Assistive Technology and UX Accessibility – Open and Inclusive SIG

logoThank you to all who joined the Open and Inclusive Special Interest Group this December. We closed off the year with two wonderful speakers: Julie Eshleman and Beatriz Gonzalez. The talk focused on Assistive Technology and Designing for the Extremes on Wednesday December 1st.

First, we heard from Julie Eshleman, a PhD student at the University Sterling who discussed her amazing work with the Leonard Cheshire charity. We saw videos that showed first-hand how assistive technology is applied and the importance of it to the disabled community. Quoting Arthur C Clarke, Julie highlighted how ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’ and that assistive technology can be magical in the hands of those who need it most. If there was one thing the Covid-19 pandemic taught us, it is the importance of technology to our everyday lives. As companies and educators scrambled to provide tech to their workforces and students, we as a society came to realise how technology is the very basis of current civilisation. Yet for certain communities it can provide more than just a platform for connection, it can provide choice and freedom. Julie shared with the group how, in her PhD, she will look at how assistive technology interventions benefit users, and equally the consequences these changes in their lives can have.

Beatriz Gonzalez joined us from to discuss the importance of designing for further than the ‘average’. The first part of her talk highlighted how, throughout history, designs focused on an ‘average’ have failed in designing for the population. In fact, Beatriz says that ‘designing for the average person is designing for no-one’. With this in mind, should we be focusing not on designing for an average that doesn’t exist, but instead for the ‘extremes’ so we include everyone? By following the ‘POUR’ principles of accessibility, to make systems ‘Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust’ for all types of people. Tools which were shared to support our design thinking was the ‘’ resource from the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University.

The key message from this month’s Open and Inclusive Special Interest Group was that more needs to be done to ensure technology is designed for all. We, as designers and researchers, should ‘diversify our extremes’ and move away from ‘the binary’. This was best put in the final quote from the Leonard Cheshire Charity’s video shared by Julie Eshleman: ‘…but it is only the beginning’.

The Recording is available for OU Staff here: OU staff recording link

To join the open & Inclusive mailing list please email openTEL

Learning at Scale SIG: An Exclusive Session on Digital Badging

Please join us for the next Learning at Scale Special Interest Group on Tuesday 14th December (10:00-12:00):

Digital badging as a way of accrediting learning at scale

Title: Digital Badges in Context: Looking behind and beyond the digital badge

Speaker: Dr Simon Cross, Senior Lecturer and Associate Director at the Institute of Educational Technology (IET), The Open University


Digital badges possess affordances that position them well as an option for reward and recognition in digital learning and teaching at scale. However, the processes and structures required to issue and value badges may not be as compatible with such scaling. What are the factors that limit and enable their use at scale?  How can we better understand the application of digital badges in the digital and actual contexts in which they are employed? How can we strategically and practically exploit the constructive disruption that digital badges can cause to create a productive dissonance? Continue reading

open & Inclusive SIG: Presentations on Assistive Technology & UX Accessibility

logoJoin us for the next open & Inclusive SIG on Wednesday 1st December (14:00-16:00) where we will be joined by Julie Eshleman, talking about her work with Assistive Technology, and Beatriz Gonzalez Mellidez, presenting on UX accessibility work using personas and designing for extremes. More information below.

For an invite please contact openTEL. All are welcome!

Presentation 1

Technology for Adults in Care Settings – Finding What Works

The last two years have seen a dramatic increase in both mainstream and specialist technology purchases within social care – both to empower the workforce to conduct tasks more efficiently and as tools for disabled adults to stay connected with loved ones during a very difficult year. With this speed of technology integration, we have missed the opportunity to carefully understand what we are doing and why we are doing it – in our fixation to get technology in place, we have made technology the goal rather than the way to achieve goals. I am conducting research through the University of Stirling Continue reading

Presentations from Michigan University 24.11.21

Assessment & Feedback SIG Wednesday 24th November 14:00-15:30 (UK)
Please join us for the next Assessment & Feedback Special Interest Group where we will have presentations from external speakers, Cait Hayward and August Evrard, from Michigan University.

Letter grades have long served as signaling mechanisms between an institution’s faculty and its students, and making the Dean’s List remains an aspiration of students on most American campuses.  In this presentation, we offer three short talks with a common thread of student advantages and barriers.  We first demonstrate that increased selectivity – the tendency of an institution to admit students with increasingly higher standardized test scores – is an important factor in the rise of undergraduate grades over the past decade.  The findings allow us to refine measures of faculty-related grade inflation, and we introduce grade susceptibility, the conditional distribution of student grade earned as a function of incoming standardized test score, as a measure with broader potential application.  We then pivot to a study of student grades in large STEM courses across multiple institutions that features an integer variable, a systemic advantage index, incorporating dimensions of birth sex, underrepresented minority status, family income, and first-generation college status.  Across seven public US universities, students with high advantage index earn consistently higher grades than their low advantage counterparts, objective evidence that corroborates the persistence of systemic inequities in American STEM education. We conclude with a current project that aims to identify particular courses where systemic advantages are most impactful on student grades, and share these patterns with instructors via a rich data report that highlights opportunities for potential pedagogical changes.  Continue reading

Celebrating Six Years of openTEL

openTEL is a strategic research area in Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) created in 2015 at The Open University (OU). More precisely, this open research group forms part of the Institute of Educational Technology (IET). Professor Eileen Scanlon leads the group alongside the TEL community, with members from across the university who support the development of local and international TEL projects. OpenTEL is also the recipient of the 2017 Open Education Consortium award for Open Research. This award recognises excellence in research on open education and related studies that help advance our understanding and demonstrate effectiveness related to challenges in OER.

You may already know that information by heart if you are a loyal reader of the openTEL blog. But what makes this post different then? Well, today, we want to celebrate the trajectory of openTEL by highlighting the success, innovation and impact the group has had since its origins up till now. So, how has openTEL contributed to the field during these six years?  Continue reading