A Critical Perspective on Design Patterns for E-Learning

A Critical Perspective on Design Patterns for E-Learning

Franca Garzotto (Politecnico di Milano, Italy) and Symeon Retalis (University of Piraeus, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-861-1.ch005
OnDemand PDF Download:


“A design 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” (Alexander et al., 1977). In the field of e-learning, design patterns are frequently advocated as a powerful way of providing structured, teacher-friendly, textual representations of learning designs, or of expressing the design rationale underlying learning objects. The purpose of this chapter is to look at e-learning design patterns from a critical perspective. We provide a historical, multidisciplinary excursus of the notion of design patterns. We propose a taxonomy of e-learning design patterns, providing examples in the various categories. Finally, we discuss both the benefits of design patterns for e-learning professionals (particularly, novice ones) and their drawbacks, and investigate how such pros and cons may affect the role of patterns for learning designs.
Chapter Preview


Designing effective technology-enhanced learning environments in an efficient and affordable way is a demanding task, which requires creativity and a significant amount of expertise (Goodyear, 2002). People new to e-learning design need advice from experts, experienced peers, and users to avoid investing a large amount of resources in “reinventing the wheel” or in creating solutions that may yield an educationally ineffective result.

E-learning design experience is often shared informally in the every day language of teaching practice, or through published research and evaluation studies, or even through sets of action-oriented guidelines. A number of initiatives have been launched in the last decade to foster exchange of experiences and to help instructional designers reuse effective learning design solutions. Among them, a remarkable one is the Australian University Teaching Committee (AUTC) Project. This initiative was set up in an attempt to collect and share generic/reusable learning design resources in order to assist instructional designers, teachers, or academics to create high quality, flexible learning experiences for students (http://www.learningdesigns.uow.edu.au/).

While the existing definitions of “learning design” vary, the main common elements comprise a focus on “context” dimensions of e-learning (rather than simply “content”), an “activity”-based view of e-learning, greater recognition of the role of “multilearner” (rather than just single learner) environments, and an attempt to make the design solutions related to all the above aspects easily reusable. In order to standardize the description of learning designs, the IMS Learning Design specification (IMS LD) has been proposed (IMS LD, 2003). Rather than attempting to capture the specificities of the various pedagogical strategies, IMS LD provides a notation to describe a “metamodel” of instructional design; it offers educators a generic and flexible machine readable language to specify the design of online and off-line activities that involve interaction between learners and learning resources, learners and other learners, as well as learners and teachers. IMS LD gives more emphasis on instructional design as a “product” than on the “process” of developing educational design solutions that has evolved out of the (positive or negative) experience of a number of designers. This may imply that one who reuses an IMS LD artifact might not easily grasp its rationale and perspective. In addition, IMS LD is mainly shaped to foster the collaboration between experienced instructional designers and professionals who may need to repurpose the design specifications As such, it is less appropriate to leverage the exchange of knowledge, practices, and expertise between educational experts and novices.

Instructional designers may need new ways of sharing and transmitting to novices their instructional “philosophy” and their pragmatic approaches, which consist of how their e-learning experiences are designed, built, and associated to the specificities of the subject matter, the environmental context, the human actors, the educational strategies, and the available learning resources and tools (Laurillard, 2002). For this purpose, an important contribution can be offered by e-learning design patterns, which are the main focus of this chapter. A design 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” (Alexander, 1979). This provides a descriptive structure to integrate the analysis and the solution to a recurring problem, in such a way that it becomes context-sensitive, informed by theory and evidence, and reusable with a minimum degree of customization.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Design 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 one can use this solution a million times over without ever doing it the same way twice.

Design-by-Pattern: The process of creating design artifacts by reusing, adapting, and composing existing design patterns

Learning Design Process: Concerned with research and theory about instructional strategies and the development and implementation of those strategies.

E-Learning: The systematic use of networked multimedia computer technologies to empower learners, improve learning, connect learners to people and resources supportive of their needs, and integrate learning with performance and individuals with organizational goals.

