Published on March 9, 2014
E-LEARNING AND CRITICAL THINKING NUTAN ERATHI Ph.D Scholar, JNTUH & Instructional Designer, Excelsoft Technologies Hyderabad firstname.lastname@example.org 8885407626 Supervisor – Dr. K. Madhavi Reddy Associate Professor, NIT Warangal I am Nutan, currently working as Senior Instructional Designer at Excelsoft Technologies, Hyderabad. I’ve pursued a degree in M.A. (literature) and professional teacher training in education and have a vast teaching experience of 16 years to my credit. Currently, I’m pursuing a doctoral degree (Ph.D) from JNTUH in English. Teaching field has given me opportunities to explore the various platforms in which learning can take place – the traditional classroom teaching, online and e-learning environments. I have presented articles on e-learning at Confluence (The Vth Annual International Conference on Teaching and Learning English as a Second/Foreign Language, Nagpur -Due for publication) and ICERI (6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation, Spain- published). The passion for exploring the modes of teaching using technology has driven me to where I am today. Mobile learning and tablet learning are viewed by most researchers to be the immediate descendant of e-learning and are likely to be the future learning platforms to transfer knowledge at any place and at any time. Getting myself updated to meet the changing requirements of the student community is what I believe to be my greatest achievement.
Abstract E-learning goes beyond the latest tools and technologies in raising intellectual curiosity, creative problem solving, and posing authentic challenges, for encouraging ‘anywhere’,‘anytime’ learning. It aims at providing personalized learning experience in a real world context and hence is designed to address diverse learners, taking into consideration their cognitive, social, cultural norms and attitudes which requires critical thinking skills. This paper intends to provide an overview of critical thinking skills required to develop e-learning courses with special reference to train employees of Dr. Reddy’s laboratories, one of the clientele of Excelsoft Technologies (an elearning company). The organization develops and designs e-learning courses for corporate employee training programs that are into financial/banking sector, Agriculture and Engineering sectors apart from content development services, mobile learning solutions, open source technology solutions, etc. Dr. Reddy’s has earned a reputation for doing what is right by adopting a Code of Business Conduct and Ethics. The Company approached Excelsoft for training its people on these ethics and help them make informed business decisions and to act on them with integrity. The web-based modules that were developed used specific scenarios to address issues on conflicts of interest, anti-bribery and anti corruption, work place harassment, etc. These scenarios aimed to develop in the learners critical thoughts of the responses they would make under specific situations while carrying out business processes which in turn would ensure smooth execution of policies to bring profits to the organization and safe guard its reputation. The end objective of the training was achieved as the modules received good client appreciation. The modules were effective as the learners developed and made use of critical thinking skills while making the right decisions in conflicting situations. Supervisor Details: Dr. Madhavi Kesari Assistant Professor of English Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Email Id: email@example.com Mobile number: 8332969522
Introduction: The changing need of learners to use technology as a means of educational tool has brought a paradigm shift in the way knowledge is transferred. Learning today is not limited to classroom alone, but it is happening at different places and at different times. In the real world, people are busy with their jobs and the budgets to bring people together to teach/train them in the organizations are limited. This is when the organizations felt the need of technology to overcome the limitations, distance and resources in training their employees to meet their business requirements. E-learning goes beyond the latest tools and technologies in raising intellectual curiosity, creative problem solving, and posing authentic challenges, for encouraging ‘anywhere’,’ anytime’ learning. It aims at providing personalized learning experience in a real world context and hence is designed to address diverse learners, taking into consideration their cognitive, social, cultural norms and attitudes and all of which requires critical thinking skills. As a general tendency, human psyche is confronted with conflicting situations and indecisiveness while dealing with clients, stakeholders, business partners and their colleagues in an organisation. At many times, the decisions made by self thinking results in biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or prejudiced decision. Therefore, an awareness of approaching a problem systematically following the teaching strategies enables the learners think and perform discreetly which is the focus of the employers. Predominantly in the context of globalization, it becomes imperative, for the instructors to take seek the aid of technology to teach and develop critical thinking skills in the learners (here, adult learners). According to Reynolds (2011), an individual or group engaged in strong way of critical thinking gives due consideration to establish: • Evidence through observation • Context skills • Relevant criteria for making the judgment well • Applicable methods or techniques for forming the judgment • Applicable theoretical constructs for understanding the problem and the question at hand
Halpern’s Framework on different kinds of critical thinking skills enables instructors to make learning fun and engaging, for example, creative thinking, decision making, problem solving, etc. Halpern’s Framework on different kinds of Critical thinking is shown in Figure 1 below. Figure 1 Critical thinking involves questioning. It is important for instructors to develop the art of asking good questions, to think critically, in order to continue the advancement of this skill in the learners too. "Every field stays alive only to the extent that fresh questions are generated and taken seriously" (Center for Critical Thinking, 1996a ). The list of core critical thinking skills includes observation, interpretation, analysis, inference, evaluation, explanation, and metacognition. More specifically, "metacognition is being aware of one's thinking as one performs specific tasks and then using this awareness to control what one is doing" (Jones & Ratcliff, 1993, p. 10 ). Critical thinking employs not only logic but broad intellectual criteria such as clarity, credibility, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, significance, and fairness.
