Embedding Design Patterns in a Methodology for a Design Science of E-Learning

Embedding Design Patterns in a Methodology for a Design Science of E-Learning

Yishay Mor (London Knowledge Lab, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-144-7.ch007
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This chapter argues for a design science paradigm of e-learning, and offers a pattern-based methodological framework for such a paradigm. As a concrete manifestation of the framework, the chapter presents a pattern language for collaborative reflection and participatory design workshops, which has been developed for and used by several e-learning design research projects.
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Embedding Design Patterns In A Methodology For A Design Science Of E-Learning

This volume examines the role, and potential role, of design patterns and associated approaches in the field of e-learning. The current chapter positions design pattern approaches to e-learning within a larger tradition of a design paradigm for educational research. The last couple of decades have witnessed a growing trend towards design based research in education, and e-learning in particular (Barab & Squire, 2004; Barab, Thomas, Dodge, Squire and Newell, 2004; Bell, Hoadley and Linn, 2004; Béguin, 2003; Brown, 1992; Cobb, Confrey, diSessa, Lehrer, & Schauble, 2003; Collins, 1992; Collins, Joseph, & Bielaczyc, 2004; Edelson, 2002; Lesh and Sriraman, 2005; O'Donnell, 2004; Reeves, 2006; Sandoval and Bell, 2004; Wittmann, 1995). Design based approaches focus on the process of developing innovative tools and activities as means of understanding learning and advancing educational practice. While this trend has moved towards centre stage in recent years, its roots go back to the 1960s.

Yet, when I try to introduce this perspective to my peers, practitioners and academics alike, I often find myself struggling with the basic definition of design. Christopher Alexander defines design as: “The process of inventing physical things which display new physical order, organization, form, in response to function” (Alexander, 1964, p.1). Middleton et al. characterize the activity of design as “a subtle but complex interaction between the designer and contextual constraints and is accomplished by proposing the form of an artifact, system or process, which in turn drives its behavior, which in turn can be compared with its desired function” (2008, p. 22, original emphasis). Herbert Simon summarizes: “everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into desired ones” (Simon, 1969, p 129).

E-learning is concerned with bringing about change in learners’ knowledge by using technology to enrich the social and individual environment of learning. Over the last few decades, many studies have shown a positive correlation between the use of technology and attainment in mathematics (Wenglinsky, 2005; 1998; Kulik, 2003; 1994). Yet most of these studies emphasize that this link is far from universal. It is contingent on the details of the design of technology, as much as on the educational activities in which it is embedded. For example, Wenglinsky (1988) found that the use of simulation and higher order thinking skills software gave students an advantage of up to 15 weeks over the control group, but students who used drill and practice software performed worse than students who did not. In view of such findings, the role of research in e-learning is to identify how technology could be designed to promote given educational goals.

Many scientific disciplines turn their attention to questions of learning: cognitive and developmental psychology, linguistics, neurology and computer science, to name a few. The science of education is distinguished by its focus on how learning is induced and directed to a specific agenda. Diana Laurillard identifies the key challenge for educational research as “how to identify and provide what it takes to learn” (Laurillard, 2008, p 140). This distinction identifies educational sciences as the study of designed learning.

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