Analytics and #moocmooc

This is my final post on my experiences of the #moocmooc course that ran last week, and I want to share a few of my reflections on the role of analytics (and in this case learning analytics), primarily from my experiences as a learner on the course. I should point out that I have no idea about the role of analytics from the course teams point of view, but I am presuming that they have the baseline basics of enrollment numbers and login stats from the Canvas LMS. But in this instance there were no obvious learner analytics available from the system. So, as a learner, in such an open course where you interact in a number of online spaces, how do you get a sense of your own engagement and participation?

There are some obvious measures, like monitoring your own contributions to discussion forums. But to be honest do we really have the time to do that? I for one am quite good at ignoring any little nagging voices saying in my head saying “you haven’t posted to the discussion forum today” :-) A little automation would probably go a long way there. However, a lot of actual course activity didn’t take place within the “formal” learning environment, instead it happened in other spaces such as twitter, storify, google docs, YouTube, blogs etc. Apart from being constantly online, my phone bleeping every now again notifying me of retweets, how did I know what was happening and how did that help with engagement and motivation?

I am fortunate, mainly due to my colleague Martin Hawskey that I have a few analytics tricks that I was able to utilise which gave me a bit of an insight into my, and the whole class activity.

One of Martins’ most useful items in his bag of tricks is his hashtag twitter archive. By using his template, you can create an archive in google docs which stores tweets and through a bit of social network analysis magic also gives an overview of activity – top tweeters, time analysis etc. It’s hard to get the whole sheet into a screen grab hopefully the one below gives you and idea. Follow the link and click on the “dashboard” tab to see more details.

Dashboard from #moocmooc twitter archive

From this archive you can also use another one of Martin’s templates to create a vizualisation of the interactions of this #hashtag network.

Which always looks impressive, and does give you a sense of the “massive” part of a MOOC, but it is quite hard to actually make real any sense of;-)

However Martin is not one to rest on his SNA/data science laurels and his latest addition, a searchable twitter archive, I feel was much more useful from a learner’s (and actually instructors) perspective.

Again it has time/level of tweets information, this time clearly presented at the top of the sheet. You can search by key word and/or twitter handle. A really useful way to find those tweets you forgot to favourite! Again here is a screenshot just as a taster, but try it out to get the full sense of it.

#moocmooc searchable twitter arcive

#moocmooc searchable twitter arcive

Also from an instructor/course design point of view you, from both of these templates you can see time patterns emerging which could be very useful for a number of reasons – not least managing your own time and knowing when to interact to connect with the most number of learners.

Another related point about timing relates to the use of free services such as storify. Despite us all being “self directed, and motivated” it’s highly likely that if an assignment is due in at 6pm – then at 5.50 the service is going to be pretty overloaded. Now this might not be a problem, but it could be and so it worth bearing in mind when designing courses and suggesting submission times and guidance for students.

I also made a concerted effort to blog each day about my experiences, and once I was able to use another one of Martin’s templates – social sharing, to track the sharing of my blogs on various sites. I don’t have a huge blog readership but I was pleased to see that I was getting a few more people reading my posts. But what was really encouraging (as any blogger knows) was the fact that I was getting comments. I know I don’t need any software to let me know that, and in terms of engagement and participation, getting comments is really motivating. What is nice about this template is that it stores the comments and the number other shares (and where they are), allowing you get more of an idea of where and how your community are sharing resources. I could see my new #moocmooc community were engaging with my engagement – warm, cosy feelings all round!

So through some easy to set up and share templates I’ve been able to get a bit more of an insight into my activity, engagement and participation. MOOCs can be overwhelming, chaotic, disconcerting, and give learners many anxieties about being unconnected in the vast swirl of connectedness. A few analtyics can help ease some of these anxieties, or at least give another set of tools to help make sense, catch up, reflect on what is happening.

For more thoughts on my experiences of the week you can read my other posts.

*Day 1 To MOOC or not to MOOC?
*Day 2 Places where learning takes place
*Day 3 Massive Participation but no-one to talk to
*Day 4 Moocmooc day 4
*Day 5 Designing a MOOC – moocmooc day 5

Designing a MOOC #moocmooc day 5

It’s coming to the end of the week long #moocmooc course and today’s activity is to design our own MOOC. Once again the course team have encouraged collaboration have used a google doc as collaborative space to share ideas and form ad hoc teams this Google Doc.

I’ve had a fascinating morning exploring ideas, designs, existing courses that people have shared. I really liked this existing wiki “Preparing your online self”,not least because had been thinking along those lines myself. In yesterday’s activity reflecting on what we have learned so far I did say that some kind of check list for both learners and teachers who don’t use social networking, web 2 “stuff” (in particular twitter) would be useful. From my existing network I knew that Grainne Conole had shared an outline for her upcoming Learning Design MOOC, so it was useful to have another look at that too.

I’ve also been thinking more about what I would want as a learner from a MOOC. This week has been pretty intense, and deliberately so. There have been many mentions of the sense of being overwhelmed, and I think there is a natural tendency to want to scaffold and be scaffolded that is really hard to let go of for both a teachers and learners.

In today’s introductory essay “Inventing Learning” Sean Michaal Morris (@slamteacher) wrote:

“I like to imagine that MOOCs are a creative act, almost a sort of composition in and of themselves. They’re a composition that begins with one person or a team of people who design the course; but no MOOC is truly finished until the participants have had their say. To be creative in course design is to be both author and audience. We are the author of the themes and ideas behind the course, and the audience to how students / participants interpret, mold, revise — and what they fashion from — those themes and ideas. This is true in a classroom. This is true in a MOOC. . . Perhaps what frightens us most about MOOCs is the loss of control. In the new model of online pedagogy, the classroom has exploded; or rather, theories of classroom practice . . .”

So I revised my earlier thoughts of producing a pre MOOC MOOC instead I would use the wiki guide highlighted earlier as a suggested pre course activity and came up with this

Mainly because Twitter has proved invaluable this week. I’d maybe expand this slightly by adding: choose a topic, ask some questions, start following people and follow back and instructions that when things started to get a bit overwhelming:

Don't panic button

Don't panic button

If you want to go down the cMOOC route like #moocmooc, then you have to be willing to let go, embrace chaos and interaction, diversions – all the things Dave Cormier talks about in his rhizomatic approaches. If however you want to be a bit more traditional, then the xMOOC model is probably a safer approach. That’s why the big guns have taken that approach. It’s controllable, scalable, doesn’t take staff away from their comfort zone, and isn’t (from the courses I’ve seen so far) really providing any challenging pedagogical approaches.

This may change and I’m looking forward to what the eLearning and digital cultures Coursera MOOC from colleagues at the University of Edinburgh will look like. An outline of their approaches is available here.

But for now, for me it’s back to twitter.

Places where learning takes place (#moocmooc day 2)

So I survived day 1 of #moocmooc, and the collaborative task of creating a 1,000 word essay explaining the history, context and potential and potential pitfalls of MOOCs, worked surprisingly well. Thanks to the people in the group I was assigned to, who took charge and got things done. I’m curating the resources/ recommended readings from the course on Pearltrees and you can see links to all the group submissions in my #moocmooc pearl.

Today’s theme is “places where learning takes place”. Participants have been asked to create a video sharing their views, experiences and share them on Youtube. There there are some really great contributions which have been collated in this Storify.

Now, today has been not quite an average Tuesday for me. We had our almost annual CETIS Scotland meet up at the Edinburgh festival. This was a bit of a family affair too and so we went to see Horrible Histories - which is a very fine live learning experience in itself. Those in the UK will know what I mean – if you’re not from here, check it out for probably the best guide to British history. Anyway I was thinking about where I learn at various points during the day. For #moocmooc, it is primarily online – at the office, at home, on the train – anywhere with a decent 3G/wifi connection. But I do need quite space to contemplate too. This tends to be when I’m walking to or from work, sometimes in my favourite chair with “a nice cup of tea”.

However the level of contribution and activity in this (and any online, never mind “massive” online course) can be overwhelming. In the twitter chat last night a few of us agreed that boundaries were important to help stay focused, and also the ability to not feel overwhelmed by the sheer level of activity is a key strategy which learners need to develop.

It sometimes feels that you’re trying to juggle all sorts of mismatching things, whilst trying to doing three other things at the same time and speak to 200 people you’ve never met before.

This afternoon we stopped off to watch a street performer who ended up ten feet up a ladder, took his kilt off and then juggled three very large (and sharp) knives. All this on cobblestones! Sometimes being in a mooc feels a bit like that. Slight crazy, a bit dangerous, but great fun – particularly when you get good feedback and connect with others.

Anyway here is my little video (I’ve bent the rules slightly but using animoto and not posting to youtube ).

A conversation around the Digital University – Part 5

Continuing our discussions around concepts of a Digital University, in this post we are going to explore the Learning Environments quadrant of our conceptual model.

MacNeill, Johnston Conceptual Matrix, 2012

MacNeill, Johnston Conceptual Matrix, 2012

To reiterate,the logic of our overall discussion starts with the macro concept of Digital Participation which provides the wider societal backdrop to educational development. Information Literacy enables digital participation and in educational institutions is supported by Learning Environments which are themselves constantly evolving. All of this has significant implications for Curriculum and Course Design.

Learning Environment
In our model we highlighted three key components of a typical HE institutional learning environment:
*physical and digital
*pedagogical and social
*research and enquiry

1 Physical and digital
A learning space should be able to motivate learners and promote learning as an activity, support collaborative as well as formal practice, provide a personalised and inclusive environment, and be flexible in the face of changing needs.Designing Spaces for Effective Learning, a guide to 21st learning space design.

One of the key starting points for this series of blog posts was the increasing use of “digital” as a prefix for a range of developments (mainly around technology infrastructure) which seemed to have an inherent implication that the physical environment, and its development was almost defunct. However, any successful learning environment is one where there is the appropriate balance between the physical and the digital. Even wholly online courses the student (and teacher) will have a physical location, and there are certain requirements of that physical location which will enable (or not) participation with the digital environment e.g. device, connectivity, power etc. Undoubtedly the rise of mobile internet enabled or Smart devices is allowing for greater flexibility of physical location; but they also create extra demands in the physical campus e.g. ubiquitous, freely available, stable, campus wide wireless connectivity; power sockets that aren’t all at the back of a classroom?. If students and staff are using and creating more digital resources where are they to be stored? Who provides the storage – the institution or the student? If the former how are they managed? How long do they stay “live”? Can a student access them once they have left the institution? Technology is not free, and providing a robust infrastructure does have major cost implications for institutions. For campus based courses, blended learning is becoming increasingly the norm. Which leads to questions around the social and pedagogical developments of our learning environments.

