Talking through the problem

In conversation with Natalie, via blog post comments, my own musings and talking to one of my peers at work, I have nutted out the problem I’d like to tackle for my DBR proposal. The following are some of my observations from the conversations in part taken from my comments on Natalie’s blog post (sorry for the repeat, Natalie).

Good intentions

Everyone has such good intentions in providing students with assistance, by building websites, course sites, program sites, or might provide links to information on a case by case basis, providing students with the contextualised answer that they desire, instant gratification for the student! At the University of South Australia they have implemented 24/7 academic help via a service called YourTutor. The link to YourTutor is at the top of each course page. As I discovered by clicking on it accidentally, they are very persistent and apparently this has been well received by students, especially because of the 24/7 nature of the assistance.

Another service at UniSA is that in the library you can no longer talk to a librarian face-to-face. You have a choice of picking up a phone (and connecting with the library staff who are just sitting behind a wall) or using the chat service. The chat service is enabled on all library websites and provide answers by library assistants (not librarians! who are qualified to provide reference support) who are located behind the wall or by a bot for frequently asked questions (for example, what are the library opening times, etc). The FAQs are somehow input and are spat out as if a real human is chatting. Again, management state that this has been extremely successful. However, I know that when you take a service away such as face-to-face support, students just don’t know what they are missing and won’t ask. No longer are they taken through the process of how to find the information, as was done via the face-to-face service. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy, remove the face-to-face service and then if nobody is asking for the service claim there is no need for it!


We want students to become effective lifelong learners who can find the information and answers to questions themselves. If we continue to focus on providing students with this ‘instant gratification’, how do we teach students to learn not just to direct them to information (not matter how well intended)? We are not providing learners with the ability to explore, discover and create for themselves.

We provide students with information on websites and courses but do not provide students with the process to learn that enables students to transfer these skills to other areas of learning. How do we teach students the transferable skills so that they can find the information relevant to themselves at their point of need?

Point of view

Natalie is trying to combat this from her point of view as academic advisor. As I do not really ‘teach’ something, I have to provide guidance via design. The problem from my point of view is:

How can an online environment be designed that enables students to learn?


The next step…listen

Now that I have framed my problem, I need to ask how others see this problem and potential solutions that can be built into the design-based research proposal. I hope to seek feedback from:

  • my manager
  • other educational designers
  • students
  • academics
  • case studies
  • literature
  • other?


2 thoughts on “Talking through the problem

  1. Hi Brigitte
    Interesting – that we have both headed in a similar direction. I’ve been reading constantly for the last three nights- and the word that keeps popping off the page is – scaffolding! So, good luck with your research.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s