What do you do in a totally unprecedented situation, when there are no answers?
One thing you can do when you don't yet have answers is focus on asking more effective questions.
Another thing to do is to reach out to others to create communities and networks that can provide resources, guidance, and support.
None of us has all the answers, but together, we can move closer to asking the right questions.
That's what our Learn and Get Smarter community has been doing for the past several weeks, and our collective efforts have been yielding powerful results.
At last Saturday's Learn and Get Smarter community meeting we put together our work from earlier meetings to set up a cognitive strategies ("learning how to learn") course.
We decided to call the course
"Novel Solutions to a Novel Crisis."
Individually and collectively, we were impressed with what we came up with as a group, because none of us alone could have created what we all created together.
I want to extend a very special thank you to everyone who has been part of this process. If you haven't been able to participate so far, come next time and contribute your ideas!
At next week's community meeting we will start to plan and develop the media needed to build the course (media such as PDFs, Word Docs, interactive elearning activities, and PowerPoints.)
I hope you can join us to add your wisdom, insights, and perspective!
We'll start planning and developing our actual course media!
To develop the course content, we'll draw on the question banks we came up with in previous weeks, relating to attitude adjustments, practical skills, and learning strategies that can help us cope with this unprecedented situation.
After exploring helpful mindset adjustments we can make, we realized that mindset change is only PART of what we need to focus on. We decided that our course will not be a mindset course, but it may have some mindset change components in it.
We realized that while the current pandemic calls for the development of new skills in every area of life, skills alone will not give us everything we need to survive and thrive. Even the skills themselves, that we came up with, were heavily oriented in the direction of learning what we need to know in order to cope. We realized that our course would not be a "how-to" course, even though learning new skills would be part of what we need to learn. Clarity was emerging that this would instead be a cognitive strategies course, focused on learning how to learn about the new situation we all find ourselves in.
Our process of ongoing reflection and questioning led us to the realization that when there are not yet any clear definitive answers, the best one can do is ask the most powerful questions. We explored questions to ask in all areas of our lives and on all levels of society, from the personal to the global and from the physical to the spiritual.
The process we are using to develop this "crowdsourced" learning experience, differs in important ways from the process you would use to create your own individual course in your own area of expertise.
The pandemic is an area in which none of us has expertise. Even the experts in global health don't yet have the full range of expertise needed to handle such an unprecedented situation effectively. We are all participants in a global learning experience in which the stakes are as high as they can possibly be, for everyone involved.
Learning is always about adapting to one's environment in ways that promote survival. But the stakes are not usually as clear and as stark as they are now.
As experts in our own fields who are interested in developing transformative online courses, the pandemic provides an opportunity to learn about learning itself (and online learning in particular) in ways we have never seen before.
In your own area of expertise, you can use the Course Design Formula® as a set of guidelines to structure your extensive prior knowledge in ways that help people benefit from what you already know.
But when, as in this situation, no one yet has the right expertise, we must instead rely on unguided discovery learning.
We are feeling our way in the dark, and finding out where the limits and edges are by running into them. Working together as a community, we can find those edges faster and bring our collective wisdom and energy to bear on a problem that impacts us all.
to continue this journey of exploration!
At last Saturday's community meeting, we discussed the questions can we ask ourselves, that will help us survive and thrive under all conditions, and especially, the conditions we are all dealing with now in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.
We decided to use the questions we came up with, to develop a sample cognitive strategies ("learning how to learn") course as a group. That's what we will work on at next week's community meeting.
With profound thanks to everyone who attended for their participation and insightful contributions, here are some of the important questions we came up with as a group:
We decided that we will now ask ourselves the following powerful question:
How does my mission continually align with my clients’ desires and what they are willing to pay for?
How do I ensure this going forward under all conditions?
Finding effective answers to such questions, especially under conditions of uncertainty such as we are facing now, is not an easy task. This is deep work, the work of learning at the most fundamental level.
(Remember that learning means adapting to conditions in ways that promote and optimize well-being and survival).
The stakes are very high: for ourselves, our families, our communities, and the planet as a whole.
Come help us develop effective learning strategies that can help us find answers to these and other important questions.
We will start to actually BUILD our group
cognitive strategy ("learning how to learn") course
In a complex and unprecedented situation where no one has all the answers (or sometimes, ANY answers), working collectively can help us find solutions we would not have been able to find on our own.
I'm creating a Google doc with the questions we came up with at last week's meeting, and will share it via email with those on the Learn and Get Smarter email list. We can keep adding questions to consider, as we think of them.
