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I am in Mexico City this week sharing ideas around academic good practice with colleagues from the international network to which my institution belongs. Looking at the program it becomes apparent that there is a deep rich potential for faculty exchange, curriculum resource re-use, and cross institutional quality assurance. Already though it becomes clear that despite the commonalities in our institutions, each has a unique national and local interpretation of curriculum design. Not all strictly adhere to a constructive alignment protocol, not all identify intended learning outcomes and topic or session learning objectives. Without that kind of consistent approach to learning design none of the advantages of being part of an international network are immediately apparent. 

Looking at the learning content exchanged by partners, it seems not just about language differences (some partners are Spanish speaking, others English speaking),it is undoubtedly the case that one would have to you reduce the content and syllabus to such a high level of granularity as to render exchange and reuse largely meaningless. 

I can see a huge amount of work involved in moving just a single programme of university study into the modulur structure designed within the SOLE toolkit. Nonetheless the ability to exchange designs and content in a strictly adhered SOLE model structure seems to me to be worth the effort. I will be championing that intention this week with colleagues.

As promised this version of the SOLE Toolkit, 3.5, remain a free, unprotected and macro-free Excel workbook with rich functionality to serve the learning designer. Version 3.5 has two significant enhancements. Rich visualization of the learning spaces and tools: that students are to engage with in their learning. This provides an alternative, fine-grain, view of the students modes of engagement in their learning. Faculty-time calculations in design and facilitating: based on the learning spaces and tools to be used

As promised this version of the SOLE Toolkit, 3.5, remain a free, unprotected and macro-free Excel workbook with rich functionality to serve the learning designer. Version 3.5 has two significant enhancements.

Rich visualization of the learning spaces and tools: that students are to engage with in their learning. This provides an alternative, fine-grain, view of the students modes of engagement in their learning. It permits the designer to plan not only for a balance of learning engagement but also a balance of environments and tools. This should allow designers to identify where 'tool-boredom' or 'tool-weariness' is possibly a danger to learner motivation and to ensure that a range of tools and environments allow students to develop based on their own learning preferences.

Faculty-time calculations in design and facilitating: based on the learning spaces and tools to be used there is now a function to allow programme designers and administrators, as well as designers themselves, to calculate the amount of time they are likely to need to design materials and facilitate learning around those materials.

This builds on newly designed functionality release in September 2014 in version 3 of the toolkit, namely;

  • Predicated Workload – the amount of time the designer anticipates students will spend is on activities charted.
  • Sequencing activities – the ability to suggest the order in which activities should be tackled. It remains an open approach and so the numbering system (letters, Roman, multiple instances of the same item) is open. It is considered important in the SOLE Model that students should take responsibility for the learning process as so the sequence should  be suggestive or advised.
  • Completion Record – a column has been added to allow students to record whether an activity has been completed alongside indicating the amount of time was actually spent on any given activity.
  • Objectives Met Record – an area is included to allow students to indicate that they believe they have met the objectives for each individual topic/week.

At its core the toolkit serves to implement a model of learning based on the SOLE Model itself and it is worth reminding yourself how the model is designed to work.

Further Details:

Here are two short videos that detail the significant enhancement made in Version 3.5 of the Tookit.

Visualisation of Learning spaces

Calculating Faculty-Time in Design and Facilitation

Newly uploaded, here is the final paper that was previewed in blog postings during December 2014.

Atkinson, S. P. (2014) Rethinking personal tutoring systems: the need to build on a foundation of epistemological beliefs. BPP University Working Papers. London: BPP University.

Image of the cover of Rethinking Personal Tutoring Systems
Rethinking Personal Tutoring Systems

My argument is that in order to tailor effective support for students we must understand better their fundamental beliefs about learning; that to have a conversation about 'our' values we need to understand how others experience their own.

This was the purpose of the POISE project, an HEA Change Initiative and this paper is a summary of its conclusions.

