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He's bonkers ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 17 Jan 2013, 16:27

Do I join I club when it is clear I've become one of those students the OU will never get rid of?

I signed off H810 at noon - and in so doing complete the 'set' for the Masters in Open and Distance Education.

H810 - Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students

H807 - Innovations in E-learning (replaced by H817 which starts in a few weeks time)

H808 - The E-Learning Professional

H800 - Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

B822 - Creativity, Innovation and Change (An MBA module, extraordinary and insightful but now rolled into several modules rather than stand alone. A shame, as I came across other non-MBA people doing it as an elective)

I signed on to H809: Practice-based research in educational technolgy for good measure which gives me exactly 7 days to twiddle my thumbs. Actually, I am reading, without pressure, a few books that I stumbled upon over the last 3 years:

Learning and Expanding with Activity Theory. (2009) Ed. Annalisa Sannino, Harry Daniels and Kris Gutierrez. Kindle Version.

(Unfortunately for me this unpicks a piece of the assignment I've just sent off. Activity Systems can't really apply to a digitised world apparently)

Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. (2006) Charlene Li, Josh Bernoff. Kindle Version

The Timeless Way of Building. Christopher Alexander (when it arrives from the US)

Often referred to during the MAODE.

Techniques of Structured Problem Solving. VanGundy (when it arrives from the US)

At the core of 'Creativity, Innovation and Change'. We recieved a handbook of problem solving techniques that contained many of these.

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Design Museum

When it comes to e-learning how do you see yourself? Learning Designer, Writer, Architect?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 14 Feb 2014, 10:38


Fig.1. Building Construction W B McKay 1943

Are you the learning architect or the learning builder?

It is flattering to the group from Learning & Development that they can be likened to architects. Whilst many will have a degree, some don't - whilst some may have a post graduate qualification, very few do. None I'm sure will have spent six or seven years in formal study that has lead to recognition by the Royal College of E-Learning Designers - there is no such professional qualification, nor is there any period of formal study, a mix of studio work and academic research, that leads to a qualification of  this calibre.

The exceptions are those with first degrees and MBAs and at the pinnacle of this discussion, Christopher Alexander who has first and second degrees from Cambridge and a PhD in architecture from Harvard.

Many in academia have the second degree and PhD - but they generally lack the experience designing learning outside undergraduate and postgraduate tertiary education, which is quite a diffderent beast to the short courses and continual professional development desired in the workplace.

If I were to take the building trade by way of an analogy I would say that the learning and development manager is the client - while the architect is an agent or agency that you hire in for their design expertise and knowledge of foremen and project managers, builders and electrcians - the project leaders, programmers and art directos of e-learning creation.

The L&D manager may be a subject matter expert but is far more likely to draw upon expertise from within their organisation.

Which of the following made the biggest contribution to your learning when you first set out in your current career asked Clive Shepherd?

Fig.2. What has contributed most to your learning?

This depends of course on when a person knew they were set on a career path.

How many people come into Learning & Development (L&D) having decided on this path as an undergraduate?

As a graduate trainee I expected a mix of on the job and formal training - this mix turned out to be around 95% to 5% while contemporaries elsewhere were getting 50/50 of none at all. This is the formal way of graduate training and can last two or three years. Think of lawyers (barristers and trainee solicitors), accounts, bankers and teachers ... doctors, dentists, vets and architects.

Clive Shepherd who recently gave an insightful presentation on The New Learning Architect says he got the idea of the new learning architect at presentation gave by Jay Cross on informal learning.  

Away from the presentation I like to click around as for me to understand a concept it helps to perceive its inception.

In turn, if you check the references for Jay Cross’s 2006 ‘Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways that Inspire Innovation and Performance' you’ll find where his ideas may have came from -  Robert A Heinlein (1961) ‘Strangers in a Strange Land’ and R Nelson Bolles (2005) ‘What Color’s Your Parachute’ are there along with John Seely Brown (2005) ‘The Only Sustainable Edge’.

