The COMTA Teaching Model
The COMTA teaching model focuses on the following objectives when it comes to teaching adult learners:
- To increase the level of perceived interaction between students and teachers to create a more interactive learning environment to increase student motivation in learning
- To develop an effective method of teaching that enables student autonomy due to life, work and other personal factors
- To address the issue of time constraints to enable adult learners to study at their convenience
- Lastly, to enable a method of teaching that takes into consideration the need for affordable methods of education.
Based on these objectives, it can be seen that the COMTA teaching model is designed to specifically address the issues of adult learners when it comes to advanced education. Studies such as those by Geçer (2013) have shown that adult learners have an assortment of problems with present-day teaching models and, as such, it necessary to develop a new model that creates a learning environment that is more conducive towards the needs of this particular group of individuals (Geçer, 2013).
Before proceeding, it is important to note that the study of Kraft (2007) which delved into analyzing the different levels of learning for adult, teen and adolescent learners alike within the U.S. system of education stated that it is the motivation behind learning that influences a learner and at times it is the very environment that they are exposed to that either promotes motivation or reduces it (Kraft, 2007). Kraft (2007) explains in his study that initially students, when presented with a particular subject in a new learning environment, have high levels of motivation resulting in the desire to internalize what they are learning. However, over time this level of motivation is influenced by outside factors such as their personal affairs, friends, family, hobbies etc.
In his examination, Kraft (2007) focused on the learning environment within the context of the school/training institute itself (i.e. public and private schools within the U.S.) due to the plethora of outside factors that would be too difficult to analyze. What Kraft (2007) discovered was that the militaristic method of teaching found in public schools resulted in less interested, less motivated, and above all bored students who were taught to memorize rather than analyze the subject they were being taught. This differed significantly from his analysis of the private school system where deep introspection, critical thinking and analysis were the focal point of the learning environment. The private school teaching environment produced more attentive and more motivated students resulting in students with better grades and critical thinking levels as compared to their public school counterparts. Through this example, it can be seen that motivation is impacted by a student’s learning environment.
This is particularly important to take into consideration given that Hao-Chang (2009) explains that the primary text-based method of e-learning is considered unappealing by some adult learners given the lack of interaction between students and course instructors (Hao-Chang, 2009).
It is based on this and the previously mentioned problems with traditional classroom environments that the following steps of the COMTA model have been developed:
This particular approach involves having to divide a subject into three distinct phases: the introduction, the analysis and the application.
Utilization of online E-learning to introduce students to the literature of the subject they study
As mentioned in the previous section, one of the main issues when it comes to traditional learning environments is that adults simply do not have the time to work and study at the same time. Thus, it is necessary to create a method of study that takes into consideration the need for autonomy and the inherent time constraints of adult learners in the form of introductory E-learning stages during the course. The introduction stage of the course involves developing the initial knowledge that students would need in order to know what a subject is about. This includes having to read short articles and online recorded video tutorials that the teacher has provided in order to help them understand the initial intricacies of the subject. This can be done at the student’s leisure within a span of time, ranging from 5 days to 2 weeks.
It is recommended that the during the introduction stage readings are provided in short snippets with small non-grade impacting quizzes being implemented at the end of each reading session so as to test a student’s current knowledge regarding the subject they are reading. The advantage of this method compared to traditional classroom environments consists of the following:
- It enables the teacher to better monitor the progress and understanding of the students regarding lessons which would allow them to determine what to focus on in the analysis part of the course.
- It provides students with the autonomy they need in order to balance their education with personal affairs.
- It removes the time constraints that would usually discourage adult learners from progressing in their studies.
Implementation of scheduled classes on morning, afternoon or evening schedules
This section is where the “application phase” of the COMTA model is put into effect. The concept of having scheduled classes stems from the development of blended learning environments. Blended learning is basically a combination of E-Learning and face to face learning wherein students complete a course both online and offline. It is usually the case that the online content deals with the readings and necessary information to help transition a student into a particular subject matter while offline meetings deal with the more practical application.
