Open Praxis vol. 8 issue 4
October-December 2016 OPEN PRAXIS
0 Editorial board Hemlata Chari, University of Mumbai, India Gangappa Kuruba, University of Botswana, Botswana Thomas P. Mackey, SUNY Empire State College , New York , United States Alan Tait , The Open University, United Kingdom Belinda Tynan, RMIT University , Melbourne, Australia Joel Warrican , University of the West Indies, Barbados Yang Zhijian, Open University of China (OUC) , China
INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL FOR OPEN AND DISTANCE EDUCATION
Open Praxis is a peer-reviewed open access scholarly journal focusing on research and innovation in open, distance and
flexible education. It is published by the International Council for Open and Distance Education—ICDE
The aim of Open Praxis is to provide a forum for global collaboration and discussion of issues in the practice of
distance and e-learning.
Open Praxis welcomes contributions which demonstrate creative and innovative research, and which highlight
challenges, lessons and achievements in the practice of distance and e-learning from all over the world.
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Table of Contents
Introduction to Open Praxis volume 8 issue 4
Pedagogical framing of OER—The case of language teaching
Linda Bradley, Sylvi Vigmo
Web Strategies for the Curation and Discovery of Open Educational Resources
Student Assessment of Quality of Access at the National Open University of
Juliet Obhajajie Inegbedion, Folorunso Israel Adu, Christine Yetunde Ofulue
Role of Faculty Development Forums in Virtual Teaching Environment:
A Case Study of Marketing Research & Case Group
Rizwan Saleem Sandhu, Sajid Hussain
Innovative practice articles
Building Capacity for Open and Distance Learning (ODL) in West Africa
Sub-region: The Pivotal Role of RETRIDAL
Clifford Amini, Oluwaseun Oluyide
Teaching Project Management on-line: lessons learned from MOOCs
Rita Falcao, Luis Fernandes
Book review of Minds Online: Teaching Effectively With Technology
Book review of Developing Adaptive and Personalized Learning Environments
Jason R Ward
Introduction to Open Praxis volume 8 issue 4
Editor for Open Praxis. Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia - UNED (Spain)
This last Open Praxis issue in 2016 is an open issue that includes four research papers, two
innovative practice papers and two book reviews. Open Praxis, a peer-reviewed open access scholarly
journal focusing on research and innovation in open, distance and flexible education, publishes
contributions which demonstrate creative and innovative research, and which highlight challenges,
lessons and achievements in the practice of distance and e-learning from all over the world. In this
issue, 14 authors from Sweden, United Kingdom, Nigeria, Pakistan, Portugal and the United States
of America have contributed to the different sections.
As a novelty from now on, Open Praxis will include authors’ ORCID identifiers. As stated in the
“ORCID provides a persistent digital identifier that distinguishes you from every other researcher and,
through integration in key research workflows such as manuscript and grant submission, supports
automated linkages between you and your professional activities ensuring that your work is recognized”
Open Praxis will include authors’ ORCID ID in each paper and metadata; once the paper is published,
authors will be able to link their Open Praxis paper from their ORCID profile, using the CrossRef
Metadata Search. Past, current and potential future Open Praxis authors are invited to join the
ORCID community (https://orcid.org/register) and to include their ORCID ID in their Open Praxis
Coming back to the content of this issue, the research papers section begins with two papers
related to open educational resources (OER). The first one, by Linda Bradley and Sylvi Vigmo
(Pedagogical framing of OER - The case of language teaching), analyze the case of Lektion.se, a
Swedish repository of OER, and focus on teachers’ participation in it, specifically for the subjects
Swedish as a Second Language and Swedish for Immigrants (thus, OER for language learning).
The findings identify drivers and barriers for sharing OER, related to aspects such as the structure
of the repository itself or the lack of awareness of the full implications of OER.
Vivien Rolfe writes the second paper on OER; in her study, entitled Web Strategies for the Curation
and Discovery of Open Educational Resources, presents an impact and sustainability analysis some
years after a series of OER projects were developed in the UK. In the case of De Montfort University,
they opted for using Wordpress and SEO techniques for hosting OER and making them discoverable.
The paper details the technological aspects and results in this particular case, and reflects about
its effectiveness providing practical insight and recommendations to readers interested on sustainable
OER web distribution.
The contribution by Juliet O. Inegbedion, Folorunso I. Adu and Christine Y. Ofulue, Student
Assessment of Quality of Access at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), analyzes
students’ perspective about admission and registration processes that they face when they want to
access to NOUN study programmes. After introducing the history of NOUN and its commitment with
providing higher education for all, the authors study the quality of the access processes, which can
facilitate the fulfilment of the university mission. The findings show what students find more and
less clear and useful, providing guidance to the institution for improvement of access to NOUN.
The last research paper by Rizwan Saleem Sandhu and Sajid Hussain (Role of Faculty
Development Forums in Virtual Teaching Environment: A Case Study of Marketing Research & Case
Group) reports on the contribution of a faculty forum to professional development and capacity
building of participants. The experience, where faculty present, listen, read, share, discuss, etc. in
the forums, is valued by for the development of teaching skills in virtual environments. The authors
report on the effectiveness of this modality for capacity building.
The innovative practice paper section opens with another contribution related to professional
development and capacity building; Clifford Amini and Oluwaseun Oluyide (Building Capacity for
Open and Distance Learning (ODL) in West Africa Sub-region: The Pivotal Role of RETRIDAL)
describe and value the experience of the Regional Training and Research Institute for Distance and
Open Learning (RETRIDAL), which develops different workshops and research in order to build a
network of expertise in ODL in the region. The effort and impact of this centre are highlighted in the
Finally, Rita Falcao and Luis Fernandes (Teaching Project Management on-line: lessons learned
from MOOCs) explore various MOOCs as a way of identifying appropriate teaching methods and
strategies to introduce in their online courses about the same topic (project management). The
benchmarking and meta-analysis of MOOCs has facilitated the design of an e-learning course that
includes innovative elements and a student-centered approach; the process the authors have
followed is narrated in the paper.
Finally, the issue includes a review by Nathan Sand of the book Minds Online: Teaching Effectively
With Technology, published in 2014; and a review by Jason R. Ward of the book Developing
Adaptive and Personalized Learning Environments, published in 2016. Both books are of interest
for open and online teaching.
In this issue last issue in 2016, we specially thank all the reviewers who have collaborated in the
four issues that compose volume 8. Their names and affiliations are listed in the full issue and in
the journal website (http://openpraxis.org/index.php/OpenPraxis/pages/view/reviewer).
Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Pedagogical framing of OER—The case of language teaching
Linda Bradley & Sylvi Vigmo
University of Gothenburg (Sweden)
This study investigates what characterises teachers’ pedagogical design of OER, and potential affordances
and constraints in pedagogical design in an open education practice, when contributing to a Swedish repository
Lektion.se. The teachers’ framing of the OER shared on the repository included the analyses of a delimited
number of OER for learning Swedish. The analytical work with analysing what characterised the OER, was
followed up with teacher interviews to explore teachers’ incentives for sharing. The OER selected for analysis
were investigated linked to the features given in the repository, to identify what distinguished different categories
of OER when framed by the teachers. The OER displayed a continuum of ways of framing an activity, though
the majority was represented by low levels of description, which afforded less guidance. The teachers
expressed a positive attitude towards sharing. The findings suggest that OER need to be defined and supported
by web features to enable going beyond reuse.
The development of Web 2.0 has led to new arenas for learning in which participation and contribution
have a prominent position (Drotner, 2008; Dohn, 2009). Part of this development has been the
increased databases of online materials for learners in general, and of particular interest for this
paper the vast possibilities brought forth for teaching and learning activities in terms of online open
access. What these potential transforming conditions can bring to education, are still under scrutiny
from different perspectives and with challenging and critical questions. Open educational practice
(OEP) and Open Educational Resources (OER) are such areas, commonly referred to as movements
or initiatives. OER have not been as adopted in teaching and learning practice as first assumed
when the concept was introduced at the UNESCO conference in 2002 where OER were defined
as “educational resources that are freely available for use, reuse, adaptation, and sharing” (Nikoi
& Armellini, 2012, p. 166). Similarly, Pawlowski and Bick (2012) explain OER as “freely accessible
resources for educational purposes” (p. 209). A great deal of what is posted in online learning
repositories is created by teachers to be used with students, in the classroom as well as online
(Clements & Pawlowski, 2012; McGreal, 2011).
