The OER debate

September 17th, 2019


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I am involved in a panel tomorrow on OER and have been asked to address the following question.

Open Educational Resources have sparked a wide range of collaborative projects in the education sector. What are major lessons that archives can learn from the long established success of OERs? What kind of impact could open access archives have on OER and open education?

This is my initial response, is there anything else I should include?

The term OER was defined in 2002, the first example was MIT’s courseware, shortly followed by OpenLearn at the Open University UK. There was a naïve assumption that simply making OER available would mean that they were used by teachers and students. This was not the case. To address this the OPAL initiative defined the concept of OER practices, which explore how OER were designed, used and adapted by teachers and students. The project developed a framework for benchmarking organisations’ maturity of OER, along with an implementation plan to used OER more extensively. OER are part of a broader portfolio of Open Education and the EU has recently published the outputs of this initiative. OER have implications for learning, teaching and research. Students can supplement their official course materials with freely available OER. Theoretically for teachers OER provide examples of good practice and can help them be more innovative in their teaching practice, by adapting existing OER to their teaching context. In terms of research more open practices are challenging traditional modes of publishing. For example making research open access, writing research blogs and disseminating via social media, means that the research is made available to a far larger audience. Researchers are part of a community of peers. Making research available openly means that others can comment on it. I blog on a regular basis at If I tweet a blog post it goes out to a network of over 10, 000 colleagues. For a Springer book on Learning Design I live blogged draft chapters, which people then commented on; the final book was much stronger as a result. We now see a spectrum of open access research through to formal closed publications. Institutions have yet to take account of/credit for more open approaches and still rely on peer review publication. Some people are making a stand refusing to publish in or review closed journal articles. There is an indication of change as a number of granting authorities are now requiring that the outputs of the research are made openly available.



Classifying different approaches to learning

March 12th, 2019


I can across an interesting article via fb (via Ebba Ossiannilsson) on ‘Modern trends in education: 50 different approaches to learning‘. Deborah Arnold wrote:


Interesting! Though they would probably benefit from some kind of classification as they’re not all at the same level. Looking forward to seeing your slide that does just that, Gráinne!


So… this post is my attempt to take on the challenge and group the approaches. It seems to me there are three types: those based on the format of the session, those based on pedagogical approaches and those based on niche or specialized approaches to learning, foregrounding a particular principle or vision. Using these categories, the approaches can be grouped as follows.



Social networking

Schools in the Clouds

Learning with technologies

MOOCs and e-learning

Mobile education


Blended learning

Flexible learning

Flipped learning

Classic education

Sharing voices

Talking education

Lesson study

Invisible structures


Pedagogical approach

Problem-based learning

Constructivist learning

Self-directed learning

Constructive struggling

Competency-based education

Expeditionary learning

Personalized education





  • Finnish education
  • International objectives 
  • The Bologna Process
  • Smart capital
  • Free post-secondary education
  • Global view



  • Ground up diversity
  • Navdanya
  • High quality teachers
  • Change agents
  • Common core change
  • Economic empowerment
  • Catalytic role



  • Underground education
  • Social status
  • Start-up education

Work focused


  • Degree qualification
  • Vocational training
  • Readiness testing



  • Herbert Stein’s law
  • Disruptive innovation
  • Open innovation



  • Social support strategy



  • Religious education
  • Moral education
  • Character education

Of course these are not necessarily mutually exclusive for example ‘Religious Education’ could be enacted through a ‘Flipped Classroom’ approach using a ‘Self-Regulated Learning’ pedagogical approach. Would welcome thoughts on this.

Documenting Erasmus Student Experiences Through e-Portfolios

March 12th, 2019



Today I attended an e-portfolio event funded by the National Forum which was organized by Orna Farrell. Orna shared her slides and encouraged us to be interactive during the session. The session had four main parts: an overview by Orna, two case studies of using e-portfolios to support Erasmus students (Naoimh O’Reilly, from the Business School and Julie Ui Choistealbha, from MARINO), and an interactive session to create an assessment outline for an e-portfolio. The session was funded by the National Forum and more on the outline of the session can be found on the National Forum’s blog


Orna provided a definition of e-portfolios:


Corley & Zubizarreta (2012) defines a learning portfolio as: “a vehicle for bringing together judiciously selected samples of students’ work and achievements inside and outside the classroom for authentic assessment over time. A typical learning portfolio may include both academic materials and personal profiles and may designate some of its contents as public or private.The learning portfolio, then, becomes more than a product, a simple repository of artefacts; it becomes a process of reflection, of organizing, prioritizing, analysing, and communicating one’s work and its value, which may prompt insights and goals” (p.65)


She suggested the following as some of the advantages of e-portfolios: focuses on the process of learning and encourages reflection, integrates learning and makes connections between modules, provides the student with a sense of belonging, facilitates authentic learning, enables self-regulated learning and critical thinking.


