An exciting series of talk in the Summer 2021!

Welcome back! I hope all of you have had a well-deserved break over the easter and have enjoyed a bit of sun amid some gloomy rain.

This week marks the start of our summer series of CALRG seminars! In this series, we will have colleagues from IET, including Rob, Simon, Jane, Maria, sharing their research on open education, teacher development and supporting learning during Covid-19. Agnes, Bart and Corina will also hold a session on the Innovating Pedagogy 2021 introducing some of the topics covered. Our alumni Katy will also talk her work on Ed-tech hub while Mike will introduce mobile learning through 10 objects.

Beside colleagues in IET, we are also pleased to be able to invite teams from WELS to talk about their research on MOOCs, language learning and e-health.

For more information on individual seminars, please visit the Event page, though we are still updating each event with abstract when it is around the corner.

Last but not least, our annual conference will be held on 15-16 June, and it will be another online conference! This conference will have two prestigious keynote speakers, one of whom is our alumni Simeon and another, Tamara from the United States.  And more importantly, you, who will be presenting or attending the conference. Do submit your work to share with us in the conference.

We look forward to e-meeting you in one of our weekly session and annual conference!


End of Spring term 2021

Today’s talk by Dr Louise Drumm from Edinburgh Napier University brought an end to our series of talk in the spring term 2021. Beside Louise, we also had Nils from University of Cologne and Tony from University of Cape Town in this series of talk. We are grateful to have external speakers joining us and expanded our reach outside of OU.

We have had a variety of topics in the past spring term. Rebecca and Tony had got us into taking chance to revolutionize online meetings, not limited to just responding to the Covid-19 restriction. Tim and colleagues from WELS, Alison, Claire, Tom presented their collaboration with educators in Africa to promote digital education, while Saraswati and colleagues from other universities presented their wok in Nepal and Bangladesh. Johanna, our alumni, also presented her PhD on creativity and game-based learning. Tina, our micro-credentials lead, presented guidance on making learning@scale accessible. Thea talked about citizenship. This variety of talk not only touched on digital learning, but also international development and online practices. To revisit some of these presentations, you can view the recording in the seminar recordings.

After such a wonderful series of sessions, we will have a two-week break for easter. We will then kickstart our summer term in mid-April. The summer series consists of themes on open education, Covid-19 and presentation from outside of IET and OU. So there are a lot to look forward to, not to mention our annual summer conference! We will soon send out our call for papers. Watch this space!





Talk 25th March: Building your own map: academic careers in digital education

On Thursday 25th March, Dr Louise Drumm, Lecturer in the Department of Learning and Teaching Enhancement at Edinburgh Napier University, will present a CALRG session on the value in reflecting on an academic career.

When academic careers are discussed, the pathway of a career or its trajectory are seldom considered. Academic careers are not always as systematic as they may seem, and lived experiences can be varied, divergent and uncontrolled.

Though digital education has stumbled into a wide-reaching limelight due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the field of digital education is poorly understood as an area for research and academic endeavour.

As Dr Louise Drumm describes, this can be a freedom but also a barrier to legitimising your career. Dr Drumm added further:

“Academic careers are increasingly managed within institutional systems which can be obscure to those who may be starting out. Turning these experiences into personal stories can help us demystify and underline that there is no ‘right way’ to ‘do’ an academic career and success can look like many different things and is entirely dependent on the individual to define”.

Discussing the value of considering an academic career in the round, Dr Drumm shared: “We live societies and times where we are encouraged to see divides as naturally occurring, e.g. work/life, professional/personal etc. Yet these are artificial and often impossible to maintain.”

“I believe seeing our ‘whole selves’ and others’ ‘whole selves’ as valuable and relevant, whatever the situation, is important. This is not about over-sharing or being self-indulgent, but moving beyond closed thinking about roles, titles or metrics to measure our worth or success”.

In this CALRG session, Dr Drumm will explore what can be learned from our own and others’ experiences to help move ourselves forward; to build our own maps into territories where no one has been before?

