Benefits of Enabling Lecturers and Students to Author, Share and Discuss Media-Rich Documents for Online Study Digital poster for 2017 ASCILITE conference, University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Recommended citation: Gomez, G., Daellenbach, R., Kensington, M., Davies, L., & Petsoglou, C. (2017). Benefits of enabling lecturers and students to author, share and discuss media-rich documents for online study. Digital poster presented at ASCILITE 2017: 34th International Conference on Innovation, Practice and Research in the Use of Educational Technologies in Tertiary Education, Toowoomba, QLD, Australia. Retrieved from http://2017conference.ascilite.org/program/benefits-of-enabling-lecturers-and-students-to-author-share-and-discuss-media-rich-documents-for-online-study-2/


Gloria Gomez, Oceanbrowser Ltd & University of Sydney | Rea Daellenbach, Mary Kensington, Lorna Davies Ara Institute of Canterbury | Con Petsoglou, University of Sydney


This poster evaluates the benefits of using OB3 – a web-based technology enhancing the online study experience. Its development was undertaken using human-centred design methods, and informed by research on 1) educational design for academic success, 2) good visual design that facilitates learning and is cognitively effective, and 3) networked learning. The resulting technology has features enabling lecturers, students, and administrative staff to author, create, share, and discuss media-rich study documents. All these activities are undertaken without the direct support of technologists.

One postgraduate medical programme at a university has used this technology for six years, and one three-year undergraduate midwifery programme at an institute of technology has used it for four years. An evaluation of their online study activities with OB3 showed a number of benefits including:

  • Co-constructivist and personalised learning is supported as part of blended learning models.
  • The media-rich documents, most times with embedded discussions, take the form of curriculum content or student assignments, and are created as part of asynchronous collaborative activities such as wiki-style co-written documents, templated-group activities, e-portfolios, and group projects.
  • Lecturers and students consider that the technology affords study that is engaging, flexible, and helps in overcoming isolation.

The benefits of using OB3 for online study were qualified using the Creative Classroom Framework, the NMC Horizon Report Education and the Australia and New Zealand Technology Outlooks Reports. Innovative pedagogical practices emerged when this technology enabled lecturers and students to author and co-create study content by themselves. Significant challenges in the adoption of higher education technology could also be addressed such as rethinking the role of educators and improving digital literacy.


OB3 is a web-based technology that emerged from a research and development process focused in conceptualising and designing features to support the complex activity of online academic study. Guidelines and requirements were put together to inform feature design, based on observations and conversations with lecturers and students about their issues studying online (Case 1). Data gathered was analysed with knowledge drawn from research in: 1) educational design that supports the efficient use of study skills that contribute to academic success (Bandura, 1986); 2) good visual design that facilitates learning, is cognitively effective, and helps us manage our work and thought (Kirsh, 2005); and 3) networked learning in which information and communication technology (ICT) is used to promote connections between people (Goodyear, Banks, Hodgson, & McConnell, 2004).

Research informed development in the following manner. Relevant interactions to study were scaffolded through feature design that built on familiar skills of how to use basic features of MS Word, the Internet, and email. For example, within minutes students, lecturers, and admin staff can: author, share, discuss, and annotate media-rich documents by typing or inserting text; recording audio-commentaries; uploading files, photos or videos; pasting content from desktop apps and websites; and, creating documents, folders or courses in the app. On the other hand, interactions irrelevant to study, but important to technology performance, were supported through automated features. Activities such as document saving, transcoding media style formatting, recognition and creation of hyperlinks to websites have been automated to improve work efficiency and document quality. The link takes you to a video showing how OB3 enables members in a study community to author and share a study document. In less than 60 minutes, a person can put together a multi-media rich document. https://vimeo.com/210851129

Table 1 presents the types of OB3 documents with embedded discussions that two communities of online study are authoring, sharing and discussing. One community is Otago-Sydney Ophthalmic Basic Science programme (Case 1). The other community is Ara Midwifery undergraduate programme (Case 2).

