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Conole State Of The Art Review 2010 2 4


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Conole State Of The Art Review 2010 2 4

  1. 1. State of the Art report on training teachers, blended learning & eLearning Gráinne Conole, The Open University, UK 4/2/10 Status: Draft for discussion Executive summary..................................................................................3 An overview of e-learning: promises and challenges.....................................5 Introduction – the emergence of e-learning........................................................5 Examples of best practice for teacher online collaboration ..................................7 How you motivated and encouraged teachers to participate................................11 How to promote a culture of sharing and collaboration amongst teachers............15 A review of Learning Design research ......................................................19 The emergence of Learning Design as a research field.......................................19 Approaches to sharing and promoting good practice.........................................24 Learning objects................................................................................................24 Case studies.....................................................................................................25 Open Educational Resources............................................................................26 Support centres and professional communities.................................................27 Representations............................................................................................29 Toolkits and pedagogical planners...................................................................31 Pedagogical patterns......................................................................................35 The OU Learning Design Initiative...........................................................36 The OUDLI methodology...............................................................................38 CompendiumLD – a tool for visualising designs...............................................40 An update on CompendiumLD..........................................................................43 Cloudworks..................................................................................................50 Methodology.....................................................................................................52 Theoretical perspectives...................................................................................54 An overview of the Cloudworks site..................................................................56 Key concepts....................................................................................................57 Principles..........................................................................................................59 Some statistics and use of the site....................................................................60 Evolving theoretical framework.........................................................................62 1
  2. 2. Staff engagement and support........................................................................63 The OULDI Toolbox..........................................................................................64 Workshops .......................................................................................................65 Conclusion........................................................................................................69 Engagement with the OU university community................................................69 Related initiatives at the OU...........................................................................70 The JISC Curriculum Design Project.................................................................71 Course Business Models project.......................................................................72 OLnet................................................................................................................74 A Framework for Preparing Teachers to Teach with ICT...................................76 Perls in the Clouds............................................................................................78 OPAL (Open Educational Quality Initiative).......................................................80 Other collaborations and international work......................................................81 Building on OULDI in 2010 and beyond at the OU............................................83 Conclusion.............................................................................................83 Acknowledgements.................................................................................83 References.............................................................................................84 Appendix A: The Learning Activity Taxonomy..........................................89 2
  3. 3. Executive summary The purpose of this ‘state of the art’ review is to provide a foundation for the work being undertaken as part of the ‘framework for preparing teachers to teach with ICT’ (the EUPT3 project). The review will help contextualise the work being undertaken in the project and ground it in the broader research literature and other initiatives of relevance in the field. The review in particular will provide a summary of the work undertaken to date as part of the OU Learning Design ( It is anticipated that the tools and resource OULDI has produced which form a core foundation for the EUPT3 project. The review begins by describing the emergence of e-learning as a distinct field of enquiry and in particular the theoretical and methodological approaches which help define the field. It describes some of the ways in which technologies are being used to support learning, providing a critique of the positive affordances of modern technologies. It articulates some of the challenges with effective uptake and use of technologies in education and summarises some of the strategies used to address these issues. It then focuses on learning design as a new field of inquiry that has developed in recent years as a potential means of addressing these issues and in particular bridging gap between the rhetoric around the potential impact of technology and its actual use in teacher practice. It describes four main approaches that have been used to promoting sharing of good practice: learning objects, case studies, Open Educational Resources (OER) and support centres/professional communities. It then describes some of the work that has been done to explore the different ways in which designs can be represented and in particular the use of visualisation. Toolkits and pedagogical planners designed to provide support and guidance to the design process are then described. Finally related, but highly relevant research on pedagogical patterns is mentioned. The final section focuses on the OU Learning Design Initiative (OULDI) and 3
  4. 4. particular the work on the development of a visualisation tool for design (CompendiumLD), a social networking site for sharing learning and teaching ideas and designs (Cloudworks), approaches to fostering staff engagement and support and finally related initiatives at the OU. 4
  5. 5. An overview of e-learning: promises and challenges Before focussing on the substantive area of learning design and more specifically the work of the Open University Learning Design Initiative, this section provides an overview of the wider context within which this work sits. Introduction – the emergence of e-learning Research into the use of technology in an educational context and indeed for the full spectrum of learning from formal to informal/non-formal contexts has become increasingly important since the birth of the Internet and the general increase of the impact of technology on all aspects of our lives. This is a fast moving area, with new sub-themes of research emerging constantly as new technologies arise and their implications/potentials are considered. Terminology therefore is problematic because it is also constantly changing as researchers try to use terms that give an indication of their particular perspectives and areas of interests. Terms over the years have included educational technology, computer-assisted learning, learning technology, e- learning, networked learning and technology-enhanced learning. For the purpose of this review the term e-learning will be used, as we believe this has the broadest scope and most closely fits with the areas of interest in the EUPT3 project. Conole and Oliver (2007) define e-learning as: The term most commonly used to represent the broader domain of development and research activities on the application of technologies to education. E-learning is now a well established and vibrant research area. A review of this scope cannot possibly hope to cover the full spectrum of research activities; instead the intention here is to focus on highlighting key research reports/books, journals and conference. A number of edited collections provide a useful synthesis of current thinking of the filed; Conole and Oliver provide an overview of contemporary perspectives in e-learning (G. Conole & Oliver 2007). Authors in the edited collection take a particular stance on different aspects of the field 5
  6. 6. (pedagogical, technical and organisational), these positions are then critiqued by other experts in the field. A complementary edited collection by Andrews and Haythornwthwaite covers a broad spectrum of issues from both policy and practice perspectives, as well as associated theoretical and methodological issues (Andrews & Haythornthwaite 2007). Conole provides an updated positional paper on these issues as an initial trigger for a recent debate as part of the Networked Learning conference ‘hotseat’ series (G. Conole 2010). The positional paper is available from learning, the rich debate within the networked learning hotseat forum is available at In addition a parallel debate is going on in the cloudworks site., In particular the positional paper traces the origins of the underpinnings for the e-learning field, drawing in particular on perspectives from Oliver et al. (Oliver et al. 2007) who argue that there are a range of different epistemological positions adopted by researchers in the field and that these have profound implications for how the field will be researched. They argue that this is often explained in terms of the ‘paradigm debate’, and framed as a contrast between qualitative and quantitative methods; although go on to qualify that this is a rather crude distinction; i.e. qualitative data can be interpreted in a positivist way and quantitative data can be used to yield understandings beyond the specific numerical data. They argue that ‘We need to consider how different philosophical positions would interpret the kinds of data generated by particular empirical methods. ‘Methodology’ describes this relationship, and must be understood separately from ‘methods’, which are the techniques used to collect and analyse data (This will include things like interviews, questionnaires, observation etc.) Methodology determines whether the implementation of particular methods is successful or credible. Indeed, according to Agger, “methodologies can’t solve intellectual problems but are simply ways of 6
  7. 7. making arguments for what we already know or suspect to be true” (Agger, 2004, p. 77). To do this, methodology codifies beliefs about the world, reflecting ‘out there’ or ‘in here’ positions. The view that knowledge is hard, objective and tangible will demand of researchers an observer role, together with an allegiance to methods of natural science; to see knowledge as personal, subjective and unique, however, imposes on researchers an involvement with their subjects and a rejection of the ways of the natural scientist. To subscribe to the former is to be positivist; to the latter, anti-positivist. (Cohen, Manion and Morrison, 2000: 6) Such commitments and interests arise from historical, cultural and political influences, which collectively shape traditions of research that provide the context for current work (e.g. Conole, 2003). These have profound implications for the topics that people study and the kinds of conclusions they are willing to draw. (Oliver et al. 2007, p.9). The positional paper goes on to describe the breadth of ‘birth’ disciplines that e-learning researchers originate from and how this then translates into a rich set of epistemological positions, methodologies and theoretical perspectives. Common approaches that have been used extensively in e-learning include: socio-cultural perspectives such as Activity Theory, Actor Network Theory, Cybernetics and Systems Thinking and Wenger’s notion of Communities of Practice. However as the field is beginning to mature, researchers are starting to caste a wider network in terms of theoretical perspectives to provide new insights and understandings into complex emergent patterns of behaviour with new technologies. Examples of best practice for teacher online collaboration The section on ‘Promoting and sharing good practice’ describes the different strategies that have been used o encourage greater innovation in pedagogy and more use of technologies. Strategies have ranges from relatively simple provision of resources – such as learning objects or Open Educational Resources through to ore specific case studies describing practice or community-based support mechanisms and networks. This section points to some recent specific examples of reviews of the use of technology. 7
  8. 8. In the last five years or so there has been an explosion of text-booked aimed at practitioners that provide advice and guidance on using technology, along with more theoretical grounded research texts. It would be impossible to provide a comprehensive overview of this work, so a select to illustrate the breadth will be provided. As outlined earlier terminology associated with ‘e-learning’ is in a constant state of flux. Different terminologies give an insight into the particular perspectives being focused on. For example in terms of collaborative online learning research around the sub-fields ‘networked learning’ and ‘computer supported collaborative learning’ (CSCL) are particular relevant. Steeples and Jones provide an edited collection articulating networked learning research and describing some of the main fields of inquiry (Steeples & C. Jones 2002). Koshman et al. do much the same for CSCL (Koschmann 1996)(Koschmann et al. 2002) and McConnell outlines research on Computer Supported Cooperative Learning (McConnell 2000). Jones et al. provide a useful summary of the development of this field and in particular the distinction between cooperative and collaborative learning (Chris Jones et al. 2007). Within these sub-fields extensive research has occurred since the early nineties on studying online learning environments, with a particular focus on asynchronous discussion forums. There is a general underlying constructivist and collaborative learning perspective associated with much of this work. The work has yielded insights into some of the barriers to successful online collaboration, as well as some of the strategies that have emerged. Salmon’s five-stage e-moderating framework is one of the most popular (Salmon 2000). It provides a simple to understand 5-stage framework for facilitating online collaboration. There have also been a range of books which take a more theoretical perspective – providing an overview of key research in the field. Laurillard’s ‘rethinking university teaching’ acted as a bit of a watershed text as it was published around the time of the birth of the Internet (Laurillard 2002). Of particular note is Laurillard’s conversation framework, which provides an elegant description of the interactions that occur between teacher and student. This has been extensively quoted and used as a basis for 8
  9. 9. framing teaching interventions and guidance, see for example this interactive, visual representation of the framework More specifically in terms of e-learning the edited collection ‘Contemporary perspectives in e-learning research’ provides an overview of the field from a UK perspective. The book spans the different sub-domains of research in the field – divided into research focusing on pedagogical, technical and organisational issues (G. Conole & Oliver 2007). Andrews and Haythornthwaite provide a complementary text which provides a broader international perspective (Andrews & Haythornthwaite 2007). There are now a bewildering array of texts which provide more of a practitioner focus around e- learning (or the related term ‘blended learning). Because of the explosion of the filed, more specialised texts with a particular technology focus are also beginning to emerge – see for example Stefani et al.’ book on e-portfolios (Stefani et al. 2007), Weller’s overview of Virtual Learning Environments (Weller 2007) and Richardson’s book on some of the new web 2.0 tools (such as blogs and wikis) (Richardson 2008). Add to this reviews of the field and individual research papers results in a rich, but bewildering collection of information. Fortunately a number of professional bodies and specialised support services have emerged which act as filters and indicators of quality – some of these are discussed later. With the emergence of more socially orientated and participatory technologies, often referred to as ‘web 2.0’ tools, new directions of inquiry have begun to flourish. Downes gives an early critique of the potential of these technologies for learning (Downes 2005) and Alexander provides one of the first textbooks exploring the use of these for teaching and learning(B. Alexander 2006). More recently two comprehensive reviews have been undertaken by the Institute of Prospective Technology Studies (IPTS) surveying examples of the use of web 2.0 tools in education. Redeccker looks at learning 2.0 in formal educational contexts (Redecker 2008), whilst Ala- Mutka considers the use of these tools in non-formal and informal learning contexts (Ala-Mutka 2009). The reviews include a database of over 200 case 9
  10. 10. study examples from across Europe. De Freitas and Conole consider the implications of these new technologies from the learner perspective and consider the ways in which the affordances of these new technologies can (or might) map to good pedagogical principles (collaborative, dialogic learning, inquiry-based learning, etc.) (De Freitas & G. Conole 2010). They give some specific examples (drawing on Redeccker and Ala-Mutka’s reviews as well as more broadly of how specific case studies give illustrative examples of how these technologies are beginning to be taken up. Table 1: Table reproduced from De Freitas and Conole Theme Case study Brief description of case Potential impact upon area study education Scaffolded VEOU (Willis et Virtual CPD and scaffolded Potential to change the ways in al., 2004) support for publication which professional CPD is delivered, offering more tailored, personalised and just-in-time training Open E-Bank – towards Access to open learning Democratisation of education in truly "Open materials designed to terms of content production and research”, (Cole support tutors and learners delivery. Wider access to et al., 2006) alike materials for casual learners and MITOpenCourse to support informal learning as a Ware ‘taster’ for formal learning qualifications Cumulative CCK09 An experimental course in What is the role of traditional (Siemens, 2009) - which both the content and educational institutions in a Education for expertise was free world in which content and free! expertise is increasingly free? Social Cloudworks Social networking for an Social networking applied to (Conole and educational context education has the potential to Culver, change the ways in which forthcoming) teachers exchange information; with the potential to lead to proactive sharing and reuse of educational resources Authentic environments WISE project – Authentic real-time Scope for training in new and (SecondReiff modeling environment in realistic environments. Aachen School of Second Life for Pedagogic models include Architecture); Architecture and medical exploratory learning (ELM), Stanford Medical students inquiry learning and problem- School based learning approaches simulations using Olive platform (cited in Ala- Mutka et al. 2009) 10
