A significant aspect of the development of information systems to support the management of course information has been the creation of tools that help a range of stakeholders gain a visual impression of courses or modules.
Course visualisations can support a range of functions such as:
- Curriculum design
- Planning and resourcing
- Learner choice
- Quality assurance
- Overall student experience
Free tools for academics
The Open University has created a range of design tools and support resources aimed at helping academics engaged in designing curricula including:
A course (or module) map which gives an ‘at a glance’ view of the course or module across four dimensions. It enables a brief textual overview of the course activities in terms of the types of learning experience the learner will have, how they will communicate and collaborate with tutor and peers, as well as the guidance and support provided and the nature of any assessment.
CompendiumLD is a software tool for designing learning activities using a flexible visual interface. It is being developed as a tool to support lecturers, teachers and others involved in education to help them articulate their ideas and map out the design or learning sequence. Feedback from users suggests the process of visualising design makes their design ideas more explicit and highlights issues that they may not have noticed otherwise. It also provides a useful means of representing their designs so that they can be shared with others.
An activity/pedagogy profile is designed to help teachers (and learners) map different types of learning activities across a course or sequence of learning events. The categories derive from a learning activity taxonomy that characterises the types of tasks learners undertake into six types.
The University of Ulster developed a staff development approach known as Viewpoints that has been used successfully across a range of different learning providers. The approach is based on a learner timeline and best practice pedagogical principles to ensure that the right pedagogical interventions occur at the right time.
The University of Newcastle developed the dynamic learning maps (DLM) tool initially in response to particular issues in medical education where there were a lot of academic staff who taught very small elements of a course or module and who consequently did not have an overview of how their teaching fitted into the curriculum as a whole and what their students prior knowledge might be. Use of the tool has grown and developed over time and it is equally useful in helping students understand the overall course structure and develop as self-directed learners and in supporting the work of quality assessors.
DLM allows the user to view course components as hypertext lists or as a mind map and to navigate through course/module curriculum focusing on areas of interest. The tool uses the Leap2A specification to permit direct links to the PebblePad e-portfolio system and learning tools interoperability (LTI) to facilitate integration with Blackboard, Moodle and other LTI compliant VLEs.
The University of Lincoln has done some extremely interesting work in terms of visualising course data that has important ramifications for understanding the delivered curriculum and the implications of changes made during course review, for supporting interdisciplinary working and which could ultimately be combined with other linked data eg relating to space utilisation.
The University of Bolton worked with a creative commons licensed business model canvas tool to support thinking around business models and the business case for a course after having identified this as a weakness in the academic community.
Our guide on data visualisation provides additional resources and top tips in this area.