Sunday, 28 February 2016

Course Design using OULDI

The assignment I'm working on this week is to use the OULDI course design cards to begin planning the course I will use as my assessment later in the course.

The course I'm planning to design is for our primary school teaching staff to support delivery of the computing programme of study, and programming in particular. I've done a number of face to face sessions, for which I've made resources I can recycle, and I'm interested in developing our use of personal learning networks, online conferencing (using

For the assignment I've been asked to simply sort the cards into:
  • Key Feature of course
  • Minor Feature
  • Not a Feature
The video shows some deeper activities - but in truth you'd need a group working together to get the most out of them.

So here's mine....

It's a lot of cards - and far too many so far on the "Key" column...

The definite No cards break into some subgroups.

Some are cards that just aren't relevant to my course idea and context - they may be relevant if someone outside our organisation used the course, but I'm not designing it for them!
  • Political
  • International
  • Day Schools
  • Residential
  • Accessible
  • Reused or found
  • Printed (although anyone will be able to print material if they want!)
  • Exam Assessment
  • Practice Placement
Others are discarded for more specific reasons:

  • It isn't Theory Based - this is a practical course and it has to feel like it is focused on practical outcomes every moment - theory (mostly constructivist) will underpin it of course.
  • It can't be blended although I'd love it to be, because it wouldn't be an affordable model.
  • Enquiry based sounds attractive, but is too extended and long term for this situation - I may try and leave trails for people who want to pursue that...
  • Computer Market Assessment is meaningless as there won't be specific answers to test people on.
  • Step by Step Instruction flies in the face of what the course needs - the build capacity to act independently and a 'fill in the dots' approach to teaching programming would perhaps be good for one or two lessons, but not to genuinely foster good teaching.

The Minors were harder to select, several I could argue if I were in a group should be key (and several key ones were borderline).

  • Portfolio because a good outcome would be a sample of work produced - but if someone did the course and had none, I'd not be worried.
  • Peer Assessment, Debate because I think it would be an idea way to support students, but I doubt it will work practically with the size and spread of people so cannot make it a key feature.
  • Continuous Assessment because it has to be continuous, but assessment itself isn't central to the work.
  • Innovative for the team& the student because it's good to be modelling online learning for colleagues, but that isn't what we're doing it for.
  • Sustainable because it needs to be, but it isn't the reason.
  • Student generated content because lesson plans and materials made can be invaluable, but again that's not the purpose.
  • Student choice because it is desirable, but will be limited by the resources available.
  • Research based to emphasise the need for independence, but accept the limited time available.
Finally the Key Ones - too many - I want to ensure I build into the course design:
  • Mentoring in Workplace and Practice Based because there are teachers who are confident in this area who will make ideal coaches and helpers - and hopefully the course will give delegates the impetus to make use of that.
  • Conversation because... well because without it why call it a course! Clarification, motivation, peer support...
  • Online& Individual  because that is what is affordable and practical - personalised in the sense of offering choices and advice and trusting the student to find their way.
  • Problem Based & Collaborative with Peer Support because I want much of the programme to be about building that personal agency, that independence of thought and I think working through challenging problems will build confidence and independence.
  • Group Tutorials and One to One or One to Few Tutorials because I think occasional online meetings will bring the course alive. I find on this course the relative isolation means I don't necessarily have my ideas pushed much - I face a problem, I do my best to solve it, I move on - group tutorials would help push me. I fear the group tutorials will turn into one to ones...
  • Active Discovery on a Guided Pathway with Autonomy and Scaffolded because I'd argue it's essential to that problem based approach, and also to make finding and sharing resources an intrinsic part of the course and get away from "this is the set of materials I must use" trap - but that needs to be structured and guided.
  • Self-Assessment Tutor Assessment & Feed Forward Assessment because I think it's the only meaningful and practical method for this situation. If I could only pick one it would be Self.
  • Reflective Log or Blog because if I'm designing something constructively and COI based... reflection and a means of sharing is essential.
  • Applied Concepts and Authentic Learning because people will need to take these ideas and use them for lessons for it to be valid - and learning to program without learning to teach programming is a failure.
  • Social & Professional Community * because I see the social network aspect and ongoing support as essential (and a desirable outcome in it's own right for the program, again building that 'Personal Presence' in the COI
I don't think completing the exercise has necessarily helped me plan the course much - but the test will be further down the line, and if I had done this in a group I dare say I'd have done it better and gained more from it.

* I'm calling this the Professional Social Network for want of a better term.

It isn't as diverse as a PLE but it has a high degree of autonomy within the framework set by the organisation controlling the directory of users and the content.

It looks and feels like a social network, but the grouping is one that is brought together by professional association.


Here are my two course Personas - Mandy and Mark.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Personal Presence

This is my effort to show how that fourth presence in the COI might be represented (for references and the story so far, see this blog post).

What I'm trying to do is show that external to the classic community of inquiry model, there are other factors in play that I'm calling Personal Presence (as opposed to Emotional Presence (Reintes and Rivers), Autonomy Presence (Lam) or Agency Presence (Anderson)).

I draw it like this as opposed to a fourth circle in the venn because I think it interacts with all three other areas, and is by it's nature outside it. I call it personal because I think it's related to personalising learning (in the sense of the learner actively engaging and shaping, not the system adapting to some kind of needs assessment).

Personal Agency is what you bring to the party as it were:

  • How you emotionally are prepared to take part and learn.
  • How you understand and are able to pitch in and become an active part of the community itself - which will require the kinds of skills and support Salmon writes about.
  • How you use your wider, extended network of professional contacts and resources to influence your involvement with the COI, including tools you use - which is highly relevant to the writing on PLEs.

Sharing Learning Design(s)

Research has shown that individuals, teams and institutions can adopt quite different approaches to how they set about conceiving of and describing learning designs. In part this may reflect different approaches to teaching and different institutional cultures.
Which part/s of the design do you usually think about first when you begin a new learning design? Do you start with – the learners, the technology, learning approach, previous designs, resource constraints, time constraints, institutional strategy, or ...?
Where do your ideas originate? From colleagues, from conferences or events, from student data or feedback, from personal experience, from case studies, or ...?
What difficulties do you often encounter when trying to describe your design ideas to colleagues or to yourself?

I will generally start with what has and hasn't worked in the past. Whatever I am planning will either be comparable to something I may have designed before, or an evolution of an existing programme.

For example when planning a workshop and support on programming in the national curriculum, I was not starting from scratch (pun intended), I was drawing on experience of other training events from similar schools and from recent classroom work on programming.

The starting point is always 'how will this be applied by the end of the session, and a few months later,' in terms of quite specific 'non-negotiable' things that if they aren't clear will mean the activity was a failure. I'll also think about the more advanced people in the group and what I believe they already know and think about how I can ensure they also get something from the work.

The next point, before I get into any detailed planning, is to consider the approach and way that the available time will be broken up to ensure there is a sense of purpose and pace. So I'll consider the mix of online time, instruction, individual activities, discussion, group activities. If it is a multi-session programme I'll consider what might work between sessions and at the start of each.

As I am not based at a specific centre I rarely need to follow an institutional style or strategy - indeed if it is IT related I'll probably have shaped it. If however there is a local set of rules or guidance I'll use them to make sure what I am modelling is transferable - it is also good manners!

Once I have a sense of what I want the flow of the sessions to be I then look at content.

Ideas tend to come from past experience, and especially from watching other people teach which is probably the best professional development in existence for a teacher.

The greatest difficulties I find are:

  • when planning for myself,  I will often need to adapt and change and may find an hour's planning never gets used because once I get into the flow, an earlier idea of activity from a previous session will slot in better than what I was expecting. So when asked for a detailed programme I try to avoid being too detailed as there's a need - once you've committed to an approach - to stick with it and deliver.
  • putting material together to share with other people, when you plan (or hope) they will take that material and run with it is tricky - packaging up resources in order is easy enough (and often the limit of what I try to do) but actually describing in detail the plan and the thinking behind it (so that the colleague can compare my assumptions to how they are going to use it and adapt) is either a huge amount of work or a confused mess. To some extent I think the material later in this module might help.

Sunday, 14 February 2016


Should the fourth element be called Emotional Presence, Autonomy Presence or Agency Presence? Why do I care? Worse, why do I disagree with all of them and offer Personal Presence?

Until a few months ago, frankly, I'd have looked at any discussion into Communities of Inquiry (COI) and responded with a "all very well, but some of us actually have to deliver on things instead of just writing about them." The story of how I came to find myself spending weekends and evenings studying for a Masters and reading up on ed tech research literature isn't one I understand (yet) but for any practitioner who chances on this post... do yourself a favour and consider it.

I've just handed in my second, and biggest assignment and wrote about how research can inform designing an online professional development programme. It was genuinely interesting, refreshing and made me reconsider things I'd held to be true for a long time.

