REFLECTIONS ON DEVELOPING A TOOL FOR CREATING VISUAL REPRESENTATIONS OF LEARNING DESIGNS

Towards a visual language for learning designs

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Andrew Brasher
16 November 2012

Abstract

Over the past four years we have been developing CompendiumLD, a software tool for designing learning activities using a flexible visual interface. It has been developed as a tool to support lecturers, teachers and others involved in education to help them articulate their ideas and map out a design or learning sequence. CompendiumLD is a specialised version of Compendium, a tool for managing connections between information and ideas, which has been applied in many domains including the mapping of discussions and arguments. As most of the core knowledge mapping facilities provided by Compendium are included within CompendiumLD, it can be used for learning design, and  applied it to other information mapping and modelling problems. Evidence gathered since CompendiumLD’s first release has shown the many conditions in which it is likely to be applied and appreciated by users. It appears that the need for visualising learning designs may continue to grow given we have found that over half of staff now agree that it is becoming harder to understand how all the components of planned learning and teaching fit together. Furthermore, the use of technology is making the process of creating courses more complex. We explore these challenges and conclude with some reflections on the developments in visual representation needed to further facilitate the modelling of today and tomorrow’s complex learning situations.

Extra content

I tried to include figure 1 in the document bit it made the RTF file 55Mbytes so I've made it availabale as a separate file. Figure 1 is available here https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B433yeYVgtlaOXRhVjF3azA3Rk0.

I have indicated where it should be positioned within the RTF document (https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B433yeYVgtlaYnZFMVBibW9yWms).

 

Andrew Brasher
22:25 on 16 November 2012

Thanks to Francesca, Davina and Liz for your comments. Our latest version, edited in response to the reviewers' comments, with the edits visible via  'track changes' is available here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B433yeYVgtlad2x5REg0RlRuTmc/edit?usp=sharing

There are a few notes on the way we have responded  to Fraancesca, Davina and Liz's helpful comments here https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B433yeYVgtlaaDRjaWp4V2tWblE/edit?usp=sharing

Andrew

Andrew Brasher
09:49 on 9 December 2013 (Edited 09:53 on 9 December 2013)

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Francesca Pozzi
1:41pm 14 December 2012


Dear Andrew and Simon,
I have read with great interest your contribution, which illustrates the stages of development of the learning design tool called CompendiumLD. The chapter provides also data of use gathered during some pilots and then reflects on reactions /feedbacks by teachers involved in the pilots.
Even if I knew already something about the tool (as I have assisted at your presentation at the London workshop and read some papers), I have enjoyed understanding the process that brought to development of the tool.

In order to reinforce the contribution, I would suggest that you try to include some reflections (maybe in the ‘Introduction’, or in the ‘Rationale for development’ and/or in the ‘Discussion’) aimed to contextualize the work (and the tool) within the research field. What I mean is that it would be interesting for the reader to know what are the differences or similarities (if any) between CompendiumLD and (some of the) other existing tools, so to better appreciate the added value offered by this tool. Providing some reference to the work of others could help the reader to ‘locate’ your work and better understand its peculiarities.    

One last comment: in The ‘Conclusion’ you introduce a number of (interesting) new concepts and reflections; I wonder whether it would be better to anticipate them in the Discussion, and make the Conclusion ‘lighter’.

I hope you find the suggestions useful.

All the best,
Francesca

Lillian Buus
7:08am 17 December 2012


Dear Andrew and Simon

I have with great interest read your paper, and I'm glad to get an understanding of this design tool which also was presented to me, when I visited OU during my PhD research.

I have two main comments; the one is parallel to Francesca's about the Conclusion, where you present some really interesting new perspectives, which I would suggest comes before the Conclusion, as it would make the conclusion more as a wrap-up with the main points.

My other comment relates to the users and the target groups of this design tool. My feeling reading the paper was that it address many different target groups, but without a clear presentation of different scenarios target groups. I believe that your contribution could give readers a better understanding if you present (maybe via case scenarios or so) the different target groups and they way (or possibilities) of using the design tool.

 But really interesting to read your paper :)
- and hopefully you can use the comments

Best wishes
Lillian

Liz Masterman
6:23pm 13 January 2013


Dear Andrew and Simon,

I'm afraid I'm very late with my review, so please feel free to ignore it if you have already revised the chapter. But here's my tuppennyworth anyway...

Concur with the other two reviewers: interesting to hear the history of the tool's development and I agree with their suggested rearrangement of the later sections. As someone with an interest in external/visual representations and their design, I would have liked to learn:
- Why the particular form of representation (FoR) supported by CompendiumLD (i.e. a nodes and links structure) was considered to be particularly suited to the learning design task as opposed to other FoRs (e.g. tabular formats, mind maps). This rationale could also have included a critical overview of other FoRs that have been used for this purpose.
- Why the particular icons were chosen: specifically, in exactly what way was their design they inflienced by Bertin?
I also feel that the evaluation section is a little weak, with a somewhat anecdotal feel - even though, having designed and conducted several evaluations at least two similar tools, I know it's very hard to make claims on the strength of qualitative data from small numbers of participants. I'd also note that the figures of 2,000 downloads does not constitute a measure of actual use, and in this respect brief institutional case studies of how the tool was used + users' reactions to it are more valuable.

I broadly concur with the other two reviewers: it was very interesting to hear the history of the tool's development, and I agree with their suggested rearrangement of the later sections. As someone with an interest in the cognitive aspects of external/visual representations and how their design can facilitate reasoning and problem-solving, I would also have liked to learn:

  • Why the particular form of representation (FoR) supported by CompendiumLD (i.e. a nodes and links structure) was considered to be particularly suited to the learning design task as opposed to other FoRs (e.g. tabular formats, mind maps). This rationale could also have included a critical overview of other FoRs that have been used for this purpose.
  • Why the particular icons were chosen: specifically, in exactly what way was their design they inflienced by Bertin?

I also feel that the evaluation section is a little weak, with a somewhat anecdotal feel - even though, having designed and conducted several evaluations at least two similar tools, I know it's very hard to make claims on the strength of qualitative data from small numbers of participants. I'd also note that the figures of 2,000 downloads does not constitute a measure of actual use, and in this respect brief institutional case studies of how the tool was used + users' reactions to it are more valuable. A more structured presentation of the methods of evaluation (e.g. a table listing type of insitution, how many participants, purpose of evaluation, methods of data collection), togehter with a more clearly thematic organisation of the findings, would lend a stronger impression of rigour in the project team's approach.

Best wishes,

Liz

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