In education, selecting a design model is a dynamic and ever-changing process. Perhaps because of this dynamic nature, no prescribed panacea can be applied to the instructional design process. Professionals attempting to create, apply or modify learning models need to consider the learning outcome, environment, involved professionals, and the learner. However, many other affordances should be examined in a model’s application or creation. For example, when applying a model in a K – 12 environment, the surrounding community will be heavily invested and should be considered and possibly even utilized. Likewise, an online-only environment would have completely different affordances that most likely rely more on technologies for communication and delivery of course content.
One essential and seemingly contradictory aspect of designing and implementing models is balancing a study foundation with dynamic, time-sensitive adaptation, individualization, and innovation. The course’s foundation gives it structure; it allows learners and educators a predictable learning path, which affords the course routine and stability. Yet, a constant systematic course does not encourage critical thinking and innovation. A stable course cannot adapt to the learners’ needs, inevitable changes in the related field, and environmental pressures, causing instructional designers to risk redesign or irrelevancy. One solution to this problem is to implement a hybrid-like model. Hybrid models allow instructional designers to pick and choose the best aspects of an established model based on their course’s specific affordances. However, there is no prescribed methodology for implementing a hybrid model.
Using a hybrid model requires a shift in thinking from didactic, computation-based thinking in design to a fluid approach that encourages reflection on practice, media, and content. Most designers use the concept of affordances in the design process, which, admittedly, has some ambiguity in the field but will be defined as factors, philosophies, and queues that help an instructional designer conceptualize the foundational needs and structure of a course. The problem associated with using affordances is that they are factored in the course design process exclusively during the conceptualization and creation of the methodology and content. This methodological approach conveniently ignores many unknowns that can only be discovered during the delivery of course materials, such as changes in the field, individual student needs, previous knowledge, social and cultural factors, and many other nuances related to individuals. Instead of affordances, designers need signifiers.
Signifiers help designers identify critical information during all stages of the design process because they are viewed as trails or the evidence left behind when specific actions occur (Norman, 2008, p. 18). Using affordances often requires designers to predict a course’s needs before any instruction happens, or, in more modern models, at constrained intervals. Signifiers allow signals to emerge organically, even allowing for unpredictable or accidental indicators that help reveal social structures or other complex behaviours that are vital variables used when delivering course content. Signifiers are under constant scrutiny; they give educators the knowledge they need to adjust course materials dynamically or just-in-time based on an ever-changing flow of information.
Using models allow instructional designers to universalize best practices in education but constrain innovation and create an environment that can be averse to change. A hybrid approach affords stability yet encourages change by using signifiers. Signifiers indicate possible areas of concern that could be addressed at all course development levels, from creation to implementation.
Donald A. Norman. (2008). The way I see it: Signifiers, not affordances. Interactions. 15(6), 18–19. https://doi-org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/10.1145/1409040.1409044
I also created an example model, but I already had a lot of information… so I ended up cutting it – here it is if you want to view it: https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1AWFghhuyOVg3aM2A2KEnDH1XWllVIHvWidWFGgKVAzQ/edit?usp=sharing
Updated Oct. 31, 2020
Originally this post was an unedited version. On October 31, I updated it with an new edited version. I also would like to attach (see below) a direct link to the Google Document that I wrote this on. In the document I made many comments during my final reading that are visible to anyone. I used this as a reflective process. Click to view Google Doc and Comments.
A retrospective on experiencism: What is it and where do we go?
Educational technology, one of the few words that can inspire hope and produce disdain in educators worldwide. The educational field can attribute much of its innovations over the last thirty-five years to this unlikely, perhaps even, contradictory combination of words. It is reasonable to assume that educational technology’s uneasy marriage stems from its early integration, where the technology portion walks taller (Weller, 2020, p. 179). However, over the last ten years, the education piece has come into providence by focusing on pedagogy first technologies, the idea that technologies need to be designed and built with the pedagogical implications in mind. One great example of this approach and the focus of this article is Experiencism.
By the end of the twentieth century and into the early twenty-first century, many frameworks were being devised that could be loosely associated with Experiencism. During this time, the field of education was shifting from traditional instructional methodologies to student-centred models. Project-Based Learning (PBL) was one of the first frameworks to focus on reframing learning around the student experience by requiring learners to construct projects established in non-trivial task-based scenarios. Learners in a PBL environment must cognitively navigate complex tasks by engaging the material through research and conceptualization of ideas, often aided by technology to encourage realism and motivation (Blumenfeld et al., 1991). With the adoption of PBL, the education paradigm shifted from solely acquiring knowledge to the acquisition and application of said knowledge. Technology became imperative in the learning process.
