Personal:Learning :: Environment:Design

English Online's - Personal Language Learning Environment
English Online’s – Personal Language Learning Environment

Did the title capture your attention? I thought the audience of #oldsmooc might appreciate a little logical analogy.  However, this blog is not a proof, so much as an exploration of my current understanding of learning design (an activity in Week 1: Initiate).  Suggested readings can be found in BibSonomy. In many of these suggested readings, I kept coming across the term: sequence.  This term suggests to me an underlying order, structure, or process along which learning is intended.  I understand this ‘sequence’ in the term ‘scaffolding’ for knowledge acquisition or skills development. However, the term ‘sequence’ feels very linear and directive, perhaps more appropriate for K-12 foundational learning, but not higher or continuing education. Adult learners can (and want to) pick and choose learning elements based on their needs; they might not be satisfied with a linear approach or teacher-directed plan.  I have more reading to do and will likely re-read a few as I progress through the next few weeks.

One way to analyse the meaning of learning design is to reflect on the design of the #oldsmooc Week 1.  The #oldsmooc is after all about learning design, so one would expect that the developers of this mooc would want to model best learning design practices.  There was an obvious sequence of activities with combined application of a variety of online techtools along with the integration of community interaction.  There was one post that criticized, in the poster’s opinion, a seemingly rigid structure. The moderators were quick to encourage choice and the development of weekly personal goals.  The choice of learning design project was left to participants as was the formation of groups.  Although lightly done, I feel, there was a strong emphasis on peer-to-peer engagement with activities to establish teams and study circles. The design of Week 1 provided supports for those navigating (new-to-them) web applications (i.e. getting started Slideshare and daily summaries).  For the practised MOOCers, there was enough content to keep them busy.  Personally, Week 1 was more about the process than the content.  As a learner, I was much more engaged in getting set up, navigating the technology and thinking about project plans and meeting potential teammates.  However, there were others who were ready to jump into #oldsmooc with projects ready to express.  For me, I am playing catch up, to understand more about the learning design model so that I an apply, question, understand its principles (although the Larnaca document seems to suggest that learning design may be pedagogically neutral, I am not sure and am still developing an opinion).  I will give into the process of the #oldsmooc to understand how learning design will be revealed in the activities and further reading.

In the open discussion on Learning Design, participants used metaphors of artist canvas, discussed outcomes, content expertise, creation of activities and summarized a variety of learning models. There were several references to individual connotation’s of the  term ‘design’ and the teachers role in the learning design context.  I find I am most drawn to Brownwyn Hegarty’s ‘steam’ of a learner centric model.  For me, learning design is ‘learner’ design.  The learner defines the goals for learning and seeks out the requisite learning objects, activities, people, experts, research, colleagues, courses and communities to design meaningful learning. This #oldsmooc is open for learners to pick and choose activities; the projects are learner driven and the expression is multimodal and up to the comfort level of each participant.  I appreciate that there is a start and end to this particular MOOC because the dialogue is much more engaging in ‘real’ or close to ‘real’ time.  I also appreciate the synchronicity  of the course because it is establishing a ready to go community of practise and personal learning network.

Often educators give a head-nod to the rhetoric of learner centred programming but have little way to consider meeting individual needs.  It is a difficult and perhaps insurmountable task to meet everyone’s needs.  Learning design can provide a way for educators to relinquish that burden and control by facilitating pathways to knowledge rather than ‘delivering’ it.  I believe an important consideration for learning design in the 21stC is choice and variety. Content needs to be available in a variety of ways and learners need to be supported in their navigation of the material.  Learning is personal. Individuals have different needs and motivations, gaps in knowledge and skills.  Learning organizations can teach to the middle or incorporate a learning design that allows learners to be able to pick and choose from different learning options to reach their goals.  Design is environmental. The political, cultural  and technological environments will influence design. Choices in programs, delivery, etc. will be determined by the policy  barriers or lack of in the development of learning options.

I look forward to my next reflection, as I have much more to say about autonomous learning and the role of teacher.

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