To be able to define implications of OER, Wiley (2014) developed the so-called 5Rs framework
(retain, reuse, revise, remix, re-distribute). The framework describes the following rights for access
to materials: retain (the right to make, to own and control copies of content), reuse (in a wide range
of ways), revise (adaptation, making adjustments, modifications and alterations), remix (combinations
with the original or revised content with other open content, thereby making something new such as
for example a mashup), and finally, re-distribute (sharing the new content with others) (Wiley, 2014).
This paper aims to scrutinise a repository of OER from the point of view of what characterises
teachers’ pedagogical design of OER in an open education practice and what the affordances and
constraints are in teachers’ pedagogical design in the sharing of OER. To date, there is little research
concerning teachers’ pedagogical design of OER and the potential implications of pedagogical
foundations for OER which is the overarching interest of this study.
The focus in our study is the Swedish repository of OER, Lektion.se, which is well-known in the
Swedish teacher community1. The teachers’ uploading and sharing of learning activities and rationale
for participation will be explored. The number of teachers who actively contribute by sharing their
OER in the repository is low, however, when compared to the number of members in Lektion.se.
In the light of escalating migration, Swedish as a Second Language (SAS) and Swedish for
Immigrants (SFI) are two subjects which are becoming increasingly important. With this as a point
of departure, we argue it is of interest to shed light on teachers’ conditions for contributing and
sharing OER in an online space designed specifically for teachers. The focus on Swedish for
Immigrants (SFI) and Swedish as a Second Language (SAS) will serve as an example, due to its
increased societal interest and potential interest on a more generic level linked to implications of
the escalated migration. The number of posted OER to these two subject areas is low, which also
reflects the state of OER in other subjects in this repository.
To address the conditions for pedagogical design of OER by the community of teachers in the
Swedish repository, Lektion.se, the following research questions were developed:
1. What characterises teachers’ pedagogical design of OER in open education practice, when digitally mediated on the repository Lektion.se?
2. What are the potential affordances and constraints in pedagogical design in teachers’ sharing of OER on the repository Lektion.se?
Framing the concept of OER
While it can be said that MIT introduced open educational materials in 2001, we have still not
reached a shared understanding of how to conceptualise OER, and the ”fuzzy” concept is still being
negotiated (Pawloski & Bick, 2012; Nikoi & Armellini, 2012). Tuomi (2013) argues we must ”provide
a more detailed picture of the conditions of openness and the nature of open resources” (p. 60) to
be able to discuss what OER can imply for learning. Furthermore, it is argued that OER could have
an impact on the transformation of education, and could bring about “new forms of collaboration
and production” (Tuomi, p. 73), together with “calls for a paradigm shift” for OEP (Nikoi & Armellini,
2012, p. 167). This in turn could ensure the development of high-quality OER as well as stimulate
Expectations have been high, but not yet been reached when it comes to adopting OER in
education (Pawlowski & Bick, 2012). Concerning the impact on higher education, it has been argued
that the value of OER is yet to be clarified, and there are issues in need of being addressed for
OER to have an impact on education (Nikoi & Armellini, 2012). We have still not “reached a critical
threshold” (2012, p. 167). In addition to this discussion, in order to understand OER we need to
move from the current state as a “descriptive, prescriptive, and often speculative” perspective
With respect to OER as part of the learning process when linked to the UNESCO definition, Blythe
(2014) suggests that learning is a “process that requires editable, digital materials in keeping with
the complex and dynamic nature of learning and teaching” (p. 662). Moreover, education is discussed
as closed or open, which in turn indicates different approaches to learning and teaching materials.
While a closed system implies traditions characterised by printed material, spaces for learning
confined to classrooms and the focus of learning as knowledge as packaged into discrete units that
are transmitted. Open education, on the other hand, is based on quite different assumptions. Open
education assumes learning as creation in collaboration with others, including open digital materials
that can be easily adapted to contextual conditions and requirements (Blythe, 2014, p. 662). Referring
to Weller (2010), the granularity of OER is explained as part of a continuum, in which we can find
large- and small-scale OER. The first can be exemplified with an online university course at one
end of the line and with a lesson plan on the other end (Blythe, 2014). Similarly, Pawlowski and
Bick (2012) referring to Pirkkalainen and Pawlowski (2010), also define OER as sharing “instructional/
didactic designs and experiences” of lessons, besides more physical artefacts such as textbooks
Some issues concerning OER remain unresolved for researchers and according to Wiley, Bliss,
and McEwen (2014) there are five remaining challenges that need to be tackled: metadata to enable
OER search, sustainability linked to costs, imbalance between subjects, and addressing contextual
aspects and remixing. Regarding the latter issue, Wiley, Bliss and McEwen (2014) suggest that
there is little empirical evidence that users are engaged in more than reusing.
From a specifically critical focus on the OER movement in higher education, Knox (2013) has
reviewed current literature to investigate what foundations were given for encouraging OER and
what views of learners were being implicitly assumed of relevance for teaching and learning. The
findings indicate that there is a general lack of pedagogical rationale and theoretical framework
connected to OER. Besides arguing for a critical exploration of the OER movement, Knox proposes
the need for a critical exploration of the rationale for OER in higher education, research on the role
of pedagogy, which tends to be overlooked when OER are connected to self-directed learning, as
well as focusing on pedagogical implications of OER in education (Knox, 2013).
Transforming conditions for teaching and learning
During the last decades, research on teaching and learning on digitally mediated sites has received
a great deal of attention, pointing in particular to questions of what potential consequences digital
technologies may have on educational practices. Their transforming dimensions as cultural tools
(Säljö, 2010) have been argued to bring social implications (Erstad, 2011) and are not easily
compared with previous development of technologies.
Human action as situated in social practices and the development and appropriation of technologies
lead to a “performative nature of learning” according to Säljö (2010, p. 61). In a similar vein, Jenkins,
Clinton, Purushotma, Robison and Weigel (2006) framed a participatory culture that described how
the affordances of digital tools enable ways of producing content, which increasingly have involved
collaboration, co-authoring, publishing and sharing material online as part of social practices (Bradley
& Vigmo, 2013; Godhe, 2014). This also points to an increased focus on collaborative dimensions
of learning that depart from interests in learning as part of human social practices (Säljö, 2010;
Ludvigsen, Lund, Rasmussen & Säljö, 2011; Vygotsky, 1978).
As a consequence of learning about digital media as contextual and not being neutral, it follows
that learners’ engagement can be seen as part of “cultural forms”. Websites are designed according
to certain “rhetorics” that can for example offer opportunities to link to other sites, to navigate in
special ways, and offer various ways of user interaction (Buckingham, 2006, p. 265). Similarly, from
a sociological perspective, Selwyn (2011) points to the over optimistic expectations, or
“technoromantic” views of what technologies per se will add to a learning situation, and argues there is
cause to adopt a more critical stance towards the uses of technology in educational contexts. The
critique is directed towards a general rhetoric not departing from realistic uses of technology in
practice. In the above sections we have displayed how pedagogical issues have been conceptualised
to indicate some of the argued transforming conditions for teaching and learning, contextualised as
social and collaborative activities.
The next section discusses pedagogical rationales as they are framed in research on OER, in
particular in relation to language teaching and learning.
Focused studies on OER in language learning and teaching
We now turn to some recent empirical studies to illustrate findings of OER research in language
learning and teaching.
Though sharing and reuse can be argued to have been part of previous practices, the creation
and sharing, and reuse of activities can now be done much more easily under different conditions
with web resources. In spite of this, OER have not been widely adopted by teachers and the reuse
and sharing have not been visible enough for teachers, indicating difficulties with access, and
therefore leading to a low uptake (Beaven, 2013).
LORO2 was developed as a resource with the aim of creating a repository for language learning
and teaching online and from a distance, with over 700 resources for six languages (Beaven,
Comas-Quinn & Sawhill, 2013; Comas-Quinn & Fitzgerald, 2013). Findings from studying LORO
indicated that the repository was used for finding resources, for inspiration and for ensuring a more
standardised teaching practice. Furthermore, it was found that time for development of teaching
practices, an increase in their confidence, the appreciation of having colleagues’ feedback on own
uploaded resources and increased quality of teaching material, were of importance, as teachers
would prepare and choose their best work for sharing (Comas-Quinn & Fitzgerald, 2013). Of
particular interest was that pedagogy is “embodied in the open resources available” and that this,
according to the language teachers led to “experimentation, collaboration and discussion”
(ComasQuinn & Fitzgerald, 2013, p. 5).
