Companies & Universities, Learning

Improving Learning Outcomes: The Power of Active Learning

Tired woman in front of computer

What is Active Learning?

When it comes to retaining new information, which methodology is best for learners: Active Learning or Passive Learning? –Remember those classes in high school when your teacher stood in front of the class and for an hour just talked at you while everyone furiously took notes that they would later memorize? That’s Passive Learning. Active Learning, on the other hand, requires students to interact and do meaningful tasks while thinking about what they are doing.

Unlike passive learners, active learners are more engaged, learn the material in less time, and learn more effectively.

Active Learning Engages Students More

Being engaged during the learning process is arguably one of the most important conditions for retaining information. When learning passively via media such as lectures or lengthy videos, the potential for the student’s mind to wander is high and only increases as time passes. But when students are learning actively, they are constantly engaged with the material–manipulating objects, answering questions, and getting immediate feedback. For example, Smartly learners are required to interact with the material an average of every 8.7 seconds. This high level of engagement is extremely effective, and one of the reasons why Smartly’s approval rating is consistently above 96%.

information-retained-triangle

Active Learning is Faster

Because interaction is required when learning actively, time spent not listening, zoning out, or generally being distracted is reduced. Additionally, students experiencing Active Learning spend more time “learning by doing” and require less repetition in order to perform operations or demonstrate knowhow. These benefits mean that learning happens faster, and more time can be devoted to additional study or other productive efforts.

Greater Efficacy with Active Learning

When the desired learning outcome is for the student to retain the maximum amount of information taught and apply it in class, the workplace, or life, Active Learning proves to be much more effective than Passive Learning. In a study performed by Ruhl et al., researchers found that Active Learning was in fact more effective in terms of both short-term and long-term retention. In the short-term, students who learned actively were able to recall 35% more facts that those who learned passively. And, Active Learners on average performed 11% better than their Passive Learning counterparts when given a multiple choice test later in the learning process. [1]

When we consider that learning actively creates an educational environment that is more engaging, faster, and more effective than Passive Learning, it is clear that Active Learning is the better choice.

Sources:

[1] Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research
http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Papers/Prince_AL.pdf

[2] Active versus passive teaching styles: An empirical study of student learning outcomes
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.505.71&rep=rep1&type=pdf

[3] Everyday attention and lecture retention: the effects of time, fidgeting, and mind wandering
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3776418/

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Learning, Smartly, Students & Careers

Statistics is music to our ears

Here at Smartly, we’ve purposefully built a team of polymaths: our business knowledge and experience extend from corporate governance to market research to advanced statistics and beyond. Our educational backgrounds are equally broad: we’ve got a Ph.D. linguist and a Ph.D. mathematician cum classicist, a philosopher, a handful of historians, a quartet of computer science wizards—the list goes on. We even have a Ph.D. archeologist (Indiana Jones, anyone?).

So I guess it’s no surprise that our team’s other skills and interests also run the gamut: from marketing associate Karina’s expertise in fashion to co-founder Alexie’s mastery of Italian to content creator Ray’s homemade doll houses.

For Ellie and I (both members of the content team), our other skill is music: Ellie as a shredding bassist and gifted singer on the San Fran scene, and I as a Latin Grammy-nominated recording engineer and composer (hi, Mom!) based in LA.

Last week, we joined forces to give you this, The Correlation Song. Ellie, our top statistics author/editor, was so inspired by her love of stats that she wrote and sang this sweeping ode to correlation. I am honored to have simply helped bring the track to life. We hope you enjoy these warm—and educational!—vibes from the West Coast. And don’t hesitate to share this song with others: being social and being successful are strongly correlated.

P.S.—Make sure to check out our course Two-Variable Statistics, the inspiration for this dope cut.

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Learning, Students & Careers

An Interview with Michael Horn on the future of EdTech

stars in night sky

We are so excited to welcome Michael Horn, author of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, and a force for positive and innovative change in the world of education, as an advisor for Pedago. We met with Michael a few weeks ago to talk about disruption in the EdTech space. Here’s what he had to say.

In your book, Blended, you explain how in-classroom learning can be melded with technology to create effective learning experiences; why do you think there was no one doing this until recently?

