Our Praxis project teams each produce an academic poster at the end of their project. We’ve included some examples here:
Mirjam Hauck, Linda Plowright Pepper, Caroline Rowan-Olive, KAN Qian, Rosina Marquez-Reiter and Korina Giaxoglou
Introduction The Open Centre for Languages and Cultures launched in October 2020 with 16 new courses, each consisting of 16 weeks x 4 hours independent study, plus learning advisor support and forum, priced at £195 per course.
The research project explored the production process and its impact on stakeholders, identifying problems and insightful potential solutions, some of which have since been implemented.
What we did We conducted indepth semi-structured interviews with stakeholders from all parts of the production process and with learners. This was viewed alongside quantitative and qualitative data from other sources, such as student feedback surveys.
Questions included: What do you regard as your greatest achievement or that of your team? Has it enhanced your CV? Do you feel upskilled? What training were you given? Who supported you? How effective was that support? How could your experience of the production process be improved?
Findings from qualitative data:
o The schedule for producing 16 courses in 6 months was extremely challenging.
o The courses launched on time and stakeholders, including learners, were generally satisfied with the outcome.
o Reasons given for its success included teamwork, mutual support, flexibility and a willingness to innovate.
o Willingness to work across boundaries and forge new working relationships across departments were also key. o The process was, however, stressful for many stakeholders and due care for others’ wellbeing is essential.
o The workload of all stakeholders was increased by systems and processes geared to core module production. It is often felt that the short courses are ‘shoe-horned’ into existing University structures.
o More flexible systems are needed for fast-paced short course production, and this requires active buy-in from the university as a whole.
Outcomes: Our research provided a high-definition snapshot of a rapidly evolving project. After the initial launch, the production schedule slowed to a more sustainable pace, while the strengths identified in our research (flexibility, teamwork, working across departments) have become more firmly embedded. There have been some improvements in the ‘shoehorning’ process. A ringfenced rapid action team for short course production was suggested. Staff wellbeing and ongoing innovation regarding equality, diversity and inclusion remain central to all our work.
“There are people in my other life who don’t have access to online really, or they’re not particularly computer literate, or even have other literacy issues. I mean, obviously people would be excluded I guess in that sense.” (learner)
“We’re taking what I think we’re now calling a postcolonial approach to culture, that’s the contemporary challenge.” (team member)
“I felt that choosing a course with the Open University would give me quality.” (learner)
“Seeing it all come together quite quickly … that was a satisfying thing.” (team member)
A. Gargett, P. Shrestha
Over the last two decades, there has been an increasing use of dialogue systems as language learning tools, in Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) and Computer-Assisted Language Testing (CALT). However, results of such work have been mixed, leading to persistent uncertainty about how best to integrate such systems to support teacher-student interaction, much of which involves dialogue.
A central challenge for CALL and CALT has been the nature and role of feedback.
The sheer variety of interactive phenomena found in teaching and learning settings presents major modelling challenges. In particular, the role of feedback in assessment has become a key area of concern, exemplified by the notion of “formative feedback” (Ramaprasad 1983).
There is a natural connection between feedback and many forms of dialogue phenomena (such as acknowledgments and clarifications), and feedback certainly has an important role to play in the use of dialogue systems for teaching and learning, although the field is still lacking a systematic approach to this.
One specific group of learners for whom very little publicly available research on the impact of dialogue systems has been carried out, are remote online independent language learners. Online learning is fast becoming established as at least part of accepted language learning contexts, facilitated in large part by the internet and associated technologies. The OU is very well placed to pursue research into how to best respond to the increasing demand for remote and independent kinds of language learning.
Our project aimed to address these three challenges.
We conducted an extensive literature review and found:
The task of using dialogue systems to manage delivery of feedback for the purposes of language teaching is complex and not as yet defined adequately enough for guaranteeing reliable and accurate performance from such systems.
Such lack of progress is due to two main obstacles
Despite some progress in dialogue modelling, most dialogue systems in production are still template-driven “chatbot” type systems.
Current models of feedback in language are relatively rudimentary.
