Using Learning Design to Unleash the Power of Learning Analytics

December 4, 2015


Atkinson, S.P. (2015). Using Learning Design to Unleash the Power of Learning Analytics. In T. Reiners, B.R. von Konsky, D. Gibson, V. Chang, L. Irving, & K. Clarke (Eds.), Globally connected, digitally enabled. Proceedings ascilite 2015 in Perth (pp. 358-364 / CP:6-CP:10).


A very enjoyable presentation made this week at ascilite 2015 in Perth, Australia. Wonderful to engage with this vibrant and hospitable community. Amongst some fascinating presentations exploring the theoretical and information management dimension of learning analytics and academic analytics, my very foundational work on constructively aligned curricula and transparency in design was I believe welcomed.

I said in my paper that I believed “New learning technologies require designers and faculty to take a fresh approach to the design of the learner experience. Adaptive learning, and responsive and predicative learning systems, are emerging with advances in learning analytics. This process of collecting, measuring, analysing and reporting data has the intention of optimising the student learning experience itself and/or the environment in which the experience of learning occurs… it is suggested here that no matter how sophisticated the learning analytics platforms, algorithms and user interfaces may become, it is the fundamentals of the learning design, exercised by individual learning designers and faculty, that will ensure that technology solutions will deliver significant and sustainable benefits. This paper argues that effective learning analytics is contingent on well structured and effectively mapped learning designs.


Enhancements to the SOLE Tookit – now version 3.5

May 31, 2015

I have no idea what the protocol is for naming versions of things. I imagine, like me, someone has an idea of what the stages are going to look like, when a truly fresh new is going to happen. For me I have a sense that version 4.0 of the SOLE Toolkit will incorporate what I am currently learning about assessment and ‘badges’, self-certification and team marking. But for now I’m not there yet and am building on what I have learnt about student digital literacies so I will settle for Version 3.5.

This version of the SOLE Toolkit, 3.5, remains a completely free, unprotected and macro-free Excel workbook with rich functionality to serve the learning designer. In version 3.0 I added more opportunities for the student to use the toolkit as an advanced organiser offering ways to record their engagement with their learning. It also added in some ability to sequence learning so that students could plan better their learning although I maintained this was guidance only and should allow students to determine their own pathways for learning.

Version 3.5 has two significant enhancements. Firstly, it introduces a new dimension, providing a rich visualization of the learning spaces and tools that students are to engage with in their learning. This provides an alternative, fine-grain, view of the students modes of engagement in their learning. It permits the designer to plan not only for a balance of learning engagement but also a balance of environments and tools. This should allow designers to identify where ‘tool-boredom’ or ‘tool-weariness’ is possibly a danger to learner motivation and to ensure that a range of tools and environments allow students to develop based on their own learning preferences.

Secondly, it allows for a greater degree of estimation of staff workload, part of the original purpose of the SOLE Model and Toolkit project back in 2009. This faculty-time calculations in design and facilitating are based on the learning spaces and tools to be used. This function allows programme designers and administrators, as well as designers themselves, to calculate the amount of time they are likely to need to design materials and facilitate learning around those materials.

I invite you to explore the SOLE Toolkit on the dedicated website for the project and would welcome any comments of feedback you might have.

Version 3.0 of SOLE Toolkit released.

September 25, 2014

Version 3.0 of the SOLE Toolkit has been released on the website today.

The toolkit is an integrated spreadsheet workbook that supports implementation a learning design based on the SOLE Model. The SOLE model advocates a holistic approach to learning that encourages designers to recognise that the student spends significant time away from formal learning contexts and that they bring experience and context to any learning situation.

The changes in Version 3.0 reflect a desire to strengthen the student’s use of the toolkit as an advanced organiser. These changes include:

  • Active Verbs – the terms used to describe the elements of the SOLE Model now uses active verbs to describe each of the elements.
  • Predicated Workload – the amount of time the designer anticipates students will spend is now charted.
  • Sequencing activities – the ability to suggest the order in which activities should be tackled.
  • Completion Record – allow students to record whether an activity has been completed alongside indicating the amount of time was actually spent.
  • Objectives Met Record – allow students to indicate that they believe they have met the objectives for each individual topic/week.

You can download the toolkit from this website here. As always this work is free to use but as always I would appreciate feedback from users as to changes they make and the usage they make of the work.

Update to SOLE Model reflections

September 22, 2014

I have updated the SOLE Model website with a reflection on some staff development guidance offered by London Metropolitan University on their eMatrix website. They were kind enough to list the SOLE Model as one of four models for conceptualising distance and blended learning. It’s a privilege to be listed alongside Professors Terry Anderson and Randy Garrison’s ‘Community of Inquiry’, Professor Diana Laurillard’s ‘Conversational Framework’ and Professor Gilly Salmon’s ‘5 Step Model’.

I stated:

“What is clear is that to have a theoretical framework for effective on-line learning design is essential. I may have deviated from Anderson and Garrison’s separation from the social and cognitive processes, and from Salmon’s stress for human socialisation but the SOLE Model does allow for the personal, communitarian and societal dimension to learning. I also differ from Laurillard’s sequenced activity designs that result from the conversational framework into a more ‘freeform’ learning design at the theoretical level but the toolkit development will hopefully include further structural aspects in the near future. Learning and teaching online (distance or ‘blended’) presents unique challenges for teachers and students alike. Personally I advocate transparency to design for the student by sharing the design as an advanced organiser (SOLE Toolkit) in order to express clarity of the learning process (dialogue) and to encourage interaction and feedback leading to enhancement. Whichever way you look at it, it is privilege to find the SOLE Model included in such illustrious company.”
LondonMet eMatrix Web Resource

LondonMet eMatrix Web Resource

Re-visioning Learning Spaces: Evolving faculty roles and emerging learning spaces

May 16, 2013
Published a short working paper today entitled “Re-visioning Learning Spaces: Evolving faculty roles and emerging learning spaces“. In July I’ll be running some face-to-face workshops to explore the ideas in the paper and there will be a version two.
New build and refurbishments of educational spaces can be significant financial commitments and often represent ‘flagship’ investments for many universities.  However, apart from their marketing brochure appeal and the contemporary feel good factor for current students of ‘being there’, we should question whether they are really supporting effective learning.  This paper advocates that truly effective spaces need to be more closely associated with the particular learning contexts one is seeking to enrich.  Re-visioning our learning spaces requires universities to create and engage with a conceptual model of the learner and faculty, to develop not just new spaces but support for new roles within those spaces. The SOLE model is presented as a conceptual framework through which new spaces and new faculty roles are considered.
Paper can be downloaded at or direct from BPP University College pages (ISBN – 9781 4453 5457 6 / Publication Date: May 2013)

Ending the year as a non-Cartesian?

December 31, 2011

There is something slightly disturbing about checking the web for uses of your work. One finds the odd undergraduate presentation that has ‘borrowed’ a graphic, or quoted your quotes as notes, and other lyrical misdemeanours. One even risks finding oneself renamed, although I have to say I find ‘Simorn’ a little too contemporary for my tastes. What is particularly interesting is to find oneself cited in such a way that one is ‘designated’, purposed as a standard bearer for a position one didn’t know one held. I’m intrigued to find that my IRRODL article on the SOLE model from February 2011 served as an illustration of ‘applied non-cartesian concepts’ by (20.03.13 Page now removed) . Fascinating.

OER: the death of the solipsistic academic?

October 7, 2011


The challenge faced by the Open Educational Resources University is not translation, context or learning styles, it is not a question of interoperability of learning environments or granularity of learning objects, SCORM compliance or IMS standards; it is perhaps rather a question of academic identity. We have a lot of identify work to do.

I remember first meeting  Wayne Mackintosh at the Third Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning (PCF3)  in Dunedin, New Zealand, in July 2004, hosted by DEANZ, the Government of New Zealand and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL). The theme for PCF3 was “Building Learning Communities for Our Millennium: Reaching Wider Audiences through Innovative Approaches”. Wayne was convener of our thoughtful, diverse, varied and anarchic think-tank. We talked about kite-marks, quality standards, intellectual colonialism and poverty. The seeds of the OERu were visible then.

It is no surprise to see Wayne Mackintosh, Director OER Foundation, leading the initiative for Open Educational Resources University, OER university (#oeru). The initiative is raising some interesting critiques, and questions, which Tony Bates summarizes succinctly. But these are still issues of institutional norms, governmental process and sectorial quality assurance. I sense we are asking a lot of people.

There are people in the world who are good at facilitating learners’ encounters with new concepts and ideas, there are people who can enthuse, capture and motivate; and there are those who write, design, narrate and structure learning in meaningful ways. It is as often pride, as much as institutional conventions, that gives rise to academics’ conviction that they must fulfill all these roles. Whilst an academic was once the guardian, seeker, generator and clarifier of the codex of knowledge in their domain, they are now primarily its steward and pride is best placed in a more defined function.

That knowledge was once defined in terms of individual libraries, writings and musings suggests only that it was confined to the means available to communicate it. To consider it now practical, or realistic, for an individual to hold the key to a domain of knowledge is nothing less than a delusion born of vanity.

The world of knowledge creation, dissemination and propagation has changed radically in the last 30 years, and with it, academic identity. It is simply illogical, not to say inefficient, to expect a single academic to research, write, and teach all the content for their university courses. What the OER movement represents is a 21st century model of knowledge propagation, a contemporary revisioning of the master-pupil relationship, and a means of making learning accessible beyond the single, constrained, voice of the solipsistic academic.

For the faculty that make-up our institutions to accept their emerging role as validators of the learning that happens without them necessarily ‘teaching’ what is validated, and teaching what is validated by others….. that is a huge leap into the unknown, and that surely, is the biggest challenge facing the OERu.

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