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.

Timeline of an event

As readers of this blog will know, I quite like experimenting with a number of services to record, represent and re-present various activities. One tool I have been revisiting over the past few months is memolane. When I first looked at this service I thought it had potential for projects and also as a kind of corporate memory. I’ve now started to use its “story” feature to record tweets and blogs from a number of meetings and conferences e.g. e-Assessment Scotland, EuroSakai, and I’ve just pulled together my blogs and tweets from the recent Design Bash 11 meeting – see embedded story below. Clicking on the blog posts expands them so you can read the whole text, and you can move along the timeline using the arrows on top right hand side of the frame.

I think this gives a really nice overview of my pre, during and post meeting activity. I’d be interested in hearing how useful others think of this view of an event.

Outputs, deliverables and other stuff

Sustaining and embedding changes to curriculum design practices and processes was the theme for the Curriculum Design Programme meeting held last week in Nottingham.

The projects are now in their final year of a four year funding cycle, and the focus of the activities and discussions were to:

“*Explore how projects can best ensure their activities result in real and sustained changes to curriculum design processes and practices and how to evidence this impact
*Showcase innovative practice from the Curriculum Design programme and explore and discuss how these outputs can assist in transforming curriculum design more widely in other institutions
*Further explore how projects can contribute to the programme level narrative around how institutions are changing the processes and practices relating to curriculum design and the role technology plays within this”

So that by then end of the two days, projects would (hopefully) be able to:

“* outline a clear approach to sustaining their innovations and changes to the curriculum design practices and processes
*outline benefits realisation proposals for embedding their outputs to support institutional enhancement and realising the benefits of their projects more widely
*all projects will have a clearer understanding of the good practice, innovation and findings which have emerged from programme and how this can enhance their own projects and practice.”

Unsurprisingly all the projects have been on quite a journey over the past three and half years. There have been changes to project staff; most projects have had at least one change of Vice Chancellor had to deal with the various re-shuffling of senior management teams which that inevitably brings. For projects concerned with institutional level change and indeed with any project tasked with embedding a change in practice these changes at senior management have been particularly challenging. Set this against the current political climate we have to give credit to all the projects for managing to navigate their way through particularly choppy waters. But will projects leave a legacy which actually is able to sustain and embed changes to practice?

Paul Bailey and Peter Chatterton led a session on managing change and used a really nice visual metaphor of a snowball to represent the different push-pull and self momentum that projects can often find themselves in. I think it’s fair to say that most projects have found that in their discussions and base-lining activities that the “curriculum design” space was ripe for conversations. A number of projects have had to deal with some significant pressures of scope creep, and being seen as the panacea for whole host of related issues.

Stephen Brown and the projects from one of the programme cluster groups then led a session on sustaining change. This allowed for a very useful discussions around project identity, outputs and deliverables and how to “hand on” using that great catchall term, the “stuff” projects have produced. Helen Beetham has written up this session on the Programme Blog far more eloquently than I could. From the marketplace activity where projects were given an opportunity to show off their wares, there is a lot of great “stuff” coming out of this programme.

One of the high points of the meeting was the debate, where the quite challenging motion proposed was “This house believes that this programme will not actually change the pedagogic practice of curriculum design”. I won’t go into details on the substance of the debate here, however one question that I should have raised (but of course didn’t ) was – if this programme can’t, then what will? When JISC did fund a programme specifically around changing pedagogic practice (the Design for Learning Programme) one of the clear messages that came out was that projects couldn’t make any sustained impact on practice if they weren’t embedded in wider institutional processes around the curriculum design process. Whilst I can see that some projects maybe don’t see themselves as having direct impact on practice as they are more focused on the business process end of things; at a programme level I believe there is growing evidence that overall there are quite significant impacts being made. I’m not sure if this was planned or just one of those serendipitous coincidences but I think this post from Martin Weller whilst the meeting was in full swing is a good example of precisely how the programme is changing the pedagogic practice of curriculum design.

More information about the meeting is available from the Programme Blog and the storify version of the meeting and projects are continuing to share their outputs and “stuff” in the Design Studio.

