AN OPEN ENVIRONMENT FOR E-LEARNING: COMBINING USER-CENTERED DESIGN, STANDARDS AND WEB 2.0 TOOLS
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Conference name: 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 15-17 November, 2010
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) is by default technological but the focus needs to be on the learning and teaching processes. In order to provide a good TEL experience, a user-centered design (UCD) process is key to understand the users' needs and limitations. At the Open University of Catalonia (UOC – http://www.uoc.edu), UCD methods are used to choose and design the best learning tools and environment.
Learning standards such as IMS Basic Learning Tools Interoperability (IMS LTI), IMS Question and Test Interoperability (IMS QTI), IMS Learning Design (IMS LD), Open Knowledge Initiative Open Service Interface Definitions (OKI OSIDs) and The Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) are used to promote and facilitate interoperability. These standards help 1) guide the definition of the virtual classroom and tools as well as 2) define the development components to ensure connection among internal modules and external tools, services and environments.
There are many application types available in the virtual classrooms (open source tools, software as a service tools, Moodle tools, in-house developed tools and others) since our faculty and students needs are the primary criteria to choose a learning tool. For example, this last semester we have integrated Wikispaces (http://www.wikispaces.com/) as the tool to create collaborative content and the adoption rate has been very high because of the simplicity of the tool and how it has been designed for educational uses. Also we currently have WordPressMU (http://mu.wordpress.org) as the blogs platform, phpBB forums (http://www.phpbb.com/) and Statusnet (http://status.net/) for microblogging.
To meet our faculty and students needs, depending on the technical characteristics of each tool, we adapt them at the interface and functionality levels in addition to the integration process. The more open the tool is - for example, open source software or tools with APIs - the easier it is to integrate it. In fact, open source solutions are considered and adopted whenever possible. At the same time, the added value provided by open source, that is the progressive improvement and increment of functionalities by the community, requires a different implementation strategy. As a result, a fine balance needs to be found between updating these open source tools to incorporate the improvements from the community and adapting each version to our users' needs and environment.
Moreover, this tools ecosystem has to be managed together with providing support and guidance to our users. We take a social approach to fill in this gap. There is a social area for each tool with frequent asked questions, video tutorials and other information; all of them are completed and complemented by technical staff, pedagogical staff, teachers and students.
The end goal is to have a virtual classroom open to the users' needs, compliant with learning standards and therefore compatible with other e-learning environments and based on web 2.0 tools. The result is a modulable and interoperable learning environment that can be adapted to each teaching and learning situation by incorporating in-house developed tools, tools from other learning environments such as Moodle activities and also external web 2.0 tools.
Keywords: Learning Management System, Virtual Classroom, e-learning, user-centered design, web 2.0, standards, Technology Enhanced Learning, e-learning tools.