Using Learning Models for a More Inclusive Online Learning Experience

Submitted by Mike Shea on Mon, 01/13/2020


A learning model by definition is a specific mental or physical mechanism used to acquire new skills, knowledge, and to provide engagement in a learners experience. Learning models are critical to innovation in education because they communicate new ideas about learning in visual and compelling ways. The learning models that I will be talking about here are the ADDIE model and the AFT model. ADDIE is an acronym that represents fives stages of a learning process: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. This is one of the more common learning models. The AFT model consists of three factors: Action, Feedback, and Trigger. When using these models to develop training courses it is important to remember accessibility. A person with a disability should have the opportunity to get the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability.

The Task at Hand

Teaching educational programs, whether they are online or in person can be a monumental task. These tasks can include; curriculum design, maintaining tech responsibilities, research and development, and the diversification of instructional modes necessary to provide flexibility for the training. According to recent studies nearly 75% of companies report using some form of digital learning for their employees. Having a consistent and relevant learning model will help keep all users engaged.

Digital Learning

One of the biggest challenges a learner can face in online learning is isolation and frustration due to the lack of human contact. There can be limited space in the digital world to interact and receive feedback from both peers and instructors. This is usually the largest gap between instructor led training and online learning. Many learners experience online courses that ask them to watch a video and read information but do not prompt real world experimentation with that information. This type of learning can lead to a decrease in engagement and lower completion rates.

AFT Learning Model

The AFT learning model is made up of three important factors. When Action, Feedback, and Trigger combine, an effective accessible learning experience is created. This model was created to solve many of the problems we discussed earlier. The action factor transforms your material into activities. This is the first step because it is important to let the learner know to take action. Give the learner information and then encourage them to experiment with what they have learned. Breaking up your content into micro-actions makes the content much easier to digest. This is a very valuable tool in creating accessible course content. An experienced-based learning user can establish lasting behavior changes and develop new habits. After the user has experimented with their learning, the feedback factor tells the learner how they did. Instant feedback will keep them engaged and encourage them to complete the course. The learner must know that what they are doing is correct in real time, so they can respond in a positive and confident matter. The last factor is a very important step in getting the learning to continue to the next action. The trigger factor helps the learner take the next step to apply what they have learned. Triggers can be as simple as reminders, messages, or notifications that prompt them to take another action. These notifications ensure the smooth transition into another Action, Feedback, Trigger cycle. Continuing this cycle will help develop momentum among learners.

Should I change?

The ADDIE model is a traditional model that has worked for many many years. The AFT learning model points out a quicker response to an effective online learning experience utilizing a few of the same principles. The AFT model leaves room for the learner to customize their own experience. This customization can include creating missions/goals which are small in size to advance to each next step. The goal is to create habits in which the learner associates with the learning experience. An example can be user experience learning. Let the learner know the benefits to logging in everyday as part of their “mission” and acknowledge when they complete their daily habits. Learners are more likely to retain knowledge when it is broken up into user paced, smaller chunks. In these small chunks it is important to give the learner personal feedback each time to increase motivation. Letting the user interact with other people taking the course, including the instructor has proven to have its benefits as well. Encourage the learner to ask questions and remember we all learn a little different.

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The Rocky Mountain ADA Center's blog, Access Granted, tackles ADA issues through unique and diverse perspectives. Articles are written by staff of RMADAC and a variety of special guest authors. Some may be educational, others might be personal or thought-provoking. Either way, Access Granted will bring you the ADA of today!

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