Learning Theories and Associated Digital Tools

Here is a mind map I created to show the relationship between the major learning theories and the associated digital tools that can be potentially used for e-learning design.


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The New E-Learning Framework

Some time ago, I wrote a new e-learning framework for a company I consulted for here in Calgary. I broke down the structure into types of learning, types of e-learning products, and interactivity types. It helped the company to estimate the amount of time and money they need to put into the e-learning projects. I am sharing this in the hope that other organizations would find it beneficial to adapt or modify this framework.

The Three Types of Learning

Broadly speaking, e-learning can be broken down into three types: formal, informal, and social. Here are the definition for each of them:

“Learning is formal when someone other than the learner sets curriculum. Typically, it’s an event, on a schedule and completion is generally recognized with a symbol, such as a grade, gold star, certificate or check mark in a learning management system. Formal learning is pushed on learners”

Source: Informal Learning 2.0, Jay Cross, Internet Time blog, 8 August 2009.

“By contrast, informal learners usually set their own learning objectives. They learn when they feel a need to know. The proof of their learning is their ability to do something they could not do before. Informal learning often is a pastiche of small chunks of observing how others do things, asking questions, trial and error, sharing stories with others and casual conversation. Learners are pulled to informal learning”

Source: Informal Learning 2.0, Jay Cross, Internet Time blog, 8 August 2009

“Social learning is about learning through your interactions with others and through the knowledge and expertise of others.”

Source: http://dwilkinsnh.wordpress.com/2009/02/19/social-learning-defined/

The reason I differentiate these types of learning is that often times we tend to forget the variety of learning available, and to factor in effort in developing and measuring these different types. The table below attempt to provide more details on each types of learning, their formats, examples, and measurement matrix.

Types of Learning Formats Examples Measurement Matrix
Formal Instructor-led courses

E-learning modules
Blended learning (combine face-to-face facilitation and elearning)

In-house LMS hosted courses
  • grades
  • assessment sheets
  • self-reports
  • focus group/interviews
Informal Books/journals
Online content
Mentor City
  • number of people accessing the site/webinars
  • assessment sheets
  • self-reports
  • focus group/interviews
Social Microblogging
Social networking
  • click stream/site traffic
  • total number of people in the social network
  • total number of posts
  • total number of replies
  • total number of “likes”


Types of e-learning products

We can segment various e-learning products based on Levels and Types. Levels correspond to the learning principles derived from Bloom’s Taxonomy. Types focus on the technical and multi-media development aspect of the learning. Altogether, we can have 9 types of possible courses. The naming conventions could be: CL1-IT1, CL2-IT3, etc.

Course Levels Level 1 (CL1): Information/Dissemination
(this level includes information presentation, dissemination of facts/data, regulations, and policies)
Level 2 (CL2): Scenario/Decision-based
(this level includes interactions that require learners to make decisions, choose different paths, or
Level 3 (CL3):

Game-based Simulation

Learning Objectives (based on Bloom’s taxonomy) Understanding and Recalling Level 1 +
Applying and Analyzing
Level 2 +

Evaluating and Creating

Interactivity types Type 1 – Basic
Type 2 – Intermediate
Type 3 – Advanced
Type 1 – Basic
Type 2 – Intermediate
Type 3 – Advanced
Type 1 – Basic

Type 2 – Intermediate

Type 3 – Advanced


Interactivity Types

Type 1 (T1) – Basic text, graphics, simple audio and video, simple assessment such as multiple choice test questions.
Type 2 (T2) – Intermediate Type 1 + 25% or more interactive activities, some interaction such as “drag and drop”, “trying things out”, “commenting”, etc.
Type 3 (T3) – Advanced Simulation, 3-D graphic, game-based, virtual reality, augmented reality, custom interaction.

