Transforming education

February 9th, 2018


 Image source

This week one of the things I have been doing is preparing for a CLICKS webinar I am doing on Sunday. The outline of the talk is:

  • The impact of digital technologies and wicked problems in education
  • 21 Century competencies and digital literacies
  • Key issues in learning and teaching
  • Future trends
  • The changing roles of teachers and learners
  • Transforming education

The impact of digital technologies and wicked problems in education

Digital technologies offer a rich variety of ways in which learners can interact with multimedia resources, and ways in which they can communicate and collaborate. Key technology trends include: the increasing importance of mobile devices and the opportunity to learn anywhere, anytime, learning across boundaries, the potential of learning analytics, emergent technologies such as augmented reality and Artificial Intelligence. A Horizon summit brought together international experts to consider the future of education. Some of the challenges the group identified included: the need to rethink what it means to teach, the need to re-imagine online learning (and I would argue face-to-face learning), the importance of allowing productive failure, and that innovation should be part of the learning ethos. I would argue that there are three key ‘wicked problems’ facing education today. Firstly that there is a gap between the promise and the reality of what technologies can offer learning. Secondly that teachers and learners lack the necessary digital literacy skills to harness the potential of technologies for both teaching and learning. Thirdly we need to change our teaching strategies and recognize that we are teaching learners to do jobs in the future that don’t even exist today. Therefore we need to shift from knowledge recall to the development of competencies and to help learners develop metacognitive skills and learning to learn.


21st Century competencies and digital literacies

RVS has developed a list of 21st Century competencies based on the principle that education must prepare students fully for their lives as individuals and as members of society - with the capacity to achieve their goals, contribute to their communities, and continue learning throughout their lives. These learner competencies are a set of intellectual, personal, and social skills that all students need to develop in order to engage in deeper learning — learning that encourages students to look at things from different perspectives, to see the relationships between their learning in different subjects, and to make connections to their previous learning and to their own experience.

  • Critical Thinker: Critical thinkers engage in reflective reasoning to build deep understanding that is supported by evidence.
  • Problem Solver: Problem Solvers identify strategies and tools to develop, evaluate, and implement solutions.
  • Innovator: Innovators put elements together to form a new pattern or structure.
  • Communicator: Communicators understand, interpret, and express thoughts, ideas, and emotional connections with others.
  • Collaborator: Collaborators build relationships and work with others to achieve common goals.
  • Globally Aware: Global awareness is the understanding of an interconnected world and a citizen’s role within society.
  • Civically Engaged: Civic engagement reflects a commitment to democratic governance, social participation, and advocacy.
  • Self-Directed: Self-directed individuals take ownership of their learning.
  • Media and Information Literate: Individuals who are information and media literate use technology to explore and build knowledge in an ethical and responsible way.
  • Financially and Economically Literate: Individuals who are financially and economically literate understand and evaluate personal and global economic issues.

Jenkins et al. list a complementary set of what they refer to as the digital literacies needed to be part of today’s participatory culture, these are:

  • Evaluation
  • Transmedia Navigation
  • Multitasking
  • Distributed cognition
  • Networking
  • Visualisation
  • Metaphors
  • Collective intelligence
  • Play
  • Digital identity management

Key issues in teaching and learning

A recent EDUCAUSE report lists the key issues facing teaching and learning. These include:

  • Academic transformation: innovative learning and teaching models
  • Accessibility and universal design
  • Faculty development
  • Privacy and security
  • Digital and information literacies
  • Integrated planning and advising
  • Instructional design
  • Online and blended learning
  • Evaluation of technology-based instructional innovations
  • Open education
  • Learning analytics
  • Adaptive teaching and learning
  • Working with emerging technology
  • Learning space design
  • Next Generation Digital Learning Environment and Learning Management Systems

Future trends

In terms of the future trends facing education that designers of learning opportunities need to be cognizant of include:

  • The changing nature of work and the fact that in the future it is likely that many people will have multiple careers.
  • We are seeing a spectrum of learners, from the demands of the ‘now’ generation who want flexible and adaptive learning opportunities personalized to their individual needs through to those who are learning for leisure reasons rather than for work purposes.
  • We are seeing the emergence of new forms of accreditation, such as digital badges, certificate of participation, micro-credentials, and most recently the potential of blockchain technology to enable learners to document and record their learning across different contexts.
  • We are seeing an unbundling of education, in the future learners may not opt to do three-year degrees, but instead pay for: resources, support, guided learning pathways or accreditation.

