Archive for December, 2012

Downtown Wellywood

Friday, December 14th, 2012


The ASCILTIE 2012 conference in Wellington was excellent! Here are some of the highlights. Well done to the conference chair Mark Brown from Massey University and his team!

Neil Selwyn kicked off the conference with a thought-provoking keynote. He argued in particular that we need to take a more critical stance in terms of the use of technology in education. He suggested that we see educational technology as a ‘positive project’, order the allure of the new, buy order | the allure of speed and the promise of substantial change. He quoted Steve Woolgar (2002) who critiques the notion that something new and different is happening and also Terry Mayes’ metaphor of the Groundhog day – in the film the main actor wakes up everyday to the same day, viagra order which is repeated over and over again. Terry argues that we are seeing the same with new technologies, each one being heralded as being transformative but in time nothing much changes. Larry Cubans much cited Teachers and Machines – the classroom use of technologies since the 1920s is depressingly still relevant today; i.e. technologies have not had the predicted impact on learning and teaching.

Dale Stephens provided a different take on things on day two of the conference. Dale argued that the university is dead, new technologies offer alternative ways for learners to connect and learn. He has set up an organisation called UnCollege. The website states that UnCollege is a social movement designed to help you hack your education. This manifesto will show you how to gain the passion, hustle, and contrarianism requisite for success — all without setting foot inside a classroom.

One of the highlights for me was the ‘Great MOOC debate’. I led the for team along with Norm Vaughan and Keith Smyth. The against team consisted of Bill Anderson, Maggie Harnett and Mark Nicols. Sadly we lost but I have to give it to Bill’s team they were very eloquent and entertaining. Some of the arguments we put forward were that: MOOCs are free and hence provide a mechanism for those who can’t afford education a means to learn and improve their employability options, they provide a marketing shop window for institutions, they enable learners to be part of a global, distributed, networked community of peers fostering connectivist approaches to learning, they can be personalised and adapted to individual needs, they focus on ‘hot’ topics and are delivered by experts in the field, they over widening access and a means of combating social inclusion, they provide a mechanism for harnessing the power of social and participatory media, they are free of time and space, and finally they can be linked to badges for recognition of competences and can be linked through to formal accreditation. There is a great video of the debate well worth watching.

And finally, the conference dinner was amazing! Given that it was the day before the premier of the Hobbit, the theme was Hollywood or rather Wellywood – some great costumes, Sean the sheep was my favourite.


An epiphany moment!

Friday, December 7th, 2012

I’m delighted that my new book proposal has been accepted by the publisher! The aim is to produce a more practically focussed book than my Designing for Learning in an Open World Springer book. The book would consist of a rich set of learning designs and practical examples of how these can be used. This would draw on the learning design work I have been involved with at Leicester and the OU, ed but also on the learning design work of others including work on pedagogical patterns. I have been struggling to come up with a structure for the book, but have recently had an epiphany moment! I think it would be good to structure the book around our 7Cs of learning design framework. Hence the book would consists of the following chapters: an introduction chapter to set the scene, a chapter on pedagogies, a chapter on each of the 7Cs, and a conclusion chapter. Also I think ‘7Cs of learning design’ would work nicely as a title! Thoughts welcome!

Update on the 7Cs of learning design framework

Friday, December 7th, 2012

I am writing a chapter for a book, which will be an edited collection of chapters from current National Teaching Fellows. This blog post provides a summary of my current thinking. 

New technologies, offer a plethora of ways in which learners can curate and manage content, and communicate and collaborate with peers. Social and participatory media enable learners to be part of a rich ecology of peer learners, potentially distributed worldwide. Mobile learning is now a reality through smart phones and tablets, meaning that learners can truly learn anywhere and anytime. Virtual worlds and serious games provide rich authentic environments that can foster approaches to learning such as role-play and problem-based learning.

Despite this, there is a gap between the potential and the reality. Teachers and learners lack the necessary digital literacy skills (Jenkins 2009) to be able to harness the affordances (Conole and Dyke 2004) of new technologies.  The chapter will describe a new learning design methodology, which has been created to help teachers make more informed design decisions that are pedagogically grounded and make effective use of technologies to foster different pedagogical approaches. This includes: a range of learning design representations, which both guide the design process and make the design explicit and hence sharable with others, harnessing social media to promote discussion and engagement with peers and in particular use of a specialised social networking site for sharing and discussing designs, and a range of workshops created and evaluated as part of our 7Cs of learning design framework (Armellini 2012; Conole 2012).


