Online learning doesn’t happen online …

Jo McKenzie tweeted a nicely tidied up comment from me at the ISSOTL conference recently.

Jo tweet

One of the reasons I wanted to mention this at the conference is that good empirical research into the study practices of “online” learning is surprisingly scarce. We have a couple of nice examples of research on people configuring their learning spaces in the next book to come from the Laureate project. The book is called “Place-Based Spaces for Networked Learning” and should be published by Routledge in 2016. Two chapters that are right on the topic:


Chapter 7: THE SONIC SPACES OF ONLINE, DISTANCE LEARNERS  (Michael Sean Gallagher, James Lamb and Sian Bayne)

If you are interested in this area, see also: Kahu, E. R., Stephens, C., Zepke, N. and Leach, L., 2014. Space and time to engage: Mature-aged distance students learn to fit study into their lives. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 33(4), 523–540 ( )

ISSOTL – employability and learning spaces

I had the opportunity to speak at a very enjoyable panel session at the ISSOTL conference last week. The panel members focussed on the question: How will universities contribute to students’ employability in 2020? Other panel members were

  • Professor Vijay Kumar, Associate Dean of Digital Learning, Office of Digital Learning, MIT
  • Professor Dawn Bennett, John Curtin Distinguished Professor, Faculty of Humanities, Curtin University
  • Mr Bennett Merriman, Founder and Director, Business Operations, Event Workforce (Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Sport Science, Deakin University)
  • Professor Beverley Oliver, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), Deakin University, panel chair
  • Ms Siobhan Lenihan, Adviser to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), Deakin University, moderator

My specific brief was to talk about how universities can reinvent their learning places and spaces – traditional and emerging physical spaces, in the cloud, and in the spaces between – with the question of employability in mind. I made four main points:

  1. The capacity to design and manage learning spaces depends heavily on an ability to articulate the logic connecting specific properties of spaces (physical, virtual, hybrid) to significant educational affordances of various kinds – cognitive, perceptual, epistemic, social, etc.
  2. It’s a mistake to see the physical and the digital/virtual as alternatives to one another: they are best thought of as interwoven. We need to get better at connecting appropriate mixtures of digital and physical artefacts, tools, infrastructures etc to support specific kinds of valued activity
  3. When the future is uncertain, valued activities include: acquiring deep knowledge of a domain; authentic participation in the working practices of a discipline/profession; learning how to be a self-directing lifelong learner. These are familiar enough. But also, learning for an uncertain future ought to involve opportunities to participate in processes of innovation – a chance to engage in collaborative knowledge creation and to design new methods, tools and environments for inquiry.
  4. We shouldn’t think of this as just an institutional responsibility – i.e. to provide spaces appropriately furnished for these classes of valued activity. We should also be helping students to learn how to configure the spaces they’ll need for innovation and work (etc) in the future. Knowing how to construct the right environment for innovative knowledge work, and how to bring together the right mix of talents to analyse and solve a complex problem – these are key meta-level skills for success in an uncertain future.



The Art and Science of Learning Design

There’s a chapter from the work of our ARC Laureate team featuring in this new book. Really pleased with it.

Goodyear, P., Thompson, K., Ashe, D., Pinto, A., Carvalho, L., Parisio, M., . . . Yeoman, P. (In press, 2015). Analysing the structural properties of learning networks: architectural insights into buildable forms. In B. Craft, Y. Mor & M. Maina (Eds.), The art and science of learning design (pp. 15-29). Rotterdam: Sense.

Here’s the Overview


A good repertoire of methods for analysing and sharing ideas about existing designs can make a useful contribution to improving the quality and efficiency of educational design work. Just as architects can improve their practice by studying historic and contemporary buildings, so people who design to help people learn can get better at what they do by understanding the designs of others. Moreover, new design work often has to complement existing provision, so the sensitive analysis of what already exists is an essential part of enhancing, rather than undermining, prior work (Goodyear & Dimitridis, 2013). Since many factors can affect what and how people learn, the scope of analysis for design is broad. In fact, it has to go beyond what has been explicitly designed for learning, to take into account the various configurations of things, places, tasks, activities and people that influence learning. Part of the skill of analysis is knowing how to put a boundary on what one studies (Hutchins, 2010). We believe that analysis of this kind can help improve the design of all kinds of technology-enhanced learning (TEL) systems. But to focus our argument, this chapter draws on our recent collaborative analyses of learning networks (Carvalho & Goodyear, 2014). Our thinking has been influenced quite strongly by the writings of Christopher Alexander on the properties that ‘give life’ to places and artefacts. The first part of the chapter has an ontological function – since analysis involves some decisions about the nature of the existence of its objects of inquiry. The second part illustrates the application of some of Alexander’s ideas to the analysis of the structural properties of learning networks, where the goal of analysis is to inform design.


New article on taking over someone else’s design

Karen Scott (CoCo PhD 2012) has an article in the latest issue of Research in Learning Technology. Details below.

Taking over someone else’s e-learning design: challenges trigger change in e-learning beliefs and practices

Karen M. Scott


As universities invest in the development of e-learning resources, e-learning sustainability has come under consideration. This has largely focused on the challenges and facilitators of organisational and technological sustainability and scalability, and professional development. Little research has examined the experience of a teacher dealing with e-learning sustainability when taking over a course with an e-learning resource and associated assessment. This research focuses on a teacher who was inexperienced with e-learning technology, yet took over a blended unit of study with an e-learning resource that accounted for one-fifth of the subject assessment and was directed towards academic skills development relevant to the degree program. Taking a longitudinal approach, this research examines the challenges faced by the new teacher and the way she changed the e-learning resource and its implementation over two years. A focus of the research is the way the teacher’s reflections on the challenges and changes provided an opportunity and stimulus for change in her e-learning beliefs and practices. This research has implications for the way universities support teachers taking over another teacher’s e-learning resource, the need for explicit documentation of underpinning beliefs and structured handover, the benefit of teamwork in developing e-learning resources, and provision of on-going support. Keywords: e-learning sustainability; e-learning beliefs and practices; reflection; longitudinal research (Published: 30 July 2014) Citation: Research in Learning Technology 2014, 22: 23362 –

Untold story: Design as Scholarship in the Learning Sciences

Vanessa Svihla & Richard Reeve are putting together a book on this topic and are soliciting contributions. Some details below. Email vsvihla at & reever at soon for further info. Closing date for chapter proposals is 30 July 2014.

UPDATE 2016: the book is now published; highly recommended – Svihla, V., & Reeve, R. (2016). Design as scholarship: case studies from the learning sciences. New York: Routledge.

Details (original call for chapters)

Learning scientists commonly report the design of an activity, object, or environment intended to produce some sort of learning or experience. The venues in which we publish typically do not encourage us to detail our designing as it occurred; this results in final form presentation of our work, which in turn leads to a picture of designing as deceptively straightforward. Worse, we argue, it provides little guidance about the reality of how researchers go about designing for learning. Those in the field are left to imagine how the process might have occurred and in turn are led to believe designing is simplistically phasic. In addition, the siren call for design principles is symptomatic of the felt-need for more certainty in our designs. Even in our tradition of conducting design-based research, designing is given short shrift, with much focus put to the designed product and how it instantiates a theory of learning. Design principles are treated both as a means to instantiate theory into design solutions and as an output of our work as a way to generalize findings. The former appears to stand in for client needs when design process is not reported; the latter can be difficult to use outside of the original context and can misfire or malfunction when applied piecemeal or superficially, without sufficient concern for how these principles may function in relationship to the local instructional context. Designing, particularly when client needs are also sought, can take on a distinctly emergent, even opportunistic form, and is typically iterative and even agile. Treating designing as unproblematic limits transferability of our work, and holds us back. Being honest about our designing has the potential to aid us — and others — in surfacing great ideas for learning. By, in effect, holding back on what we suggest are authentic aspects of designing, we may be limiting the new and improved ideas that could benefit the future of education.

The architecture of productive learning networks

Cover - The Architecture of Productive Learning Networks[1]

Really pleased with the latest book from our ARC Laureate project.

It’s been a pleasure working with Lucila Carvalho (post-doc on the project and lead editor of the book). Lucila has done an amazing job in picking case study networks, assembling the team of authors, helping everyone tune in to the analytic framework and managing the million other tasks needed in getting a book from initial concept to final publication.

APLN has been a really useful way of developing skills, shared understanding and research profile within the Laureate team too: all the postdocs and PhD students have played a role in co-authoring chapters.

On Amazon here.

Networked Learning 2014

NL2014 banner

We’re really looking forward to presenting at the 9th International Networked Learning Conference in Edinburgh next month. Four papers from the Laureate team:

Carvalho, L. & Goodyear, P. (2014). Analysing the structuring of knowledge in learning networks.

Goodyear, P., Carvalho, L. & Dohn, N. (2014). Design for networked learning: framing relations between participants’ activities and the physical setting.

Pinto, A. (2014). Design and functioning of a productive learning network.

Yeoman, P & Carvalho, L. (2014). Material entanglement in a primary school learning network.

and also one by our recent Visiting Scholar, Nina Bonderup Dohn:

Dohn, N (2014) A practice-grounded approach to ‘engagement’ and ‘motivation’ in networked learning

all to be found in Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Networked Learning 2014, Edited by: Bayne S, Jones C, de Laat M, Ryberg T & Sinclair C.