Leonardo da Vinci Programme

GUIDE 4
Methodologies and instruments for planning and developing online modules
Project N° I/01/B/F/PP-120550

This is a product of the SOLE Project partnership, developed by ITSOS “Marie Curie” (Cernusco sul Naviglio, Milan, Italy): Pierfranco Ravotto. English version provided by ITSOS and checked by Cork College of Commerce (Ireland)
SOLE Partnership Promoter GREECE FRANCE ITALY ITSOS “Marie Curie” – ITALIA – Cernusco sul Naviglio, ITALY Lambrakis Research Foundation - Athens GIP-FAR/CAFOC - Rennes ADECCO - Milano CEP - Torino CGIL - Formazione e ricerca - Roma CISL – Studi e ricerche - Roma CONFAPI - Roma IMQ - Milano ITCS “Mario Pagano” - Napoli ITIS “Vito Volterra” - Ancona SCIENTER - Bologna UIL - Servizio Politiche del lavoro e FP - Roma Università Roma3, Facoltà di Scienze della Formazione - Roma Chambre of Commerce - Cork College of Commerce - Cork DEIS – Cork Institute of Technology - Cork Camera de Comert si Industrie - Galati Consiliul National Al Intreprinderilor Private - Galati University “Dunarea da Jos” - Galati

IRELAND

ROMANIA

© The content of the SOLE Project - “Leonardo da Vinci” Programme, Contract I/01/B/F/PP-120550 - can be freely used by Schools, Universities and Training Institution provided that the SOLE logo is maintained and the source fully cited. No part can be published for commercial use without formal permission of the Project promoter.

INDEX

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ......................................................................................1

1.

INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................3
1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 THE AIMS OF THE GUIDE ..............................................................................................3 GUIDE TARGETS..............................................................................................................3 STRUCTURE......................................................................................................................4 HOW TO USE THE GUIDE ..............................................................................................6

2.

ONLINE METHODOLOGIES .......................................................................7
2.1 ONLINE LEARNING: LEARNING FROM ERRORS .....................................................7 2.2 ONLINE LEARNING RELATIONS..................................................................................9 2.2.1 Self-learning ............................................................................................................9 2.2.2 Supported Self-learning .........................................................................................10 2.2.3 Learning in a virtual class.....................................................................................11 2.2.4 Collaborative learning...........................................................................................11 2.3 LEARNING METHODOLOGIES ...................................................................................12 2.3.1 The North West Sector ...........................................................................................13 2.3.2 The South West Sector ...........................................................................................14 2.3.3 The North East Sector............................................................................................14 2.3.4 The South West Sector ...........................................................................................15 2.4 METHODOLOGY, MATERIALS, ENVIRONMENT, PROGRAMME OF WORK.....16

3.

LEARNING MATERIALS ............................................................................19
3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 PLANNING AND PRODUCTION OF LEARNING MATERIALS...............................19 MODULAR LEARNING PATHS....................................................................................21 MODULARITY ................................................................................................................22 MODULE DEFINITION ..................................................................................................24 3.4.1 The module which can be accredited.....................................................................24 3.4.2 The module as a learning path ..............................................................................25 3.5 LEARNING OBJECTS: COMPOSABLE CHUNKS ......................................................27 3.6 SHARABLE CONTENT OBJECTS (SCO) AND SCORMS ..........................................28 3.6.1 Research Bodies and standardisation process ......................................................29 3.6.2 SCORM: SCO Reference Model............................................................................31 3.6.3 SCO: Sharable Content Object..............................................................................33 3.6.4 META-DATA..........................................................................................................33 3.6.5 SCORM Run Time Environment............................................................................34

4.

THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT ............................................................36
4.1 TOOLS FOR ONLINE LEARNING ................................................................................36 4.2 LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM ........................................................................38 4.2 PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT......39

5.

CONCLUSIONS.............................................................................................41
5.1 THE NETWORK: NEW POSSIBILITIES OF LEARNING ...........................................41 5.2 THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY .....................................................................................42

BIBLIOGRAPHY...................................................................................................44 GLOSSARY ............................................................................................................46 TOOLS ....................................................................................................................48
A. B. C. D. TEMPLATE FOR DEFINING A “CONCEPT”...............................................................48 EXAMPLE OF A “CONCEPT” .......................................................................................50 TEMPLATE FOR PLANNING A LEARNING PATH ...................................................52 EXAMPLE OF A LEARNING PATH .............................................................................53

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
This first chapter summarises the key-points of the guide. It particularly targets policy makers, principals of training institution; schools, universities, and vocational centres as well as online service providers willing to deliver training. This Guide deals with planning and developing online learning paths, namely: • learning materials, the “contents” of learning/teaching • the learning environment, where interactions between trainees and tutors take place. First of all the Guide takes into consideration online learning/teaching methodologies, starting with the analysis of the most typical errors to avoid in online learning activities such as: ! merely transferring materials developed for different contexts to online environments without understanding the specific features of media ! putting technology before methodology ! ignoring the system of relations and focussing only on contents ! undervaluing the problem of transportability and re-usability of the materials As far as learning materials, the relational system and technology are concerned, four online scenarios are to be taken into consideration: ! self-learning ! supported self-learning ! virtual class ! collaborative learning Referring to the DISC model, the Guide analyses the role of the teacher, of learning materials and features of the communication environment for each of the methodologies suggested by the model. Again with reference to methodology, learning materials, learning environment and work programme, the Guide proposes a comparison with online learning, face-to face learning and traditional distance learning. There follows a focus on planning and developing learning materials which can be modulated, adapted and re-used. Two different levels are taken into consideration: a macro level: modules, that are significant blocks leading to the acquisition of competencies, which may be certified a micro level: sharable learning objects, namely “basic mini blocks” or “chunks” that, if assembled, allow reaching the macro level.

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The most advanced research on e-learning (online learning represents a sub-field of this) focuses just on the latter, the most relevant elements of which are dealt with in the present Guide. Eventually the Guide faces the problem of the learning environment. While self-learning and supported self-learning do not require a specific environment, the creation of a virtual class asks for a “virtual place” where the various relations between the subjects of the learning path are developed. The Guide presents the typical features of such an environment and the Learning Management Systems that represent the technological implementation of such an environment. The recommendation of putting methodological-didactic choices first followed by the technological ones is consistently repeated throughout the Guide.

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1. INTRODUCTION
This chapter offers those who wish to go beyond the executive summary, a presentation of the aim, target and structure of the Guide. Delivering online learning paths requires the planning and development of learning materials and – in most cases- of the learning environment. This Guide deals with the theme – “Methodologies and instruments for planning and developing online modules” - and therefore deals with the following ! features of learning materials in relation to the adopted methodology (selflearning, supported self-learning, virtual class, collaborative learning, ! modularity of learning materials, ! re-usability and standardisation of learning materials, ! features of the learning environment, ! technology to be used in order to develop learning materials and learning environments.

1.1

THE AIMS OF THE GUIDE

The main aims of the Guide are: ! to present, in a synthetic way, the “state of the art” online learning materials and learning environments ! to provide more pedagogical rather than technological suggestions for the development of materials, suitable for online learning, which may be transferable and re-usable. ! to encourage, while developing materials, the use of technologies and resources generally available in any training institution

1.2

GUIDE TARGETS

This Guide primarily addresses all those who are involved in planning and developing learning materials and learning environments suitable for online learning. In most cases, they are school teachers, university lecturers, company or vocational centre trainers willing to use, online learning in conjunction with traditional face-toface classes in order to:

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provide trainers /educators with a wider range of training opportunities and resources • diversify the training opportunities by providing tailored learning paths • promote a wider flexible schedule and an easier entry to learning • meet new learning needs. Those who employ traditional face-to-face learning , need to be led to recognise the value of some traditional elements and the potential of others typical of online learning. Obviously such a public is required to be open to innovation and the use of ICT (Information and Communication Technology), even if they do not presently have the required IT competencies. In some cases, a possible target can be represented by developers of learning materials working in companies which deliver distance learning by means of a wide range of aids: hard copy, audiovisual, electronic media. They are generally knowledge experts who consider the net as a new, useful aid in the provision of access to materials. Also in this case it is advisable to make such developers think about continuity between the two systems. Another target is represented by companies who have web designers and IT experts either specifically devoted to online learning or delivering online learning along with other Internet services. They generally get learning materials from qualified experts. It is important, in this case, to draw their attention more to pedagogical matters than to technological aspects.

