Research issues in matching technology to pedagogical processes
Shyamala Sivakumar
Computing and Information Systems, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS, Canada
Keywords: online pedagogical frameworks, networking labo
ratories, technology.
Abstract: We investigate the technological issues involved in designing an electronic learning system that adapts
pedagogical approaches and best practice instructional strategies to model, design and implement a blended
virtual learning space. We discuss technology issues that are challenging in the design and implementation
of a modular integrated web environment (IWE) used to deliver online network laboratory learning. We
show that the IWE must incorporate an online laboratory tutorial system for guided practice to elicit
performance from the learner. Also, the learning space must be designed to match the quality of service
(QoS) requirements to the interaction taking place in the learning space and the characteristics of the
delivery media must be matched to learning process. This approach promotes good student interaction &
infrastructure management.
The developer of an e-education system faces
several challenges in designing frameworks for an
online learning environment that ensures strong
effective interaction that best replaces the onsite
face-to-face interaction taking place in labs like
those employed in Internetworking (INWK) and
Information Systems (IS) courses which extensively
use networking hardware and computer/simulation
software tools. In addition to a clear understanding
of the knowledge domain requirements, the
challenge is in supporting good pedagogy and
learning practices given technical constraints with
regard to bandwidth, quality of service, real time
interactions, and multiple users. The e-learning
design framework must include an effective,
accessible and responsive multi-user online
environment, employ interactive hands-on
laboratories, and incorporate effective instructional
strategies to impart knowledge and meet
instructional outcomes. The paper is organized as
follows: in section 2 we review literature. Section 3
presents the online pedagogical framework. Section
4 discusses online network lab learning technical
design and implementation issues.
Issues in e-learning include: 1) student interaction 2)
adapting pedagogy to the online environment 3)
develop knowledge repositories based on sound
instructional design practices 4) infrastructure
management for delivering learning material and 5)
student performance tracking. Pedagogical models,
learning and instruction theories in active,
collaborative and learner-centric instruction
proposed by Bandura, Gagne, Hiltz, Kolb, Skinner,
and others (Bandura, 1986, Gagne, 1992, Hiltz et al.,
2000, Kolb, 1985, Skinner, 1968). These are
examined to see how they can be adapted to model
the interactions between student and learn-ware
resources, lab equipment and online tutoring
systems. Learn-ware employing multimedia (MM)
enabled learning tools such as simulators, interactive
hands-on laboratories and online laboratory tutorials
(OLT) help create an environment that fosters skill
building and enhances problem-solving skills. Two
pedagogical environments that correlate with the
onsite lab teaching include the constructive and
collaborative approaches (Gagne, 1992, Hiltz et al.,
2000). Authentic lab based activities help construct
knowledge. Group interaction increases student
engagement resulting in better learning. Also,
situated learning can be employed to present
Sivakumar S. (2005).
technology to pedagogical processes.
In Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems, pages 293-296
DOI: 10.5220/0002539002930296
academic knowledge in a practical context to teach
students problem solving skills (Bandura, 1986).
Studies indicate that effective pedagogy begins with
a classification of student learning styles, such as the
the Kolb’s learning style inventory (KLSI). KLSI
has a specific focus on the learning process and thus
enables online pedagogical design to address
specific instructional objectives (Kolb, 1985). KLSI
classifies learners into activist, reflectors, theorists
and pragmatists. Activists learn by doing. Reflectors
research the subject by analyzing data. Theorists
model systems and theories. Pragmatists implement
what they have learnt. Typically, abstract learning is
favoured by theorists and pragmatists, while
concrete learning is favoured by activist and
reflectors. Hartman matched KLSI learning styles to
pedagogical strategies consisting of four distinct
segments, namely activities that are rooted in
concrete experiences (CE) e.g., use lab, field work,
observations; theorizing that involves abstract
conceptualization (AC) e.g., use lectures, papers and
analogies; reflective observations (RO) e.g., use of
logs, journals or brainstorming; and learning through
active experimentation (AE) e.g., use simulations,
case studies and assignments (Hartman, 1995). In
particular the four quadrant pedagogical and learning
style model suggests how an online learning system
should be designed and specifically, suggests ways
in which the knowledge repository must be
structured, interfaces designed, and the online
learning environment implemented for optimal
learner support. Successful learning requires that the
activities in a remote lab implement the nine
instructional strategies as outlined in (Gagne, 1992).