We can also use this as a baseline to estimate the cost of development:

For each hour of e-learning material, it could look something like this:

CL1-IT1 – 50 hours
CL1-IT2 – 100 hours
CL1-IT3-150 hours

CL2-IT1 – 100 hours
CL2-IT2 – 200 hours
CL2-IT3 – 400 hours

CL3-IT1 – 150 hours
CL3-IT2 – 350 hours
CL3-IT3 – 600 hours


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Disruptive Technology in Learning

Recently I have written a concept paper on using disruptive technology in higher education, and I thought I share it here. It is rather lengthier than my normal posts, so considered yourself forewarned 🙂

The term “Disruptive Technology” has no meaning unless we understand and define the type of problems need solving within a given context. Something that is common and taken for granted in one place can be totally disruptive elsewhere. For example, internet is ubiquitous in the cities now at least in developed countries; however giving access to it in remote areas even in developed countries can be totally disruptive. The challenge we face in higher education is not so much about the advent of new technologies destabilize the university’s founding assumptions. We as educators have always had to compete against the many alternative sources of information, media, and informal learning to engage students. Some had even gone on the extreme of banning laptops in class. However, the real challenge for formal education lies in understanding how people learn in a whole-system, holistic way, and how can we leverage this understanding with technologies. While new media and innovative technologies can potentially help us improve learning, there is a need for a fundamental shift in our perception of the learning and assessment process for true disruption to take place in higher education.

Let us think more about what types of digital technologies are more conducive for disruption. Maddux, Johnson & Willis’ classified digital technologies into Type I and Type II. Type I represents technologies that automate or replicate an existing practice. An example being the use of webinar presentations to replace face-to-face lectures. The technology didn’t “disrupt” as much as it enables the one-to-many broadcasting style lectures to reach a wider audience that can be recorded easily. Type II encompasses technologies that enable us to do things that can not be done before. Learner-driven adaptive or adaptable learning paths embedded within learning objects is an example of such technologies. Type II learning technologies have potential for disrupting learning because this type of technologies fundamentally change the patterns of human interaction. In the example of adaptive learning, when designed with learner-control in mind, alters the relationship between instructors and learners. Learners can choose their learning paths based on system feedback, or they can combine multiple pathways and learning modalities. In some cases, learners are also co-creators and co-producers of knowledge, and there are platforms and systems that encourage students to read, watch, listen, ponder, discuss, collaborate, remix, experiment, reflect, mentor others, etc.

The recent maker movement brings out the innate urges in human to tinker and create things. Maker spaces have been popping up all over the world where people design and market technology-based products using robotic parts, 3-D printers, electronics, woodworking tools, and a whole arrays of techniques. The maker culture emphasizes informal, networked, peer-led, and shared learning motivated by fun and self-fulfillment (or for social goods in some instances). This is a movement born out of Type II technologies. It represents a shift from passive consumption of mass-produced, one-size-fits-all material to an active participation of communities and individuals to create bespoke products. Similarly, how can we leverage Type II technologies in learning to shift this kind of interaction and relationship?

In my own research, I applied the idea of utilizing Type II technologies to shift the relationship between learners and instructors – to create a positive learner-directed learning experience and support learners to assume active control for their own learning in learning computer programming. Based on David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory, I have designed a Learner-Directed Model where learners are in control of their learning paths and modes of learning. Modes of learning are created based on the experiential learning cycles: concrete experience (watching a video tutorial or co-creating a video-tutorial); reflective observation (group discussion forum); abstract conceptualization (concept mapping and mental model building); and active experimentation (writing codes/debugging). Initial results have indicated that learners preferred this way of learning and that it improved the overall learning experience.

With the collaboration from interested parties around the world, I have been thinking about how to develop this research further into the following two ideas:

  1. To model after the maker movement, I am interested in creating and nurturing a peer-regulated adaptive system with peer-contributed content and activities whereby students can easily search, locate, remix, organize, and evaluate content in a granular level. In essence, a space where they can tinker and test ideas out. Students are suppliers as well as consumers of course content. Faculty act as curators and mentors alongside. This could be an extension of the earlier research work I have been doing – building on top of the Learner-Directed Model where content could be recommended/ranked/commented by peers. Based on the popularity and their preferences for learning modes, certain content would be featured more prominently (similar to Netflix algorithm).
  2. For meta-learning: to develop a three-tier community of practice/group-based learning. Fashion after the Networked Learning Modes where we have three levels of group-based engagement: learning community, learning cohort, and learning pairs. Smart and adaptive software can easily provide insights to community members regarding who within the university (or wider community) is willing and available as mentors to help others learn (similar to MentorCity). It can also curate content to generate suggestions on the most relevant resources at a meta-learning level such as helpful study strategies for a particular topic or subject.

