INF532: Learning Artefact & Exergesis

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The aim of my learning artefact is to help learners involved in knowledge networking to improve their privacy and security. This exegesis will examine the goals for the artefact’s design, the context for its creation and how effective the finished artefact is in meeting its goals. The design brief was to create an artefact that embodies an aspect of knowledge networking. The inspiration for my artefact came when a large company notified me by email that following a ‘data breach’ my personal information had been stolen by hackers (a data-breach being the unintended or deliberate release of private data). This led me to think about how many different accounts I had created to participate in networked learning, with each new tool requiring me to handover personal information to create an account. A lack of online privacy and security can have consequences for your real and virtual life and prevent you from realising your potential as a networked learner. Therefore, the knowledge of how to improve your privacy and security are integral parts of network literacy. My artefact uses a variety of mediums to allow the learner to reflect on why security is important to them and how the use of a variety of tools can help them keep their information more secure.

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In the design phase of the project I utilised Merrill’s Principles of Instruction. After experiencing my data being stolen, I identified that the same issue was impacting my peers. While data breaches can affect people differently based on a range of factors including age and gender, these incidents have a negative impact on the people’s lives and their willingness to engage in an online setting (Chakraborty, Lee, Bagchi-Sen, Upadhyaya, & Raghav Rao, 2016).

My learning artefact aims to use narrative based approach to activate existing knowledge of the learner by referring to the almost universal experience of signing up to an account online to purchase tickets and a subsequent data breach event. There are a few relatively simple tools and principles that can be used to take control of your data and lessen the risk that sensitive personal information will be part of data breaches. The course demonstrates this using a range of mediums including one common to many people, communicating via a messaging app. The narrative is supplemented by further explanation and opportunities to investigate each tool allowing learners to envisage how take the next step in integrating the tools in to their online routine.

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Networked learners have an individual and a collective responsibility for security. We live in a society where we are increasingly dependent on the secure storage and transmission of data whether that be for economic or for academic reasons (Drahos & Braithwaite, 2017). In the physical realm, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one model used to outline what humans require to meet their full potential (Maslow, 1943). A similar hierarchy of needs can be applied to the digital world. While online access is fundamental to participating in networked learning, the safety and security of an individual is vital to them being able to reach self-actualisation (Bishop, 2007; Oxford Analytica, 2013). Without the trust engendered by feeling secure, individuals are much more likely to self-censor their contributions and limit their participation (Kang, 1998). Online security does not just impact the individual. Confidence in a platform’s privacy and security are fundamental to thriving online communities (Dirckinck-Holmfeld, Hodgson, & McConnell, 2012). Reed’s law argues that the value of human networks exponentially increase with every new member and this means that networks are not just valuable learning facilitators but are enticing targets for hackers also (cited in Briscoe, Odlyzko, & Tilly, 2006). The Cambridge Analytica use of Facebook data to influence elections, demonstrated that it is not just your personal security that is important but that of those within your network (Revell, 2018).

The regularity with which data breaches are reported in the news can make security seem like an impossible task for an individual but this is not the case (Ablon, Heaton, Lavery, & Romanosky, 2016; Bogle, 2018). According to the Australian Cyber Security Centre, there are a number of small steps that can be taken to increase your ‘cyber hygiene’ (Australian Cyber Security Centre, 2018). Discussion of how to achieve this goal based around curated list of tools and techniques can help form an important resource for learners. (Bawden & Robinson, 2009; Rheingold, 2010).

The target audience for this artefact is public servants with a reasonable grasp of digital literacy. The artefact would form part of online training that helps to improve the employees’ exposure to the benefits of networked learning and provide important skills that would benefit employee and employer by ensuring that learners had an understanding of how to build their online presence while limiting the exposure of personal information. To engage learners and demonstrate the value of networked learning it is important that the artefact is not a closed cycle but can provide various opportunities for continued learning. This opportunity is of particular importance when teaching about digital security tools and techniques where changes occur all the time. Without the opportunity for learners to investigate the latest changes and to inform me that updates need to be made, it is possible that the artefact either becomes irrelevant, or worse, provide the incorrect information to students.

