Critiquing Learning Environment Models


I’ve decided to get some feedback on this short model, which is supposed to be a learning activity for an asynchronous online creative nonfiction II course I am developing. I have taught this course previously in a face-to-face environment and am working on transitioning it into a new space. This model came out of a previous assignment in which I created my first LEM (see here). That model ended up becoming three different models, and this is the last model I created from that work. My worry here is that there’s not enough detail in the model to make sense, and I wonder if I need to add a practice block with feedback between the dialogue and evidence blocks to help guide students a bit more.  Have at it!

Posted in LEM

Identifying Opportunities for Using LEM

I’ve decided to divide this post into the different responsibilities I have both professionally and personally.

As a faculty member who teaches, I could use LEM in the following ways:

  • to develop new classes in both online and face-to-face formats;
  • to transition an existing class into a new environment (from face-to-face to online or vice versa);
  • to evaluate the approach I take in current classes;
  • to reconfigure modules or assignments that don’t seem as effective as they once were;
  • to develop new assignments or modules for students that incorporate as many of the blocks as necessary;
  • to think about how often and what kinds of feedback I currently provide to students;
  • to identify new places in existing courses where feedback opportunities could be integrated.

As a writing center coordinator, I could use LEM in these ways:

  • to evaluate the effectiveness of current tutor training;
  • to incorporate more online elements into the training as necessary;
  • to evaluate the ways in which the current physical space of the writing center helps and/or hinders tutor-writer interaction;
  • to train tutors to think of each session as its own learning environment opportunity;
  • to evaluate the effectiveness of our current asynchronous online tutoring model;
  • to consider ways to develop another synchronous online tutoring approach;
  • to offer a concrete model that shows administrators why we might need new facilities or more funding for specific ventures;
  • to make transparent to the SWOSU community (faculty and students) how writing center sessions work.

As a parent, I could use LEM for these purposes:

  • to evaluate the physical space in which my son lives and plays;
  • to consider the ways in which my interactions with my son affect his sense of being and learning in the world;
  • to better understand the ways in which his other care providers/teachers are attempting to help him learn;
  • to better understand what works best for my son to truly learn and understand information and concepts.

For the record, I don’t see myself actually creating a visual LEM related to parenting my son, but I think this kind of thinking will help me reconsider things I might have taken for granted or gone with more passively as a relatively new parent otherwise.

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My First Learning Environment Model

This was quite the experience for me. I cannot lie; I had some serious difficulties with this, mostly due to my own thought process, I think. I also had some issues with the technology, so I apologize if it isn’t as clear as it could be.

I outlined my original plan in this post: my goal here is to create the introductory week module for an online creative nonfiction II class I am currently developing. In this module, I wanted students to do three things: first, become familiar with the course procedures and protocols; then, think through and develop a plan of action for succeeding in an online class environment; and finally, share a short writing exercise with their classmates and me (a 6-word memoir). My initial post outlined the steps for all three of these goals. My first image below is an attempt to create a learning environment model of what that entire module might look like. As I developed this model, I worried that it was overly complicated and combining two many elements.


With those concerns in mind, I then took a stab at dividing my initial model into two smaller models. This second image is the first half, which focuses on helping students become familiar with the course and evaluating their comfort level with an online learning environment. In this model, I struggled with the “practice” block in particular: “succeeding in an online course” is a separate course that was created by our Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning here at SWOSU, and every student is automatically enrolled in it. Once they take it, they receive a certificate, which they can share with any instructor who asks for it. I decided to make that a required component, as it is a short mini-course that offers success strategies to students. In reality, that is its own LEM, but I didn’t create that LEM and it is not in the class per se; instead, I am sending students out of the course to do it and asking them to upload the certificate and a short reflective essay as evidence of completion and self-reflection/awareness of each student’s perceived strengths and weaknesses in this type of learning environment.


This third image is much smaller, because I envision this activity as a short learning opportunity in which students read about a specific flash nonfiction genre (the 6-word memoir) and then develop their own memoirs to share with me and their classmates via a discussion thread, which would be graded. My main issue in this section was with thinking about the final block: their 6-word memoir is meant to be an informal writing assignment on the same discussion thread as their discussion of the other 6-word memoirs, but I separated it out here to make clear the discussion of examples as separate from sharing their own memoirs for credit. I also wonder about the “practice” block in all of this. This is a writing class, so practice is always wrapped up in everything we do. Should this final evidence block be a practice block instead? Can it be both? Hmmm.


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LEM Step-by-Step Practice


For this first go at LEM, I will be modeling the introductory week module in an online Creative Nonfiction II class that I am currently developing. I’ve taught the class before in a face-to-face setting, but now I’ll be turning this into an online asynchronous learning environment.

The outcomes/objectives for this module are two-fold:

  1. Evaluate their ability to succeed in an online online learning environment through critical reflection; and
  2. Develop a collaborative learning community in which people feel comfortable sharing their writing with one another and offering feedback.


