digital behind design, reflections on #LD-CIN event

fishtank full of knitted fish

Loved the quirky knitted fish!

In the post Anyone for T I asked if T for Technology and T for Teaching have merged?  The question came about following a restructure. My role changed from Academic Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor to Teaching Enhancement Advisor. What’s the difference?

In both roles I’m working towards putting the digital behind the design. Learning and teaching enhancement for me is about learning activities, with or without technology but – in 2017 – most probably with.

For many staff, technology is not the driving force. TEL people are too often seen as techies, fixers of computers and data analysts. This fixed identify is hard to break especially as many of us can fix a PC (or at least check the wires and plugs!) and know something about data from a dashboard, spreadsheet or research perspective. Truth is, many of us are education developers with a range of skills and experience around curriculum and programme design. We might not have all the answers but we know where to get them and when it comes to technology – it goes wrong for us too. Well, for me at least as colleagues will testify!

cartoon of single person facing a wall of technology

Last week Patrick Lynch and I attended the Learning Design Cross Institutional Network event at the University of Oxford. It was the networks 7th meetup, our first and hopefully not the last. The next is at Leeds, literally down the road. We might take a team. Reinvent the awayday. Back to the times when it meant being off campus –  not in a room in a building you don’t often go to.

Learning design is the enhancement of learning and teaching in the way I understand it. Not technology first but pedagogy first and foremost all the way home.

model showing Learning Design components

These are my key takeaways from the event. If you’re a learning technologist who finds them familiar you might also be a learning designer too.

  • LD focuses on the activity the learner does rather than the delivery of content
  • LD is about optimising the environment for learning to take place
  • LD is about changing thinking more than changing tools
  • LD requirements vary across disciplines so there’s no one-size-fits-all model
  • LD builds in feedback loops to assess effectiveness during rather than the end
  • LD is scholarly i.e. research informs practice and practice informs research
  • LD visualisations have been shown to influence teaching practice (see Toetenel and Rientes (2016) below*)

We all arrive at learning design from different directions (the topic of a future blogpost). Neither Patrick nor I have worked in content development teams but we’ve both  have had roles working directly with staff to support and scaffold their own pedagogic practice.

Gill Ferrell from Jisc presented an overview of their work in this area. All familiar. A reminder we’ve worked in the sector for some time and there are great and free resources here Jisc Design Studio

Gill reinforced how the resurgence of interest in learning design demonstrates a shift of emphasis in a number of ways:

  • shift away from learning design as the delivery of content and what teachers do, to the designing of learning activities and focus on what students do.
  • shift away from seeing assessment of learning to assessment for learning as a future driver with greater emphasis on the role of feedback and timely dialogue with students.
  • learning analytics used to map assessment to prevent bunching and identify places where feedback loops take place.
  • Appreciative Inquiry as a methodology to focus less on problems and more on what works well and how to build on it.

HE is changing. My last blog post Perfect Academic Storm was about Degree Apprenticeships. Aimed at those in full-time employment and paid for by employees, these ‘new for some – less new for others’ programmes are 2017 equivalent of work based distance learning. More importantly – they have the potential to put learning design in the spotlight. To be relevant to the work place activities will need to apply theory to practice which is both experiential and problem based. Students will need to become independent learners not only managing their time effectively but also co-constructing negotiated modules and assessments. Learning design practitioners can make this happen. With or without technology but most probably with,

lego bricks from pixabay
image from https://pixabay.com/en/lego-colors-toys-build-up-disorder-688154/

Learning gain is another new layer of HE and also has implications for learning design. Helen King from HEFCE defined learning gain as the improvement in knowledge, skills, work-readiness and personal development made by students during their time spent in higher education.  There are a number of current projects exploring what this means and how to measure it. Outputs will drive an exploration of how learning design can embed learning gain in the student experience.  Definitely a space to watch.

Range of Learning Design projects at the Open University

The sense of learning design déjà vu was reinforced with Katharine Reedy’s overview of learning design at the OU. Their taxonomy describes learning design as ‘a methodology for enabling teachers/designers to make more informed decisions in how they go about designing learning activities and interventions, which is pedagogically informed and makes effective use of appropriate resources and technologies’. (Conole, 2012: 121) Sounds obvious yet still a new concept for many. Katharine bought some  Activity Planners and a reminder of the Word Wheel Again, so many great free resources available online. You almost never need to make anything ever again!

Open University Activity Planner

The heart of our session was a call to bring together learning analytics and learning design. To reimagine data as feedback and create designs with feedback points throughout rather than a single evaluation at the end. To be agile enough to respond to data which suggests students are doing well or less well than expected. One of Patricks favourite images is one saying the next big thing will be lots of small things.

image showing a sign sayong the next big thing will be a lot of small things

This is right – we have all the pieces of the jigsaw but need a different way to put them together.  The approach to enhancement PAtrick and I are developing is called Design for Active Learning (D4AL). It’s like a baseline jigsaw which can then be adapted to make a range of different activity images. More about this in the next blog post next week.

