Definitions revisited

I do like exploring the subtle changes in the nuanced interpretations of different terms and how they are used in everyday life. It is sometimes their misinterpretation that leads to misunderstandings and heated debates. So, a good definition, is always welcome. I am not convinced of the use of the term digital learning though; it is a term much more connected to computer skills and less to connected learning.

online: focuses on the connectivity of the learning; it implies a physical distance; less desirable for those who prefer social interaction and don’t who have limited access to stable internet/ virtual: the term suggests that the level of engagement required compared to a physical experience will be similar but different; however, virtual is linked to inauthentic and therefore is less desirable for those who want to experience a ‘real’ education event/ digital: inextricably linked to data storage but has evolved into meaning ‘related to the use of computer technology’; digital is also offline; digital learning doesn’t have any negative connotations like the other two terms.

blended: most prevalent term of the two; it implies different modes of delivery and/or student engagement; for others, it is a mix of onsite-online(digital) learning activities/ hybrid: the use of this term implies that students have a greater degree to choose how they engage with their learning; it implies agency

distance: it is a term that was in use before the widespread proliferation of digital approaches to learning (courses were taken through correspondence); refers to communication style/ remote: the term is used to avoid any reference to mode of communication and limit discourse to physical distance

References: Building a Taxonomy for Digital Learning, QAA (from a Stephen Downes post available here)

The ‘Disrupted Classes, Undisrupted Learning’ program

Full report available here

The project team for ‘Disrupted Classes, Undisrupted Learning’ ran by the Chinese Ministry of Education reviewed the international literature relating to skillful remote teaching, identifying some of the characteristic challenges that needed to be addressed. The Chinese project team advocated schools designing a blend of synchronous and asynchronous teaching and identified four essential technologically enabled pedagogical techniques that should be used in combination:
Live-streaming teaching (lecture format)
• Online real-time interactive teaching
• Online self-regulated learning with real-time interactive Q&A
• Online cooperative learning guided by teachers

For each method, associated benefits and risks were identified – such as the fact that live streamed lessons were technologically challenging and that the real-time class discussion in a synchronous ‘lesson’ could be of a poor quality (…) To recreate the learning atmosphere of a face-to-face classroom, three pedagogical priorities were promoted: Building a sense of belonging to a community/ Providing timely feedback to learners/ Encouraging learners to relax and not be preoccupied with competitive achievement.

ACSA-EAAE Conference Presentation

Re conceptualizing the role of tutors in research-based pedagogy: the tutor(s) as the curriculum

The paper presents the efforts made to experiment with the pedagogical framework and the operational model of a postgraduate urban design studio based on the reconceptualization of the role of tutors. In the model examined here, the curriculum was devised as an open and evolving network of the tutors’ resources and affiliated researchers from within or outside the setting of the academy. This mosaic consisted of different individual research and design practices that are problem-focused and context-specific, communicated directly to students by the very people responsible for their conception and development. Learners were required to investigate the instrumentality of these practices according to their own personal pursuits; to make their own networks of connections, and were even encouraged to create their own personal schemata of design research. In fact, the second major shift of the rethink lay in recognizing learner autonomy and diversity, thus establishing a new operational framework for the two to prosper. An amalgam of interconnected learning spaces provided the conditions necessary for all these networks to co-exist and interact. The paper describes the different aspects of the tutors’ involvement and contributions in the design and implementation of this model, as they assumed a number of roles, but most importantly, as they became learners themselves.

Student resistance to curriculum changes

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Sometimes, when we talk about learner independence, active learning or agency, we forget that this is not always for granted. Student consensus can not be considered a given. Trying out new things in a course (changing formats, layouts or mediums) produces changes that can be met with resistance and suspicion and it usually takes time until the cohort is convinced that what you are doing is actually working for them.

Student-Centered Learning and Student Buy-In article in Inside Higher Ed shows the results of curriculum change in a Biology course over a period of four years in relation to student satisfaction and acceptance. Pre- and post- course surveys show that student resistance decreased over the years and while grades did not change, the students’ perception of their gains has.

I remember that when we first introduced networked practices in an undergraduate design studio, students were terrified of the idea that their preliminary research and drawings would be published online for everyone to see. When talking about this, some expressed the fear that their ideas would loose their originality or that by the end of the semester everyone would converge to a single design idea/concept. Of course, none of this happened: in fact, it was quite revealing to see how diverse the research approaches and their respective representations actually were from a very early stage in the design process.