Innovating e-Learning 2011 (#jiscel11)

Just a reminder that the JISC online conference “Innovating e-Learning 2011” is taking place next month from 22- 25 November, with a pre-activity week starting on 15th November. As ever the programme is filled with a broad range of presentations around the latest developments in the use of technology, and some great key note speakers including David Puttnam (Lord Puttnam of Queensgate).

Over the years I’ve found the JISC online conference really useful both for the range of presenters, keynotes and the mix of synchronous and asynchronous sessions and discussions. Being online it gives a great deal of flexibility and no need for my usual ‘silly-o”clock” start times to get to a conference. A word of caution tho’ – it can suck you in so don’t expect that you can fully engage in sessions and totally keep up to date with your inbox 🙂 Block out time in your diary for the sessions you want to participate in. I’ve had to surrender thoughts of multitasking as discussions have taken off and I’ll be going through the programme thoroughly and marking in my diary the slots I want to attend. There’s also lots of support for newbie online conferencers too.

The conference isn’t free, but at £50 I think it is really good value for money. More information including registration details and the full programme is available from the conference website.

Sustaining and Embedding Change: Curriculum Design Programme meeting overview

The penultimate Curriculum Design Programme meeting took place earlier this week in Nottingham. Three and a half years into the funding cycle, the meeting focused on life after programme. What are the most effective ways to share, embed, build on the changes instigated by projects within and across institutions?

I’ll be writing a more reflective post over the coming days but here is a summary of the two days, based on the #jisccdd twitter stream.

[View the story “Sustaining and embedding changes to curriculum design practices and processes” on Storify]

Design bash 11 post event ponderings and questions

Following on from my pre event ponderings and questions , this post reflects on some of the outcomes from our recent Design Bash in Oxford. A quick summary post based on tweets from the day is also available.

Below is an updated potential workflow(s) diagram which I created to encourage discussion around potential workflows for some of the systems represented at the event.

Potential learning design workflows
Potential learning design workflows

As I pointed out in my earlier post, this is not a definitive view, rather a starting point for discussion and there are obvious and quite deliberate gaps, not least the omission of content sources. As learning design is primarily about structure, process and sequencing of activities not just content, I didn’t want to make it explicit and add yet another layer of complexity to an already crowded picture. What I was keen to see was some more investigation of the links between the more staff development, face to face processes and various systems, to quote myself:

“starting from some initial face to face activities such as the workshops being so successfully developed by the Viewpoints project or the Accreditation! game from the SRC project at MMU, or the various OULDI activities, what would be the next step? Could you then transform the mostly paper based information into a set of learning outcomes using the Co-genT tool? Could the file produced there then be imported into a learning design tool such as LAMS or LDSE or Compendium LD? And/ or could the file be imported to the MUSKET tool and transformed into XCRI CAP – which could then be used for marketing purposes? Can the finished design then be imported into a or a course database and/or a runtime environment such as a VLE or LAMS? “

Well we maybe didn’t get to quite as long a chain as that, however one of the several break-out groups did identify an alternative workflow

potential workflow tweet
potential workflow tweet

During the lightening presentation session Alejandro Armellini (University of Leicester) gave an overview of the Carpe Diem learning design process they have developed. Ale outlined how learning design had provided a backbone for their OER work. More information on the process is available in this post.

In the afternoon James Dalziel demo’d another workflow, where he took a pattern from the LDSE Learning Designer (a “predict, observe, explain” pattern shown in the lightening session by Diana Laurillard) converted it into a LAMS sequence, shared it in the LAMS community and embedded it into Cloudworks. A full overview of how James went about this, with reflections on the process and a powerpoint walkthrough is available on Cloudworks. The recent sharing and embedding features of LAMS are another key development in re-use.

Although technical interoperability is a key driver for integrating systems, with learning design pedagogical interoperability is just as important. Sharing (and shareable) designs is akin to the holy grail for learning design research, but there is always an element of human translation needed.

thoughts on design process
thoughts on design process

However James’ demo did show how much closer we are now to being able to effectively and easily share design patterns. You can see another example of an embedded LAMS sequence here.

