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Farewell, Gill

There has been a voluntary severance scheme in operation at The Open University over the past year, which has meant saying goodbye to a lot of talented friends. Last to go was Gill Clough, who joined the university at the same time that I did. Over the past 15 years, we’ve done so much together that it was hard to see her go. Her Hobbits remain, as a permanent reminder of the spirit of exploration and adventure that she brings to all her work.



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Pecha Kucha

Sum yourself up in 40 seconds and one slide – that was the JTEL Summer School challenge. This blog came in very handy when putting the slide together.

Pecha kucha slide

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Practical Pedagogy

Practical Pedagogy

It was a busy day yesterday! After a morning at the University of Leeds research symposium, I travelled down to London for the launch of Mike Sharples’ book, Practical Pedagogy: 40 New Ways To Teach and Learn. The book is strongly rooted in the Innovating Pedagogy reports, bringing together ideas from all the reports published since 2012.

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FutureTrends Forum

In April 2019, I was a guest speaker on the FutureTrends Forum webinar, run by Bryan Alexander, talking about the Innovating Pedagogy report series. The forum is “an ongoing, participatory, and open video conversation about the future of higher education.”

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European MOOC Consortium – Labour Market

Snow on cafe tables and chairs in BrusselsIn January, I was in snowy Brussels with Beck Pitt for the kick-off meeting of our new, Erasmus-funded project, ‘European MOOC Consortium – Labour Market’.

Project description

MOOCs and digital continuous education/training are a flexible and scalable solution for a transnational, truly European response to the needs of the economy across Europe. They can keep innovative knowledge and skills of the workforce up to date and anticipate on careers of tomorrow.

MOOC platforms in the European MOOCs Consortium (EMC) look for solutions to reach better the labour market. In this knowledge alliance, they opt for a structural collaboration with public employment services (PES) active on the national labour markets, with companies and with a sectoral industrial organisation. The alliance is anchored both in the world of work (PES, companies, sectoral organisation) and in the world of education and training (universities, platforms). It shows which role MOOC platforms, universities, PES and companies jointly play on the labour market.

PES and companies are not only mediators between MOOC platforms and individual learners, but also as allies in the (co-)development and (co-)delivery of MOOCs and digital continuous education and training (CE, CT)

The main purpose of the alliance is to strengthen the partners by sharing experience and expertise on MOOCs and digital CE and CT; to create a framework for structural collaboration on the development, delivery and use of MOOCs for the EU labour market; to empower all partners on MOOCs for the labour market, and to implement a responsive and large-scale outreach to the EU labour market. This will facilitate the exchange and flow of knowledge, strengthening Europe’s innovation capacity. The visibility and accessibility of MOOCs for CE/CT will be increased by a joint portal for the EU labour market, surveys and a marketing plan.

Last, but not least, EMC-LM will contribute to regional, national and European policies for continuous education and training, employment and growth, proposing strategies for change and action plans. By doing this, it contributes to the Modernisation Agenda and Digital Education Plan.

Project partners

  • 1. EADTU Vereniging van European Distance Teaching Universities, Netherlands. (MOOC platform OpenupEd)
  • 2. FUTURELEARN, United Kingdom
  • 3. GIP-FUN France Université Numérique (MOOC platform), France
  • 4 TED Telefónica Educación Digital (runs MiriadaX MOOC platform), Spain
  • 5 UniFg University of Foggia (lead partner in Italian MOOC platform), Italy, EduOpen
  • 6 OUUK The Open University, United Kingdom
  • 7 VDAB Public authority for the co-ordination of the labour market in Flanders, Belgium
  • 8 ANPAL National Agency for Active Labour Policies, Italy
  • 9 OPCALIM French government agency in charge of Vocational Training for the food-processing  industry, France

Our first big task in the project will be to produce a state-of-the-art analysis of MOOC provisions for the EU labour market.


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CALRG is 40

CALRG40 log on a laptop screen The The Computers and Learning Research Group (CALRG) is based at the Open University. In October 2018 it celebrated the 40th Anniversary of its foundation. Located in the OU’s Institute of Educational Technology, with membership across the University, CALRG is proud to welcome staff and students who have an interest in researching the use of technologies in formal and informal learning. The group organises weekly events throughout the year and runs a very popular annual conference in June. For details of current activities see

CALRG celebrated its 40th year with an event at The Open University on 19 October 2018 that welcomed back former members and friends. Talks that day looked back at the group’s history, traced the trends in our research over the years and looked forward to the future of learning with computers. It included talks from EIleen Scanlon, Diana Laurillard, Neil Mercer, Tim O’Shea, and Mike Sharples.

Despite being one of the event’s organisers, I was unable to attend on the day. However, the event was comprehensively live-blogged by Doug Clow. Readers with access to the OU can also watch replays of the event’s four sessions.

CALRG40 logo

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FLAN at Exeter University

FutureLearn logoThe spring meeting of the FutureLearn Academic Network (FLAN) took place at the University of Exeter on 28 February. The broad topic of the meeting was on the relationship between MOOCs and other courses run by the university. As Academic Coordinator of the network, I was involved in planning the event, though I was not able to attend on the day due to industrial action. The agenda gives a flavour of the variety of work presented and the reach of the network.


10.00 Coffee and welcome

10.30-11.00 FutureLearn & the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Nigel Smith (FutureLearn Head of Content) & Christoffer Valenta (FutureLearn Legal Counsel). On 25 May the new European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force. This means FutureLearn is reviewing all its data protection and privacy policies. Nigel will explain the GDPR’s implications on partners’ research and Chris Valenta will join remotely for a Q&A.

11.00-11.20  China’s model of integrating MOOCs in the university. Zhu Yingxi, Shanghai Jiaotong University (by Skype)

11.20-11.40 Integrating MOOCs into on-campus modules. Nic Fair and Manuel Leon from the Web Science Institute, University of Southampton

11.40-12.00 How does a MOOC impact on-campus student engagement? Sarah Cornelius, Colin Calder and Peter Mtika, University of Aberdeen (by Skype)

12.00-12.20 Bristol Futures: Using open courses to provide extra curricular activities for students. David Smith and Suzanne Collins, University of Bristol

12.20-13.00 Lunch

13.00-13.45 Students as MOOC facilitators; the benefits of worldwide MOOC engagement. Damien Mansell, Sarah Dyer and student facilitators, University of Exeter. This workshop presents a unique student/staff partnership developed to facilitate the delivery and support of the Climate Change MOOCs at Exeter. The student facilitator model engages taught and research students to become co-creators of learning experiences, facilitate discussion, share stories, answer questions and monitor engagement.

13.45-14.30 Questions & Answers – how to survey learners? Reka Budai – Strategy & Insights Analyst, FutureLearn & Lisa Perez – UX Research Lead, FutureLearn. In this interactive session we will be sharing with you our survey vision – what, when and how we would like to ask from learners to get better insights and make course evaluation more efficient.

14.30-14.50 Coffee break

14.50-15.10 A blended course in Haskell Programming that includes a FutureLearn MOOC: Learner & Teacher Experiences Jeremy Singer & Vicki Dale, University of Glasgow (by Skype)

15.10-15.30 The Quality Approaches to MOOCs and the Influence of the University Culture. Ahmed Al-Imarah, University of Bath

15.30-16.00 General discussion of terms of reference, funding opportunities, next steps


16.00 Meeting ends

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