Year

2003

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Information Technology and Computer Science - Faculty of Informatics

Abstract

Traditionally, the design of learning events was part of the role of teachers and trainers and in the past when learning technologies were part of teaching and learning events, for example in Distance Education or Open Learning, specialist Instructional Designers typically undertook the design. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are now central to learning in many contexts and no longer can specialist designers meet the high demand to design the vast number of technology-centred learning events in Higher Education and Human Resource Development. Most teachers and trainers are not equipped to undertake the selection of learning technologies but there is a growing expectation that they do so in the design of technology-centred learning events. In order to enhance the experience of learners or to gain efficiencies, a number of disciplines have engaged in attempts to match technologies to learning events, in particular Management, Education and Instructional Design. Theorists from each of these disciplines have proposed different models and frameworks for understanding the technologies used in the learning process, and the way in which technologies for the learning process are selected. This thesis evaluates these models, explains their deficiencies and puts forward new theoretical frameworks for the activities of the learning process, learning technologies and a method for technology selection. The new theoretical frameworks are called the Learning Activities Model (LAM) and the Leaning Technologies Model (LTM). The Learning Activities Model is based on the argument that the activities of the process of learning can be categorised as provided materials and interactions. The model further divides interactions into four subcategories: - interaction with materials, - interaction between learners, - interaction with the facilitator of learning (or teacher), and - Intra-action, a new term coined by the author to describe learning activities not included in the other categories such as reflection, refinement of opinion etc. The literature of the disciplines of Instructional Design, Human Resource Development, Flexible, Open and Distance Education is surveyed to support this argument. The basis of the Learning Technologies Model is provided in part by researchers in the field of Distance Education through their description of learning technologies as one-way or two-way. However, the research reported in this thesis takes this rather basic conceptual approach, redefines it and juxtaposes it with theoretical analyses developed for media selection in Organisational Communications to produce a new theoretical framework within which learning technologies may be analysed and categorised in the two dimensions of: - one-way or two-way, and - levels of communicative attributes, such as textual, aural and/or visual. This theoretical framework is then expanded by the inclusion of two further criteria. These are the suitability of each technology to categories of the Learning Activities Model and their ability to support synchronous or asynchronous interactions. The Technology Selection Method uses the above theoretical frameworks to match learning technologies to categories of learning activities and, through a four-step process, provides a practical method of technology selection that is simple enough to be used by trainers and teachers who are not Instructional Design specialists and yet robust enough to be used in many subject areas in both the Higher Education and Human Resource Development contexts. The theoretical frameworks have individual uses that are beneficial to trainers, teachers and learning designers as they provide frameworks within which learning activities and learning technologies can be analysed. As well, when they are brought together into The Technology Selection Method they form a method that enables the design of learning events that use learning technologies in a manner that is appropriate to the material, the learners, the context and the budget.

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