Introduction to Educational research

Intro to Educational research is (hopefully) my last subject in this degree. I won’t say that it’s one I’ve been looking forward to as it is essentially a how-to-research-properly subject that seems to get tacked on to every Masters program in the world of academia. Given that I’ve successfully managed to complete the rest of the degree without it, it seems a little redundant but I shouldn’t look some gift knowledge in the mouth and hopefully it will help down the track.

Specifically the subject will address questions such as: why conduct research? what constitutes ‘good’ research? how are methodologies and theoretical frameworks for research determined? what are the ethical implications of conducting and reporting on research?

At the end of this subject, I should be able to:

1. Demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the nature of inquiry and research in educational contexts
2. Identify, critique and articulate published research from the education field
3. Demonstrate knowledge and skills in the design and conduct of education research and inquiry
4. Plan and present a research proposal

In the field of education we take the term research to mean the collection of unique data in some systematic manner as part of an investigation to respond to a problem.

So I have to identify an area that relates to my work that I might want to research.

I have a particular interest in the development of game/scenario based learning in the VET sector. One of the big issues I have come up against in my work to date has been the range of I.T literacy of learners and their exposure to/comfort with computer games. I would like to investigate this at my Institute to inform the design process in developing these games.

This is an example of a classroom teacher who has identified something within her teaching practice that she wanted to examine further.  Consider:
–    Who the teacher has involved in the research
–    The issues the teacher wanted to explore (perhaps the questions you think the teacher posed)
–    What the key findings were for her
–    What her findings mean for you as you read the article

Her learners (both in business and creative writing streams)

Whether a new approach works for her learners

Key findings – learners appreciate richer media environments

Well duh.

–    Who you would involve in the research
–    The issues you would explore (perhaps the questions you might ask)
–    Who you would want to know about the information you gather

I’m interested in developing as broad an understanding of the students at CIT (across the range of faculties/centres) as possible, so I would approach this initially by talking to the CIT student union for their thoughts about the best way to reach the widest range of students possible. I’d also speak to the research unit at CIT who are responsible for other institute snapshots and information gathering. Obviously the ultimate source of information would be the learners themselves.

My main interest is to discover the level of interest in using games in education and the I.T literacy levels of learners in different sections of the institute. This would help determine the complexity of the types of games being developed.

I would primarily want to know that it was a representative sample of the learners. The information would be shared mainly between myself and other members of the flex:ed team that I work with.

I have to say that I’m really not sure if this is a deep enough project for this subject but it is what I want to know at the moment.

Thoughts on: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning? (Alexander, 2006)

Alexander, B. (2006).  Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning? EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 41, no. 2 (March/April 2006): 32–44. Available at

Major points:

The web has been highly social since it began (listservs, Usenet groups, discussion software, groupware etc)

Web 2.0 breaks “away from the notion of the Web as book, they are predicated on microcontent. Blogs are about posts, not pages. Wikis are streams of conversation, revision, amendment and truncation.”

“Like social software, microcontent has been around for a while. Banner ads, for example, are often imported by one site from another directory. Collaboratively designed web pages sometimes aggregate content created by different teams over a staggered timeline”

“Openness remains a hallmark of this emergent movement, both ideologically and technologically”

“Openness and microcontent combine into a larger conceptual strand of Web 2.0, one that sees users as playing more of a foundational role in information architecture” (tagging)

“How can social bookmarking play a role in higher education?… First, they act as an “outboard memory”, a location to store links that might be lost to time, scattered across different browser bookmark settings or distributed in e-mails, printouts and Web links.

Second, finding people with related interests can magnify one’s work by learning from others or by leading to new collaborations. Third, the practice of user-created tagging can offer new perspectives on one’s research, as clusters of tags reveal patterns (or absences) not immediately visible by examining one of several URLs.

Fourth, the ability to create multi-authored bookmark pages can be useful for team projects, as each member can upload resources discovered, no matter their location or timing. Tagging can then surface individual perspectives within the collective. Fifth, following a bookmark site gives insights into the owner’s (or owners’) research, which could play well in a classroom setting as an instructor tracks students’ progress. Students, in turn, can learn from their professor’s discoveries. ”

Wikis, blogging and RSS are good. (He says more but you surely know this stuff by now 🙂

The reverse chronological nature of Web 2.0 is particularly good for queries on current events.

Potential issues – copyright, network security when hosted on local networks, stability/longevity of service providers, preservation of useful pieces of microcontent, corporate buy-ups

Some interesting ideas in this one, much more based in what is happening rather than the hype of what might come.  

Thoughts on: E-learning 2.0 (Downes, 2005)

Downes, S. (2005). E-learning 2.0. eLearn Magazine, 17 October. [Online]. Retrieved Friday 15 September 2006 from:

In which the usually slightly curmudgeonly Stephen Downes jumps on the 2.0 bandwagon and rides it for all it’s worth. 

“Where we are now

In general, where we are now in the online world is where we were before the beginning of e-learning [1]. Traditional theories of distance learning, of (for example) transactional distance, as described by Michael G. Moore, have been adapted for the online world. Content is organized according to this traditional model and delivered either completely online or in conjunction with more traditional seminars, to cohorts of students, led by an instructor, following a specified curriculum to be completed at a predetermined pace.”

If it’s online, can’t the learners access any and all of the material when and where they want?
“One trend that has captured the attention of numerous pundits is the changing nature of Internet users themselves. Sometimes called “digital natives” and sometimes called “n-gen,” these new users approach work, learning and play in new ways [2].

They absorb information quickly, in images and video as well as text, from multiple sources simultaneously. They operate at “twitch speed,” expecting instant responses and feedback. They prefer random “on-demand” access to media, expect to be in constant communication with their friends (who may be next door or around the world), and they are as likely to create their own media (or download someone else’s) as to purchase a book or a CD [3].”

I.T and media literacy has seen a boom in the creation of media content but statistically, only about 1% of people visiting web 2.0 sites are actually contributing to them.  

“The changing demographics of the student population and the more consumer/client-centered culture in today’s society have provided a climate where the use of student-centered learning is thriving” [6]. Learning is characterized not only by greater autonomy for the learner, but also a greater emphasis on active learning, with creation, communication and participation playing key roles, and on changing roles for the teacher, indeed, even a collapse of the distinction between teacher and student altogether [7].