In a study with the intention of combining an interactionist perspective on learning with a
constructivist one, language learning was explored as “working ‘with’ language” (Dixon & Hondo,
2013, p. 111). This descriptive study involved an online resource for learning German, Deutsch
Interaktiv, framed as a self-paced resource offered for free. This online resource is described as a
programme, mainly addressing receptive language learning activities, that is listening and reading,
thus lacking social aspects of language in use. Regarding notions of OER, the perspective taken
in this study was the re-purposing of an online programme as an OER (Dixon & Hondo, 2013).
Openness in this study can be interpreted as open for integration of resources, rather than resources
being open in the sense implied in the 5R framework.
The iTILT project (interactive Technologies in Language Teaching) was investigated as an OER
that focused on the use of interactive whiteboards to encourage communication among language
learners together with their teachers who participated in training during a year (Whyte, Cutrim
Schmid, van Hazebrouck Thompson & Oberhofer, 2014). To investigate practices from an action
research perspective with 40 language teachers from classrooms in seven European countries,
more than 200 short videos were captured. Together with other training materials with comments,
the video clips were made available online. The aim was to investigate how OER can enhance open
practices in particular together with interactive whiteboards (Whyte et al., 2014). Based on findings
from previous research, teachers indicate several foci for continued development of the OER field;
quality assurance as one aspect linked to teacher education, pedagogical issues and teachers’
continued development (Whyte et al., 2014).
To summarise, the studies presented serve to exemplify how development and research have
addressed teaching practices, and explorations of resources in various teaching and learning
contexts. The research studies presented, demonstrate that some have adopted an evident
pedagogical framing, situating the uses of OER in an already developed structure aimed at teaching
and learning a language. The aims of these studies were to integrate present structures, but also
develop and extend the teaching and learning space by including other resources and links.
This section describes the data collected. Further, it displays the context, and how the analytical
processes were performed.
The study is based on teachers’ online postings and uploaded OER in Lektion.se, the largest
Swedish repository of OER with over 230 000 members, a majority being teachers since affiliation
to a school is among the prerequisites for membership. The Lektion.se repository hosts a vast
number of OER, approximately 27 000, representing all school subjects and levels. The present
study focuses on OER tagged by teachers either as Swedish as a Second Language (SAS) or
Swedish for Immigrants (SFI). At the point of designing the web site in 2004, the original intentions
from the creators were for teachers to easily connect with each other through an open educational
space Lektion.se used lektion (lesson) instead of OER3. The name Lektion.se would symbolise an
arena that teachers were used to in their daily practice.
On the web, Lektion.se promotes itself as a database with learning and teaching materials
produced by teachers for teachers; resources which can be accessed for free once being a member.
On the site, it is declared that teachers will be able to access thousands of tips and ideas for teaching
(translation from Swedish). Apart from OER, there are also other resources available such as a
teacher forum enabling social and collegial exchange, available job positions and an archive with
a selection of links and services for teachers.
The data consisted of posted OER during a delimited time period of three months from March to
May 2015. In total, 40 OER were shared under the two selected subjects, Swedish as a Second
Language and Swedish for Immigrants, covering the levels from Swedish primary to upper secondary
level. These OER were posted by 17 teachers, of which a majority only shared one OER, while the
most active teacher shared 8 contributions.
Further, interviews were made with participating teachers around the conditions of sharing in order
to increase the understanding of teachers’ engagement in sharing. All 17 teachers were contacted
through the mailing tool in Lektion.se and six volunteered to be interviewed. They were asked five
open ended questions regarding frequency in posting, reasons for posting, how the site was situated
in their teaching, their reasoning about why few teachers post OER, and other online resources
they used. The five questions were:
1) How often do you contribute by posting on Lektion.se?
2) Why do you contribute by posting on Lektion.se?
3) How do you use Lektion.se in your teaching?
4) There are many registered teachers on Lektion.se but only few contribute by posting; what do you think are the reasons for that?
5) What are some other online platforms you use in your work?
Through scrutinising specific areas within language learning, that is the examples of Swedish as a
Second Language and Swedish for Immigrants, a delimited representation was offered of the OER
posted on Lektion.se. The aim was to illustrate and exemplify a restricted number of OER with
concrete examples to enable an in-depth qualitative analytical perspective regarding teachers’
pedagogical design, and potential affordances and constraints of sharing OER in the context of
Lektion.se. Multiple rounds of analysis of OER were carried out to address the nature of the OER
When submitting an OER to Lektion.se, tagging is requested. There are a number of pre-selected
OER type options for the contributors to choose from in a drop-down list in alphabetical order in
Swedish such as assignment, article, discussion points, own research, help to students, group work.
However, it is also possible to enter a new key phrase if any of these types should not apply to the
OER in question. Further, according to the repository instructions, each posted OER should be
provided with a description of what it is about and how the OER has been used, by entering
information in a text field. This design enables the teachers to get an idea about the material before
downloading. The system accepts most file types; uploaded files are, however, automatically
converted into .pdf files. The incentive behind this procedure is that most people can open this file
format (Lektion.se, instruction video for teachers). However, assuming that not all teachers are
aware of this, there may be some constraints regarding editing, like revising and remixing according
to Wiley’s (2014) framework.
The OER in Lektion.se are constituted by information on the start page of the OER; Author
(Författare), Date (Datum), Subjects (Ämnen), Level (År), Lesson type (Lektionstyp) as well as the
description of the learning description (Beskrivning). On the top right, there is a link for downloading
the OER lesson (Ladda ner lektionsfil ).
Figure 1: The interface displayed on the start page of the OER How does it smell? (Hur luktar det?),
when clicking on an OER link where the information about the OER is presented.
The description (Beskrivning) is highlighted with the red square in the left column.
(See Table 1, Level 2 with a translation of the description into English).
Concerning the social media dimension (Figure 1) this particular OER has received 4 likes. This
feature also becomes visible when searching among “Popular lessons”, which provides the most
liked OER at the top of the list displayed as a result of a search. All 40 OER had likes (thumbs up)
from other participants for the OER. 12 had 1–9 likes, 20 had 10–19 likes, and 8 had between 20
and 50 likes. Due to lack of teachers discussions connected to the OER selected for our study, this
feature is not within the scope of the study. This could be a limitation, since no data was possible
to retrieve to address the research questions. Further, our data did not include the number of
downloads made for each lesson since they were regarded as not contributing to the interests of
the present study.
The combination of reading the instruction on the start page of the OER and then downloading
the OER lesson provides an interested teacher with information of the intended application of the
OER. Figure 2 shows the downloaded OER lesson from Figure 1 of choosing the right smell
connected to the drawn images.
Analysis and results
We categorised the OER provided by the teachers, from the point of view of descriptions of the
learning description for the OER (see red square around Beskrivning in Figure 1) and the chosen
OER type. The descriptions were scrutinised in-depth together with investigations of the pedagogical
design of the OER activity. Further, the results of the interviews are discussed.
Scrutinising pedagogical descriptions
In the instructions required by Lektion.se concerning sharing and uploading OER, teachers were
asked to describe “how the lesson has been used and what it is about” (translated from Swedish).
In other words, the only instructions given to the teachers indicate focusing on the application of
the OER in a learning context, together with attributed information about the objective of learning.
Investigating and analysing the teachers’ descriptions, resulted in OER ranging from providing
basic information to expanding on formulations to assist others in their potential reuse of the OER.
Analytically, we identified three levels of descriptions for the OER, (see Table 1). These descriptions
were also scrutinised concerning if or how they were related to other qualities of open other than
reuse, as described by Wiley (2014). The 5Rs were used to investigate whether the teachers’ design
could indicate affordances and constraints in the sharing of OER in this particular repository and
what was found as characteristic of the teachers’ pedagogical design of their OER.
Intended learning outcomes
A short work task where pupils get
words dealing with smell. The pupils
should also pair the right word with the
right image. SAS and possibly SFI.