These include: (i) gain attention, (ii) inform learners
of objectives, (iii) recall prior learning, (iv) present
stimuli, (v) provide guidance, (vi) elicit
performance, (vii) provide feedback, (viii) assess
student performance, and (ix) enhancing retention
(Gagne, 1992). What we have not seen in literature
and plan on addressing in this paper are the unique
challenges of online lab-based learning such as the
need for students to interact with lab resources
synchronously and asynchronously, limitations in
lab resource system response, given bandwidth and
real-time response constraints, in the context of
multi-user support.
We propose that the pedagogical framework
employed in an online laboratory must incorporate
all the segments of a KLSI learning cycle. Ideally,
the online laboratory space must provide maximal
opportunities for the active experimentation (AE) of
the learning cycle based on concrete experiences
(CE) and intellectual stimulation based on
understanding abstract concepts (AC) with ample
scope for reflective observations (RO) using online
collaboration. Also, social presence can be achieved
by established an online community of learning and
cognitive presence by forming a community of
enquiry in which instructors/online tutorial systems
help students construct and confirm knowledge
through online interaction. Teaching presence is
defined as the facilitation and direction of cognitive
and social process for the realization of learning
outcomes. An important research issue is how to
increase teaching presence in the online
environment. We propose that teaching presence can
be achieved by incorporating 1) instructional
strategies that direct student learning processes when
interacting online with hardware/software 2) online
laboratory tutoring (OLT) systems that monitor and
guide the learning process 3) competent online
facilitation by a facilitator and 4) appropriate
intervention by the system/facilitator when learning
objectives are not meet. Studies indicate that student
learning process can be directed by incorporating
Gagne’s instructional strategies and a research issue
is how to implement these in an online lab. We
propose that the online lab themes be based on
concrete real world INWK/IS applications that help
students learn by employing networking equipment,
simulations and software tools to comprehend,
analyze, and evaluate abstract INWK/IS
theories/concepts. This pedagogical model increases
comprehension, synthesis of new knowledge by
evaluating the lab results through reflective
observation and helps convert the explicit content-
specific learning material into implicit knowledge.
The proposed online pedagogic process threads all
of the dimensions of Kolb’s cognitive learning levels
into the learning cycle.
Functional implementation issues of a lab rich
virtual learning space that is scalable, accessible,
interactive, and modular are now considered.
4.1 Learning space & online
educational material design
Learning environments can be classified as
synchronous or asynchronous or blended (Picciano,
2002). The design and implementation of laboratory
interaction using a Web-based environment can
present challenges, e.g., too much interaction can be
perceived as busywork, while too little interaction
leads to perceptions of isolation. Research issues
include designing virtual LS to enable the following
interactions - 1) one-on-one asynchronous
interaction between student and learning resources
2) a scalable learning environment that can support
several group-based lab activities simultaneously 3)
a collaborative environment for simultaneously
inter-team interaction 4) an environment for
discussions in news groups, and 5) one-to-one/many
synchronous interaction between student and
facilitator/instructor (Shang et al., 2001).
We propose a LS that incorporates 1) an online
laboratory tutoring (OLT) system for asynchronous
learning 2) virtual lab space that supports multiple
real-time interactions with actual hardware,
simulators and software for synchronous learning
and 3) facilitation by facilitators for blended
(a)synchronous learning employing streaming multi-
media at a minimum and 4) asynchronous many-to-
many web based communication (WBC) using
bulletin board, e-mail and chat for discussions and
evaluation of all online laboratory activities. In
addition, performance support such as HELP system
and advice will be included as part of LS system
The characteristics of media used in
communication can be assessed using media
synchronicity theory (MST) that proposes that
learning performance will be improved when
learning needs are matched to a medium's ability to
convey information. MST suggests face-to-face
communication supports low one-to-one
synchronous interactions but facilitates feedback
(Dennis and Valacich, 1999). Similarly, text based
communication supports one-to-many asynchronous
interactions with low ambiguity and has good
editing features. Thus any one media is not capable
of providing all features. An important research
issue is to explore how multi-media (MM) and
streaming MM may be applied to the problem of
online learning to match the characteristics of media
to learning processes in a remote lab. Issues include
exploring which MM (or combination) are good for
i) interaction with equipment ii) guidance iii)
demonstration of lab techniques iv) troubleshooting
networks v) result analysis and vi) feedback.
