"Enabling creative learning design: how HCI, User Modelling and Human Factors help”

The 14th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education

July 6th - 10th 2009, Thistle Hotel, Brighton, UK

Background and Motivation

Although the term “Learning Design” (LD) has been in use only in recent years, the earliest work in the field can be traced back to “instructivist” approaches, which provided a clear instructional sequence for teachers to follow. The recognition of the need to make theoretical findings readily available to practitioners led to extensive work on Instructional Design Theory, which attempted to make learning theories more operational. However, the later focus on “constructivist” theories of learning presented more of a challenge to an operational approach. The development of interest in “Learning Design” as a focus of research began with the realisation that the constructivist pedagogical theories did not easily transfer to the practice of teaching. The emphasis on what learners were doing, and how to support their activities, was much less constrained by constructivism. This dependence on the context in which learning takes place required an approach to teaching based on design principles rather than pre-defined instructional sequences.

There have been attempts to offer “toolkits” or software to enable ease of entry into pedagogic design and support non-specialists in engaging with learning theories. Despite the effort, existing e-learning systems and authoring tools have several limitations in respect of support provided and usability, and cannot accommodate the needs of teachers who increasingly look for more intelligent services and support when designing instruction in order to avoid disorientation and develop a holistic understanding of how all the information fits together. Providing support by incorporating personalisation technologies into teachers’ designs could be potentially helpful in formulating teaching goals and lesson plans and in better accommodating learners’ needs. In fact, at present, systems do not provide tools for identifying patterns in effective learning design practice and offer no opportunities for teachers to personalise the learning experience and collaborate with peers in developing more effective designs. It also appears to be a large communication gap between authoring tools and learning systems, and teachers/learning designers. For example, teachers want to work with the terminology they are familiar with for describing their teaching and learning, which of course can create a problem for the exchange of learning designs using existing systems. Thus, the challenge for the next generation of Learning Design tools is thus to put the designer requirements and experiences at the centre of tool development. To this end, the Workshop will draw to the vast experience of HCI and user modeling and human factors research.

Learning design is a creative process and tools are prescriptive and constraining and are often seen more as a hindrance. Thus, it is widely acknowledged that we need to do more to bridge the education/computer science divide and create a genuinely interdisciplinary basis for representing learning design, if we are to succeed in persuading teachers to work with this approach as the technical complexities involved are often not perceived by teachers as relevant to their needs. Moreover, it is important to offer teachers intelligent services, such as personalisation and content adaptation, matching learners' characteristics with specific learning designs, and exploiting teachers-directed feedback about the usefulness and appropriateness of learning objects or designs for certain learning scenarios. In this vein, the Workshop considers personalisation in the context of learning design as an important feature of the next generation of LD tools. This could be achieved by capturing the needs of each individual teacher or group of teachers and providing support for reaching a goal that efficiently and knowledgeably addresses individual or group needs. However, personalisation would not be achieved by prescribed sequences of actions and information but by creating a dynamic structure, e.g. based on ontologies, and more generally using user and community data so that the Learning Design tools can adapt to the users’ knowledge, profiles and needs, and that users can consciously adapt the system to suit their articulated preferences. The Workshop will attempt to address the challenges discussed above. Furthermore, it aims to explore what teacher/learning designers-related information should be captured and how, and what kind of adaptations are needed to support teachers’ individual needs, goals and interests. It will also look at how users' interactions with designs and annotations of designs and the use of concepts from controlled vocabularies, taxonomies and ontologies can be captured in a user-friendly way and used to support the Learning Design process.  

Contact Person

For any questions regarding the Workshop, please email George Magoulas (gmagoulas@dcs.bbk.ac.uk).