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Understanding Topical Science Issues – A Learning Design Approach

, Charles Darwin University, Australia ; , , Massey University, New Zealand

Journal of Interactive Learning Research Volume 18, Number 1, ISSN 1093-023X Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Waynesville, NC


This article presents a description of the design of a learning environment focussed on topical scientific issues in an online and distance education setting. The subject area, genetic modification (GM), is a controversial and complex subject, of interest to a wide target audience. The focus of the learning design is to provide learners with a broad understanding of the underlying science involved, using this as a basis for informed debate on the risks and benefits of its use. The learning design model used is based on a model initially developed for multimedia design (Kommers, 2001) which incorporates a four stage process where the first two stages, conceptual and metaphorical, are emphasised. The subsequent structural and navigational stages develop as a natural extension from these. The authors, themselves working at a distance, used a collaborative approach during the instructional design process. A variety of learning approaches and underlying learning theories that encapsulated the requirements of online and distance learning and the principles for the teaching of science were considered, including constructivism, problem based learning, situated cognition and cooperative learning, before a strategy and method that best supported meaningful learning was determined. During the development of the learning design solution the relationship between the four stages of the design process was analysed and a refinement of the model proposed.


Billany, T.J., Hartnett, M. & Bhattacharya, M. (2007). Understanding Topical Science Issues – A Learning Design Approach. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 18(1), 85-100. Waynesville, NC: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved May 12, 2021 from .



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