Michael Derntl (University of Vienna, Austria) and Renate Motschnig-Pitrik (University of Vienna, Austria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-503-2.ch315


In this chapter we present coUML, a visual modeling language for cooperative environments. As modern instructional environments have a highly cooperative nature, coUML is proposed as a powerful and effective language for modeling instructional designs in such environments. Being based on UML, it was conceived and refined through application and experience over multiple years, primarily in a cooperative blended learning environment. We present relevant requirements and applications that contributed to the development of coUML, as well as a detailed specification of model elements, characteristics and features that describe its current state.
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The Couml Approach


The coUML approach emerged from practice (cf. Derntl & Motschnig-Pitrik, 2005). About 4 years ago, we were searching for a way to capture our teaching and learning designs. Our primary approach to designing the instructional processes for our courses was based on the principles of blended learning (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004). As a traditional university we build on face-to-face meetings in the courses, and we have gradually started introducing online and distant means of collaboration, evaluation, and delivery into our teaching and learning activities. The goal then was to build a comprehensive library of blended course designs or patterns including verbal descriptions and semi-formal models of scenarios that were already in use at our department. As no visual modeling language was particularly suited for such a task, we started to employ the following simple procedure: First, we write down a verbal description of a course and its activities, including an outline of relevant teaching and learning goals, and the primary teaching approach employed (e.g., project-based learning). The second step is to visualize the course scenario as one or more threads of activities according to the course description. Initially, we used simple symbols for drawing activities and arrows as connectors between activities. Gradually the notation system evolved from requirements drawn from practice and experience, and was finally based on a more formal, standardized notation system. Additionally it was apparent that the current wave of Web-based tools and enhancements not only penetrated educational environments, but any environment where people cooperate to achieve personal and organizational goals, e.g., in projects or communities. Therefore we present coUML as a language that is rooted in, yet not constrained to educational environments.

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