Designing for learning is arguably the key challenge facing education today (Conole 2013). Education operates in a complex external environment, with increasing financial constraints and challenges to traditional institutions as a result of the emergence of free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Furthermore, with increasing tuition fees, learners are thinking more critically about which institution to go to and expect a high quality learning experience. Despite the potential technologies offer to support learning, they are not being used extensively, teachers lack the necessary digital literacy skills (Jenkins 2006; Jenkins 2009). This chapter will introduce a new learning design methodology that has been developed to help teachers create pedagogically effective learning interventions that make innovative use of technologies. The work has been developed as part of the OU Learning Design Initiative<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[2]<!–[endif]–> and work carried out at the University of Leicester on the Carpe Diem model.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[3]<!–[endif]–> These have now being combined to form the 7Cs of learning design framework, which is described in the next section.

The 7Cs of learning design framework

The 7Cs of learning design framework illustrates the key stages involved in the design process, from initial conceptualisation of a learning intervention through to trialing and evaluating it in a real learning context (Figure 1). The framework consists of the following stages:

Conceptualise: What is the vision for the learning intervention, who is it being designed for, what is the essence of the intervention, what pedagogical approaches are used?

Capture: What Open Educational Resources are being used and what other resources need to be developed?

Create: What is the nature of the learning intervention the learners will engage with? What kinds of learning activities will the learners engage with?

Communicate: What types of communication will the learners be using?

Collaboration: What types of collaboration will be learners be doing?

Consider: What forms of reflection and demonstration of learning are includes? Are the learning outcomes mapped to the activities and assessment elements of the learning intervention?

Consolidate: How effective is the design? Do the different elements of the design work together?

7Cs of learning design

Figure 1: The 7Cs of learning design framework

For each of the seven stages we have developed a series of conceptual designs, building on our own work and the work of others in the field. Three of these are described here. The first is the course principles view, which is associated with the conceptualise element. This enables teachers to think about the overall essence of the learning intervention and how it will be delivered and supported. Participants interact with a pack of cards around the following elements:

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1.     <!–[endif]–>Principles: What is the essence of the course, what are the core principles? So for example cultural or aesthetic aspects may be important, the intervention may have a practical focus or be about applying theory to practice, it may be based on a professional community of peers or it might be important that the intervention includes elements of serendipity.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2.     <!–[endif]–>Pedagogical approaches: What pedagogies are involved? For example is the intervention based on constructivist principles, is it problem or inquiry-based?

<!–[if !supportLists]–>3.     <!–[endif]–>Guidance and support: What guidance and support are provided? For example in terms of a website or module handout, or access to study materials.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>4.     <!–[endif]–>Content and activities: What kinds of activities are included and what content will the learners be using?

<!–[if !supportLists]–>5.     <!–[endif]–>Reflection and demonstration: Are the learners actively encourage to reflect at key points? How are they demonstrating their learning? What forms of diagnostic, formative and summative assessment are included?

<!–[if !supportLists]–>6.     <!–[endif]–>Communication and collaboration: How are the learners interacting with each other and their tutors? Are there any elements of collaboration included?

The previous post provides a visualision the course features view.  

Once the course features exercise has been completed, teachers can fill in the course views map, which provides more details on the six elements of the course features view. This includes details of which tools and resources are associated with each of the elements and any notes such as details of prerequisites required or description of the philosophy underpinning the learning intervention, for example it might be that peer interaction is deemed important or that learners are expected to generate their own materials.

The third example is the pedagogy or activity profile. This enables teachers to map the types of activities the learners will engage with. There are six types: assimilative activities (reading, viewing, listening), information handling, communicative, productive, experiential (such as drill and practice exercises) and adaptive (such as modeling or simulation). The profile also indicates the amount of time spent on assessment activities.  The profile is available as an online flash widget.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[4]

A key conceptual view is the storyboard. This enables teachers to see how the different elements of the design process fit together. It consists of a timeline, with the activities included in the design along the middle. Learning outcomes are mapped to the assessment elements. Above the activities any inputs to the individual activities are include: for example reading materials or podcasts. Below the activities outputs are listed, for example contribution to a discussion forum or creation of a blog post.


