Instructional design is a term used in distance education as designation of such integrate resources which compounds the experience of formation. Specialized literature commonly associates it to VLE structure and visual design, at first instance, and to the processing of class planification and didactic strategies. When professors themselves are not able to manage AVA´s resources, as f. eg., in Moodle platforms, instructional design remain in charge of a dedicate professional which will care of preserving original curricular project; in addition, this professional will take charge of monitoring the execution of the entire running process, in order to evaluate the whole system of formation in operation. As educational processes are dynamic and always demand adaptations, both structural and environmental, it is always preferable that the professor himself may have full mastery of instructional design techniques, or, if not, may monitors and leads its development, observing the prerogatives of formation´s objectives, both in the fields of global formation and strictly knowledge teaching. The evolution of hybrid training processes demanded the concept of instructional design to evolve beyond traditional AVA’s patterns, to cover other training instances, such as the regular classroom itself, spaces for recording classes outside the regular classroom, the fluctuation between platforms, especially between notebooks and small devices such as cell phones etc. Herein one can read about some of major contemporary aspects of instructional design which are object of interest in Laborat.

Figure - Section title: Curriculum

Know for whom, before everything more…
A design based on a global projetct of formation

The advent of the hybrid class caused a significant impact on the curriculum of school education, once it also caused proportional impact on the school culture as a whole, included its formative rites. Curriculum of school formation shall be understood, of course, as meaning much more than the syllabus contents of this or that subject; indeed, it refers to the project of human development to be implemented through schooling experiences, including, f. eg., distinct types of world facts interpretation, types and modes of social interaction or problem solving, elaboration of future-abstract concepts and self-projections, self-images etc. All such kind of formative aspects hitherto spread in traditional presential model of schooling, in a physic school, now take place in different spaces, physical and virtual, that compete simultaneously with the school, but not exactly under its control. Specific instances of teaching process, such as content evaluation, are mostly affected by changings brought by hybrid classes, because the less control over the circumstances of learning, less chances of verification and effective results, even less with the usage of traditional objective tests. Every experiment of hybrid education – whatever in  DE or presential education – is an experiment on curriculum, and, therefore, must be conceived as part of main investigations on contemporary school culture, not in exogenous or simplifying terms, but under the perspective of a specific culture of formation processing the absorption of new features and resources. Instructional design is strongly conditioned by such determinants as school culture features and the “class” taken as a tool inside a curricular project. No preconceived structures or models may rule professors plains, because each student, each level of formation, each kind of subject or skill, that is, each formative project is unique and sovereign over instructional design. It is, therefore, the type of student that defines the proportion between presential and non-presential activities in the hybrid class, as well as that of synchronous and asynchronous activities. It is the level of formation that determines the extension of presential class, whether synchronous or asynchronous, as well as the model of asynchronous activities and it´s workload. On the other hand, the type of formal content – also considering the type of formative strategy subjacent to teaching experiences – determine the type of class, resources, amount of fixation experiences etc.

Figure – Three young students waving at the reader in the position of who introduce themselves

Figure - Section title: VLE

An extended virtual learning environment
For a hyperspatial class, an integrated system of VLE

But what may be considered a virtual learning environment in a context of hybrid class? Although ordinary conception of VLE basically is held by the theory of hypertexts, it´s primary structuration always tends to reproduce traditional environments based on a single space or platform. So, for e.g., within EAD systems, VLE is defined as the one space of formation, or, in presential education, VLE is usually just a complement of local classes, an appendix. This kind of conception, anchored as a heritage on the traditions of school culture, does not satisfies the concept of a so considered hybrid class: simultaneously developed in distinct equally valued spaces of formation. Presential class is, at the same time, the one shared in teleconference, the set of real-time experiences anchored in a platform and the image replicated in a streaming channel; class is, therefore, a hyperspace objectivity, kept under cohesion once understood as one single hypertextual learning environment. This is a challenge, both, heuristic and epistemological, once it consists in understanding how to organize such complex integrated spaces of formation, and in understanding how to conceive a space that is properly a hyperspatial concept and a formal class.