21st Century teaching and learning

The above has implications for how teaching and learning is adapting and needs to change.  Will Richardson argues that:


We need teachers who are masters at developing learners who are adept at sense making around their own goals. Teachers who are focused on helping students develop the dispositions and literacies required to succeed regardless of subject or content or curriculum


For teaching there are a number of aspects. Teachers need to focus on the development of higher order skills such as creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. They need to help learners develop lifelong learning habits. Technologies are increasingly important and teachers need to develop the digital literacy skills to harness them appropriately in their teaching. Finally, they need to find ways to motivate their learners by providing experiential, authentic and challenging learning experiences.


The office of Ed Tech states that:


[In the future we need] learners who master agency [which] lays the foundation for self-directed lifelong learning, a critical skill for thriving in a rapidly changing world and for our nation to remain globally competitive.


21st Century learning means that leaners now how more choice on how and what to learn. As mentioned before we are preparing them for an uncertain future to do jobs that don’t even exist and the likelihood that they will have multiple careers. As with teachers, they need to know how to use technologies effectively and more importantly how to use them for academic purposes. They need to have ownership of their learning and be able to document and curate demonstration of achievement of learning outcomes.


I have talked in a previous post about the changing role of teachers and learners, and also a critique of criticisms voices over the concept of lifelong learning.  


Churchill (2017) considers the ways in which practice is (or needs to) shifting from a focus on teacher-centred to learner-centred.




Learning of facts and declarative knowledge

Memorising information

Teacher is central

Passing exams

Drilling of right questions and routines

Learning to pass exams

Focus on information presentation to passive learning

Technology as a media channel

Learning from resources and technology


Learning of conceptual knowledge

Working with information

Activity is central to learning

Applying knowledge, theoretical thinking and demonstrating generic skills

Problem-solving, design, project work and inquiries

Learning how to learn

Focus on how learning occurs within an activity

Technology as intellectual partner in learning

Learning with resources and technology


Couros lists the following as indicates of student success:

  • Student voice – learn from others and share their learning
  • Choice – how and what they learn
  • Time for reflection – to reflect on what they have learnt
  • Opportunities for innovation
  • Critical thinkers
  • Problem solvers
  • Self assessment
  • Connected learning

Transforming education

For me to meet the needs of all the above there are two important aspects: new approaches to designing for learning and the use of learning analytics. We need new approaches to design that:

  • Enable pedagogically informed decisions that make appropriate use of technologies
  • Shift from knowledge recall to development of competencies
  • Student centred and activity based
  • Help develop meta-cognitive skills
  • Assessment: process rather than product based

We also need to harness the power of learning analytics; so that teachers can identify and help learners who are struggling and to help learners to develop learning strategies and benchmark against their peers. To conclude we need to implement innovative pedagogies that:

  • Support self-reliance, resilience, agility, adaptability
  • Encourage meta-cognition and reflection
  • Utilize the affordances of digital technologies
  • Enable technology-enhanced learning spaces
  • Develop competencies to deal with an unknown future


Churchill, D. (2017), Digital resources for learning, Springer: Singapore

Is the concept of lifelong learning a reality?

February 8th, 2018

Conole clicks webinar 11 February 2018 from Grainne Conole


I am giving an online webinar on Sunday for clicks entitled ‘Traversing the digital landscape: reflecting on the implications for learning and teaching’. I shared a couple of the slides on fb on the changing role of teachers and learners, which provoked a ‘lively’ discussion! In particular people were unhappy with my use of the term lifelong learning. The debate prompted me to rethink my presentation and in particular to focus on the changing landscape of education, the implications of digital technologies and the changing roles of teachers and learners. The latest draft of the presentation is on slideshare. Note I have not included images as I won’t be using the slides. Any comments welcome. Gotta love the power of fb!!!

The changing role of teachers and learners

February 7th, 2018


As part of the preparation for a talk I am doing at Limerick Institute of Technology next week I had a discussion with the person who invited me Brendan Murphy. One of the things he wanted me to focus on was the changing role of teachers. So in this post I am going to summarise my thinking on this and also the changing role of students. A recent report by Educause lists the following as key issues in education:

  • Academic transformation
  • Accessibility and universal design
  • Faculty development
  • Privacy and security
  • Digital and information literacies
  • Integrated planning and advising
  • Instructional design
  • Online and blended learning
  • Evaluation of technology-based instructional innovations
  • Open education
  • Learning analytics
  • Adaptive teaching and learning
  • Working with emerging technologies
  • Learning spaces design
  • Next Generation Digital Learning Environment and Learning Management Systems

The shows that today’s educational environment is complex and dynamic and each of these facets has implications for the roles of both teachers and learners. In terms of peering into the future there are a number of important factors. Firstly the changing nature of work; it is likely in the future that people will have more than one career change and we are teaching students for an unknown future to do jobs that don’t even exist today. This means that we need to move beyond knowledge recall to teaching students the competencies they need to be lifelong and adaptive learners. Secondly there is now a complex array of learners from the younger generation of those who demand flexible and personalized learning to an older generation who have different learning needs to their younger counterpoints. Thirdly there is now a spectrum of learning opportunities from learning through free Open Educational Resources and Massive Open Online Courses to the one-to-one Oxbridge tutorial model. New forms of accreditation are arising, such as digital badges and micro-credentials. Finally we are seeing an unbundling of education; learners in the future may choose to pay for: resources, support, a guided learning pathway or accreditation.