There are some inspirational ideas and link here:

Jay Cross : Important Stuff

Informal learning

Workflow learning ties learning into the actual workflow within an organisation. According to Jay Cross it takes us to support and on-demand services that are designed to exist within the real tasks we do in our everyday work.Out of this work on workflow learning came an even wider, and what he regards as more important set of reflections.

Fig.3. Zoom.It History of Corporate Education.

This timelines the history of corporate and executive training. It is like a touch-screen and zoome control all in one. The Bayeux Tapestry in digital form (now there's an idea over 900 years old). I spotted a typo - you'll find it says something about  ‘Toyota: Clean Production’ rather than Lean Production. We should consider the content in other ways - I know a PLC that set up an internal ‘university’ in the mid 1970s - or maybe they called in a training centre. Same difference?

If Clive Shepherd got his idea of the learning architect from Jay Cross I imagine Jay Cross  in turn got the idea from a Christopher Alexander.

Christopher Alexander's Notes on the Synthesis of Form was required reading for researchers in computer science throughout the 1960s. It had an influence in the 1960s and 1970s on programming language design, modular programming, object-oriented programming, software engineering and other design methodologies.  He is cited through-out the Open University's Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) as an originator of design practice that was applied to computer design and therefore could be applied to e-learning design.

Here's the education of someone who can rightfully call themselves an architect and do so in the context of learning, even of e-learning.

In 1954, Christopher Alexander was awarded the top open scholarship to Trinity CollegeCambridge University in chemistry and physics, and went on to read mathematics. He earned a Bachelor's degree in Architecture and a Master's degree in Mathematics. He took his doctorate at Harvard (the first Ph.D. in Architecture ever awarded at Harvard University), and was elected fellow at Harvard. During the same period he worked at MIT in transportation theory and in computer science, and worked at Harvard in cognition and cognitive studies.

Fig.4. The Timeless Way of Building

'The Timeless Way of Building' proposes a new theory of architecture (and design in general) that relies on the understanding and configuration of design patterns.It is these design patterns that came to the attention of creators of e-learning modules in the 21st century, the idea that designs for subjects or cohorts might be replicated and shared across the online learning community so that you might say a fits an undergraduate arts course, while b is the model for a health & safety module in industry, c gives you language learning in primary school while d offers an elective in urology to 4th year medical students.

To become an architect requires a considerable commitment.

Take the three year undergraduate course in architecture at the University of Cambridge

Entry Requirements: A* AA : Likely to include Maths and Art or History of Art.

Students may stay on at Cambridge to complete an MPhil at RSA exams to qualify in six years (this includes a year in a placement)

‘The three year BA(Hons) course is unusual in the University in combining both arts and sciences. As such it provides a unique range of skills which lead to a wide range of careers, not just architecture’.

Throughout the BA tripos studio work carries 60% of the marks.

The remaining 40% is made up from exams and other forms of coursework (dissertations, etc). Studiowork in all years is handed in for marking at the end of the year. Studiowork is time-consuming and probably requires more hours per week than any other course in the University. Students are also expected to work during the Christmas and Easter vacations.

I labour this point because as someone who has gone from corporate communications and video based training to computer based training and e-learning I would never liken myself to a cardiologist, even a qualified lawyer or certified accountant, let alone an architect. An educator perhaps, but I don't have a formal teaching qualificaiton, only sports coaching and the MAODE when I graduate early next year.

Fig. 5. BRICKS - Building Construction W B McKay 1943

Several other analogies have been used in the e-learning literature, some that still have a building or architecture theme to them.

What we get here is learning design broken down to brick sized components, some call them 'interactivities' (a term I often here working in a design agency). I find the idea of atoms in a chemical reaction (Wiley, 2001) too small, even if we are dealing with binary code it isn't something that we see anymore. Gilly Salmon (2002) would have liked 'e-tivities' to catch on - she puts these in a logical sequence, building blocks towards a module. At the Open University they tend to be called 'Learning Objects'. Chris Pegler (2004) finds this too static and unresponsive preferring if we go with the Lego analogy, or Technics. Littlejohn et al (2008) describe these components as:

Digital assets - a single item, image, video or podcast or an nformation objects: a structured aggregation of digital assets designed purely to present information.

