On Friday 24th February, my colleague Hannah and I ventured up to Northampton University to attend the fifth Learning Design Cross Institutional Network (LDCIN) event. The LDCIN was formed in 2015, with colleagues from a number of institutions across the world taking place in discussions about learning design in education.
The event began with an introduction from Simon Walker, who heads up the Educational Development team at the University of Greenwich. He discussed the future of learning design; the increased interest with the introduction of the TEF, and the impact big data will have on how we design our courses, briefly touching on the report the Open University have recently published on data analytics and learning design (see below for more information).
Participants who had offered to give a ten-minute overview of their work were then invited to deliver. This session started with Natasa Petrovic, from UCL, who discussed her ABC model for learning design – a process my colleague Hannah had successfully used the day before for her Bristol Futures enrichment course! This model is becoming widely adopted as a method to develop course design, with participants only having to attend a 90-minute to 2-hour session for a complete overhaul of their module. More on this method can be found here.
We then had three further presentations from colleagues across the country. Fiona Hale from the University of Edinburgh presented their new model for learning design, which (she admits) very closely resembles the CAIeRO model, created at Northampton. Adele Gordon from Falmouth discussed their development as a learning design team, and how their focus was on employability above anything else – a method that will hopefully be increasingly adopted across the sector.
Finally, Tom Olney and Jitse van Ameijde from the Open University talked about their work on data analytics and retention-satisfaction. They have created a model for designing activities that ensure high retention and success (the ‘ICEBERG’ model) and have discovered some interesting trends. For example, students have higher satisfaction on courses where there are fewer collaborative activities, yet their ‘success’ (in terms of retention, meeting learning outcomes and grades) is lower. Similarly, more collaborative activities meant lower student satisfaction, yet much higher success rates. The report on designing for retention can be found here. This report will have the biggest impact where universities offer online-only courses, where retention is higher than on traditional courses.
These sessions were followed by a tea break (no biscuits provided!) and then a session from Jisc’s Ruth Drysdale, who posed the ‘wicked’ question of how to evidence the impact of TEL – a question that was best answered by Jitse van Ameijide, who simply said ‘You can’t – and shouldn’t.’ The impact of TEL should only be measured by learning success as a whole, rather than how technology has impacted on learning. This focus on successful learning rather than the impact of various technologies was a key theme throughout the morning, and potentially the focus of the next LDCIN meeting.
Next on the agenda was a session from our hosts, which asked us to answer the question ‘How do you solve a problem like Waterside?’ Waterside is a new university campus being built in the heart of Northampton but, unlike a traditional campus, Waterside will have no lecture theatres – teaching will take place online and via small-group or one-to-one tutorials. All course programmes (over 2,000 of them!) have to be redesigned to fit the new teaching style, which also means that the minds of all academics will have to be won over to face this new and radical change. We were tasked with deciding on the best way to motivate staff to engage with this strategy, thinking about five key areas: grassroots campaigns, community, strategic, faculty-level and research-based.
Our group created three models to engage staff with the new teaching strategy. The first, and least desirable, was a ‘top-down’ model, where senior management forced staff to engage with workshops to redesign their courses. However, this would not be a positive change, and would leave staff feeling demotivated and uninspired. The second was a ‘hand-holding’ approach, where a great deal of resource was added to the learning design team to ensure each academic had a bespoke session to redesign their course, with a number of community groups set up to support staff and provide on-hand advice whenever it was needed. The final approach was champion-led, where each faculty had a self-elected ‘champion’ of learning design, who could create a buzz inside their faculty and be available to support staff at short notice. Technology Enhanced Learning has been engaged with most in departments that have appointed learning technologists, and we believe this model is key to success, especially when it comes to changing culture and mindset.
Unfortunately, we had to leave after this session, but judging from the Twitter feed the afternoon was also a success, with a workshop from Edinburgh’s Fiona Hale on mapping learning activities and anther session from the Learning Design team at Northampton on evaluating learning design support.
In an ever-changing sector, it is essential colleagues working towards similar goals come together to share their experiences, methods and thoughts. I was especially inspired by colleagues at Northampton, who are leading the way in terms of a blended approach to education – I can’t wait to see how the challenge of Waterside works out. The LDCIN will be meeting again in the summer to discuss this and other projects taking place across the network. To keep up to date with the latest LDCIN updates, click here.