Summative Statement

Having never blogged before it took me a while to get my head around the process of how blogging could inform my practical design work. My initial blogs were quite short and disjointed – then I got into the hang of things and I believe that the complexity and relevancy of my blogs improved. I am aware of the fact that my blogs do not necessarily follow a logical continuance, but I feel that there are so many varied tangents within and around my research subject that it would actually stunt my research to limit myself to a singular mindset of the path of my research journey. I have allowed new findings to lead my next piece of research.

My approach to this research task as a whole was to start by further investigating some of the key themes that arose from compiling my annotated bibliography. My initial method was to aim to collate all of the relevant data that I could find and then assess the whole for the purpose of practical implementation once this was done – rather than researching, then undertaking practical work, researching again and then practical work again etc. My logic for this working method was that, having been a full-time Graphic Designer for eight years now, I am used to working from a brief and asking outlying questions so that I have the whole picture before embarking upon a design. I saw this task in the same way – with the blog effectively becoming my (somewhat abstract) brief. I also want to create something new in my practical design work, so I need to understand everything that is currently out there in order to be original (as much is physically possible anyway). I generally like to feel fully informed before undertaking design tasks or projects.

In reference to source material for my blog, my research method was always going to be internet-centric from the outset, as my research theme is very academic and conceptual, and not necessarily something that is easily inspired within the public domain. Having said this, as my blog developed I could see this as being a limitation in my research methodology and I made efforts to change my approach and step away from my computer and seek real-world examples by viewing hardware for e-reading or e-learning in retail electrical shops and also reviewing the education section of book shops. In addition my current employment within an academic course-and-publishing company has supported my research. I have a unique role that affords me access to classrooms where I can observe real-world educational contexts and apply learning from them to my own practice.

Another observation that I would make of my research methodology is that I would reguarly find myself going off on a research tangent by following up interesting sub-articles and links within the original research piece that I found. The authors would discuss in brief a supporting or relevant additional concept that then sparked enthusiasm in me and led me to read the discussed content further. The benefit found in this method was that I found some of the most useful and interesting research of this task within the bibliographies and related links to content within the original research that I undertook. The downside to this method was that it would take me some time to come back to the original article that I was reading. Perhaps going forward I would be better off noting the interesting sub-articles or themes and returning to them after I have finished reviewing the original reference source.

The theme of my research has also changed in the course of creating this blog. Initially I focused on a medium on which to impose my research learning (e-textbooks). Having now created the blog I see the opposite approach being necessary; I see the theme as now being the central focus of my research and I will apply the findings to an appropriate medium once I have evolved my research to the point where I feel I am informed enough to effectively design in order to problem-solve, or at least to design for what I see as a problem within currently available electronic learning resources.

Some of the concepts discussed in my blog were already known to me, and the research I found simply solidified and justified my thoughts. There were though, a number of new concepts that I came across that surprised and interested me. These also turned out to be the key themes within this subject area at present. ‘Gamification’, ‘Deep Learning Design’ and ‘Ubiquitous Computing’ emerged as key themes that to some extent surprised me and also excited me as they all held significant relevance to my field of research and were, in part, abstract concepts that evolved upon previous thinking in the field. Gamification in particular came to me later into the research path and is something that I definitely need to research deeper than I have done in order to better inform my design work. Ubiquitous Computing is also fascinating and, whilst somewhat scary in its capabilities, offers up a whole new world of supporting technological advancements that could benefit e-learning, in particular mobile learning. I will be spending a large part of my remaining research time as part of my practical work investigating the pragmatic implications of these areas.

To conclude, in creating my blog I have been inspired and motivated to apply research to practical application. To blend different e-learning technologies and concepts from related fields (such as psychology). I am now keen to embark upon some highly conceptual designs and I am also much clearer as to how I would like my practical work to evolve. I have seen a gap in the market for an eLearning course that really embodies all of the research findings surrounding deep learning. It has been an incredibly enjoyable experience discovering how I can convert theory into practice. Going forward I see my blog site as a means by which to store and refer to research and additional relevant links to content that I can refer back to when undertaking my practical work.

