Learning Design at the JISC Online conference

Last week I facilitated the learning design session (with talks from Grainne Connole and Alan Masson) at the JISC online conference.  Overall it was a great experience (if exhausting) and if you have never been before I would recommend it.  As part of my facilitation duties I summarised the discussion for each day,  taking inspiration from Grainne I thought I would share these here, as it acts both as a good starting point for some of the key issues and a source of links to a lot of interesting resources.

Day 1


From the start of the day when Gilly’s keynote highlighted the importance of curriculum design as a way of dealing with the challenges of the future, this session has seen an interesting discussion, which has touched on themes which seem to be emerging across the conference as a whole. The titles below match up to the discussion threads, under each I have tried to summarise the main discussion points and /or highlight links to interesting resources.

Hello and Welcome

Malcolm Ryan introduced us to the work on defining the skills, knowledge and attitudes required by the e-competent tutor http://e-competenttutor.ning.com/. Alan provided a link to the HLM cards which are described in his presentation, along with an indicative recording grid at http://cetl.ulster.ac.uk/elearning/downloadcentre.php .

Gilly’s keynote and design There was a consensus that everyone agreed with Gilly’s vision, but that ther real the question was “how” to achieve this. Alan suggested, “not only do we need to provide support, guidance and facilitation, we need to address quite distinct challenges – reflection, planning, design” Grainne added “getting the balance right of getting people to think differently/out of their comfort zone, whilst also not frightening or overwhelming them” Sheena Banks brought up how methods of production can effect design which led to a general discussion on the need for practitioners to see examples from others – both in terms of outputs but also practice. Grainne mentioned how Cloudworks was designed to support this.

Supporting culture change Richard Everett introduced us to the work they have done at Oaklands College (see S1 for more on this) where the aspect of students contributing to the design process was picked up. Academics, while reluctant at first grew more interested as students showed they had valuable contributions to make. Sarah Knight suggested that the JISC Curriculum Design and Delivery programmes (www.jisc.ac.uk/curriculumdesign and www.jisc.ac.uk/curriculumdelivery) would be interested in knopwing more about this work. Richard uploaded the report written by the lead eMentor at Oaklands http://www.online-conference.co.uk/WebX?233@@.eebe0c9/23!enclosure=.eebec11 . Helen also drew attention to the conclusions from the D4L programme here Helen Beetham, “Resource sharing area” #4, 4 Nov 2008 2:13 pm which concluded there was a difference “between skilled self-directed learning (how learners direct aspects of their own learning as they engage with an already-designed curriculum) and skilled educational design (how learning is designed for a particular curriculum or cohort)”. Alan stated he was making a mind map of the discussion which would try and share before the end of the conference.

Changing culture is due to the physical space as well This thread looked at how physical space can shape curriculum design Richard Everett and Grainne reflecting on their experience , including how very practical constraints can affect things. This discussion also started to consider how virtual spaces and especially VLEs also can shape things, and the need for virtual spaces which are not always about learning (Alan).

Tools to support design This thread discussed the tension between visual and text representations with a consensus that these are useful for different people at different times. Other issues raised were Alan “representations are outputs from a process” which it is also important to capture. Sheena raised the issue of over simplification, with Grainne in response “the minute you represent anything by its very nature you are being reductionist because you cant capture everything about a design in one go” Sheena “how far do you think that learning designs can be reusable/shared?” Helen Beetham mentioned the work from the Source project http://www.eres.ac.uk/source/outcomes.htm (see figure C1) which also identified the tensions around mediating artifacts around design.

Change is due the virtual space too! This strand revisited the issues around the VLE as an artifact which shapes design, and also considered the tensions between a VLE being pedagogically restrictive and it providing “simple, clear guidance which is useful…So again as always we need to adopt a mixed approached tailored to different needs” – Grainne. The Exe tool was mentioned here by Adam Bayliss.

Sharing learning and teaching ideas Grainne introduced Cloudworks “which applies the best of web 2.0 tools and approaches to enabling teachers and designers to share learning and teaching ideas and designs” and Richard Everett mentioned the pack of cards technique they had used at Oaklands

Change is due to the institutional processes too! Alan Stanley raised this important point, and how accreditation proceses tend to look at the subject but rarely at “what do students actually do on this course” which led to comments on this at the micro level from me and Alan reflecting on how they were looking at this in Ulster. It was noted that the JISC funded Curriculum design projects would be exploring this.