4.2 Instructional strategy and online
laboratory tutoring (OLT) system
Tools that incorporate virtual routers have been
proposed (Baumgartner et. al., 2003). We intend to
employ virtual switches, packet sniffers and
LAN/WAN analyzers in addition to routers. By
employing virtual equipment (whose response is
typically text based) along with talking heads and
video/audio clips in the OLT environment, the
system can help guide a novice student through basic
lab instruction including the use of correct
commands, proper configuration and use of actual
equipment. Research issues in OLT design include
usability of the interface, content presentation in
several formats, atomizing information so as not to
overwhelm student, eliciting performance, organize
learning content in a way logical to the student, and
providing context dependent information.
Web usability posits that content should account
for 60-80% of a page’s design. We propose that the
OEM is well labelled, documented and organized
and navigation information includes current location
of student and links to additional content such as
Java applets, sound/video clips and graphics. The
additional content enhances student comprehension
by presenting information in a variety of formats
(listening, viewing and answering). Skinner posits
that for successful learning, it must be accomplished
gradually in incremental steps (Skinner, 1968) and
hence, the OEM must be designed to atomize
information. Research issues include how to
overcome limitations of existing approaches in the
use of hypermedia (HM) and MM in course material
through the provision of the features including: i)
ability to individualize and annotate MM and HM
OEM lab material in a way similar to making notes
ii) browsing and navigation through the OEM
according to individual annotations, iii) providing
situation- and context-sensitive interaction between
learners and OEM (Weaver, 2004) (e.g., while
troubleshooting communication networks the
technical support information needs to be organized
or navigated based on task). Another important
research issue is how to design the OLT so as to
elicit learning performance from the learner and may
be used i) to assess learning outcomes ii) provide
direction, feedback and iii) guide student learning
thus incorporating steps 5-8 of Gagne’s instructional
strategies. We propose that performance is elicited
from students by designing the OLT so that students
practice under the guidance of the OLT and also
provide corrective feedback as it is an effective
teaching strategy that enhances learning and long-
term retention.
4.3 Interaction and QoS requirements
Keeping in mind the different interactions types in
the IWE, an important research issue is to design,
develop and test an innovative instructional tool that
integrates various communications technologies
INSTRUCTION - Research issues in matching technology to pedagogical processes
including MM/SMM IM, e-mail and chat in an
integrated web environment that pays careful
attention to quality of service (QoS) requirements
including the bandwidth, delay, jitter, security, and
error rate required when supporting 1) person-to-
person(s) interactions 2) interaction with learning
content, 3) virtual collaboration, and 4) discussions
in news groups and chat rooms. We intend to
incorporate an interaction aware QoS manager that
is part of the IWE architecture.
4.4 IWE architecture design issues
While WebCT and other remote education tools
enable educational OEM web-page development,
administrative tools to assist with course
administration, and tools for communication;
typically, there are no dedicated tools for
collaboration, and QoS management. The INWK/IS
lab consists of PCs and servers, networking devices,
and network simulation software. In our previous
research (Sivakumar et al., 2004) we have addressed
design and implementation of a synchronous remote
site INWK lab. The online IWE lab architecture
must be designed to provide both synchronous and
asynchronous access to the remote lab equipment,
the OLT and lab OEM. We propose that the IWE
architecture include a data base (DB), a data base
manager, a course editor (CE), a collaboration
manager (CM), and a QoS manager. The DB will
contain all OEM (including all multi-media files and
slides). A DB server will manage the database
administration. The CE enables the import of
hypertext, MM, SMM and text files. The remote
student can use an Internet-browser to access the lab,
OLT and to display the MM/SMM lab OEM
content. Connections between the client and the
DB/Terminal server can be established via TCP/IP.
Collaborative content handling must support joint
discussion, viewing and editing of task material, and
submitting joint solutions can be done by the
collaboration manager (CM).
The novelty of the proposed integrated web engine
for online networking laboratory instruction lies in
designing an e-system by adapting pedagogical
approaches and best practice instructional strategies
to model, design and implement a blended virtual
learning space. The IWE must incorporate an online
laboratory tutorial system for guided practice that is
designed to elicit performance from the learner. The
learning space must match the quality of service
(QoS) requirements to the interaction taking place in
the learning space and the characteristics of the
delivery media to learning processes. This approach
will promote good student interaction, infrastructure
management, and provides an ideal virtual learning
environment that is available anywhere and at
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