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Open Research 2015 Launches for Sign-Up!

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Fri, 28/08/2015 - 10:00

Originally posted on :

At the beginning of August I blogged about the return of our successful open research course on P2PU’s School of Open this Fall. Well, I’m excited to announce that the course is now live and will run from Monday 14 September – Sunday 11 October 2015. Sign-up is now open so head on over to P2PU and put your name down to participate!

We’re looking forward to having you along for the ride whether you are a seasoned researcher, dipping your toe in the water or just interested in finding out more about open research. Come and share your experiences and thoughts!

So, what’s new…?

For those of you who are super observant, you might recall that we promised some tweaks and surprises in this iteration. The main changes to the course have been as a response to previous participant feedback and our own experiences of facilitating the course. Changes include:

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Introducing ... Open Media Player

Dr Nick Freear's blog - Thu, 20/08/2015 - 15:23

I'm very happy to announce that we have released Open Media Player (formerly called OU Media Player), as a free/open source project. It has been our intention for a while to make the code open source, and we were finally able to plan in the time to make it happen.

Why open source?

We decided to open source because:

  1. Open Media Player aspires to the highest levels of accessibility, while being a mainstream player - a fairly unique proposition;
  2. We adopt a service-based approach, where the player is kept separate from the audio/video files, and the web sites it is embedded in. This aids maintenance, feature roll-out and is again a unique selling point;
  3. To help drive innovation;
  4. Principle – it fits in with the Open University's mission - open to people, places and ideas;
  5. Educational – help others learn from our best-practices and our mistakes.

We've done a lot of work to make the Player straightforward to install, and hopefully understand. Installation via Composer is as simple as copying and pasting this at a terminal:

composer create-project iet-ou/open-media-player --no-dev -sdev --prefer-dist

Some of the highlights of version 2 of Open Media Player:

  • New embeddable, themed YouTube player
  • Configurable site layout and authentication
  • Composer adopted, code-base re-factored into sub-packages
  • Upgraded to MediaElement.js 2.17.0
  • Improved player user-interface in high-contrast (ignore colours) mode

And, lots more!


It’s here! Open Research Redux

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Tue, 04/08/2015 - 10:11

Originally posted on :

Last year we received an amazing response to the launch of our first open course Open Research on P2PU’s School of Open. 139 of you, from at least 29 different countries across six continents, signed up to participate in the first iteration of our four-week course. Well, we’re excited to announce that we’re doing it all again… but this time with some tweaks and surprises!

So what was it like first time around? Here’s some of the feedback from our post-course survey respondents:

“Dissemination helped a lot by pointing me towards licenses and explaining the green vs gold vs other colour access levels — that sort of thing is mentioned a lot but never explained, so it was useful to get those definitions. The ethics conversation made me think about the implications of guerilla research, and reminded me what research ethics conversations are like. It’s been a long time since…

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EMMA summer school

I was invited to lead a workshop at the ‘Design and deliver your own MOOC’ summer school run on Ischia, Italy, by the European Multiple MOOC Aggregator (EMMA) project from 6-10 July 2015. The summer school was organised jointly with JTEL, and the workshop was attended by people from both projects.

Workshop description: This hands-on workshop will work with learning design tools and with massive open online courses (MOOCs) on the FutureLearn platform to explore how learning design can be used to influence the choice and design of learning analytics. This workshop will be of interest to people who are involved in the design or presentation of online courses, and to those who want to find out more about learning design, learning analytics or MOOCs. Participants will find it helpful to have registered for FutureLearn [] and explored the platform for a short time in advance of the workshop.

Puzzling spike in Slideshare views

Intriguingly, my presentation (slides above) was immediately very popular on Slideshare, taking only eight days to become my most-viewed presentation ever – far outstripping a presentation with exactly the same title that I posted a few months ago, as well as my other presentations that have steadily been building up views over the past seven years.

CALRG conference and FLAN

FLAN participants at CALRG 2015

The 36th annual CALRG conference took place from 15 to 17 June 2015 at The Open University. This year, we began the programme with a day for doctoral student work associated with the FutureLearn Academic Network (FLAN). The keynote address, An Ecology for eLearning: MOOCs, Minnows and Monsters, was given by long-time CALRG member Professor Sir Tim O’Shea, Principal, University of Edinburgh.