1.3

STRUCTURE

The Guide is divided in the following sections: Executive Summary It summarises the key-ideas that will be illustrated in the following chapters. It particularly addresses policy makers, principals of training institutions – schools, universities, vocational training centres – and online services providers also willing to deliver training paths. This section illustrates the aims of the Guide and its targets and provides instructions how to use it. Furthermore it offers individuals who wish to go beyond the executive summary a presentation of the aim, target and structure of the Guide.

1. Introduction

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the executive summary a presentation of the aim, target and structure of the Guide.

2. Learning scenarios

This chapter, along with the following two, represents the core of the Guide. It illustrates the specific features of online learning with reference to traditional and distance learning and it also highlights the continuity of some pedagogical issues, (how some pedagogical issues affect both systems.) This chapter deals with the production of learning materials. The first paragraph provides some general information, while the subsequent paragraphs analyse two themes related to one another: ! paragraphs 3.2 and 3.3 deal with the planning of a complex learning path – the Module- aiming at the acquisition of well defined competencies that can be certified ! the following paragraphs are devoted to the planning and use of didactic “small bricks”,” chunks”, relative to their potential for rearrangement. This represents the current focus of research and initiatives of standardisation. Readers can focus on such themes in a non-sequential way, according to their own personal interests or the needs of their institutions.

3.Learning materials

4. Learning environment This chapter is devoted to the development of the environment, namely the context, both structural and relational, where learning/teaching occurs. The first paragraph highlights how different communication tools correspond to different learning contexts. The second paragraph presents the Learning Management Systems. The third paragraph draws the reader’s attention again to didactic and pedagogical issues. 5. Conclusions This last chapter confirms some key-points dealt with in the previous chapters and draws a few conclusions concerning the necessary technology to be used to develop both learning materials and the learning environment.

SOLE Project – GUIDE 4 App1. Bibliography App2. Glossary App3. Tools

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List of publications and Internet sites connected to the matters investigated in the Guide. Terminology used in the Guide. It contains charts useful for planning online modules.

1.4

HOW TO USE THE GUIDE

The three central chapters – Online Learning Methodologies”, “ Learning Materials” and “Learning Environment” – and their internal paragraphs are self-standing. This allows, apart from an ordinary sequential reading, also a direct access to single chapters or paragraphs of interest.

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2. ONLINE METHODOLOGIES
This and the two subsequent chapters represent the core of the Guide. It illustrates the specific features of online learning with reference to traditional and distance learning and it also highlights the continuity of some pedagogical issues (how (some pedagogical issues affect all the systems).

2.1

ONLINE LEARNING: LEARNING FROM ERRORS

The development of networks, in general, and particularly the Internet, has made online learning possible on a mass level. Numerous and diversified experiments have been carried out by companies, training centres, universities and schools in recent years. From these experiments it is possible to draw conclusions on both the positive and negative effects. Let’s start with the latter in order to focus on the kinds of errors that have previously been made but that should now be avoided while planning and delivering online courses. ! In some cases learning materials already developed for face-to-face learning, have been merely transferred online in the form of web pages, or even more simply as texts to be downloaded. They were then provided with undefined tutorial support. These attempts have often been impromptu initiatives that have turned out to be a failure and they have neither fostered the dissemination of online learning nor validated its potential. Planning good online learning paths requires, on the contrary, a completely new re-development of learning materials and learning paths, which must be relevant both to new media and to new learning environments. ! Another recent trend has seen technology experts take centre stage, but they have been entirely wrapped up in the “special effects” made possible by the network. In this case, unlike the former, the materials have been developed in tune with the new media and have fully exploited its potential. Nevertheless, it is evident that a pedagogical element is missing. Such materials, very often highly sophisticated from the technological point of view and attractive because of sounds and images, have been proven to be valid

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only in the case of simple objectives like the delivery of basic information or the teaching of simple procedures. However they have been unsuccessful in the acquisition of complex knowledge and competencies. Online learning, apart from a completely new planning of learning paths relevant to new media and environment, demands more attention to pedagogical concerns rather than to technology and it should also treasure the positive acquisitions of traditional face-to-face learning. ! Furthermore, some experiences have shown that much emphasis has been put on materials, as if they could, on their own, perform all the functions needed in a learning activity. The relations between the teacher and the learner and inter-learners relations have been neglected; in short, the relational environment has not been taken into consideration. In this way the potential of the network has been diminished, in the sense that it has been used as a means of delivering home lecture notes or the content of a CDROM in real time. The error has been to think of the Internet as an instrument to deliver distance training, while, on the contrary, the Internet cancels distance, making the concept of distance obsolete. The Internet is not only a system of swift mail or the place where you can find a book in electronic format without going to a library. The Internet is a meeting point where people create a virtual community by exchanging opinions, ideas, etc. This is its main potential as a learning environment. Concerning the planning of online learning paths, it is essential to be aware that online learning is the result of a relational/communicative system. The focus on such a relational system, is represented, in an O D L environment, by the learner relating with o learning materials o a teacher/tutor o a group of peers. First the developer has to choose the kind of relational system s/he wishes to create and only secondly must s/he identify the relevant technology useful to develop materials. It would be wrong if technological choices influence the relational model.

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! Obviously, some good products have been developed, but with resources and money out of proportion relative to their use. This happens when the problem of their re-usability is not posed during the implementation phase. In fact, the developer should take the following into consideration: o the range of technological platforms (LMS) and their swift evolution, o the variety of targets’ needs and the problem connected to the personalisation of learning paths, o the possibility of using sections of the material in different contexts. The developer of online learning materials and learning paths should be aware, at the outset, that the product needs to be o transportable to different contexts, o transportable onto different platforms, o modifiable, o adaptable.

2.2

ONLINE LEARNING RELATIONS

There are four possible actors in a learning path: • the one who learns (trainee-learner), • the learning materials, • the teacher /trainer, • the group of peers. The learning can take place- starting from the learner’s needs or from choices made by the trainer – according to procedures foreseeing different relations between the “actors” and creating different learning contexts: ! Self-learning ! Supported self-learning ! Learning in a virtual class ! Collaborative learning

2.2.1 Self-learning
The learner is only in contact with online learning materials. Such materials must be “complete” and “self-sufficient” as they must perform various and different functions.

SOLE Project – GUIDE 4 They must ! be interactive ! provide and support motivation ! provide all the necessary support ! foresee monitoring and feedback activities

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As a consequence, the technology chosen is required to provide materials performing all the functions listed above. Furthermore it must also offer a user-friendly interface since the learner is alone while using the materials. The main advantage of such an environment is a reduced requirement for trainers/teachers/tutors. But at the same time the lack this support is a limiting factor. This kind of online learning is the same as the traditional study of a book: for some learners it could be sufficient and may be suitable for simple topics. But in the same way as publishing a book or giving it to a student does not mean a student is being taught, so online learning can’t confine itself to editing contents.

2.2.2 Supported Self-learning
The learner is provided with online materials and individual tutorial support. A wide range of tutorial situations exist: from contacting the tutor only when needed, to a systematic relationship with him/her, from a tutor that plays a guidance role only in the final evaluation phase, to a personal tutor that monitors and supports the learner throughout the whole learning path. The increased tutor presence in the learning path , reduces the need to develop complete and self-consistent learning materials, as they are not required to perform the functions performed by the tutor. The technology chosen must facilitate communication between the learner and the tutor by means of e-mail, chatting, web-conferencing , …. The online technology is equivalent to a one-to-one relationship, that is a relationship between the teacher and the learner. There are two limitations: ! high costs, unless the relationship with the tutor is occasional ! the absence of any communication with the peer group namely those with whom the learner shares his/her learning path. Supported self-learning can be particularly suitable for online adult learning, where it is important to provide tailored paths and the tutor intervenes as a counsellor, above all, in the definition of the learning path.

