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The Participatory Design of a (Today and) Future Digital Entomology Lab


Key Takeaways

  • Digital laboratories complement empirical science–based courses while providing flexibility in when and where students conduct lab study.
  • Virtual collaborative design using the social web may enhance the (directed) design process of a digital laboratory by providing a wide range of crowd-sourced viewpoints and feedback.
  • Complex instructional design projects, such as the Digital Entomology Lab designed and created at Kansas State University, require phasing in over time because of the limitations of funding, resources, time, and expertise.

Insect Graphic

This article showcases a virtual interactive participatory design activity for building a digital entomology lab. Conceptualized as a virtual complement to a general entomology course at Kansas State University, the lab would allow learners to explore morphological aspects of insects — their various forms and functions — in order to understand various insect types. The initial instructional design required exploration of the equipment necessary for lighting and macro image capture. It also involved creating work processes that would protect the photographic images.

When the web developer promised for the project did not have the skill set needed to design a whole new site, the focus shifted to first accurately capturing the digital images of insects for the substantive contents of a future, more complex digital entomology site. In terms of accuracy, the images had to be focused with proper depth-of-field, right-sized, and captured with the correct color balance. The images needed naming protocols and storage for easy access, both on a work site and on a public holding site. Some innovations here included the focus on capturing insects from five main angles and using a two-dimensional black-and-white grid as a backdrop to give viewers a rough sense of the sizes of the insects.

The first phase of the digital lab focused mostly on the image captures. To explore the site in its current implementation, go to http://entomology.k-state.edu/extension/insect-photo-gallery/ and click on the Digital Entomology Lab link at the top right of the Insect Gallery categories menu. This is a static site which contains some of the image captures from Phase 1 of the project.

To set the stage for the virtual participatory design for future phases of this digital entomology lab, please go to the following interactive microsite (just click on the screenshot), which highlights the design achievements thus far and then elaborates on the further questions and needs of the development team. (After the context is defined, participants will be sent to a wiki site to share their ideas.)

Soft Chalk Connect Screen Shot

Contribute to a Community Discussion

According to Dietmar Kennepohl and Lawton Shaw's Accessible Elements: Teaching Science Online and at a Distance (Athabasca University Press, 2010), slowness has marked the creation of virtual laboratories to complement the learning in online science courses. To encourage further discussions about how to support online science learning through digital laboratories, I created a crowdsourcing virtual exercise.

The two main objectives of the participatory design are to:

  • Gather ideas for Phase 2 of the Digital Entomology Lab at K-State, and to
  • Have a public discussion about strategies for promoting and building digital labs to enhance online learning in the sciences.

Your help will be critical in these endeavors.

The feedback from participants will be collected on a wiki page hosted on the ELATEwiki site (Figure 1) to benefit the development team and even the larger instructional design community. [Registration and membership are not required to post to the wiki, but the wiki will capture Internet Protocol (IP) data.]

Hai-Jew Figure 1

Figure 1. ELATEwiki Page to Contribute Design Ideas for the Digital Entomology Lab

Shalin Hai-Jew

Shalin Hai-Jew works as an Instructional Designer at the Information Technology Assistance Center (iTAC) at Kansas State University (K-State). She teaches part-time for WashingtonOnline (WAOL), based out of Washington State. She has taught in various colleges and universities for the past 20 years, including four years in the People's Republic of China (two years through the United Nations Volunteer Programme, UNDP). She was a tenured professor of English and Communications at Shoreline Community College in Washington State but left to pursue instructional design work. She earned an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership / Public Administration from Seattle University (2005) where she was a Morford Scholar. Her dissertation focused on the role of trust in e-learning. She earned B.A.s in English and psychology and an M.A. in English from the University of Washington, which she entered at 15 through the UW Halbert and Nancy Robinson Center for the Study of Capable Youth and where she received a Hugh Paradise Scholarship. She writes for the Instructional Design Open Studio (IDOS) blog as Eruditio Loginquitas. She led the team that originated the ELATEwiki (E-Learning and Teaching Exchange). She reviews academic articles for MERLOT's Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT) and Educause Quarterly. She edits and writes for IGI-Global on multiple projects. She was born in Huntsville, Alabama, in the US.


Tags from the Community



Live Webinar discussing this article

Title: Building Interactive Articles for Peer-Reviewed Journals with SoftChalk

Date: Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Time: 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM EST

Reserve your Webinar seat now at: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/210380904

Description: Interactive articles (and e-books) are an enriched form of digital publication which may build in deep exploration, interactivity, and value-added learning for readers. These articles integrate multimedia and other digital contents, are accessible and have mobile friendly content.

This webinar will highlight the building of two published articles created with SoftChalk, with a focus on organizational structure, strategic “activity” selection and multimedia choices, and tailoring to a broad audience.  We’ll also discuss the how’s & why’s and do’s & don’ts when considering authoring an interactive article.

This webinar will highlight the building of two published articles created with SoftChalk, with a focus on organizational structure, strategic “activity” selection and multimedia choices, and tailoring to a broad audience. We’ll also discuss the how’s & why’s and do’s & don’ts when considering authoring an interactive article.

The two examples that will be introduced are recent publications in the peer-reviewed Educause Quarterly:
“Creating an Online Global Health Course and Game” by Brent A. Anders, Deborah J. Briggs, Shalin Hai-Jew, Zachary J. Caby, and Mary Werick
“The Participatory Design of a (Today and) Future Digital Entomology Lab” by Shalin Hai-Jew These articles include an exploratory space about insects, a sidebar about rabies prevention, and a built-in game on global health.

The session ends with a Q&A; period.

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.


Posted by: Steve@softchalk.com on December 21, 2011

Invitation to Submit Draft Chapter on Open-Source...

Hello, all:  I am editing a book on "Open-Source Technologies for Maximizing the Creation, Deployment and Use of Digital Resources and  Information."  (with IGI-Global)

More information about this text may be found at the following link: 


Some of the proposed chapters have not been completed, and there are some additioning openings in the text.  I'll be able to consider new works submitted through December 2011. 

Please feel free to email any queries to haijes@gmail.com.  Thanks. 

-- Shalin



Posted by: Shalin Hai-Jew on September 29, 2011


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