UNED Abierta

an interactive application to explore available courses at Uned Abierta.

in collaboration with:

UNED, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, has a long – well established – tradition in distance learning and have been pioneering the field in Spain since the early 70’s.

Uned Abierta is the UNED’s platform for MOOC and is focused on lifelong informal education. The core idea is that anyone in the UNED community (not only the teaching staff ) should be able to enhance the educational offer by promoting new contents or updating and mixing existing MOOC.

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On trees and ivies

MOOCs at UNED Abierta includes a widespread and fast growing offer that covers many fields of knowledge. Sergio Galán and I where asked to give shape to the catalog of courses in an interactive and visual application for the UA web site.

The goal was to create, at the same time, a poetic overview of UA main activity and an explorable courses browser.

Since the very early sketches, we started playing with the idea of an ivy plant, a fast growing live structure ordered by branches. At the same time we where aware that a navigation based exclusively on a tree of contents would have been too poor in terms of user experience. So we decided to interrupt the hierarchic structure of our “tree of knowledge” with a mid level of cross referencing tags.

The metaphor we came up with – for the UI – is a kind of rotating disc, as in Ramon Llull’s Ars Combinatoria, and reminds to a much less sophisticated object as the “parking disk” in use in many European countries.

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The art of tagging

As a result, we created a quite intuitive and responsive web application with a not so conventional UI.

The circular overview shows the hierarchical distribution of the whole educational offer. A second level of navigation offers a closer view for the chosen “branch of knowledge”. By selecting a course users get access to a more detailed information while the tag’s wheal automatically rotates, offering the affordance for a tag based cross navigation.

The information architecture of the application is stored in a json file. The visualization engine was coded in d3.js by Sergio Galán and styled in css by both.

Truth to be told, the quality of the user experience relies heavily on an accurate tagging of the contents which, in this real life experience, was not always the case.

Never take for granted the ability for self-tagging user generated contents.


Uned The National Distance Education University, known in Spanish as Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), is a distance learning and research university founded in 1972 and is the only university run by the central government of Spain.

The University awards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, as well as non-degree qualifications such as diplomas and certificates, or continuing education units.