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Tailorability or appropriation or malleability or flexbility refers to capability of an artifact (e.g. a pedagogical text or a tool) of being adapted to a given purpose or function.

Appropriation (or tailorability): how an individual or group adapts a technology to their own particular situation; the technology may be appropriated in a manner completely unintended by the designers. Wikipedia, retrieved 14:27, 12 January 2009 (UTC).

In educational technology, various researchers did express their concern with the lack of tailorability of educational software. E.g. Dillenbourg (2004:6) state that: “Another weakness of CSCL scripts is the loss of flexibility: good teachers adapt their plan on the flight, based on their observation of group processes, and this adaptation is often more difficult when the script is embedded into a computerized environment. This rigidity is however not intrinsic to any software. They rather result from the fact that CSCL designers so far under-estimated the teachers' needs to modify scripts on the fly.”

CoFFEE model

De Chiara (2007) defined four kinds or levels of tailorability. We call it the CoFFEE model since it has been discussed for the design of the CSCL software of the same name ....

  • Tailorability by Customisation: it is the simplest form of UC tailorability; it allows to configure the basic properties of a groupware, in such a way to slightly modify the behavior of a functionality.
  • Tailorability by Integration (or Composability): it allows the user to select the desired functionalities (tools) from a predefied set that is given within the system.
  • Tailorability by Expansion: the user is empowered to widen the set of available functionalities by adding new, compatible tools to the system.
  • Tailorability by Extension (or Extensibility): it allows the user to add new components from third parties in the groupware without changing the existing components. This requires open standards for interoperability.
CoFFEE: Cooperative Face2Face Educational Environment, retrieved 14:27, 12 January 2009 (UTC).

The authors argue that different kinds of users need different levels: “The user/learner needs only the configurability of the system (Tailorability by Customisation), the teacher/facilitator needs the Tailorability by Integration, the researcher requires to expand the fixed set of tool with new additional services/ tools (Tailorability by Expansion) and, finally, the developer is entitled to the full tailorability that can be offered, by extending the system with newly designed tools (Tailorability by Extension).”

Tailorability pyramid: it is obtained by mapping different User-Centered Tailorability levels to different kinds of users. (De Chiara et al. 2007)

Dillenbourg and Tchounikine

Dillenbourg and Tchounikine (2007) distinguish between intrinsic constraints and extrinsic constraints that exist in CSCL macroscripts, i.e. scripts that define a integrated pedagogical method that aims at producing some kind of desired interactions, (see CSCL script). Their model is also applicable - maybe with some various - to various other kinds of learning designs.

  • Intrinsic constraints are bound to the core mechanisms of the scripts, i.e., to the script design rationale, e.g., ‘each student must argue with somebody having opposite opinions’ or ‘students must build a common text from their individual productions’.
  • Extrinsic constraints are induced by different issues such as technological choices (e.g. using a simple html editor for the ConceptGrid script), contextual factors (e.g., the University imposes individual marks) or arbitrary decisions (e.g., while the ConceptGrid can be used with teams from two to six students, we arbitrarily fixed 4).

Extrinsic constraints define the space within which a script should be modifiable by teachers and/or students. Intrinsic constraints set up the limits of flexibility, i.e., what cannot be accepted in order for the script to keep its raison d’être.

Dillenbourg and Tchounikine (2007)
Teacher flexibility

Flexibility does not just concern scenario design, but also its instantiation in concrete situations and run-time modifications (needs some explanation ...). Therefore the authors distinguish these four broad tailorability situations:

  1. Script edition
  2. Script instantiation
  3. Session set up
  4. Run time
Flexibility for the student

Typically, CSCL script do not often allow for a lot of flexibility on the students side. However, some scripts allow for free role distribution for example



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  • Dillenbourg, Pierre et al. (2004). Framework for integrated learning, Kaleidoscope JEIRP MOSIL workingroup, D23.5.1 final report.
  • Dillenbourg,P. and P. Tchounikine. Flexibility in macro CSCL scripts. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 13(1):1-13, 2007.
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Acknowledgement: This article or part of this article has been written during a collaboration with the EducTice group of INRP, which attributed a visiting grant to DKS in january 2009.