Online Learning Engagement System (OLES) Design Framework for Postsecondary Online Learning Environments: A Synthesis on Affordances from Game-Based Learning, Social Media-Enabled Learning, and Open Learning

Online Learning Engagement System (OLES) Design Framework for Postsecondary Online Learning Environments: A Synthesis on Affordances from Game-Based Learning, Social Media-Enabled Learning, and Open Learning

Wen-Hao David Huang (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4249-2.ch011
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Considering the increasing enrollment in online education programs among higher education institutions in the U.S., many researchers and educators have expressed their concerns on issues that may impact online learning engagement. With a low level of online learning engagement, learners are less likely to complete the coursework and the intended learning does not occur. In order to correct this learning issue, this chapter proposes the Online Learning Engagement System (OLES) design framework to explore potential solutions that can improve online learning engagement. The OLES design framework is grounded in multiple theoretical perspectives and situated in current learning technology applications (game-based, social media-based, and open learning). While the scope of this design framework is limited at a conceptual development stage, future research potential to continue this theory-building effort is promising.
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Online learning has become one of the mainstream operations in higher education institutions in recent years. With the significant growth rate of the online education market comes with much scrutiny on its pedagogical efficacy and sustainability, although the technological advancement has created many new opportunities for educators to re-envision the potential of online learning.

Considering today’s information and communication technology that can be integrated into online learning (e.g., game elements, social media, open educational resources, mobile devices, cloud-based data repository), we can no longer consider online learning a passive, isolated, and inactive process. Instead, today’s learning technology applications have enabled many types of learning experiences that are experiential, social, and collaborative. For example, digital game-based learning enables hands-on opportunities for learners to gain direct experiences; social media force learning to open up to a larger community of participants; and open/mobile learning both transcend all boundaries of traditional online learning. These technological affordances, however, also induce new concerns toward the intended online learning processes.

Among many concerns related to online learning outcomes, learning engagement in online learning environments remain under emphasized during the instructional design processes. While many online learning design models have focused on the learning processes and outcomes, how and to what extent the learning system is able to proactively engage learners and how learners choose to engage with the intended learning experiences are not adequately addressed during the design process. To make the situation worse is the reality that the development of online learning environments has shifted from single delivery modality (e.g., single medium, single platform) to multi-modality (e.g., multi-media, multi-platforms, multi-interfaces). These increased affordances for online learning have inevitably impacted how online learners perceive and manage their engagement with online learning environments. Current literature in dealing with these engagement challenges and their implications toward the design of online learning experiences with a holistic viewpoint, unfortunately, is scarce. To address this design deficiency, this chapter proposes a design framework for an Online Learning Engagement System (OLES) based on recent literature drawn from game-based learning, social media-based learning, and open learning. The common denominator of all these learning environments is that they are all capable of providing engaging learning experiences ranging from extrinsically to intrinsically motivating on certain aspects of their learning processes. Their innate abilities, given their inherent technological features, to distract learners therefore are the targeted design components of the proposed OLES design framework.

The absence of a learning engagement system embedded in the online learning environment can lead to unknowingly providing excessive cognitive as well as affective stimuli to online learners. The result would be an either boring or distracting online learning environment that impedes the intended learning processes. To address this design issue, this chapter intends to meet the following objectives:

  • 1.

    Review current literature on theory building and learning engagement in online learning and discuss challenges and opportunities facing online learning engagement issues.

  • 2.

    Review current literature from immersive learning technology on gamification of learning, social media-enabled learning, and open learning to identify emerging factors impacting online learning engagement.

  • 3.

    Propose the design framework for the Online Learning Engagement System (OLES) with a systematic design process and corresponding learner analytics.

  • 4.

    Conclude the chapter by discussing the applicability and limitations of the proposed OLES design framework and future research.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cognitive Engagement: Many have identified cognitive engagement as a major part of overall learning engagement. An effective cognitive engagement should enable learners to immerse themselves in in-depth reflective learning processes that are situated in realistic problem-solving tasks.

Digital Game-Based Learning (DGBL): DGBL started out as an instructional strategy that can be embodied through computer-based applications. Through the advancement of learning technologies over the years, DGBL now can be considered a stand-alone learning environment that can address to various levels of learning needs.

Learning Engagement: Learning engagement can be approached from various perspectives. In this chapter, learning engagement deals with how online learners choose to internalize the intended learning content as the result of interacting with the learning environment.

Instructional Design Theory: Instructional design theories are prescriptive in nature instead of descriptive. They offer proven guidelines for creating optimal learning environments for intended learning content and the target audience. Instructional design theories, however, are not meant to explain learning processes.

Open Learning (OL): Open learning consists of two aspects. First, OL depicts the optimal climate of learning that is open and accessible to anyone. Second, OL requires a different set of learning skills to learners can take the full advantage of autonomous learning in an environment that is free of structure and motivational support.

Instructional Design Theory Building: Theory building is a systematic process to synthesize prior design knowledge in order to solve new design problems. The process generally begins with conceptual development, and then moves on to operationalization and validation through empirical studies. The final stage of the theory building effort focuses on the refinement of the theoretical framework in order to inform further research and practice.

Motivational Support: Motivational support provides appropriate cognitive as well as affective stimuli just-in-time, to effectively initiate and then sustain learners’ motivation to learn and perform.

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