Laborat develops experiences on the development of hypertextual learning environments, with the use of five integrated platforms: presential classroom, extended classroom anchored in a dedicated ambient of teleconference, a streaming channel, a portal of information and data, which gives access to an electronic library and a bank of academic references, and a platform in Moodle ambient of last generation, yet analogous to the other pages in the portal. Besides all aspects related to the structure and articulation of integrated resources, actual experiences also test the effects of each arrangement of platforms to formative processes in each level of education. 

Figure - Four examples of integrated hypertextual learning environments under development in the laboratory - Set 1: AVA of the gpLinguagem research group; Set 2: Opening screen of the streaming channel linked to the laboratory; Set 3: Classroom; Set 4: Virtual classroom screen in teleconference channel

Figure - Section title: Categorization

A clear rout between islands
Categorizating classes for better defining semantic tracks

Plaining hypertextual learning environments is progressive more complex as the higher number of formative objects included in curricular project. Different from training routines of a single object – usually a behavioral pattern or some specific skill – curricular projects in basic or higher education presume a roll of disciplines, each one with specific distinct programmatic contents and formative experiences of medium or long-term. In most of them, programmatic contents keep interdependence, forming a frame of relations in which each one occupies a determinate position.

Diagram – Links among formation objectives and other integrated specific objectives

Each objective of frame develops into a chain of experiences, which can take form of conventional classes, or hybrid classes involving different integrated formative instances. One of the fundamental elements of planning and structuring a class in hypertextual learning environments is the process of categorization of each of the segments of this complex frame of objectives and teaching contents into topics, which therefore represents the matrix of the curricular project of formation. Proper categorization of each of the segments of this complex system of relationships is essential to guarantee the discipline – and its curriculum project – a semantic, cohesive and clear unit for the student, no matter what level of education they are in.

Figure - Representation of different semantic spheres of class/discipline categorization, including, from its objectives and teaching units, to topics and their approaches in different integrated learning environments

Routines for categorization and planning of formation experiences are essential for the instructional design aimed at hypertextual learning environments. Laborat explores resources for categorization and structural planning of curricular projects in hypertextual learning environments, considering principles of semantic theory, computer science and information theory.

Figure – Illustration figuring a diagram of relations in a Pert net

Figure - Section title: Timing chain

Percepting the roots of formation
The allegory of chronological time in the abstract experience of hypertext

Time is a category of schooling curriculum intrinsic to several aspects of formal education, from those specifically related to some programmatic contents to distinct fields of global formation. The first and most known is the so-called course load, sometimes defined by the duration in days or weeks of an academic period, sometimes by the duration of each discipline, in this case normally associated with credits that, added up, correspond to the total course load. In formal education – basic or higher – course load corresponds to total timing of global formation, not properly the strict time of programmatic contents learning. So, for e.g., students in basic education are expected to remain in school for a period of 200 academic days, with no margin of reduction even if student already learned any subject before, or if learns it before the rest of the class. The same occurs in higher education, usually organized in academic semesters of 15 weeks.

Figure – Illustration of several types of workload: period of 200 class days or 15 weeks semesters, subdivision as bimesters, teaching unities etc.

The primary motivation of course load in formal education is not only motivated by legal determination; in the contrary, legal determination of some minimum amount of time load is motivated by the presumption that immersion in the school culture represents an essential part of formal education, either from the perspective that the entire teaching-learning process requires a period longer than the time of a class to maturate, or from the perspective of developing modes of representation of the world, modes of socialization and many other peculiar traits of school culture.

One of the biggest challenges of education mediated by hypertextual environments is the emulation of course load, guaranteeing the student the same conditions of immersion in the school culture offered in presential education. Therefore, a 60-hour course offered in a hybrid class regime must last for 15 weeks and provide the student with at least 4 hours a week of integrated training activities, guaranteeing school culture experiences even when not in person.

