ThesisPDF Available

Tacit knowing made visible: The use and value of an online archive


Abstract and Figures

This dissertation outlines a design-based research study that takes place within two subsequent iterations of an online Masters’ course. This study examines the use and value of a learning archive, as perceived by students through their interactions with learning artefacts used during their course. Their course is held within an innovative and experimental social-networked learning environment. This study is based on key elements of organizational knowledge creation theory, in particular the process of knowledge creation and the concept of ba being the underlying context within which this knowledge is developed. This study documents the perceived impact that visible and persistent knowledge artefacts have on the process of learning. This study also shows that as artefacts are accessed and integrated into the overall learning process student engagement and efficacy are perceived to change in a positive way, and these changes impact both the learning environment and the learning process. This study produces two key outcomes. The first outcome is that the use of a socially networked online learning environment as a virtual classroom can offer a richness and an openness through its capacity to create, annotate, rate, and comment upon persistent artefacts. This use, coupled with permeable and flexible boundaries in the learning environment, offers richness to the learning experience. Learners within a social-networked space, as is used for this study, have complete control over their privacy settings and can make their contributions as open or as closed as desired. This type of environment encourages learning beyond the confines of the classroom and provides support for learner engagement and efficacy. The second key finding is that students in this study support the inclusion of a dynamic course archive containing artefacts from learners in prior iterations of the course. Given the structural limitations of many online learning environments, this study demonstrates that such an archive is likely best placed with a social-networked learning space and with appropriate search, tagging, and navigation tools. The study demonstrates that students will and have benefited from the archive’s use in support of their learning and will contribute to it in support of the learning of others.
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MARCH 2014
I would like to dedicate this work to my late mother, Lucy. I know you wanted to
be here today but I also know you never left.
This degree program, my research study and the eventual production of this
dissertation document has, at times, felt like a very solitary endeavour yet as I sit and
write these final words I know that I would not be here today without the help, support,
and continued encouragement of so many people and organizations.
Much of this work is based upon the theories, ideas, and passion of Dr Ikujiru
Nonaka. I have never had the pleasure of meeting or speaking with this eminent business
management scholar but his work inspires me. I have read and studied his theories and
models and listened to his interviews and conference presentations for the past dozen
years. His ideas continue to talk to me in such a way that I believe education can truly
benefit from. These ideas include the bridging and integration of core values about
knowledge creation along with the fundamental values that underpin these theories.
Athabasca University and the Centre for Distance Education has been a huge
support for me, both financially with scholarships and through the encouragement and
continued engagement of their faculty and staff right from the start in August of 2008
through to this point: Thank you so much. My employer, Camosun College, has also
supported me both financially and with time. My teaching peers have regularly pushed
and encouraged me chapter-by-chapter. My Department Chair, Agatha Thalheimer, gave
me great latitude in arranging my teaching schedules to fit my learning needs over these
past five-plus years. This custom scheduling has been a gift.
My peers in the inaugural and subsequent classes of this EdD program have been
a continued source of encouragement and support. As we all have found ourselves at
different stages in our academic journey it has been comforting knowing that the bonds
developed through our time in this program continue to be strong.
I received continued support and encouragement from many sources. In
particular, 
creation and ba, along with his gentle editorial and time-line nudging have helped keep
me on track.
My supervisor and friend, Dr Terry Anderson, has been a constant in my doctoral
journey. His always-present and ever-positive approaches to my learning, my research,
and support of my writing have been invaluable. His insights along with his willingness
to walk with me in unfamiliar territory, yet always to do so with encouragement and
support, have allowed me to flourish and make great strides in my understanding and
academic growth. Thank you so much for the gift of your time, your spirit, and your
Additionally, my committee members have pushed me to be more concise and
clear in my writing, and although this process has been a great challenge I know how I
have benefited from the process. Thank you all for your support and encouragement.
might not be finished with my academic journey. I believe she smiled but winced.
Health challenges, life changes, and family additions all became enmeshed in our greater
world but my wife never stopped encouraging me and knowingly acquiesced to this
additional element being added to our lives. For the first time in our married life there
were vacations, trips, and conferences for one, and many lonely dinners and challenging
social engagements. You share my successes and continue to keep our family together
while allowing me to move on this journey. I cannot thank you enough and I look
forward to being together and holding hands more often. As much as we have shared this
journey I must share this final product and degree with you.
There is one more needed mention: our dear granddaughter Ariana. I know that
you must be very tired of hearing that I need to write or focus elsewhere instead of
playing or being with you but I hope that your exposure to my academic world only
serves to open your eyes to great possibilities and a wonderful future.
This dissertation is by no means a perfect or definitive piece of work. I take full
responsibility for any errors or omission that may appear in this document and I very
much look forward to a continued presence in the field of online teaching and learning.
Stuart C Berry 2014
This dissertation outlines a design-based research study that takes place within
examines the use and
value of a learning archive, as perceived by students through their interactions with
learning artefacts used during their course. Their course is held within an innovative and
experimental social-networked learning environment. This study is based on key
elements of organizational knowledge creation theory, in particular the process of
knowledge creation and the concept of ba being the underlying context within which this
knowledge is developed.
This study documents the perceived impact that visible and persistent knowledge
artefacts have on the process of learning. This study also shows that as artefacts are
accessed and integrated into the overall learning process student engagement and efficacy
are perceived to change in a positive way, and these changes impact both the learning
environment and the learning process.
This study produces two key outcomes. The first outcome is that the use of a
socially networked online learning environment as a virtual classroom can offer a
richness and an openness through its capacity to create, annotate, rate, and comment upon
persistent artefacts. This use, coupled with permeable and flexible boundaries in the
learning environment, offers richness to the learning experience. Learners within a
social-networked space, as is used for this study, have complete control over their privacy
settings and can make their contributions as open or as closed as desired. This type of
environment encourages learning beyond the confines of the classroom and provides
support for learner engagement and efficacy.
The second key finding is that students in this study support the inclusion of a
dynamic course archive containing artefacts from learners in prior iterations of the
course. Given the structural limitations of many online learning environments, this study
demonstrates that such an archive is likely best placed with a social-networked learning
space and with appropriate search, tagging, and navigation tools. The study demonstrates
and will contribute to it in support of the learning of others.
APPROVAL OF DISSERTATION................................................................................. ii
DEDICATION.................................................................................................................. iii
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ............................................................................................... iv
ABSTRACT ..................................................................................................................... vii
TABLE OF CONTENTS ................................................................................................ ix
Chapter One: STUDY INTRODUCTION ..................................................................... 1
Chapter Overview and Study Introduction ..................................................................... 1
Research Study Environment .......................................................................................... 5
Significance and Rationale for the Study ....................................................................... 7
Limitations .................................................................................................................... 13
Dissertation Presentation Model ................................................................................... 14
Chapter Summary ......................................................................................................... 17
STUDY ............................................................................................................................. 18
Chapter Overview ......................................................................................................... 18
Bridging Domains ......................................................................................................... 18
Bridging Academic Domains .................................................................................... 20
Bridging Learning Environment Domains ................................................................ 22
Study Context ............................................................................................................... 26
Research Framework .................................................................................................... 30
Chapter Summary ......................................................................................................... 34
Chapter Three: RESEARCH QUESTIONS ................................................................ 35
Chapter Overview ......................................................................................................... 35
Core Study Questions ................................................................................................... 35
Subsequent Questions Used to Support Study .............................................................. 37
Framing the Study Questions ........................................................................................ 38
Chapter Summary ......................................................................................................... 40
Chapter Four: LITERATURE REVIEW .................................................................... 42
Chapter Overview ......................................................................................................... 42
Literature in a Design-Based Study .............................................................................. 43
Literature Domains ....................................................................................................... 44
Knowledge Creation ................................................................................................. 44
Ba .............................................................................................................................. 64
Tacit Knowledge ....................................................................................................... 83
Reflective Practice .................................................................................................... 92
Socially Networked Learning Environments ............................................................ 96
Efficacy ................................................................................................................... 106
Chapter Summary ....................................................................................................... 111
Chapter Five: METHODOLOGY............................................................................... 113
Chapter Overview ....................................................................................................... 113
Research Paradigm ..................................................................................................... 114
Research Epistemology ............................................................................................... 115
Methodology Background .......................................................................................... 117
Design-Based Methodology ....................................................................................... 118
Structure of the Research Design ................................................................................ 121
Research Environment ................................................................................................ 127
Description of the Intervention ................................................................................... 129
First Iteration of the Study (Implementation of the Intervention) .............................. 133
Second Iteration of the Study (Implementation of the Intervention) .......................... 141
Ethical Considerations ................................................................................................ 144
Data Collection, Analysis, and the Coding Process.................................................... 145
Chapter Summary ....................................................................................................... 156
Chapter Six: RESULTS ............................................................................................... 158
Chapter Overview ....................................................................................................... 158
Study Demographics ................................................................................................... 160
Data Issues and Context .............................................................................................. 160
Results: Use of the Archive ........................................................................................ 162
Use Sharing (n=65) .............................................................................................. 163
Use - Learners Understanding Use and Value (n=42) ............................................ 166
Use - Why Use the Archive (n=26) ........................................................................ 169
Use Ideas for the Future (n=24) ........................................................................... 170
Use - Specifically Looking for Something (n=24) ................................................. 171
Use - Frustration (n=16) .......................................................................................... 172
Use - Limited (n=16) .............................................................................................. 175
Use - Summary ....................................................................................................... 176
Value of the Archive ................................................................................................... 177
Value The Process (n=77) .................................................................................... 178
Value Rich Resource (n=67) ................................................................................ 183
Value Personal Learning (n=36) .......................................................................... 186
Value Perception (n=34) ...................................................................................... 188
Value Future (n=26) ............................................................................................. 190
Value To Help Others (n=23) .............................................................................. 191
Value Current (n=19) ........................................................................................... 192
Value Limited (n=19) .......................................................................................... 192
Value Beyond this Course (n=17) ........................................................................ 195
Value Changed Over Time to Positive (n=14) .................................................... 196
Value Exciting (n=12) .......................................................................................... 197
Value Personal (n=10) ......................................................................................... 198
Value Alumni Support (n=7) ............................................................................... 198
Value Scaffolding (n=2) ...................................................................................... 199
Value Summary ................................................................................................... 201
Challenges With the Archive ...................................................................................... 202
Challenges Personal Efficacy (n=79) ................................................................... 203
Challenges Navigation (n=51) ............................................................................. 207
Challenges Time (n=29) ...................................................................................... 210
Challenges Custom Elgg (n=26) .......................................................................... 212
Challenges LMS vs Social Network (n=27) ........................................................ 212
Challenges Negative (n=16) ................................................................................ 214
Challenges Content Author (n=14) ...................................................................... 214
Challenges Plagiarism Concern (n=11) ............................................................... 217
Challenges Solutions (n=12) ................................................................................ 218
Challenges Hindered Learning (n=8) ................................................................... 219
Challenges Summary ........................................................................................... 220
Custom Elgg The Socially Networked Learning Environment ............................... 221
Custom Elgg Blogging (n=28) ............................................................................. 222
Custom Elgg Navigation Issues (n=25) ............................................................... 224
Custom Elgg Other Environment Comparison (n=23) ........................................ 225
Custom Elgg Bookmarks (n=15) ......................................................................... 226
Custom Elgg Valuable Social Environment (n=15) ............................................ 226
Custom Elgg Strategies for Use (n=13) ............................................................... 227
Custom Elgg Initial Thoughts (n=9) .................................................................... 228
Custom Elgg Summary ........................................................................................ 229
Tacit - Evidence (n=36) .............................................................................................. 230
Chapter Summary ....................................................................................................... 234
Chapter Seven: SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS .................................. 240
Chapter Overview ....................................................................................................... 240
Answering the Questions - Circling Back to Beginning ............................................. 245
Verification of the Reliability and Validity of Data ................................................... 251
Design Principles ........................................................................................................ 254
A Dynamic Course Archive .................................................................................... 254
Social-networked Online Learning Environment ................................................... 260
Implications for Further Research .............................................................................. 267
Chapter Summary and Final Words ............................................................................ 268
REFERENCES .............................................................................................................. 270
APPENDICES ............................................................................................................... 300
Appendix A - Athabasca University Research Ethics Approval ................................ 300
Appendix B - Interview Questions ............................................................................. 301
Appendix C - Reflective Assignment ......................................................................... 302
Appendix D - Email Inviting Participation in the Research Project ........................... 304
Appendix E Data Sample from Iteration One .......................................................... 307
Appendix F Data Sample from Iteration Two ......................................................... 317
GLOSSARY................................................................................................................... 326
Archive ........................................................................................................................ 326
Artefact ....................................................................................................................... 326
Ba ................................................................................................................................ 327
Conversation ............................................................................................................... 327
Explicit Knowledge .................................................................................................... 328
Knowledge .................................................................................................................. 328
Online .......................................................................................................................... 328
Scaffold ....................................................................................................................... 329
Social Social Network ............................................................................................. 329
Tacit Knowledge. ........................................................................................................ 330
Table 1: Study Demographics ......................................................................................... 159
Figure 1: Elgg Group Structure....................................................................................... 149
Figure 2: Initial Coding Scheme ..................................................................................... 152
Figure 3: Coding Refined and Sorted ............................................................................. 154
Figure 4: Use Subcodes .................................................................................................. 163
Figure 5: Value Subcodes ............................................................................................... 178
Figure 6: Challenges Subcodes ....................................................................................... 203
Figure 7: Custom Elgg Subcodes .................................................................................... 221
Chapter Overview and Study Introduction
This document seeks to generate a conversation with its readers about different
ways online environments can be used to support learning and knowledge creation.
 in the relics it leaves
belief that relics have a life beyond their creation and relics can often serve as a nexus for
new and innovative ideas beyond their original intent. This study deals with a form of
relic that I refer to as an online learning artefact, and it is the potential value of these
artefacts contained in an online archive that I examine in this study.
My research occurs within the context of post-secondary online education. In its
more narrow, question-based focus, this research project examines the value perceived by
learners that is generated through their interactions with learning artefacts contained in a
social-networked, online learning space.
The theoretical foundation of the project is based upon a business management
theory known as organizational knowledge creation theory (OKCT) (Nonaka, 1994;
Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Nonaka, Toyama, & Hirata, 2008). My dissertation is
founded on this theory in the belief that elements of this business management theory can
be appropriately re-imaged to offer an education perspective based on this extensively
explain the why, when, what, and how of individual and organizational entanglement in
project is not an a
previously structured it, but to recognize it as an imaginative approach in support of the
creation of knowledge, and to re-examine this theory as an aid in the process of learning
and teaching in an online education context. In addition, this research project shows how
a bridging of disciplines can offer an innovative view into the process of knowledge
creation, and it presents a different perspective on the creating of new and innovative
models and theories in support of online learning.
Innovation is a product of the interaction between necessity and chance, order and
disorder, continuity and discontinuity. Innovation is the result not only of the planned
allocation of resources to meet some predetermined clear objective, but also of some
difficult to predict or duplicate redundancy, chance, uncertainty, or even chaos. It is not
unusual to discover information and knowledge born of the development process that did
not sequentially follow . (Nonaka, 1990, p. 27)
This research project opens idea-doors I never imagined existed and challenges
me in exciting ways that I trust will become evident throughout this document. I am not
sure that naivety and innovation go hand-in-hand, yet it was through my somewhat naïve
jumping in and believing in this project in a very passionate way that I have arrived at
this stage, the final articulation of a multi-year research project. My study starts with
fixed objectives and goals, and despite a concerted effort to keep it within the confines of
did not sequentially follow [my]
original intent
do not follow in a nice and straightforward path, this challenges me to better understand
my assumptions and engage my data in a far more critical way than I may otherwise have
expressed in many forms, gets in the way of my understanding and my ability to
appreciate what is occurring throughout this project. In many respects this is a project-
within-a-project; it is not just a study as outlined in my original proposal, but it is a day-
to-day reflective piece on the process of my personal knowledge creation and learning.
My struggles to understand what was happening in my research environment,
with my data, and with my research participants fortunately were mitigated through a key
element of my research methodology (educational design research also known as design-
based research), in that I am as much a participant in the research as I am a researcher
(Lincoln & Guba, 1986). This brings me face-to-face with almost every aspect of my
study. This creates an element of trial-by-fire and it helps to push my understanding and
my knowledge of the process of knowing. A more detailed discussion of the participant
researcher (Nonaka et al., 2008; Wang & Hannafin, 2005) will be provided in Chapter 5,
my methodology chapter.
No matter how much necessity, order, and continuity I attempt to bring to the
process, I am continually faced with a great degree of chance, disorder, and discontinuity.
difficult to predict duplicate redundancy, chance, uncertainty, [and] even
creation, and this helps me to find better ways to understand my research and the results
as is discussed in the results chapter. As I now re-examine my understandings of this
research project, I reflect on the above quotation (Nonaka, 1990), and ask what if the
word knowledge was used as a synonym for innovation? Could the ensuing chaos
seen as an intentional, interactional element in the process of developing new ideas, and
from these ideas, develop new knowledge?
. The trick is sustained innovation, which realizes
(Bereiter, 2002, p.321). As indicated earlier, this research project attempts to build a
conversation, a dialogue on the process of knowing, and it builds upon an understanding
of how we can make available and better use our tacit understandings. I mean tacit in a
very broad but personal way in this context. In this sense, tacit understanding is a level
of understanding that is held within our minds. However, in saying so we can affect and
assist others in their process of developing new knowledge while at the same time
develop individual thinking and thought processes. Knowledge is formed as a result of
the process of knowing and knowing is informed by knowledge (Nonaka & Takeuchi,
1995). This is a description of the SECI model or knowledge creation cycle, which is,
described in detail in the literature review chapter. This research is about the process of
knowing (Whitehead, 1985) and not the product known as knowledge.
This study examines environmental changes to online learning environments that
in many ways mirror processes used in highly structured corporate environments to
enhance competitive advantage. I argue that these corporate knowledge creation
formal and even informal learning environments and, in the process, potentially offer
learners a competitive advantage.
Research Study Environment
This research study takes place within two consecutive iterations of an online
Masters level course held at a fully online Canadian university. As an active researcher
and member of the two iterations of the course that is studied in this project, I engage the
participants and contribute to a dynamic course archive containing artefacts from current
students and students from prior versions of this course. All of this is done while
experiencing the struggles and challenges that the environment and the archive pose for
the students in the course iterations. I had an opportunity to be a teaching assistant (TA)
in a section of the study course one year previous to the start of my study, and this allows
me to gain some appreciation of the structure, focus, and demands of the course. The
version of the social learning environment in place at the time of my TA involvement
was less refined (fewer features and the search tool was very limited) than the version the
research participants engaged with. Having had this exposure to the course from a TA
perspective helps to orient my thinking with regards to the environment and the existing
archive. As a TA, I had a different relationship with both the students and the professor.
Although at the time I did not see myself interacting in any different way with the class, I
know that my TA role caused me to filter my student interaction in a more assignment-
focussed manner. In this earlier role, I interacted with the course content and the learning
environment rather than as an active observer and researcher. My active participation in
this course environment as both the researcher and an active member allows me to more
clearly appreciate the impact and effects of the archive, and be in a better position to
understand what can be done to create appropriate design principles for the future.
This social-networked environment within which the learning takes place is a key
factor in the way that learners interact with the archive and how it is used throughout
their course. More specifically, this learning space is a custom version of an Elgg
environment that has been built and designed to support learners within the university
community. Elgg (ELGG, n.d.) is an open-source social networking platform and in the
case of the university in question, this custom Elgg environment (referred to throughout
this document as Custom Elgg) moved from being a generic social space to one where
faculty and learners create teaching and learning spaces as well as supportive social
learning spaces across disciplines and beyond the confines of the official learning
management system (LMS) of the institution. The LMS has not been discarded;
however, this custom Elgg social-networked learning space is being used by an
increasing number of staff, faculty and students to support their learning across
disciplines and to provide a safe social space within which conversations can occur,
where faculty and students can create, populate, and nurture their own individual digital
learning and social contexts.
The day-to-day discussions and interactions of face-to-face learning environments
are generally not captured for future use in any form of a long-term archive used in
educational contexts. Learning management systems (LMS), although capable of
capturing these types of exchanges, are not intended (or used) as long-term, student
content re-use tools. They are intended to host single, isolated sections of courses, which
are then closed off upon completion. Anything contained within a course section is kept
together with the course upon its completion and stored away as one would do with
materials from any face-to-face course section. Subsequently, the LMS course is stripped
of spontaneous and temporal student and teacher contributions and then reopened for a
fresh cohort of students. In contrast, the persistent affordances of online learning in a
socially networked environment provide the opportunity to examine and revisit
conversations, learning struggles, and the learning processes of others and it is this
unique aspect of social networked, online learning environments that my study examines.
Technological affordances are rapidly changing the face of learning environments
and this study examines a small but important slice of the way we use online learning
environments during the period from 2009-2011. This research has been framed within a
context of knowledge creation, reflective practice, network and self-efficacy, as well as
the emergent use of socially networked learning environments in education.
Significance and Rationale for the Study
Academic research and writing at times benefit from theories and concepts that
cross between domains and disciplines to support or enhance a particular point or
direction. What takes great effort, however, is the linking of theories or foundational
constructs from one domain to another. Organizational knowledge creation theory
(OKCT) has had over twenty years of very public examination and practical integration
into business management practice and organizational leadership (von Krogh, Takeuchi,
Kase, & Cantón, 2013). This literature is infrequently cited or referenced in mainline
educational research and theorizing. The potential for linking this theory and its core
components into an educational context offers a challenge in that I found few examples
of similar work against which I could push my ideas as presented in this research. My
review of the literature suggests that little appears to have been written supporting or
linking organizational knowledge creation theory to non-business or non-management
areas. However, there is no direct evidence to suggest that those who research and write
almost exclusively within the field of business management and knowledge creation
believe that organizational knowledge creation theory belongs solely within the purview
of business management. There also appears to be little evidence that these theories and
their supporting constructs have been utilized beyond these defined walls. The little I
could find linking these theories to education are referenced throughout this document.
The significance of this study, therefore, lies in the fact that we can now see
concrete evidence of the impact of a theory being bridged across domains. The ability to
build a teaching/classroom archive in different forms has always existed. Technologies
today afford us the opportunity to extend the use and the reach of these types of learning
tools and supports. With an increased use of the Internet, and in particular Web-based
applications being used in business, personal, and education environments, we have the
ability to integrate new and different uses for these various supporting affordances and
theories. Much of this involves repurposing or creatively restructuring models in use in
other domains and exploiting the unique features made available by these evolving online
environments. My attempt to bring aspects of OKCT into an online teaching and
learning environment and use them as a lens to examine the value of the use of an archive
containing learning artefacts is primarily meant to open a door and generate further
discussion and ideas as to how we might re-imagine learning.
th century Difference
Engine as an evolutionary step in our understanding of information. He states that the
 
that the engine:
Rematerialized like buried treasure and inspired a sense of puzzled wonder. With
different sense of anac
like yellowing blueprints in dark cupboards, to be stumbled on afresh by later
The value of an online archive is not about failed inventions, but it is about ideas
-examined and thought through again by future learners.
The importance of an online learning archive may not be very apparent to those so close
to their studies, such that they may see it as a distraction (as inferred by some students in
this study and outlined in the results chapter) or at most the archive ends up being seen as
having limited value (again inferred by some students in this study). However, as with
ated thoughts and tangential ruminations of learners
from the past may very well offer gems for learning and treasure for those willing to
engage that which prior learners left behind unknowingly, or consciously offered up in
the hope that future learners might benefit in some way.
the words of the great authors whose expressions we should not only hold in high esteem,
Our own generation enjoys the legacy bequeathed to it by that which preceded it.
We frequently know more, not because we have moved ahead by our own natural ability,
but because we are supported by the [mental] [sic] strength of others, and possess riches
that we have inherited from our forefathers. [We are like] dwarfs perched on the
shoulders of giantse see more and farther than our predecessors not because we
have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their
gigantic structure. (John of Salisbury, 1955, p. 167)
Academic learning environments are generally structured to introduce learners to
new material based upon a variety of theoretical and practical approaches to teaching and
learning. The pre-set curriculum, the focus of the school or the program, the tools and
context of delivery and interaction, as well as the pedagogical leanings and past
experiences of the teacher generally shape the learning environment. In most cases,
however, iterations of a course or program begin from a predefined zero-point. That is,
in any given course most learners begin the course or program with little or no current
course content or skill knowledge beyond any prerequisite courses or skills, or beyond
the possibility that a learner may have taken a similar course or even may have repeated
this existing course. At the end of the course, learners should have gained some body of
knowledge and demonstrated acquisition of content or skill knowledge.