  11. 11. inquiry learning Personal Inquiry Development of inquiry- Through independent learning Project based learning skills for approaches peer learning is Fostering (Kerawalla, et al., students to enhanced their encouraged and analytical skills 2009) understanding of Science may be fostered Enhancing life experiences Mundo des Young people in hospitals, The potential for these tools to estrellas (cited in interactive gaming, life support lifelong learning Ala-Mutka et al. swapping and sharing of opportunities and enhance life 2009); JISC experience; MyPlan project experiences MyPlan project providing tools for lifelong (de Freitas et al., career decisions and 2009) educational choices using visualisation of learners’ timelines ( yplan) Broadening access Notschool and Notschool for virtual home The impact of this includes Schome projects schooling for disaffected outreach to children and (cited in Ala- children and Schome excluded, talented learners. Mutka et al. project for gifted and Using familiar media based 2009) talented kids metaphors rather than traditional school based metaphors new learners may be reached New forms of CSCL Structured pedagogical Broader application of collaboration pedagogical patterns to support differentpedagogical patterns and other patterns forms of collaborative scaffolded forms of pedagogical (Hernández et al., activities have the potential to transfer forthcoming) good practice from research into practice in an effective way. Automation of such patterns can be embedded in pedagogy tools Co-construction of Wlker’s Collaborative co- Blurring research and teaching: understanding Wikinomics construction of examples of how the web can (cited in Ala- understanding of provide access to scholarly Mutka et al. Economics materials and give students the 2009), The opportunity to observe and Decameron Web emulate scholars at work ((http://www.bro nts/Italian_Studie s/dweb/dweb.sht ml) Aggregating and Wikipedia Co-construction of New tools provided for learners sharing content knowledge through at all stages, and interaction collaboration and iterative between learners and publication development of shared knowledge How you motivated and encouraged teachers to participate The previous section has provided a broader overview of some of the ways in 11
  12. 12. which technologies is being appropriated in education. It paints a picture of an exciting, evolving rich technologically mediated environment to support learning. Indeed I have previously argued that the affordances of these new technologies seem to map surprisingly well to what is considers in modern educational research to be ‘good pedagogy (See Table 2). Table 2: Comparison of technology characteristics and pedagogy Trends in the use of technologies Pedagogical drive New Web 2.0 practices From individual to social Location aware technologies Contextualised and situated Adaptation & customisation Personalised learning Virtual and immersive 3D worlds Experiential learning Google it! Inquiry learning User generated content Open Educational Resources Badges, World of Warcraft Peer Learning Blogging, peer critique Reflection Cloud computing Distributed Cognition Despite this take up of new technologies has not been widespread, beyond basic technologies (Word, Email, Powerpoint, simple use of the Web, Interactive Whiteboards) harnessing the full richness of technologies remains the domain of enthusiasts and early adopters. The reasons for this lack of uptake are complex and multi-faceted, more often to do with cultural, organisational and pedagogical issues than the technologies per se. A number of more detailed critiques explore these issues in more detail (Hedberg 2006) (Zemsky & Massy 2004) (Davis et al. 2007) (Ramage 2001) (Russell 2001) (G. Conole 2007)(M. Brown et al. 2007), only a summary of the issues is described here. In reality making effective use of technology is complex and time consuming, there is no magic quick-fix bullet, indeed teachers are daunted by the sheer variety of possibilities (the volume is indeed immense as the pointers to the research literature in this review indicate). They don’t know where to start. They are concerned about failing. Despite the fact that technology errors are becoming less and less common as the tools and software improve and become more embedded in day to day practice, introducing a new innovation in a real-teaching context requires an element of a leap of faith that it will 12
  13. 13. work, courage and assurance that support and back up will be available if there are problems. Even if the technologies themselves work, there is no guarantee that the intervention will be pedagogically successful. If there is one overriding message from the research literature it is that success is more about how the technology is used, in a particular context that is important. Furthermore devising such an appropriate and contextually relevant intervention means the teacher needs to research the possible options, adapt to the context, trial and evaluation. All of this requires both the skills to undertake these steps and the time to implement them. In short – time, skills and support emerge as the three factors most likely to have an impact on whether technologies are taking up or not. The above is not intended to be unduly depressing, but is intended to cut through the hype about technology and take a realistic stance on what is possible. These means we need: • To be mindful of the complexity inherent in design a learning activity – the components involved and multiple decision paths that can be taken. • Be aware of the set of new skills that are needed by both teachers and learners to make most effective use of new technologies • Articulate and address barriers to uptake. The complexity of the design process: A Learning Activity Taxonomy development by Conole (Conole, G. 2008), illustrates just how complex a learning activity is (See Appendix One). It was iteratively developed through working with a series of teachers as they worked through a learning design process. It shows the complex set of factors and decision points that need to be made as part of the design process. Experienced teachers, who draw on their wealth of expertise and knowledge and understanding of their students and the subject domain to devise effective learning activities, do much of this at an unconscious level. In essence they are drawing on a small sub-set of combinations of the taxonomy, treading tried and tested pathways through the 13
  14. 14. options. Strategies for support group work, mechanisms for stimulating brainstorming activities, scaffolds for longer-term project work. The plethora of new technologies and how they can be used opens up the possibilities but now also means that they have to make their design practice more explicit and they have be grapple with understanding how these technologies can be used. New skills: Jenkins lists twelve skills which he argues are necessary to be able to take part in what he refers to as today’s ‘participatory culture (Jenkins 2009). They are play, performance, simulation, appropriation, multitasking, distributed cognition, judgement, transmedia navigation, negotiation and visualisation. This list clearly shows the multifaceted nature of digital literacies. Jenkins defines participatory culture as being about involvement and participation, about being able to create and share work and about peer mentorship and support. He goes on to suggest that this has immense potential educationally; providing opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, diverse cultural expression, skills development across different contexts and a changing attitude to the notion of intellectual property. In his view and in the view of others like Seely Brown (J. S. Brown 2001) embracing this participatory culture is essential. If this is true we do need to ensure teachers have the appropriate time and support to be able to develop and use these skills Barriers to uptake: In a recent paper Conole considers the barriers to uptake of technologies, drawing on the broader literature on resistance to change and innovation (G. Conole 2010). She sites the following as commonly cited examples for lack of adoption: ‘I haven’t got time’, ‘My research is more important’, ‘What’s in it for me?’, ‘Where is my reward?’, ‘I don’t have the skills to do this’, and ‘I don’t believe in this, it won’t work’. Common resistance strategies include saying yes (and doing nothing) or undermining the initiative and/or the people involved. Depressingly classic mistakes are repeated over and over again: an over emphasis on the technologies and not the people and processes; funding for the technology developments but not use and support. A better articulation and understanding of these barriers will enable us to 14
  15. 15. develop strategies to address them; to explore ways in which teachers can have the time to experiment, to look at mechanisms to support them and provide guidance and pointers to examples and to help them develop the new skills needed to embrace these technologies. How to promote a culture of sharing and collaboration amongst teachers Web 2.0 technologies - with their emphasis on sharing, networking and user production, seem to have immense potential to support new forms of discourse to support teachers. Indeed when asked what they would find most helpful to enable them to think more creatively about their teaching, most teachers say "give me examples, in my subject area" and "point me to relevant people I can discuss these issues with". However uptake and use of web 2.0 sites such as blogs, social networking and wikis by teachers for sharing and discussing practice has being marginal so far. The Cloudworks site (see later) is one example of a means of providing a shared collective space for teachers, harnessing the web 2.0 affordances of new technologies. This section provides a more generic overview of some of the broader themes around sharing. Teachers now have a multitude of ways in which they can communicate and collaborate through different technologies. Alongside the established communication channels of the telephone, email, forums and texting, the emergence of web 2.0 technologies in recent years has added blogging (and microblogging), wikis, social networking sites and virtual worlds but also free internet-based Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and in particular popular tools such as Skype which enable virtually free, internet-based communication. Similarly information can now be distributed in multiple locations, and packaged and presented using a range of different multimedia and visual representations. Sophisticated repositories now exist for everything from shopping categories to repositories of good practice and free resources. RSS feeds and email alerts enable users to filter and personalise the information they receive. Social bookmarking and tagging means that collective value can be added to digital objects, concept and mind mapping, 15
  16. 16. tag clouds and data-derived maps are only some of the ways in which information can be presented in rich and multifaceted ways. Within this context we are seeing a number of trends: • A shift from the web as a content repository and information mechanism to a web that enables more social mediation and user generation of content. • New practices of sharing (see for example: images: flckr; video: YouTube and presentation: slideshare), and mechanisms for content production, communication and collaboration (through blogs, wikis and micro-blogging services such as Twitter). There are also social networking sites for connecting people and supporting different communities of practice (such as Facebook, Elgg and Ning). • A network effect is emerging as a result of the quantity of information available on the web, the multiplicity of connectivity and the scale of user participation. New possibilities for sharing and 'network effects' that are emergent from this new scale. Specifically in terms of new practices and ways of teacher interacting, I would like to highlight the following: • Peer critiquing – the ability to openingly comment on other people’s work. This has become standard practice within the blogosphere for instance and is being used in general society (for example many journalists are now active bloggers, traditional book writing is being supplemented by writers’ blog inviting potential readers to comment on the evolving plot), by academics (through self-reflective blogs on digital scholarship and research ideas) and in a teaching context (with students keeping their own reflective blogs or contributing to a collective cohort blog). Peer critiquing and self reflecting via blogs and e-porfolios is particularly useful for training teachers, as a space to reflect on and make sense of their practice and as a means of making explicit connections between educational theory and actual practice. 16
  17. 17. Making these opening available (or available to a more limited peer set) means that others can comment on, provide advice and support, as well as correlate these reflections with their own experiences. 1. User generated content – there are now many different tools (many free) for creating content (ranging from those which are primarily text-based, through to rich multi-media and interactive tools), meaning that the web is no longer a passive media for consumption but an active, participatory, production media. Sites such as YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare facilitate simple sharing of user-generated content and embedded code functionality means this content can be simultaneously distributed via a range of communication channels. This has significant implications in a teacher context; not only are teachers now able to create their own content, but so potentially are learners. 2. Collective aggregation - hierarchy and controlled structures make little sense in an environment that consists of a constantly expanding body of content that can be connected in a multitude of ways. Collective aggregation refers both to the ways in which individuals can collate and order content to suit their individual needs and personal preferences, as well as the ways individual content can be enriched collectively (via tagging, multiple distribution, etc.). Social bookmarking, tag clouds and associated visualisation tools, tagging, RSS feeds and embedding code all enable collective aggregation to occur. This provides another means of harnessing understanding across a teaching community and a means of sharing the burdening of exploring and making sense of the waste wealth of information that might inform teaching practice. 3. Community formation – clearly the connectivity and rich communicative channels now available on the web provide an environment for supporting a rich diversity of digital communities. Boundaries of professional and personal identity are eroding and the notion of tightly 17
  18. 18. knit Communities of Practice (Wenger 1998) are giving way to a spectrum of communicates from individualistic spaces through loosely bound and often transitory collectives through to more established and clearly defined communities (See (Dron & T. Anderson 2007) for a more specific discussion of collectives, networks and groups in social networking for e-learning). Harnessing web 2.0 technologies for teacher communities has immense power, as is discussed later in terms of the Cloudworks site. 4. Digital personas – each of us is having to define our own digital identity and how we present ourselves across these spaces. The avatars we choose to represent ourselves, the style of language we use and the degree to which we are open (both professionally and personally) within these spaces, give a collective picture of how we are viewed by others and can have unintended consequences. Both teachers and learners need to be aware that their digital traces cumulatively says something about how they are perceived and that this includes the use of social networking for non-professional or educational purposes. The blurring of the identity boundaries across these digital spaces challenges traditional norms of teacher as authority and learner as recipient. Returning to the heading of this section, namely ‘how can we promote a culture of sharing and collaboration?’ I think there are two main aspects. Firstly we need to be aware of the technologies and more importantly the different ways in which they can support interaction and communication (as outlined above). Secondly we distil lessons learnt from existing research that has tried to promote sharing and collaboration – what worked and what didn’t. Thirdly we need to combine these to create new interventions to support this and then trial, evaluate and improve on these interventions. This is at the heart of the approach we have adopted in the creation and use of the Cloudworks site, which is discussed in more detail later. 18
  19. 19. A review of Learning Design research This section provides a summary of some of the key related learning design research, before focusing specifically on the work undertaken as part of the OU Learning Design Initiative (OULDI). The emergence of Learning Design as a research field Learning Design (or designing for learning) has emerged as a distinct field of research in the last five years or so. It’s origins can be trace back to research at OUNL in the Netherlands and in particular the work of Rob Koper and colleges on the development of an educational modelling language and the 1 emergence of a new IMS standard for Learning Design (Koper & Tattersall 2005). However the field has since broadened from this relatively narrow technical scope to encompass a much broader field of research, which is concerned with the development of tools, methods and resources for helping practitioners design educational offerings more effectively, with a desire to ensure good pedagogical practice and to encourage great uptake and innovation in the use of technologies for learning and teaching. Cross and Conole (2008) provide a simple overview of the field and also see Beetham and Sharpe, 2007 and Lockyer et al. for recent edited collections on the field (Helen Beetham & Sharpe 2007); (Lockyer et al. 2008)). As Conole argues (Grainne Conole 2010): New technologies have the potential to enhance the student learning experience significantly; offering new ways in which students can communicate and interact with each other and with their tutors. However, the shear variety of new technologies available now is bewildering. Those tasked with designing the learning experience need new forms of guidance to take advantage of the affordances of new technologies and to make pedagogically informed design decisions. Learning design as a research field has emerged in the last five years, as a methodology for both articulating and representing the design process and providing tools and methods to help designers in their design process (see Beetham and Sharpe, 2007; Lockyer et al., 2008 edited collections). The field emerged because of a realisation that there is a gap between the potential of technologies for learning and their actual use in practice (Conole, 2008a). Conole, Oliver et al. (2007) have argued that this gap between the potential of technologies to support learning and the reality of how they are 1 See for more on the IMS LD specification 19
  20. 20. actually used and that this is due to a lack of understanding about how technologies can be used to afford specific learning advantages and to a lack of appropriate guidance at the design stage: Practitioners have a multitude of learning theories that guide the development of learning activities…. In addition, … there is a rich variety of ICT tools that can be used to support the implementation of these. Despite this, the actual range of learning activities that demonstrate specific pedagogic approaches (such as constructivism, dialogic learning, case- or problem- based scenarios, or socially situated learning) and innovative use of ICT tools is limited; suggesting that practitioners are overwhelmed by the plethora of choices and may lack the necessary skills to make informed choices about how to use these theories. (Conole, Oliver et al., 2007:101) Teachers lack the necessary skills to make informed judgements about how to use technologies and are bewildered by the possibilities. In a series of interviews with teachers, focusing on their design practices, we gained a richer understand of existing design practice (Cross et al., 2008). What is evident is that design is a creative, messy and iterative process. Teachers rely heavily on prior knowledge and experience in their design practice and rarely followed any kind of formal design method process. This isn’t problematic in situations where the teachers are working within known parameters, but is problematic when they need to derive new designs within an increasingly complex learning context, where there is an almost infinite number of resources and tools they can draw on. Indeed closer scrutiny of a learning activity reveals that it is made up of a significant number of sub-components, which need to be considered in the design process (Conole, 2008). These include the type of pedagogy being used, the context in which the learning activity will be enacted, the types of intended learning outcomes associated with the activity, the nature and number of tasks to be undertaken by the learner, the associated tools and resources they will use and any formative or summative assessment. Furthermore each of these sub-components have inter-dependencies; the kinds of pedagogy chosen will influence the tasks undertaken by the student; different tools have different affordances and will influence the learning experience, assessment is often a key driver in learning and hence the nature of the assessment has a significant influence on the way in which the learner will engage with the learning activity. The term ‘Learning Design’ in this broader connotation has been adopted in 20