The COMTA model differs from the traditional blended learning model though by departing from the use of classroom lectures. The reason behind this is simple; the lecture aspect has already been taken care of in the E-learning stage of the model through the videos that the teacher had uploaded. In this stage, the teacher uses an analysis of from the various automatic quizzes to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the class regarding the lessons that they were taught and creates a lesson that focuses on analysis, feedback and rapport between the teacher and student to help them better delve into the lesson (Van der Meijden & Veenman, 2005). This aspect of the COMTA model helps to address four identified problems in the Computer-Mediated Communication model of learning and the traditional classroom setting:
- It addresses the learning predilections for adult learners to feel a level of interaction between students and teachers as well as creates a method for immediate feedback
- It helps the teacher to impart a level of analysis to students that could not be implemented through a primarily e-learning based approach
- It increases the motivation of adult learners since the lack of interaction between students and teachers (as well as between students themselves) was noted by several studies as being one of the main reasons behind adult dropout rates in online courses.
- Lastly, it saves considerable time since the interaction between the student and the teacher involves analysis with the lecture and reading section already having been taken care of through the online session.
Practical application of the knowledge through real-world simulations
This stage in the COMTA teaching model involves practical use of what was learned through an online simulation that mimics an actual real-world simulation. The primary purpose of this practice is intended to
- Help learners work creatively.
- Enable them to think analytically.
- Lastly, to develop practical experience with the knowledge that they obtained from class.
This simulation can be achieved either through an online model where students have to interact with a predetermined set of situations that they have to resolve or a continuous model experience wherein students compete with each other through a simulated online platform. These simulations are intended to not only increase student motivation through an interest in the lesson but also enable them to practically apply what they have learned. It should be noted that this aspect of the COMTA model is a reflection of the working education model which combines work and education to help students better understand how to apply their knowledge and skills in an actual working environment. The reason behind this practice being implemented through an online medium is related to the need for autonomy and time constraints on the part of adult learners. These types of learners simply do not have the time or the capacity to be able to handle the workplace learning model as well as the traditional classroom learning model. Time constraints and their jobs would simply get in the way, as such, it is necessary to implement a process that teaches the practical application of what they are learning hence the fact the online virtual simulation exercise is being advocated in the case of the COMTA model since it resolves the indicated issues.
Implementation of online forums for student and teacher interactions
The last stage of the COMTA teaching model is to address the issue related to a lack of cooperation between students, teachers and other students within the same course. Studies such as those by Strøms, Grøttum & Lycke (2007) have shown how teacher-student interaction and student-student interaction are often sought after by adult learners due to level interactivity and the apparent “social experience” this entails (Strøms, Grøttum & Lycke, 2007). By implementing an online forum where ideas can be shared and commented on, this simulates the desired level of interactivity that is sought after by adult learners yet is still capable of presenting them with the autonomy they want as well.
Role of the Teacher
In this teaching model, the role of the teacher is that of an analyst and advisor. They would analyze the level of progression and the results of the online aspect of the COMTA model to properly advise and guide students during the analytic portion of the model.
Role of the Student
The purpose of the student in this model is that of a learner while at the same time a teacher since the online forum aspect of the model enables them to not only learn but teach based on their perspective.
Comparison to other Models
When comparing the COMTA teaching model to other present models, it can be seen that it addresses the deficiencies found in the traditional classroom model as well as the Computer-Mediated Communication model. Overall, this method promotes a higher level of interactivity while at the same time, ensures adult learners gain the autonomy they want.
Hao-Chang, L. (2009). Utilizing Computer-mediated Communication Tools for Problem-based Learning. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, 12(1), 205-213.
Kraft, M. (2007). Toward a School-Wide Model of Teaching for Social Justice: An Examination of the Best Practices of Two Small Public Schools. Equity & Excellence In Education, 40(1), 77-86.
Geçer, A. (2013). Lecturer-Student Communication in Blended Learning Environments. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 13(1), 362-367.
Strøms, H. I., Grøttum, P. P., & Lycke, K. H. (2007). Content and processes in problem-based learning: a comparison of computer-mediated and face-to-face communication. Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 23(3), 271-282.
Van der Meijden, H., & Veenman, S. (2005). Face-to-face versus computer-mediated communication in a primary school setting. Computers In Human Behavior, 21(5), 831-859