Thursday, November 15, 2007

Facilitating start up kit

One of the things I advise people to do is to use more of the 'laying out the smarties trail' approach.

What I mean is, a general approach to responses which goes like this:

"That's an interesting ideas about xyz. Now what fascinates me is whether the best/ most interesting approach to xyz is abc or cde. Personally my experience is that .... What do you think?"

The idea is that you:

1. Raise more questions than answers

2. Add new information, preferably from your own personal experience, and initially as raw data/ anecdotes. You can always respond later, and ask questions (more questions!) about how we could determine the validity of the data/ anecdotes. But get the data on the discussion forum first!

3. End off with a tempting (micro)problem (the smarties) that they would it difficult not to 'chase up', and that other students might be sorely tempted to respond to, too. For instance, in a recent course on research methods, I asked one of the students, whether he could find 10 different kinds of hospital drug chart layouts, to see which looked more interesting, and more effective from a Health and Safety perspective.

4. And following Gilly Salmon's advice, dont be shy to include emotional reactions too. I responded to one student's story about a visits to Easter Island by saying that I was intially jealous (I would like to go there) but on reading the story maybe I'll give it a miss - it looks like a dramatic metaphor of a community facing ecological collapse, and just keeping on with business as usual - more statues, and (therefore) less trees. Online interaction has to be 'warm'.

I would hope that either he or others might come back with a link or two to examples from the Internet, quite quickly. Now this course is not a graphic design course, but bringing in real, raw data always gets people sitting up in their seats.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Half an Hour: E-Learning in Canada: Evidence, Gaps and Promising Direction

An interesting overview of e-learning reseach.

Half an Hour: E-Learning in Canada: Evidence, Gaps and Promising Direction

Friday, May 04, 2007

Reflective Learning at Work/shops

I like to think of WOLF (workshop for online facilitators) as a 'reflective production workshop' rather than a 'course' - the end product is a mini-series of learning objects, or bytes, which ideally should be part of your work, rather than an academic exercise.

On reflecting on how the workshop is going this time round (fits and starts, Bank Holidays, Spring, etc), and on reflecting on a discussion with a colleague who is doing a learning at work project (, about learning at work) it struck me that WOLF is actually much more of a 'learning at work' project than a 'course'. The end ‘product’ is a mini-series of learning objects, or bytes, which really should be part of your work, rather than just an academic exercise.

In fact, WOLF might be an interesting model for learning at work online, and it would be interesting to see if this could be applied to units like research methods, and maybe other units too.

The generic model which seems to be emerging is an online workshop which includes three phases:

Phase 1. Arrivals: introductions and getting to know one another.

Phase 2. Exploring generic ideas, models, theories, research in the particular field of study.
Phase 3. Work-based project: this doesn’t have to be done online (unless 'online' is a key component, as it is in WOLF), but the online discussions could be used to exchange ideas on:
3.1 Bottom line: the 'client', the 'task', the ROI, etc: "outcomes"
3.2 Approach: method, etc.
3.3 Proposed Modus Operandi
3.4 Resources and Schedule
3.5 Benchmarks of progress, including reflection on the externalities (3.1), and on the internalities (how you are coping/not coping/ changing your approach).
3.6 Product: drafts of the product, or comments and reflections on it.
3.7 Assessment: many options here, including peer assessment.

This could just as well be a blended workshop. I ran a Blended WOLF last year, to good effect. The hours of learning would be 3X5 hours = 15 hours, and could be achieved in a number of ways, either online or in blended learning:

i) 5-6 weeeks online, or …
ii) 1 week online
+ 3X3 hours in a computer lab, over three mornings,
+ 1-2 weeks online, or …
iii) another format .

This model can be further developed in the discussion forums, which can distinguish between General discussions (based on Phase 1 and 2) and discussions with individuals (Phase 3). The Phase 3 discussions could be open for anyone to read, but only for the individual and the facilitator to write to. All participants would, however, be encouraged to read these individual discussions and to post ideas, comments etc on them within the General discussions forums.

In addition, confidential discussions can take place between individuals and the facilitator within emails.

This model could be usefully applied to research methods as a feeder to research projects, as well as to a number of other areas of Learning at Work.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Learning Design Paradigms

The design of online materials can be, broadly, divided into three design paradigms: Content Based, Content Based with Activities, and Activities Based. All three have their uses, all three still have to be 'taught' or 'facilitated', and the teaching process needs to be kept open enough to allow for the inherently creative and interactive nature of all good teaching.

Content Based
Content based resources are designed and developed thematically, as a series of sequential texts, with or without graphics, possibly including power-point slides, notes, lectures, and so on. This follows the traditional mode of teaching, which is based on a series of lectures. It is more of a 'teaching' design than a 'learning' design.

Content Based with Activities
Resources are designed and developed thematically, i.e. primarily as content, but with activities added in, in the second phase of the design, or even later on, e.g. only within the delivery process. They may be ‘embedded’ within the delivery process, (techniques such as ‘pausing-to-compare-notes-with-a-partner’, etc) or they may be added on quite separately from the delivery process.

Particularly when the activities are embedded within the teaching and learning, this could usefully be called a 'teaching-and-learning' design.

Activity Based
This is a 'learning based' design, in which the design paradigm has been inverted completely form the Content Based design. At the centre of the design are activities, not content. Each of the activities, as well as the ways they may be accessed (sequentially, or within an open, flexible, navigation system), is designed first.

Only once the set of activities, and probable learning pathways through the activities has been designed, do we ask how each activity can be resourced: What does the learner need to be able to access, to carry out that activity?

This design paradigm differs from the Content, or Content + Activities paradigms in that:

1. We design the activities first, not the content.

2. Critical to the design (whether online or blended with face-2-face learning) is the design of a dynamic learning space: the possible and probable learning pathways that different learners may construct as they proceed through the learning.

The design of the learning space should be critical to other paradigms of learning design too, but in Content based paradigms they are generally fixed, rather than dynamic learning spaces, and normally don’t vary from one course or module to another.

3. Although the provision of content, and links to further content, is designed by the lecturer, the use of the content is determined by the learner.

4. Within activity based learning spaces, the learner decides whisch parts of the content (if any) they need to use for each activity, and which parts of their own prior learning and experience they can use. This means not only that the learner decides which content to use, but that the learner is able, and actively encouraged, to enlarge the ‘content’ domain beyond that which is provided by the institution, to include their own resources and experience.

5. If we add a further element of collaborative/active learning, the learners are also encouraged to share their wider experience and resources, and to actively contribute to building the knowledge and the resource base of the course.

This is different from Content based, or even Content + Activity based learning, and is sufficiently different to constitute a different design paradigm. Whether the learners make full use of the affordances of this learning paradigm is perhaps a moot point. They need to be encouraged and tempted to do so, so that they dont default to their own learning comfort zones, which may be little more than a Content/Memorising paradigm, despite the best efforts of the learning designers.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Online Facilitation - discussion.

SCOPE are currently hosting an online discussion about online facilitation. Though SCOPE discussions are generally predominantly academics and teachers (and, to a degree this discussion is as well), as the discussion was publicised through Full Circle Associates, and the OnlineFacilitation Mailist - (both run by Nancy White) the membership is a little more diverse.
It's well worth having a look!

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The evolution of online learning?

I recently tried to explain what needs to be done in online learning, and I told it like this ....

There have been roughly four phases in online learning interaction ...

1. Programmed learning, of which the premier example is PLATO.

1.5 Discussion boards.

2. Content and student-record management, which includes most VLE's, includes basic discussion forums, and bolts 'virtual space' onto to physical teaching spaces and on-campus practices.

3. Web 2, which is more of a process or a movement that a product. Web 2 operates in virtual space which just, en passant, incorporates physical space. Because it does that, anachronisms like 'institutional walls' just arent relevant anymore, and even Salmon's recent distinction between 'tethered' and 'untethered' media (non/wireless technologies) doesnt matter we've moved past that.

4. Web3, which goes beyond the networked-personal-space into ecologies of CoInquiry and CoPractice, and in fact makes the distinctions between personal knowledge mangement and personal profiling and networking, and institutional KM and networking, all a bit passe.

Problem ...
* On average (bar some interesting exceptions) most universities are probably not even making best use of #2 yet, so we are at about #1.7 or #1.8.

* The 'digital native' students are probably coming in at #3, or even #3.5.

* In simplistic terms that puts us 1.7 points, or 50% behind our students (or puts them 100% ahead of us, statistics are funny things!)

That's not good for our credibility, or their motivation and engagement. We're just not 'up to speed'.

