Dear George @gsiemens

For some strange reason the comments feature was switched-off, now back on. 

Dear George,

This talk was brought to my attention on Twitter via Mark McGuire, a dear colleague I first met during CMC11 and who later visited me and other colleagues at Salford Uni. Together we facilitated a session on our PGCAP programme, which was a memorable experience for all of us.

I couldn’t resist watching your talk from start to finish. Despite its length it captured my attention throughout. I felt the need to respond to your open invitation to get in touch with you and am doing it via this open response.

This message has been written during my train journeys over the last five days to work and back. In a way your thoughts kept me in good company in the crammed train and helped me to be transported into a world of exploration.

What follows is a personal account based on my experiences, my readings and related research activities and initiatives I have co-organised and participated in the open.

I have been following your work since I found your articles via the innovate Journal which then suddenly disappeared… and your Knowing Knowledge book in which I have scribbled on every page as I saw this as an opportunity to interact with your words on paper. I remember when CCK08 was offered but in the end I didn’t participate. Then there was suddenly all that noise about MOOCs. They started popping up everywhere. Were the initial ideas to open-up education hijacked as my colleague Dr Stephen Powell said to me recently? It makes me wonder, isn’t this what happens with ideas anyway? As soon as they are shared, they travel, often to destinations we would never dream of taking them. With this comes loss of control and freedom but also responsibility, I think.

I have to admit that I have tried to engage in some of the MOOCs organised by different individuals, groups, institutions or providers and through different platforms not because everybody else was or is, but because I had a special interest in the topics explored in these. I also really wanted to experience first hand what MOOCs are all about and what can be achieved through these. I failed. My own experience shows that neither interest in the topic nor my curiosity to find out how they work were enough to really engage and get something out of them, do I dare to say complete any of them…

Content is everywhere. We are drowning in it. I understand that bundling content can be a way of filtering or curating information and therefore a useful strategy to attract individuals who have an interest in a specific subject. We can of course also learn a lot through selecting resources and perhaps we could take this idea into a new and exciting direction to maximise on some of the opportunities this thought could bring to self-regulated learning, how we put courses and programmes together and what that means for the individual and educational institutions. Are we thinking about these possibilities? Often MOOCs seem to adopt a content-based curriculum with high-production video resources etc. automation and interactivity. In that way, they can be handy for others as focused resources spaces that individuals or groups visit and can complement formal education really well and safe valuable time and resources for others.

But I think people are hungry for different things. People want to learn with others. After all we are social beings. For them, or for us, I should say, it is often more about interaction than interactivity. We saw this when software for learning appeared in the market before 2000. This enabled individualistic learning in the digital world while we were talking about cooperative and collaborative learning in the face-to-face classroom.

A visualisation which synthesises my readings around cooperative and collaborative learning, key features and an important question this generated for me

Many of us have been critical of Virtual Learning Environments… a management solution… Both cases are not dissimilar. The focus is on technology as a controlling power but what about pedagogies, flexibility, freedom and choice? I am aware of the distinction of xMOOCs and cMOOCs (and there are other terms…. the most bizarre one is mini MOOC) and can see that the content-factory is more linked to the first type. Learning with others seems to be the aim of the latter but can it really be realised to its full potential exclusively via peer-to-peer strategies? Do we assume that it can work for all and that it is a financially viable solution? But at what cost? I have been reviewing pedagogic frameworks supported by technology over the last few months. The importance of the facilitator support in these is a common feature to scaffold engagement and learning. What is different in the open that makes us immune to this?

reviewing collaborative learning frameworks supported by technology, key findings… part of my lliterature review

