Practical and Creative Applications of Heutagogy with Self-Mapped Learning Pathways

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Can open, customizable, self-mapped learning pathways make the transition from conceptual heutagogical idea to practical classroom application? This interactive presentation will explore the pros and cons of this emerging learning design approach by collaboratively brainstorming ideas with participants for how they can practically apply customizable pathway concepts to their courses.


Matt Crosslin, Ph.D. is currently an Instructional Designer II at Orbis Education, where he works with faculty to create student-centered, active learning-based courses. He is also part-time faculty at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley, where he teaches Masters and Doctoral courses in Educational Technology and Instructional Design. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include learning pathways, sociocultural theory, learner agency, heutagogy, learning theory, and open educational practices. Prior to working at Orbis, he spent nearly 15 years at the University of Texas at Arlington as both a Learning Innovation Researcher and an Instructional Designer. He also blogs occasionally at EduGeek Journal, watches or reads a lot of SciFi and Fantasy, and occasionally paints or draws something.

Extended Abstract

Following up on several years of well-received sessions at ET4Online and OLC Innovate, this presentation will examine the transition of customizable self-mapped learning pathways from MOOC conceptual idea to traditional college classroom application. Since this presentation will be designed as an interactive time to discuss the pros and cons of this emerging instructional design approach, those that stop by will brainstorm ideas for how to practically apply self-mapped learning pathway concepts to real life courses. Participants should come to the presentation with their own courses and/or ideas to dig through as we look at how to practically apply a more student-centered approach to learning in their specific contexts. Additionally, student input on this design methodology will be welcome at this presentation.

Last year’s OLC Innovate presentation on this topic was described by attendees as “one of the most innovative ideas at the conference” as well as “a true practical method for realizing self-determined/heutagogical epistemology.” Additionally, past experience at OLC events has revealed that session attendees often have great input for the design challenges that this emerging idea presents. Therefore, this presentation will focus on discussing new ideas, practical applications in new contexts, and future directions for tools and research with those that attend. Attendees are encouraged to come with hard questions, messy scenarios, and critical examination.

What exactly are self-mapped learning pathways? In 2014, a collaborative group of over 30 innovators came together to create a new way of designing courses that met 1) the needs of learners that needed to follow the instructor, as well as 2) the desires of those that wished to follow their own pathway. Initially labeled as a “dual-layer” MOOC, the resulting Data Analytics and Learning MOOC (DALMOOC) created a course design concept that combined the theories of instructivism and connectivism into the same course at the same time. Learners were presented with two “layers”: one that was designed by the instructors as a traditional pathway through the course material, and another that was structured as a more learner-centered / self-determined modality. Course participants were encouraged to choose either layer at the beginning, and then allowed to change layers as needed throughout the entire course.

Feedback and research from DALMOOC resulted in changes and updates to the system, leading the designers to move away from focusing on layers. Changes were applied to the 2015 version of the Humanizing Online Learning MOOC (HumanMOOC). After more research and feedback from HumanMOOC, the focus of the dual-layer approach shifted more towards a customizable pathways model for the design side of the process in conjunction with a focus on self-mapped learning pathways for the learners. Since then, a small number of college courses in various institutions have implemented various aspects of customizable pathways models in more traditional learning courses. Additionally, recent discussion has begun to focus on how to use concepts of gamification to help learners become more creative with their pathways mapping.

More details about the conceptual and practical aspects of dual-layer / customizable modalities / self-mapped learning pathways can be found in these blog posts for further background on this presentation:

For those that wish to brush up on the research on self-mapped learning pathways so far, here are some recommended resources:

Crosslin, M. (2016). Customizable modality pathway learning design: Exploring personalized learning choices through a lens of self-regulated learning. (Doctoral dissertation). UNT Digital Library. (

Crosslin, M. (2017). Exploring self-regulated learning choices in a customizable learning pathway course. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Crosslin, M. & Dellinger, J. T. (2015). Lessons learned while designing and implementing a multiple pathways xMOOC + cMOOC. In D. Slykhuis & G. Marks (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2015 (pp. 250-255). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Crosslin, M., Dellinger, J.T., Joksimovic, S., Kovanovic, V., & Gasevic, D. (in press). Customizable modalities for individualized learning: Examining patterns of engagement in dual-layer MOOCs. Online Learning Journal.

Dawson, S., Joksimović, S., Kovanović, V., Gašević, D., Rosé, C. P. Rosé, C. P. Rosé, C. P. Rosé, C. P. Rosé, C. P. & Siemens, G. (2015) Recognising learner autonomy: Lessons and reflections from a joint x/c MOOC. In proceedings of Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015.

Rosé, C. P., Ferschke, O., Tomar, G., Yang, D., Howley, I., Aleven, V., Siemens, G., Crosslin, M., Gasevic, D., & Baker, R. (2015). Challenges and opportunities of dual-layer MOOCs: Reflections from an edX deployment study. Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning.