User-Centered Design Principles for Online Learning Communities: A Sociotechnical Approach for the Design of a Distributed Community of Practice

User-Centered Design Principles for Online Learning Communities: A Sociotechnical Approach for the Design of a Distributed Community of Practice

Ben K. Daniel (University of Saskatchewan, Canada), David O’Brien (University of Saskatchewan, Canada) and Asit Sarkar (University of Saskatchewan, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-272-5.ch019
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Abstract

This chapter aims to introduce user-centered design and its basic concepts associated with online learning communities. Another aim is to search for guidelines to ensure quality in online learning. Human computer interaction for education provides the missing holistic approach for online learning. Functioning in a sociotechnical framework, online learning communities combine information and knowledge stores situated in shared social spaces using social learning software. In recent years, educational technologists linked theory and systems design in education. However, several disciplines combine in online learning. User-centered design provides the cross-disciplinary approach that appears to be essential for quality in online learning design and engineering. Thus, seven guidelines for experts’ evaluation are proposed as signposts: intention, information, interactivity, real-time evaluation, visibility, control, and support.
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Daniel, Schwier, and McCalla (2003b) observe that online learning communities have attracted diverse disciplinary interest, but that it is possible to identify two dominant perspectives—technological determinism and social constructivism. The basic tenet of the technology determinism research is that technology shapes cultural values, social structure, and knowledge. In technology-related fields, such as computer science and information systems, significant attention has been given to understanding technological developments and how these changes influence social structures.

The social constructivism perspective, on the other hand, posits that knowledge and world views are created through social interaction. Social constructivism theories have inspired research on knowledge construction within communities of practice. Lave and Wenger (1991) assert that a society’s practical knowledge is situated in relations among practitioners, their practice, and the social organization and political economy of communities of practice. For this reason, learning should involve such knowledge and practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Between these heuristic poles there are cross-disciplinary perspectives, of which it is possible to further discern them into four subcategories:

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