Monday, September 03, 2007

virtual classrooms and cognitive load theory

In response to a request for material on virtual classrooms, I stumbled across some interesting theory around cognitive processing and Virtual classrooms by Dr Ruth Clark.

Dr Ruth Clark runs a training and consultancy website. There are lots of courses you can enrol in but they are pretty expensive. The graduate certificate in Applied eLearning does much the same and is a lot cheaper so we are really lucky to have this qual in NZ.

here is a link to an article by ruth clark on harnessing virtual communities.
It has some good pointers about keeping learners engaged during a standard virtual lecture/session averaging 60 minutes:
1. maintain a lively pace
2. visualize your content
3. incorporate frequent participant responses - you will notice in the audio lecture on cognitive processing she asks lots of questions and uses polling a lot and she also gets participants to do activities during the session.
4. use small group breakout rooms.
it is a short article and worth a look.

My comments on the audio: Personally i think such long lecture sessions are a bit much but I was only listening to the audio and she did have slides - she seems to do a good job of getting input from the class using text only. The participants don't seem to feature on the audio so cant have used mics. some interesting stuff about cognitive load and learning styles. e.g. differences between learning styles of different learners are minor in comparison to the ways our brains are set up to process information overall. She talks about the modality principle - best learning is when you have audio to explain visuals.

See also an article I stumbled across about A Learner-Centered Approach to Multimedia Explanations: Deriving Instructional Design Principles from Cognitive Theory. By Moreno, R. & Mayer, R. (2000). This is published online in the Interactive Multimedia Electronic journal of computer-enhanced learning...phew.

The diagram of working memory was informative.illustrates how words and images move from sensory memory to working memory and into long-term memory. Remember working memory can only hold so much information and is easily overloaded.

Dr Ruth Clark also said that cognitive overload can occur if several modalities. For example, the use of visual, text and audio together causes a redundancy effect because we are overloading the visual processing area. using audio and text together is better but use of one modality at a time is best.
Dr ruth does not like people multitasking e.g. checking emails when in VC and likes texting in VC to be on task not texting to each other off task or privately. she says this causes split attention effects.
see what you think when you listen to the audio.
also a link to a presentation (pdf) called: Leveraging the virtual classroom
AND her new book at the bookstore.

The New Virtual Classroom:
Evidence-based Guidelines for Synchronous e-Learning

Introduction: Meet the New Virtual Classroom
Part I: Learning and the New Virtual Classroom
Part II: Engaging Participants in the New Virtual Classroom
Part III: Optimizing Your Virtual Events
Part IV: Creating Effective Learning Events in the New Virtual Classroom

Price: $50.00 plus S/H*