Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Thing 8 - Compendium LD

After completing Thing 8
  • You will know what Compendium LD is all about
  • You will have reflected on how it can be useful for you
  • You will have tried applying it to one of your own courses

What is Compendium LD?

Compendium LD is one of the tools that has been developed by the Open University Learning Design Initiative. It's a tool for helping teachers and designers to create and visually represent their learning designs, using a technique that's based on visual mapping techniques such as mind maps, concept mapping and so on.
If you've never heard of one of these techniques, it's worth having a look at the Wikipedia page on mind mapping for a perfectly acceptable definition.

One of the key aspects of 'mapping techniques' is that it prompts users to think thoroughly about what they're writing down, which means, in theory, you would also think things through more when using Compendium LD.This visualisation tool also maps the items of your course in a non-lineair (brainstorm type of) way, which is quite different to other tools you might already be using.
An example of how Compendium LD could be used

How is it used?

Compendium LD is a software toolkit which means you have to download it in order to use it. The tool provides a set of icons to represent the components of actors (e.g. students, tutors, lecturers etc), who perform actions (i.e. learning tasks such as discussion,...), making use of tools (e.g. forums, wikis,...) and resources (e.g. course texts). These icons can be dragged and dropped, and connected to form a map of nodes.

An overview of some of the icons and how they can be used

Have a look at the video below to get an idea of how these icons and Compendium LD in general are used:

If the previous video is not making you any wiser, then you might have a look at the following presentation on SlideshareDoing More With Compendium Ld

Step by step instructions

  1. Visit Compendium LD here
  2. Download the Software toolkit by clicking on 'Download' on the left hand side.
    You'll have to fill out some contact information, but again don't worry about being spammed or anything; the Compendium LD team just wants to keep a record of who and why people are using it.
    (Hint: If you're having problems downloading the toolkit, have a look at their Help pages)
  3. Once having downloaded, open the Compendium LD toolkit.
    Have a look around and play around with the icons to get an idea of how to use the system.
    Hint: If you're not sure how to use it, have a look at the videos above, or at these documentation pages)
  4. Think of one of your (previous or upcoming) lectures (or courses) and try to use Compendium LD for preparing a lesson plan. Think of the roles, the different activities and so on. You don't have to click any 'Save' button as the system is saving automatically from time to time.

Blog Thing 8
  1. What do you think of the ideas behind Compendium LD? What was your impression?
  2. In what way do you see this being useful to you as a course organiser?
  3. Filling out one of your own Compendium LD course visualisations, did you find it illuminating or frustrating? Are there any ways you would change it to better reflect what you do?
  4. How do you compare it with other visualisation tools for curriculum design (e.g. compared to others introduced in this programme such as Course Map, Phoebe ... or others that you already use yourself)?
If you're interested...

If you're interested, there are some more sophisticated things you can do with Compendium LD.
  • Upload the visualisation you just made as an image.
  • You can also add the 'time aspect' to your visualisation by editing the version you just made, or by creating another one.
    The video on their Documentation section should give you an idea of what you can do more with it.


  1. Certainly the hardest tool to get to grips with in a short amount of time, not least because of the relative scarcity of examples of university-level learning designs modelled in it, we included Compendium LD to help out our friends at the Open University’s Learning Design Initiative, who are keen to get feedback on their tool.

    Socratic Investigations is set to disappoint them, being repelled by the idea of flow-charting learning: “the type of courses I would ever teach are aimed at helping students escape the confines of flow-charts, questioning the belief that thought is a labyrinth ... I would change the charts by replacing them altogether with something that does not feed students a "visualization" of the course, but that encourages students to think their own way to the course objective.” I have no doubt many will agree wholeheartedly with this, but I feel bound to say that to me it appears besides the point: Compendium is about flow-charting teaching at quite a large-grained level, not the alchemical process of learning.

    mrj10 on the other hand started out a potential enthusiast, but was stymied by a lack of user-friendliness: “I have used Cognitive Mapping Software before and have used a variety of Open Source software tools with complex interfaces, so I was potentially quite favourably disposed towards the idea of Compendium LD ... Compendium LD, however, proved considerably more difficult to understand than anything else I have tried to use recently.  Maybe I didn’t put enough effort in to really get to grips with it, but a basic test of software usability, as far as I am concerned, is whether you can get enough of a sense of how to use it from just trying things out to want to carry on.  With Compendium LD it was a struggle to get past square one.  I did look at a few of the online tutorials, but did not feel I understood things any better having watched them.  I also downloaded the 2 page userguide, but there was too much information on the principles to be able to work out how to use it. It was not that I did not have a potential activity to test it on, as I had just received a request from a student for an outline of a class that I will be teaching maybe next week and had put some effort into planning this out, but I could not easily see a way to translate this into Compendium LD.”

    mrj10 generously concludes “I suspect this could be a very powerful tool in the right hands”. That could be true, but becoming the owner of such hands would likely require formal training, Compendium LD demanding not just a facility with its user interface but also a command of its underlying concepts of curriculum design.

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