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Category: Programme for Online Teaching

POT Cert Week 21: short and deep, a nod to online education theory #potcert

This week, under the heading of “Introduction to Online Education Theory”, POTCert addresses not only a contemporary and challenging topic but one which has fundamental implications for future society. Consequently, because of the colossal scope and contentious nature of the topic, and in order to avoid posting something that although tries to encompass as much as possible only serves to be vague and unfathomable, I’m just going to provide a few highlights of a couple of articles that focussed my reading and comment on one or two of the prominent points.

Knowledge is a powerful thing - with it, anything's possible.
Knowledge is a powerful thing; with it, anything’s possible.

First off, in his article, Individual Knowledge in the Internet Age, Larry Sanger is scornful of some of the sentiment currently circulating in education, saying:

some Internet boosters argue that Google searching serves as a replacement for our memory and that students need not memorize — need not learn — as much as they did before the Internet

educationists inspire us with the suggestion that collaborative learning online can serve as “the core model of pedagogy.” Knowledge is primarily to be developed and delivered by students working in online groups

and further, he says that these “Internet boosters” advocate that

the co-creation of knowledge can and should take the place of reading long, dense, and complex books.

Sanger fears that

if we take their advice […] we will have a society of drones, enculturated by hive minds, who are able to work together online but who are largely innocent of the texts and habits of study that encourage deep and independent thought.

He doesn’t see how using the tools of the Internet are any real substitute for

the difficult work of developing individual minds.

His key underlying assumption is that

a liberal education and the Western enlightenment ideals that it inculcates not only are valuable but are essential to our future.

Here, I’d counter that deep independent thought is all well and good, but hasn’t this led to a situation today where information and expertise has become siloed; and besides, drawing now on my recent experience in the eLearning and Digital Culutres MOOC, what’s to say that such humanist values and enlightenment ideals actually beget some pinnacle of human achievement, because as things stand currently in the world, there’s a whole lot that could be working out much better: the environment, equality, social justice and the eradication of poverty to name but a few. It may well be, as transhumanist thinking avers, that by realising the benefits of emerging technologies we could indeed overcome fundamental human limitations. Maybe, the knowledge that’s needed now, to meet the complex challenges of the 21st century and beyond, can no longer be derived from deep independent thought and must indeed be summoned up as collective intelligence, or at the very least facilitated through networked learning.

“Connection forming is natural”, says George Siemens in his article, Networks, Ecologies, and Curatorial Teaching.

It doesn’t need coercion. We do it with language, images, video. We create, express, connect. And software is now available that aids this innate activity with unprecedented fervor. We build competence, make sense, learn, and growth through our connections.

Siemens asks us to consider what he calls the ” happy little edublogger”, whose

established networks [and] experience enables them to put new developments into a historical context. They assist others to create networks…but they do more. They serve as curators of ideas, connections, philosophies, and world views. They create frameworks of interpreting and understanding history, new technologies, and trends through their work and public dialogue.

In the relation to the role of the “individual formerly known as teacher”, Siemens comments that he’s

rather sick of “sage on stage” and “guide on the side” comparisons. The clear dichotomy chafes.

He acknowledges that

power in classrooms has shifted from the teacher at the centre

preferring to use the term

‘network administrator’ […] It’s the basis on which teaching and education should be founded. But I think something more is needed, something that places some level of value or interpretation on content, knowledge, and concepts being explored.

Here he offers the idea of

the joint model of network administrator and curator form the foundation of what education should be.

Explaining the addition of curator as

an expert [who] exists in the artefacts displayed, resources reviewed in class, concepts being discussed. But [who’s] behind the scenes providing interpretation, direction, provocation, and yes, even guiding. A curatorial teacher acknowledges the autonomy of learners, yet understands the frustration of exploring unknown territories without a map. A curator is an expert learner. Instead of dispensing knowledge, he creates spaces in which knowledge can be created, explored, and connected. While curators understand their field very well, they don’t adhere to traditional in-class teacher-centric power structures.

Certainly, as Siemens points out

much [is] happening in terms of defining what is acceptable authority for information and knowledge.

Undoubtedly, because education’s no longer asking the same questions and can no longer be based on once familiar assumptions.

Image Source:


Sanger,L. (2010)  Individual Knowledge in the Internet Age. Available at:

Siemens, G. (2007) Networks, Ecologies, and Curatorial Teaching. Available at:

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POT Cert Week 20: the “golden triangle” of pedagogy, ed tech and instructional design #potcert

Happy days: this week POTCert takes a look at educational technology and instructional design. I’m particularly interested in both of these fields because since starting on the Pedagogy First course, I’ve come to realise that both educational technology and instructional design are integral to the delivery of effective learning, and it seems that an online tutor would be well advised to understand something of each and to develop some of the respective foundation skills. I think that an understanding of the science and art of education, that is to say, pedagogy, combined with an understanding of educational technology and instructional design forms what I’d see as the “golden triangle” of online learning.

Already by week 2 of this course I’d developed a curiosity regarding instructional design, largely because I was unfamiliar with the term. Although Scott Johnson and Jim Julius explained the role of an instructional designer I was still unclear about the whole notion, probably due in a large part to the fact that I’d never actually met anyone who was an instructional designer. Even in January, when I went on to sign up for OLDSMOOC, an open online course in learning design, I still had no firm idea what it entailed, commenting:

I’ve no substantive idea of what learning design actually is; is it a fancy name for something that I do already when planning learning activities, is it something quite rigorous and scientific that I’ve hitherto not been exposed to, or is it something quite new altogether – a response to the way technology is impacting teaching and learning maybe.