Presentations included:

CALRG: Computers and Learning Research Group

Building Knowledge seminar slide. Credits: and

Along with colleagues – Liz Fitzgerald, Janesh Sanzgiri, Jenna Mittelmeier – I am responsible for organising weekly meetings of the Computers and Learning Research Group (CALRG). The group brings together research staff and doctoral students within our department, as well as people from other areas of the university who have similar research interests.

We have established a pattern of events that continues throughout the year, with breaks where necessary for major events and holidays.

First Thursday: CALRG Seminar Regular slot for internal and external speakers to share and discuss their research.

Second Thursday: Reading Group Discussing key papers in the area from the past and the present. The contents of this forthcoming book help us to identify ‘must-read’ papers. In the autumn, Janesh and Jenna will be running short sessions before the reading group in order to give new doctoral students the confidence to share their views.

Third Thursday: Building Knowledge Seminar An opportunity for us to share our expertise by talking about our research, introducing methods and discussing new opportunities. At a recent session on writing up quantitative and qualitative research, I introduced ways of presenting and evaluating these types of research and then group members discussed how they had done this themselves, and the challenges they had faced.

Fourth Thursday: Cake Drop! An informal session. Chat to your colleagues and enjoy cake. Mmm.

MOOCs 2030: A Future for Massive Online Learning

What lies in the future for MOOCs? This chapter, which I wrote with Mike Sharples and Russell Beale, looks ahead 15 years, to a time when MOOCs have left the hype cycle behind and are being used by millions of people worldwide as a part of their learning journey. The book as a whole provides a comprehensive overview of the past, present and future of massive open online courses around the world


This chapter looks ahead to the year 2030 and considers the ways in which current visions of massive open online courses may develop into realities. In order to do this, it considers the changes in pedagogy, technology, and the wider environment that will be necessary in order for them to flourish. The chapter argues that, by 2030, the systems that develop from MOOCs will be meeting the needs of societies by educating millions of digital citizens worldwide. These systems will have opened up access to education and be enabling people from all over the world to enjoy the benefits of learning at scale. In order for this to happen, MOOC providers, policy makers, and educators will all need to proceed with this vision in mind. In effect, if MOOCs are to make a difference and truly open up education while enhancing learning, the pedagogies in place by 2030 must take into account entirely new groups of learners as well as vastly new roles that will emerge for educators. Such pedagogical approaches must also utilize innovative approaches to the design of that learning, whether it be MOOCs or some other form of learning delivery at scale.

Citation: Ferguson, Rebecca, Sharples, Mike, & Beale, Russell. (2015). MOOCs 2030: A Future for Massive Online Learning In C. J. Bonk, M. Miyoung Lee, T. C. Reeves & T. H. Reynolds (Eds.), MOOCs and Open Education Around the World. Routledge



Caring Counts in the Workplace launch, Glasgow: 8 June 2015

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Wed, 24/06/2015 - 17:10

Originally posted on OEPScotland:

by Beck Pitt and Caroline Anderson (OEPS project)

Beck, Bea and Caroline were at Citizen M, Glasgow on Monday for the The Open University (OU) in Scotland’s symposium to launch Caring Counts in the Workplace, an exciting new open educational resource (OER) to enable managers to support carers in balancing their caring and work roles. Nicely timed at the beginning of Carers Week and also in the year that Carers Scotland celebrates its 50th anniversary, the day brought together carers, support workers and employers to learn about the new course, find out more about how it was developed, its benefit to both employer and employee, and its potential for transforming lives. This post aims to act as a snapshot overview of some of the rich and interesting discussion and events from the day.

Caring Counts in the Workplace builds on the success of, and accompanies Caring Counts: a reflection and planning…

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1000 citations and counting

1002 citations according to Google Scholar, and  20,548 downloads from the university’s Open Research Online repository (ORO).

LACE Spring Briefing

On 15 April, the LACE project held a one-day briefing and workshop in Brussels on Policies for Educational Data Mining and Learning Analytics. Originally planned to take place in the European Parliament, a security alert required a move to the nearby Thon Hotel.

