You are viewing information for England.  Change country or region.

The critical researcher: educational technology in practice

Technology is dramatically changing educational research and practice, at a time of high demand for ‘evidence-based’ policy and guidance. This module will help you find, interpret and evaluate research and cutting-edge innovations in educational technology, from a global perspective. You will gain skills in critically understanding and interpreting research as reported in social and popular media, blogs, institutional reports and academic papers. Whilst there is an emphasis on rigorous applied research and evaluation, you do not need to have experience or knowledge of using particular research methods. You will also be guided in carrying out a small-scale research study and writing a detailed research plan on a topic of your choice.

Vocational relevance

This module offers those working in a variety of sectors the opportunity to advance their professional knowledge and skills in critically interpreting and applying research findings from educational technology. It would therefore be particularly valuable if you are taking on responsibility for new initiatives or seeking to demonstrate advancement potential. However, it is also useful for those implementing and evaluating new educational technologies in their workplace, or for those considering strategic directions or new policies.

The module is also suitable if you are considering the possibility of an EdD or a PhD, since it provides an introduction to the postgraduate research skills that such higher degrees require, good evidence of ability to engage with research literature and methods, and individual help with the writing of a research proposal.

The module is a core component of our MA in Online and Distance Education (F10), which is no longer available to new students.


H819 is an optional module in our:

This module can also count towards the MA in Online and Distance Education (F10), Postgraduate Diploma in Online and Distance Education (D36) or MA in Education (Applied Linguistics) (F01) which are no longer available to new students.

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. These qualifications allow most postgraduate modules to count towards them. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Find out more in Why the OU?
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

Request your prospectus

Explore our subjects and courses.

Request your copy today

What you will study

Every day, we see new claims of how technology improves learning for everyone. Critical researchers are needed now more than ever, due to these claims (made in both mainstream and in social media) surrounding educational technologies and the ways in which they are used, or abused. This module will enable you to understand and critique the latest developments in research and evaluation in educational technology, and apply these in your own professional context/s.

There have been a number of important and interesting innovations in recent years, and the module will enable you to explore these in depth – for example, learning analytics, open educational resources/open research, and educational technology use in international/diverse cultural contexts (including developing countries). Many of these will be relevant to your own context and we will encourage you to reflect these professional and/or personal perspectives when studying on this module. You will look both at how new educational technologies are researched and at how technology is changing the way educational research is conducted.

These are important for practitioners today because of their need to be well informed of the latest developments in the field, but also for them to have the skills to be able to critically engage with these developments. As a result of doing this module, you will be able not only to read but also understand different types of research reports and the way these reports are directed towards different audiences or stakeholders. You will also gain the skills to initiate, carry out and evaluate high-quality research, and be supported in conducting a piece of small-scale research relevant to your own practice or context. The case studies in the module typically use a variety of research designs to look at the educational potential of technological phenomena such as MOOCs or social media platforms.

This module will help raise your awareness of, and enable you to create reports and other research outputs for a range of audiences which means that this is highly relevant to many aspects of everyday life and professional practices, no matter what sector or discipline you work in. You will also be exposed to new technologies and innovations, and learn how to critically evaluate them in a practice-based context. You will be given a basic introduction to different research methods and start to explore which ones are most appropriate to use and when.

The module will help you innovate in your own personal or professional context by giving you the knowledge and expertise to critically understand recent developments in educational technology. It will also enable you to plan and evaluate research projects or practical implementations that you could apply in your own professional or personal context.

This module represents a wide context of teaching and learning (both formal and informal) that may include case studies from primary, secondary and tertiary education, voluntary organisations, the public sector (e.g. military, police etc.), training and various international bodies, that highlights how relevant these issues are to a large number of people in their everyday lives.

It is suitable for lecturers, teachers, trainers, developers and other professionals working in a variety of sectors. It is appropriate as a standalone professional development module. It can contribute to the OU’s Online and Distance Education programme (Masters, Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma) and can also be useful as a stepping-stone if you’re thinking of applying to undertake a doctorate (PhD or EdD) in education or educational technology in the future.

All materials are delivered online and interactions take place via online forums. This makes the module accessible from anywhere in the world and gives you the added bonus of being part of a lively international community of students able to learn from one another’s experiences in different cultural contexts. You will also be able to connect up with the innovative research carried out by the Institute of Educational Technology at the OU and gain valuable access to the Institute’s world-leading academic expertise.

You will learn

The module will enable you to achieve the following learning outcomes:

Knowledge and understanding
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the strengths and challenges of cutting-edge methods and theories associated with practice-based educational research and evaluation 
  • Develop and demonstrate skills in locating, understanding and critically assessing research published in a variety of formats (e.g. social media, government reports, blogs, academic papers, mainstream media) and other forms of research outputs relevant to such research
  • Show understanding of the diversity of, and issues facing, educational technology research and practice from a global perspective
Cognitive skills
Engage critically with a number of themes associated with practice-based research in educational technology, such as:
  • methodological issues, including issues such as objectivity and validity
  • the changing nature of research
  • ethics, responsibilities and consequences of research (both intended and unintended)
  • relationships between research, policy & practice
Key skills
  • Apply what you have learned to your own professional or personal context
  • Know how to report research or educational technology evaluations in a publishable form that is appropriate to your target audience and other stakeholders
  • Develop skills in, and knowledge of, writing and critiquing research outputs and funding proposals
Practical and/or professional skills
  • Locate, interpret and critically assess published studies relevant to practice-based research in technology-rich environments
  • Develop and demonstrate research skills through engaging in a piece of small-scale research in a context relevant to your everyday practices

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will guide you on many aspects of the module, who will mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. You will be taught and assessed through a combination of media, including email, online forums and the internet.  

