Tag Archives: constructivism

A design approach for self-directed learning: Part 2

In Part 1, I described my process for designing an online learning resource for health information consumers—today’s ePatients. In this article, I’ll describe how I developed a web site to facilitate self-directed learning.

The learning environment

The Web site includes four modules: finding health information, creating a personal health record, partnering with your doctor, and weighing treatment options. I developed these modules to address  the  core domains of knowledge that learners need to be more effective in participating in their own health care. I identified these core domains based on my analysis of a sample target audience, discussed more in Part 1.

Four learning modules

Each module provides access to four different avenues for learning: a guidance section, stories section, discovery section, and resources section.  The guidance sections provide information relating to the subject of each module as well as practice activities and quiz questions. The stories sections present interactive stories that represent fictional scenarios commonly related to the subject matter of each module and allow learners to help fictional patients address problems. The discovery sections provide more activities for the learners to complete, allowing learners to synthesize and evaluate what they’ve learned and to create their own tools for future use (for example, future visits to their doctors). The resources sections provide useful links and descriptions of how to use these resources to enhance skills and knowledge being developed in a module. There are links between sections to make it easy for learners to return to a guidance section, for example, when exploring a discovery section.

When I created the site, I considered the important role of learner autonomy in providing an engaging learning experience. However, I also included suggestions for a more structured path that learners could follow by including a learner’s guide, recognizing that not all who visited the site would be the same in their ability to be self-directed learners. Still, even with the learner’s guide, users of the site are encouraged to create their own learning experience.

Learning theories I applied when I created the Web site include: adult learning theory (establishing personal relevance whenever possible) and cognitivism (allowing to learners to consider their prior knowledge structures and sequencing sections of learning modules to build on prior knowledge). There are constructivist elements to the modules in that learners can build individualized learning experiences using the Web site, but there are objectives and assessment activities so a pure constructivist approach isn’t adhered to. However, learners can select which assessment activities are most beneficial to them and don’t have to visit every module but can experience any module they’re interested in. Since the Web site is enduring resource, learners can access different modules at time of need.

Additionally, because my learner population is very heterogeneous, I used visual elements for site navigation.  I also included text navigation cues as well. I provided access to a short narrated  module to introduce learners to site navigation on the landing page of the site. So in other words, there are redundant navigation elements presented using graphics, text, and audio.

This is a cause I do feel passionate about. I think that for all the health information out there on the Web, there’s actually very little attention paid to how learners receive and process the information. I provided this resource to help learners in their own journeys to become participating patients.