Motivating adult learners: what is andragogy?

Darcy NicholsonDarcy Nicolson is a learning and technology expert and a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog. Passionate about lifelong learning, Darcy focuses on improving the use of media and technology to enable better personal development and learning outcomes – regardless of the age of the learner. Today he talks about how to motivate adult learners.

What is Andragogy?

Way back in 2015, I thought it would be relevant to discuss Andragogy and the work of Malcolm Knowles on the subject, in a webinar that I delivered as part of Adult Learners week. The following blog is a summary of the webinar, which covered:

  • an overview of Malcolm Knowles and his work on adult learning
  • differences between pedagogy and andragogy, and
  • the history of the term Andragogy.

I also considered Knowles’s Andragogical model and the five assumptions he wrote of, to describe the differences between adult learning and traditional classroom models. I find his papers to be some of the most accessible and useful from my studies on adult learning, so as we move through these five assumptions today, I will provide examples of how these have related to my life and work as an online learning consultant – and, more importantly perhaps, a dad.

The king of Andragogy – Malcolm Knowles

malcolm knowlesKnowles had a long career in adult learning and is well known for his work in self-directed learning and learning contracts, but he is probably best known for his work on Andragogy. He is often described as humanistic and holistic, and it’s easy to see from his writings about his own learning experiences, that he was passionate about promoting learning and personal growth in adults. Knowles felt that applying pedagogical theory to adults didn’t work well, so he spent 30 years researching and refining a unified theory of adult learning. It was a massive undertaking, but wouldn’t it be great if we had one theory that covered all aspects of adult learning?

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

The what? The Large Hadron Collider is the most powerful particle accelerator built to date. You might have heard that physicists are looking for a sub-atomic particle called a Boson-Higgs that will help to understand how gravity works and potentially discover a parallel universe. I am pretty sure they will actually find the parallel universe before we have an adult learning theory that fits every learner type, style, delivery method, and situation for every subject ever. Yes scientific theories often allow you to exactly isolate the subject and replicate conditions, this is much harder to do when considering an education is as unique as an individual. You might like to watch Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk on changing education paradigms.  I first watched this around the same time I was reading Knowles and found they make similar points on the lack of progress educational theory and systems.

Andragogy versus Pedagogy

The root of the word pedagogy is from the Greek for child, like paediatrics. Knowles talked about pedagogy as a system designed in monastic schools in Europe, and his concern that it is an unchallenged ideology. It’s hard to get perspective and change a system when you are immersed in it. Andragogy on the other hand refers to the adult. A German grammar school teacher, Alexander Kapp originally used the term in 1833.  At the time Johan Herbart, a German philosopher responded and condemned the use of the term which effectively buried it for almost 100 years.  In the 1967 Knowles was introduced to the term by Dusan Savicevic.

Initially Knowles drew a line in the sand between the two, as we see in the title of his 1968 article in Adult Leadership (Knowles, M.S., 1968)[1].  Pedagogy was for children, and andragogy was for adults. Over time, however, he changed his position of looking at these as a dichotomy to a journey from one to the other. By 1979 he looked at each as situational – sometimes pedagogy was relevant, sometimes andragogy.

What happened next?

Knowles went on to build an Andragogical model consisting of five key assumptions about the way that adults learn – a topic covered in Darcy’s next blog post. Go here to read the second blog post in this series.

[1] Knowles, M. S. (1968). Andragogy, not pedagogy. Adult Leadership, 16(10), 350–352, 386.

Surgeons amp up e-learning

Bill MezzettiBill Mezzetti is the Manager of eLearning at The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS). The College is recognised for the high standards it maintains through its educational, training and professional development and support activities. This commitment to educational excellence includes working with eWorks to embrace the latest developments in online education. Here Bill shares his experience at a workshop with internationally renowned e-learning expert Nancy White, together with take home tips and strategies from this event.

Amping up engagement at RACS

Towards the end of last year, the kind people at eWorks invited us to a workshop Amping up engagement for learner success with Nancy White. We have been working with eWorks for several years now, and since we are always looking for ways to improve our online learning take-up , I thought it was a good opportunity to see what new ideas I could consider (aka pinch) and apply in our context.

The invitation came at a good time for us, as we are currently reviewing our learner engagement and ways to make our offerings more appealing to our time-poor, core audience. As I arrived, I was greeted by a friendly woman with a familiar manner who immediately made all of us participants feel welcome.

