TEACHER-TRAINING, ICT, CREATIVITY, MOOC, MOODLE - WHAT
Slavi Stoyanov, Peter Sloep, Marion de Bie, Vérénice Hermans
Open University of the Netherlands
As part of the Handson ICTii project we need to design a teacher-training MOOC course on applying
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) with support of creativity techniques. The
course should utilize learning-by-doing learning approach and run within a MOODLE LMS. This
paper, applying design-based research methodology, describes our experience in developing this
course through series of design iterations and evaluations. The research questions we address are as
follows: What are trends and challenges of teaching creativity with ICT as indicated by literature and
good practices? What are pedagogical approaches relevant for HandsonICT MOOC? What changes
need to be made to address the participants experience with the HandsonICT MOOC as suggested by
the first pilot of the course? What are the lessons learned with the design and evaluation of the
Handson ICT MOOC? We first make an overview of the findings from a systematic literature review
and a screening of good practices in regard to teacher-training in creativity and ICT. Then we discuss
different learning theories and instructional design approaches, and especially how they can be
implemented in a MOOC for teaching creativity and teaching creatively using ICT tools. In the next
step we describe different versions of the HandsonICT MOOC course. Finally, we conclude with
some lesson learned.
TRENDS AND CHALLENGES IN TEACHING CREATIVITY WITH ICT
A systematic literature review across databases such as Academic Search Elite, ERIC, PsychINFO and
Google Scholar was carried out to identify issues, trends and challenges with regard to teaching
creativity with ICT. Combinations of terms such as creativity, teaching and technology were used,
allowing for searching not only by keywords but also within the full text of the articles and applying
related words. The search was restricted to peer-reviewed articles in the period of June 2008 until June
2013. The procedure yielded 507 papers. Although this was a relatively conservative approach to the
selection of relevant papers, in actual fact many more articles were analysed as the study included not
only first but also second-order meta-analytical research. Some additional sources were added as a
result of cross-referencing. All abstracts were screened applying a set of exclusive criteria, namely: (a)
cognitive aspects of creativity (b) creativity related to specific subject-matter such as music, creative
writing or history research; (c) technology but not ICT, (e. g. robotics) and (d) STEM (Science,
Technology, Engineering and Math) initiatives. After this screening process, 28 papers remained for a
further analysis of their full texts.
Summary of findings
Most of the teachers in Europe support the idea that creativity is a fundamental skill to be developed in
schools and they believe that ICT can be used to foster it. A relatively large proportion of teachers in
Europe have received training in innovative pedagogies or methods but it is not the case with training
in creativity and using ICT for educational purposes (Cachia, Ferrari, Ala-Mutka, and Punie, 2010).
While social learning with Web 2.0 tools has been enthusiastically accepted by many teachers,
innovative and evidenced-based examples have not been implemented into the real schools’ practice
on a large scale (Redecker, Ala-Mutka,Bacigalupo, Ferrari and Punie, 2009).
i This is a pre-print version of the paper to be published in PROCEEDINGS OF THE SIXTH INTERNATIONAL
CONFERENCE ON EDUCATION AND NEW LEARNING (EDULEARN)
This is a pre-print version of the paper to be published in PROCEEDINGS OF THE THE SIXTH INTERNATIONAL
CONFERENCE ON EDUCATION AND NEW LEARNING (EDULEARN)
Teachers are often burdened by a steep learning curve to keep pace with new technologies (O'Brieti,
Aguinaga, Hines and Hartshorne, 2011).
Constant technological evolution requires that teachers not only be fluent with current technologies,
but that they develop a mindset for learning new technology in ways that promote flexibility,
autonomy, and creativity, and learn how to learn with technology (Shaltry., Henriksen, Lun Wu and
The current situation in teaching, which is characterised by a focus on testing and accountability, by
Ill-equipped teachers, by time pressure, and by a view of creative practices as something “extra”, leads
to the exclusion of creative teaching and learning (Nicholl, and McLellan, 2008).
There is a circular and reciprocal relationship between creativity and technology. Technology can
enhance creativity, technology can require creativity, and creativity is often necessary to take
advantage of the various affordances of technology for teaching and learning (DeSchryver, Leahy,
Koehler, and Leigh, 2013). Research has consistently shown that technology alone cannot
significantly impact teaching and learning unless it is combined with effective and efficient
instructional design. However, technology could provide efficient ways of exploring information and
designing solutions (Chandra, and Lloyd, 2008; Mishra, Koehler., and Henriksen,,2011; Van
Merriënboer, and Stoyanov, 2008; Yang, Tzuo, and Komara, 2011 . Integrating technology in teaching
and learning have demonstrated positive effects on students’ motivation, attitudes, achievement, and
peer interactions in the classrooms (Yang, Tzuo, and Komara, 2011). Re-examining the effect of
teaching and learning with technology on student cognitive and affective outcomes using a meta-
analytic technique indicates that, overall, effect sizes were small to moderate. Project-based learning
(PBL) yielded the highest effect. Each of the PBL steps were anchored upon basic skills/factual
learning and instructional elements that are challenging, sense-making, collaborative and
contextualized (Lee, Waxman., Wu, Michko, and Lin, 2013).. One effective approach to study
technology is to involve students in projects in which they use technology to explore technology and
then share their experience as how this particular technology can be used for education purposes
(Shaltry., Henriksen, Lun Wu and Dickson, 2013).
Eight learning approaches using ICT have proved effective (Stokes, 2012): learning from experts;
learning with others (peers) as three particularly promising areas for development were identified:
representational tools, scaffolding tools and communications tools; learning through making - it
involves students in constructing and sharing artefacts (e.g. Learning by design); learning through
exploring - strategies and skills are required to find and filter information usefully; learning through
inquiry - learners can ask questions, formulate hypotheses, and conduct experiments using mobile
devices, simulations and augmented reality; learning through practicing; learning from assessment -
adaptive technologies and learning analytics can be used to support formative assessment, self-
assessment and peer-assessment; learning in and across settings - technology (PDAs, cameras to GPS-
enabled phones, mobile technologies) can help teachers and learners collect, store, compare and
integrate information from and across different settings and contexts.
A popular approach for teaching creativity is the Cognitive Research Trust – CoRT programme (De
Bono, 1992). The author describes a number of techniques, called tools (e.g ‘Six Thinking Hats’), that
need to be mastered like any tool.
In addition to the literature review an attempt was made to identify some good practices of teaching
creativity with ICT. Using a pre-specified template, each project’s partner described at least four good
practices in regard to the current-state-of-the-art of fostering creativity with ICT, associated with
projects or surveys conducted in the period 2010-2013. Some suggestions based on the findings are:
Consider learning-by-doing, project-based learning, self-directed learning, problem-based learning,
and inquiry-based learning. They were the most referred learning strategies and pedagogical
approaches; Recon MOOC format; Provide tools to promote online mentoring through forums, social
networks and video conferencing tools, webinars, collaboration tools, eportfolio tools used for
assessment/self-reflection purposes; Development/deployment of Open Educational resources (OER)
repositories with educational resources/content, best practices, pedagogical scenarios about the
creative use of ICT in different educational contexts; Utilize a cascade approach, that is teachers are
considered as learning agents that will transfer their experience to their colleagues and students.
PEDAGOGICAL APPROACHES RELEVANT FOR HANDSONICT MOOC
The literature review and the scanning of good practices provide a rather fragmented picture of
teaching strategies for creative problem solving using ICT, not suggesting any concrete instructional
design guidelines. One approach could be De Bono’s thinking exercises with creativity tools included
in the CoRT programme. It is very much creativity-bounded approach but the tools have been
exercised on artificial problems not related to any subject-matter. The CoRT programme had mixed
success across schools around the world.
A second approach would be to combine some of the eight instructional approaches as described
above (e.g. learning from expert, learning through exploring, and learning through practicing) but a
further operationalization of the learning activities is needed and a clear indication how creativity is
A third approach would be to use the template of the instructional design framework of inquiry-based
learning (Manlove, Lazonder, and Jong de, Ton, 2009). Inquiry-based learning was one of the
approaches suggested by the findings from exploring good practices for teaching ICT and creativity.
