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Whitepaper: Hybrid Learning environments, Designing innovative, participatory and sustainable solutions for complex issues



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Hybrid Learning environments, Designing innovative, participatory and sustainable solutions for complex issues
Nigten & Kotey, 2017
Hybrid Learning environments
Designing innovative, participatory and sustainable solutions for complex issues
Anne Nigten (director The Patching Zone, NL), Harry Kotey (Creanomics, The Patching Zone, NL)
Keywords: lifelong learning, innovation, transition design, next economy, transdisciplinary
collaboration, staff empowerment, sustainability, social innovation, engagement
This whitepaper describes Hybrid Learning as an approach to learning, innovation and collaboration.
Hybrid Learning typically takes place in Living Labs where stakeholders from different disciplines,
generations and cultural backgrounds work together on complex issues.
Hybrid Learning refers to the (physical) zones where disciplines and stakeholders with a variety of
backgrounds come together. It builds on concepts such as community learning, experiential learning and
practice-based learning. We claim that, through this exchange between fields, or transdisciplinary
approaches to complex issues, the capacity for (radical) innovation increases significantly. It accelerates
more diverse creativity and refreshing solutions than a monodisciplinary approach. This transdisciplinary
way of working in Hybrid Learning environments in turn, requires new skills and organizational forms.
In this whitepaper we describe the background and theory behind Hybrid Learning (1.) and how Hybrid
Learning is tailor-made and contributes to innovative solutions and the development of 21st century skills
(2.). After our conclusion (3.) we’ll end this white paper with a call (4.) for contributions to extend this
concept from other cultural backgrounds and to share case studies to further expand this concept.
1. Introduction
We are living in increasingly so-called networked ecology - a knowledge society where interactions
between people, devices, software and robots takes place in ever growing and changing roles. (Nigten,
2016) The complexity and intertwined-ness of this networked-ecology brings forth complex social issues
(wicked problems) with unpredictable outcomes. (Rittel & Webber, 1973; Nigten, 2015). These wicked
problems ask for new working methods and multiple perspectives, thus knowledge and expertise from
different fields and disciplines are required. With the knowledge from one single discipline, only part of
the question can thus be analyzed or solved. However, a complex issue often requires unraveling and
analytics from multiple disciplines due its connection with other actors and the anchoring with other
(knowledge) domains. In many cases, it will also be apparent that the initial issue does not directly
Hybrid Learning environments, Designing innovative, participatory and sustainable solutions for complex issues
Nigten & Kotey, 2017
address the problem but is a response to, or arises from, the issue (Nigten, 2013). This requires new skills
in communication, problem analysis, collaboration and new organisational forms.
1.2. Problem definition
What kind of complexity do we refer to in this context? The rapid development of technology causes an
increasing number of interactions at all levels. Such is demonstrated by something simple as a Whatsapp
group, a one-to-many application, where the number of interactions with friends and colleagues increases
For example, two very new categories of services and products have recently emerged at the market;
using co-design (joint design of services/products) and co-creation (user generated content). For these
types of innovation, the organisation or company considers how one can involve the end user in the value
creation prior (co-design) or during the commissioning of the service or product by adding content (co-
creation). More generally, the central question is how the human experience and the developments that
are driven by new technological capabilities can be better matched or rather connected. Consider, for
example, the introduction of new technologies and the (socio-cultural) issues that arise from this. This is
illustrated by, among other things, Blockchain, Smart Cities, Big Data, Internet of Things, Robotics in
health-care, autonomous vehicles and related issues that are essential for its perception and assigned value
of privacy, transparency, ownership and responsibility, security and liability. (Nigten, 2016; Ballon, 2016;
Greenfield, 2013). This forces organisations to seriously reassess their service model and calls for
innovative solutions and a radical reassessment (innovation) of our problem solving ability.
1.3 Sustainable solutions
The above mentioned complexity is further enhanced by a growing need for sustainable solutions.
Sustainability in this context goes further than a sustainable use of material or production method as is
required by the circular economy. We live in a network society that has a growing need for collaboration.
