Week 8 9 – A2: An overview of learning design

Read Beetham’s chapter, ‘An approach to learning activity design’, and make notes on the key concepts. Concentrate in particular on these sections: ‘Defining a learning activity’ and ‘Designing with digital resources and technologies’.

Here’s a summary of the main points that I found most relevant in Beetham’s chapter:

“A model of learning activity design is presented, and a range of tools to support design for learning are introduced.”

“Design for learning should therefore focus primarily on the activities undertaken by learners, and only secondarily on (for example) the tools or materials that support them.”

“A learning activity, therefore, is an entity that is meaningful to the learner, given his or her current level of expertise.” This is shown by Beetham when differentiating between a postgraduate and a college student where the different level of maturity means that the same goal will be achieved through activities which have different levels of structuring.

Beetham highlights the following 5 different theories . These are important as they show how persons learn from different perspectives;

  • Authenticity of the activity
  • Formality and structure
  • Retention/reproduction versus reflection/internalization
  • The role and importance of other people
  • Locus of control

Defining a Learning Activity: ” a specific interaction of learner(s) with other(s) using specific tools and resources, orientated towards specific outcomes.”

Jonassen (2000) classifies activities as rule-based, incident-based, strategy-based or role-based. These three models are variations of the Activity Theory discussed by Engestrom.

In learner centred environments, the needs and goals of the learner will be of first concern. It is important that the learning is meaningful to the learner and it is the nature of the learning outcome that makes it so. “Learners are understood to have different priorities, preferences and approaches to learning and different requirements for support. Accessibility and inclusion are also issues that have moved beyond the ‘special needs’ agenda. Now the aim is to make all learning facilities adaptive to individual needs (Dagger et al. 2005).”

The setup of the environment in which learning is taking place will influence the activity being undertaken. Thus I agree with the author when saying that the media being used will influence the learning and such media might give different results when used in different environments. The idea of technological tools being motivating and ‘interactive’ depends on the context in which they are being used.

“With these tools as mediators, learning activities can take place in an entirely represented space: for example using models, simulations and complex digital environments (e.g. the Visible Human Project, National Library of Medicine 2006). As we live and work in an increasingly designed, artefactual environment, this kind of learning becomes arguably more relevant and ‘real’.”

Advantages of Digital Technologies: “The main intrinsic benefits of digital resources are their greater flexibility of access, reproduction and manipulation. Simply being able to study at a time, place and pace to suit them can profoundly change learners’ relationships with conceptual material.”

“Laurillard distinguishes five different media ‘types’ – narrative, communicative, interactive, productive and adaptive – with different capacities to mediate learning.” An appendix 3 is mentioned here. Is it possible for us to gain access to the full paper?

For obvious reasons, when designing activities, the learners’ confidence and competence in the use of technological tools should be taken into account. If the learner does not have access or maybe has limited access to such tools, the main actor aka the learner will be hindered from the actual learning. To this I would add that when designing, the needs of the ‘teacher’ should be also be taken into account. It is not worthwhile for example to build activities where students may be using a wiki and then the teacher does not have any experience in such a tool. In such a case the ‘expert’ cannot participant in the learning process due to an inability to communicate through the medium being used!

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Whether a learning activity is meaningful depends on the level of expertise that the learner has. This is shown by Beetham example when differentiating between a postgraduate and a college student where the different level of maturity means that the same goal will be achieved through activities which have different levels of structuring. Thus when dealing with a real activity or at least simulating this activity, the learning can take place only if this presented in a meaningful way. In learner centred environments, the needs and goals of the learner will be of first concern. It is important that the learning is meaningful to the learner and it is the nature of the learning outcome that makes it so. The setup of the environment in which learning is taking place will influence the activity being undertaken. Thus I agree with the author when saying that the media being used will influence the learning and such media might give different results when used in different environments. The idea of technological tools being motivating and ‘interactive’ depends on the context in which they are being used. If the learner does not have access or maybe has limited access to such tools, the main actor aka the learner will be hindered from the actual learning. To this I would add that when designing, the needs of the ‘teacher’ should be also be taken into account. It is not worthwhile for example to build activities where students may be using a wiki and then the teacher does not have any experience in such a tool. In such a case the ‘expert’ cannot participant in the learning process due to an inability to communicate through the medium being used!

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