The breaking down of barriers has led to many of the movements and issues we see on today’s Internet. File-sharing, for example, evolves not of a sudden criminality among today’s youth but rather in their pervasive belief that information is something meant to be shared. This belief is manifest in such things as free and open-source software, Creative Commons licenses for content, and open access to scholarly and other works. Sharing content is not considered unethical; indeed, the hoarding of content is viewed as antisocial [9]. And open content is viewed not merely as nice to have but essential for the creation of the sort of learning network described by Siemens [10].”

The technology might have made it easier but I don’t think it’s given birth to the attitude, I remember friends making tapes of albums for me as a youth.  

“In short, the structures and organization that characterized life prior to the Internet are breaking down. Where intermediaries, such as public relations staff, journalists or professors, are not needed, they are disregarded. Consumers are talking directly to producers, and more often than not, demanding and getting new standards of accountability and transparency. Often, they inform the productive process itself, and in many cases, replace it altogether. Passive has become active. Disinterested has become engaged. The new Internet user may not vote, but that is only because the vote is irrelevant when you govern yourself. ”

If producers spend all their time among other producers, are they able to see that most people are still consumers?

“What was happening was that major parts of the World Wide Web were acquiring the properties of communications networks, the sorts of networks found to exist (albeit on a much smaller scale) in the physical world. And that the Web itself was being transformed from what was called “the Read Web” to the “Read-Write Web,” in accordance with Tim Berners-Lee’s original vision. Proponents of this new, evolving Web began calling it Web 2.0 and in short order the trend became a movement.”

 In broad terms, yes.

In a nutshell, what was happening was that the Web was shifting from being a medium, in which information was transmitted and consumed, into being a platform, in which content was created, shared, remixed, repurposed, and passed along. And what people were doing with the Web was not merely reading books, listening to the radio or watching TV, but having a conversation, with a vocabulary consisting not just of words but of images, video, multimedia and whatever they could get their hands on. And this became, and looked like, and behaved like, a network.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the world of blogging. In a few short years the blog went from a few idiosyncratic Web sites to something used by millions of people empowered by content creation tools such as Blogger and WordPress. Even more importantly, these blogs were connected to each other through the mechanism of RSS, a simple XML format that allows bloggers to send their content to a network of readers (called ‘subscribers’).

But it wasn’t just blogging. Creating an online community became a snap with tools such as Plone and Drupal. Moreover, using a collaborative writing tool called the wiki Jimmy Wales and a few thousand of his friends created a site called Wikipedia, rendering Encyclopedia Britannica obsolete in the process. Others, using the free audio-recording tool Audacity, began recording their own talk and music; this, when combined with RSS, became podcasting, a rapidly rising phenomena that is transforming what we think about radio.

E-Learning 2.0

In the world of e-learning, the closest thing to a social network is a community of practice, articulated and promoted by people such as Etienne Wenger in the 1990s. According to Wenger, a community of practice is characterized by “a shared domain of interest” where “members interact and learn together” and “develop a shared repertoire of resources.”

For the most part, though, what constituted “community” in online learning were artificial and often contrived “discussions” supported by learning management systems [15]. These communities were typically limited to a given group of learners, such as a university class, had a fixed start and end-point, and while substantially better than nothing, rarely approached Wenger’s theory.”

Other points of interest

  •  blogs and wikis give a larger audience
  • blogging gives more personal insights
  • podcasting enhances convenience
  • structure comes to resemble more of a conversation
  • personal learning environments offer a space to showcase work
  • learning comes not from the design of the content but how it is used
  • games allow students to take charge of their learning

Overall, some interesting ideas – my feeling is that the technology might allow many things to happen but it is the organisational philosophies and culture that will have to evolve for these things to actually happen.

Thoughts on: Evaluating online learning: Models and methods (Gunawardena et al, 2000)

Gunawardena, C., Lowe, C. & Carabajal, K. (2000). Evaluating online learning: Models and methods. In C. Crawford et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International Conference 2000 (pp. 1677-1684). Chesapeake, VA: AACE

This one is about methods for evaluating the success (or otherwise) of online learning activities and forms the basis of our final assignment in Network Based Learning (EDGI915) – where we are meant to examine two of the NBL activities we have undertaken over the last 12 weeks and see if it’s up to scratch.

I suspect that this is going to be trickier than it looks as none of the activities on first glance seem to have been overly successful if you look at them based on how much interaction there was between the students – hopefully this paper will offer some useful suggestions for breaking the activity down (as well as the interactions) and seeing why this might have been.

“Online learning designs are often based on constructivist learner-centred principles which provide more learner control, facilitate the sharing of multiple perspectives and places emphasis on individual learners creating their own meaning.”

“Behavioral objectives with a stated outcome for all learners, is not the goal of many online learning projects.

Evaluation questions:

  1. How can we describe online participation, interaction patterns and group dynamics?

  2. Were students satisfied with the experience of participating in the conference? Did they feel that it had been a worthwhile use of their time and one they would be willing to repeat?

  3. Did participants learn?

  4. Was knowledge constructed?

An additional issue to consider is that of: How is knowledge constructed in online learning networks through the process of social negotiation?

  1. How can we describe online participation, interaction patterns and group dynamics?

“Participation analysis techniques examine the capacity of a conference to engage members and reveal comparative patterns of participation among learners from varying backgrounds. An evalutation tool we have employed to address these questions is the model developed by Levin, Kim and Riel (1990) for analysing instructional interactions on electronic message networks. This model has four dimensions of analysis: 1) Participant structures analysis, 2)Intermessage reference analysis, 3)message act analysis and 4) message flow analysis”

These methods didn’t suit their particular context, that being more of a community of practice type scenario. Message act analysis doesn’t consider the content of the messages, which didn’t help either. What did help was “we found ther data such as unsolicited participant reactions online, solicited participant reactions, both instructor and student perspectives on interaction and the analysis of computer transcripts to be more useful in forming a picture of events that occurred in the online community (Gunawardena, 1993)”

2 Were learners satisfied with their online learning experience?

“Hiltz (1990) discussed an approach to determining learner satisfaction by examining the social psychological (characteristics of the users); human relations (characteristics of the groups and organisations within which systems are implemented); and technological determinist (characteristics of the system); factors that impact student satisfaction with and subsequent use of computer conferencing. “

Generally speaking, Gunawardena (et al) found that “social presence alone is a strong predictor of satisfaction in a text-based computer conference”

3. Did participants learn?

Gunawardena et al assessed this by looking at the transcripts of text chat/discussion boards and by directly asking the participants their opinions.