But there is also another interesting aspect in this article: the very fact that there was no single teacher but 13 of them. Now, I think this severely enhances the idea of a learning community. It’s not just about changing the format, it is about how you do it. By opening up the curriculum to more researchers and more teachers and by presenting the students with a course that is founded on a collaborative effort you ultimately denounce the idea of the expert and what comes along with that. And it is not by chance that grades have nothing to do with this. The very act of learning and being part of a learning community luckily can never fall into the hands of assessment.

Networked Learning


The network is a network of people: networked learning aims to understand social learning processes by asking how people develop and maintain a ‘web’ of social relations used for their learning and development (de Laat)

Networked learning does not necessarily involve ICT, though in specific cases it may make use of technology. What makes learning networked is the connection to and engagement with other people across different social positions inside and outside of a given institution.  The network is supportive of a person’s learning through the access it provides to other people’s ideas and ways of participating in practice as well as of course through the opportunity to discuss these ideas and ways of participating and to potentially develop nuanced, common perspectives (Carvalho and Goodyear)

Networked learning may utilize ICT but it might me also supported by other means such as physical artefacts or artistic stimulation of senses and feelings while connections may also be drawn spontaneously by the learners themselves (Bober & Hynes)

The network is a network of situations or contexts: connections between the diverse contexts in which the learners participate as significant for understanding learning beyond online learning spaces, and, indeed, within them as well. This is the sense in which the network, under-stood as a network of situations, supports learning: by offering tacit knowledge, perspectives and ways of acting from known situations for re-situated use in new ones. Networked Learning’ on this under-standing is the learning arising from the connections drawn between situations and from the resituated use in new situations of knowledge, perspectives and ways of acting from known ones (Dohn)

The ‘network’ is one of ICT infrastructure, enabling connections across space and time: The support for learning provided by the network is one of infrastructure, i.e. the ease of saving, transporting and retrieving content for future use. Learning, it would seem, will be ‘networked’ whenever it is ICT-mediated, by that very fact; perhaps with the proviso that the situations of learning should indeed be separated in space and/or time so that the infrastructure (the ‘network’) is actually brought into play. This proviso would differentiate the field of networked learning somewhat from the field of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL), where many studies concern ICT-facilitated group work between physically co-located students. The re-search field of Networked Learning is characterized, not only by focusing on ‘networks’, but also by taking a certain approach to learning, focusing critically on aspects of democratization and empowerment (Czerniewicz and Lee)

The ‘network’ is one of actants: consisting of both human and non-human agents in symmetrical relationship to each other. It is a systemic approach to learning, where individual learners’ interaction and learning may be analyzed as a result of socio-material entanglement with objects and other people. The network supports learning in the sense that any learning is in fact the result of concrete socio-material entanglement of physical, virtual, and human actants (Wright and Parchoma; Jones)



Bonderup Dohn, N., Sime, J-A., Cranmer, S., Ryberg, T., & de Laat, M. (2018). Reflections and challenges in Networked Learning. In N. Bonderup Dohn, S. Cranmer, J-A. Sime, M. de Laat, & T. Ryberg (Eds.), Networked Learning – reflections and challenges (pp. 187-212). Switzerland: Springer. Research in Networked Learning,

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The EMBED Project


The EMDED Project involves a strategic partnership between the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU), Delft University, University of Edinburgh, KU-Leuven, Aarhus University, Tempere University, and the NIDLat Dublin City University.

The challenge for the project team is to recognize, carefully navigate and strike a balance between these competing and co-existing perspectives. A related challenge is that the concept of a maturity model is potentially an oxymoron in an era of such rapid and dynamic change. As the project evolves, therefore, we will need to grapple with and develop creative solutions to how we frame the idea of maturity at the different levels (micro, meso and macro) in ways that recognize the fluid and rapidly evolving nature of the field. In other words, we have set ourselves a challenge of focusing greater attention, rather than narrowly the focus, on blended education in the context of the wider changing higher education landscape.

