H880: TEL Foundations and Futures

Our Open University postgraduate module – H880: TEL Foundations and Futures – has just begun its second run on FutureLearn. To keep up to date on the H880 community, follow the related Twitter account @OUH880 and/or follow the H880 blog.

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European MOOC Consortium

I’m currently working on a European-funded project on the labour market (EMC-LM) with the European MOOC Consortium . We met in Brussels on 5 February 2020 for our annual consortium meeting, followed the next day by a Peer Learning Activity with a range of stakeholders from across the continent.

Peer Learning Activity information

MOOCs and online learning opportunities for the Labour Market

The European MOOC Consortium with the main platforms (Fututurelearn, France Université Numérique, Miariadax, EduOpen and OpenupEd) joins forces in a knowledge alliance with the public employment services, sectoral organizations and companies for the development, delivery and use of MOOCs for the labour market.

More than 2000 MOOC offerings are available from these platforms collaborating with 250  European frontrunner universities. Furthermore, European universities start policies for continuing education in which online short (postgraduate) courses and programmes play a key role.

Also, a Common Microcredential Framework is adopted by European MOOC platforms and by universities organizing online short learning programmes for continuing professional development. Recognized awards are delivered to students according to the European Qualification Framework and fitting to Europass.

On 6th February 2020, the knowledge alliance  will organise a Peer Learning Activity with experts for MOOC platforms, universities, public employment services/Ministries of Employment, sectoral organizations and companies. 
EMC banner

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Anna Comas Quinn: viva success

Tim, Alina, Anna, Rebecca and Jorge celebrate Anna’s viva success

On 23 January 2020, one of my doctoral students, Anna Comas Quinn, successfully defended her viva. Anna’s subject for her EdD thesis was ‘Experiences of online volunteer translation and implications for translator education’. Her examiners were Professor Jorge Diaz-Cintas for University College London and Dr Alina Secara from the University of Leeds in a viva chaired by Dr Indra SInka. Anna’s other supervisor was Tim Lewis.

Thesis abstract

This study explores the boundary between online volunteer translation and translation education to gain insights into how pedagogy might respond to: a) changes in practice in the field of translation resulting from the increasing availability and use of digital tools and content; and b) the learning opportunities afforded to those who want to become professional translators by the growth of online, open volunteer translation activities.

Within the context of developing a translation qualification, this investigation aims to inform the possibility of expanding the concept of practice-based learning within an authentic, situated translator education model, to encompass real-world online volunteering translation tasks that can contribute to the development of professional competence.

The study focuses on participants in TED Translators (TEDT) from across the world who plan to work as professional translators. Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) of interview data and a qualitative online survey, it explores their experiences and perceptions of how their engagement with TEDT fits into their learning and career journeys.

The findings identify the characteristics of the activity that make it attractive to aspiring translators as well as the difficulties they encounter; the professional and learning benefits that participants derive from engaging in TEDT; and the different paths and trajectories that link volunteering, education and profession. It concludes that online volunteer translation can offer a motivating, meaningful and situated learning opportunity through which learners can develop their translation competence and their identity as translators; and that informal learning using open tools, resources and communities can support learners’ access to and engagement with formal education. However, educators and participants must consider the challenges of learning within an online community and develop the relevant digital and participatory skills, as well as a good awareness of local customs, to successfully engage with this opportunity.

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Innovating Pedagogy 2020

The latest Innovating Pedagogy report came out in January 2020.

If you haven’t seen one in previous years, this series of reports explores new forms of teaching, learning, and assessment for an interactive world, to guide teachers and policy makers in productive innovation. The 2020 report proposes ten innovations that are already in currency but have not yet had a profound influence on education. This year, the team from IET partnered with the National Institute for Digital Learning at Dublin City University in order to produce the report.


Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes; Beirne, Elaine; Conole, Gráinne; Costello, Eamon; Coughlan, Tim; Ferguson, Rebecca; Fitzgerald, Elizabeth; ; Gaved, Mark; Herodotou, Christothea; Holmes, Wayne; Mac Lochlainn, Conchúr; Nic Giolla Mhichil, Mairéad; Rienties, Bart; Sargent, Julia; Scanlon, Eileen; Sharples, Mike and Whitelock, Denise (2019). Innovating Pedagogy 2020: Open University Innovation Report 8. The Open University, Milton Keynes.