I mentioned that I have attempted and failed “to do a MOOC”… except one… The course had the MOOC label, it was actually a cMOOC. I fully engaged in this one and stayed until the end and even longer. This was the Creativity and Multicultural Communication course in 2011 (CMC11) led by Carol Yeager. I was again very interested in the topics we explored and it was a “we”. However, I could just have googled the resources without joining a course. What this course enabled me to do was to create connections with other learners and the course facilitator and engage in stimulating exchanges about the topics in the context of my practice. I therefore actively engaged in this one, I really felt that others showed interest in my work and I showed in theirs. I didn’t just write stuff which the black hole swallowed… Carol, the facilitator was present, modelled positive engagement in activities throughout and I got to know her really well, others too. The experience was personal and humane, as you said in your talk George. But also collaborative, These characteristics definitely made a difference. BUT CMC11 wasn’t what I would call Massive with a capital M or even with a lower case m. Maybe we all understand different things under “massive”. For me it was a course in the open and openly licensed, a course that linked students within a university course with open learners from across the world and created a sense of learning community everybody could be part of. According to Carol, there were around 300 participants, 15 of them were studying towards credits. During the course 50-60 learners were present,  but the core participants were around 20 or 30 who actively participated.

This message to you might now seem written upside-down. I hope you forgive me George. I should have started this, introducing myself first…

I am an academic developer in the United Kingdom and a doctoral student in the area of open cross-institutional professional development for educators in higher education at Edinburgh Napier University thanks to Prof. Keith Smyth. Beyond my above described MOOC experience and many failures to engage as an open learner, I have reviewed a small number of MOOCs and have been experimenting with open educational practices on a micro-scale compared to MOOCs. My special interest is exploring collaborative learning in cross-institutional provision in the area of academic development. My experiment back in 2010-11 to bring academics and other professionals who teach or support learning and study towards a teaching qualification in their institution, using Problem-Based Learning (PBL) as part of my MSc dissertation opened-up new opportunities for exploration for me, colleagues, my practice and research. I was curious where my thoughts would lead me and actually was encouraged to submit a PhD proposal to Edinburgh Napier University in this area. I am since January 2013 researching open cross-institutional practices within academic development and aim to develop a collaborative learning framework in such settings. I have found it a fascinating journey so far, also a very challenging and exhausting of course… no different I am sure from any other PhD experience. I have initiated a number of cross-institutional open courses with colleagues from other institutions. These are courses that have been developed to open-up, connect provision and create meaningful and stimulating experiences for sharing in distributed communities, networks and groups. They are in the area of professional development for educators in HE but are of course also open to student participation and are developed  using collaborative pedagogies. Examples include the Flexible, Distance and Online Learning (@openfdol) which has been repurposed and evolved into Flexible, Open and Social Learning (@FOS4L), Bring your own Devices for Learning (@BYOD4L), Creativity for Learning in Higher Education (#creativeHE). All of them are underpinned by inquiry-based pedagogies, provide opportunities for collaborative learning in small groups where facilitators are present and engaged. Creating learning communities is at the heart. My findings so far confirm that the collaborative aspects of these courses together with facilitator engagement and support as well as their inquiry-based nature make a real difference to learners.  Carol Yeager and I initiated the Open Facilitator project in collaboration with CELT where I work and the Open Knowledge Foundation to further share experiences of facilitation in the open and learn from each other. If you are interested, have a look at our Open Facilitator Stories collection from 2014.

I don’t think massive is the answer to everything. Is it the answer to anything? I am wondering, We have been over-emphasising in massive, far too much, for far too long, It doesn’t work in face-to-face situation for learners and teachers, how do we expect it to work online and in the open? I prefer an approach where we can scale-up and -down depending on the situation. We have been working on this and came up with the snowballing model (Nerantzi & Beckingham, 2015). Asking ourselves why we are doing it is also important. Broadcasting can work wonders via digital channels and yes, have global reach. Are we however in danger to reduce “education” to marketing? If we really want to reach and engage learners, educators, students and more generally citizens of this world, I am wondering if something else would work better… One size does not fit all, and bigger is better might not be (so) true. Of course face-to-face learning and online learning are not the same. But in both spaces and in between we do seek and value interaction above flashy interactivity. We seek human connections. Things have started changing in MOOCs… and I am following them with great interest.

Often when we read about open education, the terms that come up are Open Educational Resources, MOOCs and open educational practices. The last one seems to grow in the shadow of MOOCs… but it is growing… more and more seem to abandon MOOCland… actually there seems to be a trend for some time now that even MOOC providers call their courses just open courses or free courses, which in itself is an interesting shift. What does this mean?

Visualisation of MOOCs while I was re-drafting my literature review this summer.

