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Institute of Educational Technology

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The Institute of Educational Technology (IET) is an international leader in the development of open and distance learning and in digital scholarship. Our research is at the core of The Open University's continuing success in teaching and supporting hundreds of thousands of students studying at a distance, and has had significant impact on open education worldwide.

We focus on four key themes, with a wide range of ongoing projects within each. Learning in an open world focuses on open educational resources, practices and policy; open science; open research; learning design and evaluation; accessibility and open access publishing.

Innovating pedagogy is concerned with the development of technology-enhanced learning, including mobile learning, game-based learning and citizen science.

Learning analytics examines the fast-developing area of how we interpret and build on data generated about the learning experience.

Professional and digital learning is exploring and enhancing the ways professionals learn in different organisations. 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.

The Open University's environment for research in education ranks joint first in the UK in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 and second for quality and quantity in the Times Higher Education Research Power ranking.

Jennie Lee Building photoResearch specialisms

Research impact

IET research was central to the development of: 

  • The OpenLearn website, one of a number of new forms of practical learning online. With 10,000 hours of open learning material it has been accessed by over 22 million visitors and with 200,000 registered users (December 2014)
  • The iSpot website which is supporting citizen science and inspiring a new generation of nature lovers. Millions of spotters are using their mobile devices to upload images of wildlife for identification by the iSpot community
  • TESSA, which is supporting over 500,000 teachers in Sub-Saharan Africa with free high-quality open educational resources

Key research highlights

Using learning design of 200+ modules to map and improve workload, learning satisfaction, and retention of our 170,000+ students.

IET research  examines how the practices of learning for work, and the knowledge required for work, are being transformed by information and communication technologies. Research has identified the importance of combining formal training with informal (on-the-job) learning to enable professionals to learn a broad range of different types of knowledge (theoretical, practical, socio-cultural, regulative and so on). This initial research is expanded in the ExplOERer project, focusing on how professionals learn open practices and in studies with diverse organisations in the Energy Sector (Learning From Incidents, funded by the Energy Institute and Shell), Defence Sector (22 Group Blended Learning funded by Babcock), Education Sector (Production of Resources for Learning at Scale, PhD study) and Health Sector (Open Learning in Midwifery, PhD study).

nQuire-it, an open crowd-sourced science platform led by IET research, is supporting young people to develop their science research skills using their mobile phones.

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