The importance of play in children's development and learning is well known, and research on the subject abounds. In recent years, more serious attention has been paid to the benefits of play for adults, particularly in learning. However, there is not nearly as much research on the impact of play on adult learners as on young learners.
Online learning is generally self-directed, and, as a result, requires certain levels of autonomy and discipline. But with distractions constantly beckoning you away from the path, how can you maintain your trajectory and ultimately arrive at your intended destination?
"Why should children be the only ones who can have fun?" ask the creators of the Professors at Play project, Lisa Forbes and David Thomas, both teachers at the University of Colorado Denver in the United States. These two academics with atypical backgrounds realized that play and fun, despite their learning potential, are often underused in higher education.
Finding your way through a learning path can be challenging, as we all differ in the way we approach learning. On top of that, expressing what we have learned might not be an easy endeavour for all of us. Language barriers, lack of organizational abilities, fear of public speaking or even movement impairments can hinder how we tackle a learning task — as such, providing options for action and expression is crucial for a learning program that wants to reach its entire audience.
We all learn differently, among other things, depending on how the information is presented to us. Moreover, having any sensory disabilities (e.g., blindness) might prove that trying to deliver education in a unique format, however optimal that might be, will never reach its entire audience.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that uses scientific insights into how people learn to help optimize learning experiences by meeting the needs of all students (The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) (2018)). In this article, I would like to expand a little more on the Multiple Means of Engagement guideline of UDL and its implementation.
The importance of self-efficacy can be summarized by saying that if you don't believe you have what it takes to achieve your goals, you are unlikely to succeed... More relevant than ever and used in many fields, this theory is also applied in education. Here's what every teacher needs to know about self-efficacy in the context of learning and what they can do to foster it in their learners.
We talk less about the importance of taking time off work than we do about eating well or being physically active. Our demanding lives and the performance culture we struggle to break away from mean that we too often ignore our signs of fatigue and persist as best as possible in our daily activities, whether we are workers or students. Difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation and mental wandering are part of our normality... However, numerous studies that have examined the consequences of depriving ourselves of rest and vacation time indicate that we put our mental and physical health at risk by ignoring these necessary periods of disconnection.
It is vital to fully understand that integrating accessibility principles in online learning is not an easy fix; it requires proper modelling. Furthermore, accessible instruction does not simply consist of telling professors what accessibility is and expect them to do it all on their own; it is about inclusion and the benefits it can bring to all students in a class.
Higher education is a luxury that’s not available to everyone, or, at least, it is a luxury that is more available to some than others. And although financial limitation is certainly an inhibitor, it is not the only one. Think, for example, of the cultural acclimation an international student might experience if they were to relocate to, say, Montreal for their post-secondary studies.