What happens to student learning when a course is revised to incorporate self-directed learning opportunities? The learning that students achieve goes far beyond the boundaries of what they are taught because individuals create meaning for themselves beyond solely the intent of the teacher.
Digital learning styles include fluency in new media, online communities, guided mentoring, video games, or collective reflection via blogs, podcasts, wiki's, Flickr, Twitter, and other forms of social media. Effective online learning design should provide engaging content which allows the pupil to draw connections between the context of the learning objectives while utilizing various forms of social media.
Another vital design element is the users ability to mediate their level of communication within the virtual learning environment. Understanding and incorporating these digital learning experience attributes into your frontline and online curriculum will increase student motivation and enhance the delivery of instruction while meeting the needs of today's digital learning styles.
Digital Learning Experience Attributes
- Interactive: Engaging content and course material that motivates them to learn through challenging pedagogy, conceptual review, and learning style adaptation. Students expect to pick and use various types of media and create a personalized “mash-up” of content. Students also use social media as a way to express their identity and creativity through creation of user-generated content.
- Student-Centered: Shifts the learning responsibility to the student, and emphasizes teacher-guided instruction and modeling. The role of the teacher is to help novices clear cognitive roadblocks by providing them with the resources needed to develop a better understanding of the topic. This requires the student to take a more active role in their own learning process.
- Authentic: Learning and knowledge acquisition takes place only when situated in a social and authentic context. Teachers should find ways to reconcile classroom use of social media to the authentic way teens are using outside of the classroom. The use of technology (video games, blogs, podcasts) use should be tied to a specific learning goal or activity.
- Collaborative: Learning is a social activity, and students learn best through observation, collaboration, intrinsic motivation and from self-organizing social systems comprised of peers. This can take place in either a virtual or in-person environment. Collaborative work and peer feedback supports motivation by giving students a sense of active involvement within the learning community.
- On-Demand: Student's have the ability to multitask and handle multiple streams of information and juggle both short and long term information and/or learning goals. Course content should be made available "on-demand" so the learner can view course materials when, where, and how (PC, mobile or handheld device) they want to view the content.
These trends in online and lifelong learning are being fueled by changes in the characteristics of student learners and the ways in which they use new technologies to exchange information. One thing is clear: the convergence of social software technologies and a generation of web-savvy learners are rapidly changing the face of education.
In light of these socio-cultural changes, educators need to “keep abreast of change” and embrace digital learning styles through curriculum design which integrates the authentic ways that students use social media to collaborate and interact with peers as a means to achieve short and long term learning goals.