Skills and Competencies as Representable Meta-knowledge for Tele-learning Design by Gilbert Paquette cirta-licef research Center

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4.3 Building process-based learning scenario

e will now use the simulation generic process, presented of figure 3, to build a learning scenario based on the “Simulate a production process” competency for a multimedia director. To do this, we lay out a graph corresponding to the generic simulation process, but taking a “learning activity” viewpoint. As shown on figure 9, the graph is instantiated in a way that the vocabulary of the specific application domain (multimedia production) is used. It is also formulated in an “assignment style” displaying six activities. Globally, based on the generic simulation process input and product, the learning scenario starts on a description of the process to simulate and ends on producing essentially a trace report.

Figure 9– A learning scenario: simulate the “Search the Internet” process

Of course this scenario is not yet complete. For example, we could add some collaboration assignments and a description of the method for learner evaluation. But the important thing here is that the generic process will form the backbone of the learner’s assignments. In that way, we make sure that he exercises the right skill, simulating a process, while working on the specific knowledge domain, thus building specific domain knowledge and meta-knowledge at the same time.

4.4 Defining actors and resources in a telelearning system

e now use a learning scenario as a basis to build an assistance scenario describing the activities and products of other actors in a telelearning system such as a trainer, a content expert, a designer or a manager. To identify the assistance activities ruled by these actors, we go back to the generic process which gave birth to the learning scenario and we determine the principles governing the execution of the generic process. Figure 10 supplements the generic simulation process on figure 3 with generic principles controling each of the sub-processes.

Figure 10 – Meta-principles for the management of simulation processes

The statement of these principles will be the base of the assistance scenario presented on figure 11. On table 7, we first state some of the principles on figure 10 and decide on a corresponding type of assistance to the learners.


Examples of meta-principles

Type of assistance

Description of the simulated process

  • Inputs and products of the simulated process have to be clearly identified.

  • Simulated process must be decomposed into its main procedures, if necessary on more than 2 levels.

  • Principles governing the execution of the process must be identified.

Case studies on a method to describe simulated procedure

Generation of examples (cases to be simulated)

  • Every example has to contain a value for each of the inputs of the process to be simulated.

  • Examples have to cover all the possible cases of execution of the procedure.

Interactive advisor giving help adapted to the examples supplied by the learner

Identification of procedures to be applied

  • For each of the examples, build a structured list with the products of already executed procedures and add them to inputs.

  • Eliminate from the preceding list the products which are not inputs of a still unexecuted procedure.

  • Always choose procedures giving the greatest number of new products for still unexecuted procedures

Texts presenting in detail these principles as well as examples of execution traces

Execution of procedures

  • Once a procedure to be executed has been chosen, use its execution principles to obtain new products.

  • Execution depends especially on the domain of application.

Interaction by e-mail with a content expert

Completeness of the simulation

  • If the simulated process is sequential, in parallel or a decision tree, the simulation is completed when every possible branch was executed for at least an example,

  • If the process is iterative, it contains execution principles telling when to stop cycling; the simulation is completed when each of these stop principles have been tested for at least an example.

Presentation of these completeness principles and dialogue with a trainer to assess completeness of a simulation

Presentation of the execution traces

  • Presentation must contain the description of the process to be simulated

  • Simulated examples must be regrouped in categories according to the structure of the process.

  • For every example, present the succession of executed procedures and their products.

Contextual help on the presentation of these standards accompanied with examples.

Table 7 – Examples of meta-principles and corresponding assistance

igure 11 presents, the scenario of assistance superposed to the learning scenario of figure 9, every form of assistance correspond to a principle stated in table 7. It shows three actors giving different forms of assistance to the learners.

Figure 11 – Assistance scenario for the simulation of a multimedia production process

This assistance scenario puts in evidence different activities of assistance (in inverted text on the figure) producing help resources for each of six learning activities (the other details of the learning on figure 10 were omitted here).

  • Three of these assistance resources are materials prepared by a designer, being use as inputs to the first three learning activities.

  • Another type of assistance in activity 4, is an interaction by e-mail with a content expert in multimedia production.

  • Two other forms of assistance, in activities 5 and 6, involve a trainer animating a forum on the completeness principles of a simulation and also managing a FAQ (frequently asked questions) on the presentation norms for the final report.

The choice of these assistance activities, as well as the learning activities that they support, result from the generic process representing a skill associated to a principal knowledge in the learning unit. More exactly, each of these forms of assistance draws its content from the principles describing how this skill can be applied to knowledge processed in the learning unit. A skill’s generic process and its execution principles thus define the content of the assistance supplied by a person playing the role of a facilitator, directly or through different types of teaching equipments or tools.


It is our firm belief that knowledge, skills and competencies have to be represented in a standardized and easily interpretable graphic language. We are not pretending that the MOT language outlined here is the best way to do it in every circumstance, nor that it should be imposed on designers, trainers or learners. This would considerably impoverish the knowledge building activity that is central to learning, training and designing and needs multiple representations.

But the MOT language is general enough to represent application domain knowledge as well as generic skill and other meta-knowledge, and also their interrelations. We have accumulated considerable evidence of this in the last ten years through projects where this representation method has served as an alternative to more specialized graphic methods Jonassen et al 1993 such as conceptual maps, procedural task representation, causal and influence diagrams, decision trees and rule-based diagrams, etc. We have, for example, used the language to model the instructional processes and principles in our instructional engineering method (MISA) or to describe the ways actors rule processes and interact with resources in a computerized school.

Our hope is that the graphic language and the few examples outlined here will succeed in open up new research directions where precise and inspectable representations can be given to competencies, skills and problem taxonomies, thus favoring a larger exchange of instructional design knowledge. Libraries of skills and knowledge models are central to the way we build designs for learning and tele-learning environments. Because we need to reuse and adapt models from different sources in a computerized support system (ADISA) Paquette 2001, an interchange graphic language was needed, in a similar way that XML provide an interchange format between ways to store and retrieve data and metadata.

The most stimulating aspect of a skills taxonomy built at the meta-knowledge level concerns the opportunity given to research teams to create a relatively complete set of representable, reusable and significant components in this huge and challenging puzzle of learning systems engineering.


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1 Bélisle et Linard 1996, group under the term « action theory » work in cognitive science by authors such as Vygotsky, Leontiev, Piaget, Searle and Bruner.

2 Following Romiszowski 1981, attitudes are here considered as affective or social skills.

3 This applies also to the notion of “Learning types” introduced in Reigeluth 1999

4 Romiszowski 1981, page 253

5 The numbers in the figure refer to the skills taxonomy presented in the next section.

6 Breuker and Van de Velde 1994 op cit, pp.57-61

7 Bloom 1956, op. cit. p. 18 and Krathwohl et al 1964, op. cit. p. 27

8 Martin et Briggs 1986 op. cit. pp. 69-71 et pp. 79-81

9 Martin et Briggs 1986, p. 10

10 Goleman 1997 op cit, p.53

11 Gardner 1993

12 These competency profiles can be consulted at

13 Such a meta-concept has been implemented in different ways, first in the didactic engineering workbench (AGD) [Paquette et al 1994], and then into the succeeding versions of the MISA method [Paquette et al 1999]

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