Communities of Inquiry for example is something I felt familiar with. Several times in my career I've been involved in a course, and somebody well-meaning, clever and probably without too much to do by way of a day job would tell us we were joining a Community of Inquiry. We'd all nod, smile, look for what we actually needed to do to pass the course, and move on. The 'community' would struggle to get past the the fourth post. For NPQH we had to keep a 'learning diary' online using something called (hindsight: it was actually pretty good). Talking to a group of people in the community of inquiry pub someone admitted they were having to retrospectively falsify their learning diary because they were too **** busy to fill one in and frankly what was the point: "it's just a hoop they make you jump through."

So with that in mind I smiled to meet the COI diagram in reading this past month.

COI as set out by (I think) Garrison and Anderson in 2000 turned out to be a useful piece of the narrative needed for my essay. I happily read and re-said that it consists of social presence (identification with the group engaged with the course), teaching presence (where activities are designed, students directed and progress is facilitated) and cognitive presence where the learner reflects and develops through the experience). So far so good. As I got further into the essay though a few things didn't fit neatly. 

Salmon (2003) has written a really good (=useful) framework for e-moderation, that focused on how you equip people to join and become fully fledged members of the learning community. I couldn't see how that really fits into the COI model. Was it part of where teaching met social perhaps? Then I read about research by Rientes and Rivers (2014) that investigated the impact of the student's emotional state on outcomes. Is that part of the link between social and cognitive perhaps? They didn't think so putting forward the idea of a fourth, emotional 'presence' in the COI model.

It's less tidy but it does recognise the fact that the work of the teacher impacts the emotional state of the learner, which itself impacts their ability to engage with the social aspects.

Finally, my latest favourite writer, Anderson (2016) in a blog post about the subject touched on this, and also work by Lam (2015) instead saying it should be called 'Autonomy Presence' and that emotions were only part of something bigger - the learner's capacity to engage and self manage. Anderson's objections to this seem to be more about semantics than the idea, but I strongly agree with what he came up with - Agency Presence, which is what I have used in my essay.

Agency reflects all the above (in my reading, which differs a little from Anderson)

  • How your emotions impact your engagement
  • How well you can manage your own learning and interaction
  • Plus how well you can draw on experiences and ideas from outside the COI - highly relevant for anyone interested in personal learning environments and cMOOCs.
That last one is where I was always getting stuck on COI - because nobody does a course in isolation - they have and draw on many external experiences and influences, and the better they use them, the better they will do in the course.

In fact my whole journey through doing the Masters is about both exploiting my 'agency' to study and learn, and to build my agency to be more effective in my day job. I'll spare everyone my essay, or indeed the CPD strategy proposal I plan to write from it - but the notion of building that 'agency presence' in the long term, using technology, is I think a useful one and not one that I had thought of much before.

I don't like the word 'Agency' though.

In the work I did with the SSAT around personalising learning, I went on a bit of a journey from seeing personalisation as being about the provider offering a highly customised offering (through curriculum flexibility and technology) to seeing it as building the capacity of the learner to achieve personalisation for themselves. I think David Hargreaves' pamphlets remain some of the most though provoking but practical pieces of work I've ever found (and this essay helped me come across something recent he'd written - like finding an old friend on a train journey).

So I think Personal Presence is a better term. I don't think it is an aspect of social, cognitive or teaching presence, but something distinct that interacts with them. You could possibly draw it as a big dotted circle around the classic COI diagram (I'll leave that as a an exercise, frankly I've drawn enough three and four circle diagrams this week) but in an increasingly networked world where nobody belongs to a course or a school/ college/ university community entirely and has significant engagement outside it that they can draw on, personal presence, and learning to improve it, is an important concept.

Writing this blog post, when I don't need to because my tutor didn't tell me to is perhaps an example.


Anderson, T. (2016) A Fourth Presence for the Community of Inquiry Model? Virtual Canuck. Available at: (Accessed on 13th February 2016)

Garrison, D, Anderson, T, and Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105. Available at: (Accessed on 1st February 2016)

Hargreaves, D. (2012) A self-improving school system: towards maturity, National College of School Leadership Available at: (Accessed 10th February 2016)

Lam, J. (2015) Autonomy presence in the extended community of inquiry [online]. International Journal of Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning, Vol. 8, No. 1, Dec 2015: 39-61. Available at:;dn=705821081676347;res=IELHSS
(Accessed on 13th February 2016)

Rientes, B, Rivers, R. (2014) Measuring and Understanding Learner Emotions: Evidence and Prospects, Learning Analytics Review 1ISSN:2057-7494  Available at: (Accessed on 13th February 2016)

Salmon, G. (2003) E-moderating: the key to teaching and learning online. London, Kogan Press. Available at: (Accessed on 7th February 2016)