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

Intended Learning Outcomes matter

October 12, 2012

MOOCs, self generated OER based curricula, kite-marking schemes, and elaborate credit transfer schemes are a reality in increasingly complex higher education sector. Students often pursuing studies from within the world of work where physical mobility of employable precludes commitment to a single campus based programme over four years require well defined, constructively aligned, module designs. Clever module design means clever programme design, clever portfolios and successful institutions. Learning design is no longer just an issue for the Quality Office; the Strategy people are beginning to care too.

The vast majority of UK Universities now are able to produce detailed module and programme specifications for their teaching programmes. Specification templates usually detail the aims and objectives, resources, indicative scheme of work, staffing and mode of delivery. They also routinely use a template to generate the Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO) for the module or programme. Frequently divided into three or four sections covering, knowledge and understanding, intellectual skills (cognitive domain), professional and practical skills (affective domain) and general transferable skills (psychomotor skills), these templates are completed with varying degrees of comprehension as module validation panels will attest.

The logic is that to achieve a well-structured and constructively aligned curricula, the module team should determine what the ILOs for the module are to be (Biggs & Tang, 2007). What will the learner be able to do at the end of the module? Having determined the ILOs the team would then determine how they would enable the student to demonstrate achievement of the outcomes and draft an appropriate assessment strategy. Then, and only then, the module design team would look at what the student needed to be able to demonstrate and work out what was needed as input. Outcomes first, assessment second, teaching inputs third.

It’s not an easy thing to do. As teachers we’re passionate about our subjects, anxious to impart what we know is important, what ‘did it for us’, and at some point in this process many faculty will ‘go native’, reach for the seminal text (or the nearest thing to it, their own book), and start thinking about what the students need to know. This can of course produce fantastic learning experiences and there are a great many exciting modules drafted on the backs of envelopes without specification templates. They don’t make for effective records of achievement however.

Accreditation of prior accredited learning has always been a challenge. An effective template for module and programme design makes a significant difference. Students should be able to identify from their transcript exactly what it is they can evidence as intended learning outcomes. I would argue further that phases in learning and teaching activity should also have notable objectives that map directly to the ILOs (See the SOLE model described in Atkinson, 2011).

So how many intended learning outcomes, how many affective, how many cognitive, how many is too many? My next post will be my reasoning on that issue.

Atkinson, S. (2011). Developing faculty to integrate innovative learning in their practice with the SOLE model. In S. Ferris (Ed.), Teaching, Learning and the Net Generation: Concepts and Tools for Reaching Digital Learners. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2007). Teaching for Quality Learning at University: What the Student does (3rd ed.). Buckingham. GB: Open University Press.

SOLE Model Illustrated

May 13, 2010

The following brief video presentation was prepared for a Course Team workshop to introduce the SOLE Model.

The SOLE model is intended to be developmental, evaluative and descriptive. It is borne out of a desire to make the learning design process transparent to students, to encourage staff to share ‘patterns’ of learning with each other and to provide a basis for self-evaluation and development of specific learning designs. The model is not concerned with the design of specific learning activities but rather the appropriate balance between the different modes of student engagement anticipated.

The model does not prevent an academic scheduling four hours contact time a week and delivering a didactic lecture, but it would illuminate clearly that that was the approach being undertaken. Likewise, the model in and of itself does not prevent staff from reproducing an identical pattern of learning every week through a paper or course, but again, the models’ associated toolkit would make that process clear.

The SOLE model is not prescriptive and it is possible for teams to change and modify any aspect of the toolkit to suit their needs. The intention however is to provide staff with a model of effective practice such that one might be concerned about the quality of the student learning experience if the model illustrated a consistently ‘unbalanced’ approach.


One would anticipate that the visualisation generated by the toolkit would reflect a pattern of learning that differ from paper to paper, and from week to week. One could anticipate for example that in the first week of an undergraduate paper there would be significantly more ‘teacher-centeredness’ than in the twelfth week of a postgraduate paper. The visualisation will differ; the patterns can be expected to reflect different levels of engagement.

Centrality of Biggs Constructive Alignment

It is no coincidence that the model places the intended learning outcomes (ILO) at the centre. In each constructively aligned paper the pattern will be different because the learning outcomes, the assessment designed to illicit evidence of attainment and the patterns of teaching required to support that process will each be different. The SOLE model is precisely that, a model not a template. The model can, and should be adapted by staff to suit their particular approach to learning. It should reflect the nature both of their discipline, students existing context and the specific teaching environment.

A discussion paper will be posted late May 2010

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