Update on my doctoral research

This Thursday I will have a presentation in the Aalto University Media Lab doctoral seminar. It is more than two years since my last presentation in the doctoral seminar and my ideas have developed further. Instead of focusing only on LeMill project and collaborative authoring of open educational resources I have taken a wider approach and look at the open education as an ecosystem. The current working title of my dissertation is…

Designing the Open Education Ecosystem

I am planning to do an article based dissertation that contains six papers. Four papers will focus on the projects and concepts that I have developed during my doctoral research. Last two papers will focus on the idea of learning environment as a digital ecosystem. The projects discussed in the dissertation have been developed together with my colleagues from the Learning Environments research group at the Aalto University Media Lab and Centre for Educational Technology at the Tallinn University. However, I have had a leading role in the design process.

Article 1: Progressive Inquiry Learning Object Templates

In most cases digital learning resources are used for individual learning (reading, looking, playing, quizzes) or by teachers in their class-room or online teaching (presentations). In PILOT project we are arguing that learning resources should be designed and presented in a special way in order to promote truly social constructivist learning. The project is based on the concept of progressive inquiry learning object templates (PILOT’s). These learning objects support progressive inquiry knowledge building process in computer and database supported Knowledge Building environments, found for instance in Fle3 virtual learning environment. Design research methods such as participatory design and scenario-based design are used in the project to generate distributable and reusable PILOT’s.

PILOT is the first concept that I developed when I started my doctoral studies. This was still before the rise of Web 2.0 and at time I was not thinking about learning environments as digital ecosystems. However, now I see PILOT learning resources and Fle3 learning environment as part of the ecosystem.

An article about the concept is published as a journal paper:

Põldoja, H., Leinonen, T., Väljataga, T., Ellonen, A., Priha, M. (2006). Progressive Inquiry Learning Object Templates (PILOT). International Journal on E-Learning. 5 (1), 103-111. Chesapeake, VA: AACE. [Online]

Article 2: LeMill

My most important project is the open educational resources authoring community LeMill, which has over 14 500 members and over 13 000 reusable learning resources, all created by the community members. The design of LeMill has tackled numerous challenges that hinder the authoring and sharing of educational resources by communities of teachers. The information architecture of LeMill scaffolds authors toward collaboration and sharing. The licensing scheme encourages reusing and remixing of educational content. LeMill is also a multicultural and multilingual community with teachers from more than 60 countries and learning resources in more than 40 languages.

Ecosystem idea is strongly present in the design of LeMill. Learning resources can be created by reusing and remixing content from other Web 2.0 environments. PILOT concept presented in article 1 is developed as one learning resource template in LeMill environment.

In LeMill project I was responsible for the conceptual design and interaction design. An article about our design solutions behind LeMill is published as a journal paper:

Leinonen, T., Purma, J., Põldoja, H., Toikkanen, T. (2010). Information Architecture and Design Solutions Scaffolding Authoring of Open Educational Resources. IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies. 3 (2), 116-128. IEEE Computer Society. [Online]

Article 3: EduFeedr

In order to promote LeMill environment and authoring of open educational resources we have organized several open online courses for teachers. In these courses every participant creates their personal learning environment. Typically learners use a blog to reflect on the course assignments and various Web 2.0 environments to create content and to communicate with co-learners. One of the challenges in this kind of courses is to follow all the learning activities that take place in blogs, wikis and various Web 2.0 environments.

EduFeedr is an educationally enhanced online feed reader that is specifically designed for following open online courses that take place in blogs. Currently I have published workshop papers about the conceptual design (PDF) and technical implementation (PDF) of EduFeedr. The public beta of EduFeedr was launced in September 2010 and currently we are evaluating EduFeedr in several courses.

For the dissertation I am planning to write a paper that contains also the results from the evaluation of EduFeedr.

Article 4: LeContract

Another issue in open online courses is related to learner motivation. A lot of people who start open courses do not complete the course. Setting up personal learning objectives and strategy to reach the goals could keep learners on track. One of the ways to achieve this is to follow a personal learning contract procedure. In our current courses the students are using generic tools such as blogs to write learning contracts.

We propose that a special tool would scaffold and support the personal learning contract procedure. LeContract provides structural templates that define important parts of the learning contract. During the learning project the contracts can be reviewed and the achievement of individual learning objectives can be evaluated. Learning contracts created in LeContract could be embedded to learner blogs.

LeContract is currently in the phase of conceptual design. This work has been presented as a conference paper:

Põldoja, H., Väljataga, T. (2010). Externalization of a PLE: Conceptual Design of LeContract. In: The PLE 2010 Conference Proceedings. [PDF]

More information about LeContract concept can be found in the LeContract blog.

Article 5

The fifth article will analyzes multiple cases where teachers use LeMill together with other Web 2.0 tools to create and remix open educational resources. In this paper I’m planning to introduce the concept of digital ecosystems and describe various patterns that occur in the learning resource collections created by the teachers. The digital ecosystems approach enables teachers to become designers who create mashups with various online tools.

Article 6: The Open Education Ecosystem

The final paper will present a theoretical framework of the open education ecosystem. In that paper I am planning to draw connections between ecosystems in biology, open systems and digital ecosystems. In the seminar I will explain my current understanding about the three layers of the open education ecosystem and how the tools developed in my research fit into this ecosystem.

In my dissertation I will argue that the design of learning environments would benefit from the digital ecosystems approach. In this kind of open and personal learning environment every teacher and learner takes the role of a designer.

(Sorry about hyperlinks instead of proper references. This is a blog post.)

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