Context: This paper intends to provide an overview of critical thinking skills with special reference to train the employees of Dr. Reddy’s laboratories, one of the clientele of Excelsoft Technologies. Exclesoft Technologies is an e-learning company that develops and designs elearning courses for corporate training programs that are into Financial/Banking sector, Agriculture and Engineering sectors apart from content development services, mobile learning solutions, open source technology solutions, etc. Excelsoft for developed an e-learning course on Code of Business Conduct and Ethics (COBE) for Dr. Reddy’s to train its people on these ethics and help them make informed business decisions and to act on them with integrity. As a value-based, socially responsible organization, Dr Reddy’s is bound to the highest ethical standards in their operations and behavior. They have earned the trust and respect of customers, shareholders, business partners, and the authorities because of their reputation for doing what is right by adopting the Code of Business Conduct and Ethics. The web-based module used specific scenarios to address issues on Conflicts of Interest, Gifts and Hospitality, Work Place Harassment, Insider Trading, Confidential Information and Asset Protection, etc. A scenario-based learning strategy has been used to address each of the issues. These scenarios, which are discussed in the paper below, aimed to develop critical thoughts of the responses that learners would make under specific situations while carrying out business processes which in turn would ensure smooth execution of policies to bring profits to the organization and safe guard its reputation. The scenarios used ambiguity (a part of critical thinking skill) in which the learners were not provided with clear cut material, but given conflicting information in which they must think their way through (Strohm & Baukus). The module used text and multimedia tools like images, illustrations, graphics, audio and animation, to make the course appealing and effective. A level 2 inter-activity was used, in which the learners could interact with resources such as clickable animated graphics, smooth navigation to menus, glossary, etc. Simple drag–and- drop, multiple select, single select type of exercises used as formative assessment helped to making learning effective. Each screen used limited text and audio in sync with the text and relevant images to convey the desired information. Disucssions:
Some of the questions that instructors framed were: Ask Questions about For example The purpose Why? The context of the text Why? Where? When? Who? The structure of the text The scenarios The evidence used How relevant? Do the parts fit together logically? Is there a clear transition from one screen to next? Are they fair? Do they leave out perspectives of certain groups? Is evidence given to support the view point? Is the evidence evaluated from different perspectives? (In terms of The language used culture, attitudes, etc of learners) Is the language persuasive, simple, crisp and clear? Does the language check for technical jargons and fancy words and is it gender neutral? The course first introduced the values and principles of Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories which the staff required to adhere and comply with. After gaining knowledge on this, they were provided with scenarios, (Screen shot of e-learning module as shown in figure 2), similar to those faced in real life situations. The scenarios, presented in the form of questions with multiple options required the learners to use critical thinking skills to address the problem at hand and make the right decisions. A constructive feedback was provided after the learner chose an option which reinforced the existing knowledge. The course used the branding guidelines as given by the clientele for colors, fonts – style and size, and screen resolution. The use of logo and style guidelines had been maintained consistently throughout the module.