Thanks to everyone at LD-CIN for a great day and we’re looking forward to meeting up again next year.

LDCIN meeting #8 is 16th February 2018 at the NHS Leadership Academy, 3 Sovereign Street, Leeds, LS1 4GP.

Jiscmail list LEARNINGDESIGN@JISCMAIL.AC.UK

LD-CIN website  https://sites.google.com/site/learningdesignsig/home 


*OU research on connecting big data sets to learning design

  • Toetenel, L. and Rientes, B. (2016) Learning Design – creative design to visualise learning activities. Open Learning. The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 31:3, 233-244.
  • Toetenel, L. and Rientes, B. (2016) Analysing 157 Learning Designs using Learning Analytic approaches as a means to evaluate the impact of pedagogical decision-making. British Journal of Educational Technology 47(5) pp. 981–992.
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Warning; may or may not include technology #lthechat

We interrupt this blog schedule to bring you some post #lthechat thoughts.

There was a lot of chatter!

Put Wednesdays at 8.00 on Twitter in your calendar. #lthechat is a synchronous discussion around selected learning and teaching in higher education topics. Check out the hashtag #lthechat or the accompanying blog https://lthechat.com/ and Twitter page @lthechat.  #lthechat even has its own bird!

Started by Chrissi Neranszi @chrissinerantzi and Sue Beckingham @suebecks  in 2014, the discussion has become part of the working week for hundreds of tweeters and  I’ve been lucky enough to facilitate a couple of sessions. This weeks followed on from last week’s blogpost  Bought to you by the Letter T which reflected on the similarities between Technology and Teaching brought about by our recent restructure at the University of Hull.

The letters TEL (past team) and LTE (current team) are T for technology and T for teaching. This weeks chat looked at using LTE to talk about TEL. Confused? Stay with me…

Warning, May or may not include Technology asked 6 questions:

  1. Please share your understanding of the term learning design
  2. Where do aspects of learning design fit in your role?
  3. Which models, tools, authors, have informed your thinking about LD?
  4.  How have you evaluated the effectiveness of your LD interventions?
  5. How do you introduce the concept of LD to academics/how would you not talk about it?
  6. Name one thing you’ll take away from this #lthechat tonight.

With ten minutes on each one, the session kicked off a debate on the phrase ‘learning design’ – an example of the discussions we hoped to generate.

At Hull we’re developing an approach to teaching enhancement which we’ve called Design for Active Learning (D4AL).  The approach is based on curriculum alignment; you have the learning outcomes and assessments – D4AL is about the activities students do. Conversations tend to be initially about teaching rather than technology and this chat aimed to provide opportunities for sharing LD/D4AL practices.

With over 800 tweets in total you could say #lthechat is becoming a victim of its own success. While you’re trying to keep up with multiple ‘live’  conversations, and swapping tweets between them, the rest of the chat is continuing. It’s becoming a case of continual catch-up and I’m still working my way through the Storify which can be accessed here https://storify.com/LTHEchat/lthe-chat-no-92 

image of Storify front page

This is where I must say thanks to the ‘behind-the-scenes’ team this semester – Jenny Lewin-Jones @JennyLewinJone  Rebecca Sellers @becksell2001 and Scott Turner @scottturneruon  without whom the coordination and dissemination of #lthechat would not be possible.  

thabk you image from oixabay

No other hour of the week flies by so fast!

I followed Ale Armellini’s contribution with interest. With the University of Northampton adopting institution wide Active Blended Learning (ABL) there’s much to learn from their  approach, outline in this report Overcoming barriers to student engagement with Active Blended Learning and the video explaining ABL to students.

However, it’s rare to find true pedagogical innovation e.g. flipped learning which was in all the media a few years ago is not so different to setting homework or seminar reading. The #lthechat showed is that for everyone who is new to the principles of activity based  learning, there are those who’ve been doing it for years

What the chat also revealed was how much good practice is already happening. It’s all out there but often in pockets, but not disseminated outside teaching teams or even sometimes beyond individual practice. The scholarship of teaching and learning in HE remains a niche area with work to be done around the sharing of practice, knowledge and experiences.

Speaking of niches, #lthechat assumes an internet connection and a Twitter account for contributing. All that vital but virtual energy is restricted to the participants who in themselves demonstrate high levels of digital fluency making digital differences in practice another key area to be addressed.

One further question is should academics take courses on LD/D4AL or should teaching teams include LD/D4AL specialists to work in tandem?

As the tweets below indicate, there may be other opportunities to continue the discussions around these topics.