“In order to understand the myriad forms of learning that occurs in a computer conference, we have often asked students to keep weekly journals documenting all aspects of learning. These journals have given us a unique perspective of each individuals learning process. Other techniques we have used are to ask students to critique their online learning experiences and to apply and transfer what they have learned from the computer conference to developing a computer conferencing design”

4. Was knowledge constructed?

Perhaps the most challenging and the most exciting question one can ask in evaluating online learning is: Was knowledge constructed within the group by means of the exchanges among participants?”

“We developed an outline of the process of negotiation which appears to occur in the co-construction of knowledge. The outline led to the development of the interaction analysis model which has five phases, reflecting the complete process of negotiation  which must occur when there are substantial areas of inconsistency or disagreement to be resolved. The phases of learning outlined in this model occur at both the individual and social level and can be described as:

Phase 1: Sharing/Comparing
Phase 2: Dissonance
Phase 3: Negotiation/Co-construction
Phase 4: Testing tentative constructions
Phase 5: Statement/application of newly-constructed knowledge”


The complex nature of online learning calls for the use of multiple methods and multiple sources of data to understand group as well as individual learning”

“When used in conjunction with quantitative data, qualitative data can overcome some of the shortcomings of using quantitative data alone”

So ultimately, this paper doesn’t say a lot – great. 🙂
(At least some of the questions it raises are a little interesting – if not overly helpful) 

Thoughts on: Technology and human issues in reusing learning objects (Collis & Strijker, 2004)

Collis, B., & Strijker, A. (2004). Technology and Human Issues in Reusing Learning Objects. Journal of Interactive Media in Education. May (4). Retrieved 10 July 2006 from

This paper asks the question – will the rise of internet technology lead to greater re-use of learning resources

It then makes it’s position very clear – no.

A big problem I’m seeing with this paper is that it doesn’t clearly define learning objects

The two arguments for this are “…that human aspects not technology will constrain what will be done with learning objects. Our other argument is that the learning philosophy that seems to underlie many of the discussions and the technology relating to learning objects will limit their depth of development and impact”

Personally, these arguments seem a little thin but let’s dig in and take a proper look.

Collis and Strijker look at three different contexts that learning objects are used in and how the approaches in these three are fundamentally different.

“The most substantial problems however were related to incompatibilities with the local context and culture of the end users… The reusability of an electronic learning resource depends on its fit with the language, culture, curriculum, computer-use practices and pedagogical approaches of the potential learners and their instructors. Making this fit has proven to be very difficult”

The three contexts they look at are universities, corporate training and military training.

University context:

  • “instructors also design, develop and deliver courses, frequently bringing their research into the course materials”
  • instructor chooses how to structure the course
  • courses regularly updated to accommodate updated research
  • content may be more instructor specific
  • limited use of tutorial software
  • focus on developing higher level skills

Corporate context:

  • stronger emphasis on just-in-time learning
  • content may be industry generic (often outsourced) or business specific (developed in-house)
  • content regularly updated to match business changes
  • sharing and reusing objects/resources commonplace
  • learning tends to divide into formal, structured (often LMS based) and informal (peer, c.o.p based)
  • elearning seen (by the authors) as almost entirely online, little face to face (grudging acknowledgement of blended approaches)

Military context:

  • heavy emphasis on consistency of information
  • materials highly specialised and localised
  • materials developed in-house
  • strong task focus to learning

Comparing these three contexts:

  • university content the most divergent, focussed on the instructor who also develops it – reuse relates to reuse of their material in different courses
  • corporate must address the business needs and content is more fixed
  • universities are good at providing academics with templates, corporates assemble learner centred resource databases
  • military approach is fairly static and centralised, instructors generally not developers
  • all three approaches tend to separate classroom/lecture based learning from computer based training
  • uni’s use a LCMS, corporates use an LMS, military may also use an LMS but in a more secure way
  • uni – instructor considers the learning object their IP and may not share willingly, corporate learning objects are company property, reuse is more common, military learning objects more secret but reuse is important

Learning philosophies

The authors divide the two standard philosophies into knowledge-acquistion (behaviourism/directed learning) and participation (constructivism, social constructivism)

Participation approach 

  • more about learners contributing reusable learning objects
  • learning objects function as discussion sparks

Acquisition approach

  • this (according to the authors) is the approach taken by LMS’ (which I think is rubbish, it’s just a tool)
  • the “least complex of three levels of learning, followed by highly individual constructivist approaches where the goal is self-regulated learning and the highest and most-desirable level: collaborative learning, participation in a community and knowledge creation and sharing. (Maybe – and only maybe – in a university context but what about schools and VET – these researchers seem to forget that there is education before you turn 18)
  • “the snapshots and freezeframes of knowledge objects… are not to be mistaken for the processes of learning” (Lambe, 2002. pp. 5-6)

These authors clearly dislike learning objects – why are we being exposed to this level of negativity – if you don’t want to use it, fine, don’t but it doesn’t mean that don’t have usefulness.

Learning object lifecycle 

“A learning object can be seen as going through six distinct stages in it’s lifecycle: Obtaining or creating, labelling, offering, selecting, using and retaining”

What about designing?


“material is obtained in a digital form for easy distribution and adaptability”
How they are developed depends on the developer but Why comes down to the learning context.

University – to supplement the textbook by supporting classroom activities
Corporate – to make learning appealing and to cut costs by replacing instructors.  the object is ideally editable, compatible with inhouse technology and brand-able.
Military – for internal consistency and localisation

Where do they come from:

Universities – instructors resources, colleagues, projects, conferences, the web
Corporate – industry bodies, external vendors
Military – inhouse


Essentially tagging and metadata – database-oriented developers tools (such as Learning object repositories)


Universities: locating resources, organisation
Corporate: linking it to competencies, quality control
Military: archiving and reproduction, efficiency in recreating the resources (e.g shutterspeed of photos)

All of these Whys could easily be transferrable across the three contexts.


Where they come from  – see above


There may be associated tools that support selection of these materials – (which presumably use the aforementioned tagging) – as well as Competency Assessment Tools, which can test learners and recommend pertinent learning objects.

Instructors consider the relevance of the material to their context (well duh)


Pure (unchanged) or adapted – customised for the new environment.

Modification time, effort and expense means that the Pure versions can be better if they are appropriate (again, well duh)

Adaptation requires full access to all of the resources, without limitations. – “therefore the packaging of learning objects… is an essential method for distributing objects between systems. Distribution of packages includes the copying of learning objects instead of linking. By editing the learning object, a new instance or version of the learning material is created. Linking material is seen as an appropriate way to reuse material more than once.”

“The way a learning object is used reflects the underlying assumptions about how learning can be instantiated within a given context”


“After or during the actual use of a certain learning object that object can becom outdated and should therefore be deleted or revised” – like a textbook I guess. “New instances or versions may be created to revise the original object”


specifications / standards: quickly evolving and rather technical – need for some technical skill in developers

granularity: objects might need adaption at ” course, module, lesson or object level”

reuse: interoperability between systems, exchange of material and the relevant financial/licensing/copyright issues

meta-tagging: objective vs subjective metadata – objective comes from external sources, subjective may come from someone who doesn’t know what they are doing

access and privileges: confidentiality, copyright, classified material, network security, terrorism

usability: need to be easy to use

time and effort: metadata tagging doesn’t provide obvious initial benefits and isn’t as highly valued as it should be

pedagogical aspects: “the opinions of those involved about the potential pedagogical value of learning objects can vary enormously, particularly in different organisational contexts” – oh for goodness sake, this says absolutely nothing at all – why am I reading this rubbish?

organisational payoff:  “What’s in it for the organisation?” – ok, I’m out of here, this is getting ridiculous – what’s in any form of training for the organisation?

intrinsic motivation: “why should creators want to share their material? Spontaneous sharing on the world wide web rarely occurs in the corporate or military sectors…”

willingness: “is it a protected domain of knowledge”

support services : “What are the resources available for the human support of the different phases of the lifestyle” – well finally, an observation that doesn’t suck or state the blindingly obvious.

access and privileges: “Who can or cannot have access to learning objects?” – didn’t you already use this heading?

ownership and copyright: “who owns the material, the creator, the development group, the subject matter expert, the publisher, the internet provider, the host organisation or the organisation itself?” – same questions could be asked about textbooks.
Semantic web and ontologies: An answer? To what question?

The authors make the point that some people claim that learning objects will change learning forever because they are accessible and taggable but they believe that all 6 aspects of the lifecycle are equally important and the other 4 make things complicated.

They concede that the ability to share and search for resources using technology can be valuable and feel that intelligent use of resources will help resolve many of the implementation issues. They feel that they are best suited to knowledge transfer (acquisitional approach) but can’t help at higher levels (of course, you could always try developing something – oh, I don’t know, like a game – to address this)

They seem to feel that learning objects can’t/won’t be used in blended learning environments

I think our class did something bad and making us read that article was our punishment.

Building: A training level for a 3D game for real non-gamers (913)

One of the things I’ve discovered in using 3D games with people who don’t play them (at all) is that the concepts of moving and looking around the space can actually be quite challenging. I’ve had people actually report feeling a little nauseous from the experience, so the need for a very straight forward, highly directed instructional level became quickly apparent.

This is the initial stage of Playing the Game, my attempt to do this.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

There’s still a fair slab of work to come but I think it’s on track.

If you’re interested, I’ve attached the complete design statement which goes into much more detail. Design Statement for Playing the Game

Given the scaffolding nature of the skills being developed, it takes a fairly behaviourist directed learning approach, with each skill introduced and accomplished before the learner moves on to the next one.

Looking at: 2 case studies of multimedia learning objects

Bennett, S. and Reilly, P. (1998). Using interactive multimedia to improve operator training at Queensland Alumina Limited. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 14(2), 75-87.

Lockyer, L. & Bennett, S. (2003) Digital video cases: Investigating the effectiveness of technology-supported continuing professional education for general practitioners. In N. Smythe (Ed.), Proceedings of the Apple University Consortium Conference (pp. 13.1-13.7). (Proceedings published on CD-ROM.)

These are two papers published about the process of developing some multimedia learning resources. They are written by some of my uni lecturers, which makes this a little weird but I’ll press on anyway.

The first revolves around a package called Dual Diagnosis, which is designed to assist GPs with evaluating patients with both mental illness and substance dependencies. It includes video clip case study examples of patients attending a number of sessions with a doctor. It also has pre and post tests and a range of printed information and weblinks.  There is also the ability to take notes within the tool.

Overall this is a pretty well put together package (well, at least given my knowledge of medicine) – however one thing I would have found useful was more in depth feedback in the pre and post tests. It gives you a breakdown of the questions that  you got right and wrong but doesn’t reiterate what they were and what the correct answers should have been. This might have broken the elegance of the single page presentation but would have been more helpful.

“Case-based methods are considered to support learners in making links between theory and practice – specifically such methods support active, independent learning with authentic situations and interactions. (Bromley, 1986). Learners are required to analyse these ‘real-world’ problems, reflect on their understandings, interact with other learners and thus explore multiple perspectives and reflect upon or suggest a course of action. (Bennett, Harper and Hedberg, 2002). Specifically these strategies are seen to support deep understanding, critical analysis, decision-making and communication skill development”

This package was tested on two groups of GPs – one that had attended a face-to-face orientation session and another that hadn’t. This paper was written before the evaluation was complete but some of the responses to and concerns about the package were interesting – “Participants expressed concern about using it in an office setting – particularly with a patient in the office. They also identified that they already felt pressed for time and were unsure that they would find opportunity to work through the package. Some identified lack of access to a computer or were concerned that they might lack the necessary technology literacy to use the package”

This suggests to me that some people will instinctly react against the use of multimedia technology and that the design of the interface should be as simple as possible (which I think it is in this case) and probably should reflect something that the learner is already familiar and comfortable with.  

The second package is a fairly specific training package for alumina producers at an aluminium refinery in Queensland. It is very much about training workers in particular processes to ensure maximum efficiency and safety.

Bennett begins by illustrating the proven usefulness of multimedia in education.

