Reflection #6

1. Challenges help to learn

I see that “challenge” is a very positive term, as it calls for approaches that can be novel for an individual or a group, thus supporting learning. In this course the one main challenge was to figure out how from my dynamic and mobile work to participate the meetings. For instance, in this #onl172 course I was struggling how join the first online meeting while in a long-distance train from one university city to another, and where my colleague sitting in another wagon sent messages asking for a meeting.

Thus the challenge was not really technical but merely social. I decided simply to join the meeting and quickly realised that people in the train had their own virtual worlds to concentrate on. Truly interestingly online meetings are a new phenomenon, and would call for suitable spaces to join them.

The positive interpretation about “challenge” has greatly been evident in our pbl seven group. As a group one challenge was to create the ideas on approaches and tooling to use for topics. This was more evident in the first rounds but as a group we learnt iteratively to make faster decisions, largely thanks to leaders of topics of each round, and active participation and openness by others.

2. Insights are the key results

For me the key insight emerged in topic three where we were very well producing jointly contents for the story to share, and in very fast cycles improving the presentation until the last few hours before it went public. My insight was that in a group that has never physically met we can still come up with a point to focus on, we can gather research findings and our own experiences together, can make decisions on how to share results of our work, and can also work together to produce insightful presentations.

And this all in a rather short time frame. Now I am more and more thinking that the agile way of working can also happen online, and can even be much more efficient than in physical spaces. Further on, there were some great research articles shared within the course and in our group.

3. Tech + social helps to arrange learning

I have been doing blended and online learning, and media production, and in a very agile manner in various forms already for quite some time. However, if I now think how and what this course has influenced it is clearly this better understanding of groups being able to work online even if they have never met before. Thus I am thinking of organising online courses myself (or supporting them to be organised in my online learning project) and provide freedom for groups to work online for good learning results.

Thanks for reading! Happy to hear your comments 🙂



Reflection #5

Design for online and blended learning

Design – what an inspiring and thoughtful term. For me design means structures, frames, forms, colors, shapes, moves, sounds – everything that helps to put things in their places and to communicate about useful meanings, and offer functionalities that are on demand. Now looking back our discussions and work within the group on design for online and blended learning it is clear that we were exactly looking for research-based guides, and thinking how with an audiovisual story to communicate the essentials of design.

We were asked not to design a new course but merely to discuss what a teacher can face in a course, and how to reply to challenges of different kinds. Our approach was again to create a story – this time a short movie with a beginning, twist and resolution parts.

While doing collaboratively the movie I got the biggest insight so far during the course. Some hints of this already came in the previous topic, but now it was evident. A group of people that have never physically met, but only online–and that have diverse backgrounds–can create a movie to communicate about the essence of online teacher’s tactics in just few days. Our group members added different kinds of elements – ranging from figures to video clips, and from spoken text (produced with a text-to-speech system) to music.

We all then iteratively improved the transitions between clips, edited and added texts, improved formatting and compositions, and essentially improved the story. Thus by doing online collaboration our group of teachers got insight of the essences of online course design, and essentially both figured out and communicated what one can expect when running an online course – especially in the crucial twist part of the story. Out of those I raise here two for me  important  points that I also added to our group’s movie:

  • How to address social challenges in a course? Answer: create a community of learners Interact and encourage to interact
  • How to address administrational and management challenges? Answer: provide mile stones and  check points & use well-tested structures and platforms

The community aspect I have discussed previously in my reflective feed, so here I will concentrate on the second point. I like metaphors, and a mile stone is a pretty good metaphor. Learning is here seen as a road with changing sceneries, and mile stones help to see how far has the learner got in her journey to final destination. Teacher provides the check points to let learners  voice out their possible concerns, thus allowing to help when it is crucially needed to continue the journey.

Let us all continue our journeys together, enjoying the changing sceneries, communicative mile stones and revealing check points.

Thanks for reading! Happy to hear your comments 🙂



Reflection #4

Learning in communities

It is fascinating how a community can truly support learning way beyond what one can achieve alone. There have certainly been key moments in my life where I have evidenced this. Out of all these very different learning settings I pick here racket games, and squash in particular.

I have practiced different racket games since I was very little, and continued with them  throughout until today. As I was in Germany as a postdoc some years ago, my idea from the first days was to find a group to train with. A few emails and phone calls later I started to train every Monday, from 19:30 to 21:00 – and often beyond, even until 22:00 –  in a fully German speaking group of highly talented squash players. In the trainings we had typically around 10 to 15 players. The trainings were self-organised in a fantastic way, something I had never evidenced in my previous trainings occasions. The setting was ideal for collaborative learning. Let me explain this via an example:

We started by all of us going to one single court, or divided to two courts if we had a big group to join training. As the rest of the group were in the right back corner (or in the left back corner when we played on the right side), two players played on the left side. As the first person served, the other had to try either playing line (a long of short shot), or to make a cross shot to the front corner. The one who had served then made her or his decision on the shots and so the play continued until one made a mistake. The player who made a mistake gathered one mistake point, and went to the queue to wait her turn. The player who won continued against the next one in the queue. The play continued – and when one person got 10 mistake points, she or he had to leave the court and move to the benches to watch others continuing the training.


