Openness and learning design

In the last three years or so, the Carpe Diem learning design process has evolved – not only as a result of our own better understanding of it, but also as a consequence of the open educational resources (OER) agenda.

Carpe Diem is a creative, hands-on learning design process for academic course teams. It builds institutional capacity in learning design. It is not a ‘techie’ workshop on how to use certain tools. It has proven to be effective in the design and redesign of face-to-face, online and hybrid programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate levels at over 15 UK universities and internationally. Carpe Diem delivers a blueprint and a storyboard for the course, a set of peer-reviewed and reality-checked e-tivities running online, a model for further development and an action plan. The planner used during the two days is available as an OER under a Creative Commons licence.

Developing a storyboard is at the heart of the Carpe Diem process – it’s collaborative, productive and fun. When we populate the storyboard with content (‘content’ is never our starting point!), participants usually refer to two ‘default sources’ of materials: previous versions of the course and new materials that the course team will have to ‘write’. We then introduce the concept of OER and show a few examples. While some colleagues are now more familiar with OER than three years ago, many have not heard of these resources, the repositories they are stored in or the licences they can be used under. They are often surprised by the amount and quality of open, free material they can access and incorporate into the course, with and without adaptation.

I usually invite course teams to conduct a resource audit under five headings: 1. course materials they already have and wish to reuse (such as materials from previous versions of the course), 2. material from OER repositories ready to use as is, 3. OER they can use with minimal changes, 4. OER that need repurposing before inclusion in the course, and 5. what they need to create from scratch.

The figure below maps curriculum design against OER design and shows the types of enhancement that can be achieved during the planning, development and delivery stages of a course. The top-right quadrant requires significant effort (and delivers accordingly), while the bottom-left one constitutes rapid, ‘opportunistic’ enhancement at a minimal cost.

Designing for openness

Figure 1: enhancing the curriculum with open educational resources

The development of a critical mass of OER worldwide and the awareness that the OER agenda has raised across the higher education sector have been critical levers in the evolution of Carpe Diem as a learning design intervention. Thus, Carpe Diem today does not only meet its original collaborative learning design objectives cost-effectively, but raises awareness of and disseminates OER and open practices across disciplines and institutions.

Dr Alejandro Armellini
Senior Learning Designer
Beyond Distance Research Alliance
University of Leicester

No longer a technology sceptic!

I am a PhD student at BDRA and have been invited to join the regular BDRA blog where this is my first attempt. I chose to come to BDRA to study as I had the opportunity to be involved in the Carpe Diem process initially as part of the ADELIE project and following on from this my employing university became a partner in the ADDER project giving me further opportunity to be involved in Carpe Diem (Armellini and Aiyegbayo 2010).

At my first Carpe Diem it is fair to say I was something of a technology sceptic unconvinced that there was a place for e-learning within Interprofessional Education as I felt it is important for students to meet and interact face to face. I also had failed to recognise how much technology had already crept into me and my family’s life. The Carpe Diem experience really taught me how to develop effective educational resources using an integrated team approach, with skilled facilitators and more surprisingly it helped me learn that technology could be appropriated very effectively not just to deliver learning differently but sometimes more effectively as well.

I am now immersed in the development of educational resources, in helping subject teams develop effective educational resources and in particular Open Educational Resources (OERs) and the impact that these will have on academics, students and communities of health practice. In delivering effective education today it is no longer acceptable to be a technology sceptic and I am excited to be studying in an environment which helps me to understand and add to the knowledge of how technology can be a positive force for future health education.

Ali Ewing

Armellini, A. and Aiyegbayo, O. (2010). Learning design and assessment with e-tivities. British Journal of Education Technology. Vol 41, No 6, p922-935.

A researcherʼs guide to social media

Last Thursday, I took part in a SkillsCamp at the School of Museum Studies. The SkillsCamp was called A researcher’s guide to social media and cultural heritage.

The day-long workshop brought together supervisors, PhD students and researchers interested in how social media (this was given a very broad definition) impacts upon research on cultural heritage.

Following an extremely useful – and illuminating – mapping exercise in the morning, the rest of the day was divided into three main areas: the researcher’s online profile; the Internet and especially the Web as data resource; and finally the methodological frameworks and ethical considerations of ‘researching on the Internet’. Fictitious case studies were use to highlight issues in each area.

