Rethinking learning paths: conceptual design

I’m working a on project where we want to offer our students online learning paths which are adapted to their needs and thus take into account the very diverse student inflow we encounter. Although I wrote this text with the previous objective in mind, it can be applied to other learning situations as well.

How ‘traditional learning paths’ work:


After a teacher creates and/or collects learning objects, he can start to bundle or sequence learning objects into learning paths. Most LMS (Learning Management Systems) only allow sequential learning paths, resulting in rather static designs and non-dynamic user-experiences. For example: if the teacher wants to leave room for discussion, a link to a separate tool can be added (e.g. a forum). Learners clicking on this  link will leave the learning path tool, and start/continue a discussion in a separate (discussion) tool. Such a work around doesn’t work on mobile and is not user-friendly, but hey, LMS are pre-year 2000 technology after all. Continue reading “Rethinking learning paths: conceptual design”

What are the biggest design challenges you faced? #OutstandingMOOC

I’m enrolled in a MOOC where we are encouraged to reflect upon questions such as: “What’s the biggest design challenge that you have ever faced? Did you overcome it? How? “

I have experience with design projects on two educational levels: secondary education and higher education. My experience with both levels is more or less the same: a design challenge is usually not the problem, the barriers on the teacher and the school level are much harder to overcome.

Secondary education

My most ambitious design challenge was undoubtedly the research I conducted in order to obtain my PhD. We developed a teacher survey to investigate the instructional use of LMS (Learning Management Systems) in secondary education. Based on these results, we designed learning paths and examined in two quasi-experimental studies whether gender, group composition (collaborative learning) and the way learning paths are designed and implemented, have an impact on learning outcomes. To complete the circle, my last study reported on teacher perceptions of learning path usage within the LMS.

In short (my complete dissertation can be downloaded here), we faced some design challenges, but those were rather easy to overcome. However, we also identified clear barriers at both the school and the teacher level, and they were out of my league. More specifically, the lack of a reliable and accessible ICT infrastructure, the unavailability to the teacher of qualitative technical and pedagogical support and the underinvestment in professional development (resulting in low levels of teacher related ICT competencies), were frequently reported as essential factors hindering ICT-usage in the classroom.

Higher education: Continue reading “What are the biggest design challenges you faced? #OutstandingMOOC”

Are blogs the best reflecting tool within a MOOC? #OutstandingMOOC

Last week I enrolled as a participant in the following MOOC (Massive Online Open Course): How to create an outstanding MOOC (more information). I didn’t plan to get involved in another MOOC, basically cause I’m short on time (well, who isn’t?). However, I changed my mind because the organiser isn’t Coursera this time, but HT2, the company behind the Curatr platform. And, best of all, all participants receive the opportunity to create their own MOOC within the Curatr platform.

One of the questions we need to reflect upon is “are blogs a great reflection tool?”.

My answer is Yes and No. Continue reading “Are blogs the best reflecting tool within a MOOC? #OutstandingMOOC”

Ouders en de elektronische leeromgeving

This article describes tips and tricks on how parents can benefit from the LMS (learning management platform) being used in their children’s school. Unfortunately, this article describes a Flemish LMS-product (Smartschool) and is only available in Dutch.

Een aangepaste versie van dit artikel werd eerder gepubliceerd op de AHA! website van Radio 2.

De meeste scholen in Vlaanderen gebruiken een elektronische leeromgeving (ELO), waarvan Smartschool de bekendste is. Deze ELO wordt gebruikt om het leerproces te ondersteunen, maar laat ook toe dat directie, leerkrachten, leerlingen en ouders online met elkaar kunnen communiceren. Continue reading “Ouders en de elektronische leeromgeving”

Ontwerp- en implementatiekenmerken van leerpaden binnen een Elektronische Leeromgeving

Deze paper, gepresenteerd tijdens de Onderwijs Research dagen, beschrijft de vier studies die werden uitgevoerd in het kader van mijn doctoraatsonderzoek naar de ontwerp- en implementatiekenmerken van leerpaden binnen een ELO (Elektronische Leeromgeving).

Please cite as: Cindy De Smet, Martin Valcke, Tammy Schellens & Bram De Wever. Design and implementation characteristics of learning paths in a learning management system. Onderwijs Research Dagen, June 2015, Leiden, Netherlands.

Blended learning, LMS, learning paths. (Short) overview of my dissertation.

Presented on 25/03/2015 in Kortrijk, AUGent seminaries onderwijskunde

This presentation gives a short overview of my dissertation. Some slides have been removed, due to copyright regulations. Slides are mainly in English, but some are written in Dutch.

The design and implementation of learning paths in a learning management system

This article, ‘The design and implementation of learning paths in a learning management system’, investigates whether a particular design and implementation of learning paths has a beneficial impact on learning outcomes, and gender as a co-variables. It reports on the results of empirical research about using learning paths in a secondary education setting. The quasi-experimental study took place in the context of a biology course.  Twenty-nine different classes, involving 360 secondary school students, were selected at random to participate in particular research conditions of the study. All biology teachers (N = 8; 3 males, 5 females) teaching in the third grade of the six participating schools were willing to take part in the study. A 2 x 2 factorial research design was adopted. Learning activities (1) differed in design and (2) were either undertaken individually or collaboratively. Gender was considered as a critical co-variables given the focus on science learning. Multilevel analyses were applied to study the impact on learning outcomes according to the design of learning paths, the individual/collaborative setting, and the co-variables gender. The results were helpful to direct research about the design and implementation of learning paths in a secondary school setting.

If you use the article as published in Interactive Learning Environments (2014), please cite as:

De Smet, C., Schellens, T., De Wever, B., Brandt-Pomares, P., & Valcke, M. (2016). The design and implementation of learning paths in a learning management system. Interactive Learning Environments, 24(6), 1076-1096.

MOOCs zetten e-leren in de schijnwerper

This article describes what Moocs are and how they impact education. Unfortunately, this article is only available in Dutch.

Het artikel over Moocs, verschenen in de trendrubriek van het bibliotheektijdschrift Meta, beschrijft kort wat Moocs inhouden, de stand van zaken in het onderwijs en hun relatie tot bibliotheken.

Het artikel is auteursrechtelijk beschermd, gelieve dit te respecteren en als volgt te citeren:

De Smet, C. (2013). MOOCs zetten e-leren in de schijnwerper. Meta, 2013 (9), p.30.