Keep going… moving to Chapter 1 and remaining data collection

Keep going… Keith reminds me of this regularly and  he is right. I need to keep going!!!

Almost three years now since I started this part-time PhD in January 2013 and it has been a very bumpy ride so far (… I don’t think I am a unique case though…). I think I am going through a smoother stretch at the moment (don’t think it will last…) and feel that I am actually making some progress. This fuels my batteries with fresh energy and the desire to keep working on this.

After recently submitting Chapter 3, the scariest of them all so far, to my supervisors, I started putting the puzzle pieces for Chapter 1 together. I know it looks more like Easter eggs, in the sketch below…

Sandra commented on one of my earlier doodles linked to Chapter 2 that was black with sharp edges that it did capture my frustration. She was of course right. I think this chapter progressed much smoother (so far…) despite its challenges and maybe therefore the sketch is much smoother…  but I didn’t think about this when I created it. Again, I decided to share the very first drafts with critical readers and I would like to thank Peter, Charles and Stephen for their critical questions.

I understand that Chapter 1 which is my introduction is something that should perhaps be done much later, but I think there is still value to create the backbone of this. It helps me make these broader links across the thesis and I have found it useful for this reason.

In parallel, over the last eight weeks, the open course #creativeHE was running and I am collecting data at the moment as I am using this as case 2 for my PhD research. Just a few more interviews to do and I will finally have all my data. All secondary survey data from both cases has been collected already and I will start looking at these and adding some related information to the relevant cases as well. I am thinking to include case specific data in the related appendices but bring all data together from both cases, similar as I will be doing for the interview data. Is this correct? I will ask my supervisors this question when I speak with them in December.
I will need to code the whole lot of transcribed text from all interviews! I estimate that I will have around or over 80,000 words of data from the interviews… same length as the thesis will be in the end. In order to get a feel of this data Everest, I plan to print all checked transcripts and read these as a manuscript, a story, a story in stories.

I will be back for further updates here about Chapter 1 and will add my reflections about the interviews together with survey data to a separate post and link back to Chapter 3.


I have questions around a Glossary of terms and where I should position this but also a more personal bit, my story and the connection to this research. Will these go into appendices?

If you are reading this and have any useful tips regarding Chapter 1, what to do and what to avoid, I would love to hear from you. 


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.

Towards a typology of open badges

The TLC webinar debate around open badges with Prof. Ale Armellini organised by Dr Rod Cullen and Calum Thomson on the 26th of October 2015, brought  different voices together to debate about open badges in an higher education context.

I am grateful to the above and colleagues who participated in the webinar for creating this thinking and inquiry space and especially Ale for challenging  and stretching me.

All related information about the open badges debate can be found following the links

All posts collectively linked to the open badges debate with resources can be accessed at

Final thoughts…

Multiple uses of open badges
Usually we hear about open badges in the context of skills development. In my view, there is the potential to use them in much more versatile ways, I am sure, we will come up with further ideas for open badges applications as their use spreads further across  informal and formal, lifelong and lifewide, organised and practice-based learning and development.

Open badges are digital stickers with metadata that can be shared easily via the Internet.

Using the Guildford’s Alternative Uses Task (1967) technique developed to measure creativity, I have started synthesising the versatile use of open badges thanks to the TLC debate and propose the below typology of badges. This typology emerged out of practice and is the result of how we have used so far open badges in the context of informal and formal professional development of academics and other professionals who teach or support learning in higher education since 2014 in the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University in informal collaboration with colleagues from other institutions and open education initiatives such as BYOD4L, TLC, FOS, LTHEchat, FLEX, Greenhouse etc.


Towards a typology of open badges

Momento: Badges can be evidence that we have been at a conference, at an event.

Community: Badges can evidence belonging to a community.

Recognition: Badges can be used to recognise contributions in the context of a course, learning activity, event, community etc. that stand out.

Achievement: Badges can be awarded for meeting specific criteria or standards in a variety of learning situations.

Playfulness: Badges can be awarded during playful learning activities as points and marking milestones.


Examples from practice linked to the above, are provided in my presentation from the debate. See below.

Anybody with Internet access, familiar with the idea and concept of badges and the badging ecosystem can award and be awarded badges by individuals, groups, institutions organisations, as well as self-create and issue these.

Badges can be awarded by institutions, organisations, groups, communities and networks, as well as by individuals. Individuals and groups can also award badges to themes elves turning them into useful self-motivators of the above typology.

These thoughts are still at an embryonic phase and your comments and suggestions are very welcome. My thinking will continue develop and change as we collect more evidence of their use and usefulness.

“Because something isn’t valued, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have any value”

Thank you Ale, Rod, Calum and all!

Chrissi Nerantzi