The workshop was funded by the Collections Trust, and eight 10,000 word units produced as part of this collaborative project (the universities of Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow were also involved) will be available as fully repurposable OERs from their site early in 2011. These units, which cover topics such as Finding and using digital images and Using your mobile phone as a research tool, also contain teacher plans and notes.

Because the workshop brought together researchers of all ages and with a wide range of experiences (and attitudes), I found the sessions invaluable, even though I was attending as a representative of a research unit rather than as a  researcher. It was clear that the workshop brought to light issues that are prevalent throughout research in higher education.

I intend – with the help of my colleagues – to adapt this SkillsCamp as a Media Zoo offering, to sit alongside the Zoo’s traditional technology workshops and  Ale’s Carpe Diem. In addition to the projects housed in the Zoo (which are focused on new technologies and pedagogies), Beyond Distance also contains the experience of my research colleagues operating within this online environment.

But I don’t see this solely as participants coming the the Zoo to learn new skills from Beyond Distance staff. What really made last Thursday’s workshop useful was that everyone bought something along to the discussion, with debates ranging from the ethics of whether one should carry out an online participant observation study in forums (i.e. starting new threads, etc.) without revealing the motives for participating, to the importance of maintaining a good online research profile for future employment purposes.

Regardless of the discipline, the same questions are being asked, and a workshop such as this is ideal for those still uncertain about the value of the online research environment.

Simon Kear

Keeper of the Media Zoo

Unisa visitors

We’re privileged to be hosting a visit by five South African colleagues this week.

Paul, Peter, Jason, Mpine and Leoni from Unisa are taking part in a series of activities in the Media Zoo, including a ‘compressed’ Carpe Diem and a variety of presentations and workshops led by Beyond Distance colleagues.

Our South African colleagues are planning major changes in their e-learning provision, including developing capacity and exploiting the affordances of new learning technologies. They might even create their own version of the Media Zoo! 

We hope that they take maximim benefit from their visit to Leicester, which has given us the opportunity to learn from the experience of Unisa, one of the largest providers of higher education in the world.

Alejandro Armellini

5 October 2010

Beyond Distance wins international academic e-learning award

IELA certificate

International E-Learning Association: Academic E-Learning Winner

We were all very excited to learn this week that Beyond Distance has won a major international e-learning award as a result of its work on an online course offered by the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Leicester.

The International E-Learning Association (IELA) selected the Dissertation Module as the winner of the Academic E-learning category.

Drawn directly from the Carpe Diem learning design process, the Dissertation Module is part of a highly successful suite of distance learning MA courses in International Relations at Leicester.

The Dissertation Module uses e-tivities – a key component of the Salmon 5-stage model – that incorporate Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs and wikis to scaffold learners towards a structured path to a coherent, interesting and viable dissertation topic.

The adaptability of the Dissertation Module has seen it adopted by other distance learning departments at the university. It is also available as a fully repurposable open educational resource as an output of the OTTER project.

The Dissertation Module is the result of successful collaboration between departments, services and individuals, and illustrative of what can be achieved by drawing upon skills and experience contained within the University as a whole.

Please visit the distance learning pages of the Department of Politics and International Relations for further details on this and other modules on offer. 

Simon Kear
Keeper of the Media Zoo

Seizing more days

The Beyond Distance team has delivered a number of successful two-day Carpe Diems in recent weeks. Three of them have taken place at Liverpool John Moores University, where over 60 colleagues in three disciplines (Health, Psychology and Built Environment) have taken a proactive approach to designing for effective learning and assessment. They explored creative ways of designing e-tivities that capitalise on the affordances of a range of learning technologies. Many of the designs made use of wikis and will be incorporated into the delivery of these programmes from September. In some cases, the new designs are already in use, as part of LJMU’s summer schools.

 At Leicester, colleagues from the Greenwood Institute of Child Health are planning a new distance learning programme in Child and Adolescent Mental Health. They joined us in the Media Zoo for a very productive two days. The Inter-Professional Education team, including colleagues from De Montfort, Northampton and Leicester, also took part in a Carpe Diem to prepare their new Diabetes online module.

Carpe Diem and other Media Zoo activities enable academic teams to design effectively and to deliver smarter. Colleagues learn to maximise the impact of stable and new technologies and ensure that students benefit from these innovations. As more colleagues continue to seize the day, Carpe Diems and Media Zoo activities will continue to ensure sustained enhancement to the learner experience.

