Instructional Design for U-Learning.

FYI: All this italicized stuff is me commenting on my own paper. Is that like talking to yourself?

What is U-learning?

Simplified, ubiquitous learning recognizes that informal interactions with individuals and technology also have educational value. In today’s world, textbooks and instructors are neither the sole, nor necessarily best, means for obtaining information. He said whaaaaat? Yes. It’s okay because I am one (instructor, not textbook). The time are changing, so must we. Actually, the times changed a decade ago when literature on U-learning was first produced, so we should catch up.

Ubiquitous learning can be viewed by educators as a challenge compromising structure of traditional education methodology. Alternatively, one may view U-learning as a means of augmenting contemporary educational processes, or some combination. Regardless of the polarity chosen, the reality of u-learning is obvious and further expansion is logical. This creates unprecedented situations that educators must frequently readdress, holistically, to ensure that structure and purpose is maintained in ubiquitous learning environments.

How should a ubiquitous lesson be designed?

While the ubiquitous learning environment (ULE) differs significantly from arguably outmoded, unilateral conveyance of information within a brick and mortar structure, traditional pedagogical processes continue to have relevance. In fact, the ULE amplifies significance of lesson planning fundamentals using the ADDIE model.

The objectives, serving as a source of structure and purpose, highlight the essential components of any lesson. Objectives continue to be the salient requirement within a lesson plan. Thus, analysis is necessary and the process differs little, if any, from that used when planning non-ubiquitous learning. Design and development, though, may take on new meanings. In the ULE, variety occurs with respect to activities scheduled for learners. Activities targeting diverse learning styles and designed for both individual and group practice partially differentiate ULEs from their alternative. While one may utilize preexisting content, the purposeful variation of activities (or contexts) is an element of design in itself. Preexisting content may also require conversion to an acceptable format or other translation for proper chronological delivery. In my estimation, these technological activities required for course development parallel Xeroxing handouts prior to course implementation. Possibly redefined, design and development also have a continued importance in u-learning lessons. Implementation is not limited by any physical space or time in the ULE. This continuous implementation is a stark difference from the past, and results in a variable timeframe for implementation. Whereas a traditional setting would utilize evaluation tools to confirm objective competencies on an individual basis, the ULE can be a self-directed or honor-based system of self-assessment. Depending upon the chosen method, the previously transparent effectiveness of instruction when evaluated by validated, reliable objects now becomes translucent or opaque. Yet, evaluation of the course remains necessary. Depending on the topic, information may become outdated and require revision. Also, media formats may become incompatible with modern appliances. While active evaluation tools may or may not take a back seat in the ULE, feedback mechanisms, such as Email to the course developer, may elucidate necessary revisions. The proactive educator in a ULE can also use the technology to review engagement through back-end tools that measure participation and engagement as assessed by time per session within lessons.

Planned effectively, the ULE allows student learning to be omnipresent. This creates another question.

What technology is needed to allow student learning to be omnipresent?

The internet is the major requirement for omnipresence and a device capable of accessing the internet is also needed. Though this can be a desktop device, mobile devices better allow for omnipresence in education. Enlightening information, right? Yet, we must recognize the distinction between e-learning and u-learning. Anyone with a computer and some spare time can e-learn. U-learning also factors in human interaction as an equivalent component of education that is especially important for transfer of affective domain objectives. Thus, communication mechanisms must be in place to allow for person-to-person information transfer. Complete saturation, though socialization and study, occurs in an ubiquitous learning environment.

What is the design for interaction/communication between the student, the lesson content, and perhaps the teacher/instructor?

I previously alluded to the redefinition of design in u-learning. Design must include communications between the student, content, and instructor. While the student is free to interact with lesson content using flexible, self-scheduling in a ULE, a need for periodic feedback mechanisms continue to be vital.

Feedback can be provided in different ways. In a self-study lesson, the teacher can facilitate self-reflection periodically by interjecting questions and providing a means of contact if clarification is needed. Depending upon class size and the order or thinking targeted, automation may be a viable option to maintain class productivity. For example, a MOOC with low order objectives, such as simple memorization of vocabulary, may be designed in such a manner that activities and evaluation tools provide feedback to the student according to objective answers programmed during the development phase. This means of providing feedback would likely not work when higher order thinking (HOT) objectives aim to produce creative and conceptual students who apply principles, since subjectivity will exist within the responses. Technology is available to quickly scan for keywords, but HOT objective automated feedback is still imperfect and can, paradoxically, become a learning barrier. I may be the only one using HOT objectives as a term, but I truly feel they should be in a class of their own within each domain.

What is a general framework that can be followed when designing the curriculum/lessons? (i.e. what learning theories/strategies should be tapped into in your ubiquitous curriculum?)

Resembling the continuation of framework used for instructional design, other customary models and theories also have applicability within ULEs. Two with an increased significance in the new realm are Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction and constructivism. This is part of U-learning in action made possible through e-learning. If you need to learn what they are, click them. If not, read on. Everyone is responsible for their own learning, but I have facilitated it by guiding you in the right direction via hypertext links. Get it?

With a plethora of information available (pretty much the definition of U-learning) and alternatives just milliseconds away, competition is greatly increased. Only the most engaging and relevant content will reach students, so the educator must be vigilant about quality and variation in content and contexts used for a lesson. Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction ensure that lessons will have a competitive edge in the ULE arena.

With U-learning consisting, at least partially, of self-directed learning, constructivism is a learning theory that interlaces well. Touted often as “experiential learning”, constructivism shifts from teacher-led instruction to instruction facilitated by an educator with students responsible for their own learning. Many tenets of this educational philosophy support ubiquitous learning environments.

Rationally, ubiquitous learning is not something that is going to disappear anytime soon. The ubiquitous learning environment creates situations that may require some task redefinition. Fortunately, many customary instructional design models and theories continue to have applicability and are enhanced within ULEs. Ubiquitous learning is, feasibly, best viewed as a means of augmenting contemporary educational processes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *