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Supporting educators to rethink their learning design practice with the 7 Cs of Learning Design

‘Teachers want support and guidance to help them rethink their design practice, to think beyond content to and activities to make pedagogically informed design decisions that make good use of technologies’.  

I’ve just been listening over the OLDs MOOC hangout for Week 3 and particularly enjoyed the Q&A with

Professor Gráinne Conole

The sentence above stood out from the 60 minutes, as well as how this was put into context for the MOOC in Week 3 and coming up in Week 8.

Personally I wish we’d had something like this to begin the week. I got in early, did a couple of activities then followed the noise from the active design group I’ve joined. Give others a turn. Let things roll over. This works. Leave gaps and sometimes others will come along and think, OK, he’s done that so I can see how it works, or might work for me. I won’t bother with that tool, I’ll try something else and see what people make of it.

I cherry picked and as this hangout suggests and recommends, I’ll go back and pick out more as required.

I enjoyed downloading, colouring in, cutting out then using the Activity Cards. This is more my thing than the EXCEL spreadsheet – which I planned on a sheet of paper then transferred over. I might use an APP to generate such a thing. I find EXCEL somewhat heavy handed, or I’d want to design it in a way that I like.

We learnt about the background to 7Cs. The background and context was invaluable. Credibility ought not be taken for granted. Work like this needs to be put on a pedestal and people told of its credentials and worth – i.e sell it to me!

7Cs is an OU with OU Learning Design Initiative with JISC through the Curriculum Design Programme. Activity Profile and Course Map. Trialed thoroughly.

Gráinne Conole continued this work with the JISC funded CARPE Dium learning design workshops at Leicester whiuch provides a ‘ rich storyboard of learning design’.

More on this from:

Gabi Witthaus
Ming Nei

More at http://www.olds.ac.uk/
And http://e4innovation.com/

Overarching conceptual framework

A lot Cs here:

Conceptualise – vision for the course, who is it for, what is the nature of the learners and personas
Course features – the essence of it.
Creative activity – capture, communicate and consider
Combine – into course map and activity profile
Consolidate – running it as face to face, or VLE, or more specialised learning design tool, or ….

From Gráinne‘s blog:

7 cs of learning design from Gráinne Conole

7Cs element
Learning Design tool
Course features
Design Narratives
Analysing context: factors and concerns
Resource audit
Repository search strategy
Course map
Activity profile
Task swimlane
E-moderating framework
Mapping forums, blogs and wikis
Communicative affordances
Collaborative affordances
CSCL Pedagogical Patterns
Assessment Pedagogical Patterns
Learning outcomes map

With current thinking on 7Cs

Various systems offered and can be tried.

Listening to OLDs MOOCers it appears that the 7Cs framework has been received well

  • It articulates what teachers already do.
  • There are 7 aspects in a whole design process.
  • What level are you teaching, what level of support do they need etc:
  • Teachers (all of us I would say, educators, learning designers, L&D managers) are bewildered by the range of tools, the range of approaches so fall back on their own content. So use the tools to think about the activities, the core essence of hte course.

Gráinne introduced the work of Helen Keegan, Augmented Reality and risk.
More on use of augmented learning

7Cs has been found useful in Australia

  • Indigenous Culture on locality.
  • Introducing elements of serendipity.
  • Activity profile
  • Is it the right mix of learning for what you want the students to do.
  • Correlation of time mapped out to what students are achieving … so she is poor at communication in Spanish … and there is little communication in the course she is doing.

Is this the right tool set?

  • Covers all the aspects of design.
  • Getting a taster for these in the course.

‘A huge amount in the MOOC is mix and pic, so take your time, come back to the resources. Six months down the line, you discover which ones you like’.

  • Some love the activity profiles some don’t, so find the mix that works for you.
  • Some with learning outcomes.
  • Some with the content.
  • Some with the characteristics of the context of the learners.
  • Different tools will mean different things to different people.

‘We’re offering a Smörgåsbord of offerings that you can develop and use over time. Pick the ones that are relevant to you, don’t feel that you have to use all of them’.

Larnica Declaration on Learning Design

(More coming up in WK 8 to act as a springboard to reflect)

  • What is learning design?
  • How has it come about?
  • Why is it different to structural design?

Professor James Dalziel

2011 ALTC National Teaching Fellow

  • Driven by people in Europe and colleagues in Australia.
  • What is learning design? How has it come about?
  • How is it distinct from instructional design?
  • Major Epiphany moment Sept 2012
  • Two days in Cyprus
  • Timeline of key moments since 199 learning design

REF: Key books on design science (Dianna Laurillard)  Teaching Design as a Science

It’s aimed to be pedagogically neutral so that it can be used across a range of methodologies and pedagogies.

