Academic writing · communication · Distance work · Pedagogical development · Pedagogy · Teaching

Looking back at the first two years of research at Örebro University, part 3: teaching in higher education

This is the last one of my research posts in my blog series about the first half of my assistant professorship at Örebro University. This post focuses on pedagogical research and the earlier ones were about my research on eHealth services for patients and accessible digital collaborative learning environments, respectively. My next blog post will focus on publications from the last two years.

I have always been interested in conducting research based on my own teaching experiences – it forces me to reflect thoroughly on how I conduct my teaching, and it also enables me to make theoretically grounded improvements to my teaching. I have mainly conducted pedagogical research within three different areas during my time at Örebro University:

  • Scientific writing in higher education
  • Virtual teams in interaction design
  • The effects of the Covid-19 on teaching

Scientific writing in higher education

Before I started to work at Örebro University, I led a communication course for first year computer science students at the Royal Institute of Technology for several years. One of the main aims of the course was to improve the students’ writing skills especially when it comes to scientific writing. The dedicated communication course was meant to prepare the students for upcoming writing tasks and especially the bachelor and master thesis reports. The main reason for developing the course in the first place was that the quality of the students’ writing was generally low and the students were never really taught how to write scientifically sound reports and essays. Giving a communication course in the beginning of the study program is not the only solution to this kind of problem, it is also possible to incorporate writing instruction and increasingly complex tasks in already existing courses. This solution, also commonly called Writing Across the Curriculum, was implemented at my current department at Örebro University just before I started working here. After realizing that we had two different solutions to a very similar problem – we need to find means of helping our students to be better writers – I started up a new research collaboration with my colleagues Kai Wistrand, Annika Andersson and Mathias Hatakka who were very much involved in the WAC initiative at Örebro University. We used constructive alignment and curriculum theory to compare our two different cases (dedicated course and WAC) and developed a set of guidelines that other universities can get inspiration from. I will link to the resulting conference paper in my next blog post, which collects all publications that I have worked on during these last two years.

During spring 2021, I continued working with Kai in this area. We are now conducting a literature review where we, among other things, look deeper into theoretical concepts related to scientific writing (like e.g. critical thinking and lifelong learning) and models for pedagogical development in the area. It is super interesting to delve into this area and I have already learned a lot. Empirical material from e.g. interviews and texts will also be collected further on. One of the main aims of this research is to increase our understanding of what factors that contribute to high proficiency in scientific writing in higher education. The work will of course lead to scientific publications in the area, but hopefully also to concrete pedagogical development initiatives. I will of course write more about this interesting research when we have reached further in the process.

Virtual teams in interaction design

Yet another pedagogical research initiative was initiated during spring 2021. This time the research is mainly based on experiences from a course in interaction design that I have held online the last two spring terms. The course’s examiner Ann-Sofie Hellberg and I are investigating, among other things, how virtual teams can be used to successfully implement online versions of project based courses in which communication and collaboration in student groups are key components. We are currently analyzing a large sample of scientific articles that were gathered during an initial literature review. The material will be used as a theoretical ground for future publications in the area. I will get back to this when we have some clear results.

The idea to start studying virtual teams in depth actually came from a popular science book chapter that Ann-Sofie and I wrote last year. The book chapter was partly based on results from a survey that we handed out to students that took the 2020 version of the interaction design course, and we used the concept of virtual teams as a theoretical base when discussing own experiences from the course and the results from the survey. I will write more about the survey and the book chapter later on.

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on teaching

During spring 2020 I took the lead on a department-wide initiative to study the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on our teaching at all levels. We collected several proposals for possible research angles regarding for example examinations and online seminars. Some articles, and even book chapters, have already been written and published and soon work will commence on journal articles looking back at the whole period of distance education from different angles. I’m really looking forward to our continued work in this area!

Course · design · Teaching

Looking back at my first year as assistant professor, part 3: teaching

As I have mentioned earlier, my position includes 70% research and 30% teaching. During this first year the teaching part was somewhat reduced due to the Vinnova-funding I got, but I could still be involved to quite a large extent in two courses.

My first teaching assignment was to supervise and then examine five theses on the bachelor level. I was very comfortable with that task since I have supervised around 50 informatics related theses at KTH and thus have a lot of experience in the area. There were quite a few similarities between the processes followed for degree courses at KTH and Örebro University, but also some interesting differences. One of those differences was the collaboration between all supervisors involved in the course. At KTH there was no formal collaboration between different supervisors, but at Örebro University (or at least at the Informatics department) all involved supervisors gathered in a joint meeting to discuss all project proposals before the first meeting with the students. I really liked this approach – it was very rewarding to be able to discuss e.g. challenges with the respective project proposals before the supervision started. I will write more about the supervising experience later on (this is more of a summary post).

