The Chopped Heutagogy Challenge: Can Learning Pathways Be Designed to Allow for Self-Determined Learning Options?

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Calling anyone who wants to put their advanced course design theory skills to the test! Are you ready for the Chopped Heutagogy Challenge? We know that individualized learning experiences are difficult to create. How can we build something that allows learners to step out and create their own learning pathway?


I am a Learning Innovation Researcher for The University of Texas at Arlington's Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge (LINK) Research Lab. I have been involved in education since 1994. I created my first web page in 2000 - which I used to deliver supplemental materials to an 8th grade Science class I was teaching at that time. I have been involved in distance education in some way ever since then. In March 2007 I started EduGeek Journal, an online community promoting educational technology. I also regularly present at conferences, as well as lead instructional classes on different aspects of online learning and other issues. I am also part-time faculty at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley, where I teach Masters and Doctoral courses in Educational Technology and Instructional Design. My goal in education is to bring a deeper level of professionalism to online learning by increasing learner agency and equality in every class I design or teach. Several classes that I have worked on have won awards from the U.S. Distance Learning Association for innovations in online learning.
Justin T. Dellinger is Associate Director of the Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge (LINK) Research Lab at the University of Texas at Arlington. He is also the project lead for the Digital Learning Research Network (dLRN) and member of Every Learner Everywhere. His primary research investigates the complexities of learning analytics adoption. He currently leads the development of the Learning Analytics MOOC Series in edX and serves as a course instructor in the program. In addition, he has facilitated the Professional Learning Community program at his university with the aim of building community to support the innovation of teaching practice through the use of digital technology, such as implementing open educational resources, using online course tools, and improving course outcomes through the use of learning analytics.

Extended Abstract

Have you heard of the Chopped television show on the Food Network where chefs put their advanced culinary skills to the test when they have to cook a meal with a basket of challenging ingredients? Are you ready to put your course design skills to the test in The Chopped Heutagogy challenge?

One round.

One design mock-up.

What mystery concepts will be in your Chopped Basket (in addition to Heutagogy)?

Just like in the television show, participants will also have an online “pantry” of any tool they choose to help them create their new masterpiece. Will they choose the typical standards, or incorporate something new and different?

Some of these newer tools – such as H5P, Twine, and chatbots – are designed to allow users to create non-linear interactive content. Could these tools be used to create open-ended, self-determined learning experiences? If there were no limits on tools or creative thinking, how might we design learner-centered courses based on a “heutagogical model that gives ownership and agency to the learner and respects their preferred approach to learning” (Bali & Caines, 2018, p.17)?

For those unfamiliar with Heutagogy, it is a field of study that focuses on self-determined learning, where learners are taught how to learn rather than what specifically to learn (Blaschke, 2012). Different models of course design can fit in well with a heutagogical framework, including game-based learning, Rhizomatic learning (Cormier, 2008), problem-based learning, and Self-Mapped Learning Pathways (Crosslin, 2018). Session participants will work collaboratively to design a mock-up of a lesson that allows learners the flexibility to exercise agency and determine their own learning experience. This mock-up can be written / drawn out on paper, detailed in digital documents, or even created using any online tool of participants choosing. Participants with specific tools or learning contexts will even be given the chance to pitch their tool/course to the session in order to solicit group members.

An example of a heutagogical learner-focused lesson can be found here:

While it would not be realistic to leave the session with a fully developed lesson such as the one above, participants will leave the session with an outline of tools and design methodologies that they can continue working with towards the goal of completing a real lesson. Team mock-ups will be presented at the end of the session in order to seed more ideas. Design mock-ups will be captured and shared via a blog post after the session is over at

Throughout the session, the moderator will discuss emerging trends in educational technology such as H5P, chatbots, artificial intelligence, gamification, and learning analytics, as well as their potential usage in student-centered learning.


Bali, M. & Caines, A. (2018). A call for promoting ownership, equity, and agency in faculty development via connected learning. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education 15(46).

Blaschke, L. M. (2012). Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 13(1), 56-71.

Cormier, D. (2008). Rhizomatic education: Community as curriculum. Innovate 4(5).

Crosslin, M. (2018). Exploring self-regulated learning choices in a customizable learning pathway course. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 34(1), 131-144.