Archive for category Prizes

LAK20: learning analytics under lockdown

The Learning Analytics and Knowledge 2020 (LAK20) was always going to be special. As the tenth in this annual conference series, it provided an opportunity to look back at a decade of work in the field, as well as a chance to look ahead.

However, Covid-19 gave it a whole new dimension. The conference was scheduled to run in Frankfurt in the week of 23 March, and planning had spanned more than a year. By the start of 2020 it was clear that this wouldn’t be a normal situation. First, the delegates from China and its surrounding countries dropped out. Australia was next to go, followed by drop-outs that spread quickly across the US and Europe. A face-to-face conference morphed into a blended one and then, as Germany closed down movement, went fully online. The conference organisers were on 24/7 alert, planning for the different possibilities. How could a five-day event with more than 600 participants be sustained?

In the end, it moved to Zoom without a hitch due to the almost superhuman efforts of a team including Maren Scheffel, Grace Lynch, Vitomir Kovanovich and Hendrik Drachsler. The conference ran over 12 hours a day, with people joining as their time zone began work and dropping out when it was the end of their day. Presentations were recorded so that attendees could catch up with the parts of the conference that happened in their night. Social conversation and activities went on in two purpose-built Zoom rooms – the Bench in the Sun and the Coffee Machine.

I took part in the Doctoral Consortium, which SImon Buckingham Shum had moved online. The PhD students who participated came from around the world, mentored by researchers from at least three continents. Between Google Docs and Zoom every element of the consortium was possible: presentations, discussions, feedback, poster presentations, and career advice from past doctoral students.

I also chaired a couple of sessions, handling the recording, keeping an eye on participation, ensuring presenters were prepared and confident, keeping events strictly to time, and facilitating questions and discussion. This went well – but only because the conference organisers had arranged training meet-ups for all session chairs.

You’d expect a virtual conference dinner to be sparsely attended but, in fact, there were around 350 people there. It was a sad moment for me because my second term of office as a member of the SoLAR Executive came to an end at this point and I had to step down from the committee. It was also a proud moment, as I received an award as best Senior Reviewer at the conference.

Leave a comment

MOOCs and Open Education around the World

The book MOOCS and Open Education Around the World, to which I contributed a chapter, has been very successful. Most recently, it won a DDL Distance Education Book Award. This award is presented in recognition of a print or digital book published within the last three years that describes important theoretical or practical aspects of distance education that can help others involved in distance education or those researching an important aspect of distance education. The primary focus of the book must be directly related to distance education.


AECT Division of Distance Learning (DDL) Distance Education Book Award. 2016 – First Place. MOOCs and Open Education around the World, Editors: Curtis J. Bonk, Mimi M. Lee, Thomas C. Reeves and Thomas H. Reynolds. NY: Routledge. Presented at the 2016 Conference of the Association for Educational Technology and Communications, Las Vegas.

Postscript in September 2018: The book is now available in Chinese.

, ,

Leave a comment

Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year

Congratulations to all the team for winning ‘Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year’ at the THE Awards.

Celebrating at the awards ceremony


Leave a comment

The strength of cohesive ties

In September 2011, I presented at ReLive 2011 together with Julia Gillen, one of my co-authors. We won third prize for Best Conference Paper.

FERGUSON, R., GILLEN, J., PEACHEY, A. & TWINING, P. The strength of cohesive ties: discursive construction of an online community.  ReLIVE11: Creative Solutions for New Futures, 2011 (21-22 September) Milton Keynes, UK.


Learning takes place in a social context and this context can offer many resources, including structure, continuity and motivation. Online, two primary learning types of context have been identified, networks and communities. While networks may offer a wealth of people and resources, communities appear to offer richer learning possibilities. It is therefore important to investigate how online learning communities can be formed from online networks, and whether such a shift benefits learners. The study reported here focuses on two groups of teenagers, one a formal learning group from the USA and the other an informal learning group from the UK. The groups were originally only weakly tied in a network, but aimed to create a single learning community through activity in an online forum, wiki and virtual world. Thematic analysis of their forum posts shows the importance of cohesive ties – grammatical devices used to construct coherent narratives – to the development of key elements of community: spirit, authority, trade and art.

1 Comment

Robot Club – Y Factor success

This year, I supported the local schools’ Robot Club to participate in the Y Factor conference, now run in association with Learning without Frontiers.

The club was started at the local junior school by a parent governor. When the children left the school, they carried on building robots in their spare time, and persuaded their secondary school to start a robot club there.

The group became national finalists, and presented in the round to a large audience at the Learning without Frontiers event in London, where they all won Nintendo DSs. Here’s the video they made as their original entry.

Leave a comment

Scratch Club – Y Factor prizewinners

I supported the local junior school’s Scratch Club to enter the Y Factor competition run in association with the 2009 Handheld Learning Festival. The Learners Y Factor showcases the innovation and ingenuity being demonstrated amongst young learners using mobile, gaming, social media or other popular technologies in their learning.

The Scratch Club was a great example of this – it’s run by four 10 year olds who love programming with Scratch. It was started by them, and they’ve had to campaign to get Scratch on the school computers, and to find an adult to supervise them while they run the club. This is the introduction they put together for the Y Factor (they reached the national finals and each one a wii).

Leave a comment

Y Factor prizewinners 2008

A Schome team of teenagers entered the Y Factor 2008 competition, held at the Handheld Learning conference. The competition looks for young people who are ‘doing something innovative, different and interesting that gives their learning the “Y” factor’.

It proved very complicated to get the team to London, as they weren’t supported by a school, there was no more project funding, and the teenagers had to travel from all over the country. I searched for sponsors, and both RM and Sums Online generously agreed to fund part of the trip.

In addition, the teenagers had to put together and rehearse their presentation – and then present it together in front of a large audience in London on the first occasion they had ever met. On the day, Vibia presented from her school via Second Life, while Topper, Baso, Mars and Kit met up in London. They went home with third prize – lots of software, some of which they sold in order to send a cash equivalent to Vibia. Here’s part of their presentation

Schome Park has given its students a real chance to study History and Archaeology in new ways which are more engaging and interactive than those used in the classroom. As Second Life® allows people to build, script, and chat amongst other things, the History sessions have been able to build Roman aqueducts. Sizings can be used which can enable students to scale buildings so they can compare the size of these buildings to the height of people. This allows students to relate to how people would have felt seeing these buildings. The study of archaeology is a difficult process as once artefacts and material are disturbed they cannot be replaced, whereas in Schome Park this is possible. During the Archaeology sessions a shipwreck was recreated and ‘excavated’ amongst discussions including Henges and Pompeii. When the two sessions integrated for one meeting a Roman road was created and enabled each layer of the road to be removed allowing students to see how the roads were constructed. This unique way of learning breaks down the barriers of students and teachers. This leads to student run sessions which benefit many people as both children and adults can learn from each other.

Leave a comment