Julie gave the following useful list of ways of evidencing learning and providing content for a portfolio:

  • Padlet: Photo a day
  • MindMup: Review of meetings, goal setting, skill development
  • Storyjumper:   Personal journey
  • Voki: Avatar creation instead of written reflections
  • Checkli: ‘To do’ list tracking.
  • Pixabay: High quality images to represent personal learning
  • SurveyMonkey: Feedback from placement provider

To foreground the session on designing an e-portfolio assessment, Orna listed the following assessment best practices:

  1. Identify the clear purpose of the eportfolio task
  2. Clearly articulate the purpose to the students
  3. Integrate into the assessment plan for the module
  4. Provide front loaded tech support to students and staff
  5. Scaffold student reflection through the use of prompts
  6. Give students support with reflective writing
  7. Give example eportfolio
  8. Design a specific rubric for the assessment

A picture of our final product for this activity is below. Overall a thoroughly enjoyable and informative day.






UCD EdTECx conference

March 12th, 2019


Yesterday I attended the UCD EdTECx conference at University College Dublin. UCD has recently moved to the BrightSpace Virtual Learning Environment and the day provided the opportunity for people to share their experience of using it so far. There were a range of interesting talks and discussions, and good attendance with about 130 registered. This blog posts summarises some of the key messages.


Shane Foley described his experience of creating an online module and in particular compared his experience of using BrightSpace with Blackboard. Of particular note were the student monitoring function and the intelligent agent feature.


Joe Twist described his experience of using module builder. He suggested a number of ways of making modules look more friendly, such as including a picture, a welcome message (possible audio or video based). He also had some useful tips, such as: ensuring content is organised logically, being consistent with file names, ensuring materials are accessible, providing text alternatives to images.


Suzanne Guerin focussed on strategies for maximising the use of technologies in classrooms. She believes in the importance of creating practical tasks to reinforce skills and the value of providing feedback in different ways. She described the Mentimeter tool which can be used to get classroom engagement and enable students to ask questions and rate their confidence.


A particularly interesting session was given by Sharleen O’Reilly who described her work on the development of rubrics. She also argued that peer- and self-feedback were valuable and should be encouraged.  


David Jennings talked about e-portfolios and argued that they are student centred and give student autonomy. He referenced Cooper and Love’s (2017) definition of e-portfolios.


The afternoon began with a series of practical ‘how to’ sessions on: module design, feedback and annotation of assignments, feedback and grading in quizzes and rubrics for letter grading.


I finished the day with a keynote on ‘A vision for the future of Technology Enhanced Learning: key trends and implications. The slides are available on slideshare.



Cooper, T. and Love, T. (2007), Electronic portfolios in e-learning, in N. Buzzette-More (Ed.), Advanced principle of effective e-learning, Santa Rose: CS, Informing Science Press.


Open Education Week Webinar

March 6th, 2019


Today I participated in a Webinar for the EDEN Open Education Week. The session was chaired by Lisa Marie Blaschke, EDEN Senior Fellow, Chair of EDEN Council of Fellows, Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Germany. The focus of the session was on the following:

A number of innovative and unique initiatives around the topic of open education have been emerging throughout Europe, specifically in the areas of micro-credentialing and prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR). Three EU initiatives in open education will be presented in this webinar: OEPassMicroHE, and ReOPEN. In addition, the session will include retrospectives on the challenges and opportunities of open education, as well as on the open education movement’s impact upon higher education over the past decade.

Speakers included:

  • Jochen Ehrenreich, Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg Heilbronn – OEPass project
  • Raimund Hudak, Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg Heilbronn, Germany – MicroHE
  • Airina Volungevi?ien?, EDEN President, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania – Validating Open and Online Learning for Recognition, ReOPEN solutions
  • Elena Caldirola, University of Pavia, Italy – Open Education in Italy: Challenges, Opportunities and Perspectives
  • Andreia Inamorato, European Commission, Joint Research Centre – Practical Guidelines on Open Education for Academics: Modernising Higher Education via Open Educational Practices
  • Gráinne Conole, Dublin City University, Ireland – Reflecting on the Impact of the Open Education Movement

The talks included reports on the OEPass project, the MicroHe project and the ReOpen Solutions project. Elena gave an overview of the open education movement in Italy. Andreia talked about the EU Opening up Education initiative and associated reports. I talked about the future of the Open Education movement focusing on the impact on learners, teachers and researchers. My slides are available online. At one point there were 50 participants and there was an excellent backchannel with some challenging questions and good discussion. The session has been recorded


The story of the Open University

March 5th, 2019

Read the rest of this entry »

Webinar: Creating engaging conference abstracts

February 14th, 2019


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Yesterday I ran a workshop on ‘Creating engaging conference abstracts’. There was good participation (about 15 people) and lots of interaction. Here is a summary of some of the key discussion points. I asked participants what their experience was of attending conferences, what was good and what was not so good. Here are some of the comments.


Getting an outside view of your work

Conferences are a great way of getting to meet others working in a similar space – opportunities to find out interesting and relevant stuff others are working on

Networking, sharing ideas and gathering feedback

Participation varies depending on the size. Smaller conference I am more at ease to network, mingle. Larger conferences I find a bit challenging

Always lovely to meet people in real-life who are part of my online network

At a large conference you really have to plan ahead and be strategic about which sessions you attend and perhaps debrief with colleagues at the end of each day who may have attended other sessions

Use the conference app and follow the Twitter hashtag. For our conference follow #WCOL2019 to keep up to date


It was a really enjoyable session and I hope participants found it useful. The session was recorded.