The examination experience was new to me. Previously, I have suggested grades to the examiners for the projects I have supervised (and the examiners always followed my suggestion), but I was never really formally responsible for the grading. After the last supervision seminar with the students, all the involved supervisors switched roles and became examiners instead. This was a very interesting setup! For me this meant that I was assigned five student groups that I should examine (not my own groups, of course). This included leading presentation/opposition seminars and grading the final report. I will surely get back to this in a later blog post.

The other course I was involved in, this time as the course responsible, was a course in interaction design. I have been responsible for such courses both at KTH and Uppsala University and I really enjoy teaching these kinds of creative project based courses. The course started in May but I started planning already in January. Among other things, I wanted to incorporate some components that I had used at KTH and Uppsala University. Among other things, I wanted to add a creative prototyping session where students should use different materials to physically build low level (low-fi) prototypes of new systems (see this blog post for a description of such a session). I also wanted to end the entire course with a design final where finalist groups should have short presentation and an invited jury should choose a winner. Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, none of those things could actually be implemented in the course. Instead, I had to rethink most parts of the course and prepare it for online-only teaching! That is certainly not ideal for this type of design course. How I transformed the course will be a topic for later blog posts and in fact also a topic for pedagogical research – a proposal for a popular science book chapter, focusing on online interaction during e.g. seminars in two courses (one is interaction design) has already been submitted!

(I took the blog picture above in Abisko a few years ago)

DOME · eHealth · Grant application · Haptics · Medical Records Online · Pedagogical development · Teaching

Looking back at my first year as assistant professor, part 1: research

I started my work as an assistant professor in Informatics at Örebro University August 1st 2019, and I’m now taking this opportunity to shortly summarize the first year. Usually, I link to earlier blog posts when I write summaries, but this very special spring term with online teaching and 100% distance work actually made me forget to use the blog.  😦

This post will be about research activities (excluding publications, which will be covered in the next summary post).

When it comes to research, quite a lot has happened during this first year. Those who have been following this blog for a while have probably seen that I have been trying to get research funding from different sources, sometimes as main applicant and sometimes as co-applicant, since I started as a postdoc at Uppsala University. After several rejects during the period 2015-2019 I finally managed to get some external funding from Vinnova! I write about the project, which focuses on developing digital learning tools for collaboration between visually impaired and sighted pupils in school, in this and this blog post. My next blog post after the summary posts will also be about this project (I know I haven’t written that much about it yet).

As it turned out, the Vinnova application was not the only project grant application (where I was one of the co-applicants) that got funded during this last year! Together with several of my colleagues in the DOME consortium, as well as partners focusing on eHealth in Norway, Finland, Estonia and the USA, I worked on a NordForsk application during Autumn 2019 and early spring 2020. One of my colleagues from Uppsala University, Maria Hägglund led the work. In May we got a confirmation from NordForsk that the project will be funded. The project title is “Nordic eHealth for Patients: Benchmarking and Developing for the Future” and it will start in January 2021. I’m really looking forward to this important research which will go on for three years!

I have also worked on some applications that came to be rejected. One of them (a draft) was submitted to Forte (Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare) and one was submitted to AFA Försäkringar. Both focused on eHealth solutions for patients. Actually, two drafts were submitted to Forte and one of them, for which Maria Hägglund led the work, was accepted. Since this means that a complete application could be submitted just before summer we don’t know yet if we will get funding or not.

Aside from working with grant applications and the above mentioned Vinnova-funded project, I have also worked on some internal projects at the Informatics department. One of those projects focuses on eHealth and more specifically the introduction of video visits in primary care in Region Örebro. My colleague Gunnar Klein leads the research which is currently not funded (although, we will try to fix that issue soon). A first research task – a survey distributed to healthcare professionals – has already been carried out and several other activities, involving both patients and healthcare professionals, have also been planned.

The other internal project I am involved in focuses on education and more specifically on the changes made in our courses in Informatics as a consequence of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. In March it was decided that all teaching should move online (including all examinations) – a transition that was far from easy. I was lucky enough to get around 1.5 months to prepare for my course in interaction design, but some of my colleagues had to transform ongoing courses from campus based to online! I will write more about my course in interaction design in a later summary post. This internal project, which will focus on e.g. different courses, examination types and levels of educations, and where both teachers and students will be involved, is coordinated by me (although I must say that it has been extremely complicated to coordinate this when we can only meet online!).

The activities mentioned above are the main research activities I have been involved in since I started working at Örebro University. In the next summary post I will write about the publications that have been published and accepted during the last year.

