Gutiérrez, Kris D. & Jurow, A. Susan (2016): Social design experiments: Toward equity by design, Journal of the Learning Sciences, DOI: 10.1080/10508406.2016.1204548

Under consult of design research traditions in iterating educational inventions that ground theory in practice within particular contexts, Gutiérrez and Jurow put forward social design experimentation (SDE) as an additional but needed methodological commitment to non-dominant learner communities (immigrant learners, dual language learners, under-resourced learners, etc.). Where traditional design-based research (DBR) aims to craft novel observations, understandings, and technologies in the contexts of transforming existing institutions, SDE seeks social transformation and equity by reorganizing educational systems so that learners may actively engineer their own fates. The goal for SDE is the empowerment of a learner to consciously and intentionally situate action within his or her own sense of identity. Doing so–critically analyzing and comprehending the orientations behind one’s own practices–defines potential new agency for any individual. The development of this sort of opportunity is the goal of SDE and a means by which equity may be found by all learners as their varied knowledge, expertise, and experiences are celebrated–upending more traditional and institutional power structures by creating new, diverse communities of practice.

Gutiérrez and Jurow offer examples of social design works to illustrate how the foregrounding of equity as a design consideration is not just socially ideal but also pragmatic. Fairness is generally a valuable pursuit and access to equity is a byproduct of one’s consciously situating his or her identity among larger historical and institutionalized practices so as to problematize these structures. The difficulty, for researchers and students alike, may very well be the complexity and variety of new learning practices and identities that result from SDE. The cultivation of communities for teacher and learner alike is an active, taxing process of reorientation around other individuals. That said, careful implementation of SDE may certainly expand DBR beyond the scope of learning contexts. Also, the authors’ discussion of syncretic texts–reconciling historical and cultural oppositions within a new communicative gesture–seems apt for consideration when developing content for open educational resources.

Fishman, B. J., Davis, E. A., & Chan, C. K. K. (2014). A learning sciences perspective on teacher learning research. In R. K. Sawyer, (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (2nd ed., pp. 707-725). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Fishman, Davis, and Chan focus on the importance of teacher learning to the cultivation of cognitive, sociocultural, and systems-oriented learning innovation. The suggestions seems a valid one, that the beliefs and knowledge of faculty change and grow under professional teacher development. Naturally, communities of practice and knowledge building as means of further situating and contextualizing their learning in more local, practical contexts. Ultimately, they recommend that teacher learning is crucial to learning in general. As someone who oversees faculty development with academic technology, I don’t disagree.

Nathan, M. J., & Sawyer, R. K. (2014). Foundations of the learning sciences. In R. K. Sawyer, (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (2nd ed., pp. 21-43). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Nathan and Sawyer base the foundations of Learning Sciences (LS) in a joint preoccupation with research and practice. The “ideal progress” for LS projects, they recommend, is the iterative design and redesign of interventions based on real-world implementation and evaluation. Doing so should produce broader theories and more reliable models for explaining human learning. The authors proceed to contextualize LS in the traditions of scientific, constructivist, sociocultural, pragmatic, elemental, and systemic approaches to research and analysis. Conclusively, the schools of thought that fund LS come together to regard learning as most effective when learners find the agency to ground novel experiences or ideas in practical, collaborative, and reflective applications.

Sawyer, K. (2014). Introduction: The new science of learning. In R. K. Sawyer, (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (2nd ed., pp. 1-18). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Sawyer introduces Learning Sciences (LS) as an interdisciplinary field that acknowledges the ways in which learning takes place in a variety of settings and contexts that may or may not be connected with traditional classrooms. Under this gaze, the cognitive and social factors at play in one’s learning may be better understood and applied to the redesign of more conventional learning environments. Sawyer documents the origin and history of the field and situates the chapters of the Cambridge Handbook in support of a still emergent field of study at the intersection of education as art and education as a science.

Wiley, D., & Hilton, J. (2009). Openness, dynamic specialization, and the Disaggregated future of higher education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 10(5).

This article reflects on societal trends toward openness and what growth in this area may mean for higher education. Coupled with workforce innovations like dynamic specialization, the authors posit that higher education institutions must innovate radically or they will struggle to meet the demands and values outside of the university.

The authors recognize a blurring line between higher education and the everyday supersystem in which it is embedded. Where higher education traditionally locates its learning practices within analog, tethered, isolated, generic, closed, consumer-centric spaces, habits, and values, institutions outside of such environments have embraced the digital, mobile, connected, personal, open, and creative aspects that have increasingly taken hold of everyday life.

The researchers cite a few specific case studies and launch thought experiments about how the movements described might influence educational access, research, tutoring, socializing, and accomplishments. By the end, they introduce multiple frameworks from which further research could develop in assessing institutional responses to the described supersystem.

