By: Karen Vendouern-Srba, Associate Vice President of Academic & Instructional Technology
The Academic & Instructional Technology team is a small and focused group with many diverse responsibilities and expertise. One of those focused areas is providing instructional pedagogy and learning theory to courses to enhance student learning. The team responsible for this is the eLearning team within Academic & Instructional Technology and multimedia developers.
The eLearning architects have a strong background in educational pedagogy, online learning, and overall course design and delivery. The multimedia developers have a strong background in education but their experience is more on coding digital components such as the new eLearning framework and simulated scenarios that allow students to become immersed in the learning content important to their future job or career. Together these teammates work with the Deans, Program Directors and Faculty to build the overall learning experience for the course.
This year there are over 800 courses to be revised and updated. The eLearning team is working side-by-side on many of these courses as well as new courses being developed. Many of the courses in the revision process are using a digital format that will allow APUS to enhance the learning experience of existing students and aim to attract new students demanding a high-touch digital experience. This digital eLearning Framework was specifically developed to engage students in the concepts and topics of the course lessons.
The eLearning Framework allows APUS to quickly build enriched digital experiences that add to the cognitive learning experience of the student as they engage in the lesson content. Breaking down the lessons into smaller more retainable interactive content helps the student remember and retain that learning more quickly than perhaps reading a 100 page article or chapter in a book without the interactive content.
Some examples of lessons containing this format include:
In addition to interactive digital content, the eLearning team is working on several other initiatives. One such initiative is developing course trailers to be put into week 5 of courses. Their purpose is to promote student interest in the next course in the series or the next course in the progression. This trailer is an initiative that we hope contributes to persistence and retention by attracting student interest such that it motivates them to register for their next course.
Sample course trailers include:
What does the future hold for APUS courses?
The answer to that question begins with focusing on our future target market. The students of the future especially the next five years are the millennials. Millennials were born in the height of the digital boom with smart phones, 3-D and connected game consoles, clothing and shoes that link to an app on their phone and of course the invention of social media, Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter and more. These individuals use more digital resources and devices than those who came before them (including most of us). A trend with a future that is predicted to only increase, including digital usage with cars that drive themselves and 3-D experiences individuals create just for the thrill of it. Our job is to build curriculum and courses that matches their digital learning preferences and needs in the ever-changing global market place.
A few ideas the eLearning team is currently researching include virtual teaching assistants like Siri, Cortana or Watson and 3-D virtual environments that can be created to run on your X-Box, PlayStation or Wii or used with Samsung Gear VT, Oculus, or Google Cardboard. (Robust solution for an inexpensive cost.)
There are many ways to engage and remain responsive to students’ needs when it comes to course design. The eLearning team is not losing site of the big picture and that is making sure the student experience is meaningful and supports the student in being more successful in their courses. This is one-facet of retention and persistence. Effective teaching is the other and most significant component of this learning experience. Together, Faculty, Program Directors, Deans, and the eLearning Team, are making a difference in our courses and delivering an experience we aim to promote and celebrate.