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Online and Blended Learning Open Environments, Strategies Approaches and Experiences

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Education and Approaches".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 February 2022) | Viewed by 12362

Special Issue Editors

Institut de Ciències de l’Educació, Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, 08034 Barcelona, Spain
Interests: sustainability; education; ethics; privacy; open-source; information systems; guitar building; podcasting
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Guest Editor
Department of Service and Information System Engineering, The Polytechnic University of Catalonia, 08034 Barcelona, Spain
Interests: sustainability; education; ethics; privacy; open-source; technology enhanced learning

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Guest Editor
Department of Architecture La Salle, Ramon Llull University, Carrer de Sant Joan de la Salle, 42, 08022 Barcelona, Spain
Interests: educational innovation; usability; technology-enhanced learning
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In 2020, due to the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, millions of students and teachers had to switch their learning environment to an online setting overnight. The classroom and the blackboard had to be replaced with a set of online tools in a distance learning environment.

This threatened the quality and experience of education worldwide, which was of course an extremely serious development as, among others, education is one of the objectives for sustainable development and, at the same time, one of the most powerful tools we have to fight for sustainable development.

Distance learning is hardly a new thing. Courses by mail have existed since the 19th century, as evidenced in popular culture, such as the 1971 Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks, where a witch apprentice played by Angela Lansbury learns magic from such courses by mail.

We can also find examples where every type of communication technology has been used or experimented on for education purposes. For example, Martin Dougiamas, the founder of the Moodle Online Learning Management System, tells of how he learned from lectures on the radio and books, with airplanes taking his homework to his teachers while he lived in the Australian outback with his parents. We can only guess from where he got his motivation to develop technologies to improve distance learning.

The pandemic hit at a moment when the internet and its use were already widespread, and they had already begun to be introduced into the educational system for educational purposes. Thus, online and mobile tools were already in place. Unfortunately, having the tools and knowing how to apply them are not exactly the same thing.

At the beginning of the 2020 confinement period, teachers quickly sought technical advice—how to use the tools available to them and their students—but also, and most importantly, guidance and training on how to apply these online tools to their teaching.

Teachers and learners started using every tool at their disposal to continue with their courses, sometimes finding and using online tools which replicated functionalities already provided by their institution’s LMS, either because these tools were easier or simply because they did not know the tools were there.

This phenomenon has been described as learning ecologies, in which people use a host of emerging resources and technologies that scatter learning experiences across institutional and personal contexts.

As a result, students and teachers have started to use various tools to access contents, communicate, collaborate, and learn, each one developing their own strategy. We can therefore agree that the concept of personal learning environments (PLE) is re-entering the center stage on the educational landscape. Call it learning ecologies, or online learning open environments, it is indisputable that LMSs and the PLEs have become a part of the online learning experience.

This Special Issue is seeking contributions related to the integration of learning tools in new learning experiences, both online and blended.

Dr. Marc Alier
Dr. María José Casañ
Prof. Dr. David Fonseca Escudero
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • online and blended learning and teaching
  • online open learning environments
  • open education technologies
  • learning/teaching methodologies
  • PLE and open education
  • future challenges for thinking about PLEPLE and networked learning
  • AI and the use of data for PLE
  • PLE and emerging pedagogies
  • PLEs in formal, informal, and lifelong learning contexts
  • PLE and open education
  • future challenges for thinking about PLE

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

15 pages, 4282 KiB  
Article
Teaching in Secondary Education Teacher Training with a Hybrid Model: Students’ Perceptions
by José Luis Martín-Núñez, Juan Luis Bravo-Ramos, Susana Sastre-Merino, Iciar Pablo-Lerchundi, Arturo Caravantes Redondo and Cristina Núñez-del-Río
Sustainability 2022, 14(6), 3272; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14063272 - 10 Mar 2022
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2297
Abstract
The exceptional situation experienced on the planet during the last two academic years has forced teachers to adapt their teaching. They had to pass their face-to-face teaching methodologies to online teaching. This study analyzed the perceptions of students in a master’s degree in [...] Read more.
The exceptional situation experienced on the planet during the last two academic years has forced teachers to adapt their teaching. They had to pass their face-to-face teaching methodologies to online teaching. This study analyzed the perceptions of students in a master’s degree in secondary school teacher training, who have experienced the transition to bimodal teaching during the 2020–21 and 2021–22 academic years carried out by professors with high digital teaching competence. Data from two academic years are available, with a total of 207 students. The results indicate that the experience has been positive, and no significant differences were found in the follow-up of the contents when the class was followed online. However, the feeling of belonging to the group is lower in online classes than in face-to-face classes, and the perception of online teaching is more favorable in the academic year immediately developed after the COVID crisis. The bimodal modality has become a useful solution as long as the conditions of the equipment and networks are guaranteed as well as the training of teachers in digital teaching competence. In addition, the students’ perception of this modality is that it can continue once the exceptionality of the pandemic has been overcome. Full article
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20 pages, 4093 KiB  
Article
Mentoring in the School of Mines and Energy to Cover Student Needs: From the Newly Enrolled to the Near-Graduates
by Ana García-Laso, Cristina Montalvo, Domingo Alfonso Martín, Leticia Presa, José Luis Parra and Jorge Luis Costafreda
Sustainability 2022, 14(6), 3156; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14063156 - 08 Mar 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1559
Abstract
University students face situations throughout their careers that are sometimes difficult to overcome due to their lack of experience or preparation. Mentoring programs in university education have been proven to be a great accompaniment tool to solve these difficulties in addition to helping [...] Read more.
University students face situations throughout their careers that are sometimes difficult to overcome due to their lack of experience or preparation. Mentoring programs in university education have been proven to be a great accompaniment tool to solve these difficulties in addition to helping students’ personal and professional development. Our study aimed to show the complete mentoring process that accompanies students in the most crucial stages of their university education at the School of Mines and Energy of Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Three stages of interest were identified in which mentoring projects have been implemented through training activities at the Unit of Social Entrepreneurship, Ethics and Values in Engineering (UESEVI). At the beginning of their studies, two welcome actions are offered: Mentor and Monitor projects that provide administrative and academic support; during the development of their studies, the Mentoring with Energy project offers professional tutoring that helps students in their incorporation into the labor market and provides them with tools to select a specialty; and in the last stage, professional accompaniment is provided by the Gray Angels project that helps students to develop their future careers. The activities of UESEVI are a strategy in our School to guarantee the development of soft skills and compliance with quality education processes. The usefulness of these programs can be measured through the participation and interest of the students. A positive evolution of these projects has been observed over the years. They have been growing according to the demand and needs detected in the successive evaluations of the programs. Full article
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20 pages, 1718 KiB  
Article
Flipped Learning in Engineering Modules Is More Than Watching Videos: The Development of Personal and Professional Skills
by Fernando Suárez, Juan Carlos Mosquera Feijóo, Isabel Chiyón and Marcos García Alberti
Sustainability 2021, 13(21), 12290; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132112290 - 07 Nov 2021
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3140
Abstract
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has highlighted two key outcomes for students of all accredited engineering programs: the ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences and the capacity to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate [...] Read more.
