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DML Trust Challenge: The Process Lab

DML Trust Challenge: The Process Lab

Our team’s delivery for the DML Trust Challenge: Building Trust in Connected Learning Environments is the Process Lab — a space for feedback and collaboration. In this product, authors create artifacts based on templates and can opt in to workshop with peers for formative feedback. Authors can also choose to opt into summative, scored feedback. The product plugs into any Learning Management System (LMS) or Content Management System (CMS), using LTI for authentication. This work was planned and developed by VIF International Education in partnership with Little Bird Games.

The mission of VIF’s work is to ensure equitable access to participatory, connected learning that promotes interaction with the world. We do this at scale by providing online professional development, digital badging and a social community to over 8,000 educators from around the world. Providing a platform for virtual professional development (PD) and learning communities allows our learners to address their learning goals on their own timetable. Where we are seeking to make more progress in building trust is in the area of teacher-led choice in learning.

Our mission is to ensure equitable access for all teachers, and the Process Lab will further increase access to meaningful professional learning to educators who are historically under-served. Most of our U.S. schools are designated Title 1, with the majority of students receiving free or reduced lunch. We work with schools in urban and rural districts across the country. Recently, educators from 28 schools joined our community from the Houston Independent School District where over 150 languages are spoken and only 8% of the school population does not qualify for free or reduced lunch. By leveraging a trusted learning platform, providing rigorous peer review, and incorporating free synchronous tools for immediate feedback, our professional development and curriculum resources will provide underserved schools with language immersion, global education and international peer collaborations that support teacher and student development of critical knowledge and skills needed for engaged global citizenship.

VIF’s LMS changed over the summer to merge with Participate Learning. Participate Learning’s approach has been to meet teachers where they are, and provide services that enhance a learner-driven, collaborative PD experience. We’re excited to leverage new tools such as twitter chats and curated collections alongside our traditional course offerings and now peer review. This larger set of affordances will ultimately provide teachers with more choice in their own learning.


In our community, trust is woven throughout the learner’s experience — in community discussions, in topic-specific discussion threads, and where we chose to focus our grant work: where teachers create learning products to demonstrate learning. Trust was compromised in our area of interest because there was an open feedback loop; teacher work was largely unviewed, and there was no structure in place to have in-process collaborative feedback with peers. This lack of feedback contributed to an overall perception that there was little value returned from time spent. To further our trusted environment, educators need opportunities to engage in focused peer and expert review of learning products. Teachers repeatedly requested feedback to deepen their learning and our goal was to strengthen collaborative professional development through peer review. Our focus is for teachers to connect with one another and have tools that allow them to have choice in what they make, and how they demonstrate the teaching and learning that best reflects the complexity of these processes.

The Process Lab gives teachers choice about when and where to ask for feedback from peers, and what is published. We also start system set up with asking the user to define rubrics for assessment tied to larger frameworks — and make these tools available to the learner from the start of creating their own learning products. This evidence-based assessment practice between the system and the learner affords more transparency to the learner— everyone is on the same page about how an artifact is being assessed. At any stage, learners can be provided access and add rubrics of their own design for more robust peer to peer feedback.

The product creates the system for the administrator to determine how to set up this rubrics and administer their own thoughtfulness with data. We intentionally built a tool that can plug into any adult learner community and not just K-12 education.

Several institutional partners, including Cumberland County, Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the Convergence Design Lab at Columbia College of Art in Chicago have all worked with us to review and test the Process Lab. In addition, the research and design teams met with multiple groups of teachers to better understand their feedback and learning needs. We were interested in existing peer support and assessment processes (informal and formal) While these organizations and teachers are focused on teacher learning their feedback also helped inform the development of an open-source plugin that can align with any LMS.

The Process Lab will be shared with the open source community. We are interested in seeing what the community does with the product, and how features can be extended or added over time. This work will be hosted at https://github.com/OpenWorksGroup/process-lab; Open Works Group will be caretaker of this open source code base. The product relies on the owner of the CMS or LMS that is hosting peer review to maintain their own data, system and community guidelines. We have provided a codebase that utilizes trusted libraries and frameworks to best support these approaches.

The three main components of the Process Lab are Laravel, ReactJS and MySQL. Each of these components rely on a robust and active community that values security, excellent documentation, and community support. It was our aim to utilize as many existing packages so that systems who adopt the product will have access to the most up-to-date code possible.

The Process Lab uses LTI to authorize platforms and send user data. It uses the long-standing OAUTH 1.0 protocol that allows an existing system to authorize based on a consumer key and secret (administered by the existing system). LTI also allows for the exchange of secure data between existing system and Process Lab. Its suggested that both the existing system and Process Lab are hosted on a secure system so that the exchange of data is encrypted. The Process Lab is collecting minimal private user data (only a name, email and password are required to create an account), and the remaining data that a user contributes to the system has granular visibility controls. Process Lab also collects email address. It also knows whatever data the CMS or LMS sends it. See: http://process-lab.openworksgrp.com/lti-requirements. As artifacts are created, the system administrator will control what fields are required in the project template library, but the user always maintains control over what is visible to the community. The nature of what we’re delivering is that it will be plugged into existing CMS / LMS systems where those administrators will control the lifecycle of data collected and acquisition plans.

You can read more about the development in the source code documentation.


Our experience over the course of this project has revealed the importance of risk in building trust. We started this project looking at models of improvisation, and the commitment that improv partners make to one another — no matter what one actor pitches to a partner, the partner will respond, “yes, and..”. This peer relationship creates a safety net for “failure” — you’re never left hanging alone on the stage. We must allow teachers to model learning through trial and error. When we create professional learning experiences that reward teacher risk-taking, we’re creating an environment of trust, which means encouraging teachers to continually refine their practice through experimentation, failure and iteration.


Please visit the Process Lab at dml.viflearn.com!

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