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Pedagogy for online labs and observatories

Research Online science experimentation with The Open University

The Open University is a world leader in providing distance learning in science. Online experimentation and observations are at the heart of our pedagogy and our students are able not only to learn about the facts and concepts of science but also to practise as scientists.
New technologies (e.g. mobile devices, immersive environments, crowd sourcing) are opening up new possibilities to practise science authentically. We recently won the Times Higher Education (THE) award for outstanding ICT initiative of the year (2014) for the Wolfson OpenScience Laboratory that exploits these technologies. The laboratory, which was launched in July 2013, is a cross-disciplinary initiative involving the STEM faculty, other OU units and UK and international partners. In 2016, a major new initiative involving robotically controlled equipment has led to the OpenSTEM Labs, which provides an excellent environment for pedagogic research into the use of remote access laboratories. Researching in this area will bring students into contact with a very diverse academic community who are working to advance an area that is challenging but has profound developmental importance.

Qualifications available:



For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

2.1 in a science or science-related subject

Potential research projects

The following indicate broad areas within which individual projects on online science experimentation would be framed:

  • the design and value of inquiry-based science exploration by the citizen
  • development and evaluation of learning analytics to assess and guide learning
  • supporting conceptual understanding through practical science investigations
  • development and evaluation of 3D immersive environments as virtual laboratories, for 3D visualisations and virtual field trip experiences
  • exploration of the utility of smartphones in linking nature to databases
  • evaluation of remote tools for observation and experiment
  • design and evaluation of mobile devices in learning practical science
  • design and evaluation of online practical science experiences for students in countries with limited technical infrastructure.

Current/recent research projects

  • Helping citizen scientists read and write like scientists: learning analytics and authentic inquiry
  • Open inquiry learning in citizen science
  • Practical science instruction via remote and virtual experiments: relating authenticity, sociability and metafunctionality to effective pedagogy (Marcus Brodeur)
  • Design and evaluation of technology-enhanced learning for field trips within and across cultures
  • Teaching practical physics in Africa

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Administrative support
+44 (0)1908 659036

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.