Rethinking Reusability: Implications from a Longitudinal Study of Online Role-Play in Australian Higher Education

Rethinking Reusability: Implications from a Longitudinal Study of Online Role-Play in Australian Higher Education

Sandra Wills (University of Wollongong, Australia)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4205-8.ch010
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Abstract

This chapter provides the results of a study that tracked the use of fifty-three online role-plays in Australian higher education over the period 1990–2006, calculating that forty-five of these were a reuse of another role-play. Most reused the design of another role-play (82%) whereas only a handful reused a role-play itself (18%) which confirms the relevance of learning designs as a reusability construct but raises concerns about learning objects. The instances of reuse of the same role-play involved four role-plays which were analyzed in more detail. This fuller history of reuse post-2006 provided a rich sample for: Exploring issues around what is meant by “reuse,” describing factors that could improve the design of reusable learning objects (RLOs). The implications from this study apply in particular to RLOs that involve active, authentic and collaborative learning such as online role-plays.
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Rationale And Background

Role-plays are situations in which learners take on the role profiles of specific characters or organizations in a contrived setting. Role-play is designed primarily to build first person experience in a safe and supportive environment. Figure 1 illustrates the sequence of learning activities for a generic online role-play from the students’ perspective. In a recent Australian national project to encourage uptake of role-based online learning environments in university education, Project EnROLE (Wills et al., 2009, p. 2, 10), the following characteristics of online role-play were adopted as a definition:

Figure 1:

Learning Design Visual Sequence for online role-play (Wills, Leigh, & Ip, 2011) modified from Wills and Ip (2002)

  • Designed to increase understanding of real life human interaction and dynamics

  • Participants assume a role in someone else’s shoes or in someone else’s situation

  • Participants undertake authentic tasks in an authentic context

  • Task involves substantial in-role interaction with other roles for collaboration, negotiation, debate

  • Interaction between roles is substantially in an online environment

  • Learning outcomes are assessable and generate opportunities for participant reflection.

More about designing and moderating online role-plays can be found in Wills, Leigh, and Ip (2011).

In a longitudinal study about designing ‘reusable e-learning activities’ in higher education, the author used online role-play as the context. It was proposed that issues around reuse of active, authentic and collaborative learning environments such as online role-play may be different from reuse of small chunks of content which has been the (stereo-) typical portrayal of reusable learning objects (RLOs).

Typically a RLO has been defined as a small chunk of learning material because a low level of granularity means it is easier to reuse, as it is, without modification. The larger a learning object becomes, the less likely it might be to meet all new needs in the new context to which it is transferred and the more likely it will need adaptation. Previously, the e-learning industry would have deemed an online role-play too large to be categorized as a learning object. However, the results of this study’s analysis demonstrate that it is possible to view whole online role-plays as learning objects.

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Affordances To Reuse Of Online Role-Play In Australian Higher Education

Fifty-three online role-plays in Australian higher education were identified and tracked between 1990 and 2006 (Wills, 2010). Interviews and surveys lead to the creation of a generational mapping of the online role-play designers. From this map it was calculated that 45 role-plays were a reuse of another role-play (Table 1), demonstrating that the topic of reusability is an important one in higher education.

Table 1.
Analysis of reused role-plays comparing different teacher or same teacher & comparing different university or same university (n=45)
Reuse by…different teacher
in same disciplinein different discipline
same universitydifferent universitysame universitydifferent university
of same role-play5200
of same role-play design911912
Reuse by…same teacher
in same disciplinein different discipline
same universitydifferent universitysame universitydifferent university
of same role-play0100
of same role-play design2211

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