One day in the life of an MK newcomer

By John Pettit, MAODE Programme Director

Research at the Institute of Educational Technology feeds into our Master’s programme in numerous ways. For example, the EU-funded MASELTOV project explored the use of mobile technology to help migrants learn a language and develop their understanding of their new cultural context. The Open University – one of 14 partners in the project – trialled the MASELTOV Android app in Milton Keynes in the UK. The Spanish-speaking participants, who had recently come to Milton Keynes from Latin America, were each given a phone loaded with the app. As they moved around Milton Keynes, the app gave them various location-based prompts and opportunities for learning English.

Our Master’s students examine this project within the broad topic of location-based learning – and they also explore some of the issues around data privacy. This is highlighted in, for example, the map showing the path of one of the phones (and presumably one of the participants) that moved around Milton Keynes. Students also get to appreciate the elegance of MK’s gridroads – and those famous roundabouts.

Map of Milton Keynes, showing the path of one of the phones or participants in the MASELTOV trial

Source: Visualisation of geo-context data by JOANNEUM RESEARCH, MASELTOV project (adapted from Google Maps).


H810 Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students – a catalyst for change

Post written by MA in Online and Distance Education student Gemma Holtam

Having a personal and professional interest in how technology can be used can create accessible learning, in September 2014 I enrolled onto the Open University masters level module H810 ‘Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students’.  At the time little did I know of the great effect that this course would have on my professional life and the lives of the students at my institution.  For example, as a direct result of studying this course I was offered a new post, led a funded research projected into creating accessible study skills resources and disseminated the findings of this research at national conferences. I am now involved in creating institutional change with regards to how technology is used to support students who are in receipt of Advanced Learner Support. Furthermore, I am part of the Association for Dyslexia Specialist in Higher Education (ADSHE) working party in relation to inclusive design.

The new job

When I began studying H810 I was working as a Learning Technologist. However, having a background in pastoral support this was an area that I was keen to return to, therefore I applied for a post as a HE Study Skills and Progression Coach. As part of the role involves creating online study skills resources I was able to include the accessible learning resource that I created as part of the H810 assessment criteria within my interview pack.

Funded research project

During the course I was offered a research grant from the East Midlands Centre for Excellence in Teacher Training (EMCETT). This was used to investigate a topic entitled ‘Removing barriers, creating accessible online learning’. The timing of this project coincided with the UK government’s indication that they would be reducing the Disabled Student Allowances funding and placing greater expectations on institutions to provide inclusive learning environments for disabled students. I was able to utilise this research opportunity, and what I had learned on H810, to create an accessible online study skills course. The aim of the course was to increase the accessibility of the study skills provision at my institution, whilst providing examples of good practice to inspire other staff and demonstrate how they can create inclusive learning environments.

As well as disseminating the findings from my project at the EMCETT Practitioner Led Research conference I have also presented my findings at the Association for Dyslexia Specialists (ADHSE) in HE annual conference. A copy of my slides from the ADSHE conference can be seen below. An accessible version of the PowerPoint presentation, which also contains a written commentary, can be downloaded here.

Creating institutional change

I am now working with the college’s Advanced Learner Support team to increase the use of both assistive technology and learning technology across our FE provision. This includes creating video and text-based help guides on the different tools that can be used to support a student’s studies. In addition to this, I am part of the Association for Dyslexia Specialist in Higher Education working party, whose aim is to increase the use of inclusive design in HE.  H810: Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students has certainly been a catalyst for personal and institutional change, with the ultimate outcome of improving the student learning experience.

Three days in the life of H818: The Networked Practitioner


The Open University’s MA in Online and Distance Education is well known for featuring cutting-edge educational technology and online pedagogies. One module – H818 The Networked Practitioner – has taken this innovation to a new level through its annual online conference, which includes presentations from students and ed tech experts on key themes in online and distance education. The 2015 conference has just ended and was something of a social media sensation. The conference ran over three days and featured 34 presentations, with keynotes from Gráinne Conole, Allison Littlejohn and Martin Weller.  While the conference itself was open to a limited audience, many of the presentations are openly available and can be accessed via links provided on the conference programme. Student presentations covered wide-ranging topics, including:

As with many online and face-to-face conferences these days, Twitter back-chat provided an ongoing narrative of the H818 conference as it unfolded (#H818conf), and is captured in a Storify which gives a great sense of the discussion taking place over the three days. H818 conference Twitter Storify If you enjoy looking through the 2015 H818 conference presentations then do also check out the website for the 2014 conference.  If you’re interested in studying the MAODE, or H818 The Networked Practitioner, you can get more information from The Open University website.  You could also use Twitter to ask current students about the module via the #H818, #H818conf and #MAODE hashtags.

Sian’s story – Raspberry Pi arriving in schools in China – it all started with H818

Raspberry Pi computer

Photo credit: mattwareham CC-BY

By H818 student Sian Lovegrove

I took my principal Dr Lei, to the first Raspberry Pi user group meeting in Shanghai last Monday. It was on the H818 module that I first heard about the Raspberry Pi – from one of the other students. I was curious and ordered one online here in Shanghai a couple of weeks ago. When it came I fell in love with it and I often carry it in my handbag to show people (sad but true).

As a programmer by trade I am familiar with coding. For my new job I had to think of an after school club I could do and as someone had already volunteered to do the school magazine I had to think of something new. Then it occurred to me that I could have a ‘Pi Factory’ and get the kids playing with the RPi. The only thing they ever do with computers is play games – they have no idea of what goes on under the bonnet. And being a programmer and female (and not in my first flush of youth) I thought I would be a good person to promote computing. I want them to see that it’s not young nerdy lads who get excited about computers, girls (and middle-aged women) are excitable too. It was notable but not altogether surprising that, Dr Lei and I were the oldest and only females at the user group meeting (I knew it would be that way!).

We are the first school in Shanghai and maybe even in China, to adopt the Raspberry Pi. My principal already thinks I am fantastic and I don’t start officially until Monday! She has given me as much money as I want to buy them and all the peripherals and a big room to do it all in. All I have to do now is to learn how to program in Python – I suppose one language is very much the same as another!

So thanks to H818, I am now the cool teacher in school – the one who is setting the pace – the one with the fresh ideas. Due to my enthusiasm, word has got around before school has even started and there are a bunch of teachers and a bigger bunch of students who already want to come along to the club and the principal is already talking about introducing IT onto the curriculum next year if it goes well. Oh God – what have I done. Wish me luck with managing people’s expectations!

By extension, your H818 team should take some of the credit for the Raspberry Pi arriving in schools in China – it all started with H818.

Thanks to you all

Sian Lovegrove