See one e-learning workshop and you’ve seen them all?

In the back of my mind, however, I considered the imminent roleplay that usually accompanies these workshops, as it’s not a place where my acting talent usually shines. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the exercises (not role plays) were carefully designed to familiarise participants with each other and we quickly started making connections and discussing our similar challenges. As we discussed the predefined topic our discussions inevitably led to more meaningful common ground that we all shared around e-learning, our barriers came down and paved the way for easy and receptive conversations.

So how do we apply this to our work at the College?

Apart from the many benefits of online education, one of the biggest barriers to engagement is the feeling of isolation that can accompany learning online. The simple act of posting to a forum leaves the learner without the benefit of body language or tone. It can leave the learner asking ‘What happens if people who I have never met don’t know me and misinterpret what I‘ve posted?’

In a lot of cases, learning both online and offline is often designed around the content. Nancy reiterated that we have many tools at our disposal to increase and improve learner engagement.. It all starts with entering the learning environment (as I did) to a warm welcome and making connections, facilitator with the learners and the learners with each other. We have online facilitators that use this technique with their blended learning courses that really make the most of the face to face time by breaking the ice as much as practical in the online environment.

Nancy emphasised the importance of these connections in an online environment and walked the group through facilitation strategies which effectively use online technologies such as ‘Impromptu Networking’. By asking a smaller group of the whole to focus on problems they want to solve it allows for connections to be made before presenting to the wider group. I was able to trial one of the many techniques Nancy shared during the workshop later that same day – ‘Troika consulting’, an exercise in active listening. After defining your challenge you sit turned away from the group of three other participants discussing your issue generating ideas for solutions. The person who presented the issue remains silent and listens to the group discuss possibilities it helped refine listening skills, build trust among the team and ultimately, help provide a solution to an ongoing roadblock in a project.

Thanks to eWorks for the opportunity to expand our way of thinking around online learning.

Struggling to engage your learners?

Or keen to improve on what you are already doing well? eWorks can help. Contact us to find out more.

Internships and why they are so valuable

Mazzy Star is currently studying a Graduate Certificate in eLearning and is a multimedia all-rounder on her way to become an eLearning designer and developer. Her passions include technology, education and digital storytelling. For the past seven months Mazzy has been undertaking an internship at eWorks. Here she talks about her experience.

The value of being an intern

A few years ago I embarked on a career change that involved returning to higher education on a full time basis to complete an interactive media degree.  I learnt a whole bunch of new skills and uncovered an aptitude for digital creativity. In my final year the question of how to translate all this new knowledge into a career became a focus for me. I was keenly aware that more people are gaining higher educational qualifications than ever before, so competition for graduate level positions would be fierce. To prepare myself for this transition I approached a number of organisations about undertaking an internship and eWorks answered the call.

So … what is an internship?

An internship is an opportunity to work with an organisation in your chosen field to:

  • apply those freshly minted skills
  • network with people doing the job you want
  • work out if this is really the direction you want to head in, and
  • if this is the employer for you.  

It gives you a glimpse into how your studies actually work in the real world and provides some breathing room while you make mistakes, find your feet and build your confidence.

The payoff

Being an intern has been an invaluable experience for me and I recommend it to anyone launching a career, whether starting out in the workforce or taking a left turn mid-life. I had the opportunity to work with a lot of great people who graciously provided me with time to quiz them about their roles and experience as well as lots of interesting conversations about eLearning that I wouldn’t have had anywhere else.  

Some of the biggest advantages of undertaking an internship have aided me professionally:

  • Clarity on pursuing a career in eLearning design and development.
  • Application of skills from formal study and identifying gaps and weaknesses.
  • Training and guidance from highly skilled staff who are doing what you want to do.
  • Networking with eLearning industry professionals in a variety of roles.

How to get an internship

If you’re looking to do an internship yourself you can locate them through employment websites, internship placement organisation or your university careers department. Alternatively, if you’re like me and keen to get moving, you could source your own internship. Here are a few steps to get you started:

  1. Define the type of role/s you want to work in.
  2. Research organisations that have that role and employers you would like to work for
  3. Keep a spreadsheet with contact details of all the organisations you decide to contact – website, phone, address, email, contact person
  4. Craft a brief email detailing who you are and why you want an internship with them and send a personalised version to each organisation on your list
  5. If you do not hear from them, send a follow-up email after a week.

