Scenario: My Geography Fieldtrip

August 8th, 2006

This is the first in a series of 20,000 scenarios whereby the user wants to create a set for his recent Geography fieldtrip and then add stuff to that set. What’s missing?

Create set


The user gets to add a new set before adding anything to it. Kind of like making and labelling a box yourself, ready to stick stuff in it (like when you move house). Title, description, tags (keywords) are all fairly obvious. Also here are some other fields that are merely buds of ideas right now…

Type of set

Maybe we’ll offer some nice templates for types of sets. For instance, if a field trip typically has video, journals and photos, we’d create those containers and guide the user through to add all the relevant stuff. The user could of course just have a blank set in which case they’d go along merrily adding where and when they feel like it.

Picture, icon, logo

To enable the more visually led people, we could offer the ability for the user to attach a picture to their set so they can quickly identify it. Some pre-picked pics available or they can upload or browse their own pics type thing.

Create stuff


The blank set is created. Nothin in it yet. The next screen is this: get some stuff in your set, here’s some things you can create. The user plumps for a learning journal.

Create learning journal


Enter “structured form that I don’t actually know what the fields are yet” type thingeymebob. Our user enters the data and then gets down the pub knowling it’s all been safely saved away (using AJAX, like Writely and Gmail does!)

Nb. Maybe I need to create some ‘view journal’ and ‘view set’ screens in order to illustrate exactly what things look like once in browse mode. However, I’d really love to be able to use a similar approach to Flickr in this respect – edit it as you see it AJAX goodiness.

Tags: , , , ,

14 Responses to “Scenario: My Geography Fieldtrip”

  1. Rachel


    I like the idea that the journal might be made up of separate pages which can be joined together. I think it makes them easier to repurpose.

    The idea of having a template for some sets is a good one esp. given the use we may make of them for accrediation.

    I am not sure how this works with xforms.

    Do we need to explore other scenarios?

  2. Guy Carberry

    All we need to do is offer different ways of getting and organising data. Let’s assume someone wanted to create a collection of journal entries as a blog, we could do this easily enough. But if people just wanted to do a single entry on something then that’d be an ok route too.

    XForms shouldn’t have any issues at all since they’re just XML and XML is a very eXtensible Markup Language.

    And yes, we do need to explore more scenarios. 1 down, 1999 to go 😉

  3. Thanh

    In this scenario, are we close to saying a SET is a PORTFOLIO as we would define it? That is a collection of stuff, organised for a purpose with a visual publishable presentation of the stuff?

    I’m OK with this but wary in someplaces we call it create something, or create a learning journal and then create a SET. There is a danger of confusion with the the many names refering to the same thing.

  4. Thanh

    I agree with Rachel’s comment about separate pages for things.

    I would like to reinforce this design principle.

    We should create a single interface for each data item and each task. For example:
    a) an interface for looking at an image;
    b) an interface for looking at a video;
    c) an interface for looking at mp3;
    d) an interface for looking etc.;
    e) an interface for uploading documents;
    f) an intreface for selecting and creating a set;
    g) an interface for editing a particular set; with the interface different for different set templates;
    h) etc.

    This approach keeps each interface simple, but also allows us to create complex interfaces/applications by glueing these various specific interfaces together.

    Does this make sense? Will this work?

  5. Guy Carberry

    @Thanh (9:46) – Most of the issues here relate to labelling. Set is Flickr’s term. I’m not suggesting we use that term, we need to decide on a better one. I need to think some more on this.

    @Thanh (9:51) – Yes it all makes sense and im confodent it will all work!

  6. Thanh

    SET work as a term because it implies collection; but does not imply organised collection. A Portfolio is an organised collection for a purpose with presentation. So both SET and COLLECTION only cover parts of the Portfolio definition. Publication: does this term work? Presentation? Package?

  7. Guy Carberry

    I see where you’re goin with this. I guess I was thinking that the user would click ‘create new set’ and then use one of the predefined templates (portfolio) styles. I wonder if they even need to know that it’s a portfolio. Unless of course they are creating a portfolio. Do you think that there is a generic type of portfolio they might create?

  8. Thanh

    Some people jsut create SETS because they want to be organised.

    Some people are asked to create specific SETS.

    The former is personal whereas the latter is usually purposed-driven; i.e. by a course assignemnt.

    The former is not a portfolio whereas the latter probably is.

    Talking to Anthony, we acknowledge there may be a two setp process; 1) collect and oragnise; 2) apply a presentation;

    For beginners, I think we should choose to hide the two-step by offering explicit set templates which a) contains dummy organised content and b) has a presentation applied to it. The user can see the example presntation and modify the example content to suit them.

    If we dont expose the 2-step process initially, then the most generic set template is the website set template. That is a set containing organised collection of stuff which is presented as a website.

  9. Guy Carberry

    Sounds good. Can you provide me with dummy set of data?

  10. Thanh

    For the generic website, I suggest you use this site for dummy data:

    The page is an index page of news articles;

    The news articles are saved in the repository;

    The use customises the index page by saying I want this news to appear in this order.

    The index page and collection of news articles is the SET.

    The presentation is an HTML index page that links to all the articles.

    The Portfolio is the SET, Index page and collection of news articles which can be packaed into a standalone ZIP that can be extracted to a local desktop and viewed with any browser.

    To keep it simple, you can use the news article without images to begin with.

  11. Guy Carberry

    Do you feel that people will be wanting to create a generic website? I see it that anything that can be done within the system will be able to be output as a website – HTML pages etc.

    Let’s imagine i login to ‘my stuff’ (eportfolio) and see an option to create a ‘new website’. Do you think that I might just think it’s going to help me create a website on the WWW for all my mates to see? Will I be able to conceptualise that im not actually doing anything of the sort. In fact, im creating a collection of stuff that i can save down for offline viewing on my hard-drive.

    Also, website is very generic term – it could be anything. It’s like saying create a new word document or create a new excel spreadsheet. The Word Doc, Excel spreadsheet and website are simply different delivery channels for data. They are equivalents in that resect.

    I guess im questioning the term ‘website’ which implies that its on the web. I wonder if theres a better term we could use?

    Yet another semantics question!

    But the example you state above is useful and definitely gives me something to work with.

  12. Thanh

    Yes – labels and semantics again. I’m up for suggestions.

    If you take a generic collection which can generate HTML site, then you’re thikning two steps! I’m happy to go with this if the iser interface makes it very clear that any SET can be converted to a HTML site.

    Just dont lose the conceptual thinking in the example. A specific “set” with suggested organisation of “stuff” and a predefined presentation of a HTML index page. This is the 1-step thinking.

  13. Guy Carberry

    Yes, lets carry on the one step thinking. Less brain-aching!

  14. John N.T. Martin

    Comments on ‘My Geography Field Trip’
    (John Martin –

    Sorry – tried to comment on this earlier in August, but the system seems to have cobbled up what I said. Here is a second attempt.

    I’m coming to this from the point of view of a course-specific portfolio (T185 and its successor) – I’ve no personal interest in career portfolios, etc.

    Experience of the T185 course-specific portfolio shows that unless it is utterly intuitive and fool-proof, you begin to get student problems. We found that even a small proportion of confused students who need to have their hands held can soon begin to make major and quite problematic inroads into moderator time – so it is a real issue!

    I suppose that if every OU student had to use it all the time (like a word-processor) then a complicated interface would be ok – they would accept that they had to learn how to use it. But I can’t see much chance of this happening with the e-portfolio, so I guess we have to make it so simple to use that no-one can go wrong!

    Some comments on your ‘Geography trip’ examples
    Create set: It seems to me that one of the big differences between a ‘career’ portfolio and a ‘course-specific’ portfolio is that the latter can specify what kind of entry is required at each point, and when. So any ‘set creating’ can and should be done by the course team, not the student. I certainly don’t want my students having to ‘create sets’ or worrying about tags, etc. Incidentally I think the word ‘set’ is much too abstract, and would confuse some students – why not just ‘folder’ or ‘box-file’ or something familiar?

