OLAF – recent publications

Sheehy, K., McClanachan, A., Okada, A., Tatlow-Golden, M., & Harrison, S. Is Distance Education Fun? The Implications of Undergraduates’ Epistemological Beliefs for Improving Their Engagement and Satisfaction with Online Learning.

Barros et. al (2022) HIGHER EDUCATION IN PANDEMIC TIMES: personalization, engagement, autonomy and new learning strategiesTICS & EAD v. 8 no. 2 (2022): ICTs & EaD in Focus: Dossier – Policies and Teacher Training for a Digital and Inclusive School

Sujarwanto; Sheehy, Kieron; Rofiah, Khofidotur and Budiyanto (2021). Online Higher Education: The Importance of Students’ Epistemological Beliefs, Well-Being, and Fun. IAFOR Journal of Education – Studies in Education: Sustainable Education for the Future, 9(6) pp. 9–30.

Conference Proceedings and Book Chapters :

Sheehy et. al. (2022). Should meaningful online learning experiences be fun for higher education students in Indonesia? In: Ravi, Kumar, and McKinney,, Stephen eds. LSME Research Compendium 2022. London School of Management Education, pp. 270–290. BEST PAPER

Okada, Alexandra; Souza, Karine Pinheiro de; Struchiner, Miriam; Rabello, Cíntia and Rosa, Luziana Quadros da (2023). Open schooling to empower Brazilian teachers: Emancipatory fun in education for a sustainable innovation ecosystem. In: Holliman, Andrew J. and Sheehy, Kieron eds. Overcoming Adversity in Education. London: Routledge, pp. 234–248.


The Butterfly of fun reaches 389,606 views

Okada & Sheehy (2020) “Factors and Recommendations to Support Students’ Enjoyment of Online Learning With Fun: A Mixed Method Study During COVID-19” journal article  was awarded as a Top paper  with more views than 94% of all Frontiers articles.

It  is now part of the  special e-book: Cooper,J; Gauna,L. Beaudry C. (2022) COVID-19 and the Educational Response: New Educational and Social Realities. Frontiers. URL https://www.frontiersin.org/research-topics/14005/covid-19-and-the-educational-response-new-educational-and-social-realities (reaching 389,606 views) Elsevier; various studies are citing this paper: SCOPUS here

Playful Learning Conference

Playful Learning 20/21/22 will take place in Leicester, 6-8 July 2022.

Playful Learning is back!

  • Playful Learning 20/21/22 will now take place in July 2022.
  • Registration is now OPEN with early bird rates and special rates for students.
  • The keynotes and some presentations from 2020 remain in place, with many new sessions added to the line-up.
  • The call for sessions is now closed: successful presenters must now register to attend.

Outdoor activity

Playful Learning is pitched at the intersection of learning and play for adults. Playful in approach and outlook, yet underpinned by robust research and working practices, we provide a space where teachers, researchers and students can play, learn and think together. A space to meet other playful people and be inspired by talks, workshops, activities and events. In its home at the heart of England in Leicestershire, we have spaces that open the programme up to both indoor and outdoor activities, and evening activities that continue the playful learning and conversations after the formal programme ends.

Playful Learning 20/21/22 will take place on 6-8 July 2022 in Leicester.

PLA Conference Cambridge

PLA meeting – Cambridge May 2022

LINK: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/pla-meeting-cambridge-may-2022-tickets-306850035717

The first post-lockdown PLA meeting will take place in Cambridge at Anglia Ruskin University, to coincide with a PlayLab residency.

About this event

The first face to face meeting of the Playful Learning Association following the earlier lockdowns will be held at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.

In the tradition of our previous events, everyone is warmly welcomed – whether you’re new to the Association, a veteran of the previous Special Interest Group, or based in or around Cambridge and interested in the use of play and games for adult learning.

The theme is Making Space for Play : the meeting will co-incide with a residency by a postgraduate collective from Denmark who will be setting up a ‘PlayLab’ on site. The precise content of the meeting is currently being crowd-sourced from our members, but normally includes playtests, active discussions, sharing of practice, and creation of new ideas or projects.

The event will run from midday on Thursday 19th May, through to midday on Friday 20th. There is no charge to attend, but we ask that members arrange their own transport and accommodation (suggestions below). A light lunch will be provided on arrival and departure, with refreshments throughout.