  • Tools for guidance and support
  • Tools for visualisation
  • Tools for sharing like Cloudworks

What works for you

  • It depends on the nature of how people want to go about things
  • Visual
  • Linear
  • Connect and be sociable
  • Open, unstructured … to form some kind of navigatable way through, as well as enjoying the serendipity. Having the options of the long and short routes.
  • Is something more needed in the middle ground. B MOOCs.


Clive Shepherd – the book, in person, ideas on learning and development in the World Wide Web 2.0


Fig.1. Learners in the second decade of the 21st century – needs and expectations. Shepherd (2011:16)

A few weeks ago I shared a few books I had read, cover-to-cover, extolling the virtues of listening to someone’s thesis over several hours or days rather than consuming only the sound bites offered by the Internet.

This was one of the recommendations. The platform was the Linkedin group ‘Giants, Wizards and Goblins’ for alumni of the OU MBA module B822 ‘Creativity, Innovation and Change’.

I can pass on the recommendation as I enter my second read – a second round of highlighting, adding notes and sharing excerpts via Twitter and Facebook – no copyright infringement here surely – like any of us I am promoting the book and the man, as well as into the orignal interest group in Linkedin. I’ll get my head around it vicariously.

For the umpteenth time I might like to ask an author to sign the book, but yet again I only have the eBook. Is there a problem here looking for a solution? Perhaps I should put it to Clive Shepherd this morning at an event hosted by e-learning agency Kineo at the City & Guilds, London.

Studying entirely online with the Open University (Masters in Open and Distance Education) I find I seek out opportunties such as this, to hear someone talk, to be in the audience, so as to sense ideas as they bubble up in a context that makes them more likely to adhere as a memory. The advantage of course doing this online is that we generally speak through our fingertips so there is a lasting record that is more easily absorbed.

For me, sixty ideas worth sharing from the book ‘The New Learning Architect’ may coalesce into five or six of most significance and value to my current projects and plans.


Shepherd, C (2011) The New Learning Architect

Here’s how to improve retention in e-learning – scaffolding, mentors, interaction and community

Fig.1. For online learning to work you need scaffolding – Drawing by Simon Fieldhouse

Levels of interaction and support

  • Drop out rates from 20-50% for online courses … more than for traditional courses.

A full breakdown of the figures, how prepared, representing which institutions and student groups would be helpful. Anyone can use a statistic if they don’t identify its source.

Really this bad?

But if they’ve paid their fees the college has its cash and can free up resources. Do the bean counters recognise the contribution those quitting to make a course viable, let alone profitable?

Educational Institutions should go to extraordinary lengths to attract and retain the right people to courses and to keep them on board and fully engaged.

A major issue is the degree of academic integration.

  • Performance
  • Academic self-esteem
  • Identity as a student

Against sticking with a course are :

  • isolation
  • instructional ineffectiveness
  • failing academic achievement
  • negative attitudes
  • overall dissatisfaction with the learning experience

Self-directed skill set:

  • self-discipline
  • the ability to work alone
  • time management
  • learning independence
  • a plan for completing


Self-directed learning skills … that are developed in a social context through a variety of human-oriented interactions with peers and colleagues, teams, informal social networks, and communities of practice.

‘These challenges to the retention of distance learners, interestingly enough, have something in common, they seem to hinge on learners’ need for significant support in the distance learning environment through interaction with others (e.g. peers, instructors, and learner support services personnel).’  Tait (2000)

The central functions of learner support services for students in distance education settings are:

  • cognitive
  • affective
  • systemic

Scaffolding – ZPD (Vygotsky, 1934)

Scaffolding involves providing learners with more structure during the early stages of a learning activity and gradually turning responsibility over to learners as they internalize and master the skills needed to engage in higher cognitive functioning. (Palinscar, 1986; Rosenshine and Meister, 1992).

Scaffolding has a number of important characteristics to consider when determining the types of learner support services distance students may need:

Academic course ‘scaffolding’:

  • Provides structure
  • Functions as a tool
  • Extends the range of the learner
  • Allows the learner to accomplish a task that would otherwise not be possible
  • Helps to ensure the learner’s success
  • Motivates the learner
  • Reduces learner frustration
  • Is used, when needed, to help the learner, and can be removed when the learner can take on more responsibility.

