Digital Learning Environments

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When thinking about digital learning environments (DLE) there are many factors to consider. According to Research Shorts (2016) DLE’s have expanded. Traditionally they used learning management systems (LMS) such as Moodle, Blackboard and Canvas, however, they now also include YouTube, FaceBook groups, Twitter and Skype.

When designing a DLE there are four considerations designers need to take into account:

  1. Organisation structure – is it going to consist of groups (such as using an LMS with start and end times and heirarchial structure), networks (entry, exit unrestricted, connections) or communities (similar to networks but with more commitment and continuity)?
  2. Design – needs to be effective, meaningful and have impact.
  3. Guidance – how much instruction and support is going to be available? What scaffold do you provide?
  4. Lack of neutrality in technology – considering how the software design impacts learning (accessibility by students, interaction capabilities etc), how does it impact teaching?

Kunkel (2011, slide 4) proposes that the ADDIE model be used when designing for DLE’s. This model breaks down as such:

A – Analyse – work out the difference between performance and needs

D – Design – decide learning objectives, plan training and develop evaluation

D – Develop – make the course

I – Implement – make course available/teach it

E – Evaluate – for effectiveness of learning and impact

Innovative Learning (2009) places the emphasis in DLE’s on interaction. ‘Dumped’ content is boring and learning occurs best in a social context with others so effective design needs to take this into account. There should be a blend of content, learner to learner and expert to learner categories, with more emphasis on the learner to learner category. When designing the course a deliberate decision has to be made on how to involve more interactions with the learner to learner and learner to expert. This does not only include the tools used to facilitate this (such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, wikis and discussion forums) but also how they will be used.

Applying these three factors to teaching I believe currently that flipped online learning would best suit the learning audience (students) as a detailed analysis of their current knowledge and learning needs has not been undertaken. Based on shallow formative assessment students are lacking in the basic fundamentals of the information search process (ISP). As this is the case flipped learning could provide materials on elements of the ISP (such as plagiarism and referencing etc) then students could use class time for gaining more in-depth study into inquiry questions, spend more time on research etc and allow more learner to learner and learner to expert time.

Innovative Learning’s (2009) comments that there should be learner to learner interaction got me thinking about my teaching style in general. In the past my lessons have been delivered face to face with learning supported by technology tools such as YouTube to help teach context, with the teacher as the expert with little or no learner to learner interaction. More learner to learner interaction could be incorporated by the use of activities such as a Socratic circle and using tools for a backchannel chat and in future could use Google Classrooms for communication between students. Perhaps in the future other tools could be added, for example, Twitter as learning takes place more in a DLE.

What makes learning effective for you in a digital learning environment?


Innovative Learning. (2009, October 13). Designing online learning [online video]. Retrieved from

Kunkle, M. (2011). Instructional design principles: A primer [slideshow]. Retrieved from

Research Shorts. (2016, June 18). Digital learning environments [online video]. Retrieved from