One-dimensional solutions do not suffice anymore because they don’t resonate the complexity of issues
and they do not have the sufficient support of all stakeholders (co-ownership) to be successful in the long
term. Learning and working in networks creates value, social as well as (increasingly) commercial, and
co-exists with traditional ways of learning and working. Due the its networking approach it is a different
way of working, it requires other / new skills and tools. It demands collaborative working towards a
shared solution, whilst all collaborators bring along their own interests and/or ambitions. That can collide
and therefore it is a true art of designing and monitoring this process (actually a process of decision-
making). The joint involvement, as known from communities of practice (Wenger, 1998) is essential for
solutions or innovation, as all parties share ownership of the application or its sustainability.
1.4 Participatory solutions (empowerment)
Since the end of the last century, patients and students are increasingly referred to as clients. Although
this implies a certain degree of customer orientated service, this term also refers to serving and pleasing
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(top down, hierarchical) where the client (patient, student) fulfills a receptive and passive role. Today the
focus has shifted towards resilience; the development of 21st century skills such as critical attitude and
empowerment (of patients/students/citizens). The transition from the old to the new customer-, education-
or work relationships and new ways of working, may lead to (temporary) dissatisfaction, which requires a
lot of attention from the management or teachers during the transition process from 'pleasing' through
‘engaging’ to ‘empowering’
1.5 Learning in practice
We set out an approach aimed at innovating whilst learning, based on case studies. Learning in practice
refers to learning as an individual actor within a network and to learning as an institutional actor. There is
no blueprint (yet) for developing new skills for Hybrid Learning. Hence our approach is based on learning
by doing and thus practical and iterative. Because in the context of (daily) practice we meet the necessity
for professionalisation, learning as well as for innovative and sustainable solutions. In the realm of
learning, we may think of courses or formal education but learning (as an understanding and as an
activity) is subject to a paradigm shift. We are used to learning as an activity that one does as an
individual or as an organisation. But learning takes on a new dimension when the learners ( individual and
organisation) find themselves in challenging situations outside their own (familiar) environment. The
ability to develop one selves (learning) increases as the complexity increases. Learning is no longer an
independent or autonomous activity, instead it takes place in the focal point of social issues. Hands-on
learning through action and reflection (Bradbury & Mainemelis, 2001) in practice is therefore essential for
innovation 'on the job'.
1.6 Stakeholders
In Hybrid Learning, primary stakeholders involved in the
particular case are collaborators. In Figure 1, we outline a
common format inspired by Van Waart et al (2015) and
Carayannis & Rakhmatullin’s (2014) quadruple helix, that
represents support and co-ownership in finding solutions to
complex social issues between academics, industry,
government and civil society or the citizen. Complex issues
transcend the well-known areas of expertise and increasingly
seek cooperation in the area where the four domains meet.
This contrasts with the traditional or monodisciplinary
setting, as the issues are usually addressed in the far corners
of a single domain (and the other domains are consulted). In
the Hybrid Learning process design, one is working in the
overlapping field for transdisciplinary cooperation from all
the domains and fields of expertise.
Figure 1, where 4 domains meet: Quadruple helix
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Of course, depending on the subject or issue, one can also choose to work with a few groups of
stakeholders; For example, in the image, this may involve cooperation between business, education and
research and social organisations or the end-user.
2. Process design
The whole approach relies on collaboration. At the heart of the above outlined quadruple helix, the area
where all four domains overlap, the complexity of the innovation question increases and the need for
innovative collaboration is reinforced. All stakeholders involved relate to one another in new, often
unknown roles. For example, if we plan to investigate a complex issue in health-care seriously with the
intention to identify new (possible) solutions, we work with a handful of disciplines, a table of
stakeholders; the target group and everyone who’s needed to find the solution. A tailored learning and
innovation process is required for this purpose.
The approach is inspired by the creative practice and transition design (Transition Design 2015). It
combines a number of aspects of Co-design (Sanders & Stappers, 2008), Design Thinking and Process
Patching (Nigten, 2007). Co-design refers to the design and development (making) of more or less
horizontal teams. Our emphasis on the end user experience reflects the influence of Design thinking. We
connect (patch) the expertise of different though relevant fields of expertise that are related to an
innovation issue according to the Processpatching principle.
2.1 Steps
The results in a process of joint research, design, (prototype) development, testing and learning. Herein
we distinguish the following steps:
1. Understand: [Understand] analysing the problem through creative thinking. Determine if the
initial problem is the real problem and not a symptom of another problem. (desk research,
observation and interviews)
2. Stakeholders: Identifying and involving stakeholders or actors and determining who does what
and who gets which responsibility (process design, metrics and indicators)
3. Empathise: [Empathise] understanding, learning and determining the level of involvement in the
end-user experience through and with the stakeholders involved (actors)
4. Define: [Define] demarcation of the issue and sub areas to be worked on and agreement about the
solution space (framework)
5. Concept: [Ideate] devising a multitude of concepts within the given solution space from the
previous step, through brainstorming, workshops, sketching and so on.
6. Prototyping: [Prototyping] Developing selected concepts (from previous step) to paper
prototypes, mock-ups or working prototypes through appropriate techniques.
Hybrid Learning environments, Designing innovative, participatory and sustainable solutions for complex issues
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7. Testing: [Testing] collecting feedback from the end users / audience, through appropriate testing
8. Reflection through critical thinking on each step of the process.
9. Iteration loops.
Step 8 and 9 are underlying principles for the whole process, by doing so we aim to establish learning
through action and reflection (Kolb, 2014)
(In the summary of the steps, if applicable, the Design Thinking steps are listed in brackets.)
Although not mentioned above as a step, transparency of decision-making in Hybrid Learning is of great
importance throughout the process. All participants have their own interest in participating in this
innovation issue. The emphasis in the process must, however, remain unchanged on the shared ambition;
Not all steps in the process will always contribute as much to the different individual interests. In these
occasions, individual interests should not hamper progress.
Figure 2. Illustration of the process
2.2. Co-design
The Living Lab’s objective is to serve as a base for focus (direction, mission and goal) on the process,
leaving enough space for the unforeseen and for implementing wishes and agendas of all stakeholders that
may come forward. The active participation of stakeholders throughout the process is encapsulated in the
co-design; This method comes from co-operative (participatory) design where stakeholders are directly
involved in the design and realisation process (Sanders & Stappers, 2008, Ehn, 2008, Nigten et al., 2014,
2015, 2016)
2.3. Design Thinking
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Nigten & Kotey, 2017
Over time design thinking has evolved from a ’designerly' approach to an innovation approach for
complex issues. The original concept for this was developed by David Kelly, founder of IDEO and
d.School, Stanford University, USA (Plattner, n.d.). The main features consist of focus on end-user,
empathy, collaboration and (self)-reflection throughout the entire process (Brown & Roger, 2015). The
steps in our approach are based on the overall steps developed by
We (re)introduced the first Understand step where one makes a thorough analyses of the problem, as we
learned from practice that the problem and symptoms are often confused. So this step deals with the
question behind the question. We added the second step; mapping the stakeholders, to ensure the selected
representatives are authorised for further decision making in the process. Furthermore, we made minor
adjustments in communication around the process design and emphasised the iterative cycles and
reflection (learning) throughout the whole process.
2.4 Processpatching: Transdisciplinary cooperation
A traditional single expertise approach will address the aforementioned complex issues in a simplified,
handy problem statement and try to solve them in an existing, monodisciplinary field. Such an approach
does not address the complexity and the disruptive nature of these issues. We call for the pooling of
knowledge and expertise that yields more than the sum of its parts. We therefore use the transdisciplinary
model for collaboration. There are different visions and interpretations of transdisciplinary collaboration,
especially regarding the underlying theory. Our preference goes to the basis, as described in Nicolescu
Manifesto (Nicolescu, 1994, 2002, 2013) and Somerville and Rapport (Somerville & Rapport, 2000). It
sees transdisciplinary collaboration as a necessary pooling of knowledge and experience to solve major,
super-wicked problems such as climate change and growing inequality between poor and rich in the
world. The concrete impetus we propose for complex issues on a smaller scale is based on practical
experience (Nigten, 2009, 2013) and will be further developed to match a particular issue. The added
value of transdisciplinary collaboration is the pooling of expertise from different disciplines and domains
around a (newly formulated) issue. The integrated knowledge this yields, is exactly what we need for
complex and thus discipline-exceeding issues. Here the resulting new perspectives often lead to a revision
of the initial question (see step 1. the question behind the question) and are directly linked to a shift in the
solution path.