However, we also need to learn to work more effectively together. Together is the answer for me, at personal, institutional, cross-institutional level and beyond cultural walls. Do we really want to go down the path of imperialistic educational constructions? I would and am voting for a democratic alternative. We all have something to contribute. Building on our collective wisdom can be so rewarding and make impossibilities happen. Power to the people! Let’s share expertise and resources, co-develop and co-facilitate courses, learning and development opportunities in collaboration with colleagues and groups from our own and other institutions to avoid replication and create collaborative learning opportunities that truly benefit educators and learners and enable collective growth.

It is now Friday and my last train journey of the week. I could continue for a bit longer but I am interested in a dialogue and therefore decided to post this now. It is dark outside but I hope you and others will read this to help me better understand what is going on.

Learning can happen everywhere. We talk a lot about learning that happens in the head… we also have hands and hearts. In a research interview one of my study participants’ said: “we don’t learn to play the piano by just reflecting on the piano”. What does this mean for all of us?

Open education and open learning more generally have a huge potential for all of us. We have come to see education as a money tree… this is very sad and worrying, I think. What can we do about it? What is our individual and collective responsibility to (re)focus on learning and development?

ps. It was lovely to see my colleague’s Dr Stephen Powell work mentioned in your talk.

The Pedagogic Innovators (#PIn) project is born

pin_logoI am extremely excited about my new project around pedagogic innovators in higher education or short #pin as part of my National Teaching Fellowship award.

The logo… (as you can see, this was important for me)… when I was searching for a concept to visualise what pedagogic innovators mean to me personally, I came up with the image you see here which I plan to use as the project logo. This image says a lot to me and perhaps I will analyse this in a later post but even the colours and shape, every curve and point, have a meaning. In a way I used the research method I plan to collect data in the context of #pin to create a visual identity for the project. Now I need a few badges ;) and just writing this here gave me another idea. Ok, let’s briefly introduce the project:

Colleagues from Manchester Metropolitan University as well as colleagues from other institutions nationally and internationally will be invited over three academic years to participate in this study. I am therefore very interested in collaborating with further researchers in other institutions, organisations and countries who are interested in exploring with me pedagogic innovators.

This study will investigate

  • The beliefs, attitudes and values of higher education teachers as pedagogic innovators.
  • Conceptions of pedagogic innovation in the context of their practice, their curricular design and students’ development.
  • Enabling and prohibiting factors of becoming pedagogic innovators for academics and other professionals who teach or support learning in HE

Visual data collection methods will be used, such as drawings and models.  These methods have been shown to enable a wider spectrum of expression and reflection (Gauntlett, 2007, 2011; Cousin, 2009). No judgement will be  made about the artistic value of these. It is definitely about what the drawings and artefacts represent and not how they look like. There will also  be a survey to provide an alternative way to participate and the plan to organise focus groups as well to collect some of the data.

What will the drawings, photos, the survey and the transcript be used for?

The drawings, photos, survey and transcript will be analysed to identify key themes related to the study aims  objectives and research questions. A visual gallery of contributions will be created, anonymised, unless contributions have come via social media channels. The data will assist the researcher in gaining an insight into conceptions of pedagogic innovation as well as the pedagogic innovators, the people, as expressed and visualised by the participants themselves. Any areas of development will be included within an action plan how an institution and the sector can nurture, support and maximise on pedagogic innovators.

There will be opportunities to participate via social media as well. See such an opportunity a bit further down.

The findings of the project will be valuable because

  1. The findings will be used to create knowledge assets to better understand and support pedagogic innovators in the future and maximise on their contribution within an institution and the sector.
  2. In an increasingly complex and challenging world, there is an urgent need to understand how higher education can better promote and support pedagogic innovation. The findings will be used in anonymised reports to enhance our collective understanding of academics’ perceptions of pedagogic innovation in the context of teaching and learning in higher education, and contribute to open access literature so that the wider community of professionals can benefit.
  1. The results at MMU will be compared and combined with data sets from other universities, nationally and internationally, so that comparisons can be made across the higher education sector and the overall generalisations from results will be more secure.

