Author Archives: digitalemerge

Choosing for personalization

One thing that has been on my mind a lot recently has been the personalization for students of my current eLearning project. It is a pilot project looking to transform a circa 2005 Information Literacy static website into an engaging resource for use on mobile devices.

At first we wanted to engage through the use of mobile learning features. Tools like the camera and audio microphone and various apps that could document their learning of information literacy or social learning apps that students could utilize to engage with the student community were quickly pounced upon and ideas generated. But these transformative ideas couldn’t be realized and these supplementary tools were quickly thrown by the wayside as soon as we understood that our resource was going to be more of an autonomous eLearning resource. So how could we personalize the resource for our users?



As shown here, we’re using Scenario Based Learning to engage students in the information literacy awareness raising and skill building process (see examples here). Students can navigate their own journey within the resource and can make personal choices. Because I designed the learning paths, I know that ultimately they are lead down specific paths in order to learn but there is the appearance!

popplet storyline storyboard

Learning Preferences

We recognize that our population of students in the UAE don’t like to read. I don’t have anything but anecdotal evidence but this, for me, is true. As a major departure from the original text heavy website, we wanted to produce learning objects that would be media based and allow for various learning styles. Firstly there will be a large amount of spoken text so this may help auditory learners. There is physical interaction with the resource on the iPad so this may help visual-spatial and kinesthetic learners. There will be the option to turn on subtitles for all spoken text so this may help visual-linguistic learners.

In this image, you can see the audio, the subtitles and the timeline matching the subtitles text to the audio file.

design 02



With our subject matter expert, we wrote a script that tried to target the learner using the second person. We felt this would be more engaging as it actively tries to involve the students in the process of the scenario. We were unable to achieve complete personalization through including a social media profile and using first person speech but hopefully there is a sense of inclusion with our script and scenario.



The UAE has strict gender separation rules. Most of the resource can be gender neutral as a guide is talking directly to the user with gender neutral language, but there is one section of the pilot resource where a student gets advice from a friend. In this section, the user inputs their gender and either gets the male or female friend accordingly.



An important element to the project and to our working within the Center for Educational Innovation is the process of Arabization. We are looking to integrate and incorporate aspects of the Arabic language and Arab/Islamic/Emirati culture to improve the learning process. Our backgrounds are based on Islamic design and the game involves desert driving (see images below). Another aspect is the use of a gender appropriate friend and stories that users will relate to (see image above).

desert design 01

The Design of meLearning



Recently I have been musing about the concept of meLearning: the amalgam of mLearning and eLearning to be a personalized experience with tablets. In this context of an Information Literacy resource, the concept is harder to put into practice.



meLearning is meant to have the student at heart with “the best” (or most approrpirate for the design) aspects of mLearning and eLearning used in the resource to “design the learning for me (the student)”. We had hoped to make the learning interactive through social learning pedagogy that includes other students and the person responsible for maintaining and facilitating the resource. However, it is likely that there won’t be anyone and the resource will instead take on more characteristics of autonomous learning of a typical eLearning resource. Still, we are able to present the illusion of personalization and interaction through the use of scenarios. Another area is learning preferences. The resource is mainly spoken text with optional subtitles and media is supplementary to this. Students who prefer to listen, read, watch and/or interact will have strong preferences for how they want to use the resource. This is good but we are missing out on interpersonal learning preference. All in all, this is ok but for now, the concept of meLearning will not be more developed.


Ubiquitous Learning

When considering a resource for tablets, I looked at the nature of ubiquitous learning that is often a part of using mobile devices. I wrote down that our resource needs to be available on and offline for students convenience. This way, they could access on the way to and from campus or while connected. This would involve planning ahead and downloading the specific module but it is a possibility. Our users, students, should also be able to access specific information and skills of information literacy. It would be important for students to be able to get this information within a short timeframe but while being engaged in the process. Bringing the conversation on this to a close, ideally the resource would become integrated into research and academia at our university in terms of teachers and learners. Just like BlackBoard is the LMS, the information literacy resource could be the tool that everyone uses for teaching and learning, remedial work, or a self-access resource.


Screen Real Estate

There is not as much real estate on the tablet screen for an eLearning resource. When designing our UX  persona outlining typical students (male and female here in the UAE!), we knew to picture them with a tablet in their hand. This made us focus even more so on reducing users’ extraneous cognitive load. We are “hiding” unessential back or sidestory information in buttons, which (hopefully) results in a cleaner look and a substantial space for media. This has helped us eliminate the “text” and include as audio with optional subtitles and the choice buttons reveal the scenario choices, something that cleans up the screen on entry and allows students to listen and then process this before moving on with the choices.


Chunking Content and How Students are Learning

Our SME has worked on projects before and is doing a good job in outlining content in quite good sized chunks for learning. But what we need to know more about is how students will interact with that chunk. I can’t wait to get to the alpha prototype of our pilot module where students will be able to go through the scenario. I want to film them and their interactions. I want to know what else they need in order to learn the content. It may be chunked appropriately but do students need paper and a pen too? What about a note taking feature in the resource? What about some social interaction to talk with others about the concepts? What about some form of feedback on skills? We are only just starting down this path…

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What do you do? Scenario Based Learning

Given the task to transform learning, we wanted to ensure that students would be engaged with the learning through out the information literacy resource. We wanted to personalize the learning experience, to focus on student performance within information literacy and to integrate them and the learning within a contextually relevant story. After several ideas that were explored and then scratched for various reasons, we have settled on Scenario Based Learning.

There’s going to be close to 18 different modules and each module will be a scenario. The pilot scenario is that the user is a student who has been given an assignment and they need to start it. (The relevance to students’ lives astounds me: insert sarcastic chuckle here) The pilot module is really introducing the concept of why students’ should research and we have 3 learning outcomes along this path. Within this scenario, there are probably one or two correct learning paths with multiple offshoots that are incorrect and allow for students to become aware of negative choices. What drew us to scenarios was the ability to get students to cognitively engage with the content through the scenario and also on a physical level to interact with the scenario on the tablet. Our intention is to get students to be in control and move themselves through the scenario.

The choice is key to these scenarios and literally students can choose their own adventure: something that is very uncommon in eLearning resources in the Middle East thus far. Choices allow users to explore a concept with a character and to interact with them through users choice inputs. We like to look at them as scenarios within scenarios, to borrow a slogan from Inception.

We really hope that this will make the learning personalized. Students will feel that the story is tailored to them and that each time they go back, they could make different choices and have a different experience. Learning is also representative of the real world. The previous information literacy resource for our students is a static website that doesn’t connect students with the material. Students are also actively engaged in the scenario through making the choices and going along their own path throughout all the scenario branches.

Fingers crossed that this line of learning will engage and transform the learning!