Context matters when designing courses, too: Know Thy Learner
In 1994, Elliot Soloway, Ken Hay, and I wrote an article about “learner-centered design.” We contrasted it with the prevailing paradigm of “user-centered design,” arguing that designing for learners is different than designing for experts (which, we suggested, is really what user-centered design is).
I like the below as pointing toward borrowing ideas from modern UX design for learning design. The most important lesson that we try to teach undergraduates about human-computer interface design is, “Know Thy User, for the User is not You.” You have to get to know your user, and they’re not like you. You can’t use introspection to design interfaces. That same lesson is what we’re hearing below, but about learning. “Know Thy Learner, for the Learner is not You.” Your learner has a different context than you, and you have to get to know it before you can design for it.
“Transferring education from the United States to Africa wouldn’t work,” argued Bakary Diallo, rector of African Virtual University. “Because we have our own realities,” he added, “our own context and culture.”
Naveed A. Malik, founding rector of the Virtual University of Pakistan, echoed that sentiment. “This is something that we learned very early in our virtual-university experience,” he said. “We couldn’t pick up a course from outside and then transplant it into a Pakistani landscape—the context was completely different.”