2. Pedagogical and Social
Vermut has summarized a number of patterns of what he refers to as teaching-learning environments which influence effective student learning . From his analysis of these patterns, and their components he has suggested a set of key features for powerful learning environments:
*They prepare students for lifelong, self-regulated, cooperative and work-based learning;
*The foster high quality student learning
*The teaching methods change in response to students’ increasing metacognitive and self-regulatory skills and
*The complexity of the problems dealt with increases gradually and systematically. (Vermut, Student Learning and University Teaching 2007, )

Of course to create these powerful environments requires a shift in terms of what he describes as “a gradual shift in the task division in the learning process form educational ‘agents’ (e.g. teacher, tutor, book or computer) to students”. This shift creates a culture of increasing self regulation and thinking from students. Curricula are developed with an increasing set of challenges which foster key lifelong learning skills that become common practice for students beyond their formal education and into the workplace. Vermut et al refer to this as “process-orientated teaching” as it is targeted at the “processes of knowledge construction and utilization”.

This style of teaching and learning requires an increasingly complex mix of skills including diagnostician, challenger , monitor, evaluator and educational developer. Technology can provide a number of affordances to create the learning spaces for to allow more self regulation for students e.g. collaborative working spaces, and personal reflective spaces. However, there needs to be support from all levels of the institution to continually provide the wider environment which effectively develops the skills and knowledge to allow this type of student as self regulating researcher culture.

3 Research and Enquiry
There is a growing discourse emerging around effective research practice in the digital age, and the notion of the digital scholar is increasingly recognised. Martin Weller’s recent book “The Digital Scholar How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice” explores key themes around digital practice, and what the increasing role of networks and connections, the disconnect and tensions between traditional and new forms of increasingly self publication platforms and formal recognitions within Universities and the role of open scholarship. This blog post summarises his top ten digital scholarship lessons.

What is crucial now is that institutions and funders begin to recognise and more importantly not only begin to reward these different types of digital scholarly activities, but also ensure that staff and students have the relevant literacy skills to exploit them effectively. Information literacy has been recognised as having an impact on effective research practice, but we would argue for that more research needs to be done in this area to make explicit the link between effective information and literacy skills and effective research and scholarly practice.

There is a growing backlash against traditional academic publishing models which was recently highlighted by John Naughton’s feature in The Observer “Academic Publishing Doesn’t Add “Up”. Open access and open publishing can again be seen as being key to digital scholarship.

Early findings from the JISC Developing Digital Literacies Programme are showing the impact of undertaking a digital literacy audit to enable institutions to define (and therefore develop) their expectations for and to students. There are differences between disciplines which again need to be understood and shared between staff across institutions. Digital literacies are becoming more prevalent in institutional policies, and need to be supported by relevant provision of services and shared understandings if there are to be more than token statements. We think our matrix may play a role in forming and extending strategic discussions.

In the next post we will try and pull together key points from the series so far and the comments we have received and frame these in terms of some of the wider, societal contexts. As ever we’d love to get feedback on our thoughts so far, so please do leave a comment.

*Part 1
*Part 2
*Part 3
*Part 4

Curriculum Design Technical Journeys – part 3

Continuing from my last post, the next part of the programme technical journey focuses on the Cluster B projects: Co-educate, SRC, P3 who had similar objectives in terms of organisational change.

*Project Prod entry

In terms of organisational change, SRC (Supporting Responsive Curricula) is part of larger set of project EQAL which is radically changing the way the MMU provides learning services (in the broadest sense) to its students. Other JISC funded initiatives e.g. the W2C project are connected to this major organisational change, of which SOA approaches is key. Professor Mark Stubbs’ keynote presentation at this years CETIS conference gives an overview of their overall technical approach.

MMU is in the processes “introducing a new curriculum framework, new administrative systems and processes, revised quality assurance processes and new learning systems to transform the student experience” and the SRC project has been at heart of the complete revision of all undergraduate courses, through developing a processes and workflows for a common curriculum database which feeds into a range of other learning services a part of their “corePlus” learning environment provision.

All course module and assessment structures have been completely revised (starting with first year and now extending to 2nd and 3rd). A new course database is now being populated using a common set of forms which provide a common set of tags (including competencies) and unique identifiers for courses which can be used a part of a wider set of “mash up” activities for students to access. When redesigning the course database, extensive stakeholder engagement and mapping was undertaking (using Archimate) in relation to QA processes which formed a key part of the project’s baseline report. A case study details this work and this blog post provides a summary of the new course documentation and QA processes including a map of the new peer review process.

A key part of the project has been to explore effective ways for students to showcase their experience and abilities to employers. A number of systems have been explored and an institutional e-porfolio strategy produced. A decision has now been taken to provide institutional support for Mahara, beginning in September 2013.

In terms of standards/specifications, this being MMU, XCRI is integral to their systems but hasn’t been a core part of the project. Like other projects, the institutional demand for xcri is still not widespread. However members of the team are key to developments around the integration (and thereby extension) of XCRI into other specifications such as MLO and various competency related initiatives.

Now the major technical implementations have been implemented, the team are now focussing on the wider cultural changes, engagement with staff e.g. the development of the Accrediation! Board game which I’ve written about before, and evaluation.

*Project Prod entry

“Coeducate is a cross institutional project that will focus our staff on a re-engineering of the professional curriculum. It will develop new processes and technical systems to support curriculum development and design that start with the needs of the learner and their organisation. This will be negotiated and delivered in partnership and with full recognition of in-work and experiential learning.”

