Topic 5: Lessons Learned – Future Practice

Part I: No, I was not prepared for this

Having completed most of my master’s degree during the COVID-19 pandemic, I was certainly not new to the mix of synchronous and asynchronous activities in remote learning. I also had experience as both a teacher and a learner, so I thought taking this ONL course would be a breeze.

I was wrong about that, wasn’t I…?

The truth is that there is probably not much out there that can really prepare you for a course like ONL, which I can only describe as “trying to lay the tracks as you ride the train”. Now I know how Gromit felt in the GIF below…

Go Faster Wallace And Gromit GIF by Aardman Animations

You are a learner, yes, but you are also deciding, alongside your team, the approaches to analyze each scenario and what to focus on. Some general resources are suggested, which are useful to get you started, although you need to go look for your own sources in order to make your case. You’re free to decide which tools to use and how deep to dig. As expected, each group arrived at different destinations – which was not only ok but indeed encouraged!


Part II: What was learned

For me, the most interesting thing I learned didn’t come from the content of the course itself but rather from the way we went about it. What I noticed is that our group would start out a bit slowly, testing out the waters of each new topic until we found our footing. It would take a while until we were comfortable that we knew what we were doing until suddenly we would have an a-ha moment, with three people talking at the same when we finally saw how things fit together.

I think most people have experienced individual eurekas!, but having them as a group is something else entirely. Crucially, those moments cannot be forced. They happen as a natural outcome of the collaborative process. It will come when it comes. This was not what I had in mind before I started the course, but now I can say that what I learned is to trust the process more, enjoy the ride, and cherish the moments of collective a-ha!


Part III: What comes next

This fun aspect of collaborative work is the main thing that will stay with me and shape my future practice. I really want to start using more interactive ways to do group work with my students and challenge them to do something more than the sum of its parts. That won’t be easy, of course, and I will still have to learn much more about it. Still, now that I have started, I have a better notion of where to go.

On the other hand, I don’t think that anything has changed in my approach to technology’s role in enhancing learning. The more I read and study about it, the more skeptical I become and the less convinced I am that these tools, which are not evidence-based, can lead to a major positive shift in educational practices. We still have a long way to go before both teachers and students are digital-literate enough to be wise in using new technologies such as AI in the classroom.

In the future, I would love to continue to be part of the ONL community, although I’m still not sure as to what capacity. It seems like there are many active members here in Finland, so we could even meet for an in-person coffee at some point!

I know I’m looking forward to that.

How about you?

Topic 2: Open Learning – Sharing and Openness

Part I: Is Open Education “real” education?

I remember the first time I encountered a MOOC, way back in 2009, when I was starting my bachelor’s degree. It was Michael Sandel’s Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do?. Not only was the course fantastic, but the idea that I could watch a class from Harvard University while sitting in my bedroom in the middle of nowhere Brazil, without paying a dime, was just… mindblowing. The possibilities seemed endless then.

I followed a few of those courses on platforms like Coursera. It was possible to pay for a certificate, but I never did. Even if I had the money to pay for it (which I didn’t), it wouldn’t have counted for anything. My university didn’t accept it for credits, and since the content was very theoretical, future employees didn’t seem to care about it much either. That never mattered much to me; I took those courses to learn new things. It was just so exciting to have access to materials produced by fancy US schools!

Fast forward a few years, to when I started working. I needed more practical content; shorter, focused courses, not the long, slow-paced university material. Bye, bye, Coursera. Hello, Udemy. The happy exploration of theories was over. I paid for the certificates, got my credentials to do grown-up things, and that was it.

When I moved to Finland and started my Master’s degree, it was shocking to find out that my university had us take MOOCs. My initial reaction was that it felt cheap, like a shortcut because they didn’t want to put in the work of teaching us for real. Later they explained that the content part of the MOOC was available for anyone to take, but that for us to receive credits for it, we still had to do assignments that would be graded by our teachers.

