Learning design: Consultation 2

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Key points
OERu design consultation 2:
  • Proposes an improvement to the previously agreed structure for an OERu course suggesting three components: 1) Course landing page, 2) Course guide and 3) Course dashboard. The first phase of this rough consensus poll will focus on the structure (i.e. function of the 3 areas) and we will introduce a second phase to agree the appropriate concepts / names for these structures.
  • Suggests a change in the nomenclature of course subcomponents to accommodate micro Open Online courses (mOOCs), specifically that a course is divided into: Sessions --> Learning sequences
  • Readers can view an online mockup of the proposed improvements.
  • Background and context information is provided below.
  • You are invited to post comments and feedback in the wiki below.
  • Please cast your votes in the rough consensus poll below by the close of your business on 6 September 2013.

Background and context

  1. During the OERu 2011.11 meeting of anchor partners and subsequent design consultation we established the shared view that OERu course designs should not dictate any preferred pedagogy.
  2. Many partners have stressed the importance and advantages of promoting a consistent layout of the structural components of an OERu course on WikiEducator.
  3. In this regard the OERu anchor partners agreed the adoption of a "course guide" which contains the course overview, outcomes, list of resources and assignments and previously agreed the nomenclature of Course --> Unit --> (Free choice for naming of this level, eg section, lesson, study unit, etc)
  4. Regional relations in Asia and the Pacific (AST1000) developed by the University of Southern Queensland was the first prototype course developed implementing our design consultation decisions. Key features of this course included the "pedagogy of discovery" directing learners to open access resources available on the internet and the implementation of the E-Learning Activity template for substantive learning activities. See for example the E-Learning Activity focusing on the timeline of historical events. This wiki template has now been successfully reused and implemented as embedded activities for the Scenario planning for educators (SP4Ed) and the Open Content Licensing for Educators (OCL4Ed) courses. AST1000 also implemented a resource bank feature where students would enter, share, categorise and comment on open access resources they found in relation to their course studies.
  5. While the majority of the materials for Regional relations in Asia and the Pacific reside in WikiEducator, the AST1000 prototype was still reliant on a learning management system (Moodle) for administering course registrations, discussion forums and the regional relations repository as we had no suitable way to implement these requirements in the wiki at that time. This approach would be problematic for OERu institutions who use a range of learning management systems (LMSs) for locally hosted OERu courses presented in parallel mode with the free OERu learners. The OER Foundation needed to find a solution to manage course registrations and the repository feature without reliance on a LMS.

