Communities more important than models in developing learning design (thoughts on the Mod4L final report)

The final report from the Mod4L project is now available online. The project is part of the current JISC Design for Learning Programme.

The aim of Mod4L was to “develop a range of practice models that could be used by practitioners in real life contexts and have a high impact on improving teaching and learning practice.” The project adopted a working definition of practice model as “common but decontextualised, learning designs that are respresented in a way that is usable by practitioners (teachers, managers etc).”

The report is structured into six main categories covering issues of representation (which I talked about in a previous post), granularity, an evaluation of several types of representation, the sharing of learning designs and the role of taxonomies.

The report highlights the difference between design as a product and design as a process. It questions the current metaphor for learning design (particularly IMS learning design) as being too product driven and reliant on stable components and the linkages between them, which often don’t accurately reflect the unstable process that take place in most teaching and learning situations. It goes on to suggest that we may be better off thinking of design for learning as a loosely coupled system, which can provide access to the stable components of a design but also allow for the richer, more adaptive process that take place within a learning context. An analogy to a map of the London underground is given as an example. The map can show you (the learner) the entry points and how to get from point A to point B (even giving one some degree of flexibility of route or personalisation on how to get there) but what the map doesn’t give you is other information which could make your journey much more successful i.e. by letting you know that it might be quicker to get off the train one stop earlier, or (as a teacher) how to drive the train.

A detailed evaluation of a number of practice types are contained within the report, however it does also point out that “providing support for communities may be more important in changing practice, than developing particular representation types which will, inevitably, have limited audiences, and have prescribed forms.” Let’s hope that the current projects within the programme can help to build and sustain these types of communities.

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