(Greenfield, 1984; McLoughlin and Mitchell, 2000; Wood et al., 1976)

‘Scaffolding is an inherently social process in which the interaction takes places in a collaborative context.’

In relation to learning with the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA)

  • Are people coming onto the Level II course who are not yet suitable? Do they submit a learning orientation questionnaire?
  • Is the candidate’s club or pool operator giving them ample assistant teaching opportunities and support?

Mentors utilise the items gathered during the admissions process – data from the intake interview, self-assessment, diagnostic pre-assessment, and Learning Orientation Questionnaire – to develop to Academic Action Plan, that provides a roadmap for the learner’s academic progress including information about learning resources and assessment dates.’ At WGU.

Learning is a function of the activity, context, and culture in which it occurs – i.e., it is situated (Wenger, 1998).

Successful completion of and satisfaction with an academic experience is directly related to students’ sense of belonging and connection to the program and courses (Tinto, 1975).

Social learning experiences, such as peer teaching, group projects, debates, discussion, and other activities that promote knowledge construction in a social context, allow learners to observe and subsequently emulate other students’ models of successful learning.’

‘A learning community can be defined as a group of people, connected via technology mediated communications, who actively engage one another in collaborative learner-centred activities to intentionally foster the creation of knowledge, while sharing a number of values and practices, including diversity, mutual appropriation, and progressive discourse.’

N.B. ‘Creating a positive psychological climate built upon trusting human relationships.’


Collins, A., Brown, J. S., & Newman, S. (1989). Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the craft of reading, writing, and mathematics. In L. Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, learning and instruction: Essays in honor of Robert Glaserm, 453-494.

Duguid, Paul (2005). “The Art of Knowing: Social and Tacit Dimensions of Knowledge and the Limits of the Community of Practice”. The Information Society (Taylor & Francis Inc.): 109–118.

Ludwig-Hardman & Dunlap. (2003) Learner Support Services for Online Students: Scaffolding for success  in The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol 4, 10, 1 (2003)

Palincsar, A.S. (1986). Reciprocal teaching. In Teaching reading as thinking. Oak Brook, IL: North Central Regional Educational Laboratory.

Rosenshine, B. & Meister, C. (1992) The use of scaffolds for teaching higher-level cognitive strategies. Educational leadership, 49(7), 26-33.

Seely Brown, John; Duguid, Paul (1991). “Organizational learning and communities-of-practice: Toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation”. Organization Science 2 (1).JSTOR 2634938.

Tait, J (2004) The tutor/facilitator role in retention. Open Learning, Volume 19, Number 1, February 2004 , pp. 97-109(13)

Tinto, V (1975) Dropout from Higher Education: A Theoretical Synthesis of Recent Research. Review of
Educational Research Vol.45, No1, pp.89-125.

Vygotsky. L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of the higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: The Harvard University Press

Vygotsky, L. S. (1998a). Infancy (M. Hall, Trans.). In R. W. Rieber (Ed.), The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky: Vol. 5. Child psychology (pp. 207-241). New York: Plenum Press. (Original work written 1933-1934)

Wenger, Etienne (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-66363-2.

SWOT analysis on forums used for e-learning as a mindmap

Fig. 1. The strengths and weaknesses of online forums for learning

Forums are a core component of the Open University’s Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE), both for the tutor and student forums that are used through-out – the course is entirely online – and as a tool or process that we have to use and be assessed on using.  33 months in I have been a student in six forums, many break out forums, even moderated some when our tutor was unavailable for a period of weeks (we took it in turns). I’ve seen them work well, fail completely and muddle along.


Fig.2. The ups and downs of our tutor group activity in H800: Technology Enhanced Learning: practices and debates

It’s a strange business, like a high street with a dozen cafes and restaurants – some buzz, some buck, some expand, some close. In the above example there was excitement and universal participation when we said hello and later said goodbye. As each Tutor Marked Assignment approached everyone got busy composing their essay. Other peaks will include where we HAD TO take part in a group or sub-group activity in order to complete a task that we then wrote up in the assignment.

In 2001 I did an early module of that was then the Masters in Open and Distance Learning. Experimental. More of a bulletin board. A message every other week for the novelty factor with little sense of how it would break out into the social networking, peer group, live and as live, synchronous or asynchronous hub that they can be today.

What are the pros and cons of curating content or following someone’s choices? Do you curate?


Sam Burroughs spoke at the Wee Learning evening in Bath on Thursday.


