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13 E-learning theories

E-learning theories are not new theories, but rather e-enhancements of existing learning theories (Mayes and de Freitas, 2004).
They form “sets of beliefs: about the nature of knowledge and competence, about the purposes of learning, about how learning occurs, about how people should and should not be treated, etc” (Goodyear, 2001, p.51)
Consecutive learning theories don’t replace each other, but complement each other, each contributing its legacy to learning.  Theories can be considered as various levels of aggregation, with associative/behaviourist approaches addressing observable factors, cognitive approaches focusing on the ‘detailed structures and processes that underlie individual performance’ and situative approaches taking into account the social and cultural aspects of learning (Mayes and de Freitas, 2004).
Activity designs are usually a blend of different learning theories.  Being aware of the main learning theories helps building a consistent design and clarifying what type of learning and interaction is intended.
An example provided by Goodyear (2001): It is not uncommon to find some members of a team believing that learners are poor at  organizing themselves and learn best by being fed information in small amounts, while other members of the team want to promote active, student-managed learning.
 
The table below summarizes key concepts of different learning theories and their implications for online learning, taken from the publications from Anderson, Mayes and de Freitas and Goodyear.
Associative/ Behaviourist approaches
Design principles
Looking for observable behaviour
Explicitly mentioning course outcomes
Behavioural objectives
Ability to test achievement of learning outcomes
Instructional Systems Design (ISD)
Decomposing learning into small chunks
Routines of organised activity
Learning hierarchies (controversial!)
Sequencing learning materials with increasing complexity
Giving direct feedback on learning
Individualized learning trajectories
Cognitive psychology (constructivism)
Types of memory (sensory – short term – long term)
Maximize sensations: strategic screen layout
Research on memory, perception, reasoning, concept formation.
Maximize sensations: well-paced information
Learning is active
Maximize sensations: highlighting main elements
Learning is individual (knowledge construction)
Relate difficulty level to cognitive level of learner: providing links to easier and more advanced resources
Use of comparative advance organizers
Use of conceptual models
Importance of prior knowledge structures
Pre-instructional & prerequisite questions
Experimentation toward discovery of broad principles
Promote deep processing
Use of information maps zooming in/ out
Cognitive Apprenticeship (Brown et al, 1989)
Interactive environments for construction of understanding
Metacognition (reflection, self-regulation)
Relate to real-life (apply, analyse, synthesize)
Learning styles (controversial!)
Address various learning styles
Cognitive styles
Let students prepare a journal
Dual coding theory
Use both visual information and text
Motivate learners (ARCS model)
Use techniques to catch attention, explain relevance,  build confidence and increase satisfaction
Situated learning (constructivism)
Personal knowledge construction
Personal meaning to learning
Situated learning: motivation
Relate to real life (relevance)
Holistic/ Systemic approaches
Conduct research on internet
Build confidence with learners
Identity development
Use of first-hand information (not filtered by instructor)
Communities of Practice (Lave & Wenger)
Collaborative activities
Fostering the growth of learning communities
Learning as act of participation
Legitimate (peripheral) practice, apprenticeships
Lifelong learning
Authentic learning and assessment tasks
Connectivism
Information explosion
Digital literacies
Learning in network environment
Keep up-to-date in field
Knowledge base
Multi-channel learning
Distributed learning
Build diversity, openness in learning (different opinions), autonomy
Personal Learning Environment
self-directed learning, just-in-time
Some comments on the table:
1. It’s difficult to draw sharp lines between these theories.  Some authors distinguish between cognitive constructivism (based on the work from Piaget) and social-cultural constructivism (based on the work from Vygotsky).  The work of Vygotsky formed the basis for the anthropological work from Jean Lave and the concept of ‘communities of practice’. The work of Engeström on activity theory forms a bridge between situative learning (with the activity system, it takes a more social unit of analysis than the individual) and constructivist approaches.
2 .Constructivism doesn’t really fit into the overview.  Goodyear (2001, p.75) mentions the following description of constructivism:
“…learning is a constructive process in which the learner is building an internal representation of knowledge, a personal interpretation of experience. This representation is constantly open to change, its structure and linkages forming the foundation to which other knowledge structures are appended….this view of knowledge does not necessarily deny the existence of the real world..but contends that all we know of the world are human interpretations of our experience of the world….learning must be situated in a rich context, reflective of real world contexts…” In other words, constructivism states that knowledge is relative and is different for every user.  Learning, in this position, means actively building a personal and contextualised interpretation of experience.

Constructivism – Jonassen et al 1999

Social Constructions – Vygotsky 1986

Activity Theory – Engeström et al 1999

Experiational Learning – Kolb 1984

Instructional Design – Gagné et al 2004

Networked and collaborative work – McConnell 2000

Learning Design Jochems et al 2004

 

Primary: presenting information

Secondary: active learning and feedback

Tertiary: dialogue and new learning.