Wikipedia offers the following explanation:

Instructional Design is the practice of creating “instructional experiences which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing.” The process consists broadly of determining the current state and needs of the learner, defining the end goal of instruction, and creating some “intervention” to assist in the transition. Ideally the process is informed by pedagogically (process of teaching) and andragogically (adult learning) tested theories of learning

and, as more and more open and participatory learning opportunities became available, increasingly heutagogically tested ones as well, I’d venture.

Any way, looking back at my initial musings, it turns out that instructional design comprises all three of my premises.

By the way, I prefer to use the term learning design; I might explain that instructional design is the term more commonly used in the US whereas in the UK and Europe, it’s learning design.

In her book, Designing for Learning in an Open World, Grainne Conole explains learning design as “a methodology for enabling teachers/designers to make more informed decisions in how they go about designing learning activities and interventions, which are pedagogically informed and make effective use of resources and technologies”. It seems that in the field of education many are coming to see educational practice as the design inquiry of learning, after all “design science is concerned with how things should be” (Simon, 1969 quoted by Mor, 2013).

From my OLDSMOOC experience, I can now appreciate that learning design science provides both a rigorous method and a variety of tools to help ensure the development, and continuous improvement, of learning experiences. Here is a brief overview of the design process:

  • Initiate – proposal of a learning need
  • Inquire – inquire into the learning context
  • Ideate – sketch out a course design
  • Connect – develop learning activities
  • Prototype – test out aspects of the design
  • Evaluate – evaluate as part of the iterative process of learning design
  • Reflect – reflect and share learning or design narratives
    Learning design tools
    Learning design tools

If you want to leran more about the process of learning design I strongly suggest that you take a look at the comprehensive range of resources on the OLDSMOOC website.

In her explanation above, Grainne Conole points out that learning design “makes effective use of resources and technologies”. Wikipedia says that educational technology “is the study and ethical practice of facilitating e-learning, which is the learning and improving of performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources”, and furthermore, that the term “is often associated with, and encompasses, instructional theory and learning theory”. So, it seems that the three fields of pedagogy, learning design and educational technology are indeed bound inextricably closely together.

Although, the POTCert course has given me great insight into the use of technology, I’m aware that my knowledge in this respect is still quite superficial. So, like I mentioned in a previous post, seeing as I’ve a notion of “cobbling together an LMS”  of my own from a variety of web technologies, I’m keen to develop my knowledge and skills further in relation to educational technology. For that reason, I’m hoping to participate in the upcoming Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning offered by the Association for Learning Technologies in the UK. It’s all good fun.

Image source: catspyjamasnz


Mor, Y. (2013) Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum- A Massive Open Online Course. Available at:

Conole, G. (2013) Designing for Learning in an Open World. Springer. New York

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POT Cert Week 19: promoting self-determination with web-enhanced teaching and learning #potcert

This week POTCert moves on to consider Web-enhanced, hybrid and open classes, as discussed in Chapter 13 of Teaching Online: A Practical Introduction (Ko & Rossen, 2013). For me, this chapter, in what otherwise is proving to be a very useful textbook, seems somewhat nebulous and vague; I didn’t really connect on any great level with the material presented. The chapter seems awash with bland statements like, “when you make the Web an integral part of the course work, you automatically make it more relevant and valuable to your students and yourself alike” (p. 369). Maybe it’s as this week’s course introduction notes says, “we can barely agree to what these terms mean never mind engage in thoughtful conversation about how to explore, maximize, develop, enrich, investigate, scrutinize, and experiment with and upon these variations in online learning schemes”.

Web-enhanced learning opportunities

Having said that though, one section did manage to gain my attention and allow me to think, in part, of what might be involved in web-enhanced learning. The section in question was, “Using the Web as a Student Presentation Medium”. Reading this section put me in mind of a couple of instances that I’ve come across recently, instances that exhibit approaches in which learners choose how they’d like to present their learning and/or that encourage them to present their learning artefacts on the Web. Such approaches can be seen as helping promote self-determination of the learner.

Before I outline the instances that I have in mind, I ought to say that in my last post, I mentioned how coming to think of the Web as the learning platform, rather than the LMS, can support self-directed learning. However, I referred to self directed learning as heutagogy, which, as it turns out, might not be quite the right terminology. Heutagogy is seen as self-determined learning, whereas andragogy is seen as self-directed learning (Blaschke, 2012).

Anyhow, in relation to the Web and social media, Lisa Marie Blaschke explains that:

Web 2.0 design supports a heutagogical approach by allowing learners to direct and determine their learning path and by enabling them to take an active rather than passive role in their individual learning experiences.

A recent article by Fred Garnett, outlining a model called the “PAH Continuum” (pedagogy, andragogy & heutagogy), seems, to me, to provide, in the final phase, an ideal opportunity for learners to exercise self-determination and, if they so wish, use the web as their presentation medium:

Start with a known subject, the delivery of which a teacher is confident with (pedagogy), negotiate with the learners how they might study that subject in ways that motivate them (andragogy), and offer creative ways in which they might express what they have learnt (heutagogy).

The other instance that I can think of, of learners being allowed to exercise self-determination and present their work on the Web, can be found in the recent eLearning and Digital Cultures MOOC offered by Edinburgh University. The course, in the first instance, for content gave learners access to resources on the open Web, and then for the final assessment, encouraged learners to submit a digital artefact created on a Web application of their choice.

All-in-all, this has been a tricky post to put together this week, not least because the term web-enhanced learning just seems so ridiculous to me. I mean, is there anybody in this day and age that does not use the web in some part to learn.

Image Source:


Blaschke, L.M (2012) Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning. Available at:

Garnet, F. (2013) The PAH Continuum: Pedagogy, Andragogy & Heutagogy. Available at:

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