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Nathan Casey's design narrative: Chinese (online) Camp

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Nathan Casey
4 April 2016

Chinese (online) Camp


My role in the design of the overall learning activity was two-fold:

  1. To advise the Design Team on how the aims of the course could be met in terms of overall structure, sequence of activities, activity type and type of activity template used
  2. To create the course online content by building assets in our online content management system, and using these to create the individual activities within our online LMS.


This short professional development course was designed for globally-distributed online teachers who work either from a physical teaching centre or from home. These teachers use a synchronous audiographic platform to work with students, but the majority of the students study is independent, using our own proprietary LMS (in a intended flipped classroom-type of model).

From our teacher satisfaction surveys, we understood that teachers wanted more networking opportunities with their global counterparts and to understand the experience of our students to a greater degree (both in terms of how students study independently using our online courseware, as well as their cultural background). 

As one of our biggest groups of students are culturally Chinese, we wanted to provide an opportunity for teachers to learn more about the culture and language as well as use the exact same online learning management system as out students (this was the first time we had planned to do this, using a separate LMS for initial teacher orientation and professional development opportunities). 

The course itself consisted of a number of individual, primarily independent self-study activities, designed to be put into practice in a synchronous audiographic conference at the end of the one-week course.  The content management system used for this course consisted of an asset bank and activity templates that dictated the form of activity, type of interaction and type of resource that could be used within it.

Key actors:

  1. The course Design Team: responsible for designing the overall structure of the course and individual activities within the course, managing the online LMS (inviting teachers, tracking individual progress and completion rates, etc), creating individual activity content and sourcing resources (video, image, audio)
  2. The Production Team: (primarily this consisted of myself) Responsible for adding / building resources / assets in our content management system and using these to create the individual learning activities. Additionally to hep evaluate the pedagogic approach proposed by the Design Team and negotiate how the course aims / objectives may be more effectively met through structure / sequencing of the individual learning activities and the templates available.
  3. The Academic Team: Responsible for testing the trial and beta versions of the course and providing feedback.
  4. Global online teachers: these were our students.


Provide a new type of professional development opportunity that:

  1. Facilitated networking and relationship building amongst our teachers from different global locations
  2.  Built awareness of main aspects of ‘the student experience’ (in this case both culturally and using the same online independent study resources that our students use when studying with)
  3. Developed (Mandarin) Chinese language awareness and ability to use basic phrases

Success would be measured through:

  1. Participation
  2. Course completion
  3. Surveys at the end of the course (enjoyment and perception of ‘usefulness’)


  1. Initial group collaboration / brainstorming to:
    1. Clarify aims and objectives of course
    2. Present the main features of the activity templates and how they could be used
    3. Outline the creation and production process with key milestones / deadlines

Unexpected outcome

As opportunity to network was a key driving force behind this, it quickly became clear that our system did not easily support the type of interactions that we were hoping for. This led to myself, from a production side, more clearly outlining what templates were available and how they should / could be adapted and used in context of what we wanted to achieve.

  1. Once the draft content outline had been created, a further group check to ensure that the sequence of activities was logical, clear and sound. 

Unexpected outcome 

At this point it was clear that there was a knowledge ‘gap’ between the types of activities that we could create and the types of activities that the design team wanted to include.  At this point, I ran a further, more detailed knowledge sharing session to ensure that everyone understood what our system was capable of and how this would look / work in practice.

  1. Design Team created detailed learning activity production notes, including sourcing / building relevant resources.

Expected / Unexpected result

As this was the first time we had done this, we expected to ‘expect the unexpected’ especially at this stage.  However, the sourcing / creation of materials took a lot longer than expected and further advice / guidance needed to be sought from the team who use the content management system to create content on a regular basis.

  1. Content production: Putting resources into the content management system and using these to build a test course.

Unexpected outcome

Some of the resources created / sourced displayed differently than expected after being converted into Flash / HTML.  This meant a second round of content sourcing / creation had to be undertaken.

  1. Testing: the academic team tested the course and provided feedback.

Expected Result

The academic team agreed that the course meant the initial brief provided, and was effectively designed to meet the learning aims / objectives.

  1. Course rollout (providing course details to developer team who released this into our live environment).


Intended objectives:

  1. High interest in the course; more teachers than we could include in each session applied to participate.
  2. Participation was initially high, but slowed towards the end of the week, with not all teachers within a group completing this within the required deadline.
  3. Participation rates in the synchronous online audiographic conference were low: not all teachers attended.
  4. Course survey rates were very positive: teachers enjoyed the course (both in terms of content and opportunities to interact) and perceived it to be useful (clear links between course content and how this could be used in class).

However, there was also a clear need for greater peer-to-peer interaction opportunities and the course took longer than initially thought.

 Unintended outcomes:

  1. New ways of collaborating and working with our online LMS / CMS; clear need for further, more in-depth training for the team.
  2. Understanding of how our ‘student’ LMS and activity templates can be adapted and used to meet alternative needs (than those they were initially designed for).


Through this design experience, a number of underlying factors became very clear:

  1. All participants involved in learning design in this particular context / using this particular LMS and CMS need a clear awareness of, and knowledge about, the limitations of the system and activity templates.  This helps efficiency during the design process as well as allows for more creativity when adapting the set activity templates to meet a variety of needs.
  2. Although this course was only one-week long there was a clear need for more ‘micro-touchpoints’ in which collaboration, discussion and comparison was engendered – this would not only help teachers to feel connected but also build rapport and a feeling of community that could only help when approaching the live session (and increase participation / completion rates).

 ‘Social’ templates (in which teachers listened to audio recordings of their peers and responded to these in kind) were only used to a very limited degree and these were the most popular activities – these need to be utilised to a greater extent and additional activity templates that allow for such interaction developed.

  1. From this experience it was clear that we needed to provide more of a forum which facilitated and afforded such experiences and opportunities (as described in the point above) outside of a structured ‘course’ of study.
  2. Attitudes towards the ‘authentic experience’ could have been more thoroughly investigated and the teachers encouraged to reflect on this and what this may mean for their students (e.g. why were the live session attendance rates lower than expected?  What implications may this have for the students that they work with and what they do during the live sessions that they themselves facilitate?).  This still has not yet been fully explored during future iterations of the course.

 CompendiumLD Design

Chinese Camp

See individual activity designs in 'Embedded Content' section below.

Extra content

Embedded Content


Susan Williams
3:25pm 4 April 2016 (Edited 3:25pm 4 April 2016)

Hi Nathan

Thank you for doing this design narrative.  You have a very ineresting and complicated kind of job.. just the kind of thing I like to do!  i appreciate the detail you went into to create this narrative and can see it must have taken a lot of thought to write it.  You set everything out very clearly and concisely.   It made me think that i could have done a better job of my own design, where I glossed over the actual curriculum work I did and feel I maybe focused more on the problems than the events.   Here you have a step by step approach with very clear objectives and results.  i would be intrested to see some of the online activities your design team make for your students. 

Nicola McIntyre
9:28pm 11 April 2016

Hi Nathan

This makes for a very interesting read.  I was particularly interested in the comment about exploring the "authenticity" of the participants experience further as this is a very important element of H800 for me.  In particular, it was interesting to note that participation tailed off towards the end of the week and that not all participants completed all the activities - it seems to model my own participation in H800 (although I get there in the end).   Would it help if you allowed particpants a few extra days to complete? Perhaps starting on a Friday and running until the Sunday 9 days later would allow the stragglers to complete. 


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