References
Goodyear, P. (2001) Effective networked learning in higher education: notes and guidelines, Networked Learning in Higher Education Project (JCALT), Lancaster, CSALT, Lancaster University, [online] Available from:http://www.csalt.lancs.ac.uk/jisc/guidelines_final.doc(Accessed 28 May 2012)
Anderson, T. (ed.) (2008) The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, 2nd ed. Athabasca University Press.
Mayes, T. and de Freitas, S. (2004) Review of e-learning theories, frameworks and models, Bristol, The Joint Information Systems Committee, [online] Available from:http://www.jisc.ac.uk/uploaded_documents/Stage%202%20Learning%20Models%20%28Version%201%29.pdf(Accessed 28 May 2012).

Wenger vs. Goodyear in the creation of innovative e-learning

For this exercise I fond myself dipping into other tutor groups.

On reflection, after a highly disruptive week all I needed to have done was pick through the course reading, in chronological order, made notes, expressed my thoughts, then answer the questions. Using the notes of others is not a fix; you must still engage with the content and make it your own.

  1. What are the four dimensions of design for learning that Wenger identifies?
  2. How does Wenger’s account differ from the account given by Goodyear as the indirect nature of design and summarised in Figure 1?
  3. How do you think that a designer can support ‘the work of engagement, imagination and alignment’?

The challenge of designing for learning.

QQ1

  1. Participation and reification
  2. The design and the emergent
  3. The local and the global
  4. Identification and negotiability

QQ2 How does Wenger’s account differ from the account given by Goodyear as the indirect nature of design and summarised in Figure 1?

Goodyear is saying that design can only accommodate so much as a learner will always bring with them their own interpretations to the design therefore learning and design are separate entities.Wenger is saying that learning design embrace far more, that it less prescriptive and more engaging than imagined. (From Joanne Pratt)

Space and Place – can be linked to – Designed and Emergent Organisation and Community – can be linked to – Identification and Negotiability Tasks and Activity – can be linked to – Participation and Reification Local and Global seem to sit outside of Goodyear. (From Daniella)

How do you think that a designer can support ‘the work of engagement, imagination and alignment’?

A designer can only do so much with the software they are given. However knowing that software inside out; its limitations, its benefits will help with how a designer enables the above. (From Joanne Pratt)

By paying attention to the Figure 10.3. (From Daniella)

From Jonathan

Q1 As above

Q2 Each of these dimensions involves distinct – but interrelated – trade – offs and challenges: they present their own opportunities and obstacles and their own resources and constraints. A given design entails choices, inventions, and solutions along each dimension’. (Wenger 1998:236)

Q3 In Wenger’s words:

It is a tool that can guide a design by outlining:

1) the general questions, choices, and trade-offs to address – these define the dimensions of a design “space”

2) the general shape of what needs to be achieved – the basic components and facilities to provide

i.e. there is ample scope for variety and imagination, as with the architectural design analogy he uses. Which applies equally as an analogy for how people (students) behave once inside the designed ‘building’.

‘The benefit of such a multiplicity of related but distinct dimensions is that it opens up the space of design by decoupling the issues involved’. (Wenger, 1998:236)

The challenge of design, then, is to support the work of engagement, imagination, and
alignment’. (Wenger, 1998:236)

FURTHER NOTES

Etienne Wenger is probably most recognised for his work promoting the idea of communities of practice. The idea of a community of practice has been applied to groups who interact to achieve a common purpose or enterprise and share a common repertoire. (From course notes)

Patterns, designs and activities: unifying descriptions of learning structures’

McAndrew, Goodyear, Dalziel

  • Learning patterns
  • Learning design
  • Learning activities

‘The use of online and electronic systems to support learning – e-learning – is emerging as a field with new opportunities and problems.’

In advertising, marketing and corporate communications, the standard ‘Creative Brief’ used to inform and direct the creative team poses two initial questions, the answers to which focus the creative effort:

What is the problem?

What is the opportunity?

It is therefore refreshing and reassuring to find the same terms being used in relation to the ’emerging field’ of e-learning. i.e. it is a tool, a way of doing things that may be used to address a clearly defined problem … and in addressing this issues opportunities are created. The first enables the second, the second motivates ambition beyond the original problem.

Patterns, designs and activities are transferable, and therefore reproducible as digital objects (learning objects, etcsmile

  • Personalization
  • Large scale digital repositories
  • Flexible reuse
  • Knowledge economy

Learning Object ‘any entity, digital or non-digital, that can be sed, re-used, or referenced during technology-supported learning.’

  • learning
  • or
  • training

(Unsure how to differentiate the two. Learning at a uni, training at a poly? Learning in school , FE, HE & Uni … training at work?)

‘In practice, works in implementing Learning Objects in education (as distinct from training) tends to specialise the definition to refer to items that have education meaning, for example units that can result in a few hours of student activity.’

i.e. Learning objects …

‘Any digital or non-digital, with education meaning, that an be used, re-used, or referenced during technology-supported learning.’