Coeducate, has taken an the almost opposite approach to MMU in terms of a top down approach to creating and managing new courses. They have connected their SITS database with their new Moodle installation see this blog post for an overview, but unlike MMU do not have a set of course templates, or the same level of automatic course population. Instead, staff now have more flexibility in terms of creating courses suited to their specific needs, as this post and linked documentation describes. The IDIBL framework has also been developing as template for course creation, however the institution has developed an alternative undergraduate curriculum framework. The team have also produced a report on approaches to developing open courses, which again should provide a useful staff development resources.

Following this more bottom up approach, the team have also instigated an series of innovation support network seminars and produced a set of online resources (housed in Moodle) to support staff as new institution validation process are being introduced. Like so many of the projects being caught up in a sea of other institutional change initiatives that aren’t as tightly coupled as MMU, the project has focused effort on providing support to staff to guide them (and in turn the institution) through changes such as course revalidation. The project has been able to to influence and inform institutional strategy to initiatives such as course revalidation through some light weight data analysis of the VLE in terms of course structure, numbers and types of assessment etc.

Over the past year, the team have also been exploring the Business Model Canvas tool in terms of its suitability for learning design planning and/or conceptual modelling. The flexibility of the tool has been identified as a key strength. The team have found other more specific learning design tools such as the LDSE too prescriptive. This post outlines the approach of integrating this tool within Archi (which is being developed by colleagues at the University of Bolton). The tool is currently being trialled with PGCHE students, and again will hopefully provide another design tool for the University and the rest of the community. The team have been using the tool to support staff in course revalidation process, and are lobbying for its adoption into the formal revalidation process.

The team had hoped to do more work on integrating widgets into Moodle for course authoring. However staff issues and a refocus of project priorites has meant that not as much progress on this has been made as originally intended. However, over the last few months the team have been able to build a customisable 8LEM widget (more information and a link to a beta version is available here). The principles outlined in the 8LEM methodology are also the basis for the work of the Viewpoints project, and by the end of this June, it is hoped that there will be at least two versions of the widget available based on the approaches of the Viewpoints project as well as the “vanilla” version.

Bolton has also been successful in gaining funding for one of the JISC Course Data projects and this project will extend work started in Co-educate. The work done through the CoEducate project has help to articulate some of the key requirements for data reporting and practical uses of data collection, including key indicators for retention and drop out.

As with other projects, the challenge for the team is to ensure that the resources and approaches explored and advocated through the project continue to be embedded within institutional frameworks.

*Project Prod entry

“As a ‘hub’ initiative, the project aims to enable the University to join together its various change initiatives around curriculum development into a coherent and radical overall change process, which will ensure all stakeholder needs are understood, identify overlooked problems areas, and provide a sustainable solution . . .”

The Enable project started out with the vision of connecting and enhancing institutional processes. As with all the other projects, senior management buy-in was always a critical part of the project and a Senior Management Working Group was set up to ensure this buy-in. Part of the wider institutional story has been the relatively high number of changes at senior executive level which have impacted the project. The team have shared their experiences around managing change and information processes.

In terms of technologies, as well as being part of the Design Programme, the project has engaged with a number of other JISC funed initiatives. The team have been an early champion of EA approaches and have been involved with the JISC FSD EA practice group initiative. They have piloted TOGAF approaches in an Archimate pilot. Their experiences of using Archi in for their work in external examiners pilot are summarised in this blog post and embedded slides. Phil Beavouir, the developer of the Archi tool has also posted a thoughtful response to this post. If you are interested in EA approaches , I would recommend both these posts.

The team have also been experimenting with a number of different ways to automate their code build, acceptance, testing and deployment processes. These tools and techniques are being adopted and used in other areas now too. Again the team have promised to share more via the blog, in the meantime a summary of the technologies they are using are detailed in the project Project prod entry.

The team have been looking at Sharepoint and, another example of cross JISC programme fertilisation, were able to gain some of the benefits realisation funding for the Pineapple project to experiment with its software. An overview presentation is available here. The pilot was successful, but, at this point in time, no institutional decision on an institutional wide document management system has been made, so no further developments are being introduced in respect of this work.

The team feel that the EA approaches have “enabled” them to define with stakeholders the key areas to be addressed in terms of developing effective processes. And, have found that having “just enough backing” for developments has been effective. Particularly in gaining senior management buy-in whilst Executive decisions are not possible. The project has been able to illustrate potential working solutions to recognised problem areas. They have also been sharing their experiences of EA extensively with the rest of the sector, through presentations at various institutions.

*Project Prod entry

“The Personalised Curriculum Creation through Coaching (PC3) project is developing a framework that places coaching at the heart of the personalised curriculum design. Learners will be able to select provision suitable to their needs, construct an award (or module set), access resources and learning support, and negotiate assessment, with structured support from a personal coach. The PC3 Framework will facilitate this process by developing the necessary processes, documentation, training and technological support, within the context of Leeds Met’s flexible learning regulations and systems.”

Again the PC3 project has been on quite a journey over the past three and and a half years. Changes at senior management level have meant that, whilst not changing the underlying principles of the project of using coaching (as explained in its curriculum model ), the project team have had to adapt some of their anticipated approaches and have experienced delays in decisions around key institutional wide provision of technologies.

A major milestone for the project has been decision to adopt PebblePad as the institutional portfolio system. The team acknowledge that there is still work to be done around the integration of resources in the VLE and in Pepplepad, in terms of the user experience of switching between systems. Perhaps Pepplepad’s planned LTI adoption will help mitigate some of these issues.

