Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships

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Are you a citizen of a developing Commonwealth country, refugee or British protected person?

Do you have experience of, or a serious interest in, technology-enhanced learning?

Would you like to gain a Master’s degree with one of the UK’s leading Institutes in digital teaching and learning?

The Open University’s Institute of Educational Technology (IET) has been awarded 10 fully funded Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships for citizens of developing Commonwealth countries who wish to study IET’s Masters in Online and Distance Education (MAODE). We are pleased to invite applications for these scholarships.

The closing date for applications is 23:59 (BST) on 12 May 2017.

These Scholarships are funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and are intended to contribute to the development needs of Commonwealth countries by providing training for skilled and qualified professionals in key development areas.

Intended beneficiaries

High-quality postgraduate students who wish to access training not available in their home countries, who wish or need to remain in their home country while they study, and who have the potential to enhance the development of their home countries with the knowledge and leadership skills they acquire.

About the Masters in Online and Distance Education

The Open University Masters in Online and Distance Education is studied wholly online. The Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships are for three years’ part-time distance learning, commencing in February 2018. The scholarships will cover the full cost of tuition fees.

It is likely that Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarship holders will study the following modules, in the order stated. However, there may be some variation in the exact content offered.

Two compulsory 60 credit modules

  • February 2018: H800 Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates – the first module of the MAODE. This module develops a range of information literacy skills, introduces various educational technology tools and practices, and introduces key debates in educational technology (e.g. the relative contributions of acquisition and participation in learning, situated cognition, OER, the boundaries of institutions and the role of personal learning environments).
  • February 2019: H817 Openness and innovation in e-learning. This module explores OER, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Learning Design, learning analytics and assessment within an overall focus on openness and innovation.

A further 60 credits, currently drawn from the following modules, though provision may have changed slightly by 2019:

  • October 2019: H818 The networked practitioner. This is a project-based module in which learners explore an aspect of their own professional practice by building a collection of assets (e.g. videos, PowerPoint presentations and/or posters). With their peers, they collaboratively reflect on these assets through forums and then present on their created asset at an online conference.
  • April 2020: H819 The critical researcher: educational technology in practice. This module focuses on developing skills in finding, interpreting and evaluating research and cutting-edge innovations in educational technology, from a global perspective.

Who can apply?

To be eligible for a Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarship to study the Masters in Online and Distance Education you must:

  • Be a citizen of a developing Commonwealth country, refugee, or British protected person; and
  • Be permanently resident in a developing Commonwealth country; and
  • Hold a first degree of at least upper second class (2:1) standard. A lower qualification and sufficient relevant experience may be considered in certain cases.

Full terms and conditions are available here:

You will also need access to a computer with broadband internet access.  You do not need to be working in technology-enhanced learning but you should be interested in developing expertise in this area.

How to apply



Open and agile: creating IET’s new kid on the block in Open edX

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A sneak preview of Week 2 of H819 The Critical Researcher, viewed in the Open edX studio authoring environment

By Leigh-Anne Perryman, H819 Production Chair

The Open University’s Institute of Educational Technology (IET) is well known for cutting-edge innovations in many fields, including learning design, learning analytics and open research. This year, IET continues to demonstrate its pioneering spirit by designing and authoring its newest module – H819 The Critical Researcher: educational technology in practice – on the Open edX courseware development platform.

Traditionally, The Open University (OU) has authored its modules using a ‘waterfall’ process, whereby individual authors create draft content in Word (or other word processing) documents and then share them with fellow authors and critical readers for comment, before creating a new version based on those comments. This process has worked fairly well but doesn’t allow for authors to see each other’s work ‘as it happens’ and, due to the emailed exchange of word-processed documents, can be quite slow.

Authoring in Open edX is both agile and liberating, allowing authors to imagine and then immediately to create.

I’m currently the module production chair for H819 and have found authoring in Open edX is both agile and liberating, allowing authors to imagine and then immediately to create. In addition, the process saves time compared with traditional module production and allows authors to see each other’s writing in real time. As such, authors can give immediate feedback on their colleagues’ work and very quickly get a clear sense of the overall narrative of a module as it begins to fall into shape. Consequently, we can easily react to developments in the educational technology field, and in the wider world, and update our module content accordingly.

H819 The Critical Researcher focuses both on developing skills in critically interpreting and assessing educational technology-related research, and in designing research studies intended to evaluate teaching and learning strategies. Fellow production chair Liz Fitzgerald (now on maternity leave) and I made the decision to author collaboratively in Open edX based on a shared vision of the benefits of authors being able to see their authored content in the format in which it is likely to be presented to students.

While it took a little time to get used to working in the Open edX environment, it’s really exciting to be able to see the module grow into something like its final shape as we work. It prompts us to try things out, for example innovative ways of setting activities and of presenting multimedia content. Liz and I are convinced we made the right decision in choosing to author collaboratively, and our module team colleagues Ann Jones and Simon Cross are also finding the authoring process much more straightforward and engaging than the traditional alternative.

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Editing H819 content in Open edX

Liz Fitzgerald and I were inspired to use Open edX by Angela Coe, a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Science at The Open University. Angela is the module chair for OU module S309 Earth Processes, the first OU module to be authored in Open edX. In a series of interviews (Part 1 and Part 2), Angela discusses ‘how she managed to organise 600 hours worth of content in just a few days’ using the open source platform.

The first block of H819 The Critical Researcher is currently going through a two-stage critical reading process and, once again, the affordances of working in Open edX are clear as critical readers can see the module content in the format in which it will finally be delivered, allowing them to assess the balance between text, images, videos and activities and to evaluate the rhythm of the module from a student’s perspective. As the module grows we will continue to report the story of its creation on this blog.

‘Open Education in an Open Landscape’: The H818 online conference


By H818 tutor Simon Ball

The third annual online conference for the Masters in Online and Distance Education (MAODE) module ‘The Networked Practitioner’ (H818) was held in February 2016. For this conference, every student on H818 is invited to deliver a short presentation on the theme of ‘Open Education in an Open Landscape”, selecting a sub-theme of Inclusion, Innovation or Implementation. The conference audience includes not just the current cohort of H818 participants, but former students, MAODE alumni and staff from The Open University’s Institute of Educational Technology, which manages the MAODE.

Getting there

During the module H818 students undertake a project of relevance to their own context, relating to one of these themes. The experience of undertaking the project usually forms the core of their presentation. Usually, a few of the students have presented online before, more have presented in face-to-face contexts but not online, and a few have not presented at all. So we have a range of experience and a spectrum of confidence!

In the months leading up to the conference we offer students training and coaching, to increase confidence and familiarity with the OULive system used to deliver the conference. Often students practice in small groups, using the OULive system to test out features such as polling the audience, or broadcasting their project resource direct from the web or from their own computer. It is also important that students practice the timing of their presentation as they are limited strictly to their allocated slot, in order to keep the programme on schedule. This can be quite a tricky task initially!

The big day

The conference is divided into three sessions on different days and at different times, to try to best accommodate our international cohort with all their various life commitments. Our opening session this year was on a Saturday afternoon, giving plenty of time beforehand to test out microphones, check slides were loaded, and generally calm any last minute nerves. As conference host I try to put everyone at ease ahead of the scheduled start time, making sure the speakers for the session are as comfortable as they can be. Sometimes we have students with particular anxiety issues, so I keep a separate chat window open with them to make sure they have an opportunity to discuss any difficulties they may be facing, right up to the minute of their presentation. So far everyone has managed to deliver their presentation on schedule!

Opening keynote

In addition to the student presentations we were fortunate to receive three keynote presentations this year from highly regarded experts in open and online education. One of these, from higher education consultant Terry McAndrew, opened our conference. Terry has spent more than a decade working with the Higher Education Academy and its Bioscience Subject Centre, specialising in Open Educational Resources and also accessibility, and his keynote illustrated how open education practices and resources can expand knowledge and skills for everyone. Terry’s relaxed, informal style of presenting online with highly visually stimulating slides really demonstrated well to the student presenters how the format can be used to its best.

Day 1 Student Presentations

Ten students delivered their presentations during the first conference session. The contexts presented included primary schools, secondary schools, further education colleges, higher education institutions, industrial settings and entrepreneurship. The topics covered ranged from creating resources for staff (plagiarism advice, e-portfolios, dyslexia, mechanisms for recording scholarly activity) to the implementation and development of teaching and recording techniques (collaborative forums, flipped classrooms, online learning plans) to training modules for use in the credit management industry.

Afterwards, some of the student presenters provided feedback on their experience:

“I was nervous but really enjoyed presenting.”

“It was immensely useful to get that insight into everyone’s work and the timings were spot on – detailed enough to get insight without going on for too long.”

“It was a little daunting but a good experience which has provided experience of going through the process from abstract through to the presentation.”

Conference back-channel

Although the conference attendees could use a chat pane to ask questions and discuss issues raised, we also recommended the use of a conference back-channel via the Twitter hashtag #H818conf. With almost 300 Tweets using the hashtag it provided a great way for presenters to share core links, and for audience members to discuss further the issues raised in the presentations.

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Selection of tweets from the #H818Conf twitter stream.

Day 2 Conference

The second session of the conference was scheduled for a Monday evening. We had eight student presenters and a keynote this time from Dr Bart Rienties, an expert on learning analytics from the Open University. Bart’s visually arresting presentation covered a range of topics related to learning analytics and open education, providing fascinating insights without delving too deep into the complexities that can be found in this field!

The student presenters in this session covered a range of topics as broad as on the first day, with presentations on resources created to advise staff on copyright, the use of English in report writing, and the teaching of functional skills, as well as presentations covering MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in South Africa and connected with The University of the Third Age, Specific Learning Difficulties, and an alternative approach to online tutorials.

