Global Viewpoints on Open Educational Resources for Blended Learning: Knowledge translations and the research to practice gaps test

February 27, 2023  

Changes are happening in academia that align with the ongoing changes of what defines research outputs. The term from healthcare, “knowledge translation” reflects this shift of what counts when sharing out research. Knowledge translation is defined as “a dynamic and iterative process that includes synthesis, dissemination, exchange and ethically-sound application of knowledge to improve the health of Canadians, provide more effective health services and products and strengthen the health care system” (CIHR, 2016, para. 4). As we can see, one can substitute education for health and come to a similar statement for education: “a dynamic and iterative process that includes synthesis, dissemination, exchange and ethically-sound application of knowledge to improve the [education] of Canadians, provide more effective [education] services and products and strengthen the [education] system” (ibid). 

Within educational research, which is enfolded under the social sciences (Cooper & Rodway, 2018; Crain-Dorough & Elder, 2021) the discussion of knowledge translation continues to grow. With Canadian research funding agencies requiring a research dissemination plan (Cooper & Rodway, 2018) the well-accepted peer-reviewed journal articles and academic conference presentations make the foundation to these plans. But funders are now looking for a variety of dissemination practices, and research plans need to reflect the multiple choices that are available. To address these striving for alternative research outputs, a digital story and infographic display facets of a research project that I co-led at Athabasca University. These two artifacts speak to the research findings but as well contribute to the ongoing discussions related to knowledge translation, the research to practice gaps, and how a small group of researchers experienced characteristics of these gaps. 

The IDEA Lab@Athabasca University 

Cloud-computing tools are part of the innovative IDEA Lab launched at Athabasca University’s research office. My collaborators and I received funding and support to explore findings of our  “Global Viewpoints on Open Educational Resources for Blended Learning” research project. This study applied the tools offered by data mining while examining Open Educational Resources (OER), openness in education through massive online open courses (MOOCs), and the perspectives of educators on the topic of using OER for blended learning. Data for analysis came from MOOCS that had been offered by  Athabasca University and the Commonwealth of Learning  through the Blended Learning Practice  MOOC. Within this free, online course, participants respond to a discussion forum question about the role of OER within their teaching context. These forums, from six different offerings of this MOOC, formed the data sets for analysis using cloud-computing tools using Ronin, the research branch of Amazon Web Services. Using topic modelling analysis, we examined the impressions of MOOC participants with regards to OER as part of blended learning and teaching. 

New to cloud-computing research 

Our research team (Dr. Marti-Cleveland Innes, Dr. Elena Chudeva, and I) were novices to educational research using cloud-computing. Part of our reasoning in taking on this research, and in effect being learners again, was to understand through our decision-making and experiences what cloud-computing tools may mean for education research. With the onslaught of ed tech and online learning throughout all levels of education there is a flood of data – and data about the data is part of the future of education research. To keep abreast of change for our own learning and for the sake of our graduate students were two additional reasons to pursue this project. 

As beginners to cloud-computing the Idea Lab members welcomed us because this is part of what the initiative is about. We were also part of the first cohort of researchers so there were many Idea Lab components being put together concomitantly with our MOOC research project. Because of this unknown terrain, the three of us had a range of thoughts, reactions, and emotions to the unfolding of our research and when the opportunity occurred to apply for further funding to support research dissemination efforts (i.e. Athabasca University’s faculty professional development fund), we opted to hire a graphic illustrator to create an infographic and a digital story about our findings and this unique to us research process.  

Knowledge translation 

The infographic has become a common research output in the sciences, similar in some ways to a poster. Because they are digital, infographics easily provide a visual and textual representation of key ideas. For research such as ours, they summarize points and convey information succinctly using images to deepen and extend information. Infographics may convey a process, statistics, or in our case, key concepts, with the images providing imaginal suggestions.  

A digital story follows a story arc and provides facts and information. These elements are of course important factors within a digital story about the research process but using creative choices such as image selection, cropping, camera zooms, and a voice over of the person whose story it is to tell, a digital story may provide aspects of the backstage events of what occurred. Emotions, tensions, internal, and external dialogues – these are possible through the multi-modal intertwining that a digital story empowers and may fill in parts of the researching process. 

In our OER research project, being learners of these tools was a place of growth, vulnerability, questioning, and mean-making. A digital story offered a means to express these experiences and an avenue to explore alternatives to research dissemination and knowledge translation. Additionally, both the infographic and digital story have creative commons licenses to align with the values of open education that inform Athabasca University, the mooc discussion forum topic and its participants, and the researchers’ beliefs. 

