Practice Strand – Patrick Mcandrew on OpenLearn experience

Patrick McAndrew

Practice Strand

Patrick’s presentation Researching the world out there: how do we know about the users that do not tell us anything?

This strand is going to be a series of short presentations with discussions around the theme and then Jocelyn will present the outcomes.
 The challenge of openlearn is how to research the people who are their users. Outlines the complex site they’ve provided with a whole set of tools to use. But who are the users. Patrick puts up a slide displaying a globe – they’ve logged 169 different countries of origin. However they really don’t know why they’re there or what they are doing. What benefit are they offering these people
Patrick feels that this overlaps with issues of mobility – their data is very mobile. From the moment of launch people were taking their data and using it in their wn contexts. In the early days they didn’t offer much help in this, but now they do. For example WhatPad (send to phone).

What are their research questions?
 How can this help the developing world?
How do people learn from open content?
Why would anyone produce anyting new if it is alrealy out there.
What are the new tools that actually help us work and learn.

Many questions arise from this – for example how many people who use the content then go on to become students.
 (nice pic of understandascope).

Look for interesting things that happen
look for pattterns that can apply more widely
Encourage all to participate….
 However Patrick then decided that it looked very much like Web2.0 list . Called his list Research 2.0.

As researchers, we need to priorities different things. For example, prioritising blogs over papers. However it doesn’t feel right having the researcher stood outside the masses (understandascope picture)
 Jocelyn asks about research methods – which one works best (P had listed action research, interviews etc).

Patrick – the ones at the end of the list – interviews, surveys, getting very solid data but feels that there needs to be a crossing over to obtaining volunteer data. The ones at the top of the list, getting the action research; all the activity going on in the project, to feed back into the research. The tracking data is enormous and you feel that it will answer questions, but you can’t really do anything with it.
  Questionner raises question about static versus dynamic nature of data.
 Contrast between the paymasters official questions and the really interesting research questions.

About Gill

Having worked as a Research Fellow with the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University, I have now semi-retired but retained my association with the OU as an Honorary Associate.
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