Agenda (subject to minor alterations)


12:00 – Arrival/lunch

13:00 – Welcome / ice breaker

13:30 – Climate change boardgame prototype (Matteo Menapace)

14:00 – PlayLab theory and practice (visiting PhD students, Denmark)

14:30 – Refreshments

15:00 – PlayLab experimentation

17: 00 – Games and cakes at Thrive

Later in the evening we’ll find somewhere to eat/drink, or you can do your own thing.


09:00 – Coffee

09:30 – Playing Outside: Secret Portals (group activity*)

11:00 – Refreshments

11:30 – Group mission reports

12:00 – Open slot for PLA members to offer/test/share

13:00 – Close, with grab-bag lunch provided

*Note: for this activity you will be walking around Cambridge; but you can choose to walk shorter or longer distances, and optionally co-ordinate your group from our base room.

Accomodation suggestions

There are a number of accommodations across Cambridge for most budgets, but the following are closest to the venue or train station (it’s a 20 min walk from the station to the venue).

Travelodge Newmarket Road (around £60)

Premier Inn Newmarket Road (around £50)

Ibis Cambridge Central Station (around £100)

International Conference on Global Education and the Green Economy

This is the 9th iteration of the International Research Conference series, and builds again upon  Responsible Research and Innovations (RRI),  with the theme of “Global Education and the Green Economy.” Academics and practitioners across the world are invited to share their perspectives around key and emerging challenges facing humanity and the potential for addressing these via educational and economic activity, especially examples of sustainable and green initiatives. The perspectives expected are challenges, processes, and outcomes of socially responsible research, especially its impact on communities and stakeholders.

The broad objectives of the conference series are:

  1. To provide an inclusive platform fostering an active community of researchers collaborating on issues of social significance and societal concern
  2. To advance the principles and practices of Responsible Research and Innovations (RRI) in support of researchers at all stages of their research journey
  3. To provide an open and accessible mechanism for sharing creative contributions to the research agenda across various subject matter and discipline areas.

The Scientific Conference Committee:
Professor Stephen McKinneyUniversity of Glasgow, UK Conference Chairman Dr Ravi KumarLondon School of Management Education, UK Conference
Dr Peter GrayNorwegian University of Science & Technology, Norway
Dr Sarita ParhiLondon School of Management Education, UK
Martin McAreavey University of Bolton, UK
Hassan Shifau London School of Management Education, UK
Dr Dolly Jackson-SillahLondon School of Management Education, UK
Dr Alexandra OkadaOpen University, UK

Within our broad theme, we encourage papers adopting empirical, experimental and theoretical content produced by researchers. We are particularly interested in (but not exclusively committed to):
– Education Management
– Lifelong Learning
– Economic and Social Impact of Education
– Social Impact through the Green Economy
– Innovation in Learning and Education
– Impact of Technology on Education and Green Economy Settings
– Accessibility to Education for the Disadvantaged
– New Perspectives on Global Education
– Global Impact of Green Economy Initiatives

Dr Okada will be supporting two large international networks on Global Education for Sustainability with fun participatory approaches:
(1) CONNECT Open Schooling  and
(2) OLAF – online learning to participate in this conference


PODCAST: Qualitative research – online ethnography

Sarah Huxley, a third-year Ph.D. student at the OU, produced a podcast for the OU Grad School. In this podcast, Sarah talks with Nora Dooley who is a staff member of the not-for-profit Coaches Across Continents (CAC) about qualitative research. This podcast is a resource for researchers and practitioners, seeking advice about qualitative research; and in particular online ethnography and how to work with participants.

“The conversation covers Nora’s ‘do’s and don’ts’ for researchers, as well as her reflections on surprises during data gathering, challenges, and ultimately if she found the research process fun. Sarah sums up the episode by reflecting upon her approach to the research process as one of ‘disciplined improvisation’ (based on the notion by RK Sawyer, 2004). As well as the possibilities that the pandemic catalysed in relation to thinking and working with online embodied ethnography.”

Have fun! More details and access to the podcast: HERE.

A special thanks to Nora Dooley from Coaches Across Continents  for contributing her ideas and voice, and to Mark Childs from Pedagodzilla for providing podcasting advice and support! It was much needed.

Reference: Sawyer, R. K. (2004) ‘Creative Teaching: Collaborative Discussion as Disciplined Improvisation’, Educational Researcher, 33(2), pp. 12–20. doi: 10.3102/0013189X033002012.

If you wish to reach out to Sarah, you can find her on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/AidHoover

CONNECT UK-Brazil Knowledge Exchange Seminar on Open Schooling with fun participatory approaches

The International Knowledge Exchange Seminar on Open Schooling UK-BR was organised by Dr. Okada , scientific coordinator of  CONNECT and member of Rumpus Research group.

CONNECT – inclusive open schooling with engaging future-oriented science is funded by the European Union and by two Brazilian Universities.

This event was held in Milton Keynes on the 22nd of March 2022. The seminar brought together 30 experts in the field to discuss open education, participatory design, emerging technologies as well equity, diversity and inclusion. Its aim was  to  provide a forum for academics and non-academics (from enterprises) to present their work in a straightforward format, on issues that are relevant to open schooling.

To make it more inclusive the event at Berrill Theather was in Portuguese Language, livestream, recorded and shared.

The OU speakers were Alexandra Okada (WELS) who opened the event and presented open schooling in Europe, Roberta Davies (EDI) talked about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and Lara Piccolo (STEM-KMi) discussed about participatory design of a chatbot with children.  In addition, the OU research fellow visitor Prof. Alexandre Marino Costa presented his research that started with Dr. Okada about Augmented Reality in Brazil – project funded now by the Brazil Government using open schooling. Various examples were discussed to enhance innovation ecosystems with open schooling for tackling the societal challenges of our world. The Bett-Brazil speakers were from various enterprises including Lenovo, Samsung, Kroton Education,EduInfo, Fore Education, Bedu Tech; universities: FATEC, UFSC, Jundiai, Maua, and schools: Lourenco Castanho, Language School, Marista,… and policy makers from UNDIME – a large Union of Municipalities in Education.

The poster session enabled participants to obtain and discuss information about open schooling and research developed during the 1st year of the project  CONNECT.

The Open schooling CONNECT network engaged a full range of R&I stakeholders: researchers and research organisations, policy makers at national and regional level, business and industry representatives, science education members, and civil society organisations of Brazil. It encouraged discussion, fostered improved understanding and  enabled opportunities for more in-depth engagement with the UNESCO Agenda 2030, the EU Green Deal and The NEW-GREEN DEAL of BRAZIL.

During this event, the CONNECT policy report was launched. Three workshops were organised.

Various relevant questions and opportunities for partnerships were discussed: What does “open schooling means” for our organisations? What are the key principles of Equity – Diversity and Inclusion to support open schooling for all? What are the initiatives that bring together education, enterprise and society? What are the examples of participatory design that engages students, teachers, families and researchers to produce innovation to address students’ real-life problems? What are the best practices of open schooling with emerging technologies, for example, augmented reality?

After the workshops, all participants presented their practices and initiatives.

The evaluation of this Knowledge Exchange event was very significant with three key outcomes:
1. Business benefiting from project experience and ideas shared by speakers
2. New curricula including open educational resources and tools shared by participants
3. Networks developed enabling new collaborative projects and partnerships

As an example, the event enabled the cooperation between the OU-UK Rumpus with Policymakers – The Secretary of Education in Sao Paulo – Brasil Government leader of UNDIME-SP to develop together a case study  about the open schooling “protecting the largest urban forest in the world” which is located in Brazil .  This CONNECT event  brought  key findings to the attention of key participants and decision-makers, in education, academia, industry and policy. And it will be now expanded to the wider public sector and others in the next event of BETT Brazil in May 10th , which Alexandra Okada is a keynote with Marcia Bernardes the head of UNDIME, including Silvar Ribeiro the coordinator of Social Innovation Research in Bahia UNEB   who will be talking about Environmental protection in the  semi-arid  region of Brazil ,  and Thais Castro leader of technology for inclusion in UFAM who will talk about  citizen science initiative to understand issues of Amazon – the largest tropical forest in the world.



SEE our Policy report



O Seminário Internacional sobre Open Schooling UK-BR foi organizado pelo projeto CONNECT time da The Open University financiado pela Comissão Europeia, apoiado pela BETT Brasil e grupo de Pesquisa Rumpus. Este evento foi realizado em Milton Keynes no dia 22 de março de 2022. O seminário reuniu 30 especialistas na área para discutir educação aberta, tecnologias emergentes, design participativo, bem como equidade, diversidade e inclusão.

Vários exemplos foram compartilhados para aprimorar os ecossistemas de inovação com escolarização aberta para enfrentar os desafios sociais do nosso mundo. A rede Open schooling CONNECT envolveu uma diversidade de organizações interessadas em I&I: investigadores e organizações de investigação, decisores políticos a nível nacional e regional, representantes de empresas e da indústria, membros da educação científica e organizações da sociedade civil do Brasil. Entre muitas empresas, houve participantes da Lenovo, Samsung, EduInfo, Cogna, Fore Education, Bedu Tech; universidades: FATEC, UFSC, Jundiaí, Mauá, e escolas: Lourenço Castanho, Escola de Línguas, Marista,… e formuladores de políticas da UNDIME – uma grande União de Municípios na Educação.

