The Camp Sing-Along for the Distance Adult Learner

Joanna Do & Sarah LedouxHarvard University

Session Abstract

Adult learners are a separate tribe from K-12 students. Andragogical principles matter when designing for them. See how we create rich experiences for our population by combining available and homegrown LTIs, and an instructional design mindset to meet our tribe’s need for community and effective delivery of content.


Adults want learning that has immediate applicability to what they are experiencing in life.Andragogy

  • Wants to learn
  • Wants to be involved in planning and evaluation
  • Needs immediate relevance and application
  • Want guidance
  • Apply experience
  • Thrives with problem based learning

Sarah’s group at Harvard began with lecture capture and then evolved to live streaming, allowing students to interact with the instructor, if they are available at that moment.They continued and began talking about the difference in engagement between discussion forums (real-time) versus the old-school way of emailing information to instructor and having instructor aggregate and post document with all data. They indicated that 288 students responded to the discussion forum approach as opposed to the 20 who had to email the instructor. However, there was no indication as to the actual percentage for each class in order to normalize the data.  Of course, regardless of the percentages, this is no surprise. Referencing the bad weather in 2015, they were able to utilize alternate delivery methods when the University was closed for 3 Mondays in a row.When looking at course design for web-based course design, they implemented simplicity and design for students. They have a variety of templates to use for page creation and making it consistent for the student perspective. The latest version of their template is based on tables so that instructors can delete rows/columns if needed. The concern that I immediately think of (which they didn’t address) is the accessibility, or lack thereof, of using tables.Going into the Canvas course, they provided examples of engagement, such as discussion forums and assignments. One example they gave is to create multi-part assignments (separate assignments in Canvas). They also take advantage of Groups in Canavs to create custom parts to an assignment (court scenario having defendants, plaintiffs, judge, juries). 


There really wasn’t anything new or exciting in this presentation. I was hoping for some more innovative ideas, whereas this session was more about the usual “best practices” that Harvard is implementing. I was also hoping they’d talk about the LTIs they used (since, you know, that was mentioned in their abstract), but there was none of that. Given that they finished their presentation in 20 minutes (40 min was allotted), I guess there wasn’t much lost.

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