Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Future IMS Learning Design

More blog coverage from IMS in Montreal.

The Future IMS Learning Design

What is the future of learning design? It has been around seven years. But still it disseminates very slowly. Is it time to revise or reinvigorate the specification? Should it be combined with packaging, such as common cartridge? What kind of support is needed for its dissemination?

Joel Greenberg

My own personal view: maybe the world is moving on, and maybe the idea of 'design' is a bit old fashioned. I have been looking at the world of social networking, and my mind is moving away from the model where we are the experts and package the knowledge and sequence it.

Academics love book, and they're very into narrative, heavy narritive, even light-weight narrative is a challenge to them. It's interesting, because they all use techn ology, but there has been a lack of interest in using technology in their teaching. A lot of them ask, what's in it for me? They get more credit for publishing a book, a LAMS sequence wouldn't even be on their c.v.

The overall project: a generic description of services, a methodology for adding those services, and software that suppots this approach. Which led to SLeD protypes, etc. You can Google it.

Conclusions: issues about efficiency, limitations of the generic approach (it gets very complex), complexity of generic serving descriptions (Symbian. They asked, "What would make it work?" I said, if it's no mor difficult to use than PowerPoint. Which it isn't.) Does it scale? Also (Martin Weller) the content gets bound up withn its description. And finally, the difficulty of integrating tools.

Instead of trying to systematize, to sequence, a more appropriate approach is based around patterns and connections. I would question the LAMS / Moodle thing; it looks like overkill. It looks like a huge overhead just to sequence the use of tools within it. It just packs everything up and tells peopl when to use it.

We had a problem. We couldn't get academics to use any of this stuff. But they all have Word, so we looked at that. They were working to schemas. We found that over 80 percent of OU material could be done with one schema; they were changing it (the schema) to change it, not adding value. So now we have this whole system all based around Word - structured interface, graphics from repository. The idea is to lead academics to a lightweight narrative, and having them design around it. Then (what they liked) they can render it in PDF, Moodle, etc.

It took five years to get academics to use this, and it took an edict, "you will use this." The same academics that use templates produced by publishers.

This approach has been pretty effective. Something like 6000 hours of work produced using this stuff. So I'm less interested in the pedagogy, I'm more interested in the process. My experience is that your standard academic simply won't touch this stuff (learning design).

Mile Halm

I can tell you that my feeling is very similar. I recall being in the room when we decided we would begin working on a learning design spec. It was started in 2001, and the main spec came out in 2003. It has produced some research projects, but not mainstream implementations. It's very powerful, but also very complex. We won't find any faculty willing to adopt these tools.

This idea of a community: it needs a community to be successful. A more open, collaborative support environment has potentioal to lead wider adoption. But we (IMS) need to be more open. We write these specs, but there's no adoption.

So, what is the future of learning design? Similer and lighter, things that kids can do, like YouTube. Interoperable - the widgets are a good example. It needs to be more mobile, interactive (service-orientation), flexible and extensible.

Wilbert demonstrated Recourse. Very visual, contains a lot of information, hides a lot of complexity behind, so the user doesn't have to worry about it. The LAMS tool, very similar. But again, I don't know whether faculty will use this in the higher ed stange, maybe the K-12 stage, where there's a much greater emphasis on outcomes.

Prolix: from .lrn this project again focuses on simplicity. That is again what we must concentrate on if we want people to use these tools. Anyone should be able to create these things. That's what we see in web 2.0 - everyone is a creator. And we need to design learniong content in order to make that happen.

Support needs: this is our second project. The first was open source in name, but not in how it operated. We didn't have contributions, we had a grant and we went out and did all the work. This time, we looked at the process, how to engage the community. This time we're getting a lot more activity out of the partners. This idea of creating learning design communities, interacting in real-time -- getting an email here, aftr a month answering a question: that's not what I'm talking about. I mean, IRC, someon has a question, someone from the community answers (rather than us providing the answer for every sinnle person).

On of the things missing from a lot of the open source projects is documentation. If we have to do something in open source, we'll write it down. This has created a lot of trafic on our site. Documentation has a lot to do with creating a useful tool and supporting implementation. Pretty soon you get a rich resource for the entire community. Not just technical: eg. how do we get reuse out of the design itself. Also: how do we create plugins and extensions?

Take the learning designs pec: how can we help people create a very quick implementation that other people can use.

- demo - Weblion Wiki - user created content and support

Somthing like this for learning design would be really useful, and if we made it open, then anyone could contribute content. A user community would be a tremendous was to think about how to support a learning design implementation. As IMS we need to think - not just about learning design but other stuff too - about this, so you don't have to come to a conference to find that there's stuff out there.

Gilbert Paquette

My view is a bit more optiminstic, I don't know why, because we've been working on this for fifteen years, but we're working on hard problems. Learning design has had more of an impact on workplace learning. In corporations, you have to distribute lots of information, if you want to keep your people, and so you have to prepare thinsg in packages, so we're inclined to try to prepare things.

