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Darren's review of representations

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Darren Gray
28 March 2013

I’ve gone a little wider but shallower than asked and commented on all of the different design models as I felt I needed to get an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of all of them...

4Ts Model

This model focuses on documenting the lesson timeline and the main components, ‘task’, ‘teams’, ‘technology’ and ‘time’. What is less clear is the ‘intention’ of the designer.

The ‘narrative’ of the lesson is very clear through the representation and given this, I could probably run the lesson. In this sense, it’s similar to a ‘trainer track’ which I used and created in a previous job to standardise the delivery of material by different facilitators. In conclusion it seems the most clear and ‘user-friendly’ way of representing the actual delivery of the lesson.

4SPPIces Model and in LdShake

The intentions of this model seem to be to facilitate a conversation between the academic and the technical aspects of delivery in online environments, (I thought that was my job!) The LdShake is the platform that allows this model to be shared. I like the model in that it gives a clear overview of the different components of the design, (participants, pedagogy, history, space). It’s difficult from the information given to ascertain the ‘depth’ of further level of information embedded behind the graphical summary. It also seems less effective than other models (e.g. 4Ts or CADMOS) at representing the narrative of the lesson. I also have no sense, from the overview, of how the LdShake platform facilitates the sharing of information.

ISIS Model

When reading the description of this model, I was impressed that it seemed to be trying to draw together important different aspects of a design, the ‘strategic’, ‘tactical’ and ‘intentional’ factors. I also liked the idea of an object orientated approach, which might allow different configurations to be explored, (I’m reading between the lines here  – it’s difficult to tell without ‘having a go’) and the re-use of elements. The consequences of this are that it seems to require a lot of information to be inputted and it seems really complicated. This object-orientated approach also seems to fragment the design, I understand the components but have no sense of the overall design.

e-Design Template

This model helps to map and therefore understand the development of the learner through the activities they undertake and so, can help you get a ‘helicopter’ view of the overall ‘progression’ of the learning intervention. What’s rather less clear is the ‘detail’ of the components of each activity, (technology, people etc.) as well as the connection between those components. Using this, I’d have trouble understanding how to ‘run’ the lesson, (in contrast to the 4Ts Model).


Like the 4Ts Model, CADMOS allows you to create a clear representation of the narrative of the lesson. I like the focus on representing this “flow” as well as the conceptual structure, allowing you to map resources to the kinds of activities in the lesson. From the description given, it seems possible to add further levels of detail to this representation such as metadata to describe the resources. As they stated in the resource, there are some limitations to the tool, such as only being able to assign a single learning outcome to an activity and the options for assigning categories to activities are limited due to the tool being focused on online rather than face-to-face. Having said that, I think this is one of the best of the tools reviewed.

Web Collage

The resource states that Web Collage has been created to support designers in mapping their ideas to established techniques for collaboration. This seems different to the other tools which seem more focused on giving you tools to represent your own designs. Thus, this tool might be helpful for less experienced learning designers who want to ‘validate’ their approach. Another interesting aspect of this tool is it’s integration with Moodle, allowing groups to be identified and assigned to activities, (though I wonder how well this works – it’s an impressive claim!)

What lets this tool down is the visual representation which it generates. I find it hard to decipher any aspect of the design, the resources or technologies used. It does give a clearer picture of the groupings of students in each activity but even this is lost in the visual clutter, which ends up looking like an electronic circuit board!

Design Principles Database

This model seems to address something missing from the others – providing a link between the ‘what’ and the ‘why’. Where it is less helpful is then creating a representation of the actual lesson design and its components. So this model seems to have a very limited focus which perhaps could be combined with one of the other models.

Thoughts so far...

All of these models show the difficulties in representing the various aspects of the design process and outcomes. Any design will be constructed from a number of components and the design needs to be viewed through a number of lenses to understand it in its entirety. This inherent complexity makes creating an effective representation difficult without spending vast amounts on software development and creating a steep learning curve for users. I thought the ‘CADMOS’ and ‘4Ts’ models were the best at representing the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the lesson. It was only the ‘Design Principles Database’ that gave me the ‘why’. There were aspects of the others that I liked for their intentions; the object approach of the ‘ISIS’ model, the integration with delivery of ‘Web Collage’ – but these aspirations might also have created deficiencies in their ability to clearly represent the design.

Representing my own design

The activity I chose to document was quite simple in its structure, short in duration and quite technology focused, (but also grounded in considerable research on the requirements of the audience). Because of it’s simplicity, it does not create complexity in its representation and would not stretch the abilities of some of the tools to represent the learning design.  This means that most of the tools could be used to represent the design in a meaningful way. The 4SPPIces Model and in LdShake model would perhaps be helpful to present the dialogue between the technology and the pedagogy whilst the ‘Design Principles Database’ could allow me to express some of the theoretical underpinning which applied to the activity

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