Table 1. Most OB3 study documents are student-led assignments , meaning that the students author, share and discuss the content with peers and, the activities are facilitated by lecturers or tutors

The two health programmes or cases undertake co-constructivist and personalised learning as part of blended learning models (figures 2 and 3). In the next two sections, their respective study practices with OB3 are briefly described and illustrate characteristics of co-construction of learning, as explained by Reusser and Pauli (see 2015, p. 913):

  • The basis of personal development is coconstruction of knowledge in a socially shared cultural space that is the asynchronous distance course.
  • The (online) classrooms develop from aggregations of solo learners to communicate engaged in (asynchronous) dialogues and collaborative learning.
  • The teachers’ role extends from direct instruction to adaptive guidance and scaffolding of students.
  • The type of social discourse is peer interaction, teacher-student(s) interaction, problem solving in pairs or small groups, learning in teams or learning communities.
  • The psychopedagogical processes involved in productive coconstructive activity are productive dialogue such as exploratory talk and collective argumentation, joint construction of a shared understanding, elaboration of mutual knowledge and ideas, giving and receiving help, instructional dialogue with a teacher or expert, tutoring or scaffolding.
  • The expected outcomes of collaboration are taken-as-shared individual vs. socially shared cognitions; convergence and intersubjectivity [divergence of meaning]; academic task fulfillment, student motivation, and conceptual development; effects on skills in listening, disputation, and argumentation.

Case 1: OB3 in a Masters Degree Medical Programme in Ophthalmic Basic Science

This masters course is delivered across two Universities in Australia and New Zealand for the last 15 years. The programme has 82 enrolled full or part-time postgraduate medical students enrolled in 2017. It has allowed for the incorporation of new innovations within the same educational platform to meet the changing requirements of students and lecturers (first with OB DVD-based courseware, then OB3 from 2011). The platform supports a blended learning model well with students being engaged within each unit of study. OB3 was chosen due to several important advantages over other educational technologies:

  • Straightforward intuitive design allowing ease of use by lecturers and staff often not familiar with technology, and students when using shared documents and asynchronous learning
  • Collaborative development model to shape the platform to support innovation in teaching
  • Allowed for international faculties to coordinate teaching on the same platform rather than trying to use the individual differing university software.
  • Allowed for a single educational platform for content delivery and foster interactions between students themselves and students and the academic staff.
  • Integration with institutional LMS to simplify student login and reduce course administration
Figure 1. A concept map describing how OB3 documents with embedded discussions are used in an Ophthalmic Science postgraduate programme

Lecture Documents

Firstly, the lecture documents are a vehicle for introducing students to the course content, which involves summary documents of quite technical information on anatomy, physiology or optics. Secondly, we engage the student using either audio content or video content to be able to make the concepts clearer, because we want to get away from a textbook to a much more engaging environment. The lectures are usually aimed at taking about 30 to 40 minutes of a student’s time, and then linking to discussions, and assignment topics.

Figure 2. Elements within a lecture document

Figure 2 shows the elements of Sydney-Otago lecture document:

  • a) Lecture inside corresponding module folder;
  • b) Start of lecture document with title and authorship;
  • c) Lecture section with styled heading, image, bulleted text, audio file;
  • d) Automatically generated TOC with hyperlinks;
  • e) Lecture section including a hyperlink to part 2 in another OB3 document;
  • f) Automatically generated references

Wiki Page Created by Individual Student

The wiki pages on Optics are collaborative documents of student-derived content. The lecturers provide the topic, but the students do all the other inputs into the documents. For the first 6-week period the student is responsible for developing content for their assigned wiki page, and then there is a 6-week period for every student to review that page and provide links to other documents. A student is creating and taking ownership for the content of the assigned page for six weeks. And then for another 6-week period we encourage the collaboration. We initially found that the collaboration online took a little bit of encouragement. But now, it is a little better. In terms of assessment, we assess both, the actual content and the collaboration.

The goal is to have these wiki pages as resource of the unit of study so students and alumni in the future can access them as an encyclopaedic resource, a kind of “Wikipedia”, for the Optics topic. This student-led project has been created to address the issue that this kind of content online or in other wiki pages is not reliable. There is a lot of bad content and it is not specific to what the students need for their career or for their learning as a high-level subject course.