Recent developments

  1. Experience gained from hosting two instances of the AST1000 prototype and the SP4Ed course using the original course structure and layout highlighted areas of improvement potential in the information design we agreed during earlier consultations. The major challenge we encountered was a design flaw mixing functional information types, for instance, conflating information required when registering for a course with resources needed to support the learning process. For example, the aggregated course feed (used during the course) appeared on the page providing the course summary (usually only read when registering for the course.) This resulted in unnecessary link redundancy in an attempt to improve navigation for the learner and wasting of real estate on the browser page. These problems were amplified when integrating a wiki-based registration form recently developed by the OER Foundation.
  2. The OER Foundation has successfully trialled a wiki-based course registration solution using the SP4Ed 13.05 pilot and SP4Ed 13.07 courses in collaboration with the University of Canterbury as well as the OCL4Ed 13.09 open course. All course materials and assignments are openly accessible as OER on WikiEducator without the requirement to register for the course. However, optional registration is used for learners who would like to receive course announcements via email. It is important to keep registration optional because OER materials should not be hidden or locked down behind password access. This technical development obviates the need for a centrally hosted LMS and removes the confusion for learners needing to register on WikiEducator plus the Moodle installation for course participation.
  3. Proposed refinements to OERu course structure
    A number of OERu partners have been trialling the concept of micro Open Online Courses (mOOC) where micro refers to a subcomponent of a course, for example 30% of the learning outcomes and corresponding course credits. This establishes a pathway to implement OERu micro-credentials where successful learners can earn partial credit towards a course, for example 1 credit for a 3 credit course in the North American system or 5 credits towards a 15 credit course in New Zealand. The design and development of the Ellite Sport Performance mOOC at the University of Southern Queensland combined with the experience of offering the SP4Ed mOOCs and reconfiguring the OCL4Ed workshop into mOOC format has highlighted the need for refining the OERu course structure and nomenclature of subcomponents of a course.
  4. These developments have informed a proposed improvement to the OERu course structure and changes to the nomenclature used for the subcomponents of an OERu course. These refinements are necessary to accommodate the introduction of micro Open Online Courses. We propose that an OERu course is divided into three components:
    • Course landing page: The course landing page provides a brief overview of the course. This is the page where learners can register for the course. Registration is optional and used to email course announcements and instructions. OERu courses may award badges or optional certificates of participation. Certification for participation can be measured by contributions to the course using microblog, blog and forum posts. Consequently, registration of the social media sites learners are using should be incorporated into the registration form.
    • Course guide: Provides overall information about the course. Learners should start with the course guide. The course guide provides information on the course aims, teaching approach, recommended resources, assessments and required assignment(s) for learners taking an OERu course for credit.
    • Course dashboard: The course dashboard contains all the links needed for studying an OERu course. We propose that the course dashboard is divided into sessions for cohort based courses. The learning sessions direct learners through one or more learning sequences. Learning activities including more comprehensive E-Activities should be embedded within the learning sequences.
  5. We propose that the subcomponents of the Course landing page are divided into "Sessions" and "Learning sequences" to facilitate multiple reuse scenarios whereby mOOCs could be incorporated into different university courses.
  6. The OER Foundation has developed a mockup of the proposed structure using an iframe to remove redundant wiki navigation used by course developers and not needed for learning purposes.

Comments and feedback

Please post comments and feedback in the wiki below. If you disagree with any of the design proposals, please tell us why and include suggestions for alternatives for the OERu network to consider. Remember to sign your contribution.

Feedback from USQ

  • The proposed approach, which can accommodate various pedagogical models, will provide a degree of consistency for students and an efficient template for course preparation and production teams. It will expedite course offerings at this stage of our work, and can be evaluated and enhanced as we proceed. Jim Taylor 1 September 2013.
  • Thanks Jim, that's and important point about our OERu incremental design model - we can evaluate and improve as we move forward, but given the small increments we also have the advantage to easily discontinue the "good" ideas which aren't working so well. Case in point is the Q & A support forum we tested. Data from a few prototypes is suggesting that this is not as effective as we hoped it might be. --Mackiwg 04:36, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Ideally, the current dialogue could usefully be informed by the development in parallel of an OERu Student Portal, which could possibly incorporate some of the generic content on PLEs etc.. The associated common template for course information could also perhaps sharpen up the focus on the structure and function of the "Course Home Page", a simple alternative to landing page? Jim Taylor 3 September 2013.
    • Thanks Jim. Maximising reuse is a point of difference with the OERu model. The OERu Student Portal concept illustrates how a generic structure will help us to generate economies of scale for student support aspects of the OERu model. I will add your suggestion of "Course Home Page" as a suggested alternative for the Phase 2 consensus poll. --Mackiwg 04:05, 3 September 2013 (UTC)

Feedback from BCcampus

  • Feedback from David Porter via email (posted with permission): 1) Don't like "landing page." This is from another genre. How about Course Start Page, or even Course Registration Page? 2) Don't like learning sequence. Sounds like something from an ID journal article. How about we use plain language as a fundamental construct?
Thanks David - Exactly the kind of feedback we need. I agree, "Course Start Page" or "Course Registration Page" is much better than "landing page" - -says what it is. While learning sequence sounds like ID on steriods, its says what it is - a sequence of suggested pages. mmm Any thoughts, ideas or suggestions for a more neutral and "plain language" concept?. Clearly we will need to tidy up and find better concepts and lables for these pages which we can do in a 2nd round consensus poll. --Mackiwg 22:06, 1 September 2013 (UTC)

