Conversational Framework for Online Learning Design

The Conversational Framework is a unique pedagogical approach that seeks to enhance the process of designing learning experiences. Developed by Diana Laurillard of the UCL Knowledge Lab, this framework is grounded in the conviction that effective learning is built upon interaction and dialogue between teachers and learners. The Conversational Framework aims to facilitate meaningful exchanges and active learning experiences by leveraging various learning types, empowering educators in the digital age.

As a foundation for implementing the Conversational Framework, the UCL Knowledge Lab has created the Learning Designer, a free online tool developed explicitly for educators. With this platform, teachers can borrow, adapt, create, and share learning designs for online and blended environments, optimizing their instructional methodologies for digital learning needs. Through this approach, educators can ensure that their courses maintain a strong focus on pedagogical strategies grounded in the Conversational Framework, fostering engaging and impactful learning experiences for students in the digital realm.

Conversational framework for online learning design


Theory Behind the Framework

The Conversational Framework is a learning design model developed by Diana Laurillard, which combines various learning theories to design technology-supported educational experiences. This framework emphasizes the importance of dialogue and interaction between learners, educators, and learning resources. By integrating elements from instructions, social learning, and constructionism, it strives to holistically address the complex process of acquiring knowledge in the context of formal education.

One of the key ideas behind the Conversational Framework is that learning is a cyclical and iterative process where learners engage with concepts through discussions, reflection, and the construction of knowledge. This approach aims to empower learners to better understand the subject at hand.

Key Elements

The Conversational Framework is comprised of several essential components:

1. Teacher-Learner Interaction: This focuses on the dialogue between teachers and learners, which involves presenting concepts, questioning, and answering. It is crucial as it sets the foundation for the learning process.

2. Learner-Learner Interaction: Here, learners engage with their peers to share ideas, challenge viewpoints, and collaborate to build knowledge.

3. Internal Conversation refers to a learner’s self-reflection and interpretation of the concepts presented. Through this reflective process, learners make meaning of the information and adapt their understanding accordingly.

4. External Conversation: This involves the learner interacting with external learning resources, such as texts, videos, or simulations. These resources can provide additional context or examples that foster a deeper understanding of the topic.

5. Constructive Feedback: To facilitate the learning process, learners must receive timely and appropriate feedback on their understanding and performance, allowing them to iterate on their current knowledge.

6. Learning Activities: The Conversational Framework emphasizes the importance of designing learning activities that promote interactions and conversations. These activities must vary and cater to different learning preferences, ensuring a more effective learning process.

Designing Online Learning Experiences

Instructional Design Strategies

The Conversational Framework is a theoretical design framework that helps educators design compelling online learning experiences. When creating an online learning experience, instructors can utilize the Conversational Framework to employ six key learning types, ensuring a balanced and comprehensive learning experience.

Some of the instructional design strategies based on the Conversational Framework include:

  • Creating clear learning goals and objectives for the course
  • Sequencing content in a logical and conducive manner
  • Incorporating multimedia resources to engage learners
  • Facilitating collaboration and interaction among learners
  • Providing timely and constructive feedback

Learner-Centred Approach

Adopting a learner-centred approach is a critical aspect of designing online learning experiences using the Conversational Framework. This approach focuses on understanding the learners’ needs, interests, and preferences. Instructors need to create a personalized, engaging, and meaningful learning experience that caters to the diverse needs of their learners.

To achieve a learner-centred approach, instructors can:

  • Develop learner personas to better empathize with their target audience
  • Design activities that accommodate different learning preferences and styles
  • Offer flexibility in terms of content delivery, assessment, and pacing
  • Encourage learner autonomy, providing opportunities for self-reflection
  • Establish a supportive online community that fosters positive learning experiences

By employing instructional design strategies and a learner-centred approach, the Conversational Framework enables instructors to create effective and engaging online learning experiences that cater to the unique needs of their learners.

Implementing Conversational Framework

Technological Tools

When implementing the Conversational Framework for online learning design, leveraging technological tools is essential to facilitate meaningful interactions between learners and educators. One example of such a tool is the online learning design tool mentioned earlier, which turns the theory-based framework into actionable steps. It enables educators to express their learning design as a sequence of learning activities to help students achieve their intended learning outcomes.

In addition to design tools, various platforms and communication tools support the Conversational Framework:

  • Learning management systems (LMS) such as Moodle and Blackboard can provide a centralized location for delivering course content and organizing student discussions.
  • Synchronous communication tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams enable real-time discussions and provide opportunities for immediate feedback.
  • Asynchronous tools such as discussion forums, blogs, and wikis facilitate learners’ interaction anytime, anywhere.

Examples of Applications

The Conversational Framework can be applied to numerous learning environments to promote effective online learning. Here are some practical examples:

  1. Blended learning: By combining synchronous and asynchronous activities, educators can create a well-balanced learning experience, enabling students to engage in discussions, collaboration, and knowledge sharing in and out of scheduled class times.
  2. Problem-based learning: Assigning problems and tasks that require students to collaborate and communicate their thought processes allows them to engage in meaningful discussion, aligning with the Conversational Framework’s underlying principles of interaction and feedback.
  3. Peer assessment and feedback: Encouraging learners to assess and provide feedback on their peers’ work can facilitate meaningful dialogue, help clarify concepts and challenge misconceptions. This approach aligns with the Conversational Framework’s principles of dynamic and iterative exchanges between learners.

By employing these applications and adequate technological tools, educators can create a learning environment that optimizes the benefits of the Conversational Framework in supporting student learning outcomes.

Enhancing Engagement and Interaction

Asynchronous and Synchronous Activities

To enhance engagement and interaction in online learning design, including a mix of both asynchronous and synchronous activities is essential. Asynchronous activities, such as discussion forums, allow learners to participate at their own pace, providing flexibility and encouraging deeper reflection. On the other hand, synchronous activities, like video conferences and live chats, enable real-time communication, fostering a sense of community and immediacy.

  • Asynchronous activities:
    • Discussion forums
    • Reading materials
    • Pre-recorded video lectures
  • Synchronous activities:
    • Video conferences
    • Live chats
    • Collaborative group work

By incorporating both asynchronous and synchronous activities, online learning design can cater to various learning preferences and maximize student engagement opportunities.

Feedback and Assessment

Feedback and assessment are crucial components of effective online learning design, as they help students gauge their progress and identify areas for improvement. Instructors should provide timely, constructive, and personalized feedback to enhance engagement and interaction. This can be achieved through various methods, such as:

  1. Peer feedback: Encourage students to review each other’s work, fostering collaboration and peer learning.
  2. Self-assessment: Students can evaluate their performance using rubrics or provided criteria, promoting self-awareness and responsibility.
  3. Instructor feedback: Offer individualized feedback based on student submissions, including specific suggestions for improvement.

By utilizing multiple feedback and assessment methods, instructors can promote active learning and support students in achieving intended learning outcomes. This approach helps create an interactive and engaging learning environment crucial for effective online learning design.

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