Figure 3. Wiki page created by a student and peer reviewed

Figure 3 shows the elements of a Sydney-Otago wiki page:

  • a) Menu showing 30 out of 73 wiki articles created to date over a period of 2 semesters;
  • b) Automatically generated TOC with hyperlinks;
  • c) Start of the wiki article with styled headings, images, bulleted text, audio files created by the lecturer;
  • d) to g) show sections of the document with suggested links and references.

Student-led Online Lecture Development with Multimedia Content

One of the major assessment topics each semester is for students to create a multimedia presentation / lecture on a specific topic. These are submitted, assessed and then the best ones become incorporated into the course as student derived resources. Having conducted this type of assessment for 4 years, this has allowed a small library of unique and high quality lectures to become part of the course content.

In this manner, we also provide a cutting edge and modern content to balance a lot of traditional teaching and traditional concepts. Each year within our ophthalmology specialty there are numerous innovations based on basic science principles. We aim through this assessment to encourage students to critically evaluate new innovations; taking the basic principles of optics, and then evaluating what are these new scientific breakthroughs are based upon. Within the course they have the time to do this, and research the evolution in technologies and applications to vision. An unexpected benefit of this process has been that we, as educators, also learn from the students and their approach to these issues. Some of these multimedia lectures are phenomenal (see examples). The standard is well above what you get for example in a Powerpoint / Prezie presentation or a YouTube video.

As an ophthalmologist we are bombarded with new technologies, new principles, new lenses, lasers to use and new equipment. Therefore as an ophthalmologist you need to be able to assess the scientific principles and the way that each piece of equipment works. These multimedia student-led lectures provide great short videos and lecture content which update the course resources and provide research skills to students lifelong.

Figure 3. Online multimedia lectures developed by individual students on technological innovations applying basic ophthalmic science principles

Figure 3 shows elements of the student-developed online multimedia lectures:

  • a) Folder hosting all semester presentations;
  • b) Files of each presentation;
  • c) to f) show examples of presentations submitted including text and links to a summary of key ideas.

Student-led Journal Club Discussion Documents

The concept behind journal club is for the early students within the course to develop links between basic sciences and clinical practice. It is to provide them deeper learning principles, allow them to find the relevance of these basic principles in day-to-day practice. The journal club works very well as an assessment activity with the goal of showing students the relevance of basic science in clinical practice, even though we are not a clinical course, and we are not teaching clinical content. From another point of view it does encourage interaction among the students. They are not so comfortable discussing the basic principles per se because they do not yet have all the basic science knowledge. But, they are more comfortable discussing papers that marry the two aspects together, science and practice because this is day-to-day work for them.

The students have skills to summarise and discuss concepts presented in a journal article. This is a language that early students are comfortable or familiar with. OB3 has allowed us to provide a network within the course to discuss an article each week. The set up is as follows. Two students/moderators are given an article each week or two to summarise and led discussion. The other students are tasked to discuss it. The discussion are asynchronous, occur in students’ own time and undertaken at own study pace.

Figure 4. Student-led journal article review with embedded discussions with peers

Figure 4 illustrates sections of a student-led article review and discussion:

  • a) Folder hosting the articles.
  • b) OB3 documents containing reviews and discussions being held.
  • c) Automatically generated TOC with active links to navigate the document.
  • d) A section of the summary review.
  • e) Questions posed to peers on the content.
  • f) References used in the review, follow on questions and related word and pdf documents.
  • g) A section of the discussions from contributing peers.
  • h) and i) The student leading the review and the discussion chooses one question to elaborate on

Case 2: OB3 in an Undergraduate Midwifery Programme

The Bachelor of Midwifery has approx. 90-100 students in a programme that is 50% theory hours and 50% practice hours. A blended curriculum was instituted in 2009 to increase the number of midwifery students in rural and provincial areas being able to access the programme (figure 5). Urban students also participate in the same blended programme. OB3 was chosen to deliver the theoretical component of the programme in response to student evaluations of the previous technology platform, in which students consistently identified feeling isolated and unsure of how they were progressing with their learning.

The draw card of OB3 was the ability to have asynchronous discussion within the online content. The subsequent evaluations have found that almost all students find these discussions valuable for their learning, and also feel more connected to other students in their courses. The lecturers have been developing skills in prompting and encouraging students to contribute, think more critically and integrate theory and practice. OB3 is integrated with the institution’s Learning Management System and thus the resources are password protected. It is easy to control what level of access rights students and lecturers have in terms of viewing, discussing, editing and authoring of documents.