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2.2.3 Learning in a virtual class
The learner is not alone in this activity. He belongs to a group, a virtual classroom that is provided with online learning materials and tutorial support. Also this scenario is made up of different situations: ! the group shares the same learning objectives, or each learner follows his/her own learning path ! the course has got either a fixed schedule and deadlines, or each learner can freely go at his/her own pace and use his/her own methods of learning (in this case the class is destined to change throughout the course) In any case the existence of a group of peers performs important functions such as support, motivation and promoting successful learning. The peers can exchange advice, suggestions and compare solutions. As far as learning materials are concerned, what has been said for the previous model is also valid for this one. The technology chosen must favour the members of the group and the creation of a relational system by means of e-mailing, forum, databases, case studies, chatting, a free space -“a chat room” -devoted to socialising. Such a scenario corresponds to the classroom in the traditional sense: each member of the classroom benefits not only from the teacher’s attention but also from the attention he gives to others, he/she learns not only from materials but also from his/her classmates, from their mistakes as well. The peer group is a social outlet, as well as a support (and unlike traditional face-toface classes it is not a source of distraction).

2.2.4 Collaborative learning
The context is the same as the one just described, i.e. with a group of peers, but the learning environment changes considerably .In models 1, 2 and 3 the “contents” to be learnt, are essentially pre-defined: ! in model 1 they are strictly conveyed by the materials ! in model 2 they are still delivered by the materials and in any case are mastered by the tutor so that he can help the learner ! in model 3 the contents are still conveyed by the materials and supported by the tutor, but the learner can rely on the help of a group of peers.

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In a collaborative learning scenario, however, learning becomes the result of a collective search where each learner becomes the creator/provider of the contents to be learned. At the initial stages the learning material does not exist in full it is developed by the student through the process. Initial activities accompanied by some basic materials, will be enriched during the online learning path, with new materials developed by individual teachers and/or groups of learners themselves. The technology chosen must, even more than in model 3, provide the suitable learning environment, that is to say a virtual space where learners can communicate, search and share resources. Such a scenario corresponds to the individual or group involved in project work. It represents one of the environments which is most coherent to the features of the network and its potential: it gives value to the role of individuals within a learning environment.

2.3

LEARNING METHODOLOGIES

Coomey and Stephenson, have proposed a model for the analysis of online learning scenarios, based on the following elements ! ! ! ! dialogue involvement support control.

According to their analysis, the possible scenarios of a learning path place themselves in one of the four quadrants defined by two axes: • the horizontal axis concerns the control of the learning path; on its left hand side, we have the teacher’s control and on the right hand side the learner manages the learning path. • the vertical axis concerns the definition of objectives/tasks; specified tasks are on the top and open-ended strategic learning are at the bottom.

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Each of the four quadrants – indicated with a geographical notation- represents a specific teaching-learning paradigm: ! North-West – specified tasks/ teacher controlled ! South-West - Open-ended strategic learning/ teacher controlled ! North-East- specified tasks/Learner managed ! Southeast – Open-ended strategic learning/learner managed

NW SW

NE SE

2.3.1 The North West Sector
Specified tasks/teacher’s control Dialogue The communication is oriented to a task that is well defined and controlled by the teacher. The possible interaction of the peer group is included in the task. The students are provided with instructions specifically targeted towards the task. It is provided either by the materials themselves or by the teacher, generally along with pre-defined deadlines for face-toface meetings, telephone calls or e-mail contacts. The control is essentially on the task performed and on the deadlines given.

Involvement Support Control

The teacher mostly performs the role of an Instructor. The learning materials self-contained and must be arranged before the beginning of the work. They may be developed as WEB pages or e-mails (with files attached if needed). As far as the learning environment is concerned; it sufficient for trainees to be provided with an Internet connection in order to read the web pages of the learning path, to download materials, to communicate with the teacher, and if required, with the other trainees.

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2.3.2 The South West Sector
Open-ended strategic learning/ teacher controlled Dialogue It is up to the teacher to promote the communication process and fix the schedule, but then the exchanges between the trainees prevail and the teacher plays the role of promoter, facilitator, and moderator. The development of the discussion and/or problem solving activities requires a strong personal involvement as a basis for effective group work. The tutor’s support generally addresses the virtual class and not the individual trainee. It occurs face-to-face and online (in this case it is provided in the forum and not in the personal mail-boxes) The tutor provides advice, suggestions, guide lines, and proposes in-depth search methods rather than answers. The tutor controls the development of the activities, the schedule and each trainee’s work. The trainee can verify the relevance of the activities to his/her own specific interests.

Involvement Support

Control

The teacher mainly plays the role of a Guide. The learning materials are not self-sufficient. They are used to present the learning theme and to provide basic knowledge from which learning by discovery ensues, sometimes problem solving methodology and other times a discussion approach may be used . Other materials, found on the net or developed by the trainees themselves, will be added, step-by-step, to the initial ones. In order to work it is necessary to provide a work/communication environment where the trainees can discuss and send their own solutions, see other trainees’ solutions and interact with the tutor. Not only e-mails but above all forum and possibly chats are advisable.

2.3.3 The North East Sector
Specified tasks/Learner managed Dialogue The teacher gives the task and then intervenes on requests. The communication within the peer-group finalises the organisation and development of the assigned task.

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Involvement Support

Control

organisation and development of the assigned task. Several groups of trainees can exist; they communicate their own results to one another. The group of peers are fully responsible for the tasks assigned, starting from the pre-defined task that can be adapted to circumstances or to their own interests if needed. After defining the objectives, the tutor mainly intervenes on request. Supportive learning materials as “tools” such as FAQs, databases etc. are envisaged. The trainees themselves control the development of their work: each of them makes reference to his/her own objectives.

The teacher mainly plays the role of a Coach. The learning materials are like consultancy tools, we can’t expect them to be selfconsistent and complete, on the contrary they should be open for the following reasons: ! they can/must be enriched on the basis of the activities – FAQS, new lessons – carried out both by the teacher and the trainees themselves. ! they must have links with other sites and provide a bibliography . In such a scenario the working/communication environment is essential: the trainees are to be provided with the possibility to discuss- among themselves and with the tutor- both in a synchronic and an asynchronic way. Chats are essential and Web-conferences are advisable. It is important to be able to create forum/discussion areas and the trainees should be allowed to play the role of moderators (included the functions of deleting and shifting messages)

2.3.4 The South West Sector
Open-ended strategic learning/learner managed. Dialogue The communication mainly occurs between the groups of peers; sub-groups can form according to their own interests. The communication can be open to “experts” The teacher takes part, as a member of the group, giving his/her own input. It is up to the individual learner to decide on his/her learning activities according to his/her own interests and to agree on the procedures with the others.

Involvement

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Support

Control

procedures with the others. The teacher is always available, but he helps more in the definition of the procedures rather than solving specific problems. The group of peers constitutes the main support, even if it is also possible to ask experts for help. Objectives and guidelines are defined by the trainees who, as a consequence, control the pace of work and results, and if needed make changes. Each trainee can monitor his/her own results.

The teacher mainly plays the role of a facilitator. At the initial stage there can be learning materials, but gradually as the work proceeds the trainees themselves will search online information, useful tools and will produce, if needed, new lessons. No collaborative learning is possible without a working/communication environment. Such an environment has got the same characteristics as that of the Northeast sector: ! discussion forums, simple to create, with different access levels ! chats and web-conferences.

2.4

METHODOLOGY, MATERIALS, ENVIRONMENT, PROGRAMME OF WORK

Planning online learning paths means more than planning learning materials, just as planning face-to-face learning paths means, even in ODL, more than writing a book or lecture notes. Apart from the context, that can be either face-to-face or online, planning a learning path, suitable either for students, or young people in initial vocational training, or for adults re-entering training paths, implies the definition, according to a pedagogicaldidactical choice, of the following items: ! the didactic methodology one wishes to adopt ! learning contents and related learning materials ! the relational system to be adopted and as a consequence, the suitable learning environment ! the work plan, in terms of schedule and procedures

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Didactic path

Didactic methodology Didactic materials

Programme of work Learning environment

Let’s analyse the characteristics of such elements of planning in face-to-face learning ! traditional distance learning (before the diffusion of the network by means of lecture notes, CD-ROMs ….) ! online learning Face-to face Didactic methodology
It is the teacher who chooses the methodology to be used according to his own convictions, type of target, available resources. He can choose between lectures and individual or group guided activities, between deductive or inductive procedures. He can opt for learning by discovery or case study or project works… He may often use different methodologies, according to the moment or the topic.

