The Open University is a serial innovator: Eileen Scanlon becomes Regius Professor in Open Education

The Open University has received significant recognition for its leadership in innovation. There I was last Wednesday with my communications colleagues, the two Emmas, Emma Thwaites and Emma Howe, chairing a workshop with top academics on the theme of innovation and pedagogy. And whoosh! News just in: top OU prof wins most prestigious award. The atmosphere was electric.It was this week announced that Professor Eileen Scanlon of The Open University???s (OU) Institute of Educational Technology (IET) has been awarded the first Regius Professorship in Open Education. The UK government has said that the Regius Professorship is “a reflection of the exceptionally high quality of teaching and research at The Open University”. Very recently, it was reported that The Open University, working wth another 11 top UK universities, is leading the UK Higher Education sector’s drive to establish its own MOOC, Futurelearn.The Regius Professorship in Open Education is the latest in a string of prestigious awards for the OU. In 2009 the OU was awarded the Queen???s anniversary prize for exceptional contributions by a higher educational institution to the wider community for its ground-breaking Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa programme (TESSA). And in 2012 Dr Mark Brandon Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science at The Open University, won Most Innovative Teacher of the Year at the Time Higher Education Awards. This latest award is particularly significant for both The Open University and Professor Scanlon. Before the recent announcement only two others have been awarded a Regius Professorship in the last century, to mark the Diamond Jubilee. Before then, the most recent Regius Professorship was created by Queen Victoria.IET is??one of twelve university departments??to have been bestowed with this prestigious award. All entries were assessed by an expert panel which included eminent academics led by Sir Graeme Davies, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of London.??Eileen told me, ???I am delighted that the OU has been given this significant award and that the Institute of Educational Technology has been recognised as an outstanding department. My late parents were both Open University graduates and my mother celebrated her graduation in the first ceremony held at Alexandra Palace in 1973. They would have been thrilled their university was honoured in this way.???Eileen’s nomination was supported by the OU???s Vice-Chancellor, Martin Bean,??Professor Tim Blackman, the OU???s Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Research, Scholarship & Quality, and Professor Josie Taylor, Director of IET at the OU. Professor Tim Blackman said, ???It is fantastic that Profession Scanlon???s achievements have been recognised by such a prestigious award. Her commitment has driven up standards of open education across the world through intelligent use of technology for which the OU has a global reputation.??? Eileen Scanlon is an internationally recognised luminary in the field of educational technology and public understanding of science. During her 37 years of service to the OU, Professor Scanlon has developed a pedagogic insight which has exerted a major impact on the direction of OU research in these areas.IET is at the hub of the OU???s continuing research into, and development of, the latest open educational technologies for learning and teaching, enabling the University to deliver quality at scale. This is also a fitting way of recognising the 50th anniversary of the announcement of a ???University of the Air???, the idea from which the OU was born. About The Open UniversityThe Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught almost 1.8 million students and has almost 250,000 current students, including over 15,000 overseas.The OU was rated the top university for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey last year, and has been in the top three universities every year since the survey began in 2005. In 2011/12 it had a 93% satisfaction rating. Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.In the UK???s latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) the OU was ranked in the top third of UK higher education institutions. Regarded as Britain???s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ???open content portfolio??? includes free study units on OpenLearn, which has had more than 25 million visits, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded over 56 million downloads. The OU has a 41 year partnership with the BBC which has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to prime-time programmes such as Frozen Planet, Bang Goes the Theory, James May???s Big Ideas and The Money Programme

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