Aug 162016

This is a very belated posting of my liveblog notes from the eLearning@Ed/LTW Monthly Meet Up #4 on Learning Design which took place on 25th April 2016. You can find further information on the event, and all of our speakers’ slides, on the eLearning@ed wiki.

Despite the delay in posting these notes, the usual cautionary notes apply, and that all corrections, additions, etc. are very much welcomed. 

Becoming an ELDeR – Fiona Hale, Senior eLearning Advisor, IS

Unfortunately I missed capturing notes for the very beginning of Fiona’s talk but I did catch most of it. As context please be aware that she was talking about a significant and important piece of work on Learning Design, including a scoping report by Fiona, which has been taking place over the last year. My notes start as she addresses the preferred formats for learning design training… 

We found that two-day workshops provided space to think, to collaborate, and had the opportunity to both gain new knowledge and apply it on the same day. And also really useful for academic staff to understand the range of colleagues in the room, knowing who they could and should follow up with.

Scoping report recommended developing reusable and collaborative learning design as a new university services within IS, which positions the learning design framework as a scaffold, support staff as facilitators, etc.

There are many recommendations here but in particular I wanted to talk about the importance of workshops being team based and collaborative in approach – bringing together programme team, course team, admin, LT, peer, student, IAD, IS Support librarian, IS EDE, Facilitator, all in the room. Also part of staff development, reward and recognition – tying into UKSPF (HEA) and the Edinburgh Teaching Award. And ensuring this is am embedded process, with connection to processes, language, etc. with registry, board of studies, etc. And also with multiple facilitators.

I looked for frameworks and focused on three to evaluate. These tend to be theoretical, and don’t always work in practice. After trying those all out we found CAIeRO works best, focusing on designing learning experiences over development of content, structured format of the two day workshop. And it combines pedagogy, technology, learner experience.

We have developed the CAIeRO into a slightly different form, the ELDeR Framework, with the addition of assessment and feedback.

Finally! Theory and Practice – Ruth McQuillan, Co-Programme Director, Master of Public Health (online)

Prior to the new MPH programme I have been working in online learning since 2011. I am part of a bigger team – Christine Matthews is our learning technologist and we have others who have come on board for our new programme. Because we had a new programme launching we were very keen to be part of it. So I’m going to talk about how this worked, how we felt about it, etc.

We launched the online MPG in September 2015, which involved developing lots of new courses but also modifying lots of existing courses. And we have a lot of new staff so we wanted to give a sense of building a new team – as well as learning for ourselves how to do it all properly.

So, the stages of the workshop we went through should give you a sense of it. I’ve been on lots of courses and workshops where you learn about something but you don’t have the practical application. And then you have a course to prepare in practice, maybe without that support. So having both aspects together was really good and helpful.

The course we were designing was for mid career professionals from across the world. We were split into two teams – with each having a blend of the kinds of people Fiona talked about – programme team and colleagues from IS and elsewhere. We both developed programme and course mission statements as a group, then compared and happily those were quite close, we reached consensus and that really felt like we were pulling together as a team. And we also checked the course for consistency with the programme.

Next, we looked at the look and feel aspects. We used cards that were relevant for our course, using workshop cards and post it notes, rejecting non relevant cards, using our choice of the cards and some of our own additions.

So, Fiona talked about beginning with the end in mind, and we tried to do that. We started by thinking about what we wanted our students to be able to do at the end of the course. That is important as this is a professional course where we want to build skills and understanding. So, we wanted to focus on what they should know at the end of the course, and only then look at the knowledge they would need. And that was quite a different liberating approach.

And at this point we looked at the SCQF level descriptors to think about learning outcomes, the “On completion of this course you will be able to…” I’m not sure we’d appreciated the value and importance of our learning outcomes before, but actually in the end this was one of the most useful parts of the process. We looked for Sense (are they clear to the learner); Level (are they appropriate to the level of module); Accessibility (are they accessible).

And then we needed to think about assessment and alignment, looking at how we would assess the course, how this fitted into the bigger picture etc.

The next step was to storyboard the course. And by the end of Day One we had a five week course and a sixth week for assessment, we has learning outcomes and how they’d be addressed, assessment, learning activities, concerns, scaffolding. And we thought we’d done a great job! We came back on day two and when we came back we spend maybe half a day recapping, changing… Even if you can’t do a 2 day workshop at least try to do two half days with a big gap between/overnight as we found that space away very helpful.

