Learning to Teach Online – a great new resource

COFA Online has just launched an excellent new resource for lecturers getting into online teaching and learning. I have taught in several other institutions in Europe since I moved back in 2006, but the work being done at COFA Online is lightyears ahead of anything I’ve seen elsewhere. It steers clear of being trendy, while staying on top of changing trends. The focus is on high quality teaching and learning, not on technology for technology’s sake.

With nearly half a billion people on Facebook and blogs, Twitter and Wikis so dominant in the media, you would think all of this is obvious, but it’s not. I know many faculty feel pretty daunted and overwhelmed by the prospect of teaching online and it’s often a challenge to re-think many years of experience teaching face-to-face. I also know many who see the technology as a quick, cheap fix, which it is not. Teaching online well requires a lot more care, planning and attention to pedagogy than face-to-face teaching.

(Me talking about managing time online – my wife will be laughing)

I have been lucky to have been part of the early development of COFA Online at UNSW for over 11 years now. In the early days, Rick Bennet, Leon Chan and I used to sit in Leon’s kitchen and discuss how our three courses were running. Only three courses? Yes. The reason being that we wanted to iterate the process and make our mistakes on a small scale before expanding the course numbers. Bear in mind that this was during the dotcom boom when many institutions were throwing up hundreds and thousands of “courses” online without much care for the user interface or pedagogy.

Since then, the COFA Online folks have expanded those kitchen table chats into a far more sophisticated set of strategies and methods for mentoring staff through the process of developing an online course as well as supporting their teaching. And they now have over 1,000 They have been working hard on an Australian Learning & Teaching Council project for a some time and have just gone live with the first batch of episodes from their Learning to Teach Online Project.

From Simon McIntyre and Karin Watson who have masterminded the project:

The project is designed as a free professional development resource for teachers from any discipline worldwide. It aims to help them better understand online learning and teaching, and to help them get starting in developing their own online teaching practices – a necessary skill in today’s changing society. Episodes contain a video to introduce and discuss issues and ideas, and a PDF that people can download to read about the issues in more depth.

The episodes contain interviews with academics from many different disciplines and institutions around Australia and the UK. There are contextual videos discussing topics related to online pedagogy and practice, case studies that feature specific examples of best practice, and technical ‘how to’ style videos to help teachers get starting themselves.

The number of episodes will continue to grow and diversify over the next few months, and we would really appreciate your help in spreading the word about the project. In the future we’d also like to feature more COFA Online teaching, once we have finished all of the episodes we are committed to make for the ALTC.

These are but the first of many more video and PDF episodes that will released over the coming months. These episodes were made with the assistance of the Creative Development unit at Learning and Teaching, and use UNSW TV as a distribution point, pushing the content to:

You can also watch the content on mobile devices such as phones and iPads on the Gateway website.

Hello Dave. I’d like to interview you.


Hi folks – can you help me find some interviewees?

I’m working on some initial research into Ambient Assisted Living with the iHome Lab here in Luzern. The project is about bringing a human-centred design approach to an area that, despite it’s name, is heavily driven by technological development rather than people’s actual needs. (The project is called Human Centred Design for Ambient Assisted Living or HAAL, hence the image above).

To get some initial insights, I want to do some qualitative research interviews with people aged between 55 – 75 (plus or minus a couple of years) to ask them about their current technology usage in the home as well as some thoughts about their plans for their older years.

While the majority of people I want to interview will be fairly average users of home technology, I am also after a few people at the extreme ends. So, people who hate in-home technology and battle with it or people who are totally kitted out with home automation. In those extreme cases, the age range is less relevant because they’ll all be old one day like the rest of us.

If possible, the interviews would be in their homes so they can show me the things they love and hate, but there is some flexibility there (I’m interested in people’s workspaces too).

Some people near me in Germany or in Luzern, Zurich, Bern or Basel in Switzerland would be ideal. Friends, relatives or friends of friends work well because they tend to open up more if there is a link to someone they know.

If anyone has any suggestions for interviewees, please get in touch.

(Image stolen from mediaunbound.com, in turn stolen from ??)