The day began with a welcome from Julie Ward, MEP for the North West of England and member of the Culture and Education Committee. She was followed by  Robert Madelin (Director-General of DG Connect) and Dragan Gašević (president-elect of SoLAR). Their talks were followed by overviews of the current European-funded learning analytics projects: LACE, Lea’s Box, PELARS and WatchMe.

During the afternoon discussion and review session, participants from across Europe worked together in three separate discussion groups  to review specific issues related to the use of learning analytics in schools, universities and workplace training.

I worked as rapporteur in the universities workshop (pictured), which had 186 participants, including people from England, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland and Sweden. Our policy recommendations included:

  • Privacy and ethical issues are important. Encourage institutions to develop policies covering privacy, ethics and data protection. However, this is a broader issue than educational policy making and legislation. We should aim to influence the wider debate.
  • Guard against data degradation – develop and make available methods of retaining data over time
  • Develop data standards and encourage their use so that we have standardisation of data
  • Address the problem of over-claiming and mis-selling by vendors – institutions do not necessarily have access to the expertise that allow them to interpret and assess these claims
  • Need to identify procedure for due diligence around intervention strategies, the competencies do staff need, and certification opportunities relating to these
  • Identify requirements for data collection, and structures for doing this on a sector or national basis
  • Support the development of standard datasets at national or international level, against which other data can be compared to see if performance is above or below the norm
  • Identify behaviours in the field of education that regional or national governments should support and encourage
  • Identify ways of preventing the providers of educational tools selling our own data back to us.
  • Take into account that it is not just the data we are concerned about, because once it is removed from its context it does not necessarily make sense. Data needs to be associated with metadata that is produced using standardised conventions


Teacher-led inquiry and learning design: BJET special issue

In mid March, the British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET) published our special issue on learning design, learning analytics and teacher inquiry.

This special issue, edited by Yishay Mor, Barbara Wasson and myself, developed from an Alpine Rendezvous workshop we ran in 2013 that dealt with the connections between learning design, learning analytics and teacher inquiry.

This special issue deals with three areas. Learning design is the practice of devising effective learning experiences aimed at achieving defined educational objectives in a given context. Teacher inquiry is an approach to professional development and capacity building in education in which teachers study their own and their peers’ practice. Learning analytics use data about learners and their contexts to understand and optimise learning and the environments in which it takes place. Typically, these three—design, inquiry and analytics—are seen as separate areas of practice and research. In this issue, we show that the three can work together to form a virtuous circle. Within this circle, learning analytics offers a powerful set of tools for teacher inquiry, feeding back into improved learning design. Learning design provides a semantic structure for analytics, whereas teacher inquiry defines meaningful questions to analyse.



  • Learning design, teacher inquiry into student learning and learning analytics: a call for action (Yishay Mor, Rebecca Ferguson and Barbara Wasson)
  • Informing learning design with learning analytics to improve teacher inquiry (Donatella Persico and Francesca Pozzi)
  • A method for teacher inquiry in cross-curricular projects: lessons from a case study (Katerina Avramides, Jade Hunter, Martin Oliver and Rosemary Luckin)
  • Supporting teachers in data-informed educational design (Susan McKenney and Yishay Mor)
  • Forward-oriented designing for learning as a means to achieve educational quality (Patrizia M.M. Ghislandi and Juliana E. Raffaghelli)
  • Analysing content and patterns of interaction for improving the learning design of networked learning environments (Pablo A. Haya, Oliver Daems, Nils Malzahn, Jorge Castellanos and Heinz Ulrich Hoppe)
  • How was the activity? A visualization support for a case of location-based learning design (Javier Melero, Davinia Hernández-Leo, Jing Sun, Patricia Santos and Josep Blat)
  • Scripting and monitoring meet each other: aligning learning analytics and learning design to support teachers in orchestrating CSCL situations (María Jesús Rodríguez-Triana, Alejandra Martínez-Monés, Juan I. Asensio-Pérez and Yannis Dimitriadis)

Mor, Yishay, Ferguson, Rebecca, & Wasson, Barbara. (2015). Editorial: learning design, teacher inquiry into student learning and learning analytics: a call for action. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(2), 221-229.

Rhetorical analysis and tutors’ grades

One of my doctoral students, Duygu Simsek (now Duygu Bektik), presented on her work at LAK15.

