Hebrew College’s Adult Learning Program (Me’ah, “100” in Hebrew) wished to extend its reach beyond the Greater Boston Area. The challenge was creating an online asynchronous version of the live courses for their targeted audience - members of the Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation. The following blog post by Schoology describes the process and outcome in detail.
As Director of Online Learning at Hebrew College and a 2016 Schoology NEXT Administrator of the Year, Ariel Margolis helps a wide variety of students fulfill their goals. Ariel believes that learning is about constant improvement.
“Our goal is to elevate our achievement to grow. We are breaking down the traditional brick and motor frontal learning experiences to more individualized, personalized, collaborative learning that spans both across the globe and demographics. With this, we are able to expand to new student populations while enhancing our current stakeholders' educational experiences.”
One way in which Ariel and his college have done this is by developing a strategy to engage older adults in both online and face-to-face learning using Schoology.
Ariel’s challenge was to launch an online course where students could work independently at their own pace. But the participants weren’t your typical college-age young adults.
Ariel was working with learners from the Greatest Generation (people in their 80s and 90s) and the Baby Boomers (60s and 70s). He recognized that this crowd was accustomed to learning things more traditionally.
“Images popped into my head of people watching public television programs, attending lectures, learning from teachers who taught using the Socratic method, reading every single word of a text (including manuals), and hesitant to use the new laptop purchased for them.”
Ariel’s ultimate goal for the course was to build an online community that would “provide opportunities to share what is learned with others.”
Schoology would be the medium to achieve that goal, but Ariel would need to get creative and tailor the technology to fit this learner group.
“How do I design a course for these populations that meets their learning needs without overwhelming them with technology?” Ariel asked himself.
His first move was to reflect on the older generations’ learning style and envision it digitally.
Ariel edited the lectures down to 5-7 minute segments, accompanied by enhanced Powerpoints. All the texts were digitized. These “enhanced videos,” as Ariel calls them, were embedded directly into online discussions.
Ariel then turned to custom-fitting the educational experience. Facilitators would play a vital role by engaging the group with interesting discussion questions and encouraging student participation.
With this strategy in mind, Ariel constructed an environment using Schoology where instructors and students could communicate with each other in a social, interactive experience.
“When asked if he had any best practices or lessons learned, Ariel had these to share:
After designing his new course, Ariel started looking for ways to nurture their experiences. “I couldn’t just send an email out to the participants stating, “Ok folks, click here and enjoy!”
Ariel wanted to use the introductions to start building relationships with his students, right from the start. “It’s all about the relationships,” he says.
The instructor reached out to each member individually through the LMS.
“I also made sure to be available, regardless of their time zone. I held their hand, virtually.” Ariel offered his expertise and time, listening to grandparents’ talk excitedly about how their grandchildren were giving them tutorials on how to use a webcam.
Using Schoology updates, BigBlueButton conferences, and emails, Ariel and the course’s instructor stayed connected with this first group of participants throughout the pilot course.
Student reactions were overwhelmingly positive to Ariel’s course.
Technology, while commonly seen as the obstacle with older generations, was in this case a major benefit. Schoology made it easier for the students to stay on top of their due dates and important conversations about their lessons. Just as important, it was the backbone of Ariel’s effort to build intimate relationships with his students.
“Judging by their comments on the discussion boards, didn’t just learn the content. They also reflected about themselves,” Ariel says. “Just like their children and grandkids, they too can study online and be active learners.”
What’s next for Ariel and this course?
“We tweaked the pilot and launched the course again in the fall and spring with full complements,” explains Ariel. “We are beginning to design the second course for Adult Ed.” He continued by sharing some of the lessons he learned and how he might do this differently the next time.
Ariel wants to push the boundaries further and build on the skills that were learned so the course isn’t the same as the last time. He also plans to budget in more time for building and editing the course.
Next time around, Ariel also plans to incorporate the RACI method (Responsible, Accountable, Consult, Informed) to provide more clarity and structure to the entire process.
Finally, he alluded to the need for both great content and a great teacher. “With online learning, the content, its delivery, and in the instructor need to be dynamic,” he explains. “If the content is ‘Eh’ but the teacher is dynamic, the course is still interesting and students are engaged. The teacher also needs to be the facilitator and not the expert/know it all.”
If the past is any indication of what's to come, Ariel's relationship-focused approach (now combined with many lessons learned) will continue to produce stellar results for his students, regardless of their generation.
Check out our blogs, which cover a range of topics centered around personalized learning and real-life lessons.
Check out our case-studies, where we feature our client’s experiences and how E-Learning Solved helped them grow.
Are you ready to make learning fun again? With E-Learning Solved, we make E-learning as meaningful and exciting as Kindergarten. Contact us today to get started!