Dr Trevor Collins – Co-investigator (Learning)

Dr Trevor Collins

Dr Trevor Collins


Trevor was a co-investigator on the OU’s Catalyst project. He co-ordinated the learning work package within the project, and is also involved in the communication and digital engagement packages.

The learning work package was concerned with identifying the existing development opportunities for research staff and students across the university with regard to public engagement, as well as identifying gaps where additional support could be provided by the university or external sources (e.g. the UK research councils, Vitae, JISC or the NCCPE).

Regarding the communication and digital engagement packages, Trevor worked closely with other members of the Catlsyst team to identify the use made of existing communication channels and create new opportunities to facilitate engagement between researchers and users of their research.


Trevor’s research concerns the design and use of technologies to facilitate learning. He is particularly interested in how web technologies can be developed to support exploratory forms of teaching and learning, such as problem-based learning or experiential learning. His research publications are listed in the OU’s Open Research Online repository.

He is currently leading two science education research projects, as part of the OpenScience Lab (funded by the Wolfson Foundation). The Shared Representations project is developing the web architecture for sharing access to dynamic representations (i.e. simulations, models and visualisations). In collaboration with the Field Studies Council, the Networked Field System project is producing a portable web server and network for outdoor learning to enable field data to be collected, collated and visualised using web-standards compliant browsers on smart phones or tablet PCs.

Trevor is also working on the European Commission funded Decipher project. This is exploring how the process of curating art exhibits can be formally described using an ontology, and then how such descriptions can be used to provide information resources for exhibit visitors.

Through collaborating with user communities and technical specialists to develop effective support for learning, Trevor has extensive expertise in how technologies and learning activities are designed, developed and evaluated. This experience will be deployed within the Catalyst project to help researchers explore the role technology can play to facilitate public engagement with research.


Trevor joined the Human-Cognition Research Lab in the OU’s Psychology Department in 1994 as a PhD student studying software visualisation. In 1995, the director of the lab formed the Knowledge Media Institute, where Trevor completed his PhD before taking up a post-doctoral research post in the OU’s Institute of Educational Technology to evaluate OU psychology students’ use of a visual programming language. In 2000 he returned to KMI to work on an organisational learning project funded by Marconi Telecommunications, and has since worked on a number of technology-enhanced learning, semantic web and digital heritage projects supported by industry, JISC, JANET, the UK research councils, and the European Commission.

Trevor has been a principal investigator on a series of projects looking at how mobile and network technologies can be used to support fieldwork, starting with the ‘Enabling Remote Activity‘ project, which developed a portable Wi-Fi network and set of web services to enable mobility impaired students to participate fully in OU fieldwork courses. As a co-investigator on the ‘Out There and In Here‘ project, Trevor designed and developed an integrated set of communication tools for supporting real-time collaboration between groups of lab and field-based students. Trevor was also one of the technical leads on the Personal Inquiry project, which developed ‘nQuire,’ a web-based application for supporting inquiry learning in secondary schools.

Trevor’s practical experience of Public Engagement has been gained through his research, which has involved user engagement and collaboration to inform system design and development. Trevor also created the Isotope community website (with Richard Holliman, Peter Taylor, Eric Jensen and Peter Devine) for science engagement practitioners to share resources and experiences. Recently, Trevor was a co-investigator in the JISC Business and Community Engagement funded impact analysis project on ‘Public Engagement with Research Online‘ (PERO), that developed a method for exploring the impact of research using web analytics and linguistic analysis. Drawing on this work Trevor convened a workshop with Sarah Morton and Steven Marwick at the NCCPE Engage 2012 conference on ‘Evaluating Research Impact’.

Trevor has contributed to the OU’s PhD student training programme, co-authoring a book chapter and video on presentation skills that is used with OU PhD students, and each year facilitates associated student development workshops. Trevor previously worked with Marian Petre and Robin Laney, running a postgraduate forum for doctoral researchers at the OU’s Centre for Research in Computing.


Dr Trevor Collins

Research Fellow

Knowledge Media Institute
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

Telephone: +44(0)1908 655731

Email: Trevor.Collins@open.ac.uk

Website: http://kmi.open.ac.uk/people/trevor