LATIST: Learning Asset Technology Integration Support Tool

Award Winner: 
2010 Sloan-C Effective Practice Award
Collection: 
Student-Generated Content
Author Information
Author(s): 
Dr. Nada Dabbagh and Dr. Kevin Clark
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
George Mason University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

LATIST was developed as a result of funding provided by the US Army Research Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) to support research on Advanced Learning Technologies (ALT) for the Defense Acquisition University (DAU). The goals of LATIST are to facilitate decision making among DAU faculty and staff by providing (a) a pedagogically driven decision support tool; (b) a repository of research on technology use in government, business, and education; and (c) access to information on how to integrate technology within learning assets. LATIST is also designed as a method to raise awareness of technology options and provide a tool for faculty and staff to refer to when making learning technology decisions. As research and resources on ALT are constantly growing and evolving, LATIST is designed to be scalable and encourages user interaction by embedding capabilities such as tagging, saving, sharing, and uploading within the tool to create a personal learning environment.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

LATIST stands for Learning Asset Technology Integration Support Tool. This performance support tool enables faculty to integrate Advanced Learning Technologies (ALT) such as social media, mobile technologies, games, simulations, and virtual worlds into their online and technology supported course designs. Specifically LATIST has three components: (a) Explore Research which allows users to explore what the research says about a specific ALT and examine its advantages, disadvantages, and best practices in teaching and learning contexts; (b) Select Best Technology which allows users to select instructional strategies and technologies based on course objectives and factors such as bandwidth and budget; and (c) Apply Technology which allows users to view real world examples of ALT use in educational and training settings as well as practice using a selected technology.

The LATIST Home Page introduces the purpose and capabilities of LATIST, providing two video links that further explain what LATIST is and how to use it. LATIST provides many global features. Users will be able to quickly access the three main components: Explore Research, Select Best Technology, and Apply Technology, as well as access any one page of content using a Technology quick links function. Users will be able to log in to add personal features such as rating articles, uploading content, and taking personal notes. An advanced search function would be programmed to locate all resources based on filtering agents such as date, title, keyword, and author. A dictionary would be included to provide quick reference on what a technology is and define the influential factors significant to the selection of ALT. A Help feature would target technical issues related to system features such as uploading documents to LATIST.

The Explore Research component of LATIST is a research-based body of knowledge on ALT organized into three broad categories: (1) Social Media, (2) Virtual Worlds / Games and Simulations, and (3) Mobile Technologies. While one user may be satisfied with reviewing a technology overview, advantages, disadvantages, and best practices of a specific ALT, another may want to pursue more in-depth research by reviewing the available literature of that technology. It is envisioned that DAU faculty and staff will be able to print, share, add, upload, mark their favorites, rate resources, and select articles rated highly by their peers. Additionally, the system will provide “Amazon-type” recommendations for other resources for the user to review based on tagging or other such classification type metadata. Users will be able to easily and intuitively move within the different information sections of the Explore Research component and across all LATIST components.

The Select Best Technology component of LATIST guides the users to make informed decisions about which technologies to integrate into learning assets in a pedagogically sound manner while taking DAU specific criteria into consideration. This component has two subcomponents: the Decision Aide and the Factors Grid. Through the Decision Aide, users select a learning objective level that matches the learning objective for an identified DAU course or learning asset. The Decision Aide responds by providing a list of potential instructional strategies for that learning objective level. Based on the user selected instructional strategy, the system returns a “best technology.” The Factors Grid allows the user to evaluate technologies based upon criteria specific to DAU such as bandwidth, information stability, development cost, maintenance cost, and speed-to-market. This is scalable to other factors depending on the organization's needs and constraints.

The Apply Technology component enables the user to learn how to apply a specific technology by providing options to learn how to implement it; view real world examples of use in a DAU context and other business, military, and educational contexts; and gain hands-on practice. The user can access the information through a combination of embedded or hyperlinked videos, text documents, or URLs to external websites. The information provided in the Apply Technology component will allow the user to incorporate a selected technology suitable for an online course.

The LATIST Home Page introduces LATIST to new and occasional users while the three components of LATIST work hand-in-hand to facilitate the understanding, selection, and integration of ALT by DAU faculty and staff into online course designs.

Please visit LATIST at http://cehd.gmu.edu/LATIST

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

In order to develop LATIST, a usage-centered design process was used to focus on user needs and develop a tool that allows users to fulfill their needs in an easy, effective, and efficient way (Constantine & Lockwood, 1999). Through content and task analysis, user needs were determined, tasks necessary to obtain optimal benefit from LATIST were identified, and content requirements were established based on projected user scenarios and use cases. As a result, the specifics of the content and functionality of the three LATIST components were determined.