Figure 5. Blended learning model for the Bachelor of Midwifery (Daellenbach et al. 2014, p. 1)
Figure 6. A concept map describing how OB3 documents with embedded discussions are used in a midwifery undergraduate programme

Curriculum Content with Questions and Answers (Q&A)

The module “Respiratory Challenges in Pregnancy” (figure 7) provides an example of how curriculum content is structured in practice-based papers. It begins with a theoretical part in which there is description of the physiology of the respiratory system and pathophysiology and applies this to particular conditions that are common in pregnant women, such as asthma. This is then followed by a case study with Q&A to prompt students to connect theory and practice.

A case study approach focuses attention on the lived experience for women and the implications for the provision of midwifery care. The case study sets up a scenario and then there will be some questions asked. Often there is a story that might begin with a question related to antenatal care, and then go on to labour, birth and postnatal. Students can selectively respond and learn from each other. The lecturers (MK in figure 7) add further prompts and clarification. This is a similar structure to one that was utilised in the face-to-face lectures that preceded the introduction of the blended programme.

In OB3 documents, the content utilises a range of media, such a video teaching materials that already exist, links to the latest professional guidelines and research articles and other resources. For example, this module links back to Moodle to use a physiology quiz hosted there. In other modules we create Q&A where the students have to identify aspects from an article. In the one illustrated in figure 7, the Q&A are around the case study.

Figure 7. Curriculum content with Q&A. The lecturer authors the document, shares it with students for asynchronous discussion.

Student-led General Discussions on Practice Experience

Figure 8 shows screenshots that have been taken from a project course where the final year students are out on a 14-week placement all over New Zealand. Students are divided into groups of 5 to 7 to engage in this forum where they write about their midwifery practice experiences and issues that have emerged from that placement. Their introductory posts begin broadly and then narrow down as each student identifies a particular topic related to that practice. This takes them on journey exploring different facets related to their specific topic area. They then create their own OB3 documents with embedded discussions.

The screenshot in Figure 9 illustrates one student’s practice topic: “Dietary exclusions”. Students explore the relevant research, guidelines for practice and midwifery frameworks in relation to their chosen practice topic. Students critique the evidence from the literature and begin to write this up as summary report. During the development of the practice topic summary, the other students in the group are expected to contribute to each other’s topic documents. They add discussion points, questions and sharing of their own practice experiences related to the topic. Consequently, they are learning from each other. The student submits the summary report as part of the summative assessment.

An essential element that makes this learning environment a success is that the students have the opportunity to share and discuss their own experiences in relation to the other students’ chosen practice topic. This enables them to compare and contrast, evaluate and critique both their practice experiences and the evidence that is available. This facilitates knowledge integration and the development of a community of practice for the students. Ultimately, students come up with their own ideas about how they would practice. The student-led general discussions of practice experience allow them to begin to synthesise knowledge–the act of putting parts together to form a whole, which is an element in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Figure 8. A general discussion of practice experience with videos, links to other resources, references
Figure 9. Student-led discussion on chosen practice topic.

Qualifying the Benefits of OB3 using Innovative Educational Frameworks

The Creative Classroom (CRR) Framework and the NMC Horizon Report Global, the Australian and New Zealand Technology Outlooks provide concepts to qualify the benefits (table 1) brought about by OB3 in two health education programmes.

Creative Classroom (CCR) Framework

Creative Classrooms are conceptualised as innovative learning environments that fully embed the potential of ICT to innovate learning and teaching practices in formal, non-formal and informal settings. The CCR framework consists of 8 encompassing and interconnected key dimensions and a set of 28 reference parameters or building blocks. At the heart of the framework lie innovative pedagogical practices that emerge when teachers use ICT in their efforts to organise newer and improved forms of open-ended, collaborative, and meaningful learning activities, rather than to enhance traditional pedagogies (S. Bocconi, P. Kampylis, G., & Y. Punie, 2012; S. Bocconi, P. G. Kampylis, & Y. Punie, 2012; Johnson et al., 2014).

