All entries for Wednesday 26 October 2011

October 26, 2011

3d capability maturity matrix for learning technology practices and projects

This is an analysis tool that I have developed to help in understanding current learning technology-practices, identifying possible enhancements, designing and planning projects, and evaluating their impacts. Technology-practices (e.g. debating in an online forum) may be plotted as positions on the two linear axis and using the colour code key to indicate level of adoption.

3d matrix

Click on the image to see it full-size.

The matrix plots the "maturity" of a technology-practice (the technology and its actual use) along three axis.

Axis A identifies its level of optimisation. Highly optimised technology-practices are well specified and efficiently managed to produce a repeatable and reliable outcome. The process of optimisation is aligned with a "management-oriented" perspective and methods.

Axis B identifies the extent to which a technology-practice has been consciously designed (created, chosen, adapted) to meet the ends to which it is put. A practice might be habitually applied (for example email), without any active consideration of how appropriate it is. Well designed technology-practices are both habitual and appropriate to their use. This is aligned to the "design thinking" perspective and methods.

Axis C identifies the level of adoption of the technology. A technology that is well designed, and well optimised is often but not always widely adopted. A technology with a limited adoption rate might benefit from an additional social aspect (designed into the technology, or in the form of better marketing and support).

Use the matrix to:

  • assess the maturity level of a technology-practice;
  • to understand when an intervention might be necessary;
  • to identify what kind of intervention is needed - redesign, optimise or popularise - and to be clear when planning enhancement projects (a common failure in projects);
  • use over time to assess changes, deliberate or unplanned.

Shifting the focus between axis:

Some technology-practices are inherently un-manageable (for example using email to host a discussion with several people). In such cases we may want to switch focus from optimising the practice (getting better at using Outlook) to designing (choosing or creating) a new technology-practice. Often this leads to challenging the habitual behaviour (for example using email for all communications).

In other cases we might have a well optimised technology that seems to be well designed for its purpose, but which hasn't achieved a high degree of ubiquity. Perhaps switching to a design perspective could reveal some small reason for low adoption? Perhaps we could tweak the design to achieve a stronger network effect? Or perhaps it doesn't fit effectively with some aspect of the community (issues to do with collegiality, standards, protocols).

First draft for the student design competition

After Christmas, I will be running a design compeition for students, with big prizes (see below) and an exciting awards ceremony. This is the first draft of the brief for the competition. If you are interested, or have any feedback, please leave a comment at the end of this article. Thanks.

Learning is Design 2012, a design competition for students (Spring term 2012) brief:

Create a fully documented “design proposal” for a an innovative new product, service, technique, technology or community. The design must in some way enhance teaching and/or learning in higher education (taking Warwick as the principal context, but applicable more widely). For example, you could design a web application that helps with essay writing. Or alternatively, you could design a community platform that encourages good practice in peer-to-peer students support. Or perhaps you might redesign the lecture theatre, a department, a faculty or the entire university!

In the proposal, you must explain:

  • the aim of the proposed design;
  • who it will benefit;
  • what the benefits will be;
  • how it will work;
  • how it could be implemented (a plan, with realistic economic and personal costs);
  • how it would be sustained over a reasonable life span.

You must also demonstrate (with evidence) that:

  • it will significantly enhance teaching and/or learning;
  • it will be adopted by students, teachers, administrators (where appropriate);
  • that you have engaged with your target “audience” and built a community of support for your proposal;
  • it is feasible.

Finally, you must excite the imaginations of the judges (slightly jaded HE and design professionals)!

There are four prizes:

Best overall design - £500
Best participatory design event or campaign (live or online) - £500
Best design story (e.g. a realistic narrative about an end user and how the design will change their lives) - £100
Best individual contribution – a placement opportunity with a leading regional media company.


You have full access to the facilities and support that are available from the IATL Media Suite (iMacs, video cameras, etc). We will also provide training workshops in design methods and multimedia production.