Analysing learning behaviour to inform the pedagogical design of e-learning resources : a case study method applied to computer programming courses

Campos Hebrero, A. M. (2015) Analysing learning behaviour to inform the pedagogical design of e-learning resources : a case study method applied to computer programming courses. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


The work presented in this thesis is motivated by the need to develop practical guidelines to inform the pedagogical design of learning objects and the instructional contexts in which they are used. The difficulty is that there is no standard definition for pedagogical design or appropriate guidelines, in contrast with technical guidelines. Researchers and academic practitioners hold different understandings of the pedagogical values in the design of learning objects that determine their quality and effectiveness as educational software. Traditionally, empirical studies for the evaluation of learning objects gather rating data from the main consumers (i.e. instructional designers, teachers, and students) to assess a variety of design aspects. In this research, it is argues that, in order to evaluate and improve pedagogical design, valuable information can be extracted by analysing existing differences between students and how they use learning objects in real instructional contexts. Given this scenario, investigating the pedagogical aspects of the design of learning objects and how the study of students' behaviour with them can serve to inform such design became the main research interest of this thesis. The exploratory research presents a review of standard technical guidelines and seven evaluation frameworks for learning objects that emerged in the period from 2000 to 2013, revealing a wide spectrum of criteria used to assess their quality and effectiveness. The review explores the advantages and faults of well-known methodologies and instruments for the evaluation of learning materials and presents a selection of 12 pedagogical attributes of design, with a detailed analysis of their meanings and implications for the development of learning objects. The 12 pedagogical attributes of design are: Learning Objective, Integration, Context, Multimedia Richness, Previous Knowledge, Support, Feedback, Self-direction, Interactivity, Navigation, Assessment, and Alignment. The empirical research is based on two case studies where blended learning techniques are used as a new teaching approach for first-year Computer Programming courses at the Austral University of Chile. A virtual learning environment was customized and used in these courses to deliver different types of learning contents and assignments. Three studies were carried out for each course: the first study shows the relationships between students' interactions with different materials; the second study demonstrates the influence that learning styles exert upon these interactions, and the third study collects students' scores about the twelve pedagogical aspects of the learning resources used during the course. The results demonstrate that a relationship exists between the pedagogical attributes of the design of different learning resources and students' interactions with them. Regardless of the learning style preferences of individuals in both cohorts, the design attributes that have the greatest effect on students' behaviour with learning objects and with the whole instructional context are Interactivity, Support, Feedback, and Assessment. From the three sources of data only a combination of two of them, behavioural data and students' scores are valuable sources of empirical data to inform pedagogical design aspects of learning resources. However, it is necessary to establish a direct mapping between design attributes and expected behavioural indicators to facilitate the identification of improvements in the pedagogical design of learning resources.

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