And once finalised we built a prototype online. And we had a reality check from a critical friend, which was very helpful. We reviewed and adjusted and then made a really detailed action plan. That plan was really helpful.

Now, at the outside we were told that we could come into this process at any point. We had quite a significantly complete idea already and that helped us get real value from this process.

So, how did it feel and what did we learn? Well it was great to have a plan, to see the different areas coming together. The struggle was difficult but important, and it was excellent for team building. “To learn and not to do is really not to learn. To do and not to learn is really not to know. And actually at the end of the day we were really enthusiastic about the process and it was really good to see that process, to put theory into practice, and to do this all in a truly collaborative experience.

How has it changed us? Well we are putting all our new courses through this process. We want to put all our existing courses through this process. We involved more people in the process, in different roles and stages, including students where we can. And we have modified the structure.


Q1) Did you go away to do this?

A1) Yes, we went to Dovecot Gallery on Infirmary Street.

A1 – FH) I had some money to do that but I wasn’t kidding that a new space and nice food is important. We are strict on you being there, or not. We expect full on participation. So for those going forward we are looking at rooms in other places – in Evolution House, or in Moray House, etc. Somewhere away from normal offices etc. It has to be a focused. And the value of that is huge, the time up front is really valuable.

A1 – RM) It is also really important for understanding what colleagues are doing, which helps ensure the coherence of the programme, and it is really beneficial to the programme.

Q2) Dow different do you think your design ended up if you hadn’t done this?

A2 – RM) I think one of my colleagues was saying today that she was gently nudged by colleagues to avoid mistakes or pitfalls, to not overload the course, to ensure coherence, etc. I think it’s completely different to how it would have been. And also there were resources and activities – lectures and materials – that could be shared where gaps were recognised.

A2 – FH) If this had been content driven it would be hard as a facilitator. But thinking about the structure, the needs, the learner experience, that can be done, with content and expertise already being brought into that process. It saves time in the long run.

A2 – RM) I know in the past when I’ve been designing courses you can find that you put activities in a particular place without purpose, to make sure there is an activity there… But this process helped keep things clear, coherent and to ensure any activity is clearly linked to a learning outcome, etc.

Q3) Once you’d created the learning outcomes, did you go back and change any of theme?

A3 – FH) On Day 2 there was something that wasn’t quite right…

A3 – RM) It was something too big for the course, and we needed to work that through. The course we were working on in February and that will run for the first time in the new academic year. But actually the UoE system dictates that learning outcomes should be published many months/more than a year in advance. So with new courses we did ask the board of studies if we could provide the learning outcomes to them later on, once defined. They were fine.

A3 – FH) That is a major change that we are working on. But not all departments run the same process or timetable.

A3 – RM) Luckily our board of studies were very open to this, it was great.

Q4) Was there any focus on student interaction and engagement in these process.

A4 – FH) It was part of those cards early in the process, it is part of the design work. And that stage of the cards, the consensus building, those are huge collaborative and valuable sessions.

Q5) And how did you support/require that?

A5 – FH) In that storyboard you will see various (yellow) post its showing assessment and feedback wove in across the course, ensuring the courses you design really do align with that wider University strategy.

Learning Design: Paying It Forward – Christina Matthews

There is a shift across the uni to richer approaches.

I’m going to talk about getting learning technologist involved and why that matters.

The LT can inform the process in useful and creative ways. They can bring insights into particular tools, affordances, and ways to afford or constrain the behaviours of students. They also have a feel for digital literacy of students, as well as being able to provide some continuity across the course in terms of approaches and tools. And having LT in the design process, academic staff can feel supported and better able to take risks and do new things. And the LT can help that nothing is lost between the design workshop, and the actual online course and implementation.

So, how are we paying this forward? Well we are planning learning design workshops for all our new courses for 2015-16 and 2016-17. We really did feel the benefits of 2 days but we didn’t think it was going to be feasible for all of our teams. We felt that we needed to adapt the workshop to fit into one day, so we will be running these as one day workshops and we have prioritised particular aspects to enable that.

The two day workshop format for CAIeRO follows several stages:

  • Stage 1: Course blueprint (mission, learning outcomes, assessment and feedback)
  • Stage 2: Storyboarding
  • Stage 3: Rapid prototyping in the VLE
  • Stage 4: Critical friend evaluation of VLE prototype
  • Stage 5: adjust and review from feedback
  • Stage 6: Creating an action plan
  • Stage 7: reflecting on the workshop in relation to the UK Professional Standards Framework.
  • For the one day workshop we felt the blue print (1), storyboard (2) and action plan stages (6) were essential. The prototyping can be done afterwards and separately, although it is a shame to do that of course.

