Posted by: Gillian | June 15, 2011

Visual learning goals and outcomes

Just as I was contemplating the events of the past week, Erik Duval popped up on Twitter with a link to his blog on visual portrayal of goals. I was contemplating the idea of requiring all engaged in higher and professional education create a one page diagram of what they have achieved as they reach each learning milestone (degree, certificate, personal objective, etc) so that other people can more easily see how an individual set of knowledge and skills aligns with whatever it is they (as employers or senior academics) want.

While goal-driven diagrams may be very useful to individuals, I would usually argue that from an individual’s perspective the diagrams must be capable of being scrubbed out and redrawn with new targets. After all, how do you know when you set yourself a goal what you will discover on the way that will require further exploration and possibly cause you to abandon your first goal? Employers and providers of tightly structured degrees/certificates are unlikely to be comfortable with that when their aim is to develop a defined skill-set or achieve a certain pass rate but that tension is always there and there is nothing to stop anyone having two goal-based diagrams.

More interesting, perhaps, is the idea of an individual’s outcomes-achieved diagram. That could help the broad-curriculum liberal arts student show where cohesion and a sense of direction exist. It could help the focused academic explain briefly to a non-specialist how their knowledge relates to a job application. It company-standard colour coding was used, it could help a work-based mentor or HR professional quickly to spot learning gaps or to spot where outlying strengths could be developed. It will no doubt be argued that cvs/resumes and HR systems already do all that. Perhaps. Which would you rather wade through: 300 academic cvs or 300 single-page diagrams? As a lifelong learner, which is more useful to you: your cv or a diagram that gives an overview of what you have achieved and the links between the various outcomes?


  1. Seems like there is a problem with the link you provided to my blog: the “:” after “http” is missing. That is why I didn’t get notified of the trackback, so thanks for the tweet!

    I do agree with the importance of redoing the visualizations with your own data: that was an important topic at the #vizeurope meeting I covered in my blog.

    Would also be nice though if some of this can be done by machines – that is what we try to do with some of our ‘learning analytics’ related work…

    • Ooops! Sorry – I’ll go in and correct that and am pleased you made the link through. Yes, learning analytics is a great discipline with lots of potential for many. I guess I’m starting from the ‘quick-fix’ end for busy professionals while also trying to help students/learners take a more top-level and integrative approach to what they are doing. Rather than digging out a whole portfolio – or an academic resume about 36 pages long – a simple visual synthesis with which others from other walks of life can interact….

  2. I think you would love 😉 …

    • Thanks for the pointer 🙂 Having looked, I do like it – but am not sure I personally am that artisitic! Definitely a tool for people to try. Especially if standard mindmaps with neat links and lines and ‘order’ are either a mystery or just do not fit the brain.

  3. Hello Gillian! Here’s my updated site for your blogroll: (no longer listed at illegitimate degrees)

    After a two-year hiatus I’m back;)

    • Brilliant 🙂 I wondered where you had gone. Good to see you again.

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