Getting Learner Choice into Learning Programs, Part 1

This post is the first of a series on how and why an instructional program could emphasize and benefit from learner self-direction, or the practice of planning instruction to include opportunities for learners to discover, collate, or create content as an integral part of that instructional event. 

The idea is to encourage people who design instruction, deliver it, or acquire technology solutions for programs to see the opportunities for learner choice to fit within the structures of these programs.  The time is right in the Ed Tech and Human Capital Management sectors:  useful solutions abound, and it’s getting easier to integrate multiple products in service of a program’s goals.   Learner choice within planned instruction works better when solutions can work together.

This series will run for a few months with one or two posts per month.  We’ll look at examples of solutions and programs that can help install more learner choice.  Sometimes, a post will be a simple product review with a use case or two. Sometimes, we’ll have an interview with a provider.  We’ll also speak with people representing programs, particularly those responsible for technology, pedagogy, and professional development. 

Apropos is a product that aims to promote learner choice.  A “my stuff is awesome” post will happen, but this series is not about a single solution.  It’s about bringing something to technology-enabled instruction that we intuitively know to be useful—learner choice—to programs in ways that have value to all stakeholders.

In terms of the craft of instructional design and the science of learning, there are lots of ways to affiliate and debate in this “learner choice” discussion.  Over time, we’ll go into constructivist, cognitivist, and even behaviorist views of learning.  Understanding the value of learner engagement, whether we are using Universal Design for Learning, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, or other relevant research, is in play, too.   

Honestly, though, my experience is that debates about pedagogy can inhibit discussions about good instruction.  I’ll be putting forth useful solutions, lessons, and design principles and then suggesting how the aforementioned principles and perspectives might relate.  We’ll go bottom up, not top down.

Stay tuned.  Tomorrow, you’ll see a second post that identifies a basic framework for finding the value of learner choice in the software solutions, programs, or lesson plans we’ll examine in subsequent posts.

Thanks for reading.