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Designing the learning architecture in HE

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  1. Designing the learning architecture in HE Martin Oliver, Institute of Education, University of London

  2. Overview • Flexibility and learning architecture • Examples of designing for learning • Concepts, interpretations and metaphors • Student experiences (Picking up on this morning’s feedback – what’s too flexible? From Open to Closed – and keynote – how do students make their ‘homes’; arranging and patterning? And a bit about post-humanism…)

  3. “Flexible learning”? Flexible learning is enabling learners to learn when they want (frequency, timing, duration), how they want (modes of learning), and what they want (that is learners can define what constitutes learning to them). (Van den Brande, 1993: 2)

  4. Consider the irony …of choosing to attend a series of face-to-face lectures about “promoting and developing flexible learning” • Is it really ironic…? Even if it is, is it sensible…?

  5. “Learning architecture”? • Learning architecture is…? • What architecture students do • The formalisations that allow intelligent systems (neural networks) to develop in response to new inputs • A map of the technical functionality required to support learning, and the technical systems that will provide this • A conceptual overview of the structures and processes that are intended to shape learning(…a euphemism for “teaching”…?) • But also • Architecture as a metaphor for designed structures • …and how about some real buildings too…?

  6. Pedagogy

  7. Some familiar ideas • Constructive alignment (Biggs, 1996) • Instructional design • Curriculum theory (e.g. Barnett & Coate, 2005) • A structure framing curricula in terms of acting, knowing and being • Resouce based learning and the economics of Higher Education (Dearing report) • Some perhaps less familiar?

  8. Designing for learning Source:; JISC, 2004

  9. Wherever we look, around the globe or in our own backyards, we can see that more and better education is needed. But the scale of the problem cannot be tackled through our traditional technologies for teaching. When you measure student numbers in billions, staff-student ratios of 1:30 make no impact at all. So the problem of scale is challenging. (Laurillard, 2008: 319-320) • Global education, but also MOOCs

  10. We have conceptualized the Learning Design Support Environment (LDSE) project as the development of an interactive microworld that enables teacher-designers to act like researchers by developing knowledge and practice about teaching and learning. We call this system The Learning Designer. It gives academics a way of developing and testing their teaching ideas in terms of the established principles of effective learning design. Here we illustrate only the phases of work within the project that (1) elicit users' conceptions of the learning design process; (2) balance their requirements and concepts against the existing knowledge base of teaching and learning and the aims of the project; and (3) provide a formal representation of a learning design that can be analysed in terms of the underlying principles. (Laurillardet al, 2013)

  11. Journal of Computer Assisted LearningVolume 29, Issue 1, pages 15-30, 15 NOV 2011 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2011.00458.x

  12. Pattern collections

  13. Technological platforms • The Virtual Learning Environment • VLE, LMS, IMS… • …and its integration (Student Records such as SITS) • Once home-grown • Co-Mentor, Boddington • Now typically commercially outsourced (and often commercially hosted) • Blackboard VLEs, Coursera MOOCs, etc. • TurnItIn • Interest in Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) • “Proponents of PLEs agree that there is a need to harness the power of a range of tools, services, and content outside of the institution that learners can use during their studies.” (Sclater, 2008: 3) • “Bring your own device” (BYOD)

  14. Institutional architectures

  15. Nikolova& Collis’ 19 dimensions of flexibility

  16. Disaggregating Universities (Weller, 2011) • Although this has been going on since at least 1836 (University of London)…

  17. Some questions

  18. Could there be a down side? As the learner progresses through the courseware, there is the opportunity to ask questions by selecting the associated ‘chat’ channel in the toolbar. In response, a chat window opens and the learner is greeted and invited to describe the assistance sought, in text form. The person who answers the questions is part of a call centre and is specifically trained to answer questions about the courseware. […] If the mentor is unable to answer a question, it is referred to a tutor with superior subject expertise, who returns a full answer to the learner by e-mail within a set period. (PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 2000: 23-4)

  19. Will we end up with flexibility of quality…?(This is still more support than you’d get on a MOOC…)

  20. What’s the opposite of structured…? • Flexible? • Unstructured? • Improvised? • Ad hoc? • Ambiguous? • Disorganised?

  21. Morgan, via Thorpe, 2002 What connotations?

  22. The problem of design • Design is socially relative: it incorporates social terms of reference • Where design prefers particular groups, social injustice arises • Dominant technical codes, and the over-determination of action: managerial control • Room for maneuver as necessary and desirable in designs Feenberg (e.g. 2010)

  23. The ‘margin of maneuver’ Power expresses itself in plans which inevitably require implementation by those situated in the tactical exteriority. But no plan is perfect; all implementation involves unplanned actions in what I call the “margin of maneuver” of those charged with carrying it out. In all technically mediated organizations margin of maneuver is at work, modifying work pace, misappropriating resources, improvising solutions to problems and so on. Technical tactics belong to strategies as implementation belongs to planning. (Feenberg, 1999: 113)

