DfL 2018: Design & Learning-Centric Analytics

June 7, 2018

Conference Proceedings               Conference Programme


What is Designs for Learning?


The Designs for Learning (DfL) community involves a small but growing group of researchers. The DfL journal was started by a group of researchers at Stockholm University who were interested in research at the crossroads of design and learning, within an expanding technological, socio-cultural context. The original DfL group’s activity expanded over the last 15 years to include collaboration between Stockholm University, Aalborg University, University of Bergen, and University of Greenland to publish the international journal Designs for Learning. Topics covered include design-based-research, multimodal research, cognitive approaches, technology enhanced learning, designs for and in learning, and learning ecology. In addition, the website underlines that journal is “at the crossroad of theoretical development and empirical examples related to learning resources, transformation processes, learning environments and digital resources.”


The Designs for Learning conference gathers researchers every second year.. This year’s sixth DfL Conference was hosted by SLATE at the University of Bergen. The over-arching theme was “Design & Learning-Centric Analytics”.


The conference aimed to address issues relating to designs for learning, technology enhanced learning, design-based research, multimodal knowledge representations, embodied interaction, on-line environments, and learning ecologies. Furthermore, there was to be a special conference thread that focused on the design of learning environments and the implications of design for learning-centric analytics.



Staffan Selander, Editor-in-Chief of DfL, states that the DfL conference has a high academic level because of its close relationship to the Journal. While international, Selander says that the Journal is grounded in a Scandinavian approach to design, and understanding learning, an approach characterised as being explorative, open, democratic … However, the research presented in the Journal is necessarily international because the technological challenges involved in multimodal designs in learning and communication are themselves global in nature, as is the discussion of these issues.


The DfL conference submissions involved a double blind peer review before being selected as either a long or short paper presentation. The long papers will also be revised and published in the Journal. A pre-conference Doctoral Symposia involved 5 PhD students who gave presentations and participated in interactive discussions with each other and 2 faculty, an important activity for early-researchers.


Conference statistics:

  • Nearly 60 participants

  • 36 submissions – 10 ultimately selected to be Journal papers

  • 3 keynotes (/invited lectures): Alexandra Weilenmann, Richard Halverson, María Jesús Rodríguez-Triana

  • 5 PhD projects presented at Doctoral Consortium


The DfL 2018 organising committee extends its sincere thanks to Jorunn Viken and Fay Whelden at SLATE for their administrative support, and to the over 30 reviewers. The next DfL Conference will be held in Stockholm in 2020.

Conference Proceedings               Conference Programme




Keynote and Invited Lectures







Visitor-Driven Mobile Technology Use


Alexandra Weilenmann, Associate Professor at the University of Gothenburg








Alexandra Weilenmann’s research investigates how new technologies are being used in everyday activities. When she began her work with visitor-driven mobile technology a decade ago, Instagram was in its early days and was one of the first social media platforms that allowed easy sharing.


Her research addresses the following kinds of questions: What are people doing with their phones when they visit a museum, science centre, or aquarium …? What are they doing with the pictures? They seem engaged – what experiences are they taking home?


Weilenmann notes that Museums have gone from a policy of discouraging the taking of photographs by the public, to actively encouraging this interaction. They are also changing from focusing on learning by looking, to learning by interacting. She wanted to study more about how technology affects this process.


Based on the level of public engagement via mobile phones, Weilenmann believes that there is great potential for this technology-mediated engagement. She is considering questions such as: How can institutions such as museums respond to these challenges and re-configure the interaction they are having with the public. She says that Museums today are less in control of their interaction with the public. She spoke of citizen curators, citizen science, crowd science and the “Internet of Things”. Learn more about Weilenmann’s research activity.


Watch a video of Weilenmann discussing her work (in Swedish).








Invited Lecture:

Digital Learning for All Students




Richard Halverson, Professor, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison






Richard Halverson spoke about how the socio-cultural context has an impact on the digital divide, and, therefore, the challenges of making digital learning accessible to all students. While most students across all economic backgrounds now have access to digital technology of some kind, Halverson underlines that the gap concerns the differences in how children see technology being used around them. How children observe the use of technology being modelled in their “home habitus” effects how they themselves will use it. He spoke of connected learning – how learning should not be discussed in relationship to classrooms, but across all environments where learning and informal learning occur. He mentioned the Connected Learning Alliance.


Halverson also spoke about the newly revised book he wrote with Allan Collins for the Technology, Education-Connections Series, entitled, “Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America”. In this book he stresses the role of school leaders, and the Positive School Leadership (PSL) model.


Other topics in Halverson’s address included how digital technology is changing the way we learn, and that we need to understand more about this in order to educate the next generations with 21st Century skills. He mentioned in particular video games and the kinds of interactive, collaborative skills players are developing. How are such skills transferred to other arenas?


“Schools must become culturally relevant hybrid spaces where all learners use digital media tools to bridge home and school habitus”, he says. Halverson is positive about the future. He believes new technological developments are opening up live, vibrant possibilities that are engaging millions of people.





Aligning the Synergies between Learning Design and Learning Analytics


María Jesús Rodríguez-Triana,

Senior Researcher,

Centre of Excellence in Educational Innovation, School of Digital Technologies, Tallinn University, Estonia



María Jesús Rodríguez-Triana spoke of the need to identify potential synergies between Learning Design (LD) and Learning Analytics (LA). One of the things this entails is the need to design learning tools that will provide quantifiable data so that it will be easy to analyse and evaluate the tools. She feels that today the process of LD and LA tend to be parallel instead of being synergistic, supportive and aligned.


Rodríguez-Triana highlighted 4 important LD principles:

(1) maximizing data quality & analytics reliability; 

(2) promoting user involvement;

(3) facilitating understandability & actionability of data analytics;

(4) ethics & privacy by design. 

She also underlined the importance of increasing dialogue with users as well as considering learning across different spaces – including the virtual space!


In addition to providing valuable insights to promote discussions about LD & LA, her keynote provided an overview of the 2-day conference, summarizing some of the important issues presented. Her concluding slides provide the images for this brief article.



Nordic Approach for Learning Analytics


DfL 2018 concluded with a workshop about Nordic Approach for Learning Analytics. Conference leaders hoped to share thoughts and experiences about specific Nordic features. They wrote in the abstract for the workshop that “Nordic models of education and general well-being of our citizens have captured global news headlines over the last decade. The Nordics have a student and teacher-centric focus that places people and rights as the key aim of our societies. Providing teachers and students with more autonomy and trust combined with the notion of active citizenship and focus on play for children provides an atmosphere that can be described as "Nordic Bildung*". Learning Analytics is an emerging research field, focusing on collection and analysis of data about learners and their learning contexts to understand, enhance and optimise learning. Within the digitalisation of many operating activities in educational institutions - from records of achievements to evaluation, homeschool collaboration as well as the core of studying and learning with digital tools and learning materials - provide new kind of opportunities and challenges for Learning Analytics.


Interest in Nordic approaches was explored in last autumn’s “LASI-Nordic 2017 – Exploring a Nordic Approach to LA”, hosted by SLATE.


It will be further discussed August 2018 at Nordic LASI 2018, hosted in Denmark, 29-30 August 2018, Aalborg University.


*Bildung (from Wikipedia)

"Bildung refers to the German tradition of self-cultivation (as related to the German for: creation, image, shape), wherein philosophy and education are linked in a manner that refers to a process of both personal and cultural maturation. This maturation is described as a harmonization of the individual's mind and heart and in a unification of selfhood and identity within the broader society, as evidenced with the literary tradition of Bildungsroman."




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