Posts made by Sylvia Currie


Welcome to Footprints of Emergence.

About this seminar

This seminar is an exploration and discussion of how learning does (or does not) take place in complex learning environments, such as open online courses, and how this interacts with learning design.

To do this we will share our past and current research into emergent learning, which has been published in two papers. In particular, we will explain and discuss the framework we have developed for ‘complex’ learning environments – Footprints of Emergence.  

This framework enables learners and learning designers to articulate, map out, and reflect on critical aspects of learning in open, emergent learning events, both individually and collaboratively and results in visualisations of the learning experience – see the Footprints of Emergence open wiki for examples of learner experience footprints.

There are two webinars scheduled as part of this 2-week seminar discussion. They will take place in the SCoPE Blackboard Collaborate Room:

  1. Tuesday, 19 November 18:00 GMT 

    We will introduce ourselves and discuss what emergent learning is and the progress of our research. This will be followed by asynchronous discussion in the forum, where we can discuss further questions and any issues arising from the webinar.

  2. Tuesday, 26 November 18:00 GMT 

    This webinar will focus on drawing footprints of emergence and a discussion of the critical factors, which we use to describe and map out the learning experience. We will encourage all participants to draw their own footprints. In the following asynchronous discussion forum, we hope that you will share your footprints, so that we can critically reflect on the approach, and methodology, in order to improve it and to continue to make it accessible, available and relevant to the broader research and design community.

About our facilitators

Roy Williams is an academic, designer, facilitator and researcher, responsible for e-assessment, e-learning, and research in the Dept. of Mathematics and the School of Computing at the University of Portsmouth, UK, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (South Africa). More about Roy... 

Jenny Mackness is an independent education consultant and researcher, based in the UK, who specialises in designing, authoring and facilitating online learning programmes for national and international markets, and researching open online learning. She has participated in many MOOCs and worked with a team to design and run one of the UK’s first MOOCs (FSLT12). More about Jenny...

Simon Gumtau Simone is a visual communication designer specialising in interactive media design, and an academic lecturer and researcher. More about Simone...

Participating in SCoPE Seminars

SCoPE seminars are free and open to the public, and registration is not required. You are welcome to come and go according to your schedule and interests. To contribute you will need to create an account on the SCoPE site -- a quick process. Are you new to SCoPE or wondering how to manage your participation? Check this resource.

If you have any questions about participating in SCoPE don't hesitate to ask here in the forum, or get in touch with me directly:

Sylvia Currie 
+1 250-318-2907

(edited post 19 Nov, 2013 to correct date of second webinar sjc)


Reminder! The first Footprints of Emergence webinar takes place tomorrow!

WhenTuesday, 19 November 18:00 GMT, 10:00 PST

WhereSCoPE Blackboard Collaborate Room:

What: We will discuss what emergent learning is and the progress of our research. This will be followed by asynchronous discussion in the forum, where we can discuss further questions and any issues arising from the webinar.

How to prepare:

  • If you are new to Blackboard Collaborate check that your equipment is ready ahead of the session.
  • Plan to join a few minutes prior to the start of the event.
  • Enter your full name when prompted.

Note: You may enter the Blackboard Collaborate room at any time to ensure there are no technical issues. 

This is an open invitation so please spread the word! 


Well it's the end of Day 5 and we have a lot to celebrate! We generated 19+ discussion prompts. That's an excellent take away! Rachel and I have been exchanging WOW glances via private messages all week about your engagement. 

Next steps...

  • Did you earn your badge? The checklist is here
  • Think back on what you were able to accomplish this week for yourself.
  • Feel free to "spill over" into the weekend. It would be a good time to share a newly discovered resource or acknowledge an idea that influenced how you'll craft discussion prompts going forward. 
  • Watch for a course evaluation in your email inbox -- I believe they go out on Monday. We appreciate all feedback about your course experience.
  • Check the BCcampus Events calendar regularly.

Thanks so much for all the sharing and feedback!

Your grateful FLO Facilitators,

Sylvia and Rachel


I spent a few hours in a waiting room today reading discussion prompts on my phone but not having the coordination or screen real estate to respond properly. But I did pin a couple thoughts in my head!

2 tacks

Thought 1: As a participant in an online course, and especially in collaborative forum discussions, I always appreciate clear instructions. I think in general people like to know what is expected of them. I've noticed though, that detailed instructions can start to blur the key message. A compelling question should have a bit of pop to it. I mention this as something to think about with your Learning Management System  -- are you able to head up the thread with the instructions, then allow your prompt to stand out as a new post? I know the Sharing & Feedback forum isn't set up for this so it seemed worth mentioning.

Thought 2: The link between motivation and assessment always surfaces when we design online discussions. Obviously we want students to learn from their active engagement in discussions but we also want to ensure (or at least we want evidence) that students are reading what others post and are generally putting in some effort. Quantifying the number of posts is a common way to address this. 

As suggested in thought 1, there is nothing wrong with clear instructions like "reply to at least 2 posts by Monday" (or whatever) but it does feel a bit flat, doesn't it? What if instead we ask students to provide evidence that focuses on both quantity and quality of posts? 

Here's what it could look like. At the end of a forum discussion, ask students to read back over their contributions and link to posts that satisfy specific criteria, much like a portfolio. Something like this:

These are examples of how I:

  • Contribute regularly
  • Weave together ideas generated by others
  • Incorporate readings
  • Contemplate how I will apply what I learned

Or, a simple question like "pick out your best 2 posts and elaborate on your choices" can bring it all together in a similar manner. 

Conveniently, the online environment lends itself very well to this type or reflective/self-assessment activity. It kind of shifts the thinking from What must I do? to What did I do to enhance the discussion

"Thumb Tacks" by rknickme is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


The "creations" are accumulating in the Sharing & Feedback forum! 

Have you noticed how different flavours of prompts emerge by discipline? Great ideas are surfacing about what makes an effective discussion prompt I'm sure I've missed plenty but here's my capture so far:

  • Use a rubric to guide learners in their contributions 
  • If the LMS allows, consider preventing students from reading (or viewing) other posts before submitting their own
  • Integrate Wiggins & McTighs' essential questions: interpretation, explanation, application, self-knowledge, empathy, and perspective
  • Keep it plain and simple
  • Structure expectations -- for example, ask clarifying questions now (then dish out step 2, 3, etc later)
  • Using visuals can enhance interest
  • Students cans also write discussion prompts
  • A poem or a quote can make excellent prompts
  • A lighter tone can help students to feel more comfortable
  • Ask students to imagine themselves in a situation

Keep sharing your prompt and re-writes of prompts! Also, take some time today to review and provide feedback to your colleagues. Thanks for your wonderful engagement so far!

Sylvia & Rachel