top of page
Photo of Vol4.jpg

Instructional-Design Theories and Models: Volume IV, The Learner-Centered Paradigm of Education

Edited by Charles M. Reigeluth, Brian J. Beatty & Rodney D. Myers       2017

Chapter 7

Designing Collaborative Production of Digital Media

T.J. Kalaitzidis, Breanne Litts, & Erica Halverson


Editors’ Foreword


Preconditions (when to use the theory)


  • The content entails application and transfer, not just memorization. Learners’ content

                understanding can be represented through digital media.


  • All students.

      Learning environments

  • Collaborative, creative, interest-driven, learner-centered and production-oriented.

      Instructional development constraints

  • Requires a digital media production environment (hardware, software and network) and instructor development skills.


Values (opinions about what is important)

      About ends (learning goals)

  • Enculturation, becoming, and being, not just knowing.

  • Literacy is viewed as primarily a sociocultural phenomenon rather than a psychological one.

  • Self-expression, creativity, collaboration skills, acceptance of diversity and subjectivity, and development of technical, critical, and social skills.

  • Empowerment to create one’s own future.

      About means (instructional methods)

  • Interest-driven learning, learning by doing (constructionism, production orientation), community, contextual authenticity (situative-sociocultural perspective), and critique/reflection.

  • An emphasis on learning systems rather than individual learners, content, or instruction.

      About priorities (criteria for successful instruction)

  • Effectiveness and appeal, more than efficiency.

      About power (to make decisions about the previous three)

  • Self-directed learning.


Universal Principles

     1. A production-oriented approach to learning

  • Develop learner-artifact relationships. Learners should create something personally meaningful and innovative. Instructors should provide adequate tools and time for this relationship to develop and deepen.

  • Support learners’ identities as designers. Learners should learn to think and talk about their artifacts like designers, using a grammar of design.

  • Remake class into a workshop, with learners engaged in a collaborative production process.

  • Situational considerations include:

    • Assessing artifact quality: The instructional design should provide measures of artifact assessment relative to the genre, historical time, and target audience of production.

    • Distribute technological expertise across learners: Choose tools based upon the choice of project rather than constraining project choice to the tools available or already known by the instructor.

    • Align time constraints: Consider how much time learners need to create artifacts that satisfy their own creative expectations rather than setting strict constraints, as these may hinder learners’ relationships with the object of their production. 

     2. The importance of critique and reflection

  • Practice critique and reflection: Critique and reflection should be routine activities of learning and design. Offer regularly scheduled critique and reflection sessions. Also encourage spontaneous critique and reflection at opportune situations. 

  • Keep design journals: Require that students keep and submit logs of their design and learning activity.

  • Use theoretical resources (readings, explanatory materials, experts, etc.) to develop meta-representational competence – the ability to use representational tools, reflect on which tools should be used, and to understand how the interaction between tool and meaning work toward a purpose.

  • Situational considerations include:

    • Frequency of critique: Instructors must keep a pulse on learning throughout projects in order to balancing critique and reflection with production. At times it may be necessary to offload critique to online forums as project deadlines near.

    • Managing failure: Learners may not always meet the expectations or deadlines set by instructors. In these instances of “failure,” instructors have two situational alternatives to keep learners engaged and motivated: offer them more time to finish the project or allow them to explain how their projects meet or do not meet goals.

     3. The presence of an authentic audience for work

  • Consider audience from the outset: Audience should play a generative role throughout the creative process. Instruction should ask learners to identify potential audiences from the outset of their work.

  • Find audiences: Appropriate audiences might include invited peers, friends, family, school communities, online viewers, and much more. Help learners find appropriate audiences and engage with those groups as the artifact takes shape.

  • Use audience in assessment: It is crucial to examine how student artifacts perform “in the wild.” Presenting work to authentic audiences and receiving their feedback is one of the few ways to make student work more legitimate.

  • Situational considerations include:

    • Appropriate audiences: Instructors should determine at the outset whether the audience should be closed (class-only) or open (public) audience. The choice of audience helps guide the constraints of a project.

    • Correlating audience to assessment: Consider the assessment environment. As class size increases, a more standardized assessment may be needed. Standardized measures can be provided to certain kinds of audiences to aid in assessment.

     4. Reframing teaching as mentorship

  • Distribute learning: Spread the onus of learning across the entire class community, including the teacher (mentor) as learner. 

  • Distribute teaching: Acknowledge and leverage the variations of learner interests as pedagogical opportunities. The class community should function as a distributed system; all members—instructors, mentors, and learners—should learn from each other and the tools they choose to use. In this model, more senior class members model the process of learning.

  • Distribute assessment: Expand who assesses to include peers, audience, and mentor, and expand what is assessed to include learning process, products, and the instructional design.

  • Situational considerations include:

    • Dialogic, flexible design: Instruction and the design of it should not be rigid, top-down activities. As learners grow, create, and demand new resources, the design of instruction must adapt to meet their needs. Instructors should elicit ideas for these refinements from learners themselves.

    • Distribution in education: Instructors must reconcile the notion of distribution with their own institutional expectations. Note that even from a distributed perspective, teachers should retain a central role as planners and guides of activity.


Implementation issues

  • Finding and accessing expertise.  The demand and need for production-oriented expertise may exceed the capability of an instructor to supply. External expert resources may be needed to fill the role of “more experienced other,” or additional expertise may be developed within the learning community itself. 

  • Access to resources.  Even with digital production-oriented project environments, necessary resources may be expensive to acquire and cumbersome to install and manage.

  • Issues of “time”.  Learner-centered production is a lengthy process, so the breadth and depth of assigned projects must be carefully managed.

                                                                                                                                                                                       –  C.M.R., B.J.B & R.D.M.

Volume IV Home
bottom of page