So how does all of this impact on the role of teachers and learners? For teachers there are a number of aspects. Their role is shifting from one of delivery to facilitation. Furthermore, they need to harness the power of digital technologies to facilitate communication, collaboration and reflection. For this they need new digital literacy skills. Learners also need to develop new digital literacy skills, and although they are technological savvy they don’t necessarily know how to use technologies for academic purposes. They want personalized and flexible learning and need to harness the potential of being part of a connected global community of peers. In future it is likely that learners will learn across a range of contexts, therefore they need to take control of evidencing their achievement of learning outcomes through e-portfolios or more radically through the use of blockchains.>

The future of education is likely to continue to change and co-evolve with technologies and needs to meet the challenges of a complex future. Some have argued that the role of teachers will diminish as the use of technologies becomes more prevalent and as we see the impact of Artificial Intelligence. I disagree, I think the role of the teacher WILL change but will be increasingly important to help learners navigate their learning and make effective use of technologies.

Reflecting on the concept of digital literacies

February 1st, 2018


Image source


I was recently asked to participate in a Delphi study exploring Technology Enhanced Learning and digital literacies, which prompted me to dig out some work I did in the past. I summarise some of the readings around digital literacies below.


Goodfellow and Lea (2014) suggest that by digital literacies we mean activities around textual production – texts and practices – which taken together are recognized as typical and purposeful for a community. They stressed the social character of textual communication, its complexity and diversity, and its ultimate provenance within the practices of all. The concept of literacy was originally around print-based reading and writing, but has now been expanded to include the notion of text to encompass meaning-making in and around the multiple modes associated with digital media. They suggest that there are a multiplicity of social practices involved in creating, communicating and evaluating textual knowledge across a range of modes, in other words, the use of ‘literacies’ emphasizes the multiplicity of contested and contextual, social, and cultural practices around reading and writing.


McKenna and Hughes (2013) argue that digital technologies and environments offer many affordances in terms of texts and practices. Text can be reproduced and distributed. They can be searched for and made searchable, and they can be fragments, reconstructed, and curated. Furthermore, social networking spaces are giving rise to alternative ways of articulating and responding to academic knowledge. The resultant texts tend to be open, inter-textual, and reliant upon audience engagement. They suggest it is important to look beyond texts to what people actually do with literacy (i.e. reading a map to get to a destination, looking at a map to plan a holding, using a map to plan a business trip).


Friesen, Gourlay and Oliver (2014) argue that digital literacies is a contested term with mismatching theoretical reference points and implicit views of practice. These range from New Literacies Studies (NLS) derived a view of literacies as situated social practice, through to a use of the term literacies more associated with generic skills and capabilities.


Beetham, McGill and Littlejohn (2009) state that governments are recognizing the foundational nature of digital literacies and their importance in supporting new ways of working and employability. They go on to state that increasingly the significance of digital literacy is due to socio-political, cultural, and technological changes, such as new work and learning practices, changing employment patterns, transformations in the nature of knowledge, alongside increasing fragmentation of knowledge across disciplinary and sectoral boundaries. They list a set of emerging work practices around digital literacies including: bricolage (aggregation of incongruent resources to create novel outputs), localization (adapting knowledge and expertise to a localized problem), crowdsourcing (posing problems or questions to a diffuse network of experts to generate a range of novel solutions).  Critical to all three are the concepts of open knowledge practices and co-innovation and co-creation of knowledge.


The term digital literacies is still contested and the nuances of it are adapting all the time as we co-evolve with the affordances of digital technologies. What is certain is that the development of digital literacies is essential for both academics and learners and for the later also the development of academic digital literacy skills; i.e. being able to use technologies effectively for their learning.



Beetham, H., McGill, L. & Littlejohn, A. (2009) Thriving in the 21st Century: Learning Literacies for the Digital Age (Llida Project), [online] Available online


Friesen, N.; Gourlay, L.; Oliver, M.. (2014) Editorial: scholarship and literacies in a digital age. Research in Learning =Technology. 2014. vol. 21, 23834


Goodfellow, R. and Lea, M. (2014), Literacy in the digital university: critical perspectives on learning, scholarship and technology, London: Routledge


McKenna, C. and Hughes, J. (2013) ‘Values, digital texts and open practices - a changing scholarly landscape in higher education’ in Robin Goodfellow and Mary Lea, eds. Literacy and the Digital University: researching and teaching academic knowledge in the internet age. London: Routledge.


In conversation…

January 5th, 2018



I really enjoyed the ‘in conversation’ session with Gregor Kennedy and Matt Riddle in December at Melbourne University. This post summarises the structure of our conversation and some of the key themes. Gregor was chairing the session and focused the conversation around three themes:

  • Disruption rhetoric
  • Automation rhetoric
  • And digital being both the disruptor and the solution to the disruptor

He suggested that the technological de jour are the leading lights and highlighted four important aspects:


  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Learning Analytics
  • Virtual Reality
  • Augmented Reality

However he argued that when we wander through history we can see the same tone, the same tenor, the same hype, the same hyperbole. Pointing to past hypes that failed to deliver, such as the information superhighway and the digital revolution, interactive multimedia, social media, mobile learning and most recently MOOCs. He posed the question, are we seeing something new here … is the current argument, commentary about digital disruption real and are we really on the cusp here? Or are we hearing the same again … a re-run of the digital revolution re-named as digital disruption?


He introduced the session by stating that it was about the role that technology has played in Higher Education in the past, where we have come from, and what we can learn from it. What we know about it how to design and use technology for teaching, learning and assessment. And what the future holds in terms of its future use. How do we negotiate the hype, side steps fads and move to harnessing the real value of digital technologies in higher education?


The following are the questions he planned to cover, but of course we went off task ;-)


We often hear about the transformation power of technology … Do you think technology has had a genuinely transformational impact on higher education? Now I am not interested in the technology of the pencil … or the wireless for that matter. But let’s say since say the rise of the personal computer … has there been a digital transformation in teaching and learning?


What about the whole online learning revolution … again you would both know this terrain pretty well. I remember online subjects that Matt designed in Law from when I started in this game. After decades what do we know about how online learning works and why?


In addition to Disruption we often hear about … UNBUNDLING of education … what is this and what are the implications for the way in which Universities — no departments, course coordinators and teaching staff — operate?


I hear it that leaning design is important in our use of technology and we are well-versed in the truism that we should be “pedagogically-led” with our use of technology … but taking a more techno-centric approach  … what are some of the technologies that are here now … that are being used .. maybe in early stages or in pilots … that you think are exciting … and why ?


Finally I am interested in the juxtaposition of digital technologies and notions of access, speed, anytime anywhere, mobile learning chunks – makes me feel like vomiting – binge learning. The “speed” and “networked” rhetoric is almost synonymous with the digital revolution in education. This for me … and I know for others… perhaps runs counter to ideas about education being contemplative, reflective, considered … maybe even slow. Do we need a more explicit conversation about a slow education movement akin to the slow food movement.


Below are some of the key points I made:


  • There are now a rich variety of ways for learners to communicate, collaborate and interact with multimedia resources. 
  • We are seeing the increasing importance of mobile devices and the need for technology-enhanced learning spaces.
  • We are seeing the impact of OER and MOOCs on traditional educational offerings and the unbundling of education.
  • We need to recognised the importance of utilizing Learning Design and Learning Analytics to enhance the learner experience.
  • There is evidence of the increasing impact of open practices on learning, teaching and research.
  • We are teaching students for an uncertain future to do jobs that don’t even exist today, we need to move beyond knowledge recall to teach them the skills and competencies they need to be lifelong learners, such as critical thinking, problem solving and team work.
  • Teachers and learners need to develop academic digital literacy skills to harness the power of technologies.
  • We are seeing the emergence of tools for Curriculum Mapping, such as the work being done at CSU, QUT, Deakin and Woolongong.
  • Pedagogical patterns coupled with Learning Design support tools can be used to make more effective use of digital technologies. Interesting work being done by Open Learning on this.
  • Technologies have sped up the way we interact and it is arguable that there is a need for slow learning, analogous to the slow food movement.

This was a very enjoyable and lively session, a nice relaxed format to explore some of the key challenges we face in education.

The ICAP framework

November 30th, 2017



Last week I did a keynote at the National Conference on Technology-Enhanced Learning at the National University of Singapore. One of the other keynotes was Michelene Chi from Arizona State University. She gave a really interested talk on the ICAP framework they have developed. ICAP stands for Interactive, Constructive, Active, and Passive. It defines cognitive engagement activities on the basis of students’ overt behaviours and proposes that engagement behaviours can be categorized and differentiated into one of four modes: Interactive, Constructive, Active, and Passive. The ICAP hypothesis predicts that as students become more engaged with the learning materials, from passive to active to constructive to interactive, their learning will increase. A useful paper on the framework is available online. Her talk was entitled: ‘Implications of ICAP: a theory of student engagement for classroom and technology-enhanced practices.’ This blog post summarises her talk.