Here are some final thoughts that I have had regarding my practical work after assessing the content of my blog so far:

  • I would like to look into how support content that is available through hyperlinks in e-textbooks or amongst e-learning courses could open within the book or program itself. I feel that this would better facilitate learning through users being able to better navigate between key and supporting content. In addition it would enable learners to compare points made in support content with that seen in the key text directly, side by side. Note-making as a third simultaneous activity would be a step further again to facilitating deep-learning.
  • Gamification is a huge subject in the field at the moment and one that I would like to investigate further. I am keen to develop a short e-learning program that functions as a game.
  • Younger audiences learn quicker and adapt to new technologies quicker than older audiences. I need to be mindful of always evolving my designs so that the avant garde doesn’t become the status quo.
  • Templates for deep-learning are open to abuse – as could be seen in the Cengage Music example. This is something to really consider going forward. Designer as actor or pre-constructor?
  • Human emotions are key – could a piece of software be developed within ubiquitous computing fields whereby an in-device camera could record a user’s clothing colour and then customise the colour scheme of the learning program to match?
  • My practical design work needs to incorporate a blend of working memory aides, emotional stimulants and schema assessment along with strong layouts.

The work of others

I wanted to just highlight a few companies that offer eLearning software services. I need to further analyse them all and apply the learning to my practice work.

CCS Digital Education


CCS Digital Education

Cengage

Cengage is a leading eLearning provider aimed at the k-12 professional and library markets.

“What you learn is not remembered, it is known!”

Smartsparrow

Smartsparrow, are all about customized interactive content including visualizations. The software assesses a users learning style and then amends the content delivering method and speed based on this continuous assessment.

 

Trends towards on-screen learning

It is true to say that online distance-learning courses are on the increase. Perhaps in part, or more than that, because of advancements in technology; the tools are becoming ever more readily available and affordable to facilitate sophisticated peer-reviewed online programmes to be developed. See my related post regarding the prototype O-Programme being developed by Microsoft for example.

Is this trend also, in part, due to the human race’s increased mobilisation, creating a need to study anywhere at any time? Also, in a society where we are encouraged to constantly better ourselves and strive towards better roles in employment there is an increased demand for e-learning courses, particularly for professional development.

I undertook some research focused on finding out a bit more about what’s hot in online learning at the moment. I hereby cite a number of industry experts and their opinions and experience on what will be the trends in 2016:

Cyril AndersonInstructional Designer

Cyril sees the hot topics of 2016 being ‘Just in time’ eLearning courses along with those that offer informal learning. Delivered as short, self contained corporate training modules.

In addition Cyril sees the increasing rise of MOOCs as platforms for continuing professional development (CPD). Cyril quotes Udacity and Udemy as companies at the forefront of these movements. I need to spend more time reviewing these two company to see how my practical work aligns with them both.

Interestingly Cyril also states that programs that deliver seamlessly integrated experiences across multi-devices and multi-screens are going to be on-trend. Devices that would be integrated to deliver eLearning will include:

  • Desktop pc’s
  • Tablets and mobile phones
  • Wearable technology, e.g. a watch (augmented reality)
  • In-car entertainment
  • Home entertainment consoles.

I would also mention glasses here as another form of wearable technology that could integrate with other e-Learning devices.


 

Dan ShafferS4 NetQuest CEO and co-founder

“I expect to see (a) trend toward delivering “just enough” coupled with “just in time” with significantly  more flexibility for deeper dives and/or widening scope; i.e. a lot more intelligent e-learning modules.”

My thoughts on this are: ‘just enough/in time’ is relevant for professional development perhaps and certainly commercially viable but not suitable for general education or indeed deep-learning.