The project is now reaping the rewards of their early work in staff development and are now working increasingly to support students, and their use of technology whilst implementing the PC3 coaching methodology. The approach is now embedded into the Sport Business Management Degree programme (see this post for more information) and students are playing an increasingly important role as coaching ambassadors.

Earlier in the project the team had created a number of video based resources around coaching. Now they are supporting students in the creation and sharing of videos as part of their course work and as coaching ambassadors. The team are working with institutional AV staff around developing approaches to creating video resources with students. The project is also planning a conference, where students will be key contributers, and plan to video sessions and make the recordings available as a set of resources.

The team are also seeing increasing use of social media sites such as Facebook for communication and even for running coaching sessions. This has very much been student driven and developments are being monitored with interest.

The team have also been using a number of google products (forms and documents) for sharing of project information and for part of their evaluation by using google forms to collect session feedback.

Where possible, the project are releasing resources as OER. To this end have they have benefited from the experiences of the Streamline project which was funded through the JISC/HEA Academy OER programme. Institutionally there has been a significant development around workflow of OERs with the institutional repository and the JORUM national repository that the project has benefited from. Again another example of cross programme sharing of experience.

So, another set of projects with common aims but very different approaches to organisational change. In many ways, a top down approach as exemplified by MMU may well be the most effective way to gain widespread adoption. However, MMU have benefited from a more stable senior management perspective and have not had to re-articulate their vision to a different set (or sets) of stakeholders during the project lifecycle as some of the other projects have. Engaging staff and students at different levels, as Bolton and Leeds, have done may well be just as effective in terms of seeing real pedagogical change in the longer term. But whatever approach, the importance of modelling and being able to visualise, and develop conversations and engagement has been central.

Dev8ed – building, sharing and learning cool stuff in education

Dev8eD is a new event for developers, educational technologists and users working throughout education on the development of tools, widgets, apps and resources aimed at staff in education and enhancing the student learning experience, taking place in Birmingham on 29 – 30 May.

The event will will include training sessions led by experts, lightning presentations and developer challenges.

Confirmed sessions include:
*Understanding and implementing the IMS Learning Tools Interoperability specification
*Exploring and sharing tool for learning design through a number of design challenges
*Widget store: Sharing widgets and tools to help you design, build and publish your own widgets
*Mashing coursedata xcri -cap feeds
*Node js
*Human Computation related to teaching and learning

All participants will be able to share their own examples, expertise and opinions via lightning sessions, workshops and informal networking opportunities. So, if you have an idea or something you’d like to share, then sign up!

The event (including overnight accommodation) is free to all participants and is being organised by DevCSI and supported by the JISC e-learning, course information, open educational resources programmes and CETIS.

We hope to see many of you in Birmingham in May.

Curriculum Design Technical Journeys: Part 1

This is the first of a series of posts summarizing the technical aspects of the JISC
Curriculum Design Programme, based on a series of discussions between CETIS and the projects. These yearly discussions have been annotated and recorded in our PROD database.

The programme is well into its final year with projects due to finish at the end of July 2012. Instead of a final report, the projects are being asked to submit a more narrative institutional story of their experiences. As with any long running programme, in this instance, four years, a lot has changed since the projects started both within institutions themselves and in the wider political context the UK HE sector now finds itself.

At the beginning of the programme, the projects were put into clusters based on three high level concepts they (and indeed the programme) were trying to address

• Business processes – Cluster A
• Organisational change – Cluster B
• Educational principles/curriculum design practices – Cluster C

I felt that it would be useful to summarize my final thoughts or my view of overall technical journey of the programme – this maybe a mini epic! This post will focus on the Cluster C projects, OULDI (OU), PiP (University of Strathclyde) and Viewpoints (University of Ulster). These projects all started with explicit drivers based on educational principles and curriculum design practices.

OULDI (Open University Learning Design Initiative)
*Project Prod Entry
The OULDI project, has been working towards “ . . .develop and implement a methodology for learning design composed of tools, practice and other innovation that both builds upon, and contributes to, existing academic and practioner research.”

The team have built up an extensive toolkit around the design process for practitioners, including: Course Map template, Pedagogical Features Card Sort, Pedagogy Profiler and Information Literacies Facilitation Cards.

The main technical developments for the project have been the creation of the Cloudworks site and the continued development of theCompendium LD learning design tool.

Cloudworks, and its open source version CloudEngine is one of the major technical outputs for the programme. Originally envisioned as a kind of flickr for learning designs, the site has evolved into something slightly different “a place to share, find and discuss learning and teaching ideas and experiences.” In fact this evolution to a more discursive space has perhaps made it a far more flexible and richer resource. Over the course of the programme we have seen the development from the desire to preview learning designs to last year LAMS sequences being fully embedded in the site; as well as other embedded resources such as video diaries from the teams partners.

The site was originally built in Drupal, however the team made a decision to switch to using Codeigniter. This has given them the flexibility and level control they felt they needed. Juliette Culver has written an excellent blog post about their decision process and experiences.

Making the code open source has also been quite a learning curve for the team which they have been documenting and they plan to produce at least one more post aimed at developers around some of the practical lessons they have learned. Use of Cloudworks has been growing, however take up of the open-source version hasn’t been quite as popular an option. I speculated with the team that perhaps it was simply because the original site is so user-friendly that people don’t really see the need to host their own version. However I think that having the code available as open source can only be a “good thing”, particularly for a JISC funded project. Perhaps some more work on showing examples of what can be done with the API (e.g. building on the experiments CETIS did for our 2010 Design Bash ) might be a way to encourage more experimentation and integration of parts of the site in other areas, which in turn might led to the bigger step of implementing a stand alone version. That said, sustaining the evolution of Cloudworks is a key issue for the team. In terms of internal institutional sustainability there is now commitment to it and it has being highlighted in various strategy papers particularly around enhancing staff capability.