The idea seems appealing as inquiry-based learning is evidenced-based, has the potential to be applied
to all educational levels (from primary school to higher education) and each subject-matter could be
designed according to this approach. Creativity could be supported implicitly through the whole
process of inquiry-based learning asking and testing different ‘what if’ questions. In addition, studying
a particular subject-matter is a natural way for initiating discussions on how some domain-specific
discoveries have been made and showing a range of creative problem solving styles (e.g. from more
methodical, small steps incremental improvements within a paradigm to more radical changes across
different paradigmsiii). Inquiry-based learning has often been criticised for not providing enough
instructional guidance, which may be problematic, especially for lower educational levels (Kirschner,
Sweller and Clark, 2006). In addition there is not an explicit support for creativity. Recently, inquiry-
based approach has broaden its definition to increase intellectual engagement and foster deep
understanding through the development of a hands-on, minds-on and ‘research-based disposition’
towards teaching and learning. Inquiry honours the complex, interconnected nature of knowledge
construction, striving to provide opportunities for both teachers and students to collaboratively build,
test and reflect on their learning” (Stephenson, 2013). It is also claimed that while IBL is based on
the pre-existing knowledge structure and skills of learners, it stimulate them to discover new things,
something that is ‘not yet there’. How people arrive at new things and something that is ‘not yet there’
is not completely clear and need further elaboration. A very similar approach but specific for teachers
as adult learners is Design Inquiry of Learning. Apart from inquiry-based learning, it integrates also
the ideas of design science (Laurillard, 2012; Laurillard, Charlton, Craft, Dimakopoulos, Ljubojevic,
Magoulas, Masterman, Pujadas, Whitley, and Whittlestone, 2013), design-based research (Collins,
Diana, and Bielaczyc, 2004; McKenney, and Reeves, 2013) and studio Instruction in arts and design.
Learning Design Studio is the course format that implements the Design Inquiry of Learning (Cox,
Harrison and Hoadley, 2008; Mor and Mogilevsky, 2013). Teachers are put in the position of learning
designers. They need to identify an educational challenge, to analyse the context of it, to generate
ideas for possible solutions, to prototype a solution, to test the solution and to reflect on the design
process and outcomes produced.
Other instructional design approaches that could be worth to consider here are problem-based learning
(Hmelo-Silver, 2004), cognitive apprenticeship approach (Brown and Duguid, 2000), cognitive
flexibility theory (Spiro, and Jehng, 1990) and Four Component Instructional Design Model (4C/ID)
(Van Merriënboer and Kirschner, 2007). Problem-based learning was one of the most referred
instructional approaches according to good practices findings. Problem-based learning require students
iii Eg Nuclear chain reaction: Enrico Fermi vs Leo Szilard; Structural Model of DNA: Maurice Wilkins & Rosalind
Franklin vs James Watson & Francis Crick
to collect information, reflect and discuss it to formulate possible solutions. One substantial criticism
to problem-based learning is that it does not provide explicit support in terms of concrete techniques
(including creative ones).
While cognitive apprenticeship is based on the hands-ons of traditional apprenticeship, it also
emphasizes on minds-ons of experts’ performance. Experts need to externalise and make visible how
they use concepts, facts, and procedures when solving problems and accomplish tasks (e.g. T. Buzan
showing how he applies mind mapping). The approach utilises six teaching methods, namely:
modelling, coaching, scaffolding, articulation, and exploration. 4C/ID is a highly structured approach
that confront learners with a problem, which is then divided into a sequence of tasks/sub-problems.
For each task a guided support is provided consisting of supportive information (theories, expert’s
modelling or work out examples). An important component of this instructional design approach is
just-in-time training for recurrent skills, that is skills that can be repeated unchangeably in many
situations. Examples are searching and filtering information from internet, using concept mapping or
mind mapping software tools for visual brainstorming, or scoop.it for organising and sharing
information. Cognitive flexibility theory emphasizes on challenging the learners with ill-structured
problems and approaching it from different ‘criss-crossing’ perspectives with multiple representations.
