Academic journal article Research in Learning Technology

Sustaining Learning Design and Pedagogical Planning in CSCL

Academic journal article Research in Learning Technology

Sustaining Learning Design and Pedagogical Planning in CSCL

Article excerpt


Currently, the broad field of learning design and pedagogical planning, even though not at all new, is one which still attracts a lot of attention in the technology-enhanced learning (TEL) research area. According to Conole (2010), one reason for this is that the bewildering variety of technologies that have become available is making the design of learning processes possibly more powerful, but also more difficult, to the extent that "there is a gap between the potential of technologies for learning and their actual use in practice" (Conole 2010, p. 483). Olimpo et al. (2010) point out that nowadays the term "learning design" is intended in a number of manners in the literature and that researchers have delineated different concepts to denote the artefacts resulting from the learning design process (learning design, learning scenario, pedagogical scenario, didactical scenario, pedagogical plans, etc.). One of the broader definitions is the one provided by Pernin and Lejeune (2006) who state that the artefact resulting from a learning design process is "a description of the playing out of a learning situation or a unit of learning aimed at the acquisition of a precise body of knowledge through the specification of roles and activities, as well as knowledge handling resources, tools, services and results associated with the implementation of the activities".

As is well known, a great impulse to research in this field was given by the creation of the IMS-LD specification (Koper 2006), which captures who does what , when and using which materials and services in order to achieve particular learning objectives. This specification describes the constructs of the language and gives a binding in XML. The XML document instance is "loaded into" an IMS-LD-aware application and "played" (Cameron 2009). Directly stemming from this and other educational languages, or in reaction to these, a number of tools have been implemented, aimed at producing and managing "runnable" design artefacts (e.g. Coppercore, RELOAD, LDshake, LAMS, etc.).

In addition to these systems, aimed at running and delivering the design to students, other kinds of tools have also been implemented in recent times, whose main aims typically range from supporting the design process itself to documenting it mainly for sharing purposes.

Conole (2013) makes a distinction between "tools for visualising designs" and "pedagogical planners". According to her, while the former kind of tools aim to support the visualisation and sharing of learning designs, the latter is mostly aimed at supporting practitioners in making informed learning design decisions. As a matter of fact, the boundary between the two categories of tools is not clear-cut, mostly because support to practitioners in learning design can also be provided (though not only) by facilitating the description and sharing of learning designs. On the other hand, the outcome of the "pedagogical planning" process, often called "pedagogical plan", tends to include information related to the enactment of a learning event, which is preferably left out of a learning design, to make it more abstract and therefore easier to reuse. Being aware of this blurred boundary, in this paper we will accept Conole's suggestion and will use the two terms ("tools for visualising designs or learning design tools" and "pedagogical planners") as defined above.

Similar to the general panorama sketched above, also in specific fields, such as the computer-supported collaborative learning) (CSCL) research field (Dillenbourg 1999; Palloff and Pratt 1999; Scardamalia and Bereiter 1994; The Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt 1991), we witness the same attention to the general issue of learning design and pedagogical planning, and - as a consequence of the discussion - we find a variety of different approaches and tools.

In the following, the paper illustrates in more detail the state of art of CSCL design and identifies a gap in this research sector. …

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