WORKFLOW VISUALIZATION
of adaptable instructional models



context for the
workflow visualizations
The workflows on this site come from an online section of a course titled Human Abilities and Learning - HAL Online.


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Workflow Visualization...

...is a method and a conceptual tool for building visual models of adaptable instruction (i.e., lessons, units, seminars, or workshops) for sharing and research. The method consists of a collection of designed icons, each with a specific meaning, along with rules for assembling them into a representation of a planned lesson. The method and tool are inspired by workflow modeling techniques used in business and applied science and information design principles, such as described in the work of Edward Tufte.

Designed icons provide visual cues that help a viewer understand their meanings. For example, circles in a workflow visualization represent tasks; when combined with images of a generic 'person' figure and a book, a "student reads a textbook" task icon is the result. When the meaning of an icon is not apparent to a viewer, a workflow legend included with every visualization provides a definition. Additionally, tooltips will display a definition or give an explanation or instruction for most elements.

Start Goals
The pop-up displays a list of lesson goals. For example:

Goals
1) To understand and use basic terms and concepts from brain research as a foundation for future learning, discourse and thinking in this course and beyond.
2) To be able to discuss the relationship between brain development, environment, and learning in early childhood.
3) To apply knowledge from brain research, in combination with knowledge about argumentation, language and thinking from Unit I of this course, to make evidence-based judgments about claims made by advocates of brain-based education.
Instructions
The pop-up displays written instructions for an activity, for example:

'Study Brain Research?' Forum
Use this forum to develop arguments either supporting or challenging the following statement: "The study of brain research is important and should be part of the college curriculum for all teachers and parents because it provides them with valuable insights and useful knowledge." Elaborate your ideas with specific examples and ideas inspired by our readings and personal or professional experience.

(Instructions usually appear in a sub-workflow.)
branch Read
The pop-up displays information about the reading assignment, for example:


The blue icon in the upper-left corner is an input icon. All input icons are square, blue, and have an arrow pointing at the input image within the square. In this case the input is a chapter from a textbook, which is specified by the text next to the icon. If a user places the cursor tip on the icon (in an actual workflow), a tooltip will open that defines the icon and/or provides instruction; for example, click on the icon to open a copy of the reading.
Video
The pop-up displays information about the video task, for example:


The input for this task is a video played from a website. The output icon. is square, red, and has an arrow pointing out from the image. Here the output is compliance data - who accessed the video and how many times. Clicking on each group name produces their graph, and there is also a link that allows the user to download the compliance data.
merge Analysis
The user must click on the icon to open a sub-workflow in a new window, for example:


The sub-workflow in this new window contains tasks that are specific to the parent task (in this case, a small group analysis). Moving the cursor over an icon displays information specific to that icon in the info box below the sub-workflow. In this example information about the discussion task is displayed; specifically a link to the micro-workflow (which displays data about the activity of individual students and small groups). Moving the cursor tip across the row of input and output icons causes different information to be displayed. Often that information includes hyperlinks to additional information.
Assessment
This window displays links to examples of lessons assessments, the grading rubric, and sample posts.


In an actual workflow visualization, a user would click on the example icons to see images of instructor feedback of see the scoring rubric used for forum discussions. The icon in the lower right-hand corner is a download button; the user gets a copy of the scoring rubric and examples of student work.
Stop
A workflow visualization reveals additional layers of information - how a lesson task is to be done, by whom, using what resources, resulting in what outcome; and assessment of the outcome - when a user mouses-over or clicks on a task icon. (Try the model -->)

In education, a workflow must also account for the fact that the intended (solid lines) and actual flow of work may deviate (along dashed-line routes) because students often revisit tasks and repeat sections of the workflow in the process of learning. Students' actual workflows are also represented as micro-workflows.

Micro-workflows display the actual workflows of individual students and interactions among group members.


Individual students activity (i.e., when they accessed a resource or made a contribution to a discussion)are plotted as icons on a "music score" of timelines . In an actual micro-workflow additional information pops up when a user places the cursor tip on icons. The Symbols Legend in the header provides a drop-down list with the definition of every icon. When a user mouses over a resource icon (i.e., the projector or web page icon) the date and time the student accessed the resource is displayed. Mousing over a numbered oval pops open the student's post to a discussion. Date, time, title, relative position within a discussion, and text are displayed. Unique threads are designated with different colors.
Each workflow visuallization includes a Unit Workflow that shows the order of lessons. Navigate to a model lesson by clicking on its circle in the unit workflow below, or click on the 'WORKFLOW VISUALIZATIONS' button above and select a lesson from the drop-down list.

The Amazing Learning Brain Part I: Children's Thinking



As you navigate the workflows, keep in mind: (1) additional layers of information are revealed by mouse-overs and clicking icons; (2) tooltips will pop up with explanations and instructions; and (3) the WORKFLOW LEGEND button in the header of each lesson workflow provides a brief description of each icon in the workflow.
more about workflow in
business and science
WORKFLOW is a concept closely related to the design or reengineering of business and information processes, e.g., a loan application or online shopping (Ludäscher et al., 2005).
In a broad and multi-leveled sense a workflow expression is the diagrammatic result of "capturing" the workings of a system from beginning to end.
(more...)
workflow in business and science
Two broad versions of a standard definition of workflow emerge from the literature :

A business-oriented definition:
Georgakopoulos, Hornick, and Sheth, (1995) describe a business-oriented workflow as "...a collection of tasks organized to accomplish some business process, performed by one or more software systems, one or a team of humans, or a combination of these. In addition, a workflow defines the order of task invocation, task synchronization, and dataflow."


