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.

Lindshield, B. L., & Adhikari, K. (2013). Online and campus college students like using an open educational resource instead of a traditional textbook. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(1), 26-38.


This study explores student use and perception of an alternative Human Nutrition textbook that they refer to as flexbook, which was developed in Google docs and used instead of traditional textbooks and e-textbooks at Kansas State University. Online and on-campus students were surveyed during the same semester. Not all surveyed students we flexbook users, so the survey used branching logic to ask follow-up questions about flexbook use and satisfaction.

The researchers found that online students used the flexbook more frequently and valued it for the high quality and flexibility they perceived. Campus students tended to use the flexbook once in a while, as a reference to study for exams. The results ultimately support the notion that students are willing to move beyond traditional print textbooks, but it is also important to understand what students want from this type of OER before instituting.

A longer survey period would benefit the validity of their findings. Also, surveying use and perception before and after the adoption of an alternative text would produce other valuable insight.

Lieberoth, A. (2015). What really works in gamification? Short answer: we don’t know, so let’s start thinking like experimenters. From the field: eLearning Papers, 43, 1–4.


Despite the ubiquity of games, this article suggests that researchers face evidence and method problems when it comes to isolating the design decisions and condition that work in favor of gamification. Based on lab and field experience related to gamification, the researcher recommends an experimental mindset and creative partnerships connecting data-driven research with real-world design practices.

In a randomized controlled trial, two groups of users were asked to play a social game but one group’s game had no mechanics: only assets like cards and playing pieces were provided. Researchers found that both groups shared equal intrinsic motivation, but one group could be measured with the unpredictable variables that commonly plague gameplay. In another large-scale field study, researchers partnered with a bus company to test a gamified bus pass system. The scale of data and anonymity of researchers were both improved as a result.

Overall, the article puts forward some interesting ideas for games-, Analytics, and UI-based research design.

Leinonen, T., Purma, J., Põldoja, H., & Toikkanen, T. (2010). Information architecture and design solutions scaffolding authoring of open educational resources. IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies, 3(2), 116–128.


This article presents the research-based design process that have informed authoring and sharing via LeMill, an open learning object repository and collaborative authoring platform. As of October 2009, the platform supports 8,500 reusable learning resources and 7,500 members. LeMill’s licensing scheme encourages collaborative reuse and remix of content for quality. Accordingly administrators have made a special effort to address technical jargon, complicated forms, multicultural, and multilingual concerns for users.

The researchers refer to their method as “research-based design with software as hypothesis,” noting that users are capable of creating meaningful navigation of the tools among which they are immersed, and, furthermore, that these same users can seldom identify the software tools they need before use. Four iterative phases in a cyclical model define the research-based design method: contextual inquiry, participatory design, product design, and production of software as hypothesis.

Results of this article primarily offer critical understanding and justification of LeMill design choice, which is certainly valuable and ripe for emulation. The method they use assists designers in scaffolding user behavior. Further study that compares byproducts of this design/research methodology with the interactive spaces brought forth by others would be interesting.

Jimes, C., Weiss, S., & Keep, R. (2013). Addressing the Local in Localization: A Case Study of Open Textbook Adoption by Three South African Teachers. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(2), 73-86. 


Examining the use of open textbooks by three high school teachers in South Africa, this case study documents the results of when open textbooks feature content that is rooted in the cultural and geographic contexts in which they are used.

The South Africa initiative authored and licensed the open textbooks collaboratively, and faculty were allowed to use and modify the texts freely to fit their needs. After conducting interviews with faculty, the researchers found that teachers’ adoption of open textbooks were often tied to whether or not they were localized since teachers considered the local content of the texts to be more relevant and of higher quality. This study concludes that the impact of open textbooks can be maximized when they are created based on localized knowledge and contexts.

I have concerns about the scale and generalizability of the study’s findings. At what point is content so local that it becomes unethical to teach? Collective authoring practices helped mitigate and ensure quality in this study, but the dogmatic beliefs of certain communities could run counter to more empirical academic content. Alternatively, there may be value in customizing the media and interfaces of OER to local needs, but the results of effectively doing so and monitoring such practices are not discussed here.