Nordic ADL Conference is an annual event for Nordic military education professionals. The event is organized by NORDEFCO Advanced Distributed Learning Forum of Experts and it concentrates on sharing knowledge about learning practices. This year, the Nordic ADL took place in Tuusula, Finland, next to a beautiful lake Tuusula. I had a pleasure to attend this three-day-event with my eLearning colleagues.
Key takeaways from the Nordic ADL 2016
During the conference, we participants were inspired by the beautiful scenery, great atmosphere, and presentations by professionals in the field of eLearning and advanced distributed learning. Even though the event presented learning from the military education point of view, the examples and lessons learned can be applied to all organizations. If you didn't get an opportunity to attend the event, below you can find the three key takeaways from the Nordic ADL 2016.
1. Measuring learning with xAPI and LRS
Experience API (xAPI) was mentioned in several presentations, including the excellent keynote speech by the ADL Director, Dr. Sae Schatz. xAPI is a standard, which enables a Learning Management System (LMS) to track efficiently both formal and informal learning, such as social learning activities. Measuring and tracking learning has raised a lot of global interest and its' importance has been acknowledged in the process of recognizing different learning activities and improving learning experiences based on the Learning Record Store (LRS) data. This is because the competencies that are needed in the 21st century, both in a military learning context and everyday working life, are a lot more complex and dynamic than before. Like Dr. Schatz stated, in order to cope with the expectations and requirements of the (working) life, people need to have more skills and they need to be more agile with their learning. Another great example of how teachers and advisors can benefit from the xAPI data was presented by Ville Tuominen, the Advisor of Online Learning at North Karelia municipal education and training consortium Riveria. Riveria's digital learning environment, which was built from the Phenomenon-Based Learning perspective, provides reports regarding the students' learning activities on each task they carry out. This also enables early recognition and analysis of learning challenges, which again helps teachers and advisors to improve their teaching, materials and assignments.
2. Learning is changing
The way we learn is changing and therefore we have to change the way we measure and design it. We should not forget the overall learning experience, which not only covers the interface, but especially the learning content and the way it is designed to fit the learner's needs and interests. In the Nordic ADL several cases were presented, in which for example blended learning and personalized learning took place. Resulting from increasing use of mobile devices and better access to the Internet all over the world, the courses can be build to include either some or zero face-to-face interaction. Thus, in blended learning, the best practices from both formal face-to-face learning and eLearning can be combined. On the other hand, learners might need more support and human interaction to support their studies. Thus, personalizing the experience in addition to content might result in better learning experiences, when teaching, content and learning paths adapt to the learner's needs and interest. This results in increasing motivation when the learner is given a feeling of relevance and control over the learning process.
3. Phenomenon-Based Learning
Even though not necessarily underlined, Phenomenon-Based Learning has had its influence on many cases, which were presented in Nordic ADL. Such examples were presented, where for example real-life scenarios were used as the basis of the learning tasks. This approach provides realistic context to learning, which may help the learner in applying the novel know-how better in modern society. One example was about eLearning courses of marine engineering, where learners were concentrating on different perspectives and topics within the same context and were able to improve e.g. their problem solving and group working skills in addition to the actual substance. Another great example was the earlier mentioned case Riveria, where Phenomenon-Based Learning had been the main pedagogical approach when designing the studies. Within one story the students learned e.g. mathematics, physics, psychology and finance in a form of a story of buying a car. Also, these stories were built to reflect the realistic real-life situations in order to give the learners a feeling of relevance and therefore motivate them to learn. Riveria's example showed outstanding improvements e.g. on students' grades and pass through rates compared to the results from a year before.
Today, instructors, advisors, and instructional designers are challenged not only to meet the needs of the learners but also to be able to provide education more and more efficiently. Of course, without forgetting the possibility to track studies, which are independent of time, space, and devices. Like Dr. Sae Schatz stated in her keynote, the future learning ecosystem is learner-centric and technology-enabled. Therefore, now is a good time for organizations to evaluate whether the learning management systems in use are up-to-date and respond to the requirements of the future learning.