Discussing what Dr Drumm was most looking forward to sharing with the CALRG community, they stated: “I’m most looking to meeting the participants and learning about their contexts and experiences”.

This interactive seminar will incorporate moments for reflection thought sharing using digital tools, in order to trace back over the weird and overlapping pathways of one career (so far), emphasising the value in seeing ourselves and others in-the-round, where we value the whole self.

​To attend the session, email for an invitation.

About our speaker:
Dr Louise Drumm is a Lecturer in the Department of Learning and Teaching Enhancement at Edinburgh Napier University. She is the programme leader for the MSc in Blended and Online Education and also teaches and supervises on the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning Teaching and Academic Practice in Higher Education.​ She has worked in a number of universities in the UK as a learning technologist, academic developer, lecturer and software developer. She is also an experienced theatre director and practitioner and likes to explore creative approaches to academic development. Her PhD, from Glasgow Caledonian University, was on the role of theory in teaching with technology in higher education. Her research interests include the relationship between digital teaching and theory, critical digital pedagogy, open education practices, creative methods, digital literacies and academic development.

A CALRG manifesto for online meetings

It has been one year since we last have in-person meetings. Although most of us might be missing the ‘physical touch’ of conferences, seminars and meetings, we have also been able to adapt and utilize technology to come up with new ways of online meetings. It is not a replacement of in-person meeting, but an innovative development of meeting!

On 11 March, Rebecca from IET gathered us together to share our experiences in  online meetings, and what we envision as a good online meeting. Here are the contributions from some of the participants.



shared with us

Talk 4th March: Mobile learning with Math Trails

On Thursday 4 March between 11:00am -12:00pm, Professor Dr Nils Buchholtz will present a CALRG session, reporting on the experience of students’ mobile learning when working with digital supported math trails in maths education.

“The fact that mathematics takes place outside the classroom for once is a welcome change from everyday school life”, shared Prof Dr Nils Buchholtz, Professor of Mathematics and Didactics at the University of Cologne’s Institute for Mathematics Didactics.

Presenting research conducted with school-age maths students, Prof. Buchholtz’s CALRG session will expore Math Trails, a mobile learning activity that allows students to experience maths with objects in their immediate environment.

Math trails take students on a guided tour through their city or the close surroundings of their school. On these tours students can solve different maths problems by estimating, measuring and calculating sizes, providing an dynamic layer to activities pupils would do in the classroom.

The CALRG session will provide insight from video-recorded research conducted with ten groups of students from two maths classes, showing students complete math trails supported by the app Actionbound.

Analysis of the math trail videos revealed different phases of the modelling processes and how mobile devices supported and scaffolded students’ mobile learning during their work on the trail.

Discussing these findings, and the importance of encouraging students to learn maths outside of the school setting, Prof. Buchholtz stated: “The fact that mathematics takes place outside the classroom for once is a welcome change from everyday school life. However, since the tasks on Math Trails also involve objects and phenomena from the students’ immediate environment, this can provide a special content-related motivation (e.g., when regular mathematical patterns are suddenly discovered in floor tiles, or the climbing frame on the playground suddenly becomes the subject of discrete math considerations, for example, when vertices and edges are counted).”

“The use of digital devices when supporting math trails digitally can provide additional motivation, since smartphone use is not permitted in many places, at least in Germany.”

“The results are encouraging. We can observe at many points as students work with the tasks that they engage in a variety of different activities, ranging from strategic planning to interpreting and validating mathematical solutions.”

To attend the session contact

CALRG 2020 Evaluation Report

The Computers and Learning Research Group (CALRG) held its 41st annual conference solely online for the first time in 2020. With some funding from OpenTEL, CALRG were able to collect extended feedback on the experiences of organisers, presenters and participants about attending an online conference. The findings have been compiled into a short report with practical recommendations that you can find here CALRG 2020 Evaluation Report!