The conventional knowledge translation outputs for this project have included  presentations at conferences and academic papers. These outputs speak to the typical paths of sharing research within the research community. However, for this project we had the opportunity to explore additional means of sharing aspects of research insights and the research process involving cloud-computing. These two forms of knowledge translations widen our outputs; please see the infographic (Figure One) and click to watch our digital story, “A Story about Research in the Cloud”. 

Final Thoughts 

Whether researching with cloud-computing tools or multi-modal knowledge translations, education research will continue to iterate and innovate. Despite being uncertain about aspects of using topic modelling tools to explore the MOOC data we persevered and learned about the research decisions involved. We extended what we knew for ourselves as researchers and for graduate students. These changes to tools and knowledge translations are not disruptions to ignore but rather are opportunities for growth and critical reflections as individual researchers contributing to the ever-widening field of education.  

Figure 1: Modelling topics of inquiry within a learning community 

The research project was supported by Athabasca University’s Research Office Idea Lab. The infographic and the digital story were supported by the Athabasca Professional Development Fund.  


Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). (2016, July). Knowledge Translation – About Us.  

Cooper, A., & Rodway, J. (2018). Knowledge Mobilization Practices of Educational Researchers Across Canada. 48(1). 

Crain-Dorough, M., & Elder, A. C. (2021). Absorptive Capacity as a Means of Understanding and Addressing the Disconnects Between Research and Practice. Review of Research in Education, 45(1), 67–100. 

Hollweck, T., Link to external site,  this link will open in a new window, Netolicky, D. M., Link to external site,  this link will open in a new window, Campbell, P., & Link to external site,  this link will open in a new window. (2022). Defining and exploring pracademia: Identity, community, and engagement. Journal of Professional Capital and Community, 7(1), 6–25. 

About the Contributor

Dr. Connie Blomgren is an Associate Professor in the Master of Education in Open, Digital and Distance Education at Athabasca University. 

Except otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Integrating Technology Across the Curriculum: Middle School Mathematics

Teacher Bloggers  |  By Meghan Hann and K. Elise Hoeppner

Welcome! We are glad you came! We are middle school mathematics teachers located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, working for RCOA, an online and blended independent school. We are excited to share with you how our teaching has been enhanced by the use of Piktochart in our middle school mathematics planning and teaching, specifically in the area of Statistics. Bates (2005) encourages educators to not only be concerned with reaching the learning outcome of comprehension, but also that of application,evaluationand analyzing. Our focus is to equip our students to be able to apply math into their lives as well as honouring the four big learning outcomes mandated by the BC Ministry of Education.

In this conversation, we are going to highlight this one specific technology platform that we utilized successfully. We will discuss how this platform supports the Community of Inquiry, as well as the phases of integration, both strengths and needed improvements, in addition to providing a sample lesson plan.

Knowing that in a class, multiple learning styles are present, it is an accepted challenge of educators to support each individual. It is nearly impossible for one technology to meet this requirement. Therefore, it is key in teaching to provide students with choice, scaffolding, and opportunity to showcase concept understanding, competencies and skills through utilizing a selected technology. In this past year, this technology choice ranged from paper and pencil, Excel, PowerPoint and Piktochart. This is our experience introducing the newest technology, Piktochart, as an option to our classes.

Come along and journey beside us as we share our perspectives and experiences with you, as blended and online middle school mathematics teachers who are utilizing the Piktochart program, that can be useful for your teaching, learning, and research.

~Meghan & Elise

Part One: The Importance of Technology Integration

There is a direct link between the use of technology and different ideologies of teaching and learning. The effectiveness of a technology cannot be judged without making some basic assumptions about what constitutes effective teaching and learning, and the goals and purposes of education and training.

                 ~ (Bates, 2005, p. 4)              

Community of Inquiry

Central to successful online and blended learning is the theory from Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000) the Community of Inquiry, that provides a framework for teachers, which incorporates socialcognitive and teaching presences. The research in this area provides practical pedagogy to guide the instructor in methods to create opportunities for rich discussions, critical thinking, and opportunities for reflection. The goal of educators is to support student learning. Working with online and blended courses requires specific approaches that the Community of Inquiry has proven to be successful. Specifically applying the three different presences through technological mediums is a unique aspect of distance learning. The three presences of the Community of Inquiry include: 

Cognitive Presence is the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001).

Social Presence is “the ability of participants to identify with the community (e.g., course of study), communicate purposefully in a trusting environment, and develop interpersonal relationships by way of projecting their individual personalities.” (Garrison, 2009)

Teaching Presence is the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001).

 Garrison 2000


Most technologies, if skillfully employed, are sufficiently robust to meet a wide range of educational needs and achieve a wide variety of desirable outcomes.

~ (Garrison, 2000, p.92)


Cognitive Presence
Learning Styles

I know my child is a global- spatial-social-reflective-kinesthetic- sanguine-abstract-melancholy-left-brained platypus. I just don’t know what to do with it.

~ (Barnier, 2009, p.14)

 Cognitive presence includes the facets of neuroscience and learning. We appreciate the humour in the above quote by Barnier as it highlights the multiple intelligences from Gardner (1983), which acknowledges that our students do not come to us in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ mold.

"multiple intelligences test results"by ~C4Chaosis licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
“Multiple intelligences test results” by ~C4Chaosis licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Technology and distance learning are natural allies, because both potentially permit modification of the environment and learning experiences to better accommodate individual needs and preferences of users.

~ (Fayh, 2013, p. 4)

Our goal is to meet and address the different learning styles of our students. We are moving away from zero choice/paper-pencil tests to greater choice, which includes integration of technology, not for the sake of using technology for technology’s sake (Rice, 2012), but because we believe that many learners can show an application and evaluation of their comprehension through a different medium than the ones traditionally and historically prescribed. When we assess using only print materials it can be “difficult for students to impose their own order or structure on the subject matter, or to restructure it for themselves” in order to showcase their understanding (Bates, 2005, p. 102).

We have found that students who consistently score in the top 20% of the class, function well with teacher directed assignments. The students that have mediocre scores on traditional assignments and tests have proven their understanding and competencies when allowed choice in selecting a type of technology that addresses their unique learning style. Piktochart offers presentation reports, options for collaboration, social media graphics, posters and infographics. All of these stunning display choices come with Piktochart’s free subscription.


The science of learning and brain anatomy have implications in the field of education. Our objective of creating long term memory through attention, rehearsal and retrieval, and integration to create new understanding can be successfully accomplished with proper technology. “Garrison (1990) asserts that it is the activities of sharing, application, and critical analysis by the learner, in conjunction with a teacherand content, that converts information to knowledge (pp. 13-14)” (Fahy, 2013, p. 6).

Schunk (2020) adds that “novelty attracts attention; the brain tends to focus on inputs that are novel or different from what might be expected. Another factor is intensity; stimuli that are louder, brighter, or more pronounced get more attention” (p. 45). Carefully selected technology, that addresses the above neuroscience research, creates novelty, and thus garners attention, which makes long-term memory more likely. Piktochart encompasses the novelty and various stimuli in both their training demonstrations, as well as in the options for the projects.


Part Two: Implementation of Piktochart in our Math 9 Statistics Unit

Teaching Presence

Teachers must decide how to better use technology to illustrate the relationship between learning psychology, learning content, and teaching method, and then decide which technology can better achieve these goals.      

 ~ (Huang, 2017, p. 2046)

In choosing a technology to support our Statistics Math 9 learning outcomes, we decided to introduce Piktochart to our class. We are excited to share our process that included the identification of goals, future improvements and a practical example of implementation through a sample lesson.

Identification of Goals

Bates (2005) identifies that technology “provides educators and governments with the capacity to transform radically our whole education system and nowhere is this truer than in the area of flexible and distance learning” (p. 2). The BC Ministry of Education requires students in Mathematics 9 to analyze the validity, reliability, and representation of data to enable comparison and interpretation of statistics in society. Students are to demonstrate the use of tools or technology to explore and create patterns and relationships, and to test conjectures. They are expected to model mathematics in contextualized experiences, communicate mathematical thinking in a variety of ways, as well as represent mathematical ideas in concrete, pictorial, and symbolic forms. We found that Piktochart gave the students the ability to demonstrate both content and competencies required by the Ministry of Education in unique and creative ways.

Figure 1: Identification of BC Ministry of Education Learning Outcomes for the Math 9 Statistics Unit

BIG Idea: Analyzing the validity, reliability, and representation of data enables us to compare and interpret. Content Learning Outcomes:

-BI: analyzing the validity, reliability, and representation of data enables us to compare and interpret

C: statistics in society

Competencies: Specific Goals & Learning Outcomes
Understanding & Solving -apply multiple strategies to solve problems in both abstract and contextualized situations

-develop, demonstrate and apply mathematical understanding through play, inquiry and problem solving

Reasoning & Analyzing -model mathematics in contextualized experiences

-use logic and patterns

-use reasoning and logic to explore, analyze, and apply mathematical ideas

-use tools or technology to explore and create patterns and relationships and test conjectures

Communicating & Representing -communicate mathematical thinking in many ways

-explain and justify mathematical ideas and decisions

-represent mathematical ideas in concrete, pictorial, and symbolic forms

-use mathematical vocabulary and language to contribute to mathematical discussions

Connecting & Reflecting -connect mathematical concepts to each other and to other areas and personal interests

-reflect on mathematical thinking

-use mathematical arguments to support personal choices

Social Presence


Piktochart fostered collaboration and development of social presence within our classes by developing students’ ability for clear communication and building of relationships. Communication was developed through utilizing Piktochart to share research on their area of interest. This educational technological platform opened up discussion, instruction and team-building opportunities as all students were new to its application. When students presented their Piktochart, relationships were strengthened as they gained more understanding of their peers’ areas of passions and interests.

Needed Improvements

Our learning from this past year has encouraged us to further develop our teaching. Having experienced the students interacting with Piktochart, we will set them up for success with a few key experiences prior to their independent project. The Piktochart platform can be overwhelming and intimidating to those students who have not utilized a digital platform for graphing and display.

In the future:

  • We hope to personally walk through the Piktochart platform, allowing students to ask questions of instructor in a synchronized class environment.
  • Allow students to create a Piktochart in teams prior to completing a project individually.
  • Students from our previous year would be team leaders to provide peer support.
  • We hope to include a peer assessment for the individual Piktochart presentation (i.e., “Two stars and Wish” = two points of praise and one idea for improvement).

Research has found that virtual manipulatives have a positive impact on both attitudes toward mathematics and student achievement.

~ (Roblyer, 2016, p. 313)


Web learning activities should be designed to promote collaborative knowledge creation models and what competencies students need to develop in order to be able to participate fully in collaborate creation activities.

~ (Pifarre et. al., 2014, p. 72)

Piktochart embraced the three presences of the Community of Inquiry, which led to a successful learning opportunity for our students. Providing learners with choice, rich and interactive visuals, and wonderful demonstrations, our students were able to construct and build understanding of statistics and displays. Piktochart allowed us to act as mentors and facilitators of learning, instead of acting as lecturers of information (Boiling et. al., 2012). This shift increased student engagement, collaboration and reflection. The statistics unit gave students autonomy, and a taste of real-life application, in a positive, student-centered and meaningful way. Overall, the integration of this specific educational technological platform to our teaching had encouraging impacts on both teacher and learner.

“Graph”by Alice Bartlettis licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Stay tuned for our methods of assessment in a future blog! Included below for your use are links to a sample lesson and student examples. Thank you for taking time to journey with us through our implementation of Piktochart in our Statistics Math 9 unit. We hope this equips you with additional pedagogical insight, as well as practical skills for your practice!

Sample Lesson Plan: Math 9 Statistics Project Using Piktocharts

Piktochart Student Samples(Shared with permission)


Barnier, C. (2009). The big what now book of learning styles: A fresh and demystifying approach. Lynnwood, WA: Emerald Books.

Bates, A. W. (2005). Technology, E-Learning and Distance Education. London: Routledge.

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Fahy, P. (2013). Common impacts of technology on education: Week 1 Study Guide. In C. Blomgren (Ed.).BOLT 677: Digital Tools for Change (pp.13-14). Athabasca, AB: Athabasca University. Retrieved from

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

Huang, Z. (2017) Theoretical Analysis of TPACK Knowledge Structure of Mathematics Teachers Based on T-TPACK Mode. (2018). Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 18(5), 2044-2053.

Pifarré, M., Guijosa, A., & Argelagó S. E. (2014).Using a blog to create and support a Community of Inquiry in secondary education. E-Learning and Digital Media, 11(1), 72.

Rice, K. (2012). Making the move to K-12 online teaching: research-based strategies and practices. Pearson.

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Pearson

Schunk, D. H. (2020). Learning theories: An educational perspective. Boston: Pearson.

About the Contributors

Meghan Hann 
is currently working towards completion of a Masters of Education in Distance Education through Athabasca University. Graduated from the University of Victoria in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts- with a double major in history and psychology.  She then completed the Post Degree Professional Program (PDPP)  gaining her Professional Teaching Certificate in 2003. Having worked in both public and private campus schools teaching everything from K to Chemistry 12! Currently, Meghan is teaching high school grade 8 and 9 classes, in both face to face and online learning environments, on Vancouver Island, BC.

Elise Hoeppner is a part-time graduate student completing her Masters of Education in Distance Education through Athabasca University. In 2001, she graduated from the University of Victoria with a Bachelor of Science (major in mathematics) and completed her Professional Teaching Certificate in 2002. She has worked in both public and private campus schools teaching math, dance and musical theatre. Currently, Elise is teaching high school mathematics (both online and face-to-face) for Regent Christian Online Academy in Victoria, BC.


Creative Commons License
Except otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.