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Designing for blended learning, sharingand reuseIsobel Falconer a & Allison Littlejohn aa Glasgow Caledonian University , UKPublished online: 08 Mar 2007.
To cite this article: Isobel Falconer & Allison Littlejohn (2007) Designing for blendedlearning, sharing and reuse, Journal of Further and Higher Education, 31:1, 41-52, DOI:10.1080/03098770601167914
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Designing for blended learning, sharing
Isobel Falconer* and Allison LittlejohnGlasgow Caledonian University, UK
The concept of design for learning has arisen as education faces up to the implications of modern
pedagogy, student diversity, and the affordances of information and communication technologies.
This paper examines some of the benefits and issues for teachers in further and higher education
surrounding the idea of learning design and its practical implementation in blended learning. It
looks particularly at questions of documenting and representing learning designs so that they can
be communicated to others. It explores the differing requirements of representations at various
stages in the planning and sharing process, and for different communities of users, finding that
multiple perspectives on a learning design are usually necessary. However, few representations to
date have succeeded in capturing the essence of a good piece of teaching. Ways of representing
designs as dynamic processes, rather than static products, may need to be developed. The paper is
based on the outcomes of work with practising teachers during the UK Joint Information Systems
Committee (JISC)-funded Models of Practice Project, part of JISCs Design for Learning
Programme, which runs from 2006 to 2007.
The concept of design for learning has arisen in the context of three institutional
challenges that currently face teachers in further and higher education: the
increasing size and diversity of the student body; an increasingly managerial
approach that evaluates education against cost, efficiency and measurable outcomes;
and the potential of new technologies to provide personalised learning and call into
question traditional ideas of the purposes of education and what constitutes
knowledge (DfES, 2001; Council for Industry and Higher Education, 2002;
Beetham & Sharpe, forthcoming).
The solution to these seemingly incompatible challenges is often sought in use of
technological tools such as virtual learning environments (VLEs) for scaleable and
flexible delivery, and for efficient sharing and reuse of teaching ideas and activities.
Yet despite substantial recent institutional investment in trying to exploit such
*Corresponding author. Caledonian Academy, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Rd,
Glasgow G4 OBA, UK. Email: Isobel.firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal of Further and Higher Education
Vol. 31, No. 1, February 2007, pp. 4152
ISSN 0309-877X (print)/ISSN 1469-9486 (online)/07/010041-12
# 2007 UCUDOI: 10.1080/03098770601167914
technologies in learning there is little sign that education has changed in any
fundamental way at the level of teacher practice (Collis & van der Wende, 2002). It
appears that the benefits of e-Learning are not sufficiently clear or easy to
communicate (Beetham, 2004). Nor are they well enough aligned with existing
institutional structures, values and rewards (Seufert & Euler, 2004).
This paper examines some of the benefits and issues for teachers in further and
higher education surrounding the idea of design for learning and its implementation
in blended learning. It is based on the outcomes of the UK Joint Information
Systems Committee (JISC)-funded Models of Practice Project, part of JISCs
Design for Learning Programme (http://www.jisc.ac.uk/index.cfm?name5elp_
designlearn), which runs from 2006 to 2007.
Why design for learning?
The impetus to design for learning comes from a number of directions, taking
design to mean the planning and documentation of a learning activity, session or
curriculum in advance of delivery. Where orchestration of a number of different
resources for a large class of students is involved, for example in science practical
classes, advance planning and design of the session has always been necessary
(Sanches & Valcarcel, 1999). Simpler sessions, with lower numbers or minimal
resources, have traditionally required less advance planning, enabling a flexible
response to the immediate needs of learners. Over the last two decades, however, the
rising demands of quality assurance to maintain and, where possible, enhance the
quality of the learning and teaching environment have required that even such
simple sessions are documented, as part of formal review and validation processes.1
Recent government widening participation policies have increased the number and
diversity of students for whom equivalent learning experiences need to be provided,
requiring advance planning and design (Scott, 1995). At the same time comes the
realisation that effective learning entails a student-centred teaching approach that
fosters the skills of independent thinking, team working and enterprise required by
employers (Garrick, 1998). However, such activities need to be scaffolded in advance
so that students can be adequately briefed about the activity. Furthermore, if such
activities are to be presented flexibly, or to distance students, they probably draw
extensively on technology to support online collaboration and access to resources,
and such access needs to be specified and set up (Contreras-Castilloa et al., 2004).
However, the technologies that might enable teachers to meet these various needs
are developing and changing rapidly. A supposed benefit of learning technologies is
their potential for providing access to a wealth of knowledge and tools for students to
interact with the knowledge, the teacher and their peers. Yet teachers receive little
guidance on how to use these tools to best effect. Another reason for documenting
the design of learning activities, sessions or curricula that have proved effective is to
share and reuse practice, providing advice and guidance and increasing the efficiency
of planning (Beetham, 2004).
Furthermore, if a machine-readable language for describing learning designs
could be devised, a lot of the setup and orchestration of tools could be done
42 I. Falconer and A. Littlejohn
automatically, relieving teachers of this burden (Masterman, 2006). A number of
such methods have been developed for the technical development community.
These include Educational Modelling Language (EML; Koper, 2001) which was
developed to describe teaching and learning interactions at a generic level. This
approach has been incorporated into the IMS Learning Design specification, a
global initiative which aims to provide a digital format for encoding, transporting
and playing learning designs (Koper et al., 2003). In the United States, the
Department of Defense developed SCORM (Shareable Courseware