Let the dice Each student will get a piece of paper They get to practice vocabulary,
decide! The with 6 squares. In each square there concord and prepositions. The
students will let the are six numbered alternatives. They more advanced students can
dice decide what choose environment with the dice. They write a story based on the
an image will look google images of objects that the dice twisted picture. They also
like. gives them. Then they draw the images practice fine motor ability by
on the paper, color them, and cut them elaborating a bit. There are
out. After that, they describe their image many suggestions of how to
orally or in text. Target group: SAS. collaborate, practicing
Table 1 displays three examples of OER with different levels of description. They are becoming
more and more elaborate, from providing a learning context only (Level 1), to providing a learning
context and learning instruction (Level 2), and finally providing learning context, learning instruction
and intended learning outcomes (Level 3). The examples under each level were translated from
Swedish (Level 2 in the table is displayed in Figure 1, description (Beskrivning).
In Level 1, only the Learning context is provided. In the example in Table 1, the teacher has
introduced the activity as Analysing a debate article and nothing more (OER posted 6 May, 2015).
Thus, the description to this exercise is neither giving any guide to other teachers nor opening for
other ways of appropriating the OER. This approach in describing the activity and learning context
was the most prominent among the 40 analysed OER, 19 belonging to this category (see Figure 4
below, which is attributed to Level 1).
In Level 2, the Learning context is complemented with a Learning instruction (see Table 1). This
particular example introduces an OER with the Learning context that “A paper with pictures of
images which smell differently” (OER posted 27 May, 2015). The following Learning instructions
accompany the Learning context with suggestions of how to apply the OER in the classroom “A
short work task etc. . . etc”. Writing a Learning instruction together with providing a Learning context
was represented by 10 out of the 40 posted OER.
The third example, Level 3, illustrates a more elaborated approach providing Learning context,
Learning instruction and Intended learning outcomes (See Table 1). The Learning context to the
OER Let the dice decide! (OER posted 20 May, 2015), opens up for ways of using the OER. Further,
Learning instructions describe the activity in detail, in terms of suggested procedures in the classroom.
Also, this example specifically mentions learning as situated in a classroom, i.e. also providing
intended learning outcomes. 11 of the 40 analysed OER were identified as Level 3, a more elaborated
pedagogical framing by the teachers.
Concerning the OER types, the most common representation and visualisation was text in
combination with images or fill-in exercises. 14 were pure text, 2 were videos and 2 PPT presentations.
Categorising the OER types in each of the 40 OER, the learning activities were; speaking (12),
writing (7), grammar (4), a combination of listening, reading and speaking (3), a combination of
writing, speaking, reading (3), word practice (3), culture (3), reading—vowels (2), mathematical
concepts in Swedish (2), language history (1).
In sum, when teachers share a more elaborated description of the pedagogical activities with the
downloaded OER activity: Learning context, Learning Instruction together with Intended learning
outcome it facilitates for other teachers to use the OER.
The analysis of the six interviewed teachers contributed to insights into the conditions around online
sharing of open teaching and learning resources. The views of the respondents were quite uniform
in terms of answers to the five questions identified in the interviews. Their reasoning contribute to
shedding some light on issues that need further research. To the first question, dealing with frequency
in posting, the outcomes of the interviews corroborate that there is a large number of members on
the site although few are engaged in posting OER. Generally, teachers are periodically involved.
However, one aspect raised by the respondents, who do share, is that teachers would like to give
others the advantage they have had in obtaining materials themselves.
To the second question of reasons for posting, the incentives for contributing are expressed in
terms of the environment being a supportive one where teachers appreciate getting feedback and
“likes” of work performed in an extended meeting space with colleagues also outside of the physical
space at work. An opportunity to get response from others is a strong driving force by those who
are active in sharing their resources. There is a notion that visualising what is done in a
sharingculture is a positive thing. Another reason for posting is to share ideas with other teachers of what
has worked in the classroom. This points to social and collegial dimensions of importance for
Concerning the third question of how using the site is situated in teaching, it is used as a bank
of ideas for teaching. Since the tool has a transparent search function when time is short between
classes, this assists in finding some activities for teachers. Another answer given is that when lacking
existing exercises within a certain area, it is possible to fill that gap by producing new exercises
and then sharing, which the respondents do.
To question four, reasoning about why few teachers post OER, lack of time or prioritising other
non-digital dimensions of teaching is one major reason. Another reason stated is that teachers might
be reluctant because they are uncertain about holding the right quality to be shared in an online
environment. The common understanding is that teachers will become more collaborative if they
just get past the threshold of being afraid of being critiqued. There is a lack of sharing culture as a
phenomenon as expressed in this quote from one of the interviewees:
“There is no sharing culture in our school; each and everyone is hiding in their office and refuses to show
WHAT s/he is doing. I have ONE colleague that I know of who uses Lektion.se but I don’t think that she
has shared anything yet. . . . but it’ll come :).”
Finally, a more cynical side is the proprietor aspect, i.e. that teachers may be unwilling to share
what they have invented.
In the fifth and final question about other online collaborative resources used in teaching apart
from Lektion.se, teachers mention other common digital channels such as social media and
videosharing, e.g. Facebook and YouTube. Once the border is crossed of starting to post online, the
respondents claim that it is much easier to continue, being more productive in sharing online.
Discussion and conclusion
In this study, we investigated what characterises teachers’ pedagogical design of OER in an open
educational practice, exemplified by Lektion.se, a web resource for teachers for sharing and reuse
of resources that are openly licensed. Our specific interest aimed at investigating a limited number
of OER created and shared for Swedish as a Second Language and Swedish for Immigrants on
this particular site. We drew on Wiley’s (2014) framework of OER to explore and demonstrate
affordances and constraints in teachers’ pedagogical design in OER. With our analyses of OER,
we suggest there are affordances with elaborated pedagogical framing of the OER on the site. A
less elaborated pedagogical design can constrain other teachers’ uses of the OER since they would
have little guidance in how to make use of the OER.
The site Lektion.se has a structure for uploading and sharing a resource that requires certain
information to be provided. In the analytical work, we found three levels of describing the OER, from
short descriptions of Learning context to longer ones of Learning instructions and even Intended
learning outcomes that opened up for other teachers to go beyond the twin concepts of share and
reuse (see Beaven, 2013). Though we identified three levels in our data, there were few examples
that were open for using and developing the OER in the way Wiley describes. This indicates that
there are teachers, although few in our data set, who developed a more open pedagogical design
in their descriptive and instructive comments to their OER.
The name of the site lesson is normally associated to activities indicating an educational space
and within a certain timeframe. As argued by Blythe (2014) and Pawlowski and Bick (2012) lesson
plans can be shared as examples of didactic designs and experiences from lessons on a micro
level. However, the lessons in the programme do not exclude learning online and distance,
synchronous or asynchronous as other aspects of pedagogical design, though these are seldomly
highlighted. The notion of lesson as essential to the rhetoric of the site Lektion.se, risks constraining
the mindset of participating teachers. This connects to Buckingham’s (2006) notion of websites
holding certain rhetoric in terms of what teachers are required to do for uploading and sharing. This
can be seen as an example of the movement of OER still being on a descriptive and prescriptive
level (Nikoi & Armellini, 2012). The automatic conversion to pdf-format in Lektion.se, can be a
constraining aspect, since we can assume that quite a few teachers are less aware of how this
format can be modified. The drawback of the decision to convert everything to .pdf could have been
explained earlier on the site since it severely limits the usability of material beyond reuse as lesson
plans (c.f. Wiley, Bliss & McEwen, 2014).
There is little awareness and no consensus of the definitions of the concepts of OER and, thus,
our findings also suggest that the participatory culture (Jenkins et al., 2006) is based on a restricted
definition of OER, to state only sharing and reuse. Most teachers in our limited scope of 40 OER,
shared only one resource, and the activities described were more traditionally framed and with a
clear tendency for text-based OER. However, judging by the relatively high number of “likes” given
to the investigated OER, this shows that participants on the site appreciated the OER. These results
can also be interpreted as reflecting existing teacher practices, and that development of and uptake
of OER should be seen as part of an inherently imperfect world (Selwyn, 2011). The need to balance
over optimistic assumptions of what OER can add needs to be included in the discussion and further
development of OER.