So, we are reviewing and formalising our 1 day workshop model, which may be useful elsewhere. And we are using these approaches for all the courses on our programme, including new and existing courses. And we are very much looking forward to the ELDeR (Edinburgh Learning Design Roadmap).


Q1) When you say “all” programmes, do you mean online or on-campus programmes?

A1) Initially the online courses but we have a campus programme that we really want to connect up, to make the courses more blended, so I think it will feed into our on campus courses. A lot of our online tutors teach both online and on campus, so that will also lead some feeding in here.

Q2) How many do you take to the workshop?

A2) You can have quite a few. We’ve had programme director, course leader, learning technologist, critical friends, etc.

A2 – FH) There are no observers in the room for workshops – lots are wanting to understand that. There are no observers in the room, you have to facilitate the learning objectives section very carefully. Too many people is not useful. Everyone has to be trusted, they have to be part of the process. You need a support librarian, the learning technologist has to squarely be part of the design, student, reality checker, QA… I’ve done at most 8 people. In terms of students you need to be able to open and raw…. So, is it OK to have students in the room… Some conversations being had may not be right for that co-creation type idea. Maybe alumni are better in some cases. Some schools don’t have their own learning technologist, so we bring one. Some don’t have a VLE, so we bring one they can play with.

A2 – CM) In the pilot there were 8 in some, but it didn’t feel like too many in the room.

Q3) As a learning technologist have the workshops helped your work?

A3 – CM) Yes, hugely. That action plan really maps out every stage very clearly. Things can come in last minute and all at the same time otherwise, so that is great. And when big things are agreed in the workshop, you can then focus on the details.

A3 – FH) We are trying to show how actually getting this all resolved up front actually saves money and time later on, as everything is agreed.

Q4) Thinking way ahead… People will do great things… So if we have the course all mapped out here, and well agreed, what happens when teams change – how do you capture and communicate this. Should you have a mini reprise of this to revisit it? How does it go over the long term?

A4 – FH) That’s really true. Also if technologist isn’t the one delivering it, that can also be helpful.

A4 – CM) One thing that comes out of this is a CAIeRO planner that can be edited and shared, but yes, maybe you revisit it for future staff…

A4 – FH) Something about ownership of activities, to give the person coming in and feel ownership. And see how it works before and afterwards. Pointing them to document, to output of storyboard, to get ownership. That’s key to facilitation too.

Q4) So, you can revisit activities etc. to achieve Learning outcome…

A4 – FH) That identification of learning outcomes are clear in the storyboards and documents.

Q5) How often do you meet and review programmes? Every 2 years, every 5 years?

A5 – FH) You should review every 5 years for PG.

Comment) We have an annual event, see what’s working and what isn’t and that is very very valuable and helpful. But that’s perhaps unusual.

A5 – FH) That’s the issue of last minute or isolated activities. This process is a good structure for looking at programme and course. Clearly programme has assessment across it so even though we are looking at the course here, it has that consistency. With any luck we can get this stuff embedded in board of studies etc.

A5 – RM) For us doing this process also changed us.

A5 – FH) That report is huge but the universities I looked at these processes are mandatory not optional. But mandatory can make things more about box ticking in some ways…

Learning Design: 6 Months on – Meredith Corey, School of Education 

We are developing a pilot UG course in GeoSciences and Education collaboration, Sustainability and Social Responsibility, running 2016/17. We are 2 online learning educators working from August 2015 to April 2016. This is the first online level 8 course for on-campus students. And there are plans to adapt the course for the wider community – including staff, alumni etc.

So in the three months before the CAIeRO session, we had started looking at existing resources, building a course team, investigating VLEs. The programme is on sustainability. We looked into types of resources and activities. And we had started drafting learning outcomes and topic storyboarding, with support from Louise Connelly who was (then) in IAD.

So the workshop was a 2 day event and we began with the blueprinting. We had similar ideas and very different ways to describe them so, what was very useful for us, was finding common language and ways to describe what we were doing. We didn’t drastically change our learning outcomes, but lots of debate about the wording. Trying to ensure the learning outcomes were appropriate for level 8 SCQF levels, trying not to overload them. And this whole process has helped us focus on our priorities, our vocabulary, the justification and clear purpose.

