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My week 5 learning and reflections & cloudworks profile page prototype(Sheila MacNeill)

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Sheila MacNeill
11 February 2013

Week 5 is prototyping week. I have to say it's not quite what I was expecting.  I think I was expecting more work on the design and not so much on prototyping but I can sort of see the logic of spending time seeing how your design would work in action. In a previous life I was a "proper" learning technologist who actually designed courses and worked with web developers so I'm quite comfortable with my ability to discuss sytsem and design requirements.  So, instead of prototyping a design/system this week, I've decided that the best use of my time would be to go back to some of the thoughts I had in the first couple of weeks of the course about the layout and alternative visualisations of Cloudworks itself.  I spent some time yesterday (Sunday) and today (Monday) exploring Balsamiq. I know a number of people who have really liked using this mock up software so this was a really good opportunity to try it out for myself. I've created a mock up page and this morning created a little video walk through explaining it in a bit more detail

take one link and take 2 is embedded.

I've also expanded a bit more in this blog post #oldsmooc_w5

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added by Sheila MacNeill

added by Sheila MacNeill


Ebba Ossiannilsson
8:30pm 11 February 2013


I like your ideas to improve cloudworks to be more ineractive, I foud it rathar static as it is now and not very easy to navigate

Sheila MacNeill
9:42pm 11 February 2013

Thanks Ebba - think there is a lot of hidden potential in Cloudworks Sheila

Marion Manton
8:56am 12 February 2013

Also enjoyed your balsamiq - jing combo a good way to show what you are aiming for - you're very smooth on the video narration.

Sheila MacNeill
9:01am 12 February 2013

Thanks Marion - narration very unplanned so glad it made sense, hate listening to myself hard to tell if it's OK and couldn't face doing another version :-)


Paige Cuffe
2:39pm 12 February 2013 (Edited 2:41pm 12 February 2013)

Sheila creating a dashboard that is more user-friendly and a little customisable is definitely necessary for cloudworks to be useful.  The point made by others (e.g.Bob Stearn) about needing instaneous views of activity on various clouds/threads is something that should be incorporated in a simpler way. 

I really like your idea of organising around people to whom you are connected through interaction - it would greatly facilitate conversation within this environment rather than driving discussions out of cloudworks into a plethora of spaces (twitter, FB, google closed groups...).  Centralisation of our interaction might also help in maintaining engagement for time-bounded projects like this mooc.  That is, keeping it simpler might keep participants engaged for longer.  I am also a lover of visual spaces that have a sense of 'place' or physicality to them [contrast First Class with Moodle forums], so seeing the connections in social network anaysis style might be helpful.  Of course, if that could be zoomed and if each cluster was colour-coded, and if.... ;-)

Hope your very good ideas get incorporated.


Sheila MacNeill
2:47pm 12 February 2013

Hi Paige

thanks for you comments and suggestions, and yes I think part of what I'm getting at is allowing people to use cloudworks better and engage in this space.  There is an issue with perfomance if all my ideas were incorporated particularly relating to real time visualisations. The team at the OU have already got back to me and seem to like some of the ideas, and the notificaiton one is on their development list. Going to try and write up my ideas a bit more now too.  Have been inspired by positive feedback.



Kelly Edmonds
4:00pm 13 February 2013

Nice work, Sheila. I have to say I don't find Cloudworks intuitive and it has hindered my ability to jump into the social aspect of this MOOC. I like how your design has more visual elements and groups info that the user might want to access quickly.

I wonder as well if there shouldn't be a more generic navigation to other functions in Cloudworks like tutorials on using it, or maps of different clouds - something to help the lost. Not completely sure as I don't really understand this platform.

Sheila MacNeill
4:09pm 13 February 2013

Hi Kelly

Thanks for your comment.  I think you are right there sh/could be more generic naviation for the site as a whole, but I was just concentrating one one aspect just now.  Some kind of breadcrumbing/map to help you see where you have been would be a good start. There is some guidance for using the site, but I think with anything that has a social element in it, you just want to dive in and start using.

Diana Laurilllard
10:27pm 15 February 2013

This is a great way to deal with the prototyping week when you already have familiarity with the design-specification process. This use of Balsamiq is a great way to demonstrate to a programming team what you would like to see in a redesign. Hopefully it will help to promote Balsamiq as a usable tool for this kind of communcation. Nice ideas Sheila - hope they go somewhere!

Sheila MacNeill
3:10pm 16 February 2013

Thanks Diana - I've had an email exchange with Juilette the original designer of Cloudworks and she was very positive. Some simple things like the order of clouds are really straightforward and notifications wouldn't take much time either. My other suggestions are more complex but hopefully have given the OU team some thoughts. I do think wiith some more personalisation and navigation Cloudworks could become a very useful tool for learners. Sheila

Juliette Culver
4:54pm 22 February 2013

Hi everyone,

Quck note to say that I'm one of the Cloudworks developers and have been reading all your comments and appreciate them all. 

From a short-term practical perspective, there are lots of constraints. We don't want to make any risky changes while the MOOC is ongoing (in particular I don't want to change the structure of data in our database or make any changes which might impede performance on the site, both of which rule out Sheila's great idea of adding notifications for example). I'm then going on maternity leave a week or two after it finishes, so I don't want to be making any big changes then either! However, I'm just wrapping up the big project I've been working on the last few months, so I might be able to find a few days to make some enhancements before I head off, and I can certainly record any longer-term ideas for the future. 

What would be most useful for me is to know the exact navigation issues that folk are having difficulty with: what exactly are you having problems finding and how are you trying to look for it at the moment? So for example, it was helpful to know that Sheila wanted to see the most recent activity on her clouds as that's something very concrete that I might be able to do something about. 

I really like the idea of using Tony's mash-up embedded somehow. The things that are stopping me leaping in are technical things such as how we make sure the embed window is the right size, what we do if the site that hosts the mash-up is down etc. These are hopefully surmountable but not necessarily trivially so. The other issue is whether the interface works well enough at it stands e.g. if you click on a person in the graph, does it take you to their profile on the site etc? Does the interface work well both for people with a small or non-existent network and those with a large network?  I need to spend some time checking that it won't cause more confusion than help! 

Finally, just want to say again that the big picture ideas from all of you with more of an outside perspective on the site are really great. There are lots of details to be thought through of course, but they are fantastic starting points for getting us rethinking the site.




Sheila MacNeill
10:08am 23 February 2013

Thanks Juliette - really appreciate the update. Sheila

Joshua Underwood
10:07am 11 March 2013

In response to Juliette's "What would be most useful for me is to know the exact navigation issues that folk are having difficulty with: what exactly are you having problems finding and how are you trying to look for it at the moment?" my answer would be that the main problem for me is not understanding what there is too find and not knowing where to look for an overview. So, I guess there the problem is defining the scope of the overview I want to be provided with - in the case of facilitating a week of the oldsmooc I guess it would be all activity somehow related to content for that week - probably with a clear indication of what I have already 'read', commented on, not read yet...

Oh yes, and while I'm at it wishing, links to all the 'off site' (not in clouds) related stuff too ;-)


Sheila MacNeill
10:15am 11 March 2013

Hi Josh

I think that is maybe why I've been looking at the profile page. That was the easiest way I could find to "find" my stuff:-)

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