Educators soon started to apply learning through making, sometimes referred to as the maker movement, by leveraging new, cheap, and commercially available technologies. The maker movement, like PBL, encourages learning by doing. However, unlike PBL, it focused on studying specific technologies through experimental play using a community of like-minded individuals, inspiring the investigation of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (Hsu et al., 2017, p. 589). New technologies like 3D printing and virtual reality (VR) became stables of educational institution’s maker spaces, the room devised for the sole purpose of making and completing projects. At this time, educators have been experimenting with holistic constructivist-based learning by implementing technology in their practice for nearly two decades, and their methodological approaches were becoming more refined. Educational technology specialists began to look for solutions that gave them more control over the technologies they were implementing.
In 2010, Dalgarno and Lee suggested one of the first frameworks that focused on learners’ affordances to effectively implement a specific technology. The framework, which focused on 3D virtual environments, distinguished two characteristics: (1) representational fidelity, the technical aspects of the media, and (2) learning interactions, the actions, communications, behaviours and constructions that the 3D environment enables (Dalgarno & Lee, 2010). Fowler (2015) refined Dalgarno & Lee’s model by stating that there was too much emphasis on the technology’s affordances, while the pedagogical significance was ignored. Using the learning cycle framework, which constitutes learning through three phases: (1) conceptualization, the interaction between the learner’s pre-existing understanding and new content, (2) construction, the process of building and combining new concepts through meaningful tasks, and (3) application, testing conceptualizations in their applied contexts (Mayes & Fowlers, 1999, p. 489), Fowler extended Dalgarno and Lee’s original model by unifying the two frameworks focusing on a design for learning approach (Fowler, 2015, pp. 417-418). Finally, Experiencism adopted Fowler’s model; it focused on the design for learning approach and emphasized the pedagogical, technical, and learner affordances at all levels of the learning design process, including the development of any associated tools.
Experiencism, at its core, is an educational framework used to deliver holistic educational experiences in realistic environments or contexts. It stems from the constructivism theory, in which the mind learns by creating meaning rather than acquiring it, acknowledging that learning is subjective and based on the learner’s unique reality (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 55). An experiencist approach attempts to sway the learner’s reality by crafting an immersive environment with the sole purpose of creating a learning experience for a specific outcome or objective. This pedagogy-first approach moves “beyond simplistic dichotomies such as passive and active or tech as tool metaphors” (Southgate, 2020, pp. 38-39) to a more nuanced and educationally infused development cycle that becomes the foundation of the associated instructional design. To an experiencist, instructional affordances should be embedded into the tools and means of content delivery, inferring any associated technologies or media should be developed, at least in its purest form, with the sole intention of aiding the learner’s educational experience.
Today, VR and Experiencism have become synonymous in some educational circles. The affordances of VR allow experiencist educators to realistically craft environments and their associated behaviours and interactions, allowing learners to experience nearly any learning objective. Even learning activities thought of as unattainable, impractical or too abstract could become concrete realities. For example, The Mars Training Project, a hyper-realistic virtual environment, allows high school and undergrad students to work together to create a thriving Mars colony. Likewise, the Experiencism Initiative, an open-source VR charity enabled through creative commons licensing (Creative Commons, 2019), lower hardware costs, and 3D printing, allows many K-12 schools to create and develop their own stand-alone VR headsets, which empowers them to circumvent expensive commercial alternatives with their associated privacy concerns. Most educators today acknowledge the potential of VR and Experiencism, yet, there are still some growing concerns.
Despite lowering costs, VR equipment still requires a substantial financial investment and a high degree of expertise to implement an experiencist approach effectively. Movements, like the Experiencism Initiative cited above, have attempted to smooth this inequality, but there is still a dichotomy of those who have the means and those that do not. Using the replaceability challenge, the idea that if a different media can yield similar learning gains, educators must always choose the less expensive one (Clark, 1994, para. 3), some critics have attempted to argue that Experiencism can be achieved by cheaper means using in-person scenarios or alternative technologies. However, due to VR’s ability to create any environment, even the impractical or impossible, most critical papers have relented this approach. Still, there is a valid concern that zealous practitioners will begin to see VR as a universal tool that can solve all educational problems. Given the history of Experiencism and its humble beginnings as a way of infusing pedagogical practices into educational technologies, it is ironic to see possible misapplications of VR technologies facilitated through poor pedagogical practices derived from its adoption.