Recommendations include:

  • For organisers: Take accessibility into consideration when selecting the platform for your conference and in the options given to presenters (e.g., some may prefer to send in a recording of the presentation and just take live questions)
  • For presenters: Set a timer next to your screen as it is hard for the facilitator to give you a discrete reminder about reaching your time limit.
  • For participants: Mute your mic when not speaking.

The ongoing pandemic will mean that CALRG2021 is likely to be held at least partly online. This report will inform the planning and running of the event, and the organisers will use this report’s evaluation methods as a starting point for an upstream evaluation approach to understanding the benefits and challenges of CALRG2021 (scheduled for 15-16 June 2020).

CALRG talk: OU leading community education in Zimbabwe

​​​On Thursday 11 February, Tom Power and Dr Alison Buckler presented a CALRG session how community champions in remote communities in Zimbabwe are providing digital learning resources to learners.

“The community came to me and said ‘Mrs Dumisilele, should we let these children fail because of COVID? Are we saying this is the end of everything because of COVID?’. That is when I started to negotiate with them. I said ‘OK, if you are willing to let your children come to my house, I will teach them’” (Community Learning Champion)

Presenting alongside project members Claire Hedges, and Dr Margaret Ebubedike, research conducted by WELS, and project partners World Vision Zimbabwe, has explored the complexities of learning being remote for many children in low-income countries who are offline.

Record numbers of children worldwide have been required to not go to school. It has been predicted that a prolonged absence from school will be devastating for millions of children’s futures. However, questions about when or how to re-open schools, particularly in poor contexts, are highly complex.

OU researchers have explored how technology can be used as a creative solution to support the learning of children in these contexts. This CALRG session will share key findings from the CHILD (Community Help for Inclusive Learning and Development) study, carried out in collaboration with colleagues from World Vision Zimbabwe.

The seminar will also share these experiences of Community Learning Champions who have been delivering education materials, as well as propose recommendations for mobilising community volunteers to support children’s learning during emergency school closures.

Discussing the findings which will be shared in the session, Dr Alison Buckler stated:

“Sporadic disruptions and unpredictable and uneven returns to school are likely to be features of education for millions of children for the foreseeable future. Exploring how community education champions can be mobilised and supported is crucial to understanding more about the diverse and creative ways children’s learning can be maintained”.

Read the project report here

For more information contact

Ethics in Educational Technology Project

In the past six months educational technology has received an increasing amount of attention in the media, as many schools and universities have begun teaching at a distance. Rather than a recent fad however, educational technology has a long history going back several decades, although recent events have catalysed uptake. As educational technology becomes increasingly integrated into learning in schools, universities, workplaces, and people’s free-time, it is more important than ever to consider how to use it ethically.

With this in mind, the Open University’s openTEL research group has initiated a project to examine the ethics surrounding technology enhanced learning (TEL). Often ethics is spoken about in relation to one TEL domain (such as AI or learning analytics), but, in reality, most issues span the gamut of topics in TEL. Data ownership is as relevant to accessibility or citizen science as it is to learning analytics. The Ethics in TEL (EthTEL) project therefore examines ethical issues around educational technology holistically.

If you would like to share your experiences and opinions on ethics in educational technology, then EthTEL is currently collecting answers to a short survey. The survey can be accessed at and should take around 10 minutes to complete. Whether you’ve experienced educational technology as a student, educator, learning designer, researcher, or some other role, we’d love to hear from you!

If you’d like to hear more about the EthTEL project then please join us at the next Show and TEL event on 2nd November. Guests external to the OU will be able to join using the link

Welcome to CALRG and the new Autumn term

Welcome back to CALRG as we start the Autumn term. We continue to hold our events online, building on the success of the CALRG2020 conference where we were joined by 100 participants from seven countries.

We have an exciting series of talks and events in the Autumn 2020 term for those in the Open University and beyond interested in how computers and other information communication  technologies may support teaching and learning.

Take a look at the events page – we have speakers from the Open University and beyond, but to bring us all together in these extraordinary times, we start on 15th October with a social, informal event – the legendary quiz by IET PhD graduate Vicky Murphy! (now appointed as a Grand Union Fellowship in the Faculty of Business and Law).