Archive for category Videos

BBC: Go the Distance

I joined a team of experts from across The Open University to contribute to the BBC Learning English co-production, Go The Distance: ‘a 10-week taste of what distance learning is really like – with real students, real tutors, key study and digital literacy skills and lots of help with your English.’

My contribution was to Academic Insights ‘the series where we meet real distance learning tutors and get their top tips for successful studying.’

You can watch the video via the BBC site or via OpenLearn.


  • My name’s Rebecca Ferguson. I work as a lecturer in distance learning. My field is educational technology.
  • There are several reasons for working together. One of them is because it’s a way of learning in itself. You share perspectives and you discuss things. The second reason is it’s a very effective way of learning. And the third reason is employability. You need to be able to work with your team.
  • Student collaborative tasks depend on the level of study. They might be contributing to a forum; they might be responding to somebody else in a forum. But when you get to final years you’d be working on a project with others. You might be carrying out research with others.
  • Shyness and confidence can be a problem for some students especially when they’re in video conferences but in forums it’s a very good way of communicating if you’re shy.
  • Something that a tutor can do is to encourage people to introduce themselves and to talk on a safe subject that they don’t feel stressed about, just introduce themselves and deal with something relatively impersonal.
  • A solution for that is to share information about when you can work and for how long you can work. Another solution is to timetable how you’re going to work together.
  • Learners feel that it’s very beneficial because it reflects what they’re going to be doing in a working environment. It’s something they felt unconfident about before and they now know how to do it.





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Interviewed in Uruguay

While I was in Montevideo, at the invitation of Plan Ceibal, I was interviewed about learning analytics. This playlist of four short videos (subtitled in Spanish) deals with the potential of Big Data to improve learning, how The Open University has used learning analytics, and the work of the LACE and LAEP projects.

I talk about how analytics can be used to identify when students are dropping behind, how they can be used to identify successful routes through courses, and how they can identify types of learning design that lead to student success.

I note that the supply of learning analytics is growing, but it is not clear that the demand is growing in the same way. Researchers and developers need to engage more with educators at every stage in order to identify the problems they need to be solved and the questions that they need to have answered.

I also talk about the need to align learning analytics with strategic priorities for education and training, not only at institutional level, but also at national and international level.

My videos are followed in the playlist with videos from Professor Dragan Gasevic, chair of the Society for Learning Analytics (SoLAR).

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UK SoLAR Flare: 19 November 2012

UK solar flareTogether with Simon Buckingham Shum (OU), Doug Clow (OU)  and Sheila MacNeill, I co-chaired today’s UK SoLAR Flare, the first UK gathering dedicated to Learning Analytics.

Under the auspices of Society for Learning Analytics Research and sponsored by The Open University & JISC Centre for Educational Technology and Interoperability Standards, this fully subscribed inaugural UK Flare invited 50 participants to learn what is going in the country, and forge valuable new connections.

At the event, Sheila MacNeill from JISC-CETIS  launched their new series of reports on the state of the art in Learning Analytics – and where the future may go.

For podcasts of the sessions see:

Introduction from Simon Buckingham Shum  (17 mins)

Short introductions to individuals’ research
0-2 mins Simon Buckingham Shum (The Open University)  Network learning analytics, disposition analytics;
5-8 mins Nicola Avery (Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) Text analysis of feedback
8-13 mins Doug Clow (The Open University) Data wrangling
13-18 mins Adam Cooper (JISC CETIS) Exponential random graph models and network analysis
19-22 mins John Doove (SURF) Diverse learning analytics projects in the Netherlands funded by SUR
23-26 mins Cath Ellis (University of Huddersfield) Evaluation of the benefits of electronic assessment management (including emotion and motivation)
26-33 mins Rebecca Ferguson (The Open University) Social learning analytics
33-37 mins Dai Griffiths (University of Bolton) Tracking how models of learning are changing
37-42 mins Martin Hawksey (JISC CETIS) MOOC analytics
42-47 mins Jean Mutton (University of Derby) Identifying student engagement and students at risk
47-50 mins Jonathan San Diego (King’s College, London) Analytics and learning design
51-55 mins Mark Stubbs (Manchester Metropolitan University) Student satisfaction data collection tools
56-61 mins Annika Wolff (The Open University) Predictive modelling and retention
61-65 mins Chris Ballard (Tribal Labs) Predictive models to visualise student success

Feedback on group discussions
0-3 mins retention and success
3-6 mins dashboards
6-9 mins issues with retention and success analytics
9-15 mins learning analytics and pedagogy
16-22 mins data sources

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SoLAR Storm Event

Social Learning Analytics symposium, Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University UK.

An afternoon presenting and discussing the work of SocialLearn interns Zhongyu Wei (The Chinese University of Hong Kong) and Shaofu Huang (Bristol University) on the development of social learning analytics. I re-presented the talk on social learning analytics that I presented at LAK 2012 earlier this year, setting the scene for the work of the interns, and painting the broader picture. Zhongyu talked about his work on discourse analytics; Shaofu talked about the progress of his work on disposition analytics and there was a question and answer session with members of the audience.

View the webinar.

Full details of the event are available on the SocialLearn Research blog.

This hybrid face-to-face / webinar event formed part of SoLAR Storm  — the virtual research lab convened by the Society for Learning Analytics Research to build research capacity in this new field by networking PhD researchers with each other and the wider community.

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The End Game

Having struggled through the final stages of thesis writing, Ann Pegg and I presented a seminar at The Open University on the end game.

In May 2009, we also gave a presentation at the university on aspects of completing a thesis. This was webcast and recorded for future students.

Ferguson, R., Pegg, A., McEwen, M., Nissen, N. & Saunders, R. (May 2009) ‘Completing the thesis’. Research School seminar. Webcast available (Open University Intranet link)

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Second Life wedding

By April 2007, the Schome Park island on Teen Second Life was populated by many teenagers’ avatars. They could choose to attend sessions on philosophy, physics and/or archaeology, but they could also organise their own sessions.

Trix and Wintermute (who had never met face to face) decided to get married. Wintermute is the brain in a jar.

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Introduction to Schome Park

The Schome Park island for the Schome project was set up on the Main Grid of Second Life and later moved – together with the avatars of the associated adults – into Teen Second Life.

I set up a new avatar, Fox Phlox, ready for the transition – and put together a video introducing the island and Second Life. This video, and all the others connected with the Schome project, can be viewed on the Schome Park YouTube channel.

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