Patterns

The concept of patterns applied to learning seeks to identify what can be provided as useful background, guidance and illustration in describing a set of inter-related descriptions for ways to assist learning online. Patterns are not viewed as something that can be reused directly but rather as something that can provide the informed teacher with ‘rules of thumb’ as they build up their range of tasks, tools, or materials that draw on a collected body of experience.

IMS Learning Design

a formal language?

Learning Activity Management System (LAMS) – a software system that encourages the design of sequences of collaborative activities that use individual activity tools configured using a visual ‘drag and drop’ interface.

Learning Patterns

Ref Christopher Alexander on architecture and town-planning – to democratise architecture and town-planning by offering a set of conceptual resources that ordinary people could use in shaping or reshaping their environment.

REFERENCE

Alexander, C. (1979). The Timeless Way of Building. New York. OUP.

‘His work provides a principled, structured but flexible resource for vernacular design that balances rigour and prescriptiveness by offering useful design guidance without constraining creativity.’

CF Long Compton Plan 1999 // Lewes Town Plan 2011

www2.tisip.no/E-LEN/

Fundamental Principles

  • picture
  • context
  • headline
  • body
  • solution
  • diagrammatic representation
  • linking paragraph

‘A pattern is a solution to a recurrent problem in a context.’

From Town Planning

A pattern ‘describes a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice.’

N.B. CONTEXT

  • to help constraint and communicate the nature of both problem and solution.
  • to help the reader understand enough about a problem and solution that they can adapt the problem description and solution to meet their own needs.
  • its name crystallising a valued element of the design experience.

‘The use of patterns, can be seen as a way of bridging between theory, empirical evidence and experience (on the one hand) and the practical problem of design.’

(When I start writing out the entire report I know it’s of value!)

‘In communities that have adopted the pattern approach, design patterns are usually drafted, shared, critiqued and refined through an extended process of collaboration.’

‘Educational design needs to be seen as a process in which a designer makes a number of more or less tentative design commitments, reflecting on the emerging design/artefact and retracting, weakening or strengthening commitment from time to time.’

‘Understanding the dynamic interplay between patterns in the mind and patterns in the world is key to seeing how and why design patterns work as aid to design. It is their ‘fit’ with the mind and the world that gives them power.’

‘The focus for our work is in task design, as this has the strongest analogy with the built environment where patterns are used to build concrete objects that activity then flows around in a way that cannot be entirely predicted.’

IMS Learning Design Specification

Educational Modelling Language (EML)

  • to enable flexible representation of the elements within online courses.
  • materials and the order in which activities takes place.
  • the roles that people undertake
  • services needed for presentation to learners.

‘How to package up the overall information into a structure that is modelled on a play, with acts, roles (actors) and resources.’

Of particular interest to someone who has written three screenplays, sold none, though had two short films produced … with one sold to Channel 4! Someone who is also a graduate of EAVE, taking a cross-platform interactive TV drama through the script development process. But of greater relevance a producer of some 135 training and information films, many drama reconstructions using professional actors, directors and writers.

Content Packaging

– digital objects are gathered together with a manifest describing their location, but enhances the approach to give an ordered presentation of the different entities within the unit of learning.

Simple Sequencing

Level A: roles, acts and the environment
Level B: adds properties and conditions
Level C: adds notification and messaging

http://www.unfold-project.net/ (UNFOLD PROJECT)

ref: Learning Activity Management System (LAMS)

e.g. ‘What is greatness?’

A’ Level history project.

http://www.valkenburggroup.org

N.B. One of the striking features of LAMS is the speed which new sequences can be created from an initial structure.

N.B. ‘Changes to the sequence structure are achieved via a simple drag and drop interface in which existing activities can be dragged into new locations, and new activities dragged into the sequence at an appropriate point.’

LAMS offers a complete system in three parts where first a design is produced in the author environment, using a visual sequence editor, then designs are instantiated with a particular class group (and subsequently tracked) through the monitor environment, and then designs are accessed by students from the learner environment. The modularity of the system allows each environment to be considered in its own right (not just as a unified whole), and particular focus has been placed on the author environment as a way to engage teachers in designing activities for their courses.’

TOWARDS …

An overall pattern language for learning.

CONCLUSION

‘In the ideal of patterns, flexibility and advice is valued over complete description and instantly usable output.’

REFERENCE

McAndrew, P., Goodyear, P. and Dalziel, J. (2006) ‘Patterns, designs and activities: unifying descriptions of learning structures’, International Journal of Learning Technology, vol.2, no.2/3, pp.216-242; also available online at http://www.inderscience.com/search/index.php?action=record&rec_id=10632&prevQuery=&ps=10&m=or (Accessed 17 June 2010). (Revisited 26 Jan 2013)

Biographical notes: Patrick McAndrew is a senior lecturer in the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University where he teaches and researches in the use of technology in support of learning. His work examines ways to design for active engagement by learners working together. This has involved studies in task based approaches to learning and their representation as learning designs within knowledge sharing environments. In 2001 he cofounded the UserLab research team which works within the Computers and Learning research group to undertake projects in e-learning.

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