Strategic and Tactical “Focused Time Learning” Design for Online Learning

Strategic and Tactical “Focused Time Learning” Design for Online Learning

Shalin Hai-Jew (Kansas State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4516-4.ch003
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The design of learning does not often emphasize on how much high-concentration “focused time” and other time learners spend on particular endeavors: reading, viewing, listening, writing, assessing, problem-solving, researching, communicating, collaborating, and others. And yet, how time is spent in purposeful learning—in assignments, fieldwork, research, collaboration, invention, co-design, and assessments—is thought to have a clear impact on the learning and the learning experience. This work explores some of the research in the area of time in learning and proposes some methods for including “focused time” design and time awareness in instructional design for online learning, particularly given the available tools for learner check-ins, time monitoring, and other tools.
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One necessary component of learning involves the investment of effortful and focused time, when a learner’s concentration is high [termed “concentrated time” when no multi-tasking is occurring (Weinschenk, Sept. 18, 2012, p. 3)] and uninterrupted, the learner can bring more cognitive resources to the learning, and the learning is more proximal to the learner. Here, the learner is able to apply sustained attention on a particular learning endeavor over time. That investment may ensure that the invested time is “productive time” as a proportion of “engaged time” [or “time-on-task,” defined as “the time from task onset to task completion” (Goldhammer, Naumann, Stelter, Tóth, Rölke, & Klieme, 2014, p. 609)] for actual learning. (Not all the time invested in learning is necessarily productive.) How productive learning time can be depends in part on learner preparedness for that particular level of learning (Walberg, Mar. 1988, p. 83), with one outcome being that those who’ve learned a lot acquire more, and those who have failed to learn acquiring less over time (in the observed Matthew effect). In a basic physics sense, time is chronological and is not truly recuperable, even though fictionalized senses of time suggest time travel. Time is subjectively experienced differently by people, depending on the respective experiences. Time may be asynchronous (not simultaneous) or synchronous (simultaneous), such as when people may collaborate or interact. Time may also be cumulative, such as a collection of time spent engaging a particular topic in the learning space. For all the criticality of time as an important input into learning, time is rarely included as an element of instructional or learning design.

Certainly, those who teach are aware of time. When learners have insufficient time to achieve the work, they end up not doing the work or doing a poor job of it. They may require remediation, additional support, and review; they may drop out. Success in learning does not depend just on time-on-task or “seat time”; rather the content of how the time is spent, with whom, and with what supports, will affect the efficacy of the learning. One modern experiment involves using “flipped classrooms,” which enable learners to consume pre-recorded lectures at their own convenience and with class time used for more hands-on and collaborative studies, with findings that such flipping does not cause any loss of learning and some benefits in some cases (Baepler, Walker, & Driessen, 2014, p. 227). The overarching strategies and specific tactics in the designed use of time will be important.

If work is paced too slowly, the instructors will lose the learners and will have to work harder to recapture their attention and interests. Many who teach have a min-max range idea of how much time particular work will take, and those who teach larger classes may experience individuals who prefer faster or slower (depending on the outliers). Most university courses include some level of accommodations: opportunities for additional tutoring and support, time accommodations, make-up assignments, additional learning resources, extra credit, learning communities, and others. Instructors also have to understand their learners’ respective realities, given that their learning has to be balanced against their other commitments in the world. Conscientious instructors have to plan for the most effective use of their students’ limited resource: time.

This work focuses on a few interrelated research questions:

  • How can this variable, time, be better integrated into instructional design for more effective learning?

  • In various instructional designs, how are learners expected to use their time as they go through an instructor-led online learning experience?

    • o

      Particularly, how are they expected to use their high-concentration “focused time” as they engage in a variety of learning work and experiences?

    • o

      How is time experienced for the learners as they proceed through various learning experiences, and how can this information be used in the consideration of time in a learning design?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Time-on-Task: Engaged time (of which only a portion is “productive time”).

Synchronous Time: Simultaneous, at the same time.

Attention Residue: Rumination, the left-over split attention based on focus on a prior task after switching to a new one (with diminished attention on the current task).

Multi-tasking: The fast switching between two or more tasks.

High-Concentration “Focused Time” Learning: The dedication of absorptive attention on particular learning to acquire complex understandings and skills.

Concentrated Time: Focused time, sustained attention, “the opposite of multi-tasking” (Weinschenk, Sept. 18, 2012, p. 3).

Engaged Time: Time-on-task.

Asynchronous Time: Not simultaneous.

Sustained Attention: The maintenance of focus on a particular learning task over time.

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