My meaning of a zero-point is that putting aside a course revision, change in
materials, or a different presentation approach; each subsequent time a course is taught
the course starting point is presumably the same. The course has a pre-defined beginning
and end based upon a belief about a number of factors regarding the student who takes
the course. This idea of the same course each time, along with this zero-point, does not
mean that the teacher or the content did or did not evolve or change. The teacher may
present course material in a different way as a result of any personal evolution.
Regardless of any of these teacher changes, the box encompassing most courses is fairly
Apart from defined prerequisites, most curricula take learners on a unique journey
through a course as groups or individuals; thus, each section of a course starts new. It
might be argued that the journey is not unique as a result of a perceived single message
individual world, what they bring to the experience, and how they learn and experience
their learning (Jacobi, 2011). Learners may be able to demonstrate a shared or common
What earlier learners did or did not do in previous sections of a course or how
learners engaged the materials in previous iterations is almost never a part of subsequent
course iterations except perhaps in tacit knowledge gained by the instructor through
their learning through past experience. It is assumed that learners will discover their own
paths and acquire the new knowledge or skill offered by this course as they engage this
new material. There are courses and programs where starting at a predefined zero-point
may be a key structural part of the course; however, this zero-point start appears to be the
norm for most courses, and any use of past learning artefacts on the part of prior learners
does not appear to be a part of most learning environments and indeed could be
considered cheating or short-changing the student in some contexts.
The use of an archive is a unique innovation in this course at this time and at this
university. However, the idea of persistence and artefact use (in a wide variety of
commercial and institutional social spaces) has and is being explored elsewhere as well.
For example, the University of British Columbia (UBC), Master of Educational
Technology (MET) program has a number of the courses in this program that are offered
within different socially-
social-mediated environments, and student contributions from subsequent course
iterations are maintained as part of the evolution of the course. There are some courses in
the MET program where a zero-point start is a deliberate element in the course design
(Jeff Miller, personal interview, April 8, 2011) while in others there is an archive of prior
student contributions.
As learners struggle to make sense of material presented in a course and as they
engage the course content, they create new knowledge for themselves (both tacit and
explicit knowledge). This is done through the development and organization of cognitive
structures, the creation of new or altering of existing mental structures, and the
subsequent framing of both new and existing models to assist in their individual and in
some cases collective understandings (Holton & Clarke, 2006; Vygotsky, 1978). This
may be done in isolation by reading, completing exercises, and/or writing papers, yet
much of the knowledge development comes from varying forms of engagement,
interaction, collaboration, and the asking of questions and verbally challenging our ideas
by speaking with others or in accessible text formats. This struggling out loud process is
both an internal and an external process. It helps us as individuals to sort through and
resolve contradictions and challenges to inconsistent perspectives. Individually we come
to these new understandings and the result is new knowledge (Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka &
Takeuchi, 1995, Polanyi, 1974).
Subsequent to the creation of new knowledge, we often discard the means by
which this knowledge was developed (Holton & Clarke, 2006). This discarding process
is not necessarily a conscious act. Much of the time we do not consciously know or
understand what we did or heard (Polanyi, 1974) that allows us to create this knowledge,
but ultimately we appear to seek and value the end product and not the process. In this
knowledge creation process, it would appear that we decontextualize the thought from its
own production. The tacit processes decouple from the resulting explicit product. We
are unable to see the tacit elements used to create our understanding, our subsidiary
awareness (Polanyi, 1974), and the process scaffolds or mental construction forms
disappear. We cultivate the product while the idea process lays fallow. This does not
imply that tacit knowledge is visible in the more commonly understood sense of
visibility; however, this research study attempts to look for evidence of tacit knowledge
within the artefacts of learners through the process of their engagement with fellow
technological affordances along with elements of OKCT offer us a unique opportunity to
reframe the way we build and use learning environments
There are pedagogical and potentially privacy issues related to the use of an
archive in credit courses. These are not discussed in any detail in this study. The
pedagogical activities used in the course were designed to benefit from learner perusal of
artefacts of previous sections. Students are informed that their contributions could be
made available to subsequent students (if they chose to share these). But importantly, the
archive was not accessible on the open Net nor to students not registered currently or
previously in the particular Masters degree course being examined.
My study investigates the use, value and related challenges of learner engagement
with artefacts left behind by previous learners as these current learners seek to understand
and work to create new knowledge. This process is framed within the context of an
online academic setting. The study examines what learners value and how they engage
with and use formative learning artefacts. The research takes place within a socially
networked learning environment. The impact of this learning environment is also
examined within the context of the use and value of the archive.
Although this study examines the concept of knowledge creation in an academic
setting and it uses a business management theory of knowledge creation as its foundation,
the study does not delve into issues of knowledge management as these issues were
outside the scope of the project. The study examines student perceptions and attitudes
captured in interviews and from online discussions. It examines the use and perceived
value of the archive. Perceived attitudes toward the authors of the archive content may
have played a role in student engagement with the archive but this was not studied.
Dissertation Presentation Model
My dissertation is presented in the following manner. The first chapter of this
dissertation outlines the research study environment, the significance and rationale for the
study, along with the limitations of this research. This current chapter introduces the
nature of the process of knowledge creation seen through the lens of a business and
management context as well as how this business-focussed knowledge creation model
might be modified and possibly mirrored in an educational context.
This second chapter provides a historical structural basis for the study. It narrows
down the focus and outlines the aims and the nature of the study. The study problem is
placed in context and begins to align the theoretical background to the significance of the
problem. Educational design research encourages the researcher to introduce literature as
and where needed throughout the written document, as well as within a defined literature
review chapter. Elements of the literature are introduced throughout this study to assist
in outlining the importance and the context of the study. Although certain aspects of the
literature may appear later on, they are brought back as the context and focus shifts and
are used to help reframe the conversation (Herrington, J., McKenney, S., Reeves, T., &
Oliver, R., 2007).
Knowledge creation is presented within a framework of twenty years of research
into organizational knowledge creation (von Krogh, Nonaka, & Rechsteiner, 2012). It
includes an outline of the process of knowledge, knowledge creation, the integration of
tacit and explicit knowledge, as well as contextual framework known as ba (Nonaka &
Konno, 1998). This literature links the focus of a design-based study to this study in
particular. The end of this second chapter briefly draws together the significance of the
historical context and the related research. This second chapter leads specifically to a
chapter that focuses on the research questions. These research questions are distilled
from the problem statement. There is a discussion pertaining to the various additional
questions and conversations that surface throughout the study, as well as their impact on
the direction of the study.
This research questions chapter, Chapter 3, attempts to better frame the
discussion and helps to place the overall conversation in context. A chapter devoted to
research questions is not uncommon and considered a viable element in a doctoral
design-based study (Herrington et al., 2007). In an educational research design study the
questions tie directly to the development of theory, as discussed in Chapter 3.
Following this third chapter, the literature review chapter examines six key areas
or domains of study: knowledge creation; the Japanese concept known as ba; tacit
knowledge; reflective practice; online social-networked learning environments; and
finally, the concept of personal or self-efficacy. The final two domains are additions
beyond what was originally proposed for this study. As the study progressed and
changes were made, it became clear just how vital a socially networked learning space
was to the study. As a result, this topic was added to support the direction of the study.
Additionally a review of the concept and value of self-efficacy was added after the data
had been analysed and coded, as it also became clear how much the use of an archive
within a socially networked learning space contributed to student efficacy. These
literature domains speak to the core of this research and provide a foundation for the
study. In a design-based study, the nature of iterations helps bring to light new, and
possibly different, areas that can assist in understanding the nature of the problem, the
possible directions of the study, and in the end, broadens our understanding of what can
be done to offer real world solutions to day-to-day academic challenges. As indicated
earlier, although an examination of the literature occurs formally in Chapter 4, aspects of
it will also appear throughout other chapters, in keeping with the flow of a design-based
The fifth chapter, research methodology following the literature review chapter,
provides an overview and structure of the research paradigm, the design, and the
methodology. This methodology component provides a description of the rationale for
the design-based intervention grounded upon the various paradigmatic views, an outline
of the implementation of the intervention in both the first and the second iteration,
followed by a description of the design principles for the study.
Following this methodology chapter is the results section, Chapter 6. In this
results chapter I outline the outcomes of my study and provide a synopsis of the various
themes and threads that were coded and surfaced from my data. My final chapter,
Chapter 7, is a discussion, conclusion, and an examination of implications for both
practice and further research that have surfaced as a result of this work. This final
chapter also includes a discussion about the various design principles that have been
developed as a result of this study, including examples in support of these principles. I
have added a glossary of relevant terms, which follows the various appendices at the end
of this document.
Chapter Summary
Chapter 1 sets the stage for my study and provides a frame for the reader. The
problem and rationale for this study as well as the scope are outlined. This includes areas
that my study does not attempt to address and that lie outside the scope of this project. In
so doing, I have provided an introductory context in this overview.
Language use has been a challenge throughout my research and as such I have
provided contextual explanations as well as definitions for some of the terms that are
used and reused throughout this document. Finally, I provide a presentation overview of
the flow of this document outlining the remaining chapters. In the following chapter,
Chapter 2, I provide a more broad-based view of the philosophical underpinnings of my
Chapter Overview
This philosophical framework chapter outlines the building of a relationship
between a set of business management concepts and theories and the potential reimaging
of aspects of social networked online learning environments. This chapter helps to frame
elements of organizational knowledge creation theory (OKCT) within my research
context and demonstrate how aspects of OKCT can support learning and knowledge
creation as discussed in this study. OKCT posits that knowledge creation is supported by
environmental factors that are consciously crafted into an environment. I argue that, in a
similar way, student learning and knowledge creation in a socially networked online
learning environment can also be enhanced through access, use, and engagement of
learning artefacts. Through this process, evidence of tacit understandings may also be
made visible thus offering value to current and future learners.
Bridging Domains
OKCT makes no claim with regard to technologies and their use in the workplace.
OKCT is primarily a theory of social interaction. This theory focuses on the inter-
relationships of individuals and the various social exchanges that occur in the creation of
knowledge. My study attempts to examine how aspects of this theory might be used in
an education context. It is in this education context where technologies become a key
affordance for the possible integration of aspects of this theory.
OKCT has been tested and supported in many different business environments
and models have been built putting the elements of this theory into practice (Nonaka,
Toyama & Hirata, 2008). My study tests the incorporation of a dynamic learning archive
in a socially networked learning environment, and examines the impact of its use in
support of learning and knowledge creation. From the education side, there has been
limited use al research (Iverson, 2011; Thomassen
& Rive, 2010; Wise & Duffy, 2008) as it relates to knowledge creation, as well as
nderstandings of tacit and explicit knowledge (Bulterman-Bos,
2008a, 2008b; Wiliam, 2008; McFadyen & Cannella, 2005). Knowledge creation
appears to be used to support specific education-related arguments, while others (Na
Ubon & Kimble, 2002), hoping to find these connections, continue to struggle to see
value due to perceived limitations of current technologies. The connecting of these
concepts needs to be pushed further and thus one of the aims of this study is to build a
design model that can be supported, in part, by these theories.
What was not considered during the early development of the study was what
impact the physical structure of the learning environment would have upon the process of
student engagement with the archive, and how knowledge creation might be affected
through this engagement? It is one thing to examine and understand a theory or elements
of this theory within the context of the world within which the original theory was built,
but to attempt to use this theory and its associated elements within an environment whose
uses are still being developed and tested is something very different.
Exciting and challenging aspects of this study are the many unknowns associated
with the use of a socially networked learning environment, although the relative newness
of the use of this type of virtual social space for formal learning may produce trepidation.
Another unknown is the way by which learners can and/or will use this environment to
their advantage, including whether and how they use the archive. Use of a social
environment such as a virtual classroom provides a unique research opportunity to begin
to examine and possibly find learning activities and pedagogies that exploit the features
of this learning context.
This study begins with the idea of adding a dynamic or ever-evolving learning
archive to an online learning environment, but to do this within a new and relatively
untested social learning environment added a further level of complexity to the study. To
further examine this model using a theoretical construct built, designed, and tested in a
very non-Western business management context, using a non-Western knowledge
creation paradigm, could only open the door to an exciting opportunity for new
knowledge and new theories of learning. This study offers a way for educators to
examine aspects of social networking environments being used in new and challenging
Bridging Academic Domains
Not only can this study offer an opportunity to enrich and connect multiple worlds
across domains but also the design-based model, as employed in this study, is ideally
suited for a cross-domain study (Bereiter, 2002). The goal of this study is to strengthen
the process of learning and knowledge creation within online learning environments,
through the incorporation and use of an online learning archive, and potentially introduce
a new dimension to the process.
Bereiter outlines his understanding of the purpose of design-based research.
Although there is innovation in education it tends to be sporadic and
discontinuous, with the result that innovative practices seldom win out against those with
a long evolutionary history. Factors contributing to this condition include the difficulty
of envisioning the human consequences of innovations and the predominance of research
models that do not contribute to innovation. Design research is an emerging effort to
taken on a clear form or purpose. Design research is not defined by its methods but by
the goals of those who pursue it. (p. 321)
This design-based study pushes the bounds of innovation across academic
domains and links the concepts of organizational knowledge creation to online education.
OKCT has all of the elements required to support an educational context as examined in
this research study, and these supports are outlined throughout the study. This study is
significant in that a model allowing for the connection of these seemingly disparate
domains is proposed, along with the belief that we can continue with this dialogue. In
doing so, this dialogue elicited in me the following general questions to consider in
exploring the connection between domains. They provided me with an initial framework
for my thinking.
If we were able to offer students a connection to the scaffolding process, could
this be of sufficient value to future learners such that these connections could be threaded
into subsequent iterations of courses as useful learning aides? Are these artefacts of value
to future learners? If there is value, then are there learning activities that a teacher could
orchestrate that would assist and promote first the creation and then the use of these
archival scaffolds to enhance learning efficacy or efficiency? Do learners appreciate these
activities or the artefacts themselves as useful aids in their knowledge building? If we
could observe the process of knowing and the development of individual understandings,
or at least see some evidence of this process, if we could then capture these tacit
understandings, the A-ha moments of learning and of creating new knowledge, and then
make them available in some meaningful manner to learners, would we be able to
positively and sufficiently alter the learning paradigm to create dynamic learning spaces?
In this sense, I am referring to distinct learning spaces and not content spaces. This study
attempts to explore these and other questions, to refine them into a set of focused research
questions, and to eventually provide a process model for online learning.
Bridging Learning Environment Domains
The online environment is potentially capable of integrating previously discarded
learning scaffolds into the learning process and thus helps to bring the process of
knowing to the forefront of the learning paradigm. In a very broad way, this statement
can be supported. There are online structures that restrict access or by their very nature
erect barriers to the rich sharing and future use of online discussions, conversations, and
related documents.
As outlined earlier, LMS environments are examples of these restricted, walled
online learning spaces. Social-networked online learning spaces, on the other hand, such
as Wikis, blogs, or aggregated collections of social learning spaces and tools such as
Elgg, (ELGG, n.p.), offer environments with user-controlled, permeable boundaries
where individuals can gather, search, and share resources and hyperlinks, and where
permanence and persistence play a key role. Although it can be argued that the LMS
world also offers a form of permanence, this is only permanent insofar as an institution
may choose to retain the resource. Access to these LMS resources normally ceases after
the course ends, and is neither shareable nor accessible after the fact. Neither previous
group members nor new students can add new content or comment after the fact.
Socially networked learning spaces, on the other hand, generally allow users the right to
keep or share their resources and thus the process of knowing and its outcomes can have
a life beyond any given course.
A possible model by which the above could be examined lies in the integration
and use of Web 2.0 technologies and social software tools in the online classroom.
doing so, it would be necessary to deliberately structure an environment whereby the
teacher integrates Web 2.0
tools such as blogs, wikis, or even the use of a simple micro
blogging tools tool such as Twitter for learners to talk out their learning and engage
others as they struggled to develop new knowledge. This could also include recordings
of past synchronous sessions. Technologies for recording conversations and potentially
capturing the learning process are evolving at a pace such that what might appear
unthinkable today might be acceptable and in use a year from now. In this respect we
need to be open to shifts in thinking about what is needed to support learning and
recognize that, for example, the very use of socially networked environments can and are
being effectively used in support of formal learning (Veletsianos & Navarrete, 2012).
The teacher could continue to engage and animate current discussions as and
where needed, but ultimately socially networked online learning environments could
become learner process beds; incubators where idea forms or scaffolds are shared and
interpreted as the learning process evolves. Learners could engage and/or re-engage
It is understood that information and communication technology (ITC) is
constantly changing and evolving and that the technologies and tools mentioned in this
paper may be different from the start to the finish of this project and beyond.
The term Web 2.0 generally infers an interactive, multi-way electronic platform
these learning environments as they seek means to interpret and develop new ideas. The
ultimate intent would be that at the end of the course the shared resources of the current
course would be incorporated into the next and subsequent iterations of the course in such
a manner as to allow subsequent groups of learners the opportunity to share in the
learning process resource as learners grew to build their own understandings and new
knowledge. Learners could add to the resource by their own ruminations,
understandings, resources, and scaffolds, and these same learners could take from the
resource in the form of integrating their shared understandings into their own knowledge
base. A common example of this iterative growth outside of formal education is
Wikipedia, in which articles are constantly evolving in response to edits from past,
current, and future editors.
To be effective, this process forum ideally should be semantically and temporally
searchable, and be structured to allow for easy, multidimensional access, use, edit, and
movement. In this way learners should be able to come at the resource from different
perspectives. As well, they should be able to take away what is needed or wanted in the
course of their learning and knowledge creation. The idea of multidimensionality in this
respect acknowledges the permeable and amorphous boundaries of the social-networked
learning environment. Multidimensionality is meant to infer these characteristics as
attributes in support of such a model. In this context, the concept of multidimensionality
refers to the many different ways that one can engage the archive. Some may come at it
directly by searching and possibly finding something specific while others might be
exposed to it indirectly through peer referencing and subsequent conversations.
Multidimensional accessibility addresses both the needs of different learning
characteristics as well as how learners may approach online learning environments. This
includes aspects of course design whereby learning paths may be more directed based
upon the focus or intent of the learning outcomes. I should note, however, that this
openness and permanence changes the privacy and confidentiality normally associated
with closed educational classes or online groups. Privacy issues will be discussed at a
later point in this document as these issues pertain to the study environment and the
control end-users have over their use and access of learning resources.
The searchable online archive of student engagement in their course would, in
some ways, mirror elements of the Educational Semantic Web as outlined by Anderson
and Whitelock (2004). The authors introduce three fundamental affordances of the
educational semantic web, and these affordances speak to the potential value of using
archived material in the learning process.
The first is the capacity for effective information storage and retrieval. The
second is the capacity for nonhuman autonomous agents to augment the learning
and information retrieval and processing power of human beings. The third
affordance is the capacity of the Internet to support, extend and expand
communications capabilities of humans in multiple formats across the bounds of
time and space. (pp. 3-4)
Throughout this research project, elements of business and management process
as well as the processes of learning, specifically within online learning environments,
have been intertwined and transposed from the world of business and management to the
world of online learning environments. Through a variety of questions intended to push
the bounds of two seemingly disparate worlds, a bridge of possibilities is built that can
allow for seasoned theory in one discipline to be creatively used in another, and along the
way the end result may offer new opportunities for the process of learning and knowledge
Study Context
My research environment is part of an online Masters level course dealing with
business and development issues related to the management of e-learning environments.
Within this environment, I examine the use and perceived value of past and concurrent
archived online content. This interaction with archived class discussions and copies of
student assignments (my design-based intervention) is well suited to online learning, in
particular due to the fact that technologies today allow us to capture and revisit
interactions of participants in these settings through the use of tools such as asynchronous
blogs and discussion forums, tagged and annotated uploaded files, and logged
synchronous discussions. Normally, learning environments ([LMSs] such as Moodle,
D2L, or Blackboard) are not places where we capture and store the day-to-day
engagement of learners for subsequent reuse. Although it is possible for a record of
these archives to persist and be made available to students as an archive of their course
work, normal practice is to delete or at least make hidden these interactions at the end of
the class term. These archives (if created) are not made accessible to subsequent students
partially for privacy reasons, but mainly because, like the face-to-face classroom
context, there is a shared assumption of transience. We have the technology to maintain
these transactions as an archive. These captured exchanges and articulated acts of
learning, unless purposefully retained, for example as samples to amplify a lesson, are
believed to have limited value outside of the existing lesson.
Through my examination of the literature I found no examples of studies
examining the capture and retention of the day-to-day interactions of students in online
environments for teaching and learning purposes, though such examples may have been
captured and analysed for research purposes. There are examples of online and face-to-
face courses where students use social-networked learning environments. As indicated
earlier, students in the MET program at UBC use a variety of social-networked learning
spaces for their classes, and these conversations are retained and made available for
subsequent learners (Jeff Miller, personal interview, April 8, 2011). At this point in the
writing of my study, there appears to be no formal research focussed explicitly on the use
and value of these persistent forms of learning environments. Researchers from the UBC
MET program have examined their particular use of technology-supported learning
environments (Gaskell & Miller, 2006). None of their work addresses issues pertaining
to the capture and retention of student work, despite a mention in one of their
Dobson, Gaskell, Khan, & Miller, 2007, slide 26). Thus my study makes a novel and
integral contribution to the extant educational research literature.
The concept of artefacts contained within an archive in an online learning
environment may need further explanation. Currently, the mainstay of most online
learning environments is the asynchronous, text format, discussion forum (Garrison,
Anderson & Archer, 2000). The posts that create these forums are usually in the form of
threaded discussions. These posts contain day-to-day conversations, and may contain
evidence of student thinking and processes by which students challenge themselves and
others as they work through problems, share resources, and articulate potential solutions.
In addition to text discussion posts in their various forms, there may also be
individual or group blog posts, wiki entries, voice or video annotations (podcasts),
bookmarks, and comments on bookmarks, as well as documents placed online such as
completed assignments or other softcopy items contributed and offered in support of
learning by instructor or students. There can be recordings of synchronous meetings or
links and URLs to other items pertinent to the learning and/or topics being discussed.
Most of these resources are generated as the course progresses. Importantly, these items
may be annotated, commented upon, liked, favoured, tagged, or sorted by users.
Context and meaning exist within the body of all personal course content added
over the time any group gets together. Like an in-joke, the context and meaning affixed
to any of this personal content may, over time be altered, misunderstood, or
misrepresented. In this study, there were times when students commented on certain
archived content and expressed a lack of understanding about meaning and intent.
Without access to the original context or the author this may create a challenge, yet it
should also allow the current student an opportunity to push their understanding of the
content in relation to the evolution of the course and to push their meaning of what is
read or viewed. Even when students believed they understood the context and intent of
archived content they may still misunderstand the original meaning.
The context of this study is about offering learners an opportunity to observe and
benefit from the learning processes of others engaged in similar activities. I do not
assume that by reading or listening to past contributions anyone would necessarily be
able to intuit the exact meaning of what was recorded. Students can post queries to the
posts of past contributors even if the original post author is no longer part of the class, in
the hope that current students and/or the teacher might join in on this new conversation
and expand upon the thoughts and ideas posted by students from the past. Scaffolds from
the past are being reused.
These items or artefacts are contained within an archive. In a broad sense, and as
defined, the archive is the place where all of these items are stored, including those from
current courses as well as those from earlier sections of a course. The physical structure
of this repository, that I have chosen to call an archive, is only an archive because it
contains items from a previous time period, not because it is physically separate and
called the archive. If, for example, the new section of the course ran from January
through April of Year 3 then any content earlier than January of Year 3 would be defined
as being part of the archive.
The term artefact is used and defined to be any given object in the archive. The
word archive, as with the word artefact, at times caused hesitation and prompted
questions from students about what was meant by these terms. I did not study nor did I
ask why these terms were not well understood. In most instances I explained my
meaning based upon the context of the question or challenge. There is a student
suggestion during this study asking that all prior content be singly located in a physical
place entitled archive in the belief that by having these items defined within one location
it would have been easier to find needed or wanted content. I explained the structure of
the archive, as described above, but I also realized, as will be discussed in the final
chapter, just how important the structure of the learning environment is to making an
archive useful and meaningful for students. In the case of the socially-networked
learning environment within which this study took place, artefacts pertinent to the study
course were located in a great variety of places and it would be very difficult, given the
structure of the environment, to have these artefacts relocated into a single location. The
content may suffer from the removal of the immediate context into which it was posted.
