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Learning environment problem solving: Systematic Instructional Methodology for Personal Learning Environments (SIMPLE). -- 98 -- Short (oral) Paper

11:30 - 12:30 on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 in 4.205

The efficacy of student-led learning approaches has increased in significance in contemporary literature. There is greater emphasis on constructivist approaches that empower learners to build on past experience through individual and group activities. While constructivist, collaborative and enquiry based activities conventionally take place face-to-face, there is growing evidence that virtual learning environments (VLEs) are being used routinely in schools and higher education organisations to support learning.

The internet makes widely available a range of do-it-yourself tools and open- and closed-source applications that enable the development of personal learning environments (PLEs). The tutor is no longer reliant on or constrained by the features of off-the-shelf branded VLEs, but instead can create online environments that are tailored specifically for the needs of the learner. This represents a paradigm shift in that PLEs can be developed by educationalists rather than IT professionals. Indeed, whereas IT professionals may focus on the technological possibilities with the software as the outcome, educationalists use the technology as an enabler of pedagogical practices that reinforce or improve learning.

The benefits of PLEs to learners and tutors are well documented. However, the challenges inherent in tutor-led development, and the processes and activities involved in the creation of quality PLEs are not so well defined. Tutors need step-by-step guidance through the development process to overcome technological barriers and exploit their educational knowledge. Conversely, IT professionals would benefit from guidance relating to pedagogical best practices. Thus, a PLE development methodology would facilitate the construction of a quality learning environment irrespective of the developer's technical ability or knowledge of learning theories/instructional design.

This paper proposes a PLE development methodology, which is an amalgamation of aspects of traditional software development methods and instructional design methods. Software development methods provide guidance on the technical methods and procedures required to create and manage software projects. The range of methods available attempt to resolve different types of problems. For example, some methods focus on understanding the system requirements while others emphasise quality code or human activity systems. Instructional design methodologies, on the other hand, relate to the creation of quality learning experiences in which the learner is engaged, and their acquisition of knowledge is more efficient and effective. Learner's needs are met and the desired learning outcomes are achieved through the careful design of the learning environment. Yet, instructional design methodologies often focus on the design of instructional materials, with limited or no consideration of the technological possibilities. Although both software and instructional design methodologies provide guidance to developers, there is no complete, ‘joined up’ solution for PLE development.

This paper presents a Systematic Instructional Methodology for Personal Learning Environments (SIMPLE) to guide tutors and developers in the construction of PLEs, irrespective of their background in education or technology. The convergence of technological and educational considerations in the one methodology should improve the quality of the resultant PLE, thereby contributing to an enhanced experience for learners. The methodology considers the typical analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation stages of instructional design in a digital learning environment.