Going for Green: Learning Design sustainability champions

Kathleen Calder, James Openshaw, Catriona Mattews, Hayley Johns, and Paul Astles  ~ Learning Designers

The Learning Design Sustainability Group at The Open University has been championing sustainability at the Open University in one way or another for some time now. The end of 2023 saw a wonderful celebration of that work at the Green Gown Awards 2023.  We were highly commended for our work at the Green Gown Awards. To see what the judges thought about our work you can follow the link to the Green Gown Awards page.

We’ve created a series of top tips about applying for the Green Gown Awards, based on our experience: Planning, Teamwork, Stage 1 and Stage 2.

We’re pleased to share this reflection on our experience of the Green Gown Awards (GGA) process – from thinking about putting our work forward through to the awards dinner and celebrating our achievements in December 2023. Alongside our thoughts we’re also officially unveiling the sustainability resources page on our blog site.

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Beyond the “real world”: exploring authentic assessment design

Mary Simper ~ Learning Designer

The Learning Design team at the OU has been exploring assessment practices, which has led to some rich discussions on accessibility, student choice, learning outcomes and authenticity. Discussions around authentic assessment have led us to think about how we can design assessments, well… more authentically!

Let’s start with an analogy…

Imagine being given a recipe for the best brownie in the world. Wouldn’t you want to bake and taste the brownies? This is called a taste test and it gives bakers the opportunity to experiment before selling products.

Similarly, authentic assessment provides students with a taste test where they mix, measure, and stir ingredients, applying methods to create a final product. A key stage is reviewing how well the process worked and this is akin to reflection, a major component of authentic assessment.

Now that we’re all hungry for brownies, here’s a more concrete definition: Continue reading “Beyond the “real world”: exploring authentic assessment design”

The power of celebration: An exploration of how the simple act of celebration can impact student outcomes and wellbeing.

Catriona Matthews, Clare Hill, James Openshaw ~ Learning Designers

Here at The Open University, we annually recruit a panel of students called the Curriculum Design Student Panel. Students who volunteer for the panel take part in activities designed to gather their views on learning experiences and this feedback can be used to inform the early development of activities, materials and tools. We also ask panel students a ‘Question of the Month’ in a forum, which is usually a brief question about their study experience.

Recently, we asked panel students to tell us how they celebrate their achievements, big and small. Whilst a seemingly light-hearted question, it led to some useful insights about the student experience. There was a lively discussion in the forum with panel students sharing what they considered to be celebratory study events and telling us how celebrating is beneficial to their study. It even led to some panel students vowing to start celebrating or to celebrate more, so the discussion had an immediate positive effect on those involved.

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“It’s OK not to know!”: Professor John Hattie and the power of feedback

Hayley Johns ~ Learning Designer 


Feedback, according to Professor John Hattie, is ‘one of the most powerful notions we have’ in education – and also one of the most variable.

Earlier this year, I joined an instalment of Phil Anthony’s award-winning Digitally Enhanced Education webinar series to learn more about how institutions around the world are prioritising feedback as a key part of learning. Amid a wide variety of talks on assessment and feedback, a few really stood out. I’m particularly excited to share with you some of the wisdom of Professor Hattie on the power of feedback as a process of constant learning, of asking questions, and of low stakes ‘failure’ in a supportive environment.

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