BETT 2017: Learning Design and Technology in HE

It was my pleasure today to present some of my visualisation tools to be used in higher education learning design. At the BETT2017 exhibition in London, with a small crowd of some 25 people, I shared the following presentation. With just 20 mins (plus 10 for questions) it was really simply an opportunity to emphasise that technology needs to be intelligently designed into programmes and modules in service of specified learning outcomes to be meaningful. I unveiled some recent work on an original taxonomy for the ‘Interpersonal Domain’ and shared an updated version of the Toolkit (available here)

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Rich visualizations and costing in SOLE 3.5

As promised this version of the SOLE Toolkit, 3.5, remain a free, unprotected and macro-free Excel workbook with rich functionality to serve the learning designer. Version 3.5 has two significant enhancements.

Rich visualization of the learning spaces and tools: that students are to engage with in their learning. This provides an alternative, fine-grain, view of the students modes of engagement in their learning. It permits the designer to plan not only for a balance of learning engagement but also a balance of environments and tools. This should allow designers to identify where ‘tool-boredom’ or ‘tool-weariness’ is possibly a danger to learner motivation and to ensure that a range of tools and environments allow students to develop based on their own learning preferences.

Faculty-time calculations in design and facilitating: based on the learning spaces and tools to be used there is now a function to allow programme designers and administrators, as well as designers themselves, to calculate the amount of time they are likely to need to design materials and facilitate learning around those materials.

This builds on newly designed functionality release in September 2014 in version 3 of the toolkit, namely;

  • Predicated Workload – the amount of time the designer anticipates students will spend is on activities charted.
  • Sequencing activities – the ability to suggest the order in which activities should be tackled. It remains an open approach and so the numbering system (letters, Roman, multiple instances of the same item) is open. It is considered important in the SOLE Model that students should take responsibility for the learning process as so the sequence should  be suggestive or advised.
  • Completion Record – a column has been added to allow students to record whether an activity has been completed alongside indicating the amount of time was actually spent on any given activity.
  • Objectives Met Record – an area is included to allow students to indicate that they believe they have met the objectives for each individual topic/week.

At its core the toolkit serves to implement a model of learning based on the SOLE Model itself and it is worth reminding yourself how the model is designed to work.

Further Details:

Here are two short videos that detail the significant enhancement made in Version 3.5 of the Tookit.

Visualisation of Learning spaces

Calculating Faculty-Time in Design and Facilitation

Version 3.0 SOLE Toolkit Released

I’m delighted to be able to release version 3.0 of the SOLE Toolkit. Changes have been made to strengthen the way students might make use of the toolkit as an advanced organiser. These changes include:

  • Active Verbs – the terms used to describe the elements of the SOLE Model now uses active verbs to describe each of the elements. This is intended to make them easier for students to understand. So for example ‘Assessment’ becomes ‘Assess’, ‘Personal Context’ becomes ‘Personalize’ and so on. Further explanation of the elements is available here.
  • Predicated Workload – the amount of time the designer anticipates students will spend is now charted.
  • Sequencing activities – the ability to suggest the order in which activities should be tackled. It remains an open approach and so the numbering system (letters, Roman, multiple instances of the same item) is open. It is considered important in the SOLE Model that students should take responsibility for the learning process as so the sequence should  be suggestive or advised.
  • Completion Record – a column has been added to allow students to record whether an activity has been completed alongside indicating the amount of time was actually spent on any given activity.
  • Objectives Met Record – an area is included to allow students to indicate that they believe they have met the objectives for each individual topic/week.

You can download the toolkit from this website here. It is free to use but as always I would appreciate feedback from users as to changes they make and the usage they make of the work.

Universal application of the SOLE toolkit

I am very pleased that the model and the toolkit continue to attract attention despite the relative neglect that I have subjected it to.

There have recently been to academic enquiries that give me some calls to think that the model and toolkit continues to have significant value. One was a request to use the illustration of the model in an upcoming chapter on blended learning, which was the challenge which prompted the models development in the first place. And the second an invitation to translate the SOLE toolkit into Spanish. This second request is itself particularly interesting since I believe the fundamental concepts to be universally applicable. Some of the early writings around the SOLE model explored the ways in which it might be applied in indigenous educational contexts and so the opportunity to translate into another language community internationally is very exciting.

I hope that in the not too distant future there may be Spanish resources available here to share and this will give an impetus for the further development of the toolkit.

Reflected Glory: Sugata Mitra’s SOLE Toolkit

I’ve been surprised this week to find a sudden increase in my blog visitors. As these peeks happen occasionally I just put this down to some MOOC out there stumbling across my SOLE model and deciding it was worthy of sharing. Always pleasing in itself, but not surprising perhaps. This was a sudden and unexpected peek, so one digs a little deeper into the stats and yes, lots of people seemed to be searching for the ‘SOLE Toolkit’. Excellent finally the traction  the critical mass, I have been….. ah.

Merely reflected glory it seems, for when I also do the ‘SOLE Toolkit’ search I find that the remarkable Sugata Mitra, currently at Newcastle University (UK), has been awarded the 2013 TED Prize  for his work to ‘Build an School in the Cloud‘ and part of his contribution is something also called the SOLE Toolkit. His ‘Self-Organized Learning Environment ‘ toolkit is an amazing read and well worth getting hold of. I actually think there may be more similarities to these two namesakes than is apparent at first. I contend that any effective environment should allow for each of the nine elements of the ‘Student Owned Learning Engagement’ model and Mitra’s ‘SOLE Mindset’.

When I developed the SOLE model in early 2010 I was most concerned with the notion that teaching staff found it difficult to draw the balance between maintaining an instructivist identity, the expert role, and the facilitation of independent and thoughtful self-discovery amongst learners. The Student-Owned Learning Engagement model was envisaged as a professional development instrument primarily, to engage teachers in deconstructing the learning experience and to see their role in the process from a different perspective. It’s a privilege to share the name with Mitra’s different but similar aspiration.

Version 2.4: Weekly Objectives

Version 2.3 of the SOLE toolkit (August 2011) introduced a ‘dashboard’ allowing the course designer to see the distribution of student workload across all the weeks, or learning units. Version 2.4 (October 2011) sees the incorporation of a ‘Weekly Objectives’ view, drawing together the weekly objectives set against the module outcomes for the first time. Each iteration is designed to provide staff and student with a greater transparency to the learning design intention.  Version 2.4 is also distributed as a fully populated exemplar, rather than a blank template to aid its deconstruction and usage.

Modes of Engagement: Version 2.3 of Toolkit released

Can one know too much about the learning we design? Why is it we appear to know so little? It’s hard to share what you can’t articulate. This is an attempt to make the learning expectations, aspirations and intentions we have of learners as transparent as possible. The desire to produce a useable, intuitive (or at least helpful) toolkit to implement the SOLE model of learning design has seen several small incremental updates in 2011.

Version 2.3 of the SOLE toolkit is released today 5th September and introduces a ‘modes of engagement’ schematic to a new ‘dashboard’ sheet within the toolkit workbook. The toolkit remains a standard Microsoft Excel workbook, without macros or protected cells that any user can customise and adapt.

Download the toolkit and explore.