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Meg - options for contextualising learning in 'common' courses

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Meg Colasante
16 January 2013

Brewing learning design project 

Just a formative idea at present - likely to evolve "with a little help from my friends", including anyone interested plus my study buddies Gayle and Laurine :-)

 Your situation (context)

Material and social characteristics of the environment in which you operate:

Our team members are so far all from the College of Science, Engineering and Health, in a university in Melbourne. Therefore, the project could be focused within the context of the disciplines, or select one discipline within the college. Examples could include: engineering, such as undergraduate 1st year 'Communication Engineering'; health sciences, such as vocational diploma such as myotherapy; etc.

Our college learning programs often have a heavily on-campus component due to hands-on professional/vocational requirements, with many physical resources to support this, such as specifically resourced laboratories. However, our university is putting focus on moving away from traditional lectures that still form a significant part of the learning experience. Resources to support this shift include some new built facilities, with new generation learning spaces and lecture rooms that allow for chairs to be rotated to row behind, that allow for more interactive group work and discussions. Additionally, models of online or blended learning are being promoted, This might include online learning for underpinning knowledge areas, or may even offer some practice at practical application via online simulations, or iLabs (experiments that can be operated remotely over the net, requiring booking a lab time not already taken by other students but with a wide time frame (often 24/7). The LMS we use in Blackboard, and to streamline things for students it is expected that all online learning be have a focal or access point from Bb, even if the students are actually directed beyond Bb. We are new to providing the Google suit of goodies officially to staff (altho a few things are not enabled), and there is some experiemntal work occuring of using Google Sites for content and inter-activities (linked from Bb...). We have web-conferencing (was Elluminate, now Bb Collaborate), plus a number of other tools such as lecture or desktop capture (Echo360), a media annotation tool (MAT), existing content resources (Flexible Learning Toolboxes; Equella learning depository;; Kanopy; etc.), and (one) fabulous graphic designer/web developer for L&T in the college.


The change you would like to see (challenge)




What do you hope to achieve? What would be different if you succeed?

I would like to delve into the design options for delivering content (in either an online or blended model) to a large cohort, where the learning outcomes for the subjet are the same for all learning, but the sub-discipline is varied across the cohort; they will go on into different professional/vocational streams in their learning programs and eventual employment.

What range of options could see that all students in the class can personalise their learning to be relevant for their stream, even tho they are in a class of 'common' content learning? What options of LD (learning design) can be considered to ensure they each end up with relevant, meaningful and employment-ready learning for their discipline? 


How you might go about bringing that change




What is your pedagogical approach? Which technologies will you use to implement it, and how?

Aha! See, this is the crux of my challenge. I can easily provide one neat anser to this, but I want to explore what options in LD are avialable for consideration, not just one answer. I want to get in there and muck around in the mess to see what can emerge!

I hope my study buddies are motivated by this idea, or help me to evolve it to a more meaningful project to help meet the learning needs of each of the members of our study team  :-)

Extra content

Embedded Content


Laurine Hurley
2:28am 17 January 2013

Hi Meg and Gayle


I like the idea... for me a concrete variation of this  (parallel and intersecting) would be to work on a project that can be common to students in different programs  - ie one real-world multi-disciplinary idea that each discipline would contribute its own expertise to ... ideally they will all see how each contributes and that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 

This could be drawn together at the end by an "industry forum" or suchlike. I hope that  if the industry partners become involved in the design and objectives of the projetc, that may benefit both the student and the propsective employers (and also staff!)


whaddya reckon??


Gayle Nicholas
3:02am 17 January 2013

Well done Meg - just a little task to get us underway!  LOL!  My first reaction is let's define a small area within this outline for the purposes of this MOOC.  I like the idea of working with an area such as Communication skills just because with such a short time frame it will be easier to work in an area where we are more accomplished in the skill area ourselves (calculus is just not my strength!).

The part that really excites me (if we are talking about the same thing! :-O) is the personalising learning within 'common content'.  However I am thinking more personalised learning within a collaborative learning environment.  So, in crude terms, each learner personalises their learning experience (with prior learning, culture, the context and goals being a few the factors influencing their experince) and each of these personal experiences are contributing to learning outcomes achieved through collaboration with other students.  Is this making any sense.  I am very much thinking about some papers written by Catherine McLoughlin 2000/1. She says when talking about directions for  research on culturally inclusive pedagogies :  "For Web-based environments the implications are that we need pedagogies that create communities that learn from each other, where collaboration and cooperation online lead to synthesis of knowledge from different perspectives." (Inclusivity and alignment:  Principles of pedagogy, task and assessment design for effective cross-cultural online learning Distance Education: 2001:22,1; ProQuest Education Journals p7). 

OK,  so I am naively and idealistically thinking we could design a learning activity that fosters a personalisation of the learning but has the overall outcome of a synthesis of personalisations (perspectives) through collaboration.

How do we do this?  I don't know but the journey would be fun.  BlackBoard would be a good tool as I need to work on whatever we do from home. 

Meg,  Laurine,  Anyone who wanders by: is this sense or no-sense?


