Designing and Evaluating The Effects of a Technology-Mediated Learning Environment That Integrates Formal and Informal Learning Activities to Advance Students’ Knowledge and Skills of Instructional Design: A Design-Based Research Study



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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. Each of the phases had unique research questions and methods to develop the critical conjectures that lead to the careful and systematic formation of the 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 skill sets 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: (1) TMLE should be mediated by a familiar social media platform; (2) TMLE’s goals, general guidelines, and technology should be supported by an in-person tutorial and other supportive materials posted within the learning community; (3) the students should have the option to use a preferred tool to track their PD goals or select one from a list of useful tools; (4) TMLE should allow the students maximum levels of content and context flexibility with respect to topic selection, time-frame, number of informal weekly activities, and blended learning; (5) TMLE should avoid time-consuming activities and increase connections with other courses to limit additional tasks; (6) major informal learning activities in TMLE should be scheduled after the due dates of main formal assignments; (7) building the TMLE’s discourse and norm should be supported by sharing members’ biographies and ID experiences in the learning community and conducting in-person social networking events; (8) supportive scaffolding is interwoven with facilitation actions in TMLE and should be shared by the course instructor, a facilitator, and experts in the learning community; (9) TMLE facilitators should refrain from guiding discussions, support students’ PD goals and general interests, and increase connections to formal assignments; (10) TMLE facilitators should connect with students using informal channels and refrain from using the institution’s learning management system (LMS); (11) TMLE facilitators should prompt students to discuss their formal design strategies and tools within the learning community to disseminate knowledge and reflect on formal learning; (12) TMLE should promote connections with experts in the field and alumni for career readiness; (13) the volunteer nature of the TMLE should be supported by extrinsic and intrinsic motivational factors to encourage initial, semester-long, and lifelong participation; and (14) TMLE facilitators should track the effects of motivational factors on the participation of individual students.