Instead of tackling the larger problem directly, our approach will be to: (1) develop a system that simulates interaction with an end user, such interaction being a key aspect of dialogue, while (2) modelling a suitably constrained model of feedback.
Based on the proposals from our literature review, this initial project aims to develop infrastructure for experimental studies with subjects, including:
Data collection and modelling: Using computational tools for interactively managing feedback (i.e. building and deploying models that decide what to present to learners and how to present it).
Participants: 60 beginning OU students in both French and Italian (within LAL).
Approvals now in place for Student Research Project Panel, Human Research Ethics Committee, Data Protection Impact Assessment.
System design: In progress.
Initial build of digital resources for running study: In planning.
Evaluation framework: Scheduled as later work.
During this project, the following items of work were completed:
Approvals in place.
Initial data collection and modelling completed (large language models for French and Italian now completed).
Implementation of text simplification algorithm (Complex word identification ? Substitution of simplified term) in progress. Complex word identification component (using language models) nearing completion.
Carina Bossu – Senior Lecturer WELS, IET
PRAXIS priorities - Enhance employability, career progression and impact on practice
The Applaud scheme offers OU staff members the opportunity to receive external recognition as a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (Advance HE). It is also re-accredited every 4 years by the Advance HE.
Little is currently known about the impact of Applaud from the perspectives of OU colleagues who undertake the process. Roberts and McLachlan (2018) evaluated the previous scheme (OpenPAD) and focused on the AL perceptions. Spowart et al. (2020) argue that a greater exploration of the impact of institutional schemes is required.
We sought to review the previous scheme from 2016-2020 to explore impacts and changes to be made for the 2020-2024 Applaud scheme.
To explore the impact of Applaud on learning, teaching and scholarship at the Open University
Roberts, J. & McLachlan, J. (2018). Integrated and situated academic development for all categories of staff: Lessons for constructive alignment from an HEA-accredited Continuing Professional Development scheme. Practice and Evidence of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 13(1) pp. 49–73.
Spowart, L., Turner, R,, & Dismore, H. (2020). Assessing the impact of accreditation on institutions. Advance HE report. Available at: https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/assessing-impact-accreditation-institutions
Christine Pleines and Qian Kan
Previous research into listening to tutorial recordings highlights their potential as a scalable resource in online contexts (Lee, 2005, Mayes 2015). Dialogue between tutor and learner or between peers ‘externalizes’ the learning process and may mediate the understanding not just of direct participants, but also of overhearers, and facilitate deep learning. Findings from previous studies suggest that there are cognitive, social and emotional benefits of listening to tutorial dialogue with learners who are at a similar level of understanding. (Ohta, 2001; Lee, 2005; Mills, 2014; Mayes, 2015; Fernández Dobao, 2016)
The newly established Open Centre for Languages and Cultures (OCLC) offers language courses, but, to keep fees low, does not include tutorials. A re-usable resource such as tutorial recordings could be a sustainable option.
There are two types of tutorial recordings;
Both offer a teaching voice supported by visuals, explanations of learning points and scaffolded practice. The latter additionally offer access to dialogue and opportunities for vicarious participation.
We recorded four tutorials with volunteer students on the Chinese beginners’ course LXC001-20J. We then made the recordings available to learners on the course and its subsequent presentation (LXC001-21B).
We explored how learners worked with the recordings by
There were 56 viewings of the recordings, survey respondents spent between 45 and 120 minutes watching each tutorial, and, on a five-point-Likert scale “useful” or “very useful” was selected 19 out of 22 times.
In the interviews, participants reported imagining that they were, themselves, present at the recorded tutorials. Aspects they referred to repeatedly are summarized below:
Although a static resource, participants perceived the recorded tutorials as fundamentally different from their other study materials.
…here you got someone speaking and giving explanations, it seems to me that that makes it quite memorable just hearing the voices. You can imagine you're participating.” Sophie, interview
This project explored potential learning benefits of watching tutorial recordings for beginner learners of Chinese and is making recommendations regarding the use of tutorial recordings as part of OCLC courses and as a scalable resource in online learning more generally, for example, in MOOCs.