Without looking at learning in a holistic way, efforts in mobile learning, gamification, learning analytics, augmented reality apps, immersive learning environment, and adaptive learning models are going to be superficial at best. A whole-system learning requires active participation from all concerned parties: policy makers, learning designers and developers, instructors, university administrators, the corporate sectors, and professional communities. Policies need changing to support micro-credits and other forms of academic credentials; designers and developers need to be pushed for rapid-prototyping of new ideas; instructors need to change the way they assess learning progress and competencies; administrators need to hire, nurture, and reward staff who are willing to drive the change; the corporate sectors and the professional communities need to provide feedback on the type of graduates they want in entering the workforce.

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Point-and-Click Learning

I was watching this seemingly everyday YouTube video called “A Magazine Is an iPad that Does Not Work”. It was posted as a tribute for Steve Jobs. At the end of the video, it said “For my 1 year old daughter, magazine is an iPad that does not work. It will remain so for her whole life. Steve Jobs has coded part of her OS.”

What other technology have we been taken for granted and consequently have shaped our view of the world? How do we prepare learners that are growing up in this generation and to make learning relevant to them in this changing world and changing platform?


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Learning with Videos

It recently occurred to me that there are such diversity of videos out there that cater to the visual learners in us. Gone is the talking-head shots that just ramble on. Now, when I watch video on the “how to…” topics, I am engaged by the creative ways these videos are put together.

As far as I can tell, these are the broad categories out there:

The “How To” videos
The best example of “how to” videos are undoubtedly WonderHowTo . They have every how to video under the sun, from how to draw a nude model to how to add extra buttons to the navigation bar on your Nexus 5. Users can submit their own how to videos and they can vote the videos up or down with a scoring system.

The Illustration/Draw-in-front-of-your-eyes videos
The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) animate series are particularly delightful. It uses animation technique to draw out clusters of ideas and topics as the speaker narrate in the background. Check out their animate series here:

The “Edupunk” style videos
Edupunk, as defined by the New York Times, is “an approach to teaching that avoids mainstream tools like Powerpoint and centralized Learning Management System (LMS), and instead aims to bring the rebellious attitude and “do it yourself” ethos of 70s punk music movement to online learning.” The early days of Udacity certainly has the Edupunk feel as you see two slightly disheveled professors recording their lectures in a basement somewhere. The videos are often a little bit shaky and not professionally edited.  However, it is preciously this sense of imperfection that makes these videos so endearing and real.

The Lecture style videos
Of all the lecture style videos out there, I like Khan Academy the best. In lecture style videos, a series of tutorials are usually recorded by one (and occasionally two) teacher. These videos are then broken down by topics/lecture, and ideally are not overly long. Personally, I would recommend 2-5 mins per video before learners losing focus.

What do you think? Any more categories you like to add? Any good examples out there?

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One Slide Said It All: Making ‘Research in Learning Technology’ Open Access

One slide explain it all about the important of open access:

OLDaily: Making ‘Research in Learning Technology’ Open Access

via OLDaily: Making ‘Research in Learning Technology’ Open Access.

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Types of Self-Regulated Learning – An Ontology

I have been developing an ontology for self-regulated learning (SRL) theory for e-learning. It is part of a research paper I am working on, so I thought I would share it here as a work-in-progress.

