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Dr Rob Farrow

Profile summary

  • Research Staff
  • Research Fellow
  • Institute of Educational Technology
  • IET Academic Team
  • rob.farrow

Professional biography

I am a philosopher, interdisciplinary researcher and educational technologist.  In my graduate study (University of Essex) I focused on modern European philosophy in the critical tradition, writing my PhD thesis on the normative foundations of the critical theories of Jurgen Habermas and Axel Honneth.

I started out in IET as a research assistant for a project on mobile and lifelong learning.  This led to working on a range of projects around the Institute, allowing to develop expertise in accessibility, evaluation, mobile learning, using technology to support research communities, and most recently, open education. My interests coagulate around the way that evidence around the impact of technological interventions feed through into policy, and ways of ensuring that innovations can be ethically justified.  Technologies increasingly mediate our interactions both within and outside formal education contexts, and I use interdisciplinary approaches to try to make sense of this in ways that can feed through to changes in pedagogy as well as better system design.

In addition to my own research and editorial work, I have acted as a referee for a number of academic journals, including International Education Studies, British Journal of Educational Technology, Journal of Online Teaching and Learning, Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice and Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.  I am an associate editor of JIME.

Research interests

I'm interested in a wide range of questions which might be thought to graviatate around communication and ethics in policy formation, decision-making, knowledge transmission, and teaching and learning.  

See my publications record for more information.  You might also be interested in my editorial portfolio and conference presentations


Current Projects

OER Research Hub

The Open Educational Resources Research Hub (OER Research Hub) provides a focus for research, designed to give answers to the overall question ‘What is the impact of OER on learning and teaching practices?’ and identify the particular influence of openness. We do this by working in collaboration with projects across four education sectors (K12, college, higher education and informal) extending a network of research with shared methods and shared results. By the end of this research we will have evidence for what works and when, but also established methods and instruments for broader engagement in researching the impact of openness on learning.

The project combines:

  • A targeted collaboration program with existing OER projects
  • An international fellowship program
  • Networking to make connections
  • A hub for research data and OER excellence in practice

Within the project I played a leading role in developing the methodology 


OER World Map 

In consortium with Hochschulbibliothekszentrum des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen (hbz) I am Co-Investigator on the project to build the OER World Map. Funded by The Hewlett Foundation, this project builds on the success of OER Impact Map. My focus is on outreach and communications; developing authentic use cases; and mediating technical solutions with human requirements.

Journal of Interactive Media in Education (JiME)

I became an Associate Editor of JiME in mid 2011.  JIME is an open access online journal in educational technology that focuses on the implications and use of digital media in education.  It aims to foster a multidisciplinary and intellectually rigorous debate on both the theory and practice of interactive media in education.


I am currently researching the ethical issues surrounding technology-enhanced learning.  While many educators are aware that the use of mobile technologies raises a number of ethical issues concerning privacy, security, the appropriate use of public space and the role of technology in education.  I'm interested in the potential impact of communications technologies on social interaction more generally construed, on (inter-)subjectivity, and on processes of identity and norm-formation.  So far, this has given rise to conference presentations on frameworks for understanding the ethics of mobile learning and open education.  


Past Projects


The aim of OLnet was to gather evidence and methods about how we can research and understand ways to learn in a more open world, particularly linked to Open Educational Resources (OER).  My main role on this project concerns the best way to present evidence gathered through collective intelligence to different audiences, such as policymakers, researchers and practicioners.  I act as the main point of liaison between KMi and IET for the OLnet Evidence Hub, working with research staff in IET to seed the Hub with evidence relating to open education and OER.  I also presented the software on a number of occasions, including launching the site at Open Ed 2011 and at a number of smaller events, such as OpenOpen (Dec 2011) and Cambridge 2012 (Apr 2012).  I also produced a short instructional screencast to help users of the site make effective use of the software platform.Digital Scholarship

I'm working in a small research team to investigate the impact of new communications technologies on research and scholarly practices.  I've been focusing on the implications for the review and dissemination of research, as well as the changing nature of academic communities.  I'll be presenting some of this research at the Digital Humanities Colloquium.



