Open Praxis, volume 9 issue 2
Inés Gil-Jaurena 0
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
2017 Open Education Consortium Global Conference
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.
Open Praxis provides immediate open access to content on the principle that making research freely available to the
public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge.
Inés Gil-Jaurena, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Spain
Beatriz Malik, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Spain
Publisher and contact information
ICDE—International Council for Open and Distance Education
0283 Oslo, Norway
The ICDE Bulletin changed its name to Open Praxis in 1993. In 2003 became an electronic journal. In 2011 Open Praxis
is relaunched as an scholarly and peer-reviewed open access journal, hosted by Universidad Nacional de Educación a
Distancia (UNED) in its first period (2011–2017).
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
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Open Praxis does not necessarily agree with opinions and judgements maintained by authors
Conceptualizing Open Educational Practices through the Lens of
Pragmatism vs. Idealism and the Identity Crisis of OER Advocacy
Rajiv Sunil Jhangiani
An OER framework, heuristic and lens: Tools for understanding lecturers’ adoption of OER
Glenda Cox, Henry Trotter
Differentiation in Access to, and the Use and Sharing of (Open) Educational
Resources among Students and Lecturers at Kenyan Universities
Judith Pete, Fred Mulder, Jose Dutra Oliveira Neto
A survey of the awareness, offering, and adoption of OERs and MOOCs in Japan
Katsusuke Shigeta, Mitsuyo Koizumi, Hiroyuki Sakai, Yasuhiro Tsuji,
Rieko Inaba, Naoshi Hiraoka
“The best part was the contact!”: Understanding postgraduate students’
experiences of wrapped MOOCs
Tasneem Jaffer, Shanali Govender, Cheryl Brown
Postgraduate students as OER capacitators
Thomas William King
Innovative practice articles
Developing Civic Engagement in Distance Higher Education:
A Case Study of Virtual Service-Learning (vSL) Programme in Spain
Juan García-Gutierrez, Marta Ruiz-Corbella, Araceli del Pozo Armentia
The challenges of incorporating ePortfolio into an undergraduate nursing programme
Carmel Haggerty, Trish Thompson
Digital Learning in Higher Education: A Training Course for Teaching
Online - Universidade Aberta, Portugal
José António Moreira, Susana Henriques, Maria de Fátima Goulão, Daniela Barros
Open Education. Introduction to selected papers
Editor for Open Praxis. Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia - UNED (Spain)
Following a collaboration that led to the publication of special issues in 2014 (vol. 6 issue 2), 2015
(vol. 7 issue 2) and 2016 (vol. 8 issue 2) for a fourth consecutive year Open Praxis has partnered with
the Open Education Consortium for the publication of selected papers among those presented in the
2017 Open Education Global Conference (Cape Town, South Africa, 8-10 March, 2017).
As stated in the conference website (http://conference.oeconsortium.org/2017/about-oe-global-2017),
The Open Education Global Conference is where the world meets to discuss, plan, reflect,
collaborate, innovate and celebrate openness in education.
We’re particularly excited to have Cape Town as the venue in 2017 conference, since it marks the 10
year anniversary of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration. 2017 actually marks several important
milestones in Open Education, including the 15 year anniversary of the term “Open Educational
Resources” and the 5 year anniversary of the Paris OER Declaration. (…) we’ll have the opportunity
to celebrate and reflect on these and other achievements (…).
Papers submitted for publication in Open Praxis have followed a separate review process. The Open
Education Global Conference 2017 Programme Committee first reviewed submissions for inclusion
in the conference. Those accepted for presentation and best rated by the committee, among the
89 submissions that stated an interest in the publication opportunity in Open Praxis, were then
recommended to Open Praxis for peer review and possible inclusion in this issue. 12 contributions
were preselected and invited to submit the full paper; 9 did so. These papers followed the usual
submission guidelines in Open Praxis (i.e. double-blind peer review by two reviewers); additional
revisions were requested during the peer review process, and finally 7 papers were accepted for
The selected contributions cover various topics in relation to Open Education:
- The first three papers present conceptual approaches to the adoption of open education.
- The next two papers address survey-based studies in specific contexts (Kenya and Japan)
with regards to the use of OER.
- The last two papers focus on postgraduate students’ experiences and perspectives in
relation to MOOCs and OER.
Michael Paskevicius, from the University of Victoria in Canada (Conceptualizing Open Educational
Practices through the Lens of Constructive Alignment), undertakes a literature review to present
a model for instructional design that considers and promotes open educational practices. This
framework is of interest to anyone involved in higher education that wants to understand and put
open education into practice.
Also from a conceptual perspective, Rajiv Sunil Jhangiani, from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in
Canada (Pragmatism vs. Idealism and the Identity Crisis of OER Advocacy), analyses the tensions
faced by the open education movement, including the one between OER and OEP. He proposes an
integrated approach that values diversity within the OER advocacy and identifies different types and
stages in the adoption of open education. This lens can help to raise self-awareness within the open
education movement and thus be critical with regards to the next steps in the advocacy commitment.
Dealing also with the adoption of OER, Glenda Cox and Henry Trotter, from the University of Cape
Town in South Africa (An OER framework, heuristic and lens: Tools for understanding lecturers’
adoption of OER), explore three analytical tools they have used when researching the use and/or
creation of OER in three universities in South Africa. With a special focus on the institutional cultures
and readiness, the framework they suggest is valuable for other researchers and institutions willing
to adopt OER.
Judith Pete, from Tangaza University College in Kenya, Fred Mulder, from Open Universiteit in The
Netherlands, and Jose Dutra Oliveira Neto, from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil (Differentiation
in Access to, and the Use and Sharing of (Open) Educational Resources among Students and
Lecturers at Kenyan Universities), present a study developed also in the ROER4D project that details
the state of the art around OER in Kenya. Through questionnaires to lecturers and students, they
explore quantitative descriptive data and provide an overview of the use, perceptions and intentions
about OER in that context. They conclude with a set of recommendations derived from the study.
In a different context, Katsusuke Shigeta, Mitsuyo Koizumi, Hiroyuki Sakai, Yasuhiro Tsuji, Rieko
Inaba and Naoshi Hiraoka, from various higher education institutions in Japan (A survey of the
awareness, offering, and adoption of OERs and MOOCs in Japan), provide an overview of the
situation in their country, as a follow up of another previous survey-based study. Their detailed report
covers universities and colleges all over Japan and explores awareness, use and intention about
OER and MOOCs, highlighting some significant findings when comparing perception about MOOCs
between institutions that provide them and those that don’t.
Tasneem Jaffer, Shanali Govender and Cheryl Brown, from the University of Cape Town in South
Africa (“The best part was the contact!”: Understanding postgraduate students’ experiences of
wrapped MOOCs), use the Community of Inquiry framework to analyse a blended learning space
that combined MOOCs about soft skills and a local face-to-face group with postgraduate students.
The characteristics of the programme –supplemental and voluntary– made them incorporate a
‘learner presence’ category to the CoI framework and consider structural factors, as well.
Finally in this section that presents selected papers from the Open Education Global Conference,
Thomas William King, also from the University of Cape Town in South Africa (Postgraduate students
as OER capacitators), explores a project developed in his university where students were involved in
adapting lecturer’s materials and transforming them into OER. The successful experience is clearly
described so the different steps, challenges and findings can be useful for other programmes.
This Open Praxis issue also includes three innovative practice papers.
Juan García-Gutierrez and Marta Ruiz-Corbella, from UNED, and Araceli del Pozo Armentia, from
Universidad Complutense in Spain (Developing Civic Engagement in Distance Higher Education:
A Case Study of Virtual Service-Learning (vSL) Programme in Spain), present a service-learning
experience developed in virtual mode involving students from UNED and from a university in Benin.
The authors introduce this new modality of practical learning with a civic commitment and report on
this specific experience, highlighting the success and the challenges faced, as well as the potential
of this type of programmes in distance education institutions, and claiming for its promotion.
Carmel Haggerty, from Whitireia Community Polytechnic & Wellington Institute of Technology, and
Trish Thompson, from Ara Institute of Canterbury in New Zealand (The challenges of incorporating
ePortfolio into an undergraduate nursing programme), report on a experience with the Mahara
platform. A group of tutors and students used this ePortfolio, and the paper explains the process,
results and difficulties encountered in the progressive introduction of this electronic tool in a context
–nursing programme– where paper-based portfolio is more commonly used.
Finally, José António Moreira, Susana Henriques, Maria de Fátima Goulão and Daniela Barros,
from Universidade Aberta in Portugal (Digital Learning in Higher Education: A Training Course
for Teaching Online - Universidade Aberta, Portugal), discuss the progress of an online course
addressed to professors who work at higher education institutions in Portugal and in other Portuguese
speaking countries. They describe the course and the innovations they have incorporated, such as
e-portfolios, interaction and collaboration, providing an example that could be of interest for other
higher education institutions concerned with professional development.
We wish Open Praxis readers an enjoyable and critical reading of this issue, which aims to
contribute to the ongoing debate about open education.
We specially thank from Open Praxis to the authors and the reviewers for their valuable contributions,
and to the Open Education Consortium for the partnership and collaboration in the preparation of
this special issue.
Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Conceptualizing Open Educational Practices through
the Lens of Constructive Alignment
University of Victoria (Canada)
The act of instruction may be conceptualized as consisting of four elements: learning outcomes, learning
resources, teaching and learning activities, and assessments and evaluation. For instructors in higher education,
the way they manage the relationships between these elements is what could be considered the core of their
instructional practice. For each of the elements, this paper seeks to identify open educational practices, their
affordances, and evidence of their utility in supporting the work of teachers in shifting from existing teaching
and learning practices to more open educational practices. The literature reviewed and model proposed may
provide educational developers or proponents of open education a lens with which to discuss open educational
practices with faculty specifically related to their teaching and learning design practices.
