The learning experience is a modern-day term, which is increasingly deployed by a wide cross-section of online and offline fora. The term refers to the pedagogical practices in an ecosystem governed by new technology and artificial intelligence. Learning experiences typically include two parts, viz., learning and teaching. As the very term suggests, the design of the learning experience tilts more towards the learning part. Before delving further into the term and its nitty-gritty, let us take a quick look at what learning entails conventionally and break the discussion down according to the division of learning and teaching.
Wikipedia defines ‘learning’ in terms of developing understanding, knowledge, skills, values, attitudes, and preferences by flora, fauna (including human animals), and oftentimes, machines. However, the learning experience currently being referred to is essentially human-centered. Effective learning, further according to Wikipedia, requires repetition. It is about an ongoing interaction between people and the environment. In a similar vein, Google defines learning as a process of acquiring knowledge, skills, etc., through study, teaching, and experience. These are some conventional definitions of learning that hinge on the idea of a teacher/teaching and the taught/student.
Digital learning largely alters this model. This is exactly where digital learning is fundamentally different from conventional learning.
In a tech-driven environment, learning occurs with technological intervention, where the stress is more on ‘experience’ rather than conventional study and teaching. Naturally, compared to conventional learning, tech-enabled learning is way more inclusive and independent from the p.o.v of a learner. AI-driven experiences, therefore, are aimed at improving the instructional design to ensure and allow greater retention, changed behavior, and better performance—in short, new and improved learning outcomes.
Learning experience is an umbrella term used to mean different forms of action pertaining to education. While attending lectures, carrying out classroom assignments, or reading a book are all part of the learning experience, a wide variety of outside-classroom activities happen to denote the same. The latter mode of learning, in most cases digitally-induced, aims to achieve the desired learning outcome in a goal-oriented way. The design of such a system takes into account the principles/workings of educational sciences, cognitive psychology, experiential learning, and instructional design. These together create a powerful digital learning experience.
In conventional settings, the idea of learning more often than not has a more limited connotation. On the contrary, the term learning experiences essentially has a sense of inclusivity attached to it. In a tech-dominated world, the place, mode, and time of learning have come to be dramatically altered by new forms of technology. As a result, the conventional terms associated with educational interaction have largely been replaced by the use of the term learning experiences. Learning experience focuses on the goal of education rather than its location and format.
The Freedom of Learning
Alongside inclusivity and a goal-oriented approach, independence and freedom of learning are some core concepts of learning experiences. In the pandemic-ridden world, tech-enabled learning is not just unavoidable but is the status quo. This has greatly diversified educational experience to create, for example, increasing gamification of learning experiences. This phenomenon has induced less involvement of a guide, supervisor, or instructor and more independent learning in keeping with the rules of the game. Learning, on a digital basis, also largely occurs through videos where students benefit from a pre-recorded video in their own time and at their own pace. There are ample other ways in which learning experiences take place.
Learning experience, once again, encompasses organizing and exchanging learning materials. Effective organization of learning materials has lately been enabled by the use of several apps, software programs, and online course management systems. These are of exceptional benefit for both the learner and the learned, i.e., the professor. From the perspective of a teacher, the online teaching and classroom management systems ease a lot of tasks connected to pedagogy. Creating quizzes and tests, for example, has become a lot easier with these digital tools. It stores a whopping pre-uploaded set of questions for such purposes. More often than not, these question banks comply with the standard curricula and norms of competitive exams. Interactive study materials, too, can be prepared using these digital tools. The online classroom management apps can be availed by individuals and institutes alike to manage and digitize classes.
This is one aspect, but goal-oriented online teaching and learning have countless other benefits and upsides. Designing an online course that is in keeping with the goal of education, while at the same time simple and engaging, is quite a challenge. Various forms of digital tools, such as apps, are programmed to meet this challenge effectively. However, there is no one-size-fits-all. Different apps and programs serve different needs of learning experiences. No system seems to be comprehensive enough to solve all teaching and learning issues in one place.
Like most other experiences in a postmodern context, learning too has come to be largely digitized. The saying ‘self-learning is the best learning’ proves all the more true with the expansion of digital learning or e-learning. This naturally has largely blurred the lines between formal and informal learning, as well as the teacher and the student. Now, the source of knowledge for a ward is not just human agents, the formal setting of school, or a bound volume but an inexhaustible online repository of information, videos, games, and other interactive platforms. This has both upsides and drawbacks. While the upsides are discussed above, one of the biggest drawbacks of online learning is social isolation and a lack of physical activity. Nonetheless, both digital and conventional learning processes are here to stay, with modifications and adjustments here and there and from time to time. What we need is to enjoy the best of both worlds by striking an equilibrium between the two extremes.