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Designing the wheel and burying it in a labyrinth: why is sharing open access digital learning resources so impossible?

Thursday 4 July: Conference day two, 11:30am – 12:00pm parallel session



Room 3 – 303-G15 Sem



Associate Professor Susan Carter
University of Auckland, New Zealand

Dr Deborah Laurs
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Damon Ellis
University of Auckland, New Zealand



Two of us co-authored a book on developing research writing, with an intended audience of academics supporting doctoral candidates’ writing (Carter & Laurs, 2018). A logical next step might be to build a digital resource repository, asking chapter authors to contribute their exercises and questions; likewise colleagues (several of whom are chapter authors) from every New Zealand university could build on an earlier project (Carter et al., 2016) and share resources, resulting in an ultimate bumper doctoral-writing digital learning taonga for Aotearoa, owned and used by all.

And yet….

Brilliant digital resources – and online repositories of resources – already exist yet are under-used. Students don’t know how to find them, or are told about them and don’t take the information in; academics don’t know they are there or fail to use them…there is a huge amount of learning advisor time spent redesigning and constructing a good tool, the wheel, that then disappears from use.

The bigger and better a digital resource is, the more labyrinthian it becomes (like a medieval memory theatre, and with the same limitations—see Carter, Sturm, & Gonzalez Geraldo, 2014; Sturm & Carter, 2015). Bigger and better ironically means learners get lost. Bigger and better also means more ongoing maintenance: who will tend the resource and preserve its relevance? Who will pay to maintain a resource rather than (re)create something new?

Humans must tend the resource, but more importantly, they must personally direct learners to material at the right time in the right way: when they need it rather than during orientation. The neoliberal worldview, however, sees humans as the dispensable component of a digital resource.  

This roundtable asks for a brainstorm blitz seeking escape from every practitioner redesigning wheels and burying them within labyrinths wherein heroes falter, in order to foster a truly open community of praxis.



Carter, S., & Laurs, D. (2018). Developing Research Writing: A Handbook for Supervisors and Advisors. Oxon: Routledge.
Carter, S., Laurs, D., Chant, L., Wolfgramm-Foliaki, E., Martin, J., Teaiwa, T., & Higgins, R. (2016). Research Report Supporting Doctoral Writing: He ara tika mā ngā kaiārahi. Wellington: Retrieved from
Carter, S., Sturm, S., & Gonzalez Geraldo, J. L. (2014). Situating e-learning: Accelerating precepts from the past. International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning, 9(1), 1-9.
Sturm, S., & Carter, S. (2015). From Eden to Agora: The e-learning trading zone.  Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning (CriSTaL).


Presentation topic

Students – Technology

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