Distributed Construction through Participatory Design

Distributed Construction through Participatory Design

Panayiotis Zaphiris (City University, London, UK), Andrew Laghos (City University, London, UK) and Giorgos Zacharia (MIT, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch187
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Abstract

This article presents an empirical study of an online learning community that collaborates with the course design team under the Participatory Design methodology. The different phases of this methodology were implemented using a four-stage participatory design process (Zaphiris & Zacharia, 2001): 1) building bridges with the intended users, 2) mapping user needs and suggestions to the system, 3) developing a prototype, and 4) integrating feedback and continuing the iteration. We took advantage of the online and distributed nature of the student community to asynchronously design, implement, and study the course. We carried out the participatory design methodology by following the Distributed Constructionism pedagogical theory. During the different phases of the design process, we measured the student participation and the changes in their behavior when new design elements were introduced. We conclude that the most important element of this course was our discussion board, which helped us to promote student collaboration and the identification of the key community users who can participate productively in Participation Design activities. There are three main sections to this article. After defining the key terminology, our Participatory Design approach is presented and its linkage to the Distributed Constructionism pedagogical theory specified. The article ends with ideas for future research and a set of conclusions.
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Introduction

This article presents an empirical study of an online learning community that collaborates with the course design team under the Participatory Design methodology. The different phases of this methodology were implemented using a four-stage participatory design process (Zaphiris & Zacharia, 2001):

  • 1)

    building bridges with the intended users,

  • 2)

    mapping user needs and suggestions to the system,

  • 3)

    developing a prototype, and

  • 4)

    integrating feedback and continuing the iteration.

We took advantage of the online and distributed nature of the student community to asynchronously design, implement, and study the course. We carried out the participatory design methodology by following the Distributed Constructionism pedagogical theory. During the different phases of the design process, we measured the student participation and the changes in their behavior when new design elements were introduced. We conclude that the most important element of this course was our discussion board, which helped us to promote student collaboration and the identification of the key community users who can participate productively in Participation Design activities.

There are three main sections to this article. After defining the key terminology, our Participatory Design approach is presented and its linkage to the Distributed Constructionism pedagogical theory specified. The article ends with ideas for future research and a set of conclusions.

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Background

Participatory Design

Participatory design (PD) refers to a design approach that focuses on the intended user of the service or product, and advocates the active involvement of users throughout the design process. PD is often termed as the “Scandinavian Challenge” (Bjerknes, Ehn & Kyng, 1987), since it was researchers from Scandinavian countries who pioneered its use in information systems development (Blomberg & Henderson, 1990; Bodker, Gronbaek & Kyng, 1993; Ehn, 1988).

User involvement is seen as critical both because users are the experts in the work practices supported by these technologies and because users ultimately will be the ones creating new practices in response to new technologies (Ellis, Jankowski & Jasper, 1998).

Blomberg and Henderson (1990) characterize the PD approach as advocating three tenets:

  • The goal is to improve the quality of life, rather than demonstrate the capability of technology.

  • The orientation is collaborative and cooperative rather than patriarchal.

  • The process is iterative since PD values interactive evaluation to gather and integrate feedback from intended users.

By involving the users in the design process, the designers also gain knowledge of the work context, so that the new technology explicitly incorporates the values, history, and context of the work system (Ehn, 1988). The users take part in the entire design, implementation, and decision-making processes. Their involvement ensures that their activities are taken into account. Also by participating in the design, the users have a sense of “ownership” (Brown & Duguid, 2000), and the final system will have an increased user acceptance.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Pedagogy: The activities of education or instructing or teaching.

This work was previously published in Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology: edited by M. Khosrow-Pour, pp. 902-906, copyright 2005 by Information Science Reference, formerly known as Idea Group Reference (an imprint of IGI Global)

Computer Aided Language Learning (CALL): The use of computers in learning a language.

Participatory design (PD): A design approach that focuses on the intended user of a service or product, and advocates the active involvement of users throughout the design process.

Human-Computer Interaction: The study, planning, and design of what happens when humans and computers work together.

Ethnography: The branch of anthropology that provides scientific description of individual human societies.

User-Centered Design: Puts the user into the center of the software design process.

Web-Based Training (WBT): Anywhere, anytime instruction delivered over the Internet, or a corporate intranet to learners.

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