 

Dipak sees the following as being key to evolving trends in e-learning:
1. Virtual Reality (VR)
2. Video-based learning

3. Mobile Learning
In a recent survey on the E-Learning, 88% of respondents thought they needed or said they absolutely needed their LMS to have mobile learning capabilities for tablet devices.
Only 10% of companies are heavy users of mobile learning functionality.  Expect that to change over the next few months as, not only are companies signaling an increased focus on mobile learning apps, but wider structural changes are happening as well. Almost 2 billion mobile phones are expected to ship in 2015 (compared to just 270 million PCs) and with such market penetration and with people using smart phones more than PCs to access the internet, this can only mean a bigger importance for mobile.
4. Social Media Learning
“Companies are using discussion forums, document sharing and blogs but they aren’t generally using video or micro-blogs—which are more effective—to improve their learning functions.”
5. Individualization
This goes beyond Personal Learning Environments, and into offering multiple paths for individual learners to complete a single training objective…
… Driven by Millennials’ desire for flexibility, and a results-oriented culture looking to make training time as effective as possible, expect 2015 to be the year more employers move away from one-size-fits all videos and recorded presentations, and towards individualized eLearning.
I have not considered the concept of eLearning through social media to date so this is something new to me and something I will look into further in terms of whether I can integrate this into my Practice 1 work. Some of my earlier blogs discuss the concept of individualisation, in particular I am looking at customisation of learning programme designs based on colour preferences.
My final point to note is something for me to really be mindful of going forward. E-learning by definition involves remote and potentially isolated learning. There is much to be said for the value seen in face-to-face collaboration between students and their peers and mentors. I am very keen to successfully design an e-learning concept that blends remote learning with human interaction.

References

https://www.quora.com/Whats-the-next-big-trend-in-e-learning-and-corporate-training
(Accessed 29.12.15)

http://www.talentlms.com/blog/elearning-trends-follow-2015-infographic/
(Accessed 29.12.15)

http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2011/11/11/study-online-education-continues-growth
(Accessed 01.01.16)

 

Working designs

Here are some historical designs that I will be building upon in my Practice 1 work. I previously designed the framework and templates for an online learning course. When I look back at these designs I can see that a number of the concepts described in my blog are to some extent existent in these designs. Use of colour and icons were employed to help navigate the learner and categorise content. In addition the layout of the course framework itself was very simple, clean and utilised some of the layout recommendations (such as the f-pattern) as highlighted in my post on layouts here.

I will apply further learning to these designs and perhaps use them as one of my design concepts in Practice 1.

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Gamification as Enabler of Deep Learning

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“Play is the highest form of research”
Albert Einstein

The subject of gamification in e-learning is currently a hot topic. You can even take courses on the subject. This is an area that I definitely need to investigate further and one that I am keen to experiment with in my design work.

I am a keen believer in creating engagement through play. When one researches learning products for young children, game-play is prevalent. Think back to your time in infant school for example, a large part of the teaching is done via games. But once we all get older, from primary/junior school, through into senior school and then college and university the
learning experience gets much more serious and game-play is lost. I recall reading an article some years ago that highlighted academic research that proved that game-play in adulthood has enormous benefits to mental and physical health. Read more on the subject here.

There is a great French language e-learning game-play based example that I found today at Digital Dialects.com. You can try any of the courses for free and as such this is a great resource that I will re-visit when developing my practice 1 design work. The courses that I tried varied in graphical complexity and sophistication but in the main used bright colours and unusual animation to assist learning. I need to really consider the use of colour and animation in my design work.

In further researching this field I found a slightly contradictory and challenging blog post that questions whether ‘game-play’ stimulates learning, or just having ‘fun’. The author, Marek Hyla, Senior Manager at Global TD&L Innovation Center, Lead in Accenture Capability Network, questions the process of awarding points and achievement badges etc. in e-learning games. He states that the novelty effect of these schemes will wear off after a short time. He also raises the interesting point that games inherently create losers – is this a healthy concept to nurture? Marek goes on to state that:

“There are many activities which introduce us to the process of heavy engagement and concentration and which intrinsically force us to do things. They have nothing in common with points, badges, and leaderboards, and sometimes they are quite far from the “game” idea:

  • Why do you enter into the flow process while playing with you son with LEGO?
  • Why do you like to play piano?
  • Why do you lose control of time while watching the next, long awaited part of Star Wars or reading the next Harry Potter book?
  • Why do you like to color the coloring book?
  • … or to play Solitaire?
  • … or to play basketball? (OK – some of you maybe do it for points and winning the game, but I like to do it just for the pure fun of playing).”