Meg Colasante
4:39am 17 January 2013

Oh good! It seems we have some consensus regarding the base challenge of "personalising learning within 'common content'" (Gayle) to meet student's speciific discipline areas, with options of approaching it from a range of 3 levels of learning design: macro, super (uber?) macro, or micro (or macro, meta, or micro, but James Dalziel recently talked me out of using the term 'meta', and he's Australian LD guru...):

Super macro: cohorts across programs (related programs in 1 year level of 1 school?), ie: "a project that can be common to students in different programs" (Laurine)

Macro: LD model options for one course (subject), in which the students are to achieve common learning outcomes but to apply in different contexts

Micro: a learning activity within the structure of one course, with "a synthesis of personalisations (perspectives) through collaboration" (Gayle)

Can I suggest, in the spirit that Gayle mentions of the short time frame, that we don't actually aim to produce a finished designed and developed learning product, rather we just design learning strategy/framwork options? A few that we could refer to as needed to see if they can be used and tailored/contextualised to meet specific learning design needs? Therefore, we only need choose a specific topic/subject for ease of the narrative, rather than to tease out the learning for a specific topic.

For example, Laurine may want to choose a model from the options we might eventually design, such as one based on a figure 8 (can't think of a better visual for it just yet). Eg one where students meet together to get/choose the real-world scenario, move apart into discipline areas to gather as much detail as possible to help solve, come back together to share and see what dovetails, move apart to do further refinement (or start again!), come back ie: "drawn together at the end by an "industry forum" or suchlike" (Laurine) - but Laurine with our help might come up with a better model than this back-of-an-envelope figure 8.

Another example, I (with your collective help) could dream up a model for a number of cohorts being taught together (ie enrolled in same subject, same timetabling, same room-online or physical-to turn up to) that in the past were taught apart in their discipline areas. How can each get the most out of this learning to be relevant to their respective eventual roles? I have done this before for specific multi-disciplinary courses/subjects (particularly in the health sciences), and am about to do it again (in the trades), and I feel we could come up with several different visual models of how this could be achieved. This would include a learning strategy framework, not the detailed and time consuming next level down of designing the constructive algnment in a few short weeks (re Biggs & Tang). I have one diagram I would like to share for one model I expressed pictorial a few years ago (with the help of Geoff, graphic designer suprimo). I have to work out have to add a pic... Perhaps I can in my Cloudscape...?

Another example could be explicitly based on a collaboration model, such as socio-constructivist or even connectivism (re Downes and/or Siemens). Gayle could lead this visualisation of such a model with our help, starting with a brainstorm ,  ... perhaps the back-of-an-envelope at one of our study circles ..? :-)

So, are we getting closer or further away from consensus? I'm hoping we can have some designs by the end of the MOOC that are useful to apply in various learning situations, but I'm flexible on this and (little panic here) I hope I'm not going off track to the MOOC requirements...! Draw me in if necessary...!!


Gayle Nicholas
7:20am 17 January 2013

Hi Meg & Laurine,

This is becoming clearer now.  I note Laurine says 'project'.  Working on a project on what Meg is calling 'super macro' level I would have thought to be a good context for the social constructivist approach I mentioned.  I think at this stage we need to clarify our desired project outcome...or should outcomes be defined in terms of our own desired learning outcomes...or both???  Laurine is saying 'one ...multidisciplinary idea' and Meg 'some designs'.  Are we looking at multiple ways of achieving a set of learning outcomes or are these mutually exclusive?

Meg, I think it would be helpful to have a look at the model/framework you have already worked with and discuss its pros and cons.

Can we set aside Tuesday for a working lunch, city campus.  Wherever we get to by then it sounds like the backs of envelopes are going to be well used ...and I just shredded a handful of them!  LOL

Meg Colasante
10:47pm 20 January 2013

Hi Gayle,

Yes, I can see that we do have variants in our project ideas. I wonder if we end up each with different but related and intersecting learning needs, whether we can still incorporate as a project which we have sub areas to work on? I say this as I have a real-world (current workplace need) to develop a few design options for common courses for students in related but different disciplines.

I don't seem to have an 'insert pic' option in comments. I'll find a place to post pis them I'll leave another comment here as to where it is...


Meg Colasante
11:19pm 20 January 2013

Gayle and Laurine,

Please see link in new cloud - you will be able to see an overview (graphic) of a LD I did in 2008. I'd like to tease out alternate designs as that would have real application for me at work (and I have to have at least some workplace application or do all MOOC out-of-hrs). However, I am flexible in project if this idea means little to you 2, and happy to play around on weekends as soon as Telstra connects my ADSL (2mths+....)


Gayle Nicholas
3:21am 23 January 2013

Thanks Meg,

I have had a look at your design - thank you :-) - and been reading some of the resources provided.  This is a different approach for me and I am still trying to get my head around what our project means.  The professional development context is more relevant to my work, but that does not matter as the process will be applicable to that context as well.  I will spend as much time as I can reading and hopefully we can all catch up soon to thrash out just what it is we are aiming for.  I am going to give up on trying to complete all the learning tasks set as it is just not realistic in the limited time I have.  My first goal for week 2 is to (belatedly) define my involvement in the MOOC so that it is manageable and achievable.

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