Dissertation, publications, prototypes

In 2016-2017 we have had some very very low, but also some high moments. Let’s focus on the good things.


In late 2016 Hans Põldoja defended his doctoral dissertation: The Structure and Components for the Open Education Ecosystem: Constructive Design Research of Online Learning Tools. (Download the PDF)

The pre-examiners were Professor Vladan Devedxic and PhD Lisa Petrides. The opponent in the public defences was Professor Terry Anderson from Athabasca University.

Hans work is worth of reading for all interested in the topic of open education. These days Dr Põldoja is an Associate Professor of Educational Technology and a Head of Studies at the School of Digital Technologies at the Tallinn University. Congratulations Hans!


The best way to check our latest publications is to visit the Aalto research databases and to check all the research outputs of the Learning Environments research group.

Here are three examples of our recent research publications.

Pejoska, J., Bauters, M., Purma, J., & Leinonen, T. (2016). Social augmented reality: Enhancing context‐dependent communication and informal learning at work. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(3), 474-483.

Our design proposal of social augmented reality (SoAR) grows from the observed difficulties of practical applications of augmented reality (AR) in workplace learning. In our research we investigated construction workers doing physical work in the field and analyzed the data using qualitative methods in various workshops. The challenges related to learning in the construction sites were: sharing of specific situation processes or details, need of direct communication channel over distance and support for social appraisal. The second result of the study is a prototype. SoAR is a design solution, an application for smart phones. The primary target for the SoAR design builds on the discoveries and idea that current AR developments in the area should focus on enhancing human-to-human interactions: messages, gestures, words and other small elements of communication. We present the current SoAR prototype that enhances video calls with overlaid drawings therefor SoAR is a tool for asking and providing guidance in context-reliant work situations. Our guiding theoretical framework is drawing from phenomenological discussion dealing with embodied interaction expanded by a process of research-based design.

Durall, E., Leinonen, T., Gros, B., & Rodriguez-Kaarto, T. (2017). Reflection in Learning through a Self-monitoring Device: Design Research on EEG Self-Monitoring during a Study Session. Designs for Learning, 9(1).

The increasing availability of self-monitoring technologies has created opportunities for gaining awareness about one’s own behavior and reflecting on it. In teaching and learning, there is interest in using self-monitoring technologies, but very few studies have explored the possibilities. In this paper, we present a design study that investigates a technology (called Feeler) that guides students to follow a specific learning script, monitors changes in their electroencephalogram (EEG) while studying, and later provides visualization of the EEG data. The results are two-fold: (1) the hardware/software prototype and (2) the conclusions from the proof-of-concept research conducted with the prototype and six participants. In the research, we collected qualitative data from interviews to identify whether the prototype supported students to develop their reflective skills. The thematic analysis of the interviews showed that the Feeler’s learning script and visualization of the EEG data supported greater levels of reflection by fostering students’ curiosity, puzzlement, and personal inquiry. The proof-of-concept research also provided insights into several factors, such as the value of personal experience, the challenge of assumptions, and the contextualization of the data that trigger reflective thinking. The results validate the design concept and the role of the prototype in supporting awareness of and reflection about students’ mental states when they perform academic tasks.

Toikkanen, T., & Leinonen, T. (2017). The Code ABC MOOC: Experiences from a Coding and Computational Thinking MOOC for Finnish Primary School Teachers. In Emerging Research, Practice, and Policy on Computational Thinking (pp. 239-248). Springer International Publishing.

The Finnish primary school curriculum will feature programming and computational thinking as mandatory cross-curricular elements in all teaching starting from the first grade. Many teachers are quite concerned about this and feel ill-prepared. A group of volunteers created a MOOC for teachers and, with no budget, trained over 500 primary school teachers to be competent teachers of programming (38% of the participants). The results from a study conducted within the course indicate that Finnish teachers seem to think that coding is an important addition to the school curriculum and they exhibit low levels of anxiety over it. The MOOC design focused on connectivist design principles (cMOOC) and was considered extremely successful by the participants. The MOOC participants seemed confident that the MOOC would equip them to face the new challenge, and indeed, the feedback from the MOOC and its results support this.


Design research, the way we think it is important to conduct, is possible only when we can build prototypes. Here are some resent prototypes build in the group:

Feeler v.2.0. “The Feeler prototype guides students in self-study, which starts with meditation and ends with self-analysis. During the sessions, students self-monitor their brain activity through EEG. The EEG data are used after the self-analysis stage, to foster students’ metacognitive skills by triggering questions about the mental state of studying and then improving it. With Feeler, reflection is expected to happen during the revision and interpretation of the EEG data visualization. The prototype is composed of the following elements: three smart objects with which the user physically interacts (the blocks), an EEG monitoring device, and Feeler software running on a laptop.” (Durall e.t.all. 2017)

SoAR (Social Augmented Reality) is a mobile app for collaboration and communication in work environments. It consists of one-on-one video streaming with a bidirectional drawing layer for emphasizing details. SoAR is ideal for cooperating in situations that require an effective, visual assessment.

Ach So!. “Ach so! is an open source application for video recording, annotating and sharing (Fig. 1). It is implemented as an application for Android platform to be used with tablet computers or smartphones. With Ach so!, the users record short videos and categorize them under four genres. Ach so! creates MPEG-4 video with serialized semantic annotations. Video descriptions automatically include location, date and creator, and they can be annotated by adding textual annotations, ‘points of interest’, to specific points on screen and in video timeline. The annotations are placed in the video timeline and have screen coordinates for each, and the playback automatically pauses on each annotation to allow reading the annotation acknowledging the point of interest. The annotated videos can be saved in a cloud or exported from the device with Android’s share-intent. The exported videos can be viewed in a browser-based Ach so! Player.” (Virnes 2015)

Kinemata is a wearable device for training movements for the purpose of learning.

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