The day generated a lot of discussion and hopefully stimulated some new workflows for participants to work on. In terms of issues coming out of the discussions, below is a list of some of the common themes which emerged from the feedback session:

*how to effectively combine f2f activities with more formal institutional processes
*useful to see connections between module and course level designs being articulated more
*emerging interoperability of systems
*looking at potential integrations has raised even more questions
*links to OER
*capturing commonalities and mapping of vocabularies and tools, role of semantic technologies and linked data approaches
*sufacing elements of course, module, activity design and the potential impact on learners as well as teachers
*what are “good enough” descriptions/ representations of designs to allow real teachers to use them

So, plenty of food for thought. Over the coming months I’ll be working on a mapping of the process/tools/guides etc we know of in this space. I’ll initially focus on JISC funded work, so if you know of other learning design tools, or have a shareable workflow, then please let me know.

The future of technology in education (FOTE11)

What is the the future of technology in education? This is the premise for the FOTE conference which was held on 7 October at UCL.  And the answer is . . . . 42, a piece of string? Well of course there isn’t a single one, and I don’t think there should be one definitive answer either, but parts of the complex jigsaw puzzle were highlighted over the day.

A few suggestions which were aired during the morning morning sessions included: it’s the standards and EA approaches on the latest Gartner education hype cycle; it’s “cool stuff” combining the physical and digital world to create engaging, memorable experiences (as exemplified by Bristol Uni); it’s predictive analytics; it’s flipped and naked; it’s games; it’s data objects; it’s the user – v – we don’t know as we haven’t figured out the purpose of education yet; it’s about better communication between IT departments and students. It’s about providing ubiquitous, reliable wifi access on campus and plenty of power sockets.

It’s probably a combination of all of these and more. But if we in education are to truly reap the benefits of the affordances of technology then we also need to be ensuring our culture is developing in parallel. As James Clay pointed out, people inherently don’t like change and this can be exacerbated in educational contexts. Why change when we’ve “always done it this way” or “it works, why change it?”. Students are powerful change agents – but only if our institutional processes allow them to be. Although there was knowing laughter around the room when he pointed out that “students are dangerous”, there was a serious underlying message. We need to be working more effectively with students to really uncover their needs for technology, and have meaningful interactions so that those in charge can make the most effective decisions about the services/hardware and software institutions provide. James rightly pointed out that we need to be asking students “what do you want to do” not “what do you want”.

There was also a lot of discussion over the day about students and “BYOD” (bring your own device). I think there is a general assumption now that students going to University will have a laptop and least one other mobile internet enable device (probably a phone). Which raises the question of institutional provision. During the day, I have to say I did feel that this panel session didn’t work that well, however it is actually the session/topic that I have spent most time thinking about since Friday.

On several occasions the student reps (and others) brought up the fact that often students don’t actually know if/where and when they can use their own devices in H/FE. Given the fact that in school all hardware is provided and personal devices are openly discouraged, this uncertainty isn’t that surprising, but I was glad to be reminded of it. Again this relates to the importance of recognising and allowing for cultural change and the importance of communication. Is it made clear to students when, where and how they can use their own devices (mobile, laptop and/or tablet)? How easy is it for students to find out about logging in to institutional services such as email, printers etc? How safe is it to carry your laptop/ipad to Uni? Do staff encourage or discourage use of personal devices in their classes? I’m sure that even amongst the technology savvy audience on Friday there were a few people wishing others weren’t constantly staring at their phones, laptops and predictably ipads and were listening to what the speakers were saying 🙂 After spending Tuesday at the Developing Digital Literacies Programme start up meeting, the issue of digital literacies is also key to the future technology in education.

All in all I found the day very engaging and thought provoking and the organisers should be congratulated for bringing together such a diverse range of speakers. I wonder what the future will look like this time next year?

Sakai – worth another look

I spent part of last week at the EuroSakai Conference in Amsterdam. I haven’t really had any involvement with Sakai, and to be honest, I’ve tended to think of it as a something slightly peripheral (probably due to its low update in the UK) and dominated by the US – a sort of “it happens over there” kind of thing. However the community driven development approach it is taking is of interest, and over the past year we at CETIS have been making a concerted effort to engage more with the Sakai community and try and build more links to relevant JISC funded activity e.g. the current DVLE programme.

Ian Dolphin’s opening keynote gave a really useful overview of the history of Sakai, their vision of ‘plugability’ and ease of integration of tools and services. The community continues to grow with over 330 known adopters, 71 foundation members, and 20+ commercial affiliates. (As an aside one of the more intriguing aspects of cultural diversity was the presentation from St Petersburg State University talking about their use of Sakai and how they are now working with private Islamic schools across Russia in developing their curriculum delivery).

My main interest in the conference was to try and find out more about developments with their Open Academic Environment (OAE) which I know involves integration of widgets and explore potential links particularly around the JISC DVLE programme. I also wanted to get some more clarity around the differences/links/integrations between the OAE and the original CLE (Collaboration and Learning Environment).

The OAE works seems to be developing apace, and it was heartening to see (and hear about) their development process which is very much user led. The project is creating and using what they call “design lenses” to guide developments. Each lens corresponds to a particular aspect of teaching and learning. The over-arching lens is conceived as a mindmap (see screen shot below) and there is a high level of alignment with work of the JISC Curriculum Design and Delivery Programmes and the challenges, processes and technologies structure of the Design Studio.

Sakai Learning Capabilities Design Lenses
Sakai Learning Capabilities Design Lenses

The demos I saw from the project group and in particular from the team at NYU, it would appear that the OAE is a usable and flexible environment. There is also an online demo by Lucy Appert, NYU available here. Some highlights of the system were the use of widgets; tagging of content, increased levels of openness from private to shared to public; more integration with the usual suspects of external sites; integrated licencing and more.

In terms of widgets we have had some interactions over the past couple of years with developers from the University of Cambridge through our early widget working group meeting. Although not taking the W3C/Apache wookie route, they were able to do some basic interoperability and repackaging to make them run in a wookie server so it might be worth the team looking at the growing number of widgets available from that community and re- purposing them.

The OAE group are working towards creating templates and again, I can see lots of links to the Curriculum Design and Delivery programmes, and also to the wider context of learning design and the range of stakeholders who came to the Design Bash later in the week in Oxford. We have a wealth of case-studies and resources around staff and student engagement at a range of levels across the curriculum design process which I’m sure could be of mutual benefit. The work Robyn Hill (University of Wyoming) has been doing around templates also highlighted commonalities around the issues of shared understandings of terminology, context specific use etc, etc, which again all came up during Design Bash.

The CLE is also developing with the latest version due for release in Spring 2012. Chuck Severance gave an update on developments, which have also taken a very user centric design process. Unsurprisingly given Chuck’s involvement in both communities, one of the major updates to the CLE will be the integration of the new IMS CC specification (which will incorporate basic LTI). Chuck sees this as being a (or perhaps the) “game changer” for Sakai. Despite appreciating the benefits of LTI, I’m somewhat skeptical about that in the UK context. However, if there is a rush of LTI producers and consumers of the coming 18 months then it could indeed give Sakai an edge over other systems.

The OAE and CLE were talked about as being complementary, but the community is obviously in a hybrid phase at the moment until there is a complete integration. So for people thinking about adoption, they will probably need to have clear timeline of integration and release of features to their community. The OAE looks very pretty and I can see it appealing to academics – however you will need quite a bit of dedicated technical support to use it. NYU are still just piloting its use in selected courses/schools.