Feedback from UOW

  1. I tend to agree with David Porter's naming comments above, but am less passionate about what it's called and more concerned about the structure and look of it. Currently i think the structure is pretty good - really like the concept behind the 3 different areas - (and have a few suggestions below re inclusions and placement of some items)
    • Agreed - structurally the 3 areas is a vast improvement. We can run a Phase 2 poll to agree better naming conventions. --Mackiwg 03:16, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
  2. However i cannot get past the off-putting user-interface and design. How we can get a group formed to work on professionalising the user-interface and graphics? For example, the main navigation concept is small text that marches across the top of the page under a heading and generally blends in with all the other texts. The start page is awash with similar or same size texts, needs a designer to get the contrast and aligntment right.
    • Agreed - the visual design needs considerable improvement. There is no technical limitation to applying much improved style. We need the inputs of a visual designer combined with folk who have good knowledge of CSS. We would also be able to develop custom stylesheets for OERu anchor partners. Perhaps one or more of the OERu partners would able to contribute a little design time to improve the look and feel. (We don't have these skills sets at the OER Foundation :-() I'll set up a new initiative in the logic model for us to start sharing ideas and solutions for improving the visual design. --Mackiwg 03:21, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
  3. The course registration page (or landing page) needs to have the length of the course and next start date noted prominently ie 5 week course. Starts XX Month 19XX. This is key information that potential registrants need to know, before they even committ to reading the details on the rest of the website.
    • Excellent suggestion -- we'll get that implemented. --Mackiwg 03:22, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
  4. Video on course registration page that promotes the course needs to be much more prominant and larger sized, with an option to click and view a smaller video for those with low bandwidth. (implemented - video hosting service provides a level of optimisation for bandwidth and viewing technology. --Mackiwg 23:09, 2 September 2013 (UTC))
  5. The "Video Signposts" link from the course info section needs to change to read "Meet your facilitators" as this is what you get when you click on the link and i think the concept of a video intro to each facilitator is great and worthy of being a standard inclusion in the template. The "how to navigate this website" should be redundant (sorry to nag on about this issue but seriously if the interface design was improved i wonder would it be needed?) but if it is needed then it should go on the course landing/registration page or the first page of the course info section.
    • Changing the link display to "Meet your facilitators" is easily implemented. Good suggestion and we can included this convention in our emerging style-guide. Nagging is good if we can turn improvements in the look and feel into action ;-). I'll get the activity for improving the visual design started ASAP. --Mackiwg 03:26, 2 September 2013 (UTC)

Feedback from Otago Polytechnic

Navigation and design

Suggestions from Bronwyn Hegarty, Otago Polytechnic --Bronwynh 05:03, 2 September 2013 (UTC) Whatever design is decided on needs to take into account the need to attract learners to the courses and keep them there. So navigation needs to be easy to follow and minimalist. Content needs to adhere to "less is more" with as much use as possible of diagrams and images, and audio-visual material. We need to cater to the learning preferences of a globally diverse audience, acknowledging multicultural participants in our images.

Thanks for the valuable feedback Bron, as always valuable suggestions for improvement --Mackiwg 05:10, 2 September 2013 (UTC)

Do we need to decide on the learning theory underpinning the courses overall, or will this be up to the contributors, depending on the course? For example, OCL4Ed is very prescriptive even down to the minutes participants should spend on each activity.

