The Journey of a Dimensions Leaflet

As a project in the second half of it’s official two year time frame, we have been been working on ways to embed and sustain outcomes; looking into ways of enabling Collaborate to affect the design of assessments without the support of the project team. Eventually this process will lead us to the production of a web based resource, a package of information designed to support staff with the design of new-generation assessments.

To accompany the online information, we have recently produced a ‘dimensions leaflet’, a physical resource that can be used as a tool to design a work-integrated assessment and to provide further information about the project.

For a long time, the project team having been talking about producing some sort of leaflet that contains information about the dimensions model and how to use it. The A3 sheets that we have been using with academics to plot modules onto and to design changes have worked well but we needed something that would be able to explain itself, something we could take to conferences, leave on tables, hand out to people.

To explain the process of producing such a leaflet, from conceptualisation to having 4 large boxes arrive full of shiny, new-smelling, fold out creations – we have to go back to the beginnings of the dimensions model.

The model began as a few scrawlings on a bit of notepad paper resulting from a very early project meeting. These scrawlings developed into the first dimensions model, a six point star. Containing four layers of information, the star represented the cross-institutional nature of the work ahead and did a good job of encapsulating what the project was about and who it involved. It is interesting to note at this point that technologies were embedded into the model from the start. They were also always presented as a bank of technologies to choose from, allowing disciplines and employers to engage with technology in a flexible way, selecting approaches that they felt comfortable with.

This brings us to leaflet prototype number one, an A5 booklet with the star as the centerpiece across the middle two pages. With a focus on partnerships and challenges, the booklet made for an appropriate start in the leaflet journey. Stars on the brain, the Collaborate team started to think of a more innovative format for the booklet. Perhaps the star could become the booklet itself? Consequently, the project team began to fold up little bits of paper in various ways.

Meanwhile, the dimensions model was evolving. The six points of the star turned into the six dimensions of Time, Audience, Problem / Data, Collaboration, Structure and Review. This time the model could be written on, used directly to map out assessments, plan changes and evaluate these changes.

Technology wise, the project team had been busy developing their ‘Technology Top Trumps’ cards designed to be used in conjunction with the model; to support the design and implementation of new assessments. At this point, the model was stabilizing in terms of design and the bank of technologies were being put into an accessible format. The time had come to start thinking about a leaflet again and to include the ‘Top Trumps’.

Leaflet version two was another A5 leaflet, with the dimensions model in the middle. However, this time, the leaflet became interactive as we used ‘Layar’ to augment our print. The project team had been experimenting with augmented reality and had decided that it would be a great way to keep a leaflet up to date as we could update the digital information whilst keeping the print as it was. It also enabled us to provide more information about the project without overcrowding the leaflet.

Leaflet two was deemed a success at a steering group meeting although we were still holding onto ideas of a more interesting format. An A5 booklet didn’t seem exciting enough despite the interactive element, which had received good feedback. The information and ideas contained within the leaflet were innovative and we wanted the format to reflect this.

This is where Z-CARD came in. One of the project team had come across a style of leaflet that folded up into panels and sat in between two outside cards. It was a credit card sized item that could be folded out into a larger sheet of paper when needed. It hadn’t been thrown away as it was a sleek, compact little leaflet that easily fitted into a wallet and was fun to open up. We started to wonder whether we could turn our dimensions leaflet into something like that.

This marked the beginning of many ‘origami’ sessions in which we started to try and imagine how the dimensions model and top trumps could be presented in a similar style. Through folding a lot of paper into panels, drawing all over it, rewriting text, getting to grips with InDesign and experimenting with colours, we arrived at a final (sort of) design. Another element of the leaflet that we grappled with was the augmented reality side of things that we had trialled in a previous version of the leaflet. We wanted to include this and had to bear in mind how the digital information would work in relation to the print.

After making our own mock-up version, in order to get a real feel for what the outcome would be, we contacted Z-CARD and began the process of emailing designs back and forth, finally arriving at a stage where all that was left to do was to wait for the delivery. The very next day, after receiving our little leaflets, they were put to use. We were able to distribute them at this year’s Assessment in Higher Education Conference held in Birmingham and at a number of other conferences attended by Collaborate soon after that.

So far, our z-cards have proved an effective way of introducing the project to people and as a way of consolidating information explained verbally. The credit card design encourages people to keep hold of the leaflet; to pop it into their wallet or pocket rather than throwing it away. As the leaflet is designed to be written upon; used as the tool for redesigning an assessment, it is personalised by the user and becomes a working document.

If you like the sound of our dimensions leaflet and would like to use one to map out an assessment, to introduce the dimensions model to someone else or simply to have a look at, please contact a member of the project team.

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