Design Project Rationale

This project seeks to encourage teaching staff at North Lindsey College to develop their approach to the use of technology to support and enhance teaching and learning. The purpose of this design is to construct an informal learning environment to develop a community of practice to share knowledge, ideas and reflection on the use of technology in learning, through the use Web 2.0 technology LinkedIn. This is designed solely for staff at North Lindsey College and intended to develop digital literacy skills, supporting the use of technology in teaching and learning. This paper reviews the rationale for the learning activity, incorporating an analysis of the driver for the learning activity, establishing the learner’ s characteristics and needs and describing how the learning activity is planned to be used. The design will be analysed using Salmon’s 5 Stage Model (Salmon G. , 2011) and Collis and Moonen’s Contributing Student (Collis & Moonen, 2006).

The JISC briefing paper (2011) Supporting Learners in a Digital Age suggests that teaching skills are critical to developing students experience and that staff need ‘to share practice with colleagues in both scholarly and informal settings’ (JISC, 2011, p. 4). The need go beyond the traditional approach to staff development through formal toolkit or workshop model is echoed by Salmon (2011),

Several studies confirm that no amount of hands-on training can replace the practical application of technology to the Teaching and learning process (Salmon , 2011, p. 126).

This design project seeks to develop the use of social networking to create a ‘community of practice’ (Salmon 2003) for academic staff and enhance collaborative knowledge production and develop the use of technology in teaching.

Whilst the key learning objective is to develop the use of technology by teaching staff in curriculum areas, this project is also intended to develop the digital literacy of their learner’s through the appropriation and adoption of technology in teaching and learning. Sharpe et al (2010) cite the work of Luckin et al (2009) which suggests that whilst learners have a positive attitude to the use of web 2.0 technologies the quality of information is a ‘low bandwidth exchange’ of knowledge (Shape, Beetham , & De Freitas, 2010, p. 36), suggesting that the dialogue is a low quality two way conversation, rather than a shared construction of knowledge. Social networking is predominately used by learners in a ‘familiar and bounded models of interaction and learning’ (Shape, Beetham , & De Freitas, 2010, p. 36), learners tend to do what they are comfortable with and have restrained patterns of behaviour in their use of technology. Carroll 2009 in his work Human Computer Interaction describes an area of research in computer science which embraces cognitive science and human factors engineering. Carroll 2009 suggests that human activities are limited by current infrastructures and tools and that ‘human activities implicitly articulate needs, preferences and design visions’ (Carroll, 2009). This design project seeks to demonstrate to teaching staff how knowledge can be constructed through Collaboration, using web 2.0 technologies and develop their skills for teaching.

This learning activity is designed as an informal infrastructure for teacher’s development, building an academic community for teaching staff where peer group networks can be established through a community of practice and exploration (Shape, Beetham , & De Freitas, 2010). Academic staff are invited to participate in the learning Group on LinkedIn, via invites using the College email system and LinkedIn. This activity seeks to use constructivist learning approach which is dominant in online learning (Weller, 2002). The closed group security on LinkedIn creates a safe learning environment where staff can have social dialogue with other teachers. Teachers are encouraged to participate through posting of ideas, resources and questions in the group. An information exchange supported postings of articles detailing key aspects of e-learning every 7-10 days is designed to act as a basis for stimulation, comment and reflection. Participants are encouraged to use e-learning tools, discuss the merits and potential limitations and reflect on their use. Collaborative group reflection is placed at the heart of the group activity, as an approach to learning; this seeks to take a purist constructivist approach by providing a framework for staff to discuss issues and creating their own interpretation without providing the right answer (Weller, 2002).

Collis and Moonen in their article The Contributing Student: Learners as co-developers of learning resources for reuse in Web environments, identifies key characteristics of what they term active students where the student becomes engaged with their own learning (Collis & Moonen, 2006). This design project creates the potential for staff as learners to become active participants in a community of learning. Collis and Moonen cite Sfard 1998 and the ‘Acquisition-Participation’ dimension, where knowledge is acquired due to participation and from becoming a ‘member of a community’ (Collis & Moonen, 2006, p. 5). The LinkedIn platform was chosen for this design activity as it is established as a professional networking forum, where existing learning communities are active and a culture for informal learning prevails. Access and ability to use online learning are ‘prerequisites for group learning to develop later’ (Salmon, 2011) and this design reflects Stage 1 of Salmon’s Five Stage Model. The limitation of this design is that being a member of the group is not sufficient and some staff may become members but not actively participate. Collis and Moonen cite Laurillard’s 1993 ‘interaction-oriented approach’ where ‘interaction with learning materials and also with others is also important’ to be fully engaged and contributing to knowledge creation (Collis & Moonen, 2006, p. 4). The design activity presents some limitations in that it does not seek to encourage the creation of online identities or connections between staff outside of the group, which is identified in Stage 2 of Salmon’s model (Salmon, 2011), although the LinkedIn platform does facilitate this development.

This design project seeks to encourage participation from the sharing of personal experiences on the use of technology in learning, which is reflective of Stage 3 of the model (Salmon G, 2011). Collis and Moonen identify a key characteristic of a contributing student as one that participates in action learning and cite Dopper, Dijkam 1997: Simons 1999, who suggest that learners share experience and reflection and ‘learning is based on problems from one’s own work situation’ (Collis & Moonen, 2006, p. 5). Collis and Moonen 2006 cite LA Master and Tannerhil (1999) who show how peer mentoring, posting questions sharing practical experience with other teachers, can create learning resources from the contributions of others. The LinkedIn group webpage is largely empty before the learners start contributing and through their contributions of personal experience they will create a learning resource for each other. The posting of questions and answers is reflective of a group discussion which is identified in Stage 4 of Salmons model. Stage 5 of Salmons model where ‘learners explore how to integrate online into other forms of learning and reflect on the learning processes’ (Salmon, 2011, p. 32) is embeded within the design, which allows participants to capitalise on the range of networking and learning forms available on the LinkedIn platform.

In critique of the design, this informal learning community presents some issues from a learning perspective. Collis and Moonen 2006 highlight the role of the instructor in this approach is to facilitate learning by providing feedback on Learners contributions (Collis & Moonen, 2006). The design activity does not seek to facilitate effective feedback to academic staff and ‘feedback for learning’ is assessment that helps the learning process (Avis, Fisher , & Thompson, 2010). This design has limitations in terms of assessment and therefore it is difficult to determine ‘what constitutes achievement’ (Avis, Fisher , & Thompson, 2010).

The project will be evaluated through the use of online surveys and polls; however the lack of formative and summative feedback does present limitations of evaluating success of learning from this activity, without effective mechanism in place for measurement of learner achievement. A review of the assessment strategy for this design and considering incorporating Ipsative assessment, encouraging staff to take ownership of setting their own targets from participation, may provide a framework against which learning could be assessed in the future (Avis, Fisher , & Thompson, 2010).

Avis, J., Fisher , R., & Thompson, R. (2010). Teaching in Lifelong Learning. Berkshire: McGraw Hill.

Carroll, J. M. (2009). Human Computer Interaction (HCI). In: Soegaard, Mads and Dam, Rikke Friis (eds.). Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction. Aarhus, Denmark: The Interaction Design Foundation. Retrieved December 17th, 2012, from Human Computer Interaction:

Collis, B., & Moonen, J. (2006). The Contributing Student: Learners as co-developers of learning resources for reuse in web environments. Retrieved 7 18, 2007, from

JISC. (2011, September). JISC Publications Supporting Leaners in a Digital Age SLIDA. Retrieved from JISC:

Salmon, G. (2011). e moderating: The Key to Teaching and Learning Online. New York: Routledge.

Shape, R., Beetham , H., & De Freitas, S. (2010). Rethinking Learning for a Digital Age. New York: Routledge.

Weller, M. (2002). Delivering Learning on the Net. London: Kogan Page.


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