Research Framework
I choose a design-based research methodology for this research project, as this
best suits how I wish to conduct my research and what I hope will be achieved. Although
this methodology suggests a pragmatic approach to my research, this project comes
together with aspects of an interpretative or constructivist research paradigm (Guba &
Lincoln, 2005). Design research aims to produce environmental change while
developing practical theories that work in the real world (Barab & Squire, 2004). In
-based research is as both the designer as well as
the researcher taking on an active role as a member in the project (Wang & Hannifan,
2005). My research seeks to develop usable design principles through the construction,
inclusion, and use of an archive in online learning environments
In my original research proposal I use the term design-based research (DBR) to
describe my methodology, as this was the most established name for this methodology at
the time I began my study. The term educational design research (EDR) is an umbrella
term now used to desigfamily of approaches that strive toward the dual goals of
developing theoretical understanding that can be of use to others while also designing and
implementing interventions 
2012, pp. 17-19). McKenney and Reeves indicate two main reasons for using EDR. The
first is to bring the word education into the term itself, and secondly it is felt that there are
other research approaches using similar language terms to DBR, thus creating
unnecessary confusion. The term design-based research (DBR) will, at times be used
when I am quoting or referencing sources that use this term and where the older term
design-based research is most applicable.
Design-based research (DBR) is defined as follows:
A methodology designed by and for educators that seeks to increase the impact,
transfer, and translation of education research into improved practice. In addition, it
stresses the need for theory building and the development of design principles that guide,
inform, and improve both practice and research in educational contexts. (Anderson &
Shattuck, 2012, p. 16)
Design based research was proposed as a way of attempting to better understand
the challenges of the real and, at times, chaotic world of educational practice. The very
flexible design revision, multiple dependent variables,
(Barab & Squire, 2004, p. 3). The object is to study the
impact of environments where the researcher has incrementally changed or altered
(van den Akker, Gravemeijer, McKenney, & Nieveen, 2006, p. 4). Additionally, the
object is to connect real world problems with educational research (Amiel & Reeves,
2008). Design and research are not seen as separate entities, as they are intended to work
design principles and theories
and Reeves, 2010, p. 264).
This design-based research model also allows for an iterative process such that
changes can be made to the research environment if and when evidence indicates that
changes are appropriate. As the reader will see, the learning context changes from
iteration to iteration, both due to an evolution in the student-teacher-researcher-learning
environment relationship and incremental improvements in the social-networked software
platform that supports the course. The dynamic nature of this model is ideally suited for
the interactive amessiness of real-world
practiceBarab & Squire, 2004, p. 3) should allow for a more realistic view of
knowledge creation through interactions with recurrent archived online discussions.
This dissertation, with its various chapter headings and sections, is structured and
formatted based upon a design-based model proposed by Herrington, McKenney, Reeves
and Oliver, (2007lack of impact of educational
research2) has, for too long, produced limited results in the discipline. One of the
reasons they cite is that education doctoral students are being poorly prepared to do
educational research. They support this, in part, with the work of Shulman, Golde,
Bueschel, and Garabedian (2006), in which these authors examine the difference between
PhD programs in education and education doctorates (EdD), and conclude that the
distinction between these two degrees is significantly blurred such that it has led to a
watering down of both degrees, particularly in the area of teaching future academics how
to develop effective research. Herrington design-based
research integrates the development of solutions to practical problems in learning
environments with the identification of reusable design principles
acknowledge the time involved to effectively manage this form of research. In an
attempt to encourage more design-based research in the education profession, they
propose a model that permits doctoral students to complete a design-based study within
the limited time frame of most doctoral programs.
The model Herrington et al., (2007) build for this type of doctoral research
includes a structure that tightens the research time frame to four years, yet still allows for
a great deal of scope to provide a clear and convincing case that the research will be
conducted with rigor and responsibility, and it helps design-researchers to clarify their
role(Herrington, et al., 2007, p. 8). The four-year time frame begins with acceptance of
the research proposal and allows for up to three iterations of a study. In my case, there
were two design iterations, which spanned an 8-month period, and the complete process
took approximately four and a half years.
A key reason a design-based model was chosen for this study was that it permits
me to become actively involved in my research and not be an external observer of the
education context and events from a distance. It also allows me to directly interact with
and experience my research environment, along with the various participants, in such a
way that I can be a part of their world and attempt, as best as possible, to see the research
environment from their perspective. Within this model, I am as much a research
participant as I am the researcher. My experience, foreknowledge, and understanding of
the intent of the project gave me a very different participant-view. I am, at times
challenged by having to wear multiple hats throughout this project. The very nature of
the tacit experience is that it is a human activity that must be lived and not just observed.
All of the elements of this study (theoretical and practical) are threaded throughout in
such a way that the base theory underlying this project, organizational knowledge
creation theory (OKCT) and its distinct elements, become part of the process.
Chapter Summary
This chapter outlines a philosophical framework in support of this research study.
It outlines the bridging of different academic and learning environment domains as well
as the framing of the context of the study within these bridged elements. This chapter
seeks to help the reader connect a seemingly disparate set of concepts into a cohesive
argument and set the stage for the following chapters.
Chapter Overview
This chapter outlines the questions that guide this study and provides a context for
additional questions that frame the daily interactions of the study participants. Cohen,
Manion, and Morrison (2008) outline a framework for the planning of research and
examine the nature of research questions. These authors discuss how research questions
determine the focus and duration of the research, and how there is a strategic nature to the
xample, some
questions could lead to and demand lengthy data gathering, resulting in great cost in time
and money. Cohen et al., (2008) also talk about the process of operationalizing the
research questions. The researcher needs to ask if the questions are measurable and, even
more profoundly, if they are answerable.
A design-based qualitative research study is, in some ways, a moving target. The
research questions need to begin to address the design, construction, and measurement of
an intervention. As the study moves forward and the results lead to iterative changes in
the research environment, then these questions can and often should be modified to
account for this changed environment. Questions need to address possible alternatives to
the originally planned learning environment, how these changes might be put in place,
and ultimately how these changes can be sustained (Herrington, et al., 2007).
Core Study Questions
The initial three questions informing this research focus on the use, the value and
perceived barriers of an online archive. These three questions are listed here as outlined
for the research participants in their original unedited language:
In an online distance education setting, how can the process of knowledge creation be
orchestrated and supported by the use of student and teacher created digital archives
including archived discussions, blog postings, shared bookmarks, wiki pages,
asynchronous and logged synchronous discussions?
What perceived value do these archives offer current learners; what impact do these
perceptions of their levels of persistence,
motivation, and reflective practice; and what other effects surface as a result of
having past and concurrent archived material embedded in the curriculum?
Are there perceived barriers to the use of these archives? If such barriers exist, are
these barriers seen to be as a result of the use and/or accessibility of the archives, the
nature or dynamic of the current course, issues of privacy and control, or other
inhibiting factors?
In short, I want to understand if and how learners in a natural education context
use an archive, if they see value in its use, are there barriers in the use of the archive, and
what kinds of barriers The primary practical contribution of educational
design research is the intervention developed to s
(McKenney & Reeves, 2012, p. 41). My hypothesis is that a device such as an ever-
growing and changing archive, available from course section to course section, offers
learners an opportunity to stand on the shoulders of those who went before and benefit
from prior lessons learned. Another aspect of my hypothesis is that elements of
knowledge creation theory (Nonaka & von Krogh, 2009) can be applied to this
intervention and that this theory can evolve to support socially networked online learning
environments. Iembedding the pursuit of theoretical understanding in the design and
development of educational interventions [that] sets educational design research apart
from others
Subsequent Questions Used to Support Study
Within the frame of the research environment I develop the following seven sub-
questions, which I use as the basis for follow-up interviews but are also placed as a
resource document in my research study home in the Custom Elgg. These questions are
repeatedly used to construct a conscious frame around an online archive and assist the
research participants as they work within the social-networked learning environment.
has changed or altered the way you learn in this course?
Do you feel that the archive has added value to your learning in the course? If so
please name any benefits you feel you have received as a result of your engagement
with the course archive.
In your weekly discussions with your peers, how do you feel that your archive access
has benefitted you in these discussions?
Does the semi-public access to your writings (your course peers, current and future)
cause you to be more or less inhibited with your writing? Knowing that your current
discussions may become part of the archive for future learners has this changed how
or what you say online? Does an audience, your peers in this course, inspire you to
write differently or does it possibly cause you to be more cautious? Why?
The social networking environment within which you have been working allows for
different privacy settings. Have you changed your settings from the default, and if so,
how has this impacted your contributions to the course discussions?
As you examined the archive and read through the various contributions, did this
cause you to generate new ideas, questions, or thoughts about your current work in
the course?
What types of issues or concerns inhibited your access and use of the archive? Please
indicate if you feel that these issues might be related to the course and its design, your
ability to access and use the archive, or some other concerns.
When the three core questions were originally structured I believed that each
question would receive equal attention. Yet as time went on in this project, a mix of
value and perceived barriers or challenges received more attention from the research
participants. As will be discussed in the results chapter, the impact of the learning
environment appears to also influence learner perceptions about value. This appears to
challenge the students to spend time with and appreciate the value of the archive. These
perceived barriers might otherwise not have been present and might have allowed the
learners to focus on the usefulness of the archive instead of the things that may have
gotten in the way. The above questions will be further discussed and framed within the
methodology chapter and the results chapter, which follow the literature review chapter.
Framing the Study Questions
The initial three research questions which form the basis of the study proposal
attempt to address issues raised by Cohen et al., (2008); are they measurable and
answerable, and do they take into account the multiple iterations of the research
environment. These three questions, in a truncated fashion, frame much of the research
conversation and are repeatedly used to focus the dialogue. They shape the conversation
and they allow both the researcher and the research participants an opportunity to
continually circle back and reflect upon the potential value of the intervention: the
archive. Additional sub-questions are added to flesh out further understandings and to
attempt to move the conversation to a place where real life solutions might surface and
support ways that this intervention can move beyond the purview of this dissertation.
(McKenney & Reeves, 2012, p. 9). An accepted premise of this research has been that,
he goals of design research are to generate useful design interventions and refine
participants need to evolve as both participants and the researcher learn and gain
insightful knowledge about the process and the context (the emerging and growing
archive and tools needed to support its creation). In many ways there is a significant
meta-aspect to this study in that the grounding theory of this study, organizational
knowledge creation theory (OKCT), helps to inform the way that I, and at times the
participants, engage both the archive and each other. Although much of the direction
from both the questions and ensuing discussions revolve specifically around the core
elements of the three questions, participants not only talk about aspects of OKCT but
they work to engage each other using some of the principles outlined in the theory. For
example, the concept of ba becomes, at times a conscious working element for some of
the research participants. This was theory in practice.
The evolution of subsequent questions came about as new knowledge about the
use, value, and perceived barriers to the use of the archive surfaced and the process by
which the archive developed, evolved, and was subsequently used. Evidence of the
knowledge creation cycle (referred to as the SECI process) and the way that different
ba’s developed, shaped aspects of the archive and prompted rich conversation and
question tangents. Additionally, as the research participants began to better understand
and appreciate the social-networked learning environment within which their course was
occurring, their interactions with the archive, current and past members of the course, and
members of the broader social-networked learning environment changed. Some
participants began to offer suggestions as to the reshaping of questions leading to
possible design changes for the way that the archive might be structured and used in the
future. There were also issues that came to light only after the data had been analysed.
These issues have been added to the results section. In particular the issue of efficacy
surfaced through the many conversations of the students. Efficacy is included as a final
course reflection question (efficacy as an overall issue for students in the study course
iterations) and it surfaced as a significant factor and outcome of this research. My study
focuses on and uses the questions as outlined in this chapter and although issues surfaced
independently of these questions, these unintended results have added to and helped to
contribute to the final elements of this study.
Chapter Summary
This brief questions chapter provides an overview of the questions guiding this
study. It outlines the core reach of the study through the additional sub-questions. The
three main questions and the guiding conversation sub-questions help focus my study and
allow the research participants an opportunity to frame their perception of the archive. As
will be seen in the following literature review chapter, issues beyond the original focus of
these questions come to light during this study. Through these issues, unforeseen at the
start of my study, I trust that the reader can begin to see the evolution and eventual frame
that has become my research project.
Chapter Overview
My literature review will focus on six areas/domains. These are: knowledge
creation; ba; tacit knowledge; reflective practice; socially networked learning
environments; and, efficacy.
The literature review process is critical in design-based research because it
facilitates the creation of draft design guidelines to inform the design and
development of the intervention that will seek to address the identified problem.
-based research, the literature review is a continual process. Findings
from an iteration of review often promulgate further literature study as well as
fine-tuning of the principles guiding the design. Inherent in the literature review
is the identification of the conceptual underpinnings of the problem in order to
assist the researcher to understand and predict the elements of a potential solution.
(Herrington, et al., 2007, p. 4093)
Chapters 1 and 2 of this dissertation have elements of the literature threaded
throughout. This literature review chapter narrows the scope of the discussion to the six
domains outlined. This begins by examining the process of knowledge creation including
an overview of the concept of knowledge as well as an examination of a link between
knowledge and learning. The literature explores the impact of tacit knowledge and then
will review the nature of reflective practice for the learner interacting with archived
discussions. This reflective practice domain is based upon Schö
concepts of reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action. Next I review the literature on
social-networked learning environments as it pertains to the creation and use of a learning
archive. This social networking domain was not included in my original research
proposal as it was not, at the time, seen as a possible issue and/or a factor that could
impact my study. This topic has, in many respects, become a cornerstone element that
needs further study and appreciation as educators build learning environments to support
collaborative understanding and knowledge creation in education.
My final literature domain surfaced as a result of student responses to a self-
reflection question at the end of the course. As I analysed and coded the data I realized
that this domain, although not recognized at the beginning of this study, was one that
needed to be incorporated as part of the whole. Students were asked whether or not the
course affected their net efficacy. This question, the direct responses to the question, and
various conversations stemming from an understanding of efficacy cause me to realize
the importance of efficacy as a key element in this study. The concept of personal
efficacy became a key coded piece of the data as students articulated their beliefs about
their capability to accomplish challenging goals (Patterson & Kelleher, 2005).
Literature in a Design-Based Study
As indicated in the Herrington, et al., (2007) opening quote at the start of this
chapter, the literature review in a design-based research study is a continual process.
This review of the literature has been modified to keep pace with this study. This
literature outline sets the stage for the research, supports the findings, and provides
structure for the iterative nature of the study.
The literature review in a design-based study helps to reinforce the intervention
and affirm issues specific to the study and the intervention (Herrington, et al., 2007).
Researchers need to assume that the identified problems, or at least aspects of these
problems, have been acknowledged elsewhere and been studied. It is this literature that
underlies and supports much of the direction of this study. Although there is limited
evidence of specific research aimed at the issues being examined in this study, the
literature domains being reviewed speak specifically to key elements of the intervention
in this study and assist to legitimize the process. As McKenney and Reeve (2012) ask:
What can literature tell us about this kind of problem; this type of context; and
given these, typical concerns of these kinds of stakeholders? The literature review
serves two main purposes: it provides ideas, which can help shape data collection,
and it can be used to identify frameworks (or important elements thereof) for data
experienced this or similar problems, and to examine how and why these
problems were addressed, with what results [Italics in original]. (p. 92)
Literature Domains
Knowledge Creation
Knowledge, defined very broadly, is viewed as a valuable resource in many
disciplines, particularly in business and management. Corporate knowledge is what sets
one organization apart from another (Konno, 2013). In an educational learning context,
knowledge is seen both as a process and as a resource: an attainable product. What if we
look at the learning equation differently? What if knowledge, that which we seek to attain
and perceive as the valued end product, was the misdirected focus of our learning? What
if we focus on the learning process and not the learning product? This research, in part,
examines knowledge as a process and not a product. Senge (1990) talks about the
process of learning where he states, learning organizations [are places] where people
continually expand their capacity to create results they truly desire, where new and
expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and
p. 3).
I examine the framework of knowledge as it is conceptualized above: what it is
and how it might be viewed through different lenses. In addition, I examine the process
of knowledge creation, the process of learning, and in doing so I outline the elements
required to support such process environments.
Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) discuss knowledge as a competitive resource. They
cite Drucker (1993), where he argues, 
p. 6). They quote Toffler (1990) on his belief that
p. 7), and they refer to Reich
"symbolic analysts who are equipped with the knowledge to identify,
solve, and broker new probp. 7). 
636). Knowledge, the process of knowing, needs to be seen as the foundational resource
for any learner: this process, this understanding of what knowledge is becomes not only a
 . As they conclude their
observers of business and society, none of them has really examined the mechanisms and
p. 7). This study examines some of the
mechanisms and processes by which knowledge is created through interactions with other
participants, the content (both teacher and peer created), and the virtual classroom in their
online learning environment.
Knowing the value of understanding knowledge and the process of its creation
leads us to search for the ways in which knowledge is created in formal learning contexts.
This study seeks to offer alternative ways of viewing the knowledge creation process.
Vygotsky (1978) introduced the idea of scaffolding in a learning context with children
and elaborated on this in a discussion that he called the Zone of Proximal Development
(ZPD). The ZPD is described as "the distance between the actual developmental level as
determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as
determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more
capable peers
No knowledge passes explicitly to the novice from the more expert participants,
as they move together with increasing synchrony. Rather, within the framework
provided by the structure of the activity as a whole, of which the entraining
movements of the other participants are just one part, the novice gradually
constructs the organizing cognitive structures for him or herself and brings his or
her actions into conformity with the culture-given pattern. (p. 320)
Learners need a structure, a set of scaffolds that assist learners in connecting
knowledge elements and upon which they then build new knowledge. Holton and Clarke
an act of teaching that (i) supports the immediate
construction of knowledge by the learner; and (ii) provides the basis for the future
independent learning of the individual
the ability to engage the archive in a meaningful way is dependent upon the pre-existing
scaffolds or construction forms that learners possess and bring with them, as well as those
that the teacher frames in the course, yet the process of accessing and using archived
material changes learner scaffolds by the very nature of accessing the archive (Polanyi,
1974; Tsoukas, 2011). As learners spend time using the archive and hear from others
about their experiences in the archive, scaffolding structures are altered and learners
develop the ability to interact with the archive in a different fashion. This research study
examines the above use and the potential changes that learners may experience as a result
of the use of an online archive. Scaffolds are both brought into the knowledge creation
process and they are built during the process. Having an understanding of what a
scaffold is and how it is built and used in the knowledge creation process is a key piece of
finding value in the archive. This value can be realized as a design construct and
integrated into socially networked learning environments in the future.
Creative advances in technology offer up innovative synchronous, asynchronous,
and, immersive environments that move learners beyond the confines of physical space.
The lead author of the article quoted later on in the literature review chapter (Erden, von
Krogh, & Nonaka, 2008) expressed reservations when asked about the portability of
business and management organization-based concepts to the world of online learning
and education, as is intended in this study (Z. Erden, personal communication, February
11, 2009). The reservations may come from a limited understanding and use of
computer-mediated learning environments and part of this study attempts to bridge the
above perception gap. Throughout this study, limited perception and understanding of
these new and emergent learning contexts has been one of the many challenges I have
Many of the above examples throughout this document are structured within the
world of organizations (Nonaka & Toyama, 2005a, 2005b; Nonaka & Nishiguchi, 2001),
primarily corporate or business organizations. Within a business context these examples
refer to individuals, individual knowledge creation, individual understanding of
knowledge as well as different uses and meanings of the language. This study examines
online learning through the lens of this business context. One of the premises of this
study is that much of the research done in the world of business and management aimed
at knowledge creation may be applicable to academic learning generally, and to online
learning environments in particular. While there may be differences in the objectives of
organizational knowledge creation, many of the processes can be seen to transcend the
academic and the management worlds.
Nonaka (1991) begins a discussion of knowledge creation in a management and
organizational context. This has since become a mainstream conversation (Nonaka &
Takeuchi, 1995; Nonaka & von Krogh, 2009; von Krogh, Nonaka, & Rechsteiner, 2012;
von Krogh, Takeuchi, Kase, & Cantón, 2013). Nonaka argues that Japanese
organizations view knowledge in a holistic way quite different from the Western explicit,
external view of knowledge, which is seen as something tangible outside and beyond the
person. He begins 
tacit Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995, p. 8).
Others have re--west division of knowledge (Gueldenberg &
Helting, 2007) and conclude that the process should be less about division and more
about a broader understanding of interdisciplinary work and about developing parallel
lines of understanding between these east-west schools of thought. In part, this study
examines different views of knowledge and knowledge creation. Nonaka and Takeuchi
(1995) push the knowledge discussion by stating 
not simply a matter of learning from others or acquiring knowledge from the outside.
Knowledge has to be built on its own, frequently requiring intensive and laborious
p. 10). The use of an online archive by
de Haën, Tsui-Auch, and Alexis, (2001) discuss the social construction of
discuss this theory from the perspective of its proponents and go on to add that the theory
sic], character of
interaction and practices of actors who are bound by material and social circumstances in
Organizational knowledge creation has become a focal interest of 21st century
business and management as it has proven to be a key component to the development of
dynamic knowledge and knowledge processes (Nonaka & von Krogh, 2009; von Krogh,
Nonaka, & Rechsteiner, 2012). I will attempt to demonstrate through this study that core
components of OKCT are applicable to education, and in particular to online learning
environments. After all, the nowledge creation process relies heavily on shared
. 135). Throughout this study it is the
shared learning that supports knowledge creation.
amplifying knowledge created by individuals as well as crystallizing and connecting it
1179). Organizational knowledge creation theory maps out different paths by which
organizations create and capture the process of knowledge generation to affect
competitive advantage. As well, this theory examines the processes inherent in
knowledge creation, including elements believed necessary to support the generation of
new knowledge while ensuring that these processes become embedded in the
organization to allow for continued knowledge growth and development. 
purpose of organizational knowledge creation theory is to identify conditions enabling
p. 1185). The above is
. von Krogh, Ichijo, and Nonaka, (2000) suggest that there are five enabling
factors in the process of knowledge creation. These are: instilling a knowledge vision;
managing conversations; mobilizing knowledge activists; creating the right context; and
globalizing local knowledge. Thomassen and Rive (2010) discuss these conditions in an
educational context. These enabling conditions are further outlined within the context of
online learning and they are supported in the design principles as outcomes of this study.
Two of the fundamental elements of OKCT are epistemology and knowledge
creation. Epistemology, within the context of organizational knowledge creation theory
al., 2006, p. 1180). Organization and management theory evolved from knowledge being
seen as information and impersonal external objects (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995) to
knowledge being embodied within individuals and being personal to the holder of the
knowledge (Polanyi, 1974). Based upon the evolution of the ideas about knowledge
being personal and embedded within individuals, organizations need to understand how
knowledge can be transferred or shared among individuals and beyond to the
organization itself. Some (Thomassen & Rive, 2010) suggest that knowledge can only be
when knowledge is articulated 
(p. 157). There are challenges with respect to the process of acquiring knowledge. For
example, as stated above, the i
Knowledge has to be built on its own, frequently requiring
p. 10). When
we look at an example of the knowledge creation process we encounter the word
particular process.
This evolving understanding around knowledge creation and acquisition raises
many questions about the theory of knowledge ranging from the tangible, explicit,
Western philosophical approaches (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995), to the ideas of tacit
knowledge (Polanyi, 1967, 1974; Polanyi & Prosch, 1977), as both an internal human
process and the basis from which new knowledge is created. The basis for knowledge
understanding within organizational knowledge creation theory also includes more
abstract eastern understandings of knowledge based upon Buddhist philosophy (Chia,
2003; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Varela, Thompson, & Rosch, 1993).
This research touches upon elements of these epistemological areas but will more
knowledge. Tacit knowing is generally seen as the knowledge, know-how, and knowing
that each of us possess internally, whereas explicit knowledge is seen as a tangible
product: a visible expression of our knowing external to ourselves (Polanyi, 1974;
Tsoukas, 2011). This research will also include a Japanese philosophical context known
as ba or Basho
, a context within which learning and knowledge creation can occur (Abe,
1988; Krummel & Nagatono, 2012; Nishida, 1990; Nonaka, Konno, & Toyama, 2001;
Shimizu, 1995; Tremblay, 2009a, 2009b). These tacit and ba concepts will be further
explained later in this literature review chapter.
Within organizational knowledge creation theory, 
and tacit
[italics in original] (Nonaka, et al., 2006, pp. 1181-1182). In other words knowledge is
that which has been produced through the process of observation, reflection and
p. 954). The word knowledge is used to describe both the
tangible and the intangible. This leads to a concern that if knowledge is tacit (intangible)
by definition, then how can it be observed (Tsoukas, 2011)? This study will attempt to
answer this question and demonstrate a context within which evidence of tacit knowledge
can be made visible. Ultimately it is our engagement with tacit and explicit knowledge
that leads to the process of knowledge creation
The second fundamental element of OKCT poses certain semantic challenges as
noted earlier. As part of the knowledge creation cycle, Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) use
the phrase knowledge conversion to define the process of knowledge creation. Within the
framework of this theory, knowledge is generated through the process of converting tacit
understandings to a form that can b
The word ba is always italicized, while the word Basho is not. This formatting
is in keeping with the conventions used by Nonaka and Konno (1998), and others who
reference these terms in this fashion throughout their literature.
tacit world. In the context of this study, as in much of the literature, knowledge
conversion is also synonymous with the term knowledge creation (Nonaka & von Krogh,
2009). The challenge with the language regarding the word conversion, however, is that
in the knowledge creation cycle, conversion infers that tacit knowledge changes form.
rstanding, one is now capable of moving to other forms of
2009) writings on this topic have evolved in the 20-plus years that this conversation has
been public. Although I understand that he and others have evolved in their thinking on
this issue, the language continues to challenge. Knowledge creation becomes the basis
for new knowledge and meaning. The original knowledge base and the ensuing newly
constructed knowledge may be a combination of explicit or tacit knowledge and the
process of creation can occur in different ways. In the end it is the process and not the
knowledge itself that enables knowledge creation. 
that there is experience because there is an individual, but that there is an individual
p. 19).
Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) proposed a knowledge creation model that involved
four elements: socialization; externalization; combination; and, internalization (SECI).
This process model is important and a key element in helping to visualize the process of
knowledge creation. As outlined earlier, knowledge as an idea or concept can be
understood in different ways and at different levels. Nonak
articulate the process by which we engage each other as we develop and acquire
knowledge. These four elements are described in the following manner. Socialization is
seen as the process of sharing tacit knowledge among individuals
apprentice system is a typical method of transferring knowledge through socialization,
where the apprentice observes the master to acquire know-how through imitation and
others through
Nonaka, Toyama, & Hirata, 2008, pp. 20-21).
Externalization is the process of articulating 
explicit formseidetic
intuition,eidos or a
form and therefore requires great strength of imagination [Italics in original] (p. 22).
This may include the use of language in a very broad sense.
Combination is the combining of these different explicit elements into further
explicit forms that allow individuals to interact with explicit knowledge. A current
example of combination is the development of open source software. Individuals from
all over the world have shared their knowledge to expand and further develop many
complex applications and operating systems. In a world of global efficiencies,
programmers have combined their understandings and explicit processes and through
multiple iterations of this sharing have developed a rich and unique product (Nonaka,
Toyama, & Hirata, 2008).
Finally, internalization is an individual process of reinterpreting explicit
knowledge tacit knowledge and from this experience building new tacit
knowledge 
have learned from our actions and simultaneously convert explicit knowledge into [a]
Nonaka and Takeuchi refer to this SECI process as the knowledge cycle; they see
knowledge creation is an ever-expanding cycle. There are multiple dimensions to
knowledge and the processes by which knowledge is created. This study will not
examine all of these dimensions. Organizational knowledge creation theory, however,
acknowledges these dimensions as well as where the SECI model fits within the
knowledge creation process. In the years since this model was introduced, the SECI
model has been modified, and reinterpreted by the original authors and others (Chia,
2003; Choo, 1998; Choo & Bontis, 2002; Cook & Brown, 1999; Davenport & Prusak,
2000; Gourlay & Nurse, 2005; Ichijo, von Krogh, & Nonaka, 1998; Kenny, 2001;
Nonaka & Toyama, 2007a; Nonaka, et al., 2006; Nonaka & von Krogh, 2009; Nordberg,
2006; Spender, 1996; von Krogh, Ichijo, & Nonaka, 2001), yet the core SECI process has
become a staple within management literature and is the basis for a wide variety of
tangential and evolutionary discussions. For example Chen, McQueen, and Sun (2013)
use the SECI model as the foundation for their examination of knowledge transfer and
knowledge building at offshored technical support centresunlike the other
models, the SECI spiral explicitly considers the interaction of explicit and tacit
knowledge, spiraling through the individual, group and organizational levels. The SECI
spiral model has been widely used in knowledge management researchIn this
study I attempt to link the four SECI stages to student engagement with the archive.
OKCT puts forward an epistemological framework supported by an enabling
approach to the creation of knowledge. This is a successful model (Nonaka, Toyama, &
Hirata, 2008) albeit one that appears better suited to certain specific cultural approaches
in business: more specifically the Asian marketplace. It is recognized that this theory and
ensuing discussion regarding key elements of this theory are primarily based upon
Japanese business models (Glisby & Holden, 2003) and Buddhist philosophy. It is also
understood that many of these ideas have not been fully adopted by western-based
management thinking (Chia, 2003; Nonaka & von Krogh, 2009; von Krogh, Nonaka, &
Rechsteiner, 2012). In a global business marketplace as well as a global education
marketplace where online offerings transcend traditional barriers, a broader mix of ideas
and cultures can only serve to enhance education and deepen our understanding of
learning and knowledge creation within online education. OKCT and its key cross-
cultural elements need to be examined through the lens of online learning environments
in an attempt to foster a more shared understanding of the knowledge creation processes
experienced by online learners.
OKCT offers a comprehensive model supporting the creation of knowledge.
Research in this area continues to push the bounds of this topic (von Krogh, Nonaka, &
Rechsteiner, 2012). There is little in the conversation as a whole that goes beyond the
purview of business management and leadership, despite the fact that much of the model
appears most suited to support knowledge creation in online learning environments.
Certain elements of this conversation are being explored in academic settings
(Thomassen & Rive, 2010); however, there are a limited number of examples to work
with. 
the process of making our personal tacit world an extensible component of that world
beyond us, is very much a day-to-day struggle for the online learner. Learners continue
to struggle, for example, to find ways to express their understanding of material they have
learned or to write in a way that clearly explains concepts or ideas. Although we might
not refer to learners in an organizational sense, the process of organizational knowledge
creation is very much an aspect of online learning.
Knowledge creation is a continuous, self-transcending process through which
one transcends the boundary of the old self into a new self by acquiring a new context, a
new view of the world, and new knowledge
Knowledge creation poses a variety of concerns with regard to understanding language
use. The most significant of these issues is the struggle to come to a common
understanding of knowledge as a term and a concept. The noun, knowledge, is defined
in multiple ways (Knowledge, 2010) in both a business and an education context. The
literature pushes the bounds of its use and intent, (Chia, 2003; Choo, 1998; Choo &
Bontis, 2002; Collins, 1993; Davenport & Prusak, 2000; Findlay, 2003; Gourlay, 2006a;
Gourlay & Nurse, 2005; Nonaka, 1991; Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995;
Nonaka & Toyama, 2007a, 2007b; Nonaka, Toyama, & Byosiere, 2003; Nonaka,
Toyama, & Hirata, 2008; Nonaka, von Krogh & Voelpel, 2006; Nordberg, 2006;
Popadiuk & Choo, 2006; Spender, 1996; Thomassen & Rive, 2010; von Krogh, Ichijo, &
Nonaka, 2001; Wise & Duffy, 2008) in part due to the generally implied umbrella-way
that the term is used and understood in both business and education settings. The
nuances of the language begin to create an impact when others terms are introduced in an
attempt to clarify the current use of the word. In my study, knowledge (both tacit and
explicit), learning, information, and data are words used to support each other. Through
our general use of these words, we end up creating a lack of clarity in their meaning and
our understanding of them. This also surfaces when we talk about the process of
knowledge creation. Ultimately both the context and specific intent attached to the use of
these words need to be recognized in order to ensure clarity of meaning particularly as
the words are used throughout this study. This is particularly true of the SECI process,
but in this regard we will see how the term knowledge shifts throughout the knowledge
creation process. I will attempt to clarify, define, and redefine where necessary, my use
and intent of these words throughout this document.
Judgement consists of the subsumption of a particular subject by a universal predicate, so
 359).
From the perspective of the field of organizational knowledge creation, knowledge is
 (Nonaka, 1994):
Such a definition gives an impression that knowledge is something objective,
absolute and context-free. However, it is humans who hold and justify beliefs.
Knowledge cannot exist without human subjectivity and the contexts that surround
humans. 
we look at it (our context). In organizational knowledge creation, it is these very
differences in human subjectivity that help create new knowledge. (Nonaka & Toyama,
2007a, p. 15)
fundamentally different from information in that it implies the evolving state of meaning
p. 182). .
human beings have different subjective viewpoints, and these differences are necessary
for the creation of knowledge.p. 8).
We should understand knowledge primarily as process, created and used in
relation with the knowledge of other human beings who exist in relation with others.
Even when knowledge seems to take a concrete or substantial form such as in a product,
it embodies past processes and it becomes new knowledge when it is experienced by
customers, which triggers another new knowledge-creation process [Italics in original].
(p. 10)
Note that knowledge is defined as justified true belief, which is further refined as
a subjective intangible that resides within an individual, is dynamic in nature, and evolves
based upon interactions each has with others. Note also that knowledge is not stated to
of the term knowledge may cause us to rethink our understanding of how we refer to the
archive; the discussions, comments, and documents left behind by learners in online
learning settings. The archive could be seen to contain examples or evidence of
processes. In an education setting, Thomassen and Rive (2010) argue that:
Knowledge is considered as information which is part of a meaningful and social
context like a group or a virtual community As such, knowledge cannot exist outside
an individual or a group As a consequence of this approach, only information and not
knowledge itself can be stored or transferred between individuals. (p. 157)
he only way
knowledge can be exchanged is when knowledge is articulated into meaningful
contradiction in these definitions because we use the word information to define the term
knowledge. We have to be careful how we choose to define the content of the archive. Is
it articulated knowledge or explicit knowledge (information) waiting for someone to
come along and use it or experience it and then it becomes new knowledge in the hands
of the recipient? Does the archive embody past processes as outlined by Nonaka,
Toyama, and Hirata, (2008)
information to describe the contents of the archive. What needs to be additionally
examined is whether there is any filtering of the contents of the archive by the learner and
how this might impact its meaning or value.
Castells (2000d statements of facts or
ideas, presenting a reasoned judgment or an experimental result, which is transmitted to
others through some communication medium in some systematic form [italics in
original] (p. 17). This definition suggests that knowledge is something explicit and is
action of knowledge upon
knowledge itselfIn their discussion of how companies generate, codify, and
transfer knowledge, Davenport and Prusak (2000) make 
an act or process as an artefact . Choo (1998) examines the knowing
organization and describerecognition of the synergistic
relationship between tacit and explicit knowledge
processes that create new knowledge by converting tacit knowledge into explicit
p. 8). It is the process that is knowledge and having knowledge of the
process and knowing how to use the process that ultimately gives the learner the power to
manage and control their learning and their ability to create new knowledge.
van Eijnatten and Putnik (2005) examine learning versus knowledge creation and
. We think that
learning and knowledge creation can be viewed as indications of one and the same
p. 536).
 of interdependent
people and can only be understood in terms of self-organising communicative interaction
line with the work of Perry (as cited in Entwistle & Peterson, 2004) where he examines
student learning and concludes, among other things, that learning and knowledge
acquisition is an evolving developmental process. Entwistle and Peterson (2004)
examine the relationship between knowledge and learning. They bring the two terms
Whether the term learning can be used as a reasonable facsimile for the term
knowledge creation or whether the term knowledge is best kept as a vehicle to describe a
process separate and apart from learning appears to depend on the context. At times
throughout this document I appear to use the word knowledge as a verb instead of the
word knowing when describing knowledge as a process. I am not attempting to change
the rules of grammar; however, I am attempting to place my use of the word knowledge
in terms of an overall process. OKCT deals with a social process of the creation of
knowledge, which is process that generates tangible results, yet in itself it is not
something that is tangible. There are tangible products that come from the knowledge
process but these tangible products are not knowledge; rather, they are products of the
process of knowledge creation. Knowledge as a human process rather than an external
product is an important consideration as we further examine the environment within
which students in my study are actively engaged. The language in the literature does
suggest that artefacts in the archive are best described as information, which may be used
to support knowledge creation.
The social-networked nature of the learning environment within this study allows
for interactions between and among learners and others. These interactions offer a
d by people in their
 (Nonaka, Toyama, & Hirata, Knowledge primarily [is a]
process, created and used in relation with the knowledge of other human beings who exist
 is considered as information, which is part
of a meaningful and social context like a group or a virtual community
Rive, 2010, p. 137). Additionally, these authors indicate that managing conversation is a
Good conversations are the cradle of social
knowledge and the most important enabler of knowledge creation
2010, p. 159).
It can be argued that much of the above could also exist in environments other
than social-networked online environments. Could this not exist in a face-to-face
environment or online using a learning (or content) management system (LMS)? What is
unique about this networked social learning space (the study environment) is the access,
structure, control, and persistence of the environment. The boundaries of this custom
instance of Elgg provide users and groups with a greater degree of autonomy as well as
control over their contributions. Users can add or delete content as and when needed or
wanted. They can contribute and publish within class spaces, within their own individual
spaces, within private or public groups that they create or join or with the whole Internet
including search engines. In addition, users have complete control over who reads and/or
comments on their contribution both individually and within groups and classes.
Courses, including all of the learner contributions held within this environment do not
disappear after the fact and are not removed unless specifically done so by the author of a
specific contribution. This is a social learning space where interdependent people
exchange information and ideas, develop knowledge, and learn. This is a social learning
Knowledge is created through interaction between individuals as well as between
individuals and their environment (Accorsi & Costa, 2008). Knowledge creation is a
context specific in
terms of time, space, and relationships with others. Knowledge cannot be created in a
Nonaka, Toyama, & Hirata, 2008, p. 34).
The literature reinforces an understanding that knowledge has many facets and that these
different perspectives on knowledge combine to give a more complete view of the
process of the creation of knowledge. Within the framework of OKCT, the key element
that underpins and mirrors the steps in the SECI process also provides a context, and it is
this context that enables the process of knowing. This knowledge creation context is
referred to as ba.
Embedded within OKCT is a condition or context within which knowledge
creation is enabled. The social network that forms the context of this study is novel and
complex. Thus we turn our attention to models for describing and exploiting such
complex contexts. This context is known as ba or Basho (Nonaka & Konno, 1998).
Basho is the word originally used by Nishida (Tremblay, 2009a). The word ba appears to
be used interchangeably with Basho, and throughout this document the word ba will
primarily be used unless a source dictates otherwise. This Japanese concept has been
roughly translated as space or place (Krummel & Nagatono, 2012; Nonaka & Takeuchi,
1995) although others (Chia, 2003; Shimizu, 1995) have argued that space or place is an
imprecise definition. Raud, (2004) argues that place is probably the more accurate
definition based upon 
meaning of place with basho is not about a static point, such as geographic or hierarchical
place; instead, place creates a way of understanding a dynamic and relating sense of
belonging requiring 
Ba might more appropriately be seen as context, and as such, ba is formed when
individuals develop a common understanding (a synchronicity) of the meaning of their
togetherness and these individuals have a common sense, a knowing-belonging of their
time together
example of this synchronicity or common understanding. The meaning of their
togetherness may shift but the ba is maintained if those involved understand the shift in
meaning and maintain the intent of their interconnection. Ba is seen as a communal place
of coming together where each and the space becomes one and by creating a oneness
with the space each has the potential to engage the other. As described by Nonaka and
Konno (1998), this oneness within ba allows for knowledge to be created. Ba carries
with it a non-dualistic approach, which suggests that the individual and the place or space
are not separate entities. 
encountered just as they are prior to our own conceptual fabricationsp.
971). Added to this, the individual is seen simultaneously as a whole and part of a larger
This concept, Basho, was originally developed by the Japanese philosopher Kitaro
Nishida (Abe, 1988; Tremblay, 2009a; Krummel & Nagatono, 2012) and has been
modified and expanded through the research and writings of others (Shimizu, 1995;
Nonaka & Konno, 1998; Nonaka, Konno, & Toyama, 2001). Nishida first introduced the
concept of Basho as a means of describing physical space (Tremblay, 2009b), although
the Basho is considered to be that
which encompasses. In other words, the Basho is the place in which content is located
absolute nothingness: the final
does not allow the separation of the subject of the observer from the world observed and
thereby moves spatiotemporal concepts into the ontological domain
Nishida placed Basho in the present (Tremblay, 2009b) and he challenged the notion of
time. In so doing he  not exist in time, it is time that exists in the
 (p. 131).
 ba have been adapted to
facilitate the ideas inherent in knowledge creation (Nonaka, Konno, & Toyama, 2001).
As Nonaka and Toyama state (as cited in Nonaka, Toyama, & Hirata, 2008), it is seen as
p. Ba
 & Toyama, 2003, p. 2). Ba
should be `energised' to give energy and quality to the SECI 
& Konno, 2000, p. 25).
We have another picture of the world, Basho, where the border between man and
the environment is removed: man becomes a constituent of Basho. Consequently,
. In Oriental philosophy, the world is
observed from the inside, from the internal point of view. (Shimizu, 1995, pp. 68-
Nishida (as cited in Nonaka, Toyama, & Hirata, 
of ba  ba. It means that in ba,
(p. 36). The concept of nothingness might suggest that relationships should or could not
As indicated
earlier in this section, the concept of baare
challenging constructs to place within either a business or an educational context,
hat seems
reasonable, in light of the focus of this research, is to take a cue from Nonaka and
Takeuchi (1995) and construct a meaning based upon intent keeping as faithful to
Nonaka and Toyama (2007b) refer to
ba p.
381). Ba] can be a physical, virtual, or mental space but all three have knowledge
embedded in ba in common, where it is acquired through individual experiences, or
p. 1185).
Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) ground ba in OKCT and they support this with a critical
examination of Japanese philosophical and intellectual tradition. Nonaka and Konno
 ba in an existentialist frameworkhey go on to describe
this place of knowledge eme
informal circles, temporary meetings, [and] e-p. 41). Ba is context and as
such ba embodies the interactions among participants toward understanding and
knowledge creation. It is formed when individuals develop a common understanding of
their being together, and these individuals develop a shared knowing to their time
together. As indicated earlier, the meaning of their togetherness may shift but ba is
maintained if those involved understand the shift in meaning and maintain the intent of
their interconnection.
Another way of looking at ba is by seeing it as context. In doing so, context must
be seen as an environment within which both or all parties in a conversation are
immersed in this context. Ba theory considers that this shared environment is more than
physical, it is a mutually provoked relationship that is emergent during conversation.
and participants in this conversation become increasingly removed from their prior space.
Conversation evolves and is affected by the nature of the ba and thus the context evolves
awareness in that these unseen but influential or guiding elements shape the conversation,
but at the same time are constantly being reshaped as a result of, and during, the
conversation. Ba is a dynamic and live process held aloft non-verbally by all in the
conversation. For ba to exist, conversants must step out of themselves within the
conversation and engage each other at the level of intent such that there is no distinction
between speaker and listener, and the life of the conversation can then exist at a
subconscious level. Thus ba is seen as a non-dualistic concept: speaker and listener are
one (Otsuka, 2011).
Nonaka and Konno (1998) expand upon the knowledge creation cycle (the SECI
model) and add four corresponding types of ba. These four are: originating ba;
interacting ba; cyber ba; and exercising ba. Examples of these four types of ba will
come from the environment within which my dissertation research takes place. Before I
expand on these four types of ba, I wish to attempt to avoid confusion by indicating that
later in this section I will also introduce five features which help support the creation of
ba. The four ba types that correspond to the SECI model noted above deal quite
specifically with four characteristics related to the process of knowledge creation whereas
eatures of ba that must also be present in order for
the ba 
p. 37). Now I would like to expand on the four factors corresponding to the SECI model.
Originating ba, which corresponds to the socialization process of the SECI model
individuals share feelings, emotions, experiences, and mental
models ba from which the knowledge-cr
46). An example of this in the research environment is the open online discussion area
where students discuss the course and assignments in a general way and work through
their challenges and concerns with each in these open forums. This form of ba also
appears in synchronous web conferences. Following through with the SECI knowledge
spiral the next category is interacting ba corresponding to the externalization process.
This ba . 
models and skills are converted in. [This] is the place
where tacit knowl
and deliberately constructed learning space designed to encourage engagement with
exercises designed to elicit conversation. The professor observes the dialogue and
engages in it where it is felt necessary to assist the learners as they navigate through the
language of the course and come to common understandings of terms, as well as being
able to navigate through the course material in a shared and collaborative fashion.
. The combination of explicit knowledge is most
efficiently supported in collaborative environments utilizing i
47). Examples of this within my research environment include the use of different
technologies to allow learners to engage with each other, the professor, and the content
very much in keeping with the development of social and teaching presence described in
the Community of Inquiry Model (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001;
Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000; Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2010; Rourke,
Anderson, Garrison, & Archer, 1999). Technologies used within and to support cyber ba
included asynchronous tools such as discussion areas of the Custom Elgg environment,
email, wikis, and collaborative commercial production tools such as Google Docs.
Additionally, synchronous tools included products such as Elluminate, Adobe Connect
and Skype.
The final ba, exercising ba
. Exercising ba 
through action, while interacting ba achip. 47). In many
ways this form of ba encompasses my research as a whole: this is the use and
subsumption of artefacts in the support of knowledge creation. Learners engage each
other initially through originating ba and have become familiar with their learning
environment and each other. As they begin to embrace the language of their learning
they are enveloped by interacting ba, a carefully and consciously constructed
environment that allows them to be guided and then to focus on the learning tasks. Their
online world is becoming explicit. Through the support of the professor and their peers
they are encouraged to articulate and further create explicit elements to be shared and
offered in a collaborative way. They add to the archive and they develop new
understandings as they create new knowledge. This is the essence of exercising ba. As
the process of knowledge creation evolves, the adding process should become an element
 creation. Learner involvement within
the learning space, cyber ba, becomes intuitive. Online tools become less of an
impediment as learners become more familiar with these tools and, as a result, their
learning spaces become places of unimpeded engagement leading to the final, exercising
ba. This last form of ba is where knowledge is created and it is as a result of learner
engagement and interaction with peers, course materials, the professor, and the archive
that knowledge is created. One acquires tacit knowledge through this process. There is a
possible connection here with 2000) Community of
Inquiry (COI) model.
The use of ba in a business or management context has raised questions about its
value and its place within a business management context (Glisby & Holden, 2003;
Gourlay, 2006a; Gourlay & Nurse, 2005, Nordberg, 2006) yet the reasoning for this
questioning appears weak, at best. 
colleagues to explain the need for the ba
(p. 9). One of the challenges to this thinking lies in the concept of dualism. I am not
suggesting that in an Eastern, Buddhist sense there is no dualism (Garfield, 2009; Harvey,
2009, p. 2
concept of ba
this challenges Cartesian dualism and a Western philosophical view. In Western thinking
there is the perspective of separation of subject and object: that mind and body are two
very 
shapes how we operate in business and how we structure our educational environments.
Ba and its underlying foundation is an attempt by Nishida to, on one hand, recognize
Western dualist thinking while on the other hand, find ways to see the world through
-mirroring, self-
recognizes the nature of Cartesian dualism and shows through his writings that the mind-
body divide is more a continuum within the self and extends beyond in a form of
In their research into learning and knowledge creation in collaborative networks,
van Eijnatten and Putnik (2005) examine ba and its implications as an alternate view of
learning in Collaborative Networked Organizations (CNO). They conclude with the
 especially the distinction between physical
versus virtual Basho might be helpful for a better holonic understanding of the complex
interplay between individual, organizational, and inter-
(p. 536). The term holon refers to something that is simultaneously a whole and a part of
suggesting a part of the whole (Dominici, 2012; Koestler, 1990; Simon, 1996). van
Eijnatten and Putnik view ba 
Ba exists at many levels and these levels may be connected to form a greater ba
(known as a basho). The self is embraced by the collective when an individual
enters the ba of teams. Just as the ba for individuals is the team, the organization
in turn is the ba for the teams. Finally, the market environment is the ba for the
organization. Ba is of fundamental importance for knowledge creation, and this
creative process is amplified when all these ba conjoin to form a basho. (Nonaka
& Konno, 1998, p. 41)
Nomura (2002) talks about the impact of designing ba as a successful knowledge
Ba connects knowledge workers to create, share, and utilize knowledgeIf the
objectives of ba do not apply to business strategy, it is difficult for people to get
together frequently. If the atmosphere of ba does not fit to corporate culture and
work style, people do not like to gather. (p. 266)
This is a valuable comment with respect to learning environments as well. If we
transpose the above quoted business-focused language for language more centred on
learning, some of the potential challenges inherent in attempting to build ba become
evident. There needs to be a reason for individuals to want to gather and participate.
This can be said for most approaches to learning. Individuals can be brought together in
learning environments but getting them to act together for a common purpose can be a
challenge. Factors such as the nature of the learning environment, or the task, or a clear
understanding of the purpose of their being together can all become impediments to the
creation of ba. However, as outlined earlier with the four elements of ba corresponding
to the SECI process, ba can be crafted within a learning space as the context within
which knowledge can be created, and can continue to be an element in support of
learning within this online social space.
Ba does not demand participation. Ba is a construction designed to support the
bringing together of minds for a common purpose. It is fluid and dynamic and not
everyone chooses to participate. Anyone can remove themselves from ba and the related
conversation and create their own ba, have their own intention and act accordingly. This
is the challenge of developing and maintaining ba particularly within virtual
environments. As indicated earlier, ba needs to be carefully constructed and maintained
which allows both the teacher and the students opportunities to engage where needed or
wanted and when not.
The creation of a context upon and through which these knowledge creation
processes dwell is key to the interaction of learners in online settings (Anderson, 2003;
Anderson, 2008b; Dron & Anderson, 2007; Garrison & Cleveland-Innes, 2005). Ba, as a
fundamental context element in this equation, adds a further multidimensional aspect to
the engagement process that learners participate in as they develop their understandings
of the knowing process. These elements together form the basis of an inquiry that offers
insight into learner processes threaded through an online learning matrix and better adds
to an expanding body of work in this field. If we examine interaction theory (Anderson,
2003, 2008a, 2008b; Dron & Anderson, 2007; Garrison & Cleveland-Innes, 2005) and
communication theory (Boyd, 2004; Metcalfe & Game, 2008; Scott, 2001; Wise &
Duffy, 2008) as supportive elements in online learning, then the possibilities of ba being
an integral part of technology mediated learning remain viable.
Is ba a community of practice? Can these two concepts be considered similar
ideas? ound
ba, Nonaka,
Toyama, and Hirata (2008) are drawn to this discussion.
Ba is a place for knowledge creation while the boundaries of a community of
practice are firmly set by the task, culture, and history of the community, the
boundaries of ba are fluid and can change quickly. While membership in a
community of practice is fairly stable, and it takes time for a new member to learn
about the community and become a full member in the practice, membership in
ba is not fixed; participants come and go. Ba is created, functions, and disappears
according to the needs of the participants. Whereas members of a community of
practice belong to the community, the participants in ba relate to the ba. (pp. 36-
The above quote is relevant to the broader conversation in this research study for
osition to the words
knowledge creation cause me to want to push this conversation in a different direction.
Throughout my dissertation I attempt to close the gap between learning and knowledge
creation. I do not suggest that these two terms are completely synonymous. As outlined
in several places throughout this dissertation, there are key elements of each that
sufficiently overlap. Although I agree with Nonaka et al. (2008), particularly with respect
to the fluidity of ba versus the more structured and stable aspects of a CoP, I am
learning knowledge creation comments at the start of the quote.
This is worthy of further discussion within the context of ba but not necessarily in the
context of this dissertation. What needs to be noted is that although ba is very much a
transient space, a state of being, it is and can be something that is created and managed in
such a way as to foster a connection between and among learners and hold together
elements of an online learning environment. Ba is as Nishida outlined (Krummel &
Nagatomo, 2012), a shared place of awareness of self-awareness. Structured within a
sense of shared awareness and togetherness in the process of learning and knowledge
creation, ba can offer a rich and safe learning space.
The value of communities of practice within online learning environments (Yang,
2009) is not questioned. The issue is that although appearing to be similar, communities
of practice and ba serve different purposes and although elements of one can impact the
other, the two are not mutually exclusive. Iverson, (2011) examines communities of
practice in light of knowledge, knowledge creation, and belonging and brings into his
ba as well as a further discussion on the value of place within Japanese
ba is a collectively enacted group construct [and that]
ba provides the beginning of a group-based understanding that connects to identity as
organizations, communities are developed, and communities are enacted through the
process of belonging and identification, knowledge is also shared and developed
these process
communication is a central element of organizational knowledge creation. Aspects of
ba Iverson
shows the relationship between ba and CoP and how they support each other in the
process of knowledge creation.
ba, as discussed earlier, can assist with
a better understanding of the nature of ba within formal learning environments. This
research study builds a bridge between the worlds of business organizations and online
learning environments such that the concepts of ba, examined above, might effectively be
ported into education. Ba is a key element in knowledge creation and at the core of
OKCT. Ba acts as a facilitator for the exchange of tacit and explicit knowledge. This
study also shows that online learning environments can be structured to allow ba to be
developed as a core foundational element across instructional approaches. If we
understand ba as described by Nonaka and Toyama (2003) above, we should see that
online learners are able to appreciate and understand their commitment to ba and
understand its impact of their engagement with the learning process. In a discussion on
common ground is a major factor in the shortcomings of discussion forums often found in
online courses and in the p. 181).
Ultimately ba is a commitment. Individuals need to want to be a part of ba for ba to be
of value. But ba is not just a commitment on the part of learners. Ba needs to be
consciously constructed, nurtured, and maintained by the teacher or instructor, or using
 ba must establish actual work objectives and clarify
intention, and middle management must be at the center [sic] 
Hirata & Toyama, 2008, p. 37). There is a clear connection between this understanding
of ba and the three presences, and the Community of Inquiry model described by
Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000).
How is ba created and are there factors which help outline the creation of ba?
Nonaka, Hirata and Toyama (2008) state:
A ba does not necessarily arise because someone has provided the space and
gathered the people. There are a variety of features of ba that must also be present in
order for the ba to be an effective place for knowledge creation [italics in original]. (p.
These authors propose five factors:
First a ba must be self-organized and possess its own intention, objective,
direction, and mission. Without intention, there is no way to direct the energy of the ba,
 ba participants must establish a shared sense of purpose.
Third, ba requires participants with different types of knowledge. Ba is a shared situation
or time-space nexus where the various subjective and historical dimensions of the
members of the ba 
while ba needs boundaries these must be open. The possibilities for expanding contexts
are limitless, so meaningful context- ba requires
the commitment of participants. Indeed commitment is the basis of human knowledge-
creation activity (Polanyi, 1966) and the source of energy driving interaction within the
ba. Knowledge is formed when ba participants are both committed to the ba’s objectives
and willingly engage in its events and activities, even contributing their own personal
time and energy. For this, the ba needs a process of mutual understanding, trust, and
respect, as well as shared perceptions and active empathy [italics in original]. (p. 37-38)
These five factors offer aspects of a possible model for online learning and they
speak to the design principles that surface from this study. New knowledge is created at
the intersection of knowledge domains and context at these intersections is essential for
knowledge creation. Ba p. 6)
Anderson (2008a) outlines the following:
The community-centred lens allows us to include the critical social component of
learning in our online learning designs. 
online learning context to collaboratively create new knowledge. (p. 51)
We are seeing the proliferation of new types of communities and networks that
exist far from the formal constraints of educational communities. These social software
 millions of participants in the creation of friendship and sharing
networks. We are only beginning to understand how these environments can be useful
for formal education. (p. 52)
Tying both the interconnectivity of the networks together with those benefiting
from these networks and related environments we can see how ba informs the knowledge
creation process. In this context Nonaka, Hirata and 
are shared in motion within a ba, participants do not observe from a self-centered [sic]
standpoint but reposition themselves in terms of their relationship with othersp. 37).
repositioning of individuals in relation to others and for these networks to work
effectively there must be elements of ba present to affect meaningful participation in the
network. Students may not know each other well enough at the start of a course to have a
relationship but these relationships develop as the ba develops and this starts with the
self. As Nonaka et al (2008) suggest, there is a repositioning based upon the knowledge
people have and/or develop of each other.
In this sense participants are all who might be part of the learning process,
including teachers and students. 2000) Community of
Inquiry (COI) model offers much to support ba in this respect. In many ways ba can be
seen to underpin and can be seen to offer another layer or context for the COI model.
is Community of Inquiry assumes that learning occurs within the
Community through the interaction of three core elements.... cognitive presence, social
p. 88).
Cognitive presence... is taken to mean the extent to which the participants in any
particular configuration of a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through
. Social presence is defined as the ability of participants in
the Community of Inquiry to project their personal characteristics into the community,
thereby presenting themselves to the otheching
presence is a means to an end to support and enhance social and cognitive presence for
the purpose of realizing educational outcomes. (p. 90)
As Nonaka, Hirata and 
empathetic and participants extemporaneously create a space of shared meaning that
p. 37). The Community of Inquiry model supports
this concept and ba acts as the underpinning element within this shared space. To push
this further, we need to ask how does the idea of ba help create more enriched learning
activities and contexts? If we look at the four elements of ba in support of the SECI
process as outlined in the first section of this chapter it can be seen that ba is a context for
ba is a collectively enacted
the elements that go
into the construction of an online learning environment in terms of activities,
assignments, and the planned interaction of the learners, faculty, and content to see how
the physicality of the environment can impact the interaction and the learning. Ba may or
may not be present depending upon how the environment is built and/or how the faculty
interact with the learners, as well as how the learners are supported in their interaction.
Being aware of the place that is ba is key to the success of these environments. Using the
CoI Model as an exemplar for ba can support this enrichment. The underlying idea of the
CoI model is that the three presences are key to the learning. It can also be shown that ba
is key to the three presences.
The archive, at the centre of my research, is very much a place at the nexus of a
number of concepts and theories. Ba is one of the key elements in support of the archive
in the sense that for individuals to better appreciate the value of the artefacts there needs
to be a social structure to support the sharing of understandings around what may or may
not be useful, and how individuals interact with their current peers and peers from
previous course iterations who left items behind. The process of the four modes of ba, as
outlined above, support learner engagement and interaction with the archive and assist in
fostering an environment of trust and support with respect to current and future value.
Ba is a social process and a mental process whereby we allow ourselves to
become one with the environment within which we engage others in the process of
creating knowledge. There are many factors that go into building, supporting and
keeping ba alive. It can be fragile and easily vanish. It also can be robust and ever-
powerfully held together. Ba can disappear as a result of distraction, which takes people
away from the ba, or individuals can leave the ba and subsequently return and re-join the
ba. Learning and knowledge creation does not disappear with the ba. Like any
distraction, certain elements of the conversation may be lost or misplaced and need to be
re-built, as ba is re-built
Most of the literature writing about Nishida and the Logic of Basho (Krummel &
Nagatomo, 2012; Wargo, 2007), as well as the writings of Shimizu (2009), Nonaka, et
al., (2008) and others in the business and management world appear to describe ba as a
face-to-face construct. Aspects of ba being constructed and supported within online
learning environments are alluded to by a few (Thomassen & Rive, 2010; Wise & Duffy,
2008); however, this does not appear to be something specifically researched. My
research offers evidence of ba as a factor in the use and value of the archive and evidence
of knowledge being constructed as a result of the ba being constructed and maintained in
the course.
This section of the literature review has examined how ba is created, how ba can
be integrate into organizations, how ba fosters the growth of new knowledge, and how ba
differs from other forms of community interaction such as communities of practice. Ba is
a place where learning can occur. That place, however, needs to be facilitated and in
doing so there needs to be clarity on the process of knowing. This process starts with an
understanding of tacit knowledge. One of the key components of this research project is
whether or not aspects of tacit knowledge can be viewed in the archive and if evidence of
tacit knowledge is visible, what value are these tacit artefacts to the process of knowledge
Tacit Knowledge
Polanyi (1967, 1974) first developed the concept of tacit knowledge as he
p. vii). His
most commonly quoted pp. 4) opened the
door to decades of discussion on the concepts of tacit and explicit knowledge.
Researchers and practitioners alike have examined and re-examined these concepts and,
in the process, the term tacit knowledge appears to have taken on a life of its own
(Baumard, 2002; Bordum, 2002; Duguid, 2005; Erden, von Krogh, & Nonaka, 2008;
Gelwick, 1977; Gourlay, 2002; Gourlay, 2006b; Kreiner, 2002; Leonard & Sensiper,
2002; Nonaka, 1991; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Nonaka, Toyama, & Hirata, 2008;
Nonaka & Toyama, 2007a; Nonaka, von Krogh, & Voelpel, 2006; von Krogh, Ichijo, &
Nonaka, 2000; Wise & Duffy, 2008).
is either tacit or rooted in tacit
knowledge, and that no knowledge is completely explicit
2008, p. 18). is the idea of indwelling, which
. There is an
awareness of focus, and 
p.13). As an example of this, Polanyi (1967) talks about the blind man and the probe.
The blind man feels his way by tapping with a stick. Anyone using a probe for
the first time will feel its impact against his fingers and palm. But as we learn to use a
probe, or to use a stick for feeling our way, our awareness of its impact on our hand is
transformed into a sense of its point touching the objects we are exploring. This is how
an interpretive effort transposes meaningless feelings in meaningful ones, and places
these at some distance from the original feeling. We become aware of the feelings in our
hands in terms of their meaning located at the tip of the probe or stick to which we are
. We are attending to the meaning of its impact on our hands in terms of its
effect on the things to which we are applying it. (pp. 12-13)
The use of the archive can be seen in a similar way. A number of the students
who access artefacts from the archive indicate that by reading and coming to understand
what previous learners do and/or experience help them to become more aware and better
understand the course, assignments, and what it is that they are attempting to learn. In
many ways, artefac
level of awareness.
Focal awareness is the explicit component of our understanding or knowledge.
On the periphery of this focal awareness is our subsidiary awareness or those less
tangible, implicit elements that feed to our understanding of the focal awareness. Polanyi
(1967) offers the following, e may call this the semantic aspect of tacit knowing. All
. Polanyi (1974) later
The arts of doing and knowing, the valuation and the understanding of meanings,
are thus seen to be only different aspects of the act of extending our person into the
subsidiary awareness of particulars which compose a whole. The inherent structure of
this fundamental act of personal knowing makes us both necessarily participate in its
shaping and acknowledge its results with universal intent. This is the prototype of
intellectual commitment.
It is the act of commitment in its full structure that saves personal knowledge
from being merely subjective. Intellectual commitment is a responsible decision, in
submission to the compelling claims of what in good conscience I conceive to be true. It
is an act of hope, striving to fulfil an obligation within a personal situation for which I am
not responsible and which therefore determines my calling. This hope and this obligation
are expressed in the universal intent of personal knowledge. (p. 65)
The implication here is that tacit is seen as subsidiary awareness and we have an
obligation to understand this tacit/subsidiary aspect. The focal awareness then represents
the explicit dimension. The intellectual commitment is to move the focus from the
explicit to the tacit: from the focal awareness to the subsidiary. We want to look at that
which guides us. Ultimately it is a matter of getting at the underlying realities in order to
better understand the visible aspect: to capture the whole rather than only the de-
contextualized facts.
There is both a focal and a subsidiary view of the archive. Many of the learners in
this study are guided by and have a very focal perspective. Focal awareness is about the
answer. As learners engage in the process of seeking their perceived answers, the process
of reading and filtering acts in a subsidiary way and the very act of pushing through the
many different artefacts can and should offer tacit support in the use of the archive.
Students have context to start with and build context in this process. In time, both
meaning and understanding of the artefacts and the archive as a whole evolve. This is the
essence of subsidiary awareness.
Our knowledge of the things denoted by words will have been largely acquired by
experienceir meaning by previously designating
. Therefore, when I receive information by reading a letter and when I
ponder the message of the letter, I am subsidiarily aware not only of its text, but also of
all the past occasions by which I have come to understand the words of the text, and the
whole range of this subsidiary awareness is presented focally in terms of the message.
This message or meaning, on which attention is now focussed, is not something tangible:
it is the conception evoked by the text. (Polanyi, 1974, p. 92)
What links nicely to the above quotation is the earlier reference to the concept of
scaffolding. As Polanyi describes above, we are using a form of scaffolding to better
understand meaning. He talks about acquiring knowledge from experience and yet we
could not effectively understand or appreciate the knowledge without possessing
scaffolds or forms upon which to attach this knowledge. This can suggest that our
scaffolds are as innate as is our tacit knowledge and scaffolds could be seen as the
structures that hold subsidiary awareness in place. This study seeks to find evidence of
the value of these scaffolds and their potential connection to knowledge creation in the
hands of the students.
Leonard and Sensiper (2002) sknowledge] is almost completely tacit,
(p.485). 
. A second applica. Finally, the
(pp. 486-487). -
building conversations [they] see the relationship between tacit and explicit components
p. 182). Brown and Duguid (2002)
talk about these two dimensions to knowledge and how Polanyi (1967) demonstrated the
value of tacit knowledge. No amount of explicit knowledge can make up for what is not
present in the form of tacit knowledge (Brown & Duguid, 2002).
Nonaka (1988) incorporates the idea of tacit knowledge as he examines the
changing nature of organizations. He indicates hich often becomes
the basis for information creation, is inarticulate knowledge, or what Michael Polanyi has
p. 68). Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) expound on the concept
of tacit knowledge in relation to the process of knowledge creation. They discuss two
dimensions of knowledge creation: one being epistemological and the other ontological.
Nonaka and Takeuchi argue that the ontological dimension recognizes that
individuals and not organizations create knowledge and therefore, organizations must
support individuals by providing contexts from which individual knowledge is created.
The idea of building a dynamic learning archive within a social networked learning
environment is an example of organizational support for the creation of a context for
knowledge creation. This study seeks to create design principles in support of the use of
an archive as outlined in this document and guiding elements for these principles can
come as a result of this ontological dimension.
The epistemological dimension focuses on the distinction between tacit and
-specific, and therefore hard to
Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995, p. 59). They go on to state that
dge between individuals through communication is an analog
p. 60). This study supports the epistemological dimension by
the very fact of the process of student engagement in and with the archive.
Bordum (2002) suggests that Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) shift the focus from
tacit knowing to tacit knowledge and that Nonaka and Takeuchi incorporate the two
constructs into one: a Zen Buddhist approach. The writings of Nishida (1990) affirm this
thinking (Graupe, 2008). Bordum spends little time expanding upon the nature of this
shift or why he saw it as important. This is a valued insight as it raises the level to which
some authors (see, for example, Brohm, 2005) engage Polanyi and his intent with the
concept of tacit knowing. The interesting aspect of this Zen Buddhist observation is that
whether tacit knowing and tacit knowledge are seen as the same or are separate constructs
allows us to better understand the differences and difficulties some writers (Gourlay &
knowledge creation. further
support some of these seemingly disparate ideas. 
through the act of experiencing. The individual is not an a priori entity but an emergent
. 968). re
2003, p. 968). The fact that OKCT integrates tacit knowing and tacit knowledge as one
construct allow us to better incorporate an existential view into the ideas of knowledge
creation. This permits us to view the process of knowledge creation as a seamless
interaction of processes that we are an integral part of and therefore knowledge creation
is not seen as something external to ourselves.
Reflexive awareness is a key supporting construct of the archive in that by using
and being a regular visitor to the archive, students can build and maintain relationships
with both the content and the contributors. In so doing, students can regularly engage the
archive (the process) as well as potentially acquire sought after answers (the product) and
throughout this process, both the student and their understanding of the archive changes
and evolves.
Examining the knowledge creation process through engagement with the
collective, a group working together sharing common attributes, is also seen as an aspect
of context, such as in a course. Erden, von Krogh, and Nonaka (2008) advance the
foundation of organizational knowledge creation theory by developing the concept of the
p. 4). Group tacit knowledge (GTK) is
summed up as:
The capacity of a group to act as a collective body using their collective mind in
situations that are familiar as well as unfamiliar and complex in the absence of explicit
rules or directions. GTK allows the group to deal with uncertainty, to define new tasks
and to solve predefined tasks. While doing this, group identity and group boundaries are
dynamically reproduced and become key for the recognition of GTK. (p. 9)
The ais an important driver for
p. 14). In a much broader
sense, there is a need to begin to translate some of these management and business
references into education related terms in part due to their applicability to the world of
online learning. Erden, von Krogh, and Nonaka (2008) synthesize constructs of
organizational knowledge creation theory into transferrable concepts that can be captured
within the context of online education. These authors conclude their paper in part with a
relevant discussion of information technologies (IT) and knowledge creation stating that:
The major challenges in organizational knowledge creation are to define
knowledge sources, make them available to the members, and combine the existing ones.
Information technologies (IT) may help to overcome these challenges, especially time
. IT is known for its capability to facilitate data and information
. The
problem with tacit knowledge is that it is bound to people and, therefore, cannot be
externalized along the continuum of knowledge (from tacit to explicit), encoded, or
Thus, some scholars argue that IT can never substitute face-to-face interaction where
this argument; nevertheless, we still believe that IT may have a major effect in facilitating
tacit knowledge sharing which, as a result, affects the QGTK. IT can serve as a kind of
group memory for knowledge, through which people can access past experiences, in
particular overt clues, documented experiences, written reflections and so on, and thereby
recollect an image of past events. (p. 15)
Interestingly, Shimizu (1995) makes a similar yet possibly dated comment where
he states:
In the so-called multimedia society, information is transmitted and exchanged via
media, which can carry only the subjective part of representations. No ba, the predicative
part of the representations, is transmitted by such a [sic] media. In such a society, people
will stand on their egocentric frames, being separated from their Basho. Consequently, it
will become harder and harder for people to play an improvisational drama at a social
level. (p. 76)
The perception in the above quotations appear to be that technology media
interaction, such as what is afforded by online education, might stand in the way of
effective group tacit knowledge creation as well as the support of any incumbent ba or
Basho. This is unfortunate, as it appears that these statements come from a place of
limited interaction with learning technologies. It is possible that the use of these
technologies today affords individuals a greater degree of interaction and
interconnectivity and can result in a very powerful learning ba. Ba is built and managed
both from the managerial (teacher) end as well as from those within the ba (students and
 
much speaks to aspects of ba 
ba is key in this discussion; however, the CoI
model helps to take his discussion and add key elements to bring ba to the world of
Anderson, & Archer, 2000, p. 96) bringing the cognitive and social presence to bear in an
online setting is key when examining how ba can be built, managed, and used to
transform the online environment into a place to facilitate tacit knowledge sharing.
Regardless of the elements of the process of knowledge creation, ba, or tacit
knowledge there is a point at which stepping back and examining the process itself and
is one where individuals examine their involvement from both an owned internal
has the individual examining the process from outside of themselves.
Reflective Practice
becomes, to assist
To effectively use archived discussions and
other course generated artefacts and to extract value from the knowledge processes of
others, as defined in this research, learners need sufficient skill to effectively reflect in
and reflect on the available archived material. Learners need to be able to know what
to do with the material, how to extract what is needed for the creation of their new
knowledge, and assimilate the ideas present in the material for their current and/or future
knowledge creation needs. Elements of this discussion are present in the first and second
clear agreement about what reflective practice is and how
200). On the basis of many years of teacher educator experience, Russell (2005) writes
extensively on the use of reflection in learning (Munby & Russell, 1992: Munby &
Russell, 1993; Munby & Russell, 1994; Russell, 2005). Russell (2005) argues that there
explicit strp. 203). Reflective practice has
been applied to many different workplace examples (Cox, 2005). It appears most often in
the literature of teacher education (Boud, 2001; Killion & Todnem, 1991; King, 2002;
Muukkonen & Lakkala, 2009; Regmi, 2009; Smyth, 1989; Terrion & Philion, 2008;
Thomas, 2008; van Manen, 1995). Not surprisingly, reflective practice as a sustaining
process has also found its way into the literature with respect to dissertation research and
writing (Johnson-Leslie, 2009).
. Schön (1983,
1987) introduced the concept of reflective practice as a tool for professionals to think
about their actions while they were performing them. He saw this as a process of
continuous learning. Schön adds the concepts of reflection in action: reflecting while
doing, and reflection on action: reflection afterwards. He integrates 
1974) concepts of tacit knowledge and the struggle to articulate understandings. Schön
concept of knowing in action. Schön (1983) emphasizes this when he talks about the
experience that a practitioner gains through reflection. 
use of research-based theories and techniques, he is dependent on tacit recognitions,
p. 50). 
reflect-in-hilion, 2008, p. 584). Reflection
in action is the process of reflecting while doing, but it assumes that the individual has
some structural basis or prior understandings upon which they can reflect. Learners
accessing the ideas and knowledge processes of others need the ability to reflect in
The practitioner allows himself to experience surprise, puzzlement or confusion in
a situation, which he finds uncertain or unique. He reflects on the phenomenon
before him, and on prior understandings, which have been implicit in his
behaviour. He carries out an experiment, which serves to generate both a new
understanding of the phenomenon and a change in the situation. (Schön, 1983, p.
Learners also need the ability to reflect on action, which is primarily an after the
fact event. Learners will look back on what they experienced and attempt to make sense
of itn's reflection-on-action is the first stage of making sense of an experience
after it has occurred [Italics in original] (King, 2002. n. p.)n further argues that
reflection-on-learning is facilitated by an on
(Terrion & Philion, 2008, p. 584). This suggests a guided approach to the reflection as
well as some form of a dialogue. Boud (2001) reflects upon Schö
p. 11). In this study the writing can be seen from two perspectives: first
that which is contained in the archive, written some time in the past as well as current
material added or commented on during the existing course; and, second that which is
being written in the present partially based upon a reflection of the archived writings.
This reflection upon reflection, a multidimensional reflection, may assist in offering the
learner a richer opportunity to create new knowledge. 
Todnem, 1991, p. 2).
The final assignment for the participants in this study course asks all course
participants to write a reflective blog post and in so doing reflect on a variety of questions
asked about the course: their engagement with the course, the learning environment, and
their interaction with the archive. This course final reflective post, in many ways, nicely
mirrors the focus and function of reflective practice as discussed in this literature review.
As is outlined in the results section, these reflective pieces show participants engaged and
immersed in their work, as well it shows others reflecting from a distance. Iverson,
(2011) discusses Basho and belonging and talks about the Japanese language usage of
place. He quotes Haugh (2005), in a summ
tokoro (location) and ichi 
In many ways this parallels Schön's discussion above where he talks about reflecting on
action and reflecting in action and examples of this will be indicated in the results of my
Enacting ba to enable and support the creation of knowledge within an online
learning environment, is as has been discussed above, a key element for learners to
become as one with their peers and their environment in support of learning and
knowledge creation. Ba must be a consciously constructed place and must be a place that
is nurtured throughout its existence. In order to assist learners in their engagement within
ba, conscious reflection must also be embedded into the environment. Reflective
practice, used as a tool for professionals to think about their actions while performing
them (Russell, 2005), must live alongside the other elements discussed in this literature
review and taken as a whole. These elements can be used to foster learning and
knowledge creation in online learning environments. Beyond this are the online worlds
within which learners engage and support each other.
Our online worlds, particularly those places where we come together to be a part
of the learning process, have increasingly become vital to the success of the learning
process. It may seem odd to suggest that we are just now beginning to understand the
impact of the nature and structure of online learning environments, yet we must not
forget that from a teaching and learning perspective it has been only 20 years since these
technology mediated learning environments became an everyday part of our education
conversation. The ubiquity of the Internet, the affordances of the Web, and the increased
availability and use of mobile platforms are not just changing the way we present and
consume education but they are pushing us to re-examine what is necessary to support
learning and knowledge creation. In this research project I struggle to understand the
impact of the learning environment I find myself working within. My evolving
understanding has significantly impacted how I understand my data and make sense of it
through this environmental lens. In this next section I plan to explore social software and
socially networked learning environments as they are used to support distance education
Socially Networked Learning Environments
When I began this research project I could not imagine the degree by which the
online learning environment would have an impact on my study. I did not come to the
conversation with a grounded or fixed view of any type of online learning environment,
as I generally perceived them as places where learners get together and learning takes
place: one virtual classroom was no different from another virtual learning space. I had
been swayed by the Clark (1983, 1994a, 1994b) and Kozma (1991, 1994a, 1994b) debate
on the influence of media on learning and had been per
that media does not influence learning. In so doing I did not initially consider the
relevance of the learning medium on my study. When I was offered access to a social-
networked learning environment, that became the place of my research study, I happily
accepted it without fully appreciating its impact on my research and the even larger
impact that socially networked learning spaces could have upon teaching and learning
online. The affordances of socially networked learning spaces are key factors in
changing the way we need to view learning environments (Anderson, 2008b). As
indicated at the beginning of this document, my personal knowledge creation and
learning have been greatly influenced by this project. As a result of this study I have
become a passionate believer in the use of social-networked learning spaces in support of
online teaching and learning. This should become evident by the end of my dissertation.
Learning management systems (LMS), primarily developed in the 1990s,
continue to provide a means to package and deliver online courses to learners. This is the
most prevalent form of formal course delivery in online settings today. LMSs are much
more than content delivery vehicles yet the very name (Learning Management) implies
primarily a tool set for administrative efficiency rather than a
platform for substantive teaching and learning activities (Mott, 2010, n.p.). Threaded
conversations were a significant component of LMS systems from their beginnings and
remain key mechanisms for interaction.
The LMS has shaped much of how learners and educators view online learning
LMS' [sic] are designed as a learning management tool, not a learning
environment creation tool 2004, n. p.). Despite this and other comments,
Siemens 2004, Mott 2010, and others (Adams, 2010; Lane, 2008, 2009; Sclater, 2008) do
not dispute the value of the LMS for certain aspects of the business of online education.
It is generally recognized thdesigned to focus on instructor efficiency
for administrative functions such as grade posting, assignment coordination, test creation,
and enrollment management (Lane, 2009, n.p.). The challenge many educators face
today is how to effectively use an LMS in the service of teaching and learning. What
holds it back from being an effective learning tool despite its dominance as a vehicle in
online learning?
Lamberson and Lamb (2003) outline a number of significant issues with respect
to LMSs 
conversation is still relevant today. They outline strengths and weaknesses of these
online environments and document issues pertaining to content and portability between
platforms and within course iterations. The issues primarily pertain to instructor-
provided content. They acknowledge that, he amount of intellectual capital that is
resident in CMS [LMS] sites worl
further to acknowledge that learner content or data is not generally extractable from these
iscussion export should allow a student to retain
the context and depth of a discussion by supporting retention of ownership and re-
access and copy some of their contributions, most LMSs shut off access very shortly after
the course finishes and students generally are not able to access (much less augment) this
content after the fact. Today, this staggering amount of intellectual capital is closed off
and packed away such that, in most cases, by using an LMS in the learning process,
visible evidence of learning can never be viewed or shared after the fact. None of this
takes into consideration any of the issues surrounding copyright challenges and the way
that different national legislation or perceived corporate ownership speaks to access
rights. Copyright issues will not be discussed in this dissertation but they are very
relevant to the larger conversation around online learning environments. Each course
taught using an LMS is a unit, sealed within the time frame of the course and only for
those learners who lived with the course and within that timeframe. A result of this
closed context and its temporal insecurity is both a perception of privacy and one of
imminent termination, that content and discussion created during the course and ending
with the final day of class will not serve to enhance, embarrass nor engage learners
beyond the course. LMSs serve a valuable purpose in the support of online learning;
however, other factors need to be considered beyond the needs of the teacher and of the
institution, particularly if one believes that the openness of and to learning should be at
the centre of the teaching and learning paradigm.
As with most technologies, the advent and use of one technology can help to push
change and introduce the challenge of finding ways to develop new and different
opportunities (Christensen, Horn, & Johnson, 2011). Regardless of intent, no one
technology offers a panacea for all uses, or even within a particular world of use such as
formal education. As outlined above, most LMSs allow the teacher to create a structured
environment within a confined space for a specified group of individuals for a defined
time period. Changing pedagogical perspectives (Anderson, 2008b; Mott, 2010) and a
rethinking of our understanding around Web 2.0 (Dron, 2007, Dron & Anderson, 2011)
have pushed learning environment thinking and helped to shape many changes in the use
of technologies to support online learning (Dua, 2012; Rose, 2012). The advent of online
social networking is an example of technology being used to shape education and cause
significant rethinking of what constitutes an appropriate environment for learning. In
particular we see how these contexts are used to support networked and connectivist
models of teaching and learning as opposed to group based models that ground learning
in LMS systems.
using web based services to connect and interact with people about
shared activities or interests, [and] can be a great way to pursue interests, establish and
enhance existing friendships and share ideasAustralian Communications and Media
Authority, 2011). In popular culture today this definition can take many forms including
social web sites such as Facebook, Skype, Twitter, Learnist, LinkedIn, and thousands of
others used to connect people around the world and allow them to share common
interests, communicate, and develop friendships. The sheer volume of sites makes it very
difficult to count or even categorize.
There is an ever-changing list of virtual community sites, each with over 100
million members (List of virtual communities with more than 100 million users, 2012).
This list in no way takes into account those that have fewer than 100 million users, but
this number alone should provide a sense of the volume and diversity of sites purporting
to offer social interaction of varying forms. Rheingold (1993) first coined the term
virtual community as he explored how individuals interact online in ways similar to face-
to-face environments. This connection describes a double-edged sword in that we seek to
use technologies to encourage and support our virtual coming together in an attempt to
mimic or replicate our face-to-face worlds. We are confronted with the richness afforded
by our onlinedness, yet this can conflict with the types of learning environments we
attempt to replicate. Ideally we should not merely seek to replicate our face-to-face
worlds as they currently exist; rather, we need to recognize how to use technologies to
support learning most effectively in online settings. This does not take away from
support these communities and the learning that occurs within them.
 224)
has become a mantra and call to see change in the way online education can be offered.
Post-secondary education in particular is becoming a place where there is recognition that
students learn best when they have control over their learning environments (Anderson,
2008b; Paulsen, 1993). The LMS world offers a variety of freedoms, but this is primarily
done within the clearly defined impermeable walls of the institution where each course is
designed to be a single, stand-alone entity with a defined life and access. Further, the
LMS has many defined roles for administrators, course designers, editors, teachers,
tutors, student listed here in order of power to change and control context. By contrast
social networks are much flatter, usually allowing students identical creation and control
rights as teachers. Paulsen (1993) quotes Mason and Kyle in their summation of the
implications for computer mediated communication (CMC) on distance education. They
he provision of an opportunity, which never existed
before, to create a network of  for collective thinking, and access to peers
for sociali
theory of cooperative freedom, which he describes as a theory of autonomy and
independence. Paulsen argued that distance learners needed a balance of cooperation as
well as freedom in their learning. His theory included six elements he believed were
necessary to support distance learners. These six are: the freedom of time; curriculum;
space; access; pace; and medium.
Anderson (2008b) arrived at the following definition of educational social
defined educational social software as, networked tools that support and encourage
individuals to learn together while retaining individual control over their time, space,
presence, activity, identity, and relationship (p. 227). A key part of
of social software that
he believes could be used to support the enhancement of the processes of distance
ESS tools will
need to support students working continuously to update content that was initiated
months or even years before by other students
environments where all participants have control over their course contributions now and
into the future, and they have the ability to grow in their learning beyond the set
parameters of any given course. This pushes the temporal boundaries of the learning
environment. Social learning environments become permeable both from the perspective
of the learner and their contributions, but also from the perspective of past and future peer
learners. Social learning environments have the potential to change the learning
paradigm; how learners interact with each other, their teachers, and the content, as well as
other types of freedoms afforded learners in these environments.
In the context of this research study, content is not just what the teacher brings
into the learning space but it also includes any and all contributions made by learners
(past and present) as they engage their peers throughout the course. A key part of a
networked social learning space is that content can develop a form of permanency as it
evolves as a dynamic resource. In my study environment, learners retain complete
control over their content in their course in that they can allow their contributions
(content) to be kept for future learners, they can remove it, they can add to it, alter it, or
comment on it after the fact: control rests with the learner. The course containing this
content is never closed away or shut off after the fact. Courses developed and offered in
this social learning space have a life that exists for as long as it is deemed to have value
for others. Thus this sense of permanence, made available by a networked social learning
space, clearly re-he
[staggering] amount of intellectual capital that is resident in [online] sites
well as those concerns expressed by Anderson (2008b).
A challenge perceived with a permanent and ever-growing content resource such
as an online archive is the belief that it will become too large, unwieldy and
unmanageable. In my study environment, aspects of these challenges surface. Dron
(2004) addresses some of these issues when he introduces the concept of stigmergy in an
online learning environment. Granted, new tools are always being developed that may
allow users to filter and categorize their content. Thus content volume challenges may
become a moot issue in the future, yet the concept of stigmergy and its place in a
networked social learning environment may apply to this study and may offer an
insightful dimension.
Stigmergy, a term coined by Grasse (Dron, 2004) is a form of communication
where signs left in the environment later affect the behaviour of others
type of communication is evident in many of the social software sites used on the Web.
It surfaces in various forms including visible markers on sites labeled as likes or number
of visits, and against a peer-scale indicating which articles, resources, or sites others
tigmergic signals
are thus not the result of the intended communication, but are an emergent behavior of
the system as a wholeform of dialogue and
original intentions of the individuals, structure in stigmergic systems arises
as a direct result of their indirect communication, interactions and behaviour
Understanding the result of this form of dialogue in a networked online learning space is
important because it can assist learners as they filter the mass of resources available to
them, and it can help to develop a form of a hierarchy in a document archive. I do not
perceive stigmergy so much as a tool but more a means of understanding the evolution
and the ebb and flow of the access and use of artefacts within an online archive.
Dron and Anderson (2007) define the role of members in a network:
[They] share a marginal sense of commitment to each other, but are typically
induced to contribute to the network as a means to increase their personal
reputation and to collectively create a resource that has greater value than
individual or group contribution and perspective. (p. 2.)
Socially networked learning environments place greater control in the hands of
the learner and allow that which is important to rise to the surface and that which may be
of the learning environment as defined by all parties in the learning endeavor. Dron,
(2004) quotes both Seely Brown and Siemens designed with embedded
stigmergic, evolutionary and other self-organizing change
according to use. They are not fixed systems but are instead learning ecologies
In a socially networked learning environment the crowd has control over many
aspects of their learning and their environment. What needs to be managed, to some
degree, is who the crowd is and what they have access to. Dron and Anderson (2011)
express this concern as they examine strategies for the use of social software in learning.
ubiquitous and we
ignore them at our peril. We need to find ways to take advantage of such systems, not to
censor them
such as Elgg. As previously discussed, Elgg is an open-source, customizable social
networking engine. This software environment permits the user to determine the degree
by which their contributions can be viewed and/or commented on by others. Within the
the default setting is set to those users registered within the study university. This
includes faculty, staff, and students: both current and former. Users have the ability to
open their access to the entire web-sphere or set it to various access levels all the way to
being as narrow and private as restricted to personal viewing by the creator. The crowd
can, to a degree, be managed and the environment, although walled, should permit for
safe but permeable access in support of learning, knowledge creation, and growth.
Importantly, these permissions are not set at the tool level (for example all blog posts are
visible only by members of a class group), but rather the individual selects the
permissions for each posting. Thus, a post may be restricted to a few friends while the
next could be open to the whole web including search engines. Finally, the creator,
whenever desired, may change these permission levels.
As we are challenged to use different environments, the challenges serve to
change us. It is these changes and how we evolve and become different and more
effective learners through our use and engagement with these environments and related
tools that I wish to discuss next.
Efficacy, also described by Patterson and Kelleher (2005) as self-efficacy or
themselves coping effectively with difficult situations, their sense of mastery is likely to
ddux 2002, p.
285). The terms efficacy, self-efficacy, and personal-efficacy may not necessarily be
the same time not having self-efficacy. In this sense I will generally speak about efficacy
in its root sense but I may at times add a descriptive prefix depending upon the point I
may be trying to make.
Only after analysing my data did I begin to realize the impact of the archive and
related impact of the learning environment upon student efficacy. There is a question
the issue of efficacy is not just being demonstrated by answers to this specific question,
but throughout the entire breadth of the data there are many instances of students talking
out issues that clearly show evidence of (or lack of) efficacy in their learning of the
course material, becoming comfortable with the learning environment, and with the
he development of efficacy is a dynamic process, the result of interaction
Student willingness to engage with content, with peers, and with the teacher in
most academic settings often comes from an intrinsic place. The strength of this internal
willingness can be impacted by the nature of learning environments, which can include
external expectations and other course requirements. Environmental factors can have an
impact on the amount and quality of this engagement. Social cognitive theory suggests
that self-efficacy as well as an understanding about personal outcomes and the outcomes
of the immediate community influence student participation and engagement (Bandura,
1977a, 1977b; 2001; Schunk & Usher, 2012; Zhuo, 2011). The impact of the instruction
process as well as the social process embedded within a course also impacts the efficacy
of the learner (Schunk & Usher, 2012). This is not just a case of awareness but also
about the 
that there are positive benefits to this engagement process. In many ways this is a case of
belief begetting belief. It is a case of believing that you can accomplish what you want to
accomplish (Maddux, 2002). In the case of my study it is students seeing the positive
impact of their socially networked environment and the archive, and how they are
influenced by this positive environmental reinforcement.
Unless people believe they can produce desired results and forestall detrimental
ones by their actions, they have little incentive to act or to persevere in the face of
environment appear to directly influence student persistence and willingness to push past
judge the correctness
of their predictive and operative thinking against the outcomes of their actions, the effects
 what others believe, deductions from established
Efficacy also relates to the previously discussed domain of self-reflection.
o be an agent is to intentionally make
eople are not only agents
of action but self-examiners of their own functioning. The metacognitive capability to
reflect upon onthoughts and actions is another distinctly
-reflection and efficacy is an
important aspect of my study as students find various ways to tie together their
understanding of the content and their use of the learning environment and related tools
in the process of changing their beliefs as they accomplish challenging goals. As
mentioned ear
perceived barriers appear to diminish.
Krämer and Winter (2008) examine impression management in social network
sites and show that self-efficacy is strongly related to the types of relationships users
maintain and the degree by which they are willing to put themselves into their virtual
spaces. This online impression management study appears to suggest that the degree by
which a user is willing to successfully self-present in this very public environment is
directly related to their sense of self-efficacy. This desire to appear competent has
implications for my study, as there appears to be a direct link between student efficacy
and their overall engagement with the course and the archive.
Shunk and Usher (2012) outline four sources of self-efficacy. These are: mastery
experiences (interpretations of actual performances); vicarious (modelled) experiences;
forms of social persuasion; and psychological indexes (p. 21). Mastery experiences deal
therefore, regardless of the result, it is the value attached to how the individual chooses to
see the result that ultimately matters. Social comparisons and observing the work of
 efficacy in that comparisons become a benchmark against which
success can be measured. These vicarious experiences can either positively or negatively
influence efficacy. Vicarious modelling can also be enacted through teaching efforts and
practice, and modelling based upon these various sources can have a lasting effect on
in the message we hear as we work or
message and the value we attach to it. Lastly, the psychological factor that impacts our
efficacy is the degree by which emotional issues impact our perception of success and/or
failure. Stress, anxiety, and fear influence our efficacy and depending upon the
circumstance, these factors can have positive or negative impacts. It is understood that
we all interpret events in our lives quite differently. These interpretations may have
significant or less significant impact on our sense of efficacy. Having the ability to
observe reactions and responses to situations through a similar source list as noted above
can help to frame learning environments that support positive efficacy.
A final note on efficacy is actually something that touches a much larger issue and
one that this study really only skirts. This is more specifically alluded to in the final
apparent lack of focus, the whole issue around Internet, network, and Web efficacy is a
very significant issue for the future of education and online education in particular. A
larger conversation 
1990s (Selwyn, 2004), needs to be re-examined in terms of the ever-changing face of our
use of technology in education (Eastin & LaRose, 2000). The digital divide conversation
was origina-
technologies (ICT). Today it has become less about the availability of these technologies
and more about the effective use of these ICTs; in other words, how users understand the
tools available to them and understand them in terms of their online identity and their
overall net-efficacy (Goode, 2010; , 2004). Rheingold (2012) examines what
are in the process of changing our world: attention, participation, collaboration, the
ability to not only use tools such as the custom Elgg but to understand and effectively use
other social networking tools such as Facebook and LinkedIn, to name only two. The
issue of net-efficacy, net-smarts, and possibly a net-divide need much more study. These
issues are all interconnected within the results of my research.
The literature on efficacy clearly brings in issues of self-reflection and
environmental issues impacting learning. This literature review attempts to bring
together inter-related domains and illustrate, from the literature, their relationship to this
research study. These six literature domains show evidence of these linkages and
Chapter Summary
The earlier theoretical introduction in Chapters 1 and 2 helps to frame this
literature review, which begins by examining the process of knowledge creation as well
as an overview of the concept of knowledge. An enabling condition for knowledge
creation, the concept of ba, is introduced which demonstrates the context around which
knowledge creation takes place. The literature then explores the nature of tacit
knowledge and its potential impact on learning, learning environments, and this study in
particular. Next, this review examines reflective practice as a tool to assist learners in
their process of engaging the class archive and examining their learning as a result of this
interaction. Socially networked learning environments examines existing online practice
with respect to virtual learning environments, using learning or content management
systems, and outlines both their value and ways that learning moves beyond their
intended and primary uses. This domain looks at ways that social software can support
learners, and how different tool sets can be structured to support a broad range of learning
activities in support of more permanent use and access of learning artefacts. Ultimately,
this domain is used to demonstrate the value of networked social learning spaces as
places where learners gain and maintain their control over their learning experiences.
The final literature domain, efficacy, examines student beliefs about their ability to be
successful in their learning and how these beliefs foster various aspects of their course,
including the use of the course archive. This self-efficacy or personal-efficacy becomes a
key part of the student experience. Our understanding what can be or needs to be done to
support this in socially networked learning spaces is a vital piece of the knowledge
creation equation. The next chapter moves to the research component of this dissertation
and begins with a discussion on the theoretical paradigm that underpins the research
methodology, and moves to an overview of the structure and design of the research
Chapter Overview
This chapter outlines the theoretical paradigm and epistemological approach that
underpins my research model, my research methodology, its structure and design, and the
environment within which the study takes place. This chapter also includes a discussion
about the researcher as a participant in the research as well as a description of the design
intervention in terms of the two course iterations of the study, issues regarding ethics, my
data collection, analysis, and coding process, and lastly a chapter summary.
An essential feature of educational design research is the development of
solutions to problems of practiceThese interventions, inputs into educational
environments that are fine-tuned through empirical testing, constitute the main
practical contribution of educational design research. This is because they are
designed for actual use. The interventions created through educational design
research are not merely hypothetical concepts; they are implemented in authentic
settings with the goal of solving real problemsesign research also yields
theoretical understanding. That is, understanding about the phenomenon in
question that is abstracted from empirical findings, and contributes to a body of
knowledge that is useful to others outside the research setting
Reeves, 2012, p. 21)
The initial portion of this chapter outlines the linking together of different
theoretical sources into one cohesive model. This is a qualitative study that examines the
potential value for learners of a dynamic archive containing contributions from previous
students. Another aspect of this study that presents a challenge is that I chose a research
design with an inherent pragmatic paradigm, yet much of my study is determined by a
more constructivist approach.
Research Paradigm
Cohen, Manion, and Morriso
the methodology and design. The purpose of my research is to examine the potential use
and value of an online archive in order to answer the research questions and to produce
design principles in support of the integration and use of such an archive embedded
within online learning environments. These design principles come about as a result of
the knowledge gleaned from my study and will offer value to others beyond the scope of
this research.
My research approach is primarily constructivist/interpretivist. Aspects of my
approach may suggest elements of a post-positivist, or even a pragmatic paradigm. I
suggest post-positivist from the perspective of having an underlying initial theory
(organizational knowledge creation theory) and the pragmatic paradigm is embedded in
my design-based methodology, which is reflected in a practical focus on the research
problem or question (Mackenzie & Knipe, 2006). My primary goal is to gain an
understanding of the possible use and value of the archive, through the words of my
research participants, while my role in the research project is as an active participant in
this process. The constructivist or interpretative frame is noted by stress on
understanding the voice of the student research participants in this study that help shape
the product of the future and it is these conversations that support and give credibility to
the design principles. Thus the ontological perspective assumes that the reality of my
research world is subjective and constructed as a result of the daily interactions of
research participants and through their meanings and understandings, a picture of a more
ideal learning environment can begin to surface. This perspective is also supported by
OKCT, particularly looking through the SECI model lens of knowledge creation and how
ba shapes the reality of those involved in the process of knowledge creation.
Guba and Lincoln (2005), and others (Cohen et al., 2008; Creswell, 2007), offer
different paradigmatic perspectives; however, there is an underlying conversation
suggesting that these silo-like paradigm approaches are not neat and tidy; rather, there is
much oveprobe where and how
paradigms exhibit confluence and where and how they exhibit differences, controversies,
and contradictions
My core belief-set is one of social construction. This view colours the entire process of
my research.
