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Patterns of Engagement in Authentic Online Learning Environments



The use of authentic activities within online learning environments has been shown to have many benefits for learners in online units and courses. There has been renewed interest in the role of student activities within course units, as constructivist philosophy and advances in technology impact on educational design and practice. Courses based on these principles have been used successfully across a wide variety of discipline areas. In spite of the growing evidence of the success of authentic learning environments, they are not without their problems. In this paper we discuss patterns of engagement that have emerged from our own research on authentic learning tasks, in particular, the initial reluctance to willingly immerse in learning scenarios that some students experience, and the need for the suspension of disbelief before engaging in the task. The paper proposes ten characteristics of authentic activities, based on educational theory and research, which has been used as criteria for the selection of existing online units or courses for in-depth investigation. The paper includes a short review of the literature, a description of the research and some preliminary findings and identification of issues related to the necessity for students to willingly suspend disbelief in order to fully engage in learning scenarios based on authentic tasks.
Jan Herrington
School of Communications and Multimedia
Edith Cowan University, AUSTRALIA
Ron Oliver
School of Communications and Multimedia
Edith Cowan University, AUSTRALIA
Thomas C. Reeves
College of Education
The University of Georgia, Georgia, USA
The use of authentic activities within online learning environments has been shown
to have many benefits for learners in online units and courses. There has been
renewed interest in the role of student activities within course units, as constructivist
philosophy and advances in technology impact on educational design and practice.
Courses based on these principles have been used successfully across a wide variety
of discipline areas. In spite of the growing evidence of the success of authentic
learning environments, they are not without their problems. In this paper we discuss
patterns of engagement that have emerged from our own research on authentic
learning tasks, in particular, the initial reluctance to willingly immerse in learning
scenarios that some students experience, and the need for the suspension of disbelief
before engaging in the task. The paper proposes ten characteristics of authentic
activities, based on educational theory and research, which has been used as
criteria for the selection of existing online units or courses for in-depth
investigation. The paper includes a short review of the literature, a description of
the research and some preliminary findings and identification of issues related to
the necessity for students to willingly suspend disbelief in order to fully engage in
learning scenarios based on authentic tasks.
Online learning, authentic activities, instructional design
Authentic activities in learning environments
The use of authentic activities within online learning environments has been shown to have many benefits
for learners in online units and courses. Instead of providing academic, decontextualised exercises that
can be used primarily to practice a skill, there are many instances of courses where authentic tasks create
the core of the online learning environment, and the completion of the tasks effectively comprises the
entire student commitment for the course. Many courses have been based on complex and sustained
scenarios and cases, where students become immersed in problem solving within realistic situations
resembling the contexts where the knowledge they are learning can be realistically applied.
Authentic activities have been used successfully across a wide variety of discipline areas. For example, in
a course entitled Physical activity fitness and health, students use a virtual laboratory to carry out fitness
testing in areas such as muscular strength, aerobic power, lung function and flexibility in much the same
manner that this procedure would be conducted with a real person (Rice, Owies, Campbell, Snow, Owen,
& Holt, 1999). The benefits to students of the design and construction of a Formula SAE racecar as part
of mechanical and mechatronics engineering curriculum have been described by Bullen and Karri (2002),
while Hunt, Kershaw and Seddon (2002) described a project where transition from school to university
was approached with students’ exploring the university campus in order to create video clips on the
nature of university life, rather than the more traditional orientation activities. Marshall, Northcote and
Lenoy (2001) have used authentic activities in their design of a course teaching mathematics to
Indigenous adults. Bennett, Harper and Hedberg (2001) used case studies of the development of
multimedia products as models for students of Interactive Multimedia Design to investigate, prior to their
own development of multimedia products for real clients. An architecture learning environment has been
developed (Challis, 2002) where students are required to compose a piece of music, and then design a
scale model of a music room for the performance of the piece, described by the teacher as ‘a means of
allowing [the] design concept to transcend from the idea to the realisable’ (p. 107).
In spite of the growing evidence of the success of these authentic learning environments, they are not
without their problems. In this paper we will discuss a problem that has emerged from our own research
on authentic learning environments, namely, the initial reluctance to willingly immerse in learning
scenarios that some students experience, and the need for the suspension of disbelief before engaging in
the task.
Authenticity in learning environments
Some argue that it is impossible to design truly ‘authentic’ learning experiences. Petraglia (1998a, 1998b)
argued that authenticity can be neither ‘predetermined nor preordained’, and such attempts often result in
little more than ‘preauthentication’, that is, ‘the attempt to make learning materials and environments
correspond to the real world prior to the learner’s interaction with them’ (p. 53). He gave the example of a
task of balancing a checkbook, a task which may be authentic for a 21 year old, but hardly for a five year
old. Even amongst the older age group, many factors contribute to whether they would find the task
authentic—some would find ‘any given lesson in personal finance irrelevant, inaccurate, or otherwise
inappropriate’ (p. 59). In supporting this view, Barab, Squire and Dueber (2000) argued that authenticity
occurs ‘not in the learner, the task, or the environment, but in the dynamic interactions among these
various components … authenticity is manifest in the flow itself, and is not an objective feature of any
one component in isolation’ (p. 38).
Petraglia (1998a) contended that learners need to be persuaded that they are participating in an authentic
learning environment. This theme is also adopted by Kantor, Waddington and Osgood (2000) who, when
referring to the kinds of goal-based scenarios they design for Anderson Consulting, argued that:
No matter how realistic the case … nor how authentic the conditions and tools … [it] is not the same
as a work environment. It is a simulation of a client engagement in which the participants tacitly
agree to go along with an interpretation of job reality which we have crafted. (pp. 211-212)
There is increasing evidence that in order to fully engage with an authentic task or problem-based
scenario, students need to engage with a process that is familiar to moviegoers throughout the world – the
suspension of disbelief. For example, consider the suspension of disbelief that audiences must undergo to
enable them to become engaged with movies such as Star Wars, Mad Max, The Matrix, The Truman
Show, and Back to the Future. Audiences need to accept the worlds that have been created, no matter how
unlikely. Once the initial suspension of disbelief has occurred, it is only inconsistencies within the
parameters of the plot itself that cause dissonance in the viewer. In other words, once the viewer has
accepted the fundamental basis for the simulated world in which he or she is immersed, engagement with
the story and message of the film is entirely feasible.
In scenario-based learning environments, where conditions, characters, circumstances and parameters are
drawn to simulate a real-life context for learning, a similar suspension of disbelief is required. For some
students, there appears to be some misapprehension about the approach, because it is so different from the
more academic approaches with which they are familiar. Many students initially perceive authentic
environments to be non-academic, non-rigorous, time wasting and unnecessary to efficient learning. It is
often only when the suspension of disbelief occurs that these students see the complexity and the value of
the learning environment.
What are authentic activities?
The use of the word authentic is quite open to interpretation. Bennett, Harper and Hedberg (2001) have
usefully discussed the multiple interpretations that abound in the literature, ranging from activities based
on real situations to models that focus on applying conceptual knowledge or skills, such as critical
thinking or problem solving. Several authors have attempted to delineate characteristics of authentic
activities. For example, Young (1993) listed the attributes of real-life problems which need, where
possible, to be replicated in authentic activities, such as active/generative engagement in defining
problems as well as solving them, and involvement of the student’s beliefs and values. Jonassen (1991)
defined authentic activities as tasks: that have real-world relevance and utility, that integrate across the
curriculum, that provide appropriate levels of complexity, and that allow students to select appropriate
levels of difficulty or involvement. Similarly, Bransford, Vye, Kinzer and Risko (1990) described criteria
of authentic activities such as: a single complex problem should be investigated by the students, students
identify and define their own questions, and activities are logically related to the problem. The Cognition
and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1990) have stressed the importance of complexity and the necessity
to provide an environment capable of sustained examination. They describe authentic tasks as
‘generative’ because the completion of the task requires the students to generate other problems to be
solved. Kantor, Waddington and Osgood (2000) have a well-defined level of authenticity for their goal-
based scenarios, largely designed for business consulting training:
We make them authentic to the degree that the staging of theatrical productions is authentic. We
provide physical props (plans, offices, desks) …We locate furniture, phones, computer equipment,
flip charts and white boards in the team rooms to promote the right mix of team collaboration and
communication, creation of work products and research activities. These levels of authenticity are
set to the degree that such models of communication require, but no more. (p. 222)
10 characteristics of authentic activities
Our own research has focussed on defining critical characteristics of authentic activities based on a wide
literature review of recent research and theory. In reflecting on the characteristics of activities described
by researchers, ten broad design characteristics of authentic activities have been identified (cf. Reeves,
Herrington, & Oliver, 2002). These characteristics comprise:
Authentic activities have real-world relevance: Activities match as nearly as possible the real-world
tasks of professionals in practice rather than decontextualised or classroom-based tasks.
Authentic activities are ill-defined, requiring students to define the tasks and sub-tasks needed to
complete the activity: Problems inherent in the activities are ill-defined and open to multiple
interpretations rather than easily solved by the application of existing algorithms. Learners must
identify their own unique tasks and sub-tasks in order to complete the major task.
Authentic activities comprise complex tasks to be investigated by students over a sustained period of
time: Activities are completed in days, weeks and months rather than minutes or hours. They require
significant investment of time and intellectual resources.
Authentic activities provide the opportunity for students to examine the task from different
perspectives, using a variety of resources: The task affords learners the opportunity to examine the
problem from a variety of theoretical and practical perspectives, rather than allowing a single
perspective that learners must imitate to be successful The use of a variety of resources rather than a
limited number of preselected references requires students to detect relevant from irrelevant
Authentic activities provide the opportunity to collaborate: Collaboration is integral to the task, both
within the course and the real world, rather than achievable by an individual learner.
Authentic activities provide the opportunity to reflect: Activities need to enable learners to make
choices and reflect on their learning both individually and socially.
Authentic activities can be integrated and applied across different subject areas and lead beyond
domain-specific outcomes: Activities encourage interdisciplinary perspectives and enable students to
play diverse roles thus building robust expertise rather than knowledge limited to a single well-
defined field or domain.
