US Interest in the SOLE model & toolkit

SOLE Information Session 4th August 2011

The 45 minute ‘Information Session’ session on Thursday (4th August) at the 27th Annual Distance Education Conference at Madison-Wisconsin produced a tweet from @lookstein “simon atkinson shares his flexible model for student-owned learning engagement – very valuable (and entertaining!)” so at least one person was interested!

The session was attended by some 50-70 people on day two of the conference at the stunning Monona Terrace Convention Centre and consisted of an introduction, this was the first US outing for the SOLE work, to both the conceptual model and the Excel Toolkit. The session was run from this WordPress site using a Resources page (which will remain here for people to access) to contain images and extracts, as well as the latest Excel Workbook file.

The session began with an interesting insight for me of the spread and diversity of people in the room. Representing K-12, Universities, Military Educators and a range of ‘outreach’ organisations. People identified themselves as roughly 75% ‘Faculty’ but a large proportion also identifying themselves as ID or instructional designers. After describing the contextual basis for the model itself, there was a fascinating exchange around the language used in the model, “What is meant by ‘Social’ context?” in distance learning, “What do you take ‘feedback’ to mean without faculty engaged?”. The session ended with a live demonstration of the SOLE toolkit as it currently being used by me to design modules for a Postgraduate Certificate.

A very enjoyable session with some excellent in-session feedback and questions and some provocative questions along the way which is after all what the best conferences are made of.

Simon at Podium


MW Distance Education – Information Session

Great afternoon session today at Madison Wisconsin Conference. Some 50-60 people, the majority were faculty, and the majority with some responsibility for learning designs. It was an opportunity to outline the model and explore the cultural and contextual factors that lie behind the conceptual model. Some good exchanges and lots to think about. The toolkit was then demonstrated and seemed broadly appreciated. At least two people downloaded the free Excel Workbook during the session and hopefully more will do so shortly. It would be wonderful to find a US institution that felt the SOLE model could support their instructional design teams and faculty to develop more effective holistic learning design for learners.

The Workshop was run from this WordPress site so all the materials are available here

Version 2.0 for April and August 2011 Conferences

The next version of the SOLE model, with embedded Intended Learning Outcomes and further pedagogical guidance, along with a populated example, will be ready for the 2011 conference season!

Version 2.0 will be released on Saturday 16 April just before the 8th ALDinHE Conference: Queen’s University Belfast “Engaging Students – Engaging Learning” 18-20 April 2011

I will be presenting a workshop on the DiAL-e Framework and posters for both the SOLE model and DiAL-e.

The SOLE Model poster will also be featured at the UK Higher Education Academy (HEA) Annual Conference, “Changing Practice, Changing Timesat the East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham,  5-6 July 2011

Perhaps most exciting is the invitation to present the SOLE model at the 27th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on August 3-5 2011. Again I have been issued a workshop invitation, along with Kevin Burden, to present the DiAL-e Framework and alongside that work there will be an ‘Interactive Video Presentation‘ of the SOLE Model.

SOLE Model Illustrated


The following brief video presentation was prepared for a Course Team workshop at Massey University NZ in May 2010 to introduce the SOLE Model.

The SOLE model is intended to be developmental, diagnostic, evaluative and descriptive. It is borne out of a desire to make the learning design process transparent to students, to encourage staff to share ‘patterns’ of learning with each other and to provide a basis for self-evaluation and development of specific learning designs. The model is not concerned with the design of specific learning activities but rather the appropriate balance between the different modes of student engagement anticipated.

The model does not prevent an academic scheduling four hours contact time a week and delivering a didactic lecture, but it would illuminate clearly that that was the approach being undertaken. Likewise, the model in and of itself does not prevent staff from reproducing an identical pattern of learning every week through a paper or course, but again, the models’ associated toolkit would make that process clear.

The SOLE model is not prescriptive and it is possible for teams to change and modify any aspect of the toolkit to suit their needs. The intention however is to provide staff with a model of effective practice such that one might be concerned about the quality of the student learning experience if the model illustrated a consistently ‘unbalanced’ approach.


One would anticipate that the visualisation generated by the toolkit would reflect a pattern of learning that differ from paper to paper, and from week to week. One could anticipate for example that in the first week of an undergraduate paper there would be significantly more ‘teacher-centeredness’ than in the twelfth week of a postgraduate paper. The visualisation will differ; the patterns can be expected to reflect different levels of engagement.

Centrality of Biggs Constructive Alignment

It is no coincidence that the model places the intended learning outcomes (ILO) at the centre. In each constructively aligned paper the pattern will be different because the learning outcomes, the assessment designed to illicit evidence of attainment and the patterns of teaching required to support that process will each be different. The SOLE model is precisely that, a model not a template. The model can, and should be adapted by staff to suit their particular approach to learning. It should reflect the nature both of their discipline, students existing context and the specific teaching environment.

Developing Academic Staff: Contemporary Learning Design

The SOLE model was presented to colleagues in Zagreb (via Webinar) on December 8th as one possible way to explore staff preparedness for each cohort of learners they must design for.

I am delighted to be continuing my relationship with colleagues in Croatia at Centar za e-učenje and SRCE. I was asked to present Webinar on staff ‘integration’ of e-learning in their contemporary practice. The presentation for the Croatian National e-Learning Event on Wednesday 8th December comes at a rather opportune time as I have been writing about the myth of the ‘net-generation’ and the extent to which we are preparing academic staff adequately to work within contemporary expectations.

I’ve written a draft presentation entitled: Developing existing and new academic staff to integrate e-learning into their practice, that explores the need for each cohort of academic staff to revision, revitalise and reposition their teaching to suit the appropriate context in which they teach. It therefore becomes less an issue of whether there exists such a thing as a ‘net-generation‘ (I think not) but rather whether they have the reflective skills to enable them to position their practice appropriately and whether there exists learning design models that can support that practice. I cite the SOLE model as one possible approach but others certainly exist.

Webinar Image ScreencaptureIt was a great pleasure to work with colleagues at SRCE in Zagreb on Wednesday 8th for the 2nd National e-Learning Day (Here’s a full programme for the day ) My Adobe Connect Webinar was recorded and is available online. It’s always interesting to watch yourself but I do feel confident at least about the argument. There is a need to ensure that teaching staff see the process of professional development as one that prepares them to support the learning of each successive cohort of learners in an appropriate way, not as needing to find a technologigy solution to meet the ‘current’ perceive need.

The 40 minute webinar itself has also been shared and is available from SRCE online here: