Last modified 2006-09-12T13:49:05+01:00

Questions for Initial Interviews with Practitioner-Informants July-August 2006

Introduction to interview

In our conversation we will focus on:

  • The planning process -- at course and session level
  • Support for the introduction and dissemination of effective use of e-learning technologies

Both in

  • Your own experience
  • The wider college/university/departmental context

...but other things might turn up!

Start by outlining

  • Background to project and aims
  • Role of the PIs
  • How we believe you can contribute in particular (will vary from person to person: see "USP" column in PI spreadsheet)


Background to project + Aims

Part of the new JISC Design for Learning programme, launched in May 2006 and building on previous learning design strand. Overall aim of the programme:

  1. Ensure the process of designing, planning and orchestrating technology-mediated learning activities in UK post-16 and higher education is based on sound pedagogic principles
  2. Promote the development of tools to support the process of design for learning;
  3. Promote the sharing of expertise in design for learning, e.g. through sharing and re-use of learning designs, use models or exemplars;
  4. Support the establishment of communities, services and resources to promote and sustain effective practice in design for learning.

Our remit within the programme:

  1. Develop a prototype online planning tool to guide practitioners working in post-16 and higher education in designing effective and pedagogically sound learning activities that make effective use of technology;
  2. User test the planning tool for functionality and usability;
  3. Investigate the feasibility of further development and integration into practice, e.g. by linking the planning tool to case studies and learning designs; or trying it out in CPD or ITT contexts.

2 projects developing planning tools:

  • LKL: planning tool linked explicitly with LAMS; using LAMS both as the vehicle for creating the plan and LAMS as the environment for the resultant learning session.
  • Phoebe: design based on outcomes of the LD Tools project, which suggested that, although elements of planning are relatively consistent across practitioners and institutions, there are wide variations in the way plans are produced and the environments in which the learning sessions take place. So we aim, if possible!, to support those variations and produce a tool that will have broad applicability — and, we hope, broad appeal.

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Role of the PIs

"Practitioner-informants" are carefully selected individuals whom we have asked to provide input into the design of Phoebe and to act as sounding boards for our own ideas. The term "informant" comes from the framework of "informant design" put forward by Yvonne Rogers and Mike Scaife at Sussex in the 1990s. They developed the framework primarily for working with children as design partners, but it’s equally applicable to adults.

From our point of view, informant design involves the input of various representatives of the e-learning community at the specific stages of the project where their contribution will be of the most value.

We are hoping to have 8 PIs in Phoebe, representing a variety of subject areas, sectors and modes of learning in the post-compulsory sector.

How we (initially) envisage your contribution

[Text here depends on why we selected the person as a PI and on what we already know about them.]

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Information about the PI

General teaching experience

Job title and role:

How long have you been doing it?

Talk me briefly through your career history.

What training (formal/informal) did you receive for

a) Teaching your subject in general?
b) Course design and lesson planning in particular?
c) Introducing e-learning into your teaching?

The JISC D4L programme lays emphasis on the use of theories of teaching and learning to underpin "effective practice" in designing for e-learning. So we're interested in the extent to which people are aware of formal theories and models of learning, and whether they make use of theory when planning their lessons. If they don't use theory, what guides them in their planning: e.g. their choice of activities, the roles of teacher and learners within the learning session?

So please can you comment on:

a) Your own relationship to theory
b) Your colleagues' relationship to theory (where you know about this)

Talk me briefly through the processes of:

a) Course design
b) Lesson planning

  • Tools used
  • Resources consulted

Using resources created by others -- materials and/or learning designs:

  • Do you do it?
  • How do you find such materials -- serendipitously or in a directed manner e.g. someone you know (of), reputable banks/repositories...

E-learning experience

Your relationship to e-learning (how many of these have you done):

  • Designing learning sessions
  • Teaching
  • Advising other teachers
  • Managing teams
  • Researching
  • Evaluating: a) tools for potential use
  • Evaluating: b) the effectiveness of learning sessions
  • Technical development of e-learning experiences (learning technologist)

In what sort of environments have you used e-learning?

  • Face-to-face (all participants physically present)?
  • Fully online distance learning and/or distance learning that makes use of technology?
  • F2F combined with distance learning?

Which of these technologies have you tried, or use regularly in your teaching?

  • VLE
  • Web pages created specifically for the course
  • Google or another search engine for Web-based research
  • Forum or other discussion board
  • Videoconferencing
  • Chat or instant messaging
  • Mobile technologies — mobile phones, PDAs
  • Interactive whiteboards
  • Simulations and/or games
  • Learning software/virtual tutorials
  • Streaming video or audio
  • Wikis
  • Blogs
  • E-assessment tools

Experience in designing and teaching sessions that make use of e-learning: where would you rate yourself on a scale of 1-5, where 1 = "novice" and 5 = "very experienced user, developer or champion"?

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About your institution

(Or the one where you worked most recently)


Do you have any responsibility for staff re planning and designing courses? If yes...

  • How do you split up the roles?
  • What sort of mentoring do you (= the institution in general as well as you as a person) provide for
    a) Course and lesson planning
    b) Making use of e-learning?

What materials/resources are available to support the planning process -- i.e. policies, templates (but not actual learning materials)?

  • In your opinion, are these adequate (why/why not)?

What CPD does the college/univ provide for teaching staff esp re

a) Course and lesson planning
b) Making use of e-learning?

If you have experience of it, what is your opinion?

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Use of e-learning

What’s the general situation regarding teachers’ uptake of technology into their teaching at your college/university? (Can reply in context of own department if insufficient knowledge of the big picture.)

Is there an top-down institution-wide strategy for e-learning? How does it impact on the lives of you and your immediate colleagues?


Is innovation (in part/in whole) a question of bottom-up individual initiatives by enthusiasts?

How easy is it to get to know what other people are doing vis-à-vis e-learning?

Would you say that e-learning is more advanced in some departments than in others?

  • Which ones?
  • Why do you think this is?

What steps do you think need to be made to broaden and/or improve the effective use of e-learning in your institution/department?

Do you think that an external agency such as JISC can play a role in making those steps happen?

  • How?
  • Have you read/used the JISC Effective Practice guide or attended one of the Effective Practice workshops run by JISC in the past year? If yes to either/both, ask for feedback:
    • Relevance of the material to your sector
    • Usefulness of a "generic" external source of information

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Presenting Phoebe

Proof-of-concept prototype: i.e. will contain essential features only. Evaluate with users in order to

a) Assess the value, relevance of the central concept/approach
b) Ascertain what sort of additional features and functionality would be necessary in order for it to be acceptable for wider use.

JISC's perspective on Phoebe is that it will function primarily as an information resource -- guidance on effective practice in designing for e-learning using material already developed. Presented as a structured series of Web pages with links to examples, case studies etc. BUT it will also have a note-making feature, which we envisage being used in at least two ways:

  • Record one's personal response to the materials -- personalise it in some way, note how it might be relevant to one's situation. (Allowing this to be shared with other users might provide a way to customise the materials for your own college/university)
  • Jot down preliminary ideas for a lesson plan. Recognise that many people will produce their plans in Word, using predefined formats, so Phoebe will output the notes in a reasonably structured form, for import into Word.

Walk through UI mockups.

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