The Components of Technology-Mediated Learning
- Physical textbooks – obtained through lead institution or obtained locally
- Printable digital material, eg “PDFs”
- HTML (if little enough to be comfortably read on-screen)
- Recorded lectures (both formal lectures and ad hoc explanations filmed on a web cam or cell phone)
- Case studies
- Laboratory experiments
- Primary sources, eg news clips, documentaries, interviews, movie clips…
- Allowing learners to experiment cheaply and safely with real life concepts
- Origins of content
- Custom-made resources
- Bought-in resources (reusable learning objects, possibly adapted to purpose)
- Authentic material, guided / un-guided journey through the Web…
- Formative / summative
- For guidance of learner (formative)
- To award certification (summative)
- Computer marked
- Multiple choice
- Short answer
- Immediate feedback
- Links to further explanation
- Can be randomized to provide an “infinite” number of different tests from single question bank
- Progress tracking (to show improvement, highlight areas for inprovement)
- Performance aggregation (ie identifying class strengths/weaknesses to guide further instruction)
- Tutor marked
- Computer as efficient and secure delivery mechanism
- Accountability of tutor and learner, ie time-stamping, online status reports
- Individual / group
- Collaborative tools
- Peer assessment
- Authentication issues
- How do we know WHO is taking the test?
- Plagiarism issues
- How do we know work is the learner’s own?
- Same technology that provides mass access to knowledge can also be used to check whether that knowledge has been used inappropriately.
- Synchronous / asynchronous
- Thinking on one’s feet v Reflection time
- Teacher-student / student-student
- Reach, ie public domain / whole class / limited groups (many-to-many / one-to-one)
- Learning as a conversation, eg the models of Pask and Laurillardsee Conversation Theory – Wikipedia;and Laurillard’s Conversational Framework for Instruction from St Mary’s University of Minnesota
- Participation required / assessed?
- How to assess participation? Hopefully quality rather than quantity.
- Is it legitimate to assess process rather than outcome?
- May be viewed as a non-essential “add-on” by strategic learners
- Text / audio / audio-visual (video conferencing)
- Does voice & picture add value?
Key Technologies for Learning
Web design, HTML, CSS. The Web browser is a universal interface and the means by which much technology-mediated learning is delivered to the learner. Usability and accessibility are key factors in designing for learning.
Open source software. In keeping with the academic origins of the Internet there is a huge range of open source software available (including LMSs such as Claroline, Moodle, Sakai). Not only is this software free to use but is distributed with source code which may be modified to precisely suit specific needs (so long as the modified code is also made freely available).
XML eXtensible Markup Language. XML is rapidly becoming the standard for the storage and transfer of textual information. XML facilitates the sharing of learning resources and also their re-purposing eg a single piece of learning (single source “master” file) may be delivered in print, online, on CD-ROM, to mobile devices…
Streaming media. The production and preparation of audio and video elements supporting learning and deliverable across the Web.
Multimedia authoring. The creation of animations and simulations to enhance learning using software such as Macromedia Flash. The synthesis of multimedia assets into a satisfying learning experience using software such as Macromedia Director.
Many thousands of professors in many institutions around the world teach similar courses. In many cases these professors produce their own materials in support of those courses. While these materials may be perfectly adequate for purpose they represent a vast amount of wasted effort of highly talented labor in terms of re-inventing wheels. And although adequate the materials are usually not “best of breed”.
Learning objects are pre-packaged learning resources of very high quality. They represent a much greater investment of time and effort than the individual professor’s materials. The text book is an example of a learning object with a long history. The growth of the Internet and computer technology allows learning objects of a much higher degree of sophistication. Digital learning objects may easily be shared, cataloged, located and retrieved.
Already the development of standards to facilitate interoperability of learning objects is well underway. Likely developments include a learning object economy and a separation of content production from learner support.