Reflections on the 12 Apps of Christmas

Twelve Apps of Christmas (12AOC) is an open online course created at Regent’s University London, which ran for the first time in December 2014. It successfully brings together educators worldwide to engage with a range of mobile technologies for teaching and learning.  It is available under a Creative Commons licence.

A key issue in outreach to higher education academics and support staff is their high workload and limited time for continuing professional development. 12AOC’s format is designed to overcome this barrier, and is now proven in successfully doing so.

The twelve days of the course, over twelve working days in December, are modelled on an Advent calendar, covering a different free educational app each day. This both allows material to be presented in an entertaining and engaging manner, and breaks the course content down into small daily activities. The theme was inspired by the initial decision to run the course at a time of year when potential participants would be less busy. It also proved effective in garnering interest in the course and in retaining students.


Evidence of impact on the target audience.

When we set up the course our target audience were the teaching and professional services staff at Regent’s, and the wider Higher Education community in the UK. It soon attracted international interest, too. By the final day the number of learners had risen to 543. The majority of the participants were from other universities in the UK, and some from other English speaking Universities from around the World. 36 of the participants had Regent’s email addresses, but we are a relatively small university so were very pleased with this level of active staff engagement.

We had some great feedback about the course: “I’ve really enjoyed participating in this series of learning exercises. I’ve experimented with the apps… More importantly though, I think I have learned from you about how to run a set of day-by-day learning activities on Blackboard and how to keep student engagement up…..The support via discussion threads, and particularly via Twitter, has supported the activities. I’m going to experiment next term with my own students and see what I can do to keep them motivated between sessions”. And again: “Thank you for a great course.  I’ve tried all sorts of new Apps, and enjoyed the daily joke!  I think you got everything spot on – a 10 minute activity every day is just right, and I love the 12 Apps of Christmas theme….”

Innovation, initiative, originality and sustainability.

There were two innovative aspects of the course. Firstly, its content. Because the use of apps is relatively new there are few resources on how to use them in a HE context. There is quite a lot of literature on the different apps available but very little considering using these apps with students. This is probably one of the reasons why we had so many people enrol.

Secondly, the design of the course is aimed at busy professionals working in HE institutions. Each app had short practical tasks that participants could do whenever they had time in the day. This was reflected in the course feedback: “this course has been a really good example of how to run such a course. I’ve signed up to other similar activities before but they’ve taken far too much time to do, and unfortunately I just don’t have an hour a day to devote to something else as well as “the day job”, but this MOOC has been just right – something small each day, with a short activity, or if you don’t have time to actually try the app, some discussion about it from those who have had a go. And it’s been a really good way to see the Open Education system in action. A great experience – many thanks to the team at Regent’s for putting this together!”

Credo Reference Digital Award for Information Literacy 2015.


The 12 apps of Christmas course won the prestigious Credo Reference Digital Award for Information Literacy 2015.

6 versions 12AOC 2015.

This year there are 6 different versions of 12AOC (that I know of!):

Regents University London

Dublin Institute of Technology

University of West London

University of Brighton

Anglia Ruskin University

Manchester Metropolitan University


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