In the meantime, there’ll be another #lthehat next week so don’t forget – tut Wednesdays at 8.00 on Twitter in your calendar.

 

brought to you by the letter T

cartoon person pulling a yellow letter T
image from https://pixabay.com/en/t-letter-alphabet-alphabetically-1015548/

Restructure complete. For TEL read LTE (Learning and Teaching Enhancement) For TEL Advisers read Teaching Enhancement Advisers.  T for Technology. T for Teaching.

What’s the difference or have they become one and the same? However you view learning and teaching in a digital age, the strength of our new team is how we can be both. We are all aspects of T, in varying degrees of experience and expertise.

I’ve written about the risk of TEL people not getting out and about enough Invisible Tribes and Territories of the TEL People You know how it is. Like attracts like. It seems being badged with technology can make it harder to reach the late tech-adopters, those who tend to self- exclude from anything with a digital flavour. Yet once you get talking about teaching, the technology is usually in there – it just sometimes needs a different approach.

inger pointing at a white cloud on a blue background
image from https://pixabay.com/en/cloud-finger-touch-cloud-computing-2537658/

Design for Active Learning (D4AL) is our solution to TEL isolation.

Partly a response to TEF flags signalling areas to be addressed, D4AL emerged from conversations around adopting a pedagogy first-approach. Instead of going in with tech-first solutions, unlikely to resonate with the digitally shy and resistant, this is an approach to teaching enhancement which focuses on student learning activities. These might include technology, or might not. The plan is to open doors, get to the table and so far, it seems to be working.

D4AL has provenance.

One of the most enduring education development papers, Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles For Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, has us up there at Number 3 Good practice encourages active learning. 

lego bricks from pixabay
image from https://pixabay.com/en/lego-colors-toys-build-up-disorder-688154/

The D4AL Evidence Hub is looking like an education developers pic n’ mix. Primarily about brokering discussions, the first layer of contact is a @50 minute introductory session. A conversation around the table –  tea and biscuits – coffee and cake – with a question format similar to this.

Tell us…

  • What is the context?
    • Where are you now?
    • Where do you want to be?
  • Who are your students?
  • How can our evidence hub help?
  • How will you know success? What does it look like?

Take assessment.  Topics could be team approaches to marking, encouraging students to engage with feedback, alignment with learning outcomes, suggestions for feeding forward or the purposes of the assessment e.g. is it measuring performance or looking for evidence of learning.

In the words of educationalist Graham Gibb, the best way to enhance teaching can be to rethink assessment.

Our Evidence Hub is full of resources. We’re also developing a system for sharing practice. We want to be called on not only for problems but to discover and disseminate what works well too.

Technology has a place. Take assessment again. We can provide support with digital feedback; developing banks of comments or exploring audio or video. We’ll look at arguments for and against, time saved versus time spent. Sometimes investment in a new way of working might not seem worth it but X in Y did Z and are happy to talk to you.

Previous TEL identities and knowledge are still relevant, just not centre stage.

image of the rows of seating in a large empty theatre
image from https://pixabay.com/en/theatre-show-concert-stage-2617116/

After the introductory session comes the bespoke workshop and we’ve been busy here too. Over the last year, Liz Bennett and Sue Foley from the University of Huddersfield have delivered us a D4 Curriculum Design session and Ale Armellini from the University of Northampton ran us a half day CAIeRO taster. We’ve experience of  Carpe Diem and plans to develop discussion prompt cards like those used in UCL’s ABC Connected Curriculum. We’ve also spent two days Digital Storytelling with Chris Thompson from Jisc, definitely want to offer this again, while in November Chrissi Neranzti is introducing us to Lego Serious Play.

Our D4AL workshops will have a blended element so content can be front-loaded prior to face-to-face time. They’ll be hands on and experiential, based on connectionist approaches shown to enhance engagement. I’ve been a supporter of #creativeHE for several years ,as well as facilitator on their open online courses. and keen to explore some new ways of working, There could be post-it notes, story boards, lego, prompt cards, labyrinths and poetry alongside plain paper and pen plus ideas from this Activity book from the University of Stanford’s Reflect Imagine Try sessions.

page from activity book

None of this means TEL has gone away. We might be stepping out of our TEL Tribe, taking tentative footsteps away from our TEL Territory, but in doing so, we’re hoping to attract those who say they ‘don’t do technology’. The number of NAYs, those who are neither Residents nor Visitors but Not Yet Arriveds is higher than many TEL Tribes might realise or believe. The next blog post will be looking at digital disconnection in 2017 in more detail.


*   Chickering, A. W. and Gamson, Z. F. (1987) Seven Principles For Good Practice in Undergraduate Education Washington Center News Fall 1987

#lthechat next week (Wednesday 11th October 8.00-9.00pm) is on the topic of learning design