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.

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