2009 NMC Summer Conference Proceedings

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Rethinking Pedagogical Practice and Educational Media Development

December 23rd, 2010 · No Comments · Papers

Maria Hedberg & Lotty Larson (Lund University)

Inspired by Laurillard’s (2002) ideas on media’s affordances for learning in different contexts, and rethinking the way we develop learning arenas, supervise academics, and plan online learning activities to engage learners, we have developed The Media Wheel, a representation where the student learning experience is the focus. In the following text, a summary of our presentation at the NMC summer conference of 2009, we explain and share some examples of applications of The Media Wheel in different contexts.


Diana Laurillard argues in her book Rethinking University Teaching (2002) that different kinds of media have different affordances for different kinds of student learning experiences. She lists five different forms of media: Communicative, Adaptive, Interactive, Narrative, and Productive Media. According to Conole and Fill (2005)

“Narrative media tell or show the learner something (e.g. text, image). Interactive media respond in a limited way to what the learner does (e.g. search engines, multiple choice tests, simple models). Communicative media facilitate exchanges between people (e.g. email, discussion forum). Adaptive media are changed by what the learner does (e.g. some simulations, virtual worlds). Productive media allow the learner to produce something (e.g. word processor, spreadsheet).”

The mission of our unit, Centre for Educational Development (CED), is to contribute, together with the faculties, to pedagogical development and to increase the quality of teaching and learning at Lund University. Incorporated within this mission is to support and stimulate the development of eLearning. We have used Laurillard´s different media for learning as a basis to develop The Media Wheel, a representation where student learning experience is illustrated in the centre. The sectors surrounding the core contain learning activities such as discussing, articulating, attending, exploring, experimenting, and practicing. Next to each sector is a category of media coined by Laurillard (2002). Different forms of media or technologies can be placed next to each sector to generate an overview of the learning experiences made available to learners in, for example, a particular course.

As a consequence of the web 2.0 and social software development (Shirky, 2003), a spectrum of new possibilities for teaching and learning has emerged. The convergence between online technologies for creating content and those used for communicating or networking (Alexander, 2005), brings a development where media evolve from being “only” narrative to becoming communicative and productive.This enables the learner to discuss, create, and share which affords a possibility of communicative, collaborative, and social activities in each of the sections above.

Applications of The Media Wheel

How can a blog or, a blog in combination with Second Life (SL), or a blog in combination with Second Life and iTunes U, promote learning online or in a blended classroom setting? And how can such pedagogical scenarios be explained and visualised to a diverse group of academic teachers, both innovators — early adopters — as well as beginners, when it comes to use of technology for teaching and learning? To face that challenge we developed The Media Wheel which serves as a straightforward instrument for illustrating the potential usage of technology in teaching and learning in a campus, distance, or blended settings. When using The Media Wheel to explain and visualise different affordances for learning it is possible to support teachers’ understanding of when a media is useful and why, and also when it might be better to combine the media or technologies with other tools.

An instrument for demonstrations

We know from our own experience that it is especially hard for many teachers to grasp the pedagogical aspects of how teaching and learning works in a virtual world, such as Second Life®. Below is an excerpt of images from a series of demonstrations explained in workshops and seminars.

When explaining Second Life applications this way before logging in, we found it easier for teachers to understand the demonstration inworld and what to expect from teaching and learning in a virtual world setting. It prepares the teachers for further use of Second Life and helps them to reflect upon how virtual worlds could be used in their own teaching and learning before they learn how to actually interact in the world, thus enabling them to focus on the pedagogical issues.

Outcome of Programme Design

In this example we use The Media Wheel for the purpose of programme development and quality enhancement of a Masters programme. The Media Wheel can give an overview of the pedagogical design as a whole and its outcome according to learning affordances.

The programme in this example is a fully internet based masters programme in GIS, planned to provide an international education and training for a diverse group of both professionals with needs for new competences in GIS and for students whose future work will include GIS. There are more than 500 students attending this programme, representing about 80 countries (many of them developing countries) and the majority are full- or halftime employees. To meet the needs of these diverse student needs, the programme was from the very beginning designed to be very flexible (Collis & Moonen, 2002) – not only in terms of a flexible starting date, study pace, and flexible study mode (online or CD-ROM), but also by giving individual choice whether to communicate and interact with fellow students or to study alone. Since the start of the programme in 2004, there has been an ongoing research project studying the experienced affordances (Boud, 2004), how the students in this flexible context experience, understand and act, and how this impinges their learning. We know that they are very satisfied with the flexibility given (Larson et al, 2006) and of the variation of learning experiences (Antman et al, 2007).

Applied in The Media Wheel the programme can be illustrated to the teachers as follows:

Learner interaction is afforded when students intellectually interact with the theoretical parts, which are delivered in a variety of formats (narrative media), and when they interact with quizzes and interactive tools, analysing, for instance, spatial data (interactive media). We know that learning through practical exercises is carried out when the students are offline, at their own computers with special GIS software. The students analyse, manipulate, and produce GIS objects (adaptive and productive media). It is then completed by teacher interaction, supervision, and feedback online (communicative media). But, illustrated by the three ??? within the communicative media section, we highlight that one important part of interactive learning is missing. It is the one the research tells us; namely that many students do not meaningfully interact with other students, neither for learning interaction nor for social purposes (Larson, 2008). This is something that has to be improved from a quality assurance and learning perspective. We have used The Media Wheel as a simplified model and starting point in our discussions with the teachers. Together we decided to design a combination of increased synchronous learning activities online, focused on the practical GIS and above the course level. Different media through various forms of web 2.0 tools will be implemented after the summer holiday. A social network in NING will be set up in a small pilot, as well as testing Second Life for interaction and learning.

Mapping media forms for development projects

In the multidisciplinary and cross-cultural project “West Meets East” in Second Life (presented at SLEDcc08), a small group of students from Lund University in Sweden, met and interacted in Second Life with Chinese students at Fudan University, Shanghai, China. The aim of the project was, together with Chinese language teacher, assistant professor Marita Ljungqvist, from the Centre For Languages and Litterature (SOL) to help the students learn more about each others’ cultures and languages. The project was also an educational development pilot, with the objective to test the affordances for learning and teaching in Second Life, using the Media Wheel concept as one of the resources for planning.

When exploring the possibilities for teaching and learning in a virtual world one has to bear in mind that a virtual world like Second Life does not automatically provide the teacher with immersive and engaging learning activities, but provides the teacher the tools and the environment for creating such activities (in press). In order for students to learn how to interact in cross-cultural groups and seminars we used different media forms to create learning experiences where students could practice techniques, compensating, for instance, for the lack of body language and eye contact.

In order to demonstrate we used narrative media in the form of video tutorials to explain how to take snapshots. That is, how one zooms in on an avatar or object before a picture is taken. With this skill (alt zoom practice), one is able to focus on individuals in an audience. As an exercise the students interacted in a photo course inworld taking snapshots of each other. The students used Second Life as a productive media when they learned how to create and build signs for their seminar. The seminars were arranged as exhibitions in order to create presentations where the speaker moved from sign to sign together with the audience in order to avoid the “non-responsive wall of faces lacking expression.” In order to compensate Second Life’s synchronous form of communicative media a NING network site was primarily set up for reflection in blogs, but was also used as a centre for networking. Furthermore, it was planned to be the repository for images, video tutorials and links.


The intention of the representation of the categories of media (Laurillard, 2002) — The Media Wheel — is to develop one straightforward instrument for teachers to examine what kind of learning experience they offer their students and how they can combine or implement tools for different teaching and learning activities. This is to support student learning and, in a longer perspective, scaffold students when achieving their intended learning outcomes.

For educational developers, The Media Wheel could be used as a tool to give an overview or demonstration of the possibilities and limitations of a technology, and/or combinations of social software; an overview of the interaction, communication or collaborations within a course; or as a first step in planning a course. However, The Media Wheel does not take all aspects of the learning process into consideration. Laurillard’s conversational framework (2002) is a more elaborate representation of interaction between teachers, students and their peers. An important part of her framework is how learning takes place through the iteration of communication between teacher, students, and peers, and how the students adapt their actions with their understanding of the concept and how, after feedback, they reflect upon their actions. The framework is not a theory of learning, but a representation that could be used to illustrate the different aspects of theories of learning, such as instructionism, constructionism, or socio-cultural learning (Laurillard, 2009).

From our own perspective we find The Media Wheel useful since it enhances the quality of our own diverse practise. So far, we do not have any scientific underpinnings on teachers’ experiences, understanding, and feelings from the usage of The Media Wheel in their own teaching and planning, but, nevertheless, we belive to have captured their spontaneous reactions.

These can be summarised as “useful and workable,” since teachers expressed that The Media Wheel helped them to increase their vocabulary and know-how when it comes to teaching and learning activities, as well as media forms online. It helped them to balance their teaching online (or in a blended setting) and to move from a one-way instructivist student learning approach to a more active student learning approach. They also expressed notions of increasing their repertoire to constructively align learning outcomes, learning activities, and examinations (Biggs & Tang, 2007). One of the comments in the evaluation of our breakout session at the NMC Summer Conference expresses what we feel is an important reflection when mapping their own practice with the help of The Media Wheel:

“…it helps me to think about the links between what we want our students to be able to do, the challenges we face when developing these skills and the kinds of things different digital media are good at doing.”

In conclusion, we will strive to develop The Media Wheel further in dialogue and collaboration with teachers and collegues. The ultimate objective is to ensure on a continuous basis – again inspired by Laurillard (2009) – that pedagogy exploits and challenges technology.


Alexander, B. (2006) Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning? EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 41, no. 2: 32–44.

Antman, L., Larson, L. and Pilesjö, P. (2007). Diversity meets flexibility at a distance: Experienced affordances for learning. Accepted for the EARLI 2007 conference in Budapest, Hungary (Referee. Also published as paper no 3 in Learning Lund Report no 3

Biggs, J. B. and Tang, C. (2007). Teaching for quality learning at university. Open University Press/Mc Graw-Hill Education.

Boud, D. (2004) Control, influence and beyond: Logics of learning networks. Networks Learning Conference, University of Lancaster.

Collis, B & Moonen, J. (2002). Flexible Learning in a Digital World. Open Learning, Vol 17, No. 3.

Conole, G. and Fill, K. (2005). A learning design toolkit to create pedagogically effective learning activities Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2005(08).

Kreber, C. (2002). Teaching excellence, teaching expertise, and the scholarship of teaching Innovative Higher Educ. 27:5-23.

Larson, L., Antman.L, Pilesjö, P., Mårtensson, U. (2006). Experiences from the LUMA-GIS eLearning master’s program: Student perspective and pedagogic models. Accepted for the Fifth European GIS Education Seminar, Krakow, Poland

Larson, L. (2008). Networked Learning in a Flexible Fully Internet-based International Masters´ Course. – Possibilities and Limits. Accepted for the Networked Learning Conference 2008 in Thessaloniki, Greece. Also published as paper no 3 in Learning Lund Report no 2.

Laurillard, D. (2002). Rethinking university teaching : a conversational framework for the effective use of learning technologies (2nd ed.): RoutledgeFalmer.

Laurillard, D. (2009). The pedagogical challenges to collaborative technologies. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 4 (1), 5-20.

Ljungqvist & Hedberg (2008) Designing learning environments for heterogeneous groups in Second Life, presented at SLEDCC08, Second Life (abstract: http://sledcc.wikispaces.com/SLEDcc+in+Second+Life)

Shirky, Clay (2003). Social software and the politics of groups. Available at http://www.shirky.com/writings/group_politics.html


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