Learning Style: A composite of characteristic cognitive, affective, and physiological factors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how a learner perceives, interacts with, and responds to a learning environment.

E-Learning Experience: A “situation” in which people learn or attempt to learn something, individually or in group, using (networked) multimedia computer technologies.

Learning Tool/Service: A set of functionalities incorporated into a (networked) multimedia computer system that supports one or more activities involved in e-learning (e.g., the interaction between learners and learning objects or learners and teachers, the formation of learning communities) and maintains a common space for sharing and reusing educational resources.

Pattern Language: A collection of patterns with the rules that interrelate them.

Pattern Taxonomy: A classification or categorization of design patterns according to certain criteria, with the aim of providing a conceptual framework for discussion, analysis, or search and retrieval of patterns.

IMS LD (Learning Design): Provides a notation to describe a “metamodel” of instructional design; it offers educators a generic and flexible machine readable language to specify the design of online and off-line activities that involve interaction between learners and learning resources, learners and other learners, as well as learners and teachers.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Table of Contents
Tom Carey
Lori Lockyer, Sue Bennett, Shirley Agostinho, Barry Harper
Lori Lockyer, Sue Bennett, Shirley Agostinho, Barry Harper
Chapter 1
Shirley Agostinho
The term “learning design” is gaining momentum in the e-learning literature as a concept for supporting academics to model and share teaching... Sample PDF
Learning Design Representations to Document, Model, and Share Teaching Practice
Chapter 2
Isobel Falconer, Allison Littlejohn
Practice models are generic approaches to the structuring and orchestration of learning activities for pedagogic purposes, intended to promote... Sample PDF
Representing Models of Practice
Chapter 3
Rob Koper, Yongwu Miao
IMS learning design (IMSLD) is an open standard that can be used to specify a wide range of pedagogical strategies in computer-interpretable models.... Sample PDF
Using the IMS LD Standard to Describe Learning Designs
Chapter 4
David Griffiths, Oleg Liber
The IMS LD specification is internally complex and has been used in a number of different ways. As a result users who have a basic understanding of... Sample PDF
Opportunities, Achievements, and Prospects for Use of IMS LD
Chapter 5
Franca Garzotto, Symeon Retalis
“A design pattern describes a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that... Sample PDF
A Critical Perspective on Design Patterns for E-Learning
Chapter 6
Sherri S. Frizell, Roland Hübscher
Design patterns have received considerable attention for their potential as a means of capturing and sharing design knowledge. This chapter provides... Sample PDF
Using Design Patterns to Support E-Learning Design
Chapter 7
Peter Goodyear, Dai Fei Yang
This chapter provides an overview of recent research and development (R&D) activity in the area of educational design patterns and pattern... Sample PDF
Patterns and Pattern Languages in Educational Design
Chapter 8
Gráinne Conole
The chapter provides a theoretical framework for understanding learning activities, centering on two key aspects: (1) the capture and representation... Sample PDF
The Role of Mediating Artefacts in Learning Design
Chapter 9
Elizabeth Masterman
This chapter uses activity theory to construct a framework for the design and deployment of pedagogic planning tools. It starts by noting the impact... Sample PDF
Activity Theory and the Design of Pedagogic Planning Tools
Chapter 10
Barry Harper, Ron Oliver
This chapter describes the development of a taxonomy of learning designs based on a survey of 52 innovative ICT-using projects that formed the basis... Sample PDF
Developing a Taxonomy for Learning Designs
Chapter 11
Carmel McNaught, Paul Lam, Kin-Fai Cheng
The chapter will describe an expert review process used at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. The mechanism used involves a carefully developed... Sample PDF
Using Expert Reviews to Enhance Learning Designs
Chapter 12
