Specification of pedagogical processes and dynamics in e-learning through modelling languages Ana Maia* Teresa Pessoa** Leonel Morgado*** Paulo Martins*** * University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro (UTAD), Portugal ** Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Coimbra (UC), Portugal *** GECAD/UTAD – University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, PortugalAbstractThis communication presents a proposal for a research project aimed at identifying the weaknessesand limitations of existing Design Languages (DL), based on a review of various existing DL and theperspectives of different authors.Today we witness a general expansion of e-learning. This is an area that involves the participation ofvarious stakeholders, each with its specific contribution. Thus, communication between differentactors is assumed as a decisive factor for the whole process.There is a meta-language, the Educational Modelling Language, to support the representation ofprocesses in this area, which has been used to define several design languages (DL), such as E2ML(Botturi, 2006).By applying DL in the context of a group of college professors involved in a process ofimplementation and dissemination of e-learning at the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro,the objective of the project presented herein is to set from the identification of weaknesses andlimitations in existing DL to propose changes to existing DL or even the need for a new one, toremedy identified weaknesses and limitations. Thus, we intend to improve the level of communicationand creativity support provided by DL, to enhance the success of teaching & learning processes in e-learning.OverviewE-learning is significantly expanding in the current educational landscape. With it s owndynamic and objects, based on the paradigms of traditional education (conducted without theaid of modern technology), it has seen the emergence of new models of teaching andlearning. For instance, "Competency based learning" (Schlusmans, et al., 1999),"Collaborative learning" (Dillenbourg & Schneider, 1995), and "Performance improvementapproaches" (Robinson & Robinson, 1995). Instructional design, as a systematic process ofcreating and development of educational programs, with the technological specifications ofthe adopted practices (Miranda, 2009), should give special consideration (within the scope ofe-learning), to support for acts of communication and creativity. A focus of concern is how torender the teaching-learning process effective, efficient, attractive, and accessible to thoseinvolved. Instructional design languages seek to contribute to the resolution of this problem,as conceptual tool to support the design process (Botturi et al., 2006).
From the perspective of Koper & Manderveld (2004), we assume technological specificationsof learning as being detailing methods and techniques underlying the implementation ofeducational practices in e-learning.Design languages for supporting the description and specification of educational processesare themselves specified using the meta-language EML (Educational Modelling Language)and its model of semantic notation for description of learning processes in e-learning(Hermans et al., 2004). EML-based design languages meet the technological specificationrequirements of learning units, providing a pedagogical structure with different types ofobjects and showing the relationship between them (Koper & Manderveld, 2004).A design language is therefore a tool of textual or visual expression of mental processes. It isa medium for representation, using a notation system supported by icons and other signs, ofproblems, solutions, and instructional designs, perceived by different actors in process(Botturi et al., 2006). There are many EML-based DL. E.g., E2ML (Botturi, 2006), UML-based languages (PCeL), AUTC LD, IMS / LD, PoEML, and more. There are studies (e.g.,Botturi et al., 2006) comparing the various DL in several aspects such as stratification, levelof formality, type of design, perspective and rating system, and also in relation to key aspectsof e-learning processes, such as creativity and communication. According to Botturi et al.(ibid.), E2ML has greater focus and support for instructional design involving creativity andcoordination of communication.However, these authors report that space for evolution and development in this field ofresearch is large, particularly when it comes to checking the effectiveness of DL and theability to make them more accessible and easy to learn for users.In this context, it becomes necessary to improve current languages or develop new ones, toencourage support for diversity and educational innovation, focusing on re-use of materialsand learning objects, and the interoperability of those. It is also important that the notationinstruments and system promote an effective, efficient and attractive implementation ofenvironments and e-learning practices, a standard and consistent communication betweendifferent stakeholders in education (Botturi et al., 2006).The projectThe aim of the research project we propose is to identify the weaknesses and limitations ofcurrent DL, and devise ways to overcome them, Specifically, we are targeting their ability torepresent the dynamics of teaching and learning processes, based on assumptions of requiredflexibility, creativity, and secure communication.To do so, given the necessity to create new instruments as an outcome of the researchprocess, we intend to follow the principles of Design Science (Vaishnavi & Kuechler, 2008),which have some tradition in the design specification languages (e.g., Hevner et al., 2004, 93-95). This view sees design as a dichotomy between design processes and artefacts as forms ofcomplex problem solving, the first generating in an innovative way the second one, and theevaluation of these providing a better understanding of these problems, in an iterative processwhich ends with an artefact, final product of design (ibid., p. 78).
As a background to initiate this research, we will guide the initial work with some resultsfound in literature from studies on DL (Botturi et al, 2006): H1 – The level of detail of theDL description influences the efficiency of the communication process; H2 – the level ofcreativity allowed by the DL on representation process influences the level of effectivenesson communication process. We will also consider the cognitive dimensions framework, usedto assist the design and evaluation of user interfaces and languages (Green, 1998)The aim is thus to improve the specification ability of current DL, by incremental anditerative improvement of its features. This process may lead to a new language, should itbecome apparent that incremental improvements are insufficient to overcome limitations andweaknesses of current DL.This process of design research, including the assessment / validation of iterations ofartifacts, builds on the institutional context of the implementation of e-learning practices atthe University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro (UTAD) and the ongoing initiative of thePro-Chancellery for Innovation and Information Management. The research will take place inthis context, with the use of DL by involved college professors, a factor of diversity in termsof content, processes, techniques and practices.The ultimate aim, therefore, is to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of communicationbetween the different stakeholders involved in teaching and learning processes, throughstandardized representation of the educational processes and dynamics. We believe that theimprovement and innovation in standardized modelling languages is an asset for thepromotion of creative, compelling, and effective e-learning environments and practices.ReferencesBotturi, L. (2006). E2ML: A Visual Language for the Design of Instruction. Educational Technology Research & Development, 54(3), 265-293. Springer.Botturi, L., Derntl, M., Boot, E., & Figl, K. (2006). A classification framework for educational modeling languages in instructional design. System, 1216-1220.Dillenbourg, P. & Schneider, D. (1995). Mediating the mechanisms which make collaborative learning sometimes effective. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 1, 131–146.Green, T; Blackwell, A. (1998). Cognitive dimensions of information artefacts: a tutorial, version 1.2 [on-line], http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~afb21/CognitiveDimensions/CDtutorial.pdf (accessed October 2, 2011).Hevner, A. R., March, S. T., Park, J., & Ram, S. (2004). Design Science in Information Systems Research. MIS Quarterly, 28(1), 75-105. JSTOR.Hermans, H., Manderveld, J. & Vogten, H. (2004). Educational Modelling Language In Jochems, W., Merriënboer, J. J. G. V., & Koper, R. Integrated E-Learning: Implications for Pedagogy, Technology and Organization. RoutledgeFalmer.
Koper, R., & Manderveld, J. (2004). Educational modelling language: modelling reusable, interoperable, rich and personalised units of learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 35(5), 537-551. Citeseer.Robinson, D. G. & Robinson, J. C. (1995). Performance consulting: moving beyond training. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.Vaishnavi, V. and Kuechler, W. (2008). Design Science Research Methods and Patterns: Innovating Information and Communication Technology. Auerbach Publications.