The framework has been trialed in a range of contexts over the last year. The JISC-funded SPEED project<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[5]<!–[endif]–> has enabled us to run a series of face-to-face workshops, along with a series of synchronous sessions to four UK institutions. In addition, we have done a series of workshops at a number of international conferences. The evaluation consisted of observations of the workshops and gathering of data from participants around four main questions: which three words best describe the workshop, what did you like, how could the workshop be improved and what action plans would participants do as a result of participation. Overall the evaluation was positive, participants found the workshop engaging, useful and even inspiring. They found that the learning design activities enabled them to think beyond content to learning activities and the learner experience. They enjoyed the mix of micro-level designs to create learning activities and the ability to think of the learning intervention at a holistic level. 

To give an indication of the evaluation comments, data from a workshop run with 25 participants at the ASCILITE 2012 conference are provided. Figure 2 shows a word cloud of the three words participants used to describe the workshop.


Figure 2: Three words to describe the workshop

Things they liked included: the wide coverage and the rich set of resources provided, the fact that the workshop had a strong focus on pedagogy and being able to see the bigger picture in terms of course design. The course features card set was particularly popular. Interestingly, this group wanted more on the theoretical underpinnings to the ideas presented. Also a general comment was that they would value having more time to explore the resources and that it would be valuable to use the course designs presented in the design of real courses. In terms of action plans, participants stated that they wanted to explore the conceptual views with their own courses and that they would like to share these with colleagues in their own institution.

Ming Nie has undertaken an extensive evaluation of the use of the 7Cs framework with our SPEED partners. The following quotes, from her evaluation, demonstrate that the 7Cs enables teachers to think differently about their design and to make more pedagogically informed choices:

We made a big breakthrough. We have achieved the insight about the need to structure it as a course, an online course, and not just simply as a set of learning activities plus integrated resources.

The visual nature of the tools and the quick and easy way that one could use it without too much elaborative training. They help stimulate us to look at the course in a different way, in a natural and creative way even if we didn’t see all the little links right upfront.

I wanted to have my thinking challenged with regard to course design and development and I definitely left reflecting and questioning our unit’s current approach and have some good tools and approaches to pilot with course design teams.

It’s a way of freeing your mind and putting all the ideas of all the people in the course team down somewhere, not having to be so prescriptive. It was just a much freer and [more] creative experience than getting the learning outcomes and writing them as active verbs, and getting in at a granular level.  It was quite sort of a liberating thing to just have everybody move components around and say, ‘Do you know I really like all these features. I’d like to do some problem-based learning. I’d like to do peer-review.’


This chapter has described a new learning design framework. It has provided a description of some of the conceptual learning designs we have developed as part of this, along with a sample of evaluation data on its use with practitioners. The evaluation indicates that the framework is welcomed and that the conceptual designs enable teachers to rethink their design practice to create more engaging learning interventions for their learners. The conceptual views can also be used with learners, to give them an indication of the nature of the courses they are undertaking. The activity profile is particularly useful as it enables learners to see the mix of different types of learning activities they will engage with. We aim to continue to refine the elements of the framework. In particular more work is needed around the ‘consider’ and ‘consolidate’ elements, including rubrics for assessment and evaluation of the effectiveness of the design.


Armellini, A. (2012). Carpe Diem: the 7Cs of design and delivery. Beyond Distance Research Alliance blog.Conole, G. (2012). The 7Cs of design and delivery., G. (2013). Designing for learning in an open world. New York, Springer.Conole, G. and M. Dyke (2004). “What are the affordances of information and communication technologies?” ALT-J 12(2): 113-124 %U, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide, NYU Press.Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century, Mit Pr.

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Principles and pedagogies

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

I have just returned from a month down under where I did 20 presentations and workshops. The workshops were around our 7Cs of learning design framework and as always discussions with the participants helped take my thinking forward. In particular, troche I feel I have improved the course features activity. This consists of a set of cards around four facets of a course design, thumb namely: guidance and support, unhealthy content and activities, reflection and demonstration, and communication and collaboration. The idea is to identify which of the cards across these four facets are important for a given course. However, I realised that there are two additional aspects, namely: the course principles and the pedagogical approaches. The slideshare below gives more details on this. I would welcome thoughts on this!


Course features from Grainne Conole