Full article and image available here

Define ‘blended’ PART II


Blended learning is the inspiration of much of the innovation, both pedagogically and technologically, in higher education. By innovation we mean significantly rethinking and redesigning approaches to teaching and learning that fully engage learners. The essential function of blended learning is to extend thinking and discourse over time and space. There is considerable rhetoric in higher education about the importance of engagement, but most institutions’ dominant mode of delivery remains delivering content either through the lecture or self-study course modules. Blended learning is specifically directed to enhancing engagement through the innovative adoption of purposeful online learning activities. (Vaughn, Innes, Garrison, 2013)

Blended course designs involve instructor and learners working together in mixed delivery modes, typically face-to-face and technology mediated, to accomplish learning outcomes that are ,pedagogically supported through assignments, activities, and assessments as appropriate for a given mode and which bridge course environments in a manner meaningful to the the integration of classroom face-to-face learning ,experiences with online learning experiences. (McGee and Reis, 2012)

Blended course delivery:  First is the most narrow and commonly used form in which students meet on campus and participate in asynchronous online activities. Second is the ,more broadly articulated framework of online courses that utilizes synchronous meetings and social network technologies blended with asynchronous work and possible face-to-face meetings to structure a course. Third is a combination of campus based and online students who interact but are physically separated. (Macdonald, 2006)

Blended education regards a much broader, multi-level view of the educational process, including micro-level teaching and learning processes, meso-level institutional innovation and enabling strategies, and macro-level governmental policy and support structures. (

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Urban Design as a Catalyst for Advancing Architectural Education by Joongsub Kim


This paper underlines the potential urban design has for architectural curricula. It also explains why an urban design course is a better choice for the experimental study of architectural blended learning as online technology enables the inclusion of a greater number of resources and stakeholders to be part of the learning process.


Urban design (replaced ‘civic design’ in 1960’s) plays a role in not only establishing the infrastructure and the underpinnings for building design, but also in bridging the gap between architecture and other disciplines that apply principles of urbanism in various ways (…) Urban design is an interdisciplinary profession, integrating urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture, environmental studies, and the social sciences (…) Urban design is, arguably, more process-oriented


Four approaches to advancing architectural education and pedagogy:

  • facilitating: promoting consensus about design/place making (place  intended a. as a set of visual attributes/ b. as product/ c. as process/ d. as meaning) is inherently multi-faceted, urban design incorporates more players and interests and UD is more likely to offer diverse tools to handle such a process/ place as meaning deals with subjective perceptions as translated from group experiences/ many scattered views maybe combined into a more unified, shared vision through consensus-based design, architects act as facilitators rather than directors
  • grounding: promoting logical underpinning, inquiry by design, and evidence-based design/ managing and making sense of complex information (process based)/ studying how a place looks-functions-is influenced, how it makes people feel (the spirit of a place)/ basic techniques of grounding are to be found in contextualised findings (infrastructure-networksbuilt env.-biogenic env.)/ designers in this case respond to questions asked during study-they keep searching for a design rationale
  • convening: promoting social design/ desirable places provide us with public meaning and positive environmental sociability/ it pointedly addresses the needs of underrepresented individuals in design- service learning and thinking of architecture as public art/ this approach envisions place as a final ‘product’ with tangible attributes
  • designing therapeutically: promoting a holistic environmental sensibility/ desirable places foster the holistic well-being of place users, urban designers reduce environmental stresses/ New Urbanism and Green Building/ a desirable sustainable design or sustainable urbanism goes beyond dealing with physical and environmental considerations, rating systems, and energy concerns to address social and psychological concerns



  • Joongsub Kim, 2009. Urban Design as a Catalyst for Advancing Architectural Education, in ARCC Journal Vol 6, issue 1

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Design Studio Education in the Online Paradigm: Introducing Online Educational Tools and Practices to an Undergraduate Design Studio Course


Abstract— the architectural design studio, the prevailing form of design education, has resisted opening up to online educational tools and practices. Yet its affinities to the newest theories of learning such as connectivism are many. This paper describes an experimental configuration of multiple learning environments in diverse mediums for an undergraduate design studio at the School of Architecture of the National Technical University of Athens. The aim of the studio’s layout transformation has been to explore its physical boundaries and to create a collaborative milieu between peers that facilitated communication and thus, the exchange of information and knowledge.

Keywords—design studio; design research; collaborative design; online education; complexity theory; connectivism

Design studio education in the online paradigm


This is my paper from Athens EDUCON2017. It presents the reader with an understanding of the affinities between the traditional design studio education and connectivism. It also offers insight on the synergy of in-class and online sessions through the presentation of a hybrid urban design studio undergraduate course that ran in NTUA during 2016-2017 winter semester.

Full paper available here

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

History of Open Education


  • Barth 1971: Open Education is used here to designate a general approach to teaching and learning which presumes the child’s right and competence to make important decisions; views the teacher more as a facilitator of learning than a transmitter of knowledge, and abundant alternatives and choice for students
  • Katz 1972: Open education movement is the commitment to humanistic values including self-determination, freedom of children and aesthetic appreciation.
  • Resnick 1972: while the open education movements and educational technology are often seen as mutually hostile, the challenge in education for the future is to find ways to develop the full range of each individual’s capacities
  • Paquette 1979: Open Pedagogy is not an assemble of pedagogical processes applied in a classroom that allow results as any other pedagogy. OP influences the way of thinking and acting, it is an innovative way to envisage the educational act (..) it is focused on the interaction that exists in a class between the students and the educational environment (…) it is founded a. on the respect of individual differences, b. on the individuals’ beliefs, c. on the indirect influence of the educator and d. on a natural process of apprenticeship
  • Paquette 1995: 3 sets of foundational values of open pedagogy, namely:  autonomy and interdependence; freedom and responsibility; democracy and participation.
  • Gremmo and Riley 1995: “Autonomous learning” has been shown to be a fruitful approach and one that impinges on every aspect of language learning theory and practice, in all parts of the world. However, one important lesson which has been learnt from this work is that self-directed learning schemes and resource centers have to be planned locally, taking into account specific institutional requirements and expectations, the particular characteristics of the learners and staff, including the socio-cultural constraints on learning practices. There is no universal model for setting up a self-directed learning scheme (…) One of the first “tailor-made” resource centres was established by CRAPEL at the University of Nancy (Riley and Zoppis, 1974; also in Riley, 1986)
  • Laura Gibbs and Stacy Zemke 2015: 1. open = agency — Learners are individuals and independent agents within the learning process. They are allowed to operate independently and explore with personal freedom./ 2. open = choice — Learners choose their own pace, their own direction, and their own connections./ 3. open = expansion — The learning network is an open-ended and ever-expanding network of nodes. Each node in the network represents is a connection, a possibility for learning. Everything in the network is a project./ 4. open = creativity — Openness translates to rich possibilities that inspire new perspectives and ideas./ 5. open = student-constructed — Learners take responsibility for their learning networks and are active participants in its planning and growth./ 6. open = open-ended problems — Learning design is focused less on specific outcomes or competencies than on process. It is about empowering learners to create real solutions to real problems./ 7. open: unmeasurable outcomes — Traditional outcome measurement implies the learning is static and closed./ 8. open = risk and goodness — Choosing often leads to unexpected and unpredictable results. While there is risk associated with the unknown, there is even greater reward and goodness.
  • Wiley 2015: open= free+permissions/ free and unfettered access, perpetual, irrevocable 5R permissions (retain, reuse, revise, remix, redistribute), open= democratizes innovation, permits innovation (…) open pedagogy: a set of things you can do when outcomes, assessments, and resources are open that you cannot do otherwise (…) openness facilitates the unexpected. 
  • Downes 2016: “In the case of personal learning, the role of the educational system is not to provide learning, it is to support learning. Meanwhile, the decisions about what to learn, how to learn, and where to learn are made outside the educational system, and principally, by the individual learners themselves”



Dr Vivien Rolfe, University of the West of England, Bristol UK. Open. But not for criticism? In Opened16 Conference, available here

Claude Paquette “Quelques fondements d’une pédagogie ouverte.” Québec français 36 (1979): 20–21. available here

MARIE-JOSI~ GREMMO and PHILIP RILEY , AUTONOMY, SELF-DIRECTION AND SELF ACCESS IN LANGUAGE TEACHING AND LEARNING: THE HISTORY OF AN IDEA, System, Vol. 23, No. 2, pp. 151-164, 1995 Elsevier Science Ltd Printed in Great Britain, available here

NEXTTHOUGHT, Laura Gibbs and Stacy Zemke, Eight Qualities of Open Pedagogy, available here

David Wiley, The Open Education Infrastructure, Keynote presentation for Open Apereo 2015, available here (Frischmann’s,  Von Hippel’s and Thierer’s work)

Downes 2016, Personal and Personalized Learning, available here 

Tannis Morgan, Open pedagogy and a very brief history of the concept, available here

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