EU4ALL (European Union Accessible LifeLong Learning for Higher Education) is an European Commission funded project about accessibility in higher education and lifelong learning for everyone, without exceptions.  The aim of the EU4ALL framework is to mediate individual access to educational resources through an open service architecture which addresses both the provision of alternative formats and the way that information about student disability is shared through HEA institutions.  I was responsible for evaluating the prototypes deveoped by IET, and developed & carried out an evaluation programme which included user testing, focus groups and student surveys.

Interdisciplinary Research in the context of Technology-Enhanced Learning

The growth in research into the use of technology in education has drawn together research teams from many different backgrounds, including educationalists, psychologists, information scientists, and technologists, as well as subject specialists. This research project explores interdisciplinarity in a TEL context, and evaluates the ways in which technology might support and document interdisciplinary research. The project is led by Grainne Conole and Eileen Scanlon. My main contributions were to provide an up-to-date literature review, capture the ongoing Cloudworks consultation and synthesise these materials into a summary of current debates, epistemological and methodological issues, teaching interdisciplinarity, and what interdisciplinarity might mean in a TEL context.

Mobile Learning Evaluation

I interviewed Open University course chairs and course managers to ascertain the impact of IET's Mobile Learning Guide, written by Agnes Kukulska-Hulme and Anna Page in 2009, across the OU as a whole.

Securing Greater Accessibility (SeGA)

I audited the information on Accessibility that may be found on the OU internet and intranet sites to see how logically the materials are organised. This has led to a second phase of input for me, contributing to the review of where responsibility and accountability for accessibility reside within the Open University.

MOTILL (Mobile Technologies in Lifelong Learning)

In my first role in IET, I collected and analysed data on best practices in mobile and lifelong learning, wrote numerous reviews of scientific literature mobile and lifelong learning, and provided secondary research into EU policy directives, digital strategy in the UK, and pedagogy.  I worked with a range of policymakers (including JISC, NIACE, Becta and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Adult and Lifelong Learning) to disseminate and apply research into mobile learning arising from MOTILL.


Previous Roles

Before taking on my current role(s) I worked as part of the Learning and Teaching Development Team supporting both staff within the Institute, academics in the faculties and other units in the University in the  areas of accessibility, usability and developmental testing, supporting research and undertaking academic collaboration.


Before joining the Open University, I taught philosophy at the University of Essex, where I studied for a PhD in philosophy.  During my time at Essex, I also worked as Editorial Office Manager for the journal Inquiry:  An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.  My philosophical research interests gravitate toward ethics, social and political philosophy, and philosophical anthropology. I have particular interests in normative accounts of human nature and the role these play in self-understanding, political debate, and social criticism. Similarly, I'm thinking about the ambiguous ways that information technologies are changing the way we communicate (something I approach from a broadly Habermasian perspective).

Outside of academia, I have worked in research and policy in the education and voluntary sectors. My previous employers include the National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (NALDIC) and the Association of Charity Shops.

Teaching interests

Although my role is mainly to research, I'm interested in how openness can lead to different approaches to learning and teaching.  My most recent teaching has been conducted through the School of Open, where I was co-author on a short course on Open Research which anyone can take for free.  

I taught PY-111 Introduction to Philosophy at the University of Essex while I was a PhD student.  In many ways, this was the beginning of my foray into educational technoogy, as I started a teaching blog to try and find ways to cultivate the learning experience outside the classroom.  While at Essex I also facilitated research skills seminars for doctoral students and taught conversational English to French summer school students.

All these activities were recorded as part of a professional portfolio for which I was awarded a Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education and offered Associate membership of the Higher Education Academy.

Partly arising from my interest in OER visualisation I am exploring the ways in which philosophical ideas, traditions and texts have been mapped or visualised and used pedagogically.  I keep track of these here.