The remainder of the workshop was spent on storyboarding. We thought we were really organised in terms of content, videos, etc. But actually that storyboarding, after that discussion of priorities, was really useful. Our storyboard generated three huge A0 sheets to understand the content, the ways students would achieve the learning outcomes. It is an online course and there are things you don’t think about but need to consider – how do they navigate the course? How do they find what they need? How do they find what they need? And Fiona and colleagues were great for questioning and probing that.

We did some prototyping but didn’t have time for reality checks – but we have that process lined up for our pilot in the summer. We also took that storyboard and transferred that information to a huge Popplet that allowed us to look at how the feedback and feed forward fits into the course; how we could make that make sense across the course – it’s easy to miss that feedback and feed forward is too late when you are looking week by week.

The key CAIeRO benefits for us were around exploring priorities (and how these may differ for different cohorts); it challenged our assumptions; it formalised our process and this is useful for future projects; focused on all learners and their experience; and really helped us understand our purpose here. And coming soon we shall return to the Popplet to think about the wider community.


Q1) I know with one course the head of school was concerned that an online programme might challenge the value of the face to face, or the concern of replacing the face to face course, and how that fits together.

A1) The hope with this course is that the strength is that it brings together students from as many different schools as possible, to really deal with timetabling barriers, to mix students between schools. It would be good if both exists to complement in each others.

A1 – FH) Its not intended as a replacement… In this course’s mission statement for this, it plays up interdisciplinary issues, and that includes use of OERs, reuse, etc. And talking about doing this stuff.

A1) And also the idea is to give students a great online learning experience that means they might go on and do online masters programmes. And hopefully include staff and alumni that also help that mix, that interdisciplinary thing.

Q2) Do you include student expectations in this course? What about student backgrounds?

A2) We have tried to ensure that tutorial groups play to student strengths and interests, making combinations across schools. We are trialling the course with evaluation through very specific questions.

A2 – FH) And there will assessment that asks students to place that learning into their own context, location, etc.

Course Design and your VLE – Ross Ward

I want to talk quickly about how you translate a storyboard into your VLE, in very general terms. Taking your big ideas and making them a course. One thing I like to talk about a lot is user experience – you only need one back experience in Learn or Moodle to really put you off. So you really need to think about ensuring the experience of the VLE and the experience of the course all need to fit together. How you manage or use your VLE is up to do. Once you know what you want to do, you can then pick your technology, fitting your needs. And you’ll need a mix of content, tools, activities, grades, feedback, guidance. If you are an ODL student how you structure that will be very very important, if blended it’s still important. You don’t need your VLE to be a filing cabinet, it can be much more. But it also doesn’t have to be a grand immersive environment, you need it to fit your needs appropriately. And the VLE experience should reflect the overall course experience.

When you have that idea of purpose, you hit the technology and you have kind of a blank canvas. It’s a bit Mona Lisa by numbers… The tools are there but there are easier ways to make your course better. The learning design idea of the storyboard and the user experience of the course context can be very helpful. That is really useful for ensuring students understand what they are doing, creating a digital version of your course, and understanding where you are right now as a student. Arguably a good VLE user experience is one where you could find what you are looking for without any prior knowledge of the course… We get many support calls from those simply looking for information. You may have some pre-requisite stuff, but you need to really make everything easy.

Navigation is key! You need menus. You need context links. You need suggested link. You want to minimise the number of clicks and complexity.

Remember that you should present your material for online, not like a textbook. Use sensible headings. Think about structure. And test it out – ask a colleague, as a student, ask LTW.

And think about consistency – that will help ensure that you can build familiarity with approach, consistently presenting your programme/school brand and look and feel, perhaps also template.

We know this is all important, and we want to provide more opportunity to support that, with examples and resources to draw upon!

Closing Fiona Hale

Huge thanks to Ross for organising today. Huge thanks to our speakers today!

If you are interested in this work do find me at the end, do come talk to me. We have workshops coming up – ELDeR workshop evaluations – and there we’ll talk about design challenges and concerns. That might be learning analytics – and thinking about pace and workshops. For all of these we are addressing particular design challenges – the workshop can concertina to that. There is no rule about how long things take – and whether one day or two days is the number, but sometimes one won’t be enough.

I would say for students it’s worth thinking about sharing the storyboards, the assessment and feedback and reasons for it, so that they understand it.

We go into service in June and July, with facilitators across the schools. Do email me with questions, to offer yourselves as facilitators.

Thank you to all of our University colleagues who took part in this really interesting session!

You can read much more about Edinburgh Learning Design roadmap – and read the full scoping report – on the University of Edinburgh Learning Design Service website

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