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Dr Elaine Thomas

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Professional biography

I am a senior lecturer in the School of Computing & Communications, Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and a regional academic (staff tutor) in the OU in Ireland. 

I am Module Team Chair of TM111 Introduction to Computing and Information Technology 1 which is now in presentation. This is the first of two key introductory 30 credit modules which form the entry point to the Computing and IT degree programme.

In my staff tutor role I line-manage associate lecturers across the island of Ireland supporting students on Computing & IT, Design, Development, Engineering and Environment modules. I also chaired the Staff Development for Associate Lecturers Working Group in the Open University in Ireland.

Other Information
Prior to joining the OU, I worked for Queen's University Belfast developing a course for adult education tutors which could be delivered electronically and by open learning. Previously, I worked on the development of study packs for adult returners in Northern Ireland in collaboration with EU partners. For many years, I was involved in community-based education programmes for women's groups and community groups across Belfast. I also worked on Further Education Key Skills programmes and in training tutors to support adult students in learning basic literacy and numeracy skills.

I studied for a BSc degree with the Open University and I hold a Master's degree in Computers in Education from the University of Ulster which involved part-time study. In 2007, I completed a part-time Doctorate in Education with Queen's University Belfast with a dissertation on the use of assistive technologies by undergraduate students with disabilities studying by distance learning. 

Professional membership
I am a senior fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA). 
I am a member of the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT (MBCS).

Research interests

My research interests lie in the uses of Information and Communications Technologies in Education, particularly the potential uses of ICT to help overcome barriers to learning. I am interested in researching how students can learn from each other in online environments and the importance of peer feedback in learning.

Currently, I am working on an eSTEeM-supported project called Visualising the code: are students engaging with programming at level 1? The project will investigate the impact of using a visual programming environment on student engagement with programming at level 1.

Other scholarship projects

Using OpenStudio in STEM learning. OpenStudio, developed by the Open University, enables students to create and upload audio-visual resources, and to engage in dialogue with their peers, their tutors and their module team around these resources. The project aims to explore the use of this 'studio' approach to learning in STEM disciplines across the Open University, with a view to providing information about the ways in which it is already being used in modules, and collating evidence of good practice.

Hybrid/Digital Material Networked Learning. This project investigated the practices and implications of blending physical and digital resources for learning in HE. These 'hybrid' resources include remote laboratories and ubiquitous learning and the project aims to conduct a ‘state of the art’ review to establish the key themes, opportunities and obstacles that are emerging from these experiences.

Teaching interests

I chaired TM111 Introduction to Computing and Information Technology 1 through its production phase and  I am now leading this module through its first presentation. I was also a member of the TU100 My Digital Life presentation module team and was very much involved with the production of TU100, authoring part of Block 3, on smart homes and wearable technologies, and Block 4 about online commnities. I was previously a member of both the production and presentation module teams for T175 Networked Living: Exploring Information and Communication Technologies, authoring material for Block 1.

I began my Open University career tutoring on M206 Computing: An object-​oriented approach. I also tutored on MT262 Putting computers to work, THD204 Information Technology and Society and T171 You, your computer and the Net.

Prior to joining this university as a member of staff, I studied for a BSc(Open) with the Open University.


Career change or career progression? Motivations of women studying computing as adult learners (2019)
Donelan, Helen; Herman, Clem; Hughes, Janet; Jefferis, Helen and Thomas, Elaine
International Journal of Gender Science and Technology, 11(3) (pp. 466-489)

A new approach to teaching introductory Computing and Information Technology by distance learning - addressing key issues (2019-06-16)
Thomas, Elaine
In : Connecting through Educational Technology - Proceedings of the European Distance and E-Learning Network 2019 Annual Conference (16-19 Jun 2019, Bruges, Belgium) (pp. 292-300)

Visualising the code: a study of student engagement with programming in a distance learning context (2018-05)
Thomas, Elaine; Kouadri Mostéfaoui, Soraya and Jefferis, Helen
In : 11th International Conference on Networked Learning 2018 (14-16 May 2018, Zagreb, Croatia)

Online conversations around digital artefacts: the studio approach to learning in STEM subjects (2016-05)
Thomas, Elaine; Barroca, Leonor; Donelan, Helen; Kear, Karen; Jefferis, Helen and Rosewell, Jon
In : Networked Learning Conference 2016 (9-11 May 2016, Lancaster) (pp. 172-180)

Digital, material and networked: some emerging themes for SET education (2015-05-26)
Davies, Sarah-Jane; Thomas, Elaine and Walker, Steve
In : EDEN 2015 Annual Conference Expanding Learning Scenarios: Opening Out the Educational Landscape (9-12 Jun 2015, Barcelona, Spain) (pp. 91-99)

Learning and peer feedback in shared online spaces (2014)
Thomas, Elaine; Rosewell, Jon; Kear, Karen and Donelan, Helen
In : Ninth International Conference on Networked Learning 2014 (7-9 Apr 2014, Edinburgh, UK) (pp. 382-385)

What did the Romans ever do for us? ‘Next generation’ networks and hybrid learning resources (2012-04)
Thomas, Elaine; Walker, Steve and Richardson, Paul
In : 8th International Conference on Networked Learning (02-04 Apr 2012, Maastricht, Netherlands)

Using OpenStudio in STEM learning - final report to eSTEeM, the OU centre for STEM pedagogy (2018-12-20)
Thomas, Elaine; Barroca, Leonor; Donelan, Helen; Kear, Karen; Jefferis, Helen and Rosewell, Jonathan
eSTEeM - The OU centre for STEM pedagogy