Dr Naomi Watson, WELS, HWSC, The Open University
Dr Joseph De Lappe, WELS, HWSC, The Open University
All correspondence to: Dr Naomi Watson: email@example.com
Dr Inma Álvarez, Dr Clare Horáčková, Dr Jitka Vseteckova
Today, more women are attending university than men across the world, however there is still unequal access to education and jobs for women (WEF, 2020). The number of female doctorate holders has increased around the world since the last decades of the 20th century. A number of studies have been conducted into the work mobility of women with doctoral qualifications, and it has been observed that their mobility and its impacts differ from those of men (Röbken, 2009). References to the health and wellbeing of this group are scarce.
This study is a systematic literature review to increase research-based global understanding of the impact of doctoral study and work mobility on women’s wellbeing during their early career period.
Examine the research evidence on females:
Data searches: ERIC, Education Research, Complete, JSTOR, Scopus, Taylor & Francis Journals Online, Web of Science, Grey literature
Types of studies
Women who hold any type of doctorate
Data screening and extraction:
211 studies initially identified (177 duplicates)
35 studies identified for full screening
23 studies in final data extraction
11 studies addressing all RQs
RQ 1. What types of doctoral degrees hold female graduates and what subjects are their doctorates in?
No distinction in the literature to type of doctoral degree (professional doctorate, by publication, practitioner, artistic, honorary)
RQ2. What is the early career mobility of female doctoral holders?
Sectors (academia, industry, etc.)
RQ3. What is the reported impact of early career mobility on their physical and mental health and well-being?
Loss of engagement with work Depression
Worrying about health
Alienation from home culture
Team – Jim Lusted (lead), James Brighton, Ola Fadoju, Caroline Heaney, Nichola Kentzer, Ian MacDonald (staff), Shannon Martin, Fabion Simms (students)
The is an awarding gap between Black students and those from other ethnic groups on OU Sport & Fitness (S&F) modules, reflecting wider institutional and sector trends.
To explore the learning experiences of Black students – focusing particularly on:
The student researchers led the recruitment of 7 Black OU students who had studied S&F modules via a recruitment video. Two online focus groups were facilitated by the student researchers who had received training in advance. Focus groups lasted between 1-2 hours. Data was analysed qualitatively and independently by 3 members of the team, including one student researcher.
Staff – Student Collaboration Two current OU students were recruited (and paid) to join the team as researchers. Students had lived experience of:
Data suggests that while the Black student participants experienced issues common to many OU students, these might be felt more acutely and in different, racialised ways to white students. These different experiences are not particularly understood or catered for within current module provision.
A follow-on PRAXIS project will explore how Black students can be better supported by peers through their modules. Ongoing dissemination of findings.
The Learning Environment:
The Learning Community:
Joan Simons, Annette Duensing, Kate Breeze, Sarah Vicary, Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
Our aim was to investigate with WELS associate lecturers (ALs) their skills and experience of dealing with students who have mental health diffiulty and to explore what support they need to be confident in their ability to support or signpost students with a mental health diffiulty.
In relation to training in mental health ALs reported having informal updates on mental health issues, but no formal training at the OU. There was a range of responses in relation to how well equipped they felt in relation to supporting students with a mental health issue, and a large majority of ALs reported that they would welcome more training, with suggestions as to what that should be.
Most of the 39 ALs who were interviewed had tutored at the OU for many years and had noticed a steady rise in the number of students with a mental health difficulty. Anxiety followed by depression were the most frequently experienced mental health difficulty.
Many ALs felt it necessary to maintain boundaries with students who had a mental health difficulty.
The following are skills suggested by ALs as necessary to support students with a mental health difficulty: Counselling skills, coaching skills, communication skills, listening skills, interpersonal skills, to be attuned/intuitive/able to recognise early warning skills and to the ways students are communicating with us, to know when to have difficult conversations, to have the ability to be realistic and honest to know one’s limitations.
ALs are experienced in supporting the growing number of students with a mental health difficulty but feel the need on training on the issue so that they can feel more confident in the support they provide for students.
