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SAT: Design Principles For Attracting Older Learners (Caroline Ward)

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carriee ward
16 January 2019

Please find the presentation at

Online Conference Abstract                                                        H818 TMA 2  

 by Caroline Ward  

Title of Multimedia Presentation

“Design Principles for attracting and engaging older learners for creating a Mooc; Introduction to studying local history through photographs”

Author    Caroline Ward,

Type of project;

Inclusion, older learners, Design Principles for attracting and engaging older learners, for use when creating a Mooc.



What are design principles? Why is it essential to consider design principles for each separate group of learners?

 This multimedia presentation aimed at students of Open University H818 course, introduces design principles and illustrates through an account of the research into design principles for attracting and engaging older learners interested in local history, why it is necessary to identify relevant principles for each group of learners. The relevance of Keller ARCS model and Mace’s Design Principles for Learning for designing an online course for older learners is also discussed. The presentation concludes with recommendations of relevant design principles for older learners.      A video accompanies the presentation at;


The topic chosen for this research was motivated by curiosity into what were the needs of older learners, especially the needs of older learners interested in local history. Additional reasons were realising many older individuals have an interest in local history and family history for reasons of “wanting to belong and connect to their local community” Brown Wilson 2013) and frequently need guidance on where to start research. Unfortunately, their needs are no longer being met, due to the abolition of local history courses. This raises a number of issues. What are the needs of older learners? Do older learners study MOOC’s? What are the needs of amateur historians? Can a MOOC meet these unmet needs? Do Moocs already exist on this topic?  How do you design an online course? Consequently, research was undertaken into design principles for attracting older learners to an online course.

Little research has investigated whether older learners study using Moocs and which subjects they wish to study. However, this project successfully identified a study by Llyangunawardena, (2017) into use of Moocs, which confirmed older learners make up a significant proportion of learners and that they study topics that are of general interest, eg Climate Change. Research by DeLaHaye(2008) also confirmed that older learners are motivated to learn for reasons of personal growth.

However, older learners do face additional barriers to learning. Research by Githens (2007),DelaHaye (2008) Willans & Seary (2011), suggest that older learners can be affected by role conflict, lower self-confidence, poorer eyesight, poorer hearing, decreasing working memory leading to slower learning, which course design must address.

Primary research was then used to investigate the needs of amateur local historians. Local archive staff were interviewed and a questionnaire survey was administered to members of a local history group. This research revealed local history enquiries were about the history of local streets, buildings and also family history, and were made by individuals aged 30+ but predominantly by over 60s.Simultaneously additional research established that there were only a few online courses being offered nationally meeting the needs of novice local historians. 

(506 words)

Selective References;

Anders,Abram (2015) Theories and applications of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) The case for hybrid design. 16(6)

Brown Wilson(2013) ”Caring for older people; a shared approach.” London, Sage.

Conole, G Open education, teaching and Learning Awayday on Universal Design. https://nidlblog.

DelaHaye, (2008) Complex learning preferences and strategies of older adults.Educational Gerontology, 34 (8) p 649-62.

Fields, J (2016) Do Moocs attract older learners? At https://thelearningprofessor,

Githens (2007) Older adults and e learning: opportunities and barriers.Quarterly Review of Distance Education,  8(4) p 329-38.

Hermandez-Encuentra (2009) ICT and Older People; beyond usability. Educational Gerontology 35 (3) p65-70

Keller, J. M. (2009). Motivational design for learning and performance: The ARCS model approach.

Llyangunawardena, (2017) Elderly learners and MOOCs :a review. Interactive Journal of Medical Res. 5(1)

Meyer K A (2014) Student engagement in online learning. What works and why. ASHE Higher Education Report 40 (6) p.1-14

Safford K. (2016) Barriers to blended digital distance vocational learning for non traditional students. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47 (1) p 135-50

Universal Design Guidelines; At

Willans J & Seary,K  (2011) I feel like I ‘m being hit from all directions. Australian J  of Adult Learning 5(1) p. 119-142.

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