 Day 2

While today felt a lot less intense than yesterday, looking at the total number of messages posted we actually had a similar level of discussion. As before the titles below match up to the discussion threads, under each I have tried to summarise the main discussion points raised today.

Change is due the virtual space too! This strand revisited the issues around the VLE as an artifact which shapes design. Michael Vallance raised suggested “We do not limit ourselves to one solution but look at what a number of tools can do, and do well” I raised the ideas that sometimes “we forget how many students (not just academics) value an easy to use integrated environment that lets them focus on the learning not the technology.” The conclusion from Michael was to u”se the best technology available to do the task required … and not seek that all embracing single solution”

Change is due to the institutional processes too! Today this thread talk moved onto ways we have managed to get the learning technologist perspective into the sign off process for course development, especially in terms of negotiating shared course visions. There was also a brief discussion the differences between working with enthusiasts and the mainstream.

Visualization Designs This theme kicked off the day with Grainne introducing the idea of visual v. textual representations generated from tools such as Compendium LD. Grainne linked to http://www.slideshare.net/PerryW/using-compendiumld-to-design-a-learning-activity-435001/ as a step by step guide to creating a learning activity in Compendium LD. Adam Bayliss raised the possibility of Compendium LD for the Mac and Andrew replied he was aiming to have this available by Christmas. EA Draffon introduced a selection of other generic tools. Accessibility was discussed with Andrew Brasher mentioning http://www.Web2Access.org.uk. There was a discussion about text v visual being better for different parts of the design process and Nigel Ecclesfield talked about generic tools that could cope with both modes. I talked about this in relation to the idea of a Phoebe/compendium link up, and also about how the LD tools report had looked at generic tools as well http://www.jisc.ac.uk/uploaded_documents/LD%20Tools%20Report%20v1.1.pdf. We also talked about visual design being better for activities and textual for course level design – although Andrew Brasher had examples of when this may not be the case. Lastly Alan share 3 representations of a design from Ulster and we discussed ways of taking the same data and showing it in different ways, especially in light of how the Mod4L project http://mod4l.com/tiki-download_file.php?fileId=7 identified that most users did not have time to create multiple representations.

Starting day 2 – innovations that really work I started this thread by asking people to share innovations that had really worked. Richard Everett mentioned eMentors (where students teach the teachers to use technology appropriately) eInnovations – a £50K fund that staff (and students) bid into to do something innovative of relevance to the new building, but need culture to allow risk and failure. Grainne mentioned the OU ‘Design challenge’ to get people to design a short course in a day with support various stalls that represented stakeholders such as librarians etc, which raised as a key factor in success. Helen Beetham also mentioned other institutions’ ‘design intensives’ e.g. Brookes, Herts, Leicester. Alan Clarke suggested how Adult and Community Learning has used digital cameras, which led to a discussion of the Molenet project which James Clay was involved in and expanded on. Sarah Knight mentioned the ILT Champions programme for the FE which was reiterated by many, as something that had and was having a long lasting effect on their practice – this years conference is being hosted by James Clay, who shared some podcasts it had created http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=294259336.

Cloudworks Juliette Culver introduced the cloudworks tool www.cloudworks.ac.uk and the latest thinking here http://cloudworks.open.ac.uk/?q=node/363 and Paul Baily suggested tag clouds (of this discussion) as a possible feature.

3 Responses to “Learning Design at the JISC Online conference”

  1. Vincent McGovern Says:

    Hi Marion.

    I don’t know how to contact you other then via this comment. I was observing this JISC online conference when it was running last week. I found it very interesting.

    Having noted your blog on the issues discussed I though I should alert you to a recent (published yesterday) Government report on ‘Online innovation in higher education’ (http://hedebate.jiscinvolve.org/on-line-higher-education-learning/).

    This report is part of a higher education debate which is currently ongoing. It is being posted on the blog (link above) so that interested people or organisations can post their views (whether in agreement or disagreement) on what is said in the report.

    Given the focus of your blog I see that there could be some interest perhaps in the report and recommendations?

    It would be very helpful if you could possibly refer to this report, the HE debate and the opportunities to participate via the blog on a posting of yours as the more people who know about this and the opportunity for them to voice their views the better.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this.

    Vincent McGovern

  2. Marion Manton Says:

    Thanks Vince, I knew about it but had not yet got around to reading this properly. Inspired by you I will check it out.


  3. New to Web Design Says:

    I like your detailed step-by-step guide. very useful indeed 🙂