Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

50 objects for 50 years. No 26. The Computers and Learning Research Group.

Monday, October 15th, 2018

This week’s object is a Group which is marking its 4oth birthday this week.

A key activity within The Open University, as in other universities, is the generation of knowledge through research. The OU’s specialist areas include, of course, learning at a distance and open learning.

Teaching and learning are central to both these subjects. They’re supported by the use of technology – from television and radio to the Internet and virtual reality. The OU is therefore ideally placed to investigate what new technologies have to offer learners other than novelty value.

For the past forty years, the Computers and Learning research group (CALRG), based in the Institute of Educational Technology, has been linking this research and development work across the University, communicating ideas, and bringing people together. This collective effort has been linked by the group’s visions of a future when:

  • Learning is accessible for everyone.
  • Teaching is adapted to meet learners’ needs.
  • Teams can successfully teach any number of students at a distance
  • Learners engage enthusiastically with STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) learning.

The OU Archives contain hundreds of resources generated by the group: abstracts from the annual conferences it has run since its foundation, videos of keynote speeches, research reviews, and research reports.

The group currently meets on a Thursday four times a month. First Thursdays are research seminars with a mixture of internal and external speakers. On second Thursdays, the group discusses how best to communicate research – not only to an academic audience but also the wider world through broadcast and social media. The third meeting of the month is an opportunity to share research with each other, and the final meeting offers a chance for general discussion over coffee and cake.

CALRG provides an opportunity to make and strengthen connections. Connections between senior and junior staff  and research students, connections between departments, and connections between academic and non-academic staff. Where possible, meetings and conferences are recorded or live-streamed, so they can be accessed by regional staff, associate lecturers, and part-time EdD students.

This week, there’s a chance to join CALRG in celebrating 40 years of research. The event on campus in the Berrill lecture theatre is already fully booked. Here, you can sign up to join online on Friday 19 October 9am-5pm. Speakers include CALRG founders Regius Professor Eileen Scanlon and Sir Tim O’Shea, Cambridge emeritus professor Neil Mercer and UCL professor Diana Laurillard, as well as some of the group’s leading current researchers.

This posting was contributed by Rebecca Ferguson. If you would like to contribute, get in touch.

Pygmalion, Zeus and OU slippers

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

On 11th June, Jess Hughes and Dan Weinbren discussed how Greek myths have been employed to help us understand the history of the OU. Professor Sewart argued that the OU was like Athena, in that it sprang forth, fully armed, from the head of Zeus. However, Dan Weinbren suggested that this myth marginalised the longer roots of the OU in 18thC part-time courses for adults, nineteenth century correspondence courses and 20th century radio and television. It also marginalised the role of women, notably Jennie Lee, and the role of the state and the market.

We also discussed the value and uses of Ovid’s ‘Pygmalion’ tale, updated by Bernard Shaw just prior to the First World War and again in the film ‘My Fair Lady’ before there was another incarnation in the 1980s with ‘Educating Rita’.

In addition, we considered if the slippers and wellies story, now so frequently retold, was a myth of the OU. See here for the discussion.

Age of Asa Briggs

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

 The Age of Asa (a book aboutLord Briggs including a chapter on his contribution to the OU) will be launched at midday on Thursday 4th December, at the Falmer campus, University of Sussex at which Asa and Susan Briggs will be present.

