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Up the Ante! Application of the Interactive Nature of Significant Learning Model in the Online Environment

Shelley Cobbett (Dalhousie University, Canada)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 11:45am
Faculty and Professional Development & Support
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Northern Hemisphere D
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 1

Prepare to experience, through a student lens, an exemplary model highlighting Fink's (2013) Interactive Nature of Significant Learning online with large student enrollments.

Extended Abstract

Description and Goals:
The goal of this interactive presentation is to provide high school, college and university educators with the knowledge and skills to implement Fink's (2013) Interactive Nature of Significant Learning in online courses with large student enrollment. Participants will actively participate in an online learning module to experience the six categories of learning that are required to create significant learning experiences in the online environment.

Learning Outcomes:
1. Acquire an understanding of Fink's (2013) Interactive Nature of Significant Learning contextually grounded in the online learning environment.
2. Participate in an online learning experience, as viewed through a student lens, to gain experiential understanding of the application of this model.
3. Reflect upon online learning strategies that cultivate each of the six categories in the taxonomy of significant learning.
Following an introduction to the session, the six major categories in the taxonomy of significant learning (Fink, 2013) will be presented: foundational knowledge, application, integration, human dimension, caring and learning how to learn, with examples of how educators can foster these types of learning in the online environment. Attendees will experience the student perspective as they actively engage in an online learning experience that facilitates each dimension, leading to a significant learning opportunity. A crucial element in good pedagogical practice in the online environment, social presence, will be illuminated and strategies offered to balance the structure needed in an online course with student autonomy, leading to the facilitation of the students' awareness of learning how to learn. A discussion of where the learning engagement examples intersect with the Interactive Nature of Significant Learning (Fink) will ensue. Approaches for promoting these techniques will be shared in an active conversation with participants, concluding the presentation with evaluative data, student testimonials and an educator challenge.

The panorama of education has exponentially altered over the past decade to a scene that no longer mandates a classroom, with face-to-face instruction. Our technologically rich environment offers online educational opportunities that were not conceived of 10 years ago thereby increasing the accessibility of education. Access to information can be achieved in seconds and evolving technologies provide the capacity to collaborate in astonishing manners, with no regards to geographical location (Malita & Martin, 2010). Higher-level thinking, creativity and application of learning, all very important considerations for the development of quality online courses, can be fostered by interaction, rich multimedia use, case studies, and open-ended activities, to name but a few useful strategies (Ravenna, Foster & Bishop, 2012) that will be highlighted and experienced by the attendees as they engage in examples of multimodal learning opportunities. Interactive media use in online courses increases student engagement and reflective thinking (Lyons, 2013), thereby heightening significant learning, which is fundamental to student learning in higher education.

Fink's (2013) Interactive Nature of Significant Learning, which is a revised and updated model since his first writing in 2005, includes six types of learning that move beyond understanding and remembering, and interact to provide significant learning for students. This interaction is accomplished through providing multimodal learning experiences. "In a powerful learning experience, students will be engaged in their own learning, there will be a high energy level associated with it, and the whole process will have important outcomes or results" (Fink, 2013, p. 8).

The six major categories in the taxonomy of significant learning are: foundational knowledge, application, integration, human dimension, caring and learning how to learn (Fink, 2013). Foundational knowledge refers to understanding and remembering specific information and ideologies; considered prerequisite knowledge for all other kinds of learning. Application requires the student to move beyond understanding to engage in action, which may be critical, practical or creative, leading to the development of certain skills. Integration occurs when students discover and understand the connections between different bits of knowledge they have learned and how the act of making new connections provides intellectual power. The human dimension refers to students learning something important about themselves, or about others, and enhances their ability to communicate and collaborate. Caring emerges when a learning experience changes the degree to which students care about something and is often reflected in the form of new feelings, interests or values, thus enforcing the importance of self-reflection for personal and professional growth. Learning how to learn, perhaps the most important for students in higher education, moves beyond reading, understanding, applying and memorizing, to enforce the importance of students learning about the process of learning itself, learning how to engage in different types of inquiry and how to become a self-directed learner, culminating in students continuing to learn in the future, beyond formal education, and to do so with great effectiveness.

In its earliest conception, online learning focused mainly on foundational knowledge, with its first "growth spurt" adding application and possibly integration. This presentation will provide experiential examples demonstrating how these six categories (Fink) can interact in the online environment to provide students with significant learning experiences. Social presence online and attrition are inversely linked among online students; pedagogies that require active student participation and interactivity maintain student engagement (Zydney, deNoyelles, & Seo, 2012) and lead to students being responsible and accountable for their own learning (Ravenna et al., 2012).

It is incumbent on educators to achieve the ultimate balance of technology, pedagogically good online teaching practices (Cobbett, 2013), social presence and interaction (Kehrwald, 2008), while harmonizing course structure and student autonomy, to advantageously position students for optimal success in the 21st century, with the ability to be self-directed and embrace lifelong learning. This balance is achievable through the application of Fink's (2013) Interactive Nature of Significant Learning in the online environment.

Cobbett, S. (2013). Technology and cognition merge with challenge-based learning cycles online. Paper presented at IADIS International Conference: Cognition and Exploratory Learning in a Digital Age. Fort Worth, Texas, October, 2013.
Fink, D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Kehrwald, B. (2008). Understanding social presence in text-based online learning environments. Distance Education, 29(1), 89-106.
Lyons, T. (2013). Omnipresent learning via interactive media. Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries, 10(3), 119-131. doi: 10.1080?15424065.2013.819737
Malita, L., & Martin, C. (2010). Digital storytelling as web passport to success in the 21st century. Procedia-Social and Behavioural Sciences, 2(2), 3060-3064.
Ravenna, G., Foster, C., & Bishop, C. (2012). Increasing student interaction online: A review of the literature. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 20(2), 177-203.
Zydney, J.M., deNoyelles, A., & Seo, K.K. (2012). Creating a community of inquiry in online environments: An exploratory study on the effect of a protocol on interactions within asynchronous discussions. Computers & Education, 58, 77-87. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2011.07.009.

Lead Presenter

Dr. Shelley Cobbett has been a nurse educator for 27 years and is currently a nursing professor at Dalhousie University School of Nursing in Halifax, NS Canada. In 2006, her doctoral dissertation was related to online learning and professional socialization. Since this time she has been actively teaching face-to-face and online courses, both fully online and hybrid courses, to undergraduate students. Her research focuses on pedagogies in the online environment, virtual and face-to-face clinical simulations, curriculum development and psychometric testing.