Collaborative Learning Activity Design: Learning about the Global Positioning System

Collaborative Learning Activity Design: Learning about the Global Positioning System

Helen Durham (University of Leeds, UK), Katherine Arrell (University of Leeds, UK) and David DiBiase (The Pennsylvania State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-980-9.ch003
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Collaborative learning activity design (CLAD) is a multi-institution approach to the creation of e-learning material from the design phase through the development stage and onto the embedding of learning activities into existing modules at higher education institutions on both sides of the Atlantic. This was the approach taken by a group of academic and e-learning material developers at the Pennsylvania State University and the University of Leeds to develop a series of learning activities to support the use and understanding of the global positioning system (GPS). Aided by concept mapping, a Guidance Toolkit and Web conferencing facilities, the group worked seamlessly at producing a series of e-learning resources, including the basics of turning on a GPS unit and obtaining a spatial location, GPS data properties and GPS components, differential correction, and sources of GPS error and error correction. This chapter reflects on the success of this project, which, authors believe, hinged on the following: a clear vision in defining the learning outcomes of the collaborative resources; appropriate tools and technologies to support and facilitate the collaboration; excellent communication and a high level of trust between collaborators; and the identification of a robust iterative methodology to produce reusable e-learning resources.
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This chapter examines the practicalities of collaboration in the design and development of e-learning materials. In particular we discuss methodologies, benefits, and difficulties of producing reusable learning resources. International and national collaboration is increasingly common between academic institutions in research and teaching arenas, as evidenced by the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN), an alliance between 16 research-led universities throughout the world that fosters and supports interdisciplinary collaboration, faculty and student exchange, and e-learning, on a global scale (WUN, 2005). Investment in the development of high quality and innovative online resources can be high and, for a return on this investment, the sharing and reuse of resources should be encouraged. Any lack of reusability in resources is potentially caused by a misalignment of learning objectives and differences in the nature and depth of learning materials between user groups. A potential solution could be multiple authors (who have no geographical restrictions – they can be academics from the same institution or different institutions) sharing their knowledge and working as a team to produce resources. Educational institutions participating in collaborative courses, or creators of e-learning materials, need to consider new approaches to developing resources to guarantee reusability and adaptability for use by others; once developed, the resources can be uploaded to learning object repositories, for example, Intute and Jorum (United Kingdom [UK]), MERLOT and DLESE (United States of America [USA]), Ariadne (Europe), eduSource (Canada), and EdNA (Australia). To ensure that these resources can be re-deployed easily and integrated into appropriate courses there is an argument for collaboration in both the design and development stages of this material.

When defining the requirements of e-learning architecture in the development of reusable learning activities, Laurillard (2002) identifies learning design as a major recent development. Dalziel (2003, p. 594) describes learning design as concentrating on the context rather than just the content of e-learning, being activity-based rather than merely absorbing information, and having the requirement to meet multi-user environments, stating: “Much of the focus on learning design arises from a desire for reuse and adaptation at a level above simply reusing and adapting content objects.”

Interest in learning design is motivated, in part, by the desire to make resources reusable but to successfully achieve this goal, an appropriate methodology is required. Brooks (1975) observed that, as in software engineering more generally, producing software that can be used by others is an order of magnitude more difficult than making software one can use oneself. Could this observation equally apply to producing courseware? One way to increase the transferability of learning objects between different institutional settings might be to involve authors from multiple institutions. With this in mind, the authors of this chapter devised a collaborative approach to learning design, called Collaborative Learning Activity Design (CLAD). By using this methodology to design and develop exemplar materials that can be disseminated to a larger audience in a more applied and reusable form, the success of collaboration can be considered. Will the integration of knowledge from multiple authors produce the sought-after goal of reusable materials or was Brook (1975) accurate in his belief that adding manpower [sic] to a software engineering project (or shared courseware as discussed in this chapter) does not make the project easier or likely to finish sooner?

Focusing on these issues, this chapter will describe the implementation of an inter-continental collaborative learning activity design by a consortium of academic and e-learning technologists who undertook this work as part of the Joint Information System Committee (JISC) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Digital Libraries in Support of Innovative Approaches to Learning and Teaching in Geography (DialogPLUS) project. E-learning material suitable for reuse and adaptation was designed and produced by teaching staff in both UK and USA academic institutions. Affiliated to geography departments, these project members applied the methodology to a teaching exemplar area familiar to them - the principles, use and applications of the global positioning system (GPS), with the aim of producing reuseable teaching and reference material suitable for use by staff and students (at all levels of study) requiring knowledge on how GPS can support them in their fieldwork.

