Scholarship of Open & Online Teaching & Learning

McKinney (2006) defines the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) as “The systematic study of teaching and/or learning and the public sharing and review of such work through presentations, performance, or publications” (p. 39).

By extension, the Scholarship of Open and Online Teaching and Learning (SoOTL) can be defined as the systematic study of teaching and learning in open and online education contexts, and the mobilization of the knowledge gleaned through presentations, publications, performance, and less traditional means such as social media.

Scholars have richly debated the qualities and nature of SoTL since Boyer (1990) introduced the notion of scholarship of teaching. As a systematic inquiry, SoTL continues to evolve but many agree that a core focus for SoTL is “improving our students’ learning “ (Prosser, 2008, p. 4), and Felten (2013) suggests that  “Good practice in SoTL requires focused, critical inquiry into a well-defined aspect of student learning” (p. 122).

SoOTL involves a focused, critical inquiry into a well-defined aspect of student learning that unfolds in a particular online learning experience design context. For example, as a part of scholarly teaching practice, an instructor may decide to investigate their students’ learning experiences as they redesign a traditional course taught on campus to an online or blended course. Another, more narrowly-defined SoOTL study might include a professor exploring their students’ perceptions of their learning that includes online activities such as annotating an open textbook and collaboratively discussing the annotations to create more nuanced meanings of pension designs in an senior-level finance course.


Watch the following video to gain insights into the characteristics of SoTL, which also apply to SoOTL:


In addition, SoOTL can build on existing principles of quality SoTL proposed by Felten (2013):

  1. Inquiry focused on student learning
  2. Grounded in context  
  3. Methodologically sound
  4. Conducted in partnership with students
  5. Appropriately public.

These five principles provide a good starting point to begin your SoOTL journey. If you are interested in more information about SoOTL or would like to discuss your project ideas, please contact the Office of Open Learning.

1) Boyer, E. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.


2) Felten, P. (2013). Principles of good practice in SoTL. Teaching and Learning Inquiry, 1(1),



3) Hutchings, P., & Shulman, L. S. (1999). The Scholarship of Teaching: New Elaborations, New Developments. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 31(5), 10-15. doi:10.1080/00091389909604218


4) McKinney, K. (2006). Attitudinal and structural factors contributing to challenges in the work of the scholarship of teaching and learning. New Directions for Institutional Research, 129 (Summer), 37-50.


5) Prosser, M. (2008). The scholarship of teaching and learning: What is it? A personal view.

6) International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2(2), Article 2.