A toolkit to guide the design of effective learning activities

Fill, Karen; Conole, Grainne and Bailey, Chris (2008). A toolkit to guide the design of effective learning activities. In: Rees, Philip; Mackay, Louise; Durham, Helen and Martin, David eds. E-Learning for Geographers: Online Materials, Resources, and Repositories. Hershey, PA, USA: IGI Global, pp. 170–184.

URL: http://www.igi-global.com/reference/details.asp?ID...


Pedagogic knowledge, the study of how we learn, is everywhere. Ever since the earliest Greek philosophers started asking questions about the world we live in, people have been interested in understanding the nature of how we absorb, process and apply knowledge. This research can help improve learning, both maximizing the knowledge transfer for learners but also increasing the effectiveness of the information providers – the teachers. In today's digital world, the challenge of applying these ideas becomes even more difficult as, like it or not, technology moves us forward; enhancing the tools and resources we use and evolving the communities that surround us.

To keep up with this challenge, tools are needed to help today's learning designers make best possible use of the resources available to them when designing or developing units of learning. The DialogPlus Toolkit was developed by a team of educationalists and computer scientists working with subject specialists (geographers) to help understand how practitioners approach the task of designing learning activities.

The aim of this group was to design and deliver an easy-to-use system that would guide teachers and learning technologists as they created learning resources, tasks and activities so that these would support effective learning. Drawing on previous work and the wide body of literature about approaches to teaching and learning, the toolkit is underpinned by a comprehensive pedagogic taxonomy. Thus, toolkit users are encouraged to consider and specify factors including the learning and teaching approach, aims and outcomes, assessment methods, learner and tutor roles and requisite skills as they design the tasks that make up a learning activity, and select the tools and resources students will need to undertake them. The output from the toolkit is a design template that can then be used to guide the actual creation and implementation of the online learning activities or can be used by others as an example which can be repurposed to create a new learning activity.

The toolkit is available on the Web . Designs are saved within a database and can be easily viewed by other toolkit users.

The specific objectives of this chapter are to present the background and rationale for the toolkit; explain the underlying taxonomy; describe the software design, development and implementation, including the novel approach to contextual 'help�; provide examples of learning activity designs created using the toolkit; and to present and discuss feedback from users. Finally, the future of this and similar tools to support designs for learning will be considered.

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