Distance
The range of methodological choices is narrow. Most of the time the trainee is alone, relating only with the learning materials. If the latter are hard copies or use sounds and movies, the trainee can’t be offered with anything else but “study activities” On the contrary, if the use of the computer is foreseen, simulation, selfcheck and interactive activities can be proposed. Nevertheless neither activities between groups of peers nor collaborative activities can be planned, unless lots of face-to-face activities are foreseen.

Online
As far as individual learning, self-learning or supported selflearning are concerned, the situation is the same as distance learning. In case of group activities the procedures are mostly the same as face-to-face learning as it is possible to use a “virtual” environment that guarantees possible relations and interactions similar to the ones in a face-toface classroom.

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Learning materials represent the main channel of content transmission. Thus, they require being exhaustive, clear, motivating and they are generally defined before the beginning of the course. The developer’s main task is to develop learning materials with such characteristics. Also in this case materials represent the main communication tool. Due to the characteristics of the media, they can be multimedia and interactive, A higher level of interaction between learners and teachers and between learners themselves, and the rapidity of the system, make the materials suitable to be modified or developed during the learning path. In this way these materials can meet the learning needs as they arise. “ The environment is the learning itself,” we could say, paraphrasing Mc Luhan. The environment that is put in action determines the relations that are to establish and as a consequence the process of building knowledge Therefore it is necessary to plan the environment starting from pedagogical and not technological choices.

Learning materials

The teacher orally conveys the contents of the learning path. It is obviously important to plan what to say, how to say it and what exercises to provide students with, but it is not necessary to formalise the plan in a written form; in some cases the teacher can also rely on improvisation on the basis of his/her students’ feedback. It is necessary to have a physical place, but it is not generally the teacher’s concern as he is only requested to communicate his requests in terms of special places (laboratories, overhead projectors..) or different arrangements of the class, in case of group work or individual work or…. The teacher is generally requested to formalise his/her own work plan. In any case it is necessary to organise schedules, lessons, exercises, interviews, etc. …

Learning environment

The focus on the environment concerns the definition of the relations to be put in action: face-to-face meetings, teleconferencing, telephone calls, emails…

Programme of work

The work plan is mainly included in the materials, the choice of the schedule depends on the context: it can be either fixed by the organisation or be left up to the learner

Also in this case a work plan is essential and requires to be agreed on. According to the context it can be strict or modifiable in compliance with the running of the course.

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3. LEARNING MATERIALS
This chapter deals with the production of learning materials. The first paragraph provides some general information while the following ones analyse two themes related to one another: • paragraphs 3.2 and 3.3 deal with the planning of a complex learning path – the Module- aimed at the acquisition of well defined competencies that can be certified; • the following paragraphs are devoted to the planning and use of didactic “small bricks” or ” chunks” which achieve their potential when combined. This represents the current focus of research and initiatives of standardisation. Readers can face such themes in a non-sequential way, according to their own interests or the needs of their institution.

3.1

PLANNING AND PRODUCTION OF LEARNING MATERIALS

The current ICTs allow the development and editing of online materials in a manageable format: ! Hypertextual documents, enriched with images, sounds and filmed sequences (Web pages) ! Forms that can be filled in and sent by the learner ! Interactive animations/simulations This enables the development of lessons, questionnaires, and tests which encourage learners ask questions and find answers. The preparation of materials should move away from traditional classroom style presentation to a more suitable online format incorporating such facilities as: • automatic feedback • Graphic animation • Video etc ICTs allow a level of interactivity the other media can’t provide.

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The technology of Web pages is constantly growing and reaching new potential, the increase in learning efficacy does not depend on “special effects”. Learning materials must be graphically attractive and user friendly. Learners’ motivation and learning efficacy are not only maintained by “special effects”, but more specifically by ! Text clarity ! Conciseness ! Relevance of images ! Interactivity: the learner should be involved in each activity. Graphic effects should complement the content and enhance communication rather than distract from the learning environment. This is why it is advisable that teachers themselves become developers, namely experts in conveying contents rather than IT experts. The development of materials itself should be carried out by the teachers or at least it should be controlled by them. The aim is to create simple pages that can easily be developed by “non experts” who should ensure that the material are constantly changed. From a modular point of view modules need to be maintained, updated, improved and adapted to the target’s requirements. It is possible to carry out such an operation if materials are considered from the very start, not as finished but still “open” products suitable to be further implemented. Nevertheless, they should be “open” also in terms of possible links to other www sites where to search for further information, in-depth materials or different points of view. This matches the real nature of the Intenet as a web.

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3.2

MODULAR LEARNING PATHS

When planning pedagogical paths, both whole curricula and simple courses, a block formation should be implemented. If speaking of planning learning materials (online or face-to-face) such a spilt is determined by both pedagogical and practical reasons –so that elements can be reused and reassembled to form new learning paths. The chart below offers an example of how a course may be structured:

Modules are macro-blocks that are self-contained, as they allow the acquisition of definite competencies that can be certified. The following two chapters will deal with Modules. Generally Modules are structured in Units that are sub-divided into a set of activities: ! lessons (namely explanation of facts, principles, laws, rules…)

SOLE Project – GUIDE 4 ! exercises (application of rules, list of facts, relations between items, …), ! individual or group activities (case-studies, project work, …), ! Assessment tests etc. … Learning materials in a digital format can be defined as LO, Learning Objects. A Learning Object consists of • texts, • images, • sounds, • films, • …

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These LO – generally referred to as assets – are like “small bricks”, “chunks” constituting the courses. Such a level of detail may appear excessive, but this is the direction taken by the most advanced research in the e-learning field and in particular of Web based learning. Organisations such as ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning), an initiative of the U.S government, have identified rules that could guarantee the compatibility of online learning courses and have also defined the procedures of single assets “declaration” through meta data. The rest of the Chapter will deal: ! first, with the macro level represented by the Modules and in particular with o the objectives stated by an Institution whenever a training offer is to be planned, o the structure of the learning path; ! secondly with the micro level represented by the LOs and assets, namely the elements that can or better must, according to the modern theories, be developed as elements independent from any context, so that they could be used in a wide variety of learning situations.

3.3

MODULARITY

An online learning environment, as any other ODL learning environment, requires a well-defined set of modules defined in terms of competencies, in order to be able to guarantee: ! tailored learning paths, ! an efficient training impact.

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The learning process is characterised more and more by a life-long learning path, which needs the support of suitable instruments. Learning paths, organised in modules, meet people's new needs to the extent that they provide them with tailored learning paths suitable to support their return to education, to specific learning segments, useful for updating their skills and/or cultural enrichment. Modular learning paths guarantee an effective learning process as ! learner's motivation is kept alive thanks to a step-by-step path. The learning path is able to satisfy different learning paces and styles and it is characterised by a concrete description of the objectives to be achieved. ! learner’s freedom to choose his/her learning path and the awareness of its steps help guarantee a conscious participation in the learning process. ! a strict definition of objectives, described in terms of competencies, permits a rigorous check of the achieved results and the possibility to intervene on time and to systematically modify the learning path (feedback). From the point of view of planning, a modular structure is suitable as it allows learners: ! to cope with professional knowledge becoming obsolete by either substituting or updating it: a single module can be easily modified without damaging the whole structure. ! to split and to re-create courses in order to adapt them to the rapidly changing demand both of market and public. ! to investigate, in the relevant professional contexts, the necessary competencies for developing and up-dating modules ! to choose learning materials developed by other countries which may be transferred and adapted to national contexts ! to guarantee - thanks to final evaluation tests for each block of performances standard results in a learning context characterised by a different learning schedule, varied methodologies and materials.....

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3.4

MODULE DEFINITION

As far as modules are concerned it is important to take into consideration two different but complementary aspects: ! The module which can be accredited ! The module as a learning path.

