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Four Vignettes of Learner-Centered Design and Practice

Wednesday, January 1, 2003


Vignette 1: Tracking Innovation in Pedagogy and Technology: Learning Science and Technology Repository (LESTER)Organization: Rice University

Although researchers are developing innovative technologies and methodologies that make possible new approaches to teaching and learning, there is no central place where researchers, funding agencies, instructional technologists, and interested citizens can go to learn about these projects and the researchers and organizations that are carrying them out. Without a widespread knowledge of who is doing what, current research in learning sciences and technology (LST) is uncoordinated, innovations are often isolated and on a small scale, and public awareness of technology's potential to enhance education suffers. To address this problem, Rice University's ETRAC (Educational Technology Research and Assessment Cooperative) launched LESTER (Learning Science and Technology Repository), which acts as a forum and clearinghouse for ongoing LST activities. Sponsored by Microsoft Research, LESTER ( features a robust, Web-accessible database inventorying leading projects, researchers, research organizations, and funding agencies. Through this frequently updated database, users can discover valuable information about significant initiatives, such as their research priorities, timelines, funding sources, personnel, and sponsoring organizations. LESTER aims to enable the educational community to track emerging technologies, implement learner-centered tools and methods, and formulate an informed agenda for future research. This presentation will feature a demonstration of LESTER and an overview of its goals and approaches.

Vignette 2: Challenges in Integrating Learning Objects Linked to Learning Styles in Online CoursesOrganization: Atlantic Cape Community College

Next-generation online courses at Atlantic Cape Community College will be characterized by their multimedia enrichment, high degree of interactivity, use of learning objects, and recognition of different learning styles. To that end, a faculty workshop was held in July 2002 to explore the use of iDesigner, a course delivery system that supports the use and reuse of a common pool of learning objects in the instructional design process, leading to as many as five different learning strategies (apprenticeship, incidental, inductive, deductive, and discovery). Workshop successes and failures will be described, ranging from faculty incentives to participate in workshops and programs producing learning objects, to the discovery of the need for at least one member of the instructional design team to be familiar with learning-style theory. Budgetary considerations will also be discussed, with a return on investment strategy that includes bartering your own learning objects pool with other institutions, consortia, systems, states, and vendors for access to their learning objects repositories, since no institution alone can do the job of producing all the learning objects it needs.

Vignette 3: Interactive Learning: Teaching Geographic Information Systems (GIS) with WebCTOrganization: University of Arizona

This session will showcase the integration of online learning and classroom-based education for use in teaching geographic information systems (GIS) to students. Recently, the University of Arizona launched its GISWeb project to address the needs of a campus-wide minor in GIS by using WebCT-based interactive learning modules with lab-specific classroom instruction. The GISWeb project has also been structured to allow students to give feedback on the course to aid in enriching the learning process for students in the future. This feedback will benefit students and faculty by addressing the way in which information has been disseminated over the Web and in the classroom. The overall structuring of the GISWeb project should prove to be a rich, evolving source of information for students in the minor, now and in the future.

Vignette 4: Vision Impossible? Arts and Science Approaches to Learner-Centered PracticesOrganization: The University of British Columbia

For a number of years various initiatives have sought to raise the profile of online learning at the University of British Columbia (UBC). A presidential-level committee, mandated with exploring the use of learning technologies, funded two mixed-mode e-learning projects, one in arts (English 111, writing) and one in science (Chemistry 121, laboratory). The projects focused on exploring how new learning technologies could be integrated with the pedagogical objectives of the respective course offerings and improve the learning outcomes for students.

Our presentation will analyze how the two development teams (including students) defined teaching and learning goals and what instructional techniques they used to achieve these goals. We will also discuss the process and the pedagogical strategies we developed, using commercial, NSF-funded, and UBC-developed software and learning materials to enable, for example, students' use of argumentative strategies in English 111 and scientific research in the Chemistry 121 laboratory. We then juxtapose the two projects and identify the challenges common and unique to an arts and science approach to e-learning, and illuminate how particular disciplinary premises may determine the implementation of e-learning. Some of the challenges include the effectiveness of teaching an experimental science with simulations and engaging students through the use of multifaceted approaches to English prose themes. In conclusion, we want to present how strategies of teaching and learning, partially imposed by the culture and constraints of a discipline, require a variety of differing strategies to fully explore and exploit the power of technology to support teaching and learning.

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