LDT Seminar – Week 3 – Abstrat & Needs Assignment

Prompt – Abstract

The project proposal serves several goals:

  1. to externalize the current state of your ideas about your project for discussion;
  2. to push yourself to refine your ideas to make them actionable; and 
  3. to help you think through your plans, to avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.

The abstract is a mile-high overview of the proposal.  You may feel at this point that it’s a bit of a mystery how all this will play out over the next few months, but even so you’re going to write this as though you knew the ending.  In 250 words or less, you’re going to give it away here, in the abstract.  

Even though it’s a summary of the proposal, writing the abstract first is a strategic move.  By stating what it is you intend to accomplish in the proposal, you are setting out a roadmap for yourself. If you find that your journey leads you elsewhere, you can easily come back to edit the abstract to reflect your new direction.

For your reader, the abstract is a teaser that gives the outline of what’s to come.  The proposal itself will fill in the details. Thus you should briefly mention the learning challenge (who needs to learn what? why?); the form you expect your solution to take; a description of setting or background environment in which the resulting learning experience will take place; the benefits you expect this design will provide for your users; design studies you plan to do during development; and how you propose to assess what users learn from using your design.

Because the details come later, most abstracts will have no more than a couple citations, if any. Feel free to make rather grand claims here, and be ready to back them up in other parts of the proposal.

See examples here.  Questions? Ask them!



The trend towards blended learning environments is irreversible and an increasing number of higher educational institutions are going in that direction. It is a labor intensive task for professors who must transition from a traditional classroom or lecture hall model to an online environment. Aside from the learning curve into any LMS, new content must be created and organized: pdfs, images, videos, links, animations to list a few. The challenge is to make it easier for professors who for the most part do not have formal pedagogical training or multimedia content creation skills, to publish their courses adopting the research based best-practices.

Learning Experience Designer (LXD) is a curriculum construction tool that adapts to your teaching context and learner needs. It also provides all the multimedia creation tools you might need to record and edit video, annotate images and pdf, or create animations. It utilizes artificial intelligence to suggest course formats, pedagogical strategies, activities, and challenges providing references to works others have already created and tested. The final result is a published course which can be accessed via your browser or a mobile app where students can engage in forums and peer-to-peer coaching.

As a proof-of-concept, I propose to utilize as a base, an existing LMS (Canvas, Coursera, or Edx) and add onto its interface the proposed functions, content, and interactions. These new features will then be presented and evaluated by teachers who have experience with the LMS. The goals are to judge if such features improve the experience of creating the course and if the resulting course positively affects the learning outcomes. I intend to focus an introductory programming course, a subject matter I am familiar with, where the learning outcomes are more easily assessed, and because of the vast amount of content already available online to support the course.


The first section of the proposal deals with the needs you are addressing. By “needs” we mean the learning challenge your project will address. Who will learn what in the experience you intend to create?

Even if your approach (an app! an online course! augmented reality!) is more important to you than the subject learned, the learning you decide to address must be front and center in this proposal.

Convince the reader that this is an important problem. Document the existence and seriousness of the learning problem by referencing studies. At least one first-hand experience anecdote (drawn from a learner “chat”) will paint a picture for your reader of the learner’s interest in learning this concept or topic.

It’s also important to give the background of the learning problem. Your description of the societal or institutional landscape in your specific learning challenge exists will position your project in a larger context.

See examples here.  Questions?  Ask them!



How might we scaffold “experts” to create engaging hybrid courses?

In 2009 I started a mobile app development school in Brazil targeting developers and designers who needed to acquire these new hot new skills. For the first year or so I taught the iPhone app development course while looking for more teachers to meet the large demand and to create new courses. Pedagogically, I going on instincts, using a very hands-on approach: explain the concept, model it, and do it yourself. It worked and it was straight forward enough to explain to the new teachers.

The challenge came when I started hiring teachers for new courses. The curriculum had to be constructed and the course content created. This task proved to be daunting for the developers who never taught before. Even with my course material as a reference or model, teachers were slow to produce the material, and it was usually of poor quality: slides with too many details or lacking explanations of key concepts.

Once I decided I wanted to start selling the courses online, the challenge became too big. Where do I start? How much video versus written material should I use? How will students ask questions? How will we manage all these students? What are the best practices? All questions that could be resolved by a well designed software that would scaffold the process of creating the curriculum and course content.


– Still needs a lot of focusing in terms of the problem, the who, and what is there to be learned.

– Also feels too ambitious in terms of what could be built in time and measurable outcomes.

– In conversations with Mingming to partner up in the quest of helping experts share their knowledge – we think there is a time/difficulty/complexity barrier for most experts to sit down, learn a tool, create content, and then manage a learner’s population in the process.