3.4.1 The module which can be accredited
The first point deals with the definition of modules as significant, certifiable and containing mutually recognisable blocks of knowledge and competencies within learning paths. A module is a set of knowledge and competencies attainable through a learning path and verifiable by means of suitable tests. In order to avoid any ambiguities and to be able to verify the competencies to be achieved in a module, in an “objective” way, it is necessary to provide an articulated and verifiable definition of its objectives. From the point of view of certification, the learning path followed is not significant. It is not important that the stated objectives are attained either in a traditional or in an online learning path. It doesn’t matter the results are attained through formal, non-formal or informal learning path (see Guide7) In order to define modular learning paths, it is necessary to analyse the reference context, both professional and /or cultural, which appears as a flow of information, methods, procedures, and behaviours. Such a context needs then to be split into blocks of knowledge and performances. This operation should be carried out in such a way that each Module could represent the smallest block of knowledge and performances still maintaining its meaning and relevance to the referred context. Each module, developed in such a way, can be certified and recognised by any training institution. Items characterising a Module, in terms of certification and recognition (features that do not vary according to context, target, delivery and methodological procedures), should be as follows:

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It should describe, in a precise even synthesised way, the object of the module in terms of activities and/or contents. The single performance or set of performances constituting the object of certification. The objectives of the learning path must be clearly defined The objectives supporting the competence to be achieved must be detailed, in order to facilitate assessment It is advisable to use verbs such as: • describe, classify, report, define (corresponding to a basic knowledge that can be verified through the repetition of facts, laws, principles, theories 1. deduce, link facts (corresponding to a higher level that can be verified through debates and correlation of facts/events..) Skills, methods and procedures contributing to the acquisition of the module competence must be detailed in order to allow an analytical check It is advisable to use verbs such as use, calculate, measure, create, develop, elaborate, plan, evaluate, test

1. Title 2. Professional competencies (or cross-skills) 3. Objectives/Descriptors 3a. Knowledge

3b.

Micro-competencies

4. Assessment procedures

The assessment procedures, by means of which the acquisition of the competence is assessed and certified, must be made explicit • written tests • practical tests • case-analyses • etc …..

3.4.2 The module as a learning path
The set of modules, namely the blocks of knowledge and competencies to be achieved, must first be defined – by a national or local body or a single training institution .We can then proceed to define the learning path, or better the complex system characterised by: ! a pedagogical model, ! teaching procedures, ! human resources,

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! physical resources such as: classrooms, laboratories, computers, networks or servers … Such a plan will emanate not only from the typical characteristics and “mission statement” of the training institution, but also from an analysis of the target groups and of the available resources. While planning, other elements will have to be defined:
5. Pre-requisites Knowledge and competencies suitable to begin the learning path must be defined (also in terms of modules already completed ) The time requested for the completion of the module must be mentioned, and if wished, for each of the following activities: • classroom • laboratory • online • work-based experience The amount of time necessary for the completion of the module must be stated . Also each activity ,whether it takes place in the classroom , laboratory , online or during work experience should have a time limit . It is advisable , especially for long modules, to explain the learning paths step by step and continuous assessment may be used to evaluate progress. The methodology chosen must be described also the different methodologies must be agreed upon for each unit. The elements to be defined are: • face-to face/online classes • laboratory/work group • deductive/inductive method • …. The choice of methodology will depend on different factors: specifications of the competence to be attained, context, targets’ characteristics, teachers’ views. The bibliography that will be used, laboratories and software packages necessary for the delivery of the module are to be described here

5. Duration

6.

Didactic units

7.

Methodology

8.

Instruments/resources

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3.5

LEARNING OBJECTS: COMPOSABLE CHUNKS

The material can be dealt with on a macro level; but can also be worked through in single sections. The most recent pedagogical research in the e-learning field focuses on the “chunks”, namely blocks of knowledge, formally defined as learning objects. The reason is essentially economical: to avoid doing the same thing several times and using what has already been developed. In order to make it possible it is necessary to develop the chunks or the Lego blocks (which is a concrete example used on both sides of the Atlantic) so that they can • be arranged and rearranged . • to make them easily transferable from one technology to another so that they can be re-used

All this may sound simple and obvious. But actually it is not often like that. Whoever is planning a didactic path, i.e. a Module, generally is concerned about the product at a macro level: s/he thinks of the house, its functioning, not of its bricks. Or, if you prefer, s/he thinks of the bricks in relation to the house, and not of the possibility of re-using them to build other houses. While developing the Module, s/he will surely produce texts, images, sounds and movies to create a Web page that will be linked to other Web pages and so on, but s/he is thinking of the relevance of the final product, not of the single component. The problem of re-using materials is a matter that arises later, when a new learning path has to be developed and one realises that some already existing materials is suitable but not reusable . But this is not simple for the following two reasons: ! from a technological point of view; the original materials were implemented for a specific platform and thus are not directly transferable to others, ! from the point of view of the content: the materials had been developed specifically for a certain context, possible sections that could be used in other contexts are indissolubly linked to other specific sections. Unless planned for during the initial stages, sections of original modules cannot be reused without a complete over-haul of the system and the modules.

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The alternative is to reverse the approach: instead of creating single components for the Module (mini versus macro), we should create mini components with the following characteristics: ! independent of the technological platform (inter-operability), ! independent of the context, ! user-friendly, ! ease of accessibility. While planning a learning path, we should ask ourselves which components Learning Objects – are available and which ones, need to be developed with the above characteristics to make them, re-usable in other contexts . We could discover that it is possible to use a complete module or a whole Unit or a few activities or in some cases only movies, images, blocks of texts, … The Learning Objects, in fact, can exist at different levels of complexity but, if complex, they obviously derive from a combination of smaller LOs. The interlinking of LOs presupposes a detailed analysis which leads to the creation of minimal but self-consistent and identifiable units generally defined as assets.

3.6

SHARABLE CONTENT OBJECTS (SCO) AND SCORMS

The several bricks of Lego – to come back to that example- from the elementary ones (basic) to the most complex ones, fit together as they have been developed according to common or standard rules: for example similar to the format and structure of the jigsaw puzzle. Thus the Learning Objects must follow certain rules in order to be assembled and reusable. Who is expected to define such rules? Any organisation can establish its own rules, developing LO that are compatible with other products of the same organisation, but not compatible with those of other organisations. But this is not cost effective for either the purchaser or the developer of online services. Research carried out on behalf of organisations like the U.S. Defence Department has demonstrated that the incompatibility, swift obsolescence and non re-usability of both hard and software purchased from various companies was evident. This lead to the creation of organisations proposing the standardisation of LOs and other training components, in particular of e learning.

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3.6.1 Research Bodies and standardisation process
Recently several organisations have been involved in a research concerning the components of training content and their standardisation: ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning) initiative Promoted by the U.S. Department of Defence in order to assure inter-operability (transportability) of courseware. They are responsible of the data concerning SCORMs. An International Association of Companies that develops training guidelines for aeronautical companies. They develop standards for inter-operability (transportability) in the field of CBT (Computer based Training) and WBT (Web based Training). A Japanese Association that researches learning environments. A project promoted by the European Commission focussing on tools and methodologies for the production of basic pedagogical elements. The aim of this organisation is to promote the marketing of services and products oriented to standardisation This organisation, financed by the Australian Government, promotes the use of the Internet in the field of education and training in that country This organisation in Dublin and Ohio is involved in the development and diffusion of a standard for meta-data It is a consortium aiming to offer teachers/trainers quick and easy access to thousands of resources in the field of training. It is developed by multifarious sources. GEM is financed by the U.S. Department of Education. IEEE is the main Certification Body in the electrical/electronic field. LTCS has, within itself, a committee in charge of developing technical standards and recommendations concerning software components, tools, technologies, methods of planning in the training/learning field

AICC (Aviation Industry Computerbased Training Committee)

ALIC (Advanced Learning Infrastructure Consortium) ARIADNE (Alliance of Remote Instructional Authoring and Distribution Networks for Europe) CEN/ISS (European Committee for Standardization /Information Society Standardization System) EdNA (Education Network Australia) DCMI Dublin Core Meta-Data Initiative GEM (Gateway to Educational Materials)

IEEE - LTSC (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers/Learning Technologies Standards Committee)

SOLE Project – GUIDE 4 Technologies Standards Committee) IMS (Instructional Management System) Global learning Consortium ISO (International Organisation for Standardization) Prometheus (PROmoting Multimedia access to Education and Training in the European Society)

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developing technical standards and recommendations concerning software components, tools, technologies, methods of planning in the training/learning field It is an international consortium of government, educational and commercial companies aiming to provide specifications for an open architecture and inter-operability for e-learning It is the main international body for standards definition; 140 organisations in charge of standardisation participate in it. It is an initiative which aims to define a common European approach for the production of elearning technologies and contents. It is funded by the European Community.