Dr A Armellini
Beyond Distance Research Alliance
12 July 2010

Day 5 at the LFF and still going strong…

Monday 11 January saw another series of extremely stimulating discussions at the Beyond Distance online Learning Futures Festival (Registration still open for late adopters who haven’t got on board yet!) We were privileged to have Professor Ian Jamieson, recently retired VC of the University of Bath, and recipient of an OBE in December, as our keynote speaker. He made a heartfelt plea for speeding up the pace of change in the higher education sector, to keep pace with students’ expectations and changing approaches to learning. An interesting side issue for me in this session was the back channel conversation about student satisfaction surveys, and the point that many students express dissatisfaction when they are being challenged or stretched in their studies, but on later reflection may state that exactly those moments were the most transformational for them.

PD Alchemy and Aallyah then led our intrepid Second Life delegates into the virtual Genetics Lab which is being developed by the SWIFT project at Beyond Distance. Unfortunately my avatar (Daffodil Moonwall) had some connectivity problems and so was unable to join in, but according to a couple of cryptic twitter posts, it seems that certain avatars underwent a spontaneous genetic modification during this session. Indeed in the Second Life Campfire session later in the day, Daff noticed that the general level of whackiness of the conversation had reached unprecedented heights – a possible result of whatever experimentation took place earlier in the day?

Returning to the mainstream programme: at noon Alejandro Armellini and Gilly Salmon led a session on “The Carpe Diem journey: designing for learning transformation”. Carpe Diem is the tried and tested workshop process developed by Beyond Distance at Leicester to support academics in using their VLE (virtual learning environment) effectively. Discussion here centred around the ways in which academics had responded to the training, and the transferability of this process to a range of educational contexts.

We were then treated to a fascinating description by Magdalena de Stefani from Uruguay of a blended teacher development project using Moodle for language teachers in provincial and rural areas of her country. Magdalena shared with us a dilemma she faced in terms of whether to view her students as “customers”, with the concomitant notion that “the customer is always right”. She felt that she had perhaps been too “respectful” of her students in this regard, thereby depriving them of some potentially transformational challenges. (This resonated nicely with the issues arising during the keynote address.)

Shiv Rajendran, a co-founder of languagelab.com, stayed within the theme of English language teaching by sharing his experiences in the use of Second Life as an EFL teaching environment. (See Shiv’s blog here.) The trigger for the establishment of languagelab.com in Second Life was Shiv’s online meeting with a German who could not speak a word of English, but learnt sufficient English within two weeks to be able to participate in online games. How did he do it? By playing online games… Some discussion ensued in the session about whether Second Life is a game or not (Daffodil thinks not, but that’s for another blog post), and this conversation continued almost seamlessly around the campfire in Second Life a couple of hours later.

Alan Cann then led a thought-provoking session on Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) and lifelong learning. He described how he and colleagues had taught students to use some basic Web 2.0 tools such as citeulike and delicious for social bookmarking, as well as Google docs for collaborative writing. This fitted in nicely with Stephen Downes’ Sunday keynote on pedagogical foundations for personal learning and Kathreen Riel and Tami Saj’s presentation, Survive and Thrive in a Social Media Workplace – as well as giving us another opportunity to use the great term coined by Matt Mobbs – the “Social Media Brain“.

The final session of the day was about learning support for mobile learning by Beyond Distance’s Samuel Nikoi and Palitha Edirisingha, with reference to the WOLF project. Sahm made sure we ended the day with a bang, culminating his presentation with a rousing call for 24/7 mobile learning support for learners.

Elluminate recordings of all the sessions are currently available to conference delegates in the conference environment (as mentioned earlier – it’s not too late to enrol!) and selected recordings will shortly also be available in the public domain.

Finally, thanks to our conference delegates who have been blogging about the festival:

Ignatia Webs – on Phil Candy’s keynote address last Friday (“Any Useful Statement about the Future Should At First Appear Ridiculous”: Discuss): http://ignatiawebs.blogspot.com/2010/01/lff10-phil-candy-concentrating-on.html, and on Nick Short’s presentation (“Androids in Africa”) http://ignatiawebs.blogspot.com/2010/01/lff10-androids-in-africa-by-nick-short.html

Brendan’s blog on his journey through the labyrinthine google-opoly task: http://malleablemusings.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/google-opoly-at-lff10/

And mickelous who mentions the LFF in his post about Technology in the snow.

