Education Topic: EDU 636 DB#3 Guide Design principles for developing an online learning environment OLE: Online Learning Environment According to Mishra Jain (N.d.), a constructivist framework tends to provide the most suitable Online Learning Environment (OLE) as it is able to provide a ‘student-directed learning’ environment instead of a ‘teacher-directed’ one. This involves providing the necessary experience, creating relevant learning tasks, incorporating voice in the learning process, using multiple modes of representing knowledge and encouraging self-awareness, etc. The following are general principles that can be applied for developing an effective OLE: Promote Interactivity and collaboration Active learning promotes learning better than passive learning. This shows the importance of the interrelatedness of knowledge and its associations. Interactivity is therefore necessary in order to encourage experimentation and gain ‘multiple representations of knowledge’. Providing opportunities for collaboration can help the learners to achieve more because diversity and experience can make positive contributions. It can also facilitate the exchange of ideas and help generate greater interest. All of these factors contribute to providing a quality learning environment. Be Engaging As stated by Shneiderman (1998), memorable educational experiences are enriching and transformational. The environment provided, and the process of learning, affect the degree to which students are motivated. The features of the online environment and experiences it provides should therefore be relevant and be able to satisfy intrinsic needs, as well as encourage effort and support performance. The OLE should therefore provide positive learning experiences by: Including questions and problems to solve Having a variation in the instructional elements Making effective use of unique and special events Incorporating familiar and solid examples related to a priori experiences of the learner Making the learner feel in control of their own outcome and success Incorporate a variety of media Incorporating a wide variety of learning material and information media can help to make the learning more enjoyable and effective. Examples of media are text, hypertext, images, diagrams, illustrations, audio, video, animations, simulations and virtual reality. Graphics, animation, and audio and video in general are rich in information content so ample use should be made of them. Video clips for example, to introduce the instructor and for demonstrations. However, sufficient textual content should not be overlooked because text remains the basic means to deliver information. The best approach is to balance the various types of media and use different types as appropriate. according to the situations in which the are most effective and in which they complement each other. Provide a sufficient support structure Providing learners with a sufficient support structure is essential so that the learners would be able to access the support easily and on their own. At the initial stage, the teachers should provide the greatest support, and this should then be gradually reduced so that the learners can increase their competence in supporting themselves through self-directed learning. However, they can be supported in this transition by teaching them problem-solving skills, and by gradually exposing them to scenarios that are more complex so that they can distinguish between what is essential and not so essential. Provide relevant material and balanced content Providing learners with material that is relevant and directed to achieving their learning goals ensures that the learning is focused and effective. It also minimises the ‘cognitive load’ required for processing the information. The content should also be balanced in terms of the quantity to prevent information overload. This can be achieved by adopting a modular approach, i.e. by providing bits of information at a time and avoiding information that is distracting or irrelevant. Facilitate site navigation The page layout and overall website design are challenging aspects of the design, but they can make a huge difference in terms of usability. This in turn affects how much benefit the learner is able to derive from using the OLE. The design should be simple and intuitive. If metaphors or maps are used to aid navigation, they should be used wisely so that they can be easily understood and taken advantage of. The navigation system should be tested by real users to ensure it is easy and quick to use, and is able to satisfy their needs. Incorporate feedback and evaluation Another way of ensuring instructional quality would be to specifically incorporate a means for the learners to provided feedback on the course and evaluate their own learning so that future content can be continually improved. It is necessary therefore to identify the learners and their requirements at the outset and then to provide for the opportunities to identify and implement the improvements. in which the learners would be involved. Moreover, the design process should be a collective effort involving all the stakeholders, i.e. content experts, instructional course designers, graphic designers, teachers, web programmers, learners, etc. Bibliographical references Collins, Brown Newman. 1989. Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the crafts of reading, writing, and Mathematics. In Resnick, L. Knowing, learning, and instruction. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Eribaum. In Teles, Lucio. Mishra, Sanjaya Jain, Shobhita. N.d. Designing an online learning environment for participatory management of displacement, resettlement and rehabilitation. Retrieved May 24, 2011 from www.col.org/pcf2/papers/mishra.pdf. Shneiderman, B. 1998. Relate-Create-Donate: A teaching/learning philosophy for the cyber-generation. Computers Education, Vol. 31, pp. 25-39. In Toporski Foley, 2004. Teles, Lucio. N.d. Designing online collaborative learning environments. TeleLearning Networks of Centres of Excellence, TELEStraining Inc. Toporski, Neil Foley, Tim. 2004. Design principles for online instruction: a new kind of classroom. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, Vol. 5, No. 1.