  21. 21. particular by researchers in the UK, but also researcher work emerging out of Australia. It emerged, in part as a means of address the perceived gap between the potential of technologies and their actual use in practice. This gap is due to a range of inter-connected issues including technological (immature tools, lack of interoperability etc.), organisational (barriers and enablers to uptake, cultural barriers) and pedagogical (lack of understanding of how to apply esoteric educational models or frameworks). More often than not, designers do not have the appropriate expertise in advance design methods or a deep understanding of the potential affordances of technologies and hence tend to primarily adapt existing practice. Case studies and other forms of guidance often do not provide much help, as they are often not presented in a format suited to the designer’s particular needs at that moment in time. Learning design research may provide a means of addressing these issues by providing a structured methodology for guiding the design process. It is seen as adopting a more holistic, ‘whole learning and teaching’ perspective, than the related field of enquiry on instructional design, which tends to be targeted more on the production of materials. Six reasons why adopting a learning design approach might be beneficial were identified (Conole, 2009): 1. It can act as a means of eliciting designs from academics in a format that can be tested and reviewed 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 new learning activities. 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. 21
  22. 22. Learning Designs seeks to design taking account of the whole learning experience and has an emphasis on activity-based rather content-based design. JISC supported a programme ‘Design for learning’: The vision for the Design for Learning Programme, was to bring the technical development and the effective practice strands of JISC e-Learning Programme together, ensuring that the conceptual and practical implementation of 'design for learning' is informed by what is known about effective pedagogic practice. ( .aspx) An important related term to Learning Design is the concept of a Learning Activity (Conole, G. 2008). Learning activities are those tasks that students undertake to achieve a set of intended outcomes. Examples might include: finding and synthesizing a series of resources from the web, contributing to a ‘for and against debate’ in a discussion forum, manipulating data in a spreadsheet, constructing a group report in a wiki or summarizing the salient points of a podcast. Beetham (in Beetham and Sharpe 2007) views learning activities in relation to the design process: as a specific interaction of learner(s) with other(s) using specific tools and resources, orientated towards specific outcomes. (Beetham and Sharpe, 2007: 28) Conole provides a detailed description of the components that make up a learning activity (Conole, 2008; see also Appendix One) and argues that: Learning design refers to the range of activities associated with creating a learning activity and crucially provides a means of describing learning activities. Agostinho (2006) describes it as ‘a representation of teaching and learning practice documented in some notational format so that it can serve as a model or template adaptable by a teacher to suit his/her context’. Learning design provides a means of representing learning activities so that they can be shared between tutors and designers. For example this might consist of illustrating learning activities in an easy to understand way (as a diagram and/or text) so that they can be a) shared between a teacher and a designer, b) repurposed from one teacher to another, c) serve as a means of scaffolding the process of creating new learning activities or d) provide the tools for practitioners to capture their innovative practice in a form that is easy to share so that they have ownership of the problem and solution. Such a scaffold might be in the form of an online tool to provide support and guidance to a teacher in the steps 22
  23. 23. involved in creating a new learning activity – including tips and hints on how they might use particular tools. The JISC Designing for Learning provides a useful synthesis of the JISC- funded research projects and developments around learning design at that time in the UK ( Beetham provides a concise summary of the programme (H. Beetham 2008) and provides the following summary of lessons learnt from it: • Design for learning practices are very variable, depending on departmental and personal preferences and historical precedents • Educational design tools are rarely experienced by practitioners as pedagogically neutral or as flexible enough to accommodate their existing practice • There is a need for tools that support collaborative design, contingent/responsive design, and effective sharing of design processes and outcomes • Consultation with practitioners about the best ways of representing and sharing designs found conflicting demands for rich, narrative representations that could articulate complex educational intentions and outcomes, and for contextualised, bite-sized representations (e.g. learning objects, toolkits) that could readily be recontextualised and re-used • There is a need for focus on people and processes if design practice is to be transformed • Effective interventions in the educational process are likely to be: accessible, adaptable, contextualised for and owned by communities of practice, developmental (oriented towards professional learning), focused on designing for learning. • Models of teaching/learning can be broadly classified as associative, constructive (individual focus) constructive (social focus) and situative: approaches to design for learning can be mapped against these models Building on this programme, JISC are currently supporting a related set of activities around Curriculum Design: As part of their Curriculum Design 23
  24. 24. programme, 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 production of core programme/module documents such as a course/module description, validation documents, prospectus entry, and course handbook. This process 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?' Approaches to sharing and promoting good practice If you ask teachers what they would find most helpful for them to make better use of technologies to support their practice, the answer is invariably ‘give me some examples (in my subject area preferable)’. Over the past ten years or so a wealth of resources have emerged to support teacher practice. This review cannot hope to provide a comprehensive overview of this and instead will focus on providing an illustrative range of types of resources, as well as some examples of relevance to learning design. The resources are divided into four main types: • Learning objects • Case studies • Open Educational resources • Support centres and professional communities Learning objects Learning objects as a term gained prominence in the nineties (Wiley & others 2002) (Littlejohn 2003). The exact definition of a learning object is somewhat disputed (Polsani 2003) but for the purposes of this review it is termed ‘a digital resource which has some element of intentional learning associated 24
  25. 25. with it’. The MERLOT database is probably one of the earliest available on the web ( Learning object repositories gained prominence over the nineties with the emergence of both institutional and national-level repositories, examples include: JORUM (, WISC- online (, and GEM ( (GLOBE ( provides a meta-search facility across other learning object repositories. The Reusable Learning Object CETL (http:// has a specific focus on the development and use of learning objects. They have developed a comprehensive RLO repository, along with a set of more generic templates that can be adapted. They have also produced a tool for authoring learning objects, GLO maker ( Case studies Teaching by nature is a narrative-based profession, we learn through dialogic exchange with others, through sharing stories. Therefore the use of examples of good practice has always been an important part of teacher professional practice. It’s use in an educational technology context can be traced back to the nineties when it was realised that the web offered an excellent medium to capture, categorise and share good practice. Harvey et al., describe the evaluation of three projects in the min-nineties aimed at supporting and enhancing teacher practice (Harvey et al. 2002). One of these, SoURCE, focussed on the development and population of a series of case studies of teacher practice ( The project gave considerable consideration to appropriate metatagging of the entries and each was based on a case study template and contributors were encouraged to participate via a fee. The vision behind SoURCE was to develop a national-level library of case studies and although in many respects the work was ahead of its time, it was an indicator of future developments as there are now a plethora of repositories of good practice, examples include: the OTIS repository of case studies (, the e-learning centre library of case studies (, and the series of effective practice guides and case studies produced by JISC which synthesise key features across their development programmes 25
