Project Development Roadmap

Background

The project learning design and development process that we are developing and currently using comprises one overall project which is divided into 3 sub-projects. The overall project is the SLENZ project in which we are working on three sub-projects each with a specific purpose. 

These three sub-projects are :

1.  Orientation Activities 

2.  Foundation for Living

3.  Midwifery 

Each sub-project is treated as a project in its own right (and referred to as such) although there are some cross-overs between them.  The first project was identified by the SLENZ team as a necessary element of the overall SLENZ project to provide for the orientation of both staff and students into Second Life.  The second and third projects were initiated by initial formal proposals from educator teams who responded to the Request for Proposals.  Introductory thinking of both the latter projects is contained in this proposal document.

At the face-to-face workshop held in December 2008, a decision was made to use a staged design and development process for all three projects, with three separate stages for each over the period January to July 2009.  Specific objectives tied to specific learning outcomes were agreed for the second and third projects.  The rationale for this staged approach was to ensure that each project would be able to at least provide some activity that could be trialled with students in the second half of 2009. None of us has been through this process before so we need to manage the risk inherent in uncertain time and resource estimates.

A framework or 'roadmap' was constructed for the design and development of each sub-project that could be used in either a staged or a single process.

Challenges in designing the framework

We recognised that we needed a process that: 

 

Principles of the framework

A number of principles underly the framework.

1. Each phase of the framework would consist of a variety of activities and conversations to develop and refine the thinking and the definition of the necessary information, in a way that allows others to contribute.

2. Each phase of the framework would produce one or more documents which act as a formal conduit for the information that needs to be passed from one phase to the next and from one team member or team to the next.

3. The conduct of each phase and the completion of any documents would be the responsibility of an identified role in the team.  However, all team members are encouraged to participate and to comment on and add to the work at any stage.

4. That the purpose of the framework is twofold

a) to provide the opportunity for a comprehensive approach to the design of suitable and feasible learning experiences for the identified learners, and

b) to provide a formal record of the summary of the thinking, the requirements and the design of each experience (both from an educational and a technical perspective) .

5. While the design and development activities may go through a number of iterations, the thinking may change direction a number of times and a number of different communication channels may be used. At the end of a phase, the thinking and decisions to date are summarised and clearly and unambiguously recorded in the relevant document.

6. The information captured in the end of phase document will form the basis for the work of the following phase.

7. Information should only need to be articulated once - although additional details from the further development of high level views are likely to be needed.

8. There is to be a single place which gives team members an overview of all project documents with an understanding of their purpose so that they can always find the final thinking.

The Framework.

We considered that essentially the initial design and development of a project lent itself to three major phases.  Each stage of each project would progress through all of the phases.  However, as each stage would be building on the work of the previous one, some of the previous thinking and work would be reused. There will be further phases including testing and evaluation of the completed activity (still to be added).

The Roles

We identified various roles within the framework, each with their own area of responsibility. These are:

The Phases

1. Develop the Conceptual Understanding (Who?, When?, Why?)

Purpose:

This phase provides a high level view of what the the project should achieve and why, the scope, the context, the participants, the method, the budget and the timeframe.  It may also include the measures by which success may be evaluated. In general it answers questions of the nature of - what is the general purpose of the project, who will be involved, why are we doing it etc.  This phase is the basis for all the stages and helps to identify what those stages will be, however it will be re-visited at the start of each new stage to confirm that all contextual information is in place for the stage.

Phase Leader:  Lead Educator

Suggested activities: 

The activities for this phase are concerned with capturing the views of a number of external stakeholders (students, staff, institution, external bodies etc.) as well as prompting thought and discussion on what the overall learning experience is intended to achieve and for whom.  Any method may be used to capture this information but the following are current suggestions:

The result of these conversations need to be summarised and the essential information captured. It is preferable that this summary takes the form of a document that can be readily shared by all interested parties.  Where a formal proposal has been written, the information within it should also be included.

Required information:

Final Document:  Context Summary Document 

This document is intended to act as a brief record of the work undertaken within this phase.  It should be as succinct as possible. The items bulleted under 'required information' could act as a heading structure for the document. Under each heading would appear the final outcome of the conversations that have taken place.  Some of this content would also have been collected from the formal proposal.

2. Develop the Learning Narrative (What?)

Purpose:

This phase deals with the design of the learning experience and the activities that it contains.  This phase will be repeated for each stage of the project and identify where it is building on work from the previous stage.

Building on the work of the previous phase and using the Context Summary as a base, this phase will identify and describe, in some detail, the actual learning activities that will take place in support of the specified learning outcomes. The phase is mostly concerned with identifying what will happen and to some extent how it will happen. 

The phase will help to identify all the resources that are required to construct the activities required by the learning experience.  This will include resources such as lesson plans, online student material, video etc as well as, in general terms, the items that are required within Second Life, for example: a birthing unit, an interview room etc.

It primarily answers the questions around 'What will this learning activity require?' and collects all relevant information about the content of the activity.  It describes what the students and the educators will do, how they will interact and how the students will be supported.  From this description, a list of necessary resources can be derived.  At this stage the resources may just be identified and listed but not described in significant detail. 

Phase Leader: Learning Designer

Suggested activities: T

For this phase, the lead educator describes their initial thinking of how to best respond to the context. The learning designer then gives feedback and helps ensure that there is sufficient detail to 

Other educators may be asked to feedback on the learning design too. There is tension between the desire to include the other educators and build their buy-in and make the pilot their own, and not wanting to demand too much of their time. 

Any method may be used to capture this information but the following are current suggestions:

The result of these conversations need to be summarised and the essential information captured. It is preferable that this summary takes the form of a document that can be readily shared by all interested parties.  

Required information:

The phase needs to capture the following information for the stage under consideration :

Final Document:  Learning Design Document

Once again the bulleted list of required information will provide the structure and headings for the final document.

We need to remember (and capture the information about) that at times external resource builders will need to provide content to the SL developers (e.g. content of notecards) and vice versa, e.g. SL snapshots or machinima.

3. Develop and Implement the Technical Design (How?)

Purpose:

This phase deals with the design of all the resources required by the learning activities of the stage both those in and out of Second Life.  This phase will be repeated for each stage of the project and identify where it is building on work from the previous stage.

The purpose for this phase is to ensure that all resources needed to create the learning experience are identified, designed effectively and constructed.  Based on the learning activity or activities identified in the Develop the Learning Narrative phase, and on the list of required resources derived from that, this phase is primarily concerned with the questions around 'How will we fulfill these requirements?' and documents the final answers to those questions. It thus considers the design of all the resources that are required for the final construction both those that will be built in SL and those that won't. 

Phase Leader: Lead Developer

Suggested activities:

Although the responsiblity of the development team, the identification of the necessary resources will need on-going discussion with the Learning Designer and Lead Educator to determine the exact nature of the resources (e.g. which texture to use for external walls).

Required information:

The following list will be constructed as the technical design and build progresses.

Final Document(s): Technical Design Specification, External Resource Specification

The Technical Design Specification will begin as a working document that initially lists the high level components identified as required in the previous phase (e.g. birthing unit).  Following any conversations to clarify what is needed, the construction work and the on-going documentation of the various elements, sub-elements and atoms begins and is recorded as the construction progresses.

The final version of the working document is the eventual Technical Design Specification document and should act as a comprehensive record of everything that has been built in SL.  The eventual number of atoms is likely to run into thousands (even without considering versions) and many of which will need to be identified and identifiable.

Similarly the External Resource Specification document needs to record all the resources that have been created outside Second Life. Where the resources are online, this document can also link to the actual resources.

SUMMARY

Project Development Roadmap

Generic Project Phase

  Process and Documents

Primarily Responsible?

Project level or for each Stage?

Develop

Conceptual

Understanding

(Why? Who?)

(When?)

Context Summary document

 Lead Educator

Project level

and revisited for each stage

Develop

Learning Narratives

(What?)

Learning Design Document

 Learning Designer

Each Stage

Develop the Technical

Design

(How?)

Technical Design Specification

External Resource Specification

Lead Developer

Lead Educator ?

Each Stage

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Vocabulary

PHASE is used to distinguish the different activities of the development process.

STAGE is used to distinguish between the different parts of a particular project, i.e. staged development.  The first set of activities to be developed stage 1 and so on. 

The 'Develop the Conceptual Understanding' phase produces the CONTEXT document. 

The 'Develop Learning Narratives' phase produces the LEARNING DESIGN document.

The 'Develop the Technical Design' phase produces two documents,

This roadmap is not yet complete and represents the work and thinking of the entire SLENZ project team to date.

Please feel free to comment on this document. The project team welcomes all feedback

SLENZ Project Team, March 2009