Designing online learning environment – Interactivity

Cognitive Tutor and Problem-based (simulation) learning environments

There are links between the Cognitive Tutors learning environment and the simulation-based learning environment from the van der Meij & de Jong study, as both provide learners with guidance and prompts. Suebnukarn & Haddawy (2006)’s Bayesian networks suggests, in problem based learning, learners start with a problem (hypothesis), and the cognitive tutor’s role is to facilitate and encourage the learners to explore their own knowledge and determine their own learning needs – “what they don’t and do know, gather information. and identify the needs for constant improvement. Cognitive tutoring system would provide guidance with respect to student’s meta-cognitive abilities can help them to become better learners. As Koedinger and Corbertt (2006) described cognitive tutor that is not merely help learners to obtain the required skills, but also develop general help seeking facilities. For example, the tutoring classes of  Khan’s academy, lecturer starts with clarifying discussion, and suggesting different possibilities to investigate the question further, then putting the question in context and present what’s happening to the learners. In this process, cognitive tutor usually would clash with the learner’s expectations, which evokes learners to actively involving with the learning sequences. Learners will have greater control over their learning as they tend to move from dependent learners to independent and collaborative.

However. the main problem with these cognitive tutoring courses such as Khan Academy or OpenCourseWare is interactivity. Learners generally cannot speak to or ask questions directly to the tutor.  Another problems are grading and evaluation. Because the learners are so many, the grading process usually automate. Learners cannot use essay writing to evaluate their comprehension of the subject.

Acquisitive learning with Technology

Acquisitive learning starts from a focus on the observable behaviour of the learner and on the idea that this can be changed by feedback from the learning environment. It is associated with the idea that learning has to do with reproducing some desirable behaviours or measurable outcomes. The learning process is seen as a process of accretion. Learners add to their store of knowledge those items that are required for them to achieve their current goal. Teaching, therefore, starts with the analysis of what is to be learned, so that it can be broken down into component parts which can be taught stage by stage. Each part is taught in a predetermined order and tested before the next part is learned so that the desired behaviour builds up incrementally.

Learning and Feedback

The overwhelming importance of Vygotsky’s theories (especially ZPD) in today’s education can be understood by simply listing the authors (from this topic cycle itself) who have made it the framework to their work: it was used in the two training programs created by Hundhausen et al. (for improving engineering students’ problem solving skills), Olov Engwall (computer-based pronunciation training), and Koedinger and Corbett (using technology provide and monitor trainings). Indeed this link was to be found to quite a few readings from earlier topic cycles even.

Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development

All these articles bring to my mind the importance of feedback in any training/teaching programs. They also serve as a reminder that task characteristics have a huge influence on the nature of the feedback. For Hundhausen et al. the focus was on providing constant feedbacks which relate students’ actions to the learning context. On the other hand for Engwall’s training programs where the context was to teach pronunciations, the focus was to provide audio feedback along with the visuals. For Koedinger and Corbett it was to estimate the learner’s competency level.

The entire educational design paradigm is made complicated due to its emphasis on context. Everything needs to be considered on the basis of background or prior experiences as the existence of such connections give new information nuggets a better chance of making their way from short-term to long-term memory. In such circumstance how is an educator (especially of adult learners) or a training designer to determine the appropriate balance between complex or simple visuals/text as mentioned by Mayer and Moreno and bring about deep learning.

All these technologies represent convenience in terms of material and temporal accessibility. However, with technology turning into the intermediary between teacher and student and student and other students I wonder how is it impacting the students behaviour, especially in the context of mastery goals and learning goals.

Also, thinking about the human computer communication interface what are the qualities we seek from it: visual and cognitive coherence, focus, simplicity. What amount of control do we desire?




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