MH: Until just recently, education had been essentially the same since the printing press. There were the traditional teaching methods for the general populace, mixed with tutoring systems reserved for the elite and for those who had enough social capital.

Finally, disruptive technology—online learning—started to appear. When MOOCs arrived, people conceptualized the online learning movement as video tutorials—filmed, staged lessons. The disruptive innovation theory gave us a way to talk about this new movement more broadly, though, and see where it was going, which allowed us to realize that there, online learning represented a bigger moral opportunity and a chance to think about education in a truly novel way that could benefit all students. The theory gives us a framework to understand that we have the potential to use online learning to transform education in a massive way, beyond these filmed lessons, and create a personalized learning solution for every student at a cost we can afford.

What do you see in the near-term future for EdTech?

Video is just a small part of my vision for what the EdTech world has the potential to become. We need to move toward creating different modalities for different kinds of learning. Learning through games, virtual reality—these are great ideas, but they don’t work for every subject. We need solutions that can be customized based on the subject matter to facilitate active learning.

You talk a lot about disruption—how do you qualify disruption, and how do you see it playing out in the EdTech space?

One of the ways that we measure disruption is through asking the question: does your technology have a low-cost value proposition you can bring to market now, while still improving it over time to tackle more complex problems? There aren’t a ton of these on the market yet in the EdTech space.

Some might suggest that MOOCs are disruptive, but I would disagree. There’s a limit to the amount of dynamic education you can provide through MOOCs and video content because interaction between learners and educators is so limited.

Disruption starts by tackling simple problems, then moves up-market to tackle more difficult problems. That’s why there are so many companies tackling math right now—because it’s rules-based. It’s harder to address higher-end education. I’m excited to see what starts coming out of the EdTech space to tackle these harder concepts.

Last question—what’s one of your best learning experiences?

In all seriousness, my first time trying Smartly blew me away. But, if I have to choose something else, I’d have to say my class with Clayton Christensen at Harvard Business School because he combined theory lessons with real-life applications using case studies, so the learning was very concrete.

Want to hear more from Michael? Stay tuned to Smarty’s blog or find Michael Horn on Twitter (@michaelbhorn)! Visit Smartly at https://smart.ly.

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Learning, Students & Careers

The Whole Foods Secret: A Longer Line with Shorter Wait Times

Long Line

Ask a random group of people about their pet peeves and you’re likely to hear at least one complaint related to waiting in line. No wonder: it can be boring and frustrating, and often seems unnecessary or unfair—think about the last time you waited longer at the supermarket than someone who arrived after you. Nevertheless, we spend quite a lot of time doing it; as much as a year or two of our lives, according to some estimates.

If you’re a business owner, you want to reduce the amount of time your patrons wait in line to a minimum. Like many businesses, you’re probably using a traditional multiple-line system, with several parallel lines that customers have to choose from. If these lines aren’t properly managed and involve a long and unpleasant wait, customers may renege on an intended purchase and even be discouraged from returning to your business. That could mean the loss of a lot of potential revenue.

So, what can you do? You can try a different line system, used by banks, post office branches, and some fast food restaurants: a single line that feeds into multiple cashiers. It’s also been adopted by major supermarket chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. What’s so great about this system?

A key advantage of having one line is that—despite the fact it is longer—the average wait time is often shorter. That’s because the single-line system doesn’t suffer from the inefficiencies that can plague multiple lines. In the multiple-line system, for example, customers may not notice that a checkout counter is open, leading to long delays. In addition, a single-line system seems fairer, since customers who arrive first are always served first.

Of course, there are also potential drawbacks to the single-line system. A single line, for instance, is wrongly perceived by customers as slower simply because it’s longer, which might deter some. And you need enough floor space for the long line you get with this system.

Not sure yet if you should use a single-line system? Figure out the actual wait times at your business before deciding, and learn about other ways to reduce wait times. This is just one small aspect of Smartly’s Operations Management Fundamentals course about how to make any business—large or small—run more efficiently.

