Terminology


Throughout this course, there are a number of important elements that we need to address in each design and critique. Because these elements are interconnected, many terms could apply to one of several related elements. Therefore, it's important to use one set of terms consistently, to avoid misunderstanding and conflating important different ideas.

Task Consequences, or What's wrong with ignorance?

The first question to ask (and the one most often skipped) is why someone needs to learn something in the first place. What's going wrong? What mistakes are they making? What are they missing out on? Who cares and why?

Causes of Failure

The next question is why someone has these failures. Is it lack of knowledge, inability to apply that knowledge, a belief that the knowledge is irrelevant,...? What skills, knowledge, experience, or attitude are missing? Don't assume it's missing knowledge. Often people know what they should do, they just don't do it for some, often obvious, reason.

Learning Obstacles

The next question is why someone can't learn to overcome these problems themselves. Why can't they learn from failure? Why can't they just read a book? What makes the learning hard?

One heuristic method for deriving a list of obstacles to learning is to ask why the cheaper or more natural ways to learn don't work. That is:

These questions force you to think about what's hard in learning this task. Don't fake the answers! For a given audience and task, a checklist or book may be all you need and they are a much cheaper and simpler answer than any technology-based solution.

Typical answers to these questions include:

Learning Goals

In general, these will be directly tied to the causes of failure. Getting someone to know or believe or apply what they need to know or believe or apply becomes the goal of the learning.

The Design

The design is your proposal for a learning environment. A learning environment is

The context specifies a wide range of elements, including whether the environment is computer-based or not, with groups or individuals, etc. If computer-based, and in particular, if it's a goal-based scenario, what's the student's role and mission, and so on.

Also part of the content but worth specifying separately is what supports the learning. What kinds of remediation and feedback? What kind of scaffolding and guidance?

Design Challenges and Limitations

Once you start sketching a design, you need to be note and address the challenges raised by your design choice, and document unavoidable limitations in the design. A challenge is usually the result of either an inherent limitation in the chosen technology, or a tension between two contradictory goals.

You can't have a design challenge until you have the beginnings of a design. Examples of design challenges are


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