Writing a new book on Service Design


I’m thrilled to be able to announce that myself and live|work’s and Lavrans Løvlie have signed with Rosenfeld Media to write our book on Service Design.

You can read more about our plans on the book’s blog, but on a personal level I feel privileged to be involved in trying to capture the many years of knowledge that the live|work folk have amassed. For me it’s essentially an act of selfishness, because the book on service design that I really want to read, use and teach from doesn’t really yet, so that’s what we’re planning to write.

Lou Rosenfeld has put together a fine stable of books and authors – many of them rank among my favourites – and a book on Service Design fits well in the range he has put together. Not only that, but we felt Rosenfeld Media have a very service design way of thinking about publishing – from both the author’s viewpoint and the customers (no DRM!) – that appealed to us.

Anyway, enough of the announcement – we need to get cracking on the writing! If you have any thoughts and suggestions for the book, please let us know.

DeSForM 2010 – 6th International Workshop on Design Semantics of Form and Movement


It seems it’s conference season. My colleague, Dagmar Steffen, is organising the DeSForM 2010, the 6th International Workshop on Design Semantics of Form and Movement held here in Luzern in November. Registrations are still open and it would greatly help the planning if they were not all last minute! (I know I’m a terrible last minute attendee to these things).

Luzern is a lovely city to visit and the program has some great highlights. Here is the info:

We invite you to DeSForM 2010, the 6th International Workshop on Design Semantics of Form and Movement.

The event takes place November, 3-5 at the Lucerne School of Art and Design, Switzerland.

The program includes keynotes by:

Excursions include visiting the Net’n’Nest Office at Vitra, Weil am Rhein, and the Designers’ Saturday in Langenthal.

Further information on the DeSForM site and you can register online here.

We look forward to welcoming you in Lucerne!

Interaction 11 Student Competition

All you interaction design students out there get ready to show us your goods.

This year I’m co-chairing the Interaction 11 Student Competition with Liz Danzico and we want to see you thinking laterally. The competition brings forward exceptional and engaged undergraduate and graduate students in both critical thinking and hands-on experience over the course of the conference. Itʼs an opportunity to present work in a way that shows rather than tells, and a unique opportunity for students who may be seeking to connect with new colleagues, potential employers, funders, or new networks.

This yearʼs focus is based on the concept of “Use, not own.” Great interactions can connect people to create opportunities for experiences that outweigh the “joy” of ownership. How we you reduce our environmental footprint by sharing products or services? Students selected by the team of mentors will be invited to the conference where theyʼll compete on the remainder of the competition.

The entry deadline is December 4th, 2010, so head over to the site and get yourself registered.

Oh, and do the sporting thing – reblog and retweet the announcement so that your student colleagues know about it!

The Virtues of Imperfection

I have enjoyed all of Jonathan Franzen’s books, in particular The Corrections, his novel about the complexities of family relationships, careers and, for one character, writing. The irony that 80,000 copies of his new book, Freedom will have to be recalled and/or pulped because someone used the wrong file can not be lost on him. Aside from Charlie Brooker’s amusing take on the sloppy way we all handle our digital filing, Stephanie Merritt’s piece highlights our fascination with imperfection:

It remains to be seen whether readers will want to exchange their “flawed” copies, though. As soon as Franzen spoke about the error at a public reading, there was a run on the venue’s bookshop with people desperate to get their hands on what might become a collectors’ item. People love the idea of imperfection and, for many readers, there’s a curious pleasure in the thought of seeing behind the scenes. A glimpse of the work in progress can give a sense of the writer’s process that might be almost more interesting to a fan than the final draft, especially if you’re obsessive enough to compare and contrast.

We love blooper reels because they show those people as human (and are funny) and behind the scenes looks on our DVDs. Despite the enormous amounts of money spent on creating these highly polished entertainment forms, we still want to see the man behind the curtain. We’re more fascinated by how things are made than the things themselves. In the end, we’re curious creatures and a good dose of randomness in an interactive work, like Brendan Dawes’s excellent Accidental News Explorer sets the field for serendipity that, as Liz Danzico argues, is often takes effort to design. Writing is such a private act, it’s rare to see behind the scenes – perhaps more writers should make use of a blooper appendix.