Using OB3 to author, share and discuss media-rich documents with embedded discussions (table 1), has facilitated the two health programmes’ blended learning models (figures 1 and 2) to adopt innovative practices across 6 CCR dimensions and 12 building blocks. Table 2, column 1 lists the relevant practices and relates them to the programmes in columns 2 and 3.

The NMC Horizon Report Education Global, Europe and NMC Technology Outlooks of Australia and New Zealand

The NMC Horizon Report series charts the five-year impact of innovative practices and technologies for higher education across the globe. With more than 15 years of research and publications, the NMC Horizon Project can be regarded as education’s longest-running exploration of emerging technology trends and uptake. Six key trends, six significant challenges, and six developments in educational technology profiled in the 2017 report are poised to impact teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in higher education (Adams Becker et al., 2017).

The innovative study practices undertaken using OB3 documents with embedded discussions have facilitated these study programmes to follow educational technology trends and address some challenges (see column 4 in table 2 below), according to the NMC Horizon Report Education (Adams Becker et al., 2017), NMC Horizon Report Europe (Johnson et al., 2014) and NMC Technology Outlooks of Australia and New Zealand (Adams Becker, Cummins, Davis, & Yuhnke, 2016; Johnson, Adams, & Cummins, 2011).

Table 2. Qualifying benefits/practices with the Creative Classroom and Technology Adoption Frameworks


This digital poster describes and illustrates with examples the benefits found in the authoring and sharing of OB3 documents with embedded discussions. A medical and a health programme have used this technology for online collaborative study for a number of years. The lecturer and student-led study activities in OB3 were evaluated with two frameworks. The CCR Framework showed that OB3 documents with embedded discussions facilitate a number of innovative pedagogical practices. In turn, these practices address trends and challenges in the adoption of educational technologies.

Reference List

Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., Freeman, A., Hall Giensinger, C., & Ananthanarayanan, V. (2017). NMC horizon report: 2017 higher education edition. Texas: The New Media Consortium

Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., & Yuhnke, B. (2016). 2016 NMC technology outlook for australian tertiary education: A horizon project regional report. Texas: The New Media Consortium

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Bocconi, S., Kampylis, P., G., & Punie, Y. (2012). Innovating learning: Key elements for developing creative classrooms in Europe (Report EUR 25446 EN). Retrieved from http://ipts.jrc.ec.europa.eu/publications/pub.cfm?id=5181

Bocconi, S., Kampylis, P. G., & Punie, Y. (2012). Innovating teaching and learning practices: Key elements for developing creative classrooms in Europe. eLearning Papers(30). Retrieved from https://www.openeducationeuropa.eu/sites/default/files/legacy_files/asset/In-depth_30_1.pdf

Daellenbach, D. R., Davies, L., Kensington, M., & Tamblyn, R. (2014). Fostering online student interaction using the OB3 web application for online study. Paper presented at ASCILITE 2014: Rhetoric and Reality - Critical Perspectives on Educational Technology, Dunedin, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://ascilite2014.otago.ac.nz/files/concisepapers/179-Daellenbach.pdf

Goodyear, P., Banks, S., Hodgson, V., & McConnell, D. (2004). Research on networked learning: An overview. In P. Goodyear, S. Banks, V. Hodgson, & D. McConnell (Eds.), Advances in Research on Networked Learning (pp. 1-9). Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., Kampylis, P., Vuorikari, R., & Punie, Y. (2014). The NMC horizon report Europe: 2014 schools edition. Luxembourg & Texas: Publication Office of the European Union & the New Media Consortium.

Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Cummins, M. (2011). Technology outlook for New Zealand tertiary education 2011-2016: An NMC horizon report regional analysis. Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Kirsh, D. (2005). Metacognition, distributed cognition, and visual design. In P. Gärdenfors & P. Johansson (Eds.), Cognition, Education and Communication Technology (pp. 147-179). Mahwah, N.J. ; London Lawrence Erlbaum, Publishers.

Reusser, K., & Pauli, C. (2015). Co-constructivism in educational theory and practice. In J. D. Wright (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Social & Behavioral Science (2nd ed., Vol. 3, pp. 913-917): Elsevier.

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