It turns out that I have been playing this curation game for some time, that it is nuanced aggregation of content – go public with it on a consistent theme are you are blding your own audience, serving a purpose by pulling in content that you rate. A simple list of links is a start, the next step is to use an RSS feed to have content patchedin regularly or to use an aggregator that assembles the content for you as it it uploaded. You get your own daily paper as it were in some instances. Start doing this for colleagues and you find yourself curating a learning and news resource.

Sam Burroughs represents thousands of learners in the commercial secotor when it comes to continual professional development his drive is to get internal learners to have their a personal development plan and to seek out pertinent courses and content for themselves rather than waiting for and relying on a course list. As well as self–development reading and curating content themselves will make them more connected in and out of the company as well as gaining a better understanding of the technology. – so looking for relative content to solve their problems that they can share or make available to others.

Sam introduced Beth Kanter, Robin Good and Howard Rheingold.

Beth Kanter
Seak, Sense, Share – take the pain out of finding content.

Robin Good – master curator

Robin Good on curation
Published on11 Jun 2011byHoward Rheingold

In interview Robin Good, that master of new media (http://masternewmedia.org) about curation — what it is, what it requires, why it’s important, how to do it.

Robin thinks of Google as Macdonalds, whereas the curator runs a bespoke restaurant. He talks about curation as ‘sense making’ not just links. That curation helps people to learn better and faster from people they know or respect.

He describes curation as ‘curiosity’ – something done with passion and antennaes. As any publisher or author would do, he stresses the need to Know the audience, not simply the artists.
He atresses also the need for transparench, to correctly add citations and links to the content you pull in.

Robin Good on curation
Published on 11 Jun 2011 by Howard Rheingold

In interview Robin Good, that master of new media (http://masternewmedia.org) about curation — what it is, what it requires, why it’s important, how to do it.

Howard Rheingold
see video for shaf he thinks curation is a DJ … when did I coin the phrase BJ.

Are the following curators, journalists, academics or publishers?

Names I would mention include:

Hugo Dixon
Andrew Sullivan
Martin Weller

Hugo Dixon established Breaking Views in 1999, got ahead of Reuters by providing institutions, for a subscrtion, with opinion on busienss news as it occured – after 8 years Reutersbought him out.

Andrew Sullivan blogs five or more times a day, some of this pulls in content from elsewhere, more is original journalism. They are a team of five at The Daily Beast getting 1 million views a month, financed by online advertising. Publisheror curator, it strikes me that a curator does it for the loveof the subject – the ‘objects’ in their collection.

The Edtechie is the blog from the author of the Digital Scholar, Martin Weller – He has over 3,000 followers. As an academic does he curate his own publications and ideas? Or does that make him a specialist librarian?

Sam likes the idea that you ’learn for myself’, and how it started with blogs then moved onto tools such as Delicious, the Digo +tag, organise with key words and RSS feeds.

There are various RSS aggregators.

Sam has come across 250 curation tools. How do you know which are the best? You give them a whirl or ask others what they think. Some to try include:


What tools for curating content can you recommend?

Is curation a better way to engage the quieter and less active learner online?

Fig.1 Hockney

I’ve nearly always been on the outside looking in, a ‘creative’ on the outside who is commissioned regularly to deliver learning content – historically a great deal of video, interactive DVD and then online.

There was often an interesting difference between projects for internal audiences and how or whether they were well promoted compared to externally commercially sponsored learning that had to attract and retain a large audience. The internal projects got a fraction of the budget to promote it than that spent on producing the thing in the first place – often, by all accounts, the entire budget. This for better where the learning was integrated into the landscape of regular internal communications – the monthly video news magazine being typical.

Looking at it we came to understand that in the UK we are very good at making stuff, but not so good at getting the message out.

We used the ratio  of 5:3:1 to suggest, for example, how £80,000 might be spent on an interactive and online project – say £50,000 on the design, writing, graphics and build, £30,000 to support it over a shelf life of a year or two and £10,000 to publicise.

In North America it went the other way.

Have a neat idea, but keep it simple and sweet – spend far more marketing it and then with audience engagement and from lessons learned improved the product and develop a relationship with the audience so that they keep coming back for more.

If curation is the way forward then the next step will be to draw on my experience as a visitor to countless museums and galleries, houses and castles – from the mishaps of a rainy day to the inspired and repeated visits to museum events. Does this become a journey through your mind? Is it any wonder that people who demonstrate extraordinary feats of recollection do so by pegging images to a journey through a familiar space? Might a way to prepare for an exam to create a temporary exhibition of your own?

Fig. 2. Production stills from a cross-section of training projects written, directed and produced by Jonathan Vernon – on YouTube @JJ27VV

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