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Summary of Hot Topic by skatzz


									                              Summary of Hot Topic
                   The Ghost in the Learning Management System

Following the success of the pedagogy workshop at the concertation meeting in early
2003 and discussions with experts in this field, there appeared to be some interest in
pursuing topics that helped to focus on the pedagogic issues relating to using
technology to support learning. At one meeting unrelated to the K2 project, on expert
suggested that we dedicate the topic to “something under-valued, yet crucial, that is,
emotions”. The seed had been sown for our first experiment in a “Hot Topic”.

Interestingly, the role of emotions in learning has been subject to research for a long
time. Preliminary research found that there are enabling and inhibiting emotions in
relation to emotions, but that, importantly, technology enhanced learning research had
rarely, if ever, identified, understood and developed methods for the design of
environments that produced positive emotions for learning.

Desk research uncovered an expert in this field. Professor Frank Thissen of the
University of Karlsruhe was approached and he agreed to participate. As background
to his own thoughts on this issue he contributed his paper entitled “Emotional and
Meta Communications Aspects of Human Computer Interaction “. An introductory
article was produced and circulated in the K2 newsletter in May and an initial
dialogue with the expert seeded the forum that was then launched on June 1st.

Although originally planned for the month of June, the discussion was sustained for
six weeks with over eighty contributions from members of the community. As so
many discussion fora facilitators before have found, there is always likely to be a
great deal of “passive involvement”. People will log in to a discussion, or register to
receive digests, but do not actively participate, that is, contribute. In fact there were
just fewer than seven hundred (700) such visits to the Hot Topic during this period.

The breadth of the community contributing to and accessing the discussion
has proven worthwhile in terms of this approach as an experiment.
However, the depth of the contributions has shown that the topic has proven
to be an unqualified success. It is not possible here to do justice to the
contributors. For instance,

Simon Griffey argued that:

     It’s not the feelings per se that make learning successful or not, but our attributions
     and behavioural plans in response to these that make the difference. Making this an
     explicit process, infused within the learning programme, seems to be the challenge to
     e.learning design

Frances Bell, on the other hand suggested that the points made by other

     are highly relevant to creating an environment in which trustful communication can
     take place, and hopefully learning. The other important ingredient is of course the
     people (teacher, fellow students) and whether or not the learner trusts them. Related
     e-learning work I was thinking of is: 1. Diana Laurillard's work on affordances 2.
        Gilly Salmon's work on E-moderating where she uses a 5 stage model reminiscent of
        Maslow's hierarchy. 3. Roger
        Schank's work on story telling and the story-centred curriculum. It is, I think, quite a
        challenge to do e-learning effectively (and to know when not to do it), and we can't
        afford to ignore what was already known. For example, I think that it is really
        exciting that Vygotsky's work has enjoyed such a revival.

Clark Quinn felt that he was:

        interested in the discussion, and there're SO many things to comment on. However,
        just today, I was pointed to an article that talks about the neural bases of learning,
        and          the         importance           of         emotion.         It's       at{1C529D10-5588-4AEB-A162-E885585AE611
        and is worthwhile. I'm awaiting Don Norman's new book on emotion (in design), but
        his short article at makes the
        interesting claim that positive affect causes us to do broader processing, and negative
        affect causes us to do deeper processing. Interesting implications for design.

        I'm an independent consultant in elearning, largely assisting companies developing
        custom content solutions to raise their content "to the next level" (to use their term).
        This largely involves things (as Jan points out) like getting back to the basics of
        creating compelling learning experiences. One of the things I'm using (not
        researching) is humour, and I think that's another way to build trust (contrary to
        Frank's early suggestion of being serious, though to be fair he was talking about not
        making spelling/grammatical errors, I believe.

Jan Visser offered his opinion that we should:

        think of e-learning as simply a component of the much larger learning ecology (my
        chapter 53 in the International Handbook of Lifelong Learning) that people function in. Within that
        perspective one should seek - all those involved should seek and particularly the
        learner him/herself - the necessary opportunities to relate one's learning to
        meaningful relationships with other human beings.

Our expert for this forum was Professor Frank Thissen, who teaches multimedia
didactics and information design at the University of Applied Studies (Hochschule der
Medien, Stuttgart, as well as at                       the Technical University
Karlsruhe. Frank is very                               interested in using multi-media
to support learning and has                            produced an interesting paper
on “inventing new ways of                              learning”. Frank has worked on
a short project on emotions and                        e.learning and begins his
introductory paper on the                              subject with the strongly
worded statement that                                  “emotions are essential for the
successes of human learning                            processes”. His paper describes
his project and its aims.

In discussions since the completion of the topic, Frank summarised the hot topic by
saying that:1

        “It had been a great discussion, inspiring and enriching.

    The hyperlinks were created by this author.
        Our discussion topics showed the variety of role of emotional aspects in the field of
        e-learning and its importance (“emotion is a key factor”, Jan Visser, 2. June 03).

        We started with Jan’s critical question whether we re-solve again old pedagogical
        problems, because it seems that professionals “declare themselves totally ignorant of
        what has happened before […] whenever a new technology […] becomes the
        fashion” (Jan Visser, 2 June 03). I think Jan’s right, but the way of bringing in
        pedagogical methods seems to be different because of the totally different settings
        we face in e-learning. On one hand the classroom scene with learners and trainers,
        seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling each other, on the other hand the dumb machine
        with a quite lousy interface and a much reduced form of communication. And what
        Peter stated is true: “The Feeling of What Happens cognition is […] a whole body
        experience” (Peter Bond, 3. June 03). Also the relationship between language, acting
        and cognition is significant (Humberto Maturana)2. So learning is “an experience
        involving the entire body” (Jan Visser, 3. June 03). So e-learning is a reduced form
        of learning and should only be a part of a learning concept that integrates also face-
        to-face situations, if possible.

        So how can we enrich this very poor and reduced way of learning? A first answer
        was the topic of meta-messages in communication (Bateson, Watzlawick) and we
        found that there should be meta-messages that have to do with trust and belonging to
        a group. 3 Knowing the other people in an online community makes it much easier to
        learn together and handle frustration (Jan told the experiment with the pigs, 3. June
        03). So socialization should first take place and one way is to bring in humour.
        Unfortunately humour is very culture specific, so it will be problematic in situations
        with people from different countries.

        Another aspect – the deployment of virtual agents – might be helpful, but we did not
        deepen this point in our discussion. Beside agents and avatars, adaptive interfaces
        could help learners using e-learning more effective. Simon brought in his concept of
        resilience, a “capacity to manage the unwelcome feelings, emotions, beliefs and
        behaviours that accompany challenge in learning” (Simon Griffey, 10. June 03).
        Under this paradigm e-learning environments have to engage the learner, they have
        to “take account of the learners´ emotional needs as a progression over time i.e. from
        safety to uncertainty” (Simon Griffey, 10. June 03). This reminded me of
        Csikszentmihalyi´s concept of “flow” that describes try inner happiness through total
        immersion in a skill or activity.

        Finally we discussed the importance of story telling and myths. Even there is a wide
        use of stories in management courses and knowledge management story telling plays
        a very small role in e-learning. I started developing a new method bringing in
        dramaturgy in e-learning processes (

        A lot of research still has to be done on the role of emotion in e-learning processes
        and how to develop adaptive interfaces that address human emotion and
        communication strategies in virtual learning communities. We can learn from game
        designers, from narrators and from dramaturgs. It will be an interdisciplinary

    This is an interesting account of Maturana’s work.
    See separate paper for Frank’s six steps to building trust in e.learning

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