Sunday, August 16, 2009

3.1.1: Getting to the HEART of things

An article in the latest Distance Education 30(2), called "Approaches to learning design: past the head and the hands to the HEART of the matter" by Donald et al (pp.179-199) makes an excellent contribution to instructional design theory and practice. Donald et al accentuate the differences between learning design considered as a product, and learning design as a process. Essentially:
  • learning design as product assumes the primary importance of distribution channels;
  • learning design as process reveals matters of the "ill-structured/belief-driven" (p.184) approach characteristic of "real, messy" (p.183) learning design activity.
Right away, this distinction makes it clear why efforts to re-use learning materials across institutions is problematic. The questions usually addressed assume that learning design is defined by its output, and not the processes that generated the output. The results of learning design are highly contextualised and "driven by individual pedagogical beliefs" (2009, p.179). Learning object and reusability enthusiasts tend to focus on learning design as product, leading them to focus on the representation, storage and accessibility of learning designs rather than pedagogical transferability across different contexts (something that hasn't really changed since Littlejohn's 2004 Reusing online resources).

However the real reason I am impressed with the work of Donald et al is because they approach learning design in a way that acknowledges the value of the teacher. Their work is empowering to the teacher, recognising an aspect of e-learning that needs to be restored (their citation of Palmer certainly helps with this!) The HEART (HEaring And Realising Teaching) model they describe place the focus on teachers' (and instructional designers') epistemological, pedagogical, curriculum and CAL ('computer assisted learning') beliefs as a diagnostic and reflective tool that no doubt assists with conversations and collaboration between member of faculty and instructional designer. This article will certainly influence the way we approach learning design projects at our College!

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