4 November 2015

At 8pm UK time,  an #LTHEchat will be offered in collaboration with #BETTchat to discuss pedagogic innovators in higher education. This will signalise tha launch of my project and I am really looking forward to make a start discussing pedagogic innovators with colleagues. I have the pleasure to work with my dear colleague Sue Beckingham @suebecks on this chat.

The storify of this #LTHEchat is available here. I will be analysing this in NVivo soon. Thanks to the #LTHEchat, six colleagues from other institutions in the UK have expressed interest in joining this project as co-researchers.

This research project has ethical approval and the information sheet and statement of consent can be found at

Participating in the #pin activities during this #LTHEchat #BETTchat means that you have read the information sheet and the consent statement included in the above document carefully and are giving me your consent to participate in this study. The online open survey can be accessed at htt

If you are interested in becoming a #pin research collaborator, please get in touch! 

See you on the 4th at 8pm UK time.


ps. And then I just found an excellent example of how #pin drawings could be showcased in a gallery. See the below! How many drawings and artefacts can we collect? And who would be willing to host these?


Cousin, G. (2009) Researching Learning in Higher Education. An introduction to contemporary methods and approaches, Oxon: Routledge.

Gauntlett, D. (2007) Creative Explorations. New approaches to identities and audiences, Oxon: Routledge

Gauntlett D. (2011) Making is Connecting. The social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web2.0, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Happy 2nd Birthday Dear Open Education Europa Portal! @OpenEduEU


finger doodle made with the free version of Sketches

Open education makes us feel less lonely, more connected with ourselves, others and ideas wherever they are or come from. Open education gives us fresh hope, courage and wings to experiment, create and innovate, with others; to collaborate and develop valuable partnerships that help us move forward. This is how I see things.

The Open Education Europa Portal has become a valuable hub for such activities across Europe. It is a vibrant place to share practices, projects and research, as well as connect with like minded-people. Push the boundaries and make the otherwise impossible possible, to advance knowledge but more importantly to build cultural bridges that connect us more deeply as human beings, bring us closer together and transform our lives.This is the real value of open education for me. 

The Open Education Europa Portal has become a really useful source for me over the last two years to keep up-to-date with Europe-wide initiatives, pioneers and their work and related research. Some of the initiatives I have created with colleagues have been added to the database of open offers and I am grateful for this. I also had the opportunity to participate remotely in the Education in the Digital Era Conference back in 2014 which was a great experience and enabled me to be there and be part of the conference without actually being there. A fantastic CPD  opportunity from my armchair… so to speak. After discovering and starting reading with great interest the plethora of eLearning papers, colleagues and I actually submitted our own work for one of the recent issues around our open facilitator work linked to BYOD4L (Nerantzi, Middleton & Beckhingham, 2014) which consequently led to the creation of the Open Facilitator Project supported by CELT, Manchester Metropolitan University, the Open Knowledge Foundation and Carol Yeager a dear colleague and collaborator from the U.S. You never know where ideas will take you and this is truly fascinating.

There are still opportunities to do more, I feel, on the Open Education Europa Portal to take it to the next level perhaps. As an open practitioner, researcher and PhD student in open academic development,I would really like to see and help develop the following which have the potential to make a difference to all of us, I think. Some of my  ideas follow:

1. A community of open practitioners coming together that will help us find each other and identify opportunities for fruitful collaborations to advance learning, teaching, research, living and working.

2. Emerging open educational practices outside MOOCland often non-funded are often still in the shadow. I would like to see these supported, shared and showcased more so that we can celebrate a wider variety of open practices.We would, for example love to find collaborators from across Europe for our open professional development courses and initiatives for teachers in higher education, such as BYOD4L, FOS, #creativeHE and the #LTHEchat.

3. Find ways to promote cross-institutional collaborations in the area of open education that are sustainable and have a life beyond any funding cycles and create rich opportunities for exchange and learning beyond boundaries.

4. Create a hub for PhD students in open education across Europe (perhaps Prof. Martin Weller and his colleagues at the OER Research Hub could help with this? Just a few days ago, Dr Bea de los Arcos from Martin’s team made me aware of the GO-GN Global OER Graduate Network at could links be made, initiatives to be joined-up?) that forms a valuable peer support network (it is true that PhD students often feel that they are working in isolation), fosters sharing of exciting emerging research and findings that will be of interest to other researchers but also enables new collaborations to emerge.