Karina von Lindeiner-Strasky
What are ALs’, Central Academics’ and students’ attitudes towards, experiences with, and expectations of WBMT tools?
How can our curriculum be adjusted in order to reflect the availability of WBMT in online language learning?
How can our assessment strategy be adjusted to incorporate WBMT tools in a manner that supports our students’ learning and teaching.
Korina Giaxoglou, Qian Kan, Prithvi Shrestha, Ebony Carberry
Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, which requires HE institutions to meet their duty of promoting equality of opportunity and ensuring a positive experience of students and staff of all ethnic backgrounds.
The aim of this project is to develop a better understanding of the disparities in LAL and make recommendations for small steps towards eliminating these.
Drawing on evidence from dashboard analytics data for the Board of Studies and student performance on the highest population Level 1 module, LB170, what trends in pass rate gaps and disparities among different groups of students are noted?
Drawing on students’ comments in a student consultative forum (June 2021), how do students view their sense of belonging, given its importance in improving the learning experience and success of students, esp. from under-represented groups (Cureton and Gravestock, 2019)?
Cureton, Debra and Phil Gravestock (2019) ‘We belong’: differential sense of belonging and its meaning for different ethnic groups in higher education. Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching.
Lore Gallastegi – Senior Lecturer, ECYS
This project sets out to respond to a significant increase in the numbers of concurrent students in the Education Studies (Primary) Q94 qualification and the growing anecdotal evidence about the nature and motivations of these students. Outcomes on this qualification, where 47% of students study concurrently, are consistently well above OU averages.
Wild (2018) explored the motivations, experiences and challenges for Level 1 OU concurrent students. Penny looked at the support that might be offered to concurrent psychology students. This project looks across the three levels within Education Studies (Primary) broadening and deepening our understanding of concurrent students’ motivations and experiences by researching through the lens of student narratives and the perspectives of Associate Lecturers.
A mixed methods approach was adopted. Quantitative analysis focussed on anonymised data regarding study intensity, declaration of disability and ethnicity and module outcome for each concurrent student registered on the core qualification modules from 2018/19 to 2020/21.
Qualitative methods included student and Associate Lecturer questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and the creation of vignettes, exploring the social, political, cultural and economic forces that impact student experiences and reasons for study. This reflexive approach (Flyvbjergb 2013) to the rich data allowed us to read our findings through multiple personal and theoretical perspectives.
To ensure a fully rounded analysis the project team was drawn from a diverse range of staff who support students, and the students themselves. The result is a multi-layered and multi-vocal analysis that can inform how we understand students and their motivations, while also challenging preconceptions that act as barriers to a more nuanced appreciation of the student experience.
Following separate analysis of questionnaire, interview and quantitative data there was a process of “bringing together” and weaving the fragmented and more complete stories. Thematic coding of interview data revealed a range of reasons why students opt for concurrent study, along with rich stories about students’ approaches and experiences. We identified five general student ‘types’. Further detail from qualitative student questionnaire data was integrated. For example, those who responded that a prime motivation for concurrent study was to graduate as soon as possible were categorised as “career changers”. We tracked these students’ other questionnaire responses to add to the overall picture of this cohort. This process continued until the level of repetition and overlap in student responses suggested we had reached a natural saturation point. Brief descriptions of the student types are shown in a form that captures their interrelatedness.
The heterogeneity of the concurrent Education Studies (Primary) cohort is apparent in all of the data. This leads to the recommendation that legacy narratives about concurrent students should be challenged in all forums. Project outputs to date include recorded professional development sessions for Associate Lecturers, alongside a qualification-wide recorded tutorial which shares student tips for concurrent study.
E103: Carolyn Cook, Clare Tope, Mandy Reddin
E209: Claire Saunders, Roisin McPhilemy, Paula Addison-Pettit, Jill Delsoldato
E309: Lore Gallastegi, Fiona Henry, Lorraine Moore
Cooke et al. (2021) Who are our Education Studies (Primary) concurrent students? Open University Scholarship Exchange
Flyvbjerg, B. (2013) ‘Case Study’. In Denzin, N.K., and Lincoln, Y.S. (Eds.) Strategies for Qualitative Research, Sage, London.