Authentic activities are seamlessly integrated with assessment: Assessment of activities is seamlessly
integrated with the major task in a manner that reflects real world assessment, rather than separate
artificial assessment removed from the nature of the task.
Authentic activities create polished products valuable in their own right rather than as preparation
for something else: Activities culminate in the creation of a whole product rather than an exercise or
sub-step in preparation for something else.
Authentic activities allow competing solutions and diversity of outcome: Activities allow a range and
diversity of outcomes open to multiple solutions of an original nature, rather than a single correct
response obtained by the application of rules and procedures.
Using these characteristics as criteria for the selection of appropriate courses to study, our current
research has sought to investigate the characteristics of authentic activity that facilitate a whole course or
unit of study being encapsulated within complex tasks, and to determine the factors that contribute to the
successful adoption and implementation of activity-based online courses or units. We have used the
criteria listed above to select courses or units of study that use authentic activities as a central core of their
presentation. Identification of courses that meet these criteria is difficult, and to date six cases have been
investigated. The units must have a major online component, not simply supplementary material to on-
campus delivery. Teachers, authors, instructional designers, tutors and others associated with the design
and delivery of the courses have been interviewed, and the websites of courses have been analysed. The
research is ongoing, and analysis is focusing on the identification of conceptual themes and issues
emerging from the data, using techniques such as clustering, and making contrasts and comparisons
(Miles & Huberman, 1994).
One theme which has emerged strongly from a number of different sources in our research is the nature of
authenticity, and how many authentic environments are the creation of the teachers’, authors’ and
instructional designers’ imaginations, and are thus inevitably someone’s view of what is authentic.
Petraglia (1998a) has been critical of this shortcoming, calling it ‘the real world on a short leash’ (p. 53).
There is nevertheless, much evidence to suggest that these learning environments can provide a great deal
of meaning to otherwise decontextualised facts and skills, and can enhance the transfer of deep and
lifelong learning (Barab & Landa, 1997). At what point do students become engaged, if ever, in these
manufactured scenarios? Is there a pattern to their acceptance of the terms of the authenticity, and how
important is the suspension of disbelief?
Patterns of engagement
In analysing the interview data from teachers’ and tutors’ perceptions of student engagement, there
appear to be different approaches adopted by students, and several issues have emerged from our
examination of this aspect of authentic tasks. The learning environments that have been examined to date
typically build a scenario into which students are immersed, and include an authentic context where
students are given a role, and a task to perform to solve a significant problem. Resources are available on
the websites to assist with their investigations, and the students collaboratively produce a polished and
realistic product, such as a research report for assessment. The courses examined have included subjects
in research methods, business communication and coastal and marine biology. Two main patterns of
engagement have emerged from our initial data that appear to merit further investigation.
Willing acceptance and ‘relief’
The phrase ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ was first used by the early 19th century poet Samuel Taylor
Coleridge. The term has been applied to many instances of human response to the arts, as noted by
Milburn (n.d.):
[Coleridge’s] original turn of the phrase was in reference to the reader’s response to poetry, but
everyone immediately realized he had summarized most of the human experience of art generally …
Whether you’re talking about a Spielberg movie, a Stephen King novel, a twitch-em-up video game,
a multi-decibel rave, or a simple TV sitcom, they all require the same thing of spectators/
participants: a willing suspension of disbelief. (Para no. 6)
However, the idea is also highly applicable to education. Laurel (1993) likened the willing suspension of
disbelief to engagement: ‘Engagement is what happens when we are able to give ourselves over to a
representational action, comfortably and unambiguously. It involves a kind of complicity’ (p. 115). In
initial contact with authentic learning environments as described here, many students willingly and
instantly engage. For example, one incident was described in the interviews which labelled the students’
response as ‘relief’:
There was less fear. There’s an anecdote I can share is that the very first time the unit ran, we gave
students an option of coming in to campus to look at it … I stood behind two mature aged women
who had expressed to me before things started that they didn’t want to do this unit, they hated the
idea of it, they were terrified of it, they really disliked the fact that they had to do it and were quite
negative about it. They were talked through how to access the site … they turned to each other and
[said] words to the effect of ‘Oh wow, this is going to be great’. And they immediately weren’t
scared of it. There was a real sense of relief and I think that’s because it was presented in a human
form. (Interview with Camille)
Similarly, there was evidence of a willing acceptance of the characters and parameters of the scenarios
developed using authentic tasks, described by Laurel (1993) as a willingness ‘to think and feel in terms of
both the content and conventions of a mimetic context’ (p. 115). Students can readily become so
immersed in the learning context that has been created for them that they begin to see the characters as
The most interesting part for me was when we piloted it and … one day I walked in and the students
were there in the lab … chatting to each other, and they were going on and on about this person they
were having trouble with, and I inquired about it and it turned out it was [one of the characters] and I
said as gently as I could ‘That’s not a real person, it’s a character’ and they said ‘We know that’ and
then they just ignored me and kept conversing with each other about what an awful person he was
and how difficult they were finding him, as if he was real, and I found that interesting. (Interview
with Brooke)
It was also apparent in the interviews that the veracity of the learning environment and its physical
representation on the website was not a critical factor for those students who engaged with the context