Players 3, 4 and 5 waiting for their turn while players 1 and 2 train. Here player 1 has hit the ball via the front wall to the back corner, and player 2 is trying to get there in time to hit the ball. The winner will stay and get a new player to challenge her/him.

Learning happened here not only while playing, but also while watching others play when waiting one’s own turn. There was time to decide on tactics, even to share with others quickly some thoughts-especially when at the bench outside of the court. Now looking at open networked learning I realise that the setting can be and is in many ways similar. We can play (lead a topic, contribute to it, discuss scenarios, share articles, tweet chat and insight) or watch others (check webinars or records of tweet chat, or what others have contributed). Here tech for online learning naturally plays a crucial role (like a racket, ball or court for squash)–since it allows us to watch others contribute to discussions (think of tweet chat or webinars), it allows us to co-create (think of our shared folders) and it allows us to communicate (think of our video calls) and thus bridge space and time differences.

Personal learning networks are essential for me. For learning I communicate via social media (especially via my twitter handle @LinkedScience), emails, different online doc systems, chat messages, talks over coffee, brown bag meetings or dinners, in a colleagues room or in a classroom. In all of these the networks are the core basis for learning: interaction with my peers carries the messages in a form to facilitate and enable learning.

In open networked learning these few weeks we have had topic leaders. I realised especially with our topic on learning in communities how strong links emerged first between the two topic leaders, and how this got weaved with stronger and stronger links with the other members of each topic via co-creation of presentations. I foresee that this could be brought even to another level if topic leaders would reflect their learning together – e.g. as a form of a blog post. This could be also a simple comment – like in the following that I posted as a reply to a nice feedback about our storytelling-driven presentation:

This was an interesting process from the early idea of “I would go here for a scenario, a story, where we have a representative teacher…For that scenario it is easier to start providing solutions?” all the way through all insight what research has said and what our experiences brought, and finishing with this shared story.

For those interested here is our storytelling-result for the learning in communities.

Thanks for reading! Happy to hear your comments 🙂


Reflection #3

Open learning – Sharing and openness

What does open truly mean? What does it mean to share? These questions and their varied answers have guided me for a longer time. I recently argued that “[compared to closeness] openness is a much more fruitful way–it is simply more likely to create better ideas by bringing different viewpoints together”. The idea is the same as with a wall and a ball. If we throw the ball to the wall it comes back in different angles and speed, depending on how we throw it. Similar happens nicely with ideas: we can throw ideas to other people, and the ideas come back in surprising angles.

Openness means in the project I am a project manager for to openly, and in fast cycles share what we are engaged with: events, pilots, and related news. We wish with this that these resonate with the outer world, both within the university and elsewhere, and we will hear back interesting new ideas, more or less built on what we have shared.

It has been fascinating to evidence that in open networked learning openness happens also in a multitude of ways. The ranges are indeed amazing: from assignments to these blog posts, from webinars to shared online work spaces, and from online presentation to video sharing tools.

However, and interestingly, it is in fact not always good to have *everything* shared openly. I am convinced that it is useful to have a closed workspace for the small problem-driven group of learners, and when they feel the result is ready to be shared to a wider public, then go for total openness. This supports the feeling of trust within the small group to let even very early ideas flow.

Even for this blog I now write I do not publish a half-baked version, but the version I have read a few times and improved when needed. In open networked learning we have this kind of a setting of combined openness (for wider sharing) and closeness (for work spaces). Tweet chat can bear more draft-like thoughts – in the end educated drafts will anyway be quite good contents compared to the amazing spectrum of tweets that we nowadays can evidence.

Licences are interesting: if some content does not have any license attached to it, it is really not a good idea to make use of that content. In contrary if Creative Commons (or other like the MIT License) are in use, then the rules for building one’s own work on licensed contents are more clear.  CC Search is a good example for finding contents that meet the criteria I have set for different uses.

Though I have to say that as a visual media / information visualisation / photography / media tech- expert I almost always prefer to make use of photos or visuals I have myself made or made together with my teams. However, I obviously realise that more we communicate visually (and audio-visually), more tempting it is to check if someone has already taken that photo (let us say a lady with mobile phone walking at a beach) that you would like to make use of in your presentation.

Thanks for reading! Happy to hear your comments 🙂

ps. word-cloud-open

Tomi Kauppinen reflects and analyses open networked learning. You can follow him on Twitter: @LinkedScience or TomiKauppinen.

Reflection #2

Online participation and digital literacies

I am fascinated about the mystery of participation. What draws people to participate
in events and communities? How do we create a match between offered activities and what
people are interested in, or would like to learn. Can we understand how participation works? Recently we studied ourselves a large amount of participation in conferences over time, and found a “law of participation” [1]. This new participation law essential says that more you participate, more likely you will participate in the future that same conference. See figure below for an illustration of the associate nature of conference participation:


Storytelling via an example to illustrate the associative nature of conference participation

But now what is the role of learning in participation? Examples range from learning for hobbies (think of examples like tennis, squash, yoga, swimming, reading or movies) or for formal education (ranging from certificates provided by businesses to academic degrees and beyond to courses like open networked learning). Surely motivations for people to participate are multitude, where expected results can be meeting new and old people, keeping one fit, getting experiences, learning skills, or essentially getting a job. Further on, these are accompanied with expectations from the  society and parents of a learner, all together forming a rich network weaved with decisions and simple luck to determine how people participate. From my experiences within open networked learning, the start has indeed been crucial in getting to know each other – and most essentially to get the feeling of belonging to our PBL group seven.