    Type of set: I’m a little concerned at the suggestion of pre-existing templates, if by that you mean fully designed off-the-shelf templates. Certainly for a web-based course like T185, there is an overall design template for the whole course and programme, and any e-portfolio template would have to fit in with that – the last thing I’d want is for the students to feel that in order to submit their reports they have to switch to a completely different package, with a completely different look and feel. In other words the e-portfolio has to look like a sub-system of my course, rather than my course looking like a sub-system of the e-portfolio!

    Picture, icon, logo: I understand the intention, but once again the course team should create the set for a course-specific portfolio, so probably not relevant for my purposes.

    Create stuff:
    • You’ve not included what would be by far the most important button – a simple text report.
    • Nice to know they could add all these exotic media, but it would just freak out most students if they thought that we expected video input from them! It is hard enough even to get students to submit diagrams electronically, far less audio and video. Surely it would be better to assume that a text report would be needed, and make these exotic things as marginal options – e.g. an ‘other media’ drop down menu?
    • I wouldn’t want my students to be bothered by on-screen lists of tags or lists of other sets, etc. – though a drop-down menu that would allow students to access that information if they needed it would be fine – I guess I might have a few students who were using the e-portfolio for other things than my course!
    • Do you need this intermediate screen at all?

    Create learning journal: I hate these over-specified, over-fragmented, and usually much too small, fields, and the left side of the screen wastes a lot of potentially useful space. What I would much prefer would be a single text entry screen, headed something like ‘Reflections’. At the top of the text area itself would be instructions about what to include – e.g. in your case: ‘Title’, ‘Description’, ‘What did you learn? What would you do differently next time?’.
    If you need ‘Title’ and ‘Description’ as separate fields for use elsewhere in the system, then perhaps keep them as they are, but have an ‘Enter Text’ button that gives a full screen text entry area with the content hints on it (ideally with the Title, etc. so that you can print it out as a coherent document).
    Having a single, large, text entry area which contains its own instructions has several advantages:
    • There is a clear distinction between what the student is formally required to do (enter some reflections) and hints about what it might include (What did you learn, etc.).
    • There is more text entry area, so less scrolling, and it is much easier for the student to get an overall sense of what they are saying. I really, really, hate silly little text entry boxes!
    • The student is free to respond to the hints in their own way. This usually produces much more coherent and interesting responses.

    On T185, they have a text-entry screen and can either key in the report directly or can copy-and-paste from a word-processor. One big problem this creates is that text in a web-based text entry screen is very volatile until it is ‘submitted’ – so it is very easy to lose it. This causes a lot of student frustration, so we encourage the word-processor cut-and-paste route.

    What you haven’t included:
    • Having entered my report, I might well want to save a copy on my own machine or print one out.
    • I also need to be able to review my other ‘Geography’ reports – perhaps to look back on an earlier one while writing my ‘Field Trip’ report (NB the ‘volatile text’ risk if I do this!).
    • I need to be able to see the stored version of my ‘Field Trip’ report both to reassure myself that it has saved OK, and perhaps to edit it.
    • Automatic word-counts would be useful since most courses will need to set word-count limits.
    • There also needs to be a ‘moderator interface’ that allows staff to look at students’ work, and bale out problems, etc.

    What I would want for my own course
    I would hope to be able to customise my course-specific user interface down to something drastically simpler than your examples. E.g. more like this:
    a) An ‘Enter report’ button I can drop into a course page at the appropriate point. If the student clicks on this, it goes straight to the text entry page (with all the hints, etc.). When the text is saved, it automatically joins the portfolio data-base at the correct place, as determined by the template. I.e. button parameters set by the author pre-set almost everything.
    b) A ‘Review all of my reports so far’ button that lets the student do just that.
    c) A ‘Read other students reports’ button which will allow the student to see a sample of other students’ reports (again the reports to be seen are preset in the button parameters). Enabling of this button would be conditional on the student having already submitted her own report.

    Feel free to contact me if you want to follow up on any of this. (01908 542021)