Collaborative Open Online Learning or COOL in the context of the FDOL course is a pedagogical design based on Problem-Based Learning adapted for open courses. The design is based on a trial with online PBL in 2010/2011 and then further developed during two iterations of FDOL during 2013 (FDOL131 (pilot) followed by FDOL132) (see history). As a part of the COOL design a model named FISh (see below) was developed for individual and group inquiry (Nerantzi & Uhlin, 2012). The design used in FDOL141 has also been influenced more recently by the open course BYOD4L and some of the modifications made there are reflected in the current FDOL iteration (FDOL141).  The COOL FISh design used in FDOL141 is available under a creative commons share alike licence.

If you are using any parts of this course and/or the pedagogical design for other courses or learning and teaching activities, please remember that it is good practice to add the full creative commons attribution and link back to the source.

FDOL141 is for teachers, educational developers, learning technologists, course designers who would like to experience and explore flexible, distance and online learning through the format of an open course. Our target learners are learners who might be new to open online learning or have a preference of learning in small groups to further their understanding, knowledge and skills in a particular area through an open course. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in a series of individual and PBL group tasks and activities with individuals and potentially groups from other institutions and countries.

Participation modes 

If you participate in FDOL141, you will be able to work autonomously or in self-organised PBL groups for the duration of the course or for a specific topic. It is completely up to you. Consider finding a learning partner/study buddy or form/join a PBL group.

An FDOL community space in Google+ has been set up for all participants to join and will be used for presentation, discussion and sharing. Additional G+ communities for PBL groups will also be provided or if you choose to create your own group space, it is up to you in which spaces you would like to be present and engage. Conversations and sharing will also take place via Twitter using the hashtag #fdol141.

PBL groups 

It is suggested that groups consist of 4-5 members. We encourage learners to form mixed groups to enable richer learning, exchange, sharing and critiquing of practice and perspectives. Working practices within the groups should be agreed immediately after formation to maximise engagement and contribution by all group members. The group members will decide how they would like to work together and on which activities. Organising a Google +hangout help speed up this process. Regular hangouts with your group are recommended. FDOL141 facilitators will also be available to support group activities if needed.

If you are interested learning within a group, please access the Learning Together page where you will find information and guidance.

Learning activities and working practices 

FDOL141 learning activities will involve inquiry into your own practice, scenarios and engagement in related discussion, shared reflection and learning through making. You are in the driving seat of your learning and will need to define your intended learning outcomes and plan for learning for each theme by yourself, with your learning partner or with your group depending on the mode of participation. Your plan for learning might include:

  • What resources/literature can you use to find answers?
  • How are you going to present and share your findings?
  • Whether and when are you going to meet-up to review progress and complete any group work?

For each topic there will be an authentic scenario provided or if you use own examples from your practice to inquire into. To guide your process of inquiry consider to use the FISh model which provides a structure for collaborative inquiry.

As part of your learning, it is recommended to keep a journal in a portfolio and reflect on your learning experience as you go through the course. For each topic there will be specific reflective tasks. Please consider sharing these with the FDOL community in G+ and/or via Twitter using #fdol141.

FDOL141 facilitator 

The facilitator will be there support individual participants and groups if and when needed. The facilitators might be more hands-on at the beginning to help you co-ordinate the initial activities so that you can get started. Progressively, the facilitators will step back and let individuals and groups decide when they need his/her help. If you need help, please let the facilitators know via the FDOL community in Google+ or Twitter using the hashtag #fdol141HELP.

FISh – a model for individual and PBL group inquiry

We base the FDOL141 course loosely on Inquiry-Based Learning and particularly on Problem-Based Learning. Mills (2006) 5-step model has been simplified further and been named FISh (Nerantzi and Uhlin, 2012). Within FDOL141 we suggest the use of FISh for flexible learning based on a simple process and loose structure. Even if you learn autonomously or with a learning buddy, FISh might help you keep on track and make progress with your learning. However, remember that learning is messy and following or restricting yourself to a linear process might not work and can be frustrating at times.

The FISh model has been developed by Chrissi Nerantzi & Lars Uhlin (2012), image designed by artist Ellie Livermore, available at

Step 1: Focus

  • What do I/we see?

  • How do I/we understand what we see?

  • What do I/we need to find out more about?

  • Specify learning issues/intended learning outcomes!

Step 2: Investigate

  • How and where am I/are we going to find answers?

  • What will I do/Who will do what and by when?

  • What main findings and solutions do I/we propose?

Step 3: Share

  • How am I/are we going to present my/our findings?

  • What do I/we want to share with the community?

  • How can I/we provide feedback to others?

  • What reflections do I have about my learning (and working with others)?

FISh is available under the following creative commons licence:

Creative Commons License
FISh by Chrissi Nerantzi and Lars Uhlin (2012) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

New to Problem-based learning? 

If you are less familiar with PBL, please access the self-study resources provided below. Also feel free to post a question to share any concerns you might have linked to PBL.

more PBL resources can be accessed at

Related research

by Chrissi Nerantzi available here

If you are using the design in other open courses and/or learning and teaching activities, it would be lovely to share your related activities to this site as a comment. Thank you. 


Mills, D (2006) Problem-based learning: An overview, available at

1 Response to design

  1. BYOD4L
    Together with Sue Beckingham, I (Chrissi Nerantzi) have developed the Bring Your Own Device for Learning course or short BYOD4L, see, which is based on the basic design of FDOL and lessons learnt. We use FISh as the design for personal and collective inquiry and have made explicit reference to FDOL and its course designers in our creative commons statement and fully acknowledged the origin of our idea. See BYOD4L site shared above.

    BYOD4L has been offered two times in 2014 and the next iteration will be in January 2015. If you are an institution interested in participating, please get in touch with me via Twitter. So far, seven institutions have joined us. BYOD4L is open to all students and educators working in an higher education.

    Chrissi Nerantzi @chrissinerantzi

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