Although the instructional design approaches discussed above represent different instructional design
paradigms (e.g. 4C/ID is based on instructivism; problem-based learning, cognitive apprenticeship,
and cognitive flexibility promotes constructivism), they share some common components as the
theory of First Principles of Instruction (Merrill, 2002) suggests: confronting learners with a problem,
issue, challenge, preferably, real-life one; considering the problem from different perspectives;
dividing the problem into sub-problems/tasks; for each task an explicit support in terms of background
information, examples, procedures, methods, techniques, and tools is provided; and deliberate
As teachers are adult learners, principles of adult learning should be taken into account as well.
Adults are internally motivated and self-directed; Adults draw upon their experiences to aid their
learning; Adults are goal and relevancy oriented. Adults are problem-centred rather than content-
oriented. Some of the instructional guidelines to support adult learning include: there is a need to
explain the reasons specific things are being taught; instruction should be task-oriented instead based
on memorization; instruction should take into account the wide range of different backgrounds of
learners; learning materials and activities should allow for different levels/types of previous
experience; since adults are self-directed, instruction should allow learners to discover things and
knowledge for themselves but guidance and help should be provided when mistakes are made
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
With the hype around Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) one issue that has not received yet
sufficient attention is pedagogies within MOOCs. Very often the discourse on MOOCs learning
designs has been replaced by a discussion on the affordances of technological platforms. When it
comes to classifications of pedagogies they typically include three categories: cognitive-behaviorist,
socio-constructist and connectivist (Dron and Anderson, 2011). Cognitive-Behaviorist approach has
been associated with xMOOCs, while social constructivism and connectivism have been linked to
cMOOCs. While the debate xMOOC vs cMOOC is useful on a general level, it is not particularly
helpful on micro-level, that is how learning activities should be structured to foster effective, efficient
and enjoyable learning. Research also indicates that such a dichotomous, ‘either-or’, categorization
obscures variation and richness of the pedagogic approaches applied (Conole, de Laat, Dillon and
Darby, 2008). Conole et al., suggest a more elaborated classification, called 7S, aimed at helping
teachers to design better learning experiences. The 7S are as follows: Conceptualize (what is the
vision for the course?), Capture (a resource audit), Communicate (mechanisms to foster
communication), Collaborate (mechanisms to foster collaboration), Consider (assessment strategies),
Combine (overarching views of the design), and Consolidate (implementing and evaluating the design
in a real learning context). For each ‘C’ a range of resources and tools to guide the teacher through the
design process have been proposed. This design framework is based upon the author’s understanding
of what characterizes a good learning, namely: encourages reflection, enables dialogue, fosters
collaboration, applies theory learnt to practice, creates a community of peers, enables creativity and
motivates the learners.
Our approach is similar but we draw upon a particular theory of learning, that is experiential learning
Kolb, 1984), and further operationalize its principles with some instructional design guidelines based
on the idea of First Principles of Instruction Merrill, 2002), which demands a combination of
components of different instructional design approaches. Experiential learning includes different
modes of grasping and transforming learning experience, including learning-by-doing, which was
requested by the original project’s assignment, but not limited to it. The theory of experiential learning
promotes also the idea of learning styles. One challenge with designing MOOC(s) is how to
accommodate the needs of the participants whose number is expected to be high. The four learning
styles associated with the experiential learning theory (Kolb, 1984; Honey, and Mumford, 1992)
could help in structuring the content. For each task the participants can be asked to explore
information in terms of (a) theoretical background, accommodating different perspectives – theorist
learning style); (b) work out examples or modeling examples (expert performance) – reflector
learning style’; (c) procedures (heuristics, or rules of thumb) – pragmatist learning style; and (d)
practicing the task creating an artefact – activist learning style. Prompted by their dominant learning
style, the participants could choose to start with any of the content types described (preferential
adaptation) but need to complete all of them (compensational adaptation). In addition, the
experience needs to be reflected upon, shared and discuss with others. Although adult learners are
assumed to be self-directed learners, the literature suggests (Kirton, 2003) that people differ in how
much structure they would prefer to see in the content and learning activities. People can be
positioned on a continuum with one extreme external learning locus of control (looking for very
structured course and guidance) and the other – internal learning locus of control (as minimal structure
and guidance as possible). This difference in preferences to structure and guidance is not related to
level of knowledge and skills people have. A group of skilled learners, for example, can include a
range of learning locus of controls. The paradox of knowledge structure ([Kirton, 2003; Stoyanov and
Kirscher, 2007) states that structure is both enabling and restricting. People with more external
learning of control would see the enabling part of the structure, internal learning of controls would
notice the restricting part of it. Apparently we can not without any structure, the questions is to find a
balance – neither too much, nor too little structure, which is a challenge. Different options for students
should be made available. We could provide the students with some sequences of learning activities
and recommended recourses, but also ask them to explore a topic and share their findings with others.