Question ...
How does one communicate the fact that even the way most of our educational institutions think of 'space' and 'institutions' is quite out of touch?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Formats and Comfort Zones

In a recent discussion (with Jay) the issue arose as to the format that we need to use to create good learning and neworking spaces. Jay's suggestion was to combine discussion forums, online conferencing, and KM tools (like freemind). This was my response, which raises two related issues:

1) what range of formats do we have available, and
2) how can we align these options to the comfort zones of our users?

Here's my response......

Much of the discussion on what "web2" is about, and should be about focuses on what the 'point of engagement' or format, or 'portal' should be.

[Its actually moved a lot further than 'portal' as its far more participatory - see e.g. the Guardian's Columnist pages, which, in the online Guardian (Unlimited) are presented as blog-type pages, and elicity huge amounts of comment within hours of publication (often by the same 'usual suspects, but still)].

The options for format are something like:

1. VLE - really a content management and student record management site, with a few discussions and chat bolted on.

2. Websites - the current one for this course (Flxs 1) is morphing from 'just' a website into more of a social software, web2 kind of site.

3. Full-on social software, like mysite, etc, which are essentially what in my neck of the woods are called Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) sites, which would link back to particular learning space. In other words, the personal space contains links within it to learning spaces, and not vice versa.

4. The merging (mashing?) of PKM and a range of CoPractice and CoInquiry (these can be different or much the same thing.

and ...

As a designer, you also need to take into account things like ...

1. Simplicity and elegance (See John's posting elsewhere)

2. The comfort zone of the user - which differs across very different comfort zones - you have to take into account that different groups of learners have different learning curves to master, and if the learning curve of the format itself is too steep, its not an affordance, its a pain in the neck:

2.1 Email is OK, but the touch typing is still a distant ideal
2.2 Discussion boards and chat are OK, but a large amount of serial-book-like presentation, formatting and sequencing is needed (Content management in VLE 'courses')
2.3 Website formats are comfortable, and even preferred (learning spaces and workshops).
2.4 Social software PKM or just "Personal Space Management" (PSM??) (Web2).
2.5 "Web3". which is Web2 + CoP + CoI.

[This has to go much further than the the 'digital virgin/native/etc' discussion].

My own preference is to move rather surreptitiously from 2.3 to 2.4 and 2.5, and to avoid 2.2 like the plague.

What categories, flow charts, progressions, are you using to 'frame' where you think we (as designers and providers) and the learners (includes us) should be?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Affordances, Identities, and Communities of Inquiry

#1 Learning
Learning is the smile that arises from ...
interesting conversations
interesting experiments
and good practise

#2 Learning
Learning is the smile that arises from ...
& mastering

new affordances.

I don't usually go for definitions, they just get in the way of thinking, mostly.

However, these 'takes' on learning, deliberately quite different, do give me a way in to discussing what I mean by a 'constructivist' or a 'complexity theory' approach to learning.

Learning #1 is constructivist, and 'interactionist' (if there is such a word) and it links into my re-purposed term 'Interactive and communicative technologies', or 'I@CT') which I use to describe anything from sophisticated web-based learning spaces to the good old water-cooler.

Learning #2 is based in complexity theory, and in Gibson's interestingly radical concept of 'affordances'. According to this view, affordances are not just a fancy term for 'strengths' or 'opportunities'. Affordances are the product of the interaction between the individual and what they perceive in their environment.

Gibson goes so far as to say that the affordances are what the individual perceives, making perception an active and interactive activity. [This is way outside the mechanical Shannon-Weaver model that unfortunately found its way across from telecoms to social science some years ago, and has been used by the epistemologically naive and confused ever since].

What follows is even more interesting: The affordances that you explore, benchmark and master are integral to the way in which you perceive the world, i.e. they are integral to who you are, and your identity.

So ...

Learning new affordances changes your identity - personal, social and professional identities. Communicating within the process of learning, and communicating what you have learnt, happens within a community - a semiotic community, various social communities, and variants of professional communities.

Which takes us back to Learning #1: i.e., learning is about becoming part of various conversations, experiments and practices, through interacting with(in) various communities. And so learning also consolidates, or challenges, the identities of these communities, pariticularly those communities which are communities of inquiry.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Part of the many balances that one needs to maintain in online learning and in good web practice in general, is the balance between structure and exploration, or the interesting, rather risky ground between chaos and order, where new relationships and ideas emerge.

One way of getting hold of this risky area (or interesting lilly pad, if you take my metaphor) is to use Snowden's distinction between what is complex (and orderly) and complexity (which is more open, less predictable).