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has highlighted two key outcomes for students of all accredited engineering programs: the ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences and the capacity to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies. Likewise, in recent years, written exams, assignments, and oral presentations show transmission-skill deficiencies among engineering students. Flipped teaching serves to boost students to meet these outcomes and other competencies: comprehension reading, communication skills, character building, collaborative work, critical thinking, or creativity. So, flipped learning is more than watching videos. This research proposes two evidence-based transferable learning strategies built on a flipped-teaching model and was applied by the authors in engineering courses during the second year of the global pandemic caused by COVID-19: problem-based learning and teamwork assignments. The study comprised two phases. First, a systematic review of reports, writings, and exams delivered by students. It included some video-watching analytics to detect misuse. In the second stage, the authors ascertained trends of these outcomes. Student perceptions and other achievement indicators illustrate the possibilities for encouraging learners to achieve transmission, communication, and literacy outcomes. Results indicate that these learner-centered approaches may help students learn better, comprehend, apply, and transmit knowledge. But they require an institutional commitment to implementing proactive instruction techniques that emphasize the importance of student communication skills. Full article
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16 pages, 4291 KiB  
Article
Experience Sharing on Virtual COOP Training to Mechanical Engineering Students during the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Abdul Samad Mohammed
Sustainability 2021, 13(20), 11401; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132011401 - 15 Oct 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1725
Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic, which started in December 2019, brought about a paradigm shift in the lifestyles of people worldwide due to the imposed constraints and lockdowns aimed at containing the spread of the infection. Each and every aspect of our lifestyle such as [...] Read more.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which started in December 2019, brought about a paradigm shift in the lifestyles of people worldwide due to the imposed constraints and lockdowns aimed at containing the spread of the infection. Each and every aspect of our lifestyle such as eating, travelling, socializing and learning was affected by this pandemic. Even the education sector was not untouched due to this pandemic, which caught the various stakeholders of this industry, such as the students, faculty and the administration, unaware. The education of a complete generation of kids and adults all over the world required some drastic adjustments so that their learning process would continue unaffected. Even though distance learning and online teaching have been around for a long time in the education sector, its importance was felt during this last year because of the role it played in the transfer of knowledge to students during the lockdowns wherein the students did not have access to physical classrooms and schools. Faculty, students and the administration developed new innovative ideas to adjust to this new change in teaching/learning styles and made the transition for all stakeholders a smooth and an enlightening experience. One such change had to be made in the delivery style of the cooperative program (COOP) for Mechanical engineering students at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM). COOP is a 9-credit hour course that a student with a junior standing in the Applied Mechanical Engineering program (AME) has to take and pass. It requires the student to spend about seven months in the industry to learn applications in a practical environment and solve practical problems with the aid of the theoretical knowledge gained by him in the courses. However, due to the sudden lockdown in March 2020, most of the industries downed their shutters, which left these poor students halfway stranded through their COOP course. Hence, in order to cater to these students, the administration came up with the idea of substituting physical training with virtual training without compromising on the quality of the education. Comprehensive procedures on the various modules designed and delivered under this new virtual training program, the mode of instruction used, the assessment methods implemented and the experiences of the students are presented in this paper, which can be of tremendous help to various stakeholders. Full article
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12 pages, 756 KiB  
Article
Teaching Using Collaborative Research Projects: Experiences with Adult Learners in Distance Education
by Enrique Rosales-Asensio, Carlos Sierra, Clara Pérez-Molina, Jesús Romero-Mayoral and Antonio Colmenar-Santos
Sustainability 2021, 13(18), 10437; https://doi.org/10.3390/su131810437 - 18 Sep 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1798
Abstract
This research studies the acquisition and improvement of specific cognitive, functional, and social competencies of the students enrolled in a university module in which we applied Collaborative Research Project (CRP) strategy. The module was Research Methodology for a master’s degree in research in [...] Read more.
This research studies the acquisition and improvement of specific cognitive, functional, and social competencies of the students enrolled in a university module in which we applied Collaborative Research Project (CRP) strategy. The module was Research Methodology for a master’s degree in research in electrical engineering, electronics and industrial control given at the National Distance Education University (UNED) in Spain. This practice was applied to a research project in which the private sector was interested in. We have been aiming at increasing academia–industry interaction while promoting active learning; both are principles advocated by the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Having applied this strategy, the module learning outcomes were evaluated following the guideline standards set by the National Agency for Quality Assessment of Universities (ANECA) of the Spanish Government. The results from this evaluation indicated that CRP, even when carried out by using distance learning, has encouraged the students’ interest in both research and the module. It has also fostered collaboration between students and lecturers while increasing their degree of satisfaction. We highlight the difficulties in merging all the outcomes from the students’ research as the main drawback. Full article
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