The OERu partners decided at our first meeting that we would not prescribe pedagogy or learning theory underpinning courses. Institutions and developers should have the freedom to use their own preferred pedagogies as needed or determined by the learning context. Correct - the OCL4Ed mOOC does appear to be prescriptive in terms of providing time guidelines for each activity. The original version did not provide time guidelines but in the open mOOC environment we found that learners were overwhelmed with the volume of interactions and were spending too much time on short activities. These time guidelines were included in subsequent editions to help learners judge the time they should be spending on a given interaction. --Mackiwg 05:19, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
  1. Home page - currently this page does not have sufficient pertinent information to entice the learner. The design must make an impact on the viewer so the first impression sticks. Convince the potential learner that this is a course worth studying.
    • Provide a short slick overview on one side and registration on the other to capture them before they have time to think about it.
    • Put the sponsors lower down. (Implemented --Mackiwg 23:04, 2 September 2013 (UTC))
    • Keep course facilitators in Course Guide area only. (Implemented --Mackiwg 23:04, 2 September 2013 (UTC))
    • Add link to Course schedule - potential participants want to know up front what the course is covering. (There is a link to the dashboard which contains the schedule ;-) --Mackiwg 05:22, 2 September 2013 (UTC))
      • Thanks - Agreed with all these suggestions above (bar the link to course schedule, see comment above) which we should implement in the next iteration of OCL4Ed and potentially use as a guideline for OERu mOOCs. --Mackiwg 05:22, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
  2. Course Guide - Less is more. Too wordy and too much text. Use more audio and video and diagrams to state what the course involves. Remove repetition. Diagram showing course structure only needs the amount of information that can fit on the diagram, e.g. information about badges can go in the accreditation section only. (Corresponding text for the course structure graphic is useful for visually impaired learners using text to audio technologies. --Mackiwg 22:41, 2 September 2013 (UTC))
    • Information about history and sponsors needs to come after the Course schedule. (Done - -that one was easy to implement. Thanks --Mackiwg 05:34, 2 September 2013 (UTC))
    • Teaching approach is actually the learning approach. Add additional section called facilitation - put info about facilitators there with information about how the course will be facilitated.
    • Resources - would be better in Course dashboard area - nearby topics and activities. (Adding a link to resources in the Course guide on the Dashboard page is a good suggestion. OERu partners took a decision that the course guide should contain a list of the recommended resources. --Mackiwg 05:44, 2 September 2013 (UTC))
      • Agreed with all your suggestions above. Thanks for that. The course guide for OCL4Ed was cobbled together from bits and pieces in a rush to illustrate the new format in time for the launch of OCL4Ed 13.09. It needs a little TLC and improvement. We'll get this done for the next iteration. --Mackiwg 05:50, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
  3. Course dashboard - prefer a different name as mentioned in poll. This page looks clean and is easy to follow.
    • Mention at the top what will be on this page so participants are alerted to the feed as they may miss it.

Feedback from TRU

  • I prefer "course home page" and think it should have more info to help me decide if to register or take course eg start and end time, target audience, whole name of course on this page. In other words, some of poster info should jump out at me as I visit page. I would put a link to course description and learning outcomes on home page since I want to know this info before registering. I see first page as a marketing page. I think sponsor info should go last...least important info to my taking course. (Submitted by Gail Morong)
Thanks Gail - Your thoughts concur with others on finding a better substitute for "Course landing page" and we will hold a phase 2 consensus poll to agree on a better alternative. I agree with your suggestions for improving the content which appears on the course home page. We'll get these implemented in the next iteration --Mackiwg 22:18, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
  • I see course guide as the nults and bolts for those who have decided to take course. I'd put course structure and navigation info (maybe some screen shots) very early in course guide…in a "getting started" section….once my brain knows how and where to find info and content, I'm ok. (Submitted by Gail Morong)
The current instance of the course guide is in need of structural improvements. It was a bit of a rush copying and pasting bits and pieces in time for the start of the current mOOC. We'll get these improvements implemented after the current OCL4Ed is completed. --Mackiwg 22:18, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Meet facilitators page should not have navigation info at bottom…that nav info should go early in getting started section. The lead facilitaor info at bottom of About OCL4E should go on Meet facilitator page…i.e everything about facilitators should go together. (Submitted by Gail Morong)
Agreed -- another case of slotting this in the rush before going live on OCL4Ed 13.09. We'll get this improvement implemented. --Mackiwg 23:51, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Not sure I like the name "Teaching approach"...more is in that page eg info about course tag
Bronwyn also indicated that the page content did not match the link label. Well get that fixed. --Mackiwg 23:51, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Not sure I like "learning sequence" since word "sequence" not as flexible and makes me think I have to go in a set order or else….maybe "learning tasks" or "lessons" (Submitted by Gail Morong)
Yes, in the Phase 2 consensus poll we'll poll opinion for alternatives. --Mackiwg 23:51, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Not sure why E-Activities gets a heading by itself instead of "Learning Activities" which includes E-tivities... Somehow my brain is seeing content and resources as very separate to all of the learning activities…I'd keep content and resources together and put all activities for a lesson together in its own column…many people might keep content and resources similar but vary activities based on teaching approach (not unlike instructors in a department at universities).(Submitted by Gail Morong)
We need to tighten up our terminology for the range of activities which fall into two types. 1) Shorter "in-text" activities like microblog posts, reflections, quizzes etc and 2) More substantive E-Activities requiring considerable effort, and is usually allocated its own page within the "lesson". I'm less concerned about the two columns -- its one way of generating a summary of all the activities which in theory could be automated in the future giving scope for alternate presentations. Currently all activities are included in the learning materials themselves. --Mackiwg 23:51, 5 September 2013 (UTC)

