Celebrating Six Years of openTEL

openTEL is a strategic research area in Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) created in 2015 at The Open University (OU). More precisely, this open research group forms part of the Institute of Educational Technology (IET). Professor Eileen Scanlon leads the group alongside the TEL community, with members from across the university who support the development of local and international TEL projects. OpenTEL is also the recipient of the 2017 Open Education Consortium award for Open Research. This award recognises excellence in research on open education and related studies that help advance our understanding and demonstrate effectiveness related to challenges in OER.

You may already know that information by heart if you are a loyal reader of the openTEL blog. But what makes this post different then? Well, today, we want to celebrate the trajectory of openTEL by highlighting the success, innovation and impact the group has had since its origins up till now. So, how has openTEL contributed to the field during these six years? 

Research Themes

openTEL has focused on driving innovations in teaching, learning and assessment from the lenses of different specialised areas, which have been narrowed into six research themes:

  1. Learning in an Open, Connected World & at Scale: We are working on expanding existing approaches to knowledge construction, citizenship models and theories of identity to harness the opportunities offered by an open, connected world.

Key projects that have been conducted under this theme include:

  • GO-GN Phase 3- Extension. Prof. Martin Weller
  • European Network for Catalysing Open Resources in Education. Dr Rob Farrow
  1. Design & Analytics in Learning: We develop and evaluate new methods, models, systems, and technologies to help people learn, make learning more accessible and enhance learning.

Key projects:

  • Linked Journeys: Linking learning analytics with study journey representations to understand patterns in students’ mental health. Dr Tim Coughlan
  • Exploring critical factors of the perceived usefulness of a learning analytics dashboard for distance university students. Dr Irina Rets, Dr Christothea Herodotou, Vaclav Bayer, Dr Martin Hlosta & Prof. Bart Rienties
  1. Language Learning Landscapes: We study the applications of educational technology to language learning, including mobile learning and the evaluation of language learning apps and the application of MOOCs and Open Educational Resources to language and intercultural learning.

Key projects:

  • Evidence-Validated Online Learning through Virtual Exchange. Dr Mirjam Hauck
  1. Citizen Science: We focus on this growing trend that involves massive participation of the public of any age, including youngsters, in different types of online collaboration with scientists. Our platforms for the conduct of citizen science projects include iSpotSitu8,nQuire-it.

Key projects:

  • EDUcating Citizens and organisations in Citizen Science methodologies. Dr Christothea Herodotou
  1. Inclusion: We value and promote diversity and equality of opportunity, particularly with regard to disability, gender, age and ethnicity. This work builds on a history of internationally recognised OU research into accessibility and enabling technologies enacting the University’s mission to be open to people, places, methods, and ideas.

Key projects:

  • Embedding and sustaining inclusive STEM practices.Dr Trevor Collins
  • ADMINS: Assistants to the Disclosure and Management of Information about Needs and Support. Dr Tim Coughlan, Kate Lister, Dr Francisco Iniesto
  1. Professional & Digital Learning: We examine how people learn for work and the ways digital technologies support their learning. In OpenTEL, we work with a range of partners in diverse organisations to discover ways in which these technologies offer the potential to alter traditional ways of working.

Key projects:

  • Digital Decisions: Understanding teachers’ choices in online learning design and their impacts on learners in Sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Tim Coughlan

We have briefly presented some of the projects under each research theme. However, openTEL has supported the development of 16 key projects in different areas, including Open Educational Resources, Virtual Exchanges, Citizen Science methodologies and Continuous Professional Development! You can find more details about each research project here.

OpenTEL has also witnessed the completion of five key projects, such as ADMINS: Assistants to the Disclosure and Management of Information about Needs and Support – Microsoft Oct 2019 – Dec 2020 Dr Tim Coughlan, Kate Lister, Dr Francisco Iniesto, 12 Months. You can learn more about ADMINS and the other completed key projects here.

Special Interest Groups (SIGs)

openTEL has created six SIGs that deal with topics related to the six research themes outlined above. These SIGs have offered over 50 interdisciplinary events that include the participation of internal and external speakers. Thereby offering a space for sharing cross-faculty initiatives & expertise and building strong networks beyond the institution:

  1. Assessment & Feedback SIG has registered more than 15 events so far.
  2. Learning at Scale (L@S), this brand-new SIG has hosted three online events since its launch this year.
  3. Open and Inclusive SIG has offered 28 events during these six years.
  4. OpenAIED SIG has offered 26 events in the past.
  5. Citizen Science SIG has given more than five presentations in different opportunities.
  6. Migrants Group SIG has included the following projects and events: Transforming education through mobile learning. Mobile and migrant learning. Associated Project MASELTOV – The project consortium designed, developed, and evaluated a prototype suite of tools and services accessible from a single context-aware mobile app to support informal and social learning in daily life. Ran a workshop in Jul 2017 Innovations in Migrant and Refugee Learning- attended by internal and external participants to the OU, including presentations from The British Council and The British Museum.

You can find more details about each Special Interest Group here.

Show & TEL Events

In openTEL, we love providing spaces for others to tell us about their projects and exchange research interests with the TEL community. For that reason, openTEL has hosted 12 Show & TEL events since 2015. The annual series of these events have welcomed academics within The Open University and speakers outside the institution. They have given over 150 presentations about different themes covered in the SIGs mentioned above, including:

  • Innovation, inclusion, shaping the future, and implementation
  • Impact and public engagement
  • TEL research, SeGA & TEL, KMi & TEL, Student Hub Live
  • Citizen science & inquiry, TEL projects, pedagogy
  • Digital education
  • Ed Tech Series, Networked Learning, Assessment, Inclusion, Mobile Learning
  • Human-centred AI, TIDE project
  • Evidence cafes, learning environments, online rooms, teaching & assessing, collaboration, student-facing analytics
  • Ethics in TEL
  • Online module structures and research design
  • Digital badges, language education and ICT in refugee contexts, students’ experiences of synchronous online tutorials and Holographic Ais

To learn more about our previous Show & TEL events, click here.

Impact & Worldwide Reach

As an open research group, openTEL aims to connect with other educators, researchers, academics, and students interested in Technology Enhanced Learning across the globe. We always ensure we extend our research and impact through our online blog and social media channels. So far, we have shared the research contributions, impact, and success stories of our members through 199 posts on the openTEL blog. We have also built a solid TEL community online with more than 1,100 followers on OpenTEL Twitter account. Although numbers do not always drive us, we harness the advantages of these online platforms to reach others and develop a worldwide influence in the field.

Former openTEL Post Doc Researchers

Last but not least, we want to acknowledge the former Post Doc researchers, whose research projects and academic efforts also contributed to what openTEL is today. We are proud that they have gone on to gain permanent positions internally and externally to The Open University! To learn more about our former members, click here.

Thank you for supporting openTEL

Before closing this chapter, which tells you the story of openTEL, and celebrates its growth, we want to thank all the group members who have supported the longevity of openTEL by:

  • creating new research proposals,
  • applying and receiving more than 30 grants to develop their projects,
  • sharing their exciting research with us,
  • attending openTEL events, and
  • helping other people around the world to learn, teach and assess efficiently through innovative technologies.

Please remember that all of you and your research projects are part of openTEL and our six years of success!