Due to the age of the target audience, the artefact needed to be created with adult learning theory in-mind to ensure an approach that was as authentic as possible and problem-centred (Taylor, 2017). As with all training materials, the artefact needed to meet accessibility standards to ensure as wide a range of users as possible can complete the training. For this type of artefact, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 are the current industry standard for online digital projects (World Wide Web Consortium, 2008)

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The artefact was constructed using Twine, primarily as it gives an option to create an interactive format that is published in the universally accessible format of HTML and JavaScript. Unlike some other platforms, the output format allows screen readers to be utilised to read the content, keeping the project in line with WCAG 2.0 guidelines. Twine allows for the creator to embed interactivity within the project in the form of learner choices and inputs, these options meant it gives more options for the artefact to engage learners. I utilised this option when providing the learner the opportunity to explore the tools and techniques discussed in the narrative, allowing them to apply the information in their own context and integrate the tools and techniques in to their own workflow.

The introductory video for the artefact was created using PowToon with the goal of framing the real-world problem identified in the artefact design by focusing the learner on how the topic can affect them. The animated video explainer used images of recent high-profile data breaches and voice-over to engage the learner in explaining the problem. The video was uploaded to YouTube to ensure the longevity of the video and to provide a range accessibility options. YouTube allows you to quickly and easily create captions for your video ensuring that it is accessible to the hearing impaired.

I utilised a conversation in a messaging app as the artefact’s main medium of narrative as it this type of communication is one of the most commonly-used means of people interacting; therefore, the format is instantly recognisable and understandable by learners. The goal was to provide narrative immersion for learners allowing a technical topic to be presented with some intrigue, encouraging student engagement (Robin, 2008; Visser, 2012). By making security issues less abstract, I hoped that learners would reflect on their own online hierarchy of needs and come to the conclusion that security was a fundamental component (Mezirow, 2009). With the narrative being delivered in the first person, it gave learners an invitation to suspend disbelief and immerse themselves in the problem and its potential solution.

The goal of the final page of the artefact is to reinforce the desired learning outcomes of the training.  By providing the learner with opportunity to engage with the artefact creator and course participants they are given a push towards networked learning. The use of a dedicated Twitter hashtag and the invitation to ask questions or make observations was aimed at encouraging connected learning and to provide the opportunity to read further on the topic of security and connect with peers who had encountered similar problems.

Despite the goals of this learning artefact, there are inherent limitations in its design due to it being focused on a meta-aspect of networked learning, the confines of my coding skills. Although perhaps not such an issue with a discrete skill such as security, where there is a risk of a peer-based learning approach reinforcing incorrect ideas, the artefact falls short of constructing knowledge through group participation (Topping, 2005). A more effective pedagogy may be for the artefact to be used as part of a flipped learning experience with a teacher helping to lead a discussion on the questions that the artefact raised for the learner (Yarbro, Arfstrom, McKnight, & McKnight, 2014). This approach would provide a more effective opportunity for learners to apply their knowledge and integrate the skills in to their world, important aspects of Merrill’s Principles of Instruction.

Although Merrill’s Principles of Instruction require that the learner can relate to the problem and apply information provided to achieve a solution, as digital literacy and network literacy are very fluid concepts, it is not certain that the design goals of the artefact will be achieved by all learners. It is possible that this shortcoming could be overcome by providing an opportunity for greater interaction with the artefact by, for example, providing more of a game-based approach where learners could ‘choose their own adventure’. This game-like format may give learners with a different level of digital literacy more chance to help develop their understanding of the problem and the solution (Wood, Griffiths, Chappell, & Davies, 2004).

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The artefact aims to address a critical part of network literacy, the security and privacy of the learner. Without security, there is a greater risk that information will be compromised. If a data breach leads to learners to lose trust in the tools that allow them to network, the result is likely to be they either opt-out of networks or reduce their contributions, damaging the nature of networked learning. The learning artefact promotes security by engaging learners through use of multi-media, narrative and interaction. Designing an artefact that addressed a meta-component of networked learning meant that I had to take care in ensuring that it would meet the design brief of creating something that embodies an aspect of knowledge networking. Ultimately, networks cannot thrive without security; therefore, I believe that there this artefact addresses one of the fundamentals aspects that promotes knowledge networking.

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