Valiente, M.-C., Sicilia, M.-A., Garcia-Barriocanal, E., & Rajabi, E. (2015). Adopting the metadata approach to improve the search and analysis of educational resources for online learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 51, 1134–1141.


This study seeks insight as to how the emergence of learning resource collections being created primarily by way of metadata–data about data–harvesting and aggregation might be improved to further empower the searches of students and teachers alike. As it stands, descriptive programming of metadata is often inconsistent among platforms.

Looking at keywords authored under the Learning Object Metadata (LOM) standard, researchers tracked the frequency of use and categorized the keywords under four different classifications: general keywords, classification keywords, entries, and coverage. Ideally, the sample learning objects would fit all four classifications yet none did.

Though their findings were not as successful as they had hoped, there is promise in English being well represented in metadata similarities. This enforces the idea that universal implementation of a meta data standard like LOM could greatly increase the breadth and accuracy of searches for educational resources online.

Tabuenca, B., Kalz, M., Drachsler, H., & Specht, M. (2015). Time will tell: The role of mobile learning analytics in self-regulated learning. Computers & Education, 89, 53–74. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2015.08.004.

36 graduate students from three different online courses participated in a longitudinal study, using their own mobile devices to track how much time they devoted to self-guided learning over a four-month period. The study responds to the challenge of recognizing and documenting the activities and contexts of learners in general and life-long learners in particular. The researchers deemed the presence of a mobile device the only likely constant to all of the scattered educational contexts and moments that a learner might encounter.

In addition to logging time on their mobile devices via LearnTracker, students repeatedly completed an Online Self-Regulated Learning Questionnaire and a Validity and Reliability of Time Management Questionnaire during the study. Findings suggest that using mobile devices to log and track time did improve learners’ time management and planning skills. Findings also suggested that user interface considerations like access to analytics and tips may improve time management.

The article offers some interesting findings in support of like studies that follow larger populations over longer collection periods.

Pitt, R. (2015). Mainstreaming open textbooks: educator perspectives on the impact of OpenStax college open textbooks. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, 16(4).

Collaborative research was conducted between OpenStax College (OSC)–an open textbook provider–and the OER Research Hub (OERRH). The study looks at data from two surveys conducted to gauge educator experience when they used a variety of OSC textbooks between 2013 and 2015.

These results indicated that educators were more capable of responding to student needs by using OSC textbooks. Faculty generally found that OER made teaching easier in some respects, and others modified their teaching practices to better address student needs with the new materials.

Though the research did not focus on educator perceptions of impact on the OSC students, some responses noted changes. In addition to the perception that students were grateful for saving money, many educators who responded to the survey perceived an increase in student satisfaction when using OSC. Self-reported impacts are problematic beyond the additional research questions they raised about student perceptions.

Palalas, A., Berezin, N., Gunawardena, C., & Kramer, G. (2015). A design based research framework for implementing a transnational mobile and blended learning solution. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning, 7(4), 57–74.


This article promotes Cross-Cultural Design-Based Researched (CC-DBR) a modified DBR framework. This modified framework arose from a longitudinal study that sought to determine and meet local Ghanaian educational needs.

In order to satisfy strong cultural and language diversity, this framework offers a holistic, culturally sensitive perspective on the DBR, calling for transparency, responsiveness, and agility across all the phases of the research study. A bottom-up participatory process is also encouraged as it is necessary for local stakeholders increase their contributions and gradually take on responsibility for the project’s outcomes. Researchers suggest that a heightened sense of local ownership and expertise will bridge certain cultural divisions.

The need for cultural adjustment to a general framework like DBR makes sense. I wonder how much of this is researchers bending to the will of their subjects though.

McKerlich, R. C., Ives, C., & McGreal, R. (2013). Measuring use and creation of open educational resources in higher education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 14(4). 90-102.

By way of a quantitative survey administered to faculty and staff of Athabasca University in September 2012, this article pursues open educational resource (OER) use and creation with intent to identify factors that may increase both. The study was conducted in response to questions about staff and faculty use, the types of OER being used, the factors that support OER use, the creation of OER by staff and faculty, the types of OER being created by faculty and staff, and the factors that facilitate new OER creation.

1,300 participants were invited to participate in the survey. 154 respondents materialized, 90 of which offered complete responses. Researchers consulted both complete and incomplete responses in their analysis. Findings indicated that recognition did not drive faculty use and creation. Rather, the researchers liken faculty opinion of “emotional ownership” (Pawlowski, 2012) in that faculty and staff who design learning are more likely to want their students to succeed.

Self-selection is a major limitation to the study (and the elective participation  funding it). Because of self selection, there may be motives (administrators) or fluencies (tech-savviness) that sponsored certain populations to participate over others.