Complete Chapter List

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List of Reviewers
Table of Contents
Lou McGill
Chapter 1
Philip Rees, Louise Mackay, David Martin, Gráinne Conole, Hugh Davis
Technologies offer a range of tantalizing potentials for education—in terms of providing access to media- rich context and for students to visualize... Sample PDF
Developing E-Learning in Geography
Chapter 2
Samuel Leung, David Martin, Richard Treves, Oliver Duke-Williams
In contrast to other Web-based resources, e-learning materials are not always exchangeable and shareable. Although transferring electronic documents... Sample PDF
Exchanging E-Learning Materials, Modules, and Students
Chapter 3
Helen Durham, Katherine Arrell, David DiBiase
Collaborative learning activity design (CLAD) is a multi-institution approach to the creation of e-learning material from the design phase through... Sample PDF
Collaborative Learning Activity Design: Learning about the Global Positioning System
Chapter 4
David Martin, Philip Rees, Helen Durham, Stephen A. Matthews
This chapter presents the development of a series of shared learning materials prepared to facilitate teaching in human geography. The principal... Sample PDF
Census and Population Analysis
Chapter 5
Stephen Darby, Sally J. Priest, Karen Fill, Samuel Leung
In this chapter we outline the issues involved in developing, delivering, and evaluating a Level 2 undergraduate module in fluvial geomorphology.... Sample PDF
Using Digital Libraries to Support Undergraduate Learning in Geomorphology
Chapter 6
Jim Wright, Michael J. Clark, Sally J. Priest, Rizwan Nawaz
There is an inherent antithesis between environmental management as professional practice and as concept or philosophy. Not only does this... Sample PDF
Engaging with Environmental Management: The Use of E-Learning for Motivation and Skills Enhancement
Chapter 7
Louise Mackay, Samuel Leung, E. J. Milton
In our experience of earth observation (EO) online learning we highlight the usefulness of the World Wide Web in terms of its software... Sample PDF
Earth Observation: Conveying the Principles to Physical Geography Students
Chapter 8
Helen Durham, Samuel Leung, David DiBiase
Academic integrity (AI) is of relevance across all academic disciplines, both from the perspective of the educator and the student. From the former... Sample PDF
Generic Learning Materials: Developing Academic Integrity in Your Students
Chapter 9
Karen Fill, Gráinne Conole, Chris Bailey
The DialogPLUS Toolkit is a web-based application that guides the design of learning activities. Developed to support the project’s geographers, it... Sample PDF
A Toolkit to Guide the Design of Effective Learning Activities
Chapter 10
David DiBiase, Mark Gahegan
This chapter investigates the problem of connecting advanced domain knowledge (from geography educators in this instance) with the strong pedagogic... Sample PDF
Concept Mapping to Design, Organize, and Explore Digital Learning Objects
Chapter 11
Terence R. Smith, Marcia Lei Zeng
We describe a digital learning environment (DLE) organized around sets of concepts that represent a specific domain of knowledge. A prototype DLE... Sample PDF
Semantic Tools to Support the Construction and Use of Concept-Based Learning Spaces
Chapter 12
Richard Treves
Teaching geography at university level involves students in study of complex diagrams and maps. These can be made easier to understand if split into... Sample PDF
Simple Geography-Related Multimedia
Chapter 13
Karen Fill, Louise Mackay
This chapter is concerned with the evaluation of learning materials and activities developed as part of the DialogPLUS project. A range of... Sample PDF
Evaluating the Geography E-Learning Materials and Activities: Student and Staff Perspectives
Chapter 14
Louise Mackay, David Martin, Philip Rees, Helen Durham
In this book we have illustrated the materials, software, and experience of developing and delivering geography e-learning courses and learning... Sample PDF
Reflections, Lessons Learnt, and Conclusions
Chapter 15
Sally Priest
This chapter discusses the design, technical development, delivery, and evaluation of two online learning activities in environmental geography. A... Sample PDF
Online Learning Activities in Second Year Environmental Geography
Chapter 16
Dion Hoe-Lian Goh
With the rapid growth of digital information, there is increasing recognition that digital libraries (DL) will play important roles in education... Sample PDF
Learning Geography with the G-Portal Digital Library
Chapter 17
Shivanand Balram
This chapter describes the origins, boundaries, and structures of collaborative geographic information systems (CGIS). A working definition is... Sample PDF
Collaborative Geographic Information Systems: Origins, Boundaries, and Structures
Glossary of Terms
About the Contributors