When it comes to online participation there are many things missing that we intuitively, and with evidence, know to draw people together. An event with good food and servings is surely able to better draw people to listen to talks compared to a seminar without them. How do we ensure to have good servings online to draw people to participate? Once I spent six months out of my home town and university, and agreed to meet with my colleagues once per week online when they had lunch – and when I had my brown bag – to continue our nice tradition of international Friday lunches. This was surely a way to ensure participation online.

Now reflecting my experiences within open networked learning I realise that the concept of meetings with servings can really be transferred to online settings, but best when
realizing that all online activities anyway happen in some place & time.

Naturally digital literacy plays a crucial role here. When people can easily enough move from physical settings to online settings, by having different backup plans in place (for instance having many different tools available for online communication), communication
online can start being as efficient as communication in our physical world. Now how to support teachers and learners to improve their digital literacy? I argue that this happens via building a community in which it is fully allowed and well supported to explore and test different tools, and where ideas and practices are shared via workshop-style sessions for relevant themes, ranging all the way from augmented reality to online textbooks, and from video production to generic blended learning settings [2].

Last but not least: what if we would take all words of this reflection, and make a simple word cloud visualisation. How would it look like? What words are most prominently there? Well, let us look at the result: clearly words like participation, online, learning and people but also communication, together, experiences, time and many others. In digital world we can help literacy to happen by providing overviews of information, and in different ways filter, organise and compare information to be easier to interpret.


Tomi Kauppinen reflects and analyses open networked learning. You can follow him on Twitter: @LinkedScience or TomiKauppinen.

[1] Jelena Smiljanić, Arnab Chatterjee, Tomi Kauppinen, Marija Mitrović Dankulov (2016). A Theoretical Model for the Associative Nature of Conference Participation. PLoS ONE 11(2): e0148528. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148528.
[2] Tomi Kauppinen and Lauri Malmi. Aalto Online Learning – a pathway to reforming education at the Aalto University. In Proceedings of EUNIS 2017 – Shaping the future of universities, 2017.


Reflection #1

In this reflection #1 I deal with the three concepts: 1) open, 2) networked and 3) learning to think  about the week #1 of our discussions, getting to know each other and co-learning.

1) open

For as long as I remember I have decided to go for open rather than closed in the spectrum of my attitude towards the world. I argue that there is not much choice in between. People can surely choose to go closed and are sometimes even surprisingly successful by hiding their ideas, or details from methods & results they use or achieve, preferring fences and borders over mutual discussions and honest collaboration. By surprisingly successful I mean that still many committees prefer to rate the success of an individual rather than the successes of teams one person has contributed to or led. However, and luckily, openness is a much more fruitful way–it is simply more likely to create better ideas by bringing different viewpoints together. Openness is truly necessary when solving grand challenges our societies are facing (like climate issues). During the week #1 I saw openness happening in many ways, in discussions, in the ways materials where organised and appearing – simply excellent. Openness clearly brings fun & creativity to the table.


2) networked

Now the term networked can mean so many different things. How do we support people to get networked? How about information, how to make information to be networked–linked–in a meaningful way? I see that if both people and information are networked, people to other people, people to information, and information to information, new ideas and insights simply emerge more easily than when people are working alone, or when information are stored in silos. I have been fascinated about how to support creation of communities, or teams, and how time & space play crucial role in doing those tasks. Communities & networks of people are best created via events, where there is a rhythm, a good beat, and thus where coffee breaks, lunches, receptions, gala dinners nicely get blended with discussions by posters and demos, at lightning talks, or as questions in keynotes and via teaching experiments. I always ask how this can be done online: clearly online we also need to meet even if that will mean that we attend the meeting from surprising places like a train. Yes, I joined the group seven meeting from a train :).

3) learning

Yes, learning! How do people learn? Do we learn when everything is clear? How about confusing situations when we start asking a lot of questions? We find answers by asking these questions, and our mind works to make the picture clear, or even: learning happens best in this way from confusion to clear skies. The setting we have in the open networked learning is in a way confusing: we have a mix of platforms in use for communicating in written and visual forms, and in interaction with the other participants. However, choosing for instance which online interaction tool to use, happened in first week via quick agreements among the team, or by informed decisions by the leader for a specific activity. This I see is in the core of learning of this work: that there is a truly amazing tooling available around, and by simply experimenting a good amount of them we learn which tool to use in which context: when, with whom, and where. To learn this, and to learn how to communicate the value of different tooling to others, we all still have some road to ride. I love the road ahead.

Tomi Kauppinen reflects and analyses open networked learning. You can follow him on Twitter: @LinkedScience.