Action Workflow Loops in Distance Education - Design Principles for Integrating CAL and CMC

Paul Johannesson


Distance education is a form of education that offers many advantages, in particular that students can freely choose a time and place for their studies. However, distance education also gives rise to many problems. The most severe problem is that distance education puts a heavy burden on the individual student, who has to work with limited contact and support from teachers and fellow students. It has been argued that this problem can be overcome by learning environments that utilize modern information technology. Simplifying somewhat, information technology can be used for distance education in two different forms: Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) and Computer Mediated Communication (CMC). CAL systems may range from information resource databases over drill and practice systems to simulation models and full-fledged tutorials. CMC refers to a wide range of asynchronous, text or multi-media based computer conferencing systems. There are indications that CMC may have a profound impact on the educational system and dramatically alter the relationships between students, teachers, and educational institutions. However, CMC is not without its problems. In particular, the medium may alienate students lacking computer or writing skills. One approach to addres these problems is to combine CAL and CMC. In this paper, we suggest a set of novel design principles for incorporating computer mediated communication in CAL systems. These design principles build on the action workflow approach to workflow management.

Postscript version