Learning activities -tasks involving interactions with information to attain a specific learning outcome.

Learning design - structured sequences of information and learning activities to promote learning.

Fig. 5. BRICKS - Building Construction W B McKay 1943

For pure aspiration I like the digital architect as a goal for an undergraduate setting out on a long course of formal and applied study. L&D directors and managers approach an e-learnign agency as they would a firm of architects and together they write a brief. This is propoposed, scheduled and costed then a scheme of work begins.

The delivery, depending on the scale of it, might be akin to anything from a brick arcade (health and safety induction to leisure staff) to a bungalow to a housing estate (induction of trainee solicitors in an national firm of solictors), an office block or a factory (long term management development for an international engineering business).


Alexander, C (1970) The Timeless Way of Buidling

Cross, J (2006) The Informal Learner

Downes, S (2000) Learning Objects. Available from http://www.newstrolls.com/news/dev/downes/col;umn000523_1.htm

Littlejohn, Falconer, Mcgill (2008) Characterising effective eLearning (sic) resources

Pegler, C and Littlejohn, A (2004) Preparing for Blended e-Learning, Routledge.

Salmon, G (2002) E-tivities

Shepherd, C (2011) The New Learning Architext

Wiley, D.A. (2000) Connecting Learning Objects to instructional design theory: a definition, a metaphor, and a taxonomy. In D.A. Wiley (ed), The instructional use of Learning Objects. Available from http://reusability.org/read/chapters/wiley.doc



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Design Museum

Patterns, designs and activities: unifying descriptions of learning structures’

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 08:49

McAndrew, Goodyear, Dalziel

  • Learning patterns
  • Learning design
  • Learning activities

'The use of online and electronic systems to support learning - e-learning - is emerging as a field with new opportunities and problems.'

In advertising, marketing and corporate communications, the standard 'Creative Brief' used to inform and direct the creative team poses two initial questions, the answers to which focus the creative effort:

What is the problem?

What is the opportunity?

It is therefore refreshing and reassuring to find the same terms being used in relaton to the 'emerging field' of e-learning. i.e. it is a tool, a way of doing things that may be used to address a clearly defined problem ... and in addressing this issues opportunities are created. The first enables the second, the second motivates ambition beyond the original problem.

Patterns, designs and activities are transferable, and therefore reproducible as digital objects (learning objects, etcsmile

  • Personalisation
  • Large scale digital repositories
  • Flexible reuse
  • Knowledge economy

Learning Object 'any entity, digital or non-digital, that can be sed, re-used, or referenced during technology-supported learning.'

  • learning
  • or
  • training

(Unsure how to differentate the two. Learning at a uni, training at a poly? Learning in school , FE, HE & Uni ... training at work?)

'In pratice, works in implementing Learning Objects in education (as distinct from training) tends to specialise the definition to refer to items that have education meaning, for example units that can result in a few hours of student activity.'

i.e. Learning objects ...

'Any digital or non-digital, with education meaning, that an be used, re-used, or referened during technology-supported learning.'


The concept of patterns applied to learning seeks to identify what can be provided as useful background, guidance and illustration in describing a set of inter-related desriptions for ways to assist learning online. Patterns are not viewed as something that can be reused diretly but rather as something that can provide the informed teacher with 'rules of thumb' as they build up their range of tasks, tools, or materials that draw on a collected body of experience.

IMS Learning Design

a formal language?

Learning Activity Management System (LAMS) - a software system that encourages the design of sequences of collaborative activites that use individual activity tools configured using a visual 'drag and drop' interface.

Learning Patterns

Ref Christopher Alexander on architecture and town-planning - to democratise architecture and town-planning by offering a set of coneptual resources that ordinary people could use in shaping or reshaping their environment.


Alexander, C. (1979). The Timeless Way of Building. New York. OUP.

