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Chapter 1 Introduction (May 2011)

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Gráinne Conole
5 May 2011

In this book I will argue that in today’s technologically rich context, where content and services are increasingly free, we need to rethink approaches to the design of learning activities and content. I introduce the concept of ‘learning design’ and argue that making the design process more explicit and shareable will enable teachers to develop more effective learning environments and interventions for learners and help make the intended design more explicit and shareable with other teachers and learners. It will help learners to make more sense of their educational provision and associated learning pathways. I will provide a number of illustrations of adopting a more open approach to designing learning interventions, from a set of design representations through to the use of open, social and participatory media for sharing and discussing designs. I draw on the areas of learning design, pedagogical patterns and OER (Open Educational Resources) research to explore the creation, sharing and discussion of learning and teaching ideas and designs. 


The book begins with this introductory chapter, which provides an overview of the book and a rationale for its relevance. This includes an overview of the context of modern education. I argue that we now operate in a context of rapid technological change, which is influencing the nature of education and its purpose. Boundaries between formal and informal learning are changing, as a result I argue that, within this context, the way in which we design, support and assess learning needs to change and the nature of educatioal technologies. Next the characteristics of today’s learners are discussed drawing on key research in the field. It provides a brief definition of the term ‘learning design and argues for the need for a new learning design methodology is discussed, which is the main focus of the book. Finally the audience and  structure of the book are described. 

Design languages are the focus of chapter two, in particular the use of design notation in music, architecture and chemistry are described. The chapter discusses the challenges of designing for learning, and then focusses on learning design, along with the spectrum of learning design languages that have been developed. The origins of the OU Learning Design Initiative are described, along with a description of how OULDI adopted a Design-Based Research (DBR) approach. 

Chapter three situates the Open Learning Design methodology discussed in this book in relation to related research fields such as learning sciences, instructional design and pedagogical patterns.  

Chapter four provides a review of new open, social and participatory media and gives examples of how these are being used to support different pedagogical approaches. It considers the changing digital landscape of education and provides a review of new technologies, which includes: i) the characteristics of new technologies, ii) the impact of web 2.0 technologies, iii) the use of web 2.0 technologies in education and iv) the impact on practice. Highlights from a review of web 2.0 tools and practices are then discussed.

Chapter five describes the key theoretical perspectives and methodologies that underpin learning design research. Chapter five describes how the Open Learning Design methodology described in this book draws on Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) and in particular the notion of Mediating Artefacts. It also considers the nature of theory and methodology in the field.

Chapter six defines Mediating Artefacts, including the different ways in which practice can be captured and represented. It describes a range of Mediating Artefacts and concludes with an illustrative example that demonstrates how an OER created for use in one contexts can be repurposed. 

Chapter seven introduces the concept of affordances, discussing the range of definitions for the term. It goes on to discuss the affordances of technologies and argues that these can be used as a means of structuring and guiding use of particular technologies for different learning interventions. 

Chapter eight gives an overview of different design representations and how they can be used to promote new ways of thinking about designing learning interventions. 

Chapter nine then goes into more detail on different tools that can be used to visualise and represent designs, and in particular on the CompendiumLD tool that we have developed. It begins with a description of the ways in which practitioners currently go about designing learning interventions. 

Chapter ten critiques the notion of ‘openness’ in terms of open design, delivery, evaluation and research. An important aspect of open delivery is the use of OER, chapter nine gives an overview of the Open Educational Resource movement, whilst chapter ten outlines two recent OER initiatives, namely Olnet and OPAL. 

Chapter eleven provides a review of the Open Educational Resource movement. This includes a review of OER initiatives and a description of four illustrative examples. 

Chapter twelve discusses the outputs and findings from the work being undertaken as part of the Olnet and OPAL initiatives.

Chapter thirteen returns to the ways in which open, social and participatory media are resulting in new forms of online communities and interactions.  It defines the terms and looks at different pedagogies of e-learning. It concludes with the introduction of a new Community Indicators Framework (CIF), that can be used to guide the design and evaluation of new social and participatory media. 

Chapter fourteen describes the Cloudworks social networking site, and in particular the ways in which it is promoting new forms of online interaction, communication and collaboration. 

Chapter fifteen reviews a number of pedagogical planners that have been developed to guide practitioners in making informed learning design decisions. These planners, the chapter argues provide more structured support for the design process than the visualisation representations and the use of social and participatory media discussed in earlier chapters. 

Chapter sixteen is the conclusion chapter, which provides a summary and overview of the book. It also looks at the implications of this work, along with reflections on its importance and the associated challenges. 

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Judy Bloxham
7:51am 31 July 2012

Can I just please ask why if we are turning to e-publication do people insist on using that old favourite Times New Roman that stinks of paperback publication. Its so difficult to read on screen. When I worked for the British Deaf Assoc over 25 years ago we were told neer to use a serif font for on screen as it distorts. If we are publishing content for a modern world avoid this old style and make what you choose more accessible rather than something that is academically de-rigeur.

Gráinne Conole
12:10pm 1 August 2012

Thanks Judy 

Never really thought about it before!

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