Phase 1 rough consensus poll (Phase 1 will focus on the structural elements - we will agree names during Phase 2)

Please log in to WikiEducator and cast your vote for design consultation 2 by the close of your business on 6 September 2013.

Type of respondent

  1. Which of the following options best describes your primary capacity for responding to this rough consensus poll:
    1. Staff member of an existing OERu anchor partner
    2. WikiEducator community member
    3. Volunteer contributing (or planning to contribute) to the co-development of the OERu
    4. Researcher
    5. Prospective OERu institutional partner
    6. Interested person
    7. Other

Revised OERu course structure

  1. The OERu should structure the courses on WikiEducator using the following components 1) Course landing page, 2) Course guide and 3) Course dashboard.
    • Strongly Agree
    • Agree
    • Undecided
    • Disagree
    • Strongly disagree

Revised nomenclature for course subcomponents to accommodate the mOOC format

  1. The OERu should use a simplified nomenclature of "sessions" and "learning sequences" on the course dashboard.
    • Strongly Agree
    • Agree
    • Undecided
    • Disagree
    • Strongly disagree

Preparing for rough consensus poll (Phase 2)

The 2nd phase of the rough consensus poll will focus on agreeing the names for the structural components. Suggestions submitted so far:

  • Alternatives for "Course landing page": Course Registration Page; Course Start Page; Course Home Page; - Course registration page; Course Description and Registration.
  • Alternatives for "Course dashboard": Course Links, Home
  • Alternatives for "Learning sequence": Learning pathways;

Concepts and ideas under discussion for Phase 2 poll

  • Alternative for learning sequence.
    • Suggested by Bron: Topics
      • The challenge is to find a generic label for the "smallest" component without interjecting hierarchy to facilitate reuse across full courses and mOOCs, but also reuse in parallel mode delivery where organisations integrate OERu materials for local students. Full courses could still be structured using Modules / topics / units or whatever. The purpose of the "new" terminology is to avoid the debates of preferred nomenclature with these hierarchical concepts but to enable reuse where an institution uses a structural nomenclature which is different. If we apply these labels - reuse is harder. --Mackiwg 04:45, 2 September 2013 (UTC)

After our conversation, I can see the reasons for using the term learning pathways as this gives the student more freedom to choose how they organise their learning, and select the material and activities. --Bronwynh 01:59, 3 September 2013 (UTC)

  • Suggested by Bron: Alternatives for Sessions: Modules or Units.
    • In the proposed new structure, a "session" is a calendar or time based concept for cohort based courses eg a week or allocated days. It is not intended as a label for a structural sub-component of a course. We're trying to drop the notion of Modules or Units which becomes problematic when reusing content for a mOOC context -- Full courses could still interject the concepts of Modules or Units within the course schedule layout. However if we call these things units, topics etc --reuse is complicated --Mackiwg 04:36, 2 September 2013 (UTC)).