'His work provides a principled, structured but flexible resource for vernacular design that balances rigour and prescriptiveness by offering useful design guidance without constraining creativity.'

CF Long Compton Plan 1999 // Lewes Town Plan 2011


Fundamental Principles

  • picture
  • context
  • headline
  • body
  • solution
  • diagrammatic representation
  • linking paragraph

'A pattern is a solution to a recurrent problem in a context.'

From Town Planning

A pattern 'describes a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice.'


  • to help constraint and communicate the nature of both problem and solution.
  • to help the reader understand enough about a problem and solution that they can adapt the problem description and solution to meet their own needs.
  • its name crystallising a valued element of the design experience.

'The use of patterns, can be seen as a way of bridging between theory, empirical evidence and experience (on the one hand) and the practical problem of design.'

(When I start writing out the entire report I know it's of value!)

'In communities that have adopted the pattern approach, design patterns are usually drafted, shared, critiqued and refined through an extended process of collaboration.'

'Educational design needs to be seen as a process in which a designer makes a number of more or less tentative design commitments, reflecting on the emerging design/artefact and retracting, weakening or strengthening commitment from time to time.'

'Understanding the dynamic interplay between patterns in the mind and patterns in the world is key to seeing how and why design patterns work as aid to design. It is their 'fit' with the mind and the world that gives them power.'

'The focus for our work is in task design, as this has the strongest analogy with the built environment where patterns are used to build concrete objects that activity then flows around in a way that cannot be entirely predicted.'

IMS Learning Design Specification

Educational Modelling Language (EML)

  • to enable flexible representation of the elements within online courses.
  • materials and the order in which activities takes place.
  • the roles that people undertake
  • services needed for presentation to learners.

'How to package up the overall information into a structure that is modelled on a play, with acts, roles (actors) and resources.'

Of particular interest to someone who has written three screenplays, sold none, though had two short films produced ... with one sold to Channel 4! Someone who is also a graduate of EAVE, taking a cross-platform interactive TV drama through the script development process. But of greater relevance a producer of some 135 training and information films, many drama reconstructions using professional actors, directors and writers.

Content Packaging

- digital objects are gathered together with a manifest describing their location, but enhances the approach to give an ordered presentation of the different entities within the unit of learning.

Simple Sequencing

Level A: roles, acts and the environment
Level B: adds properties and conditions
Level C: adds notification and messaging

www.unfold-project.net/ (UNFOLD PROJECT)

ref: Learning Activity Management System (LAMS)

e.g. 'What is greatness?'

A' Level history project.


N.B. One of the striking features of LAMS is the speed which new sequences can be created from an initial structure.

N.B. 'Changes to the sequence structure are achieved via a simple drag and drop interface in which existing activities can be dragged into new locations, and new activities dragged into the sequence at an appropriate point.'

LAMS offers a complete system in three parts where first a design is produced in the author environment, using a visual sequence editor, then designs are instantiated with a particular class group (and subsequently tracked) through the monitor environment, and then designs are accessed by students from the learner environment. The modularity of the system allows each environment to be considered in its own right (not just as a unified whole), and particular focus has been placed on the author environment as a way to engage teachers in designing activities for their courses.'


An overall pattern language for learning.


'In the ideal of patterns, flexibility and advice is valued over complete description and instantly usable output.'


McAndrew, P., Goodyear, P. and Dalziel, J. (2006) ‘Patterns, designs and activities: unifying descriptions of learning structures’, International Journal of Learning Technology, vol.2, no.2/3, pp.216-242; also available online at http://www.inderscience.com/search/index.php?action=record&rec_id=10632&prevQuery=&ps=10&m=or (Accessed 17 June 2010). (Revisited 26 Jan 2013)

Biographical notes: Patrick McAndrew is a senior lecturer in the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University where he teaches and researches in the use of technology in support of learning. His work examines ways to design for active engagement by learners working together. This has involved studies in task based approaches to learning and their representation as learning designs within knowledge sharing environments. In 2001 he cofounded the UserLab research team which works within the Computers and Learning research group to undertake projects in e-learning.

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