Chapter 2 design languages


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Chapter 2 design languages

  1. 1. Chapter two – Design languages Chapter two – Design languages.................................................................................1 Introduction..................................................................................................................1 The challenges of designing for learning....................................................................1 Design languages.........................................................................................................2 Design notation in music, architecture and chemistry..................................................6Musical notationArchitectural notationChemical notation Learning design...........................................................................................................9Defining learning designThe origins of learning designA spectrum of learning design languages Origins of the Open Learning Design methodology.....................................................17The OU Learning Design InitiativeDesign-Based ResearchThe OULDI learning design methodology Conclusion.................................................................................................................22IntroductionThis chapter provides a definition for the term design language and provides examples ofhow it is used in other professional domains. It summarises the research on design lan-guages and considers how this relates to the notion of a learning design language. Itprovides a useful contextual background to the discussions in later chapters on the designvisual representations and associated visualisation tools, such as the CompendiumLD tooldeveloped as part of the OULDI work. The chapter draws in particular on Botturi andStubbs (2008) who provide an authoritative account of design language research.Design is a key feature of many professions, the chapter considers design practices inthree disciplines: Music, Architecture and Chemistry and describes how design ap-proaches have been developed in each of these. I then summarise some of the key charac-teristics of design practice that emerge and explore the implications of these in terms ofthe application of design principles to an educational context.The challenges of designing for learningLittlejohn and Falconer (2008: 20) argue that there are three challenges facing teachers: i)the increasing size and diversity of the student body, ii) the increasing requirement for
  2. 2. quality assurance and iii) the rapid pace of technological change. Conole (2004) has ar-gued that there is a gap between the promise and reality of the use of technology in edu-cation and that there is little evidence that education has changed fundamentally. Muchuse of technology appears to simply replicate bad classroom practice resulting in simpleweb page turning (Oliver, 2000). Similarly Masterman (2008: 210) argues that the lack ofuptake of technologies is due to a number of factors: lack of awareness of the possibilit-ies, technophobia, lack of time to explore the technology, aversion to the risks inherent inexperimentation and fear of being supplanted by the computer. Agostinho et al. (2008:381) suggest that the uptake of the use of high-quality ICT-based learning designs in HEhas been slow. Factors include: low levels of dissemination of ICT-based learning pro-jects, lack of ICT-based learning examples to model, lack of time, support and training.Sawyer (2006, p. 8) argues that the impact of the significant investment in computers inschools has been disappointing. There are few studies that show that computer use is cor-related with improved student performance. Similarly Koedinger and Corbett (2008, p.61) write that as new technologies have emerged many hoped that they would have a rad-ically transformative effect on education, but in reality the impact was much less than ex-pected.Falconer and Littlejohn (2008: 23) argue that there are a number of challenges with repre-senting models of practice. These include: ·Ownership of representations: different representations are effective for different communities, and there are a number of different purposes a representation needs to fulfil. ·There are issues around the community and purpose of representations – in terms of being generic or a detailed sequence used for orchestration or offering inspiration to teachers in terms of implementing them and hence changing practice. ·Designs as both a product and a process. ·The degree of granularity of the design, Littlejohn and Falconer found the most com- mon level of granularity is around a lesson plan for one – three hours of learning.Design languagesIt is worth beginning by comparing general language use with design language. Languageis what people use for communicating information and ideas; design language is what de-signers use to communicate design plans, and intentions to each other. Cole, Engestromand Vasquez (1997) argue that ‘the languages used to a great extent shapes what can andcannot be thought and said’ (cited in Gibbons & Brewer, 2005, p. 113).Design languages can be used to both generate designs and as a mechanism for interpret-ing and discussing them. They are used in a range of professions, where there is a focuson developing a specific artefact of some kind. Examples include architecture, musiccomposition, writing, choreography, mathematics and computer programming. With ref-erence to the design of software systems, Winograd (Winograd, 1996) argues that designis not a static noun, but about the activity of design. He identifies a number of importantaspects: design as a conscious process, design as dialogue with materials, design as a cre-ative process, design as a communicative process and design as social activity. He de-
  3. 3. scribes design languages as ‘visual and functional languages of communication with thepeople who use an artefact. A design language is like a natural language, both in its com-municative function and in its structure as an evolving system of elements and relation-ships among those elements’ (Winograd, 1996, p. 64).Botturi and Stubbs demonstrate that there is a plethora of languages available to choosefrom; ranging from sketch-oriented languages that facilitate the creation and representa-tion of the grand view of a design to more formal languages that enable detailed repres-entations of specification and/or implementation details of a design. Botturi et al. (2006,p. 1216) define a design language as ‘a set of concepts that support structuring a designtask and conceiving solutions’. They go on to define a design language as a mental toolthat can be expressed and hence communicated through a notation system (i.e. a set ofsigns and icons that allow representing a design problem or solution so that it is perceiv-able by our senses).Design theory refers to identifying methods (or models, techniques, strategies and heur-istics) and when to use them. Reiguluth (in Reigeluth & Carr-chellman, 2009, p. 7) ar-gues that design theory is different from descriptive theory, in that it is goal oriented andnormative. It identifies good methods for accomplishing goals, whereas descriptive the-ory describes cause-effect relationships. Arguably teachers need to develop both – designexpertise through application of a design-based approach to the creation of learning inter-ventions and descriptive expertise in terms of interpreting and understanding the learningthat takes place. The Open Learning Design methodology described in this book aims tofacilitate the development of both approaches.Goodyear and Retalis describe the role of language generally in terms of supporting ab-stract thought and the ability to deal with complex conceptual change. They argue that itinvolves the creation and manipulation of symbolic representations of the world(Goodyear & Retalis, 2010, p. 6).Gibbons et al. (2008) argue that design languages are an important aspect of instructionaldesign. They define a design language as a ‘set of abstractions used to give structure,properties, and texture to solutions of design problems’. Hohanson, Miller and Hooper(2008, p. 19) suggest that a design language is ‘what designers use to communicatedesigns, plans and intentions to each other and to the produces of their artifacts’, citingGibbons and Brewer (2005, p. 13). Rose (2001) argues that understanding visual repres-entations is a learned skill. As I will discuss elsewhere in this book, there are a range ofnew digital literacies that teachers need to acquire in order to design effective learning in-terventions that make effective use of new technologies (Jenkins et al., 2006; Jenkins,2009).Visual languages serve several purposes: i) to communicate a message through a visual orfunctional language, ii) to provide a synthetic idea, image or metaphor of complex ideasand iii) to create a grammar or produce meaning for its use. Gibbons et al. (2008) arguethat design languages: i) encourage disciplined design practice, ii) give organisation tothe growth of design fields, iii) helps give historical context to evolving design fields andv) connect practices of a design field to theoretical concepts.
  4. 4. Botturi et al. (2006) argue that educational modelling languages have emerged as concep-tual tools to help designers deal with the increasing complexity of designing for learningmaking effective use of new technologies and pedagogies. They argue that they enablethe development of reflective practice and potentially enhance a more thorough under-standing and reuse of e-learning. Derntl et al. (2010) suggest that a shared design lan-guage is one mechanism for dealing with design complexity and the requirements ofcommunication in interdisciplinary design teams. They argue that designing for learningneeds both ‘beauty’ and ‘precision’; and show how different design languages can beused to present these. They state that ‘We are in no way suggesting that beauty and preci-sion are in opposition to one another, nor even that they are mutually exclusive concerns.We make the distinction merely to further stress the competing demands on instructionaldesigners for maintaining a grand view of the learning experience while also addressingthe myriad details of an effective end product.’Stubbs and Gibbons (2008, p. 35) suggests that visual representations serve two purposesin design: i) they can be used during design as part of the design process to representsome aspect of instruction before it had to be produced or represented, this may be in theform of storyboards or flow charts and ii) they can be part of the content that is being pro-duced. They also argue that design drawing can aid the designer by reducing cognitiveload during the design process and because design sketched are an external representa-tion, they augment memory and support informational processing. They also suggest thatanother view of drawing is similar to Vygotsky’s description of the relationship of lan-guage to thought (Vygotsky, 1978). Substituting drawing for words, Vygotky says:‘Thought is not merely expressed in (drawings), it comes into existence through them.’Languages in general provide advantages that are particularly useful in design. Firstly,they allow thought to be communicated so that good ideas don’t get lost. Secondly, theyprovide a focus of attention that permits higher-power processing and anchoring ofthought. Thirdly, they provide the ability to question and judge the value of the thought –to construct thoughts about thought. Jackendoff (1996) suggests that there are two stagesto the design process: i) sketches to try ideas out and ii) as design progresses the drawingsbecome more formal, more governed by rules and conventions.Massironi (2002) has produced a taxonomy of graphic productions, which categorisesdesign drawings by their form and purpose. He distinguishes between representational(physical reality) and non-representational (abstract concepts) drawings. Botturi (2008, p.112) identifies two types of languages: i) finalist communicative languages, which servethe purpose of representing a complete instructional design for communicating it to oth-ers for implementation, reuse or simply archival and ii) representative, which help de-signers think about the instruction they are designing and support its creation. The abilityto express an idea allows people to better analyse and understand it and to make betterdesign decisions. In contrast, McKim categorises abstract graphic languages into seventypes: Venn diagrams, organisation charts, flow charts, link-node diagrams, bar charts andgraphs, schematic diagrams and pattern languages, (McKim, 1980), whereas Laseau(1986) categorises them into four main types: bubble diagrams, area diagrams, matricesand networks.
  5. 5. Design languages exist along a range of continua. Gibbons and Brewer (cited in Gibbons,et al., 2008) describe several dimensions of design language variation: i) complexity-sim-plicity, ii) precision-nonprecision, iii) formality-informality, iv) personalisation-shared-ness, v) implicitness-explicitness, vi) standardisation-non-strandardisation, and vii) com-putability-non-computability.Boling and Smith (2008) describe the range of mediating artefacts that are used to sup-port design both as process and product. The way in which we are using the mediatingartefacts in the design process is described elsewhere (Conole, 2008) and will be dis-cussed in more detail later in the book. Boling and Smith highlight the importance ofsketching and consider the interplay between the two modes of metal representation re-quired for sketching – propositional (largely symbolic) and analogue (quasi-pictorial, spa-tially depictive). They reference Goldschmidt (1991) who argues that there is an oscilla-tion between propositional thinking and descriptive thinking during the process of design.Botturi et al. (2006) described a number of commonly used design languages. A selectionof some of the most commonly used languages is provided here. The intention is not tobe comprehensive but to give an illustration of the different kinds of design languagesthat have been developed and to describe how they are used for different purposes anddifferent kinds of users, ranging from computer runnable formal languages through tolanguages that are aimed at practitioners.Gibbons and Brewer (2005, p. 121) argue that once a notational system is established itcan become: i) a tool for remembering designs, ii) a structured problem-solving workspace in which designs can take form and be shared, and iii) a kind of laboratory tool forsharpening and multiplying abstract design language categories. Indeed in the examplescited above it is evident that there is a complex evolution of design languages and associ-ated notations, and that this evolution is closely tied to the nature of the subject domainand what is of particular importance to foreground and emphasise. So for Music it is en-suring the accurate representations of the sounds in time, for Architecture it is seeing theways in which the different components connect and how they look overall and in Chem-istry it is about foregrounding the associated chemical properties and patterns of beha-viour of the atoms and molecules.Gibbons and Brewer (2005, p. 115) list a set of dimensions of design languages. The firstis complexity, namely that design are merely partial representation of much more com-plex, and multifaceted ideas in our minds. The second is precision, there is a tensionbetween the natural, fuzzy nature of real practice and tightly defined specification. Thistension is very evident in an educational context as described later, in particular in thespecification of formal technical learning designs that can be translated into machine-readable code and fuzzy, practice-based designs. The third is formality and standardisa-tion, which refers to the importance of ensuring that terms used mean the same to allusers. The fourth is the tension between personally created designs and those that areshared with others. Designs only become public or sharable through negotiation and in-teraction with others. Designs should never be seen as static artefacts and are always dy-namic and co-constructed in context. The fifth is the tension between implicit, individualdesigns to those that are completely explicit with clearly defined terms and rules. Againthis is a crucial issue in an educational context, where traditional teaching practice has
  6. 6. been implicit and designs fuzzy. Shifting to more explicit and sharable designs requires achange of mindset and practice. Related to this are issues around standardisation vs. non-standardisation. In terms of these points, there is a tension with designs in terms of howmuch they focus on precise presentation, specification and how much on the more aes-thetic, visionary aspects of the design. Derntl et al. (Derntl, Parish, & Botturi, 2008) con-sider this in an instructional design context, arguing that‘On the one hand, solutions should be creative, effective and flexible; on the other hand,developers and instructors need precise guidance and details on what to do during devel-opment and implementation. Communication of and about designs is supported by designlanguages, some of which are conceptual and textual, and others more formal and visual.’They present a case study where both a creative solution (‘beauty’) and clear-cut details(‘precision’) are sought. Finally there are issues around computability. Some languagesare so formalised and precise that they can be converted into machine runnable code.Gibbons and Brewer (2005, p. 118) go on to argue that designs can be shared in twoways: i) by a description that relies on natural language or ii) through a specialised nota-tion system that uses figures, drawings, models or other standard symbolic representa-tions to express the elements and relationship of the design.Designs have a number of components. Firstly the context in which the design is createdand used; i.e. a design carries with it a socio-cultural element – the background and con-text, both of the individual and the educational setting. Secondly the inherent beliefs ofthe designer; i.e. a design carries with it intentions, aspirations and beliefs. In a learningcontent this is the designer’s believes about what should be learnt and how it should beachieved. Donald et al. (Donald, Blake, Girault, Datt, & Ramsay, 2009) see this inherentbelief basis of teaching practice as a vital tool for unlocking and shifting practice. Theyhave developed a learning design system, HEART (HEaring And Realising Teaching-voice), which aims to support teachers learning design practice by eliciting and depictingthe pedagogical beliefs underpinning a learning design or a resource. In an educationalcontext our implicit designs are based on a mix of theoretical concepts, prior examples,personal ideals and idiosyncratic opinions. Finally, designs should encourage reflectionand should support iterative redesign and reuse.Design notation in music, architecture andchemistryI now want to turn to some examples of how design languages are used in other profes-sions. I will consider three examples – the development of musical notation, architecturaldesigns and design in Chemistry.Musical notationMusical notation captures abstract musical designs in the form of graphical, textual andsymbolic representations. It is precise enough that a piece of music written by a composerfrom 300 or 400 hundred years ago can be accurately replayed. Early musical notationscan be traced back to 2000 BC, but the standard notation used today is a relatively recentphenomenon, before its development, music had to be sung from memory. This severely
  7. 7. limited the extent and reach of music, as well as resulting in a loss of fidelity of the ori-ginal music as they were transferred from person to person memorising them. Musicalnotation went through a range of forms before settling on the notations we use today(Figure 1). The notation includes a complex set of instructions about not just the notes tobe played and their sequence, but the timing, intonation and even some of the emotionembodied in the music.Figure 1: Music notation1Architectural notationArchitectural notation helps articulate and share an Architect’s origin vision behind thedevelopment of a building and make that explicit and sharable with others involved in thedesign and development of the building. For example Figure 2 shows some modern archi-tecture in Valencia. The building manages to convey both functionality with emotion andan element of organic form. The creation of this will have involved a complex range ofdesign representations; from the initial vision/intent of the Architect through to actual cre-ation of the building. Buildings are complex and 3-dimensional. Design decisions have tocover a range of factors, such as the layout of the building, the relationship between thedifferent components, the types of materials, the nature of the surrounding situation of thesite. Different designs are therefore needed to relate certain elements of the design to eachother while ignoring others, and these allow the designer to see their creation from differ-ent perspectives. 3-D visual representations are often annotated with text and supplemen-ted by tables of data. In recent years design representations in Architecture have beingcomputerised with the emergence of sophisticated Computer Assisted Design tools. Argu-ably use of these CAD tools has influenced the practice of design, in addition to facilitat-ing more effective sharing of designs.1 Source:
  8. 8. Figure 2: An example of modern architecture in ValenciaChemical notationChemists use a number of design representations, from chemical symbols for individualatoms, through various visual representations for displaying molecules and chemicalequations for the design of chemical synthesis and for explanation of particular chemicalproperties (Figure 3). As with Music and Architecture the design representations thathave been developed closely mapped to the discipline itself and the key focus of interest.So Chemistry is fundamentally concerned with the properties and chemical behaviours ofindividual atoms and how these can combine in different ways to create molecules withdifferent properties. 2-D representations are common (for example chemical equations)but 3-D representations are also useful and particularly valuable when looking at largemolecules with complex typologies. As in architecture a number of computer-based toolshave now been developed to enable drawing and manipulation of molecules. These can insome instances be based on real data, such as individual atomic coordinates of individualatoms and so are also powerful modelling tools as well.
  9. 9. Figure 3: Chemistry notations2Learning designThis section describes the emergence of learning design as a research field. This is an im-portant and vibrant research field and there have been a number of edited collections inthe last few years (Beetham & Sharpe, 2007; Lockyer, Bennett, Agostinho, & Harper,2008). One of the main drivers for the emergence of learning design as a research field isarguably that teachers are now presented with many choices in how they can design anddeliver their courses (Agostinho, 2008). They are confused by the plethora of technolo-gies and different pedagogical approaches they can adopt. Furthermore, teachers oftenstruggle with implementing theory into practice (Fang, 1996). Kelly et al. argue that‘modern educational interventions must respond to new scientific knowledge emergingfrom technology-infused, internet-intensive, highly social, networked science’ (Kelly,Baek, Lesh, & Banna-Ritland, 2008, p. 3).Learning design as an approach aligns with a number of related research work, in particu-lar research on pedagogical patterns (Goodyear & Retalis, 2010) and Open EducationalResources (Iiyoshi & Kumar, 2008). The Iiyoshi and Kumar book provides an overviewof the open content and knowledge movement, of which Open Education Resources re-search is one aspect. I will provide an overview of these and will attempt to show howthese areas are related to but also distinct from learning design. I intend to make a moreexplicit connection between the area of learning design, pedagogical patterns and OpenEducational Resources. With colleagues I have recently submitted a chapter to a newedited collection on CSCL pedagogical patterns (Conole, McAndrew, & Dimitriadis,2010), which describes initial work in this area. This has been submitted to a book editedby F. Pozzi and D. Persico “Techniques for Fostering Collaboration in Online Learning2 Sources: and
  10. 10. Communities: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives".3 The Goodyear and Retalis bookprovides a useful edited collection of current research in the field of pedagogical patterns.In this book, I have a chapter, which begins to align the learning design and pedagogicalpatterns research, through the description of a learning activity as both a visual learningdesign representation and as a pedagogical pattern. The work also aligns with related re-search in instructional design and learning sciences (Reigeluth & Carr-chellman, 2009;Sawyer, 2006; Spector, 2008) for example.Design is arguably the most important aspect of learning and teaching; effective designenables teachers to make informed use of technologies and incorporation of innovativepedagogies approaches, which can meet the challenges of a complex modern educationalcontext. However, design is complex and teachers need support and guidance to effect-ively incorporate new technologies, to think differently, to change their practice. Thisbook outlines a means of achieving this, along with practical tools and methods. All ofthe tools and methods described are freely available. The book will also help clarify therelationship between learning design and related fields. It will provide an opportunity toalign learning design research with pedagogical patterns and OER research.Defining learning designLearning design as a research field has emerged in the last ten years or so, primarily driv-en to date by researchers in Europe and Australia. Before describing the methodology wehave developed at the Open University, I will provide a brief overview of the develop-ment of the field and some of the key features/milestones. The learning design researchwork has developed in response to a perceived gap between the potential of technologiesin terms of their use to support learning and their actual use in practice (Conole, 2004;Herrington et al., 2005; Bennett et al., 2007). Much of the learning design research isconcerned with mechanisms for articulating and sharing practice, and in particular theways in which designs can be represented. Lockyer et al. (2008) and Beetham and Sharpe(2007) have produced edited collections on work in this area. A closely related body ofwork to learning design is research into the development and use of Pedagogical Patterns.Derived from Alexander’s work in Architecture, Pedagogical Patterns is an approach todeveloping structured case studies of good practice (See for example Goodyear, 2005 foran outline of the field).Learning design has developed as a means of helping teachers make informed choices interms of create pedagogically effective learning interventions that make effective use ofnew technologies. Learning design representations enable teachers to document, modeland share teaching practice. Learning design also encompasses both the process ofdesigning learning experiences, as well as the product i.e. outcome or artefact of thedesign process.A learning design can represent different levels of granularity – from a whole coursedown to an individual learning activity. In addition it can be a formal representation,which is computer runnable or simply a semi-formal way of describing the learning inter-vention.3 See
  11. 11. Goodyear and Yang (2008: 167) use the related term educational design, which theydefine as ‘the set of practices involved in constructing representations of how to supportlearning in particular cases or the set of practices involved in constructing representationsof how people should be helped to learn specific circumstances’ (Goodyear & Retalis,2010, p. 10). They argue that ‘educational design takes time, it rarely starts with a clearcomplete conception of what is desired’. The process of iterative clarification of thenature of the problem and its solution involves complex thought. Goodyear (2005) alsofurther elaborates on the definition of educational design as ‘the set of practices involvedin constructing representations of how to support learning in particular cases’. This dis-tinguishes design from development - the practices of turning these representations intoreal support for learning (materials, task specifications, tools, etc). It distinguishes designfor particular educational applications from the broad consideration of learning in gener-al. It focuses on practice rather than theory, while recognising that practice embodies ex-periential and theoretical knowledge’. Goodyear identifies three aspects to educationaldesign. The first is the design of good learning tasks. The second is the design and man-agement of the learning environment. The third is focuses on the social aspects of learn-ing. Goodyear and Retalis argue that good design is hard and takes time, it involves thedesign of good tasks, but also the design of supportive learning environments. Designworks indirectly, learners have the ability to adapt, customise and invent. Design works atvarious levels, from the detailed functionality of a tool right up to institution-wide infra-structure.Beetham and Sharpe prefer the term ‘designing for learning’, which they define as ‘theprocess by which teachers – and others involved in the support of learning – arrive at aplan or structure or design for a learning situation’ (Beetham & Sharpe, 2007, p. 7). LikeGoodyear and Yang, they believe that learning can never be wholly designed, only de-signed for (i.e. planned in advance) with an awareness of the contingent nature of learn-ing as it actually takes place. Beetham (2007, p. 28) defines a learning activity as ‘a spe-cific interaction of learner(s) with other(s) using specific tools and resources, orientatedtowards specific outcomes’ (Figure 1).4 Within this context a learning outcome is intend-ed to lead to some identifiable change that is anticipated in the learner. Beetham arguesthat because a learning activity emerges as the learner engages in a task, the elementsidentified here are in practice highly interdependent and can only finally be defined whenthe activity is completed.4 Derived from Beetham and Sharpe (2007, pg. 29)
  12. 12. Figure 1: The components involved in a learning activityChatteur et al. quote Neal and Miller (2005) arguing that e-learning design is a carefulbalancing act between pedagogy and technology; often at the expense of pedagogy(Chatteur, Carvalho, & Dong, 2010, p. 183). They go on to argue that designing e-learn-ing is a particularly complex task and quote Rittel and Webber (1973) arguing that designcan be described as a ‘wicked’ problem (Chatteur, et al., 2010, p. 184).The origins of learning designThe origins of the term learning design can be traced back to work at the OUNL in theNetherlands in terms of the development of a Learning Design specification, which sub-sequently translated into the IMS LD specification (see From a review of learning theories an Educational Modelling Language wasdeveloped (Koper and Manderveld, 2004) and from this a Learning Design specificationwas derived (see for example Koper and Oliver, 2004). Focusing very much at the tech-nical level, it was claimed that the LD specification was pedagogically neutral and couldbe used to describe any learning interventions. The specification was based on a theatricalmetaphor, describing the roles of those involved in the intervention (learners, teachers,etc.), the environment in which it occurred and the tools and resources involved. Inherentin the approach was the assumption that educational practice can be represented in adesign description, i.e. that underlying design ideas and principles can be captured in anexplicit representation. In addition, the design of a course is driven by ‘pedagogical mod-els’ that capture the teacher’s beliefs and is a set of rules that prescribe how leaning can
  13. 13. be achieved in a particular context. Koper and Oliver (2004: 98) define ‘Learning Design’as ‘an application of a pedagogical model for a specific learning objective, target groupand a specific context or knowledge domain’. It specifies the teaching-learning process. Anumber of tools have since been created to run IMS LD specifications, but the work hasnot had a fundamental impact on changing teacher practice, focusing more on the tech-nical description and running of the designs.Since then others have appropriated it in a much broader sense, shifting to the notion ofdesigning for learning. Cross and Conole (2008) provide a simple overview of the field.The focus of the research is both to better understand and represent design processes,along with developing tools and methods to help practitioners create better designs. Anumber of benefits of adopting a more formal and rigorous approach to design have beenidentified (Conole, 2009). In terms of the OULDI research work, we define learningdesign as: A methodology for enabling teachers/designers to make more informed decisions in how they go about designing, which is pedagogically informed and makes ef- fective use of appropriate resources and technologies. This includes the design of resources and individual learning activities right up to whole curriculum level design. A key principle is to help make the design process more explicit and shareable. Learning design as an area of research and development includes both gathering empirical evidence to better understand the design process as well as the development of a range of resource, tools and activities.In parallel, work in Australia embraced a broader notion of the term ‘learning design’,which was located more at the level of practice than technical specification. The AUTCLearning Design project5aimed to capture a range of pedagogical models as learningdesign case studies with the intention that these could then be used by teachers to guidetheir practice and enable greater sharing and reuse of designs (Oliver, et al., 2002, AUTC,nd, Agostinho, 2008).The work was based on a framework for describing learning designs developed by Oliverand Harrington (Oliver, 1999, Oliver and Harrington, 2001). This was based on three crit-ical elements: learning tasks, learning resources and learning support. The intention wasthat thinking about and making explicit each of these elements helped to both guide thedesign process and make it explicit and hence shareable. The approach was used to rep-resent a range of learning designs across different pedagogical models, such as role play,problem-based learning, concept-based learning and collaboration. The AUTC LD projectproduced detailed guidelines on each of the design case studies they captured, represent-ing these visually using an updated version of the design representation developed byOliver and Harrington, along with detailed descriptions on how the design was producedand how it can be used. A number of studies have been conducted exploring how theAUTC designs are actually used by teachers.Buzza et al. (2004) focussed on the ‘Predict, Observe, Explain’ design with four teachersand two instructional designers. Overall the participants recognised the value of the5
  14. 14. designs and how they might be used, although the researchers concluded that widespreadadoption of the IMS Learning Design specification would not be possible until a con-trolled vocabulary can be agreed upon for use in cataloguing and searching for learningdesigns. Agostinho et al. (2009) explored to what extent the AUTC designs were effectivelearning design descriptions, i.e. how they could provide adequate information that canbe easily understood in terms of content and thus potentially reused by a teacher in theirparticular educational context. Their findings were that there are three important featuresof an effective learning design description: i) a clear description of the pedagogicaldesign, ii) some form of ‘quality’ rating, and iii) guidance/advice on how the design couldbe reused.In the UK the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) funded a series of projectsunder the ‘Design for Learning programme’ (See Beetham, 2008 for a review of the pro-gramme and the lessons learnt). The term ‘design for learning’ was used rather than learn-ing design to indicate a broader scope and a more holistic approach, although I would ar-gue that the way in which I define learning design in this book is synonymous with thisbroader perspective. Design for learning was defined as ‘a set of practices carried out bylearning professionals… defined as designing, planning and orchestrating learning activ-ities which involve the use of technology, as part of a learning session or programme’(Beetham, 2008: 3).The programme included a review of e-learning pedagogical models, which classifiedlearning theories into three main types: associative, constructive and situative (Mayes andDeFreitas, 2005). The Mod4L project