Learning Engineering: The Next Wave for eLearning

On October 23, members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Industry Consortium on Learning Engineering will host the day-long Learning Engineering Summit at The eLearning Guild’s DevLearn Conference & Expo to introduce the emerging field. Hosts include Ellen Wagner, Avron Barr, Robby Robson, and Megan Bowe, along with The eLearning Guild’s research director, Jane Bozarth.

This summit will provide an overview to learning engineering, a discipline envisioned by Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon more than 50 years ago. Over the past five decades, technology has become central to our learning lives. New disciplines apply technology in teaching, learning, and training, while learning analytics continues to actively expand as we attempt to discern whether our efforts are achieving reliable, repeatable results.

To deal with these changes, many educational technologists, instructional designers, and eLearning professionals find themselves in serious need of substantial technical guidance. The establishment of an engineering discipline that can help bundle scientific methodologies needed for learning product development can bring a different sensibility to learning product design. In the era of data analytics, the pressure to make the achievement of learning results a more scientific undertaking has made learning science a desirable approach for pursuing learning excellence.  Learning science enables quantification of specified analytical results for using technological tools or codified practices that can optimize and standardize learning outcomes.

ICICLE guides development of learning engineering

Recognizing a need to support the development of learning engineering as a profession and an academic discipline, in December 2017 the Standards Association of the IEEE approved the creation of the IEEE Industry Connections Industry Consortium on Learning Engineering (ICICLE). It was formed to define and support this burgeoning field and to advocate for the development of both the professional and academic disciplines of learning engineering.

Planned as a two-year activity, ICICLE is an open forum and community-driven platform that currently comprises more than 50 organizations in industry, academia, and government, with a common goal of supporting the development of learning engineering.

In addition to principles of engineering design and learning science, ICICLE proposes that the learning engineer will need to understand:

  • Current and historical product trends, and the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of learning technology implementations
  • Data standards and regulations around learning data and privacy
  • Best practices in technical project management and in the design of learning technologies and learning ecosystems
  • The factors contributing to success and failure in the design, development, deployment, and outcomes of learning technologies

The consortium currently supports nine special interest groups that are helping to define the parameters of this evolving field. The special interest groups include:

  • Artificial intelligence and adaptive learning technologies
  • xAPI and learning analytics
  • Competency frameworks and certification
  • Learning technology data standards
  • Learning engineering among the professions
  • An academic curriculum for learning engineering
  • Data governance and privacy in learning contexts
  • Learning experience design
  • Augmented, virtual, and mixed realities from the learning perspective

Long-time observers have been quick to point out that there have been multiple waves of technological innovation that have taken a strongly scientific position in the past, almost to the point of being observational and behavioristic. They remind us that we have always had this push-pull between scientists and humanists. In these days of Watson and artificial intelligence, perhaps it’s time to bring more learning stakeholders, engineers, and humanists alike to consider what the future has in store for all of us. That is the purpose of the upcoming learning engineering summit: to provide a forum and a communication network for this conversation. Please join us!

Editor’s note

The Learning Engineering Summit takes place prior to the Guild’s DevLearn 2018 conference.

In addition, summit presenters Robby Robson and Avron Barr will lead a concurrent session on Thursday, October 25 to provide an overview of the work being done by IEEE special interest groups that are bringing the discipline of learning engineering to life.

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