After thinking about my reaction, I realized that, despite my early optimism about Open Education, I somehow didn’t see it as “real” education. Yes, it was good enough to learn from, but perhaps not good enough to be counted as “official” learning by the university. It can be jarring to confront your own short-sightedness and prejudices. There I was, Miss Let’s Open Up This Education Stuff, looking down on the MOOCs I had praised now that I had finally made it to a good European school.

The joke’s on me, though, as Hanken’s MOOCs are very well-regarded. All three of its courses on sustainability, for example, are part of UNESCO’s collection of Global Network of Learning Cities.

Part II: Updating the discussion

I see distinct phases in my online journey – from the internet being a not-so-useful novelty to the years of optimism, to the current process of enshittification, as coined by the brilliant Cory Doctorow. I find it useful to refer to these phases here because I believe many of us still talk about Open Learning as we did during the early 20o0s, which might be a mistake.

In those early days, the discussion centered on how the Internet had made it possible to access resources from all over the world. It had an optimistic, and perhaps even naive view. Universities such as Harvard would record classes and upload them for people to watch for free – exactly as I did on the first MOOC I took.

Still, as we discussed in our PBL group, we recognize now that access to materials and resources is not enough. Open Scientific Knowledge is only one of four components of Open Science, which also includes open science infrastructures, open dialogue with other knowledge systems, and open engagement of societal actors (UNESCO, 2021, p. 11). We have to ask critical questions about who produces the content and how it is shared. Is that content only being produced in the Global North, with the South being relegated to a passive consumer? If the content is mostly produced in the North, what happens to the specific knowledge created in the South? Is it seen as less relevant? Power relations are present and should be considered when talking about OE. I won’t repeat the entire argument here, but you can read it in the amazing flipbook that our group produced.

The recommended reading by Costello et al. (2019) is a good resource in this discussion. As they argue, we can mean different things by open when we talk about open education. Are we talking about open as freely available, open as produced democratically, or open as a specific tech setting? Unless we update our view of Open Education to the reality we live in 2024, we won’t be able to find the answers we need.

Making sense of the world in 2024 is no easy task, however. With the proliferation of technological tools and the increasing marketization of education, figuring out how to work with OE becomes more challenging. As an example, AI has made the question of copyright much more complicated, as the data used to train LLMs is scrapped from the Internet in a way that ignores copyright. It is also unclear how the outputs of generative AI can be copyrighted. How should we deal with that? Will people use AI tools to create garbage content to be used for educational purposes? How will we be able to control that, especially as there are strong incentives for companies to make money?

Questions, questions, questions.

You know, the usual.



Costello, Huijser & Marshall. (2019). Education’s many “opens”.

UNESCO (2021). UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science. Available from:

Topic 1: Online participation and digital literacies

Part I: Call me a Luddite, if you must, but don’t say I’m a digital native

I think my journey in this “digital age” – whatever that is supposed to mean – is quite typical for a Western, middle-class young millennial. It went something like this:

  • There were a couple of computers around me when I was a kid, and I was occasionally allowed to use them to play Solitaire or Minesweeper. There was a computer lab in my elementary school and I remember drawing some not-so-great pictures on Paint back then. It wasn’t at all clear what computers were for.
  • I got a desktop computer when I was about 13. It was a giant white thing with a dedicated desk in the living room. The Internet connection was an incredibly slow dial-up, which didn’t stop me from illegally downloading music and burning CDs, using MSN Messenger to chat with my friends, and wasting way too many hours of my life playing a game called Tibia. Having a computer was fun, but it didn’t seem to be particularly useful. If you needed information, you’d ask someone or check the library’s encyclopedia.
  • By the time I got to high school, things started to change quickly. I got a laptop, the Internet connection switched to broadband, I got a phone that could take (very blurry) pictures, and a social network called Orkut appeared out of nowhere. Suddenly, all the cool people were online.
  • During my bachelor’s degree, the student’s dreams and the teacher’s nightmares about Wikipedia were starting. Still, we either wrote assignments by hand or printed them to hand to the teachers.
  • I started working during a wave of techno-optimism. Smartphones were ubiquitous. Startups were going to revolutionize everything. Facebook was connecting the world. Google meant we had all the answers in the palm of our hands.  Uber would replace taxis. Amazon would replace retail. There was so much money available for folks promising to turn anything into an app. The old way of doing things was in its final days – or so it seemed.
  • Somewhere between that and the pandemic, things turned sour. Social media was now being blamed for how polarized our societies were becoming. Fake news were blamed for anything from the election of lunatics like Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and Jair Bolsonaro, to the rise of xenophobia and anti-vaxxer movements.
  • COVID came and the first year and a half of my master’s degree was done online as most of the world switched to remote teaching. Nobody was ready for it. Most teachers and students had no clue how to use clunky platforms like Microsoft Teams. A whole generation of young people was deemed “lost” given the poor quality of remote learning for almost two years.
  • Now, as I do my PhD, things are mostly terrible. Echo chambers and filter bubbles lead people to radicalizing internet rabbit holes. Every person has to be a personal brand. Influencers have ruined everything. Most platforms that seemed promising a few years back have either failed or become monopolies that offer terrible service. Our data is mined to train “generative AIs” that spit out nonsensical reproductions of human content. We’re all online, even though we hate it. We’re trapped. Dystopian cyberpunk stories are now a reality.

The reason for me giving this not-so-brief timeline is to say that I could clearly experience this process of “connecting everything together” that David White talked about in his webinar. I could see how, in a space of about 25 years, we went from not being connected, to having everything connected to everything else. To answer the prompt of the webinar, my life now looks like this:

I suppose that having lived through this would make me a “digital native”. The issue, though, is that I don’t find the term relevant. Yes, I may have been exposed to a certain range of new technologies as I was growing up, without anyone teaching me how to use them but assuming that I would “just know”. Nevertheless, this guarantees no proficiency in future tools. As I get older, there is more and more tech that I don’t understand. I use Instagram, but I’m too rusty, ancient and uncool for TikTok, for example.

These days, in fact, I have begun to identify more and more as Luddite. Yes, I still use these digital technologies all the more, but I am getting increasingly worried about their design and how they affect our individual and community lives. Brian Merchant’s Blood in the Machine: The Origins of the Rebellion Against Big Tech, Naomi Klein’s Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World, Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, among others, are foundational reads for me.

Part II: Let’s try this ONL business

I can still remember the time I was in love with the future the Internet was supposed to bring. Wikipedia would foster collaboration and break down the barriers of access to knowledge. We would connect to people from all over the world and become compassionate global citizens. Julian Assange was a hero of mine, and I obviously had a Guy Fawkes mask in my bedroom to show my support for Anonymous during the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring. I miss those days.

When I found out about this ONL course, I caught a glimpse of that past hope. You see, I want to believe that we can build meaningful knowledge in collaborative way online. I had to give it a try.

This more ideological point was, to be honest, the main reason for me joining ONL. How could I say no to the chance of working on a project with people from different backgrounds and expertise, but aligned towards the same goal?

There is, of course, a practical consideration. I am currently doing my PhD and would like to build a career in teaching. As digital tools are not going anywhere, it doesn’t hurt to learn more about how to use them well.

Part III: Evaluating the ONL experience

As we’re just finishing the first two weeks of “real” work, it is a bit early to say much about how the course is going. My PBL group is made up of interesting people, and I believe I am the youngest of the group by almost a decade. We diverge in many, many ways, which is a source of both fascination and frustration. Still, we are finding a way to combine our insights to create something new, bigger than each of us could individually. I really like that.

During Topic 1, we discussed the concept of digital literacy and talked about matters such as barriers to access and skills needed for digital literacy. We chose to focus on one of those skills – critical thinking – and created the awesome presentation below to show our journey!

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