Durante este evento, foram discutidas várias questões relevantes: O que significa “escolarização aberta”? Quais são os princípios-chave da Equidade – Diversidade e Inclusão para apoiar a educação aberta para todos? Quais são as iniciativas que aproximam educação, empresa e sociedade? Quais são os exemplos de design participativo que envolvem alunos, professores, famílias e pesquisadores para produzir inovação para abordar os problemas da vida real dos alunos? Quais são as melhores práticas de escolarização aberta com tecnologias emergentes?

O evento começou com um painel incluindo quatro palestrantes brasileiros da OU, seguido de uma discussão em grupos e apresentações.

Foi o primeiro evento em Língua Portuguesa da Open University UK parte do projeto CONNECT.

Call for Chapters: “Engaging methods to explore fun in education”

To celebrate the third year of Rumpus Blog in 2023, we are editing a digital multimedia book

“Engaging methods to explore fun in education”

This book organised by Okada, A. Tatlow-Golden M., Fergurson R. & Sheehy K., 2023 is supported by our interactive blogposts.  Our objective is to generate a reflective dialogue with research students, practitioners, educational researchers and expert professionals about  “engaging methods to explore fun in education”. The reflections with our participants will be useful to  refine our engaging methods and transform our posts into chapters.

Some examples of blogposts which will be the starting content for chapters:

Example completed:

Drawing as a mediating artefact to support Responsible Research and Innovation with fun

Posts in development (video and more detailed information will be added):

Fun and the benefits of Sign Supported Big Books in mainstream Indonesian kindergartens

Moving Towards A Child-Guided Agentic Participatory Research Methodology: 7 To 11 Years Children’s Experiences Of Physical Activity

The value of fun in online learning

‘My PhD journey’: Exploring the doctoral process with Body Mapping and fun


Rumpus receives the BEST Conference paper award!

The paper entitled ” Should ‘meaningful’ online learning experiences be fun for Higher Education students in Indonesia?”    has been awarded the best full paper at the 8th LSME International Research Conference 2021 on Sustainable Development and Education  .

The paper was authored by Sujarwanto, Kieron Sheehy*, Khofidotor Rotofiah, Budiyanto,

Faculty of Education (FIP) , State University of Surabaya, Indonesia
and * Rumpus Research group of The Open University, UK.

LSME  is a prestigious conference on Responsible Research and Innovation in Education  held annually.

Sujarwanto,  Sheehy & Budiyanto’s contribution is a part of the OLAF research which examines Online Learning and Fun in Higher Education.

This paper highlights that 80% of institutions in Indonesia whose students have left campus and returned to their home locations are concerned about how to support students’ retention and progress. This study indicated  two key factors:  students’ epistemological beliefs and their beliefs about fun in learning.

Findings suggested that the lack of enjoyment with online study including a dissatisfaction with a content delivery approach to online teaching must be considered to reduce students’ dropout in Higher Education.

These results were used to provide recommendations for tertiary education in Indonesia.

The launch of Playful by Design: Free play in a digital world

THURSDAY 4TH NOVEMBER  16:00 – 17:30 (GMT) 

Register for the event here

In response to children’s views about what free play means to them, Baroness Beeban Kidron – 5Rights Foundation, will chair a discussion with:

  • Professor Sonia Livingstone OBE – LSE, DFC lead researcher and report author
  • Dr Sangeet Bhullar, Executive Director, WISE KIDS
  • Dr Tim Gill, Rethinking Childhood, Author of Urban Playground
  • Professor Mimi Ito, University of California – Irvine

The event will be followed by a Q&A with attendees.

Feel free to forward this invitation to interested others.

The Digital Futures Commission, hosted by 5Rights Foundation, brings together a unique group of organisations to unlock digital innovation in the best interests of children and young people. You can learn more about the Digital Futures Commission here and about 5Rights here.
  • 5Rights Foundation
  • BBC Research & Development North Lab
  • Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation
  • Erase All Kittens
  • EY
  • Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop
    • LEGO
    • London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
    • Technological University Dublin
    • The Alan Turing Institute
    • The Behavioural Insights Team
    • University of Leeds