The role of visualizations for digital learning designs in collaborative group work

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This paper presents a study about the use of visualizations among university students in different phases of their digital learning design project. The aim was to investigate what types of visualizations the students produced and used, as well as how the visualizations functioned in different design phases. The purpose was identifying different uses of visualizations to illuminate the learning potentials, and thus, the relevance for all who work with elearning and digital learning design. The practical frame of the study was problem based and project-oriented group work with a case from an external stakeholder. The theoretical framework drew on current discussions that problematize the concept of representations, claiming that visualizations can be translated into words. Focusing on the social life of images, the concept of visualizations was used to emphasize the imaging practices in the design process as a social knowledge practice for producing and negotiating meaning. Visualization in the study covered practices with, for example, drawings, digital images, graphs, and models produced and performed during different development phases of a digital learning design, such as digital and analog sketching of ideas, interim mockups, and prototypes for presentation. The empirical data consisted of student-produced visualizations and six group interviews. The study revealed that the students used visualizations to concretize and discuss brainstorming ideas and as an argument to support and convince each other about the usability of a design draft. They organized the visual practice differently by pointing out a leading visualizer, making a relay race or performing a collective practice. Furthermore, the visualizations served as boundary objects for the groups’ elaboration of design solutions. Previous visualization drafts served as recollection and documentation of former design phases. The role of visualizations was that of communicative glue in collaborative processes where ideas are developed and discussed, problems are set and solved, target groups are identified, and stakeholder collaboration can take place.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 17th European Conference on e-learning ECEL 2018
EditorsAntonios Andreatos, Cleo Sgouropoulou, Klimis Ntalianis
Number of pages6
PublisherAcademic Conferences and Publishing International
Publication date31 Oct 2018
ISBN (Electronic)9781912764075
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2018
EventThe 17th European Conference on e-Learning - Athens, Greece
Duration: 1 Nov 20182 Nov 2018


ConferenceThe 17th European Conference on e-Learning


  • Digital learning design
  • Social practices of knowing
  • Visual analysis
  • Visualization

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