Skip to content The Open University

Dr Elizabeth Fitzgerald

Photo of Elizabeth FitzGerald

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Lecturer
  • Learning and Teaching Innovation
  • Institute of Educational Technology
  • Academic Team
  • elizabeth.fitzgerald

Professional biography

I am a Lecturer at the Open University, working in the Learning and Teaching Innovation portfolio/Institute of Educational Technology (IET). I am module co-chair for H819 The critical researcher: educational technology in practice, a postgraduate module available on the Masters (MA) in Online and Distance Education and was co-chair for its predecessor, "H809 Practice-based research in educational technology". I also work on the OU's APD (Academic Professional Development) programme, leading the 'Scholarship' strand of work. And together with Rebecca Ferguson, I convene the OU's Computers And Learning Research Group (CALRG).

I have specific research interests in pervasive, ubiquitous and ambient computing for technology-enhanced learning. The research combines ubiquitous computing, usability and interaction design with education and pedagogy. My wider research interests encompass CSCW, CSCL and the learning sciences; also field trip learning, digital humanities, museum learning, and technology-enhanced learning in environmental/earth sciences. I am also interested in the research and application of research methods, particularly within interdisciplinary research, and in supporting the professional development of doctoral students.

I am currently supervising a Leverhulme-funded PhD student, Sian Beavers, looking at informal learning of history through popular media. I also supervise doctoral students at EdD level.

I am Principal Investigator for the Situ8 project, which enables users to browse and capture geolocated media using mobile devices in the field,  Co-Investigator and Knowledge Exchange Lead for the 'National Centre for Policing Research and Professional Development' (2015-2017, £1.36m from the College of Policing); and Co-Investigator on the EU-funded Juxtalearn (learning science and computing through juxtaposition performance in video making, €2.1m). I am also part of the OU's iSpot team, a citizen science platform that helps people share and identify nature.

I have over 30 peer-reviewed publications and have received funding from sources such as EPSRC, HEFCE, College of Policing, The Wolfson Foundation, the EU and Ordnance Survey. I am also part of a group within the OU that is tasked with the production of a series of 'Innovating Pedagogy' reports, to inform policy makers and practitioners of innovations in higher education.

I worked previously at the University of Nottingham, at the Learning Sciences Research Institute (LSRI); the Schools of Computer Science and Biology; and in the Graduate School. I am also a qualified secondary school teacher.

My publications can be found in the 'Publications' tab of this page; alternatively pre-prints can be downloaded from my WordPress site or page. Many of my presentations can be found on Slideshare and you can find me on Twitter as elara99.

Research interests

A list of research collaborations/projects I have been involved with are listed below. My current research interests include

  • citizen science: I lead the Situ8 project (see e.g. FitzGerald et al, 2012b) and am an academic team member of iSpot;
  • the use of audio guides and mixed media for location-based learning and/or effective visitor experiences (see e.g. FitzGerald et al, 2010 or 2011) and
  • informal and incidental learning through interaction with, and creation of, geotagged user-generated content (see e.g. FitzGerald, 2012)
  • digital humanities for technology-enhanced learning, such as learning about history or geography through the use of linked data, geolocated devices and/or content, and mapping visualisations (see e.g. Beavers and FitzGerald, 2016 or FitzGerald et al, 2013)

Many of my presentations about these projects or publications can be found on Slideshare.

Situ8 (2012-present)
Funder: OU / Ordnance Survey / The Wolfson Foundation
Situ8 is a tool to let you annotate physical places with digital information. It enables the capture and browsing of geolocated multimedia. This means you can associate different media types (text, image, video, audio, data) with a particular outdoor location. You can use it to get location-specific information about what is near you. It’s powerful enough to support a range of activities, from capturing field data, or giving instructions, to creating memories and experiences. Phase 1 of Situ8 resulted in a prototype app for use on Android smartphones/tablets. Phase 2 led to the development of a web portal so users can access Situ8 through their web browser and across platforms/devices.
Related publications: see FitzGerald et al, 2012b.

