Designing for blended learning, sharing and reuse

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Western Ontario]On: 16 November 2014, At: 20:25Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Journal of Further and HigherEducationPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:

    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

    and reuse

    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:

    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




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  • 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 (

    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




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  • 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