To learn more about Operations Management Fundamentals and other ways to make your business more efficient, sign up here

 

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Companies & Universities, Learning

How Your Team Can Make Better Decisions By Conquering the Asch Effect

two hands writing in notebook

Your team is awesome—you’ve gotten through the four stages of group development (which you, of course, studied in Smartly’s Organizational Behavior: Working in Groups and Teams course), and you’re performing at peak efficiency and effectiveness. You come into work energized and excited to tackle challenges with your team.

And then something happens. The team’s attitude is still upbeat, but you notice that its output is diminishing. Team members are making mistakes they shouldn’t have, and it’s costing you big time… What gives?

Sadly, even the best teams can run into a number of major threats to their effectiveness. Here’s how to deal with at least one of them, the Asch effect.

If you’ve ever found it difficult to speak up with an unpopular opinion, then you’re already familiar with the Asch effect: it’s a phenomenon in which individuals go along with the majority view regardless of their own opinions. Unfortunately, this leads teams to make poor decisions.

Luckily, there are several concrete steps you can take to avoid this effect:

  1. Appoint a devil’s advocate: select someone from your team to provide the alternative position to any major decision you’re making. This helps team members to step out from behind the curtain of unanimity and take a look at a challenge from all angles, helping to avoid costly mistakes.
  1. Change team member roles from time to time. Change forces us to see things from a different angle, sparking creative thinking and problem solving.
  1. Try an anonymous survey: Whether formally or informally, get feedback from group members individually and provide the results to the team. People can’t succumb to the Asch effect if they don’t know how their teammates would vote!

Already employing these tactics? Awesome! You’re well on your way to bulletproofing your team dynamics and decision-making. To learn even more about building and maintaining an amazing team, check out Smartly’s Organizational Behavior: Working in Groups and Teams course!

*photo credit: http://deathtothestockphoto.com

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Careers, Learning, Smartly, Students & Careers

What’s it like to be a Smartly Content Developer?

Typewriter and laptop on desk

Image from a Macroeconomics lesson in Smartly on Economic Development in the World.

Smartly content developers come from all of over the world and have varying educational and professional backgrounds, but one thing unites them: they’re great at taking hard concepts and breaking them down in clever, humorous ways so that Smartly customers enjoy learning something new—fast!

Taylor, a top-notch Smartly content developer and PhD candidate at the University of Kansas with a background in Economics and Quantitative Analysis, describes his experience writing for Smartly. Find out why he thinks it’s important to learn macroeconomics for everyday life and what his absolute favorite thing he’s written for Smartly is!

1. What’s your name?

Taylor Drane

2. Where are you based?

Lawrence, Kansas

3. How and why did you start writing for Smartly?

I was referred to Smartly by a current writer.

4. What’s your professional and educational background?

I am currently in the PhD program at the University of Kansas where I also received my Masters in Economics. I completed my undergrad at Franklin College in Indiana where I received a Bachelors in Quantitative Analysis and a Bachelors in Economics. I have also completed two internships at Jabil Circuit where I worked for their treasury department and their business unit.

5. What are some of the courses and subjects that you’ve written about in Smartly?

I have written for the Macroeconomics courses; specifically international trade and fiscal policy.

6. Why do you think it’s important for students and business professionals to understand economics?

There are a multitude of reasons why economics is important. From a political perspective, it is usually the most important issue, especially in the past decade. If you turn on the news, you’ll likely hear about topics like the Federal Reserve, GDP, fiscal policy, exchange rates, etc. To have an informed opinion, one must understand how the economy works on both a micro and macro level. From an everyday perspective, economics is all around us. If you care about your education, your wages, your lifestyle, and your future, then you should care about economics.

7. What’s your favorite whimsical or snarky answer message you’ve written in Smartly?

First let me say that 99% of the humor and wit in the lessons I have written should entirely be credited to my editor, Tiffany Chen. She is far more creative than I am. Though it was not a message, there was an international trade lesson focusing on economic development in the world. We were using a fictional fruit world where all the nations were named after a fruit. Cherryland happened to enact some policies which enabled them to develop faster and they were able to “enjoy the fruits of their labor (pun fully intended)”.

8. What’s one of your favorite images used in Smartly?

Also in the economic development lesson, we used an image displaying two desks side by side. One side had a typewriter, feather pen, and a sheet of paper while the other side had a laptop, tablet, and a smartphone. The question was who would be more productive.

