The Secret to Awesome Online Learning: Arizona State’s Dr. Carmean Tells All

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    Dr. Colleen Carmean works at Arizona State University as a Digital Knowledge Architect in the College of Public Programs. She became a Knowledge Architect after finishing her dissertation, which outlines how instructional design in the digital age is changing to focus on just-in-time learning, while just-in-case learning is headed out the door. Knowledge Architects will create containers for knowledge sharing where learners will learn at their own pace, when they want, and in ways that they want.

    Q. Dr. Carmean, can you point our readers to a book which influenced your work?

    Recommended by Arizona State University’s Dr. Colleen Carmean

    Truthfully, as important as some of the seminal works in design proved to be in my training, I believe that books and materials that help us understand how people learn are the most influential in creating meaningful experiences. One I’d encourage for anyone thinking about innovative, effective new practice is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

    Q. How did this book help you understand how people learn?

    Flow shows us, through research and case studies, how important intrinsic motivation is to concentration, success, even happiness. It wasn’t a deep leap for me to see how true this is for the learning moment—face-to-face, online, in the office, or in the field.

    If we are at our best and most effective when “in the flow” of deep concentration—and Csikszentimihalyi gives us a blueprint of some of the conditions necessary to create that flow—my takeaway was to use this research to create optimal learning experiences.

    Some of the simple conditions included great reminders for any learning developer:

    1. Ensure a task is clear and can be successfully completed.
    2. Ensure the task has clear goals.
    3. Provide immediate feedback.
    4. Allow choice and a sense of control over one’s actions.

    Q. Have you applied Flow to eLearning?

    Absolutely, and I apply the takeaways all the time via my commitment to moving more learning experiences online. There, I can create small, bite-sized, focused learning goals. I can also provide diverse options for diverse skills and preferences, which is hard to do well in the classroom. I can give someone the choice of reading text, hearing audio summaries, doing low-risk review exercises with instant auto-feedback, or even joining in discussions and getting feedback from others.

    Using this book as a map and focusing on conditions that create “flow as learning state” has been an amazing influence and guide in my practice. Makes sense, no?

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