As a newly minted Master of Arts in Learning and Technology (MALAT) student at Royal Roads University, one of our first assignments for course LRNT521 – Digital Learning Environments, Networks, Communities was to review video submissions from a Virtual Symposium and provide a reflection on what we reviewed.
Some of the questions we were to consider were as follows (Royal Roads University 2017):
- What were some surprising ideas that you encountered? Why were they surprising?
- Which one idea was especially intriguing and why?
- Did you encounter any ideas that you especially agreed/disagreed with? On what basis did you agree/disagree?
The recordings and artefacts that we were to review were sectioned into three tracks. Lay of The Land (which featured sessions by professionals/experts), Stories from the Field (sessions by working professionals in the field of digital learning) and End in Mind Track (presentations by “near-to-completion” MALAT students).
As someone without a traditional background in academia, I found it surprising that several narratives offered common sense approaches rather than being industry leading or forward thinking. For example, Chumbley (2017) focused on the Impact of Online Learning Development Strategies on Persons with Disabilities. These strategies centred on concepts such as avoiding clutter, the use of non-text navigation, visual clues, limiting text, and ensuring consistency and simple language when creating websites or learning environments. Yet these practices are key for all audiences, not just persons with disabilities. Website designers should already be following these guidelines in order to retain customers and provide credibility (Sharpened Productions, 2017). For example DesignerMag.org gives a quick snapshot of a proper layout and the Madison Avenue Journal illustrates why Google is a far cleaner site to conduct searches on compared to its competitor Yahoo.
In the video Higher Education in Flux, Levy 2017) described her consultancy role in assisting a New Zealand based educational institution with their collaborative efforts to create Design for Learning Success (Royal Roads University, 2017). Key areas of preparation, design, development and delivery were hampered as the staffing at the institution were not accustomed to collaborative tools to create a seamless distribution of ideas or products. Ultimately, they ended up using Google Drive/Docs and Microsoft Office to bring people together. Again, to me, this was surprising as these basic tools weren’t being utilized from the onset and it took a consultant to help bridge that gap. Perhaps my own bias kicks in as these are tools that have I have been utilizing in the business world for years. One lesson for me is that I shouldn’t assume that everyone has either the access or understanding of how the technology can be used regardless of how ubiquitous it is in certain geographic locations and industries.
What I found intriguing was that in Levy’s presentation, she outlined the need for Sprint Methodology in order to bring products to market by cramming content together within short periods of time. Once these minimal viable products are launched, they are then refined and incrementally adjusted along the way. On the opposite side of the spectrum was the more structured development model expressed by Riddel (2017) in her presentation of Open School BC where projects follow a clearly defined and more laborious route of Identify the Need, Design the Plan, Write Content, Develop Outputs, Prototype, Launch, then Evaluate and Maintain (Royal Roads University, 2017). Based on the presentations of Levy (2017) and Riddel (2017) it would appear to be that both concepts can be utilized to successfully launch a product but both can also be riddled with issues such as a failure to launch due to too much oversight in the case of Riddel or a rushed/buggy product that could frustrate early adopters with Levy’s approach.
As I delved into the available symposium sessions there were some additional takeaways that stuck with me. Cormier’s (2017) discussion of “What does ‘open’ mean?” got me thinking deeper about the context. Originally I took “open” as meaning “free” but then realized it also encompasses “Who is responsible for learning?”, “How do you maintain a critical lens in an open environment?” and “What should/shouldn’t you talk about in the open?” (Royal Roads University, 2017). These are key concepts that I will be mindful of on both a personal and professional level in the online world and I look forward to gaining more knowledge and insight as this Digital Learning Environments, Networks, Communities course unfolds.
10 Rules of Web Design. (n.d.). Retrieved July 17, 2017, from
Chumbley, L. 2017. Impact of Online Learning Development Strategies on Persons with
Disabilities. Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mQS_oC_jO2taghriJfXKDsgfa1fUL0mTDMo2JTGSJc/edit#
Cormier, D. 2017. Intentional messiness of online communities. Retrieved from
Levy, C. 2017. Higher education in flux – what’s an instructional designer to do.
Riddel, J. 2017. Open School BC. Retrieved from
Royal Roads University, 2017. Retrieved from: https://malat-coursesite.royalroads.ca/lrnt521-july2017/schedule/unit-1/