Da Maisy Center Industry Report “Making sense of learning Specifications and Standards”, 8 March 2002

They are, as one can see, numerous and different organisations that are not in conflict with one another as seen in the MAISY Centre Industry Report “Making sense of learning Specifications and Standards”, 8 March 2002, from which we have taken the image: “This graphic shows how the different organizations and groups are not in conflict or competition with each other, as is often misunderstood. Instead these various

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organizations have different roles and responsibilities in a very complimentary and holistic model.”

3.6.2 SCORM: SCO Reference Model
The ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning) initiative, as referred to above, has been promoted by the U.S. Department of Defence and by partner companies in order to ensure that training technologies and contents could be used, shared and re-used in the whole aeronautical sector. ADL, along with other partners, has developed SCORM, SCO Reference Model, which are guidelines for planning and developing training contents (defined as SCOs, Sharable Content Objects). Such a Reference Model allows contents, technologies and systems to communicate with one another guaranteeing: ! inter-operability, that is independence from the Learning Management System (LMS) used, ! re-usability, ! user-friendliness.

From ADL Site

The chart shows the “convergence approach” which has been developed in the definition of SCORM between the activities of several organisations. An initial agreement occurred in 1999 with the release 0.7.3 of SCORM, that provided a definition of meta-data with a standard “launch” procedure which is the “execution” of the learning objects SCORM is a model that, due to its various aspects, addresses:

SOLE Project – GUIDE 4 o developers of learning management systems and authoring tools o planners and developers of contents o providers of training services The image given below shows the present structure of SCORM, composed of: ! Book 1: The SCORM Overview, ! Book 2: The SCORM Content Aggregation Model, ! Book 3: The SCORM Run Time Environment.

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From ADL Technical Team taken from Maisy Center Industry Report “Making sense of learning Specifications and Standards”, 8 March 2002

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3.6.3 SCO: Sharable Content Object
The ADL model focuses on the concept of Sharable Content Object, SCO. A Sharable Content Object (SCO) is a Learning Object with the smallest level of granularity of learning contents that can be tracked in a Learning Management System1 (LMS) and developed according to the SCORM indications. A SCO: ! contains one or more assets (texts, images, sounds, Web pages, assessment tools, or any other information suitable to be delivered online) ! can be described by meta-data (see the following paragraph), ! can be launched by the SCORM run-time environment (see further) in order to communicate with the Learning Management System, ! cannot, by itself, launch other SCOs But, above all, a SCO with such characteristics can be used in different contexts, it can be used repeatedly in the production of learning materials.

3.6.4 META-DATA
The exchange and re-utilization of Learning Objects, in terms of integration, are possible not only if the model in the production phase is accepted but also if they are traceable. They must be properly catalogued into Databases, in other words they need to be quickly retraceable. How to achieve such a result? By means of meta-data, namely data related to data providing information on other data. Meta-data, in the e-learning field, must describe the Learning Objects effectively in order to find, assemble and deliver the right contents to the people who require them at the right time. (“the right learning content to the right person at the right time”). Meta-data can ideally describe all the different Learning Objects, from the smallest ones, the Assets, to the SCOs up to the Modules (they can also be used for the trainees (name, address, learning preferences, skills…) In order for the meta-data to be used by different people/organisations there must be a standard definition and there are institutions in charge of this: IMS for specific definitions and IEEE for certification.

1

A LMS is a software that automatically manages the learning activities offering lists of courses, registering users and storing information on their courseware activities.

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3.6.5 SCORM Run Time Environment
“A goal of the SCORMT M – we quote directly from ADL “Sharable Content Object Reference Mode-Version 1.2 - The SCORM Run-Time Environment” - is that learning resources be reusable and interoperable across multiple Learning Management Systems (LMS). For this to be possible, there must be a common way to start learning resources, a common mechanism for learning resources to communicate with an LMS and a predefined language or vocabulary forming the basis of the communication. As illustrated in figure …, these three aspects of the Run-Time Environment are: ! Launch ! Application Program Interface (API) ! Data Model.

The Launch mechanism defines a common way for LMSs to start Web-based learning resources. This mechanism defines the procedures and responsibilities for the establishment of communication between the delivered learning resource and the LMS. The communication protocols are standardized through the use of a common API. The API is the communication mechanism for informing the LMS of the state of the learning resource (e.g., initialized, finished or in an error condition), and is used for

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getting and setting data (e.g., score, time limits, etc.) between the LMS and the Sharable Content Object (SCO). A Data Model is a standard set of data elements used to define the information being communicated, such as, the status of the learning resource. In its simplest form, the data model defines elements that both the LMS and SCO are expected to “know” about. The LMS must maintain the state of required data elements across sessions, and the learning content must utilize only these predefined data elements if reuse across multiple systems is to occur.”

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4. THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
This chapter is devoted to the development of the environment, namely the context, both structural and relational, where learning/teaching takes place. The first paragraph highlights how different communication tools correspond to different learning contexts. The second paragraph presents the Learning Management Systems. The third paragraph draws the reader’s attention again to didactic and pedagogical issues.

4.1

TOOLS FOR ONLINE LEARNING

Let’s analyse again the four online learning contexts, which we dealt with in paragraph 2.2., from the point of view of the necessary tools for working/communicating online Supported selflearning

Browser E-mail software LMS recording accesses, login time/… Chat Web-conference Forum LMS allowing the trainer/teacher to open conferences and define permissions LMS allowing the trainer/teacher to edit learning materials during the course LMS allowing trainees to edit learning materials LMS allowing the trainer/teacher to provide trainees with the possibility to open/manage forums

••

•• •• • • •

•• •• •• • • •• • • •

Virtual class

Collaborative learning

Self-learning

•• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •

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In a self-learning context the trainee only needs a browser to navigate the learning materials. In the case of supported self-learning both the trainee and the tutor require to be provided with e-mail software to exchange messages. Also a chat system may be useful, or at least a Web-conf, but only if synchronic (predefined contact time) communication is organised The tutor may also need the learning materials to be inserted in a Learning Management System to be able to track the trainee’s activities: ! read pages, ! answers to online tests ! login time ! … A Virtual class, on the contrary, requires a larger number of tools in order to: ! navigate, ! send and receive messages, ! communicate in a synchronic way, chat and use web-conf (in this case it is not necessary to have a previous agreement: the trainee can decide to chat with the trainees he finds online) ! track single trainee’s activities ! create and manage group environments like a forum – where trainees and tutors send questions, answers, solutions of problems/exercises,… ! provide different levels of access to the platform for example : •trainee can read / write only •tutor access but trainee access denied •group access ! edit new learning materials during the course The collaborative learning context requires the same tools suggested for the virtual class but two more recommendations are needed: ! as the communication within the group of peers such as chats, web-conferences and articulated forums increase in number and quality they also become more importance ! Learner autonomy increases as trainees are responsible for the work development and the achievement of the results and as a consequence they may be involved in the management of the environment itself: o “editing of learning materials, for example web pages o opening up and management of forums.

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4.2

LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

Whenever we talk about a Learning Management System we refer to an automatic system integrating all or most of the functions illustrated for virtual class and collaborative learning. It is also provided with functions allowing the “administrative” management of trainees (enrolment, attendance certificates….) It can merely require either software to be installed on the server, or a server and a client version to be installed on tutors’ and trainees’ computers. The products existing on the market are diversified in format, tools and costs. The chart given below offers an outline of the tools they can offer, organised according to the “actors” of the training/learning process. Actors All Tools ! for synchronic communication o sending of e-mails, o mail-box to receive e-mails, o access to forums (reading and sending e-mails); ! for synchronic communication o possibility to know who and when someone is online o chat, o web-conf (only audio or video & audio), o whiteboard; ! for navigation and search ! for courseware planning; ! for the planning and editing of o lessons, o exercises, o online tests; ! for the development of databases of learning materials and the access to them; ! for the implementation of learning “ environments” o opening of forums o definition of access permissions (only reading, reading and writing, change or deletion of messages…) ! to monitor single trainee or group’s activities o login track o duration of online activities, o activities performed (pages/messages read, messages sent, exercises/tests done …), o answers given to tests ! to edit new lessons during the course ! to modify the learning environment during the course

Planners

Teacher/Tutor

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Trainees

! for the navigation of courses and single multimedia lessons; ! to store/download or print learning materials; ! to add comments to learning materials or to insert “bookmarks” ! to provide HELP; ! to monitor the learning path followed and the future learning paths (progress tracking); ! to manage one’s own portfolio of competencies/one’ own curriculum.

