García-Cabrero et al. (2018). Design of a Learning-Centered Online Environment: A Cognitive Apprenticeship Approach. Educational Technology Research and Development, 66(3), 813-835.


In this article, the authors (2018) discussed the successful implementation of Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), SOFIAA, which was created using the cognitive apprenticeship model (CAM). Since there are many problems that students have to face with online classes and there are more and more online technologies in higher education, SOFIAA will help the instructional designers and instructors create better teaching materials to improve student learning experience on a deeper level. The article provides the case study of a master’s level blended learning course on Educational Program Evaluation (EPE) to illustrate the instructional design to improve student’s learning through 4 main phrases: phrase 1 – assessment of the online course materials (OCM); phrase 2 – expert workshop and planning of the VLE; phrase 3 – design of the VLE, SOFIAA, phrase 4 – validation of the virtual learning environment, SOFIAA. The cognitive apprenticeship model is one of the most comprehensive instructional methods. In order to perform tasks in expert ways, this model helps to develop mental, cognitive, and metacognitive skills. The authors conclude with the positive results of course improvement and better students’ performance in the case study presented.

Summary of Key Points

  • Four components of the cognitive apprenticeship model
    • Sociological context: Using community of practices, learners need to be situated in the environment where they work or interact with professional stakeholders such as parents, teachers, students, and so on.
    • Sequencing of activities: We want the learners to experience from different level of learning from simple to complex tasks or go from global to local skills.
    • Kinds of knowledge: include domain knowledge, heuristic knowledge, control knowledge, and learning strategies.
    • Instructional methods: modeling expert performance, coaching to give learners feedback, scaffolding to guide learners, fading assistance once learners externalize their understanding through appropriate articulation, reflection activities, and exploration.
  • The results of three phrases of the instructional design case study
    • Phrase 1: after accessing the online course materials, the results show that students received lack of support from the OCM to help them work on their course projects.
    • Phrase 2: There are three recommendations addressed including helping the learners know how experts make their decision, providing enough scaffolding for difficult tasks, and using a blog rather than a discussion board to upload the group progress and get feedbacks from others.
    • Phrase 3: two analyses were carried out to check the validation of the VLE. Firstly, qualitative expert assessment (to determine whether the VLE SOFIAA covered the materials of the course) concluded that “VLE was extremely successful in covering the course materials.” (p. 830) Secondly, quantitative analysis of student performance (determine whether use of SOFIAA led to improved student performance) concluded that “students using VLE made significantly greater improvement in performance over the improvement of students who had used the OCM.” (p. 830)

Design principles:

  • Figure 1: The four phrases of the design of the VLE, describes the four stages of the learning-centered virtual learning environment (VLE) called SOFIAA.
    • Was created by reconceptualizing Collin’s (2006) cognitive apprenticeship model (CAM).
    • Proved better learning outcomes than a content-centered OCM.
    • “Served as a demonstration of how online tasks and activities can be designed and implemented to support student’s learning outside the conventional classroom by situation tasks in real world contexts.” (p. 830)
    • Experts show their expertise to help students in domain activities and provide expert models how to conduct the EPE.
    • With the SOFIAA model, students do not have to wait until physical classroom time to get support, they can access anywhere and anytime.
  • In phrase 3- design the VLE, SOFIAA, the authors use the CAM model as their instructional design model. Figure 2 that shows 4 main steps that took place in this case study

Example work:

Saadati, Tarmizi, Ayub, & Bakar (2015) did a research on the effect of Internet-Based Cognitive Apprenticeship Model (CAM) on Statistic Learning among Postgraduate Students. The results of the study found that there were positive changes in statistical performance of those experienced learning with CAM. Students developed their learning through the team work with their advanced peers and with expert support. This is the link for more information: Click here

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the cognitive apprenticeship model and how do you plan to use it in your own teaching or work?
  2. Phrase 3 of the design of VLE shows in depth subcomponents of CAM. Please use your own experience during your teaching or work to describe a learning scenario that is similar to phrase 3 or something that you want to design.
  3. What challenges do you think you might encounter when you use this design principle in your own working or teaching environment?

Additional Resources:

  1. Example of Cognitive Apprenticeship for new teachers at Oxford
  2. Cognitive Apprenticeship Youtube Video



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Learning Environments Design Reading Series Copyright © by evrimb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book