Academic journal article Journal of Interactive Learning Research

Speculations on Design Team Interactions

Academic journal article Journal of Interactive Learning Research

Speculations on Design Team Interactions

Article excerpt

This article examines the design approaches possible with modem views of learning and the outcomes being achieved. It speculates that new types of design dialogues are important if the products developed are to effectively combine the skills of both the educationalist and the technical expertise of other members of the development team. In the design process while most models focus on the learning task, with interactive environments it is how the user or learner will undertake the task with the tools and functionality built into the software that is more important for creating motivation and engagement. Consideration of the role of the learner as an actor in the interaction can be a useful organizing framework for designing "encounters."

The definition of an effective learning environment varies in the literature and is heavily influenced by the underlying philosophical orientation of the designer. In this article, the authors illustrate that different assumptions about what learning is required, and what outcomes are expected, in turn define the functions and roles available to learners, and how they engage with the learning tasks. The authors contend that to create learning environments that can be learner self-modified and selected, more open-ended approaches to the design process are required.

As instructional designers, we typically were taught a systematic process, which deconstructed the design task into a series of steps, which in turn follow inexorably, feeding data from each into the next step. However, in practice, recursion and reassessment are required to fine tune and create innovative solutions combining educational thinking and software engineering. It is the authors' contention that new dialogues and design methods are required if innovative learning environments are to be produced, especially as technical complexities require development teams with a range of specialist skills. Further, it is contended that the more active role of the learner/ user in the context of educational software has not been fully appreciated and should be re-conceptualized to emphasize interactions that include cognitive components.

As interactive learning environments are designed, there are several elements that need to be balanced to support the common understandings of all the design team members. Each member can provide special emphasis and create a specific element for the product; however, unless this is accomplished in a collaborative context the successful integration of these elements will be limited. In the development of any learning environment there are four key elements: (a) information structure and its representation; (b) instructional design and the underlying learning beliefs; (c) interaction possibilities and how they are designed, and (d) interface structures and the visual presentation of each of the previous elements. It is contended that these four Is are critical to the team members' understanding of the project and their ability to contribute to it. In turn, the ways in which the team collaborates around these four elements will determine both the quality of the computer-based learning environment and the ways in which key sets of skills are woven into a final interactive product.


Consider the following relationship between design intention and what the teacher/instructor does with an interactive learning product. As shown in Figure 1, the potential exists for products designed using an instructivist position to be implemented using constructivist techniques. However, the opposite is more likely to occur.

First, there is always the possibility of using a product (learning environment) in ways other than what the designer intended. For example, it is easy for an instructor to present what might otherwise be designed as a constructivist environment into a didactic task such as "find the answer to a highly structured question. …

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