Gibbs, Graham R., Clarke, Dawn, Teal, Andrew, Lewins, Ann and Crowley, Colm (2010) Learning Theory and RLOs: The REQUALLO Experience. In: Requallo C-SAP e-Learning Conference, June 2010, London. (Unpublished)

There is an assumption of much learning theory that the teacher or designer has total control over the learning environment; that he or she can plan the curriculum, the learning outcomes, exercises and the general environment. But this is rarely true for most teachers and especially it is not true for designers of OERs and RLOs. In this case we must design for just one part of the overall learning experience. As Mayer and de Freitas (p.17) put it, “new knowledge must be built on the foundations of already existing frameworks, through problem solving activity and feedback.” But designers of RLOs either don’t know what this framework is, or cannot guarantee that the user will address it before using the RLO.

The REQUALLO project (Reusable Qualitative Learning Objects) has been funded by the HEA for the last two and a half years to produce RLOs to support students learning how to undertake qualitative analysis. In this case problems of control over the learning environment are exacerbated as the analytic activity is essentially a creative one and teachers generally want to avoid being explicit about what steps or stages the learner needs to go through.

There are several responses that designers may take and that we have adopted for REQUALLO.

1. Provide a number of entry points, with some guidance to learners as to which they ought to use. If users start in the wrong place, for them, they can easily move to another that might be more appropriate. An advantage of this approach is that we have also used it as a way of presenting the RLO material that is appropriate for different levels of learner, undergrad or postgrad.

2. Provide opportunities for vicarious learning. In this learners learn by seeing or experiencing others learning. We do this by providing case studies of actual students who describe their own, sometimes hesitant, even chaotic learning of the analytic process.

3. Support learners to be creative by dealing with things differently, not doing what they have done before. Learners must be supported to move away from the familiar and the formulaic. This is at odds with student demand for steps or stages that can be followed and that diminish their anxiety as to whether they are doing it properly. Thus in REQUALLO we offer not a set of definitive stages, but a variety of approaches. We do not suggest there is a ‘best’ way to do analysis, but rather, many possible ways.

4. Teaching creativity and hence by association, teaching qualitative data analysis means focussing on process and not output. The teacher cannot specify the final product or even give a pro forma as every analysis will work on different data and may arrive at a quite distinct analysis. So we cannot provide examples of good analysis that students can simply copy or even modify in minimal ways. Rather students must learn a number of processes that support creativity in analysis.

We will present examples from the REQUALLO resources that illustrate these points.

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