Transdisciplinary collaboration requires open-minded specialists who can and dare to work with all-round
specialists from other disciplines. In this sense, transdisciplinary collaboration can also be placed in the
so-called 21st century skills framework. After all, the more people get intertwined in a networked
ecology, the more important these collaboration skills become. The collaboration skills, however, should
also be supported by shared knowledge and skills between the collaborators, this is the core of
processpatching (Nigten, 2007, 2016).
2.5 Working model
Hybrid Learning environments, Designing innovative, participatory and sustainable solutions for complex issues
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The practical cases are worked out in a so-called Living lab. Such a Living Lab is designed in close
cooperation with partners in adjoining sectors and is usually situated in the context of the complex issue;
at the workplace, in the city etc. There’s a number of types of Living Labs. We place Hybrid Learning in
a user-oriented Living Lab that represents all stakeholders. Here, both top down and bottom up
approaches can be used depending on the subject, product or service.
A living lab is a user-centred, open-innovation ecosystem, based on a systematic user co-creation
approach integrating research and innovation processes. This approach allows all stakeholders
involved to concurrently consider both the global performance of a product or service and its
potential adoption by users. A living lab constitutes an experiential environment, which could be
compared to the concept of experiential learning, where users are immersed in a creative social
space for designing and experiencing their own future. (source: Wikipedia)
2.6. Badges
The achievements, results, skills, references etc. are recorded in open digital badges. A digital badge is an
encrypted symbol of the achievements that is issued by the learning environment. The concept of open
digital badges was developed by Mozilla and supports learning environments in the realization of practice
based learning or personal (lifelong) learning goals. The badges can subsequently be shared by the owner
(the lifelong learning professional) as part of his / her cv with the outside world. The professional
concerned owns his / her badge and saves them online. It goes without saying that the quality of the one
who receives the badge also radiates on the one who issues a badge; it’s a reflection of the provider's
reputation. (Kerver & Riksen 2016); Open Badges, 2017)
2.7 Conditions
A prerequisite for the successful realisation of a living lab-like learning environment is that it conforms to
existing policies or is recognized as input for new or complementary policies of the relevant
organizations, companies and stakeholders. To this end, it is important that the stakeholders concerned are
facilitated (time / money) to work together on a complex issue and that reflection and evaluation are
considered to be part of their activities during and after the work process. Next to the innovative results,
revenues include learning outcomes at both an individual and organizational level. It is therefore
important that the learning outcomes are implemented in the process of a next assignment, but also in the
learning environment itself.
2.8 Benefits: outcome and impact
The premise of an innovation experiment is uncertainty. This means that other markers have to be used
for measuring results than the regular project or control mechanisms. The often used quantitative
measurement of results are unfit for use in a process approach. Metrics in an experimental environment
are often qualitative and will focus on impact, for example, by measuring open character, participant
Hybrid Learning environments, Designing innovative, participatory and sustainable solutions for complex issues
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participation, value creation, stakeholder engagement, as well as professionalization or behavioral change.
In the process approach, participants (stakeholders) determine which metrics are important to them, so
they design the indicators.
3. Summary
In this whitepaper we’ve suggested a practical approach for innovation that is based on a lifelong learning
concept for professionals and scholars alike. Our approach is situated in a living lab environment where
learning and practice converge. We refer to this as Hybrid Learning. Co-design, Design Thinking and
Processpatching are the main components for Hybrid Learning. Our approach is tailored for
transdisciplinairy teams to discover new directions or solutions for today’s complex issues (or wicked
problems) whilst reflecting upon their daily professional practice.
4. Call for action
The above outlined model is based on the authors’ Western experience, literature and innovation
reference model. We strongly belief that the model could gain strength and depth from more culturally
diverse input, local and indigenous wisdom and experiences. We therefore encourage creative minds from
our network and beyond to give feedback and input. We are also interested in additional community
formats that complement the suggested living lab setting. Furthermore we are interested to analyse case
studies from diverse practices such as innovation in healthcare, education, citizens’ participation,
resilience projects and so on. We plan to pursue these ideas in collaboration with the ISEA international
community as well as on other occasions. We are open to suggestions and ideas for other exchange
platforms and events.