“Interactive multimedia can offer a range of benefits over traditional training approaches by providing improved flexibility, cost and time effectiveness, consistency and availability… Forman (1995) identifies benefits and values in four major areas – organisational benefits, instructional benefits, learning effectiveness and business efficiency.l Multimedia can also provide improved and more consistent testing and administration… Keppell and Richards (1996) also suggest that self paced multimedia materials offer a private environment which enables trainees to review the material as many times as they wish”

The multimedia package was designed as a supplementary resource to the face to face instruction.

“A new training structure was designed which incorporated a multimedia tutorial which could be used before, during and after practical training sessions with an experienced operator”

There was a comprehensive development cycle used:

  1. Needs assessment
  2. Costing and scheduling
  3. Content collection
  4. Planning grid development
  5. Editorial
  6. Client review
  7. Revision and sign-off
  8. Image collection
  9. Digitising
  10. Authoring
  11. Audio
  12. Beta testing
  13. Client review
  14. Revision and sign-off
  15. Delivery
  16. Trial and evaluation

“These multimedia packages were developed to train operators of heavy mining equipment and were designed to address limited literacy and computer skills through the following strategies:

  • the use of simple direct language
  • limiting screen information to a single concept
  • logical explanations for procedures
  • use of graphics to support and explain text
  • use of large buttons
  • avoidance of icons
  • limited navigation options (next, back, help, quit, menu and settings”

“Further development of this model has seen the inclusion of optional, full narration which matches the on-screen text and text/audio help which provides an explanation of the features on each screen. Kenworthy (1993) recommends that information be both visualised and verbalised for poor readers and that supporting audio match on-screen text exactly to allow the identification of unfamiliar words.”

Those are some particularly handy hints – the use of audio in a lot of educational multimedia resources is very underdone and I think it should be used in most places that you have text. I was surprised by the avoidance of icons – maybe this means icons by themselves without accompanying text – I might have to follow that up.  

All in all a couple of interesting projects with some good detailed information about the multimedia design and development process.

Thoughts on: Principles of Instructional Design (Gagne, Briggs & Wagner 1992)

Gagne, R., Briggs, L., & Wagner, W. (1992). Principles of Instructional Design. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Javanovich. pp 185-204.

This is pretty well the first non-constructivism oriented reading I’ve had in this course so it’s been interesting to see the other side – as far as I can tell, the differences between the behaviourist/cognitivist and constructivist approaches aren’t nearly as vast as is made out and most of them are cosmetic in nature, aside from the emphasis on discovery learning, socially created meaning and a stronger focus on activity.

The behaviourist approach also benefits from having a much more detailed strategy for designing individual classes and activities, with the “9 instructional events” offering a fair amount of structure.

I read this chapter with a particular project in mind, for Instructional Strategies and Authoring we have been given the task of creating a prescriptive learning environment (to complement the democratic one from before) which is meant to draw heavily from the 9 events.

I felt that this could be an appropriate area to focus the “training level” of the Exploring the EDC game on – a pre-game level that teaches users (particularly non-gamers) how to move in and view a 3D environment as well as interact with objects and solve basic puzzles. The instructions that I included at the start of the previous game that I made (a single text based image) weren’t adequate for most of the first-time users who tried it out.

The prescriptive approach/environment seems very much about setting up clear outcomes and providing step by step instructions (with feedback) that allow learners to develop the scaffolding knowledge needed to move to the scenario based activities in the Exploring the EDC game. (Actually, this might need a new name – I think it’s now the CEE)

Here are the pertinent points from the chapter as well as the ideas this triggered and any other general ramblings that come to mind.

“Planning a course of instruction makes use of the principles… :determining what the outcomes of instruction are to be, defining performance objectives and deciding upon a sequence for the topics and lessons that make up the course.”

“During a lesson there is progress from one moment to the next as a set of events acts upon and involves the student. This set of events is what is specifically meant by instruction”

“Whatever the medium, the essential nature of instruction is most clearly characterised as a set of communications”

“The events of instruction are designed to make it possible for learners to proceed from “where they are” to the achievement of the capability identified as the target objective”

“Mostly however, the events of instruction must be deliberately arranged by an instructional designer or teacher”
This seems to be one of the biggest points of difference between the two approaches – one focusses on the activities of the teacher and the other on the learner – but they are both to the same end, learning.

“There is perhaps no better way to avoid the error of talking too much than to keep firmly in mind that communications during a lesson are to facilitate learning and that anything beyond this is mere chatter”

“The purpose of instruction, however it may be done, is to provide support to the processes of learning. It may, therefore, be expected that the kinds of events that constitute instruction should have a fairly precise relation to what is going on within the learner whenever learning is taking place”

“Each of the particular events that make up instruction functions to aid or otherwise support the acquisition and the retention of whatever is being learned. These functions of external events may be derived by consideration of the internal processing that makes up any single act of learning”

This seems to be making the same point in two (slightly wordy) ways, which, funnily enough is one of the key strategies in the instructional events.

Gagne’s approach is heavily tied to cognitive theories about the physical activies undertaken in the brain in the process of learning. This can be broken down (relatively simplistically perhaps) to:

  • Stimulation (i.e information/input) is “briefly registered by sensory registers” (e.g you see/hear it)
  • “This information is then changed into a form that is recorded in the short-term memory, where prominent features of the initial stimulation are stored”
  • These items may be retained by being internally rehearsed
  • Meaning is added to the information (semantic encoding) and it is transferred to long-term memory
  • “When learner performance is called for, the stored information or skill must be searched for and retrieved”
  • “It may then be transformed into action, by way of a response generator”
  • “Retrieved information is recalled to working/short-term memory, where it may be combined with other incoming information to form new learned capabilities”
  • “Learner performance itself sets in motion a process that depends upon external feedback, involving the familiar process of reinforcement”

From here, we pretty well move into the actual instructional events – just quickly, they are:

  1. Gaining attention
  2. Informing the learner of the objective
  3. Stimulating recall of prerequisite learning
  4. Presenting the stimulus material
  5. Providing learning guidance
  6. Eliciting the performance
  7. Providing feedback about performance correctness
  8. Assessing the performance
  9. Enhancing retention and transfer

I can see here how the constructivists take issue with the vibe of this approach, the language has an overly scientific feeling, as though learners are lab animals, but the principles in themselves seem sound when they are fleshed out.