(I took the blog picture above at my countryside a while ago)

communication · conference · DOME · eHealth · Teaching

Starting up new collaborations at Örebro University


I have been working at the Centre for empirical research on information systems at Örebro University School of Business for around three months now and, naturally, I started out working with material that I had already gathered from previous research. I still had a lot of material to go through especially from eHealth studies and studies on the use of social media in higher education courses. I also had ongoing work with eight journal manuscripts (some in review and some being prepared for initial submission), and I am the driving author of four of them. Needless to say, I experienced no problem whatsoever regarding finding things to do.  🙂

This being said, it is of course of utmost importance that I connect with colleagues at the university and start new collaborations in order to be able to fully join the group. During this last month a few such collaborations have been started and more are hopefully coming up soon.

The first new collaboration involves Gunnar Klein who has also been a member of the DOME consortium for several years. He invited me to join a pilot study focusing on the implementation of video visits in primary care in Region Örebro. A survey to patients is currently being developed and an ethical application will probably have to be written soon as well. I will get back to this rather small study later on – it is still very early in the research process and there are a lot of decisions on methods etc. that are still to be made. I really look forward to this pilot study, since it will add a new dimension to my research on how eHealth services affects the interaction between patients and healthcare professionals.

The other collaboration involves three colleagues I have not collaborated with before: Kai Wistrand, Annika Andersson and Mathias Hatakka. We have all taken different kinds of actions meant to boost students’ communication skills (one example is my work with engineering communication courses at KTH which I have written about before on this blog). This collaboration will focus on writing a conference paper about our efforts to a pedagogical research conference. I look forward to this collaboration and I think we will end up with a paper that can have a real impact on teaching practice in engineering and computing education.

This upcoming Tuesday I will have a seminar where I will introduce my research to the group, and after that event I will hopefully be able to find even more possible areas of collaboration!

I took the blog image during my last trip to Öland a few weeks ago. I think the rainbow is a nice symbol for possibilities ahead…

Course · Research ethics · Teaching

Time to start teaching more on the doctoral course level!


During this fall I will be teaching on the doctoral course “Thesis design”, which is given regularly at the Informatics department at Örebro University School of Business. During my time at KTH I held a few lectures on mediated communication and computer-supported collaborative work on doctoral courses in media technology, but I was never really involved in any course planning activity or responsible for modules in doctoral courses. When it comes to the course in thesis design, on the other hand, I’m involved in the overall planning and will be responsible for one of the modules and take part in the final assessment.

Aside from including content related to requirements for the thesis, overall thesis design (including theoretical basis, methods and studies and how these relate to each other) and how to plan a thesis design, the course also includes a part focusing on research ethics. Since I have conducted quite a few studies in the healthcare setting with both healthcare professionals and patients, I will take responsibility for the ethics part. In almost all projects related to data gathering in a healthcare setting, an ethical application (describing the purpose of the study, data gathering methods, information to participants, identified ethical dilemmas and how to handle them, etc) needs to be approved by an ethical review board before research can start. This means that I have a lot of material that can be used in this type of course module.

I will shortly start to plan one lecture and one discussion seminar about ethical aspects in research and how to take research ethics into account when writing a thesis. I’m really looking forward to this! I will write a new post about this in November, when the ethics module of the course in finished.

Overall, I think the doctoral course in thesis design seems very interesting and fruitful. If I had been given the opportunity to take such a course during my years as a doctoral student at KTH I would definitely have taken it!

Pedagogical development · Pedagogy · Social media in higher education · Teaching

Recently got my first ever book chapter published!

As I have mentioned in several earlier blog posts, I have been working on a book chapter, together with Pernilla Josefsson, about the use of Twitter as a complementary communication channel in higher education courses. The chapter is one of many chapters included in the book “Digitalisering av högre utbildning” [Digitalization of higher education], edited by professor Stefan Hrastinski (see picture above), which was published in August. This is the first time I have been working with a text that is meant to be used in teacher education!

The book covers a wide range of topics connected to the use of digital technology in higher education. Most of the chapters are written by University teachers from all over Sweden and include popular science descriptions of personal experiences with the use of digital technologies in their own courses. All chapters are written in Swedish. The chapter that I wrote with Pernilla presents my experiences with using Twitter in one of the courses in communication that I was responsible for at KTH. We present the implementation and results as well as lessons learned. We also introduce our scientific study, based on the Twitter communication, which was carried out during the same course round.

I really enjoyed working with the chapter and I hope other teachers who want to implement Twitter in their courses will find it useful! The scientific study about the use of Twitter in higher education courses is, for the moment, only published in Pernilla’s doctoral thesis. I link to her thesis in this blog post, where I also write about the defense.

You can find more information about the book here:ögre+utbildning

I will write more about this book later on, when I have had the chance to implement some of the ideas from other chapters in my own teaching!