ON DEMAND: Designing and Evaluating a Learning Community that Integrates Formal and Informal Learning
The purpose of this design-based (DBR) research study was to generate a comprehensive understanding of the role of informal learning activities in (a) supporting instructional design (ID) students’ acquisition of knowledge and skills required by future employers and (b) establishing their professional development (PD) trajectory to prosper in the field. The goals were to develop a technology-mediated learning environment (TMLE) that integrates formal and informal learning activities for ID students as well as generates and refines the design principles informing the TMLE. The research questions that guided this dissertation study investigated the process and degree to which the TMLE advanced ID students’ knowledge and skills and supported the establishment of their professional development (PD) trajectory. To achieve the study’s goals, a mixed-method case study approach was used to collect and analyze qualitative and quantitative data. Three phases of the Integrative Learning Design Framework (Informed Exploration, Enactment, and Evaluation of Local Impact) were applied to support the execution of rigorous, iterative cycles to design, develop, and refine the TMLE and the underlying design principles. The Informed Exploration and Enactment were pre-dissertation phases. They resulted in a comprehensive understanding of the value of informal learning in supporting ID students’ advancement of knowledge and skillsets within formal, informal, and workplace learning environments. The two phases also yielded a solid design of the TMLE and preliminary design principles. The local evaluation phase consisted of implementing the TMLE in an ID master’s course, in which an online learning community was generated within Google+ for the students (N =13) to share, discuss, and collaborate with peers and experts in the field around PD goals and formal learning. The data revealed that the TMLE supported the students with understanding some formal learning concepts, reflecting on design decisions, and identifying design tools. Networking with experts in the field exposed the students to cutting edge technologies applied in workplaces and skills required in future careers. Many students were able to identify and refine PD goals based on the job market and collaborated with peers and experts to advance their goals. The study also showed the impact of motivational and hindering factors on students’ participation in volunteer learning activities. The study resulted in a total of 14 design principles that will be shared with the participants. A discussion of how these design principles can be applied by faculty from different disciplines and the types of online tools they can utilize to generate their learning community will follow the presentation. The session will inform the instructors about the importance of creating an informal learning community to support their students' formal and informal learning and the critical value of networking with experts outside the formal environment to establish a PD trajectory based on the job market. The faculty will leave the session with some action plans on how to easily redesign their syllabus to integrate informal learning activities to expand learning beyond formal contexts. The faculty will be able to select their optimal online learning tool to create their learning community based on a list of must-have learning features.