The first is to continue to improve the course learning space described in Figure 4 to reflect LCMS design concepts. In the “course learning” column, content-oriented learning activities like assignments, experiments and exercises are provided through courseware resources. This design helps students systematically master course content, but with weak student participation and little input from teachers, it is more suited to textbook-based degree courses in domestic distance education. In addition, courseware resources are often independent of the platform resource package, and integration between the resources and the platform is weak.

The second is to integrate LCMS and LAMS design concepts to build online courses conforming to the SCORM standard. LAMS is learning-activity-oriented; students gradually accomplish learning of the course by taking part in modularized learning activities. These courses require more input from students and teachers, and are suitable for non-degree training courses. At present, top quality online education courses integrate LCMS and LAMS design concepts. For example, the “course learning” column contains a multi-level subdirectory tree in which the content of one or more chapters becomes a module, and serialized learning activities and corresponding learning resources are provided inside the module to guide the students to complete the learning task based on the sequence of learning activities. Also, the integration of learning resources and learning activities as well as that of the course resources and the distance learning and management platform are also realized.

The third is to add a virtual classroom sub-column to the “course learning” column. The first two trends optimize the design of the course space around learning resources and learning activities, but the virtual classroom improves the course space from a functional perspective. The virtual classroom is the web-based realization of the traditional classroom. It supports role play and corresponding upgrade systems, and helps boost learners’ interest in learning. By simulating real-life scenes, it allows for immersive and realistic interaction between students and between teachers and students, which increases the sense of social presence in the students’ distance learning. At present, China is still in the exploration stage as far as the design and development of virtual classrooms.

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About the author:

YUAN Songhe, Ph.D., the OUC Research Institute of Open and Distance Education as a researcher specializing in distance education.