Pelagios2 (2011-2012)
Funder: JISC
Pelagios2 was the next phase of the original Pelagios project. PELAGIOS stands for ‘Pelagios: Enable Linked Ancient Geodata In Open Systems’ – its aim was to help introduce Linked Open Data into online resources that refer to places in the Ancient World. It enabled new modes of discovery and visualization for scholars and the general public in relation to maps, classical texts and other classical artefacts such as ancient coins and museum exhibits. Pelagios also means ‘of the sea’, the superhighway of the ancient world – a metaphor we considered appropriate for a digital resource that connected references to ancient places.
View my SlideShare presentation about Pelagios2, presented to the OU Digital Humanities research group.

Hidden Histories: To the Castle! (2010-2011)
Funder: Towards Pervasive Media/EPSRC
The research was a feasibility study, using geolocated media and informal learning, involving both professional (university) and community-based historians interested in enhancing public understanding of historical events in Nottingham. It supported the enhancement of historical literacy, historical ‘empathy’, and the user’s ability to draw informed conclusions about contested historical subject matter (by encountering conflicting and contrasting sources, offering a variety of perspectives). The historical subject matter was the 1831 Reform Riot in Nottingham, around which a community history group (People’s Histreh) designed a guided ‘history walk’. The project supported realisation of the walks and gathered participant responses for a ‘people-led’ and a ‘technology-led’ version of the walk where a media experience was delivered via smartphones, that triggered audio from different historical sources at specific locations of relevance to the Reform Riot around the city of Nottingham.
The short video on this website (3: Hidden Histories) provides an excellent summary of the project, or see this Slideshare presentation for more information (publications currently in process/under review).
Related publications: see FitzGerald et al, 2012a and FitzGerald, 2012.

STELLAR (2009-2011)
Funder: EU
STELLAR (Sustaining Technology Enhanced Learning at a LARge scale) was an EU Network of Excellence that represented the effort of the leading institutions and projects in European Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) to unify a diverse community.

This NoE in Technology Enhanced Learning was predicated on the view that in today’s knowledge society, people are not only confronted with classical transitions from school to university, from university to a company and so on. They are also faced with additional transitions, for example, between companies, between formal institutional learning and informal learning, between, learning for personal growth and learning for work. These transitions place high demands on people in terms of self-managed lifelong learning. Given this background, the Network of Excellence worked within the first of the four challenge themes for ICT research set out in the FP7 call and related to improving learning and educational systems.
Related publications: see Brown et al, 2009 and Brown, 2010.

Augmenting the Visitor Experience (2009-)
Funder: Part-funded through HEFCE SPLINT project
This work began as student exercise created for the Mobile and Field GIS field trip module, asking students to compare a range of techniques and technologies for augmenting landscape scenes, and then to reflect on the impact of these techniques on the learning experience of the visitor. The broader context of this work relates to how heritage information and other material relating to landscape themes (from glaciation to mining) can engage and enlighten visitors. The main study site has been the area around Keswick in the English Lake District, Cumbria. The broad pedagogic context is an exploration of the effectiveness of various technologies in augmenting an individual’s experience of the landscape, as alternatives to the one-to-many model often used to disseminate expert knowledge in the field (human field guides etc). Several technologies were used, including labelled acetates, PDAs (running custom-made apps or mScape), tablet PCs running Google Earth and also partial Virtual Reality/goggles with a 3D glaciation visualisation.
Related publications: see Priestnall et al (2009) or Priestnall et al (2010).

where:now (2009)
Funder: HEFCE's Higher Education Innovation Fund/University of Nottingham Knowledge Transfer Award
where:now was a knowledge transfer initiative which aimed to evangelise the use of technologies of location within the University of Nottingham. There was a growing body of knowledge within specialist centres of expertise in the University on the creation and deployment of location-based resources for both research and teaching. The aim of where:now was to strengthen this emerging core of expertise and to disseminate knowledge of geospatial technologies across the University. This was acheived through two workshops and helped to create many new collaborations, including ten new grant applications by August 2009. The project successfully brought together academics from the existing centres of research expertise, those interested in teaching and learning, members of information services, the estates department, and others, and culminated in the ongoing Augmented Campus initiative.
Related publications: Moore et al (2009)

A Study of Effective Evaluation Models and Practices for Technology Supported Physical Learning Spaces (JELS)(2009)
Funder: JISC
The aim of this study was to identify and review the methods and tools currently used to evaluate the contribution technology-supported physical learning spaces make to learning and teaching. As this is a broader purpose than post-occupancy evaluation of the design objectives, it required an understanding of teaching and learning in particular contexts, both formal and informal. The conceptual framework for the research was based on the interaction of four elements: learning/learners, teaching/teachers, space and technology.
Main publication: Pearshouse et al (2009) or see the JISC website for more information.

Creator: CREATive Organisations Research (2008-2009)
Funder: EPSRC
"Creator (CREATive Organisations Research): New Research Processes and Business Models for the Creative Industries" was a research cluster funded by EPSRC as part of the "Connecting Communities for the Digital Economy" initiative. The cluster brought together practitioners from the creative industries with researchers from varied traditions that span ICT, the arts and humanities, the social sciences, and business studies (around 60 people from more than 20 institutions, primarily across the UK).
More information about Creator can be found here, together with a list of the project outcomes (including a large number of publications).

Thrill Laboratory guinea pigs @ Alton Towers (2008)
Funder: EPSRC + various others
The Fairground: Thrill Laboratory project is exploring the experience of thrill by instrumenting passengers on high-intensity amusement rides. Each rider wears a personal telemetry system that captures video (close-ups of their facial expression) and audio (as they talk and scream!), heart rate and galvanic skin response (GSR) data, and movement data from an accelerometer. This data may be streamed live to watching spectators or recorded to be shown to the riders afterwards, and in both cases is accompanied by an expert interpretation that explores the relationship between the psychological experience of thrill in terms of concepts such as valence (is it a good or a bad feeling) and arousal (how strong is the feeling) and physiological response.

In this study, researchers set out to monitor riders on as many rides as possible to uncover similarities and patterns in their thrilling experience. Each day began with an introduction to the theories behind the Walker Thrill Factor - (i) the assessment of emotions in terms of arousal and pleasure, (ii) how to identify thrill by monitoring arousal and pleasure, and (iii) the challenges facing the Laboratory in analysing even a 'simple' 3 minute ride. The end of the day concluded with a screening of riders' face-cam videos of the day. These were used to produce souvenir videos along with physiological data and Psychological Thrill Profile results.
More information about this user trial can be found here; information about the Walker Thrill Factor can be found here.

Learning Styles in Adaptive Hypermedia (2002-2007)
Funder: School of Computer Science, University of Nottingham
This period of doctoral research addressed the issue of learning preferences, specifically investigating learning styles as an adaptation mechanism for personalised computer-based learning. A number of previous studies indicated the positive effect that this kind of adaptation provides, but under closer examination these were not conducted in a scientifically rigorous manner and thus their findings are somewhat limited. This research utilised a quantitative and highly objective approach to investigate visual/verbal and sequential/global learning styles in different user groups. Three user trials were carried out to discover whether there were any benefits to using these learning styles for studying in an adapted environment.

Overall, no statistically significant benefits were found and these findings now shed doubt as to whether learning styles are indeed an effective mechanism for personalised learning.
Related publications: see Brown et al 2005, 2006a, 2006b, 2007a, 2007b, 2009. PhD thesis available here.