The authors acknowledge the contribution from their proofreaders Erwin Niedeveld (NL), Aletta Kliphuis
(NL), Peter Zorn (DE) and Lubi Thomas (AU). A particular note of appreciation is due to the ISEA
international community for providing an inspiring international reference framework.
About the authors
Dr. Anne Nigten (NL) is the initiator and director of The Patching Zone, a transdiscplinary media laboratory for
innovation in Rotterdam. Besides this she is board member of ISEA international and member of the advisory
committee, Expertise center for Art & Design, Avans University of Applied Sciences (NL). Over the past 6 years
Dr. Nigten led two research groups in the Netherlands as research professor (reader) in the creative industry; at
Hybrid Learning environments, Designing innovative, participatory and sustainable solutions for complex issues
Nigten & Kotey, 2017
Hanze University of Applied Sciences and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. Prior to these positions, she
was director of V2_Lab, Institute for the Unstable Media in Rotterdam. She frequently publishes about designers
and artists as agents of change and (social) innovation as the result of the collaboration between the creative sector,
(local) governments, social organisations and industry. More info:
Harry Kotey (NL) is a literary scholar with an interest in unorthodox and novel ways for transitional change and
innovation. He combines the asynchronous and creative processes of design with a practical, focused and problem
solving approach. He started Creanomics, a venture for Strategy Design. Creanomics operates in close cooperation
with The Patching Zone. More info:
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Communication activities play a pivotal role in the management of research projects, especially those involving several partners and stakeholders from different countries. The Interreg Alpine Space HEALPS2 project relies on a transnational and transversal approach to improve the framework conditions and tools for alpine health tourism, and therefore proposes a communication strategy based on specific objectives. These objectives guide the communication activities at an internal and external level, with the latter being declined for different targets and stakeholders. In this Chapter, the communication activities are described, starting from the general and specific objectives-oriented approach, to the local realization. The general strategy and the analysis are illustrated, then are demonstrated through a regional use case—the Parco Regionale Alpe Veglia-Alpe Devero and Parco Regionale Alta Valle Antrona.
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Innovation is considered essential to the growth and long-term sustainability of health tourism companies and destinations. Continuous innovation takes place to improve the industry competitiveness, but especially the tourists’ experience and wellness with new product offerings. This Chapter collects and describes the innovation practices proposed and developed in some pilot regions of the HEALPS2 project consortium. The innovation practices identified in the project can be subdivided into three types, i.e., innovation techniques, innovation supporting tools, and innovative product offerings. All the practices were designed to target several operators of the Nature-based Health Tourism (NHT) industry, from tourism facilities and companies (especially small- and medium-sized enterprises) to regional councils and municipalities in charge of policy-making and tourism strategy development. HEALPS 2 innovation practices and techniques can be purposefully integrated at the regional and local level for a more innovation-driven industry strategy and business development, as well as facilitation of transnational cooperation among key actors, also beyond Alpine regions and NHT destinations.
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Nature-based health tourism is experiencing a resurgence. To determine its potential as a development opportunity for alpine destinations, it is necessary to analyse both the demand and supply side. Two surveys were conducted: a representative survey of the population of six countries of the Alpine Space exploring the perception of the Alps as a healthy destination in general and on the personal assessment of the health effect of natural resources in particular and an exploratory survey of tourism stakeholders in destination management, accommodation and gastronomy as well as (health) tourism services with a focus on the expected economic developments and the relevance of individual target groups for nature-based health tourism. The results demonstrate the need for a strategic development process which aligns perceptions with destination strategy and pre-existing offers. Two potential strategies are briefly outlined: 1. destinations with non-locally specific alpine natural health resources can develop broad tourism experiences for health conditions that occur across society with health a secondary aspect in marketing. 2. destinations featuring locally specific natural health resources with proven evidence can develop offers for a specific condition and are thus able to target a very specific group.
