Sunday, September 1, 2019

Dark Cockpit Approach to Online Learning

There is a risk with online leaning that the student will become overwhelmed with information and so miss critical messages from their instructor. Aircraft pilots experience a similar problem, overloaded with information from the panels of instruments around them. The Dark Cockpit philosophy was developed to address this:
“... dark cockpit philosophy which minimizes distracting annunciation for pilots, i.e. only abnormal or transition states are visible. So, the normal parameters of the engine
during flight do not light up any interface lights.”  (Jambon, Girard & Aït-Ameur, p.5, 2001).
Applying the Dark Cockpit philosophy to e-learning, the student should only get a message or other indicator, when there is something they need to do, or to confirm something they did (such as submit an assessment task).

In the notes for instructors in my Learning to Reflect module, I suggest the Instructor seeds the online discussion forums with questions and then leave the students to discuss it. Too many times I see instructors stifling student discussion by continually interrupting, correcting students. It seems at times this is due to insecurity: the instructor wants to show they know more that the student. Also it may be due to a lack of training in how to teach: the only way the tutor know to teach is by telling the student.

In contrast, I suggest the instructor issue “nudges” occasionally to the groups, or individual students, where there appears to be a problem.

Does anyone else do this?


Jambon, F., Girard, P., & Aït-Ameur, Y. (2001, May). Interactive System Safety and Usability enforced with the development process. In IFIP International Conference on Engineering for Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 39-55). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. URL

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