Online shopping is an example of a business workflow that can be described with a workflow expression - tasks (i.e., add to cart, proceed to checkout, confirm order, confirm shipping, confirm payment, and place order) synchronized and invoked in a particular order by software systems (and humans) to accomplish a business process.

A science-oriented definition:
In the scientific community, greater value is placed on access to specialized tools or necessary registers of data that allow scientists to conduct sophisticated analysis or simulations from their desktop computers:
"…[the] user defines the process needed for problem solution as a flow of activities, each capable of solving a part of the problem...Resources that perform these activities are not necessarily located in the user's vicinity rather they are geographically distributed. This may enable the use of unique resources such as expensive measurement instruments or powerful computer systems." (Brandic et al., 2006).

A key feature that facilitates the ability of scientists' to conveniently put together and run their own scientific workflows is the notion of reuse (De Roure et al., 2008). Scientific workflow expressions are not simply digital data objects, they capture pieces of scientific process - they are valuable knowledge assets in their own right because they are graphical representations of "know-how" that is often tacit. Reuse can occur effectively at multiple levels: a scientist can reuse a workflow with different parameters and data, fragments and patterns of a workflow can be reused to support science outside their initial application, or they can provide a means of codifying, sharing, and spreading the workflow designer's practice.

The Promoter Identification Workflow (above), used to identify genes that share similar patterns of gene expression profiles, illustrates how workflows can be written at various levels of detail and elements can be expanded to reveal more information about the system - an important concept in our work.

Educational environments share features with both business and scientific environments; for example, the synchronization of tasks to accomplish a goal from business, and from science, an interest on how data is acted upon and modified as it passes through the workflow.
[REFERENCES]
Brandic, I., Pllana, S., and Benkner, S. (2006). Amadeus: A holistic service-oriented
environment for grid workflows. Proceedings from the 5th International Conference on Grid
and Cooperative Computing Workshops , October 21-23, Changsha, Hunan, China.
De Roure, D., Goble, C., and Stevens, R. (2009) The design and realization of the
myexperiment virtual research environment for social sharing of workflows Future
Generation Computer Systems , 25(5), 561-567.
Georgakopoulos, D., Hornick, M., and Sheth, A. (1995). An overview of workflow
management: From process modeling to workflow automation infrastructure. Distributed
and Parallel Databases , 3, 119-153.
Ludäscher, B., Altintas, I., Berkley, C., Higgins, D., Jaeger, E., Jones, E.A., Tao, J.,
and Zao, Y. (2005). Scientific workflow management and the Kepler system. Concurrency
and Computation: Practice and Experience , 18(10), 1039-1065.
faqs
- How do I open a workflow representation?
- How do I find the meaning of an icon?
- How do I see additional information or data about the workflow?
how to open a workflow representation
On the Home page there are two ways to open an initial workflow. One is to click on the 'workflow representations' button and select a lesson from the drop-down menu:



The other is to click on the circle that marks the lesson on the unit workflow at the bottom of the page:






On a workflow page the unit workflow serves two functions: 1) The current workflow is highlighted; and 2) clicking on any other circle takes you to the corresponding lesson's workflow representation:
how to find the meaning of an icon
Each workflow representation has a legend that defines the icons and symbols used. The legend is accessed by clicking on the 'workflow legend' button at the top of the page.
NOTE: This button is not on the Home page; it only appears in the navigation bar of workflow pages.

The drop-down box includes: 1) A link to a legend of Map Elements (see below); 2) a list of descriptions for all task elements that appear in the main workflow; and 3) a list of descriptions for all task elements that appear in a sub-workflow (which opens when you expand a task in the main workflow- in this instance the Analysis icon).

The legend of map elements (below) provides descriptions of all of the lines and dots and icons that connect tasks in the workflow representation.


For some icons (usually input or output icons) the descriptive name of the icon pops up when the cursor is hovered over the icon.
how to view additional information
There are two ways that additional information or data is revealed in the workflow representations. In some cases information appears automatically in the form of tooltips when the cursor is passed over an icon or map element. These tooltips take two shapes; the traditional "yellow box" tooltip (demonstrated to the left with the clock icon) that displays a small amount of text data, or a "smart" tooltip that may contain, text, graphics, and links to still more information.


An example of a smart tooltip can be seen in the illustration to the right.

The second way to access additional information is to click on an icon to expand it in an overlay (such as this FAQ window) or a new browser window (illustrated below). Overlays are fixed in one position and can only be closed by clicking on the close button in the upper-right corner or by pressing the ESC key.
A browser windows may be moved, resized, minimized, or closed.

NOTE: Clicking outside of an active browser window has the effect of "hiding" it be the window you clicked on. If you re-click on the icon and nothing happens, it means the window is already open on your desktop.
library of workflow icons
Icons are designed to provide visual information for these categories of workflow representation elements: