This chapter summarizes the work on instructional engineering and educational modeling accomplished since 1992 at the LICEF Research Center of Télé-université by the researchers of the CICE Research Chair. Recent results on learning design modeling and learning objects reusability processes are thoroughly presented using examples drawn from many projects conducted in the last 3 years. These are discussed to uncover the importance of a principled approach for the modeling of learning design and the of learning objects in technology enhanced learning environments. Finally, delivery and dissemination issues are discussed and a summary of on-going and future directions for research is presented.
At the end of the 1990s, technology enhanced distance learning developments were driven by dreams of producing high quality, low cost, online courses for massive delivery, based on the available e-learning platforms. Most of those platforms offer three types of loosely connected services: communication services such as discussion forums, chats and e-mail; basic information delivery services to present course resources such as documents and syllabi; and management services to help professors keep track of students’ participation and products.
In the beginning of the 2000s, it was evident that low cost courses were more difficult to realize than expected unless they reproduced low quality classroom processes. There seemed to be a trade-off between quality and effort. Indeed, developing high quality distance learning courses or course modules remains a complex task. In the design, development, and delivery phases, a range of different actors and disciplines are involved, including instructional designers, media, ergonomic and graphical experts, experts in information and communication technologies, and cognitive scientists. Moreover building, maintaining, and supporting a rich, learner centered distance learning environment is a difficult and expensive task.
Does all this mean that it is impossible to produce high quality, economically viable e-learning? The good news is that advances in research are starting to be transferred into practice, implementing new ways to attain this dream. The key requirements for these advances can be grouped into four complementary dimensions: quality, viability, reusability and dissemination capability.
Regarding quality issues, we need to center the efforts on pedagogy, sound methodologies, innovative course design processes, instrumentation, and support, while offering powerful and user-friendly technological tools that support the design, development and delivery of rich and flexible e-learning situations.
Regarding viability issues, we need to generalize norms and standards to allow interoperability of the various learning environment components such as the pedagogical method or learning design objects, the learning materials or content objects, and the tools or processing objects. Consolidating repositories of best practices, templates, and course components will allow for faster, and possibly better, course development by re-composition or specialization.
Regarding reusability issues, we need to provide quality assurance strategies including both technical and pedagogical high quality criteria. These criteria can be implemented during conception and applied as evaluation instruments after reuse to establish a feedback loop that will assure quality.
In section 3, we will illustrate the concerns of reusability influencing both learning resources and learning scenarios (both are seen as types of learning objects), through the use of the MOT+LD graphic modeling software.
Regarding dissemination issues, we need to transfer to actual practice the approaches from the preceding dimensions to the different actors through various strategies, such as training and best practice examples, supporting the emergence of communities of research and practice and their networking, defining clear open intellectual rights management, sharing, and recognition rules.
Section 4 will address the dimensions of community building, repository integration and interoperability as well as dissemination strategies. The Implementation and Deployment of Learning Designs (IDLD) project that has led to a Canadian portal of learning designs (see http://www.idld.org), will be used as a case study for this section.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Knowledge Model: Set of knowledge of various types, facts, concepts, procedures, principles, skills, structured by the type of links representing the relationship among them.
Competency: Present or target capacity of a group or an individual to perform a cognitive, affective, social or psychomotor skill with regard to certain area of knowledge and in a specific context. The context consists in defining whether the skill can be attributed to the knowledge in a guided or autonomous way, in simple or complex, familiar or new situations, in a global or partial, persistent or sporadic manner.
Sustainability: Sustainability refers to the idea that the Learning Object should have long-term viability for all concerned and meet provider objectives for scale, quality, production cost, margins and return on investment (Walker, 2005; Walker, Ed. A Reality Check for Open Education. Utah: 2005 Open Education Conference. Retrieved August 27, 2007 http://cosl.usu.edu/media/presentations/opened2005/OpenEd2005-WalkerEd.ppt
Instructional Engineering: Instructional engineering is defined as a method for the analysis, design, development and delivery planning of computer-based learning systems, integrating concepts, processes and principles of instructional design, software engineering and cognitive modeling.
Reusability: Reusability refers to the degree of flexibility of a learning object or design in the following aspects: pedagogically, culturally, technically and ergonomically. It indicates how it can be adapted to fit different target audiences and learning situations.
Ontology: In the context of AI, we can describe the ontology of a program by defining a set of representational terms. In such an ontology, definitions associate the names of entities in the universe of discourse (e.g., classes, relations, functions, or other objects) with human-readable text describing what the names mean, and formal axioms that constrain the interpretation and well-formed use of these terms. In this text we use it to describe logical relationships in an instructional system.
IMS Learning Design: A learning design is a description of a method enabling learners to attain certain learning objectives by performing certain learning activities in a certain order in the context of a certain learning environment. A learning design is based on the pedagogical principles of the designer and on specific domain and contexts variables (e.g., designs for mathematics teaching can differ from designs for language teaching; designs for distance education can differ from designs which integrate face-to-face settings).
Plurimedia: A plurimedia material is a set of large grained digitized files delivered on different supports: print, CD-ROMs, DVDs, Web servers, and so forth. The emphasis on fine grained, closely structured multimedia, will decrease as designers prefer to interoperate existing videos, textbooks, courseware materials waiting to be digitized. Instructional engineering shifts the attention from multimedia micro-design to macro-design of learning scenarios integrating plurimedia materials reusing many available corporate documents and tools