Keywords: open educational practices (OEP); constructive alignment; open educational resources; educational
development; innovation in teaching and learning; Creative Commons
Higher education institutions are situated in an increasingly open technological, social, and legal
landscape. Various movements are developing which signify those changes, including the emergence
of open educational resources (OER), massive open online courses (MOOCs), alternative schooling
and training opportunities, and a desire for increased personalization of educational experiences.
This paper explores the emergence of this open ecology in higher education and the impact on
teaching and learning practices. Specifically, this paper explores how the availability and affordances
of open education may impact the pedagogical choices and designs of faculty who teach in higher
Digital technologies have been characterized as protean, unstable, and opaque: protean, in that
they can be used in a variety of possible ways (Papert, 1993); unstable, in that they are changing and
evolving rapidly over time; and opaque in that their potential applications and inner workings are not
always made explicit (Turkle, 1997). Unlike traditional teaching technologies which have more evident
uses such as a pencil, which is used for writing, or a microscope, which is for viewing small objects,
digital technologies can be applied in a number of different ways in an educational context (Koehler
& Mishra, 2009). The affordances, or ways of using, digital technologies present opportunities for
innovative usage in education but also remain a challenge to apply effectively.
One affordance of digital technologies is widely recognized; they enable the creation of digital
resources which can be copied and shared with little cost or effort. The internet now provides a global
network facilitating search and access to online resources. In the context of higher education, the
recent emergence of open access to teaching and learning material including educational content,
learning designs, and learning activities provides a valuable resource for faculty, students, and
selflearners as well as an opportunity to move towards a more participatory culture (Brown & Adler,
2008; Ehlers & Conole, 2010). Further, open licensing models support the legal copying, adaptation,
and re-sharing of digital educational materials.
Several higher education institutions around the world have leveraged these technologies to
support teaching and learning (Smith & Casserly, 2006; Hodgkinson-Williams & Gray, 2009; Murphy,
2013). This is a significant shift away from a time when educational content was mostly only available
to individuals enrolled in formal education. Institutionally, the impetus to share materials in this way
may be driven by a marketing objective with an agenda to raise institutional profiles (Dos Santos,
2008); altruistic motivations to provide access to knowledge (Hylén & Schuller, 2007); or to invite
innovation networks and collaboration across institutions (Carey, Davis, Ferreras, & Porter, 2015).
Open educational practices (OEP) are those teaching and learning practices enabled and supported
by the open movement, either in making use of OER, engaging students in openness, or making
professional practice more accessible.
The goal for this paper is to explore the literature on open education, specifically considering and
scrutinizing the impact on the teaching and learning practices of faculty in higher education. Scholars
have suggested a move to openness in higher education may provide an impetus for innovative
teaching and learning processes, resulting in new conceptualizations of teaching and learning roles
and practices (Lane & McAndrew, 2010; Porter, 2013; Littlejohn & Hood, 2016). In this way, open
education may be a catalyst for innovation in the practice of teaching in higher education. However,
these practices must be supported by both an understanding of the affordances of the tools which
support open, emerging technological literacies and competencies (A. Lane, 2009), as well as
pedagogical knowledge (Bates, 2011). Additionally, engaging students with openness can advance
the competences, knowledge, and skills needed to participate successfully within the political,
economic, social, and cultural realms of a more open society (Geser, 2007; McAndrew, Scanlon &
Clow, 2010). For those faculty taking on OEP as part of their teaching, a greater understanding of the
issues, challenges, and necessary supports is needed to further develop OEP (Beetham, Falconer,
McGill & Littlejohn, 2012; Borthwick & Gallagher-Brett, 2014; Camilleri, Ehlers & Pawlowski, 2014;
Pitt, 2015; Littlejohn & Hood, 2016).
Defining Open Education Practice
While some literature has suggested OEP are simply those which make use of OER, one of the
founding documents on open education suggests a broader vision. The Cape Town Open Education
“open education is not limited to just open educational resources. It also draws upon open
technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices
that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues. It may also grow to
include new approaches to assessment, accreditation and collaborative learning” (The Cape Town
Open Education Declaration, 2007, para. 4).
More recently scholars have argued that research on OER should focus less on access to digital
content, and more so on the impact of openness in supporting innovative educational practices
(OPAL, 2011; Kimmons, 2016). By exploring a broader notion of openness in education, we
shift the focus from content (OER) to the practices (OEP) that are necessary for the use of that
content (Deimann & Farrow, 2013). The shifting focus of discourses from OER towards OEP
represents a positive advancement of the field, as this represents a change from developing
and releasing OER content to researching their impact (Weller, de los Arcos, Farrow, Pitt &
McAndrew, 2015). As found with the costly learning object repository movement, educational
technology initiatives should support and report on practices and processes rather than products
alone (Friesen, 2009).
Open pedagogy, open educational practices, or open practices, often used interchangeably, have
been defined as “the next phase in OER development, which will see a shift from a focus on resources
to a focus on OEP being a combination of open resources use and open learning architectures to
transform learning” (Camilleri & Ehlers, 2011, p. 6). Several definitions of OEP have been proposed
in the literature. Wiley (2014) proposed the 5R model to describe the affordances, practices, and
possibilities of working with OER which form a framework for practice. OEP have also been defined
as teaching and learning activities where both “resources are shared by making them openly available
and pedagogical practices are employed which rely on social interaction, knowledge creation, peer
learning and shared learning practices” (Ehlers, 2013, p. 94). Stagg (2014) contributes a continuum
model for OEP which ranges from awareness and access of OER, sharing of one’s own works as
OER, passive remixing of OER, active remixing of OER, and finally student engagement in the
creation of OER. Hegarty (2015) proposes eight attributes which describe the strategies and policies
which encompass OEP. These attributes are broadly focused providing guidance on the qualities of
OEP while not making specific recommendations for practice. Nascimbeni & Burgos (2016) propose a
definition which advances towards defining the specific scholarly practices associated with OEP. This
definition identifies activities such as course design, content creation, pedagogy, and assessment
design as areas for infusing OEP.
Based on these attempts to articulate OEP and a desire to have a definition which more specifically
addresses how faculty might make the shift from existing practices to open practices, a working
definition in the context of this research is proposed.
Teaching and learning practices where openness is enacted within all aspects of instructional
practice; including the design of learning outcomes, the selection of teaching resources, and the
planning of activities and assessment. OEP engage both faculty and students with the use and
creation of OER, draw attention to the potential afforded by open licences, facilitate open
peerreview, and support participatory student-directed projects.
This definition is purposefully intended to align with the model of constructive alignment (Biggs, 1996)
and provide logical pathways for faculty considering enacting OEP in their teaching and learning
practices. Previous research suggests there is a need to understand the potential of OEP to change
educators’ practice around learning design (Harrison & DeVries, 2016). Others have suggested
the need for concrete strategies which empower faculty to integrate open teaching and learning
practices (Nascimbeni & Burgos, 2016). The proposed approach provides faculty with ways to think
about building openness into the design of learning outcomes, selection of resources, planning of
teaching activities, and design of assessment.
The literature review that follows presents research on how emergent OEP are impacting teaching
and learning practices. These practices are described in terms of their affordances and evidence of
their utility in supporting educators shifting from existing to open practices. A combination of methods
was used to conduct this narrative literature review. Web of Science was initially used to source
literature in relation to the search terms ‘open educational practice’, ‘open education practice’, ‘open
practice’, or ‘open pedagogy’. A similar query was run using Harzing’s Publish or Perish software
which retrieves and analyzes Google Scholar citation data. Research databases and Google Scholar
were used to scan for additional literature. Citation tracing methods were further used to locate
research cited within the works reviewed. The corpus of literature was then narrowed to include only
empirical research which focused specifically on OEP in relation to instructional practice.
The Atomic Structure of Instructional Practice
A model of instructional practice will be used to frame the analysis of the literature on OEP within
the context of teaching and learning. This approach situates OEP within existing instructional
practice, rather than taking the common optimistic view that openness alone is transformative and
requires entirely novel pedagogical approaches (Masterman & Chan, 2015). Biggs’ (1996) model of
constructive alignment provides a framework to guide impactful instructional design and practice. The
model suggests an ideal synergy between the intended learning outcomes, teaching and learning
activities which meet those outcomes, and assessment and evaluation which demonstrate the
achievement of the outcomes. Inherent in the model is the notion that students create and construct
meaning by engaging in learning activities, rather than having it transmitted to them by faculty (Biggs,
2003). Supporting this process are the knowledge resources which faculty select to support the
development of strong outcomes, provide sources for teaching and learning activities, or sources for
assessment and evaluation. When the elements of instructional practice are well aligned, studies
have shown that students are more likely to adopt approaches to learning which result in meaningful
learning (Wang, Su, Cheung, Wong & Kwong, 2013). Thus, students have a clear understanding of
the outcomes, see their relation to teaching and learning activities, and are better able to plan for and
achieve success during assessment (Beetham et al., 2012).
The framework of constructive alignment provides a lens for conceptualizing the integration of
OEP in a deliberate way. Previous studies have shown that faculty tend to pick and choose aspects
of OEP might which fit their existing pedagogical approaches (Beetham et al., 2012) or apply a
“bolton” approach to design which foregrounds the addition of technology over the consideration of how
that integration contributes to meaningful pedagogy (Lyons, Hannon & Macken, 2014). Considering
OEP within a framework which supports pedagogically sound instructional design practices makes
it more straightforward to identify specific, relevant, roles for integrating OER and enacting OEP
(Masterman, 2016). An analysis of the literature on OEP follows considering these four core elements
of constructive alignment.