Simsek, Duygu; Sandor, Ágnes; Buckingham Shum, Simon; Ferguson, Rebecca; De Liddo, Anna and Whitelock, Denise (2015). Correlations between automated rhetorical analysis and tutors’ grades on student essays. In: 5th International Learning Analytics & Knowledge Conference (LAK15), 16-20 March 2015, Poughkeepsie, NY, USA, ACM.

When assessing student essays, educators look for the students’ ability to present and pursue well-reasoned and strong arguments. Such scholarly argumentation is often articulated by rhetorical metadiscourse. Educators will be necessarily examining metadiscourse in students’ writing as signals of the intellectual moves that make their reasoning visible. Therefore students and educators could benefit from available powerful automated textual analysis that is able to detect rhetorical metadiscourse. However, there is a need to validate such technologies in higher education contexts, since they were originally developed in non-educational applications. This paper describes an evaluation study of a particular language analysis tool, the Xerox Incremental Parser (XIP), on undergraduate social science student essays, using the mark awarded as a measure of the quality of the writing. As part of this exploration, the study presented in this paper seeks to assess the quality of the XIP through correlational studies and multiple regression analysis.

Duygu’s slides

Twitter stream

Always good to have a presentation tweeted by your pro vice chancellor :-)

European perspectives on learning analytics

As part of the Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) project’s engagement with LAK15, we brought participants from across Europe together to talk about European perspectives on learning analytics.

Alejandra Martínez Monés from Spain talked about past work carried out as part of the European Kaleidoscope Network of Excellence that has implications for the development of learning analytics internationally. Alan Berg from The Netherlands provided links to a series of initiatives designed to bring researchers and practitioners together across national boundaries. Kairit Tammets introduced learning analytics work in Estonia, and Anne Boyer offered a French perspective. Members of the LACE project talked about their work to pull together research, practice and evidence across Europe.

Ferguson, Rebecca; Cooper, Adam; Drachsler, Hendrik; Kismihók, Gábor; Boyer, Anne; Tammets, Kairit, & Martínez Monés, Alejandra. (2015). Learning Analytics: European Perspectives. Paper presented at LAK16, Poughkeepsie, NY, USA.

Since the emergence of learning analytics in North America, researchers and practitioners have worked to develop an international community. The organization of events such as SoLAR Flares and LASI Locals, as well as the move of LAK in 2013 from North America to Europe, has supported this aim. There are now thriving learning analytics groups in North American, Europe and Australia, with smaller pockets of activity emerging on other continents. Nevertheless, much of the work carried out outside these forums, or published in languages other than English, is still inaccessible to most people in the community. This panel, organized by Europe’s Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) project, brings together researchers from five European countries to examine the field from European perspectives. In doing so, it will identify the benefits and challenges associated with sharing and developing practice across national boundaries.

Mapping mobile learning

Andrew Brasher's Learning Design blog - Thu, 14/05/2015 - 11:46

During January and early February I helped run a field trial of an android app for  the MASELTOV project.  The app is know as the MApp (short for MASELTOV app), and the aim of the field trial was to answer some research questions about participants’ use of the app to support their cultural and language learning (there’s a a quick overview of the trial and a report that include some initial data analysis).

We have collected a huge amount of  data from participants’ phones during the 3 weeks of the trial, and having done some analysis of participants’ self reports of what they did I nnow startting to look at quantitative data collected from their phones. This includes identification of particular MApp services being used, and where and when they where being used.

So I’m straing to think about how best to preent this data, using maps, and sequences of maps over time, and my intial ideas are…….

  1. A map showing each participant’s use of various tools over a day.
    So will have 17 (participants) x 21 (days) maps = 357 maps.
    Each map would show use of a variety of services over time and space.
    * Aim: to understand each individual’s overall usage of the MApp
  2. A map showing use of a particular tool by all users over space and time
    E.g. for the forum tool, show where and when all participants are using it over a day (or longer?)
    * Aim: to inform devlopment of particular services through knowledge of their usage patterns
  3. A map to show locations that participants frequently access (particular) services
    * Aim: to compare with interview data, and to test our implicit assumptions
  4. A map to show services which are used when participants are on the move
    i.e. which service is being used, the mode of transport, and the journey undertaken.
    * Aim: to compare with interview data, to test our implicit assumptions, to see if there’s anything surprising occurring.