inquiry-based learning

The development of modern online training has seen great progress in recent years due to the advancement of new technologies. Easy access to internet, computers, and mobile devices gives learners the opportunity to learn whenever and wherever they prefer. The innovations such as virtual reality, augmented reality or artificial intellect take learning to a totally different level compared to what used to be ten or twenty years ago and are part of the top e-learning trends of 2018. 

There are, however, several instructional design theories developed decades ago that are still used for teaching and that have a great potential in the modern e-learning setting. Such examples are skill-based and knowledge-based learning, the situated cognition theory, and many more.  

Today we are going to look at the theory of discovery-based learning and inquiry-based learning developed in its context, and why they are suitable for developing contemporary e-learning courses, that can be used for corporate training among all.

History of Discovery-Based Learning 

Discovery learning is a technique that was introduced in 1961 by American psychologist Jerome Bruner. It is a new approach to learning that follows the motto that learning should be by doing. According to Bruner, “Practice in discovering for oneself teaches one to acquire information in a way that makes that information more readily viable in problem solving.”  

The development of this approach was also supported by other learning theorists such as Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert. Its ideas are also similar to those developed by the writer John Dewey, who lived much earlier and was one of the educational reformers and the fathers of functional psychology.  

Discovery-based learning is characterized by minimized participation of the teacher in the learning process. The idea is that the student is not given the answer but rather the means to reach it. It is a method that allows the learners to interact with the environment, explore and perform experiments. Discovery learning is also referred to as problem-based learning or experiential learning. At the time of its introduction it was seen as the “21st century learning,” so it is no wonder that it is popular in our modern e-learning setting.  

How Discovery-Based Learning Facilitates Corporate Learning  

In corporate life, people are more often faced with problems that they need to solve with the help of the available materials rather than with ready solutions that they can apply. Hence, the discovery-based learning approach can be very productive for corporate trainings, especially for those at leadership or managerial positions.  

Discovery-based learning requires a more active approach to problem-solving situations. The learners are encouraged to ask questions, give suggestions and identify various solutions to the given task. The goal of this type of online course is to engage the learner in a self-guided exploration, where they formulate their own ideas and reach conclusions based on the given data. The learner even has the freedom to challenge a given theory and provide a better version. This is quite practical for the modern corporate setting, where innovation should be fostered in any possible way. Therefore, discovery-based learning is an efficient tool to boost the confidence of learners. They learn how to manage problems and stand-behind their ideas, how to find answers and solutions in a setting that is as close to real-life situations as possible.  

The key to a successful discovery-based course, however, is to give the basic skills that can lead the learner on the path to discovering new knowledge. As you cannot ask children to find an answer to a given question in a book without first teaching them how to read, you cannot make the learners solve a particular problem without clarifying the setting, the players and the possible means to be used. In other words, the course is to be developed in such a way that the learner feels challenged but not overwhelmed and struggle.  

The basics of the modern learning experience lie in the strive to discover knowledge rather than receive it handed on a plate. Discovery-based modules allow the learner to look at the matter from various angles and to try different solutions. In the end, they can reevaluate their ideas and solutions. The main advantage is the pro-active personalized approach to learning, which is cherished by the contemporary corporate learner. 

Inquiry-Based Learning and its Application  

Inquiry-based learning often goes together with discovery-based learning as it basically shares the same ideas of teaching. As a pedagogical method it appeared in the 1960s in the context of discovery learning and is associated with the name of Joseph Schwab. This type of learning is often used in research, for small-scale investigation or projects. It contributes for the development of both thinking skills and practical knowledge.  

One of the main assets of inquiry-based learning is that the learners work together with their peers in order to find the solution to the given task. This is extremely useful in a corporate setting, where co-workers at different levels need to collaborate in order to achieve a set goal. The joint work allows the learners to depend on each other’s experience, which gives a broader cumulative knowledge and respective resources to cope with the challenge. Inquiry-based learning helps foster creative thinking when it comes to solving problems and aids in informal socializing.  

The e-learning modules developed using the approach and techniques of discovery-based and inquiry-based learning are perfect for any e-learning setting. They give the freedom to the learner to explore and experiment in order to find “the hidden knowledge” at the end of the course. When such courses are developed for multinational corporations, it is good to have them properly translated and localized, so that the problems and ideas presented in them are familiar for the learner.  

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