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  • appleton2022phd

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Developing Arleno, an Open-source Learning Tool to Engage Learners Collaboratively and Critically in Text-based Learning Materials: A Design-based Research Study

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Joseph Appleton
Publication date1/09/2022
Number of pages198
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • Solent University
Award date22/11/2022
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis presents the outcomes of a three-year design-based research (DBR) project that addressed, through a pragmatic approach, the growing challenge of encouraging higher education students to engage deeply in text-based resources. In doing so, I took the novel approach of bringing together my skills as a researcher, programmer, and teacher to develop and evaluate an open-source, web-based learning tool called Arleno. The tool allows a teacher, through social annotation, to turn static text-based content into dynamic inquiry-based activities that can support a critical Community of Inquiry. I evaluated and enhanced the solution over two 12-week interventions in my direct practice setting, the computing department of a UK-based university. I underpinned this process with a qualitatively focused simultaneous mixed-methods approach that evaluated 50 activity answers, 24 semi-structured interviews, and field notes.

The findings revealed that developing a new learning tool is a challenging undertaking and uncovered a range of factors that need to be considered. However, the solution proved effective in supporting learners in taking a deep-level approach to engaging in text-based learning materials, supporting high levels of cognitive presence. Further, the participants, having had little meaningful prior exposure to group or text-based learning, reported increased motivation and criticality towards engaging in text-based materials. Overall, the results allowed deep insights regarding the design, the process, and the outcomes of creating an innovative learning solution that can support a critical Community of Inquiry. As such, this work will be of use to teachers, researchers, and learning designers who are looking either to design their own learning solution; or, for those interested in using the solution presented in this work and since Arleno is open-source they are free to do so.