The instructional design of a discipline offered in a hybrid regime, through integrated hypertextual learning environments, demands the observance of the time corresponding to the course load. It is not to talk, anymore, about an instructional design based on the strict training time or teaching of specific contents, but about one based on a long-term training program, which attributes a formative character to the “time” of immersion in all formative experiences of the course.

As a derivation of this conception of immersion in a course load, another temporal aspect to be considered in the design of virtual learning environments is the very “concept of time” within the school culture. Despite its features in the real world, time is a logical-formal category whose psychological development is strongly influenced by the culture of each people. In addition, it is decisively related to other logical-formal categories of cognitive device, such as classification, ordering, discrimination of objects and delimitation of causal operations, whose mode of operation varies according to the type of spatiotemporal representation developed by each individual. School culture exerts a strong influence on the way time is represented, especially to the delimitation of temporal chains, in a relationship of progressivity that highlights the relationships between past, present and future. Yet from the first years of basic education, the school presents the student a range of temporal concepts associated with chains of progression, such as the naming and daily breakdown of days of the week and months, academic calendars such as bimonthly, quarterly, teaching units, etc., delimiting milestones, such as exam periods, graduations, etc. Schools and universities have their own calendars, professors assemble their course plans detailing their own calendars of events and students are encouraged from an early age to organize agendas and systematically follow the events recorded in them.

Instructional design is also responsible for rescuing these time category markers typical of school culture, providing hypertextual learning environments (i) milestones of the temporal progression of the course, its stages, events distributed in the work schedule, etc.; (ii) synchronization strategies of the different integrated training spaces, so that they are distributed with cohesion among themselves.

Experiments have been developed in our laboratory with different types of temporal markers in order to investigate their effect on the students’ formation. Such experiences have already yielded interesting contributions, such as the classification of types of temporal markers applicable to different types of hypertextual learning environments, as well as their relationship with the basic structure of the environment and its spatial-visual composition.

Figure – Examples of several types of calendars and time markers used in HLE

Figure - Visual identity

Visual coherence and reference
Immage as identity that reunites and embrace the unity

By definition, visual identity is an aesthetic standard that is preserved in all objects associated with the same brand or product, thus functioning as a concept. It is not exactly a specific image or a color, but traces of a spatial-visual semantics that define, while expressing, the concept that one wishes to associate with the brand or the product.  In the field of designing hypertextual learning environments, taking into account a visual identity project would means considering them as a product, which can be a very controversial proposition among professors from certain academic segments. In fact, when one seeks to employ them in the educational process of basic or higher education, it is inappropriate to subordinate it to the ordinary principles of the notion of “product”, whose motivation is essentially market demand, transitory, focal and restrictive. In formal education, even in the case of higher education courses, education is motivated by higher objectives of human development, in a perspective determined by its own purposes, not subject to the transience of market laws.

However, classes and the curricular projects are, indisputably, academic products of the teacher, consequently, endowed with identity and authorship. Based on this essential premise of the faculty career, it makes sense to discuss the relevance of visual identity as a concept that incorporates authorship and professors identity at the same time. The educational experiences developed at Laborat explore the impact of visual identity on the fixation of the professor’s figure in all hypertextual learning environments, even those in which his personal image is not being conveyed. The aesthetic concept permeated in the different integrated learning environments keeps students close to the teacher at all times during the course. The laboratory also explores the possible contribution of visual identity to the cohesion of the team that contributes to the implementation of the curricular project outlined, in the case of formation experiences that have the collaboration of tutors, pedagogical technicians, personnel of IT etc.

Figure - Example of concept expressed in the visual identity of a set of different hypertextual learning environments. Set 1: Discipline identification screen in the virtual classroom; Set 2: Banner of discipline identification in the AVA; Set 3: Screen of one of the AVA pages; Set 4: PDF file format; Set 5: Overture screen on the streaming channel; the transmission track on the channel; animation of the opening of the work of the research group.