Dimensions of personalisation in technology-enhanced learning: a framework and implications for design (2017)
FitzGerald, Elizabeth; Kucirkova, Natalia; Jones, Ann; Cross, Simon; Ferguson, Rebecca; Herodotou, Christothea; Hillaire, Garron and Scanlon, Eileen
British Journal of Educational Technology ((In press))
创新教学报告2015 —探索教学、学习与评价的新形式 [Innovating Pedagogy 2015] (2016-04-23)
Sharples, M.; Adams, A.; Alozie, N.; Ferguson, R.; FitzGerald, E.; Gaved, M.; McAndrew, P.; Means, B.; Remold, J.; Rienties, B.; Roschelle, J.; Vogt, K.; Whitelock, D. and Yarnall, L.
开放学习研究 [Open Learning] (2016.1) (pp. 1-18)
Revolutionary and evolutionary technology design processes in location-based interactions (2015)
FitzGerald, Elizabeth and Adams, Anne
International Journal of Mobile Human Computer Interaction, 7(1) (pp. 59-78)
Guest editorial preface: special issue on mobile learning and educational mobile HCI (2014-10)
FitzGerald, Elizabeth and Jones, Ann
International Journal of Mobile Human Computer Interaction, 6(3) (iv-v)
AnswerPro: Designing to Motivate Interaction (2014)
AlSugair, Balsam; Hopkins, Gail; FitzGerald, Elizabeth and Brailsford, Tim
International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning, 6(4) (pp. 22-38)
Augmented reality and mobile learning: the state of the art (2013-12)
FitzGerald, Elizabeth; Ferguson, Rebecca; Adams, Anne; Gaved, Mark; Mor, Yishay and Thomas, Rhodri
International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning, 5(4) (pp. 43-58)
To the Castle! A comparison of two audio guides to enable public discovery of historical events (2013-04)
FitzGerald, Elizabeth; Taylor, Claire and Craven, Michael
Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 17(4) (pp. 749-760)
Of catwalk technologies and boundary creatures (2013)
Adams, Anne; FitzGerald, Elizabeth and Priestnall, Gary
ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 20, Article 15(3)
Towards a theory of augmented place (2012-10)
FitzGerald, Elizabeth
Bulletin of the Technical Committee on Learning Technology, 14(4) (pp. 43-45)
Creating user-generated content for location-based learning: an authoring framework (2012-06)
FitzGerald, E.
Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(3) (pp. 195-207)
Guidelines for the design of location-based audio for mobile learning (2011-12)
FitzGerald, Elizabeth; Sharples, Mike; Jones, Robert and Priestnall, Gary
International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning, 3(4) (pp. 70-85)
Evaluating learning style personalization in adaptive systems: quantitative methods and approaches (2009)
Brown, E. J.; Brailsford, T. J.; Fisher, T. and Moore, A.
IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies , 2(1) (pp. 10-22)
Patterns in authoring of adaptive educational hypermedia: a taxonomy of learning styles (2005)
Brown, Elizabeth; Cristea, Alexandra; Stewart, Craig and Brailsford, Tim
Educational Technology & Society, 8(3) (pp. 77-90)
Weaving location and narrative for mobile guides (2013-05)
Sharples, Mike; FitzGerald, Elizabeth; Mulholland, Paul and Jones, Robert
In: Schrøder, Kim and Drotner, Kirsten eds. Museum Communication and Social Media: The Connected Museum. Routledge Research in Museum Studies
ISBN : 978-0-415-83318-9 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : New York
Learning on field trips with mobile technology (2013-04-17)
Meek, Sam; Fitzgerald, Elizabeth; Sharples, Mike and Priestnall, Gary
In: Kinuthia, Wanjira and Marshall, Stewart eds. On the Move: Mobile Learning for Development. Educational Design and Technology in the Knowledge Society
Publisher : Information Age Publishing Inc. | Published : Charlotte, NC.