Dave Pollard has some very interesting things to say about this, in relation to learning and to 'web2', and also a neat diagram of Dave Snowden's schema. Worth a look if you want to explore the application of complexity theory to learning.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

new mapping toys

There is a huuuuuge resource at if you are interested in mapping tools, toys, ideas.


Friday, March 17, 2006

EduBlog Con 1

Plans are going ahead with arrangements for "EduBlog 1" It's going to be held in London on June 2nd.

As I'm on the organising committee, I'll keep you posted about what's going to be happening.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Rich, elegant and delightful

Partly to be provocative, but also quite seriously, I am exploring new quality assurance criteria for online learning: rich, elegant and delightful.

Richness includes what I call 'content richness' (pretty self-evident) as well as 'process richness' or 'orchestral richness'. I'm at a loss for terms here, and I'm borrowing from a metaphor that Stephen Downes used (some time back). What I mean is the richness that comes from iterative-and-cumulative reflective online activities (that's a mouthful too).

But richness (as we all know from not fasting over festivals like Xmas and Thanksgiving) can be a bit much, so it needs to be balanced by 'elegance'. No use putting so much content, in lists, (rather than carefully crafted layers) that its overwhelming, and easy to get lost.

Richness and elegance ...
forget the
white space
whatever you do]
still need the 'delightful' - the playful, the visually interesting and pleasant - I'm still not sure exactly why photo/graphics can add so much to a text, but they do.

The pic (above) does have a real function too, is should be more than just 'delightful'. Lilly-pads are a metaphor that I use to describe what you need to provide for online learners - steping stones, or 'pads' for them to step on/stop on while they are explore a reasonably uncertain domain, with some critical 'edges' to stimulate them and keep them focused - no 'easy pathways'.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Reading Writing and Scaffolding

There was a time when reading was straightforward - text literacy (ASCII if you want to be technical) was about all that you needed.

Nowadays we need so many more 'literacies'.

Web-literacy is an obvious one, blog-literacy another, and so on.

What interests me is that all of these are in a sense "reading scaffolds" and some of them "writing scaffolds" too. Terry King (see comment) has done interesting work in what I think are primarily writing scaffolds, but the distinction between reading and writing scaffolds blurs quite quickly.

Mind maps too have interesting reading and writing scaffolding potential. Recently I came across even more interesting ones, in visual thesaurus, and visual complexity. These might or might not work for you, and for your particular needs. What is interesting is that they take reading and writing into completely new modes, affordances, etc.

I am interested in the applications of all of these. More particularly, my interest is in metadata scaffolds, like Star Trees, which allow you to "inscribe" (a word I borrow from Bruno Latour) metadata "views" onto any data that is held either in an Intranet or the Internet, and then to be able to read accordingly.

"Reading" in this sense is much more than just accessing the data, as there is a lot of conceptual organisation (scaffolding?) that you can do at the core of such a map. There must be many other kinds of scaffoldings in the new digital literacy - "logical scaffolds"? "professional practice scaffolds" (which would meet up with what I call "discourses" and possible many more.


Friday, February 17, 2006

Open or Focused?

The issue of range vs. focus remains a key issue in the way we develop materials and the way in which we set up, design, and manage online discussions.

At the end of the day it's a teaching strategy issue, and a teaching style issue, and we all need to teach to our strengths.

At the design stage what is essential is to put up something that is well thought through as an "interactive learning space", and then run it and see what happens, and be as creatively and supportively responsive as you can.

Teaching (and facilitating is no different) needs to be a mixture of:

  • Well structured but open
  • Focused but inviting
  • Well designed and set up but allowing space for emerging issues
  • Thoroughly thought through but opportunistic
  • Informative but challenging (throwing students back onto their own (collective,
    peer-group) resources. ... and so on.

The difference in online learning is that the "interactive learning space" needs to be an inviting and open architecture for students to create and manage their own learning and their own cohort peer-group, (with the support and oversight of the facilitator).

The 'default' position is that otherwise you end up with 'learning in a box' which is lonely and dull. And motivation then goes to the wall.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Does it all come down to control?

When we design online learning, how formally do we need to take the different affordances of different modes and media? Or, do we need a categorisation, a taxonomy, of affordances, and do we then need to ensure that we include ‘one of each’ in tick box fashion?

The question is rhetorical, and the answer is of course: no.

The detail is more complex and more interesting.

When you design online learning spaces, I dont think you can ignore the peculiar affordances of online discussions and moderated peer learning, nor can you disconnect the design of online learning spaces from the design on online discussions.