Figure 2 Here’s a quick reflection of the some of the scenarios on various ethical dilemmas encountered by employees in their businesses: 1. Using Company Asset (Figure 3): Sherman works as a system administrator who has access to the company’s usernames, passwords, and software licenses. One day, his friend approached Sherman and asked if he could install the company’s licensed copy of the latest MS-Office in his personal laptop. Sherman installed the company’s licensed software to help his friend. Do you think Sherman should use the company’s asset for personal use? (Yes/No) Figure 3
2. Information Security (Figure 4): David works in a company which plans to acquire another publicly traded firm. Post this acquisition, the company expects a boom in its share price. David called his friend and informed her about the plan suggested her to buy the company’s share. Do you think David can disclose such confidential information to an outsider? (Yes/No) Figure 4 3. Work Place Harassment (Figure 5): Brian’s supervisor Joseph, is a short tempered person. He regularly bangs his fist on the table, yells and blames Brian, for things that he has done wrong. His outbursts become more frequent and on one occasion, throws a paper weight across the cabin. Do you think this is work place harassment? (Yes/No) Figure 5 4. Gifts and Hospitality (Figure 6): Sam received a gift voucher of Rs. 500/- from one of the company suppliers on the occasion of ‘Diwali’. Should Sam accept the gift? (Yes/No)
Figure 6 5. Confidential Information and Asset Protection (Figure 7): Joe works in the HR department. After completing all formalities pertaining to full and final settlement of an ex-employee, he destroys the employee’s personal file. Has Joe done the right thing by destroying the file? (Yes/No) Figure 7 Other scenarios that were drafted were for issues related to Conflicts of interest, IT policy, Insider Trading, Anti- Bribery and Anti-Corruption, etc. Note: The names of characters have been changed in the paper for each scenario and the images shared above are close to those used in the module to respect and maintain confidentiality and privacy of Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories.
Constructive feedback had been provided for each of the issues based on company policy and norms. The feedback was motivating and reinforced learning. The summative assessment was given in the form of ten multiple choice questions in which the learner’s scores and understanding of COBE were tested. Findings: Creating such scenarios required critical thinking by the instructor to analyse and provide accurate guidance on the data given by the clientele and then draft the content and address the issues in the form of scenarios: • • • to provide evidence to challenge a point of view to evaluate the validity and importance of a text/ position to develop reflective thought and a tolerance for ambiguity The module was a product of collaborative team work that included instructional designer, project manager, graphic designers, illustrator and programmer. Since, the learners could easily navigate through the respective screens to gain information on the business conduct and ethics; they found the course to be interactive and engaging. The look and feel, graphics and text and audio narration suited diverse learners from all age group, culture and experience. The findings also revealed that the learners applied the skills of problem recognition; problem solving, addressed unstated assumptions and values, and reconstructed their patterns of beliefs based on their experience and conducted themselves with integrity and precision while attempting the questions. Conclusion: The module enabled learners to gather and assess relevant information, understand the importance of COBE and act with confidence to keep up company’s reputation. Since learning was self – directed, motivating, interesting, engaging, and the learners could move ahead at their own pace and time, they could grasp the concept well while applying reasoning and critical thinking skills to achieve the end objective. The learners with below average scores were suggested to retake the course. The module received good client appreciation and offered development of each scenario into individual modules with several scenarios addressing each issue. Hence, technology driven e-learning courses are exploring, self navigating, self-directed
and informing, connecting people and content to bring the real world experiences in virtual classrooms. References: 1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thinking 2. Oliver, H. & Utermohlen, R. (1995). ‘An innovative teaching strategy: Using critical thinking to give students a guide to the future’.(Eric Document Reproduction Services No. 389 702) 3. http://www.utc.edu/walker-center-teaching-learning/faculty-development/onlineresources/ct-ps.php 4. http://sydney.edu.au/stuserv/documents/learning_centre/critical.pdf 5. www.utc.edu/walker-center-teaching-learning/faculty-development/online-resources/ctps.php 6. Wade, Carole, and Tavris, Carol (1995). ‘Critical & Creative Thinking: The Case of Love and War. Harper Collins College Publisher. New York. NY. 7. Strohm, S. M., & Baukus, R. A. (1995). Strategies for fostering critical thinking skills. Journalism and Mass Communication Educator, 50 (1), 5562. 8. Facione, PA, (2010). ‘Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts ‘http://www.insightassessment.com
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