Archive for March, 2011

The Learning Design Support Environment and Curriculum Design

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

I am doing a presentation on the LDSE for the JISC curriculum design strand which is also open to others if they are interested.  So if you are, here are the details and how to sign up.

The Learning Design Support Environment (LDSE) Project is 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.  The LDSE captures and represents a user’s learning design (at module and session level), structuring the user input so that it is amenable to analysis (in terms of learning experience and teaching time), and can also be adopted and adapted by others. Key areas the LDSE is investigating include:

  • Forms of representation of learning designs
  • An ontology for learning design
  • Designing at Module and Session levels
  • Importing and adapting an existing design
  • Selecting from existing teaching-learning activities
  • Editing the properties of TLAs
  • Extensive advice and guidance
  • Analysis of teaching costs and learning benefits
  • Sharing specific and generic patterns
  • Exporting a design to an institutional format

This session will provide a tour of the latest version of the LDSE highlighting the features italicised above, and allow time for discussion around the many areas where the interest of the LDSE and the Curriculum design projects  align.  In particular:

1.       How we model principles in educational design – What important principles do you use to support the learning design process?

2.       Guidelines and toolkits for staff – Could the LDSE tools support or work alongside tools being developed by projects?

3.       Joining up systems – Can our inputs and outputs work together? How do we join up institution-level business processes with learning-level design?

4.       Taking things forward – How can LDSE support and inform the work of the CDD programme? And vice versa?


Further information about the LDSE project:

Recording now available at:

OER Workshop

Monday, March 28th, 2011


Last week we ran our first workshop exploring OER use with 9 academics across a variety of institutions.  They were chosen to be practitioners with  little previous exposure to OER – reflecting the starting position for the majority of HE.  This was a very hands on session where we asked participants to look for OER with a particular teaching session in mind (although without precluding the discovery of things they might want to use elsewhere), hoping to understand processes at least somewhat close to actual practice.

It is obviously too soon to draw any firm conclusions at this point, but a few themes that emerged were:

  • Everyone reuses all the time, but not necessarily OER.
  • All aware of issues around copyright – but not always how best to manage them.
  • There is simultaneous more and less out there than you might expect – VERY dependant on what you are looking for.
  • Similarly contradictory evidence around where best to search, for somethings Google is best, others found specialist sources a revelation “why didn’t I know about JORUM before?”
  • The form of OER is vital to how it is reused,  wholesale reuse most likely with video and multimedia you cannot make yourself, textual resources are often used more for inspiration than anything else.
So at the moment just impressions from the day.  We are running our second workshop on the 4th which should provide more data to explore. Image: Reuse / / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Maps for Modern American Novel course now online

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Hi all,

Some supplementary maps for our forthcoming Modern American Novel course (launching 4th May) are now online at

Take a look and enjoy.

Education should make us anxious

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

This is my #500words for the Purpos/ed project:

Firstly I’d like to make it clear that I think the education system in the UK is excellent.

We hold education to be so important that we’ve made it a legal requirement to engage with it and to a large extent any failings in the system are a reflection of larger societal challenges. Education as a system is woven into these challenges but cannot solve them directly. After all we don’t appear to become less greedy and self-serving the more educated we get…

Much of the recent concerns around the sanctity of education are centred on Higher Education, a level so luxurious by global standards that our complaints look like the whining of the over-privileged.  It is a pity that it’s only when the cash stops flowing that we are suddenly keen to discuss what values we stand for. Ironically our debate in this sense has been economically driven.

My view is that education should make us anxious: anxious to discover new ways of understanding and influencing the world.  It should challenge our ways of seeing and force us to question our identities and our positions. Education should disrupt as much as it builds, ultimately teaching how to learn not what to learn. Individuals leaving formal education should be agile in their thinking and equipped with intellectual tools which broaden their choices. They should retain that anxiety and have an understanding of their incompleteness in a less than perfect world.

Ok, it’s easy for me to spout ideological niceties in a blog post so I will step down from my white-collar-Guardian-reading-degree-educated soap box for a moment and ground my thoughts.

Unfinished CC - Piano Piano!

Clearly if anyone is to survive the form of education I have described they will need a helping hand and a nurturing environment. What students want from the education system is generally structured, organised and goal orientated, in essence, ‘formal’.  And yet we understand that today’s students need to be agile, not relying solely on traditional institutional structures.  That sets an interesting challenge for institutional education. How do we provide rigorous structures, those protected ‘spaces’,  whilst equipping our students with the ability live-out the on-going process of being and becoming in a world of constant change ?


This is not a problem to solve but a tension that can be successfully negotiated given a shared understanding of purpose.  The shift towards a market place model of Higher Education has woken us from our stupor and forced us to reassess what we value. Both those who bring structure and those who seek to disrupt can have a common purpose in a system which rightly contains many opposing elements and, much like ourselves as learners, will never be complete.


Enter our competition and join Marcus du Sautoy on a mathematical adventure of the city

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Our cities are filled with buildings, roads, cars, buses, trains, bikes, parks and gardens. They are crisscrossed with power, water, sewage and transport systems. They are built by engineers, architects, planners, doctors, designers and artists.

Our cities are shaped by our environment, our society and our culture. And each and every part is built on mathematics. To reveal the maths hiding in our urban surroundings we have just launched a new project: ‘Maths in the City’. The project is led by Marcus du Sautoy, Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science. Marcus and a team of volunteer mathematicians from Oxford will develop walking tours of Oxford and London taking the public on a mathematical adventure of the city.

Marcus du Sautoy and mathematicians looking at the Bridge of Sighs, Oxford
Bridge over troubled mathematicians

But we need everyone’s help! In April we are running a competition, open to all, asking people to share their mathematical stories of the city. It might be a piece of interesting architecture, mathematical sculpture or the maths behind something more mundane, such as traffic lights. We’re looking for:

• interesting examples of maths in the urban environment,
• clear explanations of some maths you see in your city,
• great demonstrations of your mathematical ideas on the street.



Winning entries will become part of our virtual mathscape of cities around the world and will help Marcus and his team develop their walking tours. And, of course, you can win great prizes! Including:
• a subscription to Nature, kindly provided by Nature Publishing Group,
• best-selling popular science books, including the ‘Last Word’ series kindly donated by New Scientist,
• having a mathematical object named after you,
• and showcasing your entry with other finalists at an event in Oxford in June with Marcus and his team.

Anyone is welcome to enter the competition — young, old, students, teachers, researchers, member of the public, journalists…— and the stories can come from any city across the UK or around the world. The competition is open for entries from 4 April to 3 May 2011 – you can find out all the details, including some ideas to get you started at

Re-using 2 minutes guides

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Last term we added a 2 minute guide to our comprehensive online  support site. This site has always been designed for the least technically confident user imaginable, as we know from our support calls that they are the ones who need the help.  However in  the last couple of years it has become clear that the  majority of our students are competent IT users who didn’t look at our support site because it was too large.  Paradoxically this meant they missed out on the information even a confident IT user really did need –  hence our 2 minute guide.

In developing the guide I decided to take the OER route as surely we were not the first to write such a thing.  The nadir of this process was finding a 2 minute guide as a 5 minute video.  However,  in the end, old fashioned non OER reuse was the solution – I asked permission and paraphrased something someone else in the Department had written.

So an everyday story of pragmatic reuse.  Something I have recently been reminded about both in the context of our OER Impact work and our recent google analytics report which showed that the average time spent on the 2 minute guide page was 2.02 minutes – shall I let the person who originally wrote the content know?

Image: 1305 Seconds / Rob Lockhart / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0