Forthcoming conference at the Institute of Historical Research, London on ‘The Utopian Universities: a fifty year retrospective’ (23-24 October 2014). It takes as its subject the ‘new’ universities of the 1960s – Sussex, East Anglia, York, Lancaster, Kent, Essex and Warwick. The programme is available at

OU founder tv programme

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

BBC Parliament presents a night of programming to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Harold Wilson’s 1963 election to Labour Party leader. Peter Snow will present a studio discussion talking to contemporaries of the former Prime Minister as they assess his reputation and political legacy.A few months after Harold Wilson became leader of the Labour Party., at Easter 1963, he jotted down an outline of his ideas about a University of the Air and soon afterwards he contributed to a report on Labour’s Higher Education policy. By the autumn, without consultation with his Cabinet colleagues, he launched the idea in speeches. Even though it was not Party policy he pushed and organised and, despite the opposition from within the civil service, the BBC and his own Shadow Cabinet and later Cabinet, he persevered. Moreover, he knew when to let others develop the idea. The OU which opened in 1969 did not look exactly like his original plans, but it owned a great deal to him. The programming is broadcast Thursday 14 February  6.00-11.00pm BBC PARLIAMENT. One of the elements of it is Harold saying that he felt one of his greatest achievements was the OU.

Half a century on from the white heat

Monday, October 1st, 2012

It was 1st October 1963. Having just outlined his plans for a University of the Air, which could he said, make a great contribution to the cultural life of the country and the enrichment of the standard of living, Harold Wilson received a standing ovation at the Labour Party’s Scarborough conference. Next on the agenda was a motion on higher education and scientific manpower. It was moved by a union representative, Sir William Carron of the AEU and seconded by David Grugeon of the Socialist Education Association. Mr Grugeon appealed for an end to the present divisions in the educational system – an end to stratification, streaming, and selection. The educational opportunity must be provided for everybody to ‘go as far as you can for as long as you can benefit’. (more…)

Answers to the OUSA History of the OU quiz

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012


1. Who is the Open University’s current Chancellor? (more…)

OUSA conference

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

The Open University Students Association (OUSA) is holding its conference 22-24 June on the Walton Hall campus.

There will opportunities  to learn about studying, careers, faculties, research and to meet the Vice Chancellor. There is also the History of the OU Quiz. You’ll be able to pick up copies when you come along to the talk about the history of the OU at 4pm in the Jennie Lee Building Room 1. Alternatively, you can pick up copies on the Campus History Tour. Meet at the OUSA Desk at 3pm. Both these events will take place on 22nd June. The quiz answers will appear on this blog on 27th June at two minutes past midnight.

Markets, Expertise and the Public University: A crisis in knowledge for democracy?

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Regular readers will know that we often stress that one of the roots of the OU lies in the social democracy post-war welfare settlement as exemplified by the input of Wilson, Lee, Young, Perry and others. In addition it has been suggested that the OU also led the way towards some of the changes associated with the development of the quasi-market within the higher education sector. Now the relationship between democracy, the market and the universities is to be considered in a keynote address to be made at the OU. (more…)

Decades of impact: TAD292 lives on

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

TAD292 Art and environment (1976-85) was a distinctive course chaired by Simon Nicholson (1934-1990) who had studied at the Royal College of Art, London, and the University of Cambridge and between 1964 and 1971 taught at the University of Berkeley, California. It sought to develop ‘strategies for creative work’ and it dealt with

the processes and attitudes of art not so much as these were evidenced in products of art but as they underlie the very act of doing art. This can be seen already from the titles which were given to some of the units in the course: ‘Boundary Shifting’, ‘Imagery and Visual Thinking’, ‘Having Ideas by Handling Materials’.

TAD292 students were offered a range of projects on this 30-point course. These included the suggestion that the student stop activity and engage in listening. Another was to compose a score for sounds made from differently textured papers and a third was to enumerate the household’s activities and categorise these in terms of role and sex stereotyping. The aims of the course were attitudional, sensory and subjective rather than cognitive, relating to feeling rather than knowledge. They were ‘more phenomenological than conceptual in nature’. Assessment involved a student not only submitting the product, such as a self-portrait photograph, but also notes describing the process and rationale. The criteria were not specific but involved formulations including enthusiasm, imagination and authenticity. See Philippe C. Duchastel, ‘TAD292 – and its challenge to Educational Technology’, Programmed Learning & Educational Technology, 13, 4, October 1976, pp. 61-66. The course received considerable publicity. In 1976 The World  At One, a BBC radio news programme, reported on TAD292 at one summer school:

