The IMS learning design framework1, describing learning, prides itself on being method and mode agnostic, allowing educational awards and learning experiences to be transferable2. However it assumes that learning content is made available as part of the learning process, but does not provide a standard for content despite the benefits of consistency, quality, recognition and transferability.
This separation of learning activity and content is emphasised in the two ways online learning is developed, namely Bricolage and Engineered.
Academics prefer a bricolage approach3 where they can modify learning experiences on the fly. There are advantages: courses can be developed with a minimum of training and effort; materials and activities can be modified as familiarity with learning environments and styles grows; delivery can be freshened and personalised. Students become guinea pigs: those on later courses experience a much more coherent offering.
But presentation styles differ widely and it becomes difficult to compare and evaluate one learning experience with another. Student focus is often on technical process rather than what they need to learn. Bricolage requires significant ongoing tutor input and can be an expensive approach for any significant number of students. Reusability is minimised.
A ‘traditional’ distance learning approach is by preparing detailed materials covering all aspects of the theory involved, ‘building in the teacher’, anticipating student problems and dealing with them in the materials. This engineered approach requires carefully designed, content-complete materials to be delivered to students, but separation of materials preparation from educational delivery can bring economies of scale particularly in subjects where the content is relatively stable.
Materials are designed to a common template, students know what to expect across modules, and they can concentrate on learning. A common standard allows module parts to be shared, compared and evaluated. Authors plan materials in advance, making it easier to ensure sound linkages between learning objectives, learning outcomes, theoretical content and assessment.
Materials must obviously be continually kept current, and if delivery is not personalised students may become passive, rather than active, learners but any cons of an engineered approach can be overcome, perhaps by building the ‘bricolage’ experience around an ‘engineered’ foundation.
OERs, and institutional repositories, should only be built round the engineered approach. Good learning materials have a long life and high value.
Participants will be shown the obvious quality, scalable and repeatable benefits that ‘engineering’ can offer, and how the instructional designer can be built in to the process.
1. IMS, 2003. IMS Learning Design Best Practice and Implementation Guide.
2. Koper, R. 2006. Current research in learning design. Educational Technology and Society. 9(1).
3. Berggren, A et al. 2005. Practical & pedagogical issues for teacher adoption of IMS learning design standards in Moodle LMS. Journal of Interactive Media in Education. Vol. 2.