This paper is the first empirical study linking learning design information for a substantial number of courses with Learning Management Systems (LMS)/Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) data and with learning performance.
The paper used hand-coded learning design data for 87 modules: the amount of time learners were expected to spend on each of seven types of learning design activity: assimilative; finding & handling information; communication; productive; experiential; interactive/adaptive; assessment. A cluster analysis of design of these modules suggested they fell in to four broad groups:: constructivist, assessment-driven, balanced-variety and social constructivist modules.
The authors found significant correlations between aspects of learning design and LMS/VLE usage data. Learners on the constructivist modules spent significantly more time on the LMS/VLE than learners on the other modules. The learning design decisions of teachers seemed to strongly influence how students were engaging with the LMS/VLE. Specifically, when more inquiry- or social constructivist learning activities were included in the learning design, learners tended to use the LMS/VLE more.
Finally, they explored the link with learning performance (completion and pass rates). They found no correlation between LMS/VLE activity and learning performance. However, there was a significant negative correlation between assimilative learning activity and learning performance, i.e. modules that had more time devoted to reading/watching/listening activity had significantly lower completion and pass rates.
The authors note that this was a small sample: full data was only available for 40 modules. However, it is a good first example of a study linking learning design with VLE/LMS data and with learning performance, and is evidence that the choices teachers make in learning design terms do have an effect on the learners, both in terms of VLE/LMS activity and learning performance.
(A further study with 157 modules is in press: Toetenel, Lisette and Rienties, Bart (2016). Analysing 157 Learning Designs using Learning Analytic approaches as a means to evaluate the impact of pedagogical decision-making. British Journal of Educational Technology (in press).)