There is much work to be done to make these insights more accessible to rank and file tutors in higher education but the POISE website is a start. As always I am delighted to hear about any use made of the work and to enter into a dialogue with anyone working on similar initiatives.

Charoula Angeli and Nicos Valanides, both at the University of Cyprus, have recently published a fascinating brief study of research entitled "Epistemological Beliefs and Ill-structured Problem-solving in Solo and Paired Contexts"

This mixed-method exploration sought to examine the different relationships between epistemological beliefs and quality of thinking when an individual encountered an ill-structured problem on their own and then with someone else. Their results suggest "there was not a systematic connection between epistemological beliefs and ill-structured problem solving in either solo or paired contexts." They go on to suggest that emotional and cultural factors have an impact on individual ability to resolve the problem and advocate further research on this dimension of epistemology.

They used an interesting variation on King and Kitchener’s (1994) Seven Stage Model using just three dimensions. I can imagine some symbiosis with Kluckhohn & Strodtbeck (1961) Value Orientations framework might add value to their deliberations.

A simplified epistemological beliefs rubric

ABSOLUTIST THINKING
View of knowledge:
Knowledge is assumed to be either right or wrong. If it is not absolutely certain, it is only temporarily uncertain and will soon be determined. A person can know with certainty through three sources: (a) direct observation; (b) what “feels right;” and (c) authorities (experts, teachers, parents).
Concept of justification:
Beliefs need no justification or they are justified through an authority figure such as a teacher or a parent. Most questions are assumed to have a right answer so there is little or no conflict in making decisions about disputed issues.

RELATIVIST THINKING
View of knowledge:
Knowledge is uncertain (there is no right or wrong) and idiosyncratic to the individual. Knowledge is seen as subjective and contextual.
Concept of justification:
Beliefs are justified by giving reasons and evidence idiosyncratic to the individual. Beliefs are filtered through a person’s experiences and criteria for judgement.

REFLECTIVE THINKING
View of knowledge:
Knowledge is constructed by comparing evidence and opinion on different sides of an issue. Knowledge is the outcome of the process of reasonable inquiry leading to a well-informed understanding.
Concept of justification:
Beliefs are justified by comparing evidence and opinion from different perspectives. Conclusions are defended as representing the most complete, plausible understanding of an issue on the basis of the available evidence.


REFERENCES

Angeli, C., & Valanides, N. (2012). Epistemological Beliefs and Ill-structured Problem-solving in Solo and Paired Contexts. Educational Technology & Society, 15 (1), 2–14.

King, P. M., & Kitchener, K. S. (1994). Developing reflective judgment: Understanding and promoting intellectual growth and critical thinking in adolescents and adults. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers

Kluckhohn, F. (Rockwood), & Strodtbeck, F. L. (1961). Variations in Value Orientations. Evanston, Ill: Row, Peterson.

Version 3.0 of the SOLE Toolkit has been released on the solemodel.org website today.

The toolkit is an integrated spreadsheet workbook that supports implementation a learning design based on the SOLE Model. The SOLE model advocates a holistic approach to learning that encourages designers to recognise that the student spends significant time away from formal learning contexts and that they bring experience and context to any learning situation.

The changes in Version 3.0 reflect a desire to strengthen the student's use of the toolkit as an advanced organiser. These changes include:

  • Active Verbs – the terms used to describe the elements of the SOLE Model now uses active verbs to describe each of the elements.
  • Predicated Workload – the amount of time the designer anticipates students will spend is now charted.
  • Sequencing activities – the ability to suggest the order in which activities should be tackled.
  • Completion Record – allow students to record whether an activity has been completed alongside indicating the amount of time was actually spent.
  • Objectives Met Record – allow students to indicate that they believe they have met the objectives for each individual topic/week.

You can download the toolkit from this website here. As always this work is free to use but as always I would appreciate feedback from users as to changes they make and the usage they make of the work.

I'm delighted to be able to release version 3.0 of the SOLE Toolkit. Changes have been made to strengthen the way students might make use of the toolkit as an advanced organiser. These changes include:

  • Active Verbs – the terms used to describe the elements of the SOLE Model now uses active verbs to describe each of the elements. This is intended to make them easier for students to understand. So for example ‘Assessment’ becomes ‘Assess’, ‘Personal Context’ becomes ‘Personalize’ and so on. Further explanation of the elements is available here.
  • Predicated Workload – the amount of time the designer anticipates students will spend is now charted.
  • Sequencing activities – the ability to suggest the order in which activities should be tackled. It remains an open approach and so the numbering system (letters, Roman, multiple instances of the same item) is open. It is considered important in the SOLE Model that students should take responsibility for the learning process as so the sequence should  be suggestive or advised.
  • Completion Record – a column has been added to allow students to record whether an activity has been completed alongside indicating the amount of time was actually spent on any given activity.
  • Objectives Met Record – an area is included to allow students to indicate that they believe they have met the objectives for each individual topic/week.

You can download the toolkit from this website here. It is free to use but as always I would appreciate feedback from users as to changes they make and the usage they make of the work.

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It is always a privilege to be listed with others whose work one admires. I was pointed recently to a page produced by Laura Heap at the London Metropolitan University in May 2014 on their eLearning Matrix pages. On a page where Laura outlines possible answers to the question "What models are there for blended and distance online learning delivery?" she has chosen to include my work here on the SOLE Model alongside some people that I deeply admire.

LondonMet Reference
LondonMet elearning Website

Laura lists four different models (references on the London Met webpage) which each, in very different ways, seek to clarify dimensions of the challenge presented by distance and blended learning scenarios (something I have already written about on my personal blog). Professor Terry Anderson at Athabasca University (Canada), alongside Randy Garrison, whilst at the University of Calgary back in the late 1990s and 2000s, developed a "community of inquiry model" as an instructional design model for e-learning. It seeks to acknowledge the impact of the mutual interdependence of student and teacher through three overlapping 'domains' of the social presence, cognitive presence and the teaching presence.

Her second inclusion is the '5 stage model' originated by Professor Gilly Salmon, now at Swinburne University (Australia). This model, from memory, originated from Gilly's PhD work at the Open University Business School in the early 1990s and I have been a critic of its simplistic adoption by many others. The original premise was similar to that of Anderson and Garrison's work that learners needed to be socialised into a learning 'community' in order to operate as effective learners. Originally somewhat limited by the world of CMC (Computer Mediated Conferencing) this model has been extended by others.

Laura Heap's fourth 'model' (I'm third so will come back to that) is by Professor Diana Laurillard, now at the the Institute of Education (London) referred to as the 'Conversational Framework'. This work also dates from Diana's time at the Open University late 1990s and early 2000s and has been adapted and developed by a great many others since. Essentially I would describe it as a reinterpretation of dialogic learning, notably in its form advocated by Mikhail Bakhtin (Bakhtin, 1981) who argued that meaning is a co-construction that results in processes of reflection, dialogue, between people. Laurillard builds a simple model that encourages teachers to structure, and plan, that dialogue into their teaching design.

The inclusion of the SOLE Model is flattering and does fit rather well. I tried to incorporate meta-theory into the development of a toolkit which would support learning designers and teachers to create 'communities of inquiry' whilst recognising the 'social' dimension and the the cultural differences which students live through every day. Borrowing particularly from Professor John Biggs's work on the SOLO taxonomy (Biggs and Collis, 1982). I also sought to encourage , after Bakhatin and Laurillard, to embed a conversation between the learner, learning activity and the learning objectives.

What is clear is that to have a theoretical framework for effective on-line learning design is essential. I may have deviated from Anderson and Garrison's separation from the social and cognitive processes, and from Salmon's stress for human socialisation but the SOLE Model does allow for the personal, communitarian and societal dimension to learning. In fact I see the principle difference is the focus on the student's immediate 'campus' environment and to place a greater stress on the student's real and diverse life 'outside' the control of the learning provider. I also differ from Laurillard's sequenced activity designs that result from the conversational framework into a more 'freeform' learning design at the theoretical level, but the toolkit development will hopefully include further structural aspects in the near future. Learning and teaching online (distance or 'blended') presents unique challenges for teachers and students alike. Personally I advocate transparency to design for the student by sharing the design as an advanced organiser (SOLE Toolkit) in order to express clarity of the learning process (dialogue) and to encourage interaction and feedback leading to enhancement. Whichever way you look at it, it is privilege to find the SOLE Model included in such illustrious company.

SOLE Model at London Met
SOLE Model at London Met

Bibliography

Bakhtin, M. (1981). The dialogic imagination: Four essays. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Biggs, J., & Collis, K. F. (1982). Evaluating the Quality of Learning: Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome Taxonomy. New York: Academic Press Inc.

I am very pleased that the model and the toolkit continue to attract attention despite the relative neglect that I have subjected it to.

There have recently been to academic enquiries that give me some calls to think that the model and toolkit continues to have significant value. One was a request to use the illustration of the model in an upcoming chapter on blended learning, which was the challenge which prompted the models development in the first place. And the second an invitation to translate the SOLE toolkit into Spanish. This second request is itself particularly interesting since I believe the fundamental concepts to be universally applicable. Some of the early writings around the SOLE model explored the ways in which it might be applied in indigenous educational contexts and so the opportunity to translate into another language community internationally is very exciting.

I hope that in the not too distant future there may be Spanish resources available here to share and this will give an impetus for the further development of the toolkit.

I've been looking recently at a range of new builds in Universities and colleges in the UK and have been struck by the relative lack of any learning theory behind the designs. Beyond, that is, the Vice-Chancellor's evident pride at being able to point to the new coffee franchise and padded benches and say wisely "students' like to learn in these informal spaces you know". Today, ahead of some planned workshops in July, I published a short working paper entitled “Re-visioning Learning Spaces: Evolving faculty roles and emerging learning spaces“.

The paper recognises that new build and refurbishments of educational spaces can be significant financial commitments and often represent ‘flagship’ investments for many universities. It questions whether they are really supporting effective learning. This paper advocates that truly effective spaces need to be more closely associated with the particular learning contexts one is seeking to enrich. Re-visioning our learning spaces requires universities to create and engage with a conceptual model of the learner and faculty, to develop not just new spaces but support for new roles within those spaces. The SOLE model is presented as a conceptual framework through which new spaces and new faculty roles are considered.

Paper can be downloaded at Academia.edu or direct from BPP University College pages (ISBN – 9781 4453 5457 6 / Publication Date: May 2013)

"Young Male Wearing Winter Cap" by imagerymajestic
imagerymajestic@freedigitalphotos.net

BPP colleague John Irving has taught me a great deal about reflection, self-coaching and self-observation since I joined BPP University College in the summer 2010. John has a way of looking at educational context which is still alien to me at times but hugely challenging.  I think we all want to work with people who stretch us and challenge us and I'm often frustrated at the lack of thought leadership around me. So it's been a delight in recent months, as John and I embarked on a third module in our pilot PGCert programme, to write an overview of reflective practice together and explore the implications of reflection for educators, particularly in the context of professional education.   Very much a case of standing on the shoulders of giants this paper, part our own reflection, part literature review, identifies the very personal characteristics of reflective practice and the importance of emotion in that process.  It explores the nature of reflection served by solitary deliberation and engagement in communities of practice and identifies the individual attributes of reflection as defined by Schön and Brookfield. Finally, this paper provides a review of several reflective models and suggests that personal transformation and reflective practice must form the basis for effective teaching. We've found Brookfield's four critical lenses a very effective way to contextualise and plan our academic development support and this paper fits nicely for us into a growing body of resource to encourage faculty to embrace the change! The paper is available for download on my pages on Academia.edu and from BPP's Publication pages.

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