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system. An extended piece of work takes the place of an examination.

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in April 2021, which is the last time it will be available.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Entry requirements

    You must be prepared for study at postgraduate level. This usually means holding a bachelors degree - whether from a UK university or from one outside the UK - or its equivalent.

    All teaching is in English, and your proficiency in the language needs to be adequate for postgraduate study and for contributing to online discussions by text and voice. If English is not your first language, we strongly recommend that you make sure you can achieve a score of at least seven in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). To assess your English Language skills in relation to your proposed studies, you can visit the IELTS website.

    You must also have regular access to the internet and be confident in online communication. You do not need experience of discussion forums or real-time online audiographic sessions (e.g. Adobe Connect, Skype) before you start, as you will have plenty of opportunity and guidance to develop these skills. If you have prior experience of reading and understanding academic literature, this may help but it is not a requirement of the module. Much of the module content is drawn from a variety of research outputs, of which academic literature is a small part, and you will be fully supported in reading and interpreting these if you need help.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    Preparatory work is not required for this module; however, if you wish to start immersing yourself in the sort of content that you will be engaging with in the module, you could read some of the following – just choose whichever interests you most:
    • blogs and blog posts from well-known educational technologists such as the OU’s Martin Weller (The Ed Techie,, Stephen Downes (, especially his newsletter) or Sheila MacNeill ( Other blog sites such as may also be of interest.
    • Global perspectives on educational technology from websites such as ICTWorks ( and EduTech (, a World Bank blog on ICT use in education) 
    • the OU’s Innovating Pedagogy reports: a series of annual reports that explores new forms of teaching, learning and assessment for an interactive world, to guide teachers and policy makers in productive innovation. All reports can be freely downloaded from 
    • The OU’s monthly eLearning Digest (, with details of upcoming conferences, MOOC courses and summaries and commentaries of educational technology in the news
    • Material regarding research methods, such as the Ready to Research website ( or the Methods@Manchester site (


    Start End England fee Register
    03 Apr 2021 Oct 2021 £1260.00

    Registration closes 11/03/21 (places subject to availability)

    April 2021 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Future availability

    The details given here are for the module that starts in April 2021, which is the last time it will be available.

    Additional costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    Ways to pay for this module

    We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

    That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

    Study materials

    What's included

    Dedicated module website and taught content; learning activities; online forums; live-voice sessions; Internet resources and clear guidance/suggestions on the use of external websites and resources.

    As an OU student, you can use The Open University Library website. This provides access via the internet to a wide range of online resources such as databases, full-text ejournals, reference sources, ebooks, newspapers, images and more to support your studies. You can use these to do a literature search, keep up-to-date with your subject or read around a topic. Support for developing and improving your information-searching skills is available on the Library website and the Library’s Learner Helpdesk is there seven days a week to provide help and advice on finding and using information.

    You will also get access to the cutting-edge research and academic expertise offered by the Institute of Educational Technology, with direct links to the CALRG (Computers And Learning Research Group), including invitations to both live and asynchronous events – and direct communication with world-leading researchers in educational technology.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either an up-to-date version of Windows or macOS.

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    If you have a disability

    As all the module materials are online, you will be expected to use a wide range of online resources and to study emerging online technologies. Most of these will be delivered as web pages, PDF files and web-based tools. The module follows guidelines in order to meet the needs of students with disabilities and the module being provided online gives access to some students with disabilities who would not be able to participate fully otherwise. We have tried to avoid using inaccessible resources as far as possible, but some material which is core for the module may not be easily accessible for assistive technology users. For example, some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Other alternative formats of the module materials may be available in the future. 
    In addition, students are asked to post and read messages in asynchronous forums and participate in live voice-based audio-graphic sessions (e.g. Adobe Connect), for which some students may need a sighted/hearing helper in order to fully participate in these sessions. Please contact the University in good time before the module starts, to discuss this.
    Written transcripts are available for the audio-visual material. Some students may find it challenging to read and understand different types of readings and research outputs used in this module. There may be sufficient alternative activities and material to complete assignments successfully. Where this is not the case, you will be given individual support by your tutor, in collaboration with other OU staff. Support for access to Library resources is available from the Library Helpdesk. It is your responsibility to make your particular needs known to the University.
    Students are asked to consider a range of audiences in terms of writing and disseminating research outcomes. We encourage more scholarly writing where appropriate and it is possible that some students with e.g. dyslexia may experience some challenges with this, as with other forms of writing e.g. online forums. Tutors will help by working with individual students to find strategies to manage specific learning activities in alternative ways.
    In addition, we will ensure, where possible, that the online module materials are delivered to a technical specification whereby students with dyslexia can make individual adjustments in order to be able to read the material.
    For modules which study the use of emerging online tools, you may find the services of a non-medical helper will be beneficial. Guidance on this is available from an adviser.
    If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer.