A new endeavour for co_LAB

Today sees the start of  a new project for us. A group of students and the team are collaborating on an exciting project set by in partnership with Acumen. This particular course is focussed on Human Centred Design for Social Change and we will be creating concepts and (hopefully) prototypes of products, services, spaces or systems while learning the processes of “Design Thinking”.

Delivery of the course content is via NovoEd’s excellent Virtual Learning Environment and the way the model works is that the participants read the materials for a particular workshop (released on Tuesday mornings) and then hold a meeting to discuss them and respond to the activities set. Meetings can be a physical meet-up or virtual and each group is provided with a cloud-based area of the VLE to store their responses, communicate, and tools to help collaborate and manage logistics.

There are a mix of informal and formal assessment points (with very clear submission dates and processes). Each participating group is also encouraged to peer review another participating team’s responses.

Suggestions are made by the hosts on how to organise, plan and run the workshops and include notions of: ‘rotating the workshop facilitator’, ‘each participant taking responsibility for their own learning prior to the meet-up’ and ‘sharing the group’s experiences with the global learning community’. And it really is a global community:

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The NovoEd Course Model

It is not only the content of the course that is intriguing to the co_LAB team. Don’t get me wrong, learning a new way of approaching design is very exciting and I’m sure we will apply some of (if not all) the principles and processes to our future projects and our teaching at the University. But as a research group grounded in collaborative education and experiences, we are always on the “look out” for models of content delivery that efficiently facilitate the delivery of intuitive, meaningful collaborative-focussed education.

Early indications from the NovoEd platform are very positive. The system seems to work well. It looks smart and all the expected functionality is present and correct. It is the first system of this nature we have encountered that integrates Google Docs/Drive accounts and offers a workspace where these files are accessible by the entire team. Google Docs/Drive has become a mainstay of all our collaborative projects and it is pleasing to see the system can be integrated into a separate provision. This is something we have been researching but until this opportunity came along, we have never seen it integrated successfully or appropriately.

Another great feature is the simple structure (and therefore navigation) of the provision for each course. Virtually everything is where you expect to find it and the most important aspects are clear and presented appropriately:

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So far so good and we’ll be reporting on our future experiences the further we progress along the course. Although it has to be said that creating your own “team” wasn’t the most intuitive experience. Marks off for NovoEd there!

One of our goals (one day) is to create a collaborative learning ecosystem of our own, one that is suitable for a range of activities and not restricted to just formal education. Learning from the NovoEd model is going to unlock a new set of values based on different expectations of a system that is confined to a formal FE/HE environment.

The co_LAB Approach

As mentioned above, we are participating in this course as a co_LAB activity. We are also using this to fulfil some of the criteria for our participation in a new EU-funded programme called OnCreate. More about this particular programme will start to filter through after the first meeting of all the partners. This is scheduled to happen during the MindTrek international forum of future media 4-6th November.

To organise this, we put a call out to students and participants of the previous co_LAB projects to see if we could form at least 1 team. We managed to recruit enough students (despite the relatively demanding time requirements) for 2 teams with 2 members of staff assigned to each.

We plan to meet on Wednesdays at 16.00 each week for the next 7 weeks to participate in the provided workshop activities and formulate our responses to the formal brief which is going to be set in the 2nd week.

Communication for organisation, sharing research and general community stuff will use the tried-and-tested model employed by co_LAB of mixing different provisions including Google Docs/Drive to share development ideas, Facebook for communication, logistics & social interaction and a blog (possibly this blog) to document the experience.

The first workshop is today and I (James) will be the facilitator. It is the facilitator’s role to organise the meeting, prepare the materials and ensure they are very familiar with the content of the workshop ready to lead the discussions and organise the provided activities. They then select the facilitator for the following week’s meet-up. Hopefully, most of the participants will experience the role of facilitator by the end of the course.

The final job for the facilitator is to update the blog with a breakdown of what happened during the meet-up so we can document our experience for the OnCreate project and share everything with the global community of participants on the course via the NovoEd platform.

Stay tuned for more!

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