You may be pleasantly surprised by the number of responses you get. I ended up declining a number of offers as I was juggling full-time study and part-time work and had limited time available. You may be able to take on more than one internship at a time, to maximise your exposure to a variety of different workplaces.

Final thoughts

It would be easy to think that, ideally, your internship converts into paid employment – either with the employer you interned with or another similar organisation. And it will…eventually, but financial reward or employment should not be your primary focus of this experience. Instead, think of your internship as your own personally developed unit of study, curated to meet your individual career aspirations, not to mention valuable work experience added to your CV. Most importantly, remember to enjoy it.  I am grateful for the time I’ve spent interning for many reasons. Ultimately it has provided me with clarity of purpose and confidence in my abilities, and that – as they say – is priceless.

Thank you Mazzy!

It has been an absolute pleasure to have Mazzy working with us here at eWorks. Not only has she made an enormous contribution to our team, products and services, she has provided us with an opportunity to walk our talk. Fundamentally the eWorks team is a group of passionate educators. Yes we enjoy exploiting the latest technology to facilitate learning, but the ultimate goal is exactly that – learning. Thank you Mazzy!

Compliance, video assessment and the e-learning resistance

What did you get up to in 2015? In between helping our customers to get started or stay current in all aspects of online learning, we wrote a bunch of great blog posts. Compliance was a particularly hot topic, especially when it comes to registered training organisations. The use of video to engage learners was also popular, as was the use of video in general. And don’t forget e-learning design tips, course development and – perhaps most importantly – dealing with any resistance to the online approach from within your organisation. If you missed any of this, or simply need a roundup, here are our top ten most popular blogs from 2015.

top-ten

1. Updated Toolboxes you can view on your iPad

Flexible Learning Toolboxes are stand-alone e-learning resources that cover a large range of topics, from aged care to plumbing and horticulture to food safety. Teachers and trainers can use more than 120 Toolboxes to deliver approximately 190 qualifications and support over 2,000 units of competency from a wide range of nationally-endorsed training packages. Three Toolboxes were updated in 2015.
Read more

2. Why do RTOs struggle with compliance?

It is not uncommon for an RTO to be found non-compliant in what was previously Standard 15 of the Standards for NVR RTOs 2012 when experiencing an audit (Standard One now replaces much of what was this standard prior to 2015). In fact, from October 2013 to March 2014, 78% of all existing RTOs were found non-compliant in their initial audit for Standard 15 – the elements that underpin quality in training and assessment.
Read more

3. Video assessment made easy

Are you frustrated by how complicated it can be to manipulate video and use it for assessment? This free smart phone (and tablet) app, that integrates with the assignment activity in Moodle, might be just what you need.
Read more

4. ASQA, industry engagement and RTOs – what you should be doing

What is industry engagement, why should registered training organisations (RTOs) bother with this approach, and what does the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) have to say about it all? Learn why this part of the Standards for RTOs 2015 is so important, and how to tick ASQA’s boxes without making life difficult for your industry contacts.
Read more

5. Top tips for using BigBlueButton

BigBlueButton (BBB) is an open-source online classroom package. It provides the latest classroom features and tools in eWorks’ TVC learning management system. Here we respond to some of the same queries that come through eWorks’ support desk from time to time. Originally published in 2014, this blog post well and truly stood the test of time.
Read more

6. The who and how of online course development

So you have decided to develop your own online course materials. Good for you! But before you commence, it is important to know what you need in order to achieve this successfully. There are a number of decisions your management team needs to make before you start employing people to start work. If you are thinking about developing your own online course materials, this blog post will help you avoid some common issues and pitfalls.
Read more

7. Language, literacy and numeracy skills – how technology can help

Did you know that one in two adult Australians are below the internationally recognised level of literacy and numeracy to effectively function in the workplace and beyond? What are the implications of this shocking statistic for the VET sector, and how technology can help to address the issue?
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8. Six easy design tips for your e-learning projects

Six easy to understand and implement e-learning design tips from an expert designer. Published in late 2015, the fact that this blog made it into our top ten for the year really says it all.
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9. How to beat the e-learning resistance

Some excellent advice about making online courses…wait for it…educational. Written based upon firsthand experience, with an emphasis on good learning design, this blog teaches you how to make e-learning work.
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10. Using Mahara to demonstrate your professional currency

If you’re not sure about revised professional development requirements for VET teachers in the Standards for RTOs 2015 – or even if you think you are – this post will bring you up to speed.
Read more

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