  1. Students will go to the introductory course module on Canvas (LMS) and read through the course materials (information block);
  2. Students will watch a short introductory video from me introducing them to the course and providing an overview of the semester (information block);
  3. Students will post a short response on a discussion thread indicating their understanding of course materials. They can also use this space to ask questions they have about the class at this point in the semester (dialogue block with feedback block from me and classmates);
  4. Students will then complete an outside “Succeeding in an Online Class” Canvas course on our LMS (information and practice blocks);
  5. Students will upload a certificate of completion for “Succeeding in an Online Class” via course dropbox along with a short reflective writing in which they outline their perceived strengths and weaknesses as an online student along with personal goals for course (evidence and feedback blocks);
  6. Students will then read through some example six-word memoirs (information block);
  7. Finally, students will develop and share at least one six-word memoir on a discussion thread and offer feedback to one another (dialogue, evidence, and  feedback blocks).

The actions will consist of a mixture of learner, facilitator, and system actions. I will use the start and stop notations to indicate the beginning and ending moments of the module and include the objectives in the objective ID bubbles. I’ve decided to work chronologically through the course, so while this module may look a little different from other modules in the course, I think it’s valuable to work all the way through the course using the modeling technique.

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Gallery of Learning Environment Insights

I decided to fancy up the presentation of images here, and I went with some unusual choices, I know. Given the fact that my previous blog post includes some more conventional spaces, I wanted to expand my thinking. I went with completely informal spaces in this slideshow, I just realized, though I suppose the writing center is kind of in between formal and informal. Many of the images also reflect more of my personal life as a mother, a wife of an oil industry worker, and a hopeful gardener. Learning really is all around us all of the time.

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I’ll use the captions to identify which image I’m discussing here.

  1. Writing center in action: As I often mention, I am the writing center coordinator on my campus, and I spend a lot of time there. I often refer to the physical space of the center as out little dungeon away from home, as it is located in the basement of the library in a little room with no windows and the library computer serve whirring away in the next room. Despite the easy tendency to see the room as depressing due to the gray walls and lack of natural light, the tutors and I have worked to make it feel comfortable over the years. There are computers lining the left and back walls of the center  that are open for use by tutors and writers (I’m orienting this discussion from the door that enters the room), along with one final computer station in the back right corner, where many of the tutors choose to sit while working on online consultations. If I think of the elements of space, form, and time according to the visual diagram in lesson 1.2, I feel like the entity of the writing center sits right in the middle of the axis: we have both a physical and virtual presence for consultations, we conduct both synchronous and asynchronous consultations, and while we tend to think of ourselves as an informal space, some writers who come in think of it as a bit more formal because it is a university service. When I think of the physical writing space specifically, I think of it as a synchronous, physical, informal learning space. I struggle with what kind of learning environment to call it, though: I think I’d consider it…I don’t know. An organizational learning environment? Maybe? This aspect has been difficult for me to work through. Maybe it will be clearer as the lessons unfold.
  2. The bag garden: I included this because I feel like I am always learning through my gardening attempts in our backyard. This is, of course, an informal, physical space that is synchronous. I consider it a group learning environment if my family can be considered a group within a larger community.
  3. Oil well in Hydro, OK: This is a well that my husband owned interest in until very recently. I included it because it represents a setting for his work quite often. I consider is an organizational learning environment, as he shares the site with other interest owners and companies under the common umbrella of being shareholders in the well. It seems to me that this is a bit more of an informal learning space for folks in the industry; it is obviously a physical space, and I think it would have to be considered a synchronous learning environment as well.
  4. The tent: This is a section of my son’s room where we often find him. He loves to sit in that tent and play, read, or snuggle with my husband and me. It is an informal, physical, synchronous, personal learning environment, in my opinion.
  5. The trampoline: When we visit my mother’s house in Kentucky, my son spends a lot of time out on the trampoline. He likes to run around and play games, and he will also take the time to sit in the middle and watch what’s happening around him. I consider this an informal, physical, synchronous, group learning environment (again, assuming that a family is a group within a larger community, since this is a shared trampoline amongst the folks who visit my mom).
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Types of Learning Environments

I apologize for the delay in posting this. It’s been that kind of week (too much going on and not enough time to get it all done).

Here’s my shot at identifying different learning environments. We’ll see how this goes.


Community Learning Environment: This is a screenshot of my Twitter feed.  I think when used to interact with people, Twitter is an example of a community learning environment, though it is a curated presentation of information based on who the user has chosen to follow (with some sponsored content as well). The opportunity for individuals and groups to use Twitter to chat and share information, and to archive information through the use of hashtags, is what struck me.

twitter screengrab.jpg


Group Learning Environment: Below are a couple of pictures of a classroom at SWOSU in which I occasionally teach. That seems like a quintessential type of group learning environment in my mind, in that it is designed to create a group via class discussion, but the table and chairs are moveable, thus allowing for smaller group discussions within the larger group setting.



Personal Learning Environment: Below is a picture of my SWOSU office, where a lot of learning (still) happens for me, and in this space, I often move things around on my desk, the shelves, etc. as I need to in order to facilitate my own learning and the learning of my students. It is both personalized to make me comfortable and personal since I am the sole occupant.


Organizational Learning Environment: I had to think about this one, but I think a university library would be an example of an organizational learning environment for a university. I think this type was a bit harder for me to grasp until I thought of the library, since it is a kind of learning hub where groups (whether those groups are classes, study groups, or even clubs) and individuals can study and learn. Here’s an image of SWOSU’s library (taken from Google).



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I’m back…sorta

While my main site goes through some updates, I’ll be using this blog again as part of an online certification I’m going through to become a Certified Learning Environment Architect (CLEA). Find out more about what I’m talking about here.

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