Bizarre games and happenings formed a part of experimental residential course for a group of students at Sussex University. They were encouraged to make prints of various parts of their bodies. Some made bare bottom prints, other dragged rubbish through the streets and one group appeared to be aimlessly kicking a giant rugby ball about. (more…)

Calls for papers

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

This from Bournemouth:  

Thursday May 3rd 2012 ‘Addressing the Audience: European Historical Perspectives’,  The Centre for Broadcasting History, Bournemouth University  

Broadcasting History and Media History more generally have tended to focus on institutions and production rather than the audience. There are obviously methodological challenges in studying audiences of the past but there is nothing to stop a consideration of how audiences were imagined and spoken to, and that will be our main theme. This informal one day gathering brings together British and European scholars to exchange ideas and research. It also reflects the ‘European turn’ in media history which has been a feature of recent research projects and publications. We have invited media historians from the universities of Utrecht, Lund, Hamburg, Maastricht and Roskilde to share research and ideas.  We invite papers on the history of audience address (British or European) however that is interpreted. The following key note speakers are confirmed; Patrik Lundell, University of Lund & Kate Lacey, Susex University. Contributions are welcome from academics and researchers interested in the history of broadcasting (radio and television but other media historians are welcome to join us) as well as doctoral students, archivists and curators.  

ABSTRACTS: Please send abstracts of less than 250 words before 2nd April to<> (Kathryn McDonald)  

This from Edge Hill 

The Centre for Learner Identity Studies 4th Annual Conference, themed around ‘Identity, State, Education’ is to take place at Edge Hill University on July 11th-13th 2012. The call closes on the 28th February. See  

We are hoping that the conference will provide opportunities for a wide range of issues to be discussed, ranging from curriculum and pedagogy to policies and structures. We welcome contributions from researchers at all stages of their careers and the call is for paper, symposia and roundtable presentation abstracts. The conference aims to explore the changing role of the state in the provision of mass education from national and international perspectives and to consider the impacts on structures of educational provision, delivery and governance of a range of pressures, including, for example, marketization, neo-liberalism and globalisation.  

This from Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa: 

Since its inception in 1998, the Higher Education Close Up (HECU) Conference has distinguished itself among conferences with a focus on higher education for its interest in research methodology, in particular qualitative approaches which afford fine-grained analysis of higher education practices. Over the five conferences themes have included: assessment, academic literacies, professional development, management and change, quality assurance and the student experience. Consistent with this focus, HECU 6 is an opportunity to reflect upon higher education research from a theoretical and methodological perspective.  

Higher Education Close Up 6 Conference, 11 – 13 July 2012. The theme of the HECU6 conference is ‘Challenging Dualisms in Higher Education Research and Practice’.  Research and practice in higher education abounds with dualisms, in the HECU 4 conference, for example, Paul Ashwin identified problems associated with the dualism of structure and agency, other such dualisms include quantitative/qualitative, essentialist/non-essentialist, macro/micro, academic/vocational.  At this conference four dualisms are considered in the Thinkpieces of the keynote speakers: 



Essentialism/Social Constructionism 


Conference participants are invited to submit abstract that speak to these dualisms in the Thinkpieces. 

This from Saint Andrews:  

Function, form and funding: What are universities for – and who should pay for them?.  An international conference hosted by the University of St Andrews, UK 29 – 31 August 2012  

To mark the 600th anniversary of the foundation of St Andrews University, the School of History and the Institute of Scottish Historical Research are joining with the International Commission for the History of Universities to host an international conference on the theme of ‘Function, form and funding: What are universities for – and who should pay for them?’  

The conference theme is intended to allow for an exploration of both the historic and contemporary function of university education and the extent to which its academic purposes have been, and still are, driven by broader economic, social and political issues.