The Four Components of Learning Environment Modeling Language

Posted by Katelind Hays on Feb 13, 2018 1:15:00 PM
Katelind Hays

The elements of Learning Environment Modeling LanguageVirtually There Session Recap

Do you feel like you’re missing something from your instructional design toolkit? That one resource, approach, or process that would create a more direct route from defined learning goals to proposed design solution?

After 30 years in the industry, Phylise Banner stumbled across a solution that has revolutionized her work: Learning Environment Modeling Language.

She shared her discovery with her audience at the recent Virtually There session, Removing Communication Barriers in the Learning Design Process.

A Common Obstacle

Fundamentally, instructional design aims to move from defined goal to a proposed solution. More often than not, though, obstacles obstruct what should be a straight design pathway. Low learner engagement, confusion, frustration, lack of direction, lack of action, and poor results all stand in the way of a smooth instructional design process.

In Phylise’s experience, we all face a single, seemingly insurmountable obstacle: communication. “There’s a lack of shared design language,” Phylise explains. "We go from one client to another, or one project to another, and there’s no consistency in how we talk about our work. Combine this with our tendency to keep the design process hidden, and the result is ineffective design communication."

A Common Language

The traditional design process includes almost endless conversations: we meet with stakeholders, we talk to the budget managers, we connect with the subject matter experts. We’ve thrived within this ineffective communication model. We communicate everything to everyone, and it’s exhausting.

Learning Environment Modeling Language provides us with an easy way to communicate the same message across all projects, with all clients, and with all those individuals invested in the design.

Developed at the Institute for Learning Design at the University of Central Oklahoma, the Learning Environment Modeling Language is a “visual planning tool for leading innovation in learning design.” For Phylise, it is as easy to use as a stack of post-it notes.

Four Components of Learning Environment Modeling Language

Phylise shared this helpful illustration of Learning Environment Modeling Language:

Learning Environment Modeling Language Official 2017

As you can see, the entire language depends on four components:

  1. Building Blocks: These elements are how the learning takes place within your design. There are five categories:
    • Information: “How are we presenting information to the learner? Content, video, processes, agendas, job aids, audio, and video are all common examples.”
    • Dialogue: “Think about dialogue and the type of materials we share with our learners. Conversations, chat, coaching, breakouts, interactions, any method of communication falls under this category.”
    • Feedback: “This category includes feedback of any kind, including questionnaires, peer feedback, instructor feedback, and expert feedback.”
    • Practice: “The opportunity to rehearse and apply skills. For example, if you’re in training to drive a Panzer Tank, practice would be when you actually get in the tank to drive it. Practice exercises focus on formative assessments.”
    • Evidence: “Ways to demonstrate learning has taken place. Projects, individual or group assignments, assessments. Evidence is about summative assessment opportunities.”
  2. Contexts: This component defines where the learning will take place. Context includes classroom, online synchronous, online asynchronous, or experiential learning opportunities.

  3. Action: This component refers to the players involved in the learning.
    • Learner action thinks about the learners progressing through content, whether it’s moving through new content or revisiting past material.
    • Facilitator action considers facilitator involvement in the learning process.
    • System action supports the idea that, because so many technologies enable our training programs, our learning system often takes action independent of both learners and facilitators.

  4. Notation: This component identifies the start and end points of a learning module, as well as the related learning objectives.

In the right combination, these four components can clearly and concisely communicate an entire instructional design to everyone from stakeholders to learners to your L&D team.

Phylise detailed her discovery, exploration, and application of this process for Virtually There learners. Watch her entire replay for an in-depth explanation of how to incorporate Learning Environment Modeling Language into your existing toolkit and additional helpful resources.


Topics: Virtually There, Instructional Design