Recommendations for Addressing the Wicked Problem of Online Learning

I’m currently part of a small group in my grad class class that is working on solving a “Wicked Problem”. This is a problem that is difficult to solve because of it’s complexity and a lack of a clear solution(s). A wicked problem also has a great deal of interdependence in it’s structures and thus solving one aspect of it may create a new problem. The means that “solving” a wicked problem, by it’s very nature, is likely impossible.

But we had to try.

The wicked problem we took on was that of online learning and the different ways it manifests itself. It could be distance learning, MOOCs, blended learning environments, online classes offered through a university or secondary school, or automated training programs. Our goal was to come up with guidelines for anyone trying to implement a quality online learning environment. We had to consider stakeholders (students, teachers, industry, communities, institutions) and constraints (technology, availability, pedagogy, etc.). Classes that are not engaging, not pedagogically sound, isolating to the student, leave out the teacher, and don’t result in quality learning experiences are just a few of the problems that plague online learning.

Although it has many problems, online learning has great potential to change education in a positive way. We came up with policy recommendations that ideally would help ensure quality experiences for all stakeholders. (You can read our white paper here.) We focused on the “how” and “why” of online learning and tried to balance technology, content, and pedagogy in our recommendations. You can click the image below to see our Blendspace that contains an info graphic, video of our collaboration and brainstorming process, white paper, and our references. We’ve received feedback from colleagues and adjusted our recommendations accordingly. We put a lot of time into this project and are really excited about the results! Please feel free to ask questions or provide constructive feedback!

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