At present the domain of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) is characterized by a certain restlessness typical of a moment of crisis. Like Europe is wondering what could do as an ‘adult’, also TEL’s stakeholders and researchers are trying to figure out what could be the future of this sector for years to come. The magma originated from the explosion of a pioneering phase that now can be said ended – and that left as legacy: LMSs, learning objects, standards and the start up of an transdisciplinary debate amongst researchers coming from very different areas domain – begins to solidify highlighting issues/problems, not always new, that seem able to focus the attention of a relevant number of researchers.
Leaving aside the delicate issue of the transfer of research results to the place of formal and informal learning (schools, universities, companies, etc..), it seems that one of the hottest topic is the active and collaborative learning, although often does not seem to be supported by the ability to rethink adequately the learning processes.
Another theme that is now very popular is personalization and contextualization of the learning. At present it no longer applies only to the filtering of content but also to plastic redefinition of environments (virtual and physical) and situations. Among the consequences, the questioning of the old LMS that are fluctuating between the deconstruction and reconstruction/integration with the aim to support both the community and the promotion of the individuals.
The increased flexibility and reconfigurability of processes, environments and content, and, as well, a scarce ability to transfer the results of the research to society has brought back also the popular theme of the ‘measure’ of the learning. To this respect we may notice that in such magmatic situation very old and well known disciplines like the docimology has been redefined in fashionable manner as ‘learning analytics’. The problem, however, is not to find fashionable names to old arts, but to understand that it is:
a) no longer possible to carry out only product and process assessments;
b) necessary to take a bottom-up approach, and monitor the emergences;
c) necessary to integrate different approaches to take in due account the multidimensional nature of the learning experience;
d) necessary to find new form of representations.
It is within such framework that this special issue of IxD&A proposes a reflection on how we can, or should, evaluate the Educational Experiences of Flexible and Personal Learning Environments.
Inevitably, given the magmatic scenario described above, the reflections of this issues’ authors span over a very wide territory and, in doing that, highlight the deep interrelations existing between various areas of on-going research on TEL.
The first contribution, thus, proposes a first attempt to systematize the approach to the measurement, analysis and representation of complex learning processes (Giovanella et al.) The second one offers a reflection of how one might combine at best different approaches and strategies to build up a measurement framework able to detect reliably the user experience. As test bed such methodological approaches has been applied to educational games for K12 (Obrist et al.). Another case study, then, shows us the problems that might be faced when one operates in informal and multicultural contexts (Marianos et al.).
A reflection on evaluation of Educational Experiences of Flexible and Personal Learning Environments inevitably has to interest also the design of the virtual environments. The contribution by Triana-Rodriguez et al., in fact, describes the design of an architecture that can solve, at least in part, the problem of the learning evaluation in PLE. To follow, Di Cerbo et al. reflect on the possibility of using three-dimensional representations to foster a greater awareness of the educational process. Giunta, finally, albeit on a purely cognitive level, wonders how the complexity of the raw materials (notably knowledge) can and should influence the design of environments: complexity calls complexity ?
Actually, since quite a long time people questions about how we can and must manage the complexity and how it can be transformed into an apparent simplicity without changing the meaning and the sense of the experience.
This seems to be still a topic of great relevance, especially now that people is getting more aware of how complex an educational experiences mediated by the machine can be and how important is, on the other hand, to foster a perception of such experiences as very natural and full of sense … just not make feel all us like a pilot of an airplane in her/his cockpit.
Carlo Giovannella and Effie Lai-Chong Law