The lack of awareness of the underlying intentions with an OER in this kind of open practice can
become inhibiting, not for sharing as such perhaps, but for sharing OER that can be used by other
teachers (and learners) as resources that can be further developed and re-contextualised, as in the
5R framework (Wiley, 2014). The teachers themselves mention fear of not reaching quality standards
as one potential explanation for not sharing. The low number of contributing teachers may also
reflect a general collegial approach, as one characterised by a non-sharing culture. The limited
number of interviews should be interpreted with caution. It may, however, indicate that there are
practitioners’ sharing cultures that exemplify the need for investigating qualities in OER for language
learning and language teaching. Moreover, it can be argued to exemplify teachers’ critical stance
and caution towards over optimistic expectations of technology (Selwyn, 2011) as an actor of
Though presenting findings from a limited case study, we argue that the contribution to the
research within OER and language learning and teaching align with previous calls for more research
on pedagogy and design and the role of OER (Knox, 2013). The results from the case study
presented here, brings to the fore that there is a need to make explicit the pedagogical rationale
underpinning the uses of OER to teachers, to enable development of OER beyond reuse. Besides
defining the concept OER and what they imply for teaching practices, a repository needs to include
features that support more diverse contribution but also continue to address and further develop
This research was conducted within University of Gothenburg, The Linnaeus Centre for Research
on Learning, Interaction and Mediated Communication in Contemporary Society (LinCS), a national
centre of excellence funded by the Swedish research council.
Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Web Strategies for the Curation and Discovery of
Open Educational Resources
University of the West of England (United Kingdom)
For those receiving funding from the UK HEFCE-funded Open Educational Resource Programme (2009–
2012), the sustainability of project outputs was one of a number of essential goals. Our approach for the
hosting and distribution of health and life science open educational resources (OER) was based on the
utilisation of the WordPress.org blogging platform and search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques to curate
content and widen discovery.
This paper outlines the approaches taken and tools used at the time, and reflects upon the effectiveness
of web strategies several years post-funding. The paper concludes that using WordPress.org as a platform
for sharing and curating OER, and the adoption of a pragmatic approach to SEO, offers cheap and simple
ways for small-scale open education projects to be effective and sustainable.
Keywords: Open educational resources; OER curation; OER discovery; OER sustainability; Reuse; Search
engine optimisation; SEO
The HEFCE-funded Open Educational Resources (OER) Programme ran in the UK from 2009 to
2012 and was managed by Jisc and the Higher Education Academy (HEA), with around £12.5
million invested across three rounds of activity (Jisc, 2015a).
The HEA discipline subject centres led 25 projects, and 65 were managed by individuals and
Higher Education institutions. In reality, the involvement across the further- and higher education
sector was beyond that, with multiple institutions and groups participating in the subject centre
activity and as project partners. The pilot phase focused on boosting OER creation skills and
release, and the later phases aimed to further embed open practice in institutions. The UK OER
programme (UKOER) was part of a global movement of investment in open education innovation
provided by charitable foundations and governments, and a parallel tranche of activity has produced
guidelines and policy to support OER development at local level (Stacey, 2013).
To date, there have been few examinations of the activity and impact of UKOER projects in the
intervening years, and whether the diverse strategies for creating and sharing OER were effective?
The adoption of sustainable approaches was an important part of the funding criteria, in order to
“get the best value from the work that has been funded” and to provide longevity and “options for
sustainability after funding ceases” (UKOER Phase 3 Call – Jisc, 2015b). The ambitions of the
projects were varied in order to sustain their efforts, from changing institutional policy, establishing
intellectual property guidelines and open licensing policy, involving students and other partners in
co-creation, and/or integrating OER in curricula. One of the advantages of this programme was
oversight of the technological standards by the Centre for Educational Technology and Interoperability
Standards (CETIS). They encouraged an open approach to the use of technology that was very
much driven by the OER community rather than imposed upon them (Thomas, Campbell, Barker
COL – RETRIDAL Workshop on Quality Assurance in Higher
Education for the Gambia [Banjul – Gambia]
International Conference on Accreditation, Quality Assurance
and Recognition of Qualification in Africa [Nairobi – Kenya]
National Workshop Quality Assurance Mechanism in Single
and Dual Mode Higher Education Institutions in Nigeria
6 [Lagos – Nigeria]
Regional Training Workshop on “Quality Assurance
Mechanism for ODL Programmes” [Accra – Ghana]
Validation Workshop on Quality Assurance Framework for
Higher Education in the Gambia [Banjul – Gambia]
Capacity Building Workshop in Flexible and Blended
Approaches to Skills Development for TVET Institutional
Heads [Lagos – Nigeria]
COL – RETRIDAL Workshop on e-content Development for
e-learning Project Implementation for the Open University of
Tanzania [Bagamoyo – Tanzania]
E-learning Initiatives in Sierra Leone Higher Education
Institutions [Freetown – Sierra Leone]
E-learning workshop in Ghana [Accra – Ghana]
Instructional Design for Distance Education [Lagos – Nigeria] May-05
National Workshop on Instructional System Design, Content
Development and Evaluation for ODL [Abuja – Nigeria]
Regional Workshop on e-learning in Open and Distance
Learning system [Lagos – Nigeria]
RETRIDAL – COL sub-Regional Workshop on e-learning
strategy and Implementation Models [Yaoundé – Cameroon]
Train-the-Trainers Workshop on Instructional Design and
Instructional Multi-media Design [Lagos – Nigeria]
Workshop on Instructional System Design Development and
Evaluation for Open and Distance Learning [Lagos – Nigeria]
Workshop on Wiki-educator for staff of NOUN for Online
Content Development [Lagos – Nigeria]
Dual Mode Induction for Katsina State University [Katsina –
Induction Workshop for Kaduna Campus and Abuja Office
Induction Workshop for NOUN Senior Staff [Lagos – Nigeria] Jan-05
Regional Workshop on Developing and Writing Fundable
Research Proposals [Accra – Ghana]
Research Development in the Gambia [Banjul – Gambia]
Training Workshop ODL Research Methods & Tools for
Academic Staff of NOUN [Lagos – Nigeria]
First Sub-Regional Stakeholders Meeting [Lagos – Nigeria]
Distance Learning Dual Mode Delivery System [Lagos –
National Workshop on Tutoring and Management of Feedback Feb-12
in ODL [Abuja – Nigeria]
RETRIDAL – COL Workshop on Effective Learner Support
Systems in Open and Distance Learning [Lagos – Nigeria]
Note: * Local workshops are restricted to a single institution
Workshops organised outside the West African sub region are at the request of the host institution.
Workshops in the same category are often repeated for different categories of participants.
Participants are expected to replicate the training in their own institutions with monitoring and
mentoring from RETRIDAL. The impact of this is to be evaluated in a later study.
All workshops are evaluated using oral interviews and questionnaires to determine their efficacy
and tweak future workshops.
Workshops are at no cost to the participants.
RETRIDAL has also sponsored researches through the Commonwealth of Learning, which are
focused on aspects of Open and Distance Learning. These include:
RETRIDAL and ODL’s Future in West Africa
From the foregoing, RETRIDAL is undoubtedly the epicentre of ODL capacity building in the West
African sub-region. All indices point to the pivotal role of the ODL systems as the panacea for mass
education in Nigeria and in West Africa. Amini and Ndunagu (2014) painted a graphic picture of the
usefulness of the ODL system in meeting the Education for All (EFA) developmental goals in Nigeria
and in Africa. However, this requires building the capacity of relevant manpower to effectively
manage the ODL systems in order to achieve these important goals.
The question is how much impact RETRIDAL will make in the region given its efforts and what
the effects of RETRIDAL’s capacity building initiatives will be. It can be argued that the activities of
RETRIDAL in West Africa are leading higher education institutions to properly utilise the concept
and practice of Open and Distance Learning. Some universities in Nigeria are in their various stages
of going dual mode:
The Workshop on Tutoring and Management of Feedback in ODL held at Abuja, Nigeria on February
2012 was especially encouraging for Universities like Port Harcourt and Modibbo Adama, who have
set up a Directorate for Distance and e-Learning in their respective institutions as a direct result of
RETRIDAL has enhanced the true meaning and practice of the ODL system, which is vastly
different from the practice of part-time programmes in most universities in Nigeria. Outside the
shores of Nigeria, the University of Ghana, Legon, the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, have
indicated interest in streamlining their ODL system to conform to international best practices. The
Gambia Distance Learning draft policy was midwifed by COL through RETRIDAL. It may not be
easy to assess the success of the implementation of that policy as Gambia has pulled out of
the Commonwealth. All these are evidences of RETRIDAL’s effort at capacity building for ODL in
The future indeed is bright for ODL fruition in the sub-region. With the National Open University
of Nigeria graduating students in large numbers every year, there is a surge in students demand
for admission. That means more hands are needed to handle various aspects of ODL administration
and faculty delivery. Therein lies the central role of RETRIDAL –an institution for training and
research in Open and Distance Learning.
Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Teaching Project Management on-line: lessons learned from
Rita Falcao & Luis Fernandes
Universidade NOVA de Lisboa (Portugal)
Creating a course for teaching project management online in a full online distance-learning environment was
a challenge. Working with adult learners from different continents that want to complete a Master degree was
an additional challenge. This paper describes how different MOOCs were used to learn about teaching -(meta)
e-learning. MOOCs provide diverse opportunities for teachers to learn and innovate in e-learning. From the
analysis of 5 MOOCs in the broad field of project management we took important lessons on how to structure
contents, how to prepare complex assignments and, the most important lesson of all, how to help students
to learn. This paper describes our journey of learning from MOOCs how to be better online teachers.
Keywords: Problem based learning; e-learning; MOOCs; student-centered learning
Introduction to the challenge
Universidade NOVA de Lisboa has a fully online Master Degree on managing e-Learning Systems.
Most students are adult learners, coming from different parts of the world, mostly from Portuguese
speaking countries. In the 2015 edition, the programme was re-organized and a new teaching team
was assigned to the course “Education Projects Management”. The new teaching team, the authors
of this paper, was given complete autonomy to restructure the course around the following Learning
The student will be able to identify and understand basic concepts and structure of project
management in the educational context;
The student will be able to apply tools and techniques to develop an educational project, from
idea generation to finalization;
The student will be able to understand the specificities of project management in the context
The student will be able to identify, group and organize information structures hierarchically,
as well as to develop communication objects developed to disseminate information;
The student will get to know alternative approaches to project management, in particular
Project management is a useful transferable skill that learners can apply to their learning activities,
their profession and their personal life. Managing projects can be a very exciting and stimulating
job. However, learning about project management can be exactly the opposite: too technical and
bland. Students in this programme have different backgrounds and goals for the future. What they
have in common is that they are adult learners, and even though they consider project management
as a useful skill and an important tool, it is not their main interest.
In this context, the challenge we faced was mostly related with motivation: how do we teach
project management online, in an international context, in a way that is engaging and rewarding to
the learners and to the teachers? Some of the more specific questions we were facing were:
What is the best approach to teach a fully online course in project management?
What is the right balance between theory, knowledge and practical work?
How to make learning interesting and engaging but not overwhelming to the students?
How to support students so that they don’t fall behind or drop the course?
From the interpretation of the online learning continuum (Guàrdia, Maina, & Sangrà, 2013), in the
far right end we can find MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), classified as fully online distributed
learning, with complex and integrated use of ICT. Even though our goal was not to build a MOOC,
we wanted to build a fully online course that uses technology in an integrated way, to deliver learning
opportunities and to support students in their learning journey. For these reasons, we went to look
for answers to our questions in existing courses, mainly in MOOCs.
This paper focuses on the lessons learned from analyzing different MOOCs in the area of project
management. We consider this as being an innovative practice and perspective. MOOCs can be a
tool for “Massive Learning”, not only for students that want to learn about a topic but also for teachers
and trainers that want to learn about how to develop and deliver online learning. We can say it is
a type of meta-(e)Learning, as we are learning about e-learning through e-learning in practice.
Initial research and adopted pedagogical approach
With the challenge described above, we aimed at finding a student-centered approach to teaching
project management that was useful and meaningful to each student and took advantage of their
experiences. Most of our students are adult learners and we wanted to take advantage of their
different backgrounds to build an enriching experience for all.
Given the nature of the course, we decided to adopt a problem based-learning approach (PBL)
that allowed students to learn about project management, while doing a project—learning by doing.
As described by Barrows and Tamblyn (1980), PBL is the ideal approach when you want
studentcentered individualized learning that promotes both the acquisition of knowledge related with the
problem and the development and application of specific skills. This facilitates the integration of
knowledge and skills that students use to solving that problem. Another important aspect was that
the projects should be realistic and relevant for the students, instead of being chosen by the
teachers. This was, in our opinion a crucial factor to get students engaged with the work and be
able to reuse the process when trying to solve new problems. The four goals of PBL as described
by Barrows (1986) and adapted by Biggs (2007), are:
G1: Structuring knowledge for use in working contexts
G2: Developing effective reasoning processes
G3: Developing self-directed learning skills
G4: Increased motivation for learning
G5: Developing group skills, working with colleagues.
These goals are aligned with our idea for the course. We consider project management a set of
transferable skills that students should be able to take to professional lives and apply them in
different situations (G1). Project management is based on a structured process of making decisions
and acting accordingly, i.e. effective reasoning (G2). Our view for the course was that students
should learn-by-doing, taking hold of their learning, deciding every aspect of the project (G3).
Motivation was the most challenging aspect of learning about project management. Using a PBL
approach, with a strong a relevant practical component was the solution for this problem (G4).
Finally, being a full online course with an international cohort of students, developing collaboration
skills and networking is a desirable goal (G5).
PBL provided us with the theoretical framework and pedagogical approach. But we needed to
define the practical approach and tools for developing the course. We adopted the 7Cs of Learning
Design (Conole, 2014) as an instrument to guide us in the design and development of the course.
The framework consists of seven stages:
The first stage, conceptualize, was in part addressed above. We described the background, the
target audience, the LOs and the pedagogical approach. Still, we needed to go deeper in the
Our strategy was to research what was being done in e-learning in terms of project management.
As stated above, in the online learning continuum (Guàrdia et al., 2013) MOOCs are at the far end,
representing distance learning solutions fully online, highly dependent on ICT. These three features
were the same as our course. Given the proliferation of MOOCs in the last few years, their openness,
availability and diversity it was a logical decision to use them as a source for inspiration about
teaching project management online but, most of all, MOOCs represent an opportunity for learning
empirically about e-learning strategies, the “(meta)e-learning”. This option was reinforced by
literature. Guàrdia et al. (2013) have identified ten design principles for MOOCs from the learner
1. Competence based approach
2. Learner empowerment
3. Learning plan and clear orientations
4. Collaborative learning
5. Social networking
6. Peer assistance
7. Quality criteria for knowledge creation and generation
8. Interest groups
9. Assessment and peer feedback
These ten principles are aligned with our vision for the course, focusing on student-centred learning,
networking, collaboration, competence based learning and students as producers of knowledge.
So, for the conceptualize stage of the 7Cs, authors researched courses in the field of project
management in the main MOOC providers: Coursera and EdX.
The first step was to analyse courses addressing project management. We selected three courses:
“Project Management: The Basics for Success” by University of California in Coursera (University
of California, n.d.); “Introducción a la Gestión de Proyectos” by UPValencia in EdX (UPValenciax,
2015); “Introduction to Project Management” by AdelaideX in EdX (AdelaideX, 2016). These courses
followed a similar structure both in terms of contents and teaching/learning activities:
These courses are clearly xMOOCs, MOOCs with a teacher and content-centered approach (Conole,
2015; Guàrdia et al., 2013; Lugton, 2012). They focused on providing knowledge about each stage
of project management. There was no alignment with the PBL model that we were looking for, nor
with the 10 design principles for MOOCs listed above. Still, these MOOCs were useful in terms of
providing an overview on contents in project management: idea, planning, risk analysis and
Still, we wanted to have an approach that was more engaging for the learners and teachers.
During our search, we came in contact with Design Thinking. Design thinking, as defined by Tim
Brown from IDEO (2016) is “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s
toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for
business success”. It provides a creative and human-centered way to address challenges, problems
or projects. IDEO has published a toolkit with a specific approach for using design thinking fin
education (IDEO, 2012). There was a clear alignment between our vision for the course and the
design thinking approach: the focus on the challenge; use of technology; people-centered;
collaboration. We went back to the MOOC providers and analyzed two MOOCs in the field of design
thinking. The two courses analyzed were cMOOCs, MOOCs with a focus on the student and building
networks of collaboration (Conole, 2015; Lugton, 2012):
Design Thinking for Innovation, by University of Virginia (Coursera)
Product Design: The Delft Design Approach (EdX)
In terms of collaboration, the course includes different fora and study groups where students interact
with each other and with mentors. Summarizing, the main lessons learned from this MOOC were
Structuring the course around questions
Using short videos with different perspectives of the same content/issue
Providing useful tools that students can take away with them to apply in other contexts
Robust guidance for completing the course
Networking and collaboration opportunities
The first MOOC is a very interesting course in terms of the way the lessons are structured:
Modules are built around questions
Video(s) introducing the module with general contents and concepts
Video(s) with case-studies related with the module content, including interviews with
professionals in the field
Video(s) focusing on one specific approach or tool of the design-thinking framework
Introducing the content in general terms gives the student the global perspective. Then, providing
the “real-world” perspective of the same module, with concrete experiences narrated with people
involved in the case. Finally, going back to the theory but focusing on practical tools or instruments
that the students can use in different contexts.
