Archive for May, 2011

Community engagement

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

I’ve been putting up draft chapters of my book for people to comment on in Cloudworks and on my blog. Today I set up a drop box folder and put up the lasted versions. I invited people to join the space via fb and Twitter and have been amazed by the response so far! I have already had some useful feedback and Dominic Newbould has kindly offered to give it a ruthless edit. I can’t believe how generous the research community is, real peer learning! I am certain the book will be much better as a result. Email me if you want an invite to the space.

Visualising OLDM

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

I am trying to come up with a visualisation to describe the key themes of my book on learning design and the relationship between them. The current view I have come up with is this one. 


OLDM diagram

At the centre is the Open Learning Design Methodology (OLDM) that is the main focus of the book. The diagram shows how this draws on four main areas: i) the broader theoretical perspectives and methodology from research in e-learning and Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL), ii) the notion of design languages and how they are used in a range of disciplines, iii) related research areas such as instructional design, and iv) the nature and characteristics of open, social and participatory media. The middle layer shows that OLDM draws, in particular, on the theoretical concepts of Mediating Artefacts and affordances. Then the top layer shows how this feeds into the three main components of OLDM; i) design representations and tools, ii) the nature of openness, and iii) different forms of community and interaction. This almost maps perfectly with the current chapter order, except for the theory and methodology section, wondering if I should reorder and have this as chapter 2 instead of 5 to fit the diagram? Hmmm….

Why am I writing a book on learning design?

Sunday, May 8th, 2011


So what on earth promoted me to write a book on learning design? I think the origins to this work stretch back to my initial experience of teaching in the early nineties. I started my career as a lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry. Soon after I took up the post, a number of my colleagues, past on some of their courses for me to take over. My experience of education was solely based on my own learning at school and as an undergraduate (essentially around lectures, tutorials and laboratory classes). I had no knowledge of educational theories and didn’t even know what a learning objective was I am ashamed to say. In addition to trying to design my teaching sessions based on this woeful lack on experience, I was struggling to build up a distinct research profile through data collection, and the writing of papers and project proposals. 

I attended a staff development session which stated that it aimed to support teachers in developing their teaching practice. It was a disaster. The session was run by a staff development woman, who kept rabbeting on about constructivism and other esoteric educational terms I had never heard of. At the end I was demotivated and frustrated. The session had been no help at all and indeed was counter-productive. 

I suspect my initial experience of being a lecturer is not uncommon. We are primarily hired based on our research expertise and subject domain knowledge, not on our teaching experience. Luckily today many institutions do have in place a professional practice programmes for new lecturers, to introduce them to relevant educational theories and expose them to examples of good learning and teaching practice. 

Nonetheless my own experience sowed a seed in my mind around the question: ‘What kind of support mechanisms can we put in place to support teachers in their teaching practice and to enable them to develop effective approaches to the design of learning interventions?’ On reflection I think this question has been at the core of my research work over the last twenty years. It has lead me through a journey of the development and evaluation of the use of different technologies, and ultimately to the development and evaluation of the Open Learning Design methodology outlined in this book. 

This is an exciting time in education, which is operating within an increasingly complex societal context, one of rapidly changing technologies and increasing financial constraints. New social and participatory media have much to offer for learning and teaching, to address this challenging context, however to fully harness this potential we need to radically rethink the way in which we design, delivery, support and assess learning. The tools and methods described in this book are put forward as a means of trying to achieve this, with an underlying aspiration to transform teaching practice and ultimately enhance the learner experience. 

Book structure

Friday, May 6th, 2011

I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough this week with my book on learning design. I wasn’t happy with the structure of it and after some really helpful comments from Martin Weller, I have no radically reorganised it and I think it is much more logical and coherent. Here is an outline of the current structure. Thoughts on this very welcome! Copies of the latest draft chapters are available on the Cloudscape I have set up on Cloudworks.Chapters overview

  • The book begins with this introductory chapter, which provides an overview of the book and a rationale for its relevance. This includes an overview of the context of modern education. I argue that we now operate in a context of rapid technological change, which is influencing the nature of education and its purpose. Boundaries between formal and informal learning are changing, as a result I argue that, within this context, the way in which we design, support and assess learning needs to change and the nature of educatioal technologies. Next the characteristics of today’s learners are discussed drawing on key research in the field. It provides a brief definition of the term ‘learning design and argues for the need for a new learning design methodology is discussed, which is the main focus of the book. Finally the audience and  structure of the book are described.
  • Design languages are the focus of chapter two, in particular the use of design notation in music, architecture and chemistry are described. The chapter discusses the challenges of designing for learning, and then focusses on learning design, along with the spectrum of learning design languages that have been developed. The origins of the OU Learning Design Initiative are described, along with a description of how OULDI adopted a Design-Based Research (DBR) approach.
  • Chapter three situates the Open Learning Design methodology discussed in this book in relation to related research fields such as learning sciences, instructional design and pedagogical patterns.
  • Chapter four provides a review of new open, social and participatory media and gives examples of how these are being used to support different pedagogical approaches. It considers the changing digital landscape of education and provides a review of new technologies, which includes: i) the characteristics of new technologies, ii) the impact of web 2.0 technologies, iii) the use of web 2.0 technologies in education and iv) the impact on practice. Highlights from a review of web 2.0 tools and practices are then discussed.
  • Chapter five describes the key theoretical perspectives and methodologies that underpin learning design research. Chapter five describes how the Open Learning Design methodology described in this book draws on Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) and in particular the notion of Mediating Artefacts. It also considers the nature of theory and methodology in the field.
  • Chapter six defines Mediating Artefacts, including the different ways in which practice can be captured and represented. It describes a range of Mediating Artefacts and concludes with an illustrative example that demonstrates how an OER created for use in one contexts can be repurposed.
  • Chapter seven introduces the concept of affordances, discussing the range of definitions for the term. It goes on to discuss the affordances of technologies and argues that these can be used as a means of structuring and guiding use of particular technologies for different learning interventions.
  • Chapter eight gives an overview of different design representations and how they can be used to promote new ways of thinking about designing learning interventions.
  • Chapter nine then goes into more detail on different tools that can be used to visualise and represent designs, and in particular on the CompendiumLD tool that we have developed. It begins with a description of the ways in which practitioners currently go about designing learning interventions.
  • Chapter ten critiques the notion of ‘openness’ in terms of open design, delivery, evaluation and research. An important aspect of open delivery is the use of OER, chapter nine gives an overview of the Open Educational Resource movement
  • Chapter eleven outlines two recent OER initiatives, namely Olnet and OPAL.Chapter eleven provides a review of the Open Educational Resource movement. This includes a review of OER initiatives and a description of four illustrative examples.
  • Chapter twelve discusses the outputs and findings from the work being undertaken as part of the Olnet and OPAL initiatives.
  • Chapter thirteen returns to the ways in which open, social and participatory media are resulting in new forms of online communities and interactions.  It defines the terms and looks at different pedagogies of e-learning. It concludes with the introduction of a new Community Indicators Framework (CIF), that can be used to guide the design and evaluation of new social and participatory media.
  • Chapter fourteen describes the Cloudworks social networking site, and in particular the ways in which it is promoting new forms of online interaction, communication and collaboration.
  • Chapter fifteen reviews a number of pedagogical planners that have been developed to guide practitioners in making informed learning design decisions. These planners, the chapter argues provide more structured support for the design process than the visualisation representations and the use of social and participatory media discussed in earlier chapters.
  • Chapter sixteen is the conclusion chapter, which provides a summary and overview of the book. It also looks at the implications of this work, along with reflections on its importance and the associated challenges.