Student engagement refers to whether students are:

  • Motivationally engaged (interest in content domain, pursue degree),
  • Behaviorally engaged (attend classes, do homework: broad behavior),
  • Cognitively engaged: (Not well-defined in literature, refers to use of strategies or to motivational constructs)

 She provided the following definition:

  • “Cognitive Engagement: We refer to it as what students do (or how Ss participate or interact) with instruction or the instructional materials once they are attending classes. We assume ”greater” cognitive engagement leads to “deeper student learning.”

She suggested there are four modes of behavior:

  • Attending mode (or passive mode): Students are paying attention, oriented toward & receiving instruction. But they are not doing anything else overtly, They are not producing anything. Examples: listening to lectures without taking notes, watching videos, observing a demonstration, reading a worked-out example.
  • Manipulating behaviour (active mode): Ss are paying attention and physically manipulating the instructional materials, but not adding any new information.  Examples: copying the solution from the board, underlining the important sentences, agreeing in dialogue, selection an option, moving a slider, measuring quantities, recording amount, pointing and gesturing, repeating definitions. Outputs include text markups of a subset of sentences etc.
  • Generating behaviours (constructive mode): Ss are producing some additional information that may contain (incidentally or intentionally) small (or large) pieces of knowledge that is not in the instructional materials. -Constructive does not mean that Ss are discovering knowledge/principles novel to the domain! We only mean that Ss are adding minute pieces of knowledge beyond what was presented in the instructional materials, literally. Cumulatively, they end up constructing an understanding. Examples: drawing, explaining, posting, taking in one’s words, providing, comparing and contrasting, evaluating, predicting, reflecting, monitoring. Outputs: concept maps, explanations, questions, notes not duplicate, justifications, similarities and differences, reviews, outcomes, insights of one’s own understanding.
  • Collaborative behaviour (interactive mode): Behaviour of working with a peer (commonly through dialogs): Taking turns, sharing attention. Outputs must be dialog pattern of each person generating and building on the other person’s contributions in a mutually-and reciprocally co-generative or co-constructive way. Sometimes this has been referred to as transactive dialogues. Examples: explaining jointly, debating with a peer, discussing. Outputs: elaborated peer’s explanation, challenge peer’s claim, provide example for peer’s justification, formulate peer’s point.

There are four knowledge processes: storing (new information), activating (relating to prior knowledge), linking (new information with prior knowledge) and inferring (a new piece of information). She then outlined ways in which the ICAP framework can be used to improve: lecturing, leading a discussion, designing worksheet activities, enabling co-constructive collaboration and using digital tools.


Lectures can be improved by asking students to generate new knowledge or asking them about what is unclear to them. In terms of a discussion, you can summarise what the students said and ask them if that is what they meant, or ask them to connect the ideas that have been raised, or ask them to critique another students viewpoint. In terms of designing activities, you can show them how a teacher-generated a worksheet. She argued that verbs were important. Some do not ask the students to generate new information, such as add, identify, choose, circle, copy etc. Others are generative/constructive verbs such as ask questions, brainstorm, connect, graph.  A small subset are collaborative/interactive verbs such as agree upon, debate, share.


She then provided examples of how digital tools can be mapped to the ICAP framework, below two examples are provided: tools for presentation and tools for discussion.




Current research on pedagogical patterns

November 29th, 2017



I’ve just attended the Social Learning conference organized by Open Learning at UNSW. It was a two-day event; I was one of five keynotes and also ran a Learning Design workshop. I was delighted to meet and have the opportunity to talk with the companies Chief Technical Officer, David Collien. It turns out that we have a lot of shared research interests. David described to me the work he has been leading on in terms of Pedagogical Patterns.


Patterns work originated in Architecture through the work of Alexander in the late seventies. Alexandra defined 250 patterns for describing and creating building and communities. A pattern is something that addresses a problem and presents a solution. A good starting point to explore patterns work is In the mid nineties Gramma, Heln, Johnson and Vlissides applied the concept of patterns to software architecture and developed 23 classic software design patterns.