Augmenting the field experience: a student-led comparison of techniques and technologies (2010)
Priestnall, Gary; Brown, Elizabeth; Sharples, Mike and Polmear, Gemma
In: Brown, Elizabeth ed. Education in the wild: contextual and location-based mobile learning in action. A report from the STELLAR Alpine Rendez-Vous workshop series. (pp. 43-46)
ISBN : 9780853582649 | Publisher : Learning Sciences Research Institute, University of Nottingham | Published : Nottingham, UK
Reflecting back, looking forward: the challenges for location-based learning (2010)
Brown, Elizabeth; Sharples, Mike; Wishart, Jocelyn; Tangney, Brendan; Taylor, Jacqui; Beddall-Hill, Nicola L.; Glahn, Christian; Börner, Dirk; Clough, Gill; Wijers, Monica; Jonker, Vincent; Cook, John and Lyons, Leilah
In: Brown, Elizabeth ed. Education in the Wild: Contextual and Location-Based Mobile Learning in Action. A Report from the STELLAR Alpine Rendez-Vous Workshop Series (pp. 52-53)
ISBN : 9780853582649 | Publisher : Learning Sciences Research Institute, University of Nottingham | Published : Nottingham, UK
Introduction to location-based mobile learning (2010)
Brown, Elizabeth
In: Brown, E. ed. Education in the wild: contextual and location-based mobile learning in action. A report from the STELLAR Alpine Rendez-Vous workshop series.. STELLAR Alpine Rendez-Vous workshop (pp. 7-9)
ISBN : 9780853582649 | Publisher : Learning Sciences Research Institute, University of Nottingham | Published : Nottingham, UK
Education in the Wild: Contextual and Location-Based Mobile Learning in Action. A Report from the STELLAR Alpine Rendez-Vous Workshop Series (2010)
, ed.
ISBN : 9780853582649 | Publisher : Learning Sciences Research Institute, University of Nottingham | Published : Nottingham, UK
Perceptions, Perspectives and Practices: A Study of the Players of Historical Games. (2016-08-01)
Beavers, Sian and FitzGerald, Elizabeth
In : DiGRA/FDG '16 (1-6 August 2016, Dundee)
Incorporating Cultural Factors into the Design of Technology to Support Teamwork in Higher Education (2016-04)
Shishah, Wesam and FitzGerald, Elizabeth
In : CSEDU 2016, the International Conference on Computer Supported Education (21-23 April 2016, Rome, Italy) (pp. 55-66)
AnswerPro: Designing to Motivate Interaction (2013-10)
AlSugair, Balsam; Hopkins, Gail; FitzGerald, Elizabeth and Brailsford, Tim
In : Proceedings of the 12th World Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning (mLearn2013) (21-24 October 2013, Doha, Qatar)
Situ8: browsing and capturing geolocated user-created content (2013-06)
FitzGerald, Elizabeth
In : Proceedings of the CALRG Annual Conference 2013 (11-12 June 2013, The Open University,Milton Keynes)
GeoHCI for learning in the wild (2013-04)
FitzGerald, Elizabeth and Adams, Anne
In : GeoHCI Workshop at CHI 2013 (27–28 April 2013, Paris, France)
Supporting interaction in learning activities using mobile devices in higher education (2013)
Shishah, Wesam; Hopkins, Gail; FitzGerald, Elizabeth and Higgins, Colin
In : 12th World Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning (mLearn 2013) (22-24 October 2013, Doha, Qatar)
Augmented reality and mobile learning: the state of the art (2012-10)
FitzGerald, Elizabeth; Adams, Anne; Ferguson, Rebecca; Gaved, Mark; Mor, Yishay and Thomas, Rhodri
In : 11th World Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning (mLearn 2012) (16-18 Oct 2012, Helsinki, Finland) (pp. 62-69)
Designing a mobile academic peer support system (2012-09)
AlSugair, Balsam; Hopkins, Gail; FitzGerald, Elizabeth and Brailsford, Tim
In : HCI 2012 - People and Computers XXVI (12-14 September 2012, Birmingham, UK)
Assessing informal learning: a case study using historical audio guides (2012-06)