Feedback from the student presenters on the day included:

“This is the first on-line conference I have attended therefore I didn’t know what to expect. I enjoyed the range of talks and felt the atmosphere was positive, friendly and informal.”

“I did enjoy this conference a lot especially how the different projects addressed issues I face and think about. I also enjoyed being part of the conversation via chat and Twitter.”

Using Cloudworks to support the conference

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The conference programme was initially published on Cloudworks:

Every student presenter created a page containing at the very least the abstract for their presentation. Most further enhanced their page with links to their conference poster, their presentation slides or other additional materials. On these pages people could also ask questions about their work – in fact all questions asked during the live conference (whether or not the presenters responded verbally during the conference itself) were also placed onto Cloudworks to allow the students to answer them more fully and link to useful resources etc.

The final day

The last conference session took place on a Wednesday morning. For this session we had  seven student presenters and a keynote delivery from renowned higher education consultant Helen Beetham. Helen’s presentation on ‘From digital capability to digital wellbeing – thriving in the network‘ had to survive the trials of being delivered from a quiet corner of the public library on the Isles of Scilly, but thankfully came through loud and clear! It was a fascinating discussion of who and what a ‘digital learner’ actually is today, and how they consume, participate in, and build their learning.

The student presentations were as diverse as the previous sessions, with topics ranging from the learning of a musical instrument using only OERs, creating an online safety resource for parents, using plagiarism software more effectively, motivating learners, the suitability of digital learning for disabled students, and creating an online learning platform for the green-keeping (golf) industry. As previously the student presentations were of an extremely high calibre, with any nerves being very well hidden and a series of interesting, informative and well-timed presentations being delivered.

Some of the feedback for this session included:

“I was presenting in this session as well as attending as a delegate. My expectations as a presenter were to be given ‘air’ time for my presentation, to receive some interest and support from participants and to be supported through it by Simon both technically and in respect of the question and answer session. These things all happened, thank you, and was very pleased to have achieved it.”

“ I was anticipating a varied mix of student presentations, most of which seemed to be directly relevant to my own interests. I’m very pleased to say that I enjoyed learning about the different projects and I think most of all I noticed some examples of applications and approaches that will inform my future thinking when creating a learning activity.”

And so, looking forward to next year….

Having now organised and chaired three of these conferences, I can say with all honesty that the very high standard set by the initial cohort has been met by both subsequent student groups. Every single presentation has been interesting, professionally delivered, and very well received by the audience. To prove this latter point, we routinely ask attendees to vote for their favourite presentations and over the course of three years every single presentation has received at least one vote (we do check people aren’t voting for their own!). The presentations in each session that receive the most votes receive the H818 Presentation Star Open Badge – these can be seen on the students’ Cloudworks profile pages, alongside the winners of similar Participation Star Open Badges for those students who engage in helpful and supportive interactions in Cloudworks leading up to the conference.

I’m looking forward to welcoming another H818 cohort in the autumn of 2016 and taking them through to next year’s conference, which will take place on February 11th, 13th and 15th 2017 (keep an eye on Cloudworks for the formal announcement in the late autumn). I fully expect more nerves conquered, more hurdles overcome and more great presentations delivered! Organising and chairing this conference remains the highlight of my year, and that is solely down to the enthusiasm, capability and determination of the students. I’ll sign off with one more quote from one of this year’s conference attendees, which makes me feel that it’s all worthwhile:

“All the student presentations I saw were really good. Great ideas and confident presentations. I wish I had seen more. Looking forward to next year.”

Researching cutting-edge educational technology

NMC Horizon ReportThe latest NMC Horizon Report: Higher Education edition was published in February 2015. It is a collaborative work that attempts to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in education. Six key trends, six significant challenges, and six important developments in educational technology are identified across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years, giving campus leaders and practitioners a valuable guide for strategic technology planning.

In H809 (Practice-based research in educational technology), students find, interpret and critically analyse a set of readings to enable them to make sense of research taking place in technology-rich environments. Through these analyses, students gain important skills in planning and evaluating research and learn about the pedagogies, philosophies and learning theories that underpin those studies. We refer not only to academic papers but also publications like the NMC Report, current news items and leading cutting-edge research both at the OU and elsewhere. Students also have the chance to apply what they’ve learned by developing their own research proposal or critically evaluating a research project of their choice.

Most students are in full time work/self-employed and their main motivation for studying H809 is for professional/work-related purposes. A particular strength of the module is how the theories and methods learned on the course can be applied to students’ own professional environments and used as the basis for evaluating or developing professional practices at work. It can be challenging at times – and very mentally stimulating! – but provides a solid grounding in evaluating educational practice from a research-based and research-informed perspective. Come sign up with us – you’ll be joining a community of passionate, dedicated and enthusiastic students and staff, all of whom will be delighted to welcome you and talk more.