What is Open Research?
Submitted by: Eileen Scanlon,
Professor of Educational Technology, Open University
openTEL, a priority research area in Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), of strategic importance to the conduct of teaching learning and research in the Open University and winner of one of the two 2017 Open Education PROJECT AWARDS provides an Open Perspective on Open Research.
“Our research is at the forefront of development in Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), driving innovations in teaching, learning and assessment which have worldwide influence. We develop and evaluate new methods, models, systems and technologies. We investigate how innovative technologies can help people learn in different places – using their smartphones, for example, or through technology embedded in the environment – and how these technologies can enhance learning and empower learners.”
OpenTEL encompasses interdisciplinarity, bringing together researchers across the university, with existing research capabilities and established excellence as well as strong networks beyond the OU to work together on TEL projects. We explore how learning and technology are shaped by each other, taking ideas from theory and putting them into practice, offering distinctive local solutions to global educational challenges. We construct briefings for policy makers.
Our expertise is in: Learning in an open, connected world and at scale, Design and analytics in learning, Language Learning Landscape, Citizen Science, Inclusion and Professional and Digital Learning.
What is open research?
The Open University founded in 1969 has an inspiring mission statement. It is known as the four opens. Open to people, places, methods and ideas. Our ambition is to be a world leader in the design, content and delivery of supported open learning through research and pedagogical innovation. The Open University (OU) is known internationally as an educational innovator. It has made and continues to make a substantial contribution to educational theory, methodology and practice. We aim in openTEL (a priority research area for the OU) to conduct our research in a transparent collaborative manner.
What changes do you hope it will bring to (your school, region, country)?
openTEL brings together people across the University developing this research area of strategic importance. We coordinate Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) research activity across the University and emphasise the synergy between TEL research, and the mission and strategic interests of the Open University. Our research aims to keep the university at the forefront of development in TEL, to further enhance our international reputation and to have a real impact on OU innovations in teaching, learning and assessment.
openTEL encompasses interdisciplinarity, bringing together researchers across the university, with existing research capabilities and established excellence as well as strong networks beyond the Open University to work together on TEL projects.
Researchers from the Institute of Educational Technology; Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies; Faculty of Business and Law; and the Faculty of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics which also incorporates the Knowledge Media Institute; and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Our vision is of a world where digital innovation in education supports and facilitates open and flexible access to learning for all and we hope to deliver this by conducting research and develop world-class methodologies, technologies, and digital tools to inspire learners and change lives for the better.
Why is it important?
Our research is at the forefront of development in Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), and we aim to be driving innovations in teaching, learning and assessment which we want to have worldwide influence. We develop and evaluate new methods, models, systems and technologies. We investigate how innovative technologies can help people learn in different places – using their smartphones, for example, or through technology embedded in the environment – and how these technologies can enhance learning and empower learners.
We explore how learning and technology are shaped by each other, taking ideas from theory and putting them into practice.
What do you see as the future of Open Research?
We are active in a number of research areas.
Our expertise is in: Learning in an Open, Connected World and Learning at Scale, Design and Analytics in Learning, Language Learning Landscapes, Citizen Science, Inclusion and Professional and Digital Learning.
Some projects within these themes are listed below:
Evaluating and Upscaling Telecollaborative Teacher Education (EVALUATE)
The EVALUATE project seeks to integrate tele-collaboration into teacher training and establish the value of tele-collaborative models for the development of teachers’ intercultural, digital and language skills. Advance the ET 2020 policy objectives in relation to the development of teachers’ digital competences and the increased use of ICT in the classroom and develop collaborative peer-based teaching practices across the EU.
OpenTextbooks represents a primary route of implementation of OER. It has seen impressive growth and impact in the North American context, through providers and initiatives such as OpenStax, the Open Textbook Network, BC Campus, and Lumen Learning. With the exception of Siyavula in South Africa however, the open textbook model has largely been restricted to North America. Whether this is a result of particular contextual dependencies (such as the relative cost of textbooks) or because this is where the funding and interest has been focused is as yet unknown. The aim of this project then is to test the transferability of this model to a new context, namely that of the UK.
Online Learning in Tertiary Education in MENA
The British Council in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has begun to work more extensively with online systems of learning in the last few years. There is an identified need to provide flexible access to tertiary education for people who may be working, have family commitments, or are mobile (such as refugees). The region also faces challenges in serving an increasingly large youth population. While online learning holds potential for high quality learning opportunities, there are a number of limitations, not least that online models of learning are less well-regarded in the MENA region than in many other parts of the world. To prepare for any changes that may happen regionally, as well as to better understand the barriers to the recognition and acceptance of online learning by ministries and governments alike, the British Council commissioned a research study to assess the potential of, and hindrances to, online learning in the MENA region. The research is led by Giles Mohan and Agnes Kukulska-Hulme and is undertaken in collaboration with the British Council in Egypt, Jordan and United Arab Emirates.
Citizen Science Inquiry
Citizen science is a growing trend in involving the public in different types of collaboration with scientists. The growth of this activity has consequences for data collection and data analysis and the way in which science is carried out. It also has a potential impact on what, and how, citizen scientists learn about science when engaged in such activities. In our programme of research we are interested in the links between formal and informal learning, the growth of such learning opportunities and the approaches that have been taken to assessing informal learning associated with citizen science. We have just published Citizen inquiry: Synthesizing science and inquiry learning which describes our approach.