FitzGerald, Elizabeth
In : CALRG Annual Conference 2012 (19-20 June 2012, Milton Keynes, UK)
Encouraging museum visitor engagement using spontaneous talk-in-interaction audio guides (2012-04)
Elliston, Brian and FitzGerald, Elizabeth
In : 4th International Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU 2012) (16-18 April 2012, Porto, Portugal)
Analysing video and audio data: existing approaches and new innovations (2012)
FitzGerald, Elizabeth
In : Surface Learning Workshop 2012 (18-20 March 2012, Bristol, UK)
Does mobile technology support peer learning for Key Stage 3 children? (2011)
Alsugair, Balsam; Hopkins, Gail; Brailsford, Tim and FitzGerald, Elizabeth
In : 7th International Conference on Intelligent Environments (IE'11) Doctoral Consortium (25-28 July 2011, Nottingham, UK)
Guidelines for the design of location-based audio for mobile learning (2010)
FitzGerald, Elizabeth; Sharples, Mike; Jones, Robert and Priestnall, Gary
In : Proceedings of the mLearn 2010 Conference (19-22 Oct 2010, Valetta, Malta)
A student-led comparison of techniques for augmenting the field experience (2009)
Priestnall, Gary; Brown, Elizabeth; Sharples, Mike and Polmear, Gemma
In : mLearn 2009 Conference (26-30 Oct 2009, Orlando, Florida, USA)
AnswerTree – a hyperplace-based game for collaborative mobile learning (2009)
Moore, Adam; Goulding, James; Brown, Elizabeth and Swan, Jerry
In : Proceedings of the mLearn 2009 Conference (26-30 Oct 2009, Orlando, Florida, USA)
Revealing the hidden rationality of user browsing behaviour (2007)
Brown, Elizabeth; Brailsford, Tim; Fisher, Tony and van der Eijk, Cees
In : Eighteenth Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia [HT'07] (10-12 Sept 2007, Manchester, UK) (p 85)
Real users, real results: examining the limitations of learning styles within AEH (2007)
Brown, Elizabeth; Fisher, Tony and Brailsford, Tim
In : Eighteenth Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia [HT '07] (10-12 Sept 2007, Manchester, UK)
Reappraising cognitive styles in adaptive web applications (2006)
Brown, Elizabeth; Brailsford, Tim; Fisher, Tony; Moore, Adam and Ashman, Helen
In : 15th International Conference on World Wide Web (WWW2006) (22-26 May 2006, Edinburgh, UK) (p 327)
Adapting for visual and verbal learning styles in AEH (2006)
Brown, Elizabeth; Stewart, Craig and Brailsford, Tim
In : Sixth IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (ICALT '06) (5-7 July 2006, Kerkrade, The Netherlands)
Integration of learning style theory in an adaptive educational hypermedia (AEH) system (2004)
Brown, Elizabeth and Brailsford, Tim
In : ALT-C 2004 (14-16 Sept 2004, Exeter, UK)
The role of pupils in constructing networked learning communities (2004)
Thomson, Pat and Brown, Elizabeth
In : European Conference on Educational Research (ECER2004) (22-25 Sept 2004, Rethymnon, Crete)
Innovating Pedagogy 2015: Open University Innovation Report 4 (2015-12-03)
Sharples, Mike; Adams, Anne; Alozie, N; Ferguson, Rebecca; FitzGerald, Elizabeth; Gaved, Mark; McAndrew, Patrick; Means, B; Remold, J; Rienties, Bart; Roschelle, J; Vogt, K; Whitelock, Denise and Yarnall, L
The Open University
Location-based and contextual mobile learning. A STELLAR Small-Scale Study (2010)
Brown, Elizabeth; Börner, Dirk; Sharples, Mike; Glahn, Christian; de Jong, Tim and Specht, Marcus
STELLAR European Network of Excellence in TEL (EU)
A study of effective evaluation models and practices for technology supported physical learning spaces (JELS) (2009-06-01)
Pearshouse, Ian; Bligh, Brett; Brown, Elizabeth; Lewthwaite, Sarah; Graber, Rebecca; Hartnell-Young, Elizabeth and Sharples, Mike