As I mentioned earlier, Sakai doesn’t have a huge uptake in the UK but I was able to get more of an overview of the UK scene during the “Towards a common European Sakai Fishing Policy” session presented by Adam Marshall (Oxford University) and Patrick Lynch (University of Hull). Now Oxford isn’t your typical HEI however Sakai does seem to work for them. Their transition from their previous system (Boddington – hands up if you remember that one!) seems to have gone remarkably smoothly. Customization is crucial to Oxford and Sakai has afforded them the level of flexibility they require. Hull on the other hand is more representative of a typical HEI and both Adam and Patrick are keen to expand the UK user base to include more “normal” institutions. Currently the users in the UK and Ireland are Newcastle, Lancaster, Daresbury, Hull, Oxford, Cambridge, Bath and Limmerick, with Newcastle and Bath using it more as a research environment than a teaching and learning one. A UKissN (UK and Ireland Support Network) has been formed, more information is available from their blog and over the coming months they hope to produce more case studies etc of implementation to encourage interest.

One phrase that did keep cropping up in various conversations over the course of the conference was “you don’t fired for choosing moodle”. I’m not sure that is the main reason for the increased migration stats we’ve seen in the UK over the past couple of years, however there is an underlying truth in there. By the same token I can’t see anyone getting fired for having another look at Sakai. So I would encourage you to go the the UKissN site, explore what’s happening and start asking questions.

Obviously I haven’t been able to cover everything in the conference in this post, but as ever, I was tweeting away during the conference, and I’ve collated my tweets including lots of links here to give another view of the conference.


Developing Digital Literacies Programme Start Up Meeting

The 12 successfully funded projects in the JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme met yesterday (4 October) in Birmingham for the programme start-up meeting.

The aim of the programme is to:

” . . .promote the development of coherent, inclusive and holistic institutional strategies and organisational approaches for developing digital literacies for all staff and students in UK further and higher education.”

with projects:

. . .working across the following stakeholder groupings in their plans for developing digital literacies: students, academic staff, research staff, librarians and learning resources and support staff, administrators and managers and institutional support staff . . .”

The programme has developed from previous user centred work funded by the JISC Elearning programme starting back in 2008 with the Learners’ experiences of e-learning programme, the 2009 Learning Literacies for a Digital Age Study, the 2010 Supporting learners in a Digital Age study and the series of Digital Literacy workshops being run this year.

To help get to know a bit more about each other, the projects gave three minute elevator pitches (which included a very entertaining poem from Pat Parslow of the Digitally Ready project, University of Reading.) Although all have different approaches, as highlighted by Helen Beetham (part of the programme synthesis team) there are a number of commonalities across the projects including:

*common access and opportunity
*impacts of technology on core practice 
*new demands on the sector

Helen also highlighted that at a programme level JISC wants to be able to move forward practice and thinking around digital literacies, build on what we know and not repeat what has gone before. From the short presentations given by the projects, I think there will be a lot rich information coming from all of the projects over the next two years.

As part of CETIS input, I will be providing programme level support around the technologies being used in the programme and collating information into our PROD database. Although the projects are very user-centric, I am particularly interested in surfacing issues around what are the preferred technologies for the different stake holder groups, how are they being provisioned at an institutional level? And, at more holistic level, what does it mean to be a truly digitally literate institution? In parallel with staff/student skills developments what are the technical infrastructure developments that need to be enabled? What are the key messages and workflows that need to truly embedded and understood by everyone in an institution?

I can already see links with the approaches being taken by the DVLE programme in-terms of light weight widgets/apps and mobile integrations with VLEs and other admin processes; and the DIAL project at the University of the Arts as part of its elevator pitch also highlighted links to its OER work. I’ll be writing this up initially as a series of blog posts.

Building on the model developed through the Curriculum Design and Delivery programmes, the Design Studio will also be used as an open collation and sharing space for project outputs. The programme is also going to work with a number of related professional bodies an related membership organisations to help share and promote common sector wide experience and best practice.

Quick overview of Design Bash 2011

We had another excellent Design Bash event on Friday 30 September at the University of Oxford. There was lots of discussion, sharing of ideas, practice and tools. I’ll be writing a more in-depth overview of the event over the coming week, but in the meantime, this twitter story gives a taster of the day.

View “Design Bash 2011” on Storify