H818 Project: Extended abstract

Here is an extended abstract for my H818 project:

“Open Turf: The effective use of Web 2.0 technologies in creating a collaborative platform for self-determined learning”


The chosen topic interconnects all the three themes of inclusion, innovation and implementation, although the focus is on innovation.

The title of the project was chosen to reflect current pedagogic and web technology developments and how these could be applied and deployed in an open environment.

Inclusion is addressed through the provision of an accessible web platform, implementation through an open collaborative web platform and innovation through an effective blend of Web 2.0 tools. The latter have been selected from evidenced research as the project progressed.

The project artefact demonstrates one approach of delivering an innovative web-platform which can be used to encourage learners to determine their own learning pathway.

The purpose of the web-platform is to act as a central point of reference for making connections between content and outcomes, whilst providing an immersive learning experience. Ideally this will aid in perpetuating learner engagement and personal development.

This project has involved developing a web-platform in which people can explore the expectations and requirements of one aspect of the turfgrass industry: the new Apprenticeship Standard for a Sports Turf Operative, which identifies the skills, knowledge and behaviours needed to function at a craftsperson level (SFA, 2015).

A limitation of this project is that no user testing and trialling has been undertaken at the current time. This is not considered detrimental to the project because the investigation and development stage has enabled a demonstrable model to be deployed as a foundation for discussion. This can then be critiqued by users for the next stage of the project life cycle, with refinements and improvements being made thereafter.

Review of key research material in developing the project

Self-determined learning

The key to making this project a success required evidencing relevant research that could be used to complement the interconnected approach taken in creating the web-platform. The platform would need to build on existing approaches to learning to encourage individuals to explore the concept of self-determined learning (called heutagogy).

The platform could sit within, or be complementary to, an existing educational establishment’s learning environment, or it could sit alone as a type of community of practice informal learning hub. This web-platform can enable a tutor to continue to facilitate the student learning process, yet a significant difference with the traditional pedagogic approach is that the learner would take “ownership of the learning path and process ….. [negotiating] what will be learned and how it will be learned” (Blaschke, 2012: 59). This web-platform has been designed to encourage the process of self-determined learning.

With the increasing use of online learning and the diverse range of accessible Web 2.0 tools, the potential opportunity to engage learners in an immersive platform that can encourage social, collaborative learning is significant. The project’s web-platform’s use of Web 2.0 tools can facilitate the development of learner generated content and this enables learners to take a much more “active rather than passive role in their individual learning experiences” (Blaschke, 2012: 62).

Educators can build-on their existing pedagogic expertise and weave this into utilising web technology to deliver learning which meets the skills needed by modern day workers. These so called 21st Century skills, include critical thinking, problem solving, meaning making, communication, collaboration and decision making (Rahimi et al, 2015: 786).

A particular difficulty of the self-determined approach to learning which has been argued for by Blaschke and others (Hase and Kenyon, 2000) is a higher level of cognitive and social skills to be able to self-manage rather than rely on traditional tutor direction in learning. The project has considered this potential limitation in the creation of the web-platform and aims to mitigate it through its design as a hub which also signposts to existing social media and other online services which are typically already used by many learners.

Web 2.0 tools and an Open Platform

Having such a diverse range of Web 2.0 tools to select from in creating a web-platform that is fit-for-purpose can prove problematical in deciding what makes a suitable blend of tools. A useful insight into addressing this issue is provided by Song and Lee (2014: 524) who state that “… to support informal learners, websites need to provide a variety of methods for accessing learning content”.  Through their literature review and evaluation of a range of websites they identify eight indicators of Web 2.0 effectiveness and eight indicators of the effectiveness of the informal learning experience. They found that the more immersive (from the extent of use of Web 2.0 tools) and engaging (from the richness of the experience) the web site the greater the tangible benefits, stating “… that new technologies including Web 2.0 have revitalized informal learning”, (Song and Lee, 2014: 523).

Many benefits of Web 2.0 tools for online learning have been identified by numerous researchers including Song and Lee (2014), Salmon et al (2015) and Vorvoreanu et al (2015). The identified benefits included: learner choice of when to engage with others; increased social interaction; increased motivation; ease of connecting content with their own social media accounts; users being notified of new content; enhanced learner outcomes; promotion of peer feedback and also to improve job prospects.   All of these benefits resonate with the concept of heutagogy by developing the self-managing capability of learners.

