Under the Hood of a Next Generation Digital Learning Environment in Progress

Jan Nedermeijer

Next Generation Digital Learning Environment

In the Educause Review July 31, 2017,  G. Alex Ambrose, Kevin Abbott and Alison Lanski  describe and discuss the results of  the development and implementation of the new type of a Digital Learning Environment. In the development of their new Digital Learning Environment they followed the ideas as described in the report ‘NGDLE: a report on research (Educause Learning Initiative) M. Brown, J. Dehoney and N. Millichap. April 2015.

The five core functional dimensions for a NGDLE which have to be realized are:  

  • Interoperability and Integration
  • Personalization
  • Analytics, Advising, and Learning Assessment
  • Collaboration
  • Accessibility and Universal Design

These five  dimensions are explained in the ELI-report.

The  experiment in the University of Notre Dame.
The Key Takeaways in the Educause Review Blog are:

  1. 'A first-year experience (FYE) course at the University of Notre Dame offered the opportunity to develop and test a next generation digital learning environment (NGDLE).
  2. As a guiding framework for the digital architecture of the new First Year Experience course, the design team followed the five dimensions of a next generation digital learning environment (NGDLE) described in an Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) report to close the gaps between current learning management tools and digital learning environments.
  3. The FYE course required innovating beyond the supplemental course-level learning management system to create a more holistic NGDLE in order to fully support the teaching, learning, and student success missions of the program.
  4. Because they used an open-source LMS, they had a flexible hub with a campus support staff that could quickly, inexpensively, and safely begin to innovate at scale without high vendor cost or long development times.'

Overview of the use of the NGDLE

‘Over the past two years, our NGDLE captured 120,000 graded student assignments, 4.6 million click tracks, and 30 million text-mined words. We generated numerous reports for FYE faculty, advisors, and administration, including visualizations of resources (articles and video), click tracking and heat maps, grade distribution charts by assignment, word frequency tree maps, and word clouds of e-portfolio reflections.

Also, we produced lists for advisors identifying at-risk students at mid-semester that included diagnostic contexts for why students were at-risk (e.g. class participation, poor assignments, etc.), allowing advisors to be more productive and focused in their meetings with students. Collected data also allowed direct outreach to those students who had difficulty navigating course technology’.

Main effects
‘Since its inception, our NGDLE and its products have resulted in several effects for the FYE course or the campus at large:

  • Live data collection allows regular pulse-checks on students. Quick data analysis and reporting to faculty, advisors, and administration enables instant teaching and curriculum updates during the semester.
  • Success of this learner-centered design provides a widespread model to campus faculty showing how thinking of the LMS as a hub for NGDLE can benefit their students and teaching.
  • Widespread exposure to meaningful and actionable learning analytics sparks campus conversations about their use in other courses and settings.
  • Anecdotal reports indicate that the choice to have single portfolios shared with faculty and advisors allowed both parties to make deeper connections with their students.
  • Sharing student work and examples (enabled by the NGDLE) between semesters and enrollment years contributes to higher-level work by subsequent students.
  • The university can also show an evidence-based process for accreditation of what students are learning and producing for courses, which changes the campus conversations from being solely grade-focused and promotes a richer understanding of the student learning experience.'



More information
The Next Genertion Digital Learning Environnment. A report on Research. Educaus…