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For more than a decade higher education has been experiencing a shift from students as consumers to students as creators of technology due to the emergence of customisable technologies enabling people to become creators of social media content. This paper introduces a virtual personal learning environment for creating, organising, and sharing media-rich document resources. This technology was developed to address issues in asynchronous online distance education around student engagement and isolation, and to enable academic staff to author their own teaching content. Its implementation was informed by design-based research undertaken from an interaction design perspective with bridging design prototypes. Its educational foundations are drawn from the fields of study skills for academic success, visual design and metacognition, and networked learning for promoting connection between people. The implementation of a same interface for students and academic staff to use has broadened participation in the creation of study resources, facilitated opportunities for interesting individual and collaborative study activities, and administrative tasks have been reduced. These changes in academic study behaviour have transformed teachers and students into co-designers of innovative pedagogical practices that take the form of media-rich documents organised in folder collections. Two cases studies in higher education illustrate these innovations in which a whole class is organised in groups for undertaking collaborative assignments in a manner that progressively moved the learning connections from lecturer-to-student to learner-to-learner. A qualitative analysis shows this virtual environment affords social interactions around learning concepts that promote active student learning and participation in online teaching programmes using flipped classroom and blended learning models.

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