Penny, R. (no date) Developing support for students studying at high intensity’ (OU report).
Lucy Rai, Nashwa Ismail, Sally Ogut, Tajinder Gill, Evelyn Mooney, Kerry Jones, Ceinwen Gwilym, Michelle Carrington, Joanna Rawles
OpenStudio is a tool developed by the Open University which provides a collaborative online learning space. It was originally created as a design studio, similar to the social media tool Pinterest, and has only been used to date in STEM subjects. OpenStudio was piloted in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Languages on K102, Introducing Health and Social Care, a new foundation level module. This pedagogic tool was included in the new module to explore its value at this level for students in health and social care. The aim of this project is to evaluate student engagement with multi-modal activities and peer-to-peer interaction and learning. Also, to explore how effective is the use of OpenStudio as a tool to support peer interaction on K102. Moreover, the research explores the impact of the use of Open Studio as a multi-modal pedagogic tool to develop participation and conceptual thinking on K102.
Collaborative learning or peer to peer communication within modules has been shown to have a positive impact on student retention (Rienties and Toetenel, 2016). However, the extent of participation with collaborative learning varies as does the level of student satisfaction with its use (Cross et al 2015). Open Studio created, developed and used by The Open University in the context of design and STEM modules. These modules have primarily used the tool to provide a method for students to collaborate and prepare assessments based on visual artefacts such as diagrams (Creswell et al. 2017). Open University evidence has shown that while student performance improves when modules include collaborative activities, satisfaction rates generally fall (Open University 2016). This finding is consistent with the piloting of collaborative assessment was piloted on K101 and withdrawn in part due to problems with student satisfaction and complaints about equity arising from unequal levels of participation. Despite the challenges of encouraging peer learning, communication is an important employability skill (for example; NMC 2019). This has been the driver for the current research which aims to evaluate the use of OpenStudio as a tool to motivate and support students to develop foundation steps into peer learning through multi-modal using a low-risk tool which draws on interactions familiar in social media, such as Pinterest.
OpenStudio on K102 module offers a way for students to develop collaboration skills, which are one of the twelve elements of the Open University Employability Framework (Open University 2018). Collaboration is an important skill and is identified in The Open University Levels Framework which requires students to connect and work with others’ which at level 1 involves working with others, recognising and following accepted conventions of learning interaction (Open University 2015).
Nelwati et al (2018) suggest that ‘In addition, cognitive skills such as deep learning, critical thinking, problem solving, and reflective thinking skills are essential to be acquired by students in order to provide professional, effective, therapeutic, and safe nursing care to their patients by making clinical decisions and judgement. However, there is less published research on online peer learning in social work or social care education, and where addressed this has primarily been in the context of virtual placements (Taylor and Salmon 2020) or peer mentoring (Crooper 2000).
Literacy researchers have recognized the significance of visual modes of literacy and how they can expand options for writing and reading in the classroom (Siegel, 2006). Specifically, photographs have been used to support reflection and critical thinking as well as connect to the multiple contexts of children’s lives.’ (p. 537). Photographs have been used to support reflection and critical thinking as well as connect to the multiple contexts of children’s lives.’ (p. 537). Taking a critical pedagogy approach, his study found that the use of images helped students to reflect and share on complex everyday experiences in order to make connections with theory. The study found that ‘students made connections between everyday life and abstract concepts and enhanced ‘depth’ in their learning where we understand depth to be a sense of connectedness’ (Sakr, 2020 p. 868).
The study employs a mixed methods approach between the quantitative and qualitative is explanatory-sequential approach (Creswell et al, 2017).
The study starts with the collection of quantitative data, through online survey, in order to measure and analyse students’ engagement and use of the tool to measure the level of participation on Open Studio and correlate this with retention, performance and engagement with tuition. The survey has been sent to 167 students and 144 out of this number has responded.