In terms of assessment, this MOOC only has one assignment: an individual reflection by the
student, assessed by peers. Even though the assessment is open, the MOOC provides several
support tools to help students in completing the assignment and peer reviewing:
Clear instructions about what is expected from each role
Assessment rubric with instructions for applying and scoring
Example of the completed assignment
Peer-review practice quiz
“Product Design: The Delft Design Approach” (TU Delft Online Learning, 2015), provides important
insights in terms of structuring the course, interacting with students and problem-based assessment.
The general course framework, the way the lessons are structured, how the assignments are
introduced, all of these contribute to helping students engage with the course materials and activities.
The course has 7 modules with a similar structure.
Introduction video that reviews the work of the previous module and introduces the new work
Two or more short lectures in video
Quizzes to control the learning of the module
Exercises with clear and complete description of what the student is expected to do
Templates for the exercises to guide the student
Benchmark videos that document “model” students completing the exercises, so the student
can compare their work
Example of completed exercises
Videos with experts related with the module
Videos with reflections about the assignments
This MOOC has a strong social and collaborative component. Students use the discussion fora to
publish and review their work and their colleagues’ work. The course uses social networks for
helping creating a community.
The main lesson retrieved from this MOOC is the importance of supporting and guiding students
in online distance learning. The MOOC includes several strategies with this sole purpose. Lectures
were very short videos, with no more than 7 minutes. These small chunks of information make it
easy for the student to keep attentive. Following every lecture, there was a quiz, so that the student
could check their learning. Another interesting strategy was having two “model” students that had
go through the course and complete every task. These students are always present through videos
and they interact with the camera in a very informal way to create empathy with the learner. The
delivery of the assignments is also student-centered. Every assignment includes very clear and
complete instructions of the tasks the student has to accomplish. Well-structured templates are
provided to facilitate and guide the students. They can watch the “model” students going through
the whole process of completing the assignment. Experts provide insights about the topic of the
week and give real world context about the work that is being done. Every week, the teaching team
prepares a video with reflections about some of the issues raised in the weekly forum. Another
interesting aspect is that weekly assignments build on the assignment of the previous week. Using
this strategy, at the end of the course, students have a complete project implemented step-by-step
and did not feel overwhelmed by a big task or demotivated by completing small erratic tasks.
All these strategies represent a great amount of work and a huge effort on planning and producing
resources. But it provides a structured support to the student that is a crucial aspect in MOOCs and
in other distance learning contexts.
Table 1 summarizes the analysis of the five MOOCs in the framework the 10 design principles
listed above (Guàrdia et al., 2013), using “y” for compliance and “n” for non-compliance.
Competence based approach
Learning plan and clear orientations
Assessment and peer feedback
From table 1 it is clear that the two last MOOCs analyzed have a stronger and more solid design.
They provided the most valuable lessons to the authors.
Implementing the lessons learned
After the conceptualization stage of the 7Cs of Learning Design, we proceeded to the next: capture,
create, communicate and collaborate. These consist in defining the practical approach to the course.
The first step was to define the content of the course (capture and create). We decided to have
weekly modules, each built around one question related with project management. We were trying
to make students understand, right from the start, the relevance of what they were learning:
1. Where to start? (Idea)
2. Who cares about my project? (Stakeholders)
3. What has to be done and when? (Planning and scheduling)
4. Who will do what? (Project team)
5. What types of education resources should I include? (Content development)
6. How users access contents? (Information architecture)
7. How much will it cost? (Budget)
8. What problems should I expect? (Risk analysis)
9. Did it go well? (Evaluation)
In terms of general structure of the course, we wanted to provide as much help to the students as
possible, to keep them interested, motivated and avoiding getting overwhelmed by the course. We
decided that every module should have the same structure and follow the same weekly calendar.
We wanted students to know, from start, what to expect from us and what was going to be expected
from them. In terms of structure, every module had the following components:
Another important issue was the balance between the theoretical and practical components. We
wanted students to feel that what they were learning was relevant to them. Working with adult
learners, relevance is an important issue (Newman & Peile, 2002). Also, we wanted students to
contribute with their experiences and making the course more enriching to all. Assignments are a
great opportunity to achieve this. The strategy adopted was to have a small weekly assignment,
linked to the theme of the module. In the first week they worked on the idea using a mind-mapping
tool. On the second week, they identified stakeholders, defined priorities and analyzed their needs.
The same strategy was used for the following weeks. At the end of the course students completed
a full project, decided by them in every aspect, according to their ideas and interests. At the end,
students had two weeks to review the project and present it in a single integrated document. As
the assignments were aligned with course content, this final step was important to integrate the
new knowledge (Consider and Consolidate).
A final issue of the course was the final exam that was compulsory for every course of the Master.
As our course has a strong practical component, we decided to follow the same line and do a
casestudy analysis focusing in critical aspects of project management. There was an intentional alignment
between the exam and the weekly modules and assignments to increase the consistency of the
course (Anderson, Krathwohl, & Bloom, 2001).
Collaborate and Communicate were the “Cs” where there was less investment. It is intended to
improve these two missing Cs in the next edition.
Designing a e-learning course from scratch is an opportunity to innovate and learn. MOOCs are
learning tools for learners to acquire knowledge and competences in different areas. But MOOCs
create opportunities to “learn by example” how to teach in innovative ways, to (meta)e-learn. We
have available courses from universities around the world, with different views, different strategies
with different teams. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn about learning, teaching, assessing,
motivating and engaging students.
In the course “Education Projects Management” we invested in analyzing these five MOOCs and
it was an important step that helped us to define the strategy for the course. As a result, students
were engaged and motivated and only two students of a total of twenty-two did not complete the
course (one of them never logged on). All the others completed the 14 assignments on time, as
requested. Feedback from students was very positive and the results of the final exam were coherent
with their performance during the semester.
The main lesson learned from MOOCs was the importance of having a well-structured guidance
system that facilitates and supports learning. Making the learning process easy for the students
does not mean lowering the standard. It means putting the student at the center, creating a supportive
and transparent learning environment where students know, at all times, what is expected from
them and what to expect from us. It is not an easy task and it requires thorough planning, thinking
ahead and a lot of work. We were not able to implement every detail of our strategy but next year
we will do better and the year after that one, we will do even better. Learning about teaching is a
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Book review of Minds Online: Teaching effectively with
Minds Online: Teaching effectively with technology, Michelle Miller, Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 2014, 296 pages, ISBN: 978-0674368-24-8.
Reviewed by: Nathan Sand
Boise State University (USA)
As online learning continues to flourish, educators and
institutions frequently question how to leverage emerging
technologies in a way that effectively enhances the
learning process for students. In Minds Online, Miller
(2014) suggests that we already have an answer to this
question—we just need to know where to look. Reflecting
on basic fundamentals found in cognitive psychology, the
author advocates a provocative approach: We need to
align our teaching with the way the mind works. To show
how this alignment is possible, Miller first combs through
decades of psychology research, disentangling complex
strands of knowledge to present a clearly defined
overview of what we already know about the mind. She
then puts this knowledge into practice, outlining and
demonstrating practical strategies that can easily be
incorporated into any online classroom to help enhance
the learning process.
One of the best features of this book is its accessibility.
Even though the discussion largely focuses on dense
studies in psychology, Miller takes the time to clarify
obscure details as well as dispel common myths about
technology’s impact on the mind and education. For
instance, although Nicholas Carr’s bestseller, The Shallows, raises serious concerns over how
technology may be rewiring our brains, Miller cautions us to avoid misinterpreting this idea.