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The competitiveness of nature-based Health Tourism (NHT) industry, especially in the Alpine regions, is increasingly linked to the sustainability and exploitation of unique natural resources of tourism destinations, which often lack the access to knowledge and networks of stakeholders to improve their offerings. In this sense, the use of digital tools can open up further opportunities to reconsider value offerings and better access different knowledge resources and relationships within the industry network. This Chapter illustrates the collaborative design approach adopted in HEALPS2 for the development of an ontology-based Decision Support System for health tourism destinations. The resulting ontology aims to model the relationships between the available natural resources, the value offerings and the target groups of NHT destinations. Moreover, the Collaborative Design approach foresees the involvement of end-users (i.e. not only tourism destinations, but also the network of stakeholders, and the actual and potential future tourists) as both sources of knowledge and validators of the ontology and its outputs, aiming to inform decision-making processes in a shared knowledge model that leverages on digital tools.
Conference Paper
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Emerging pervasive technologies such as the Internet of Things and Open Data will have severe impact on the experience, interactions and wellbeing of citizens in future smart cities. Local governments are concerned how to engage and embed citizens in the process of smart city development because without them it is difficult for governments and industrial technology providers to understand what future city is desired. We explore how prototyping methods can be used in a multi-helix approach towards a participatory domain in which multiple stakeholders collaboratively envision a desired future smart city. We adopted the different qualities of generative sessions, hackathons and design jams in our method of participatory prototyping for smart cities. Results show that participants appreciate this setting for exploration, experimentation, and making, in diverse teams with members from industry, government, university, and citizens. We will discuss issues for improvement of participatory prototyping to make it more robust for use in urban development processes. INTRODUCTION The emergence of technological developments such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Open Data make governments and corporations dream of future smart cities that are safe to live in, economically prosperous, and full of high-tech services for their citizens. It is however questioned by academics, critics, and public organisations, to what extent these future visions encompass the social aspects of cities. Will they also become sociable smart cities? Future Internet scenarios show that the innovation model of creation and consolidation of new monopolies is stronger than that of open ecosystems that foster grassroots digital social innovation and entrepreneurship (Bria, 2014). For sociable smart cities that embrace both community-driven innovation and technology-driven innovations, society needs to transform into a more participative domain where participatory innovation takes place (Mulder, 2014). In order to reach this participatory domain we explored how to engage a quadruple helix of stakeholders (public servants, entrepreneurs, educators and students, researchers, as well as citizens) in participatory prototyping in which they collaboratively envision desired future cities (Brodersen, Dindler, & Iversen, 2008; Carayannis & Campbell, 2012).
Smart, sustainable and inclusive growth is the key goal of several EU initiatives, strategies and programmes in the short, medium and long term and at the regional, national and pan-European levels. In this paper, we attempt to explore, explain and enact the conceptual as well as practical linkages between theory, policy and practice related to the ingredients of such growth based on regional innovation smart specialisation strategies and viewed via the ‘multi-focal lens’ of the Quadruple and Quintuple Innovation Helixes (also Quadruple/Quintuple Helix) perspective.
Conference Paper
While the notion of autarky is often contested in terms of feasibility and desirability, art and design projects that deal with autarky seem to highlight the positive socio-cultural and ecological effects of autarkic living. This paper will discuss three notable media artworks that highlight these positive effects of autarkic living, and will unify them with opposing views by introducing a social network model of autarky.
The search for scientific bases for confronting problems of social policy is bound to fail, becuase of the nature of these problems. They are wicked problems, whereas science has developed to deal with tame problems. Policy problems cannot be definitively described. Moreover, in a pluralistic society there is nothing like the undisputable public good; there is no objective definition of equity; policies that respond to social problems cannot be meaningfully correct or false; and it makes no sense to talk about optimal solutions to social problems unless severe qualifications are imposed first. Even worse, there are no solutions in the sense of definitive and objective answers.
Whitepaper Open badges en microcredentialing
  • P Ehn
  • B Kerver
  • D Riksen
Ehn, P. (2008) Participation in design things, pp 92-101, Proceedings of the Tenth Anniversary Conference on Participatory Design, Indiana University Indianapolis, US ISEA international community (2017) (Retrieved October 12, 2017) Kerver, B., & Riksen, D., (2016) Whitepaper Open badges en microcredentialing, Surfnet (Retrieved Oct.12, 2017)
Charter of Transdisciplinarity http
  • B Nicolescu
Nicolescu, B. (1994) Charter of Transdisciplinarity (Retrieved Oct. 3th, 2017)