Threaded Learning: Weaving Insights & Impact

Threaded discussions were big news back in the early 2000’s – a tech bridge to foster the experience of live classroom interaction online. The literature around these discussions highlighted some important features that have forever changed our eConversation expectations.

  • Convenient: Learners are allowed reflection time and can respond any time of day within the discussion timeframe.
  • Concurrent: Multiple discussions around a topic can now happen concurrently, and these tangents can lend previously untapped insights.
  • Formative: Learners participate by articulating their thoughts about subject matter while forming new memories – extraordinarily powerful for deep processing. Meanwhile, instructors have the opportunity to spot misunderstanding among learners and can provide critical formative feedback.
  • Social: Conversation is by definition social, but threaded discussions are social in a new way. Those who may have been intimidated to speak up in a live class setting may take comfort in the opportunity to compose a response and contribute online. Additionally, the nature of the forum removes sight biases, leveling the playing field for learners.

Great stuff! And now with new technologies these rich discussions can be mobile and measured in new ways.

But threading shouldn’t end with discussion management. These advantages should also be applied more broadly to education design. And if they are not being utilized in your content delivery, it’s time to introduce Threaded Learning to your education strategy.

Threaded Learning: The strategic delivery of content coordinated across multiple education vehicles over pre-determined intervals to support learner memory, practice, and mastery.

Let’s break this down.

Threaded Learning is bigger than a course. It’s a cornerstone of your content strategy. It takes into consideration the types of content necessary to achieve your broader learning objectives utilizing the best vehicles for delivery over time for maximum impact. The end goal is measurable change in the learner.

Example: For a professional association, this means taking a look at the domain you are dedicated to delivering for the workforce you represent and making intentional choices about how that content will be delivered over your live, online, mobile, and print education vehicles, taking into consideration the intervals of delivery and how learning will be measured.

Example: For a faculty member, this means taking a look at your course content and objectives and strategically delivering instruction, exercises, rehearsal prompts, job aids, supplementary resources for further discovery, and assessments utilizing the best tools available to you to deliver these chunks over a meaningful span of time.

How is Threading different from “drip feeding” content? The drip approach focuses specifically on time – on delivering small bits of content over time – because that is a process LMS systems can automate. It does not account for the instructional design of those bits, or the critical decision about which type of content is delivered most effectively by which education vehicle. That’s the strength of Threaded Learning. It’s strategic. It requires attention to content design. It’s also concerned with interval delivery, but with specific objectives in mind.

Returning for a minute to the benefits of discussion threads (convenient, concurrent, formative, and social): these superpowers also lie within Threaded Learning. To be effective (aka: adopted by learners), your threaded content delivery must be convenient – delivered where the learner is and where they will use it. Deeper learning takes place when content is processed concurrent with other learnings (or “interleaved” as Peter Brown, author of Make it Stick, claims) and especially while within the context of real life application. When delivering a content piece requiring a response or a self-assessment tool, you offer the rich opportunity for formative feedback. And finally, designing opportunities for social collaboration, conversation and further content creation turn static delivery into adult learner brain super food.

Interested in talking about how to integrate Threaded Learning into your content strategy and course design? Contact me!


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