I know that teaching must continue to be a creative process, otherwise we might as well pack up, go home, and send out black boxes and CD's to our students, and hope they can learn from a box. So the online interactions, which are the ‘meat’ of an online course have to be open, creative, responsive, challenging, and even opportunistic. They should not all be pre-determined and pre-set.

But, and I suppose this is one of my own design fundamentals, I think the learner has to be presented with an interactive online learning space they can explore with their peers and, therefore (and its an important therefore) the lecturer has to let goooooooo, and create a learning space, or a learning architecture, within which the learner-and-their-peers can create their own learning, and in which the basic interactive ‘architecture’ is created in which interactive peer learning can take place.

The lecturer can come into the learning space wearing a number of different hats. The lecturer can come in wearing the directive hat, and lay down some bottom lines, or the facilitating hat, and guide discussions into more fruitful areas, or the moderating hat, and pick up, weave, and extrapolate various threads. But the dominant mode of all these interventions is in the role of a respectful peer, even if as the first-peer-among-peers.

Its probably an issue of controlling learning vs. facilitating learning. That's the bottom line for me in pedagogical terms. I think learning takes place best, and is most exiting for all concerned (including the lecturer) if its moderated peer learning, rather than teaching.

Q: is this a social or a pedagogical preference (prejudice) on my part?


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Is it OK to fire someone by txt?

Thinking of affordances again, and which affordances fit best with which contexts...

In a discussion forum on the relative affordances on chat and asynchronous communication, the following question arose:

"Is it possible to step back and, on the basis of your experience, think of contexts (or types of context) in which the affordance of either synchronous or asynchronous communication would strongly influence which one you would use?"

I am thinking, for instance, of the practice that seems to be creeping in of firing people by txt or email. Email maybe, although it would have to be a context in which even a phone call was impossible. Txt? I cant think of any context in which txt would be appropriate.

Question: Is 'appropriate' different from 'affordance', and if so how?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Modular and Iterative Discussions

If it is true that online discussions offer substantially new affordances for learning (reflective-recorded-thoughts-in-progress ... if I have to put it into one word) then we need to start asking about how these discussions link in to the online resources we put up on the 'net, and how the discussions function within teaching and learning.

In my view the spectrum stretches from completely modular links on the one side, to iterative, folded, cumulative links on the other side.

Modular Links:
This is when you design and produce modular resources (with sub-modules too) which are discrete, and even disjunct from the other learning objects. There is no prescription on how they will be used - although the sequence may be suggested by their position within an online resource. You depend on the resourcefulness and creativity of the teacher/ facilitator to use, weave, relate, and sequence the learning objects, and to link them to various discussions - online, and potentially offline too if the space is available. A highly efficient administrator's dream.

Iterative Links:
Similarly, you start on the design of individual (iterative) learning objects, but you weave into their design the activities and discussions, and the way these are going to build up. So the essence of the iterative learning object is that you expect the learner to do something, rather than to abstractly 'learn' something which they might or might not apply, and you expect their facility to do this to improve iteratively and cumulatively.

This is, at one level, activity-based learning (or even a soft version of problem-based learning). At another, more important level, its actually "applications-based" learning - which is more than "applied learning", as its heart lies in the application; the application is not a bolt-on, or add-on afterthought.

Applications-based learning is by definition more context-based than purely modular learning, but there is a whole school of thought that says that there is no such thing as context-free learning.

The next level of value in iterative discussion links is that the discussions (on the activities) should also be designed to be cumulative. This can of course be done by astute management and faciliation of the discussion boards, but I would make a case for including iterative, cumulative activities and discussion links in the design of the teaching and learning material itself.

Good, creative teaching will always add, fold, and build the iterative and cumulative loops and links into learning, and it will always be flexible enough (so dont forget the modularity entirely) for this to incorporate the learners' prior knowledge and experience.

But the materials and the learning will be less rich, and less elegant (two vital qualities of good online learning) if the cumulative and iterative elements are left out of the core design process, no?


Thursday, February 02, 2006

what kind of animal is an affordance?

In the workshop that is currently running, it struck me that although I am fascinated by affordances, and use the term a lot, I am unsure as to exactly what kind of animal an affordance actually is.

By which I mean, how should we speak of affordances? Are they technologies, techniques, modes, media, sub-modes, registers, or what?