Last but not least, thanks to suchprettyeyes for creating a twapperkeeper archive of the tweets: http://twapperkeeper.com/lff10/

Please do post comments here or tweet to let us know if you have blogged about the Festival 🙂

By Gabi Witthaus, 12 Jan 2010

Saying goodbye to our new Finnish friends

Ale wrote several days ago about our ten visitors from Finland. At that stage, we were mid way through  their four-day schedule, which finished officially yesterday afternoon, but unofficially yesterday evening after a pleasant meal in a local pub.

As this was the first time I’d taken part in such a visit  – which included a  two-day Carpe Diem –  in my new role as Keeper of the Media Zoo, I thought it useful to reflect on the experience.

Overall, I believe it was a success for both sides. Our Finnish colleagues assured us that they took away with them a clear idea of what Beyond Distance does, and they certainly seemed to be fizzing with the way they could incorporate what they learned about podcasts, OERs and learning design.

There were also highly appreciative of and complimentary about the project presentations made on Day 1 and Day 4, espcially those by our institutional partners in Psychology and Education.

And as Ale said, we certainly were impressed with both their understanding of pedagogy and what works in teaching, and their comfort with technology. (Within five minutes of opening their laptops on Monday, all ten were happily eating up our wireless network bandwidth with no help from myself or Terese.) It also appears that Finnish HE students are similar to ours in one important respect: they don’t read any of the printed handouts either!

Our new physical Media Zoo stood up well to the task. At one point, it held 18 people very comfortably, with all interaction at a conversational level. The new murals – inspired by the graphics in the Second Life Media Zoo Island – drew warm praise.

But we will be rethinking our proposed layout and the positioning of the technical equipment. In a sense, we were very fortunate to have such a rigorous test of the room prior to any major purchasing decisions being made.

And of course, we made some great new friends. So cheerio for now to Eva, Kristina, Matti, Ritva, Taina, Tuula, Elina, Tiina, TK and of course Irma, who organised the trip so effeciently.

Simon Kear
Keeper of the Media Zoo
13 November 09

Finnish academics visiting Beyond Distance

Ten Finnish academics from Laurea University of Applied Sciences are visiting Beyond Distance this week. Their overall purpose is to learn about our research in e-learning and learning technologies, our projects and our approaches to learning design. A two-day Carpe Diem workshop has been organised as part of their visit.

Our visitors come from a range of disciplines including health care, business and management, tourism, safety and security management, languages and of course, learning technology. They have engaged with our work very enthusiastically, and they have gelled very well as a group – most of them didn’t know each other prior to their trip to Leicester.

Although I was expecting this, I am still surprised by how competent and knowledgeable our Finnish colleagues are in the field of learning technology. For example, all of them were familiar with Second Life, knew what wikis were and how they can be used (in fact, many of them have been using wikis with their learners for some time), and none of them was put off by the ‘complexities’ associated with using learning technology. All fluent users of their VLE (Optima) and very relaxed about Web 2.0… this compares very favourably to my experiences with academics elsewhere, including my colleagues at Leicester.

We’re half-way through the week and we’ve all learned a lot from each other. A fantastic opportunity for mutual development and future collaborative work.

Dr A Armellini
11 November 2009

Inspiration

I was at the Higher Education Academy conference this week in Manchester. http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/events/conference.

I heard Dame Tanni Grey Thompson speak after the (excellent) conference dinner. Dame Tanni is a great Olympic Athlete. http://www.tanni.co.uk/biography.html. Her biography is called ‘Seize the Day’ – a phrase Beyond Distance is fond of – we called our learning design workshops CARPE DIEM (http://www.le.ac.uk/carpediem).

But how she has seized everything and what an inspiration! Her ability to take and understand constant critique whilst maintaining absolute determination and independence of spirit shone through in every word.

Though thankfully very few of us face and overcome the disadvantages of paralysis from our early lives, as Dame Tanni did, I guess we all have our burdens which can appear to get in the way, of personal and professional achievement, and the enabling of others to excel.

The principles that I got from her talk were clear: the need for planning and preparing for success – sheer hard slog,  team work, forward-vision and aspiring to make dreams come true. I think it’s not too fanciful to apply these to the future for learning- indeed I think we should do nothing less!!

Gilly Salmon
July 2009

%d bloggers like this: