The rhizome underneath: Promoting the disruption of established practice and the innovation of online teaching, by improving the design of globally disseminated online professional development artefacts

Simon McIntyre

PhD thesis, conferred 2016

This thesis exemplifies, through the exploration of a specific case study, how the design of an online professional development resource is capable of penetrating, disrupting, and fostering innovation in online teaching practices within a wide range of existing professional education networks. Following its release in 2009, the ‘Learning to Teach Online’ (LTTO) project spread rapidly around the world via conduits such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, institutional links and word of mouth - throughout K-12, vocational, higher education and private consultancies across 146 countries and territories.

This thesis investigates how the design of LTTO facilitated its discovery, dissemination and integration in a range of educational contexts. There was a large volume of data collected from Web 2.0 activity surrounding LTTO. Using data visualisation techniques, patterns and hidden relationships between individuals sharing and using the resources were revealed, that provided insight into previously invisible relationships between individuals within vastly different established professional networks all over the world. The concept of the rhizome is at the core of this thesis, inspired by the observation of the growing patterns of connection between seemingly disparate educational communities globally, in a manner that was neither precisely controlled nor predictable.

Key outcomes include a detailed analysis of the design of an online professional development resource that was effective across a range of disciplines and education sectors; the determination of an effective method of researching the spread and use of similar initiatives; and observations and strategies that can help others to improve the design process for future online professional development resources.

Supervisor: Professor Peter Goodyear