Discovery Learning reflective notes

 Discovery Learning reflective notes



Posted by: Tony 03.01.09


The evaluation report for the first module trial was completed in early December and can be accessed here. Posted on this site are summaries of the learner feedback messages received as part of the evaluation. These can be seen on the Evaluation and Reporting page.

The outcomes of the trial were very revealing as detailed in the report. There are clearly issues relating to the discovery learning approach, the use of customised search engines for harvesting content, the use of curriculum competence map as a gateway to resources and the effectiveness of Wetpaint as a delivery platform; all of which need review, reflection and redesign.

However, despite some negative feedback on some aspects of the experience, the overall concept of globally sourced resources suppporting online learning delivered through Web 2,0 services remains alive and well! All of the feedback will be taken into account in a redesign of the module and delivery system and a second trial will take place in February.


Posted by: Tony 21.11.08


The first module trial has now been completed. A total of 12 learners took part over the 4 weeks to test and report on the effectiveness of the word processing module. There were three main aspects of the experience that they reported on:

1. Their response to the discovery learning pedagogic approach and the use of customised search engines to access useful resources.

2. Their response to the competency mapping of the module and its effectiveness in taking them through a competence building process.

3. Their response on the usability of Wetpaint as an effective online learning environment.

A lot of valuable feedback was received and this is now being brought together in an evaluation report that will be posted here soon.

In the meantime, the second module trial started this week, tutored by James Williams at SMU. He is using Ning as a learning environment and mind mapping as a representation of the module components. The module covers Personal Computing and Internet Technology and the Ning site can be accessed here. The trial is due for completion on 15th December 2008.


Posted by: Tony 13.10.08


The Wetpaint wiki portal has now been completed and the first trial of the discovery learning approach begins today. The word processing module is being piloted by a group of 16 'expert learners' who will complete the whole document production cycle as laid out in the competence map and will provide evaluative feedback. The exercise will take four weeks. In the meantime the second ICT module covering spreadsheets has been produced in draft form and is now available to be viewed and tested here.


Posted by: Tony 19.09.08


The Draft ICT Module has now been embedded in a Wetpaint Wiki which is being used as the learner portal to learning resources. The intention of the project was to use Web 2.0 services/social networking sites to deliver the eTutor modules and this is the latest test bed. We are also experiementing with Ning and, to some extent, pbWiki as possible delivery platforms. Work will continue for the rest of this month refining the Wetpaint site with a view to piloting the first module in October.

The portal is titled 'e-College' and can be viewed here.


Posted by: Tony 27.08.08


Thanks to Paul Stokes, the optimisible Google CSE ICT curriculum map has now been added to the Draft ICT Module page and is fully operational. To add to the annotations, users need Google Marker to be added to their Links toolbar. We now need a discussion about page ranking and how we manage that process. The objective in ranking will be to prioritise URLs that receive most citations. We also need to consider how to avoid circular/closed referencing to ensure that new good sites enter the search frame and are identified.


Posted by: Tony 22.08.08


A Google custom search engine implementation has now been completed that allows performance optimisation on the fly. The implementation has been incorporated in the ICT curriculum concept map and saved as a fully working web page. The implementation will be viewable on this site as soon as I persuade pbWiki that it is not Spam! The version has also been completed so the effectiveness of each can now be compared. My current feeling is that the Google version will turn out to be more adaptable to the pedagogic support model.


Posted by: Tony 19.08.08


Following the creation of a concept map based curriculum for word processing with links to resources using as the gateway, a mirror concept map has now been created using a Google custom search engine implementation as the gateway. This can also be found on the Mind Maps and Concept Maps page. Work is now concentrating on three aspects of project development:

1. The pedagogic support model that is built around the concept map/mind map gateway approach to accessing learning resources.

2. The technical ability to automatically optimise learning resource access performance.

3. The Web 2.0 based online delivery portal to be used to deliver the completed modules.


Posted by: Tony 13.08.08


The concept mapping process is developing and may replace the mind map approach to curriculum design if it proves more effective. A concept map based on word processing competencies has now been created with node links to relevant web based resources using This can be found on the Mind Maps and Concept Maps page.


Posted by: Tony 04.08.08


The Mayes & Morrison paper 'You take the high road: national programmes for the development of e-learning in Higher Education' (2008) makes an interesting and somewhat worrying comparison between the HEFCE Benchmarking/Pathfinder pilots, the SFC e-Learning Transformation projects and the US Pew Grant Programme. Of Benchmarking they say: 'Overall, the picture that emerges is of a sector still struggling to find a central role for e-learning as part of mainstream provision'. and of Pathfinder: 'Another way to describe the main themes of the pathfinder pilots is to say that they are focused on engagement and empowerment. However, the engagement and empowerment is of teaching staff, rather than of students'.


The paper suggests that this shows the HEFCE funded initiatives are still a stage behind the Pew Grant Programme, which began nearly 10 years ago and concluded in 2003.


The Pew Grant programme looked at a number of technology enhanced teaching models, one of which is particularly relevant to the approach taken in the eTutor project:

'The emporium model eliminates all class meetings and replaces them with an open-access learning resource centre, where on-demand personal help is permanently available. It is particularly interesting to note, however, that this help is not to be thought of as tutoring. “Emporium helpers do not answer students’ questions, but rather direct students to resources from which they can learn".

The role of the Tutor in in this project in supporting an online, globally resourced, discovery learning pedagogy is more to do with refining and improving the students' learning skills than being a subject specialist (though they would be an expert in the field as well).


Posted by: Tony 03.08.08


Following a recent very valuable discussion with the project 'Critical Friend', Prof Peter Hartley, the project is trialling the use of Concept Maps as an alternative/addition to Mind Maps in the module design process. A basic draft for Word processing competencies is now also included on the This can also be seen at Mind Maps and Concept Maps page.


Posted by: Tony 10.07.08


I now have three different mind maps relating to the discovery learning development. The first is the original 'curriculum scope' mind map that attempts to drill down to the individual learning outcomes that, together, would constitute a comprehensive set of competencies in the subject and at the level covered. I am linking the learning outcomes to learning resources using specific search tags in Experimentation here is in the effectiveness and specificity of the search tags to harvest the most appropriate resources.


The second mind map came out of an exercise to relate the learning outcomes to the learning process. The idea here is for the learning process to be based on a series of activities or tasks that, to be completed successfully, would require the learner to posess sub-sets of the competencies described by the learning outcomes. The resulting Generic Learning Model mind map attempts to link the range of potential learning activities to the range of generic learning outcomes and link these to the learning resources available to assist in the process.


The third mind map was used to draw up a picture of what was emerging globally in the area of open courseware (OCW) and open educational resources (OER). This movement was kick started by MIT making all their course materials freely available online for anyone to use. Institutions around the globe followed suit, including the Open University in the UK, and the momentum of the initiative, coupled with the general move towards open source software, is an important part (but only a part) of the rationale behind the eTutor project. This is shown below:


All three maps can be seen on the  Mind Maps and Concept Maps page. The maps are work in progress and will be updated as they are developed and refined.


Posted by: Tony 14.05.08


The objective of the mindmap+search engine approach to facilitating on-line discovery learning is to enable the learner to use a specific learning outcome in a subject area of interest as a starting point to finding specific, relevant, quality web-based resources that help develop the desired knowledge and skills.


The mindmap defines the scope and depth of the subject coverage and presents the learning outcomes as a sequence that can be engaged with in a linear fashion or in whatever order suits the learner. Each node on the mindmap is set up as a link to a search tool set up to return global resources that address skills needs in that topic.


The discovery learning activity is learner driven and can be carried out completely independently. For learners who want academic guidance and, particularly, those whose objective is a recognised qualification, there will be tutor support and structured learning activities. The learning activities, level of knowledge and skills development involved, and the evidence of attainment required will determine the academic level of the learning and the qualification awarded.


It is proposed that, for the purposes of the eTutor project, the discovery learning approach be based on a series of tasks to be carried out by the learner. Each task will summarise the skills and knowledge required in order to complete the task and will specify the outcomes to be submited for assessment.


There will be no learning resources provided beyond guidance notes, an on-line forum and access to the tutor.