The Wave

14th July 2020

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean, by Susan Casey. Recent research on the dead water phenomenon (see below), reminded us of Casey’s book—a New York Times best-seller and one of our favorites about waves. Casey herself is something of a phenomenon. She was the long-time editor of O, The Oprah Magazine, and she had unprecedented access to surfer Laird Hamilton, joining him and other surfers to begin experiencing waves as surfers experience them. But she explores the bigger picture as well, looking at things like rogue waves, disappearing ships, and Lloyd’s of London insurance practices. Interesting look at the fascinating phenomena of waves, which Barb has been interested in ever since her own years at sea.( Her old, well-thumbed copy of Waves and Beaches: The Dynamics of the Ocean Surface has been reread many a time—when, that is, she wasn’t sea-sick with the dynamics of that ocean surface!)

Behind the Dead-Water Phenomenon

There is a major project investigating why, during the Battle of Actium (31 BC), Cleopatra’s large ships lost when they faced Octavian’s weaker vessels. Might the Bay of Actium, which has all the characteristics of a fjord, have trapped the Queen of Egypt’s fleet in dead water? This fascinating article describes research into the dead-water phenomenon. (Perfect fodder for scintillating dinner conversation!)

A “Wow” Upgrade on iDoRecall’s Already Phenomenal Flashcard System!

Barb’s favorite flashcard system (she even agreed to serve as iDR’s Chief Learning Science Advisor), is iDoRecall. What’s great about this system is that it’s intuitive—just watch a brief video or two and you’ll be able to use a full range of features.  Even better, though, is how iDR connects you naturally with the material you’re trying to learn. Barb uses it, for example, both with important research papers she is trying to internalize, and with the Spanish word and sentence flashcards she creates.  

The new upgrade on iDR takes the system even more in line with great learning:

  • iDR has added metacognition training. Throughout the app, you can trigger suggested questions to help you think about your thinking so that you can hone your ability to reflect upon your thinking and check-in with yourself to see how well you truly understand what you are learning. 
  • iDR has been re-built from the ground up to address the learnings coming out of thousands of conversations with the users of the MVP version.
  • iDR works in the browser on computers and mobile devices. Shortly, they will be releasing native desktop apps.

iDR is a perfect system for professors and teachers to encourage their students to internalize important materials. In fact, to support educators,  iDR has developed a free program for the Fall 2020 Semester to give educators access to iDR with their students and schools for use with their faculty and students. Those who are interested should fill out this form

Online Teaching as Effective as Face-to-Face—Insights from the Trenches

We received this fascinating email from Rusty Rae, who in March of 2008 became the manager of the Areva Technical Institute in Redmond, Washington, which was a training center for North American clients of the software company (Areva). This company published the complex software that controls the flow of electricity on the grid. And then the financial crisis hit, forcing Areva’s training to go online.

“The level of complexity of this software is perhaps a factor of 10 — maybe more — than a program like Photoshop. It also required significant time and hard drive space to install. Fortunately, I found a vendor who provided what one might call a cloud-based virtual server farm (using VMware). This allowed the technical institute to offer what we termed and marketed as instructor-led online training (ILOT) to clients located anywhere there was basic internet pipe. In fact, we also wound up having students from as far away as Australia join some of our classes.

“At this time we sent a Skype invitation (today it would likely be Zoom) to the learner along with a link to the cloud-based virtual machine, which was identical to the machines in the training institute on which students did their lessons. This training focused on teaching engineers of all levels, from new-hires to veterans, how to install, set up, and use the software. Sessions ran approximately $500-700 per day depending on the level of complexity of the course (and therefore the level of instructor required to teach.)

“For every course there was an assessment of both the learner, the course and the instructor. Additionally, each course was judged by learners using the Net Promoter Scoring system. This allowed us to collect significant data to compare the differences between instructor-led in-person courses; instructor-led online courses, and courses delivered at client sites.

“With respect to student assessments, they measured both knowledge acquired and ability to apply this knowledge in real-world scenarios.

“We were actually a bit surprised at the results after the first year. We found there was little difference between the assessment scores in the three groups. We really expected those learners remotely located to show scores that were lower. We weren’t sure how much — but that was the expectation. However, though the scores were a skosh lower statistically (and I don’t have the specific numbers available), the three data sets were nearly identical. 

“There are several things that led to these results. I believe the first was our course development process, which was based on Malcolm Knowles Principles of Adult Education and utilized the ADDIE framework for development, giving each course a level of consistency. A second was the competence and caring of our instructors who were more than simply course delivery experts. They not only knew the product frontwards and backwards, but also knew multiple pathways of knowledge transfer. A third area which was helpful, particularly for the remote learners, was the establishment of a rudimentary community of practice. Though not as robust as I would have liked, it gave those who were struggling with some of the really difficult configurations and uses an outlet for their frustrations — and the opportunity to find answers to their questions from others — both online and at time by phone or Skype conversation. 

“The course assessment by learners was also a great tool for our team, both in terms of understanding how to improve both the actual design of the course and how the instructor could improve his or her delivery. It certainly gave the development team some insight into improvement of the next version of the product.

“I’d say one of the issues facing teachers who have had to jump into online teaching is the lack of experience with these tools and scenarios. This affects both teachers and learners.

“From those teaching at the college in particular I find a lack of basic knowledge in teaching. In a face-to-face course a lecture in which the prof drones on about their subject may pass muster, but with online scenarios that simply doesn’t cut it.

View more Cheery Friday e-mails >