explored what different types of design presenta-tions were being used by practitioners and concluded that de-contextualised designs orpatterns could not in practice form the basis of a generic design typology, in which a fi-nite number of educationally meaningful intentions could be discerned (Falconer, et al.2007).The programme also supported the development of two pedagogical planner tools,Phoebe (Masterman, 2008) and the London Pedagogical Planner (these are discussed inchapter fourteen). The programme divided the design lifecycle into four parts: design, in-stantiation, realisation and review. The granularity of the designs ranged from the designof learning objects or short learning activities up to broader sessions or wholecourses/curricula. Some of the key lessons derived from the programme included the fol-lowing. Design practices are varied, depending on individuals, subject differences andlocal cultures. Design tools are rarely perceived as pedagogically neutral and most are notconsidered flexible enough to match real practice. There were mixed views on what werethe most appropriate ways of representing and sharing designs – some wanted rich, nar-rative representations, others wanted bite-sized representations that could be easily re-used.A spectrum of learning design languagesAgostinho (2008: 14) reviewed six commonly used learning design languages categor-ising them as follows: 1.Pedagogical models – academic literature
  15. 15. 2.Generic learning designs – patterns and generic LDVS 3.Contextulaised learning design instantiations – LDVS, LDLite and E2ML 4.Executable runnable versions – IMS LD, LAMSHarper and Oliver (2008: 228) developed a taxonomy for learning designs arising out ofthe AUTC Learning Design project6 which gathered over 50 exemplar learning designs.The AUTC designs were categorised into five types of design: collaborative designs,concept/procedure designs, problem-based learning designs, project/case study designsand role-play designs. The AUTC Learning Design project drew heavily on the work ofOliver and Herrington (2001), who described the three key aspects of a design as: thecontent or resources the learners interact with, the tasks or activities that the learners arerequired to perform and the support mechanisms provided to assist learners in engagingwith the tasks and resources. Harper and Oliver argue that there has been little work toprovide a means to classify and categorise learning designs. The designs were evaluatedusing an adapted version of the framework developed by Boud and Prosser (2002):learner engagement, acknowledgement of the learning context, learner challenge and theprovision of practice. And they identified the following four types of learning design: 1.Rule focus – based on the application of rules 2.Incident focus – based on incidents and events 3.Strategy focus – that require strategic thinking, planning and activity 4.Role focus – where the learning outcomes are based on learners’ performance and personal experiences.A design language of particular importance is IMS Learning Design (IMS/LD) (Koper &Tattersall, 2005), which is based on the Educational Modelling Language developed byOUNL IMS/LD represents a learning design, referred to as a unit of learning, which is asequence of activities described in the form of acts in a play. It is a formal computer lan-guage that both documents the final contextualised learning design and executes thelearning design to the learner. It describes the roles and activity sequences within an en-vironment of learning objects and services. Properties, conditions and notifications canalso be defined to further fine tune and specify the design. UML has also been adaptedfor use in elearning contexts. Botturi et al. (2006) describe E2ML, which is based onUML, as a simple design language coupled with a visual notation system consisting ofmultiple interrelated diagrams. Agostinho (2008) lists three types of E2ML documents:goal definition, action diagram and overview diagram.At the other end of the spectrum, the AUTC project7 has developed a design languagethat is much more practitioner orientated. It is based on work by Oliver and Herrington(2001), who identified three elements associated with a learning design:6
  16. 16. 1.The tasks or activities learners are required to undertake 2.The content resources provided to help learners complete the tasks 3.The support mechanisms provided to assist learners to engage with the tasks and re- sources.These three elements are used to describe a learning design, as a temporal sequence, withthe tasks or activities being undertaken in the centre and the associated resources and sup-port mechanism for each tasks or activity represented either side. These are representedby three symbols: squares (tasks), triangles (resources) and circles (support). Agostinho etal. (2008) argue that the AUTC visual learning design representation can be used to facil-itate dissemination and reuse of innovative pedagogical strategies in university teaching.Agostinho (2008) also refer to this as a Learning Design Visual Sequence (LDVS). It isintentionally aimed at teachers as an easy to understand representation. It can be usedboth to represent and share examples of good designs or help guide a teacher through thecreation of a learning design.Another simple representation, also aimed at teachers, is LDLite (Oliver & Littlejohn,2006), which shares many similarities with Lesson Plans that K-12 teachers are familiarwith. It is based on five aspects of a design: tutor roles, learner roles, content resources,service resources and assessment feedback.The MOT+ design language is based on the MISA instructional design method (Paquette,Léonard, & Lundgren-Cayrol, 2008). It starts from the premise that building a design isbased on two fundamental questions. What knowledge do we want the learners to ac-quire? How should the activities and resources best be organised to achieve this? It is agraphical representation, which consists of three elements: concepts, procedures and prin-ciples.The Learning Activity Management System (LAMS), like IMS/LD, is a computer run-nable design language. The main strength of the LAMS tool is that it provides a simplevisual representation of the design, based around the tools and activities that the learningdesign is comprised of. It is intentionally aimed as a tool for use by practitioners and hasbeen used extensively by teachers across different educational sectors. The learningdesign is represented as a sequence of activities visually illustrated as a flowchart. Ex-amples of LAMS tools include typical teaching activities such as chat, question and an-swer, and forum. However because it is designed to be runnable one of the weaknesses ofLAMS is that it focuses the design around tools, and doesn’t take account of all the otheraspects involved in a learning activity.Although of a slightly different nature to the other design languages described above,Pedagogical Patterns (Goodyear, 2005; Goodyear & Retalis, 2010) can also be viewed asa form of design language. They are described elsewhere in this book but are includedhere for completeness. Patterns consist of the following elements: pattern name, contextfor the pattern, description of the problem to be solved, solution, examples and links torelated patterns.
  17. 17. Origins of the Open Learning Design method-ologyThe OU Learning Design InitiativeThe OU Learning Design Initiative emerged from previous work on the development of alearning design toolkit, DialogPlus (Fill and Conole, 2008). Like the Phoebe and the LPPtools, DialogPlus was intended to act as a step-by-step guide to enable teachers to createlearning designs. The tool was based on an underlying taxonomy, which defined the com-ponents of a learning activity (Conole, 2008), which was derived through a series of in-terviews with teachers about their design practices. However, evaluation of the actual useof such design planner tools indicated that they did not match actual design practiceclosely enough. Their relatively linear and prescriptive structure did not match the creat-ive, iterative and messy nature of actual teacher design practice.The OU Learning Design Initiative was initiated in 2007, supported through strategicfunding from the OU and later through funding from the JISC and the EU. The intentionwas to derive a more practice-focussed approach to learning design, identified from em-pirical evidence of actual practice. This included gathering 43 case studies of the ways inwhich the then new Learning Management System (LMS) (Moodle) was being used(Wilson, 2007) and a series of interviews with teachers to articulate their actual teachingpractice (Clark and Cross, 2010). The key focus of the teacher interviews was to betterunderstand existing practice. The authors note in their introduction that ‘Even experi-enced academics who have participated in a range of course production tasks find it diffi-cult to articulate how they go about developing a “learning design” that will be trans-formed into effective learning materials’ (Clark and Cross, 2010). The interviews fo-cussed on five main questions: i) process: how do teachers go about designing a course?,ii) support: how do they generate ideas?, iii) representation: how do they represent theirdesigns?, iv) barriers: what barriers do they encounter?, v) evaluation: how do they evalu-ate the effectiveness of the design?A range of approaches to design was evident, including gathering of resources, brain-storming, listing concepts and skills, creating week-by-week plans, etc. On the wholethese were paper-based and primarily text-based. There was little evidence of use of al-ternative, more visual representations or visual software tools. Interviewees wanted helpwith understanding how to integrate ICT-based activities into courses. Face-to-face work-shops and meetings were favoured over online support as they were felt to be the most ef-fective way of thinking about, and absorbing, new ideas and ways of working. Case stud-ies interestingly were considered to be too demanding in time and effort, intervieweeswanted just-in-time support to specific queries. The most effective form of support wasconsidered to be sharing of experience with peers. A variety of representations were men-tioned from simple textual representations or lists through to more complex and connect-ed mindmaps. The interviewees listed a variety of purposes for the representations, in-cluding communicating personal vision, capturing or sharing ideas, comparing with oth-ers, viewing the course at different levels and mapping content to learning outcomes. Bar-riers included concerns about a lack of experience of creating online activities and a lackof successful examples and an OU-specific issue in terms of the difficulty of melding to-
  18. 18. gether the innovative (and often idiosyncratic) ideas of course creators with the needs of a production system delivering the OU’s size and range of learning materials and services. A range of mechanisms was cited in terms of evaluation approaches. These included feedback from students and tutors, comments from critical readers, peer course team cri- tiques and comments from external examiners. This empirical work provided a sound basis for the development of our approach. Our initial focus centered on the following questions:·How can we gather and represent practice (and in particular innovative practice) (captureand represent practice)?·How can we provide ‘scaffolds’ or support for staff in creating learning activities that drawson good practice, making effective use of tools and ogies (support learning design)? (Conole,2009). We have identified six reasons why adopting a learning design approach might be benefi- cial:1.It can act as a means of eliciting designs from academics in a format that can be tested andreviewed with developers, i.e. a common vocabulary and understanding of learning activities.2.It provides a means by which designs can be reused, as opposed to just sharing content.3.It can guide individuals through the process of creating learning interventions.4.It creates an audit trail of academic design decisions.5.It can highlight policy implications for staff development, resource allocation, quality, etc.6.It aids learners in complex activities by guiding them through the activity sequence. These map closely with the benefits of adopting a design-based approach outlined by Gibbons and Brewer (2005). They argue that the benefits include: improving the rate of progress (in the creation of designs), influencing the designer conceptions through mak- ing the design process explicit, helping to improve design processes, improvements in design and development tools, and bringing design and production closed together. Fun- damentally, I would agree with their assertion that it opens up new ways of thinking about designs and designing. We see ‘learning design’ as an all encompassing term to cover the process, representation, sharing and evaluation of designs from lower level activities right up to whole curriculum level designs. In previous work (Conole and Jones, 2009) we identify three levels of design: micro, meso and macro, drawing on Bielaczyc (2006) and Jones (2007). In our terms, the micro-level refers to learning activities (typically a few hours worth of activity), the meso-level to aggregations of activities or blocks of activities (weeks or months worth of activity) and the macro-level to whole curriculum designs. As part of their Curriculum Design programme the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) provide the following definition in terms of curriculum (JISC, nd): ‘Curriculum design’ is generally understood as a high-level process defining the learning to take place within a specific programme of study, leading to specific unit(s) of credit or qualification. The curriculum design process leads to the pro- duction of core programme/module documents such as a course/module descrip- tion, validation documents, prospectus entry, and course handbook. This process
  19. 19. involves consideration of resource allocation, marketing of the course, and learners’ final outcomes and destinations, as well as general learning and teaching approaches and requirements. It could be said to answer the questions ‘What needs to be learned?’, ‘What resources will this require?’, and How will this be assessed?We were interested in a number of research questions in particular. Can we develop arange of tools and support mechanisms to help teachers design learning activities moreeffectively? Can we agree a shared language/vocabulary for learning design, which isconsistent and rigorous, but not too time consuming to use? How can we provide supportand guidance on the creation of learning interventions? What is the right balance ofproviding detailed, real, case studies, which specify the detail of the design, comparedwith more abstract design representations that simply highlight the main features of thedesign? How can we develop a sustainable, community of reflective practitioners whoshare and discuss their learning and teaching ideas and designs?Design-Based ResearchThe next section describes the OULDI methodology, which is based on Design-BasedResearch (DBR) this section provides a brief overview of Design-Based Research. Thissection draws in particular on Barab (2006) and Kelly et al. (2008). Barab provides a use-ful overview of Design-Based Research (Barab, 2006, p. 155). He argues that the value ofDesign-Based Research (DBR) is that it offers a methodology for dealing with the com-plexity of real learning contexts by ‘iteratively changing the learning environment overtime – collecting evidence of the effect of these variations and feeling it recursively intofuture designs’ (citing Brown, 1992; Collins, 1992). He argues that cognition, ‘rather thanbeing a disembodied process occurring in the confines of the mind, is a distributed pro-cess spread out across the knower, the environment, and even then meaning of the activi-ty’ (citing Salomon, 1993). Barab suggest that DBR can yield rich insights into the com-plex dynamics whereby theories become contextualised. He lists the following as mecha-nisms for making DBR effective: 1.Make assumptions and theoretical bases that underlie the work explicit 2.Collect multiple types of theoretically relevant data 3.Conduct ongoing data analysis in relation to theory 4.Invite multiple voices to critique theory and design 5.Have multiple accountability structures 6.Engage in dialectic among theory, design and extant literature.He argues that DBR has the following characteristics: design, theory, and problem in thecontext of a naturalistic setting, involving multiple iterations or progressive refinement(Figure 1).
  20. 20. Figure 1: The interactive nature of Design-Based Research Kelly et al. (2008, p. 5) suggests that DBR foregrounds ‘the fluid, empathetic, dynamic, environment-responsive, future-orientated and solution-focused nature of design’. The OULDI learning design methodology We are adopting a design-based research (DBR) approach; starting with a stated problem we were trying to address, a proposed solution and then an iterative cycle of develop- ments and evaluation. Design-based research has emerged in recent years as an approach for studying learning in context through systematic design and study of instructional strategies and tools (Brown, 1992; Collins, 1992 cited in Design-Based Research Collect- ive, 2003). Wang and Hannafin (2005:5-6) define it as ‘a systematic, but flexible method- ology aimed to improve educational practice through iterative analysis design, develop- ment and implementation, based on collaboration between researchers and practitioners in real-world settings, and leading to contextually-sensitive design principles and theor- ies’. Reigeluth and An (2009:378-379) articulate the following set of characteristics of DBR:1.It is driven by theory and prior research. In our work, as described above we are building onthe substantive body of prior research on instructional design, learning sciences, learning ob-jects/Open Educational Resources and more recently learning design. The approach we adoptis socio-cultural in nature, with a focus on the design and use of a range of mediating artefactsinvolved in teaching-learning processes (See Conole, 2008 for a more detail account of this).
  21. 21. 2.It is pragmatic. Our aim is to develop tools and resources which are useful in actual prac-tice, by practitioners to address real educational challenges. Our intention is to be theory-driv-en, but pragmatic, recognising the complex, messy and often craft-based nature of teachingpractice.3.It is collaborative. We see working in close connection with end users as a vital part of ourapproach. Our initial interviews with teachers confirmed our view that teaching practice iscomplex and situated. Changing practice will only occur through close working with and un-derstanding of practitioners’ needs.4.It is contextual. Our vision is to change actual practice, to achieve this it is important thatthe development activities occur in real, authentic contexts.5.It is integrative. Wang and Hannifin (2005: 10) state that ‘DBR uses a variety of researchmethods that vary as new needs and issues emerge and the focus of the research evolves’. Wehave adopted a mixed-method approach to evaluating our developments, matching the meth-ods we use to the specific sub-research questions and the context that we are focusing on.6.It is iterative. Our approach consists of an interactive cycle of identification of problems tobe addressed, suggestion of proposed solutions, development, use, evaluation and refinement.7.It is adaptive and flexible. Because our work is closely tied to actual practice, we need toensure that the approach we are adopting is agile in nature, so that we can adapt based onevidence from changing practice.8.It seeks generalisation. In addition to the practical, pragmatic nature of our work, we arealso attempting to develop a coherent underlying learning design framework of concepts andapproaches. In essence we are focusing on three aspects of design: i) the development of a range of conceptual tools to guide the design process and provide a means of representing (and hence sharing) designs, ii) the development of visual tools to render some of the concep- tual tools and enable practitioners to manipulate their designs and share them digitally with others, iii) the development of collaborative tools – both in terms of structures for face-to-face events such as workshops and use of digital tools to foster communication and sharing. For each aspect we have now developed a set of tools, resources and activit- ies and over the last two years we have been trialling these in a range of settings, both with the OU and also externally with a number of partner institutions and through demon- strations and workshops at conferences. It would be impossible in the scope of this paper to describe all the tools, resources and activities in detail; hence a selection will be de- scribed to give an overall view of the work to date. An evolving online learning design toolkit is being developed which includes our current set of tools, resources and activities ( In addition a learning activity taxonomy has been developed (Conole, 2008) and more recently a Learning Design taxonomy which provides a map of the domain, the key concepts and where individual tools, re- sources and activities fit (Conole, 2010a). OULDI aims to bridge the gap between the potential and actual use of technologies out- lined in the introduction, through the development of a set of tools, methods and ap- proaches to learning design, which enables teachers to making better use of technologies that are pedagogically informed. Conole (2009) provides a reflection on the origins of OULDI and the benefits of adopting this approach. The aim is to provide a design-based
  22. 22. approach to the creation and support of learning and teaching, and to encourage a shiftaway from the traditional implicit, belief-based approaches to design-based, explicit ap-proaches. This will encourage sharing and reflection. The tools and resources are de-signed to help guide decision-making. The work is underpinned by an ongoing pro-gramme of empirical evidence which aims to gain a better understanding of the designprocess and associated barriers and enablers, as well as an ongoing evaluation of thetools, methods and approaches we are developing and using and in particular to what ex-tent they are effective. There are three main aspects to the work we are doing:1.Conceptualisation – the development of a range of conceptual tools to help guide thedesign decision-making process and to provide a shared language to enable comparisonsto be made between different designs.2.Representation – identification of different types of design representation and use of arange of tools to help visualise and represent designs.3.Collaboration – mechanisms to encourage the sharing and discussing of learning andteaching ideas.ConclusionThis chapter has focussed on the range of design languages that can be used to guide andrepresent learning designs. It has provided a rationale for the value of design languagesand their uses. It has described a range of design languages as a means of illustrated theirvariety and the ways in which they can be used for different purposes and end users.Some are available as computer tools, whilst others are simply conceptual in nature.Design languages help making the design practice more explicit and hence shareable.They provide practitioners with scaffolded guidance on the design process and promotecritical thinking and reflection. By externalising the design a teacher is better able to getan overview of the whole design and hence be able to see how the different elements ofthe design are connected and also to identify potential gaps or weaknesses in the design.Later in the book I will show how we have developed a range of design representations toforeground different aspects of the design process and will describe how these representa-tions can be used. I will illustrate how these designs are being used by teachers and showhow we have contextualised them in a range of different types of activities and work-shops. In addition I will describe a learning design tool that we have developed, Compen-diumLD that enables teachers to create and share designs. I will also describe the socialnetworking tool, Cloudworks ( that we have developed whichacts as a space for teachers to share and discuss learning and teaching ideas and also de-scribe the types of user behaviour that are emerging in the site.