You may enjoy this enlightening article from Harvard Business Review, on how businesses can approach decision making when faced with complex, unpredictable, and unprecedented systems.
For the next few days, think about questions to ask yourself in YOUR business, that will help you adapt to a complex and unpredictable environment.
Then come join us next Saturday as we start exploring answers in the form of a cognitive strategies course we can create together!
We've talked about the five domains of learning defined by educational researcher and theorist Robert M. Gagné.
Gagné divided learning up into the following major types:
But what if your course contains more than one type of learning?
Many, if not most, courses do.
The way to handle that is to realize that a course has more than one LEVEL, and each level of the course can have its own domain of learning.
To make this concept easy to visualize, think of those nested wooden dolls where one fits inside the other.
Your course as a whole is the outermost "doll", which holds all the others. So the first thing to do is set up the course as a whole based on its domain of learning. Let's use an example-- an intellectual skills ("how-to") course about How to Change a Tire.
The next level inside the course is the module level: the large sections or chapters or chunks that hold the lessons. Each module can have its own domain of learning, which might be different from the domain of learning for the course as a whole.
The first module of our imaginary "How to Change a Tire" course might be called "Things you need" in order to change a tire. At the end of this first module, learners won't yet be able to change a tire. They will be able to state/list/describe the things you need to have in order to be ready to change a tire. So the first module of this how-to course teaches verbal information.
Now let's go inward another level to the lesson level in this module. Let's say the things you need in order to change a tire include several different tools, the right mindset, the ability to read your car's user manual, and a specific wrist motion. You could create a different lesson inside that first module to teach about each of those things.
The lesson describing the tools would be a verbal information lesson. You would also have an attitude change lesson, a cognitive strategy lesson teaching how to approach reading a car's user manual, and a motor skills lesson teaching the wrist motion.
And within each lesson you might have more than one learning object. Learning objects are the individual media items in a course (an individual video, text document, PDF, PowerPoint, etc).
Let's say that in the cognitive strategy lesson about how to read the user manual, you have a text document explaining where to find the manual, a video demonstrating how to find the tire-changing section of the user manual, and a short audio file encouraging learners not to stress about reading the manual. That's three separate learning objects in one lesson, each with its own domain of learning (verbal information, intellectual skills, and attitudes).
Being able to adjust the focus of your design to the course, module, lesson, and learning object level gives you tremendous power and control and flexibility in how to design your course.
Here are the key concepts to keep in mind:
What this means is that you can (as in our example above) have a how-to course with a verbal information module that has a cognitive strategy lesson containing learning objects each with its own domain of learning.
If you are clear and precise about the level you are designing, and always get THAT domain of learning right, your course will fall into place beautifully and just "click".
At our community meeting last Saturday, we used a mindset change (attitudes) format to think about how to adapt to change given the current Coronavirus pandemic. We came up with a lot of very creative and insightful ideas. The question then came up: is this a mindset-change COURSE?
The answer was, no. A mindset change might be an ASPECT or COMPONENT of what is needed in order to adapt to the current situation, but it's not enough in and of itself to be the total answer. We can change our attitudes all we want (and we should), but just doing so will not be enough to cope. We need some practical how-to skills as well... which is what we will be working on for this coming week's community meeting. You can register for the meeting here and help brainstorm what those practical skills might be:
We will design an "intellectual skills" ("How-to") course for adapting to change in the face of the current pandemic.
My suspicion is that practical how to skills, while important, are also not the total picture of what is needed to cope with the current situation. If we were, as a community, to create a "course" about how to cope, my best guess is that it would be a cognitive strategy course... learning how to learn how to adapt to these unprecedented circumstances. A mindset change and some practical skills might be PARTS of the strategy, but would not provide the total picture.
Since we are not experts on this topic, we will use a process of unguided discovery learning to see what we can figure out. We will try the how-to course structure as a way of holding our collective thoughts and ideas.
You may notice that earlier, I said that one should design a course starting from the whole-course level (top down) and THEN fill in the modules and lessons. Yet in our exploration of the current pandemic, we may in fact be designing some of the smaller components of the course first.
That's because in this current crisis, no one on the planet is an expert with complete understanding of how to cope and adapt. This situation throws us all into unguided discovery learning where we are feeling our way in the dark.
We tried the mindset structure to see if it would work to help us think about the problem. It was helpful but we realized it was not the biggest picture. It was not the outermost doll. I think the outermost doll when we get to it will be a cognitive strategy course... and that the mindset and how- to components will be aspects of the strategy needed to learn how to cope.
Come participate in the community meeting on Saturday and let's see where our explorations take us!