from the outset. For example, ‘[We] very deliberately didn’t try, to make total felicity, total simulation
out of it. There is so much suspension of disbelief required, but the point was, there just had to be enough
to get them engaged.’ (Interview with Carlo). The quality of the graphics and images was not seen as
important to students if they had accepted the basic context of the scenario:
If it were a commercial product, I’d be disappointed in some of the technology and the graphics that
I think are low end. If we spent a bit more money on it we could have something that looked a lot
more professional … but I think that is a relatively trivial point at the moment. Yes, I think it’s been
engaging; I think the students have learnt at a higher level. (Interview with Camille)
Similarly, another teacher pointed out that the original design for the website planned to include realistic
graphics and photographs as a faithful reproduction of a real-world work environment. Instead, the
website was tested with simple sketches:
Our concern was that the sketches wouldn’t seem as real to the students. When we piloted it, it
worked sensationally. I suppose the students these days are so used to the blending of artificial and
the real it didn’t bother them at all. (Interview with Brooke)
This observation that many, particularly younger, students have little trouble adapting to the conventions
and conduct of web-based scenarios may be a legacy of popular computer and strategy games that have
successfully incorporated complex and sustained scenarios in their design. Nevertheless, these responses
cannot be considered to be restricted to this age group, as many students across the board show immediate
and sustained acceptance of authentic learning environments:
There is quite clear evidence that very large numbers of the students become deeply engaged. The
evidence is overwhelming that the students mostly become very seriously committed to this scenario
and they do find it deeply engaging. (Interview with Camille)
Delayed engagement
The capacity of authentic learning settings to promote students’ willing suspension of disbelief is a
powerful outcome and one which appears to hold strong prospects for enhancing the effectiveness of a
range of learning settings that promote knowledge construction. Many students experience problems with
learning environments that focus on learner-centred tasks and activities. For example, Taplin (2000) has
noted that students may have difficulty in changing dependent learning habits, that problems can arise if
students are not self-motivated and that many are accustomed to teacher-centred modes of instruction and
are unhappy when this directed support is withdrawn. Others such as Hoffman and Ritchie (1997) have
found that some students experience discomfort at ‘the increased degree of freedom they experience’
when they are accustomed to ‘comprehension and synthesis of instructor-specified information, based on
instructor-formulated learning objectives, and participation in instructor-led learning activities’ (p. 100).
Some students resist authentic approaches to such a degree that reports of angry emails and accusations of
not being taught are not uncommon. For instance, Taplin (2000) reports from one of the teachers
participating in her study: ‘One participant found that there was very strong resistance—almost to the
point of mutiny—from one group of students because “they are too exam oriented. They didn’t take it
easily when accepting the new teaching mode” ’ (p. 293). One respondent in our study described some
student anger and frustration with the scenario, and the types of questions that were asked in video
They get really angry with ‘dumb’ questions and start being so particular about the video clips and
the sorts of questions that they think need to be asked. (Interview with Violet)
Few teachers in our study described any sustained resistance to authentic approaches, although there were
several comments about initial inability to accept the learning environment wholeheartedly. For example,
one respondent likened the experience to the theatre-going experience:
There will be a period where they won’t get engaged, but that’s the same as going to a play I think.
If the actors don’t win you over then you don’t enjoy it, and you don’t mentally participate. So that
very much puts the role of the tutor or mentor or lecturer in the forefront because they can either
make or break the students’ attitude to the task and simulation in terms of how they are presented to
the students and how seriously they take the situation. (Interview with Carlo)
This respondent also pointed out that student resistance is not unexpected in environments where
mistakes can happen, and where a great deal of material has to be worked through to find the critical
knowledge that will assist with the problem:
I know one of the difficulties … is that there is a lot of text that students may need to go through at
the beginning before they actually begin doing stuff. And I think that’s always a problem so that
they will be a little bit disoriented because of the amount of material they’re processing before they
even get to the problem. (Interview with Carlo)
Similarly, frustration can arise simply because of the similarity of these authentic learning tasks to the
kind of uncertain and messy tasks that people are often required to do in their professional lives. One
teacher pointed out that students need to be given the time and space to make these mistakes:
There’s not very many complex things that you would ask people to do in the workplace that you
would ask them to have in by tomorrow, and I think you’ve got to give them the same operating
rules as somebody in the workplace would have. So generally I do think you have to give them time
to make mistakes; to be inefficient in getting the information together and to increase their
efficiency as they go on. (Interview with Blake)
In all the environments using authentic tasks examined to date in this study, even reluctant students were
reported to have engaged within a few weeks of the semester. As stated by one teacher:
The data was real enough so that you would think it was real, and it becomes real. So within a
couple of weeks they’ve shifted past the virtual and it’s real! (Interview with Violet)
These findings provide support for the use of authentic environments for online learning settings. Our
research suggests that the use of the authentic setting encourages and supports learners in their
development of skills in self-regulation and self-learning, factors which have been seen to inhibit other
forms of online learning. The capacity of the learning environment to encourage students’ willing
suspension of disbelief appears also to encourage self-direction and independent learning—important
success factors in online learning.
