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Theoretical Texts on Designing for Flexible Learning Practice

May 16, 2007

Trying to get myself more involved on the theories surrounding designing for flexible learning practice, this post aims to collate some resources, and as I get through them I will update this entry with my comments/refelctions. This way I can keep this resource in the one place.


This is an excellent resource that goes through each section: Interface, Teaching Presence and Learner Characteristics, rounding up current research in each area including outcomes, highlights significant primary texts and is well written (i.e. easy to read!)
Some main points from Interface section: Effects and Principles of Interface design as investigated by Mayer (1991) showed that animations were best presented with narration in spoken form, simultaneously (with the animation), conversatioinaly (style), without added text and where the learner had control over the pace of the presentation. This is significatn when thinking about making a camstudio presentation of some technical instruction for course design. There were also studies which showed that instructor interaction was very much an integral part (superior) to the learning of undergraduate learners, in comparison to computer/multimedia style feedback.
Some main notes from the Teaching Presence section: Anderson, Rourke, Garrison and Archer coined the term ‘teaching presence’ and categorised it as: Course design and Organisation, Facilitation of Discourse, Direct Instruction. Further discussion about how online learning can support greater interaction between teachers and learners than face-to-face and how interfaces may be designed to extend this area(s). Other studies (Amy Wu) suggest that teacher presence should be that of facilitator in order to promote further peer interaction, but that this should be carefully structured around authentic tasks and strategies. (and is in opposition to the idea of the instructor directing discussion.) Personally I think you can have both and that there are times for both seperately and sometimes at the same time. A good instructor will know when to direct and when to step back and let discussion continue – as suggested in the interface section however, how easy this is facilitated through multimedia means may depend on (good) interface design.
Some notes on Learner Characteristics: Using the Long-Dzubian Reactive Behaviour Protocol, which classifies students as either aggressive/passive and dependant/independant, findings were that independant students were more suited to online learning, where dependant learners( who needed teacher approvla) more often dropped out of classes. Further studies categorized that visual learners were more suited to online environments and aural/kinesthetic learners to face2face. Also, online teaching was preferred to be reflective observation and abstract conceptualization, and face2face  learners preferred active experimentation in classes. There have also been may other findings based on age, gender, culture and economic factors. (study dependant).
OVERALL: this paper has made me being to think much more clearly on the things i need to think about when designing a plan for flexible learning. This includes one of my next tasks which is to get an idea of the learner styles and needs of the people participating on the course. I think i will probably go back to this paper several times as each area comes up in the implementation of the flexible learning plan.

  1. HOW TECHNOLOGY ENHANCES HOWARD GARDNER’S EIGHT INTELLIGENCES | originally saved into dflp07 by dave mcquillan
  2. LEARNING STYLES(NOTES) | originally saved into dflp07 by dave mcquillan
  3. SHOULD WE BE USING LEARNING STYLES | originally saved into dflp07 by dave mcquillan
  4. LEARNSCOPE | originally saved into dflp07 by jacquie hayes
  5. e-learn space | found this site thorough the class resource list with the course outline – looks like it has an article on just about everything!

I think that will be enough to be going on with at the moment – we shall see how it develops.

A note on the dflp07 tagged reference list: It can be quite hard to discern what each tagged resources’ content is – I myself struggle with thoughts like which is the right tag? how many tags are too many? how few are too few? and what kind of ‘notes’ are useful? (this is what shows up to explain the site when you look at the whole list) or most often, i am bookmarking the site for future reference and i don’t yet know what the site is about yet!

I have noticed that Leigh overcomes the notes proble by copying the first line or so of the blog! This is excellent – why do all the hard work when someone esle has thoughtfully done it for you? This is really helpful when going through the list as you get an indication of the site’s content from the content editors themselves. I will be trying to remember this technique from now on and hopefully it will catch on with some others too, so that our list is really easy to use as a shared resource.

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