A Knotty Learning Challenge

Here we are again, a new term and a term module, this time it’s “Understanding Learning in the Online Environment” led by the incomparable Hamish Macleod. This is my third module to date and its looking good. My only concern is that 10% of the course assessment is based upon me writing something worthwhile on the discussion board on a reasonably regular basis.

Interestingly, I have just read in Section 2 (B5) of the QAA (2004) “Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education” that students should have:

where appropriate, regular opportunities for inter-learner discussions about the programme, both to facilitate collaborative learning and to provide a basis for facilitating their participation in the quality assurance of the programme

One of the other assessed pieces of work is the “Learning Challenge” which contributes about 20% of the overall mark. Some of the examples of a learning challenge included juggling three balls; performing a conjuring trick; origami; writing a computer program; or tying a complex knot. Given that my sense of balance and eye / hand co-ordination is shot to pieces, any notion of doing juggling or riding a unicycle was quickly dismissed as a bad idea. Having programmed in a variety of different computer languages over the past 20 years or so didn’t fill me with any great sense of desire.

The combination of not being in the scouts and being a fan of “The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook” led to the appealing idea of trying to attempt to perform a range of knots that could have practical applications should I find myself inexplicably castaway upon an exotic island, a bit like the cast from “Lost“.

Based upon Damien DeBarra’s initial idea of using social bookmarking for the course, Hamish Macleod suggested that we could give Diigo a try. Unlike Delicious (which I use a lot), Diigo allows users to create public / private groups for people to collaboratively work in – sharing resources and research material. Diigo, also, has the ability to highlight and comment on pieces of text. So I created a list of bookmarks on Diigo to support by learning challenge with knots – the list goes by the unimaginative title of “Get Knotted“.

So, I’ve got the guides and tutorials that I need to perform the difficult knot exercises; but I was lacking that one vital piece of apparatus – the rope! I dutifully went off to C and H Fabrics where I purchased myself about a metre’s length of soft cord. This wasn’t without incident either; the shop assistant gaved me such a funny look over my purchasing of this piece of cord. Heaven knows what went through her mind as she was serving me.

I now have everything I need for my 10 (more like 8 to 9) week learning challenge. I shall be using the blog to record my thoughts about the actual cognitive processes involved in tying a knot and the strategies that I have employed to try and master the exercises.


QAA, (2004). Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education. QAA [online]. Available at: http://www.qaa.ac.uk/academicinfrastructure/codeOfPractice/ [Accessed 23 September 2008].