“There is no other technology like [VR], [i]t can transport a person to an artificial world which envelops their senses to such a degree that they feel as though they are really there” (Southgate, 2020, p. 121). It is for this reason that Experiencism owes its emerging popularity. Furthermore, Experiencism’s precursors, PBL and learning by making, helped embed a robust pedagogical foundation into educational technologies. Its associated frameworks helped change viewpoints from how can I use technology in my practice to what learning affordances a specific technology creates. Nevertheless, despite this healthy foundation, researchers and practitioners need to be vigilant. The saturation of VR technologies in education is limited at best, and even fewer specialists exist to imbue a pedagogy-first approach, increasing the likelihood of misunderstandings and abuse of VR technologies in the name of Experiencism. It is essential to understand Experiencism’s past and identify possible limitations so future discourse on the framework will involve and understand the technology, pedagogical, and human aspects that have contributed and will further contribute to its success (Weller, 2020, p. 186).
Blumenfeld, P. C., Soloway, E., Marx, R. W., Krajcik, J. S., Guzdial, M., & Palincsar, A. (1991). Motivating Project-Based Learning: Sustaining the Doing, Supporting the Learning. Educational Psychologist, 26(3–4), 369-398. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.1991.9653139
Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21-29. http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~bmann/0_ARTICLES/Media_Clark.html
Creative Commons. (2019). About CC Licenses. https://creativecommons.org/about/cclicenses/
Dalgarno, B., & Lee, M. J. W. (2010). What are the learning affordances of 3-D virtual environments? British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(1), 10–32. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2009.01038.x
Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (2013). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43-71. https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/doi/abs/10.1002/piq.21143
Fowler, C. (2015). Virtual reality and learning: Where is the pedagogy? British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(2), 412–422. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12135
Hsu, Y. C., Baldwin, S., & Ching, Y. H. (2017). Learning through making and maker education. TechTrends, 61(6), 589–594. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-017-0172-6
Mayes, J., & Fowler, C. (1999). Learning technology and usability: A framework for understanding courseware. Interacting with Computers, 11(5), 485–497. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0953-5438(98)00065-4
Southgate, E. (2020). Virtual reality in curriculum and pedagogy: Evidence from secondary classrooms. Routledge.
Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of ed tech. Athabasca University Press. https://www.aupress.ca/books/120290-25-years-of-ed-tech/
Please note: Below is a rough outline of the current ideas for the final assignment for LRNT 523. Of course, it is not exhaustive as I often go through many refactors during the writing process. My writing style requires me to completely engross myself in the process, so this activity (most notably writing the start of the article) is very hard and would most likely be thrown away. Since time is a resource that I am in short supply, I thought I would share my brainstorming process and some of its organizational methods.
Experiencism, one could be forgiven for not knowing this phrase in 2030. However, it has embedded itself in the education profession with the help of a small but passionate group of educators worldwide. The term first came into prominence in the early 2020s as a framework that focuses on creating realistic experiences using virtual and related technologies. At its core, the framework believes that learners learn best by doing; the more natural the experience, the more likely valuable knowledge will be obtained. // TBC...
What is experiencism & what enabled this scenario?
- Cost of VR technology dropping.
- Open source VR equipment (using the 3D opensource movement 2006-2012 as an example)
- Possible funding from companies like Google/Facebook (Most likely as they create VR)/Amazon or maybe a new startup?
- Learn by doing
- Framework focusing on creating authentic learning opportunities.
- Enabled by VR
Retrospective of the last ~20 years. (Combined with the previous section focusing on milestones, (1) Circumstances, (2) Inception, (3) Early Adoption, (4) Going Mainstream – this leads nicely into the problems and issues paragraph)
- 2012: VR in the Classroom (phones mostly/Google Daydream)
- 2018: First standalone headset released (Oculus Quest)
- 2020: The cheaper and more powerful Quest 2 release (~350 CAD)
- Few case studies looking at how VR using all modalities and improves learning.
- 2022: Open VR movement (Opensource)
- 2022: My case study on VR Interventions
- 2023: Case study: Grade 6 students cover curricular outcomes of the Space unit using VR
- 2025: Exploration of some educational instructions as pilot programs
- 2027: TED Talk
- 2028: Education institutions struggle to implement Experiencism
- 2030: Open-source Content Creation
Examples from the field using experiencism. (possible not used by leave for inspiration)
- Grade 6 Space Explores
- Explores space using VR, whole unit covered in VR for the first time.
- Grade 10 Molecule Structure and Reactions
- Students explore molecule structure using the Nicholson Model (ball-and-stick), and chemical reactions are viewed in realtime
- Post-Secondary: Engineering, Mars habitat construction
- Engineering students have to work together to create a survivable habitat on Mars.
- TAM (Technology Acceptance Model)
- Experiencism does not tie into traditional testing well.
- Speak of the open-source content creation tools easing use for educators
- More immersive experiences (touch, smell, full locomotion)
- Examples of full locomotion/touch/smell already exist, just are expensive.
- Assessment models for Experiencism