The Ripple Effect


Does anyone else get the same feeling of unease as me when developing something new? Based on a recent request I had from an academic colleague to build an online resource that encouraged self-directed learning and elements of self-differentiation, I have developed a new framework for online learning, but it’s so basic and obvious that somewhere along the line, somebody else MUST have developed it before me.

So back to that feeling I mentioned at the top of this post. Like I’m a fraud. Like I’m trying to claim ‘dibs’ on something that has been around for ages. I’m also uneasy, because if this framework IS already in existence, then I’m plagiarising by proxy.

The framework I’m talking about is something I’m calling The Ripple Effect. To visualise it, think of main themes or concepts as stones that are thrown into a body of water. Concentric rings (or ripples) will emanate from this ‘stone’, with each successive ripple covering the main concept in greater depth. Information students are required to know sits in the rings closest to the stone, and outer rings contain information at a higher levels and greater depth.  Students are required to look at the content in the 2 or 3 ripples closest to the ‘stone’ as a mandatory part of their course of study, while access to all other rings is optional. Students can work through as many or few of these rings as they want, and completion of the resource is self-determined once a student feels that they know enough or are starting to move outside of their comfort zone.

The first resource developed with this framework examined the subject of injury aetiology, with five common causes of injury: surfaces, climate, footwear, protection and equipment introduced as the initial ‘stones’ from which ripples would emanate. The software used to develop the resource was Adobe Captivate, supplementary films were taken from YouTube and embedded activities were developed using the free-to-use Internet-based application Padlet (formerly Wallwisher).

On a whim I submitted an abstract introducing the Ripple Effect to the panel in charge of INTED2015 (the International Technology, Education and Development Conference). I submitted the abstract for three reasons: I have never spoken at an international conference; my appraisal for this year states that I should try to present at one national and one international conference…and I have never been to Madrid, the location for this year’s conference.

I was very surprised when my abstract was accepted. I was even more surprised when, after writing the brief paper to attach to my abstract (I hadn’t bothered writing a full paper in advance – I was sure I wouldn’t be accepted to present at the conference) and then making it available on the internet, a number of Twitter and Facebook posts mentioned the Ripple Effect as being an interesting and useful framework for online learning.

All of this is very complimentary and heartening, of course…but I still have that uneasy ‘itch’ in my brain telling me that something this simple and this obvious MUST have been around for donkey’s years…

…and here’s a copy of the paper if you’d like to read more.

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