RAA4: Assisting Instructional Designers on the Model Driven Architecture in Technology Enhanced Learning Systems

Drira, R., Laroussi, M., Le Pallec, X., & Warin, B. (2012). Contextualizing learning scenarios according to different Learning Management Systems. Learning Technologies, IEEE Transactions On, Retrieved from http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?arnumber=6104031

 

Background: 

Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL): This paper defines TEL as a complex system formed by a set of interdependent and heterogeneous components (i.e., actors, tools, and learning objects) organized in space and time in order to satisfy a learning goal.

Learning Management Systems (LMS): This paper defines LMS as a software system that supports distance teaching and learning. “An LMS provides much relevant functionality for collaborative learning, assessment, and communication using extremely powerful tools such as forums, chats, wikis, blogs, quizzes, etc.”

This paper is in the context of instructional design in the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) systems. The authors state that there are many different Learning Management Systems (LMS), in order to achieve interoperability, organizations have developed Learning Technology Standards (LTS), but using standards have some drawbacks. For examples, it is too generic, and also the instructional designers must use a LTS compliant and thus cannot flexibly tailor the instructional design to the specific needs of the specific learning contexts. The instructional design thus lost the pedagogic expressiveness and contextual expressiveness.

One solution is to use the Model Drive Architecture (MDA) in the instructional design process to deal with the problem of system interoperability across different execution platforms. However, novice designers can have some technical difficulties to use this approach.

The Model Drive Architecture (MDA) approach in instructional design follow the following three steps:

1. A model of the intended system with a specific meta-model is defined. This meta-model allows an accurate description of specific needs.

2. A model transformation engine with specific rules is used to transform the preceding model into an LMS-specific model.

3. The specific model can be deployed on the LMS using an automatic generator/deployer.

Purpose of the Research: 

The focus of this paper is on the step 2 above. Novice designers usually have technical difficulties in transforming the models, and the purpose of this paper is to design a tool to help instructional designers in this process.

Methods:

The authors propose an novel approach called ACoMoD (Assistance for Contextualized Modeling of Learning Systems), and therefore developed a graphical and interactive tool called Gen-COM. The Gen-COM integrates some best practices instructional designs recommended to the designers. Then the authors did a user study on this tool among 44 instructional designers. They asked for the users’ feedbacks on the usefulness of assistance for tailoring pedagogy with technical tools, usefulness of good practice recommendations, and the usability of Gen-COM.

Main Findings:

1. Designers found that Gen-COM was useful in tailoring pedagogy with LMS tools. Designers who are skilled in model transformation emphasized that Gen-COM offers a powerful transformation mechanism.

2. Although the integration of best practices in the design process is useful for novices, it is less so for designers who are very familiar with their institutional context.

3. Gen-COM clearly separates the work space for matching pedagogy and technology from the best practice reminders.

4. Most designers state that they are more likely to use a model-driven approach with tools like Gen-COM, which hide technical difficulties while allowing them to benefit from many advantages.  These advantage include interoperability, reuse, and personalization.

Analysis: 

Some parts of this paper get a bit technical and difficult to read, and the authors use a lot of acronyms. This paper is not directly related to user experiences, but I found it implies an issue between the UX team and the developers team, that is, the UX team strives to do user-centered design, and they want the design to tailor to the specific contexts of the users. However, the developers want standards, interoperability, and reuse.  They do not want to redesign everything for new user contexts and needs, they want to use the frameworks they developed before. This might be even true for novice developers, and for a small developer team, because designing for specific contexts takes time and expertise. When the time is limited, and the development team is small and full of novice developers, the developers will feel their situations are not understood by the UX researchers. And here comes the biggest issues of communication, and imperfection in the final products. This paper is trying to fill this gap by designing a tool for the designers to reduce the technical requirement on them.

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