External collaborations

  • Since 2014 I have acted as consultant on open education research for the ROER4D project, focusing on providing support to their impact case study grantees as they research the difference open resources are making in the Global South

Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
CREET: Technology Enhanced Learning ClusterClusterInstitute of Educational Technology


Externally funded projects

Launching the Development of an OER World Map: Phase 2

RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead02/Dec/201401/Dec/2015The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
This paper proposes an approach to build an OER World Map as requested by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. It builds upon phase I, in which we have successfully built a prototype in a relatively short time frame. The scope is much broader though, as we believe that for open education to be successful, a vivid and open community is at least as important as building upon open licenses, open source software and open data standards. Community building and actively involving the community in the development process is thus at the core of the suggested approach. The basic technical features of the proposed solution remain the same as in the prototype, albeit with a much greater focus on the user interface.


A Framework for the Ethics of Open Education (2016-05-13)
Farrow, Robert
Open Praxis, 8(2) (pp. 93-109)
Personalising learning through adaptation: Evidence from a global survey of K-12 teachers’ perceptions of their use of open educational resources (2016-04)
de los Arcos, Beatriz; Farrow, Robert; Pitt, Rebecca; Weller, Martin and McAndrew, Patrick
Journal of Online Learning Research, 2(1) (pp. 23-40)
Open education and critical pedagogy (2016)
Farrow, Robert
Learning, Media and Technology ((Early access))
Who are the Open Learners? A Comparative Study Profiling non-Formal Users of Open Educational Resources (2015-12-08)
Farrow, Robert; de los Arcos, Beatriz; Pitt, Rebecca and Weller, Martin
EURODL (European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning), 18(2) (pp. 50-74)
The Impact of OER on Teaching and Learning Practice (2015-11-26)
Weller, Martin; de los Arcos, Bea; Farrow, Rob; Pitt, Beck and McAndrew, Patrick
Open Praxis, 7(4) (pp. 351-361)
Impact of OER use on teaching and learning: data from OER Research Hub (2013–2014) (2015-09)
Farrow, Robert; Pitt, Rebecca; de los Arcos, Beatriz; Perryman, Leigh-Anne; Weller, Martin and McAndrew, Patrick
British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(5) (pp. 972-976)
Gaming and the limits of digital embodiment (2014-07-01)
Farrow, Robert and Iacovides, Ioanna
Philosophy & Technology, 27(2) (pp. 221-233)
Rethinking OER and their use: open education as Bildung (2013-07-01)
Farrow, Robert and Deimann , Markus
International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 14(3) (pp. 344-360)
Adapting online learning resources for all: planning for professionalism in accessibility (2012-12-19)
McAndrew, Patrick; Farrow, Robert and Cooper, Martyn
Research in Learning Technology, 20(4) (pp. 345-361)
Learning the lessons of openness (2012)
McAndrew, Patrick; Farrow, Robert; Law, Patrina and Elliott-Cirigottis, Gary
Journal of Interactive Media in Education
Open education research: from the practical to the theoretical (2013)
McAndrew, Patrick and Farrow, Robert
In: McGreal, Rory; Kinuthia, Wanjira and Marshall, Stewart eds. Open Educational Resources: Innovation, Research and Practice (pp. 65-78)
ISBN : 978-1-894975-62-9 | Publisher : Commonwealth of Learning and Athabasca University | Published : Vancouver, Canada
That’s a Problem, Not a Gift (2012-08)
Farrow, Robert and Rodwell, James
In: Ralkowski, Mark ed. Curb your enthusiasm and philosophy: awaken the social assassin within. Popular Culture and Philosophy (69) (pp. 155-170)
ISBN : 978-0-8126-9766-7 | Publisher : Open Court
Best Practices (2010)