Whilst some of Marek’s suggestions are open to interpretation and opinion (for example you may find playing the piano fun – but you would still benefit from a gamificated e-learning course to teach you how to better play the piano), he makes a good point about ‘play’ versus ‘game’. Games should not be about gaining points, league table positions or indeed about creating winners or losers – but about engaging learners in play and enabling fun. Something that I would like to achieve a good balance of in my design work.

InterLoc

Interloc is a company that I found that takes the concept of gamification one step further – it’s not just about points and league tables, nor is it necessarily about ‘having fun’. It’s about creating opportunities for collaborative research and discussion with your peers.

“Interloc realises Digital Dialogue Games for learning and thinking through combining synchronous group interaction and personal activities. The dialogue games promote critical and creative discussion, reasoned dialogue and collective inquiry within the digital landscape. The approach has proven educational value that has been demonstrated through over ten years of research within the Learning Sciences.”

Interloc states that critical thinking is essential to learning and also to Professional Development. The software on offer gives structure to the learning of these skills through interpersonal and personal tasks.

This does make me consider that learning is not an activity to be carried out in isolation. Gamification should definitely act as an instigator of shared and collaborative research and learning and should not create a culture of winners and losers.

References:

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/286612-play-is-the-highest-form-of-research
(Accessed 01.01.16)

http://www.interloc.org.uk/
(Accessed 01.01.16)

http://www.nifplay.org/
(Accessed 01.01.16)

https://www.reddit.com/r/gamedesign/comments/2vn1m9/gamification_of_the_classroom_has_been_a_hot/
(Accessed 01.01.16)

Re-usable Learning Objects

www.glomaker.org

Glomaker is an open source authoring tool that builds on the extensive experience of the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) in Reusable Learning Objects and is free for educational use. The authoring tools on offer assist teachers or developers of e-learning (including mobile-learning) in creating Re-usable Learning Objects (RLO’s). Glomaker defines RLO’s as such:

“… in our approach, learning objects are focused on one clear learning goal or objective. They are designed to be a) pedagogically effective, and b) reusable. Our learning objects normally incorporate the use of interactive multimedia to create a rich, effective learning experience.”

The concept of designing e-learning modules or courses that are academically sound is in line with my desire to create content for deep-learning design.

I could use this tool as a basis for beginning to develop my own short e-learning course. It is of course only free for educational use so it’s not something that I could build into my employment projects, but it would ultimately inform real-world application through my place of work in the long-run.

Glomaker makes an important additional point in it’s introductory explanation of the service:

“The traditional approach to the reuse of learning objects has been to separate content from context in order to make the content reusable. However, it is not content but the quality of the learning design that is most important for effective learning. The generative learning object (GLO) approach thus inverts the traditional approach. It extracts successful pedagogical designs and makes these the basis for reuse.”

This mirrors some of my comments made in a number of my posts regarding the fact that visual design and layout is paramount to data-retention, not just the content. Poorly displayed content can confuse learners or bore them even. I guess the question I ask myself here is – do the visual design templates offered by Glomaker adhere to some of the cognitive visual research that I have undertaken in this blog? I will download a template and experiment …

Work of others

As my area of design focus is quite specialized it is tricky to find individual designers that I can seek inspiration from and compare my work to. As such I have sought design companies that specialize in e-learning. My recent post on the reviewing of textbooks also served as a means by which to analyze current designers of print textbooks.

As part of my research undertaken in this area, I have become aware of a number of highly sophisticated e-learning content developers which I will summarize in a number of blog posts and take learning points from, here’s a great company:

Sweetrush

Sweetrush A

One of the most inspirational companies that I found was www.sweetrush.com. They offer an excellent service, comprised of customized content development services for learning and development professionals who need to create digital content for commercial consumption at part of a company’s Professional Development program.

Sweetrush are content developers who create, amongst other services, engaging training, interactive infographics, 3D visualizations, gamification, augmented reality and also host a social media and blogging site focused on e-learning: www.learningrush.com

Gamification is something that i am particularly interested in researching. I will be investigating Sweetrush’s contribution to this field further to enhance my understanding of the subject to help me develop a short e-learning game.

“We live for these projects. With gamification, we’re using game-based thinking, aesthetics, and mechanics to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems. Our immersive simulations put learners in a virtual work environment where they practice, learn from mistakes, and get real-time coaching.”