Open Practices for the Design of Learning Outcomes
According to Biggs, “teachers need to be clear about what they want their students to learn, and
how they would manifest that learning in terms of ‘performances of understanding’” (Biggs, 1996,
p. 360). Learning outcomes provide a description of the intended knowledge, attributes, and skills
of a successful student. Ensuring strongly written learning outcomes are made explicit and openly
accessible to students, thereby helping them to understand what is needed for success, may be a
simple way to enact OEP. While this may seem a logical activity some scholars have suggested that the
deliberate articulation of aligned learning outcomes are often not fully considered or communicated
Learning outcomes may further be made openly accessible as OER, so that students have a better
sense of the goals of a course prior to enrolling. Increasing the transparency and accessibility of
the curriculum also has benefits at the departmental and program level, potentially creating greater
alignment of courses within an academic program (Lam & Tsui, 2016). The process of sharing and
aligning course and program learning outcomes among faculty has also been shown to positively
impact collaboration and collegiality (Uchiyama & Radin, 2009; Petrides, Jimes, Middleton-Detzner,
Walling & Weiss, 2011)
Ehlers (2011) articulated a spectrum of open and flexible practices which relate strongly to the
design of more open student learning outcomes. Low degrees of openness are reflected in learning
outcomes where transmission and reproduction of knowledge is the intended goal. Medium degrees
of openness might be said to exist when learning outcomes are predetermined, but the pedagogy
is flexible and students are actively involved in collective dialogue. High degrees of openness would
involve co-creation of the learning outcomes, objectives, and methods by students. Moving towards
the high end of the spectrum for designing learning outcomes allows for greater personalization,
autonomy, and self-regulation on the part of students (Ehlers, 2011). The research of Hipkins (2012)
and Reeve, Jang, Carrell, Jeon and Barch (2004) further support the involvement of students in
contributing to the formation of learning outcomes, which were found to support personalization,
autonomy, and increased student engagement. The move towards more open learning outcomes
further shifts the role of the faculty member from transmitter of knowledge to facilitator of learning.
While learning outcomes have not been largely ascribed as OER, it has been argued that they
represent educational artefacts worth sharing, improving, and reusing (Ehlers, 2011). De los
Arcos, Farrow, Perryman, Pitt and Weller (2014) found that OER that included associated learning
outcomes were more likely to be used by self-directed learners and educators seeking resources
for their own practice. Conole (2013) further suggests the use and sharing of visualizations such as
‘learning outcome maps’ which explicitly link intended learning outcomes, activities, resources, and
assessment in a visual way. Providing access to these visualized learning designs ensure students
know how to be successful and helps expose the instructional design and representative pedagogy
to other educators (Conole & Culver, 2010).
Open Practices for the Design of Learning Resources
The selection, adaptation, and creation of learning resources support most aspects of instructional
practice. Despite the increased availability of openly licensed resources now available, commercially
developed resources are still dominant in higher education (Allen & Seaman, 2016). Commercially
developed educational resources limit possibilities for teaching and learning due to their physical
and digital affordances in combination with most copyright laws around the world. Where a digital
copy of a textbook is available from a publisher, it is often locked into a proprietary format with
digital rights protection (DRM), which provides access for a limited timeframe, and under restrictive
copyright (Wiley, 2014). This significantly limits what both faculty and students can do with their
In contrast OER offer significant financial, legal, and technical freedoms. Several empirical studies
have been conducted to assess educators’ engagement and use of OER. These studies show that
while awareness of OER is increasing, adoption, usage, and contributions by faculty remain low
(de los Arcos et al., 2014; Allen & Seaman, 2016; Jhangiani, Pitt, Hendricks, Key & Lalonde, 2016).
Faculty widely recognize the cost savings for students in assigning OER and evidence of increased
student performance and satisfaction are emerging (Pitt, 2015; Weller et al., 2015). Further empirical
research suggests that, in comparison to the use of traditional texts, the usage of OER does not
adversely impact existing learning outcomes (Robinson, Fischer, Wiley & Hilton, 2014; Fischer, Hilton,
Robinson & Wiley, 2015; Jhangiani et al., 2016). Faculty cite the challenges of locating relevant, high
quality, and topical resources in their subject area as a significant barrier to more actively using OER
(de los Arcos et al., 2014; Allen & Seaman, 2016).
Despite the challenges cited there is a vast quantity of OER now available on the internet.
Resources, many of which could be considered educational, licensed with Creative Commons have
surpassed a billion, tripling in volume over the last five years. Creative Commons speculates that over
76,000 of those resources are OER; 1.4 million research papers; 46 million articles, stories, books, or
documents; and over 400 million encompass other forms of media including audio, images, or video
(Merkley, 2015). These resources may be compiled: into other educational resources; for developing
online learning materials (Beaven, 2013); as sources of inspiration (Borthwick & Gallagher-Brett,
2014; Weller et al., 2015); or for engaging students in creative projects (Tur, Urbina & Moreno,
2016). More theoretical research is needed on the time, effort, and literacies needed to conduct
these activities as well as their impacts on pedagogy (Beetham et al., 2012; Jhangiani et al., 2016;
Littlejohn & Hood, 2016).
Faculty’s adoption of OER also has a secondary impact on students, in that it may be their
first exposure to open education, open licensing, and non-commercial sources of knowledge.
Acknowledging and sharing the resources being collaboratively created through open education
can have an impact on students’ own knowledge practices (Carey et al., 2015). Not only do these
practices make the activities in higher education more relevant in modern society but they also foster
the development of valuable literacies for students entering the workforce (Royle, Stager & Traxler,
Open Practices for the Design of Teaching and Learning Activities
The availability of OER has been frequently cited as a way for faculty to find inspiration for their
own teaching and learning activities (Petrides et al., 2011; de los Arcos et al., 2014; Jhangiani
et al., 2016; Kimmons, 2016). Further, this exposure to practice can create opportunities for the
collaborative development of learning resources and designs (Masterman & Wild, 2011; Petrides
et al., 2011).
Many faculty initially access OER to explore discipline specific pedagogical approaches and
resources with the intent of enhancing their practice (de los Arcos et al., 2014; Weller et al.,
2015; Jhangiani et al., 2016). By seeking teaching and learning activities which are more openly
accessible, faculty may review strategies relevant in or beyond their discipline, discovering new
ways to introduce concepts or design teaching and learning activities (Beaven, 2013). Petrides
et al. (2011) reported that faculty were able to build upon and adapt OER to enhance their own
courses. Faculty noted that OER provides ideas for teaching activities in the classroom and
resources which can be used to design more interactive learning experiences (Petrides et al.,
2011). Engagement with OER has also been found to stimulate critical reflection in faculty leading
to the reconsideration of existing teaching and learning activities (Beetham et al., 2012; McGill,
Falconer, Dempster, Littlejohn & Beetham, 2013).
Much like sourcing OER, faculty report that finding appropriate resources and integrating new
activities in their curriculum is time consuming (Petrides et al., 2011). Furthermore, knowing where
to find resources is still reported to be one of the biggest challenges to using OER (de los Arcos
et al., 2014; Allen & Seaman, 2016). Professional development programs can be helpful in bringing
faculty together to take time to share and explore practice (Borthwick & Gallagher-Brett, 2014;
Kimmons, 2016). Further, promoting openness at the institutional level can support capacity building
and collaboration on curriculum development within departments (Lyons et al., 2014; Karunanayaka,
Naidu, Rajendra & Ratnayake, 2015).
Faculty may gradually gravitate towards more OEP as they engage further with the movement.
Pitt (2015) reported that 25% of faculty who had engaged with OER reported changing their
pedagogical approaches based on this exposure. Further research is needed to determine
if engagement with OER leads to the development of OEP. Additionally, research is needed to
determine whether adopting OEP alters the dominant model of teacher-centred education. It has
been argued that many of the teaching and learning activities which still prevail involve an educator
mediating an authoritative learning resource, requiring students to study and reproduce it (Geser,
2007; McAndrew et al., 2010).
Students’ perceptions of the move to greater OEP are also crucial to understand, as “teachers who
use OER instead of lecturing risk being seen as ‘not real teachers’” (Ossiannilsson & Creelman, 2011,
p. 376). Therefore, research is needed into both faculty’s move towards OEP and the subsequent
impact on students. The pedagogical value of a move towards OEP is that it can provide space for and
foster dialogue, co-creation, and participatory learning, deconstructing the teacher-student binary by
increasing access and inviting participatory learning (Morris & Strommel, 2014). By adopting OEP in
their teaching and learning activities, faculty may enable students to be further involved in the active
creation and curation of knowledge during their learning.
Open Practices for Designing Assessment and Evaluation
Constructive alignment derives from a constructivist view of learning emphasising the “centrality of
the learner’s activities in creating meaning” (Biggs, 1996, p. 347). OEP which impact assessment
rely on the active participation and production of knowledge by students, shifting the role of student
as consumer of knowledge to student as a producer of knowledge (Neary & Winn, 2009). In doing
so students are tasked with greater autonomy and must take responsibility for their own learning
(Ossiannilsson & Creelman, 2011). This may be interpreted as a risky venture for faculty concerned
about students who are uncomfortable with less traditional teaching methods (Dohn, 2009;
Ossiannilsson & Creelman, 2011; Gray et al., 2012). Conversely, it has been argued that OEP may
be a way to bridge the formal/informal learning divide in higher education (Cronin, 2016).
While introducing students to OER and OEP, researchers have found that students generally
hold positive attitudes around the possibilities these practices offer (Tur et al., 2016). Dohn (2009)
surfaces several challenges related to student’s perceptions around knowledge, learning, and the
goals of the practice implicit in more open forms of assessment. Engaging students in OEP requires
a change of orientation around issues such as “authorship, copyright, knowledge production,
and expertise […] enabled by the distributed authorship, the renouncement of copyright, and the
acceptance of one’s text being edited and transformed by later coauthors” (Dohn, 2009, p. 344).
Despite this, it is argued that more open assessment practices have benefits to the learner, including
the practicing of digital literacies in the context of teaching and learning, active engagement in
the production of knowledge, working within and integrating both formal and informal learning
environments, and developing digital literacies and competencies relevant and needed in future
workplaces (Dohn, 2009).
Downes (2010) argues that those benefiting most from OER are the people who are producing the
resources. This argument is reinforced in Littlejohn & Hood’s (2016) study which investigates how
individuals learn and construct knowledge through the creation, adaptation, and reusing of OER.
