Learning Design Representations to Document, Model, and Share Teaching Practice

Learning Design Representations to Document, Model, and Share Teaching Practice

Shirley Agostinho (University of Wollongong, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-861-1.ch001
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The term “learning design” is gaining momentum in the e-learning literature as a concept for supporting academics to model and share teaching practice. Its definition and composition is evolving, and as such, there is currently no standard mode of representation for learning designs in education. Instead, there are several emerging learning design representations with different perspectives about their purpose. This chapter explores these issues and presents a summary of the current discourse about learning designs. The aim of this chapter is to address a gap in the literature by comparing and contrasting six learning design representations. The chapter discusses the research conducted to date about learning design representations and concludes by proposing a pathway for further research
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In the higher education sector today, more so than ever before, academics are presented with many choices in how they can design and deliver their courses. As the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in teaching becomes mainstream, academics are faced with the challenge of making decisions on how best to integrate such technology within their teaching practice. In an environment where there is an increasing number of Internet tools available (e.g., blogs and wikis) and online educational resources to choose from (e.g., learning objects), this is a difficult task. Coupled with the constant focus in the sector on improving the quality of teaching and learning (e.g., Transcript, 2004) decisions on how to effectively integrate ICT to design pedagogically sound learning experiences can be quite overwhelming.

To add a further layer of complexity, the concept of a “university course” has broadened from a conventional model of synchronous teaching and learning activities (e.g., lectures and tutorials) to “unexplored dimensions” that include Internet based activities and the overall use of digital media to present, interact, and communicate in both synchronous and asynchronous modes (Botturi, 2006). Botturi has argued that the design of such courses to effectively integrate technologies is too complex for one person and requires the expertise of a teaching team. Unfortunately, unlike externally funded educational multimedia development projects where a team (composed of subject matter experts, instructional designers, programmers, and graphics artists led by a project manager) works together to craft a multimedia educational solution, the university teaching context is more individually focused where teachers are mostly required to fend for themselves in the design of their courses.

Thus, teachers need guidance and advice provided in an efficient and effective form to support them to create innovative pedagogy. But what form should this guidance take in order for it to be efficient and effective? There is a substantial body of literature that explains how contemporary learning theories can be implemented effectively in practice with the use of technology. The predominant form for this guidance is the text-based scholarly representation presented in journals, conference publications, and books where, through a range of descriptive and analytical case studies, lessons learned are documented and pedagogical design principles are distilled. The argument is mounting that this way of representing and disseminating guidance is difficult for practitioners to easily access and thus needs improvement (Goodyear, 2005; Oliver, 2006; Oliver & Littlejohn, 2006; Sharpe, Beetham, & Ravenscroft, 2004). Particularly in the area of e-learning, this issue needs to be addressed: “In the field of e-learning where there is pressure for rapid changes in response to emerging research, there is discussion on how we develop a more suitable and sophisticated discourse that is shared by researchers and practitioners, and which supports and promotes educational change” (Sharpe et al., 2004, p. 16). Oliver and Littlejohn (2006) have argued that the way practitioners currently document their practice is limited and there is a lack of examples in a form that practitioners can apply in their own teaching context. Botturi (2006, p. 267) concurred with respect to limited documentation and suggested that improvement in documentation is required:

After a course has been developed, usually the only documentation is the actual learning materials. This raises some issues in the case where a redesign or adaptation process is required for reuse, especially where the original designer is not available. Is it possible to produce a documentation that can guide the reuse and adaptation of the instruction?

Key Terms in this Chapter

E2ML: Stands for Educational Environment Modeling Language and is a representation language for documenting the outcome of an instructional design process.

Learning Design Representation: The way in which a learning design is documented.

Pattern: A pattern is a way of documenting a successful solution to a recurring design problem in a non-contextualized way so that the solution can be applied (reused) in many different contexts. It can be considered a “rule of thumb.

Learning Design: A learning design represents and documents teaching and learning practice using some notational form so that it can serve as a description, model or template that can be adaptable or reused by a teacher to suit his/her context

LDVS: The Learning Design Visual Sequence documents a learning design in a visual way by illustrating the chronology of tasks, resources, and supports using symbols for each of the three learning design elements (squares/rectangles for tasks, triangles for resources and circles for supports). It represents a visual summary of a learning design from the perspective of the teacher.

IMS LD: IMS Learning Design (IMS Learning Design Best Practice and Implementation Guide Version 1.0 Final Specification, 2003) documents a learning design in a computer readable format (an XML file) so that it can be played in an IMS LD “player” to the end-user in a similar way that HTML code can be played by an Internet browser application.

LAMS: Learning Activity Management System (LAMS) is a software application that allows a teacher to both design and implement online learning activities using a visual authoring environment.

LDLite: LDLite offers a form of documentation, similar to a lesson plan, that teachers can use to help them design blended activities, that is, integrate face-to-face and online activities.

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