Compendium LD has also developed over the programme life-cyle. Now PC, Mac and Linux versions are available to download. There is also additional help built into the tool linking to Cloudworks, and a prototype areas for sharing design maps . The source code is also available under a GNU licence. The team have created a set of useful resources including a useful video introduction, and a set of user guides. It’s probably fair to say that Compendium LD is really for “expert designers”, however the team have found the icon set used in the tool really useful in f2f activities around developing design literacies and using them as part of a separate paper-based output.

*Project Prod Entry

The project focus has focused on the development and facilitation of its set of curriculum re-design workshops. “We aim to create a series of user-friendly reflective tools for staff, promoting and enhancing good curriculum design.”

The Viewpoints process is now formally embedded the institutional course re-validation process. The team are embarking on a round of ‘train the trainer’ workshops to create a network of Viewpoints Champions to cascade throughout the University. A set of workshop resource packs are being developed which will be available via a booking system (for monitoring purposes) through the library for the champions. The team have also shared a number of outputs openly through a variety of channels including delicious , flickr and slideshare.

The project has focused on f2f interactions, and are using now creating video case studies from participants which will be available online over the coming months. The team had originally planned on building an online narration tool to complement (or perhaps even replace) the f2f workshops. However they now feel that the richness of the workshops could not be replaced with an online version. But as luck would have it, the Co-Educate project is developing a widget based on the 8-LEM model, which underpins much of the original work on which Viewpoints evolved, and so the project is discussing ways to input and utilize this development which should be available by June.

Early in the project, the team explored some formal modelling approaches, but found that a lighter weight approach using Balsamiq particularly useful for their needs. It proved to be effective both in terms of rapid prototyping and reducing development time, and getting useful engagement from end users. Balsamiq, and the rapid prototyping approach developed through Viewpoints is now being used widely by the developers in other projects for the institution.

Due to the focus on developing the workshop methodology there hasn’t been as much technical integration as originally envisaged. However, the team has been cognisant of institutional processes and workflows. Throughout the project the team have been keen to enable and build on structured data driven approaches allowing data to be easily re-purposed.

The team are now involved in the restructuring of a default course template area for all courses in their VLE. The template will pull in a variety of information sources from the library, NSS, assignment dates as well as a number of the frameworks and principles (e.g. assessment) developed through the project. So there is a logical progression from the f2f workshop, to course validation documentation, to what the student is presented with. Although the project hasn’t formally used XCRI they are noting growing institutional interest in it and data collection in general.

The team would like to continue with a data driven approach and see the development of their timetabling provision to make it more personalised for students.

PiP (Principles in Patterns)
*Project Prod Entry
The aims of the PiP project are:
(i) develop and test a prototype on-line expert system and linked set of educational resources that, if adopted, would:
· improve the efficiency of course and class approval processes at the University of Strathclyde
· help stimulate reflection about the educational design of classes and courses and about the student experiences they would promote
· support the alignment of course and class provision with institutional policies and strategies

(ii) use the findings from (i) to share lessons learned and to produce a set of recommendations to the University of Strathclyde and to the HE sector about ways of improving class and course approval processes

Unlike OULDI and Viewpoints, this project was less about f2f engagement supporting staff development in terms of course design, and focused on designing and building a system built on educationally proven methodology (e.g. The Reap Project). In terms of technical outputs, in some ways the outputs and experiences of the team actually mirrored more of those from the projects in Cluster B as PiP, like T-SPARC has developed a system based on Sharepoint, and like PALET has used Six Sigma and Lean methodologies.

The team have experimented extensively with a variety of modelling approaches, from UML and BPMN via a quick detour exploring Archi, for their base-lining models to now adopting Visio and the Six Sigma methodology. The real value of modelling is nearly always the conversations the process stimulates, and the team have noticed a perceptible change within the institution around attitudes towards, and the recognition of the importance of understanding and sharing core business processes. The project process workflow diagram is one I know I have found very useful to represent the complexity of course design and approval systems.

The team now have a prototype system, C-CAP, built on Sharepoint which is being trialled at the moment. The team are currently reflecting on the feedback so far via the project blog. This recent post outlines some of the divergent information needs within the course design and approval process. I’m sure many institutions could draw parallels with these thoughts and I’m sure the team would welcome feedback.

In terms of the development of the expert system, they team has had to deal with a number of challenges in terms of the lack of institutional integration between systems. Sharepoint was a common denominator, and so an obvious place to start. However, over the course of the past few years, there has been a re-think about development strategies. Originally it was planned to build the system using a .Net framework approach. Over the past year the decision was made to change to take an InfoPath approach. In terms of sustainability the team see this as being far more effective and hope to see a growing number of power users as apposed to specialist developers, which the .Net approach would have required. The team will be producing a blog post sharing the developers experience of building the system through the InfoPath approach.

Although the team feel they have made inroads around many issues, they do still see issues institutionally particularly around data collection. There is still ambiguity about use of terms such as course, module, programme between faculties. Although there is more interest in data collection in 2012 than in 2008 from senior management, there is still some work to be done around the importance and need for consistency of use.

