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

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

Don’t be afraid to question information from the network

The Learning at Scale (L@S) Special Interest Group included presentations from two members of the Knowledge Media Institute at The Open University. Professor Anna De Liddo and Research associate Tracie Farrell shared their exciting work about  Contested Collective Intelligence and  Mis(sing) Information on Tuesday, October 12th.  Continue reading

Are digital exams here to stay?

On Wednesday, October 6th, the Assessment and Feedback Special Interest Group welcomed José Luis Aznarte, associate professor at the Department of Artificial Intelligence of UNED University. In this session José talked about the experience of switching to online exams amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Distance Education University is the largest university in Spain that combines online with face-to-face learning through a hybrid methodology offered to more than 200,000 students. Exams at UNED were usually held in their local study centres or exam spots. Results were digitised and distributed to each course team using the software called ‘valija virtual’ (virtual pouch). However, the university had to consider alternatives to adjust the examination process and to guarantee fairness and rigour during the unprecedented circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.  Continue reading