  26. 26. ( e.aspx). More specific examples for learning design include: the AUTC learning design website ( e.aspx) and the World Bank Institute has a website which includes a set of tools for learning design, these include tips and hints, a FAQ list and a series of associated resources ( e.aspx). Open Educational Resources The concept of ‘learning objects’ has on the whole been replaced in recent years by the term ‘Open Educational Resources’ (OER). Crudely the main different is the inherent indent that these resources should be made freely available and there is now a well-established international community of those interested in producing, using and researching OER. Commission by the Hewlett foundation, Two key reports provide a comprehensive review of the development of the OER movement, describing many of the major initiatives in the field and some of the key achievements (Atkins et al. 2007) (Hylén & Schuller 2007). Iiyosh, Kumar and Seely Brown (2008) through an edited collection, consider the wider notion of ‘openness’ and what it might mean in an educational context (Iiyoshi & Kumar 2008). As with learning objects the exact focus of the term is contested, but for the purposes of this report the OECD definition will be used: digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self- learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning and research (OECD, 2007:133). MIT, with their OpenCourseWare initiative ( are credited with being the first university to declare that they were going to make a significant amount of their content freely available, resulting in a swath of rhetoric about the importance and potential of OER (Caswell et al. 2008) (M. S. Smith & 26
  27. 27. Casserly 2006). In 2006 the Open University, UK followed suite with its OpenLearn initiative ( Funding and support for these types of initiatives has been support in particular by the William and Flora Hewlett foundation and also OECD and UNESCO. More recently, the UK, the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) have initiated a large-scale call on the development of OER, building on existing initiatives such as JORUM and OpenLearn. According to OECD (2007) over 300 universities worldwide are engaged in the development of OER with more than 3000 open access courses. There are numerous initiatives and consortia involved in this area; examples include: the OpenCourseWare consortium ( The China Open Resources for Education (CORE) consortium ( ), the Japanese OCW Consortium. ( ), the ParisTech OCW project. ( and the Irish IREL-Open initiative (http:// Support centres and professional communities The final category I want to touch on is the emergence of support centres and professional communities that have a specific role to provide advice and guidance to teachers on using new technologies. The variety of organisations and initiatives that have at least a partial remit concerned with ICT in education is extensive so this section intends only to give a flavour of some of the examples. Although the names differ, many institutions at tertiary level now have individuals or indeed centres that cover this remit (educational technologists, instructional designers, educational developers, learning technologists, etc.). At the school level it is common to have an ICT appointed coordinator responsible for ICT policy development, who often acts as the point of contact for ICT developments in the school. In addition many countries also have national level centres or organisations. In the UK BECTA is the agency 27
  28. 28. responsible for covering ICT developments in Schools and Further Education Collages, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) covers the tertiary sector. Both organisations commission research studies and projects related to the use of technology in education, host events and seminars and in the case of JISC provide a number of support centres and advisory services. The HE academy in the UK also has a strand of ICT-related activities, as well as a series of 24 subject support centres. In America there are a number of professional organisations, which promote and support both research and practitioner activities in the field. These include Educause (, the Sloan Foundation ( and AECT ( In the UK there is a professional body called ALT (, and in Holland an equivalent organisation SURF ( combines many of the functions of ALT and JISC. ASCILITE ( in combination with the ALTC-exchange ( performs a similar function in Australasia. In mainland Europe through the framework programmes in particular there have been a range of networks and initiatives, the most recent is STELLAR (, a network of excellence that sets out to strengthen the capacity in technology-enhanced learning research across Europe. In addition IPTS ( is one of seven scientific institutes across Europe, which produces reports and policy perspectives on ICT in education. In addition it is worth mentioning that a number of projects and initiatives have specifically focused on support community build. Examples include LeMill ( a web community for finding, authoring and sharing Open Educational Resources, European Schoolnet ( which aims to show how information and communications technology (ICT) can support change in teaching and learning, teachernet ( an education site for teachers and school managers, teacher TV ( a video channel for teachers and Web 2.0 for teachers ( a web site of tools and resources for teachers. 28
  29. 29. Representations One of the fundamental issues in learning design research is how to represent the curriculum; what representations might be useful, for what purposes and for whom? A major area of activity in the field has been work exploring the different ways in which learning and teaching ‘practice’ can be captured and represented. The JISC Pedagogical Vocabularies project review pedagogical vocabularies in use within the UK post-16 and HE communities (JISC Comms n.d.). As part of this work Currier et al. produced a report on the review of pedagogical vocabularies (Currier et al. 2005), categorising them as: controlled vocabularies (consisting of a “prescribed list of terms or headings each one having an assigned meaning), flat lists (lists the terms without making any relationships between them explicit), glossary (a list with explanations of abstruse, antiquated, dialectical or technical terms), subject headings list (similar to thesauri in that they list terms for indexing resources for the purpose of discovery), taxonomy (monohierarchical classification of concepts), classification scheme (arrangement of concepts into classes and their subdivisions to express the semantic relations between them; the classes are represented by means of a notation), thesaurus (controlled indexing language formally organized so that the a priori relationships between concepts (for example as “broader” and “narrower”) are made explicit), topic map (organized around topics, and each topic is used to represent some real- world thing), ontology (a model for describing the world that consists of a set of types, properties, and relationship types), and folksonomy (allow users to assign their own natural language indexing terms to resources (in this context known as ‘tagging’). The system organises its interface by clustering the terms and/or the tagged resources.) The Mod4L project ( identified a range of representations that practitioners use to present practice (Falconer & Littlejohn 2006). These included taxonomies and matrices, visual presentations (flow diagrams, mind maps), and case studies or lesson plans. They concluded that use is complex and contextualised and that no one presentation is adequate. 29
  30. 30. Representation at the level of learning activity was now fairly well understood, and consensus is beginning to emerge about representations more generally across the curriculum. Conole (Grainne Conole 2010) provides an overview of recent thinking on representations, categorising representations into three levels: the micro-level (referring to learning activities - typically a few hours worth of activity), the meso-level (referring to aggregations of activities or blocks of activities - weeks or months worth of activity) and the macro-level (referring to whole curriculum designs). She then discusses seven common representations across the three levels: 1. Textual summary and keywords 2. Content/topic map 3. The Task Swim-line representation 4. Design method: Pedagogy profile 5. Design method: Principles/pedagogy matrix 6. Component-based map 7. “At a glance’/Course map The first two of these are standard representations that have been used in the design and representations of courses for a very long time. Representations 3-7 however are new representations emerging from recent learning design research. Aspects of these are discussed in more detailed under the section about the OULDI work. In addition see the ‘Describing the Curriculum’ cloudscape on the cloudworks site ( She also argues that representations can have different formats, can be used to describe different aspects of the design lifecycle. Firstly representations can be based on different formats. These can include different types of text- based representations (e.g. case studies or narratives), visualisation representations (e.g. node-link types representations, design schema or metaphorical), numerically focussed (e.g. pie or bar charts based on underlying numerical data), representations based on other forms of media (e.g. audio or video) or representations can be a combination of the above. 30
  31. 31. Secondly, representations can occur at different levels. Designs can describe small-scale learning activities (which might describe a few hours worth of learning) or scale up to a description of a whole curriculum (across a three- year undergraduate degree course or a one-year masters course). Thirdly, representations act as filters or lenses foregrounding or hiding particular aspects of the design. For example, the focus might be on the nature of the tasks being undertaken and associated tool and resources, on the overarching pedagogical principles, mapping different components of the design or relating to specific data (such as financial or student performance data). Toolkits and pedagogical planners Not surprisingly a significant amount of interest has been around the development of tools to instantiate learning design. These range from those closely aligned to the more technical IMS LD specification to those that are more focussed on providing support and guidance to practitioners in terms of informing their design decision processes. A selected are described here; focus on those that give an indication of the range of types of tools and including those that have been used and reference to a significant degree. Britain provides a useful overview of Learning Design focusing primarily on the more technical use of the term and associated tools (Britain 2004). Britain provides a useful comparison of the tools available at the time for implementing IMS LD. These included: include CopperCore, Reload, EDUBOX, LAMS (see below), EduPlone, and Lobster. For the purpose of this review the focus is more on the user-orientated tools for guiding learning design practice, and specific examples are described in more detail below. One of the earliest examples of a tool for supporting learning design was the visual tool, LAMS (Learner Activity Management System). It is described as: LAMS is a revolutionary new tool for designing, managing and delivering online collaborative learning activities. It provides teachers with a highly intuitive visual authoring environment for creating sequences of learning activities. These activities can include a range of individual tasks, small group 31
  32. 32. work and whole class activities based on both content and collaboration ( Two distinct advantages of LAMS are i) it’s visual interface – which enables a practitioner to sequence the learning activities the students are going to do, ii) that it is a fully functionally runtime environment. A limitation of the LAMS system is that because it is a runtime environment the core objects a designer manipulates are tool-focussed and hence do not take account of the fuller set of factors that need to be considered when design a learning activity (the pedagogical approach, the learning outcomes, the types of tasks the students will undertake, etc.). Nontheless the LAMS system has attracted considerable interest and has a worldwide community of users. Another early example of a tool that was designed to guide practitioner practice was the Dialogplus toolkit (Conole and Fill 2005, Fill, Conole and Bailey forthcoming, Bailey et al., 2006). It was designed to provide the user with support and guidance, so that they adopt a more reflective approach to design and hence produce more pedagogically informed learning activities. The toolkit is underpinned by learning activity taxonomy (Conole, 2008) that consists of three main components: • The context within which the activity occurs; this includes the subject, level of difficulty, the intended learning outcomes and the environment within which the activity takes place. • The pedagogy (learning and teaching approaches) adopted. These are grouped into three categories – associative (acquisition of skills through sequences of concepts/tasks and feedback), cognitive (construction of meaning based on prior experience and context) and situative (learning in social and/or authentic settings). • The tasks undertaken, which specifies the type of task, the (teaching) techniques used to support the task, any associated tools and resources, the interaction and roles of those involved and the assessments associated with the learning activity. In particular the types of tasks which a student might do as part of the learning activity 32
  33. 33. are described in detail and grouped into six categories; assimilative (attending and understanding content), information handling (e.g. gathering and classifying resources or manipulating data), adaptive (use of modelling or simulation software), communicative (dialogic activities, e.g. pair dialogues or group-based discussions), productive (construction of an artefact such as a written essay, new chemical compound or a sculpture) and experiential (practising skills in a particular context or undertaking an investigation). Figure 1 shows a screen shot from the toolkit. Users are guiding through the components of a learning activity that they need to consider. These include generic details such as subject, level of difficult, pre-requisites, teaching and learning methods and environments. They then describe in detail the sequence of tasks associated with particular learning outcomes. A disadvantage of the tool is that the interface is not very intuitive and to be really useful it needs more expansive help and guidance resources. In addition, the linear nature of the design of the toolkit does not align with real teacher-design practice, which is messy, iterative and intuitive. Figure 1: Screenshot from the DialogPlus toolkit As part of the JISC ‘Designing for learning’ programme, two pedagogical planners were funded: Phoebe and the London Pedagogical Planner. Developed by Liz Masterman et al., Phoebe adopts a similar approach to DialogPlus by attempting to provide a comprehensive online resource of tips 33
  34. 34. and hints to support decision making. It is wiki-based and provides a valuable set of guidance’s on the different components of a learning activity. The following text available from the JISC website provides a summary of the tool ( Intended for practitioners working in FE, HE and ACL, the Phoebe tool brings together the key components of a learning design (or lesson plan), prompts teachers' thinking, allows them to record ideas and requirements, and makes it easy to cross-reference components as they design the activities that make up a learning experience. It offers both flexible and guided paths through the planning process, and provides access to a wide range of models, case studies and examples of innovative learning designs. Phoebe has similar disadvantages to Dialogplus, in terms of a non-intuitive user interface and a linear, sequential navigational route for the design process. The sister tool, developed by Laurillard et al., the London Pedagogic Planner (LPP) instead adopts more of a modelling perspective through mapping tasks to resources and attempting to align the design with specific pedagogical approaches. It is attempting to adopt a user-orientated approach and plans to integrate the tool with the LAMS tool, described above: This development of the pedagogy planner begins, therefore, with lecturer's needs, in order to bridge the current gap between the technical origins of the 'learning design specification' and the reality of the teaching context. This means it must make use of an existing learning activity design environment, populated with existing support tools, so that collaborating lecturers have the opportunity to test it against their current practice, and engage in further specification of their requirements. Engaging lecturers at the start should help to secure their longer-term involvement and a sustainable product. This iterative approach to user-oriented design should then produce a working model, as well as clear requirements for further development of the learning design specification and its implementation in support tools for lecturers. The modelling approach underpinning restricts to some extent how the tool can be used and the results that are returned. In initial versions of the tool many of the parameters were ‘pre-configured’. The planner also focuses more on helping to plan formal, ‘traditional’ learning activities – with an emphasis on timetabled and sequential work. Both these pedagogic planners and the DialogPlus toolkit consist of a combination of examples and supporting text to guide practice. However, they differ not only in the specific content and examples but also in their underpinning approach. The lessons learnt from the development of Phoebe and LPP are now being taken forward in a new TLRP TEL-funded research project – LDSE (Learning Design Support Environment) ( The project is based on four key assumptions: i) teachers will be required to use progressively more TEL; ii) the teaching community should be at the forefront of TEL innovation, and not cede responsibility to other professionals; iii) the development of new knowledge, in this case about professional practice, should be carried out in the spirit of reflective collaborative design; and iv) the same technologies that are changing the way students learn can also support teachers' own learning in new ways. Computer-supported 34
  35. 35. collaborative learning has long been established as an important form of TEL for students; we believe it is equally applicable to teachers' professional development…. We are working with practising teachers to research, and co- construct, an interactive Learning Design Support Environment (LDSE) to scaffold teachers' decision-making from basic planning to creative TEL design. Pedagogical patterns A closely aligned but distinct area of research is work on the development of pedagogical patterns. As discussed earlier, case studies provide rich contextually located exemplars, which are valuable in that they describe the details of a particular pedagogical intervention. The drawback is that precisely because they are so contextually located they may be difficult to adapt or repurpose. Pedagogical patterns provide a specifically structured means of describing practice building on the work of the Architect Alexander (1979) by presenting the design in terms of a problem to be solved (C. Alexander & Language 1977)(C. Alexander et al. 1977), see for example Goodyear (P. Goodyear 2005) and the Pedagogical Patterns project ( Goodyear and Retalis provide a recent edited collection of research work in the field (Goodyear & Retalis, 2010) and an evolving set of resources and links is available from the Cloudworks site ( In terms of making a more explicit connection between the learning design and pedagogical patterns work, Conole and Jones describe a case study that is represented both as a pedagogical pattern and a visual learning design (G. Conole & C. Jones 2010). More recently, via the Olnet initiative work has been undertaken to explore the connection between linking OER, learning design and pedagogical patterns (Dimitriadis et al. 2009)(G. Conole et al. 2010). There are a number of hypothesis we are testing out with this new work (Figure 2). Firstly, that application of methodologies from Learning Design and Pedagogical Patterns research to the design and reuse of OER may help to increase uptake and use of them. Secondly, that OER have implicit designs and that if these are made explicit, they can be shared (and hence repurposed) more easily. Thirdly, that active representation of the design process through a visualisation tool (like CompendiumLD) that draws on existing resources (such as Open Educational Resource repositories) and 35
  36. 36. design methods (from learning design and pedagogical patterns research) can help guide and inform the design process. The outputs of the design process (an OER and an associated design) can then be shared back into the community via appropriate repositories and social networking sites. Figure 2: Illustration of the design cycle for OER The OU Learning Design Initiative The OU Learning Design Initiative (OULDI) ( started with institutional strategic funding in 2007. The original work focused around two key questions (G. Conole 2009): • How can we gather and represent practice (and in particular innovative practice) (capture and represent practice)? • How can we provide ‘scaffolds’ or support for staff in creating learning activities, which draw on good practice, making effective use of tools and pedagogies (support learning design)? Underneath these top level questions are a number of sub-themes: • Can we develop a new methodology to describe learning activities? 36