1. Gaining Attention

“The initial event of gaining attention is one that supports the learning event of reception of the stimuli and the patterns of neural impulses they produce”

“Basic ways of commanding attention involve the use of stimulus change, as is often done in moving display signs or in the rapid cutting of scenes on a television screen. Beyond this, a fundamental and frequently used method of gaining attention is to appeal to the learner’s interests. A teacher may appeal to some particular student’s interests by means of a verbal question such as ‘Wouldn’t you like to know what makes a leaf fall from a tree?’ ”

This made me think about having some kind of video – maybe in fast-forward – of a screen capture of navigating through either the EDC game or maybe through the obstacle course/puzzle section of the training game.  

2.  Informing the learner of the objective

“This… is presumed to set in motion of process of executive control by means of which the learner selects particular strategies appropriate to the learning task and its expected outcome”

“In some manner or other, the learner should know the kind of performance that will be used as an indicator that learning has, in fact, been accomplished”

“What kind of purposeful activity might the learner be engaged in once the multiple objectives of the lesson have been achieved?”

Maybe (as mentioned) there is a final puzzle or series of actions to be achieved before the learner is able to access the EDC game – this of course raises the question of how to make the training level optional. There may be players who don’t need it or who have already completed it. This could be done by offering two initial doors for the player to choose from – however if they are already able to enter a door, they probably don’t need the training. 

3. Stimulating recall of prerequisite learning

“Much of new learning (some might say all) is, after all, the combining of ideas”

“Component ideas (concepts, rules) must be previously learned if the new learning is to be successful.

“The recall of previously learned capabilities may be stimulated by asking a recognition or, better, a recall question”

We could start with a look at navigation in 2D games – maybe even play some examples – Pong for up/down control, Breakout for left/right and move on to something like Pacman for 4 directional. Getting players used to the W,A,S,D controls is an early step – maybe after camera control with the mouse, maybe even before.  The idea of holding keys down to move is important.

Using the mouse to look around – need to get the concept across (not sure how) that it’s just like moving the cursor, only it’s not the cursor that moves, it’s the environment

Different kinds of learning outcomes for this event – by the nature of the capability to be learned

Intellectual skill – Essential for learner to retrieve to working memory prerequisite skills and concepts
Cognitive strategy – Recall task strategies and relevant intellectual skills
Verbal information –  recall familiar well organised bodies of knowledge related to the new learning
Attitude – recall the situation adn the actions involved in personal choice.
Motor skill – recall the executive subroutine and relevant part skills

4. Presenting the stimulus model

“The stimuli to be displayed (or communicated) to the learner are those involved in the performance that reflects the learning.”

“Stimulus presentation often emphasises features that determine selective perception. Thus, information presented in text may contain italics, bold print, underlining or other kinds of physical arrangements designed to facilitate perception of essential features. When pictures or diagrams are employed, important features of the concepts they display may be heavily outlined, circled or pointed to with arrows.”

“Stimulus presentation for the learning of concepts and rules requires the use of a variety of examples”

The variety of examples approach rings particularly true here, it’s useful because it supports transfer of an idea to other contexts.  

“Retention and transfer are also likely to be enhanced by presenting problems stated in words, in diagrams and in combinations of the two over a period of time” What about video? 

More concepts to cover in the game – jump and jump forward.  (Not entirely sure why this was triggered by this “event” but it’s where I wrote it down. Text based or video instruction? (Players walk up to tv units to trigger videos – like in GTA schools)

Different kinds of learning outcomes for this event – by the nature of the capability to be learned

Intellectual skill – Display the statement of the rule or concept, with example giving emphasis to component concepts Cognitive strategy – Describe the task and the strategy, and show what the strategy accomplishes
Verbal information – Display printed or verbal statements, emphasising distinctive features
Attitude – Human model describes the general nature of the choice of personal action to be presented
Motor skill – Display the situation existing at the beginning of the skill performance. Demonstrate executive subroutine

5. Providing learning guidance

This gets into the cognitivist side of things a little more, very much about structuring the information

“…These communications and others like them may be said to have the function of learning guidance. Notice that they do not “tell the learner the answer”; rather, they suggest the line of thought which will presumably lead to the desired “combining” of subordinate concepts and rules to form the new to-be learned rule”

“The amount of learning guidance, that is, the number of questions and the degree to which they provide “direct or indirect prompts” will obviously vary with the kind of capability being learned… If what is to be learned is an arbitrary matter such as the name for an object new to the learner (say a pomegranate), there is obviously no sense in wasting time with indirect hinting or questioning in that hope that somehow the name will be “discovered”. In this case, just telling the student the answer is the correct for of guidance for learning. At the other end of the spectrum, however, are cases where less direct prompting is appropriate because this is a logical way to discover the answer and such discovery may lead to learning that is more permanent than that which results from being told the answer”

“Too much guidance may seem condescending to the quick learner, whereas too little can simply lead to frustration on the part of the slow learner”

Different kinds of learning outcomes for this event – by the nature of the capability to be learned

Intellectual skill – Present varied examples in varied contexts; also give elaborations to furnish clues for retrieval Cognitive strategy – Describe the strategy and give one or more application examples
Verbal information – Elaborate content by relating to larger bodies of knowledge, use mnemonics, images
Motor skill – Continue practice with informative feedback

WASD mnemonic?

6. Eliciting the performance

“We must now ask them to show that they know how to do it. We want them not only to convince us, but to convince themselves as well. Accordingly, the next event is a communication that in effect says “show me” or “do it”. Usually, this first performance following learning will use the same example (that is, the same stimulus material) with which the learners have been interacting all along. ”

7. Providing feedback

“…as a minimum, there should be feedback concerning the correctness or degree of correctness of the learner’s performance”

Forms of feedback in the game – aural, a square (or other object) changes colour, a door opens

8. Assessing performance

“The immediate indication that the desired learning has occurred is provided when the appropriate performance is elicited. This is, in effect, as assessment of learning outcome”

“When one sees the learner exhibit a single performance appropriate to the lesson objective, how does the observer or teacher tell that he or she has made a reliable observation?”

In the puzzle/obstacle course section, needing to repeat several, increasingly complex steps (preferably involving a lava pit 🙂 

“How is the teacher to be convinced that the performance exhibited by the learner is valid? This is a matter that requires two different decisions. The first is, does the performance in fact accurately reflect the objective?… The second judgement, which is no easier to make, is whether the performance has occurred under conditions that make the observation free of distortion? As an example, the conditions must be such that the student could not have “memorized the answer” or remembered it from a previous occasion. The teacher much be convinced, in other words, that the observation of performance reveals the learned capability in a genuine manner”

9. Enhancing retention and retrieval

“When information or knowledge is to be recalled, the existence of the meaningful context in which the material has been learned appears to offer the best assurance that the information can be reinstated”

Maybe the training level should use similar decor to the game level? 

