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July 2013

There's a very useful collection of annotated links to blog posts about MOOCs on the gas station without pumps website.

Many thanks to STL member Alan Fakete for sharing this.

Recently, I presented my research-in-progress as a 10 minute pitch presentation - on the ways designers of innovative learning spaces incorporate customisable, (re)configurable and flexible features that support and encourage learner autonomy, self-regulation and a sense of ownership. The research involves 17 learning spaces from seven universities, observations and interviews with architects, interior designers, and educational stakeholders of those spaces.

In a recent conversation with architects and other design consultants I became interested in the use of language. An architect asked, "Should these new learning spaces be called learning commons or learning hubs?". Like many phenomena studied various terminology encapsulate the same (or related) concept. Learning commons has its roots with the world of libraries and extends the concept of 'information commons'. A learning hub is a central place of special interest analogous to the hub of a wheel. Both of these spaces are discussed in the literature as informal spaces - that is, they are not used for students' regular timetabled classes. Rather, they are spaces for students to use 'in-between' formal spaces (e.g. lecture theatres, tutorial rooms, specialised laboratories etc.). In relation to all spaces for learning, a colleague of mine recently posited - the real question is 'what is NOT a learning space?'. Hmmm, a question which is difficult to answer. One comment highlighted that the most influential space is that between our ears - Indeed!

At the recent New Generation Learning Space Symposium design focused industry and educational stakeholders met to discuss and debate spaces for learning in light of current research and future directions. The symposium was held in the new Swanston Academic Building. Perhaps the most intriguing discussions came out of the debate on the way space influences learning. Arguments included - 'the central (important) role of the teacher in learning', 'the way poorly designed space may hinder learning but well-designed space does not necessarily make one learn', and 'effective teaching can occur in poorly designed spaces, while ineffective teaching can occur in well designed spaces, but effective teaching is more likely to occur in well-designed spaces'.

At Macquarie University, architectural groups have proposed plans for the redesign of the old library building which may become the Macquarie University Spatial Experience (MUSE). Innovative concept plans from Bennett and Trimble, Woods Bagot, and NBRS+ Partners offer clever thinking about space which aims to meet the needs of today's learners.

Some exciting developments at Sydney University include the Business School, and the Abercrombie Precinct, and the Charles Perkins Centre, the Fisher Library Refurbishment, the Australian Institute for Nanoscience, and the Learning Networks project.

Architectural group, DWP Suters a recent article about the new learning spaces at Sydney University.

We are delighted to welcome Nina Bonderup Dohn as a visiting researcher to the University of Sydney and STL from now until Christmas 2013.

Nina.jpgNina is an Associate Professor in Humanistic Information Science at the Department of Design and Communication, University of Southern Denmark. Nina holds a PhD in learning theory from Aalborg University and an MA in philosophy and physics from Aarhus University. Her main research areas integrate epistemology, learning sciences, web communication and technology-mediated learning with a special focus on teaching and learning in higher education.

She will present a CoCo seminar on August 21st titled “A tacit-knowledge perspective on engagement with networked learning activities – abstract".

Within the field of networked learning, many researchers take their point of departure in "practice" theories, i.e. theories which stress that the meaning of actions, artefacts, and procedures are bound up with concrete contexts of activity. Important representatives of such "practice theories" are activity theory, expansive learning, and social learning theory.

In this seminar I flesh out a "practice" view of knowledge. I integrate insights from Wittgenstein, phenomenology and situated learning to formulate a view of knowledge as tacit, situated, relational, practical, context-dependent, embodied doing. I argue that our understanding of propositional knowledge is fundamentally dependent on such tacit knowledge; most significantly on the tacit knowledge originating in our ‘primary contexts’, i.e. contexts in which we involve ourselves as persons and which we consider important for who we are.

Building on this view of knowledge, I argue that insights and understandings from one context have to be resituated, transformed, and reactualized to be brought into use in other contexts. Understandings from ‘primary contexts’ have priority here, both in establishing new understandings in new contexts, and as concerns supporting learners’ motivation for engaging in learning tasks.

Whilst at the University she will be located with the CoCo Centre on level 2 of the Education Building, and can be contacted at

Rafael Calvo recently attended the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit in Redmond, Washington, where he had a chance to ask Bill Gates about using technology to teach emotional intelligence and "mindset" skills. Here's Bill's response.

The summit, held on July 15, was Microsoft Research’s fourteenth annual Faculty Summit. More than 400 academic researchers from 200 institutions and 29 countries joined Microsoft Research to assess and explore today’s computing opportunities with Bill Gates setting the topic of “Innovation and Opportunity—the Contribution of Computing to Improving Our World". Some of the talks and keynotes from the summit are available for viewing online.

STLinvitesml.jpgAre you an educational innovator? Serious about research on learning? Interested in new research collaborations? Then consider joining the University of Sydney’s Sciences & Technologies of Learning research network (STL). Our mission is to pioneer research in learning technology and the learning sciences in order to discover how new technologies and innovative pedagogical approaches can enhance learning and its outcomes.

Membership is open to academic staff and research students of the University. We're primarily of interest to people researching in learning technology & the learning sciences (broadly defined), but also to people who are engaged in innovative uses of new technologies and want to be able to research/evaluate what they are doing and write about it for good journals.

With new research collaborations underway, our regular seminars running twice most weeks in term and four large events planned in the next few months, this is a good time to get involved with STL. Our current members come from diverse areas (education, IT, science, electrical and information engineering, medicine, health sciences, to name a few) and we are always interested in new connections and disciplines.

To find out more, please visit

blog.jpgJoin us on August 13th for a collaborative evening event on exploiting data to improve professional practice.

Despite advances in research and shifts in policy, professional practices can be slow to change. At the same time, there is a growing abundance of data available on everyone’s performance in the workplace. Utilising such data to guide the professional development of individuals is one way of improving professional practices. How we collect, present and manage the use of this data to tailor professional development and improve practice requires research input from many disciplines - including IT, the learning sciences, workplace research and policy.

The STL network hopes this event will create new research partnerships as well as and strengthen existing ones. We are seeking registrations of interest from:

  1. university researchers with relevant expertise who want to help advance a research agenda on the topic (‘research collaborator’) and
  2. staff who, at this stage, just want to learn more (‘audience member’).

The event will provide overviews of some of the issues and challenges, as well as possible research approaches and solutions regarding data use for professional development. A key goal of the event is to promote future research collaborations in this area.


On Monday 8th July, the University of Sydney is hosting a meeting on MOOCs and the student experience of blended learning. This blog entry is the starting point for an online discussion to supplement the presentations and debate in the meeting.

You can participate in the discussion by adding a Comment to this entry. Comments will be treated like 'letters to the editor' - they will be moderated, may be edited, should be expressed in concise and temperate language and will only be published if - in the view of the editor - they make a contribution to advancing the discussion. Be relevant and interesting. Anonymous comments will not be published. Please conclude your comment with your name and brief affiliation.

Peter Goodyear, Faculty of Education & Social Work, STL Network

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Research by the University's Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation (CRLI).