Chapter 8: Seamless Learning Reflection
Seamless learning is a fairly new approach to implementing learning that allows seamless transition between different learning tasks. It is a type of mobile learning that focuses on eliminating seams (i.e., gaps) within and between contexts, places, devices, systems, learning tasks, learning environments, etc. The seamless integration of learning experiences across multiple dimensions, including formal and informal learning contexts, individual and social learning, and physical world and cyberspace. Moreover, seamless learning is a continuum of learning across multiple contexts through networked personal computing devices. It is the integration of learning experiences across multiple dimensions, including formal and informal learning contexts, individual and social learning, and physical world and cyberspace. It is an approach that proposes to connect learners’ private and personal lives to continue learning outside the classroom. Hambrock et al. (2020, p.4) define seamless learning as:
seamless learning is when a person experiences a continuity of learning, and consciously bridges the multifaceted learning efforts, across a combination of locations, times, technologies or social settings.” The promise of this ‘continuity’ lies in potential learning gains, such as an increase in retention, transfer, support for the acquisition of (complex) skills, increased academic performance and motivation, awareness and change in perception(s), an increase sense of self-efficacy, next to potential organizational gains (e.g. increased efficiency and time-spend-on-learning).
The first Global Research Project aimed to determine teachers’ readiness to implement seamless learning as part of their curriculum. A clarification of the challenges and successes was compiled through a research study in 2020, targeting policymakers in their respective environments. This study is a global follow-up study, not least in the context of COVID-19.
This chapter is part of the overall Global Research Project 2021, and the survey was directed to the researchers who were studying their institutions and faculty, the researchers themselves, so to speak. A total of nine people participated in this survey. The gender distribution was fairly even: five (55.6%) men and four (44.4%) women. Most respondents (7) were between 45 and 65 years old (77.8%). Two (2), (22.2%) respondents were aged 25-45 years. Participants were from the following countries: Canada, Egypt, India, Portugal, South Africa, and the United States (see map in Figure 2). The full global study even included participants from Malaysia, Turkey, and another country in Africa, but unfortunately, since the deadline for this study and this chapter had passed, there were no responses from them, even though reminders were sent out.
A map of the countries in this study
As illustrated in Figure 8.2, most of the respondents had several years of experience. Three (3) of them had 11-15 years of experience, three (3) had 21 years or more, two (2) had 16-20 years of experience, and only one (1) had only two years (2).
Years of experience in educational technology
8.2 Data Collection
Data were collected in the fall of 2021 using an open-ended questionnaire via Google Survey and along with the questions for Chapter 6 on technical questions. The survey was sent to 9 participants.
8.2.1 Survey Design
The data collection for this chapter on seamless learning reflections is based on an open-ended questionnaire. This approach was chosen mainly because a qualitative approach was desired for this chapter, since reflections are involved, and therefore this approach is the more valid one. However, the background questions were more about technical issues.
8.2.2 Data Findings
The reflection section of the Seamless Learning Survey consists of eight (8) questions and the six (6) background questions. Respondents’ answers have been reproduced below as written on the response form.
Seamless learning reflection: 1. Is seamless learning a new approach for you? (9 responses)
There was an even distribution among respondents in terms of their prior experience and knowledge of seamless learning.
Among those who had a prior understanding, their answers were:
No, I wrote a book about the seamless learning approach.
Not specifically. I have the experience of teaching in different settings: f2f, distance education and online mode.
Not an entirely new concept. I have been endeavoring to create seamless learning experiences for my students for many years. However, the framework explored in the first GRP is new to me.
No, it is not a new approach. I have applied seamless learning connecting private and public learning areas in an European project, allowing students to learn through both individual and group efforts, using formal and informal learning, and face to face classes and online classes.
No, we have been using the e-learning systems since 2006 at Mansoura University, and I am working as a senior instructional designer at the university science since 2006 till now. So we have been involved in mobile learning to remove seams for a long time.
The responses of those who had no prior knowledge were:
Yes it will be. We have been using traditional classroom teaching for a long time.
Yes, it is a new area of research interest.
Yes. I am not so familiar with the term previously.
Yes it is new to me – although I have been “unknowingly” practicing some of the concepts without actually knowing it.
Seamless learning reflection: 2. What were your challenges during the analysis of the course? (9 responses)
Respondents identified the following challenges:
The most important challenge during the analysis of the course was the educational environment analysis and the educational needs for the target group.
It was challenging to explain the concept to faculty.
Searching for the explanation for some unfamiliar terms.
Getting a clear understanding of how we define seamless learning and putting it in a context was the main issue.
My lack of “formal” knowledge on the concept – the definitions and various theoretical concepts utilized.
The major challenge was to analyze the real world experiences discussed by the students and link them to the game that was used in the learning process.
Assessment the students’ works and marking.
One of the respondents stated “I have not implemented it yet so I cannot answer this question” and another one stated “No real challenges.”
Seamless learning reflection: 3. What would you suggest making the process of the analyses of the course with the instructors easier in future? (9 answers)
To facilitate the process of analyzing the course with instructors in the future, respondents suggested the following:
Good reports to instructors, so the instructors will have all the data they need and they will be able to create the educational plan.
To elaborate further and clear instruction of evaluation and assessments.
Clear case studies or use-cases would bring clarity in understanding the context.
Make it much simpler and more organized.
Fewer questions in the spreadsheet template. There are currently over 200 questions!
The analysis would be easier and more effective if we had created a guide for the students’ learning, creating a structure for the discussion of the real world experiences and linking them to the game situations – the discussions would be more structured and the analysis would be more effective.
Just an idea, we need to have someone working only with the analysis phase and collect all the data and give good reports to instructors, so the instructors will have all the data they need and they will be able to create the educational plan.
Two respondents said they had no suggestions. One respondent said “We have not done the course analysis yet so I cannot answer this. It is only part of the project in 2022,” while another one answered, “I will be honest – I do not know enough yet to venture any suggestions.”
Seamless learning reflection: 4. What benefits do you foresee for the implementation of a seamless learning approach? For example, quality matters etc.? (9 responses)
Respondents cited the following benefits for implementing a seamless learning approach:
The quality of course designs, teaching approaches and mostly learning of the student will improve.
I foresee more student involvement, better results, more engagement, more practical experiences for the student.
To increase the learning materials output and check the course quality.
I think it will bridge the gap within and between contexts, locations, devices, systems, learning tasks, learning settings.
The seamless learning approach will be more effective when the concepts and problems are identified first before implementing the approach.
For multi-campus universities this approach is extremely useful – I teach at a campus 300 km away from my residence and need to be able to integrate my teaching in a seamless manner – I still need to see the junior students from time to time, but cannot travel for regular contact sessions. Seamless learning as a “dual” approach addresses this weakness.
I see this as an opportunity to make the learning experience more engaging and meaningful for my students. It is also an opportunity to further enhance the inclusivity and Digital Accessibility compliance of the overall learning experience.
There are many benefits as the learning can be less abstract, joining the virtual with simulations, scenarios, avatars with the more theoretical approach of the face to face classes. The learning can be more effective, the teaching can be more dynamic. The students can perform a more nuclear role in the learning process, and they benefit from a solid laboratorial, experimental knowledge.
especially inside the developing countries, it will achieve the equal concept in educational and work under a clear instruction which will lead us to have a good quality learning.
Seamless learning reflection: 5. What complications do you foresee for the implementation of a seamless learning approach and how would you attempt to overcome them? (9 responses)
Respondents foresaw and attempted to overcome the following complications in implementing a seamless learning approach:
Since it’s a relatively new concept in the USA it would mean that training and buy-in of Management and on policy level will be tedious.
Not everybody will have a smartphone or tablet. Access to data and WiFi, self discipline to do the work on their own, challenges regarding cheating
The new instruction after COVID-19 and the growing of blended learning issues
Biggest challenge in implementation I foresee is the way our curriculum is transacted. That leaves little scope in formal settings and extra efforts on the part of teachers.
One of the major problems is due to the stability of internet access and infrastructure. It is the campus responsibility to take further actions.
Our (UFS) biggest challenge is the availability of hardware and data among/for students at “financially challenged” campuses we serve.
One of the biggest issues is the time necessary to make sure the learning experience is truly seamless. Another is the availability of resources. Not every teacher will have time, resources, or the technical support necessary to create a truly seamless learning experience. I try to overcome this by utilizing as many reusable digital resources as possible, and by designing authentic problem-based learning experiences where my students have the ability to choose their own tools and approaches (thus reducing the time-commitment on my part in advance to create resources!).
It needs a new approach to the pedagogical models that are used in Universities. The Professors need more competencies regarding the new pedagogies, and to the educational technologies.
The shortage of the preparation of the teachers and educators for the type of the learning and we can work on this through developing an online short training to prepare them for such this new way.
The gap in infrastructure between what we need and the tools we have to achieve our goals, so we need to work on two ways: the first preparing our plans depending on our resources and the second way covering our shortage and searching for solutions.
Seamless learning reflection: 6. Any other comments, please feel free to elaborate? (6 responses)
Respondents made the following additional comments:
The approach offers many benefits to the learner and teacher to a seamless learning center experience.
I think most of the teaching and learning should not go seamlessly. The nature of teaching and learning have difficulties and that students are learning through these difficulties, and there would be some sort of flawless, defect, trouble and more ….
The learning process need to be more linked to the real world needs, market knowledge, companies practices and models, problem solving and analytical skills are needed – so there is a space for the seamless learning approach – and the future is a construction process, that is not only based on theoretical frameworks, it needs links to the real world processes and needs.
Just an idea about creating a global council for Seamless learning.
Only two respondents provided the comments, none and N/A, respectively.
Seamless learning reflection: 7. Did you learn something new from the analysis of the course designs with the instructor (or without if this is one of your courses)? Please elaborate further. (9 responses)
Respondents drew the following lessons from their analysis of course designs with instructors:
Yes. I realized that our courses are not including some of the elements for example virtual and augmented reality.
I learnt that teaching and learning should find a way to integrate technology in classrooms and out classrooms, as formal and informal and blended learning for the future, and how we design, deploy and implement the blended learning to grow the seamless learning.
Integrating different learning settings and resources is a good paradigm.
Yes. I have learnt a lot from the analysis especially for the concepts.
Too early for me to comment, but I have become aware of the possibilities and challenges of the approach – I am very positive about the possibilities offered.
I did learn that, despite my ongoing efforts to make my learning experiences as seamless as possible, there are many more ways that I can enhance that experience for my students.
I learned how to structure a course with face to face classes and online/elearning classes.
yes, open me the way to use this knowledge to my work in designing the learning at the university.
Just one of the respondents stated “We did not do the analysis yet.”
Seamless learning reflection: 8. From what you learned what was particularly useful for you and in your context? (8 responses)
Respondents found some of the lessons learned particularly important in their context, such as:
Very useful is to look at designing from an eagle eye perspective.
The seamless analysis, it is a useful approach to analyses any course.
May be better instructional design approach for teaching and learning settings.
Yes, it is useful regarding the seamless concepts.
Being able to use the theory and current known practice of seamless learning in bringing “sceptical” colleagues and managers on board.
In my context that we are creating an online branch of the University, all the knowledge was very important, since the pedagogical practices to the technologies that can be applied.
Learning from the global mind, so I am not speaking about sharing only one experience. And the analysis process was very good for me.
Just one respondent gave the answer “I do not know.”
8.3 Analysis and Discussion
A total of nine people participated in this survey. The gender distribution was fairly even: 5 (55.6%) men and 4 (44.4%) women. Most respondents (7) were between the ages of 45 and 65 years (77.8%). Two (2), (22.2%) respondents were aged 25-45 years. Respondents were from Canada, Egypt, India, Portugal, South Africa, and the United States, so many of the global regions were represented: Asia, Europe, Middle East, and North America,
Half of the respondents have several years of experience teaching in a variety of contexts: face-to-face, distance, and online, and have been committed to creating seamless learning experiences for their students for many years. However, the framework explored in the first Global Research Project was new to many of them. Respondents also had experience with seamless learning, which connected private and public learning spaces in a European project that allowed students to learn both individually and in groups, use formal and informal learning, and take both face-to-face and online courses. Interviewees also reported that they used the e-learning systems and many of them worked as lead instructional designers, so they had long used mobile learning to eliminate seams.
One of the main challenges in analyzing the course was to analyze the educational environment and the educational needs of the target group. Another challenge was finding explanations for some unfamiliar terms and developing a clear understanding of how seamless learning is defined and how it can be put into a meaningful context. There were even challenges related to the definitions used and different theoretical concepts. In addition, the biggest challenge was analyzing the real-world experiences discussed by the students and linking them to the game used in the learning process. It also involved evaluating the students’ work and grading.
In order to facilitate the process of analyzing the course with the instructors in the future, the respondents suggested providing good reports to the instructors so that the instructors have all the necessary data and are able to create the educational plan. Further and clear instructions for assessment and evaluation.
Clear case studies or use cases would bring clarity to understanding the context. It makes it much easier and more organized. Analysis would be easier and more effective if there was a guide for student learning that created a structure for discussing real world experiences and linked them to game situations – discussions would be more structured and analysis more effective. One clear suggestion was that there should be someone who just takes care of the analysis phase and collects all the data and provides good reports to the instructors so that the instructors have all the data they need and can create the educational plan.
Respondents cited the following benefits for implementing a seamless learning approach:
- The quality of course design, teaching approaches, and especially student learning will improve.
- Higher student engagement, better outcomes, more engagement, and more hands-on experiences for students.
- Increase output of learning materials and review of course quality.
- Bridge the gap within and between contexts, places, devices, systems, learning tasks, and learning environments.
- The seamless learning approach will be more effective if the concepts and issues are first identified before the approach is implemented
- For universities with multiple campuses, this approach is extremely useful. Seamless learning as a “dual” approach addresses this weakness.
- Seamless learning is an opportunity to make the learning experience more engaging and meaningful for students. It is also an opportunity to further enhance the inclusivity and digital accessibility of the overall learning experience.
- There are many benefits, as learning can be less abstract when combining the virtual with simulations, scenarios, and avatars with the more theoretical approach of face-to-face instruction. Learning can be more effective and instruction more dynamic. Students can take a more central role in the learning process and benefit from a solid laboratory-based, experimental knowledge.
- In developing countries, the concept of equality in education and careers is implemented with clear guidance, resulting in good quality learning.
The complications predicted by respondents in implementing a seamless learning approach and attempts to overcome them relate to training and management and policy approval, which will be cumbersome; access to data and WiFi; stability of Internet access; availability of resources, hardware, and infrastructure; self-discipline to do the work themselves; challenges of cheating; increasing problems of blended learning. One of the biggest implementation challenges is the way our curriculum and assessments are designed. One of the biggest issues is also the time it takes to ensure that the learning experience is truly seamless. Creating a truly seamless learning experience takes time, resources, and technical support. It’s critical to leverage as many reusable digital resources as possible and design authentic, problem-based learning experiences that allow students to choose their own tools and approaches (which reduces the time it takes to create the resources for me!). We need a new approach to the pedagogical models used in universities. Professors need more skills in new pedagogy and educational technologies. The gap in infrastructure between what is needed and the tools available to achieve the goals is critical. So we need to work in two ways: first, by making plans depending on resources, and second, by covering our shortfall and looking for solutions.
Respondents provided the following additional comments about the initiative: The approach offers many benefits to the learner and the instructor for a seamless learning center experience. The learning process needs to be more connected to real world needs, market knowledge, business practices and models, problem-solving, and analytical skills are needed – so there is a space for the seamless learning approach – and the future is a construction process that is not only based on theoretical frameworks but needs connections to real world processes and needs. Some respondents argued that most teaching and learning processes should not be seamless. They argued that it was in the nature of teaching and learning that there would be difficulties and that students would learn through those difficulties and that there would be some kind of mistakes, shortcomings, difficulties, and more. One of the interviewees brought up the idea of establishing a global council for seamless learning.
Some lessons learned by respondents were that they recognized that their courses did not include some elements such as virtual and augmented reality. They also learned that teaching and learning should find a way to integrate technology into classrooms and outside of classrooms as formal and informal and blended learning for the future and how we design, use, and implement blended learning to promote seamless learning. In addition, it was noted that integrating different learning environments and resources is a good paradigm. Several of the respondents indicated that they learned a lot from the analysis, especially in terms of concepts. They learned that despite constant efforts to make my learning experiences as seamless as possible, there are many more ways I can improve the experience for my students. Some learned that it opened up opportunities for me to apply that knowledge to my work in designing learning at the university. Some learned how to structure a course with face-to-face and online/learning courses. For some, it was much too early to comment, but they have become aware of the possibilities and challenges of the approach – they are very positive about the opportunities it offers.
Some of the lessons that respondents learned that were particularly important in their context were: (i) it is very useful to look at design from an eagle’s perspective, (ii) seamless analysis is a useful approach to analyzing any course, (iii) perhaps a better approach to designing teaching and learning situations, (iv) it is useful in terms of the seamless concept, (v) to be able to use the theory and currently known practice of seamless learning, to get ‘skeptical’ colleagues and managers on board, (vi) in building an online branch of the university, all the knowledge was very important, from pedagogical practices to technologies that can be applied, and (vii) from a global point of view, so I am not talking about sharing only one experience. And the analysis process was very good for me.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Respondents cited a number of benefits for adopting a seamless learning approach, including, to name a few: The quality of course design, teaching approaches, and especially student learning will improve, student engagement will increase, outcomes will improve, engagement will increase, and students will gain more hands-on experience. It is also an opportunity to continue to improve the inclusivity and digital accessibility of the entire learning experience. Seamless learning bridges the gap within and between contexts, places, devices, systems, learning tasks, and learning environments.
Recommendations for Implementation
From the reflections of the interviewees, some recommendations emerge:
- The concept of seamless learning can be interpreted flexibly depending on the context.
- Post-pandemic, seamless learning is a path to mainstreaming.
- The seamless learning approach requires a slightly different infrastructure.
- Curricula and assessments need to be rethought when applying seamless learning.
- The learning process needs to be more connected to real world needs, market knowledge, business practices and models, problem solving and analytical skills are required – so there is room for the seamless learning approach.
Hambrock, H., de Villiers, F., Rusman, E., MacCallum, K., & Arrieya Arrifin, S. (2020). Seamless Learning in Higher Education. Perspectives of International Educators on its Curriculum and Implementation Potential. Global Research Project 2020, International Association for Mobile Learning. https://seamlesslearning.pressbooks.com