The online educator: people and pedagogy

February 13th, 2019


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I am currently participating in the FutureLearn MOOC ‘The online educator: people and pedagogy’. The MOOC is spread over 4 weeks, with 4 hours of learning per week. It explores four myths associated with e-learnings: that learning design is about technology and content; that innovation and accessibility are incompatible; that researching online learning is an ethics-free zone, and that educators’ online identities are irrelevant.


Week 1 covers disruption and design with the following topics: current developments in online teaching, navigating the hype about disruptive innovation, the relationship between content, technology, people and pedagogy in learning design, the challenges of meeting diverse students’ needs and he use of personas in creating relevant online courses. Week 2 focuses on innovation and accessibility, with the following topics: myths about accessibility and digital innovation, types of digital exclusion, finding and evaluating accessibility guidelines, and applying accessibility guidelines to your teaching. Week 3 focuses on ethical evaluation of online teaching, with the following topics: myths about researching and evaluating online teaching, evidence and ethics, navigating the hype around educational technology innovation, evaluating research reports, evaluating your own teaching innovations and ethical considerations when researching online teaching.  Finally, week 4 asks the question: who am I online, with the following topics, myths about online identity, the value to educators of a carefully constructed online identity, evaluating your own online identity and using Twitter to build an identity online.


The MOOC has a very clean look and feel, with content broken up into small chunks, content is complemented by short videos, quizzes, polls and links to relevant research papers.

Engaging conference titles

February 7th, 2019


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With my colleague Orna Farrell I am running a workshop on Wednesday 13th February on writing good conference abstracts. The slides are available on SlideShare. This is in part to help participants prepare their submissions for the ICDE WCOL conference we are hosting in November.


One of the most important things is to have a really good title that will grab people’s attention. Below is a list of some suggestions for how you can achieve this. I’m very much looking forward to the workshop, which will be repeated in two webinars later this month.


  1. Based around a metaphor of some kind
    1. Cuban’s concept of the flight of the butterfly or the path of the bullet
    2. A kaleidoscope of digital technologies
    3. The entangled web: post-critical perspectives
    4. Moody MOOCS: An Exploration of Emotion in an LMOOC
    5. The story of MOOCs through loops: From disruptive to sustaining innovation models of higher education
    6. Helicopter view of current state of open education around the world
    7. Mind the gap: A critical guide to digital literacies
    8. The scary monster of Ed Tech: Future proof or future shock?
    9. A world of opportunities: digital technologies and literacies
    10. Snake oil - the hidden perils of digital technologies
    11. Can you Give me Sanctuary? Exploring the Transition Experiences of Refugees and Asylum Seekers to Online Distance Learning
  2. Comparisons:
    1. The rhetoric or reality of the promise of digital technologies
    2. Thunderbolt or Lightfoot? Doing Digital in the 21st Century
    3. Tales of open education from two islands: thrills, tensions and transformations
  3. Something controversial, which will get people’s attention
    1. The millennial generation: fact or fiction
    2. The affordances of digital technologies
    3. The good, the bad and the ugly about learning styles
    4. New media literacies
    5. The misleading power of metaphors for digital technologies
    6. Reframing digital literacies: Beyond flashy, flimsy and faddish models
  4. Provoke curiosity
    1. Hand written lecture notes are better than typing notes
    2. The common myths associated with using digital technologies for learning
    3. The future of digital technologies and learning: dystopia or utopia?
    4. If micro-credentialing is the answer, what is the question?
  5. A review of the state of the art on a topical issue
    1. Opening up Education: Open Educational Resources and Open Educational Practices
    2. Frameworks for Learning Design
    3. Best practice in Continuing Professional Development
    4. Traversing the digital landscape of Higher Education
  6. A variant on a well-known song or movie
    1. We don’t need no education: the changing nature of formal and informal learning  
    2. Jaws: snagging digital technologies from the jaws of a shark
    3. Are we living in the matrix: what is the reality of our engagement with digital technologies?
    4. Sliding doors: the ebb and flow of digital technologies
    5. The brave new world of opening up education
    6. The good, the bad and the ugly about learning styles
    7. La la land: is the promise of digital technologies fiction?
    8. Leave no trace: digital privacy and surveillance
  7. Alignment with the conference themes
    1. Transforming lives and societies through digital technologies
    2. What is the future of online education?
    3. Transformative online pedagogies: a review of the landscape
    4. Reimaging open pathways and new credentials for lifelong learning

The online educator: people and pedagogy

February 7th, 2019



I have just signed up for this FutureLearn course, “The online educator: people and pedagogy”, offered by the Open University UK. The overview of the course states the following “As e-learning becomes ever-more widespread, online educators are being required to design learning experiences that engage and meet the needs of very diverse learners. The course explores four myths: that learning design is about technology and content; that innovation and accessibility are incompatible; that researching online learning is an ethics-free zone, and that educators’ online identities are irrelevant.” It looks really interesting and is very relevant to our #OpenTeach project on facilitating online learning which starts in April.