  37. 37. • Can we develop a range of tools and support mechanisms to help teachers design learning activities more effectively? • Can we agree a shared language/vocabulary for learning design, which is consistent and rigorous, but not too time consuming to use? • How can we provide support and guidance on the creation of new learning activities? • What is the right balance of providing detailed, real, case studies, which specify the detail of the design, compared with more abstract design representations that simple highlight the main features of the design? Since then, the initiative has been developing a methodology for learning design. The aim is to produce a range of tools, methods and approaches to help teachers make more informed design decisions. Tools produced include CompendiumLD, which is a visualisation tool for design and Cloudworks, a social networking site for sharing and discussing learning and teaching ideas and designs. The work is underpinned by an ongoing programme of empirical work, aimed at getting a richer understanding of educational design processes. Data collected includes interviews, surveys, observations, web statistics, focus groups, as well as gathering data at workshops and other events we run. The empirical data informs the three main strands of our work: representing pedagogy, guiding the design process and facilitating the sharing and discussing of designs. Conole (2009) describes the origins of OULDI. Conole, Brasher et al. (2008) describe CompendiumLD and how it can be used to help make designs more explicit. Conole and Culver (2008) describe the design and evaluation of the Cloudworks site. Related to this work is the OLnet initiative (, which aims to provide a global network of support for researchers and users of Open Educational Resources (OER). An important strand of OLnet’s work is to apply learning design and pedagogical patterns research to an OER context. Initial findings from this work are described elsewhere (Conole and McAndrew, 2009; Dimitriadis et al., 2009; Conole et al., submitted). 37
  38. 38. In terms of the OULDI research work, we define learning design as: A methodology for enabling teachers/designers to make more informed decisions in how they go about designing, which is pedagogically informed and makes effective 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. 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. The OUDLI methodology We are adopting an iterative methodology focusing on two areas of activity in parallel: a) capturing and representing practice - through user consultation and case studies and b) supporting learning design – by gathering relevant resources and ideas about design, through the development of online tools for visualising and guiding design and through a series of associated workshops offering participants the opportunity to explore the resources and tools we have developed. Our approach to the development of a learning design methodology is characterised by four overarching principles: • Development of a Learning Design (LD) methodology to help guide teachers in the creation and reuse of learning activities • Identification of appropriate scaffolds to support the design process and mechanisms for deploying these through appropriate channels (which might include staff development guidelines, LD workshops or 38
  39. 39. integrated help within an adaptive LD tool) • Articulation of different forms of representation to articulate the design process • Development of a shared language and set of representations for learning activities so that individuals or small teams can discuss and share ideas or interrogate repositories of good practice and case studies. Empirical evidence has included the collection of user requirements, case studies, in-depth interviews, evaluation of workshops and focus groups and in-depth evaluation of holistic course design. Forty-four case studies were captured through in-depth interviews with course leaders. The focus was on the pedagogies used to achieve specific learning outcomes and the use of tools (blogs, wikis, e-assessment, etc.) to support learning activities (Wilson, 2007). A structured template was used to capture the case studies and guide the interviews, this was derived from a previously developed learning activity taxonomy (Conole, 2007), which articulates the different components of a learning activity. Interviews were semi-structured around a number of core themes: contextual data (level, subject, etc.), details about the learning activity being described and the sub-tasks involved, pedagogical approaches adopted, and barriers and enablers to the creation of the activity (both technical and organisational). Interviews were transcribed and thematically analysis; a visual representation of the learning activity being described in each case study was produced, along with a narrative case study account based on the structured template. These diagrams and narratives were then validated with each interviewee and collated into an internal website. More recently we have carried out a series of interviews with teachers/designers to gain a better understanding of the ways in which they go about designing learning activities. We deliberately choose to interview a wide range of teachers - from those who have shown an explicit interest in adopting a learning design approach to those who have to date experimented to only a limited (or in some cases no) degree with using technologies. 39
  40. 40. Whereas the case studies Wilson gathered focused on tools in use, the interviews with teachers were more concerned with the process of design. The interview focussed around five themes: How do teachers go about the process of design? How do they generate ideas and what kinds of support do they use? How do they share their designs with others? What are the barriers to design? How do they evaluate their designs? The interview protocol is given in the appendix. Interviewees were selected to give a representative sample across: subject disciplines, level of experience of use of technologies for teaching and learning, experience of using CompendiumLD, and covered a range of levels of expertise in teaching. Data collection occurred over a three-month period. Each interviewee was initially approached by email and then a time was chosen for the face-to-face interview. The interviews lasted around an hour and were transcribed and were analysed for emergent themes and compared with the data collected from the case studies. Cross et al. describe the early results of analysis of this data (Cross, et al., 2008). Analysis focused initially on looking for relevant data around the five main themes of the interviews outlined above. Interviews were read and reread and emergent themes identified, and then later consolidated, representative quotes were selected. CompendiumLD – a tool for visualising designs One of our core software tools to date is a tool for visualising designs, CompendiumLD (See Figure 3). This is an adaptation of an existing mindmapping/argumentation tool developed by KMI in the OU UK (Compendium). Brasher et al. (2008) provide more detailed information on the tool and associated technical development; only the salient features are described here. 40
  41. 41. Figure 3: Screenshot of CompendiumLD The existing tool offered a good basis on which we could work with and a robust working prototype with which to try our thinking on visual representations for design. Compendium supports the creation of a range of visual mapping techniques, including mind maps, concept maps, web maps and argumentation maps (Okada and Buckingham Shum, forthcoming), which we felt offered the potential for a range of flexible approaches to the design process. Compendium comes with a predefined set of icons (question, answer, map, list, pros, cons, reference, notes, decision, and argument). The creation of a map is simple; users drag icons across and drop them onto the main window thus creating a node. Relationships between the nodes are built up by dragging between nodes thus creating a connecting arrow. Each node 41
  42. 42. can have an associated name attached and displayed; if a more detailed textual description is associated with the node an asterisk appears next to the node. If the user hovers their mouse over this the content inside the node is revealed. Other types of electronic files can also be easily incorporated into the map such as images, Word files or PowerPoint presentations. The reference node enables you to link directly to external websites. Icons can also be meta-tagged using either a pre-defined set of key words or through user generated terms. Maps can be exported in a variety of ways from simple diagrammatic jpeg files through to inter-linked websites. Compendium provides a utility by which users can create and share new sets of icons, for use as nodes. These sets, know as 'stencils', contain 'items' where an item defines certain properties of a potential node such as its image icon and label. In the standard version of Compendium, each item inherits the behaviour of one of the standard node types. These standard node types are node which has an icon, text label and other descriptive textual information, link node which links from a node to another node, and view which is a collection of nodes and can be displayed either as a map or a list. There are several different mechanisms by which a user can interact with nodes. These include drag and drop (e.g. to instantiate a node as described in the preceding paragraph), double-clicking (e.g. to display and edit details of a node including its text), right-clicking (to display a menu offering actions and operations to apply to the node), left-click (to select a node, or allow other menu driven operations to be executed on the node). We adapted Compendium to make it more explicit in terms of its use for learning design and this version of the tool is referred to as CompendiumLD – it includes additional functionality such as tailored LD stencil sets and in situ help. In CompendiumLD, behaviour specific to learning design has been implemented for these modes of interaction as explained in the next few paragraphs. The following text describes recent developmental work for CompendiumLD. It is adapted from text provide by Andrew Brasher (lead technical developer for CompendiumLD) for a recent OULDI report. 42