Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Quick Look at Six Effective e-Learning Design Elements

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In the article "Elements of Effective e-Learning Design" by Andrew R. Brown and Bradley D. Voltz, the authors introduce six elements of design in e-learning for K-12 where they consider "e-learning" as teaching and learning "delivered, supported, and enhanced through the use of digital technologies and media and may involve "face-to-face, distance, and mixed mode or blended delivery models." 

They use  examples from the work of The Le@rning Federation (TLF). 

The first element is activity which takes into consideration that the learning occurs in the student's mind and body. Further, what are the actions and challenges the learning offers the student? Through the exploration of two examples, the authors conclude that "an appropriate and clearly evident activity is fundamental to an effective learning outcome" that the "integrity of the activity" has to be maintained throughout the developmental stages of creating an e-learning experience. 

The second elements is scenario which assists "the activity to have meaning." A scenario is usually contained in a "story, role play, or simulation" and is most likely fictional, but learning and skills are developed through it that connect to real world situations and provide authentic learning. The authors make reference to techniques used in entertainment products and stress the need to clearly identify the target audience for true engagement and stimulation. 

The third element is feedback which can be a major challenge for e-learning that involves domains that "have traditionally relied heavily on interpersonal communication." The timeliness of feedback is important and can be enhanced, in some situations, through automation. The ability to monitor work in progress in a synchronous fashion can also be an effective design feature, as well as feedback at the completion of the learning activity. Feedback from a "broader range of people" where the student work is presented in a public online forum was also highlighted. 

The fourth element is delivery. The chosen method of delivery of e-learning "should aim" to maximize student engagement with the activity, while enhancing "stimulating contexts," and allowing for effective feedback and reflection, Delivery can sometimes challenge the existing technologies available to the designer, and it may also lead the designer to consider "simpler delivery strategies...even ones that are not electronic."

The fifth element is context where the designer must consider materials that can be suitable "for use as a stane along resource" without a "detailed level of teacher input." Citing an example, the authors point out that this area of design is challenging in regard to "explanatory clarity of instructional design." Two other concerns in regard to context are scaffolding and appropriate assessment activities when creating the e-learning environment. 

The sixth and last element is influence which considers the ethical questions in regard to e-learning design. In the process of design, designer must continually be considering how the e-learning content will benefit the learner, other people, and the environment. "Designers need to act in a responsible and ethical manner to ensure that the impact of their e-learning design is of benefit to the learner, society, and the environment."

The conclusion of this article argues that these elements can act as an anchor for the e-learning design even within a storm of many challenges, such as "complexities" and "contradictory pressures" that can surface during the developmental stages.

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