Supporting Decision Making in Using Design Languages for Learning Designs and Learning Objects

Supporting Decision Making in Using Design Languages for Learning Designs and Learning Objects

Eddy Boot, Luca Botturi, Andrew S. Gibbons, Todd Stubbs
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-861-1.ch042
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In developing modern instructional software, learning designs are used to formalize descriptions of roles, activities, constraints, and several other instructional design aspects and learning objects are used to implement those learning designs in instructional software. Central in both constructs is the use of design languages to support structuring a design task and conceiving solutions. Due to a lack of standardized design languages that are shared between designers, producers, and other stakeholders, the application of learning designs and learning objects is often unsatisfactory for three reasons: (a) different instructional and technical structures are often not meaningfully organized; (b) different levels of detail are mixed together; and (c) different expressions are used in a nonstandardized manner. A decision model is introduced—the 3D-model—that supports better selection and application of design languages. Two studies show that the 3D-model contributes to a better information transition between instructional designers and software producers.
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Developing instructional software is becoming increasingly complex. Besides many recent pedagogical innovations such as holistic whole-task approaches as found in case-based learning or problem-based learning (van Merriënboer & Kirschner, 2007), developers have to pay attention to recent technical innovations as well. Amongst others, recent technical efforts are directed at modularization, reusability, and interoperability (Parrish, 2004). Finally, organizational innovations that emphasis the integration of working and learning by means of blended combinations of face-to-face learning, distance learning, and on-the-job learning (Cantoni & Botturi, 2005; Jochems, van Merriënboer, & Koper, 2004) complicate the situation even more. As a result, developing modern instructional software requires often iterative development processes and prototype-testing, involving multidisciplinary teams with many different members, including managers, producers, instructors, and subject matter experts (Bates, 1999; Botturi, Cantoni, Lepori, & Tardini, 2006).

In many cases, instructional designers are placed in charge of the instructional design and of managing the subsequent development process. They face the challenge of negotiating and communicating this design, with all its pedagogical, technical, and organizational implications, to all of the stakeholders, who often have a different background and focus, and therefore different concerns (Botturi, 2006; see Table 1).

Table 1.
Concerns of different stakeholders in the ISD process
Kind of stakeholdersTypes of Stakeholder ActivitiesExamples of Concerns
Project LeaderManage the whole ISD processOptimal transfer of information and product during the ISD process
Subject Matter ExpertsValidate the domain contentImpact on work floor
InstructorsValidate the didactical modelImpact of instructional design on their teaching (e.g., classroom based, coaching in practice)
ManagersApprove the instructional designImpact of instructional design on their organization (e.g., financial, roles, infrastructure)
ProducersTranslate instructional design into technical specifications (often conduct their own type of analysis and design)Impact of instructional design on production process (e.g., selection of tools and media, programming, interfacing, usability)
ImplementersUse the instructional design as guidelinesImpact of instructional design on infrastructure, roles, school management, etc.
LearnersParticipate in usability studies, interface design studies, and other formative evaluation activities.Personal preferences and impact of instructional design on their learning processes
EvaluatorsUse the objectives set in the instructional design as evaluation criteriaImpact of instructional design on assessment process

Key Terms in this Chapter

Learning Objects: A set of such media components, instructional activities, or whole lessons, labeled with metadata and expressed in a standard format.

Learning Designs: Used to formalize—often following a standard specification—descriptions of roles, activities, constraints, and several other aspects involved in an instructional design.

Instructional Software: Software used to support learning processes, such as CBT, e-learning, simulations, gaming, mobile learning, advanced distributed learning, and so forth.

Design Languages: A set of concepts that support structuring a design task and conceiving solutions. They are mental tools, but can be expressed and communicated through notation systems, that is, sets of signs and icons that allow representation of a design solution to our senses. The combination design language and notation system is a central concept in the definition of a design team or community, because a shared language is the medium for the creation of shared culture.

Metadata: Information that “labels” learning objects in order to enable an efficient search for them in databases.

Design Patterns: Expressing the gist of a solution so that it can be reused many times. Defining a pattern, or a pattern system, is a way to capture the design knowledge of a community, to share it and to leverage it for future developments.

3D-Model: A decision model that supports selecting and applying design languages for formalizing learning designs and labeling learning objects.

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