In engaging with and sharing OER, individuals promote their own work, teaching, and research
processes. Further, contributors to OER may engage with and form networks around the resources
they create, collecting feedback and reviews to further improve their work. Following Downes’
argument, engaging students as contributors and creators of OER as part of assessment could lead
to benefits for the student in terms of promoting their own creative work, forging connections, and
building their own portfolio.
So much of the work students produce for assessment in higher education remains invisible to
their peers, wider institution, local community, or the world. Students most often produce works
which are submitted via closed learning management systems (LMS), then reviewed only by
the faculty member who provides feedback and a grade. Naturally this is appropriate for many
instances of assessment, for example sensitive reflections or early formative work. Moreover,
students may find themselves uncomfortable sharing openly, so flexibility and sensitivities to this
should be accommodated (Masterman & Wild, 2011). However, students may be provided with
encouragement, opportunities, and literacies which empower them to share their work more widely
if appropriate. In doing so we equip them with the literacies of purposeful searching, curation of
their own works, understanding of open licenses, and ways of using OER in their professional lives
(Masterman & Wild, 2011).
In some cases, it may be quite appropriate that resources created by students during the process of
their learning should be accessed by future students. By doing so we enable students to build on the
work of their peers. An example may be found with community outreach projects; providing students
with access to the work previously done in the community fosters the collective and collaborative
advancement of a community outreach project. Making student contributions openly available “is
seen by educators as an important factor for improving teaching and learning and for creating more
open and participatory cultures” (Alevizou, 2012, p. 11). Student work shared openly invites review,
comment, refinement, network formation, and potential opportunities for collaboration. “When work
is done privately – when it is carefully hidden from the public – no synergy is possible. When the
individual nodes remain disconnected, no network can emerge” (Wiley, 2016, para. 18). Increasingly
examples of the benefits of open and networked learning can be found in the development of student
eportfolios, social networks, and personal websites which showcase academic works developed
through the course of study.
The literature suggests that faculty should be encouraged to design assignments which involve
students in the creation and adaptation of OER (Jhangiani et al., 2016). Engaging students in
the production of OER levels the student-teacher relationship while engaging students as
coproducers of knowledge (Masterman, 2016). Faculty in Masterman’s (2016) study reported that
engaging students with OEP supported the development of communication, analytical, and
problem solving skills. Hodgkinson-Williams & Paskevicius (2012) study investigated students’
development of agency as they engaged in the development of OER in collaboration with faculty.
This collaboration resulted in the development of students’ digital literacies while preserving the
time that faculty would have had to invest in reworking and distributing their own existing materials
as OER. Involving students in the production of OER allowed them to practice developing digital
literacies using both informal and formal tools and learning environments. Students developed
creative agency as they worked, initially removing unnecessary details or addressing copyrighted
concerns, then questioning the pedagogic design and presentation of the materials. This feedback
was presented to faculty and the team worked together to address technical and pedagogical
When exploring more openness in relation to assessment and evaluation, some faculty have
expressed concern this may lead to students copying open versions of previous students’ work or
sourcing content from the web in academically inappropriate ways (Glud, Buus, Ryberg, Georgsen &
Davidsen, 2010; Waycott et al., 2010). While this does become possible with more open methods of
assessment and evaluation, it may be managed through alternative learning designs which challenge
students to build upon, critique, or evaluate previous students work and adhere to explicit attribution
and citation inherent in the practice. A core feature of OER is the practice of attribution and usage as
defined by the permissions embedded in open licences. Developing student literacies around how to
interpret open licenses, attribute authorship, and appropriately provide links back to the source are
valuable for working on the open web and in developing creative works. In doing so students may
further develop an understanding of how adopting open licenses for their own works might enable
the creative process of others, further developing the commons.
Conversely, faculty have voiced concern about students creating inaccurate resources and a
need for quality control of student generated OER (Masterman & Chan, 2015). Peer-review and
assessment of student works may help alleviate some of these issues. However, these are valid
operational issues for enacting OEP around assessment and can be addressed through the thoughtful
design and alignment of the assessments to the learning outcomes. Further research is needed to
better understand how engaging students with OEP as part of assessment impacts their knowledge
creation processes and practices.
There is mounting evidence that suggests engagement with OEP has the potential to transform
educational practices by shifting the relationships among faculty, between faculty and students, and
between faculty and organisations (Ehlers, 2011; McGill et al., 2013; Masterman, 2016). In terms of
instructional practice, these changes show “potential to flatten the traditional hierarchy and change
the balance of power in learner/teacher relationships” (McGill et al., 2013, p. 7). The potential for
increasing accessibility and promoting the sharing of learning outcomes, resources, activities, and
assessment designs among faculty represents a great opportunity to collectively improve educational
practice, within and across disciplines.
Constructive alignment provides a framework to situate examples of OEP within a pedagogically
sound model for the design of instructional practice. Figure 1 provides a visual model of the main
themes of OEP drawn from the literature within the model of constructive alignment. For each of
the elements of the model, examples are provided which may guide faculty towards how to consider
OEP as part of their design or redesign process. For example, when designing assessment and
evaluation activities, faculty may enact OEP by exploring ways in which they can engage students
as producers of content, find ways to integrate peer-review and assessment, promote student
collaboration, and develop digital literacies. Additional examples may be developed to further
enhance this model, however this provides a starting point for faculty familiar with learning design,
but not OEP, to conceptualize their practice.
Despite the opportunities presented through this new landscape of OEP, many in higher education
operate largely as they did in the past (McGoldrick, Watts & Economou, 2015). Both leadership and
professional development are needed to support a shift to OEP. Additionally, further research is needed
to better understand the phenomenon of OEP and their impacts on faculty and students. It has been
suggested that educational leadership should embrace “openness as a core organizational value if
[they] desire to both remain relevant to its learners and to contribute to the positive advancement of
the field of higher education” (Wiley & Hilton III, 2009, p. 1). Further recommendations have been
made to embed support for engaging with openness as part of the institutional mission (Masterman
& Chan, 2015). In many ways, the ethos of higher education is closely aligned to the open education
movement, however, it is often not made explicit or done in a coordinated way. For Lerman, Miyagawa
and Margulies (2008) “open sharing of knowledge is at the heart of the academic process. For many
faculty, it is an intrinsic value, convincingly demonstrated in their teaching and research” (2008, p.
214). Willinsky (2014) further argues that by opening access to the teaching, learning, and research
processes which occur in universities, we promote the possibility for unintended lessons and
unexpected interests among new groups of individuals in society. Openness is a way of engaging
with our communities, offering a window into the activities happening on our campuses while inviting
broader access and participation from individuals who might not have traditionally had contact with
the institution (McGill et al., 2013; Willinsky, 2014).
Engaging students with OEP may contribute to the development of valuable literacies for working
in the information age. Despite the increased availability and breadth of available OER, students
report limited awareness of what this means and how to locate these resources (Czerniewicz, 2016).
More research is needed into how engaging students with OEP might impact their own personal
knowledge and creative practices (Carey et al., 2015). Engaging students with OEP may motivate
students to become engaged in the learning process. By involving them as contributors, collaborators,
partners, knowledge creators, and reviewers which can lead to enhanced learning experiences (Nel,
2017). Students may further benefit from the opportunity for peer-review, assessment, and feedback
enabled by the integration of OEP into assessment design. By inviting students to make selections
of their work more visible to their peers and the wider public we present opportunities for community
engagement, network formation, and experiential learning.
A remaining challenge is higher education’s entrenched relationship with closed systems and
copyright enforced content. Most higher education institutions have invested in some form of LMS,
a toolset characterized by its closed, ridged, over functioned, and inflexible nature (Broekman, Hall,
Byfield, Hides & Worthington, 2014). Many faculty gravitate towards using the LMS as a consequence
of its availability (Bennett, Dawson, Bearman, Molloy & Boud, 2016). The physical and digital
boundaries created by these environments determine available pedagogies (L. M. Lane, 2009; Dron,
2016). Porter (2013) suggests that the rigid technical frameworks which the LMS typically employs
may act as a barrier to the creation and use of OER. Therefore, tools which explicitly support OEP
should also be considered as part of the institutional offering. New forms of digital technologies are
providing opportunities to enact flexible pedagogies which promote student agency, autonomy, and
self regulation (Evans, Muijs, & Tomlinson, 2015).
The literacies which support these emergent practices may not come naturally by learning about
and interacting with OER alone. Professional development and further training is needed to become
equipped with the skills necessary to effectively leverage OEP for enhancing pedagogy (Petrides et
al., 2011). This is also true for students, who may not have previously engaged with OEP (Ross, 2012).
Allocating time to develop literacies in OEP as well as time to work with colleagues to develop and
share practices are cited as significantly important considerations for fostering OEP (Kimmons, 2016).
Faculty highly value time to collaborate with other teaching professionals and generate opportunities
The open movement has come a long way in higher education, as awareness has grown in terms of
what OER can offer faculty, the potential cost savings for students, and the impact of collaboration
and open sharing of teaching and learning practices. The emergence of OEP reinforces that “open
education is not just about disseminating resources […] but also about an opportunity toward
broadening and deepening our collective understanding of teaching and learning” (Iiyoshi & Kumar,
2008, p. 439). Situating OEP within the model of constructive alignment allows faculty to envision
how open practices might fit into their landscape of practice. Furthermore, integrating OEP in a
deliberate way, always with a focus towards contributing to meaningful learning outcomes, ensures
that OEP contribute to aligned and meaningful instructional practice.
This paper was presented at the 2017 Open Education Consortium Global Conference, held in
Cape Town (South Africa) in March 8th-10th 2017 (http://conference.oeconsortium.org/2017), with
whom Open Praxis established a partnership. After a pre-selection by the Conference Programme
Committee, the paper underwent the usual peer-review process in Open Praxis.
Juan García-Gutierrez et al.
Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Open Praxis, vol. 9 issue 2, April–June 2017, pp. 245–252 (ISSN 2304-070X)
The challenges of incorporating ePortfolio into an
undergraduate nursing programme
Whitireia Community Polytechnic & Wellington Institute of Technology (New Zealand)
Ara Institute of Canterbury (New Zealand)
Registered nurses today are required to maintain a portfolio of evidence of their competence to practice.
This evidence collection commences at undergraduate level with nursing programmes requiring portfolio’s as
assessments, which are often submitted in hard copy. This paper describes the outcome when a small group
of tutorial staff introduced ePortfolio’s into an undergraduate nursing degree. Evaluation of the effectiveness
was collected through reflective conversations, which focused on issues that arise when implementing this
change to a curriculum, along with improving understanding of ePortfolios and their use in practice. Routine
student evaluations and the lessons learnt from tutorial staff reflections were used to inform the planning for
wider implementation of ePortfolio’s.
Within the three year nursing degree, students are required to maintain a record of their clinical
placement attendance, objectives and achievements. This record comes together to form a portfolio
of evidence of achievement which students often use as a foundation for an employment Curriculum
Vitae on completion of their study. Students currently use a physical folder, in which documents are
stored and handed in at the end of each semester for tutorial review and grading where required.
This can be cumbersome for both students and tutors and an electronic platform for the portfolio
was seen as a viabile alternative. A project was developed to explore the student and tutorial staff
experiences of introducing ePortfolio into an undergraduate nursing programme. The aim of the
project was to identify strategies to support the integration of ePortfolios, identify issues as they
arose and provide tutorial staff with strategies to support wider integration across the undergraduate
In nursing education the use of ePortfolio is increasing, with ongoing debate regarding the
electronic platform to best support the ePortfolio and how the ePortfolio intersects with assessment
processes. The project identified literature to support the rationale for using ePortfolio in health
degree education, it’s place in assessment, as well as some things to consider in regard to the
introduction and support of an ePortfolio. Literature also highlights the usefulness of ePortfolio in
supporting the student to develop critical reflection and writing skills. This paper reviews current
literature, discusses the implementation of ePortfolio across two cohorts of students, explores key
issues and identifies a strategy for the wider introduction of ePortfolio across an undergraduate
Portfolios are a common assessment tool used in undergraduate nursing education
2005; Oermann, 2002)
. Portfolios have to date been used as a collection of artefacts such as
competencies, reflections and attendance sign offs, which have usually been submitted in hard copy
. Green, Wylie and Jackson (2014) discuss the notion of nursing education being
the best place to start good professional practices. The undergraduate student nurses portfolio is
an excellent starting point for introducing and developing these professional practices. These early
portfolio’s act as a repository for recording professional development, career advancement and
planning, as well as evidence for performance appraisal and competency assessment
& Cole, 2015; Curtis, 2012; Green et al., 2014)
. It is becoming more common internationally to
introduce electronic or ePortfolios to students during their undergraduate education
(Green, Wylie &
. The benefits of using an ePortfolio in undergraduate nursing education are many
(Curtis, 2012; Garrett, MacPhee & Jackson, 2013; Green et al., 2014)
, as a repository
for documents, artefacts and information, reflective journal, resume, and professional development
record. The introduction of ePortfolio’s needs to be consistent with sound educational principles
around assessment and learning styles.
Assessment and ePortfolio
discusses how the ePortfolio can be used for not only a platform for storing information,
but provide “transparency of the learning process and facilitating visibility of learning and formative
assessment” (p. 66), with feedback to students supporting their development and critical reflection
skills. Formative feedback in ePortfolios can improve summative assessment results
(Green et al.,
Andre and Heartfield (2007)
discuss the need for clarity in regard to the intended learning
outcomes of using portfolio’s in assessment and breaks this down into educational, staff development
and regulatory outcomes. They go on to support the use of portfolios in the development of the
learner, in particular “evidence based practice, professional accountability, application of theory to
practice and responsiveness to change”
(Andre & Heartfield, 2007, p. 58)
Assessments attached to ePortfolio need to consider how this will work in reality as it contradicts
some of the other literature, which suggests that ePortfolios should not be used for summative
assessment, however in saying this, it needs to be acknowledged that linking ePorfolio to
assessment can be a strong motivating factor to encourage use
(Andrews & Cole, 2015; McMullan,
. Andrews and Cole (2015) talk about the ePortfolio providing “assessment of learning and
assessment for learning” (p. 569), with the ePortfolio becoming more of a “space for learning rather
than an assessment space” (p. 571).
Learning styles and ePortfolio
Green et al. (2014)
state that the use of an ePortfolio is consistent with different learning styles,
auditory, visual, kinaesthetic and therefore should meet the needs of most students. The critical
component is how the ePortfolio is introduced and how well supported students are in using the
ePortfolio in such a way as it best meets their individual learning style. Nielsen, Pedersen, and Helms
(2015) discuss how important the use of ePortfolio can be in supporting the student to develop
alternative learning styles, in particular the power of learning through writing. Writing in a portfolio
particularly as a journal is a powerful tool in support of ‘reflection-on-action’
(Green et al., 2014;
Nielsen et al., 2015)
. Romova and Andrew (2011) describe the benefit of using a portfolio to develop
writing skills and the benefit of reflection on gaining “key academic literacies” (p. 120). Further,
the effects of blogging and electronic journaling appear to have a positive impact on writing skills
Garrett et al. (2013)
identify the need for the portfolio to be constructed and owned
by students, as it is the process of preparing the portfolio that promotes active learning.
The literature discusses the use of technology in undergraduate nursing education as having the
potentional to be stressful, causing anxiety for both students and tutorial staff
(Andrews & Cole, 2015;
, and therefore ePortfolios need to be introduced carefully with clear guidelines
and good support structures. The stress of introduction can also be impacted by many variables
that the educator may or may not have direct control over, i.e. IT access and reliability (Andrews
& Cole, 2015), but can seriously disrupt the introduction of ePortfolio. The critical thing is that the
implementation is not ad hoc, is supported both within the programme by sound pedagogy and the
wider organisational systems and processes.
There are a variety of ePortfolio platforms available, however in New Zealand we have access
to Mahara (https://mahara.org/), a free, open source ePortfolio platform that students and tutors
can access through the Learning Management System (Moodle). There are varied opinions on the
suitability of Mahara as an ePortfolio platform across undergraduate and postgraduate nursing
programmes across New Zealand. Mahara is the only free specialist ePortfolio that is available as
open source and after looking at other options being used nationally and internationally, Mahara was
the option chosen. Mahara is supported internally and contains functionality relevant to nursing. In
particular the functionality around journaling, recording continuing professional development and
competency assessment through the latest upgrade which includes a ‘Smart Evidence’ function. All
of these factors supported the decision to use the Mahara platform.
Andrews and Cole (2015)
saw the ePortfolio platform Mahara as complex and only found that
introducing small components of it at one time rather than all at once was a good way to proceed.
Complexity increases over the three years, with the components developed overtime becoming a
extensive portfolio of evidence for employment purposes, by the time the student has completed
their undergraduate degree. This is supported by
who explored the relationship
between Mahara as an ePortfolio, with social constuctivism, scaffolding and gradual introduction of
Tutorial staff (n=7) working across the the first and second years of one nursing degree programme
participated in the project along with a senior academic staff member (SASM) overseeing the project.
There were three key stages to the project.
1. The SASM worked with the tutorial staff from the programme to introduce ePortfolios as a
concept, facilitate training on the Mahara platform and plan the introduction of ePortfolio’s to the
students. This session was facilitated by the organisation’s online educational support staff over
one hour. Further support was provided one to one, by both the support staff and the SASM as
required. It was expected that the tutorial staff would then continue to use the ePortfolio along
with the students and reflect on their experience.
2. The SASM, along with the tutorial staff, provided ePortfolio training to the students in year one
and year two. These were hands on sessions with students either using their own device or
borrowing a device from a laptop bank that was made available for the session. The facilitators
focussed on the journal section of the Mahara ePortfolio, asking students, who were about to go
into a clinical placement, to use the ePortfolio for regular reflections throughout their placement.
These reflections could then inform the student’s summative reflective assessment, which was
due two weeks following their clinical placement. In addition to this the students competency
assessment forms were made available in word documents to store and add to as they worked
through their placements.
3. The final stage included tutorial reflections and student evaluations. The project team reflected
on how their experiences of using and supporting students to use the Mahara ePortfolio. Two
reflectives sessions were held, one immediately post the initial training and introduction of
Mahara ePortfolio to students. The second reflection occurred at the end of the semester following
review of the student evaluations.
Student evaluations, which are routinely undertaken at the end of a course, were critical to
ensure that the student experience was captured. These evaluations have standard questions,
along with two additional questions that can be targeted for specific purposes. The project team
asked the following questions relating to ePortfolio use:
How did you find using the ePortfolio during your clinical placement?
How should the ePortfolio be introduced into your nursing degree?
Thematic analysis (Saldana, 2012) was applied to the notes from the project team reflective sessions
and student evaluations. This process identified the following overarching themes that informed the
planning for the wider implementation of ePortfolio into the nursing programme – motivation and
timing; training and support; technology and access.
Project Team Reflections
Unfortunately most of the tutorial staff only attended the training sessions, with only two engaging
in using the ePortfolio, themselves. Time factors including workload and assessment marking were
important considerations for the tutors. As they did not have time to practice using the Mahara
ePortfolio platform, their confidence suffered and they gave up trying. Several staff identified that the
ePortfolio did not have the same priority for them, as it was not a summative requirement for students.
Despite this the tutorial staff could see the benefit for using the ePortfolio and were supportive of
introducing ePortfolio into the programme the following academic year. The key consideration was
that the ePortfiolo platform was introduced early and linked initially to formative activities before being
used for any summative assessments. Tutorial staff were clear that training and support needed to
be well planned and ongoing.
Tutorial staff considered the benefits of introducing the ePortfolio slowly over three years, thus
allowing students and tutorial staff to get used to the technology and how it is used in a staged
and well managed process. This gradual introduction would also allow the ePortfolio to be linked to
increasingly complex activities over the three years, as students and staff confidence develops in
using the ePortfolio. Other benefits that the staff could see for using ePortfolio were that students
have more control over how they used their ePortfolios, rather than the current prescribed hard copy
portfolios that students were required to submit.
The project team identified that a lack of a shared understanding of the place of summative
assessment and portfolios in general was also identified as something that needs to be worked
through to ensure clarity for both students and staff. The project team were also clear that the
ePortfolio needs to add value to the student learning journey, not just be added on top of what is
already a full learning workload. How the ePortfolio is used needs to be aligned with the programme’s
curriculum philosophy, evidence based and purposeful.
The actual platform of Mahara was hotly debated between the project team, as it is in the literature.
The choice of Mahara as a platform we believe was a good one, however there are issues that need
to be addressed by the organisation, relating to upgrading the current software, hosting and working
out how students will access as an alumni.
Out of 30 students across year one and two, only two students had actively used the ePortfolio, one
from each year of the programme. One theme identified was lack of motivation (n=18), with many
having valid reasons for not finding the motivation to engage with the ePortfolio:
• Not important; No urgency
• Too occupied with other stuff
• Lack of understanding of Mahara
• Don’t know what to use it for, limited understanding
• Stressed out about the exams
• It did not seem like much of a priority
• Access (n=8), with these students identifying that they could only access the internet at school
or through the local library as could not afford [the internet] at home
Students identified that the timing of the ePortfolio introduction was not the best for them (n=15),
most identified that it would be better to introduce the ePortfolio much earlier in the programme.
Training (n=12) was another theme, along with allowing plenty of time for the students to ‘play’ before
they were required to use the ePortfolio more formally.
• Introduction and regular follow up sessions… lunctimes; have more sessions
• Sessions to play and familiarise
• Make it compulsory (n=5)
Another theme was for tutors to ensure repetition/reminders (n=10) in regard to using the ePortfolio.
One student identified a interesting way to improve use: “make an app so it can be accessed easily
through the phone and iPad”.
The ePortfolio was introduced to students during the second semester and just prior to their going
on clinical placement. This was the case for both Year One and Two students. The timing of this was
not ideal. Students had a variety of assessments and exams that they were working on at that time
and this was identified as a barrier to them finding the time to use the ePortfolio. This was reinforced
by the tutorial staff, who also stated that the timing was not ideal as they too had assignments to
mark and clinical assessments to complete and therefore they did not really engage with using the
ePortfolio. Both tutorial staff and students could however see the benefit of using ePortfolio, once
they have had time to understand and integrate them into their programme. Peakcock, Gordon,
Murray, Morss and Dunlop (2010) described faculty barriers to the implementation of ePortfolios as
including limited understanding of the tool, and “initiative fatigue” (p. 827). With any requirement to
implement this type of change there needs to be staff development and support from the institution.
This “initiative fatigue” was a factor in this project, both tutorial staff and students felt as though it was
one more thing on top of what was an already busy workload.
It is clear from the literature that the place of the ePortfolio in assessment needs to be further
articulated as to whether the ePortfolio is the assessment or a repository for assessment
artefacts, of which components can be used for assessment purposes. The notion of ePortfolio
as assessment was debated, both between the project team and other interested colleagues.
There were mixed understandings of how ePortfolio and assessment should be aligned. The
critical issue here appears to be how the ePortfolio is aligned with both the assessment, the
curriculum and its overarching philosophy.
explored the relationship between
ePortfolio’s (using Mahara as the platform), social constuctivism and assessment. His analysis
supported the need for ePortfolios to be introduced and supported by a software platform that
was “mindful of the underpinning pedagogical theory” (p. 33). Bright went on to say that when
our pedagogy, platform and learning activities are aligned, the learning experience is more
meaningful. This alignment needs to be considered and clearly articulated before any ePortfolio
is widely implemented.
A proposal for wider implementation of ePortfolio has been submitted, as outlined in Figure 1.
The nursing programme will explore in more details how ePortfolio can be incorporated into their
curriculum to ensure alignment and added value. Introduction of the ePortfolio will see a gradual
aligning with formative assessment processes initially, allowing students and staff to become familiar
and confident with the electronic platform before it is used for summative assessment purposes. Once
they are comfortable, each programme will add further complexity as students progress through the
• Semester One - Introduce Mahara ePortfolio for reflections and
• Semester Two - add summative clinical competencies assessment
• Formative and Summative clinical competency assessment and
reflective activities (individual and group)
• Start to develop continuing professional development pages
• Introduce curriculum vitae activities
• Summative clinical competency assessments and poster presentations
At each stage of introduction the programme staff will review how the ePortfolio continues to
support student learning, rather than just adding to their workload. Further evaluations will be
undertaken once the ePortfolio is introduced in order to continue growing our understanding of
ePortfolio as a learning tool in undergraduate nursing education.
The benefit of introducing ePortfolio’s into an undergraduate nursing degree is that the ePortfolio
can follow the student to subsequent years of education, building one repository to show the
student’s development over time. The ePortfolio can than follow the student once they graduate
and into their employment, where portfolios evidencing competence are, and will continue to be,
required. Literature supports this, along with supporting the student to develop critical reflection
and writing skills through the use of an ePortfolio. The aim of this project was to identify
educationally sound strategies for supporting tutorial staff with the integration of ePortfolios
into an undergraduate nursing degree. The key findings were directly related to ensuring that
ePortfolios align with curriculum, add value and are purposeful. And that training and support
for the introduction of ePortfolio, needs to timely and ongoing with both students and tutorial
staff. This needs to be considered as a priority in the role out of ePortfolio to ensure that staff
understand the rationale and can see the benefit of incorporating something new (or different)
into the curriculum.
Oermann, M. H. (2002). Developing a Professional Portfolio. Orthopaedic Nursing, 21(2), 73–78.
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in Scotland. British Journal of Education Technology, 41(5), 827-851. https://doi.org/10.1111/
Romova, Z. & Andrew, M. (2011). Teaching and assessing academic writing via the portfolio: Benefits
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Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Open Praxis, vol. 9 issue 2, April–June 2017, pp. 253–263 (ISSN 2304-070X)
Digital Learning in Higher Education: A Training Course for
Teaching Online - Universidade Aberta, Portugal
José António Moreira , Susana Henriques ,
Maria de Fátima Goulão & Daniela Barros
Universidade Aberta (Portugal)
, , &
This paper uses qualitative evidence to describe, explore and discuss the progress of the online teaching
training course taught at the Universidade Aberta to Portuguese and foreign professors of higher education
institutions. As this is an entirely online course, its pedagogical design results from the combination of the
basics of open distance education and network education using the Moodle 2.0 platform and other digital
environments. The results point, on one hand, to a dynamic pedagogical design that addresses the need for
continuous improvement, and, on the other hand, to the changes in the role of professors in virtual teaching
and learning environments, and to the different and specific pedagogical strategies in need of adjustment.
They also point to the strong presence of technological and pedagogical elements of innovation.
Keywords: Higher Education; Online Teaching; Open Distance Education; Networking; Innovation; Teacher
The rapid and profound changes in today’s network societies pose challenges and demands that
need to be addressed in time by individuals and institutions. Lifelong learning and life wide learning
have become essential and, in this context, Distance Learning and eLearning have an increasingly
more important role to play in providing answers to those needs. As a consequence, higher education
institutions have been implementing forms of teaching and learning that include online education, with
the purpose of diversifying their educational offer and reaching new audiences. This brings profound
changes to face-to-face teaching practices that seek to include typical distance learning approaches.
However, this is a greater challenge that is not going to materialize by simply transposing the
faceto-face teaching practices to network virtual environments, but rather imposes changes supported
by research in teaching practices in virtual environments to enable us to integrate contemporary and
emerging models that characterize the teaching and learning digital territories.
The results of the study on distance learning carried out by the Observatory of the Quality of
Distance Learning and eLearning in Portugal have revealed a wide variety of distance learning
forms and practices, and the absence of groundwork thought in this field in the respondent higher
education institutions (Dias et al., 2015). This diversity can be put down to two factors: the lack of
public regulation and the lack of professor’s training. In Portugal, Universidade Aberta (UAb) is the
only public distance higher education institution, with almost 30 years of experience and production
of knowledge and innovation in the field of online network distance education. Aware of its social
responsibility as a leading pioneer institution in this area in Portugal, it was felt that it would have
to give an active contribution to the globalisation processes of education, arising from the profound
technological advancements in recent decades that have had a considerable impact on the distance
learning and network systems. Universidade Aberta has, therefore, taken on a collaborative role
in sharing and putting its strategies on the renewal of pedagogical thought to the use of higher
education institutions –traditionally steered to face-to-face education–, an essential condition to act
in virtual learning contexts (Dias, 2015). In this environment of support-oriented cooperation with
institutions in Portuguese-speaking states and countries which seek to develop distance learning
models, the authors of this paper –professors at the Department of Education and Distance Learning
of Universidade Aberta– were asked to design the Online Teachers Training Course (CFDO). This
course follows the Virtual Pedagogical Model® of UAb (Pereira, Mendes, Morgado, Amante &
Bidarra, 2007), specifically designed for virtual teaching and based on the principles of interaction,
student-centred learning, flexibility and digital inclusion.
Our paper aims to describe, explore and discuss the progress of the course taught along its
various editions. Although the quality of the course is constantly monitored, with six editions having
been completed, we believe we now have consistent results to serve as the basis for analyzing
aspects such as the pedagogical design of the course, the critical issues on the quality of online
teacher training, and on the pedagogical innovation in digital territories. Our work will, therefore, build
on these three perspectives to expand on theoretical issues and achieve empirical observation, as
In this study, the three-pronged analytical model breaks down the data on the online teacher training
course which, although analytically different, are closely interlinked. These perspectives are: the
pedagogical design of the course; the critical issues on the quality of online teacher training; and the
pedagogical innovation in digital territories. First, we will briefly review the theoretical characterization
of each perspective, emphasising, as already mentioned, that we will go into more detail when
discussing the results.
The first perspective refers to the online teaching and learning processes in higher education.
Where it relates to professor’ training, this becomes a particularly challenging exercise, as it requires
specific innovative models, methodologies and strategies. This means that special attention must
be given to the pedagogical design. For the online teacher training course, we chose to follow a
“contextualized institutional design” (Filatro, 2004), in other words, with dynamic and recursive
characteristics in which the design, objectives, development, implementation and assessment unfold
in a spiral.
It should be made clear that we recognise the term ‘pedagogical design’ as being the most
appropriate, as we believe it gives an idea of a more constructivist and humanistic teaching and
learning process, therefore this is the reason why we will use it. This concept –pedagogical design–
has been addressed by many authors
(Ling & Marton, 2012; Häkkinen & Hänämäläinen, 2012)
In the context of a dynamic pedagogical design, participants are involved in processes of “research
and training” (Macedo, 2006; Reiser & Dempsey, 2007; Silva, 2015). That is, the educational process
and the change in practices encompass a questioning, critical and investigative attitude. The main
challenge is, therefore, to develop a educational offer defined by a pedagogical design that combines
resources and technologies with the search for knowledge and understanding, capable of developing
skills to allow all participants to become better pedagogical designers. One of these digital tools is
the ePortfolio, which collects the compiled works on a webpage with links to other Internet resources
(Moreira, 2010). Helen Barrett says “an ePortfolio (electronic portfolio) is an electronic collection of
evidence that shows your learning journey over time” (2010, p. 6). Like Moreira and Ferreira (2011),
it is also our opinion that ePortfolios or digital portfolios have a wealth of potential, as they can
include static or animated images, videos and music to complement and enrich the text. The use
of hyperlinks to other documents or to resources available online also enhance the ePortfolio and,
at the same time, emphasize the constant dynamics of knowledge and learning, which are of the
utmost importance in our society today.
The second perspective of analysis concerns the critical issues of quality of online teacher
training. The purpose of monitoring the quality of contextualized pedagogical design is to
promote the knowledge about teaching and learning processes in an integrated manner, in a
sense of continuous improvement (Filatro, 2004). This knowledge is intended to contribute to the
development of organizational strategies in higher education, as we believe that more important
than discussing face-to-face, semi-distance, or distance teaching courses, we need to discuss
what type of education we want and what strategies are under way so that it can be achieved with
excellent quality standards.
Although quality is a subjective concept that cannot be directly benchmarked, it has received
much attention from researchers (see, for example, the works of Lim, Lee & Nam, 2007) and
international institutions (for e.g., the European Quality Observatory). Ensuring an appropriate
control and monitoring of the critical issues of online teacher training presupposes, in this context,
paying systematic attention to and critically reflecting on the information obtained throughout the
pedagogical design process, and also using that information to improve the quality of resources,
e-activities and learning environments (Romiszowski, 2004).
Finally, the third perspective of analysis relates to the pedagogical innovation in digital territories,
which presupposes that changes in culture and knowledge are supported by research in educational
practices in virtual territories, where collaboration, social and cognitive roots and pedagogical mediation
are the main means to achieve sustainable network learning. Such pedagogical innovation is based
on a change of educational paradigm, characterised by connectivity, flexibility, personalisation, speed
and fluency, and by the use of open resources and social networks.
To operate in teaching and learning scenarios in networked knowledge societies, the nature and
requirements of professor’ training will have to take into consideration the training of competences with
a view to inclusion, participation and collaboration in the joint construction of new knowledge (Dias,
2012). In other words, the scenarios that emerge from network learning go far beyond technological
expertise, in that technologies themselves do not call to action, but provide a sustainable change
for innovative and creative knowledge, supported by pedagogical dynamics that foster valuable
opportunities for “learning to be and learning to learn” (Fullan & Langworthy, 2014; Massano &
Pedagogical innovation in digital territories involves the development of skills in critical and
creative problem solving, communication, sharing and collaboration, and relevant knowledge. These
skills presuppose a particular focus on course pedagogical design, especially the critical issues
of the quality of online teacher training. Before analyzing and discussing the data, a number of
methodological issues need clarification.
Material and Methods
The main aim of this paper is to describe, explore and discuss the progress of the online teacher
training course taught at Universidade Aberta to Portuguese and foreign professors of higher
education institutions. As this is an entirely online course, its pedagogical design results from the
combination of the basics of open distance education and network education (Dias, 2015; Aires,
2016) using the Moodle 2.0 platform customized according to the principles of the Virtual Pedagogical
Model® of UAb, and other digital environments and tools.
The Virtual Pedagogical Model was specifically designed for the teaching and learning processes
at UAb and is based on the following key principles (Pereira et al., 2007):
i) Student-centered learning, making students actively responsible for their knowledge building
ii) Education based on the flexibility of access to learning (contents and activities), without time
or space constraints, according to the students’ availability. This principle is materialized by
prioritizing asynchronous communication, in which space and time do not have to coincide, since
communication and interaction is made whenever it is convenient for the trainee, allowing him/
her to read, process the information, think about it, and engage in a dialogue or interact.
iii) Education based on diversified interaction between student-professor and student-student,
or even between the student and the resources. According to this principle, the professor
has various communication devices to plan and design according to his/her pedagogical
iv) Education that promotes digital inclusion, in that it helps adults (students) access and master
technologies, who might not otherwise be able to develop those skills.
In this model the student is integrated in a learning community that develops pedagogical thinking,
as a result of the participation and collaboration in the joint construction of learning (Henriques,
Moreira, Goulão & Barros, 2016; Goulão & Henriques, 2015). The nature of this issue led us to
consider an approach like Design Based Research (DBR), which relies on the concept of design
experiments. According to Wang and Hannafin (2005), this research methodology in education
enables an accurate and reflexive research to test and develop innovative learning environments.
This methodology seeks to study educational problems in real contexts of pedagogical activity,
combining theory and practice through collaboration between researchers and professional. The
DBR is based on epistemology considerations that consider that the main goal of the research
is to solve real problems, and at the same time it allows the construction of design principles
that can influence future decisions. The study approach is qualitative and is based on data from
the six editions of the online teaching training course already completed. The instruments that
served as a basis for data collection were an online questionnaire survey and an information
Analysis of results and discussion
The purpose of the online teacher training course methodology is to develop students’ pedagogical,
technological and digital literacy skills. As the target audience is student professors of higher
education institutions, it is important that they acquire these skills and, at the same time, be prepared
for developing their own students’ scientific, technological and digital literacy skills in virtual teaching
and learning contexts.
Several changes were introduced in the various previous editions with a view to innovative
colearning design (Henriques, Moreira, Goulão & Barros, 2015). This means that the pedagogical
design of the CFDO is dynamic, in that it integrates changes, adaptations and innovations in its
overall structure and in the strategies of each course module. Some of these changes include, in
particular, the increased use of Open Educational Resources and free access social web software,
which allowed for adjustments to the educational ecosystems built and designed by the course
professors in each module; and the introduction of an ePortfolio built by the trainees, also using web
2.0 software, aggregating all the work carried out in the various course modules. This ePortfolio has
three distinct and complementary functions:
i) The professors monitor the ePortfolio and assess it as to its contents.
ii) The trainees add their own thoughts about their training path to the contents and resources.
iii) Ultimately, the ePortfolio is an important working tool for the trainees, who, as professors,
will have an archive of materials (contents, resources, e-activities) and their own thoughts on
their own development (progress and setbacks, difficulties and strategies to overcome them,
strengths and areas for improvement).
The results of the analysis of the pedagogical design of the online teacher training course point
to adjustments needed to strengthen the approach to professional academic contexts, that is, the
opportunities for continuous improvement are directly related with the skills to be developed. We
therefore need to describe the structure of the course under analysis (Figure 1).
The course load is 10 ECTS (European Credit Transfer Credit System) over 17 weeks of training,
preceded by an online adaptation module lasting 2 weeks that has a two-fold purpose. On one hand,
it is intended to familiarise students with the learning environment and with the Virtual Pedagogical
Model® of Universidade Aberta. On the other hand, the purpose is for the students to get used to
being online students and to acquire the basic skills to attend the course. In addition to the adaptation
module, there is also a cross-cutting module of digital tools that accompanies the student throughout
the whole course, aiming to help the student explore and use different softwares, applications and
Web 2.0 interfaces. The Digital Literacy module covers two main topics –Communication and Online
learning–, which address the communication and interaction processes and the individual needs of
each student, and the topic of digital literacies, which refers to the digital skills needed in ubiquitous
learning contexts. Module 2 –Innovation and Network Pedagogies– covers two main topics: Emerging
Pedagogies, which focuses on theories of learning underlying Web 2.0-based pedagogical approaches;
and Web Applications and Interactive Technologies, which explores the potential of pedagogical use
of some Web 2.0 and social networks text, image and sound editing tools. The third module, Online
Pedagogical Scenarios, covers three topics: Principles for the Design of Online Courses, which
focuses on some essential components and principles in the design of online courses; E-activities,
which focuses on the structure required for an active and interactive online training that caters for the
students’ different ways of learning; and the topic Online Assessment Practices, which systematizes
the challenges, contexts and assessment practices in online learning environments. Finally, the Project
module, organized around the main axes behind an online course – planning, project, design, and
development. In all these modules, innovation also arises from the articulation between the various
technological platforms used and the social web softwares, in a Blended (e)Learning system that make
the educational experience even more meaningful.
Each module was structured by professors with expertise in the field, who work at the Department
of Education and Distance Learning of Universidade Aberta, using pedagogical strategies that
include findings from recent research in the field of online pedagogy. Moreover, expert professors
of recognised merit in the areas, of universities from different countries and invited by the UAb
also collaborated in each of the modules. The course trainees are professors who work at higher
education institutions in Portugal and in other Portuguese speaking countries.
