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Professional and Digital Learning

Learning for work is a critical component of innovation and the adoption of new and contemporary work practices, characterised by augmented specialisation, agile transformation and new forms of organisation. At the same time developments in technologies and digital networks are stimulating the evolution of systemic new work practices while automating others. We are leading state-of-the-art research aiming to understand and advance these transformations.

Our research is exploring and enhancing the ways professionals learn in different organisations. We are currently working with:

  • multinational companies, like Shell, as well as Small to Medium Enterprise organisations;
  • professional bodies representing different sectors, such as the Energy Institute, the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments and the Higher Education Academy;
  • public sector organisations in policing, health, and education;
  • the third sector, including International Development Organisations such as Christian Aid; and
  • Government organisations.

The Professional and Digital Learning research programme was launched in September 2016 which incorporates a range of externally funded research, PhD studies and internally funded research, along with a range of consultancy and knowledge exchange activities. These activities are underpinned by a mixed-method philosophy, incorporating a range of methods, from quantitative to qualitative (including developmental work research methods such as Change Laboratory). Outputs include research grants, publications, academic collaborations both within the Open University and with international research centres, development of the PhD community and research culture, contributing towards the REF2020, and to industry-academia collaboration leading to improved Digital Innovation within the Open University.

The research programme was launched in September 2016 with the following projects:

For more information contact the programme lead, Allison Littlejohn.

Funded research


  • 2015-18 Engaging research in the digital university: A civil society perspective Funded by Leverhulme
    PI: Jude Franzman, Open University, UK
  • 2015-17 Evidence and the politics of participation in academic-INGO Funded by ESRC Seminar Series
    PI: Jude Franzman, Open University, UK in partnership with Christian Aid, Action Aid, HIV/AIDS Alliance, University College London (Institute of Education), IDS and London School of Economics
  • 2016-19 Learning From Incidents and Implementing Action (LFI-Action) Funded by the Energy Institute and Shell.
    PI: Allison Littlejohn Open University, UK; Co-I: Bart Rienties, Open University, UK; Razif Yusoff, Shell, Netherlands; Stuart King, Energy Institute, UK; Robin Bryden, Shell, Netherlands; Doctoral Candidate Vicky Murphy, Open University, UK.
  • 2015-ongoing National Centre for Policing Research ad Professional Development Funded by the police
    PI: Anne Adams, Gill Clough and Jean Hartley Open University, UK

Completed research (since 2015)

  • 2015-16 Improving social capital for learning: the Edinburgh Editathon Funded by University of Edinburgh
    PI: Allison Littlejohn, Open University, UK; Co-I Melissa Highton, University of Edinburgh; UK; Martin Rehm, University of Duisberg-Essen, Germany; Nina Hood, University of Auckland, New Zealand; Bart Rientes, Open University, UK;
  • 2014-16 Supporting OER reuse in Learning Ecosystems: ExplOERer Funded by Erasmus+
    PI: Sylvi Vigmo, University of Gothenberg, Sweden WP leader: Allison Littlejohn, Open University; WP Leader; Anna Comas Quinn, Open University, UK; Co-I: Nina Hood, Open University, UK; Heli Kaatrakoski, Open University, UK.

Sample publications

  • Littlejohn, A., Hood, N, Milligan, C. & Mustain, P. (2016) Learning in MOOCs: Motivations and Self-Regulated Learning in MOOCs, The Internet and Higher Education, 29, 40-48 [impact factor 2.048]
  • Littlejohn, A., Milligan, C., & Fontana, R.P. & Margaryan, A. (2016) Professional learning through everyday work: How finance professionals self-regulate their learning, Vocations & Learning, 1-20 [impact factor 1.559]
  • Hood, N. & Littlejohn, A. (2015) Bridging learning and teaching: the intertwining of socio-cognitive and sociocultural factors in adult-educators’ engagement with Open Education Resources, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (JCAL) [impact factor = 1.36]
  • Littlejohn, A. & Hood, N. (2016) How Educators Build Knowledge and Expand their Practice: the case of open education resources, British Journal of Educational Technology. [impact factor 2.098]
  • Littlejohn, A. & Hood, N. (2016) Knowledge typologies for professional learning: educators’ (re)generation of knowledge when learning open educational practice, Learning Media & Technology [impact factor 1.569]
  • Hood, N., Littlejohn, A., & Milligan, C. (2015). Context counts: How learners' contexts influence learning in a MOOC. Computers & Education, 91, 83-91. [impact factor 2.059]

Research team in Professional and Digital Learning

Currently, the team of researchers involved in projects as part of the Professional and Digital Learning programme are:

Doctural Students