Practical Academics develops learning experiences and hosts learning communities for three markets:
Learning is about Relationships
Above all, learning is about relationships. We need each other to stick to it, to have our ideas challenged and our successes recognized, to encourage us on. We need goals and achievements; to rise and fall. Online only learning is flat, it is a result of reducing learning to it lowest common denominators. An online only class is like reading a good book. You take your test, get your certificate, pop it on your resume, then go to the forums for help. Learning is experiential, deepened through the dynamics of relationship. We are committed to developing and sustaining strong relationships throughout our communities.
Blended (aka hybrid) Learning
Blended learning lets us leverage the best of face to face meetings and online tools and processes. When new technologies are developed, they don’t replace the old ones, they find and serve a new niche. Along with all-of-the-above thinking, we design to use the best of face to face: strategic thinking and brainstorming, context development, complex problem solving, and conflict resolution; and use the online tools for their strengths: independent study and assessment anywhere anytime at the student’s pace, asynchronous discussions, and for groups which have developed a good working relationship (via face to face meetings), online communications such as live chats, audio, and video conferences.
Our culture is driven to specialize: we get really good at our area of expertise, and we rise in our careers largely as a result of this expertise. But many times this is at the expense of developing breadth of experience and the whole person. We see this in our academics and in our organizations: siloed specialties orchestrated by a hierarchical management specialties.. In education, most people know about learning styles: visual, aural, and kinesthetic. There are other learning style theories, but in programs which are guided by them, students are taught by their dominant style; ignoring the reality that we all learn in all ways. So, what does that mean for instructional design? We build programs to meet all learning styles with text, video, audio, discussions and reflective projects, hands on and group projects. Anything that fits the bill. By producing programs that first are designed to meet the learning objectives is a variety of forms, we not only serve all learning styles, we foster development of the whole person.
Constructivism is the notion that deeper learning is achieved when students work with their knowledge and use it actively. Our programs provide foundational knowledge of terms and concepts, then quickly move into case-based, project-based, reflective and and interactive assignments to allow students to master their new knowledge through experience. A corollary to this is Bloom’s Taxonomy of cognitive engagement, which aligns learning and assessment activities with depth of cognitive effort.
It is a familiar criticism of traditional, standards-based education models that they are an archaic throw-back to the industrial era. All student learn the same things and are measured in the same ways in order to certify baseline understandings. For foundational learning, this is appropriate, but for deeper learning and more importantly, student motivation, student’s strengths and interests need to be included. Our programs invite students to identify and serve their own learning needs.
We use the term “mentor” for our teachers. This decision follows from the notion of constructivism and self-paced: students are the directors of their own education, our mentors support them in the pursuit of their goals.
Working in small, cohesive groups provides the creativity and accountability necessary to realize personal and professional growth. Student relationships with their peers and mentors are the grease to facilitate deeper learning, and the glue to persevere.
Real Smart Fun
Finally, our overall design ethic is to Get Real, Be Smart, and Have Fun. These are also how our programs and mentors are evaluated, and how we strive to give you value.