Matthew Kearney, Anne Prescott, Kirsty Young
This chapter reports on findings from a recent project situated in the area of preservice teacher education. The project investigated prospective... Sample PDF
Investigating Prospective Teachers as Learning Design Authors
Chapter 13
Paul Hazlewood, Amanda Oddie, Mark Barrett-Baxendale
IMS Learning Design (IMS LD) is a specification for describing a range of pedagogic approaches. It allows the linking of pedagogical structure... Sample PDF
Using IMS Learning Design in Educational Situations
Chapter 14
Robert McLaughlan, Denise Kirkpatrick
Decision-making processes in relation to complex natural resources require recognition and accommodation of diverse and competing perspectives in a... Sample PDF
Online Role-Based Learning Designs for Teaching Complex Decision Making
Chapter 15
Garry Hoban
Digital animations are complex to create and are usually made by experts for novices to download from Web sites or copy from DVDs and CDs to use as... Sample PDF
Facilitating Learner-Generated Animations with Slowmation
Chapter 16
Yongwu Miao, Daniel Burgos, David Griffiths, Rob Koper
Group interaction has to be meticulously designed to foster effective and efficient collaborative learning. The IMS Learning Design specification... Sample PDF
Representation of Coordination Mechanisms in IMS LD
Chapter 17
Johannes Strobel, Gretchen Lowerison, Roger Côté, Philip C. Abrami, Edward C. Bethel
In this chapter, we describe the process of modeling different theory-, research-, and best-practicebased learning designs into IMS-LD, a... Sample PDF
Modeling Learning Units by Capturing Context with IMS LD
Chapter 18
Daniel Burgos, Hans G.K. Hummel, Colin Tattersall, Francis Brouns, Rob Koper
This chapter presents some design guidelines for collaboration and participation in blended learning networks. As an exemplary network, we describe... Sample PDF
Design Guidelines for Collaboration and Participation with Examples from the LN4LD (Learning Network for Learning Design)
Chapter 19
Tom Boyle
This chapter argues that good design has to be at the heart of developing effective learning objects. It briefly outlines the “knowledge... Sample PDF
The Design of Learning Objects for Pedagogical Impact
Chapter 20
Margaret Turner
This chapter introduces an approach to writing content for online learning over networked media. It argues that few resources currently utilise the... Sample PDF
Visual Meaning Management for Networked Learning
Chapter 21
Christina Gitsaki
Due to the increasingly diverse student population in multicultural nations such as Australia, the U.S., Canada, and the UK, educators are faced... Sample PDF
Modification of Learning Objects for NESB Students
Chapter 22
Daniel Churchill, John Gordon Hedberg
The main idea behind learning objects is that they are to exist as digital resources separated from the learning task in which they are used. This... Sample PDF
Learning Objects, Learning Tasks, and Handhelds
Chapter 23
Peter Freebody, Sandy Muspratt, David McRae
The question addressed in this chapter is: What is the evidence for the effects of online programs of learning objects on motivation and learning?... Sample PDF
Technology, Curriculum, and Pedagogy in the Evaluation of an Online Content Program in Australasia
Chapter 24
David Lake, Kate Lowe, Rob Phillips, Rick Cummings, Renato Schibeci
This chapter provides a model to analyse the effectiveness and efficiency of Learning Objects being used in primary and secondary schools by... Sample PDF
Effective Use of Learning Objects in Class Environments
Chapter 25
Robert McCormick, Tomi Jaakkola, Sami Nurmi
Most studies on reusable digital learning materials, Learning Objects (LOs), relate to their use in universities. Few empirical studies exist to... Sample PDF
A European Evaluation of the Promises of LOs
Chapter 26
Tomi Jaakkola, Sami Nurmi
There has been a clear lack of rigorous empirical evidence on the effectiveness of learning objects (LOs) in education. This chapter reports the... Sample PDF
Instructional Effectiveness of Learning Objects
Chapter 27
Robert McCormick
This chapter will examine the approach taken in the evaluation of a large-scale feasibility trial of the production, distribution, and use of... Sample PDF
Evaluating Large-Scale European LO Production, Distribution, and Use
Chapter 28
John C Nesbit, Tracey L. Leacock
The Learning Object Review Instrument (LORI) is an evaluation framework designed to support collaborative critique of multimedia learning resources.... Sample PDF
Collaborative Argumentation in Learning Resource Evaluation
Chapter 29
Philippe Martin, Michel Eboueya
This chapter first argues that current approaches for sharing and retrieving learning objects or any other kinds of information are not efficient or... Sample PDF
For the Ultimate Accessibility and Reusability
Chapter 30
Sue Bennett, Dominique Parrish, Geraldine Lefoe, Meg O’Reilly, Mike Keppell, Robyn Philip
As the notion of learning objects has grown in popularity, so too has interest in how they should be stored to promote access and reusability. A key... Sample PDF
A Needs Analysis Framework for the Design of Digital Repositories in Higher Education
Chapter 31
William Bramble, Mariya Pachman
Reusable learning objects (LOs) constitute a promising approach to the development of easily accessible, technologically sound, and curriculum... Sample PDF
Costs and Sustainability of Learning Object Repositories
Chapter 32
Kristine Elliott, Kevin Sweeney, Helen Irving
This chapter reports the authors’ experiences of developing a learning design to teach scientific inquiry, of integrating the learning design with... Sample PDF
A Learning Design to Teach Scientific Inquiry
Chapter 33
Lisa Lobry de Bruyn
This chapter explores through a case study approach of a tertiary-level unit on Land Assessment for Sustainable Use, the connections between three... Sample PDF
Adapting Problem-Based Learning to an Online Learning Environment
Chapter 34
Tan Wee Chuen, Baharuddin Aris, Mohd Salleh Abu
This chapter aims to guide the readers through the design and development of a prototype Web-based learning system based on the integration of... Sample PDF
Learning Objects and Generative Learning for Higher Order Thinking
Chapter 35
Sebastian Foti
The author describes the work of Dr. Mary Budd Rowe and the establishment of an early learning object databases. Extensive training with K-12... Sample PDF
Applying Learning Object Libraries in K-12 Settings
Chapter 36
L. K. Curda, Melissa A. Kelly
We present guidelines for designing and developing a repository for the storage and exchange of instructional resources, as well as considerations... Sample PDF
Guidelines for Developing Learning Object Repositories
Chapter 37
Sandra Wills, Anne McDougall
This study tracks the uptake of online role play in Australia from 1990 to 2006 and the affordances to its uptake. It examines reusability, as one... Sample PDF
Reusability of Online Role Play as Learning Objects or Learning Designs
Chapter 38
Lori Lockyer, Lisa Kosta, Sue Bennett
Health professional education is changing to meet the demands of a limited workforce and a focus on community-based clinical training. The change... Sample PDF
An Analysis of Learning Designs that Integrate Patient Cases in Health Professions Education
Chapter 39
Mohan Chinnappan
The shift in the way we visualise the nature of mathematics and mathematics learning has presented educational technologists with new challenges in... Sample PDF
Reconceptualisation of Learning Objects as Meta-Schemas
Chapter 40
Henk Huijser
This chapter provides an in depth discussion of the issues involved in integrating learning design and learning objects into generic Web sites. It... Sample PDF
Designing Learning Objects for Generic Web Sites
Chapter 41
Morag Munro, Claire Kenny
E-learning standards are a contentious topic amongst educators, designers, and researchers engaged in the development of learning objects and... Sample PDF
Standards for Learning Objects and Learning Designs
Chapter 42
Eddy Boot, Luca Botturi, Andrew S. Gibbons, Todd Stubbs
In developing modern instructional software, learning designs are used to formalize descriptions of roles, activities, constraints, and several... Sample PDF
Supporting Decision Making in Using Design Languages for Learning Designs and Learning Objects
Chapter 43
Gilbert Paquette, Olga Mariño, Karin Lundgren-Cayrol, Michel Léonard
This chapter summarizes the work on instructional engineering and educational modeling accomplished since 1992 at the LICEF Research Center of... Sample PDF
Principled Construction and Reuse of Learning Designs
About the Contributors