5. … and a secret wish I have and had actually added to my original PhD proposal back in 2012 was to develop a cross-institutional Teaching Qualification for Higher Education with partners from HE in the UK. But what stops us working towards such a Europe-wide.initiative? Am I too ambitious or is it worth exploring this idea together? Please get in touch if you think we can make this happen!

Would love to work more closely with colleagues from Open Education Europa and make ideas happen, together, in collaboration.

  • We know that the future is collaborative. It is happening already.
  • Let’s build on what connects us!
  • Be creative, share and innovate with others!
  • Let’s celebrate together who we are and what we can achieve together!

Visit the Open Education Europa Portal today to seize the opportunities! Become part of Open Education Europa and explore the possibilities for a more open, creative and connected Europe.

The 1st Open Education Europa Week is between September 28th – October 2nd, 2015. How will you contribute? We start a brand new open course on the 28th around Creativity for Learning in higher education! Join us here.

It would be wonderful if this could be the beginning of a conversation. Thank you for reading.

Chrissi (Nerantzi)
Creative Commons License
Happy 2nd Birthday Dear Open Education Europa Portal! by Chrissi Nerantzi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

I received an invite from Open Education Europa to create this clip and become an Open Education Europa Fellow. Please note,  am NOT a Professor as the term used in the UK and shown on the official clip you will find here.

Do you have a wide open mind? Join us! #creativeHE

While I am in the process of marking portfolios of our very first Creativity for Learning cohort, at the same time, I am getting ready for our second group from MMU starting at the end of September! Both activities fill me with excitement. Seeing colleagues growing as creative practitioners and sharing part of their journey is extremely rewarding, but also seeing what we have achieved together is fascinating.  I am confident that colleagues will continue on this creative path and make new and exciting discoveries along the way. Already a few colleagues from this cohort submitted a research proposal linked to learning and teaching. This secured funding very recently. I can’t stop smiling and am extremely proud of them. Our album from cohort 1 bring my memories alive.

This time round, Dr Nikos Fachantidis, Assistant Professor, from the University of Macedonia will be joining us remotely with a group of postgraduate students studying towards an MA in Lifelong Learning. Prof. Norman Jackson, from Lifewide Education and Creative Academic, as well as Sandra Sinfield from London Metropolitan University with a group of academics from her institution will also be with us on this journey. So there will be students learning with academics and I am really looking forward to this. We have opened-up an existing module and are now better organised than last time. Online participation of this blended course will hopefully be seen as meaningful and valuable for colleagues from MMU and further afield.

We extended the invite to the SEDA, ALT and NTF communities and hopefully I will be able to find at least one group of academics from another institution who would also like to join us and learn with us about how we can become more adventurous in our learning and teaching in higher education. This group could be working towards a qualification or course locally or use CreativeHE as an informal CPD activity that would be developmental and could be used when preparing for Professional Recognition.

FISh (Nerantzi & Uhlin, 2012) image created by Ellie Livermore, Image source here 

The plan for CreativeHE is to create extended and enriched opportunities for academics and students to interact and learn together collaboratively using the course site at p2pu but more importantly through discussions and collaborations within Google community we have set-up using the 5C Framework (Nerantzi & Beckingham, 2014, 2015) and FISh (Nerantzi & Uhlin, 2012). We would like participants to bring their own stories and experiences and share ideas so that we can all support each other and develop as a collective.

This second iteration of creativeHE will become my second case study as part of my PhD research and I am really looking forward to the next few months. Collecting data and gaining an insight into the experience from the learner’s perspective. Hopefully, there will be colleagues interested in my study and willing to participate. As this is a registration-free course for open learners, I have created a mini survey to identify #creativeHE participants who are teaching or supporting students in higher education who would like to find out more about my project and possibly participate. There is of course, no obligation to do so.

Please share this invite with colleagues who might be interested in joining. All are welcome to participate and work towards open badges. Please note, if you want to study towards credits and are not from Manchester Metropolitan University, there will be a cost attached to this. If you have any questions, please let me know, ok?

We start on the 28 September. The online facilitated part of the course will be offered over 8 weeks. Our very last day is the 20 November.

Access to join our community and find out more.

Don’t bin your ideas! Share them and see them grow!!! image source



Nerantzi, C. and Beckingham, S. (2015) BYOD4L: Learning to use own smart devices for learning and teaching through the 5C framework, in Middleton, A. (ed.) (2015): Smart learning: teaching and learning with smartphones and tablets in post-compulsory education, pp. 108-126, Sheffield: MELSIG publication, available here

Nerantzi, C. and Beckingham, S. (2014) BYOD4L – Our Magical Open Box to Enhance Individuals’ Learning Ecologies, in:  Jackson, N. & Willis, J. (eds.) Lifewide Learning and Education in Universities and Colleges E-Book, available at – invited chapter

Nerantzi, C. & Uhlin, L. (2012) FISh, original illustration, available at / FISh description available at

Putting my roller skates on… #phdchat

My summer has been fruitful in the end and reflecting on the rework of Chapter 2 and capturing the process here has been extremely valuable. So I decided to do the same for Chapter 3.

It feels scary as this chapter is probably the one that fills me with fear, with horror…  but it is not going to stop me. The scissors are out and I have my roller skates on. I will do this. I have to. Again, have written too much. The first draft is just too long, too descriptive with bits that are not needed… The appendices are filling up. A lot of stuff seems to be moved in there… not a bad thing, of course, I am learning. Learning to be more precise and that less is actually more. Easier to say than do, of course.

I will again attempt to capture the re-work of Chapter 3: Methods and Data in a visual way and will be updating this post until I am happy with the next version. My dear colleagues Leslie Robinson and Peter Gossman offered to read sections of it. I am very very grateful for all their help. I will probably reach out again to identify more readers. If this could be you, please let me know, ok?

I will be back soon, with my fist update. This was just a short intro.

Ok,I made a start…  Yesterday. It is definitely not going to be easy… but I think I am starting from the easy part, which is interesting behaviour… I guess I feel more confident in cutting the big bits out… the bits linked to the pilot and the case studies. While cutting, I also decided to start adding about my second case study and I will do this directly into the appendix… It will be useful for me personally, even if not significant for the thesis…

The Methods Chapter… Can this help? – it didn’t, so I started looking elsewhere… I seem to avoid looking at a completed PhD… maybe I fear that I will just copy how somebody else has done it, on the other hand I do need to do it properly…

I understand that this Chapter should not be that extensive (it needs to be short(er), I should say) and that it is best to stick to the standard format… but what is the standard format? What I did find interesting is that in some theoretical PhDs this section is absent… Mmm… how nice would that be? But then again, I don’t think I would ever be able to do a theoretical PhD…

I have been working on the Methods section > this is how I call it at the moment and I am talking in there about the collective case study approach (not the case study methodology) I am using to collect data. While writing this I am wondering if the stuff about case studies and my cases should be in the Data collection section??? HELP!!!

26 September: Today has been a super long day, and I can’t even remember how many hours I have been writing and struggling. It was early morning when I started… I wish I could say that I am happy with what I have achieved… I reached a dead end and need somebody to read what I have written. I have so many questions which do distract me from seeing the connections, the vital connections I need to make in this chapter. I think organising the stuff is my biggest challenge at the moment as I don’t feel confident enough to decide what goes where and go ahead. Obviously the existing organisation doesn’t work but what would? Maybe I am just tired and my brain stopped working.

Despite today’s challenges while also not really looking forward to tomorrow and my plan, I have actually observed a shift in my approach.  Many have told me about tables. Tables here, there and everywhere but they do make sense and while writing and editing, I have found opportunities to turn basic text into something more visual. It makes it easier to read and see the connections.

27 September: This is were I am now…

10 October: I struggled to come back and capture my progress as I felt lost. This is why the massive break and silence… on the blog at least… Through the messiness the following emerged with captures my methodology and data collection strategy but also links the cases which have troubled me a lot to understand how to explain these as I am not using them as method or methodology but as a strategy to collect data. No idea of course what and how many categories will emerge through the data but these will help me shape the outcome space and then my framework. As you can see, I, the researcher sits outside and the researched is all that matters. Will there be four, or five or even less? I understand that there wouldn’t be many… apparently.