4.2

PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

Teaching and learning are social activities, in which not only the content delivered is relevant but great importance is also given to: ! the mode of communication, ! the interactions that take place, ! the “emotional” climate In a face-to-face environment teaching/learning takes place in a physical environment i.e. classrooms and laboratories, where the choice/ arrangement of desks/tables and their positioning is not accidental, where the people look or talk to one another and communicate through voice and gestures. All teachers know the importance both of the arrangement of the physical space andeven more – of the construction of a relational environment. By an online environment we mean a “virtual” space, that is also real as far as relational aspects are concerned. The implementation and organisation of such an environment is a didactic activity and as such it can’t be performed by IT experts, nor subordinated to technological choices. As has been said in the previous chapter, several LMSs are available on the market and some are very sophisticated.

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But this is not the essence of the problem. It is possible to deliver online learning without a pre-packed LMS. It is possible to create an efficient and effective online environment also integrating “simple” technologies: ! a BBS, Bulletin Board System, ! a chat and/or web-conference system, ! a software for the production of WEB pages ! a software for the construction of online tests ! simulation software ! databases. It is important is to create a learning environment that is : ! compatible with the didactic and relational system one wants to promote ! internally organised where the system accesses is manageable ! has a built in system of checks in place Such an environment will look, mainly, like a set of rooms devoted to specific functions. There could be, for example, areas devoted to: ! lessons of a specific unit ! tests solutions provided by the learners of a certain class ! tests solutions provided by other learners of other classes ! a discussion on a given topic carried out by learners belonging to different classrooms ! research activities performed by a sub-group in a class ! secretarial communication ! chats, jokes and anything else that does not concern the module but that learners wish to communicate to one another But, as it has already been said, it is not only a matter to “virtually” create the physical environment, but also to intervene into the relational environment. This is why most of the online courses foresee a face-to-face meeting whose aim is to foster a relationship between the users who will later interact online .

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5. CONCLUSIONS
This last chapter focuses on some key-points dealt with in the previous chapters and draws a few conclusions concerning the technology necessary to develop both learning materials and the learning environment.

5.1

THE NETWORK: LEARNING

NEW

POSSIBILITIES

OF

This Guide has been devoted to planning and developing online learning paths. We indicated that this involves dealing with two interlinked elements ! learning materials, namely the format to provide the “contents” of teaching/learning with ! the environment, namely the “virtual” organisation of the space that develops a relationship between the trainee and the tutor and the trainees themselves We explained how the net represents a new potential for learning. The net has actually become one of the main tools to organise distance learning .In fact it permits: ! The provision of learning material in an accessible way ! The monitoring of trainee activities by the tutor ! The development of learning materials that are interactive ! The carrying out of quick and effective communication between the trainee and the tutor But the net also offers possibilities that go beyond traditional distance learning, based on self-learning and supported self-learning. The net permits the creation of real classes of trainees and allows learning to happen between groups of peers as also happens in traditional face-to-face learning. Last, but not least, the net is perhaps the most suitable scenario for collaborative learning, since it combines interaction between people easy access to the widest most cost effective source of information

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5.2

THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY

Materials which are developed must be accessible by means of a computer connected to the internet : this requires the use of IT both for WEB pages, e-mails, data bases and films. Also the environment has to be developed, both to provide synchronic and synchronic communication with the tutor and to check presences/absences in the virtual class, and to develop a discussion area where trainees are free to read or write. Which is the most suitable technology? We are not suggesting any specific platform here, but we will confine ourselves to some recommendations (a big company for instance could have a platform created ad hoc, while a school is bound to use a product already on the market). ! Technology is constantly changing: let’s avoid a choice that can make the future conditional. ! Technology is intended to be used by a public, therefore it must be user-friendly , reliable (there is nothing more disappointing, online, than software that “doesn’t run” or a link that crashes) and able to guarantee swift connections (also a page that is reluctant to appear is upsetting). ! Technology must be within teachers and tutors’ grasp. Technicians should be in charge of managing the network and solving specific problems. The developer should be able to master his/her own work without being dependent on others; the tutor should be able to intervene directly into the learning environment. Technology must be user-friendly also as far as its implementation and management are concerned; it must not require advanced computing competencies so that they could be acquired in a short time. Thus teachers should be easily able to master the technology. ! Technology must be open and flexible: what is needed for one module is, at least partly, different from what is needed for another one, thus the system must be usable in different ways and be integrated with new software. ! Technology must be subdued to didactics and not vice versa. The technology, or better technologies suitable for being integrated, should allow: ! implementation and editing of Web pages containing interactive animations and filmed sequences,

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! implementation and publication of forms and databases collecting learners’ answers, with the possibility of an automatic feedback, ! exchange of messages enriched with images, ! management of conferences and forums with different levels of access, ! the possibility of tracking messages, web pages and records of each learner’s activities, ! the possibility of establishing real time contacts –chats- and, if possible, organise web conferences.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY
Advanced Distributed <http://www.adlnet.org> Learning, ADL iniziative ( 3 0 - 1 2 - 2 0 0 3 )

AICC - Aviation Industry CBT Committee, AICC ( 3 0 - 1 2 - 2 0 0 3 ) <http://www.aicc.org/> ARIADNE: Foundation for the European Knowledge Pool, The ARIADNE Foundation (30-12-2003) <http://www.ariadne-eu.org/> BiTE Project, DEIS Department of Education Development Cork Institute of Technology (30-12-2003) <http://www-deis.cit.ie/bite> Bocchetti C. & Ravotto P. “Il Progetto SiR2: Intranet regionale per la didattica e la formazione in rete - Documento Conclusivo” (2003). Sir2. ITSOS Marie Curie. (1512-2003) <http://www.tes.mi.it/sir2portale/documento_conclusivo.pdf> :: CEN :: Learning Technology Work Shop, CEN, European Committee for Standardization (30-12-2003) <http://www.cenorm.be/isss/Workshop/LT> Coomey M. & Stephenson J. “Online learning: It's all about Dialogue, Involvement, Support and Control - according to the research” in Stephenson J. Teaching and Learning Online: new pedagogies for new technologies. London: Kogan Page (2001) European Commission (2001) eLearning Action Plan, Europa-The European Union on-line (22-11-2003) <http://europa.eu.int/eurlex/en/com/cnc/2001/com2001_0172en01.pdf> IEEE LTSC, IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee (30-12-2003) <http://ltsc.ieee.org> ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36, ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 Sub-Committe 36, Standards for Information Technology for Learning, Education and Training (30-122003 <http://jtc1sc36.org> European Commission (2000), Lisbon European Council, 23 and 24 march 2000, Presidency conclusions. Europa-The European Union on-line, (25-11-2003) <http://europa.eu.int/european_council/conclusions/index_en.htm>

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Masseroni M. & Ravotto P. “Guida per l’attivazione di un sistema formativo aperto e flessibile – parte terza: La progettazione di moduli per percorsi formativi in autoapprendimento con supporto tutoriale (Progetto SOFIA, Programma Leonardo da Vinci 1995 – 3553” (1999) (1/12/2003) <http://www.tes.mi.it/pfr/italiano/ricerca/SOFIA_parte3.doc> Open Source Iniziative OSI, Open <http://www.opensource.org> Source Iniziative (25-11-2003)

Paulsen M. F. Online Education and Learning Management Systems -Global Elearning in a Scandinavian Perspective. Bekkestua: NKI Forlaget (2003) Prometeus, Prometeus-European Partnership for a Common Approach to the Production of e-learning Technologies and Content (30-12-2003) <http://www.prometeus.org/> Salmon G. E-moderating. The Key to Teaching and Learning Online, London: Taylor & Francis Group (2000) Sloan-C, The Sloan Consosrtium (A Consortium of Institutions and Organisations Committed to Quality Online Education) (30-12-2003) <http://www.aln.org/> The Maisie Centre/eLearning Consortium, Making sense of Learning, Specifications and Standards, A decision Maker’s Guide to their Adoption, 2nd Edition (November 2003, (30-12-2003) <http://www.masie.com/standards/s3_2nd_edition.pdf> Weinberger D. Arcipelago WEB. Milano: Sperling & Kupfer Editori (2002)

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GLOSSARY
E-learning Covers a wide set of applications and processes such as web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration. It includes the delivery of content via internet, intranet/extranet, audiotape, videotape, satellite broadcast, interactive TV, and CD-Rom. Learners, tutors and technical staff mostly “meet”, learn/teach and/or communicate through technological links within a virtual learning environment

Online learning

Learning environment The context, both structural and relational, where learning/teaching takes place. Self-learning The learner is responsible for his/her progress and develops their own learning and problem-solving strategy being provided only with online learning materials. The learner is provided with online learning materials and individual tutorial support and feedback. An online implementation of classroom-based teaching which may be (tutor-centred) through videoconferencing and/or (learner-centred) where groups of learners are supported on line course to achieve common objectives.

Supported selflearning Virtual class

Collaborative learning Learners come together to produce shared understandings and accomplish a joint goal or project. Technology is used as a tool for learning, group work, communication and collaboration. Learning path The sequence of learning activities proposed to a learner (or to a group of learners) sometimes to achieve specific learning objectives. Standardized, self-contained unit of content that can be separated from each other and rearranged or reused. A reusable, media-independent collection of information used as a modular building block for e-learning content.

Module Learning Object

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Sharable Content Object: a learning object with the smallest level of granularity of learning contents that can be tracked in a Learning Management System. SCO Reference Model,: set of core specifications and standards for planning and developing training contents (defined as SCOs). Such a Reference Model allows contents, technologies and systems to communicate with one another guaranteeing: ! inter-operability, that is independence from the Learning Management System (LMS) used, ! re-usability, ! user-friendliness. Data describing data. Meta-data, in the e-learning field, describe the Learning Objects effectively in order to find, assemble and deliver the right learning content to the right person at the right time.

SCORM

Meta-data

Learning management Infrastructure platform through which learning content is system delivered and managed. A combination of software tools perform a variety of functions related to online and offline learning administration and performance management.

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TOOLS
Find below the templates used in the BiTE2 project for planning online learning materials.

A.

TEMPLATE FOR DEFINING A “CONCEPT”

The first template has been used for defining concepts for online adaptation..

CONCEPT AND METHODOLOGY DEFINITION
Title of Concept Type of Concept <> KEYWORDS: ! Paradox: ! ! ! ! ! ! concepts involving an apparent contradiction between two of its “parts”. Abstract: concepts far from concrete or everyday experience. Multivariant concepts which involve a number of heterogeneous variables. Causality: concepts involving a complex relationship between a cause (or causes) and an effect (or effects). Multi-stage: concepts which involve a number of progressive stages. No right Answer: concepts based on the premise that no right answer or single conclusive truth may exist in the relevant context. Fine distinction: concepts based on the grasping of a subtle distinction between it and another concept or other concepts.

2

Bridging the gap between the Traditional and the E-learning environment: Socrates/Minerva project (2001-2003), promoter DEIS-Cork Institute of Technology (Ireland). See the site at the address http://www-deis.cit.ie/bite.

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Description

To include an indication of: ! The context of the concept in terms of its place with a discipline/subject. ! The importance of the concept and the rationale for choosing it. ! Reason for teaching/learning the concept. ! The reason for the perceived difficulty of the concept. ! The level of the target group for the concept of learning strategy (e.g. late-Secondary School, 3rd level certificate Engineering etc.) and the prior knowledge/skill/ability they need to possess. ! Learning outcome or objective of learning strategy (to be stated quantitatively if possible, e.g. “at the end of the activity/experience the learner will be able to describe/solve/explain/carry out…”).

Existing methodology

KEYWORDS: simulation, game, collaborative activity, anecdote, analogy, metaphor, real-life scenario, application, case study, discussion, debate, problem-based learning, project learning, individualised approach, thought experiment. Process: the activity being teacher/trainer/facilitator and/or learner. undertaken by

Proposed online methodology

Tools: the technical tools required to support these activities (e.g. audio-visual content delivery, asynchronous discussion forum etc.)

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B.

EXAMPLE OF A “CONCEPT”

This is an example of a template filled in. Title of Concept Type of Concept DIRECTION COEFFICIENT OF A STRAIGHT LINE ! Abstract: ! Multivariant Description concepts far from concrete or everyday experience. concepts which involve a number of heterogeneous variables.

Context Analytical Geometry: The straight line. Importance of the concept, reasons for the choice. The study of the direction coefficient of a straight line and its geometrical meaning, is the first approach to the analysis of the graph of that can represent several phenomena. The direction coefficient of a straight line is connected with the variations of the different sorts of quantities, which implies equal variations. Difficulty of the Concept Catching the isomorphism between the geometric sphere and the algebraic one, respecting each typical environment procedure, often puzzles students. The directory coefficient concept as constant incremental ratio is particularly difficult because it implies an effective knowledge of the concept of fraction. Target Secondary School Two-years course (14/15 years). Prerequisites Cartesian plane Co-ordinates of a point in the Cartesian plane Geometric concept of parallelism, perpendicularity

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Learning outcomes The student can: ! interpret by a geometrical point of view the variations of the absolute value and of the direction coefficient signs, ! recognise, among a sheaf of straight lines the one with the given direction coefficient, ! determine the direction coefficient of a straight line from its graph, ! draw a graph of a straight line of an assigned equation from the direction coefficient and from a point, ! identify if two straight lines are perpendicular, parallel, incidental from their equation, ! find out, among the functions which describe real life phenomena, those which can be represented by a straight line i.e.those where the quantities are linked by a linear proportionality law. Existing methodology Multimedial and class activities are supplied. In the lab series of cloze charts are provided to favour learning by discovery. All the charts have been devised according to the following scheme: use of the programme (Derive) to represent the situation, observation of the situation, guided deductions on what has been observed, guided tabulation of the results obtained. In the classroom the activities are integrated and systematised by guided discussion. Process The charts can turn into filling-in test (hot potatoes) The test don’t supply any sorts of assessment but they propose activities aiming at an independent work of reflection The analysis of the graphs is carried through adequate Software. For instance a software which allows straight line rotation or translation can be used to observe the correspondent variation of the equation. Tools Maths software able to reproduce dynamic graphs; hot potatoes, probable virtual class conference to compare with the assigned topics.

Proposed online methodology

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C.

TEMPLATE FOR PLANNING A LEARNING PATH

This second template has been used for planning learning paths. Title of concept < > Sequence <3-4 words describing each step> Description <what the teacher does step by step> • • <what the learner does • step by step> • • • • • • • • • • • Media Elements Examples: Text Graphics Audio Video Animation Simulation Web form Self-checked tests E-mail Chat Audio-conference Video-conference Discussion group Whiteboard/ Screen-sharing

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D.

EXAMPLE OF A LEARNING PATH

This is an example of how to fill the previous template in. Title of concept: ANALYSIS OF A FUNCTION GRAPH Sequence Introduction and prerequisites checking Description The TEACHER/TUTOR prepares learning environnement (conference, permissions...) and records partecipants. LEARNERS are welcomed to the course and check prerequisites. Media Elements Web page with text and links to test on line.

Assigning of a function graph and questions

Proposal of a function graph (real- Web page with text life scenario) and a list of questions and graphic. about phenomenon represented.

Answering the questions a priori

LEARNERS post their answers to a e-mail; discussion discussion group where they review forum each other.

Graph analysis

LEARNERS are guided through a graduate path to discover mathematical characteristics of a function graph. LEARNERS answer again to the initial questions but now they have to motivate and generalize by a mathematical point of view.

Web page with text, animated graphics and tests on line. e-mail; discussion forum

Answering the questions a posteriori and generalizing

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Consolidation

LEARNERS can analyse other function graphs and do different kinds of exercises. LEARNERS carry out a test. Feedback from the TEACHER/TUTOR with possible grading.

Web page with text, graphics and tests on line; e-mail; discussion forum Test on line; e-mail

Final check

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