Design and conversational evaluation of an information technology learning environment based on self-organised-learning
From 1990 to 1993 I was engaged as the Information Technology (IT) Workshop manager at Mid-Cornwall College, St. Austell. My mission during this period was to develop a new kind of IT learning environment. The main purpose was - and continues to be - to provide for mixed 'open-access’ student targets wishing to pursue generic IT activities and gain commensurate vocational qualifications. This Open-Learning (OL) environment provides on-the-job curriculum development of IT learning support systems, through a Flexible Learning (FL) management policy. An action research approach based on S-O-L provides both the methodology and technology for implementing a learning organisation. A key objective was institutional change towards the learning management policy of IT, through appropriate deployment of staffing and courseware resources to enable the practice of student centred learning. Another aim was to integrate and mix all target groups of learners together in the same domain, i. e. school leavers with adult returners for the achievement of a cost-effective, well-co-ordinated and productive learning environment. My action research applied the Centre for the Study of Human Learning's (CSHL's) ideas and tools towards the development of the IT Workshop's learning policy. I have sought to make the connection between FL delivery of the generic IT curriculum and the SOL approach towards individual and organisational learning. This came about from the link between the FL philosophy of learner-centred activity and the SOL philosophy of empowering individuals via Learning Conversations. S-O-L'Systems-7' was adopted as a conversational tool for developing the educational roles and practices of the IT Workshop. This influenced my college to make essential environmental changes to the workshop in order to develop these activities. The project also used the Personal Learning Contract (PLC) to manage and enable the 'learning-to-learn' activities of individual IT learners. With the PLC as the central tool for implementing Learning Conversations, there evolved the idea of 'Group Learning Contracts' (GLCs). This led to the practical development of 'Learning Plans' (LPs), such that IT flexible modules could be transferred to the autonomy of the learner. Evaluations from this project included sample case-study evidences of Learning Conversations obtained from individual IT case-load students. Repertory grid feedback conversations of learning experienced by individual staff members taking part in the project were also obtained. Questionnaire results from IT learners was used as another method of feedback, and conversationally evaluated using factor analysis and 'talkback' records. All the action research qualitative evidences were finally analysed using conversational techniques, leading to the overall project 'findings'.