deconstructing the experience of (e)learning for delivery ecologies


Alan Dix
Lancaster University

Talk given at The e-Learning Experience Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, 15th October 2003


Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD)
User-Lab at BIAD
Alan's pages on HCI Education
Read about the driving lesson
innovation in teaching ... talks by Alan in Singapore in 2002
Alan's pages on research and innovation
Deconstructing Experience - pulling crackers apart - chapter from Funology book
short paper about crackers at Computers and Fun 2001

send a cracker

third edition out now!!

download slides (PDF, 1.1M)
view on slideshare

In this talk I covered:

work – leisure – learning
There has been a movement towards considering user experience in computer interfaces partly because of the increasing importance of computing in leisure areas and partly because the web has made it easier to select services dynamically. Just as in leisure where experience is the central goal, in education also, issues of experience are fundamental. We know that motivation, attention and arousal are intimately linked to learning and constructive learning theory focuses on the way experience ties abstract information into personal knowledge.
golden rule of design
understand your materials
what's good about e-learning?
In any design discipline you need to understand the fundamental nature of the materials you are using. If you paint a picture in watercolour as if it were oils it will not work. If you build a wooden chair to a design intended for metal, it will break. Similarly we need to intimately understand the nature of the educational materials available for us
p-learning and e-learning
When I use the term 'material' or 'media' in education I include physical (p-learning) media "lecture", "seminar", "summer school" as well e-learning media such as
We have to thing clearly about what the experiences we have in p-learning: formal lectures, seminars, books and paper handouts, before we look to 'move' these to electronic media.
transliteration not translation
And when we do if we simply take each piece of material and copy it into the new media things will fail. Just as in translation we have to look at the meaning of a whole sentence in context, not simply take each word and transliterate into the closest equivalent. Where we simply try to copy successful educational material into a new media we normally create something that loses the essence that made it work. So much of e-learning is so boring!
deconstruction – reconstruction
I talked about the design of virtual Christmas crackers, how these were reconstituted on the web even though the experience is clearly visceral and physical. This was achieved by deconstructing the aspects of the experience of pulling a cracker: the hiddeness of the gifts inside, dressing up with a paper hat, the excitement from childhood memories. The design sought not to replicate merely the surface characteristics, but to create a web experience that caught many of the same aspects as the physical experience - translation not transliteration!
Similarly in moving between educational media we need to understand the rich nature of educational experiences: information transfer, skill acquisition, motivation, collaboration, feedback ... Only then can we create new experiences in new media that capture the same essence ... and perhaps move beyond.
delivery ecologies
both-and not either-or
In reality we do not have an either-or choice e-learning vs. p-learning. Instead we have a combination available to us, a delivery ecology: paper, face-to-face, web, PDA. If we understand the nature of the experiences then we can 'match' media to elements of experience. The web is good for information delivery, but not so easy to engender motivation and excitement. So we focus in face-to-face time on the things that are hard to deliver electronically.
Real education takes place in a delivery ecology - sometimes serial: e-learning today with a face-to-face weekend each month; sometimes concurrent: book in one hand with web. I discussed several example: the HCI text book search combining web with book, weekend schools for an IT masters for health care workers at UCLAN, using WAP or PDA alongside traditional paper distance learning materials.

Alan Dix 21/10/2003