instructors will only master the system when they practice  some of the skills that they have learned recently in Getting Started in D2L sessions or in the How to Use LEARN online course   as they design the LEARN part of their courses. Students grasp concepts and skills when they actually use them in a meaningful way.

Does prior knowledge of using UW-ACE help instructors in LEARN? Yes, it does but only if that knowledge was accurate; misconceptions about how UW-ACE worked can actually hinder learning the new system. Identifying and adjusting misconceptions is an important first step to learning something new, but having some accurate prior knowledge can be very helpful (e.g., impersonating a test student in LEARN is like wearing the “glasses” ACE – but you have to know what the glasses did in ACE for this to be helpful.)

There is a social component to learning and hopefully when instructors come to the group Getting Started sessions and hear each others’ questions and observe each others’ struggles this helps them discover more about what they can do with the system than if they work in isolation. Being part of a community of learners enriches the learning experience for students too.

So for any faculty member who is struggling with LEARN, maybe the experience can have a silver lining by bringing the learning experience of a novice a little closer to home and increasing empathy with our students.

Need to learn LEARN? Contact me, Jane Holbrook,  jholbroo@uwaterloo.ca or your CTE Faculty Liaison.

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Jane Holbrook

As Senior Instructional Developer (Blended Learning), Jane Holbrook helps to develop faculty programming that promotes the effective use of the online environment in on-campus courses. Working closely with Faculty Liaisons, CEL (Centre for Extended Learning) and ITMS (Instruction Technologies and Multimedia Services), she helps manage initiatives related to “blended learning” courses. She received her BSc and MSc from Dalhousie University but has also studied Graphic Design at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

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