“As for the assurance of transfer of learning, it appears that this can best be done by setting some variety of new tasks for the learner – tasks that require the application of what has been learned in situations that differ substantially from those used for the learning itself”

 Or maybe it should use different decor. Have to think about that one. The tasks in the actual Exploring the EDC game will certainly offer the variety.

“Variety and novelty in problem-solving tasks are of particular relevance to the continued development of cognitive strategies. As has previously been mentioned, the strategies used in problem solving need to be developed by the systematic introduction of occasions for problem solving, interspersed with other instructions.”

Interesting to see that constructivism doesn’t have the lock on higher level skill development, particularly in problem solving, that I’ve regularly read about.

Gagne (et al) wraps up by saying:

“In using the events of instruction for lesson planning, it is apparent that they must be organised in a flexible manner, which primary attention to the lesson’s objectives”

So it’s a relatively flexible system after all

One final thought about the game itself, maybe as some kind of reward there could be an art gallery that they could explore 

Thoughts on: Computer-mediated communication, elearning and interactivity (Bannan-Ritland, 2002)

Bannan-Ritland, B. (2002). Computer-mediated communication, elearning, and interactivity. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 3(2), 161-179.

Perhaps this is a display of my ignorance about academic writing but the fact that it takes Bannan-Ritland 7 pages to explain the method that she used to create this overview of academic writings that relate to interaction (particularly finding a definition for the term) seems pretty counter-productive and makes for some rather turgid reading. (Given that it only took her a couple of paragraphs to explain that there is a fair degree of difference of opinion in the writings about the definition)

Once she gets going though it gets much better and some interesting ideas about the nature of interaction are covered.

“Interaction can be viewed as a function of:

  1. learners participation or active involvement
  2. specific patterns and amounts of communication
  3. instructor activities and feedback
  4. social exchange or collaboration
  5. instructional activities and affordances of the technology

She goes on to look at the papers that address each of these possible definitions and look at examples

Interactivity as defined by Active involvement by the learner

“the researchers concluded that students have specific goals for each interaction in an eLearning environment, including getting help or sharing information related to the content of the course, getting help on the technology, submitting homework and participating in discussion to exchange ideas of socializing”

The Gunawardena, Lowe and Anderson (1997) model of knowledge construction “relies on an active view of knowledge construction by the learner that moves through five phases, including:

  1. sharing/comparing of information
  2. discovery and exploration of dissonance or inconsistency among ideas, concepts or statements
  3. negotiation of meaning and/or co-construction of knowledge
  4. testing and modication of proposed synthesis or co-construction
  5. phrasing of agreement, statements and applications of newly constructed meaning

Interactivity as defined by Patterns of Communication among learners/instructors

“Identifying the purpose of online messages as organizing, lecturing, humanizing or expressing opinions provided a detailed view of interaction patterns in an eLearning environment”

“Vrasidas and McIsaac (1999) explicitly and broadly defined interactivity as “reciprocal actions of two or more actors within a given context” (p. 25)… In addition, data on teacher and student views of interaction were collected, ultimately determining that multiple factors such as structure of course, class size, feedback and prior experience with CMC influence interaction”

Synchronous communication was determined to be more interactive, demonstrating a type of discourse mimicking face-to-face interaction. Asynchronous communication was more constrained than synchronous but also more complex”

“Also in a small group context, Ahern and Durrington (1995-6) investigated the effects of anonymity and interaction in a computer-mediated discussion and found that anonymity promotes increased participation by students”

Interactivity defined as Instructor/Learner communication

Mahesh and McIsaac (1999) operationalized interactivity as the dynamic of instructor-student communication and the actions of the instructor to encourage communication among students. Instructor time spent on these activities also provided an operational definition of interactivity in this study”

“These researchers concluded that eLearning is dependent on the personal and unique style of instructors and their activities in an online course as well as instructional and logistical factors”

Interactivity as Social, Cooperative or Collaborative Exchange

…messages that asked questions, answered questions, provided support, clarified ideas, built consensus and contained social messages were interactive in nature. Asynchronous bulletin board conferencing provided more task-related messages and were more appropriate for self-reflection, while synchronous chat demonstrated more interactivity… and much less task-oriented communication”

Interactivity as a Range of Instructional Activities and Technologies

Luetkehans (1999) determined that interactivity is most prominent in contexts where multiple strategies and activities, including instructor feedback, collaborative learning strategies and multiple technology mechanisms encourage student participation”

Bannan-Ritland moves on to examine the specific types of eLearning interactions identified in the literature

  • learner-self
  • learner-human (learner-learner, learner-instructor)
  • learner-non-human
  • learner-instruction

“structure, class size, feedback to students and participants prior experience with CMC are prominent variables related to interaction”

“teachers are more concerned about the level of participation and interaction with students in an eLearning course than a traditional one and… students stated that a lack of feedback from both instructors and their peers contributed to feelings of isolation and dissatisfaction with the course”

Bannan-Ritland identifies some gaps in the current research (or at least in the research she investigated)

“This review did not reveal any studies focusing on learner-non-human interactions, nor did the review reveal research that demonstrated the higher-level learner instruction interactions that incorporate a meta-level strategy or deliberate arrangement of events”

Some of the key findings that Bannan-Ritland drew from her review are that:

  • high levels of interaction need to be modeled by the instructor for students
  • a cooperative goal structure requiring students to interact with other students can promote interaction
  • Asynchronous and synchronous forms of communication afford different instructional strategies
  • instructor’s teaching style and background impacts course design, structure and level of interactivity implemented
  • small groups using asynchronous communication demonstrate task-directed behaviour in problem solving
  • instructors should expect to spend more time on an eLearning course than a traditional one
  • sychronous discussions are highly interactive and demonstrate more student control
  • asynchronous mode offers more complex language than synch and primarily demonstrated student responses to teacher requests
  • instructor or subject matter expert needed to draw out new concepts
  • pair advanced students as mentors to novices
  • promote issue-based introductory questions allowing students to develop own ideas and thoughts.

