Think Like Your Learners. Say what?

I am fairly certain I am the only person who does this, but sometimes I will watch a YouTube video with a specific purpose in mind, and an hour later I am still watching videos that are not related whatsoever to my original video. It’s true. Recently I sat down with the purpose of learning how to operate a verticutter and an hour later I was watching music videos of 1970s diva Helen Reddy! There are days when I wish I could have that wasted hour back.

Not always do these video sessions result in wasted time. Last week my purpose was to watch a tutorial of the online lesson-builder SoftchalkTM. As I was viewing, out of the corner of my eye, I could see a suggested video called 10 Lessons I Learned My First Year in eLearning by Tim Slade. I could not resist. I fell for the bait. The next time I had a spare 44 minutes I watched the video. I was not disappointed. The audience for the video was focused more towards instructional technologists, but the content was still valuable. All ten lessons were interesting and I would like to explore some of them more deeply, but the one that caught my interest was lesson #5: Think Like Your Learners. I Have been a CPA and an accounting professor over 30 years. I know my discipline well. It was one of the reasons I was hired. However, Slade suggested to not focus so much on being a subject matter expert and design a course based on the needs of the learners and the motivations of the learners. The motivations of learners? The longer I let that sink in, the less I understand what those motivations are. As an experienced educator, I know with which topics students will struggle. I adjust my lessons and spend more time on the challenging topics. I believe this is the purpose of assessment, both formative and summative. But understanding students’ struggles with content is not the same as understanding their needs and motivations. I do not even know where to begin to understand student motivation.

Coincidentally, the same week I was viewing and reflecting on Slade’s lessons, an invitation to attend Reimagine Teaching and Learning appeared in my inbox. Reimagine Teaching and Learning is a workshop sponsored by the CTLE that allows faculty to step back, re-think, and imagine how their courses could operate to increase teaching satisfaction and student engagement. The workshop is based on Purdue University’s IMPACT transformation. IMPACT is a 13-week transformational program which guides faculty through the process of purposely creating a course designed to meet student needs. IMPACT is based on self-determination theory which suggests that a student-centered learning environment will be created when students feel connected to the class, when they have mastered the material, and when they take ownership of the learning process. Hmm. So, Slade is suggesting a course be designed based on student motivations and then this perfect opportunity falls in my lap to learn how to re-design courses to increase student motivation. I believe the Greek goddess of luck, Fortuna, was smiling upon me and sent me this opportunity. I look forward to attending and hope for guidance as we transform education to meet the needs of the learners.

Fortuna, goddess of luck and fate.


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