9. What do you admire about Smartly learners?

If someone uses Smartly it is because they have the desire to learn. While this may seem obvious, the desire to learn is a very powerful and admirable trait. There is a huge difference between having to learn something and wanting to learn something. The former will yield mediocre results but the latter will result in true knowledge.

10. What do you do to keep your learners in mind?

I try to tailor each lesson to match the perspective and needs of the learner. So from the beginning of the lesson-creating process until the end, I am always asking myself questions such as: Is this important for the needs of the person learning? Does this example seem plausible to them? Essentially I try to keep myself in the shoes of the learner at all times.

11. Anything else you’d like to mention?

I think that Smartly is not only filling an educational void, but is filling it with a quality model that is perfect for the learner in this day and age. Keeping in mind the goals and the environment of the learner has led to a learning platform that combines technology and pedagogy in a way that has not been done before.

For more on Smartly, visit https://smart.ly

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Companies & Universities, Learning, Smartly

The Brave New (Wired) World of Online Education

iphone on table

It is a brave new world, indeed, in which milk, cars, and spouses can all be acquired via the Internet. But for all our advances, the jury is still out regarding the most effective ways to teach online.

Many online learning platforms consist of passive video lectures and podcasts, or universities repackaging classes for the web. To illustrate, imagine you have students who have never seen a pizza before and want to learn how to make one. Working with current online teaching methods, they’d likely not throw the dough, choose the toppings, or get feedback on their work. They would probably have to sit quietly through written descriptions and video lectures online.

The prevalence of this passive approach demonstrates a key challenge in the pursuit of engaging, effective web-based education: the issue of interactivity. While more studies are showing that interactivity breeds engagement and information retention, instructors and platforms are still struggling to employ effective levels and modes of interactivity.

Researchers at Columbia University’s Community College Research Center examined 23 entry-level online courses at two separate community colleges and made some interesting discoveries on this phenomenon. Their assessment was that most of the course material was “text-heavy” and that it “generally consisted of readings and lecture notes. Few courses incorporated auditory or visual stimuli and well-designed instructional software.” While technology that supported feelings of interpersonal interaction was found to be helpful, mere incorporation of technology was insufficient—and recognized as such by the students. The research noted that, “Simply incorporating technology into a course does not necessarily improve interpersonal connections or student learning outcomes.”

The research specifically called out message boards (where instructor presence and guidance was minimal) to be insufficiently interactive to engage students in a way that they found clear and useful. The consensus of their research was that “effective integration of interactive technologies is difficult to achieve, and as a result, few online courses use technology to its fullest potential.”

Another interesting look at web-based learning and interactivity is a 2013 study conducted by Dr. Kenneth J. Longmuir of UC Irvine. Motivated by the fact that most “computerized resources for medical education are passive learning activities,” Professor Longmuir created his own online modules designed for iPad (and other mobile devices). These three online modules replaced three of his classroom lectures on acid-base physiology for first-year medical students. Using a Department of Defense handbook as his guide for incorporating different levels of activity, Longmuir utilized text and images side-by-side and had an embedded question and answer format. From student comments, “The most frequent statement was that students appreciated the interactive nature of the online instruction.” In fact, 97% of surveyed students said it improved the learning experience. They reported that not only did the online material take a shorter time to master than in-person lectures, but the interactivity of the modules was the “most important aspect of the presentation.”

While Dr. Longmuir was reluctant to draw hard conclusions about this particular online course’s efficacy (due to variables in student procrastination, students skipping important material, etc.), there are a few clear points to be taken from both studies. For one, engaging, interactive content is the exception, not the rule, in today’s online learning environment. Both studies suggest the importance of interactivity in online learning—if not definitively in test results (though that’s a possibility), certainly in how students feel about their engagement with the material. This isn’t surprising since research is showing that lack of interactivity in traditional classrooms is detrimental, as well.

While the science behind producing effective online learning courses is still in development, the need for meaningful interactivity in new educational technology seems like a no-brainer. If we hope to teach our students to make that pizza, the most effective way is not to drown them in video clips and PDF files; we should create online learning experiences that mimic—or even improve upon—the interactivity and satisfaction that pounding the dough themselves would provide.

 

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