Figure 1 below shows the percentage of students’ engagement with the OpenStudio tool over the module for K102, KXY102 and KYN102. The overall attendance on K102 in 20J was 53%, a rise from 18% on K101 in 19J. There is only a correlation between the introduction of OpenStudio and this increase in tutorial participation, and other factors such as the pandemic, may in part explain this change in behavior. However, this increase is significant and very positive as an indicator that the tool may be supporting greater peer learning.
The quantitative cycle is followed by qualitative deep dive to learn more about the context behind the figures through online focus group with 6 associate lecturers and in-depth one-to-one online interviews with 14 students.
Tutors reflected on students’ experience in using OS differently; some were with this experience referring to students’ positive experience in promoting their self-confidence, self-reflection and developing work-based skills. On the other hand, other tutors narrated their negative views about OS referring to students’ limited time to do the activities using OS and their lack of engagement with each other.
Peer-to-peer interaction, collaborative learning and their impact on students’ learning and their skills, have been addressed as emerging themes.
Students narrated this impact from two different perspectives: firstly; socially such as, feeling connected with others. Secondly, personally such as self-confidence and creativity. Students related these two perspectives with the academic perspectives and highlighted how peer-to-peer interaction influences their learning. Finally, some students addressed some challenges they have confronted when using OS. These challenges are related to different variances such as limited time and limited technological knowledge. Summary about students’ findings is illustrated below, see- figure 3.
OpenStudio has benefits to support students in developing skills in collaboration, reflection and critical thinking skills and also has the potential to encourage greater participation in tuition generally. OpenStudio has the potential to support the development of core graduate skills, particularly in practice-based learning. To maximise its effectiveness the tool needs to be set up with appropriate sizes of groups to allow effective moderation whilst also giving students access to a sufficiently large population of contributors. Tutors also need to be sufficiently prepared to ensure that they can provide effective support to students to facilitate them in using the tool. Further research is needed to test out the impact of the tool on participation in tuition longer term.
Cross, S. Whitelock, D. & Healing, G. (2015) Collaborative Learning and Assessment (CoLAb) Project: Final Report Institute of Educational Technology. The Open University
Creswell, J. W. and Plano Clark, Vicki L. (2017) Designing and conducting mixed methods research. 3rd edition.; International student edition
Cropper, A. (2000) ‘Mentoring as an inclusive device for the excluded: Black students' experience of a mentoring scheme’, Social work education, 19(6), pp. 597–607. doi:10.1080/02615470020002326.
Nelwati, Abdullah and Chan (2018) ‘A systematic review of qualitative studies exploring peer learning experiences of undergraduate nursing students’ in Nurse Education Today, volume 71, p185-192
Open University (2016) Collaborative online activities - a guide to good practice , online
Rienties, B. and Toetenel, L. (2016). The impact of 151 learning designs on student satisfaction and performance: social learning (analytics) matters. In: Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Learning Analytics & Knowledge – LAK
Sakr, . (2020) ‘'It just opened my eyes a bit more': student engagement with Instagram to develop understanding of complex concepts’, Teaching in higher education, 25(7), pp. 858–871. doi: 10.1080/13562517.2019.1613356.
Siegel, M. ( 2006) ‘Rereading the Signs: Multimodal Transformations in the Field of Literacy Education’, Language Arts 84(1): 65-77.
Taylor, L. and Salmon, G. (2021) ‘Enhancing Peer Learning through Online Placements for Health and Social Care Professions’, International journal of practice-based learning in health and social care, 9(2), pp. 1–10. doi:10.18552/ijpblhsc.v9i2.723.
Dr Wendy Turner, Dr Sharif Haider, Dr Bob Hallawell
To identify what the different types of simulation are, for and to identify how simulation might be used to enhance the HWSC curriculum
Zsuzsanna Bárkányi, Lecturer in Spanish, School of Languages and Applied Linguistics
the ultimate goal of foreign language learning is mostly speaking.
Pronunciation is important
Lack of pronunciation teaching
Benefits of explicit pronunciation teaching proven [4, 5]
OpenLearn Create then OpenLearn: 15k visits
Number of OU students are non-native speakers
Most participants think:
Teaching pronunciation is beneficial
Strategies to cope with anxiety related to speaking and pronunciation is helpful.
Please see also our past project posters.