System initiated – SRL activities prescribed by the system Learner-initiated – SRL activities actively pursued by the learner
Regulation – learners strategically engage in activities that assess, correct, revise, and re-engage earlier activities and plan forthcoming activities Reflection  – learners look back at their learning activities without concrete corrective measures and commitments to gauge their past activities and plan forthcoming activities
Reactive – the learner regulates study activities only as a response to suggestions from the system Proactive – the learner self-realizes and regulates study activities prior to receiving feedback from the system as well as responses to suggestions from the system
Push – learners are dictated to perform a specific set of study activities related to a set of target SRL outcomes Pull  – learners discover and perform specific set of study activities related to a set of target SRL outcomes
Social  – SRL outcomes target groups and communities using personal, collaborative, and/or cooperative activities Individual – SRL outcomes target individuals using personal, collaborative, and/or cooperative activities
Macro-level – SRL outcomes are targeted at a higher level of abstraction Micro-level  – SRL outcomes are targeted at a coarser level of abstraction
Structured – learners follow a prescribed pattern of SRL activities Unstructured – learners do not follow a prescribed pattern of SRL activities; instead, the types and the pattern of activities change dynamically
Personalized – SRL activities are custom-generated to suit the changing nature of an individual learner’s goals, needs, moods, and other such characteristics Generic – SRL activities are pre-defined and do not undergo changes in consideration of an individual learner’s goals, needs, moods, and other such characteristics
Intentional – the system makes it explicit to the learners that SRL activities are guided by intent. E.g. the system intent to assist the learner to set his/her learning goal. Accidental – the SRL activities are designed in a serendipitous way – associative links, tag clouds, multiple ways to explore the same topic, etc are all examples of accidental learning activities that can be self-directed and regulated.
theory-centric – SRL activities and outcomes are closely modeled after specific set of SRL theories theory-oriented – SRL activities and outcomes are loosely modeled (or even not modeled) after specific set of SRL theories
longitudinal – the context of application of SRL activities and outcomes spans multiple skills, multiple activities, and multiple goals skill-specific – the context of application of SRL activities and outcomes targets a single skill and its associated goals and activities
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More on Meta-learning

So I have more thoughts I want to put into draft form about meta-learning.

The idea behind meta-learning: learning is a skill one can improve
Meta-learning focuses on the process of learning – how to help individuals learn how to learn and create optimal learning environment.

Meta-learning includes:

  • continuous reflection
  • think in a holistic way
  • setting learning goals
  • monitoring your own progress
  • keeping track of your learning
  • seeking improvement in the learning process
  • benchmarking
  • sharing the learning with others
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Augmented Reality and Learning

Recently BMW Group is working on augmented reality windshield displays. I think this is a really cool idea and finally we are seeing more use of augmented reality(AR) technology integrated for commercial and practical use. I can’t help but think that perhaps the day when we can share more on how to use AR for learning is coming soon. Tony Karrer’s blog eLearning Technology did a good job summarizing some of the posts on topics relating to AR on e-learning.

For a definition of augmented reality, my trusted Wikipedia did a good job of explaining what it is:

Augmented reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.”

For more information, you can read the full article in Wikipedia.

Getting back to AR’s application on learning, here are some thoughts and ideas I have about using it for workplace learning:

  • New employee orientation: I find it especially helpful when your workplace is somewhat enormous such as a multi-level office building or consists of several buildings. It is hard enough to remember every one of your new colleagues’ names, never mind where the kitchen and photocopy rooms are. We could develop something that provide helpful contextual information on where you are going, with virtual indications or “marks” superimposed on actual locations and to guide you around your new space.
  • A portable manual for tools/technologies/equipments: To take it a step further, there are also tools and equipments that you need help to operate. For example, I am terrible at operating a fax machine (old technologies are terrifying), and each time I need to fax something, which is rare, I have to bother my colleague to provide instruction and assurance that I am indeed putting the paper in the right way. Now, if only there is a way for AR to help overlay information and tips when I am at the fax machine, sort of a virtual user manual if you will. Again, the in-context usage is useful.
  • Knowledge management: So far, all the AR applications are being used on roads, buildings, surroundings, etc. Why can’t we have AR that scan human? It is not as scary as it sounds. For example, if I am working on a project on developing social media learning strategies for work, it would be helpful to have a technology to assist me in locating whom I can talk to within walking distance of my workplace. Who has the subject matter knowledge and how can I find out more information before I actually go and talk to him/her. Think of it as a navigation system for knowledge in the workplace. Of course, there are ethical issues and it will be restricted to work-related info and on a voluntary basis in terms of provision of information.

Can you think of any other use for AR for workplace learning? I would love to see some applications being developed and used out there.

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How to Live – Steve Style

A sad day for me and a sad day for the world of innovators, creators and dreamers. Here are a few of my favorite tributes, quotes, speeches and write-ups about Steve and by Steve:

and best of all,

Oh, and I think the fact that 2.5 million Steve Jobs tweets got sent within 12 hours of his passing speak volume about the man himself.

Steve Jobs – you will be sorely missed!


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