David described a number of applications of pattern work such as:


  • TV tropes
  • FanFic
  • Field specific taxonomies (such as in Biology)
  • Medical

Work in the area of Education is still relatively nascent. Wikipedia has a good site on pedagogical patterns


Open Learning have been working on developing pedagogical patterns to underpin their online software platform. David described how Open Learning saw a number of benefits of using pedagogical patterns, to


  • help improve a course or activity
  • inspire creativity and experimentation
  • iterate, improve and evaluate best practice
  • map out a domain of knowledge and practice.

David has built an impressive online tool for articulating different pedagogical patterns. This includes a database of learning activities, examples include:


  • The lazy professor – where the teacher works hard to ensure the students are the ones doing the work rather than the teacher
  • Scenario play
  • Active learning
  • Reflective blog
  • Social learning
  • Talking head
  • The pool room – a very Australian concept, where prizes or trophies are put in the ‘pool room’, the equivalent in a learning context, is that the teacher puts examples of good practice associated with a course in the course ‘pool room’.
  • Three bears – where the students are asked to consider a concept from three perspectives extremes of the concept plus just about right.

He then shared a useful illustration of different forms of assessment, for each indicating how they mapped to various assessment tools. He argued that design can occur at a number of levels of granularity: Course, Module, and Activity. Ruth Crick and Nancy Law have been doing some interesting work on pedagogical patterns.



David said that in due course he will share the resource he has been developing, I look forward to exploring it. 

Learning Design and Curriculum Mapping

November 14th, 2017


 Image source



As part of some consultancy work I am doing at the moment I am collating tools and frameworks for Learning Design. This blog post provides a summary of what I have uncovered.


Improvement in course design and course review processes has elevated in importance at most Australian universities in the past decade. Learning Design and Curriculum Mapping have emerged as important tools to ensure that courses are designed effectively and map to both institutions and professional standards. Academics need support to design and map their courses.


Learning Design aims to help academics make pedagogically informed design decisions that make appropriate use of digital technologies. The Larnaca Declaration on Learning Design provides an overview of the emergence of the field and the underpinning philosophy.[1] The Larnaca Declaration outlines the following as factors of importance for the need to have more effective and robust design decisions:


Educators face many changes – such as expectations of adopting innovative teaching approaches, alignment of teaching to external standards, growing requirements for professional development and difficulties in balancing a complex range of demands from different stakeholders.


Government and educational institutions also face many changes, such as the rise of the knowledge economy and the need for different kinds of graduates, a shift from knowledge scarcity to abundance, and the impact of technology – especially the internet via open sharing of educational resources and massive open online courses (MOOCs).


In the context of these changes, effective teaching and learning in the classroom (and beyond) remains central. How can educators become more effective in their preparation and facilitation of teaching and learning activities? How can educators be exposed to new teaching ideas that take them beyond their traditional approaches? How can technology assist educators without undermining them? How can learners be better prepared for the world that awaits them?


A number of Learning Design tools and frameworks[2] have been developed to enable academic to make informed design decisions. These include:


The 7Cs of Learning Design framework, which has a set of resources and activities around: conceptualising, content creation, fostering effective communication and collaboration, consolidating (promoting reflection and students evidencing achievement of the learning outcomes, combine (looking at the design from different perspectives) and consolidating (implementing the design in a learning context).

The 8 Learning Events Model (8LEM)[3] which describes eight aspects of learning (create, experiment, explore, debate, practice, imitate, receive and metacognition).

The Hybrid Learning Model is an adaptation of the 8LEM and includes a set of cards and support guides. It aims to capture, describe, reflect on and plan good practice in teaching and learning.

The Learning Activity Management System (LAMS) is a tool for designing, managing and delivering online collaborative learning activities.[4]

The Creative Connections Cards[5] which is a practical tool to generate new concepts and visuals for any communication design challenge.

The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in the UK initiated a Curriculum Design programme and undertook a review of Learning Design tools.[6] It also has a comprehensive site, the Design Studio, which showcases JISC resources to support Technology-Enhanced Learning and Teaching practices.[7]

The Learning Design Support Environment (LDSE) helps scaffold teachers decision making from basic planning to creative Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) design.[8]

The Phoebe Pedagogical Planner is a wiki-based system for enabling academics to design learning opportunities.[9]

The METIS Integrated Learning Design Environment (ILDE) integrates a number of existing tools to create multiple Learning Design artefacts.[10]

RMIT has a set of cards to support course design.[11] Each card focuses on a particular type of learning activity, such as supporting group work or reflecting and demonstrating understanding. The reverse side of the card then details how this can be achieved and what tools might be used.

ABC Learning Design is a workshop where participants work in teams to create a visual ‘storyboard’ outlining the type and sequence of learning activities (both online and offline) required to meet the module’s learning outcomes.[12] It uses a paper-based format . Six common types of learning activities are represented by six cards: acquisition, inquiry, practice, production, discussion and collaboration.