The web it our learning platform, we have to remember that. It's not to prevent the social web activities. But the instructional design is the most improtant part of learning. The insructional designer sees many paths that students could use. It's more than a qustion of interoperability, it's a question of activities, and interaction between actors.

We all agree, I think, it's vry slow adoption. The tools were form-based, not very user-friendly, not many methodological aids, and still no LD repository. And since the specification we've had web 2.0 and web 3.0 - my group has written IMS about the weakness of collaborative activities. And we're seeing competencies, and the specification is weak on that.

Four lines to extend LD access:

1. Simplify the authoring process: simpler visual modeling, visual pattern repositories, design scenarios and aids. Once question: should the teachers be their own designers? Should the larners be their own dsigners? We can see, in some scenarios at least, designers using the tools to create the designs.

2. Provide a learning design run-time engine for interoperability.

3. Profile or simplify the IMS-LD spec

4. Extend the web to social network and web 2.0 applications and contexts.

Simpler Visual Athoring - We saw examples of that today, eg. editing simplification in TELOS

LD Executable pattern rpository - if we had a good repository, with the best instructionaldesign minds around the world providing things, then we wouldn't hav dificulty covincing the teachers to use them.

Run-Time engine: the idea was to delegate CC sequencing to an extrnal tool that plays an IMS-LD file if it's present in the cartridge.

Simplifications: we need new levels in the specification - a new Level A could integrate the most useful Simple Sequencing components. Also we need a way to bring in services. and collaboprative dsign.

Conclusion: it has been six years now we have been working on the LD specification. We need a new group, not only to simplify the specification, but also to integrate the specification into actual practice. If you are interested, send m your email.


Wilbert: (very soft, something about authoring a spec and then just running it) The question is whether we can ever build tools good enough to run them.

Phil: all the people in this field are not in the main-line course production.

Gilbert: still, you ahve some LO repository, if you have incentive, if people contribute, it is recognized. The same could be for larning design. But I agree, it's more instructional designers than are inclined to do this. That's why OUNL, or us, are more involved in this.

Mike: what we've done at Penn State, we have developers at every college now, because if we put our courses online, we get back some of the tuition. But the stuff the;re developing is still old school, essentially a page-turner.

Motts (?): I remember 2003 or 04 sitting in a room with everyone in LD at the time, coming up with the view that the spec had split personalities, with no agreement on what the spec is for. I'm seeing the same split today. Is it a way to create courses? Is it a means of exchanging complete courses complete with thir pedagogy? Is it a way to exchange pedagogical practices? Probably not - we know how hard it is to ven get colleagues to reuse their own work. We need to home in on what is really important about it. Bucause otherwise I am inclined to agree with Joel, that Google Wave will do away with it.

(Comment): what keeps crossing my mind, what is the mcehanism to test the effectiveness of this pedagogy after you've pushed the learning through? How do you know your learning design is not flawed? Does it integrate with something else?

Phil: in the world of social networking, students would rate it badly and it would disappear without a trace.

Guillaume: I am not sure that we have drawn all the needed conclusion from IMS-LD. I'm not sure we are clear what it was - a modeling language, an interoperable spec? It is probably time top steer the committee. We need to have all the lajor actors taling about how to implement the lowest-cost learning deisgn. But I think we also need a pedagogvical language to communicate between teachers - but maybe that's another part.

Gilbert: it's a question fo the egg and the hen. If you don;t ahve a platform, people won't start doing it. And if people don't start doing it, then commercial vendors don't extend their platforms. I agree, setting the goals - maybe the spec does too much.

Guillaume: maybe we should abandon the completeness of IMS-LD, to model all pedagogies.

Chick: it seems a comflict between nstructional designers and teachrs. The spec is designed for instructional designers. But as a faculty member I will never use LD. I watch. As soon as you say "and then you draw a line" I know I will not use a specification. Because then you're not programming any more. I would fiddle with things. I want to be able do my could without drawing lines - I will not draw a line because I'm not a professional learning designer, and that's not how I think. It needs to be designed more along the lines of the way - we create content and then add commentary. We may be elegant at the end, but we're not elegant at the beginning.

Mike: the faculty create online lctures,m not courses

Chuck: my view is, I own my course, I want it to be as messy as posible

Gilbrt: perhaps the spec was too revolutionary. Your approach is very conservative. Perhaps they should learn some pedagogy. They teach in classes, they think they know pedagogy. But all they do is giv information, telling telling tlling. This is zero for learning.

Chuck: this is a language problem.

(Comment): It's a language problem, and it's a results problem.

Mike: in k-12 they're driven by outcomes - proof of learning - perhaps if that were more the csase in higher ed we would see more of the samne.

(Comment): learning design csn be interpreted in so many ways, and that's what makes it difficult. One view - LD is simply to describe pedagogy. But it was viewed as doing to much. And as technology, it's crap. It doesn't do what it was designed to do.

(Comment): I want to respond to the idea that l;earning outcomes are not important in higher ed. In the U.S., that is their mantra these days. I think the time is ripe to focus on outcomes.