Artificial intelligence in education: Preparing for life and learning in the age of AI

Posthumanist perspectives: Confronting the relationship between humans and technology

Learning through open data: Using real-world data for personally relevant learning

Engaging with data ethics: Ethical use of data in digital life and learning

Social justice pedagogy: Addressing injustices in lives and society

Esports: Learning and teaching through competitive virtual gaming

Learning from animations: Watching and interacting with short animations

Multisensory learning: Using several senses to enhance learning

Offline networked learning: Networked learning beyond the Internet

Online laboratories: Laboratory access for all.

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Educational Visions

Our new book, Educational visions: the lessons from 40 years of innovation, came out online in December 2019 . Both the entire book and individual chapters can be downloaded free of charge from Ubiquity Press or you can choose to purchase a printed copy.

The book celebrates 40 years of the Computers and Learning Research Group (CALRG), bringing together the findings of its four decades of study. In it, we explain how the group has been working to achieve four visions for education

  1. Learning is accessible for everyone
  2. Teaching is adapted to meet learners’ needs
  3. Teams can successfully teach any number of students at a distance
  4. Learners engage enthusiastically with STEM learning.

We outline the great progress that has already been made towards these goals, and some of the work that remains to be done.

Ferguson, Rebecca; Jones, Ann and Scanlon, Eileen (2019). Educational visions: The lessons from 40 years of innovation. London: Ubiquity Press.

Book overview

What have been the biggest successes in educational technology – and why have they succeeded when others have failed?

Educational Visions shows how innovations including citizen science, learning at scale, inclusive education, learning design and analytics have developed over decades. The book is shaped by the visions pursued by one research group for the past 40 years. It outlines the group’s framework for innovation and shows how this can be put into practice to achieve long-term results that benefit both students and teachers at every educational level.

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Moving forward with learning analytics

The current issue of the Journal of Analytics includes a paper on work carried out by the Learning Analytics Community Europe (LACE) project) on the future of learning analytics. Our Policy Delphi analysis of how learning analytics are likely to develop used provocations like the one summarised in the image. For each provocation, we asked participants  whether they thought it would be achievable or desirable within the next ten years.

Ferguson, Rebecca; Clow, Doug; Griffiths, Dai and Brasher, Andrew (2019). Moving Forward with Learning Analytics: Expert Views. Journal of Learning Analytics, 6(3) pp. 43–59.


Learning analytics involve the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, in order to understand and optimise learning and the environments in which it occurs. Since emerging as a distinct field in 2011, learning analytics has grown rapidly, and early adopters around the world are already developing and deploying these new tools. This paper reports on a study that investigated how the field is likely to develop by 2025, in order to make recommendations for action to those concerned with the implementation of learning analytics. The study used a Policy Delphi approach, presenting a range of future scenarios to international experts in the field and asking for responses related to the desirability and feasibility of these scenarios, as well as actions that would be required. Responses were received from 103 people from 21 countries. Responses were coded thematically, inter-rater reliability was checked using Cohen’s kappa coefficient, and data were recoded if kappa was below 0.6. The seven major themes that were identified within the data were power, pedagogy, validity, regulation, complexity, ethics, and affect. The paper considers in detail each of these themes and its implications for the implementation of learning analytics.

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Conversational learning at scale

Tweet about the presentationI wasn’t able to make it to ECTEL 2019, which took place in Delft, Netherlands, 16-19 September. However, my fellow author, Mike Sharples, was there to present our paper on ‘Pedagogical Design of Conversational Learning at Scale’.

Sharples, Mike and Ferguson, Rebecca (2019). Pedagogy-informed design of conversational learning at scale. In: CEUR Workshop Proceedings, 2437.


This paper examines how an explicit theory of learning as conversation has informed design of the FutureLearn MOOC platform. We describe a process of pedagogy-informed systems design and show how Conversation Theory has provided a framework for design that combines learning as conversation with instruction through structured content. The paper compares performance metrics across three MOOC platforms. Results show higher levels of social engagement, with comparable completion rates, for the FutureLearn platform.

Mike’s presentation

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