The summary of all the research papers at the end – broken down by focus, types of interactions and conclusions is the most useful part of this as it is packed with good practical tips.

Thoughts on: Online learning communities: Investigating a design framework (Brook & Oliver 2003)

Brook, C. and Oliver, R. (2003). Online learning communities: Investigating a design framework. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 19(2), 139-160.

Begins with a quick overview of some of the benefits of collaboration and community interaction in learning:

  • increased motivation
  • promoting learning achievement
  • enhanced perception of (and satisfaction with) skill development
  • nurturing, socialisation & support

“modern societies tending to develop more relational communities… or communities of the mind”

“a learning community is characterised by a willingness of members to share resources, accept and encourage new membership, regular communication, systematic problem solving and a preparedness to share success (Moore & Brooks, 2000)”

“Potentially negative influences include the need for members to conform and the subsequent loss of individuality… and the potential to hoard knowledge and thus restrict innovation… Also noteworthy is the potential for community structures to exert pressure on some individuals to engage in nonconforming rather than conforming behaviours, resulting in dissidents and the formation of sub-communities..”

“Sense of community is based on an attachment relationship and this relationship is not based on the interactions with any one member of the community but instead with any member (Hill, 1996)”

“Sense of community has been defined as ‘a sense that members have a belonging, members matter to one another and to the group and a shared faith that member’s needs will be met through their commitment to be together'(McMillan & Chavis, 1986p.9)

Strategies to support a good online community might include:

  • a common symbol system
  • establishing a common purpose
  • facilitating frequent and easy meetings
  • developing a sense of place
  • being non-judgemental

“Constructionism is seen as offering an important bridge between cognitive and sociocultural perspectives on cognitive development, by arguing that individual development cycles are enhanced by shared constructive activity in the social environment. Furthermore, social settings are enhanced by the cognitive development of the individual”

“It has been suggested that the social construction of knowledge in the online environment progresses through five sequential phases (Gunawardena, Lowe & Anderson, 1997):

Sharing and comparing of information: statements of opinion and observation and corroborating examples provided by one or more participants characterise phase one

The discovery of exploration of dissonance or inconsistency among ideas, concepts or statements: Phase two identifies and states areas of disagreement, and perhaps escalates conflict through reference to research or experience

The negotiation of meaning: exploration of meaning and the identifying of areas of agreement characterise phase three

Testing and modification of proposed synthesis or co-construction: phase four is characterised by testing the proposed synthesis against ‘received fact’; as shared by the participants and/or their culture

Agreement statements and the application of newly constructed meaning: metacognitive statements by the participants, illustrating their understanding that their new knowledge or ways of thinking have changed, characterise phase five.

People may participate in communities because of the perceived benefits even if their nature is to avoid such interactions – teachers may need to emphasise the benefits in ‘selling’ the community

“Factors that may influence community development include policies…, the discipline and education level of the course…, the instructor… and the students. At a process level, influencing factors include the purpose the community serves in the lives of its members.., support for communication…, the nature of meetings… and the gathering place…”

Some ideas, tips and strategies: 

“It has been suggested that the role of the instructor is pivotal in the development of online learning communities… The manner in which this role is approached depends on the characteristics and beliefs of the instructor…, including educational philosophies…, perceptions of self as either connected of separate… and perceptions of their role. Other considerations include the instructor’s online experience, the nature of the social environment they develop and the manner in which they manage the learning environment”

“The nature of the cohort, including the number of participants, may also influence community development strategies. In asynchronous environments, groups size is recommended to be no larger than 25, while 10 is suggested for the synchronous environment”

“Groups that are dominated by individuals who perceive themselves as separate are likely to be characterised by competition, while those dominated by connected individuals are likely to be characterised by cooperation”

“Essential in the formation of all communities is the purpose that the community serves in the lives of its members”

“Purpose may reflect the manner in which student participation is encouraged. Suggestions include mandated participation through the allocation of grades…, providing an increase in intellectual resources through guest experts…, presenting a problem or disorienting dilemma… and linking activities to the lived in world…  The purpose and context may also be established through encouraging collaborative construction of knowledge…, facilitated through group work or projects… or by the instructor acting as an agent provocateur”

“An essential requirement for community development is regular and meaningful meetings… Communication may be encouraged through grading participation, based on the quantity or quality of communications…, requesting responses…, establishing a sense of positive outcome as a result of belonging… and encouraging members to pay their dues.”

“Setting an appropriate pace and schedule for participation that maintains active engagement, without dominating the learning experience, may provide further support”

“Strategies that promote connectedness include engendering the human elements of community… and establishing user profiles… Additional strategies include welcoming new members, sharing wisdom, resolving problems and sharing success…”

I think that the user profiles part in particular is important – the more you know about someone the more interested you are in what they have to say. Questions might also be framed in such a way that learners are encouraged to relate them directly to their experiences, bringing personal anecdotes to the discussion. An initial face-to-face orientation session is also a useful idea as a way of creating connections – maybe voice or even video chat (even avatar based) could add something. – Maybe a chat session in second life?

  “Supporting communication includes assisting students in becoming proficient with the technology…, developing text based communication skills… and instituting a sequencing of activities…”

“Due to the more independent nature of the online learning environment, there is a need to support students in managing their own learning experience including setting goals and prioritising tasks… It is also useful to provide weekly reminders… and clearly state roles and responsibilities…”

“Given the importance of non-verbal factors in communication…, which are to a large extent absent in text based environments…, helping students develop text based communication skills may also support community development…”

The rather glaring alternative to this – or perhaps supplement – is to be less reliant on text for communication – again, audio, video, images and virtual world based communication  might help level the playing field a little here. I’d say that half of the fellow students in my class have English as a second language and while you get the gist of what they are saying in text, it may well come across more effectively in other ways.  

There’s a bit of other stuff about encouraging respect and trust with codes of conduct – I’d suggest that these be generated by the group and possibly even subject to regular review. It also talks about creating a greater sense of place by using welcoming messages (hmm maybe) and acknowledging individual contributions, making sure that trade in ideas and information is fair (some people will just lurk, it’s the nature of the boards) and avoiding anonymity and “electronic self”s

Quite a few interesting ideas which draw on a lot of research that has come before – I would have liked to have seen a few more specific strategies for encouraging contributions beyond the initial entry point but all in all, this is a useful piece of writing.