Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Planning--findability implicaitons for design and development

I was recently looking over the seven characteristics of findability formulated by Judith Breck. The seven principles have implications for how one plans and implements CNL today and in the Web 3.0 learning future. I do believe that “findability” is a critical global challenge for the on-going activity of collaborative networked learners. I want us to take a learner or user centered focus and on the ways to support the learner and learning-worker. Freeing or unbundling the info-chunks for learners' access is the first challenge for the planner/information architect; it presents opportunities to create paths for learners who need more guidance as well as freeing experienced learners to direct their own paths.

Findability--Implications for the planning, design and development processes

Learner driven design and information chunking.

1. Consider the implications of learner or user driven design in the learning and work environment.
In order to design information to meet the needs of different users directly it is important to understand the nature of the work of the users and the tasks they perform. When one focuses only on content, the "logical" order of the content guides the development. When one designs for the user, the users needs and tasks form the basis for ordering, labeling and presenting information.
2. Consider the new skills required to chunk content.
Designing architectures for multiple paths of access, which are controlled by the user rather than primarily the designer, require knowledge design skills and domain knowledge. Designers need to develop not only a knowledge of the particular tasks and content of the discipline from the user perspective, but they also need experience with object-oriented, modular design. A designer needs to understand the underlying structure of the field and the corresponding logical relationships between the content chunks, and how to design for flexible, "random" access by multiple users from different entry points.
Static and dynamic modeling of information and users
1. Consider both static organization and display of information units and dynamic modeling and display.
• Static organization requires less time and effort for design and development than dynamic modeling; however, dynamic modeling is more likely meet the precise needs of the user, reducing search time and increasing productivity. One notices static organization where there is one pattern and set of relationships defined by the designer(or packager) of information. The order of presentation of the information will always be the same. For example, in paper based Text Based Instruction the relationship between units such as paragraphs on a page is static; the implicit order on the page is "before" or "after" with minimal opportunity to explore other relationships easily such as "related to" links as in cross referencing. Static organization is also evident in hypertext systems in which the 'links' are created at the time of packaging and displayed as defined when selected by the user. Although the chunks may be randomly followed if the user chooses, they go to the same content chuck.
• Dynamic modeling as planned for Web 3.0 collaboration and other model based systems involves specifying the nature of each chunk of information as an object in a knowledge base. The types of relationship of one object-chunk to any other chunks are defined as "variables." Depending upon the model of the user/learner and its current state at the time of search, the "value" of the variables will changes, and the information displayed to the user could change. The tools and skills required to model are different from those for creating static organization and again are different from those required for cross referencing within a static organizational structure.
2. Consider the learner and the learner model as an important aspect of the environment.
Initially the user/learner model might handle only three identifiable groups: the experi¬enced expert, the new-to-the-domain leaner, and the experienced self-directed learner in a related domain. The designer would need to understand these users and their needs in order to develop the user models. The knowledge made available to each user could be different depending upon the model for the user at the time of access.
Ultimately, if the system is to be designed to support the user based upon "learner profile" and the "learning environment", then dynamic modeling is the design strategy of choice. It affords the opportunity to model the user(s) and continually update the model of the user in order to provide access to the information needed at the moment.