Innovations, crowds and a bit of Direction

IET watermark consisting of letter ietI have just started a new role within the Institute of Educational Technology coming in as Acting Director as Josie Taylor steps down and retires. I have worked with Josie from my very first days here in IET 14 years ago. We constructed the funding bid to HEFCE for the Knowledge Network (or as we termed it then UNLOCK – University Networked Location of Community Knowledge) and set up the UserLab as a way to manage having several EU/internationally funded projects in the same area at the same time. Working closely with Josie as I have shadowed her over the last few weeks has been a great introduction and I am happy to say that I am able to take on IET in a good state.

Photo of Jennie Lee Building at The Open University in Milton KeynesIET has slimmed down to now have  about 90 staff in total across academics, researchers, academic related and support staff.  But IET’s research is healthy and the works it carries out inside the university seems more in demand than ever. All universities are having to cope with changes in how students view them, how they have come to study and the different options they now have. Perhaps the impact on study at the OU have been even bigger as it is a university that operates across all four nations as well as through Open Educational Resources. The OU needs to cope with various systems and in particular with the way part-time study has to adjust to the requirements for loans imposed on students from England. That is a major change that needs to be reflected on in terms of learning design, accessibility, data analytics and quality enhancement. All aspects where IET places a major role within the OU.

A big topic for this year is the coming together of learning opportunities around free resources. My research lies in this area, with the OER Research Hub, and the OU has brought together universities and other organisations from the UK and beyond in FutureLearn. This is an innovative way to lower the barrier to taking part in courses (in fact while typing this I though why not actually join the latest offering of a FutureLearn course from the OU on Ecosystems – the elapsed time from thought to registration was just under 2 minutes).

FutureLearn and its Massive Open Online courses (MOOCs) is only part of a broader approach to OER for the OU. There are also direct open courses, such as OLDSMOOC and H817Open (both operated out off IET) and continuing investment in OpenLearn, iTunesU and YouTube from the OU’s Open Media Unit. Not forgetting great BBC programmes.

Cover of Innovating Pedagogy reportThe work on the Innovating Pedagogy reports, which I was pleased to be able to be part oded helps us reflect on what this means for pedagogy. The 2013 report balances various options and considers 10 areas but one that is coming out as more prominent is how what we do with students is more and more overlapped with what is happening in the world. In the report this is seen as “Crowd-learning” and Mike Sharples in an article in the Times Higher speculates that perhaps 2013 is the year of the crowd. I had the chance to present on the Innovating Pedagogy report at the recent EADTU conference in Paris, already blogged by Leigh-Anne Perryman on the site. My own slides (below) covered the pedagogic lessons from the open universities and how the innovations we report are helping review these.


European activity – opense and oer in sweden

I attended a couple of different events in the last few days. I was at a meeting of the OpenSE project in Oxford. Blogged on at
And I attended an OER in Sweden conference. Blogged on at
One further comment – I stayed overnight when I went to Oxford (40 miles away) and did there and back to Stockholm in a day (about 900 miles). My daughter kept checking if I had got this the right way around :). She has a point.

Let down by Flickr!

I am at a conference making some blog entries across at my OCHRE OpenLearn blog. I was taking pictures to illustrate by blog about Marsha Lovett’s presentation and it was not working. Strange error messages resulted asking me to “checktickets”. Looking at the Flickr blog they know about it as their “farm1” is down. I am sure they will fix it soon but it does seem strange to have one of the major Web2.0 sites not working. I could of course find other solutions but for the moment I will wait it out and add the pictures a bit later.

The CETIS conference

Asus eee on trainOriginally uploaded by openpadJust a brief note about going to the JISC CETIS conference. I decided to carry on the live blogging that I started at the OpenLearn2007 conference by blogging during the CETIS conference. I did that using my other account across at, but thought I would note here that the little Asus proved a great tool for the job. While other people balanced their Macs and laptops on their knees the Asus eee was a much neater solution and I also felt it helped my typing even though the keyboard is a bit small and with a slightly strange layout. A better battery life would be great but I managed to grab just enough access to a power socket. The picture shows the Asus eee sitting on the silly little pull down shelf on the Virgin train. If fits! The PC is a great design and I am getting more and more enthusiastic about them.