As educators move to adopt learning settings that focus on student-centred rather than teacher-centred
learning activities, the need for strategies to support and encourage learners in what are sometimes
unfamiliar and discomforting activities becomes an important element in the design process. Support for
students in the early weeks of immersion in student-centred learning environments is crucial. This is
particularly important in online learning environments where isolation can be an additional mitigating
factor against successful engagement with the course. Taplin (2000) has noted that acceptance of problem
based learning scenarios, in addition to the usual difficulties in conventional situations, is exacerbated by
distance because of the students’ physical isolation.
Teacher support and peer scaffolding are often suggested as strategies that may assist students who are
reluctant to engage with student-centred and problem-based tasks to persevere beyond the initial weeks of
frustration and uncertainty. Our research suggests that the use of authentic learning settings can also
provide strong supports for such learners. Authentic settings have the capability to motivate and
encourage learner participation by facilitating students’ willing suspension of disbelief. In this way,
students become immersed in the setting and such immersion can provide the motivation that is needed
for the initial perseverance. Once students have persevered with what can initially be quite discomforting
and unfamiliar settings, they are able to develop the forms of familiarity and the skill sets required so that
the authentic setting no longer provides a distraction from the cognitive engagement that higher order
learning requires.
We would not agree with one of Taplin’s respondents who contended that: ‘As educators, we can’t [just
worry about pleasing] the students by not doing it at all. Rather we have to gradually brainwash them …
otherwise they will lose their competitiveness in this society’ (p. 495). We believe, like O’Reilly (2000)
that there is a need to humanise the online experience with greater compassion, empathy and open-
mindedness. Authentic learning settings appear to be able to provide support in the initial stages of
learning, enabling students to experience a suspension of disbelief, and through these means to be
encouraged to persevere with their learning through initial difficulties. Our ongoing research seeks to
explore the design principles that can accommodate and support these learning outcomes in online
settings where the need for learner engagement is paramount to learning success.
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This research is supported by the Australian Research Council and the Australian-American Fulbright
Copyright 2002 Jan Herrington, Ron Oliver and Thomas C. Reeves.
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... We want to state clearly that judging what is 'real-world' depends on the subjective view of the instructor or science education researcher (Herrington et al., 2003) or, in other words, the person who is creating, evaluating or investigating the learning opportunity. This subjective view is influenced by the person's experience, culture, demographic traits, education, emotions and so on. ...
... In this broad and multidimensional understanding of authenticity in science education, the way a learning activity is designed is crucial (Fig. 10). Herrington et al. (2003) based their research on a broad literature review and suggest 10 characteristics of authentic learning activities. Not only should content be closely related to the 'real world', but also the design of the learning task. ...
... Not only should content be closely related to the 'real world', but also the design of the learning task. The learning activity should 'match as nearly as possible the real world tasks of professionals in practice' (Herrington et al., 2003). This is certainly a characteristic that can profoundly add to the authenticity of Fig. 10 Design of learning tasks Fig. 9 Person B, low level of authenticity in the subdimension 'personal contextualisation' a learning activity. ...
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The terms ‘authenticity’ and ‘authentic’ have been used increasingly frequently in educational contexts over the past decades. In science education, authenticity is claimed to be a crucial concept, inter alia, for students’ motivation and interest in science. However, both terms are used, defined and conceptualised in various and ambiguous ways. So far, however, a model to integrate and structure the various conceptualisations, definitions and findings with their implementation in a teaching context is lacking. In this contribution, we introduce such a model, coherently integrating a broad range of work done by previous authors. Meanwhile, the model is flexible enough for future extensions and refinements. As many authors have shown, the concept of authenticity is multidimensional. In the present contribution, we therefore introduce a multidimensional model, explaining each dimension with reference to previous work on authenticity before integrating them as the complete model. We will outline a tool for practitioners and researchers which is based on the introduced model.
... In an authentic learning context, assessment tasks are described as open-ended, "illdefined problems"; complex activities that may include collaboration and reflection (Deale et al., 2010;Herrington et al., 2003). Furthermore, authentic assessment is key to real-world problems, allows for open-ended inquiry and stimulates deep thinking skills, creativity and stimulates autonomous learning (Rule, 2006). ...
... Similarly, studies support that the lecturer is no longer viewed as a disseminator of knowledge, the "sage on the stage" but a facilitator and mentor (Renzulli et al., 2003). Supporting the aforementioned necessitates learning that is more constructive and engaging (Herrington et al., 2003) in which the design of assessment tasks is representative of being "educative" and not complicated, but at the same time, it teaches students about the complexities of the real world. ...