Arnedillo-Sánchez, Inmaculada; Arrigo, Marco; Crehan, Freida; Dal Grande, Paola; Di Giuseppe, Onofrio; Farrow, Robert; Fulantelli, Giovanni; Gabor, Andras; Gentile, Manuel; Kismihok, Gabor; Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes; Merlo, Gianluca; Peasgood, Alice; Pettit, John; Seta, Luciano and Taibi, Davide
In: Arrigo, M.; Di Giuseppe, O.; Fulantelli, G.; Gentile, M.; Merlo, G.; Seta, L. and Taibi, D. eds. MOTILL Mobile Technologies in Lifelong Learning: Best Practices (pp. 34-37)
ISBN : 978-88-903133-4-9 | Publisher : Italian National Research Council - Institute for Educational Technology
The Frankfurt School / Critical Theory (2009-06-25)
Farrow, Robert
In: Mullarky , John and Lord, Beth eds. The Continuum Companion to Continental Philosophy. Bloomsbury Companions
Publisher : Continuum | Published : London
'Adorno' (2009)
Farrow, Robert
In: Mullarkey, John and Lord, Beth eds. The Continuum Companion to Continental Philosophy (pp. 279-280)
ISBN : 978-0-8264-9830-4 | Publisher : Continuum | Published : London
'Habermas' (2009)
Farrow, Robert
In: Mullarkey, John and Lord, Beth eds. The Continuum Companion to Continental Philosophy (pp. 299-300)
ISBN : 978-0-8264-9830-4 | Publisher : Continuum | Published : London
'Frankfurt School' (2009)
Farrow, Robert
In: Mullarkey, John and Lord, Beth eds. The Continuum Companion to Continental Philosophy (pp. 294-295)
ISBN : 978-0-8264-9830-4 | Publisher : Continuum | Published : London
Habermas (2009)
Farrow, Robert
In: Mullarky, John and Lord, Beth eds. The Continuum Companion to Continental Philosophy. Bloomsbury Companions (pp. 299-300)
ISBN : 9780826498304 | Publisher : Continuum
The ecology of sharing: synthesizing OER research (2013)
McAndrew, Patrick and Farrow, Robert
In : OER 13: Creating a virtuous circle (26-27 March 2013, Nottingham)
Bildung as a critical foundation for Open Education (2012-10)
Farrow, Robert and Deimann, Markus
In : Open Education 2012: Beyond Content (October 16-18, 2012, University of British Columbia, Vancouver)
Learning the Lessons of Openness (2012-04)
McAndrew, Patrick; Farrow, Robert; Law, Patrina and Elliott-Cirigottis, Gary
In : Cambridge 2012: Innovation and Impact – Openly Collaborating to Enhance Education, a joint meeting of OER12 and OpenCourseWare Consortium Global 2012 (16-18 April 2012, Cambridge, UK )
‘In the game’? Embodied subjectivity in gaming environments (2012-03)
Farrow, Robert and Iacovides, Ioanna
In : 6th International Conference on the Philosophy of Computer Games: the Nature of Player Experience (29-31 January 2012, Madrid, Spain)
The open education evidence hub: a collective intelligence tool for evidence based policy (2012)
De Liddo, Anna; Buckingham Shum, Simon; McAndrew, Patrick and Farrow, Robert
In : Cambridge 2012: Joint OER12 and OpenCourseWare Consortium Global 2012 Conference (16 - 18 April 2012, Cambridge, UK)
Mobile learning: a meta-ethical taxonomy (2011)
Farrow, Robert
In : IADIS International Conference, Mobile Learning 2011 (10-12 March 2011, Avila, Spain)
Involving Policymakers in Research Partnership: The MOTILL Project Experience (2010-10)
Farrow, Robert and Fulantelli, Giovanni
In : International Conference & Workshops on Higher Education, Partnership and Innovation (6-8 Sep, Budapest)
OER Evidence Report 2013-2014 (2014-11-20)
de los Arcos, B.; Farrow, R.; Perryman, L.-A.; Pitt, R. and Weller, M.
OER Research Hub
Book review - Good Porn: A Woman’s Guide (2011-02-06)
Farrow, Robert
Technology-enhanced learning as a site for interdisciplinary research (2010-10)
Conole, Grainne; Scanlon, Eileen; Mundin, Paul and Farrow, Robert
Technology Enhanced Learning Research Programme; Economic and Social Research Council; Institute of Education, London.
Book review: Heidegger, Work and Being (2010-06-18)
Farrow, Robert
Marx & Philosophy Review of Books
Mobile Technologies in Lifelong Learning (MOTILL): Scientific Annotated Review Database (2010)
Farrow, Robert; Arrigo, Marco; Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes and Arnedillo-Sánchez, Inmaculada
Interdisciplinary Research: Findings from the TEL Research Programme (2010)
Conole, Grainne; Scanlon, Eileen; Mundin, Paul and Farrow, Robert
TEL Programme