How do we Learn to Learn, Especially in the Ed-Tech Environment?

There is a lot of interest in psychology of learning – we as yet do not know how we learn! Lot of ed-tech companies have analytics about on-line eLearning courses with millions of clicks (interactive tools) that can be monitored at the back end – but do these clicks really mean that learning has occurred? Most ed-tech researchers and companies are scratching their brains with learning analytics to answer this; one of the the main purposes of setting up free on-line MOOCs seems to be just this – how are people able to learn; there are almost 98 videos of TED website with the theme: How We Learn.

How can we answer this question? How can we monitor and say that a learning has occurred a 100% of the time?

This is a question that has intrigued many. Let me see if I can answer this question, it is difficult, but I will try…………….from my experiences in teaching and learning science. Any learning is an interplay between nature and nurture!

Step 1: Indoctrination (inspiration, hook)

To learn anything, one has to be indoctrinated into multiple intelligences.


But how does one get indoctrinated or inspired? Inspiration for a particular learning quest can come from family, friends, teachers, some nice lecture/video that triggers an interest in a certain field, a movie, some exhibitions, books – this is the hook. One gets hooked into a new learning direction.

You must have heard this phrase – ……… got hooked to………… (from old English anglers)

Step 2: Motivation (focus, stimulation and perseverance)

That inner urge to surge in the chosen direction – requires focus, and even incentives (incentives in terms of intellectual stimulation and financial stimulation – have you ever wondered why there is a successful Silicon Valley?). High motivation can also create a persevering quality that keeps one rooted in a particular learning quest. There is no substitute for hard work.

It is said that Thomas Alva Edison failed a 1000 times before he made a bulb design that actually worked!

You must have heard this phrase -………..never give up…………. (Winston Churchill)

Step 3: Social Interaction (team effort)

Because of the advent of the internet, and eLearning, a lot of EdTech companies have realized the importance of social learning. The social cognitive learning theory was first discussed by Albert Bandura in 1977.

(From Wikipedia- Social learning is learning that takes place at a wider scale than individual or group learning, up to a societal scale, through social interaction between peers.)

The explosion to social media and access to content via mobile devices, this kind of learning has gained high importance these days.

social media cartoon

This team effort or team work is the key to reaching any goals – and in our case – the learning objectives or goals. Working effectively as a team creates momentum, improves morale, and almost anything that is decided can be achieved.

You must have heard this phrase -……….. Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much (Hellen Keller)

Step 4: Experience (and results)

Remember that any learning – means change in cognitive behaviour or attitudes – if behaviour/attitude change has not happened, then the learning has NOT occurred!  The more experience you take in the direction of learning (exams, assessment, results, feedback, discussions, apply, analyze, hands-on work) the more you will learn thoroughly! It is more enduring, and results are sort of permanently lodged in your brain. When you assess your learning (formative) and get a feedback from someone (say on a social platform or a teacher or a guru) you will learn better.

You must have heard this phrase – experience is the best teacher………. (Benjamin Franklin)

And finally………….if you have mastered what you have learnt, you will be able to evaluate your understanding, critique someone else’s work and go on to innovate and create something new, to your utmost joy (any new learning can be real fun!)


In conclusion: we can say that learning has occurred if we can monitor a change in behaviour and attitude. This can be done by assessing thoroughly – may be by creating rubrics and measuring the ‘learning’.

Aside: When I was little, I always used to think of placing my books under my pillow before going off to sleep, hoping against hope that all the content from the books would automatically get transferred into my brain!

Learning with a MOOC vs. Learning on an LMS

To me, as a person seeped into the use of technology in education, I often wondered at the difference between various vocabs used in the eLearning space!

Web-based or computer based learning (or eLearning) is not a new phenomenon. All of us have used some form of tools used in a virtual learning environment at least sometimes in our lives. MOOC is a recent addition to this vocab – initially I thought a MOOC is something like an LMS, but it is NOT!

An LMS is software that automates the administration of training. The LMS registers users, tracks courses in a catalogue, records data from learners; and provides reports to management. An LMS is typically designed to handle courses by multiple publishers and providers. It usually doesn’t include its own authoring capabilities; instead, it focuses on managing courses created by a variety of other sources.

A MOOC on the other hand is an entire course. A MOOC is accessible, usually with no prerequisites, to anyone who wishes to enroll, usually for free, and with self-assessment or peer assessment along the way. It enables the possibility to teach over 100,000+ students at the same time in the same course.

From my experience, I can say that any new learning is imbibed better if there is a social component to the learning, and in future a MOOC will enhance this aspect of a learner’s ability – surely!

I would like to quote this: “I believe MOOCs are going to be an important – not to mention fascinating – social development…… “(Robert McGuire From:



Apparently, in the near future a teacher or a lecturer can have his or her own branded MOOC, like a website or a blog on a WordPress!

Here’s what I have collated from my own research on the net.

Feature MOOC LMS
Long Form Massive Open Online Course Learning Management System
What is it? It is an entire course. It is NOT a platform.Massive: means may users can log in simultaneously

Open: means open to anyone in the world

A platform where resources can be placed.Not massive – limitations in number of simultaneous users

Mostly not open to everyone.

Examples Courses on edX, Coursera, Udemy 

Coursera, edX, Udemy are platforms – they are first and foremost a branded website promoting courses based on a Learning Management System (LMS).


Moodle, Blackboard, Click2LearnLMS platforms provide a place for course creators to host their content and manage their learning environment (forums, quizzes, exams, peer to peer assessment, etc.)
Inclusion MOOCs include LMS technology/architecture An LMS is not a MOOC
Needs any standards? HTML 5/MOOCdb? AICC or SCORM for monitoring and reporting
When was it started? In the late 2000’s In the early 1960s
What do they do? It is an open-ended course, not overtly managed. It is a course management tool and hosts close-ended courses. Management and monitoring can be quite detailed, and programmed accordingly. Can be a bit intrusive.
Authoring tools None None
Exam tools YesLearning analytics can be programmed. YesLearning analytics can be programmed.
Networked More networked – blogs, tweets, wikis, etc. Less networked – wikis, forums, etc.
Size Large size – due to the availability of large servers and high internet speeds.Distributed and social learning. For knowledge networking, and life-long learning Relatively small sizes – limitations and slowness due to connectivity.Some LMSs have facility for distributed learning.

Once the course is over, access to course is removed.

Course Hosting It is an entire course. It is NOT a platform. 

Coursera, edX, Udemy are platforms which host a MOOC. These platforms provide a place for course creators to host their content and manage their learning environment (forums, quizzes, exams, peer to peer assessment, etc.)

Many courses simultaneously can be hosted, from various providers and publishers. And a catalogue of courses may be offered to users to pick, choose and pay to start the course.
Credits No, not yet Some courses can have credits


Analytical Framework for Monitoring Teaching–Learning Process



This article on analytical framework is written, keeping in mind learning management type of architecture for all types of technology based learning. If any other technologies are used, the analytical framework will not change.

And although this note mainly applies for on-line courses, the same analytical framework may be used for classroom teaching as well, the only thing is that the data captured will have to be entered physically in the system for the back-end program to generate reports, etc.

The idea of using any learning analytics is important because of the demand of skilling millions to be job worthy, quickly and easily, and only by automating and capturing the teaching-learning process will all stakeholders monitor what is going on!

A back-end programming can be done to monitor various pre-determined parameters and criteria; then reports can be generated and sent to all stake holders. From these reports stake holders can use an analytical framework for evaluating variables, such as student/teacher traffic, academic progress of the learners, exam scores, the academic delivery, feedbacks, actions taken on feedbacks, access to resources by users, etc. The variables list can be changed and will depend on what the business/mission requires to monitor.

Purpose of an Analytical Framework

An analytical framework is a statistical method to measure set criteria and scope of the business of teaching-learning, for example academic usage or academic delivery to end-users. The use of an analytical framework is generally for all stake holders. It is a visual way of linking concepts and assumptions taken at the beginning of a process, with evidences of results. When such a framework is applied during a mid-course, it helps to garner logical flaws in the systems and processes, so that corrective steps may be taken. It is a sort of a feedback to all stake holders regarding what is occurring in the system.

A Sample Flow Chart

The following gives a sample (schematic) flow chart of how a course or a subject delivered, and what are the nodes for monitoring. From here a list of variables can be identified by person responsible, which can go into the analytical framework.



In the flow chart, a box has been coloured:

There will be important questions that will flow out of this box and should reflect in the analytical framework. These questions could be:

  • Is teaching occurring?
  • Is learning happening?
  • Do the test/exam score reflect anything about the process of teaching-learning?
  • How is content delivered? Which across various modes (video, WLC, eLearning, etc.) is better assimilated by students?

How are these issues to be resolved? Here are some possible solutions:

  • Create rubrics that map learning objectives to learning outcomes (which will embed an assessment matrix too). These need to be weighted, depending on the curriculum topic weights.
  • Learning outcomes can be assessed by formative/summative assessments
  • Monitor time spent by students/teachers on each topic/subject, time spent in accessing resources.
  • There could be a difference in assimilation across various content modes, across various user groups, etc. These can be programmed to monitor too.


List of Variables in an Analytical Framework

A possible list of variables that may be monitored in an analytical framework given below:

  1. Who using the course work, and their roles
  2. Course/subject attendance, and time duration
  3. How many assignments have been submitted?
  4. How many attempts to pass an assessment
  5. Time spent completing a subject/course
  6. Are there any instructional issues from analysis of student feedback + scores
  7. Do students like a particular form of content, for example, video lectures?
  8. Have all course completion criteria been met? If yes, then issue of a course completion certificate? Allow further courses?
  9. What does an automated analysis report indicate? Has it changed with time?
  10. How many times a content/curriculum needed to be upgraded to meet learning objectives/outcomes


Dashboards can give a visual representation of how teaching-learning process is occurring. It is an important part of any analytical framework. Each stakeholder can have their own dashboards.

A student’s dashboard for a particular course/subject may capture the following variables:

  • Date wise time spent on the course
  • Date wise assignments submitted
  • Formative Assessment – Date taken, no. of attempts, scores
  • Summative Assessment: Date taken, score
  • Feedbacks given
  • Date wise time spent with an coach/tutor/lectures

A teacher’s or course owner’s dashboard for a particular course may capture the following variables:

  • Number of students registered for a course
  • Date wise time spent on the course by each student (can be made more granular if required)
  • Date wise assignments submitted by each student
  • Which mode of content is preferred by the students?
  • Assessments: Date taken, score by each student, is there any improvement?
  • Have learning objectives/outcomes been met?
  • Date and time wise live coaching/lectures to students
  • Student report card
  • Student feedbacks and actions taken. Has this changed with time?

An Admin’s dashboard may capture (role-wise) the following variables:

  • Course or subject titles
  • Number of teachers teaching each course/subject
  • Number of students registered for a course/subject
  • List of course and content owners
  • Date and time wise website traffic
  • Which mode of content is preferred by the students?
  • Number of requests for lectures/coaching, etc. Reasons for the same.
  • Date wise feedback analysis reports, has it improved with time?
  • Monitor performance of teachers, have they managed to deliver the course objectives?
  • Monitor performance of students, have they fulfilled course completion criteria? If yes, then issue of a course completion certificate? Should they be allowed further courses?

Sample Dashboards

(a) from Khan Academy website:


(b) Tata Interactive System’s RFID Course