Research Epistemology
My epistemological perspective is also shaped by my belief that the use and value
of an archive in an online learning environment is 
interpretation and understanding as the researcher not being separated from those being
studied. This is supported by the work of Nonaka et al., (2008) in their various study
examples where researchers joined in with their environments in order to fully appreciate
and be one with that which was being studied. Additionally, this relationship (between
the researcher and others involved; including in my case the teacher) can be seen through
the work of Lincoln and Guba (1986) where:
The relationship [between inquirer-respondent] is one of mutual and simultaneous
influence. The interactive nature of the relationship is prized, since it is only
because of this feature that inquirers and respondents may fruitfully learn
together. The relationship between researcher and respondent, when properly
established, is one of respectful negotiation, joint control, and reciprocal learning.
(p. 17)
This participant-researcher role is also outlined in design-based models. It is
distinctions among designers, researchers, and participants are blurred
(Wang & Hannafin, 2005, p. 9). The relationship between the researcher and the research
ultivation of ongoing
relationships with practitionersreciprocal emphasis on learning
and the means that support it, design researchers seek to develop a deep understanding of
the ecology of learning2003, p. 12).
interacting system
involving multiystem includes an
understanding that the researcher is as much a participant as they are the researcher.
Unlike research based on a positivist paradigm (and to lesser degree that based in
an interpretative or constructionist paradigm in which the researcher strives to distance
them self from the participants in order to gain a distinct and attempted objective view),
in design based and action research designs, the researcher attempts to experience, shape,
and engage fully as both a participant and a researcher. Although I see the world in a
very socially constructed way, it as a result of these social constructions that we help
shape and ultimately frame new designs and begin to develop new design principles, and
thus the design-based approach is ideally suited for my study.
Methodology Background
My interest in building value from the processes of past learning and the
conversations supporting this learning for current and future purposes came to light while
knowledge creation processes in online environments through the building of a
community memory (Berry, 2003). The core ideas in this thesis are still sound; however,
value in a current learning environment. Much has changed technologically in the ten
years since I examined these concepts. Our understanding of the impact of online
learning environments on the learning process has evolved significantly. Much can be
learned from the processes and ideas of those who have gone before. By integrating
these ideas and this rich past into an online environment we have an opportunity to
rethink online learning in support of new ways of creating knowledge. This research
project seeks to show the value of making available an archive of idea artefacts and
different ways of thinking, and how current learners can use these artefacts in their
learning processes.
In the early stages of this project I attempt to find ways for my research ideas to
be fashioned into a suitable project. As a result of conversations with my supervisor and
others and as outlined earlier, I understand that a social-networked learning environment
is an essential element in this project. Such an open social-networked learning
environment provides moveable and permeable boundaries to accommodate the idea
flows of learners and their learning using an archive. In particular there needs to be long-
term, multi-semester access to course artefacts where students have control over their
audience, have access to prior iterations of the course and where course participants are
permitted to participate in current and subsequent course iterations. Ongoing access and
use of an archive, as intended by this project, needs an environment that is open and
flexible in this manner. As outlined earlier in this document, more commonly used and
accepted LMSs, in use by many learning organizations today, do not offer this degree of
offer opportunities for organization,
efficiency, and securityNevertheless, researchers have argued that these platforms
have generally been used as static repositories of content, failing to provide the robust
social experience found on platforms that have garnered 
(Veletsianos & Navarrete, 2012, p. 145). Use of an LMS environment alone would have
been a significant challenge for my research study.
Design-Based Methodology
A fundamental aspect of design-based research is that the researcher is an active
member and participant in the context of the research study. In a similar way to
ethnography, the researcher gathers data within the research environment during the life
of the project. Unlike ethnography, the DBR researcher has a goal not just to understand
and to describe the data, but to also produce design principles that could be useful to
practitioners working in related environments.
Additionally I need to be allowed to make possible design changes to the research
environment when and/or where necessary in order to demonstrate my hypothesis. For
example, if something in the original design for this study is not working and needs
altering then changes can and will be made. I was offered the opportunity to work with
an existing Masters level course being offered at the university using a custom instance
of Elgg. The Elgg environment is a customizable, open source social-networking engine
and, in its customized state it is:
Owned by its inhabitants: anyone and everyone who is logged in can blog, create
wikis, share files, podcast, share bookmarks, create groups, engage in discussion
[sic] and much more. It is about controllable privacy: For practically everything
you create, you decide exactly who can access it - how much or how little you
reveal is up to you. [And] it is about trust: Because everyone has a verified
identity, you can be sure that people are who they say they are and are
accountable for what they say and do. (Landing: About, accessed August 20,
2012, n. p.)
The key parts of the above description that make Elgg an ideal environment for
this study are that the environment is owned by its inhabitants, it has controllable
privacy, and each participant has a verifiable identity. This custom Elgg instance is an
editable and configurable environment with controlled yet permeable spaces where
learners can interact with each other in their specific course while at the same time know
that their course contributions have a life or permanence beyond the strict time
parameters of the course. This Elgg instance also offers learners access to a broader
social learning environment permitting both me as the researcher and other invited
individuals into various spaces at different times in support of the learning process.
The core idea for my research comes from my attempt to understand if it is
possible to enhance learning opportunities by offering access to an archive of learning
artefacts in online courses. I want to understand if, how, and to what benefit learners use
and create persistent artefacts. In this online learning context, artefacts range from
asynchronous discussions, blog posts, synchronous meetings, and other recorded
interactions to assignments (with or without teacher marks and comments) or draft
documents that learners leave behind as they work through their learning and their
construction of knowledge within any given online course. In the custom Elgg
environment there are a variety of very different vehicles for communication and the
words forum or discussion post tend to have a more fixed LMS focus. I want the reader
to see that participants have a variety of means to communicate and carry on
conversations. Additionally I recognize the value and potential for relics to remain as a
result of these online conversations (Oakeshott, 1998).
In the initial stages of building this research project, I did not fully appreciate
what kind of a learning environment was needed to support my ideas. It was not until I
had spent time with the learners in the course, and as an active participant in other online
courses that it became clear that I needed to be an integral part of the research process
and to actively participate in the design and the creation of the course. Without day-to-
day involvement it would have been a great challenge to understand and appreciate the
nature of the learners experience with the artefacts contained within the archive. I not
only wanted to observe learner interactions but I wanted to be able to talk to the learners
as they participated in the course and as they interact with each other, the instructor, and
the artefacts left behind by their peers and previous course participants. I understood that
by observing and listening to the day-to-day conversations as well as reaching out and
talking to the learners during the course I had a better opportunity to appreciate the real
value of such an archive on the learning process. Being an active researcher/course
member is essential to my research.
Arriving at a design-based research methodlogy came out of an understanding of
what was needed both from me as the researcher and from the environment within which
this research study takes place. My constructivist understanding frames my view of how
I engage others and what I expect from others as research participants. My understanding
of DBR evolved throughout this study and although when I entered the project I had a
fairly rigid and somewhat narrow view of the methodology, my knowledge of the
processes evolved and the impact of this changed-view transformed what I saw and how I
interpreted my data.
Structure of the Research Design
-based research is not so much an approach, as it is a series of
approaches, with the intent of producing new theories, artefacts, and practices that
& Squire, 2004, p. 2). Barab and Squire go on to state that:
Design-based research is concerned with using design in the service of using
broad models of how humans think, know, act, and learn; that is, a critical
component of the design-based research is that the design is conceived not just to
meet local needs, but to advance a theoretical agenda, to uncover, explore, and
confirm theoretical relationships. Design-based research requires more than
simply showing a particular design works but demands that the researcher…
generate evidence-based claims about learning that address contemporary
theoretical issues and further the theoretical knowledge of the field [italics in
original]. (pp. 5-6)
Herrington, et al., (2007) discuss the use of design-based research in doctoral
At first glance, the requirement that design-based research should address
complex problems in real contexts in close collaboration with practitioners may
appear to be such a long-term and intensive approach to educational inquiry that
dissertations. But we argue that design-based research is not only feasible for
doctoral students, but that stronger students should be encouraged to engage in it
by their academic advisors. (p. 4090)
The multiple stages of design-based research (Anderson, 2005; Bannan-Ritland,
2003) in many ways replicate the cyclical nature of the knowledge creation model
introduced in the first three chapters; as the DBR stages allow for growth and circle back
to a base of ever-evolving knowledge creation and understanding. The first stage of
design-based research is informed exploration which focuses on a literature review,
terventions in
p. 5). The second stage, enactment,
p. 6). The third
stage is evaluation within a local context. This entails the creation of evaluative
p. 6). The final stage, the broader impact evaluation,
intervention as well as
knowledge about the ways and means by which specific characteristics of each unique
p. 6). This is an
iterative process and, in my study, learners repeat this iterative process as they access and
use the content of the course archive.
Anderson (2005) further describes the iterative nature of design-based research
and the fact that within each of the four stages there is room for multiple iterations. The
encouraging 
entry point for the previous stage. Thus knowledge grows in a circular fashion as it
p. 7). The iterative process of the knowledge creation cycle
supports knowledge growth. As the cycles 
knowledge evolves and 
process evolves along with it.
Anderson (2005) posits further that design-based research arose largely within an
American-based context grounded in the philosophical works of William James and John
Dewey. James heavhe concepts of Basho or Ba became
is understandings of
the western philosophical tradition. This methodology is most suited to the nature of this
research due, in part, to the threading of a philosophical context within the learning
environment. Bannan-Ritland (2003) proposes tive learning design (ILD)
that positions design research as a socially constructed, contextualized process for
producing educationally effective interventions with a high likelihood of being used in
p. 21).
Brown (1992) and Collins (1990) describe design-based research as a
methodology that focuses on complex problems in real-world situations in partnership
with those engaged in these same activities. This includes bringing together both known
and hypothetical design principles using applicable technologies in support of acceptable
solutions. They also outline that any inquiry needs to be reflective and rigorous while
ensuring that the end product allowed for new design principles in support of innovative
learning environments. Ultimately, what distinguishes this methodology from other
commitment to developing theoretical insights and
practical solutions simultaneously, in real world contexts, together with stakeholders
[italics in original] (McKenney & Reeves, 2012, p. 9).
Online discussions (primarily asynchronous) are used extensively in computer-
mediated instruction. Most of these discussions focus on addressing something tangible
such as an assignment or resolving a course-related issue. There may be off-topic, side
discussions embedded within the main topic area but most online conversation is guided
and focused, aiming towards an explicit learning product. The learning, the measurement
of this learning and the product or products resulting from this learning becomes the
accomplishments and the goal of the course. What is generally not considered or, at least
not preserved, are the side elements in these discussions: the scaffolds or supports used to
arrive at the learning products. These discarded tacit insights are considered to have
served their purpose and are no longer needed. This research examines the potential
value in these subsidiary elements and tacit insights. One of the purposes of this research
is to determine whether there is any evidence of value in these seemingly discarded
insights and how environments might be structured in the future to support these
elements if they could be seen to be of value.
Embedded into this course there is a place for learners to talk through their own
learning processes and, in this talking process, leave for others a record of their learning
and cognitive struggles. This is the archive. Learners leave behind scaffold frames and
used tacit insights (footprints) upon which their understandings are built. A blog
structured into the course proved to be an effective medium for individuals to articulate
their struggles and their participation in the course. The blog became an archive
containing these tacit scaffolds. The beneficial part of using a blog or an online
discussion group to capture tacit exchanges is that a more permanent record is
maintained. Individuals have the ability to return and reread what has been said and
reflect upon the thoughts of others in the process of attempting to understand. A record
of the struggles of prior learners is an important aspect of tacit knowing. The value of a
design-based research model that encourages iterative examination of the research
process allows the researcher to decide if a blog or other forms of preserved
communication are effective instruments for capturing tacit interactions, or whether other
collaborative tools might be more effective.
Barab and Squire (2004) state:
Design-based research requires more than simply showing a particular design
works but demands that the researcher (move beyond a particular design exemplar
to) generate evidence-based claims about learning that address contemporary
theoretical issues and further the theoretical knowledge of the field [italics in
original]. (pp. 5-6)
Data from this research project provides such evidence and builds upon other
theories to support the increased use of social-networked learning environments, as well
as provide appropriate structural elements in support of the use of learning archives
within these environments.
Bereiter (2002) discusses four distinct characteristics of design-based research
and concludes by stating, on of as-yet-unrealized
possibilities and is characterized by emergent goals that is, goals that arise and evolve
p. 325). This research project is based
upon a vision and a belief that an understanding of the process of knowing through the
sharing of tacit knowledge may yet become an integral part of online learning
environments in such a way as to offer current learners access to the how and why
processes of prior learners thus expanding the cycle of knowledge creation. The results
of this project, as discussed in the following chapter, demonstrate this vision.
My research project is designed with me, the researcher, being an active
participant in two subsequent iterations of an online Masters level course where the
learners, as part of their day-to-day course activities are expected to make use of archived
online synchronous and asynchronous discussions as a means of accessing the knowledge
processes of prior learners. The learning environment is a social-networked space using a
customized version of open-source software, Elgg. The course, including the course
outline, all the course materials, the assignments, the schedule, and all other materials
related to the course are located within the universitLMS. The virtual classroom is
within the Elgg environment and it is here that students pose questions, exchange ideas,
and talk through issues and concerns both pertaining to the course and beyond.
Research Environment
This social networking environment offers a variety of tools including: group
files; a wiki; links; blogging; forums; as well as a place for e-portfolios. All of these
tools permit archiving. This social learning environment offers learners the opportunity
to build a network of friends and communities, and within these communities, learners
retain personal control over who has access to their postings so that more closely
focussed discussions can take place within closed communities if needed. Individuals are
able to edit their profile to permit as much or as little external access to their space as
desired. There are examples of individuals who built a blog as a personal learning
journal and permitted no others to access their entries. Learners can also, after the fact,
edit or delete their contributions. One individual, who agreed to be a part of the research
study, chose to delete all of their contributions and remove their profile at the end of the
course. Although this may appear to be an extreme example, it clearly demonstrates the
power of the user in a socially networked learning environment. From a learning and
knowledge creation perspective, this tool-set, the Elgg environment offers a rich
opportunity to share understandings and engage others in a safe and supportive
This online social space is somewhat different than the discussion forum space set
out in most LMSs. In an LMS, one does not have the ability to share comments with a
broader audience beyond the course and, in most cases; the content of the LMS
disappears at the conclusion of the course. Further, typically only the teacher can start (or
close) a new discussion, or group whereas in the Elgg environment these capabilities are
available to everyone. Discussion threads in an LMS have become fairly sophisticated,
although similar tools have been integrated into the Elgg environment. Blogs, not
generally a part of most LMSs, are, website[s] with dated entries, presented in reverse
chronological order and published on the Internetns, 2006, p. 32). In the
context of this discussion, blogs, in an academic setting, allow the author an opportunity
to discuss a variety of topics and to elicit comments and side discussions beyond the
purview of any set focus. In most course LMS environments there is a more guided
focus and a design structure to maintain direction. This is not to suggest that one tool is
better or worse than the other but as with many aspects of online learning, finding and
using the most appropriate tool is key to a successful learning experience.
Regardless of the tool or environment, ICTs are evolving both at an exponential
rate and in ways that, even today, some find difficulty imagining. Tools that are being
used today in social and entertainment settings are also being integrated into online
teaching and learning environments. These tools and technologies allow students and
teachers to create artefacts that can be stored within online archives. We are only
beginning to understand the nature and value of artefacts contained within these archives.
Paavola and Hakkarainen (2009) discuss the use of artefacts to support knowledge
creation in Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL). They attempt to move
the knowledge creation metaphor towards a different view where they introduce a
concept referred to as trialoguesthose processes where things are
developed collaborativelyThe emphasis is on developing something new
collaboratively, not repeating existing knowledge and Hakkarainen
acknowledge the work of Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995), Bereiter (2002), and others.
They integrate knowledge artefacts into a shared understanding of the learning process.
Murray and Sandars (2009) also discuss the use of student created artefacts in a
medical context and emphasize the value of these artefacts (e-portfolios) in the reflective
practice of junior doctors. Nelkner, Magenheim, and Reinhardt (2009) examine the
rtefacts and social interactions are
observable externalisations of knowledge
emergence demonstrating the use and value of artefacts in the learning process. Nelkner,
et al., (2009), as with Paavola and Hakkarainen (2009), built a triangular model, which
includes artefacts and what they refer to as sociofacts or social interactions and cognifacts
personal expertise as a result of formal and informal learning and communication
Nelkner, Magenheim, & Reinhardt, 2009, p. 380). The use of archived
materials (artefacts) is linked to the knowledge creation process and this research study
brings new light to this emerging concept.
Description of the Intervention
Students and especially adult students with jobs and families are busy; they have a
limited amount of time and most engage course content and each other to the extent that
they need to in order to accomplish an assignment and/or complete elements of any given
course. From my personal online experience, no matter how intrinsically valuable
archived materials might be; most students will infrequently wander through the past
history of a course (a course archive) unless specifically directed to. This is not
necessarily due to the archive being perceived as having limited value but more about
time management and a  and
resources. This issue becomes a key challenge when building the intervention for this
study and is discussed at length in the results chapter.
By the summer of 2010 the class archive for the learning environment being
studied contained content in the form of blog postings, a few student-generated files, and
class discussions held within a closed Elgg classroom space of two earlier but sequential
sections of the course used in this study. The two iterations of this study follow
immediately after these two earlier course sections. This original Elgg environment was
at that time generally unsophisticated and was in its earliest stages of development within
the university. The search feature was limited and navigation was a challenge in part due
to the language used to describe the various locations and intentions of the space and in
particular the language and intent was quite different from the more familiar LMS
students had previously worked within. There were few additional features to assist users
to navigate the system.
This course original archive (available to students at the start of the research)
offers both challenges and concerns for the study participants. Within these
environmental concerns one of the many perceived challenges is getting students to see
the value of the archive and encouraging students to take time to read through or search
the archive for thoughts and ideas that might aid their understanding of the course
material. Another concern is that although the students who had already contributed to
the archive prior to the research appeared to understand why they were contributing,
many did not tag or properly identify their contributions for future use. The archive is
content rich but finding useful artefacts is difficult as a result of this challenging toolset.
The plan to use a course archive within an active course is also considered a
challenge because using an archive is not seen as a task that is normally a part of most
post-secondary environments and students are generally not acculturated to such practice.
An additional challenge not discussed or perceived of at this design phase is the various
issues that surface in offering this course outside of the traditional LMS environment and
offering it from within an online socially networked learning space (for example the
desirability, but complications of using a single logon to gain access to the LMS, the
library, and the Elgg environment). These issues have been discussed earlier in this
document and in the early design stage of this study much was unknown. Keeping most
of these issues in mind, the course professor and I designed a reflective assignment
(Appendix C) to support learners in seeing value in their use of the archive. In addition,
it is planned that I, as an active participant in the course, will attempt to provide support
for the learners as they work with the archive and attempt to help them to see value in
using the archive for their various assignments. My role in the course is a combination of
observer, participant, and course environment assistant. I play no role in any of the
assignments. I read the various discussions and comments and actively engage the
learners when there are issues and challenges regarding the archive or the Elgg
environment. I attempt to provide an understanding regarding the structure of the virtual
space and clarify navigation and access issues. I participate in broader conversations
regarding a philosophical perspective on the use of social-networked learning spaces
versus LMS and other forms of learning environments. I offer synchronous sessions,
where needed, to support the learners in their early steps in this new social environment
and to better understand the archive and how to use it effectively. In this way learners are
encouraged to find archived samples of similar work to assist them with this main course
At the start of the course students are informed that their blog postings within the
online classroom will be kept and made available for subsequent course participants. The
students are shown how to use the privacy settings within the online software to ensure
that each student has control over access to their contributions. They are granted
complete rights to their contributions in terms of what each will permit to be left behind
in the archive or what they wish to have removed beyond their current course. Each
contribution names the contributor and for purposes of this research project, each student
either signs an informed consent document permitting use of their information or they do
not. Regardless of whether a student signs such a document they all can keep or remove
their content as and when they choose within the confines of the course. They are
encouraged to freely communicate within the course plus ask questions of the instructor,
me as the researcher, or each other. As noted earlier, the Elgg environment permits users
to determine their privacy settings. In most online learning environments, students
generally understand that there is an expectation that their discussion entries will be
shared inside the classroom in a semi-public manner such that their current course peers
might read and comment on their work. My use of the term semi-public infers that
students within their class will have access to peer online contributions but unless
specifically granted by the contributor, no one outside of the class will have access to
what is being stated. Discussions and postings as well as research papers and other
resources, if placed online, are made available for peer groups to read, reflect upon, and
critique. In this study both active research participants (those who sign a consent
document) and those not participating in the research study are informed that their
contributions might be read and examined by students currently enrolled, those from up
to two iterations prior to the start of the study, and those for the two iterations of the
study. Students are given complete control over their privacy settings and some choose
to use privacy settings to inhibit access to certain comments or notes and some choose to
remove some or all of their contributions. The design-based process is ideally suited for
this research and although the aforementioned is an aspect of the study that may impact
the results, although this is understood to be an element of a design-based study.
Concerns and challenges which might otherwise side line elements of a research project
are expected and thus the multi-iteration process of the research allows for changes to the
design, the environment, and the way that either the researcher or the participants choose
to engage.
First Iteration of the Study (Implementation of the Intervention)
p. 326). 
[design-based research] the context of the inquiry must be seen as a means to an end
rather than an end in itself. The intention should be to use the setting to gain an
al., 2007, p. 4094). Design-based research methods may resemble other approaches;
however, the main features that DBR uniquely offers are the generation of theory used to
solve problems and having the researcher fill the role of both the designer and the
researcher (Wang & Hannafin, 2005).
The first iteration of the study begins in the summer of 2010, with several changes
being made to the course to allow for the use of the archive on an on-going basis. There
is the previously mentioned final reflective assignment (Appendix C) added to the course
with wording that would hopefully encourage participants to see the archive as an
intrinsic part of the course. I spend considerable time working with the pre-2010 archive
in order to ensure I understand as much about the archive as possible and to appreciate
the types of challenges new course participants might encounter. I was involved as a TA
in one of the two previous iterations of this course, as indicated earlier, and therefore was
familiar with the older Elgg environment.
My familiarity with this older environment leads me to make some initial
assumptions about the September 2010 environment that are incorrect and cause some
initial confusion with the course participants. The archived data had not been properly
moved over from an older version of Elgg when the system was upgraded in January
2010. All of the post headings had been transferred to the upgraded version but for
reasons that are never explained by those managing the Elgg environment, all of these
posts are empty: they had no content. I note that the headings were present but do not go
into the postings to confirm content and this is not spotted until students begin to use the
archive. This confusion slows down the initial engagement with the archive and may
dampen some of the enthusiasm for its use in this first course iteration. There are no
direct statements from students to support this observation other than tone and inference
in the class comments.
Once some of the initial environmental challenges are dealt with in the first few
weeks of the course I realize that a synchronous session is needed to answer questions
about the archive, my research, and the Elgg environment itself. I quickly realize that
language is something that needs clarifying and that students interpret and reinterpret
differently what I initially feel are clear and obvious statements. For example, my use of
the words archive and artefact are understood in so very many different ways and as a
result, I have to find different ways to express the different meanings and intent of these
words. For example, I discover that although I see the archive as I describe it throughout
this document, some of the students are expecting to find a formal location entitled
with a clear doorway and guideposts. The word artefact is initially perceived
by a number of students to mean a clearly defined historical example and it is only after
one of the early synchronous sessions that students begin to see these terms in very broad
ways and they then begin to share meanings and talk to each other using these terms in a
more unified and clearly understood way.
I set up a private room within the Elgg space for those who agree to participate in
the research. At different times I encourage active research participants to enter and
extend the conversation in this private research space. There are a few individuals who
make a concerted effort to engage and provide rich commentary in this closed room;
however, I found that most students are just as happy to have these extended
conversations about the research in a more public venue within the general course space.
