ECTEL2015 Mon a.m. (1): Lisa Marie Blaschke Keynote

Liveblog notes from EC-TEL2015 (#ectel2015) in Toledo, Spain, 16-19 September 2015.

Tomaž Klobucar welcomes everyone. Introduces Katherine Maillet, President of EA-TEL, gives a bit of history. Bringing together disparate fields that contribute to technology-enhanced learning, through Networks of Excellence. Program chairs: always two, there are, one in learning sciences, another in computer sciences. Joint research, building communities of practice. SIGs.

Christoph Rensing has a video message thanking everyone for the contribution to the organisation of the conference. Gráinne Conole also can’t make it and welcomes everyone in a video message.

Tomaž gives some outlines about the reviewing process. Most papers from Germany, then UK. Full paper acceptance rate 21%.

Carlos Delgado Kloos, local organiser gives some local information.  El Greco was born in Crete and died in Toledo, 401 years ago. EC-TEL started in Crete but is hopefully not going to die here in Toledo. Practical local arrangements for the conference. We are in the Spanish press, apparently. He thanks everyone who’s helping out locally.


Keynote: Self-determined learning: creating personal learning environments for lifelong learning

Lisa Marie Blaschke, Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg



  • What is self-determined learning? A crash course in heutagogy
  • The practice of self-determined learning
  • Why should you be interested?
  • Designing for self-determined learning
  • Building PLEs (examples)

By show of hands, many people in the audience have heard of it.

What is heutagogy?

Hase and Kenyon developed it. (Stewart Hase and Chris Kenyon.) Holistic, learner is major agent in own learning. Full list of resources on it are here.

It’s learner-centred and learner-determined. Institution and instructor are not in the foreground. Focus on learners being capable, self-efficacy. Also able to transition that in to a unique environment. Common in medical contexts. Self-reflection, meta-cognition, double-loop-learning. Non-linear, learner defines the path.

It’s not new. Draws on many learner-centred theories, concepts and ideas.

Pedagogy-Andragogy-Heutagogy continuum. Level 1, learners are engaged, low learner maturity and autonomy. Level 2, andragogy, learners more autonomous. Level 3, heutagogy, fully autonomous, fully productive.

Why should you be interested?

Worked for a software company in Germany. From 1000 employees to 50,000. Was hiring people who had doctorates, top class. For programmers, had to be doctor of physics. She was knowledge management, information architecture. Some people would hit the ground running, fly high, were able to adapt. Others would fall on their faces, could not adjust. There were too many changes. There’s lots of complexity. Thought about why that was. They were all intelligent people. They talked about need to transfer skills in to new and unique environments. Decided that’s what she needs to teach her students.

Workforce needs lifelong learners, who need lifelong learning. Capable, willing, able to learn over a long period of time. Critical thinking skills.

Anecdote of talking to nephew at the bus stop. Said tell me how it is to learn at your university. “I go in to conference halls, the professor talks for an hour, then I take a test at the end of the semester.” This is too passive.

More institutions are moving towards learning-centred learning and competency-based education.

It’s a powerful combination with Web 2.0 Affordances. (!)

Benefits: improve critical thinking. Increases learner engagement and motivation – eventually, not at the start. Better prepared for the complexities of the workforce.

Designing for self-determined learning

How do you design for that?

Key elements: Explore, Create, Collaborate, Connect, Share, Reflect.

They need the opportunity to fail. Connection and collaborate, internet and social media. Not just consuming, but creating and sharing.

How do we make this happen? Learner-centredness

Do you remember the first thing you learned? [No! I was very young to be aware.]

For her, swimming lessons with her aunt, a native American. In a pond full of scum. She carried me in the water, talked about breathing, movements. Gave me time to transition. I felt I was doing it on my own, because I was actively involved, even though she was holding me.

Have to inspire learners to learn again. Some argue can’t talk about heutagogy for kids, but Stewart [Hase] says you can. I have grad students who say tell me what I have to do, I don’t want to think. I say, what do you want to do. Pushes them out of their comfort zone. One student hated it, wrote about it in self-determined learning, I just wanted them to tell me what to do. They say I have to think and I don’t know how to start. She ended up loving it, after that period of chaos. Then later hated her final course which was teach-to-the-test.  They’ll be happier at the end, for the most part.

Have to develop learner autonomy. Motivation is key. When people can make choices, they are more motivated.

Let learners create and play, and fail. From Germany, failure is not usually an option in German schools. Challenging to say to teachers they need opportunities to fail. Need a growth mindset. Learning isn’t something set and will never change, but will adapt over time. Learn from experiences and failures, and don’t see those as their characteristics. Fixed mindset, when they fail, see that as a reflection on them as an individual.

Build in activities for self-reflection, thinking about how they’ve learned. Learning journals, visual story-telling.

Encourage reflection. Scaffolding learning activities, learner-directed questions, action research.

Empower learners to collaborate/create. Places they can be creative. Students decide what they’re doing with their ePortfolios. E.g. YouTube reflections. Encourages empathy. Maker spaces.

Build skills and competences – personal knowledge management, digital literacy, social collaboration, self-efficacy. Gaming, Minecraft, kids love it.

Allow learners to define success. This is the biggest stumbling block. Learners aren’t used to this, it’s the institution, the teacher. Given the opportunity, they can do this. Issue of control – who’s responsible for assessment: the institution, the teacher, or the learner? Is our job learning, or handing out certificates and degrees.

MOOCs are a great examples, especially the cMOOCs. Open learning environments. Open boundary courses. Bibblio.

Design Process

First, need some sort of learning contract – needs and outcomes, decided by student. Negotiate assessment process, who will do it. A contract with them, SUNY uses this for Masters programs. Adapt the curriculum accordingly.

Next, build learning activities. Bring in resources, make a roadmap. Not go here then here then here. But different options the learner can decide where to go. Provide formative feedback – very important, they don’t know if they’re on the right track. Self-reflection very important too.

Learning outcomes – assess different ones, let them demonstrate competencies, skills, and capability to apply in new situations.


Teaches English to first and second graders at CentGrundschule Reichasrtshausen once a week.

Sing, read books. Was in teachers’ lounge. Box of books there she’d given a year ago. Said, give them to the kids, but they put them in the teachers’ lounge. I freed the books, brought them to second grade English. Put them under my chair. Program, sing songs, read books. I was in control. I learned, they came at me, trying to get at the books, wanting to read the books. Finally I said fine, 15 minutes, do what you want, eat your lunch, recess early, or read the books. They all got a book. They were at different levels of English capability. It was incredible. They sat down and helped each other. Correcting pronunciation, synergy and excitement in the room. When my kids learned English it was dull, drill stuff. Have to make them autonomous, creative.

St Paul’s School, Brisbane, Australia.

In primary school, did self-directed learning. Challenging. Ages 3-12 years old. Chaos. Still has to meet Government-mandated goals. Read paper on heutagogy, came up with a model. Needs to be formative, negotiated curriculum, negotiated assessment, contracts with learners, inquiry-based learning. Took all teachers, sessions on SDL. Support, curriculum experts. Created giant roadmaps – what can learners learn, what are the options. Have some outliers on the maps. Having amazing success. Students are having fun learning. Teachers are having fun, and also learning. Students ask questions they never thought about. Also meeting the Government mandates. Next heutagogy conference is at that school.

University of Maryland and Oldenberg, foundations masters course.

Will become managers of distance education e-learning programs. Stuff they learn today will be very different. OMDE601 Foundations of Distance Education and E-Learning. Set out goals, learning outcomes, looked for specific skill-building activities. Selected social media to support those. Gave opportunity to build on their skills to transfer in to the workplace. Eportfolio. Twitter was an example. Followed a professor, had to retweet something. One guy, interested in Tony Bates’ online book, wrote comments to Tony. After 3-4 weeks, Tony said hey, you want to review this book. Developed rapport. Try to build those in to our course activities.

New book – Experiences in Self-Determined Learning. Collection of different experiences. Online Heutagogy Community of Practice, WordPress-based.

What does this have to do with PLEs?

Mine has social networks, online, E-portfolio, online resources. Not just the network, the technology, but calling someone on a phone, like a mentor.

Wanted to make this interactive but didn’t have time. [!!] Put together four ones.

Primary Education (K-4): They have to play, have fun.

Secondary Education (5-12): WhatsApp, WordPress, Instagram, others. Example of daughter in London, was spending time on her phone, you have to experience this. She said she was taking pictures, writing about it in German, sending it to WhatsApp group who are excited to learn about London.

Higher Education: MDE program. Dropbox, skype, Twitter, Evernote, Skype, Facebook. As teachers, we need to show how they can use this for self-directed learning.

Professional development:, MOOCs, LinkedIn, ResearchGate.

I wanted to get your ideas about what these would look like, but we don’t have time. [!!]


Learners design and created their own PLEs. We provide learning environments. Terry Anderson – technology defines the beat, pedagogy defines the moves. Create a dance between the two, self-directed learning is one of them.


Q1: I see a potential difference between learning languages and vocation, and more abstractsthings like mathematics. Motivating works well for languages at any age. But is a big gap if they are more abstract, like university mathematics.

LMB: I agree. Have to look at how to apply this. STEM is challenging. I see lots of group collaboration. Creating connections with the outside world. Setting up a learning map depends on the topic. We run in to the same thing about what goes online. We need to focus on what the learner needs are. Make it learner-centred, learn from each other, they’ll be more involved in the learning process, which will make the learning stick.

Q2: The theories remind me of Montessori method. I see the technology is different. But the concept is there at a deep level. These traditional methods vs this new one?

LMB: You’ll find these concepts in Montessori schools, Waldorf schools, because they’re learner-centred. Aspects of heutagogy built in to those environments. Self-efficacy, opportunities to explore. These are excellent examples. The Waldorf schools were very anti-technology. We need to learn from those examples.

Q3: I’m mind blown. I followed enthusiastically. I didn’t get the last point. Was it, to give learners the tools to make the PLE their own. Learner-centred self-determined learning would require them to bring their own tools, not the other way round. Maker movement, learners bringing in their own technology, with smartphones and tablets. Why do we give them the tools, they don’t really adopt them.

LMB: They don’t always know how to use them. Son in school, WhatsApping his friend, couldn’t reach him. She suggested Skype. So they used that to invite their group. Google Hangouts another example. They don’t always know. Last week, student wrote a long post on not using Twitter, not being a Kardashian. She said we don’t use Twitter that way – though some teachers do that. We’re using it to create connections, you create connections, build them with people in the field. People put their stuff on Twitter before it’s in any journal. Student had not thought about using it that way. An environment that’s life long. With a hashtag, class is never over. [!] Anything that gets tweeted on distance learning, all my students get it. In online learning, have to look at it that way. Not here’s this cool tech how can I use it, has to be what do I want to achieve.

Q4 (Andrew Ravenscroft): Really welcome. But, relies on students knowing what’s best for themselves. Your example about Big Ben and daughter Tweeting and reporting on the experience. Maybe bring in e.g. Guy Fawkes. An expert of mentor needs to interject with something. Otherwise will just self-report activity.

LMB: The instructor is very, very much involved. They also provide feedback. Your role changes, you’re not the sage on the stage like this. Allowing them to make the decisions, but guiding them through it. Good point about only relating the experiences.

Q5: Role of the teacher. Do you have some experience of the preconditions for a teacher to choose these methods. What are the time requirements, on the teacher: student ratio. How many can they guide?

LMB: From the MDE program, 25-30 students. We’re not fully self-directed learning. institutions don’t always support this. How do you get your institution to agree? I kinda did it and just got on with it. Sometimes you have to just bring it in. At St Pauls Schools, 530 students in junior school, don’t know how many instructors, ratio is also in the range of 25-30 students. It’s challenging, because it’s learner-focused. Yishay (Mor) did this on project-based MOOCs. That’s a huge environment, with thousands of learners. They build in many elements. For lower grades, need more intense interaction with the students, so a lower ratio. But in to higher grades maybe less so.

Q6: Technology. The use of PLEs. Don’t they already require self-directed learning skills, and technological skills? Meant to develop SDL. In the end, people make decisions for the learners, or they’re overburdened by choices. [Contrast between an environment to teach self-directed learning] for me [a PLE] is an environment for people who are already SDL and tech skilled.

LMB: I experience this in graduate courses, tell them to do a mind map. They have to choose which. It’s a question of formative feedback on how to choose tools, ask how will help you down the line. Has to start at a young age. People who have a PLE, they’re self-directed. How do we get them to that place? That’s what companies really want to have their employees do, solve problems and not have to guide them.

Q7 (Rolf?): PLEs, MOOCs. I would see PLE as opposite to MOOC. I would say MOOCs are the natural enemy, I have to fight them, I don’t understand your interest. Is that a tactic?

LMB: No! [laughter] What MOOCs offer, less the xMOOCs and more the cMOOCs, project-based learning – they have opportunities to collaborate, make new information. It’s learner-centred. They’re a self-directed learning. Some use MOOCs as part of their PLE. Like a community of practice. Represent different parts.

[I think there is a lack of understanding in the room about the distinction between xMOOCs and cMOOCs she’s making here.]

Q8: Someone who is missing courses, takes a MOOC on his own initiative? Think about combining tutor-directed and learner-directed. More scalability, dedicate your attention where it’s worthwhile.

LMB: We have to be flexible, adaptable. St Pauls Schools have done it 100%. My school, we haven’t done it 100% but we try to move them that way.

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Author: dougclow

Experienced project leader, data scientist, researcher, analyst, teacher, developer, educational technologist and manager. I particularly enjoy rapidly appraising new-to-me contexts, and mediating between highly technical specialisms and others, from ordinary users to senior management. After 20 years at the OU as an academic, I am now a self-employed consultant, building on my skills and experience in working with people, technology, data science, and artificial intelligence, in the education field and beyond.