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George Roberts :: Blog :: Cloudworks Summit at the OU

September 26, 2008

Cloudworks (CW soon to move to cloudworks.ac.uk) is a nascent site/service to support (a community of) practitioners interested in learning design (LD) and the design cycle as it relates to LD.


For every answer there are 10 new questions and many contradictions, such as:

  • process v product
  • tacit v explicit
  • best v good-enough
  • metadata v folksonomy
  • text v image
  • web site v web service
  • input front end v "cloud this" button on your own page

The team wants to be one node in a wider community and are trying to create a culture of openness in terms of systems, content and community. It was suggested that they might be a Flickr for LDs. At the moment there are no permission controls; anyone can join. The site uses Drupal underneath. They are taking a rapid perpetual beta approach: release early, release often. And indeed it is not working "perfectly" at the moment. But, there are some tacit assertions about what and how the team are trying to shape the site. There is a reluctance to define who the site is for? But it should not try to be everything for everyone. It is acknowledged that it is not Ning or Facebook.

It is asserted that the site has to be social but it is being content-led. I suggested that the developer team has to model the behaviour of the community. After all they are a group (community?) of people interested in LD. How to grow the site? Steven and Yish suggested appealing to the more selfish needs of the wider community. Various suggestions included:

  • offer useful stuff
  • help steer the folksonomy (autocomplete tags, my tags, popular tags)
  • provide a discipline-based structure; most teachers identify with their discipline first; if the nuance of the disciplinary discourse is absent from the design, no matter how general, it is unlikely to be adopted
  • separate visual designs from verbal designs (show me the pictures)
  • map between learning designs and other representations of learning processes such as patterns (see PlaNet)
  • expand into a wider ecosystem of tools, such as a Database of Compendium learning designs
  • be clear about the boundaries of the site (bounded openness) and its primary aim

Marion Manton, later, offered a very clear explanation of the dialogic nature of learning design practice in the "real world". Most learning design takes place with a lot of conversation. Yet, most LD tools do not recognise or serve this dialogic function. CW, through a social networking approach wishes to provide this dialogue space.

Critical mass and sustainability are big issues. Many communities exist. CW wants to link with other communities, not to be the only community. A low barrier to entry is key. Be able to share things that are just good enough.

For me the service aspect of the site rather than the community aspect would get me interested. Feeds in and feeds out are essential. Again, as Yish said, "give me a cloud-this button".

Ownership and attribution issues are important. Who "owns" an LD? Upload should include a CC button for easy licensing selection. In a webbed world you need a licensing regime based on CC, to assert what is yours

Martin Weller also introduced Social Learn, an OU ecosystem, including:

  • cohere
  • cloudworks
  • OpenLearn
  • Facebook
  • Microlearner (Twitter for education)
  • 2Learner
  • exclusive OU content

Sarah Knight suggests looking at the QIA Excellence gateway, who had a resource sharing site when they were a part of Ferl.

See also the Canadian LD repository.

Who was there: Grainne Conole (OU), Juliette Culver (OU, lead developer), Martin Weller (OU), Andrew Brasher (OU), Marianne Shepherd (JISC InfoNet), Jim Hensman (Coventry), GR (Brookes, JISC Emerge), Paul Clark (OU), Michelle Bachler (OU), Patrick McAndrew (OU), Shelia MacNeil (JISC CETIS), Sarah Knight (JISC), Sue Bennett (Wollongong), Liz Masterman (Oxford), Marion Manton (Oxford), Perry Williams (OU), Henning Mohren (Fern Universitat), YoHan Ling (?), Steven Warburton (KCL), Yishay Mor

Posted by George Roberts


  1. Thanks for the notes - interesting.

    A minor comment on naming - which can be important in terms of people's understanding of what a system is about.

    Cloudworks is a great name... but I find myself confused when I look at the site because the 'cloud' analogy seems to break down.  I am supposed to submit 'clouds' to Cloudworks, right?  What is a 'cloud' in this context - it's a "learning and teaching idea / activity design" - a chunk of LD.  That doesn't work for me.

    For the cloud analogy to work (for me) you have to think about what is being stored / disclosed /shared thru the cloud - in this case it is chunks of LD.  Why not refer to them as 'LD droplets' or something?  I.e. you find 'LD droplets' in the 'LD cloud'.  That makes more sense to me. 

    Cloudworks is part of the bigger cloud - but you don't find 'clouds' in the 'cloud'!  Do you?


    Andy PowellAndy Powell on Friday, 26 September 2008, 06:09 UTC # |

  2. I also found the name misleading - anything with 'cloud' in it seems to suggest compute clouds at the moment.

    <<At the moment there are no permission controls; anyone can join.>>

    I don't think so - I could not find anywhere to sign up.

    Tony LindeTony Linde on Friday, 26 September 2008, 09:35 UTC # |

  3. Well, what they say on the home page is, "We are restricting full access to Cloudworks at the moment. However if you design educational activities or courses and would like to add content to the site or add comments, then please e-mail cloudworks@open.ac.uk and we will create you an account."

    It is changing frequently. 

    George RobertsGeorge Roberts on Saturday, 27 September 2008, 08:39 UTC # |

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