So from this cluster, a robust set of tools for engaging practitioners with resources to help kick start the (re) design process and a working prototype to move from the paper based resources into formal course approval documentation.

A Conversation Around the Digital University – Part 4

Continuing our discussions (introduction, part 2, part 3) around concepts of a Digital University, in this post we are going to explore the Curriculum and Course Design quadrant of our conceptual model.

To reiterate,the logic of our overall discussion starts with the macro concept of Digital Participation which provides the wider societal backdrop to educational development. Information Literacy enables digital participation and in educational institutions is supported by Learning Environments which are themselves constantly evolving. All of this has significant implications for Curriculum and Course Design.

Observant readers will have noticed that we have “skipped” a quadrant. However this is more down to my lack of writing the learning environment section, and Bill having completed this section first :-) However, we hope that this does actually illustrate the iterative and cyclical nature of the model, allowing for multiple entry points.

MacNeill, Johnston Conceptual Matrix, 2012

MacNeill, Johnston Conceptual Matrix, 2012

Participation in university education, digital and otherwise, is normally based on people’s desire to learn by obtaining a degree, channelled in turn by their motivations e.g. school/college influences, improved career prospects, peer behaviour, family ambitions and the general social value ascribed to higher education. This approach includes adult returners taking Access routes, postgraduates and a variety of people taking short courses and accessing other forms of engagement.

All of these diverse factors combine to define the full nature of curriculum in higher education and argue for a holistic view of curriculum embracing “ …content, pedagogy, process, diversity and varied connections to the wider social and economic agendas…” ( Johnston 2010, P111). Such a holistic view fits well to the aspect of participation in our matrix, since it encompasses not only actual participants, but potential participants as befits modern notions of lifelong and life wide learning, whilst also acknowledging the powerful social and political forces that canalize the nature and experience of higher education. These latter forces have been omnipresent over the last 30 years in the near universal assumption that the overriding point of higher education is to provide ‘human capital’ in pursuit of economic growth.

University recruitment and selection procedures are the gateway to participation in degree courses and on admission initiate student transition experiences, for example the First Year Experience (FYE). Under present conditions, with degrees mainly shaped by disciplinary divisions, subject choice is the primary curriculum question posed by universities, with all other motivations and experiences constellated around the associated disciplinary differences in academic traditions, culture, departmental priority, pedagogy and choice of content. Other candidates for inclusion – employability skills, information literacy, even ethics and epistemological development have tended to be clearly subordinate to the power of disciplinary teaching.

Course Design
Despite 30 years of technological changes, the appearance of new disciplines, and mass enrolments, the popular image of a university degree ‘course’ has remained remarkably stable. Viewed from above we might see thousands of people entering buildings (some medieval, some Victorian, some modern), wherein they ‘become’ students, organized into classes/years of study and coming under the tutelage of subject-expert lecturers. Lectures, tutorials and labs, albeit larger and more technologically enhanced, can look much as they would have done in our grandparent’s day. Assuming our grandparents participated of course.

Looking at degrees in this rather superficial way, we could be accused of straying into the territory recently criticized by Michael Gove, whose attacks on ‘Victorian’ classrooms and demands for change and ‘updating’ of learning via computers and computer science have been widely reported and critiqued.

Our contention is that Gove and others like him have fallen into the trap of focussing on some of the contingent, surface features of daily activity in education and mistaken them for a ‘course’. Improvement in this universe is typically assumed to involve adoption of the latest technology linked to more ‘efficient’ practices. John Biggs (2007) has provided a popular alternative account of what constitutes a good university education by coining the notion of ‘constructive alignment’, which combines key general structural elements of a course – learning objectives, teaching methods, assessment practices and overall evaluation – with advocacy of a form of teaching for learning, distilled here as ‘social constructivism’. This form of learning emphasises the necessity of students learning by constructing meaning from their interactions with knowledge, and other learners, as opposed to simply soaking up new information, like so many inert, individual sponges. In this view, improving education is more complex and complicated than any uni-dimensional technological innovation and involves the alignment of all facets of course design in order to entail advanced learning. Debate is often focussed by terms like: active learning; inquiry based learning etc. accompanied by trends such as in-depth research and development of specific course dimensions such as assessment in particular.

Whist one can debate Biggs’ approach, and we assume some of you will, his work has been influential in university educational development, lecturer education and quality enhancement over several decades. From our perspective, his approach is useful in highlighting the critical importance of treating course design (and re-design) as the key strategic unit of analysis, activity and management in improving the higher education curriculum, as opposed to the more popular belief that it is the academic qualifications and classroom behaviour of lecturers or the adoption of particular technologies, for example, which count most. The current JISC funded Institutional Approaches to Curriculum Design Programme is providing another level of insight into the multiple aspects of curriculum design.

Connections & Questions
Chaining back through our model/matrix, we can now assert:

1. That strategic and operational management of learning environment must be a function of course design/re-design and not separate specialist functions within university organizations. This means engaging all stakeholders in the ongoing re-design of all courses to an agreed plan of curriculum renovation.

2. That education for information literacy must be entailed in the learning experiences of all students (and staff) as part of the curriculum and must be grounded in modern views of the field. Which is precisely what JISC is encouraging and supporting through its current Developing Digital Literacies Programme.

3. That participation in all its variety and possibility is a much more significant matter than simple selection/recruitment of suitably qualified people to existing degree course offerings. The nature of a university’s social engagement is exposed by the extent to which the full range of possible engagements and forms of participation are taken into account. For example is a given university’s strategy for participation mainly driven by the human capital/economic growth rationale of higher education, or are there additional/ alternative values enacted?