One of the course’s innovative factors is precisely that this training is intended for a group of
trainees who are professors in higher education, where requirements are centred on scientific
competence in a specific area of knowledge at the expense of pedagogical competences. The
fact that this course promotes dynamics of interaction and collaboration between higher education
professors based on the development of educational competences for online teaching makes this
course truly unique. Some of these dynamics include the e-Portfolio referred to earlier, which made
it possible to develop competences related to an active, constructivist, interactive and strongly
Note that this is the current structure of the course, which has been changed and adapted since
its early version consisting of 8 modules, until this latest version, which responds more adequately to
the challenges and requirements of a course of this nature (Henriques et al., 2015). The challenge
has to do with the activities that will enable the training of pedagogical designers and giving them the
means for becoming more efficient in pedagogical design.
As argued by Hasan and Laaser (2010), higher education institutions are faced with needs
that fall outside their traditional research, professional development and personal education
competences. They must search for options for new audiences to be better prepared to respond
to the new reality of our students (connectivity, speed, and space and time facilities) and also to
ensure that such a response will help promote lifelong learning, but without compromising the
quality of higher education.
These changes have, of course, implications for the professor, whose role now has been redefined
and its duties call for the development of more complex professional skills. Chang, Shen and Liu (2014)
point to the changes that an online training environment causes to the interactions between professor,
student and content, and that professors are expected to take on a more facilitating approach. The
teaching activity now consists of planning, resources and communication, and the professor’s role
is reflected in the teaching, socialisation, management and integration of technologies (Goulão,
2012; Berge, 2001), and should promote the development of strategies that will lead to an active and
independent learning process, in networked collaborative and co-learning environments.
It should be noted that in this course these professors take the role of students and that the
virtual learning environments promote a more active role of these students while they build their own
knowledge. This system is more effective in responding to the specific characteristics of learners,
in particular their learning style. This also means that the formal virtual space must be organised in
terms of type of learning materials and activities made available, which should be diversified so as
to cater for the different learning styles of learners.
The works by Azevedo and Cromley (2004) draw attention to the implications that the pedagogical
design of virtual learning environments have in the acquisition of knowledge, and that must also be
taken into consideration throughout the course by the students, seeing that they are also professors.
The students’ opinions are collected in their individual e-portfolio, prepared from the moment they
attend the CFDO.
The e-portfolio enhances collaborative, network and lifelong learning. Sá-Chaves (2007) highlights
4 key characteristics of e-portfolios: 1) formative (by grasping the complexity of the training process
in a contextualised way, it allows us to understand, in time and context, each part as being of interest
to the process); 2) continuous (by grasping the dynamics of how the trainee’s personal knowledge
increases); 3) reflexive (as the metacognitive reflection generates knowledge to allow the student to
act in practical contexts or in contexts about itself); 4) comprehensive (by grasping the evolution of
knowledge over time). We also add the focus on sharing and interaction, in particular between peers,
creating new learning opportunities, allowing assessments and comments on the work done, which
can be an added incentive (Amante, 2011). As Barberà and Ahumada (2007) state, the e-portfolio is
a dynamic place where the processes of teaching, assessment and students’ personal development
Due to its characteristics, the e-portfolio provides important information for the analysis of the
critical issues of quality in online teacher training.
From the aspects shown in most e-portfolios we highlight interactivity and collaboration, as they
help to shape the construction of knowledge in virtual environments. These are referred to as
being both an advantage and a disadvantage. While the advantages are more obvious, relating
to the professional and personal development in a collaborative way, and have a broad theoretical
basis (Moreira, Ferreira & Almeida, 2013; Dias, 2008; 2012; Oliveira, Tinoca & Pereira, 2011), the
disadvantages relate mainly to the need to adapt to work routines, organisation and construction of
knowledge different to those that students are used to – both as students and as professors.
In respect of the analysis and discussion of quality-related issues, an explanation must be given on
some of the model’s details and on the CFDO quality indicators. The latter is directed to the quality
of educational processes, and is assumed to strongly influence the learning outcomes manifested
in the desired skills. The purpose is to respond to a continuing need to improve the effectiveness
and efficiency of answers, identifying, in due time, the functional weaknesses or the opportunities
for innovation, while maintaining a relevant position in the current competitive market of specialised
The model used contains process indicators (pedagogical design and others), instruments for
collecting and monitoring information (survey questionnaire, information registration grid) and data
analysis tools designed for the construction of knowledge, innovation and continuous improvement
of quality based on scientific evidence (Henriques et al., 2016). In this phase, we should look at the
weaknesses, strengths and opportunities for improvement mentioned by the students in the various
spaces and at various moments of interaction.
One of the most relevant weaknesses is the lack of time to do the e-activities, especially when a
balance must be achieved between work, family responsibilities and other daily business and the
course requirements. Note that the professors responsible for the modules had also stressed the
difficulty in meeting the deadlines. This is a central issue in eLearning theory and research (Hasan &
Laaser, 2010; Henriques & Seabra, 2012).
Besides the time aspect, another weakness found is that some of the digital tools are difficult
to use. Although technologies are always part of our daily life, digital literacy levels are low and
some people find it difficult to master the basics of technologies, even more than we would expect
in a group formed by higher education professors. This seems to be related with some difficulty in
managing individuals with this social profile and highly demanding levels.
Generally speaking, the attitude of classroom professors to online teaching can condition the entire
personal and institutional strategy to embrace this form of teaching (McCarthy & Samors, 2009; Martinho
& Jorge, 2016). To reduce the negative impact of more antagonist attitudes to distance learning, some
authors suggest the development of training actions that associate the pedagogical and technological
components, in order to enable professors to work successfully in virtual teaching contexts and
networkbased learning (Martinho & Jorge, 2016; Allen & Seaman, 2011; Oncu & Cakir, 2010).
As for the strengths identified by the trainees, the data collected show that the pedagogical design
of the course is appropriate and its contents are both innovative and challenging. Interaction and
support were also highlighted. The issues referred to by the students reveal a reflexive process
associated with professional development (Goulão & Barros, 2014). Some students even defend that
all higher education professors should attend the CFDO.
Finally, as regards the opportunities for improvement, we note the issues related to the proper
management of time, to a greater concern with the usability of some technologies, and the increased
interaction and feedback from peers, and between professor-students. The serious review of
opportunities for improvement presented has allowed the introduction of new features to the course
under analysis, in particular in terms of structure and pedagogical design, as already mentioned.
These innovations introduced arise from a great deal of reflection on the teaching-learning practices
in which professors find support and inspiration, resulting in the creation of knowledge networks and
collaborative work, the development of processes that facilitate learning, with implications in the
organisational sustainability of the higher education institutions involved.
The focus on innovation involves making learning tools and resources available, creating environments
conducive to knowledge, generating new learning partnerships, and anticipating innovative scenarios to
generate change. Moreover, we need to continue to experiment, accepting that errors are an opportunity
for learning and incorporating the views of the various stakeholders (Collins & Porras, 2002).
We therefore see innovation as the search for critical and creative solutions to solve problems, in
order to adapt to the future. Accordingly, innovative knowledge is characterised by being challenging,
transformative, practical, an instrument of power, liberating, interpretative, contextualised,
reflexive, critical, collaborative, open, interdisciplinary, dynamic, questionable (inter)subjective, and
argumentative. To train professors to create online courses and to teach online higher education
courses implies developing skills so that they can be critical and reflexive, can question the purpose
and contents of teaching and its practice, and produce new knowledge towards pedagogical renewal,
in the classroom and in the transformation of his/her peers.
The online teacher training course is centred on the use of networks for developing learning
spaces. To that end, spaces other than the Moodle platform were used for contacts, interaction
and socialising. For example, social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or SOL (academic social
network created by Universidade Aberta, Portugal). To facilitate the collaboration between students
and professors, social web tools and Pedagogy 2.0 were also used to promote collaborative work, in
spaces where they could “breathe”, without any barriers and physical or virtual walls. Pedagogy 2.0
is understood as the art or science of teaching using web 2.0 tools and is based on the intersection
of three elements: Participation in network communities, Personalisation of learning experience, and
Productivity related to knowledge creation (Lee & McLoughlin, 2007).
In short, the results obtained point to some weaknesses related to time management and to the
difficulty in using some digital tools. The strengths relate to the pedagogical design of the course, in
How contents and resources are made available and organised.
The dynamic and collaborative interactions with the web tools and the virtual environment,
mobilized in coordination with the customized Moodle platform of UAb.
- The students’ critical authorship based on the learning experience.
- The co-learning work between students and professor, supported by a participatory pedagogy.
- The online communication adapted to end-users from various Portuguese-speaking States
The dynamic and flexible structure of the CFDO’s pedagogical design is open to receive the results
of the assessment and research produced in each course edition, as well as the technological and
pedagogical innovations and good practices in the field of distance education and network education.
By using a sharing and collaborative network, online teaching enriches the virtual communities and
the co-authorship processes and, at the same time, provides and adopts unique actions. It therefore
allows global and local ties to be established between the participants, fostering innovation in higher
education, seen as a number of changes that affect its strategic perspectives.
Despite the current situation of social and economic decline, there is an increasing openness of
the national, European and transnational higher education system. At the same time, inequalities
are more accentuated. While the experience of creating the European area for higher education
is being critically reviewed, it seems difficult to forecast when learning distance education will be
regulated in Portugal, in particular higher education. The various national and European university
cultures have gradually embraced the idea that the university is a hub in the global network for the
production, reproduction and preservation of knowledge, and is not longer an independent centre
for the production and dissemination of knowledge (Teixeira, 2012). Against this background, we
share the idea put forward by Teixeira (2012) when he defends that networked sharing of resources
actually allows the increase of innovation and, consequently, fosters it.
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