I can now understand the need to indicate the order in which material and activities can be studied or is presented - so using the term Sessions is appropriate. Otherwise we could just use numbering. --Bronwynh 02:01, 3 September 2013 (UTC)

Thanks Bron -- we advise against numbering of the individual learning pathways which would restrict reuse in other courses where the designer would like to change the sequence. That said - its relatively easy to introduce numbering in the schedule table, eg Session 1, Session 2 etc without making changes to the source learning materials. --Mackiwg 03:03, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Suggested by Bron: Alternatives for Course dashboard: Course schedule or timetable.
    • The course dashboard also includes the aggregated course feed -- so not a good alternative name. The concept of a course dashboard is a page which contains all the links needed for study. If we call this a schedule, it will restrict incorporation of other elements. It would be technically possible to develop the idea of a user specfic dashboard - eg My course dashboard, which for example could include user specific stuff, for instance a summary of all posts by the user, or all comments to user posts --Mackiwg 04:36, 2 September 2013 (UTC))
    • I can see the relevance of the name dashboard as it is much more than just a schedule. Perhaps you could collate tools here as well.--Bronwynh 02:25, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
Indeed! The dashboard will give us the flexibility to incorporate and collate tools as well as information generated from course analytics, for example marking favourite notes or presenting a view of the learners own contributions etc. --Mackiwg 03:06, 3 September 2013 (UTC)

Summary of consensus poll for Phase 1 and comments submitted

Developing consensus for a generic course structure which does not dictate any preferred pedagogy but facilitates reuse of OERu courses at local institutions is a complex and daunting task. This is an attempt to summarise the feeling of the group who have contributed so far to Phase 1 of the rough consensus poll:

  1. There is general consensus emerging that OERu courses should be structured into three distinct areas: (1) Course home page with key information to support learner registration decisions; 2) A "dashboard" or better name which contains all relevant links, eg Schedule and course materials, aggregated course feed, course announcements etc. 3) A course guide which provides the "nuts and bolts" for the course eg contains the course overview, outcomes, and assignments as agreed previously.
  2. The OERu needs to improve the visual design of its pages and navigation templates - We will set up a new activity in the OERu logic model to take this forward.
  3. Some labels and names are problematic (eg "Course landing page" or "Learning sequence") - We will implement a 2nd phase consensus poll to decide on agreed labels.
  4. The need for a "student portal" or similar solution is required to provide generic support to learners in establishing their personal learning environments - We will set up a new activity in the OERu logic model to take this forward.
  5. Feedback to date has resulted in the most comprehensive peer review of OERu course materials. Thanks for that :-). We will implement these suggestions in the next iteration of OCL4Ed materials working towards an exemplar or model for the OERu to follow.


Do we need further refinements to the summary above? If so please add these below before the close of Phase 1 of the poll.

  • From SUNY Empire State: We've been piloting A Mathematical Journey over the past year, using the original model.  Students are not seeing the navigational guides very well.  We've been working on a revision based on their feedback and have a small group who will be using the revised space this fall. I like "home page."  I'm not so sure about the "sessions".  "Session" implies that the work is done in one sitting.  The activities in Math Journey, however, do not fit that model. 
Betty thanks for your comment. I see "Session" as an optional label in the schedule table for cohort / calendar-based courses which would not apply in the case of the Math Journey. This column could be replaced by a label better suited to your pedagogy. The purpose of the phase 2 consultation is to find a generic concept for a collection of pages which can be reused for multiple teaching approaches and courses (eg Micro Open Online Courses, full independant study courses etc.). The suggested alternative we have on the table is "Learning pathways" --Mackiwg 23:11, 6 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Greetings all - from TRU: Landing page – how about a change to Course Description and Registration? It sounds traditional and maybe even dull, but at the same time it provides an unambiguous description as to what it is. In WikiEducator generally I would vote for clarity over any other stylistic considerations given the many elements competing for the visitor’s attention. Course guide – ok. Course dashboard – this term has a different meaning in the IT world. So how about Course Links? Again pretty clear what that’s all about. I would think each of these pages should clearly crosslink among the three throughout a course. We could also pick one of these as a Home page if we wish. --Irwin DeVries
Thanks Irwin. Appreciate the feedback. I've added your suggestions as options for the Phase 2 poll. Agreed, the learning designer in me says we should say what it is. --Mackiwg 02:50, 10 September 2013 (UTC)

Phase 2 rough consensus poll (To agree names for structural components of an OERu course on WikiEducator)

  1. The OERu network should change the proposed name of "Learning sequence" to "Learning pathways" in the proposed course structure
    • Agree
    • Disagree