  24. Power and interests The flexible student is not a spontaneous occurrence. Students (including full-time students) have been engineered to become more ‘flexible’ as a result of policies, which have put more financial pressures on them to work in particular ways. It has also the created conditions under which the only way for many adults to access higher education is via ‘flexible’ modes of delivery. In this sense, students are forced to become ‘flexible’ and the flexibility to which they are supposed to conform is a particular pre-determined set of learning practices or process. (Clegg & Steel, 2002)

  25. Flexibility or (ir)responsibility? The emergence of [flexible lifelong learning] serves in these senses as both cause and effect. On the one hand it enables both the individualisation of responsibility for education or learning, and on the other it enables the abolition of welfare obligations of states. […] In this sense, lifelong learning is a market discourse that orientates education to the enterprise society where the learner becomes an entrepreneur of him/herself. What s/he becomes depends solely on her/himself and the choices s/he makes. S/he is responsible for her/himself. Such a model requires skills of self‐management and record keeping so that demonstrations of established learning are rendered transparent through audit. Ultimately lifelong learning shifts responsibility from the system to the individual whereby individuals are responsible for self‐emancipation and self‐creation. It is the discourse of autonomous and independent individuals who are responsible for updating their skills in order to achieve their place in society. (Olssen, 2006)

  26. Do we desire structure? Interpassivity is defined in relation to the more common notion of interactivity, and refers to the way digital technologies position people as responders. Žižek’s prime example is the tamagochi, the virtual pet that captivates its carers by issuing orders: ‘the satisfaction is provided by our being compelled to care for the object any time it wants – that is, by fulfilling its demands’ (1999a, p. 107). In contrast to non-digital toys, such as dolls, which are passive and pliable, the tamagochi is thoroughly active: ‘the whole point of the game is that it always has the initiative, that the object controls the game’ (p. 108 – author’s emphasis). It is the process of delegating our agency to the game’s needs that sustains enjoyment. (Pelletier, 2005)

  27. Sociomateriality Humans, and what they take to be their learning and social process, do not float, distinct, in container-like contexts of education, such a classrooms or community sites, that can be conceptualised and dismissed as simply a wash of material stuff and spaces. The things that assemble these contexts, and incidentally the actions and bodies including human ones that are part of these assemblages, are continuously acting upon each other to bring forth and distribute, as well as to obscure and deny, knowledge. (Fenwick et al, 2011)

  28. What is lost? The campus is best thought of not simply as a constraint but, to borrow Brown and Duguid’s phrase, as a ‘resourceful constraint’ (Brown & Duguid2000: 246), one it would be premature to write off and which those developing distributed learning need to take seriously. The campus – or more generally, the co-location of learners, teachers, labs, class-rooms, lecture theatres, libraries and so on – refuses to lie down and die. […] Those seeking to develop distributed education should understand the support a campus setting gives the educational process and should be prepared for the necessity to find new ways of providing that support in a distributed education context. (Cornford & Pollock, 2005: 181, 170)

  29. Experiences

  30. Holley’s work on students’ non-engagement with a flexible course • Biographic Narrative accounts of students’ experiences • Mismatches between students and tutor expectations that form the basis for “portraits of risk” • Expectations about Higher Education • Views of learning space as private or social • Their ability to control technology

  31. “It’s because I always wanted something that was mine and, you know, when you’re working and you buy something with your first pay cheque, that computer, I felt kind of good. I felt like I was working, old enough, I’d bought something to the family, so it was something that I also did for them, as well as for me. So it was something kind of precious. It was something that I did for myself and for the rest of the family.” (Holley & Oliver, 2009)

  32. Marco does not see himself as a typical student; this is partly because of his part time work. He prefers the peace and quiet of his home to study; student areas of the university are noisy. […] Marco is keen to use technology at a place and time of his choosing, and he wants to keep the University side of his life separate from the rest. He manages a combination of work and study by strictly controlling the impact of his study to regular periods when he has carved out the space, either in his preferred location of home or the post-work period when there is quiet in the office behind the bar. He is blocking out time to create space, and giving up sleep to enable him to continue to pursue his aims of a degree while living in London and earning his own living. (Holley & Oliver, 2010)

  33. Joanne is a single mum [who] started University 6 years ago, and had to give it up when she became pregnant […] The circumstances that allow concentration to occur are typically when she has been able to split her time up and create a learning space. Sitting down is important, in the peace and quiet of the university library, away from home. The space and freedom of the library is liberating for Joanne, and offers her far more now as a mature learner than it did previously as a young undergraduate. Online materials help with creating the circumstances for concentration, and Joanne prefers to make use of these. The university has IT studios where she can sit and focus on her work. (Holley & Oliver, 2010)

  34. Power, the changing role of the tutor and the relationship between technology and flexibility all feature strongly in the student narratives presented here. What was novel, however, was the importance of controlling spaces for learning. These accounts showed how easily Charles was able to colonise new spaces for study (at home and online) using principles from his work in industry. […] The irony here is that the online learning materials had been created to support the widening participation agenda, yet in these cases, it was the traditional ‘good’ student who thrived. (Holley & Oliver, 2010)

  35. “Digital literacies as a postgraduate attribute?” • Led by Lesley Gourlay, IOE • • Survey data, focus groups, multimodal journalling • 12 students, 3-4 interviews over 9-12 months • Focus on understanding how students study – where, when, how • Visual data, used to guide discussions

  36. Faith: ‘coping’

  37. In my school, I… we had… our staff room was equipped… one, two, three, four, five, six, seven… seven computers now we can use and only one of them attached with a printer. So, actually we’ve got six PGC students over there, so it’s, kind of, everybody wants to get to that computer where you can use the printer. Yes, so in the end I found actually I can also use the printer from the library in the school. So, six student teachers tried to use other computer. So, it, kind of, sometimes feels a bit crowded. And when the school staff want to use it, well, okay, it seems like we are the invaders, intruders?

  38. “The bathroom is a good place to read”

  39. Conclusions • Well-established approaches to designing for flexibility • Newer approaches to codifying and sharing ‘patterns’ and other formalisms • An increasingly mature, outsourced and taken-for-granted technical infrastructure • But are we asking students to do more – although only on our terms? • Where have we given flexibility? • What ambiguity has this introduced? • What are we implicitly requiring students to do in order to deal with this?

  40. Designing the learning architecture involves managing the tension between structure and flexibility • “Empowerment of learners” – all learners, always…? Some…? (Coercing…?) • We need to consider… • Well established issues(learning objectives, assessment, etc.), and… • Pedagogic structures – and who’s responsible for deciding them • Material and technical structures – and who’s responsible for providing them (BYOD? We always did…!) • Ambiguities – and who’s responsible for resolving them • Whose interests are being served by doing this

  41. • •

  42. References Barnett, R. & Coate, K. (2005) Engaging the Curriculum in Higher Education. Buckingham: Open University Press. Biggs, J. (1996) Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. Higher Education, 32: 1–18. Cornford, J. & Pollock, N. (2005) The University Campus as a ‘resourceful constraint’: [processand practice in the construction of the virtual university. In Lea, M. & Nicoll, K. (Eds), Distributed Learning: Social and cultural approaches to practice, 170-181. London: RoutledgeFalmer. Feenberg, A. (1999) Questioning Technology. London: Routledge. Feenberg, A. (2010) Between reason and experience: essays in technology and modernity. London: MIT Press. Fenwick, T., Edwards,R. & Sawchuk, P. (2011) Emerging Approaches to Educational Research: Tracing the Sociomaterial. London: Routledge. Holley, D. & Oliver, M. (2009) A private revolution: how technology is enabling students to take their work home. ELiSS: Enhancing Learning in the Social Sciences, 1 (3), Holley, D. & Oliver, M. (2010) Student engagement and blended learning: portraits of risk. Computers & Education 54, 693-700.

  43. References JISC (2004) Effective practice with e-learning: a good practice guide in designing for learning. Bristol: JISC. Available online: Laurillard, D. (2008) Open teaching: The key to sustainable and effective open education. In Iiyoshi, T. & Kumar, M. (eds), Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge, 319-335. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. Laurillard, D., Charlton, P., Craft, B., Dimakopoulos, D., Ljubojevic, D., Magoulas, G., Masterman, E., Pujadas, R., Whitley, E.A. and Whittlestone, K. (2013) A constructionist learning environment for teachers to model learning designs. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29: 15–30. Nikolova, I., & Collis, B. (1998) Flexible learning and the design of instruction. British Journal of Educational Technology, 29(1), 59-72 Olssen, M. (2006). Understanding the mechanisms of neoliberal control: lifelong learning, flexibility and knowledge capitalism. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 25(3), 213-230.

  44. References Pelletier, C. (2005) Reconfiguring Interactivity, Agency and Pleasure in the Education and Computer Games Debate – using Zizek’s concept of interpassivity to analyse educational play. E–Learning, 2 (4), 317-326. PriceWaterhouseCoopers (2000) Annex 3: Learning products and services for the e-U. Available online: Sclater, N. (2008). Web 2.0, personal learning environments, and the future of learning management systems. Research Bulletin, 13, 2008-2009. Thorpe, M. (2005) From independent learning to collaborative learning: new communities of practice in open, distance and distributed learning. In Lea, M. & Nicoll, K. (Eds), Distributed Learning: Social and cultural approaches to practice, 131-151. London: RoutledgeFalmer. Van den Brande, L. (1993). Flexible and distance learning. Chichester, UK: John Wiley.