“Technically speaking,” she explains, “computing experience does alter our brains at a neural level,
but so does just about anything else that we remember” (p. 45). For this reason, educators should
not feel worried or threatened by technology’s role in education. Rather, they should embrace
emerging technologies and test out innovative ways they can “amplify and expand the repertoire of
techniques” (p. xii) within their own classroom. With this reassuring tone, Miller declares technology
to be a powerful tool for education, as long as used effectively.
In Minds Online, Miller attempts to illustrate the underlying connections between teaching and
cognitive psychology mainly through the analysis of three processes: attention, memory, and thinking.
The author first explores the components’ relevance in psychology and then more clearly identifies
how and why each is a significant and unique factor within the online classroom. Take attention and
memory, for example, which is essentially our ability to focus on and then reproduce information.
Miller points out that when we make simple changes, like eliminating in-class lectures commonly
found in face-to-face courses, it “lets us redirect student time into the active, focused effort that
makes material stick” (p. 106). Similarly, she notes how the online classroom is ideal for fostering
higher levels of thinking, in terms of creativity, formal reasoning, decision-making, and problem
solving. She explains that in virtual classes, as compared to on-site face-to-face environments, “it’s
more feasible to offer multiple practice opportunities—case studies, argument analyses, and many
more variations” (p. 135) which supports “intellectual habits like critical thinking” (p. 136). Although
overly simplified, it’s this continual blending of psychological theory with educational application that
helps Miller to demonstrate how minds learn differently within online environments.
Time and again, Miller reiterates the notion that designers and instructors need to recognize and
exercise their power to continually manipulate the online environment in unique and memorable
ways to capture student attention and foster deeper levels of thinking. In fact, in the final chapter
of Minds Online, Miller attempts to put this reasoning into practice by showcasing a syllabus and
information for a cognitively optimized psychology course. Though the author does provide snapshots
of recommendations for enhancing student motivation—“assess early and often” (p. 214)—
attention—“ask students to respond” (p. 217)—and thinking—“use varied, realistic scenarios for
reasoning” (p. 219), while also outlining potential assignments like creative thinking wikis, MiniQuest
assignments, and discussion tasks, most of the information and advice is already rather commonplace
within virtual classrooms. However, it might prove valuable for instructors completely new to online
teaching, or those planning to convert an on-site course into an online course.
Minds Online provides a very thorough yet readable account of what it means to both teach and
learn online. Not only does Miller reveal many of the underlying connections between cognitive
psychology and online education, she also reaffirms many of the ways in which technology has
been and might continue to be used to both enhance and optimize the virtual classroom.
Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Book review of Developing Adaptive and Personalized
Developing Adaptive and Personalized Learning Environments, Kinshuk, New York, NY: Routledge,
2016, 1st Ed. 182 Pages, ISBN: 978-1-138-01306-3.
Reviewed by: Jason Ward
Chelmsford High School, Chelmsford, Massachusetts (USA)
Technology continues to offer expanding opportunities
for learners to gain knowledge in any environment, with
all manner of devices. With the growth of open learning
environments, online learning, ubiquitous computing,
and learning analytics, adaptive and personalized
learning environments have the potential to optimize
learning and collaboration. This promise comes with a
complex set of challenges, and Kinshuk has written a
thorough and well-structured book to walk instructional
designers and instructors through many of the key factors
to be considered.
The book comprises four sections (a) an overview, (b)
theoretical underpinnings of adaptive and personalized
environments, (c) considerations for implementation,
and (d) methods for evaluating and optimizing learning
environments, with a look at directions for future research.
Several key features make this useful both as a possible
textbook, and as a reference manual for practitioners: reflection activities, tests for understanding,
references for further reading, and links to useful resources. The structure provides a logical
progression from foundations to theory to implementation and evaluation.
The first chapter defines adaptation and personalization, the different levels of each that can be
applied, and the benefits and limitations of adaptation and personalization. Chapter 2 outlines the
concepts of adaptivity and personalization in the context of lifelong learning. In Chapter 3, Kinshuk
defines context as referring to the physical environment, the mode of communication, the discipline
of the content being learned, and the interaction between the learner and their device.
Part Two highlights the theories that form the basis for adaptive and personalized learning
environments, such as cognitive theory, learning styles, and the ways in which a learning environment
can be structured to respond to the needs of the learner, based on a range of feedback.
In Chapter 4, there is discussion of cognitive theory, and some of the key characteristics that
affect a student’s capabilities and learning style. Kinshuk describes how a learning environment can
gather data to create a cognitive trait model for each student, and use that information to make
decisions about how and when to present a student with certain content. Chapter 5 deals with the
ways in which a learning environment can present content. Examples include the decision to present
text, audio, images, or video, based on the needs of any given scenario.
The next two chapters deal with the different types of adaptation that can be applied to exploratory
learning and mobile or ubiquitous learning. Students must be given the freedom to choose their
own learning path and the format of the content that they wish to receive. However, in a completely
open virtual environment, the sheer number of choices may be overwhelming. An effective learning
environment will constrain the number of choices available. In mobile and ubiquitous environments,
there are a number of ways in which a system can personalize the learning process. Ubiquitous
computing offers the opportunity for students to have authentic learning experiences based on their
location. Specific location-based lessons can be created and validated by instructors anywhere in
the world, and students can be alerted to learning opportunities when they are nearby.
The third section of the book focuses on implementation and practical considerations. Chapter 8
describes a model for implementing adaptive and personalized learning environments. In this
section, Kinshuk outlines several principles that should be considered when implementing a system.
A key concept here is that the system should empower the student to learn in the absence of
an instructor, and the learning must be available at different levels, depending on the needs of
the student. Chapter 9 deals with cognitive skills acquisition, using a method called cognitive
apprenticeship, as well as the potential effectiveness of simulated environments. Chapter 10 deals
with the concept of reusability in adaptive learning environments. Kinshuk describes the need for
content repositories and the clear need for standardization, and at present, there are multiple
formats and styles for packaging content.
In Part 4, the book discusses various methods of validating learning environments, and looks to
the future of adaptive and personalized learning. Chapter 11 outlines the evaluation principles that
can be applied to both internal and external evaluation of adaptive and personalized learning
environments. The evaluation process is presented as two essential questions: how does the
environment impact student learning, and is the desired effect achieved?
Chapter 12 describes the potential for adaptive and personalized learning environments in the
future. As the power of mobile devices and the connectivity of wireless networks continues to
expand, opportunities for authentic, context-based learning can be created. Advances in sensor
technology will lead to further adaptation and personalization, as biophysical cues can trigger the
system to adjust the pace or complexity of the content to match the student’s cognitive load. Kinshuk
concludes with a description of a smart learning environment, an ecosystem of data, content,
devices, and interaction among students and instructors.
As technology and access continue to improve, and if adaptive and personalized learning systems
gain wider adoption in a variety of learning contexts, there will be a need for guidelines to build
effective environments. The explosive growth of online and blended education increases the
Book review of Developing Adaptive and Personalized Learning Environments
importance of systems that can assist students in the absence of a human instructor, and those
same systems create value for instructors who face increased need for differentiated instruction
online. Personalization and adaptation are critical to the future of distance and blended learning,
as well as the emerging applications of mobile and ubiquitous learning. Kinshuk has provided a
concise explanation of the key theories behind adaptive and personalized learning systems. He has
also given many practical examples and recommendations for evaluating learning environments.
Finally, he looks to the future, and considers the potential of mobile and ubiquitous computing,
combined with the personalization and optimization that will be made possible by data mining and
The book is structured in a logical progression of concepts, from the underlying theory, to
implementation, to validation and future directions. Kinshuk presents the relevant theories and
design considerations in a manner that make it accessible to educators, instructional designers,
and programmers alike. This is not a step-by-step guide to building a personalized learning
environment. Rather, the book provides a theoretical and practical framework for how an adaptive
and personalized learning environment could be conceptualized, designed, and evaluated. The
many learning activities and reflection questions would make this book suitable as a textbook. The
well-designed structure and practical examples also make this a useful manual for the practitioner
interested in personalized and adaptive environments. For anyone interested in adaptive and
personalized learning environments, this book will serve as a valuable foundation and reference.
There is a growing body of evidence that personalization and adaptation will be at the core of many
educational technology developments in the immediate future. This book provides a comprehensive
look at the concepts, challenges, and opportunities that are presented by personalized, adaptive
Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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