OULDI Project: Evaluation and Final Project Reports now published – the impact of new curriculum design tools and approaches on institutional process and design cultures

Over the last month I’ve been working with the rest of the OULDI team on finishing our final Evaluation and Project reports. The focus of the OULDI project has been on developing and piloting tools, resources and approaches that support institutional curriculum design processes and design practice/cultures.

The Evaluation Report (91pp) pulls together research and experience from all five project strands and nine pilots. First the report reviews the tools we developed and trialled for sharing learning design expertise (Cloudworks), for visualising designs (CompendiumLD, Module Map, Activity Profile) and for supporting design and reflection in workshops (Facilitation Cards, workshop activities, etc.). The Report then presents evidence for how effective these have been and what this tells us. For example: how do communities of practice use a shared design space? How well do university processes map actual practice? What benefits and barriers can we discern? What discourses of resistance and case studies of personal success have we recorded?

One clear message is that it is possible to be successful in changing or improving the process, practice and perception of curriculum design but has found this requires a combination of elements working together: selection of effective design tools; well configured institutional and informal design processes; proper opportunity for collaboration; reflexive working and dedicated time away from the day-to-day to work on a design; positive and real management endorsement; staff with positive attitudes and adequate tacit knowledges of the art of teaching and the discipline of designing learning; and an expert consultant role to guide and advise teams. The success of embedding learning design is therefore dependent both on the internal quality of the particular design approach or tool and on the capability of the (institutional/professional skills) context to ‘receive’ it

Building on the Evaluation Report, the final Project Report presents a concise project summary. In this we offer an overview of the educational, learning design and technical context, and document benefits  to the design process, design communities, design practices, design software and visualisation, and the sector. The Project Report concludes with some ‘lessons to share.’ These may be summarised as:

1. There is often a great difference between the idealised process (that codified in guidance and formal organisation of staff) and the real process interactions that take place. It is in the practices and culture of the latter – the lived enacted process –that this project has particularly sought change.

2 The challenge of convincing staff that a design approach would be helpful can be hindered by the difficulty in demonstrating or ‘proving’ there is a need to change.

3. The project has provided insight into how interconnected the stages are in the design process. It has noted the problem of course teams moving too readily past the design in to the ‘embodiment’ phase of course creation and of designers evaluating tools in respect to how much the tool saves them time or effort rather than on the benefits to others in the process, most notably students.

4. Stakeholders differ in their understandings of the purpose and potential of curriculum design.

5. Tools or design activities that represent a minor step for staff are more likely to be accepted and used. This may be because they require little change of design practice/approach or the learning of new pedagogic knowledge.

6. There is a complex and nuanced relationship between course quality and the time expended in design. Providing even modest additional opportunities to reflect on or to discuss designs with others can lead to improvements in the design quality.

7. The open exchange of teaching and learning design experience remains limited to a small minority (between 5 and 10%) of staff although there is clear evidence of users being interested in reading others posts and observing the sharing of knowledge.

8. Communicating the breath of the project ambition – of working concurrently with and the overlap between multiple strands of work has as times proved a challenge.

9. The project has derived great benefit from being part of a twelve project national JISC programme and from gaining insight and experience of other institutional practice.

10. Project tools and resources use a variety of representational forms; from concept mapping to structured tables. Many of these are different to current methods of representing learning and curriculum designs. As such, in disrupting practice and accepted process, they have the capacity to offer new perspectives, to challenge, and to promote reflection. Whilst not necessarily conducive to making a process shorter, such disruption may help make it more efficient, effective and capable of delivering greater quality outcomes.

References:

Cross, S., Galley, R., Brasher, A. & Weller, M., (2012) OULDI-JISC Project Evaluation Report: the impact of new curriculum design tools and approaches on institutional process and design cultures (PDF)

Cross, S., Galley, R., Brasher, A. & Weller, M., (2012) Final Project Report of the OULDI-JISC Project: Challenge and Change in Curriculum Design Process, Communities, Visualisation and Practice (PDF)

There is a separate report for each of the project’s nine pilots and over twenty personal narratives/case  studies. For example see: Galley, R. (2012a) The impact of early learning design on the efficiency and effectiveness of curriculum design processes and practices: Faculty of Education and Languages Studies Case Study Final Report.

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