In a climate where individual institutions are experiencing
increased costs at the same time as they face increased demand
for more flexible approaches to learning, the Australian
Universities Teaching Committee (AUTC) considers there
is benefit to be gained in developing shared resources and
disseminating successful, generalisable templates between
institutions. One product of this assessment is a project,
now completed, which is captured here as 'Learning Designs'.
The project was commissioned in 2000 by the AUTC to explore
the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)
to facilitate flexible learning opportunities for students
by identifying learning designs that have been demonstrated
to contribute to high quality learning experiences and determining
which learning designs may be redeveloped in a more generic
The project commenced in November 2000. Following are
extracts from the Final Report of the project, produced
in December 2002. These provide a concise picture of project
aims, activities, deliverables and recommendations made
for further research and development.
This Australian University Teaching Committee (AUTC) project
aimed to produce generic/reusable learning design resources
to assist academics to create high quality, flexible learning
experiences for students. This was achieved by:
- Identifying high quality learning designs used in higher
- Selecting those suitable for redevelopment in the form
of reusable software, templates and/or generic guidelines;
- Developing these reusable resources and making them
accessible from a central web site.
The term "learning design" refers to a variety
of ways of designing student learning experiences, that
is, the sequence of activities and interactions. The scope
of a learning design may be at the level of a subject/unit
or subject/unit components. This project focuses on learning
designs implemented with the use of ICT and how flexible
learning opportunities for students can be afforded through
the use of such technologies. The composition of a learning
design, particularly when ICT mediated, has been informed
by the work of Oliver (1999) and Oliver and Herrington (2001).
Thus, for the scope of this project, a learning design comprises
three key elements: the content or resources learners interact
with, the tasks or activities learners are required to perform,
and the support mechanisms provided to assist learners to
engage with the tasks and resources.
"High quality learning experiences" refer to
experiences resulting from an environment which encourages
students to seek understanding rather than memorisation
and which encourage the development of lifelong learning
"Flexible learning" refers to an educational
approach that meets the diverse needs of students. This
project focused on how ICT can be used to design flexible
opportunities for students.
Development of a set of principles for high quality learning
in higher education
A crucial aspect of this project was the development of
a mechanism to identify high quality learning designs. Two
leaders in the field of learning in higher education (Professor
David Boud and Associate Professor Michael Prosser) were
commissioned to advise the project team about what constitutes
high quality learning in higher education.
High quality student learning is purported to have potential
to be achieved by ensuring four key principles (Boud &
Prosser, 2001, 2002) are operationalised in a learning environment:
engaging learners, acknowledging context, challenging learners,
and providing opportunities for practice.
Development of an Evaluation Instrument - Evaluation and
Redevelopment Framework (ERF)
The "Boud and Prosser principles" formed the
basis of an evaluation instrument referred to as the Evaluation
and Redevelopment Framework (ERF). Its purpose is to identify
ICT-based learning design exemplars that foster high quality
learning experiences, and to determine whether these exemplars
have potential to be redeveloped in a more generic/reusable
Application of an evaluation instrument to Learning Design
The project identified 52 ICT-based learning design exemplars
and 28 were selected for evaluation. An ERF evaluation team
(64) comprised international educational technology and/or
pedagogy expertise. Two evaluators were allocated to conduct
an evaluation for each learning design exemplar. The results
of the evaluation phase assisted the project team to select
a number of exemplars suitable for redevelopment in a more
Development of reusable Learning Design resources
Fifteen learning design exemplars were identified as suitable
for redevelopment in a more reusable form. Redevelopment
has taken two forms:
- Guidelines: The generic learning design is abstracted
from the exemplar and described in detail. Implementation
tips and advice on how to develop a similar learning design
are also included.
- Software tools: Generic software tools (with accompanying
documentation for use) have been developed to facilitate
the reuse of particular learning designs.
Documentation of Learning Design Exemplars
Whilst the evaluation process served to identify a selection
of learning designs suitable for redevelopment in the form
of generic guidelines and/or software tools, the rich resource
of learning design exemplars collected by the project was
deemed valuable for inclusion in the form of "rich
descriptions" of implemented learning designs. The
project team felt that these descriptions could serve as
implicit guidelines as academics may be able to abstract
for themselves the generic design from these contextualised
A Learning Design Exemplar Description template was devised
which designers were requested to complete.
Development of Project Web Site to house the project deliverables
A project web site has been developed to facilitate dissemination
of the project deliverables.
In order to facilitate easy and meaningful access to the
reusable learning design resources and learning design exemplars,
interviews with potential end users were conducted and a
Learning Design Classification Framework was devised (based
on a grounded approach). The Framework incorporates the
following Learning Design types/foci:
PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING focus: The emphasis of the learning
design is on the process of students solving a real world
problem presented to them.
PROJECT/CASE STUDY focus: The emphasis of the learning
design is to create a product or artefact. The "learning
by doing" process may be supported by case materials
from which the learner can distil/abstract lessons learnt
to apply in a new project situation.
ROLE-PLAY focus: The emphasis of the learning design is
subrogation: "walking in the shoes of others".
COLLABORATIVE focus: The emphasis of the learning design
is interacting and collaborating with peers to facilitate
construction of knowledge.
CONCEPT/PROCEDURE DEVELOPMENT focus: The emphasis of the
learning design is to understand and/or consolidate student
learning about concepts and/or procedures.
Key outputs from this project include:
- The Boud and Prosser principles for high quality student
learning in Higher Education (Boud & Prosser, 2001,
- The Evaluation and Review Framework (ERF).
- The Learning Design construct (Oliver, 1999, 2001; Oliver
& Herrington, 2001).
- The Learning Design Sequence construct.
- A Learning Design Classification Framework.
- Four generic software tools:
- Investigation eShell.
- Predict-Observe-Explain eShell.
- Online Self and Peer Assessment Tool.
- VisChem MolecularLevel Construction Tool.
- Generic guidelines to assist the design, development
and implementation of the
following learning designs:
- Explore, Describe, Apply: A problem focussed learning
- En-Role, Research, React, Resolve, Reflect: Developing
and using online role-play learning designs.
- Review, Select, Compile and Argue: A problem focussed
- Review, Access, Question, Decide, Report, Reflect:
Structured Problem Solving.
- Observe, Represent, Refine: Developing scientifically-acceptable
mental models of non-visible physical phenomena (based
- Learning Design Exemplar descriptions (32): Each description
is accompanied with its own Learning Design Sequence.
These descriptions can serve as implicit guidelines.
- Web Site to facilitate dissemination of project deliverables.
Recommendations for further research and development
A number of further issues flow from the project. Some
of these recommendations relate to support for use of the
resources, some related to evaluation of the effectiveness
of the resources and others to research agendas. The project
team recommend: -
- A system be set up so that the design base can be added
to following review and processing of learning designs
in the format adopted by this project.
- An extensive evaluation be carried out on the site and
the guidelines to ensure they can be used and that they
work when they are used.
- A dissemination process be put in place to assist staff
development programs, and to support a community of practice
among users with mechanisms for users to report outcomes
and refinements to the designs.
- A process be established to explore metadata descriptors
for learning designs in line with the current standards
- Mechanisms be established to determine the quality of
learning designs developed from the project resources,
possibly through peer review.
- Effective linking of the project to other related international
projects, such as the SOuRCE Project, be developed.
- An electronic performance support system (EPSS) be developed
to support users in the design process.
- The formalism used in this project to represent learning
sequences be further explored.
Among important project activities were developing various
reports, communicating about progress and disseminating
project outcomes. Reminders of these activities are captured
below, where you may skip directly to either of the following:
Conference presentations are listed in reverse chronological
Society for Computers In Learning In Tertiary Education
Shirley Agostinho presented a paper that illustrated
the feedback received on the use of the ERF (the project's
evaluation instrument) and explained how this evaluation
instrument could be resued by the academic community for
formative and summative evaluation purposes when designing
and implementing learning designs.
Agostinho, S, Oliver, R., Harper, B., Hedberg, H., &
Wills, S. (2002). A
tool to evaluate the potential for an ICT-based learning
design to foster "high-quality learning".
In A. Williamson, C. Gunn, A. Young., & T. Clear (Eds.),
Winds of change in the sea of learning. Proceedings
of the 19th Annual Conference of the Australasian Society
for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education. (pp.
29-38). Auckland, New Zealand: UNITEC Institute of Technology.
Learning Designs: opportunities and challenges
sponsored by The Australian Universities Teaching Committee
Thursday, 5 December 2002
The Core Team: Barry Harper, Ron Oliver, John Hedberg,
and Sandra Wills presented the outcomes of this project
at this conference.
Powerpoint Presentation is available here.
Education Week 2002
- Flinders University, November 2002
Barry Harper gave a presentation about the project and
outlined how the project team believes this project will
influence learning in higher education in the future.
ICT-Ed Evaluation Workshop,
University of Canberra, September 30, 2002.
Team member: Associate Professor Catherine McLoughlin,
ACU presented the following paper at this conference:
McLoughlin, C. (2002). AUTC Project: ICT's and their
role in flexible delivery.
The main question asked was:
- Have the projects listed at this URL that involve ICT
been considered as part of the learning objects research?
Teaching Online: ACT Showcase-
teaching with a range of educational technologies,
Conference held at Australian National University, September
Team member: Associate Professor Catherine McLoughlin,
ACU presented a paper titled: "AUTC Project: Development
of generic learning activity designs" at this conference.
There was great interest in this project with the following
questions asked :
- How have/will students be involved in evaluating the
design of the learning
designs and will they be trialled with students before
being put on the
Answer from Project Manager:
This is outside the scope of this project,
but it's an important issue that the proejct team needs
to consider once the project is completed.
- Can we use the ERF and where can we find it?
Answer from Project Manager:
Certainly! It is a tool free available for
- Is this a finite list of online designs? If so, how
do you know?
Answer from Project Manager:
Yes, this will be explicitly stated on the
final project web site.
Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia
Oliver, R., Harper, B., Hedberg, J., Wills, S., &
Agostinho, S. (2002). Formalising the description of learning
designs. In A. Goody, J. Herrington, & M. Northcote
(Eds.), Quality conversations: Research and Development
in Higher Education, Volume 25 (pp. 496-504). Jamison,
Oliver, R., Herrington, J., & McLoughlin, C. (2002,
July). ICT-based learning designs. Poster session
presented at the 2002 Annual International Conference
of the Higher Education Research
and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA), Perth,
(Photo of poster is available from "Project Pics".)
John Hedberg and Ron Oliver presented the following paper
at this conference.
Hedberg, J., Wills, S., Oliver, R., Harper, B. &
Agostinho, S. (2002). Developing Evaluation Frameworks
for Assessing Quality ICT-based Learning in Higher Education.
In P. Barker & S. Rebelsky (Eds.), Proceedings
of ED-MEDIA 2002, World Conference on Educational Multimedia,
Hypermedia & Telecommunications (pp. 729-735).
Denver, Colorado, USA: Association for the Advancement
of Computing in Education.
Society for Computers In Learning In Tertiary Education
Ron Oliver and John Hedberg explained the project and
presented a project update.
Harper, B., Oliver, R., & Agostinho, S. (2001). Developing
generic tools for use in flexible learning: A preliminary
progress report. In G. Kennedy, M. Keppell, C. McNaught
& T. Petrovic (Eds.), Meeting at the Crossroads.
Proceedings of the 18th Annual Conference of the Australian
Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education.
(pp. 253-262). Melbourne: Biomedical Multimedia Unit,
The University of Melbourne.
Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications
Barry Harper presented a brief overview of the project
and how the project facilitates potential international
collaboration amongst university institutions.
Harper, B., O'Donoghue, J., Oliver, R., & Lockyer,
L. (2001). New
designs for Web Based Learning environments. In C.
Montgomerie, & J. Viteli (Eds.), Proceedings of
ED-MEDIA 2001, World Conference on Educational Multimedia,
Hypermedia & Telecommunications (pp. 674-675).
Tampere, Finland: Association for the Advancement of Computing
and Distance Learning Association of Australia
Barry Harper presented aspects of the project as part
of a keynote presentation on the research and development
issues of online learning. Many of the participants at
this conference are part of the projectís Evaluation Team
thus it was a good opportunity to discuss the ERF.
The 9th Improving Student Learning Conference,
Heriot-Watt University, Edindurgh, Scotland
Ron Oliver presented a paper at this conference whereby
he briefly described this project. He also had the opportunity
to discuss this project with the SoURCE
project team who attended this conference.
National Council on Open and Distance
Education (NCODE) (now ACODE)
- Flexible Learning Australasia 26, 23 - 24 July 2001
Barry Harper and Sandra Wills presented a progress report
to NCODE members at their meeting in Adelaide, at the
University of South Australia on Tuesday, 24 July 2001.
The presentation gave NCODE members an overview of the
project objectives and current status and illustrations
of the application of the projectís ERF.
Support from members was sought in identifying appropriate
evaluators and learning designs which could yield generic
The NCODE participants responded very positively to the
project, supporting the pedagogical emphasis and commending
the progress made. Members expressed the need for such
a project and stated their strong support for offering
names of possible evaluators and learning designs to evaluate.
They also encouraged further reporting of the progress
of the project at subsequent NCODE meetings.
The outcome from this presentation resulted in 18 ICT-based
learning products and/or settings being nominated for
the project to pursue plus 25 ERF Evaluator nominations.
Project Reports and Publications
Following are two key publications and three informal research
reports (among several) prompted by the project:
Boud, D., & Prosser, M. (2001, April). Key principles
for high quality student learning in Higher Educationfrom
a learning perspective. Paper presented at a workshop
held on April 27, 2001 for the AUTC funded project: Information
and Communication Technologies and Their Role in Flexible
Learning, Sydney, Australia.
This paper forms the basis of the project's evaluation
instrument: Evaluation and Redevelopment Framework that
was designed to facilitate the identification of high
quality learning designs and to determine if such learning
designs have the potential for redevelopment in a generic/reusable
Boud. D., & Prosser, M. (2002). Key Principles for
High Quality Student Learning in Higher Education: A framework
for evaluation. Educational Media International,
39(3), 237-245. [Publisher's
The paper builds on their previous paper about the principles
for high quality learning in higher education from a learning
Herrington, J., & Oliver, Ron. (2002, March). Identification
of generic ICT-based software tools. Unpublished manuscript.
This report summarises generic ICT-based tools that currently
exist for use in flexible learning environments.
Herrington, J., McLoughlin, C., & Oliver, R. (2001).
Pedagogical strategies employed in technology-based learning
projects. Unpublished manuscript. [.pdf
copy, Part 1 ; .pdf
copy, Part 2]
This paper provides a summary of the literature review
about the forms of technology-based learning being reported
in the literature with the view to discovering patterns
and themes in the forms of learning strategies being employed,
the enhanced learning outcomes being reported and the
nature of the evaluation methodologies employed.
Oliver, R., McLoughlin, C., & Herrington, J. (2001,
April). Review of Evaluation Frameworks. Paper presented
at a workshop held on April 27, 2001 for the AUTC funded
project: Information and Communication Technologies and
Their Role in Flexible Learning, Sydney, Australia. [.pdf
This report summarises the findings of a literature review
about the current evaluation tools employed in ICT-based
Critical to the success of this project was the willingness
and enthusiasm of the higher education academic community
to participate. The project delved into issues concerning
reusability of existing high quality learning designs across
institutions, without the participation of the designers of
such learning environments, the outcomes of this project would
not have been possible.
The team experienced an overwhelming willingness by the academic
community to participate in the project. We are indeed grateful
for the significant contribution made by this community. We
would like to particularly thank two groups of people. Firstly,
to the evaluators who participated in evaluating the learning
design exemplars collected by this project, - thank you for
your time to conduct the evaluation and the valuable feedback
submitted about the evaluation process. Secondly, to the designers
who submitted their learning design exemplars to this project
thank you very much for your willingness to share your
This project has involved the work of approximately 140 people
who have contributed in various capacities. The following
diagram indicates most of the contributing groups, highlighting
some of the key people involved.
The full list of contributors includes:
Michael Adams, Shirley Agostinho, Anne A'Herran, Shirley
Alexander, Frances Alter, Max Angus, Roger Atkinson, Chuda
Basnet, Jim Beck, Maureen Bell, Sue Bennett, Chris Bigum,
Curtis Bonk, David Boud, Gary Brierley, Sam Bucolo, Robert
Cannon, Helen Carter, Beth Cavallari, Lynne Chapman, Penny
Collings, Betty Collis, Bob Corderoy, Jenny Cox, Michael
Crock, Barney Dalgarno, Wim de Boer, Michelle de Souza,
Ann Deden, Liz Devonshire, Roger Dickinson, Carolyn Dowling,
Andrew Dunbar, Erik Duval, Allan Ellis, Peter Evans, Fran
Everingham, Michael Fardon, Niki Fardouly, George Fernandez,
Mark Freeman, Paul Fritze, Georgina Fyfe, Tanja Golja, Maree
Gosper, Halima Goss, Lewis Gratton, Jan Gray, Diane Hansford,
Barry Harper, John Hedberg, Jan Herrington, Jo Hetland,
Lindsay Hewson, Mick Hillman, Garry Hoban, Dale Holt, Chris
Hughes, Albert Ip, Kel Jackson, Wanda Jackson, Marie Jasinski,
Sue Johnston, Matthew Kearney, Peter Keeble, Gregor Kennedy,
Mike Keppell, Denise Kirkpatrick, Tony Koppi Irene Kreis,
Diana Laurillard, Roni Linser, Lisa Lobry de Bruyn, Lori
Lockyer, Joe Luca, Mary Jane Mahony, Inge Matt, Iain McAlpine,
Rob McLaughlan, Catherine McLoughlin, Sue McNamara, Kim
McShane, David McSwan, Louise Manner, Jim Meek, Rohan Miller,
Christopher Morgan, David Murphy, Karl Mutimer, Som Naidu,
Ted Nunan, Linda O'Brien, John O'Donoghue, Simon O'Mallon,
Roisin O'Reilly, Ron Oliver, Martin Olmos, Debra Panizzon,
Elizabeth Patterson, Russ Pennell, Robyn Philip, Michael
Prosser, John Reeves, Thomas C. Reeves, Peter Remfry, Mary
Rice, David Rich, Lesley Richardson, Karl Rudd, Greg Ryan,
Joan Salmon, Elizabeth Santhanam, Chuck Schneebeck, Sandy
Schuck, Nathan Scott, John Shepherd, Rod Sims, Alan Smith,
Robyn Smyth, Elizabeth Stacey, Brian Stone, Sue Stoney,
Roy Tasker, Jim C. Taylor, Peter Taylor, Peter Twining,
Andrew Vincent, Manjula Waniganayake, Thomas West, Barbara
White, Gerry White, Martyn Wild, Marilynn Willis, Sandra
Wills, Audrey Wilson, Janis Wilton, Jonathon Wright, Rob
Wright and Samina Yasmeen.
We hope that the outcomes of this project serve as an impetus
for uptake of ICT-based learning designs and that the concept
of sharing amongst the academic community is further encouraged
by future projects of this nature.
Your feedback is important in enabling us to review this
innovative resource. Please submit any comments you have to
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Media Centre on +61 2 4221 3891.