!2 October: I spent the last four days reworking Chapter 3. It was painful and this is reflected in the above visualisations but also the longer absense from this post as mention on the 10th. The colours and stylistically different approaches, I had used so far show my confusion and the disconnect, if that makes sense. There was no common thread as I couldn’t see how I would ever be able to re-bundle this stuff. But today, I have to admit, that I feel a mini sense of achievement, finally. I have a basic structure for this chapter and some meat… also still too much fat… yes, my supervisors will probably still recommend radical editing. But that is ok. I have now reached a stage were I need some feedback on all five sections and have found some colleagues who kindly offered to help with reading some of these.

There is some harmony in the above picture and this is how I feel right now. Can’t wait to get some first feedback and continue working on the five sections.

17 October: I have been working on the thesis again today and also created the second version of the visualisation of my research design. This us below. The majority of sections of Chapter 3 have been read by at least one colleague and I have taken their comments on board. I am feeling so much better, I gave to admit. Next week I will be giving the whole chapter to a dear colleague from Salford and I can’t wait to find out what she thinks.

1 November

I have a revisited draft of Chapter 3 ready. Its sections have been read by my colleagues Bernard Lisewski, Dr. Charles Neam, Dr Stephen Powell and Dr Peter Gossman. All helped me refine my work further and be much more precise. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I knew I would struggle the most with this one but I think my understanding about the methodology, the methods and the analysis is developing and I am seeing the links clearer now. The use of the 2 cases has complicated things in my mind, but I think I am getting there. Dr Leslie Robinson has the whole chapter at the moment and looking at it holistically. I can’t wait for her comments.I think the chapter is probably still too long… and bits will be moved into the appendices…

This morning I noticed the following in my Twitter stream… very useful advice indeed

My next steps are to start looking at a phenomenographic analysis, how the categories of description are formed properly. I am really looking forward to carrying out the remaining interviews, hopefully all before Christmas and getting all my data together. I will definitely print out all the transcript and make a little booklet out of them reading again and again so that I can start seeing themes. Hopefully these will emerge…

I am also looking at Chapter 1 and what I would need for this one. My plan is when I submit Chapter 3 to my supervisors before the end of November to have also made good progress with Chapter 1 and share this with them after I have received feedback from them linked to Chapter 3.

I feel that I am moving. Doing tiny steps, but I am moving.

Struggling on… a summer story with a good ending? #phdchat

Since January 2013 I have been a part-time PhD student at Edinburgh Napier University. A lot have happened since then and my previously started and incomplete PhD in translation many years ago and 80,000 words later that didn’t lead to anything are not helpful to put me in a positive mindset. Can I do this? Will I do this?

I am currently reworking part of the literature review linked to open education responding to feedback I received.  “Radical editing” are the words I remember… The truth is that I have been struggling to make progress and actually often feel stuck but also guilty… guilty for not spending enough time with my family… guilty for not spending enough time on my PhD… and guilty of working on too many projects… as I was reminded by Keith in September. Often I feel like being pregnant again but without knowing when and how I will be able to give birth without producing a monster… and the pain is growing…

I am now in Greece and the plan is to rework the above section. I made a start on the plane on a very bumpy ride down south from rainy England. I decided to keep a short visual diary while I work on this and hopefully this will help me out some of my thoughts in some kind of order. Maybe somebody will access it and provide some help and advice.

My visual diary is below.


Tomorrow are MOOCs on the menu. Need to shorten from 18 pages to 2. Definitely radical editing needed!!!

It hasn’t been an easy day. I haven’t managed to cut that much, I am down to 12-13 pages, and will continue working on this tomorrow. I understand that I need to be more focused but so much seems relevant!  Thank you to David Hopkins who volunteered to read through the collaborative learning section and Frances Bell for her suggestion to create a visual representation of all the important concepts. I will see how I do tomorrow.