This proves to be a positive thing in the long run as I find that the open course
conversations are more engaging and have a broader centre of content than those held
within my reserved space. Also it is one less place for students to go and check for new
-yet-unrealized possibilities and is
characterized by emergent goalsthat is, goals that arise and evolve in the course of
2002, p. 326). This first iteration begins with a
series of assumptions as outlined by the questions indicated in Appendix B. These
statements are made available to all of the course participants in an attempt to make my
research as transparent as possible. Responses to these questions, and other issues that
arise from the first iteration of this study, are used, in part, to determine changes to my
study in the second iteration. The flow of the course (both iterations) is a mix of
asynchronous work, an iterative assignment, and a series of synchronous sessions to
allow both the professor and the participants various opportunities to check-in and keep
in touch throughout the course. During the first synchronous session with the class, I am
introduced and given some time to explain my study, how students might participate in
my research, and the potential impact of my participation and my research on their
course. Subsequent to this I send an email [Appendix D] to all course participants
inviting their participation. The email contains the consent to participate documentation
asking those who wish to participate to clearly indicate Yes and to return the email to me.
Table 1 at the beginning of Chapter 6 outlines the participation/response rate and the
demographics of my study. The nature of this study precludes a random sampling of
participants. -based research, participants
in a design-based research stu
(Herrington, et al., 2007, p. 4094).
There is no way in this study to determine why students choose not to participate
other than several write to me indicating that they would like to participate but feel that to
participate would take time that they feel is not currently available in their schedule. In
all cases I respond thanking them for considering and suggesting that participation will
require very limited time beyond class participation. I resend my initial invitation email
to those who have not yet responded with a note reiterating the nature of the study and
what would be asked of them should they choose to join the study. None of these
individuals change their minds and I make no further overtures to those who choose not
to participate.
At several times during this first study iteration I indicate that although I am
attempting to engage with everyone (n=27 in iteration #1), all students are advised that
everything added to the course environment during the time of the course is being
retained. Students are advised that regardless of this content retention, in this study I am
only permitted to capture and use conversations and content from those who give their
consent. I indicate that regardless of the data I capture, everyone and every reference will
will be my process of editing contributions only to the
extent that I remove or alter text that might identify an individual in any way. Most
participants appear not inhibited in their conversations as most appear focussed and
engaged with each other, their professor, and their assignments. There do not appear to
be any comments or other indications that their every step will be captured and analysed
at some later date. I cannot know if my observations and active participation as a
researcher creates any form of a Hawthorne effect (Michael, Garry, & Kirsch, 2012) on
the study participantspeople sometimes behave
differently if they know they are the object of study
During the third week of the first iteration I conduct a voluntary synchronous
session to talk about the course and my research. Although there are only eight
participants in attendance, the conversations move in such a variety of directions that I
come away believing the students are very engaged, have a reasonably solid
understanding of their course environment, and understand my role and research agenda.
At first I feel that having such a small number of participants at this session is a negative
indicator; yet these few participants take their understanding of the meeting and talk it up
in the general course area. Very shortly this community begins to share understandings
and the greater body of the course appears to benefit from these conversations. The idea
of the archive is beginning to take hold.
I work with the course participants as they access the archive. For example, I
provide links to some of the archived items. I also provide a variety of guided outlines
directing students to different resources. I engage a number of the students in
conversations about their search and how this might best be accomplished. There are a
variety of challenges ranging from a lack of familiarity with the socially networked
learning space to the seemingly haphazard nature of the existing archive. These
challenges include both very limited tagging on the part of those who left items
previously in the environment as well as the very limited search tools available in the
version of Elgg that is being used in the first iteration. The first course assignment
requires students to use the archive as they build their business model. -based
research, methods and analytical procedures are selected and applied because of their
utility for furthering the research project rather than b or
et al., 2007, p. 4094). Students appear challenged by this added
archive search piece. Those who find meaningful support artefacts in the archive become
the bellwether for others and this shared knowledge and understanding becomes a
hallmark of many of the conversations. Challenges range from how to use the archive, to
why would I want to use it, and what is the relationship of the archive to my learning.
Most of the students in this first iteration access the archive and speak about their
challenges, understandings, and the impact the archive has upon their course. I use the
word most because I have no way of knowing if all of the course participants use it.
Those who more actively use the archive leave items behind, and help push the overall
conversation in rich and meaningful ways. I do not study or capture this particular
phenomenon. The only individuals who choose to leave assignments behind for the next
course group are those who are part of the study group. None of the non-participants in
this study leave specific files behind for future students. As I extracted the participant
data from the course as a whole, there appears to be a greater preponderance of thick data
from the consent group as from those whose choose not to participate in my study. There
may be research to support this level of engagement but my study does not include any of
this. At the end of each of the course iterations I go into the course and read all of the
content for every participant but only extract and use content from those who provided
consent. I do not use any of the conversation data when there is a conversation between a
consent provider and a non-consent provider. My comment above regarding a greater
preponderance of thick data from the consent group is an observation I made during this
data extraction process.
Towards the end of the first iteration I invite study participants to be part of a
follow up telephone interview. Initially five of the first iteration agree to such an
interview but when the time comes for these interviews only one participant eventually
finds the time. I believe that the seasonal timing (Christmas) is a factor as several of the
initial group keep rescheduling as a result of holiday and family pressures. I approach
this aspect of my data capture differently with the second iteration and as a result I am
able to interview more individuals from the second group. See Table 1 for the specific
Towards the end of the first iteration of this study students become more engaged
and they begin to talk about the tangible benefit of their efforts and contributions to the
course archive. This comes through in their language and the tone of their conversations.
For some there is an excitement about the fact that their work is going to be used by
students in the next semester. They begin to realize that they can contribute to the
learning of others. As is indicated in the results chapter, some begin to speak as though
they are talking in the present to those in the future. The archive begins to take on a
different shape from when this first iteration group began their course journey. Although
students in the very first two sections of this course (prior to my study) were aware that
their data was captured and retained, there was no active conversation about the archive
and its potential use and value after their course section was finished. In the first iteration
of this study, the archive conversation (why it was there and how it might be used) is in
the forefront of the conversation throughout the course and everyone is aware that
students will be using their data in the next immediate semester. I do not study this
aspect of the data capture and use of the archive but again the tone of the conversations
towards the tail end of the first iteration suggest that knowing of this immediate next use
might positively impact their level of engagement.
The nature of the archive may be impacted by current and future contributions
due to a clearer understanding of the impact of archive contributions on the part of
learners. These study participants may very well alter the archive with their broader
insights regular
basis with the peri
read and dissect, but to have spent time reading and dissecting the work of others should
now give different meaning and understanding 
contributions. Some of these issues became clearer in the second iteration and these are
discussed in the following section.
Second Iteration of the Study (Implementation of the Intervention)
Iterations with a design-based model encourage change to the environment where
needed based upon what is learned by studying the first iteration. There are no physical
changes to the assignment or to the virtual classroom. The larger and improved Elgg
environment offers some changes to search capabilities as part of the on-going evolution
and support of the social networking tool within the university. This offers students in
the second iteration an easier to use learning environment tool set. In my study changes
come in the form of the way both the professor and I engage the students and in the way
that the first iteration changes the course landscape. The professor and I realize that we
need to communicate about the tools and the learning environment using different
language and terms from what had been done four months earlier, although a clearer
archival structure materializes as a result of use made by the first iteration of the study:
the landscape is different. Students from the first iteration leave behind greetings and
very overt guideposts for this second group. Therefore the starting point for this second
group is very different. The first iteration alters the continuum and therefore the second
iteration is entering a very different learning space. As a result the professor and I realize
that we need to manage the environment in a different way. Accessing items in the
archive is less onerous and therefore the distraction caused by access issues in the first
group is less of an issue for the second group. This allows for more time spent becoming
involved with items in the archive and bringing these conversations into class discussion,
thus allowing the second group the opportunity to find potential value in the artefacts.
Besides being a different group and coming together with a different dynamic, the
second group engages the archive in somewhat of a different way. This is, I believe,
because this new group encounters archival content that is written to them based upon the
experiences of a group of students that preceded them and knows that this new group will
be viewing their work: the archive for this new group is more personal. There is nothing
to suggest that the second group is overly different from the first group. Their
willingness or tentativeness with regard to the archive appear to be similar to the first
group. The professor and I evolve and learn as a result of our first group experience and
develop an understanding of what works and does not work regarding the archive. Our
engagement with this second group is different.
These differences surface in some of the following ways. In the first iteration
there are various questions and issues about the assignment and what the archive might
offer to assist in their learning. Although I had been a part of this course as a TA in a
previous version, I am now viewing the core assignment and the archive quite differently,
and so trying to appreciate the student perspective is a challenge. By the second iteration
I better understand what types of issues and concerns students have regarding the
assignment and the archive; therefore, my engagement with this second group is more
seamless. Both the student level and my level of trepidation appear to be less. Also by
spending four months actively engaged with the 27 students in the first group (the second
group has 26 students) I got to know who created what and how each contributed to the
archive, so that when asked by the second group about certain aspects of the archive I
have a more intimate knowledge of the contributors. In many ways this alters the student
view of the archive in terms of access and value. Student efficacy appears to rise and this
second group appears to look after themselves more than did the first group.
As noted in the first iteration discussion, I invite students from the second
iteration to be part of a post-course telephone interview. I am eventually able to conduct
seven interviews. The difference in number from the first iteration (only one interview)
may have had to do with how I approach the participants, how I am able to ensure we can
meet within their timeframes at the end of the course, and because this second group
appears to have a richer engagement with the archive and appears more willing to talk
about it. I do not have data to verify this but the clear discrepancy in numbers regarding
interviews from the first to the second group, apart from the issue of the Christmas season
after the first iteration suggests there is a different experience in the two groups.
Design-based research implies outputs in the form of both knowledge and
products. While these outputs are difficult to specify in advance in the research proposal,
it is useful to be able to describe the process of their development (Herrington, et al.,
2007, p. 4095). This research study suggests that the day-to-day online discussions
produced throughout these socially networked online courses contain evidence of tacit
knowing, as described earlier, and other processes relevant to understanding, the learning
process, and knowledge creation. If accessed and integrated into learning environments
these tacit knowing archives can enhance both the learning environment and the learning
process. The purpose of this design-based research project is to try and find evidence and
use of these tacit processes as well as to use a design-based approach as a means to
generate further questions, which could open doors to further research in this area. The
core idea of the archive is not to just access and engage the archive but to also become
continual contribution to the archive. Part of the process is to learn to be
integrate the access of
the archive into new contributions. Use of the archive should assist the learner in seeing
and understanding different ways of expressing oneself such that, in time, the
contributions can become a greater source of tacit understanding.
Ethical Considerations
There is a relationship between the faculty member teaching the two course
iterations and me. This faculty member is my supervisor. As with any close relationship,
there is the potential for this relationship to interfere with the study and/or the results. In
this study I am a visible observer and active participant in the course, and the course
participants have been informed of my role and responsibilities in the context of the
course. Interviews and discussions with study participants are conducted using media
that provides an appropriate level of privacy and all the collected data is secure. None of
the raw data is shared with the professor. Issues that may have served to identify
individual students (course or non-course related) plus any specific student and/or course
concerns are not discussed with the faculty member until the completion of the course
and final marks are submitted. Distilled and publishable data is only being shared with
the faculty member as a result of the production of this dissertation.
Data Collection, Analysis, and the Coding Process
The validity and reliability of a uniquely qualitative research project such as
presented through this research needs to be addressed. Morse, Barrett, Mayan, Olson,
and Spiers (2002), challenge the language used to describe rigour in qualitative research
make a plea for a return to terminology for ensuring rigor [sic] that is used by
mainstream science [italics in original]
language describing qualitative rigour as was done by Guba and Lincoln (1981) and
the wrong tactics to defend qualitative inquiry
et al., 2002, p. 15). They go on to add:
We suggest that by focusing on strategies to establish trustworthiness (Guba and
 1981 term for rigor [sic]) at the end of the study, rather than focusing on
processes of verification during the study, the investigator runs the risk of missing
serious threats to the reliability and validity until it is too late to correct them.
(pp. 3-4)
The above serves to bring to light issues and concerns regarding the rigour of
qualitative research and how different individuals view what can or should be defined as
and strategies to establish verification of a study do not necessarily have to occur at the
end of the study as described by Morse et al., (2002). These authors raise challenging
questions regarding the process of verification and I attempt to use these strategies to
demonstrate the reliability and validity of my data. I will also outline and provide
evidence of two of the four standards (transferability and dependability) set out by Guba
(1981; Guba & Lincoln, 1982). Evidence of this verification and support for the
reliability and validity of my data can be found in my final chapter following the section
where I re-examine my research questions.
My active participation as a member of the study, as well as being the researcher
offers me a unique perspective with personal notes as well as working with the research
participants throughout their time in the course. The interviews conducted at the end of
the course have a specific question-based focus, although they also help to serve as a
form of membe
contributions to the course and how I use this in my final analysis. Additionally, in
Chapter 6 I provide thick description of the various coded areas of the data.
The data for this study consists of study participant conversations held within the
various areas of the Elgg environment as well as personal interviews. Part of the
participant conversation data consists of discussion and blog postings made by study
participants in the virtual class space or course group in the Elgg environment. The
original text still exists within the confines of the online course and is still accessible by
all individuals who at any time were part of this course. I have no control over this
original data other than being granted permission to copy relevant pieces of text based
upon consent agreements made and agreed to at the start of my research. As indicated at
different times throughout this dissertation document, course participants control what
they add to their course and with this control they also have the right to delete any or all
of their contributions at any time now or into the future. As such, subsequent deletions
may have occurred with some of the original text in this course or in the various private
or public places in the custom Elgg environment where these conversations originally
entirely within the control of that individual.
I copied unedited text from the research participants held in the custom Elgg and
removed any reference that may have been linked to someone not part of this study. I
attempt to do this without altering the context of what is being said, although at times this
may not have been possible. I did attempt to ensure that when I used pieces of text in the
results chapter I reread any text I had removed to see that the context was maintained as
best as possible.
My data set consists of all of the personal blog postings, class discussions, or
other contributions pertaining to this course, including the end-of-course reflections of
the acknowledged research participants along with any blog postings and comments that
were added as a result of subsequent responses to their reflections. The Elgg
environment is not a single place for events. Members of the community have the option
of posting entries in a variety of locations. This spread out approach to postings occurred
with my class study environment. There was the walled classroom space for much of the
course discussion. Students also made class-related comments in their own personal
Custom Elgg blog space outside of the classroom as well as in more public areas.
Students might post in these more public areas in an attempt to engage a larger audience
beyond their classroom peers. I only captured conversations made by the research
participants in private or public areas and did not include any non-participant
contributions in any of the data.
Each element of the data is copied and stored in text files. I went through each
and removed all personal and geographic identifiers while adding code names for the
various research participants. I have included a sample of this data from the first iteration
in Appendix E and from the second iteration in Appendix F.
followed by a number representing that individual in the 
and I used this naming convention as a way of ensuring I could sort the data files on my
personal computer. There was no pattern or order in the choosing of numbers attached to
participants other than I assigned numbers to the first iteration of the course and then
continued adding numbers when the second iteration was added.
In some cases my data does not permit me to identify a quote with a specific
code-named individual and in these cases I have identified the source as Anonymous.
These quotes are not anonymous as they do belong specifically to one of the consent
individuals in the study. The way that some of the data was captured and the nature of
the back and forth conversation caused their words not to be specifically identifiable with
an individual in the study. These were conversations between consent individuals in the
general course file. I could not be sure exactly which of several individuals made the
comment and therefore I labelled those particular comments as coming from Anonymous.
I went through the course group main area within the custom Elgg and, based
upon the structure of the environment, I identified and copied all relevant text from each
of the research participants. My use of the word relevant in the previous sentence refers
to those portions of the text that I could copy based upon the agreements signed by the
participants. I did not copy references to any non-research participant students that were
included in research participant text. The structure noted above refers to defined areas
within the course class group in the custom Elgg, as seen in Figure 1. Almost all of the
text conversations came from the group discussion area as this appeared to be the most
common area where students carried on their class conversations. At times, in capturing
this data it was a challenge to figure out who might be referring to whom. When there
was doubt about whether the speaker was in the study or not I left the conversation and
related conversations out of my data capture. The only pieces of unattributed text that I
did keep were those that I could clearly see were between two study participants.
Although I may not have been able to identify who was speaking I was able to separate
the text and identify it accordingly. I discuss these conversations by using what I have
chosen to call Anonymous, as explained above.
Figure 1: Elgg Group Structure
In addition to the main group discussion file I also maintained a separate Elgg
closed group for research participants. This was an invitation-only, closed space within
the Elgg environment where all research participants were invited and this is intended as
a space or place for more focussed conversations about the archive and the research.
There were some initial conversations in this closed group in both of the course
iterations. As the course went on, the participants seemed to feel more at ease having
these conversations in the more open space of the course. As with the data captured from
the main course group, I captured this research conversation group text, I anonymized it,
and stored it within a separate text file. In addition to these more general text files there
are eight files representing each of the student interviews.
I use coding software for my Mac called HyperRESEARCH. This software
allows me to connect all of my data files to a single case study and from there I begin the
process of manual coding. The final analysis and coding of my data took almost a year
and a half to complete. Personal issues overshadowed my ability to complete my
analysis of this data when it was initially gathered and delayed the writing of the results
in a timely fashion. Although unplanned and unintended, this delay allowed me to re-
examine my original analysis and thinking about this research project and re-evaluate my
understanding of my data, the process of collecting it, and ultimately, what the data
would eventually tell me. Although I do not formally address the data or attempt to
asthe process may not be
linear this delay permits me to talk to a variety of individuals
about my cursory understanding of this data and my research questions. In the process I
am able to begin to see the results in a more comprehensive way as a result of this
lengthy process of self-reflection and rumination. I read and reread the various data files
to reacquaint myself with the conversations, the interviews, and my notes. Then I
worked with my three main questions as the basis for my initial coding, or first cycle
coding as defined by Saldaña (2013). All of my coding is manually done within my
coding software package. I am the only individual to work with the data and to code it.
My three core research questions are truncated as first cycle codes in the form of:
use, value, and challenges. Throughout the study I keep these three words front and
centre as the benchmark against which I attempt to measure how the students are working
with and responding to the archive. I use these words as descriptive codes (Saldaña,
Additionally I use the process of subcoding-order tag after a primary
instances of simultaneous coding
3) cautions against an excessive
My sub-category titles come about as a result of my perception of the first
instance of my interpretation of what is being said by the research subject. My choice of
the words or phrases that I create is my attempt to best describe what is being talked
about. I attempt to use language that is relevant to my study. As I come upon similar
ideas or concepts I add them to this coding phrase or, in some instances, I rephrase the
subcodes to better describe the nature of the sub-group category. When I finish my initial
data coding I find that I created 70 codes within five main headings, as well as six codes
that do not fit within the main headings.
Figure 2: Initial Coding Scheme
The five main headings, based upon my three core questions are: use; value;
challenges; the fourth main code heading is the Elgg tool set, which is the social-
networked learning environment that housed the virtual classroom for this course; and,
the fifth main heading is titled Tacit and this was used to capture items that I believed
best represented evidence of tacit knowing. These 70 codes are affixed to 1,090 coded
pieces of text and all of this text comes from the thirty-five files as described above.
These initial codes can be seen in Figure 2 (Figures numbered 2 7 inclusive are screen
capture images of my coding as it appears in my HyperRESEARCH software). Saldaña
(2013) suggests that the number of codes one ends up with is driven by the context of the
After my initial broad coding I re-examine my codes a second and a third time
and attempt to merge or re-align some of the codes to better reflect what is being said or
discussed. I discover that by re-reading the data and reflecting upon the codes used the
first time through, I see some of the coding and some of the coded text in a different light,
and either merge or recode the text to better reflect my understanding of what is being
said. This results in fewer codes, as displayed in Figure 3. During the merging and
recoding process I discover that not all of the previously coded pieces of text fit neatly
within their newly refined categories. I attempt to ensure that the idea or sentiment being
articulated is placed in the subcode most suitable for what is being articulated. I am the
sole researcher and sole coder for this project. My original three, first order codes set the
tone for my coding and the addition of the fourth and fifth first order codes, Custom Elgg
and Tacit, also fits within the frame of the research conversations through the time of the
two iterations in this study.
Figure 3: Coding Refined and Sorted
Research into transcript analysis suggests there can be difficulties in determining
Reliability is directly affected by lack of discriminant
capability: if categories are not clear, discrepancies in coding will occur
2). Fahy (2001) goes on to add that two of the causes for this discriminant capability may
complexity of the instrument and use of an inappropriate unit of analysis
suggested approaches for my codes, subcodes, number of codes, and the specific units I
code. In qualitative data analysis, Saldaña (2013) defines a code as: a researcher-
generated construct that symbolizes and thus attributes interpreted meaning to each
individual datum for later purposes of pattern detection, categorization, theory building,
and other analytic processes
I refine my codes by going through the data on three separate occasions, using
knowledge gained from the previous coding exercise and finding ways to refine and
better express the data through these codes. For example, the subcodes I choose attempt
to signal or identify the core of the idea or the sentiment expressed. Each of these
subcodes should be similar given the focus of my first-cycle coding.
Saldaña (2013) discusses the validity of the work of the sole coder and outlines
interpretations developed thus far with the participants themselves; (2) initially code as
you transcribe data; and (3) maintain a reflective journal on the research project with
participants regarding the specific subcodes. It is as a result of aspects of my interviews
(particularly after the second iteration) that I begin to support elements of the subcoding
process as the interviews help to confirm my interpretations of my code meanings. My
understanding of student engagement with the archive helped to clarify my development
of these codes. I begin a cursory process of subcoding immediately after I bring the data
from the Custom Elgg environment and begin the process of anonymizing it.
Additionally, I was able to reflect upon aspects of my journal, albeit I did not maintain
After the merge and re-alignment process noted above, I reduce my total to 39
codes. Although this is still more codes than originally suggested by my supervisor, I
stop merging and re-aligning these codes because I realize that although there are some
codes that are used infrequently, codes with few connections to text can be just as
important as the codes that are used over and over. 
is not just labeling, it is linking[Italics in original] (p. 8). I see possible linking in all of
these codes whether they are used frequently or not. I will discuss each of these codes in
detail in the next chapter, along with student perceptions structured through the lens of
each of these codes.
Chapter Summary
This methodology chapter outlines the foundational supports for the research
model used in this study. The pragmatic business management theory that is threaded
throughout my study (OKCT) is laced with a socially constructed context (ba) and this
ultimately shapes my research paradigm. As discussed in this chapter, my research
approach is primarily constructivist/interpretivist and this supports my use of the
subjective conversations with the research participants.
My design-based methodology, albeit a very pragmatic approach, offers me an
opportunity to frame my research in an iterative way. Most importantly, however, this
also permits me to be both a researcher and an active member of the environment within
which the research study takes place. Ultimately, this methodological approach leads to
the development of design principles: new ideas and approaches that become evident
from the data analysis and are outlined in the final chapter.
This methodology chapter outlines both the research environment and the
accompanying intervention. Tied to this is also a short section dealing with ethical
concerns regarding my relationship with the course professor. The chapter concludes with
a lengthy section discussing my data collection process, analysis, and coding process.
This data collection and analysis section sets the stage for the next chapter outlining my
Chapter Six: RESULTS
Chapter Overview
von Krogh, Ichijo, and Nonaka, (2000) suggest that there are five enabling factors
or conditions in support of the process of knowledge creation. These are: instilling a
knowledge vision; managing conversations; mobilizing knowledge activists; creating the
right context; and, globalizing local knowledge. Thomassen and Rive (2010) examine
these conditions in a teaching and learning context and at the end of this chapter I
summarize how, in a similar teaching and learning context, these factors are supported in
my study. In my research I use an educational context to demonstrate how OKCT can
find a similar home within the context of socially networked online learning
environments. This research project creates a conversation about factors that influence
learning and knowledge creation and how these factors can be acknowledged and
supported within such a socially networked learning environment. In doing so, I examine
the use, the perceived value, and the challenges faced by learners as they interact with
learning artefacts and each other in this social-networked learning space. This study
seeks to answer three core questions. These questions intend to assist in understanding
whether and how learners might use an archive, whether they see value in its use, and
what kinds of challenges they were confronted with as they used these resources
throughout their learning. I intend to use these three core questions as the beginning of
this results chapter and will expand from there after an initial discussion focussing
directly on these three core areas. Additional issues come to light as a result of my
examination of the data and these are also introduced and discussed in these next four
pages before the results are introduced in an attempt to contextualize my data.
Table 1: Study Demographics
Course Statistics and Population
Iteration 1
(Fall 2010)
Iteration 2
(Winter 2011)
Total population (N)
Total population gender ratio M/F
Number and percentage of the total
population who signed a research
consent document
14 52%
12 46%
26 49%
Research population gender ratio M/F