Ranginui Door, Te Papa Museum, Wellington
Nāu te rourou nāku te rourou he pai te iwi kātoa
With your food basket and my food basket our tribe will prosper
On his recent post, What Is One Hour Of Learning?, Manish Mohan asks the question:
What are the different levels of elearning and how do you classify them?
My reaction to this was that my answer would be far too involved for a comment, but perhaps worthy of a post.
Having been steeped in the New Zealand education system for decades, I am too familiar with the word ‘level’ being used to refer to many different aspects of teaching and learning:
- curriculum level,
- qualification level,
- year level,
- reading level, etc.
My first preference is to tie down what’s meant by the word ‘level’.
Within wide constraints, I assume that ‘level’ does not necessarily refer to primary, secondary, tertiary, commercial, training etc, with the proviso that there are parameters that can be deemed to transcend these. I take a stab at a generic elearning meaning for the word.
I might be biting more off than I can chew here. The whole idea of tying down the word ‘level’ is to moderate the chances of me doing just that.
David Wiley defined a taxonomy for learning resources. He applied it to what he called the ‘learning object’, the much maligned packaged resource, spawned near the end of the 20th century, gestated into the 21st century and which was virtually stillborn by the end of 2003.
Attempts to revive it have been met with little success, yet its siblings survive in what are known as (digital) learning resources.
Learning resources make up a broad basket of items that include elearning resources. Some of these are tailored to deliver learning so that defined learning objectives can be achieved. They can form part or all of an elearning course.
Level of elearning
I’ve not come across a better way of classifying elearning resources than Wiley’s taxonomy. I believe that most asynchronous elearning resources, and even some that are used in synchronous environments, can be categorised according to this taxonomy.
Not only is it useful for classifying resources, it can also serve to define the hierarchical levels of elearning development required. I stick my neck out and summarise it here with appropriate simplification.
Resource types can be classified
- Simple – An individual digital image such as a diagram or photograph.
Combined-closed – An intimate combination of a small number of digital resources. For example, a video with accompanying audio.
Combined-open – A large number of digital resources combined but existing as separate entities. For example, a unit of learning that combines dynamically an image and a video file together with associated text.
Presentation – Logic and structure for combining (or generating and combining) lower-level learning resources (Simple and Combined-closed types). For example, a Java applet or Flash file capable of graphically presenting a set of examples by way of demonstration.
Instructional – Logic and structure for combining or generating and combining learning resources (Simple and Combined-closed types, and Presentation). For example, it can be a combination which both instructs and provides practice for the learner.
This can include formative feedback or summative assessment. It may also incorporate a window for synchronous learning, such as a chatroom or a virtual classroom.
The elements of good instructional design are to do with the essential links between what is to be learned and how to select the most appropriate pathway for the learning to occur. The individual components of learning that together lead to the desired learning outcome have characteristics that may be used to choose a possible pathway.
In the development of a learning resource or resources to meet part or all of a learning objective, the constituents of what has to be learned must first be analysed carefully. In so doing, a pathway (or pathways) to engage the student in the learning process can become evident.
A course provides such resources as would meet one or more related learning objectives in following such a pathway.
Subject and developer
Elements such as storyboarding, the inclusion of appropriate formative feedback and if necessary, summative assessment, can all form parts of a plan for a course. The realms of teaching and learning embrace the complexity of pedagogy associated with the respective subject.
To achieve a cohesive blend of good teaching with the most appropriate technology requires subject specialist and developer to work together closely. Accomplishing this requires a thorough understanding of elearning classification, by developer and subject specialist alike.