Friday, November 27, 2009

Resource Success? It Bears Thinking About!

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allThe Dice in Jabberwocky
How do you tell if a learning resource is successful?

You have to use it of course! Or at least, it has to be observed being used by learners who may benefit from it in some way.

But there’s more to it than that . . .

A game-based resource can be seen to be popular and for this it gets a big tick in a check-box.

But does a learning resource need to be popular to be successful?
Does the popular resource assist the learner to meet the target learning objective?

Extensive research on a whole series of resources might throw some light on these questions. But let’s just limit the discussion here to one resource.

How do you know if a learning resource is effective in helping learners reach the objective or objectives the resource was designed to meet?

This needs more than just observation.

Learner focus

Attention must be focused on what the learner has gained by using the resource. This acquisition has to be very specific if the resource is to be regarded as a useful ‘learning object’.

Oops, I’ve used that term!

I know! ’Learning Object’ is not a popular term among some educators. At least the term implies that the resource actually has an objective associated with it. Whether the resource assists learners to meet the objective is quite another matter.

In fact, some very good learning resources are often found to meet objectives that are not necessarily directly related to the objective or objectives that the learners were supposed to be reaching. That’s life! Sometimes it just happens that way.

So how do we know when a resource is meeting its objective?

It’s taken me a few hundred words to get to this nitty-gritty stage.

    How do we know the resource is really achieving
    the learning that was intended to happen?

As obvious though the answer may seem to be, it is often something that’s completely overlooked when a resource has been planned, crafted and produced for learner use.

Follow up

One of the important stages in the development of any course module, or even one of its components, is the time consuming and difficult process of assessing its real worth. It’s one of these stages that teachers and developers would rather not get too far into, for it is both complicated and complex. And it takes a lot of time.

But it is obviously very important.It means that a series of analyses has to be performed involving the learners.

As well, it has to involve a thing called ‘learner assessment’. Oops! Another not too popular term.

Learner Testing

That’s right! The learner has to be tested. And this is difficult, for how do we know that the assessment item designed to test learner achievement assesses effectively the objective that it’s meant to?
This brings us more or less back to where we started.

Sorry folks! It’s the dogged chicken and egg story all over again.

Before we can be sure that the assessment item is any use, first it must be tested! And of course, this always means learner involvement.

Compounding problems

We now have learner assessment as well as learning resource design to deal with. It’s a bit like the collective effect of errors, if you’re familiar with how that works.

Small errors that occur at stages of a process tend to be cumulative. They add up to one significant error in the end. Often this error can be big enough to discount the whole process.

Catch my drift?

“What does it all mean then?” you say.

Frankly, it means that teaching and learning is a difficult process to assess. The learning that could possibly take place through the planning, building and subsequent use of a learning resource by learners is actually very difficult to assess.

Can you imagine the tasks involved in checking properly a whole course made up of multiple series of resources?

Time consuming? Yes! This alone is a factor that puts teachers and developers off the whole idea of attempting that all-important final stage of checking to see if it all works.

If you think that building a successful learning resource is a quick and easy thing to do, then maybe you should think again.

Ngā mihi nui – Best wishes

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