Additionally, the results of the content and task analysis revealed that LATIST would best be utilized as an electronic performance support system (EPSS). An EPSS is an easily accessible, integrated electronic environment that provides immediate, individualized support so an employee can perform their duties with minimal intervention by others (Dickelman, 2004). A performance support subject matter expert recommended that for maximum effectiveness, information in LATIST should be explicit, accessible, and usable and confirmed that the three components of LATIST represented a successful integration of process and knowledge. Hence, LATIST would be browser-based, quickly accessible from the internet, and mobile compatible. LATIST capabilities would allow users to print, save, search, rate, upload, and share content and intuitively navigate across the components based on a selected technology. Given these characteristics, a Content Management System was used to develop LATIST. Based on these requirements and discussions with DAU stakeholders and information technology specialists, the CMS WordPress was selected to build the core framework for LATIST. WordPress is an open-source blog publishing CMS application powered by an open-source server-side scripting language known as Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) and by MySQL – a relational database management system that can also be used for content management.

LATIST navigation was designed to be intuitive and to address these four focal use cases:

  1. a user who is not familiar with what technology can do in a teaching and learning context and wants to review what the research says about technology
  2. a user who has a known learning outcome (instructional objective) and/or contextual factors and wants to see what technologies might be beneficial for that instance
  3. a user who wants to learn how to apply a technology and practice those steps
  4. a user that has been directed to use a particular technology and wants to learn what the research says about the technology and how to apply it

These design requirements were documented using flowcharts and wireframes to convey the navigation and site architecture for an external software vendor to develop the LATIST prototype. Additionally, two logical data models were developed to support the dynamic nature of the “select best technology” component of LATIST and enable a searchable repository of the research. Furthermore, two short videos were designed and developed by a video producer to introduce users to the purpose, capabilities, and navigation of LATIST. Based on the documented requirements, an initial prototype was developed to begin usability testing.

Two rounds of usability testing were conducted to iteratively improve the LATIST prototype based on expert and user feedback. Both rounds were intended to determine design inconsistencies and usability problems to establish user performance and user satisfaction levels. Both rounds consisted of two phases: Phase I relied on the immersion team and proxy participant feedback while Phase II relied on end-user (DAU) participant feedback.

In Round 1, expert and stakeholder-users provided generally positive comments in regards to the layout, navigation, and overall functionality of the LATIST prototype. Improvements were accomplished based on comments. In Round 2, Phase II testing took place at DAU’s Fort Belvoir campus to capture representative user performance and user satisfaction under controlled testing conditions. Nine participants were given six task based scenarios to complete and were encouraged to think-aloud to capture their thinking process. Results indicated the majority of participants felt LATIST would be helpful in raising awareness of technology options and that with further development; LATIST would be an effective resource. One participant noted LATIST would be a “good idea generator.”

Recommendations stated independently by at least two of the nine participants included:

  • Add more multi-media resources as the current use of videos was good
  • Add more examples explaining how to integrate technology into learning assets
  • Add a means to easily share information in the tool such as through social media or email options
  • Ensure the tool is scalable, the information relevant, and the content up-to-date
  • Provide more connectivity across components and between subcomponents within ‘select best technology’ component

Based on the usability testing results, the LATIST prototype was revised to include the main features and functions intended to support DAU faculty and staff in integrating ALT. As such, LATIST is best described through its main navigation pages: LATIST Home Page, Explore Research, Select Best Technology, and Apply Technology.

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

Learning Asset Technology Integration Support Tool, LATIST, was designed as a scalable electronic performance support tool that allows DAU faculty and staff to: (1) explore what the research says about a technology such as advantages and disadvantages; (2) select a best technology for user conditions such as learning objectives and bandwidth constraints; and (3) review and learn how to apply a selected technology.

Usability testing results revealed that overall, LATIST was perceived by DAU as a highly valued performance support system for ALT selection and integration attesting to its learning effectiveness. This type of tool could be extended to other educational contexts or settings including all types of higher education institutions, K-12 schools, and corporate training organizations. In fact any educational or training setting could benefit from a tool such as LATIST. For example, LATIST could support:

  • K-12 teachers looking to accommodate its gamer generation students;
  • corporate leadership looking to grasp the options and implications of new technologies;
  • subject matter experts trying to find a good technology fit for their content; or
  • instructional designers wanting to understand the pedagogical affordances of learning technologies.

Additionally LATIST is adaptive, scalable, extensible, and interoperable. It provides a flexible and customaizable platform for any learning organization that uses technology to support online learning. These learning organizations can build-out LATIST based on their specific pedagogical, technological, and institutioanl needs. LATIST could have significant impact on the selection and integration of technology into online course design. However, it should be noted that such a tool must be maintained by its users to ensure currency and relevance.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

LATIST requires a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, Drupal, or Jumla to support its backend database, dynamic content, decision aide and factors grid.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

LATIST was developed using funds from a government contract (RDECOM-STTC) and it is currently patent-pending at the US patent office. The prototype is available at zero cost.

References, supporting documents: 

References:

Constantine, L., & Lockwood, L. (1999). Software for use: A practical guide to the models and methods of usage-centered design. New York: ACM Press.

Dickelman, G. (2004). What is EPSS? Retrieved April 20, 2010 from http://www.epsscentral.info/knowledgebase/about/whatisepss

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Nada Dabbagh
Email this contact: 
ndabbagh@gmu.edu