The participants should be given the opportunity to go outside the course environment to construct
their knowledge connecting with people who are not part of the course. Finally the design of the
course should take into account the behavioral patterns (personas) that have been identified in
MOOCs. We should expect that less than 10% of attendee will complete the course. Some people
would only be active in one or two activities. A third group would only download some of the
resources. A fourth group would passively be observing what is happening. The evaluation of OLDS
MOOC indicates that although less than 10% of the participants finished the course, 80% reported a
gain, they learned something from the course (Cross, 2013).
Technological tools could be offered to facilitate learning activities (e.g. scoop.it for curating and
sharing information; mind mapping for idea generation; forums for discussions).
HANDSON ICT ITERATIVE COURSE DESIGN
The first version of the HandsonICT was very simple and addressed the original assignment of
presenting a number of creativity techniques supported by some ICT tools. The content included three
creativity techniques: Mind Mapping and Concept Mapping, Six Thinking Hats, and Triggering
Questions (SCAMPER). The design blueprints of the units were a subject of critical discussions
within the project. The design blueprint of mind mapping, concept mapping and creativity included
the following elements (to save space only suggested actions for mind mapping are presented):
Introduction to Mind Mapping (An introduction to mind mapping given by the originator of the
technique Tony Buzan); Information and examples how fellow teachers use mind mapping; Review
mind mapping software; Create mind maps with software; Create a mind map on a topic related to
participants’ professional practice with mind mapping software.
Each of the three units run on one week in the period of 13th – 20th January 2014. Eighteen
participants from countries representing the project (Greece, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom and
The Netherlands) took part in this pilot. Although, in general positive, the results from a survey and
interviews identified some drawbacks that needed to be addressed for the second pilot. They are as
follows: lack of context for creativity techniques, too much instruction, lack of clear link to the real
teaching practice, the need of designing educational artifacts, and more interaction with the tutor and
To improve the course in all these aspects, we adopted but also adapted the Learning Design Studio
(LDS) format and followed the principles of experiential learning and the guidelines of the First
Principles of Instructional Design. The basic idea is that the teacher is put in the position of a learning
designer, that is s/he identifies an issue with the educational practice to which a solution is needed (a
tool supporting the design of a lesson plan or a learning game), looks upon different theories and
good practices to devise solutions, develops design blueprints, mock ups or prototypes, test to
improve them, and implement them into the professional practice. ‘Prototype’ means a storyboard,
or a paper prototype, not a digital prototype, which certainly is not meant to restrict the participants if
they want to go for a software application. Creativity is covered by the overall idea of design studio,
and a special unit on Ideation and Conceptualization with creativity techniques integrated in a
creativity set up. Writing Persona, Visioning and Storyboarding can also be considered creativity
The first unit of the course is Advanced Organiser. It informs the participants on how the course is
organized and what they could expect from it. A publication on LDS is attached as well. The
participants are advised to start writing an individual Learning Journal, which is sort of an assessment
portfolio. Learning Journal could be a sequence of blogs.
The second unit is needs assessment for defining the educational challenges to which the participants
are going to provide a solution. It should be a real educational problem, something in their practice
that needs to be improved. The basic technique proposed is contextual inquiry interview (CII).
Although recommendations for some sources of information are given, the students need to search
for and explore information about CII, curate and shared it using scoop.it or peartrees software, and
finally conduct themselves a contextual inquiry interview. With typically many people involved in
MOOCS, it is more natural, realistic and practical for the participants to conduct needs analysis with
their colleagues in school rather than make MOOC groups with people who are reluctant to do so and
have completely different issues to discuss. The tools used (scoop.it and/or peartrees) allow for a
more connectivist way of building knowledge with people outside the course environment. Pearltrees
for example, is a cloud service where one can create a digital concept map on an topic, can borrow
nodes, called ‘pearls’ from others, will be informed about similar pearltrees, and can team up with
others with similar interests. This learning activity gives also the participants an opportunity to
discuss in a forum (‘A faster horse vs a car’) a common issue when conducting a needs analysis –
what people want vs what they need. The discussion is prompted by famous saying of H. Ford: “If I
had asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses”. Eventually he constructed a
The third unit is based entirely on Writing Persona, a technique that consolidates the information
collected in the previous activity of needs assessment . Some readings about persona are
recommended but the participants are encouraged to make their own search and to share information
with others (in a Moodle forum, a blog, twitter, scoop.it, pearltrees). The final task of this learning
activity requires each student to write a persona.
The fourth unit is Ideation and Conceptualisation, that is searching for, generating and selecting
solutions to the challenge. A combination of creativity techniques in a ideation set up (SCAMPER,
The Dreamer-the-Critic-the Realist, Six Thinking Hats, Forced relationship, Inside View) is proposed
to support these actions. Affinity diagram technique is suggested to facilitate conceptualisation. Mind
mapping tools such as Mind Meister and Coogle.it are proposed for idea generation and concept
mapping tools such as cMap and Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) are recommended for
supporting conceptualisation. Additional information is given for two more advanced tools: Concept
Systems Global Max and Optimal Sorting.
The fifth unit is developing a prototype, which consists of visioning and a storyboarding but the
participants are not restricted to develop a digital prototype if they wish to do so. One of the critics
during the internal project evaluation was that most of the students would feel intimidated if asked to
develop a software application. The unit includes also a forum where the participants could discussed
three educational software prototypes, winners of a competition for educational software applications.
In the last unit the participants need to perform some actions to evaluate their products. The students
are provided with an evaluation script template and asked to adapt it to their situation. In addition the
participants are asked to try out a walkthrough-with-think-loud interview method provided with some
guidelines, and eventually apply a usability questionnaire. System Usability Scale (SUS) toolkit is
attached as a resource.
The final assessment consists of a presentation of the final product with a reference to all artefacts that
have been created along the way (needs analysis, persona, visioning, storyboard). Individual learning
Journal is also part of the final assessment.
This course design was also a subject of expert evaluation. The main critic was that the course is
complex and requires students to invest too much time. The solution was to keep the course as simple
as possible with minimum information about the learning activities, and make the remaining parts
optional (see Figure 1 as an illustration). For example, the contextual inquiry interview, usability
questionnaires, tools such as Optimal Sorting, Concept System Global and pearltrees are voluntary
now. Participation in the forums ‘a fast horse vs a car’ and ‘evaluating winners prototypes’ is optional
as well. The course will also include a Google Hangouts for introduction of the course and convergent
discussions after each unit. Before the second pilot nearly 1000 people have subscribed to the course.
Figure 1. Part of the unit Needs Analysis with compulsory and optional activities
CONCLUSIONS OR LESSON LEARNED
1. The best way to understand what is it to design and teach a MOOC is to design and teach a
MOOC. Teaching teaches teaching.
2. Although MOOC is new phenomenon “old guns” such as classical learning theories and
instructional design approaches can help the MOOC design. They have accumulated extensive
experience and are evidence-based.
3. Combining cMOOC and xMOOC, instructivism, constructivism and connectivism is really a
challenging task but it is worth keep trying as it would lead to true effective, efficient and
enjoyable learning experience.
4. ‘M’ is the trickiest in the configuration ‘MOOC’. Massive participation may require dramatic
changes in the initial course design, even in the meaning of ‘C’ (course). Course completion
is maybe not the most important result but rather the acknowledgment that people learn what
they like or find interesting and they are going to use it. ‘M’ also means accommodating as
much as possible the needs of the participants. It may seem a ‘mission impossible’ but
research-based expectations on behavioural patterns of people taking part in MOOCs and their
preferences for structuring content and learning activities could be a good starting point for the
5. When designing a MOOC, the first assumption should be that we are going to make mistakes.
The question is to identify what and why are these mistakes and gradually improve the design
(Successive Approximation Model – SAM; Design-Based Research).
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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects
the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may
be made of the information contained therein