Some sense of achievement today, a tiny one. MOOC pages are now under half the original length of what I had and there is some sort of order there now. I have now shared this with Carol Yeager who kindly offered to read through this and comment. I hope this makes sense to her. Over the weekend, I plan to continue working on the open ed section, the non-MOOC stuff.

Ok, I have done some further work linked to the open learning section and it somehow feels a bit better. Still not happy with it and I have loads of questions but feel that I would benefit from some feedback before doing more on this.

Tomorrow, I will start working in the last section which refers to collaborative frameworks supported by technologies. This is the blue part.

I am still in the frameworks section…

Tomorrow, I will continue working on this again…. I need a small break to get fresh energy to continue. It all feels very messy at the moment. I have created a framework table, thank you for suggesting this Keith. This indeed does help me see similarities… There are so many! But very interesting things do emerge which seems to provide a strong evidence-base for my work, I think. I hope to have a clearer picture of this section in my head and on file early next week.

Late last night, I felt the need to visualise what I have leant through looking at the different frameworks and what I discovered. Here it comes… thank you Frances Bell for this suggestion. I will also add the frameworks I looked at.


When Ody saw what I was doing he had the idea to call the doors at the top and the bottom of the hill, the door of success, and somehow it does make sense so this is a little but important addition made by Ody (11).

What follows is my MOOC summary…



Carol Yeager kindly read my open learning section. It was the first time somebody outside the supervisory team read any of my work for this thesis. In the past I was never sure if this is something I should be doing…  I have to say, that I found this really useful and hope that further colleagues will be willing to read smaller sections and comment. Thank you so much Carol and also for making yourself available to read the technology section as well.

I have now (16 August) prepared a visualisation linked to the cooperative, collaborative learning section and am adding this below. Any comments on all three visualisations are very welcome.

The following shows were  I am at the moment, I have to admit that it does seem that I have made some progress over the last few weeks looking back at were I started. More is of course needed, Carol Yeager is reading the frameworks section. I know I need some more specific details linked to this, such as when the SOL framework was developed/used for the first time. If you are reading this and have any idea and can point me towards a related paper, please leave a comment below.

What I wrote when I started this most: more to follow… I really hope I can make some progress while here in between jumping in the deep blue sea, eating souvlaki and visiting magical places with my family.

Now, beginning of September, we are back in the UK and I do feel a tiny sense of achievement. It was worth spending that time on this section and reworking it while away. I would like to thank especially dear colleagues who read the drafts, Carol Yeager, Charles Neame and David Hopkins as well as others who have commented on this post while it was developing. Their comments have been valuable for further changes.

I know that I do need to do a lot more work on this but this tiny step over the summer has helped me a lot to look into the future with a bit more positivity… I do, however need to find a way to keep going. It has really helped me sharing my journey with others and for a while the loneliness disappeared… I will be in Edinburgh later this month to see Keith and Sandra, my supervisory team and just hope that the changes I made are an improvement.

Note: Dr Bea de los Arcos from the OU contacted me on the 10th of September and was interested in including this post as a resource in an open course around Open Research which I have done in 2014 and found really useful (see my reflections linked to this here). If you are reading this and are involved in this course, feel free to leave a note here. It would be great to hear from other open practitioners.

Supervisory meeting and what followed

I went to Edinburgh on the 18th of September to see Sandra and Keith. I feel very positive about our meeting and am pleased that they both think that I am making progress and that I can do this. Just need to believe in myself and work hard to get there.

In the train back, I started writing and I have now almost completed the latest changes to the three sections sections. Frances Bell kindly offered to read the latest open learning section and I am really looking forward to her thoughts.

When this is done, I will be focusing on Chapter 3: Methods and Data… at the moment this is 17,000 words long… yes, far too long and too much detail I have been told. So the big scissors will be out soon and a new post about this will follow. I know that I will find this hard as it is probably the most theoretical part and I am a very practical person… How will I get over this? By immersing myself into it, loosing and finding myself… hopefully… more linked to this as soon as work on Chapter 3 begins. I estimate that this will be in a week, the latest. Just feel that I need to finish the edits on Chapter 2 before starting anything new.

Thank you everybody who has kept me company over the summer and more recently but also my supervisors for their valuable help and guidance and for believing that I will get there… one day.