The Learning Design suite of tools enables teachers to share their teaching ideas. It is intended to help teachers see how a particular pedagogical approach can be migrated successfully across different topics.[13]


The development of tools for Curriculum Mapping are more nascent. Most of the tools are paper-based or spread sheet based. There are very few examples, to my knowledge of online sophisticated tools equivalent to CourseSpace to do Curriculum Mapping. Some examples include:


The Curriculum Mapping tool at the University of Manchester.[14] This has two views; a list view and a map view, individual elements can be chosen and then the link to intended learning outcomes, activities or other aspects of the curriculum are shown.

Although primarily aimed at the school level, the following site[15] has a useful series of resources for Curriculum Mapping,

Also aimed at the school sector is the TeachHub set of resources.[16] The site states that a Curriculum Map can be built in a spreadsheet or using a tool such as Atlas Rubicon.[17]

Carnegie Melon University have developed an Excel Curriculum Mapping tool.[18]

The AMEE Medical education guide describes the process and components of Curriculum Mapping.[19]

The Indiana department of Education has created two Curriculum Mapping tools: tools for Designing Curriculum Through Mapping and Aligning and tools for Curriculum Development and Implementation.[20] The site lists a number of commercial vendors who have developed Curriculum Mapping tools.

The AG LTAS tool maps the curriculum against a set of user designed statements.[21]

The University of Wollongong has developed a Curriculum Mapping model.[22]

Deakin University have developed course maps, which are visual tools to help academics understand the structure and rules of a course.[23]

Weave Education has a set of tools to support accreditation management.[24]

Curtin University has developed a set of tools and resources for Curriculum Mapping. These include a Needs Analysis Tool which captures a 360 degree perspective from key stakeholders including current students, recent graduates, employers and industry experts, and benchmarking partnerships. The Needs Analysis includes two surveys: eVALUate Graduate and eVALUate Employer. A third survey captures the course teaching team’s self-reported capability to assess graduate attributes and employability skills in related professions.[25] 

The Subject Overview Spreadsheet developed at UTS SOS is a tool for curriculum mapping to plan for student graduate attribute development across a whole course.  It collects data for subjects, then produces a series of tables so that course teaching teams can view the types, weightings, and distribution of intended graduate attributes and assessment tasks. It may also be used to map features of the UTS Model of Learning such as research-integrated learning. The tables are used to identify ‘gaps’ or ‘overloading‘ in the assessment design so subjects can be adapted to provide a more appropriate balance for the students. This data can be provided to the Faculty accreditation committee to monitor assessment and assurance of learning across courses.[26]

MIT has an interesting visualization tool for Curriculum Mapping.[27] It provides a visualisation, showing links between accrediting bodies, pre-requisites, courses and disciplines. 

IdR has a similar visusalisation tool based on Adobe flash.[28]

A paper from Bond University provides an overview of current paractics in mapping graduate attributes in the curriculum.[29]

MyCourseMap from Curtin University is a visualisation tool to help make the curriculum more explicit.[30]

TOCDM is an open source Curriculum Mapping tool.[31] It allows flexible curriculum unit page customization.





[2] A review of five of the main Learning Design Pedagogical Planners is available This describes the key features of each tool.




























































Making the social learning conference: social…

September 29th, 2017


I’ve just had a Skype call about the social learning conference in Sydney that I am doing a keynote for at the end of November. This is being organized by OpenLearning in partnership with MEIPTA:

OpenLearning is an educational technology platform formed by academics, which provides the technology and pedagogical support for universities, to move beyond traditional instructivist education towards constructivist teaching and learning strategies, which fosters student knowledge co-creation and knowledge transfer.

The website for the conference states:

The two-day conference will bring together academics, educators, researchers, instructional designers, technology specialists and government officials to participate in lively discussions, keynotes, and interactive workshops which will provide extensive networking opportunities.

The conference will explore social constructivism in computer-supported collaborative learning.  The four main themes will be:

  • Community, Contribution and Connectedness: Fostering communities of practice, designing for social presence, and informing effective online facilitation.
  • Beyond Content and Quizzes: Moving beyond content transmission and testing towards creating online learning environments for active learning, co-construction of knowledge, and social constructivism.
  • Behavioural Learning Analytics: Using analytics to analyse student interaction, and to inform design, effective online facilitation, and tools for self-regulation. It may also encompass designing analytics to effectively support academic research
  • Rethinking Assessment: Moving towards authentic assessment and documenting online learning experiences in e-portfolios.

My keynote is on the first topic ‘community, contribution and connectedness’. I want to explore what affordances are associated with open and social practices and what this means for the broad spectrum of educational offerings; from informal and non-formal to formal learning. The session will be followed by a two-hour interactive workshop, which will provide time to reflect on the keynote, along with a tailored session on using the tools associated with the 7Cs of Learning Design framework to explore how to design for social learning.

In the conversation with Sarah Sahyoun from open learning, we brainstormed ideas for making the conference interactive and engaging. Obviously, the follow-up interactive workshop sessions associated with each keynote will help with this, along with active use of the conference hashtag (#OLConf2017). In addition, the conference organisers are planning to set up a ‘conference course’ on their platform as a space for participants to engage before, during and after the conference. There will also be interactive demo sessions for participants to share good practice. It reminded me of the way in which we used cloudworks to support the PLE conference in 2012. Ricardo Torres Kompen and I did an ‘unkeynote’, we invited key experts in the field to submit short videos to the cloudworks conference space reflecting on what their thoughts on PLEs were, Stephen Downes provided a useful comparison of PLEs to LMSs. The ‘unkeynote’ then acted as a conversation space around these resources.

Obviously a successful conference depends on a number of factors: engaging keynotes, high-quality papers, a variety of session types (presentations, workshops, demos, posters, etc.), lots of opportunities for networking and of course good food and coffee! But nowadays I would argue that equally important is effective use of social media; an active Twitter hashtag, a space to collate resources and provide opportunities for debate, opportunities for people to participate remotely and ideally some participants live blogging and reflecting on the conference. I am very much looking forward to the conference and will be interested to see how this balance of face-to-face and virtual interactivity works.

Fostering a research community

July 25th, 2017




Image source


I am currently looking at ways of fostering an educational research community and thought I would share some of my ideas here. It is worth beginning with a definition of what educational research is i.e. ‘the systematic collection and analysis of data related to the field of education’. Education is a complex and multi-faceted field and there are many areas of focus for research, but I think the following are particularly important: student learning and the student experience, teacher training and support, fostering a variety of teaching methods, exploration of classroom dynamics, use of digital technologies, and learning across different contexts (formal, informal and non-formal learning). It is also worth reflecting on the main components of research, which are: articulating a research problem, developing an appropriate methodology, data collection and analysis, dissemination and publication, and identifying further areas for research.


I think there are a number of facets of fostering a research community. The first is to clarify a particular centre’s research distinctiveness. The second is to put in place a range of face-to-face and online activities to both support individuals and research groups and to promote the work externally. Finally, it is about putting in place a range of internal and external activities to align the work with related research. Research distinctiveness includes articulating the main areas of research, how they are related and any cross cutting themes. It is also important to clarify what are the main theoretical underpinnings and associated methodologies. The next stage is to build a research profile. This includes individuals describing their research interests and showing how these relate to the themes of the centre. Individuals need to be active in their research community, through participation in face-to-face events and through online activities. For example, a conference is an opportunity to do much more than just listen to the work of others or present research findings. It can be used to seek out and engage with other experts, to form collaborations, to get feedback on research work, to get an up to date picture of the research field. The face-to-face event can be complemented by the use of social media, for example following and using the conference hashtag, or writing blogs summarising some of the interesting conference presentations. Other forms of events include involvement in relevant professional bodies and participant in policy debates.


In terms of fostering and supporting staff development, a range of activities can be put in place. For example, supporting individuals to clarify their research interests, identifying targeted staff development and articulating and reviewing research targets. Workshops can be a practical means of developing skills. Examples might include workshops on writing papers or securing external funding. Seminars and webinars can focus on interesting current research, either by members of the centre or external researchers. Peer support is also valuable for example reading groups, critiquing draft papers or peer mentoring.


Nowadays, having a distinct online presence is imperative. This includes having a clear and up to date website. Social media is valuable in terms of the currency of activities and promoting the work to a wide audience. Of particular note are blogs and Twitter. A departmental blog can be used to both showcase current research and describe related research. Similarly, a departmental Twitter ID can be used to provide up to date news on the work of the centre. See for example the National Institute for Digital Learning’s Twitter stream. Individuals and research groups can use blogs and Twitter ID in a similar way.  


Once the centre’s research distinctiveness is articulated it is useful to align this with related research, both across the institution and more broadly. A vibrant portfolio of PhD students and visiting scholars really brings a research centre alive in my opinion. Research should also inform any teaching the centre is involved with and might also lend itself to the development of a consultancy portfolio. Externally it is useful to align with key strategic partnerships. In education clearly this will include local schools and collages, but might also include relevant local or international initiatives. Engagement with the broader research community is essential, this might include presentation at conferences, reviewing papers or undertaking special issues of journals.  


A research community doesn’t just happen… it needs to be strategically developed and fostered.