What is Holistic Learning?
An unfortunate fault in some modern pedagogy is the disregard for the wants and needs of today’s learners. A proper learning environment should center around both learner and instructor, with both parties working in tandem to create a harmonious experience. One solution is a holistic learning approach, or a “comprehensive approach to teaching where educators seek to address the emotional, social, ethical, and academic needs of students in an integrated learning format.” This approach prioritizes interconnectedness– whether that is learner to learner, learner to instructor, learner to environment, etc.
The Student Voice
We'll be highlighting the experiences of 4 students as they reflected on their experiences as modern learners. This is transcribed from a chat that you can watch here.
These learners came from a variety of educational experiences– a University of Vermont student living on campus; a University of Arizona student who relies on virtual learning as she lives in Wyoming; and two working professionals at Dignity Health Global Education who acted as learners (and as instructors) in certificate program courses. This was moderated by Yellowdig’s Marketing Team Intern who is also a current undergraduate at the University of Delaware. Topics covered include the effect of a course community on their energy level, effort, enthusiasm, and overall experience in such a course.
This brings us back to holistic learning– the cornerstone of education for these students. Yellowdig learner and instructor Geoffrey discussed his experience using the community-building platform Yellowdig, reflecting on the changes he saw in himself and his fellow learners when incorporating a social learning tool.
He said, “Yellowdig, from my perspective, is what I have clearly experienced to be the most effective way of truly engaging students in a virtual experience… I always say it's more about mentorship and coaching than anything, [which is] what I really see, not just from not just within the programs from the facilitator, but also from the other students.” Geoffrey expanded on the vast engagement he saw in his communities, with learners eager to post, peers there to support, and interaction on all levels. Not only did he see great benefits in engagement through this form of holistic learning, but he also saw real-life applications– another fundamental of holistic learning– from the course community interactions to the professional health care field that many of the learners had entered, or would be entering.
Another important aspect of holistic learning is the role of the environment, with a focus on respect and impact. Yellowdig learner Lindsay reflected on these fundamentals in her holistic learning environment. In her courses, Lindsay was faced with the task of group work and collaboration, but being physically removed from her peers and with the negative perceptions held by many of group work, she was ready to tackle the work alone. But, what she found in Yellowdig was a highly connected support system that allowed her to reach out, collaborate freely, and build strong ties to her peers through community interactions. She said “Yellowdig provided that platform for integration, collaboration, and all in a related kind of respectful manner. So my viewpoint of group work changed, because of Yellowdig.”
The effects of these implementations are not minor, as students expressed immense benefits and positive changes in their learning experiences. For one, undergraduate Owain was taken aback by the passion and emotion that was expressed in his Yellowdig community. Differing from the previous discussion tools his university used found Yellowdig conversations to be “much easier to find [and] actually… see what other people are thinking. And that made a very crucial difference. And even if [the] one conversation was short, there's much more passion in the conversation than I've ever felt in any other sorts of Blackboard engagement.” That interest and emotion that comes with learning holistically is a product of the draws that learners feel in such course communities.
Another example of benefits gained from holistic learning communities is the motivation and contagious eagerness to learn in a connected community. Yellowdig learner Lacey has used a variety of educational tools in her time as an undergraduate, including Canvas and Yellowdig. The energy she felt from her peers made her want to engage and learn more. She said, “I just found myself to be more motivated to do Yellowdig participation. And I guess it's because you can see more from your peers and could kind of feed off theirs... I went over points all the time, there was never a week where I didn't go over points.” (Yellowdig uses a gamified points method to track participation for students. It is based on pure engagement, and not the unqualifiable “grade” of the content itself. Find out more about Yellowdig here.)
From the conversations had in Yellowdig’s student webinar, it is undeniable that learners felt more engaged and motivated when in environments using holistic learning tactics. The benefits and outcomes that these learners felt largely differed from their previous experiences using educational discussion technology and their in-person experiences. Holistic learning seems to bring more than joy to just learners, but to instructors as well. Thank you to our great panelists for being open about their experiences as virtual learners and for showing the power of community learning principles. Yellowdig is proud to uphold these standards and continue providing engaging spaces for enhanced course understanding and connection!