In response to a question about whether "asynchonicity" is an affordance, I replied:

  • I would try to step back a little from the technology, or technique, and formulate the affordance a bit differently. For instance, "asynchronous communication" is definitely a strong affordance in this medium. But I would call it something like:
  1. flexible connectivity (and)
  2. recorded conversations (and)
  3. reflective engagement (and)???

  • I think its very interesting (and hopefully useful!) to try to formulate new names/ terms for new experiences. It struck me when I was writing a document on Modes of Learning that I was actually starting to create an "affordances table", and I wondered how useful this was, as taxonomies can be too structured for their own good.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

human interest

Human interest stories always get people's attention, and also make the content feel more real, as its connected to real, concrete, people (if you know what I mean) rather than just abstract ideas.

A neat way to do this, quickly and easily, can be found at:

if you open the

"US lawmakers react to State of the Union speech"

box halfway down the page.

The added value is twofold, I think - adding pics is always interesting, but even more to the point, adding "humans" gives it a contextual richness and anchors it in the current context, no?


Monday, January 30, 2006

Comfort zones

If we are serious about acknowledging prior learing and experience in setting up an online learing environment (or what I call a Interactive Learning Space - "ILS"?) then surely we should find out what the learners' commmunication comfort zone is - which media and modes do they use 'without thinking' and which are a painful chore, and how can we lure them from their comfort zone into participating in an academic conversation?

And one which doesnt bore them to tears?


Friday, January 27, 2006

Isnt it just spoon-feeding?

When you set up an online learning environment, you structure a number of resources and activities. The question is often asked: “Isnt it just spoon-feeding?” And in education, and particularly higher education, we have to take this question seriously.

I approach the question as a designer, and there are several design options:

1. The overall principles

1.1 Activities
Online learning works best if there are activities associated with every chunk, or learning object. This can range from 'make a summary' or 'think of an example from your own experience, and make some brief notes on how it might apply' to doing a substantial piece of work: computational, programming, analysis, research, etc.

The point is that 'read and digest' is not really enough.

1.2 Discussions
Online discussions can provide really valuable learning environments - for 'moderated peer learning'. That means you have to set up a successful workshop online. And if you do, substantial amounts of learning take place between the learners, and all you have to do is guide, prompt, sum-up, etc.

The point is that this is the key 'value-added' in online learning, and you can set it up by designing a series of activities, many of which (not all, necessarily) ask the student to do the activity and then to post a reflection on that activity (not necessarily the whole activity) to a discussion forum.

Discussions work best when they are (or at least start off as) quite specific, focused, and limited in scope. If they are too broad, they tend to go off into many directions, and the ‘thread’ of the discussion is lost.

2. Options

2.1 Discussions
The simplest way to design discussions is to incorporate a discussion in every activity (and Learning Object). Alternatively, you can decide which of those activities you think must have discussions, and which you might like to add later, when you set up the discussion forums (which can be set up in 20 minutes).

The way you run your discussion board depends entirely on how you approach your own teaching, and my teaching style comes out clearly in the particular choices I make in setting up a discussion board, and managing and changing it as I go along. I’m a fairly opportunistic facilitator, and I like to ‘fold back in’ discussions from one part of the forum to another. That builds in lots of reflective practice.

2.2 Self managed learning
The template that we use (TEX 3) has been deliberately designed to set up the opportunities (and even obligations) for students to become (and learn to become) self-managed learners. The idea is that we give them an outline of the topic, links to resources, and an activity (which is often feeds into a discussion) in the main (central) body of the template. These resources are the ones they really must be familiar with if they are to do the task adequately.

Then we add further resources in the next layer (Useful links, on the right) and even further resources in the third layer (See also, bottom right). This gives them more resources than they need, and you can put some pretty challenging stuff into the ‘See also’ section.

This should be a cumulative set of layered resources, that you add to from time to time, or with successive presentations of the course, but it can also be an opportunity for students to send you useful links that they have found, which you can choose to add for the next presentation, or not.

Over time, this enables the online template to become a very rich, structured, environment, in which the bottom line, required, readings and techniques are right there in the middle, with structured, easy to navigate links to a wealth of further resources on the outside. This (in principle!) gives the learner a rich environment to explore the topics, but also puts the onus squarely on them to construct their own learning path through these resources, and contribute more of their own too.

That’s the idea, anyway. I like to think (?) that it’s the opposite of spoon-feeding, as you can design a set of rich, layered, intuitively navigable resources that no student could possible use all of, and which are supportive in the centre, and ever more challenging as you move out into the more peripheral resource links.