Most of the discussions related to education are about technological innovations. Indeed as Rogers (1995) stated, we often use the word “innovation” and “technology” as synonyms. Technology is regarded as an agent of change in educational settings, and a quick analysis of the educational projects all over the world shows us that it is not possible to define a future vision of education without technology, especially e-learning, which brings two important concepts together: technology and learning. Therefore as a form of distance learning, e-learning has become a major instructional force in the world. Besides the technological developments, the last two decades have brought a tremendous increase in knowledge in education, particularly in learning. The emerging views of learning which should be taken into consideration for every learning environment could be stated as follows: personalized, flexible, and coherent (learning is connected to real-life issues); not bounded by physical, geographic, or temporal space; rich in information and learning experiences for all learners; committed to increasing different intelligences and learning styles; interconnected and collaborative; fostering interorganizational linkages; engaged in dialogue with community members; accountable to the learner to provide adaptive instructional environments (Marshall, 1997). WWW is an environment that fits the new paradigm of learning and facilitates “e-learning” which faces a challenge of diffusion. Diffusion is defined by Rogers (1995) as the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system. Therefore the adoption of WWW as a learning environment is influenced by the following set of factors: 1) the individuals’ perception of the attributes of e-learning, 2) the nature of the communication channels, 3) the nature of the social system, and 4) the extent of the change agents’ efforts in the e-learning. These are the variables that affect the diffusion of e-learning in the schools and countries.
E-Learning And Instructional Design
E-learning not only opens up new ways of learning and teaching, but also leads to a new way of thinking and organizing learning content. Collaborations among different stakeholders cause new standards for design of knowledge on the Internet. In traditional computer-based instruction, content comes in units called courses. However a new paradigm for designing instruction, grounded in the object-oriented notion of computer science, is called “learning objects.”
Learning object is defined by the Learning Technology Standards Committee (2002) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics (IEEE) as any entity, digital or non-digital, that can be used, re-used, or referenced during technology-supported learning. The features of learning objects are self-contained, interactive, reusable, and tagged with metadata. By the use of learning objects, one can learn just enough, just in time, and just for them. Learning objects can be considered a movement within the field of e-learning, one aimed at the componentization of learning resources, with a view to reusability (Duchastel, 2004).
The idea of educational software as a package is becoming outdated and making way for learning objects as a new way of designing instructional materials. In designing learning objects, the studies on multiple representation of knowledge become important since people have different learning styles and strategies. The associations between these two constructs are the main focus of the new instructional design principles. Therefore, the development of learning objects and the way of creating teaching units are well suited for what we call the Information Age.
A representation of knowledge could be decomposed into its parts, where the parts are far from arbitrary. Then they can be used and reused in a great variety of combinations, like a child’s set of building blocks. Every combination is meaningful and serves as an instructional whole. Holland (1995) compares building blocks to the features of the human face. The common building blocks are: hair, forehead, eyebrows, eyes, and so on. Any combination is different and may never appear twice. This analogy could be true of e-learning platforms, where learning objects are put together to make up a meaningful whole, which we call instructional materials.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Distance Education: A type of formal education in which the majority of the instruction, which is transmitted through technology, occurs when student and instructor are not in the same place.
Learning Object: Any entity, digital or non-digital, that can be used, re-used, or referenced during technology-supported learning.
Learning Styles: The ways in which a person takes in and processes information and experiences.
Instructional Design: The systematic process of translating general principles of learning and instruction into plans for instruction and learning.
Innovation: An idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption.
This work was previously published in Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology: edited by M. Khosrow-Pour, pp. 849-852, copyright 2005 by Information Science Reference, formerly known as Idea Group Reference (an imprint of IGI Global).
Diffusion: The process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system.