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Several studies suggest that graduates lack the critical thinking skills required for problem-solving and effective financial decision-making in the hospitality industry. Since higher education may not be able to meet all the demands and needs of the hospitality industry; such institutions struggle to provide students with the necessary critical thinking skills. Authentic assessment is one possible strategy, which is recognized, to develop critical thinking skills amongst hospitality graduates. Hence, the purpose of this research is to explore to what extent authentic assessment enables critical thinking skills amongst first-year students in hospitality financial management. This article employed a qualitative case study research design within an interpretative lens. Twenty-four, first-year, hospitality financial management students, were purposively engaged in online reflections and semi-structured interviews. The findings of the study presented three themes that resonate with the critical thinking frameworks. ARTICLE HISTORY
... The general purpose of the designbased research is to improve educational practice through the simultaneous development of technological tools and curricula validated by research and theories (or "prototheories") of learning [20]. Although its use in engineering education research is incipient to some extent [44], design-based research delivers tools for describing and analyzing the design process and cycles [20]. It was chosen as the methodological framework in this study because it also provides a standard frame for the diffusion of innovations [53] and draws on the potential of technology for 21st-century engineering education in, for example, FM [72]. ...
... Two recent comprehensive reviews on engineering education research [44,72] suggest that no scientific publication has reported the use of design-based research in engineering education research in educational environments in developing countries. Moreover, seemingly its use in FM instruction research, even in developed countries, is yet incipient [72]. ...
Fluid Mechanics courses comprise both theoretical and laboratory modules. In developing nations, computer‐assisted techniques are not commonly applied in Fluid Mechanics instruction. Forced by the COVID‐19 pandemic, South American universities are, however, using them for online teaching. This contribution presents an 8‐semester (2016–2019) educational intervention over an undergraduate Fluid Mechanics course. It mainly blends physical (hands‐on) and virtual experiments (computer fluid dynamics‐based simulations) for the laboratory module, which are complemented by flipped classroom‐based prompts for the theoretical module. The intervention follows design‐based research as a research method and is guided via conjecture mapping and fidelity of implementation standards. Our results suggest that the intervention improves fluid mechanics laboratory instruction, although improvements depend upon the participation of other educational actors such as teaching assistants and laboratory technicians to some extent. Laboratory report grades (the assessment instrument) follow the Gompertz probability distribution. Following UNESCO standards, a portion of the intervention output is shared as open educational resources. This contribution encourages upscaling the educational intervention through the formation of cooperative clusters to build common‐pool Fluid Mechanics resources. Learning scientists have underlined the need to better understand laboratory instruction processes. They have been addressed in very few instances in developing countries. We believe that this study has the potential to provide valuable insights on the matter.
... Authentic tasks are tasks that have real world relevance and may be representative of the task a learner of the subject may need to undertake with the knowledge learned. They are a subset of high cognitive demand tasks, and allow competing solutions and a variety of outcomes (Herrington et al., 2003). In engineering, activities that include the use of online computational and analysis tools, such as Jupyter Notebooks and Google Colab, offer opportunities for students to use real world open and accessible data to solve authentic, high cognitive demand engineering tasks. ...
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The creation of high-quality curricular materials requires knowledge of curriculum design and a considerable time commitment. Instructors often have limited time to dedicate to the creation of curricular materials. Additionally, the knowledge and skills needed to develop high-quality materials are often not taught to instructors. Furthermore, similar learning material is often prepared by multiple instructors working at separate institutions, leading to unnecessary duplication of effort and inefficiency that can impact quality. To address these problems, we established the HydroLearn platform and associated professional learning experiences for hydrology and water resources instructors. HydroLearn is an online platform for developing and sharing high-quality curricular materials, or learning modules, focused on hydrology and water resources. The HydroLearn team has worked with three cohorts of instructors from around the world who were dedicated to creating high-quality curricular materials to support both their students and the broader community. In order to overcome some of the aforementioned barriers, we tested and revised several different models of professional learning with these cohorts. These models ranged from (a) instructors working individually with periodic guidance from the HydroLearn team, to (b) small groups of instructors collaborating on topics of shared interests guided through an intensive HydroLearn training workshop. We found the following factors to contribute to the success of instructors in creating modules: (1) instructor pairs co-creating modules enhanced the usability and transferability of modules between universities and courses, (2) dedicating an intensive block of time (∼63 h over 9 days) to both learning about and implementing curriculum design principles, (3) implementing structures for continuous feedback throughout that time, (4) designing modules for use in one’s own course, and (5) instituting a peer-review process to refine modules. A comprehensive set of learning modules were produced covering a wide range of topics that target undergraduate and early graduate students, such as: floodplain analysis, hydrologic droughts, remote sensing applications in hydrology, urbanization and stormwater runoff, evapotranspiration, snow and climate, groundwater flow, saltwater intrusion in coastal regions, and stream solute tracers. We share specifics regarding how we structured the professional learning models, as well as lessons learned and challenges faced.
... Authentic learning experiences, being transformative, will ensure that learners are better equipped to solve real-world sustainability problems even outside their classrooms. Herrington et al. (2003) postulate that cognitive authenticity rather than physical authenticity is crucial for authentic learning experiences. Therefore, authenticity is not constrained to real-world situations and practice. ...
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There is an increasing emphasis on using transformative learning approach through pedagogies to make Higher Sustainability Education (HSE) more effective. The study explores how Design Thinking (DT) as a pedagogy can be conducive to transformative learning in the digital settings, in HSE, by incorporating the critical components of the Digital Transformative Pedagogy (DTP) framework. The study describes the design and implementation of two courses from universities in Japan and Germany and captures the participants' perspectives on their experiences. The research findings emphasize that DT pedagogy successfully incorporates all the components of the DTP framework in both cases (hybrid and digital settings) to set up learning processes and environment favorable for transformative learning experiences. The research can offer concrete practice, pathways, and lessons for curriculum development to bring transformative learning into digital teaching practice in HSE.
... Such investigations should be conducted together with practitioners or experts, in a real-world or professional setting, and by using materials and tools that are either typically also applied by practitioners or are used in daily life. Herrington et al. (2003) also developed a list of ten design elements which differ slightly from the nine elements described by Herrington and Oliver (2000) and by Herrington et al. (2010) b Herrington and Oliver (2000) refer to the two design elements "complex problems/tasks" and Inquiry/ investigation" in their description of the design element "authentic activity" c Betz et al. (2016) do not explicitly name "collaboration" as a design element of authentic learning settings but describe that the social setting of the real-world context to be emulated should be considered Design elements Herrington and Oliver (2000) Another design element is authentic assessment, according to which authentic learning settings should provide assessments of learning which are "seamlessly integrated with the activity" and its tasks (Herrington & Oliver, 2000, p. 27). ...
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The present conceptual literature review analyzes 50 studies that systematically examined the effects of authentic learning settings on cognitive or motivational learning outcomes. The analysis focuses on describing the context of the studies, the design elements of authentic learning settings, and the pursued intentions of authenticity. The review further describes the effects of authentically designed learning settings on cognitive outcomes, motivational outcomes, and learners’ perceived authenticity revealed by previous research. Building on these findings, we conducted Epistemic Network Analysis (ENA) of contrasting cases to identify design elements and intentions of authenticity characterizing studies that show high effectiveness for cognitive and motivational outcomes versus those with low effectiveness. The ENA results suggest, for instance, that providing authentic materials (as a design element of authentic learning settings) to resemble real-life experiences (as an intention of authenticity) could be a double-edged sword, as they feature both authentically designed learning settings with low effects on cognitive outcomes and settings with high effects on motivational outcomes. Overall, the results of the present literature review point to critical limitations of previous research, such as a lack of clear definitions and operationalizations of authentic learning. Consequently, we draw specific conclusions about how future research could improve our understanding of how to create and implement powerful methods of authentic learning.
... As Mollen and Wilson [13] argued, online engagement can be the active interactions between individuals and brands, requiring persistent cognitive processing of the narratives and brand values. In the digital learning environment, Herrington et al. [39] emphasized this cognitive aspect of the engagement and argued that digital engagement happens when users could give themselves up to a representative action. From the dialogic perspective, both VR content creators and viewers are engaged in dialogue creations within the communication process [12]. ...
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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and recent economic recession have been impacting many people’s mental health. The experience of social distancing created new hardships for people who already reported symptoms of depression or anxiety. In these circumstances, new technologies, such as immersive virtual reality (VR) videos, could serve as useful tools for facilitating interactions, emotional sharing, and information processing within a virtual environment. In this study, researchers aimed to enrich the information processing literature by focusing on the uses and gratifications of 360-degree VR videos during the pandemic. Through employing survey research with 1422 participants located in the U.S. and structural equation modeling for data analysis, this study found that five types of gratification, including utilitarian (i.e., navigation), hedonic (i.e., enjoyment), sensual (i.e., realism), social (i.e., community), and symbolic (i.e., coolness), significantly motivated users to use such immersive videos. Simultaneously, data demonstrated that these five types of gratification could influence users’ cognitive engagement with virtual content. In addition, such VR engagement facilitated users’ positive attitudes toward immersive videos and continued usage of them. The findings provided practical implications for COVID-19 global recovery as well.
p>Este estudio analiza las potencialidades y limitaciones de la transformación metodológica implicada en el paso de una enseñanza mixta hacia su total digitalización en una universidad tradicionalmente presencial. Se contextualiza en la contingencia de la COVID-19, pero transciende este periodo para centrarse en la necesidad de transformación de la enseñanza universitaria. Se nutre del aprendizaje auténtico, situado y auto-corregulado. Adopta una WebQuest, una Red Social y diversos materiales que integran elementos de gamificación y contenido multimodal. El estudio lleva a cabo un diseño mixto con un cuestionario ad hoc y el análisis documental de las producciones del alumnado. Los resultados muestran alta motivación e implicación; significativo desarrollo conceptual; dificultades vinculadas a la temporalización; resistencias al cambio metodológico, baja autorregulación; dificultades para la gestión de la incertidumbre; y apuntan algunas pistas para una enseñanza en línea coetánea a las necesidades de una sociedad híbrida.</p
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The paper discusses the benefits that have been achieved through the design and construction of a Formula SAE  racecar both as part of mechanical and mechatronics engineering curriculum and as a core element of a research group. The project was seen as an aid to develop life long generic skills and as a means to reinforce management skills via engaged learning. The student group work involved design and development of the racecar from inception to completion over two semesters. Postgraduates, who took the role as team leaders of student groups, were able to use the car as a test bed for developing intelligent systems. Both the undergraduates and postgraduates were able to reinforce engineering management principles during the project. Since the exercise was challenging, authentic, and multidisciplinary it proved an effective tool to extend formal lectures while also providing a resource for research in the School.