As ever, we’d appreciate any thoughts, questions and feedback you have in the comments.

*Part 2
*Part 3

De-regulation, data and learning design

Data,to coin a phrase from the fashion industry, it’s the new black isn’t it? Open data, linked data, shared data the list goes on. With the advent of the KIS, gathering aspects institutional data is becoming an increasing strategic priority with HE institutions (particularly in England).

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been to a number of events where data has been a central theme, albeit from very different perspectives. Last week I attended the Deregulating higher education: risks and responsibilities conference. I have to confess that I was more than a bit out of my comfort zone at this meeting. The vast majority of delegates were made up of Registrars, Financial Managers and Quality Assurance staff. Unsurprisingly there were no major insights into the future, apart from a sort of clarification that the new “level playing field” for HE Institutions, is actually in reality going to be more of a series of playing fields. Sir Alan Langlands presentation gave an excellent summary of the challenges facing HEFCE as its role evolves from ” from grant provider to targeted investor”.

Other keynote speakers explored the risks, benefits exposed by the suggested changes to the HE sector – particularly around measurements for private providers. Key concerns from the floor seemed to centre around greater clarity of the status of University i.e. they are not public bodies but are expected to deal with FOI requests in the same way which is very costly; whilst conversely having to complete certain corporation tax returns when they don’t actually pay corporation tax. Like I said, I was quite out of my comfort zone – and slightly dismayed about the lack of discussion around teaching, learning and research activities.

However, as highlighted by John Craven, University of Plymouth, good auditable information is key for any competitive market. There are particular difficulties (or challenges?) in coming to consensus around key information for the education sector. KIS is a start at trying to do exactly this. But, and here’s the rub, is KIS really the key information we need to collect? Is there a consensus? How will it enhance the student experience – particularly around impact of teaching and learning strategies and the effective use of technology? And (imho) most crucially how will it evolve? How can we ensure KIS data collection is more than a tick box exercise?

Of course I don’t have any of the answers, but I do think a key part of this is lies in continued educational research and development, particularly learning analytics. We need to find ways to empowering students and academics to effectively use and interact with tools and technology which collect data. And also help them understand where, how and what data is collected and used and represented in activities such as KIS collection.

As these thoughts were mulling in my head, I was at the final meeting for the LDSE project earlier this week. During Diana Laurillard’s presentation, the KIS was featured. This time in the context of how a tool such as the Learning Designer could be used to as part of the data collection process. The Learning Designer allows a user to analyse a learning design in terms of its pedagogical structure and time allocation both in terms of teaching and preparation time, as the screen shot below illustrates.

Learning Designer screenshot

The tool is now also trying to encourage re-use of materials (particularly OERs) by giving a comparison of preparation time between creating a resource and reusing and existing one.

The development of tools with this kind of analysis is crucial in helping teachers (and learners) understand more about the composition and potential impact of learning activities. I’d also hope that by encouraging teachers to use these tools (and similar ones developed by the OULDI project for example) we could start to engage in a more meaningful dialogue around what types of data around teaching and learning activities should be included in such activities as the KIS. Simple analysis of bottom line teacher contact time does our teachers and learners an injustice – not to mention potentially negate innovation.

The Learning Designer is now at the difficult transition point from being tool developed as part of a research project into something that can actually be used “in anger”. I struck me that what might be useful would be tap into the work of current JISC elearning programmes and have one (or perhaps a series) of design bashes where we could look more closely at the Learning Designer and explore potential further developments. This would also provide an opportunity to have some more holistic discussions around the wider work flow issues around integrating design tools not only in the design process but also in other data driven processes such as KIS collection. I’d welcome any thoughts anyone may have about this.

Accreditation! A games based approach to supporting curriculum development

Earlier this week Rachel Forsyth and Nicola Whitton from the SRC (Supporting Response Curricula) Project at MMU led a webinar titled “Models of Responsiveness”. The session focused on the ways the team have been working with staff across the institution around the complex internal and external issues and drivers around developing “responsive” curricula. The project has done a lot of work in developing a model for measuring responsiveness (see screen shot below) and more information on their work around this is available in the Design Studio.

A Model of Course Responsiveness (SRC)

A Model of Course Responsiveness (SRC)

A core part of the SRC project has been around developing ways to engage staff in not only recognising the need for change but also in helping staff (technical, administrative and academic) make changes in an appropriate and timely manner. The team also recognised that certain aspects of the course approval process could be quite dry. So, to try and make a more engaging experience, as well as a series of traditional support materials, the team have developed a board game called Accreditation! which has been designed specifically to increase knowledge of course approval processes.



Working in pairs, players have to move through three zones, and are faced with a series of series of course approval related dilemmas. Five “quality” stars are needed in order for players to move from zone to zone. Although we only had time to look at a couple of the dilemmas during the session, it was clear that they have been based on very real experiences and are great discussion starters.

Of course games don’t appeal to everyone, and Nicola did point out that at a recent conference some players got a bit carried away with the gaming element and just wanted to win. However, I do think that this approach could have a lot of potential to engage and start discussions around the many aspects of curriculum design.

The game has been released under a CC licence and is available from the Design Studio, and if you did want to use it, you could also develop your own dilemmas too. The team are keen to get feedback from anyone who has used it too.

A recording of the very engaging presentation (c. 1 hour in duration) is available here.