The development of a web-platform that is ‘open’, in contrast to a ‘closed’ often paid for system, can act as a collaborative learning environment (CLE) which complements the development of learners’ own personal learning environments (PLEs). A CLE could also act as a catalyst to facilitate continuing professional development activity, further encouraging the process of life-long learning.

This web-platform can provide a place for learners to connect and share (i.e. push) content from their own PLE, and/or social media content, or pull content and services to their own PLE, if they have one. This shared place can also act as an incentive for encouraging the benefits of collaboration, which Weller emphasises in the term ‘shifted reciprocity’ (Weller, 2011: 102). The aspiration would be for the creation of a shared immersive experience resulting from “… the sophisticated interface of Web 2.0 tools and services [enabling] students to easily design, develop and evolve their learning environments by mashing up different sorts of content, services and people” (Rahimi et al, 2015: 784).

In contrast to the many identified benefits is the need for caution in the expectations of a Web 2.0 learning platform as detrimental impacts may arise. This is because they could also “… pose potential negative impact on learners’ motivation such as distractions and irrelevant, mental workloads, which consequently could interrupt any intended learning processes” (Huang, et al, 2014: 639). It also “remains unclear what forms of social media use are more promising and which forms of use do prevail on a broader scale” (Matzat & Vrieling, 2015: 18).

The achievement of an immersive, collaborative, web-platform will be an ongoing process due to the continuing developments in web technology, user expectations and the creativity of educationalists in blending this all together.

The conference presentation focuses on the key elements of what makes a web-platform appropriate for being used as a collaborative and self-determined learning environment. It will be structured along the following lines:

  • Embracing changes;
  • Web 2.0 tools;
  • Open education;
  • Self-determined learning;
  • Making connections;
  • Open Turf: Online Platform;
  • Conclusion

This project describes how web technology can be deployed to create a collaborative web-platform which can meet the needs of learners in developing 21st Century skills for adults. The project artefact has been successfully developed to demonstrate how these features may be woven together to deliver the desired outcome.

Blaschke, LM (2012), ‘Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning’, International Review Of Research In Open & Distance Learning, 13, 1, pp. 56-71, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, (last accessed 5 January 2016)

Hase, S, & Kenyon, C. (2000), ‘From Andragogy to Heutagogy’, http://pandora.nla.gov.au/nph-wb/20010220130000/http:/ultibase.rmit.edu.au/Articles/dec00/hase2.htm (last accessed 4 January 2016)

Huang, W, Hood, D, & Yoo, S (2014), ‘Motivational support in Web 2.0 learning environments: a regression analysis based on the integrative theory of motivation, volition and performance’, Innovations In Education & Teaching International, 51, 6, pp. 631-641, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, (last accessed  5 January 2016)

Matzat, U. & Vrieling, E.M. (2015): Self-regulated learning and social media – a ‘natural alliance’? Evidence on students’ self-regulation of learning, social media use, and student–teacher relationship, Learning, Media and Technology, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2015.1064953 (last accessed 5 January 2016)

Rahimi, E., van den Berg, J. and Veen, W. (2015), A learning model for enhancing the student’s control in educational process using Web 2.0 personal learning environments. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46: 780–792. doi: 10.1111/bjet.12170 (last accessed 4 January 2016)

Salmon, G., Ross, B., Pechenkina, E., & Chase, A. (2015). ‘The space for social media in structured online learning’. Research In Learning Technology, 23. http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v23.28507, (last accessed 5 January 2016)

SFA, (2015) ‘Apprenticeship standard: sports turf operative’, 21 August 2015, Skills Funding Agency, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-standard-sports-turf-operative, (last accessed 3 January 2016)

Song, D. & Lee, J. (2014) ‘Has Web 2.0 revitalized informal learning? The relationship between Web 2.0 and informal learning’, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 30, 6, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jcal.12056 (last accessed 5 January 2016)

Vorvoreanu, M.; Sears, D.; Johri, A.,(2015),‘Teaching and Learning in a Social Media Ecosystem: A Case Study,’ in System Sciences (HICSS), 2015 48th Hawaii International Conference, pp.1940-1950, 5-8 Jan. 2015, http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/HICSS.2015.233 (last accessed 5 January 2016)










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