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The design of situated learning must be closely linked to the ecological psychology of situated cognition, as exemplified by problem solving in a complex situated context, the Jasper Series. The extreme view of situated learning contends thatall thinking must be viewed as situated, and is therefore better explained by concepts of perception and action than by the concepts of information processing psychology. In this article, ideas of ecological psychology provide the background for describing four broad tasks for the design of situated learning: selecting the situations, providing scaffolding, determining and supporting the role of the teacher, and assessing situated learning. Further, three metrics for evaluating situated learning are suggested: affording transfer, providing meaning, and providing an anchor for cross-curricular investigation.
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The purpose of this study was to share our experiences using emerging technologies to create an authentic learning context where preservice teachers at a university and practicing K-12 teachers collaborate in the conduct of real-world (as opposed to textbook) tasks. In this paper, we demonstrate and evaluate the design of professional development that involved a partnership between two universities and eight surrounding K-12 schools. This partnership provides the foundation for supporting a learning community of preservice and practicing teachers that situates in collaborative practices that are both authentic and valuable to all involved. Specifically, we studied how issues of ownership, power, authenticity, and collaboration contribute to students' successes and the success of the program through four case studies. We also explored how asynchronous conferencing tools might be used to facilitate communication across geographic and chronological boundaries, breaking down traditional barriers to distributed communities of practice and making possible the creation of a co-evolutionary model for supporting the emergence of a context that was authentic to both preservice and in-service teachers. In contrast to claims that suggest authenticity for an individual can be prescribed to a learner by the instructor, we deny the legitimacy of preauthentication. Instead, an assumption underlying this research is that authenticity is an emergent process that is actualized through individuals' participation in tasks and practices of value to themselves and to a community of practice. The co-evolutionary model for supporting the emergence of authenticity described in this study provides a means of overcoming some of the challenges associated with simulation and participation models for establishing authentic learning experiences.
span>The delivery of higher education courses is changing significantly with the rapid growth of new technologies which offer possibilities for learners that have previously not been available. In particular, the potential benefits of interactive multimedia (IMM) in educational environments have been well documented (see for example, Latchem et al, 1993; Laurillard, 1993; Halal and Liebowitz, 1994; Bates, 1995; Brookes, 1997; Reeves and Reeves, 1997). Web based interactive multimedia can provide many opportunities to enhance student learning and solve particular educational problems. Applications of this technology can increase the consistency, reliability and quality of what is delivered to students, and can provide immediate points of access to large bodies of relevant information through hypertext and selected links to related web sites. Furthermore, the technology allows students to work at their own pace and at a time of their choosing, thereby optimising conditions for learning and increasing the flexibility of the learning experience. In this paper, we describe the development and evaluation of a "virtual laboratory" (V-Lab) for introductory practical studies of human structure and function in the movement sciences. Our purpose is to identify what we found to be some of the key elements of the development process for our first V-Lab and to introduce some of the technology used. Student and staff responses to its initial implementation are presented, based on a systematic evaluation using quantitative and qualitative methods.</p
Despite the advantages of problem based learning (PBL) and the fact that it has been utilised for some time in conventional higher education settings, it is not widely used in distance education in Hong Kong. Recently, a small group of course co‐ordinators at the Open University of Hong Kong engaged in a series of action learning projects to explore ways in which it could be incorporated into their courses. The purpose of this paper is to report the opinions of these academics about the suitability of PBL for a distance education environment. Generally, they concluded that it is possible, and perhaps desirable, to consider implementing PBL as one learning approach. However, most of the projects focussed on a fairly narrow application of PBL, namely in face‐to‐face tutorials. The limitations of the participants’ interpretations are discussed in the light of the constraints they face, and some recommendations are made for other ways of implementing PBL into distance education.
Goal-based scenarios (GBSs) have become a mainstay of Andersen Consulting’s 900 million dollar efforts to train its employees. Utilizing a theoretical framework based upon social constructivist theory, we create classroom learning environments that use theatrical elements to simulate real-world client engagements. The suspension of disbelief, however, is one factor that can be detrimental to human learning in immersive simulations. This paper describes one of our school designs, constructs a theoretical framework to support our approach, examines some of the factors associated with the suspension of disbelief, and makes recommendations for enhancing the authenticity of goal-based scenarios.
Much of the literature on problem based learning (PBL) is concerned with efficacy or with guidelines on design or implementation. Relatively few articles focus on problems with problem based learning, and none that we could find provided suggestions as to how interactive multimedia might help alleviate those problems. In this article we begin with a review of problem based learning including a rationale for its use in the curriculum. Then we identify some of the problems inherent in designing and implementing problem based learning, and end the article with a discussion of how multimedia might be used to address some of those problems.