Show & TEL 2021: Five presentations in a nutshell

Show & TEL has become an opportunity to learn more about the work of colleagues from The Open University (OU) and other researchers with similar Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) interests since 2015. This year’s event was not an exception. Members of openTEL hosted five online presentations on Tuesday, May 4th, 2021, from 09:00 until 13:00. The presentations included TEL-related topics, such as learning analytics, students’ success, chatbots and science. In a nutshell, we present here what you may have missed from these exciting talks on that day of the event.

Presentation 1: Our first speakers were Gerald Evans, Head of Learning Design and Dot Coley, Senior Learning Design from Learner and Discovery Services at the OU. They shared some thoughts from their curriculum design student panel on aspects of module structure that supported students’ distant learning success. For example, students found it helpful to have the material divided into weeks or ‘learning blocks’. The Learning Design team carried out evidence-based research to enhance students’ learning experience. You can follow their project updates on @OU_LD_Team.

Presentation 2: The second speaker was Maria Aristeidou, Lecturer in TEL from the Institute of Educational Technology at the OU. The scope of her presentation focused on first-year younger students, aged 18-19 years old, who joined the university between October 2019 and October 2020. She presented the background and motivations of 377 surveyed students for entering a distance learning HE institution. Findings showed that the primary reasons for joining the OU included: flexible study alongside other commitments, earning money alongside their studies, and demonstrating self-motivation. The Covid-19 pandemic impacted the decision of 22% of the respondents to study via distance learning. ‘Course structure’ was identified as the factor that supported them the most with their transition from school/college to the OU. In contrast, ‘interactions’ was identified as the vital area of suggested improvement, which OU colleagues should explore further to better support first-year younger students. If you would like to learn more about Maria’s work, make sure you follow her updates on https://iet.open.ac.uk/people/maria.aristeidou.

Presentation 3: Nick Freear, Educational Technology Developer from the Institute of Educational Technology, talked about the future of the Disability Disclosure Chatbot named Taylor, a conversation user interface (CUI) designed to assist and support students to disclose their disabilities and organise support without the need to fill in the existing online form in use at The OU. This chatbot was an outcome of the ADMINS project (Assistants to the Disclosure and Management of Information about Needs and Support) funded by Microsoft. We strongly suggest watching the recording of this event, so you don’t miss the live speech demo shown as part of this presentation. In the meantime, you can read the article that informed the development of the Disability Disclosure Chatbot. The project team published that paper, which reviews a range of current guidance and research on accessible design for different disability groups.

Presentation 4: The next speaker was Rafael Hidalgo, a Senior TEL designer from Learner and Discovery Services at the OU. He showed us an update on Analytics for Action (A4A). This project uses learning analytics visualisations to make evidence-based changes that enhance students’ distance learning. The visualisations are aimed to help those responsible for developing modules see the impact of their learning designs on students’ performance. If you would like to know more about the A4A project, make sure you follow its updates on @OU_LD_Team as well as here http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/learning-design/?p=160.

Presentation 5: Christothea Herodotou, a Senior Lecturer from the Institute of Educational Technology, wrapped out the event by presenting the LEARN Citizen Science project. This international, 4-year NSF/Welcome-funded project aims to identify how science learning can become more accessible to young people. The project examines online and field-based citizen science programmes at three Natural History Museums in London, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The scope of her presentation focused on the findings gathered from one citizen science platform called Zooniverse. Data gathering tools included 64 surveys, 39 interviews, and over 200 log files, pointing to different participants’ profiles, engagement, and learning in that online setting. Learn more about this exploratory study of participation in Zooniverse here:  http://oro.open.ac.uk/69002/

All these five presentations reflect the inclusive approach to learning adopted by The Open University, where students from diverse backgrounds are welcomed and invited to work together to transform their future and enhance our experience in distance learning education. Finally, we want to thank all the speaker and attendees who took part in Show & TEL 2021. This event was a great success, with almost 50 people joining remotely. You can watch the recording of the presentations here!