Research in Distance Education: impact on practice conference, 27 October 2010. Opening keynote by Dr Josie Taylor of the Open University: Open Educational Resources and Learning Spaces: research
Research in Distance Education: impact on practice conference, 27 October 2010. Opening keynote by Dr Josie Taylor of the Open University: Open Educational Resources and Learning Spaces: research questions.
From informal to formal learning – or not! From passive consumption to active participation From taking what you’re given to personalising, editing, modifying and creating From closed to open learning From solitary working to sharing From being a learner to being a teacher
Give e.g. of what CD section might be State the task
This work is very helpful – we have already taken the ecological approach to media use – we have been looking at the cultural communities that grow around them, and observing the activities they support. We have done this extensively for OpenLearn, we are doing it now for ITunesU and UTube
The organising role for pedagogy has helped us to use media in complementary ways to support learning and teaching. We are always looking for ways of increasing levels of interaction, and raising student autonomy. Bears some relation to Tapscott’s 1998 shift from broadcast to interactive media – but we always made even our broadcast and print media interactive – now we are looking to make them more participative How does this work?
We are committed to understanding and exploring the relations between people, technology/media and learning. But we are also interested in the emergent second order concepts – we are looking at communities that cohere around different platforms/media Quality community depends on trust – trust is particularly important in distance education And trust supports open sharing which is also very important The confidence to participate depends on all this
Resources and Learning
Josie Taylor, Professor of Learning Technology,
Director, Institute of Educational Technology
The Open University
The Open University, UK
• Higher education needs to prepare itself to exist in a
more open future by embracing openness and the
implications for change that it entails
• These changes are likely to be profound
• However, we don’t yet fully understand what they are,
or what the impact on organisations or students is likely
OpenLearn at The Open University
• 2006 – William and Flora Hewlett foundation provided
us with funds to investigate sharing educational
resources and more open approaches
• Our definition of OER:
“The open provision of educational resources, enabled
by information and communication technologies, for
consultation, use and adaptation by a community of
users for non-commercial purposes.”
• Designed on a model analogous to the open source
• >11million unique visitors have used OpenLearn since
• Gradual build of user base
Studies by OLNet
• Patrick McAndrew and the OLNet team at the OU
• Analysis of user behaviour, targeting those who used
the site more heavily, supported by follow-up interviews
and monitoring of activities taking place with the open
• The results from one of these studies (n = 2,011)
highlighted two distinct clusters of learners: "volunteer"
students and "social" learners.
The volunteer students sought the content they wanted
to learn from, and they expected to work through it.
These learners were most interested in:
– more content
– tools for self-assessment
– ways to reflect on their individual learning.
The social learners were less motivated to work through
the content. Rather, they seem to see learning as a
way to meet people with shared interests. This cluster
of learners ranked communication tools more highly
and were more interested in advanced features on the
What are these learners trying to
• How might they frame those tasks?
• How will they know when they have succeeded? i.e.
what ‘counts’ as success?
• What will be the quality of the experience?
• How can we best support them?
Massive challenge for new
learners on a trajectory
Lots of other stops along the way...
What is this process?
• It is not just a process of skill acquisition
• These are profound developmental stages for the
• There are equally profound issues for the academy –
what is a university for?
• In a completely open world, who determines what is
(or should be) of value?
• Who holds the power to say ‘this is worthy’? Will that be
determined by the employment market?
(Mary Lea & Sylvia Jones 2011)
• Learners bring a wealth of experience to bear – some
appropriate, some not
• Learners are engaged in meaning-making
• Recognition of the central role of texts in construction of
knowledge and practice of learning
• Potential shifts of power between learners, communities
• Role of the institution is critically important
• Boundaries of ‘texts’ are more fluid and unstable than in
Improving our understanding of
• ‘Rich accounts in the literature of students’ use of
• ‘No detailed or in depth examination of what students
actually do in contexts when using different
applications, or how meanings are being made from,
and through, engagement with digital technology’
• ‘Recognition of the central nature of texts both in the
construction of knowledge and the practice of learning’
Lea and Jones (2011)
Building on 25 years of previous
• Learning programming:
• Taylor, J., PROLOG project 1983-88
• Learning from multimedia:
• Laurillard, D., Plowman, L., Taylor, J., Stratfold, M.,
The MENO project: Multimedia, Education and
Narrative Organisation (1996 – 2000)
• Mobile Learning:
• Sharples, M., Taylor, J., McAndrew, P., Vavoula, G.,
MOBIlearn (2004 – 2008) Mobile Learning
Also building on ...
• Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and Education.New York: Free Press.
• Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: the development of higher
psychological processes.Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
• Engeström, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding: An activity-theoretical
approach to developmental research.Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit.
• Engeström, Y. (1996). Perspectives on activity theory.Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
• Bruner, J. (1996). The Culture of Education. Harvard University
Press, Cambridge MA
Multimedia, Education and Narrative
Organisation (MENO) 1996 - 1997
• ESRC funded - Diana Laurillard, Lydia Plowman, Rose
Luckin, Matthew Stratfold
• Close observational study of learners using multimedia
to learn about Darwinian theory (Galapagos)
• Examining the impact of different interfaces on the
• Young students (A-level/first year undergrad)
Bruner’s use of narrative (1996)
• a connected sequence of events
• the representation of those events
• a mode of thought (‘a primary act of mind
transferred to art from life’)
'I have found it impossible to distinguish sharply what is a
narrative mode of thought and what is a narrative 'text'
Bruner, Culture of Education, 1996
Definition of narrative in MENO
‘Narrative is a process of both discerning
and imposing structured meanings which
can be shared and articulated’
Lydia Plowman, Diana Laurillard, Matthew Stratfold, Rose
Luckin, Josie Taylor (1998/99)
Narrative guidance and construction
• Guidance (explicit/implicit)
–Offered by the teacher
–Offered by the multimedia system
–Offered by other materials
–Offered by the interface
• Construction (explicit/implicit)
–A process brought to task by learner
–Needs to be carefully scaffolded
3 versions of the Galapagos application
–students led through each sub-task in sequence.
Close to traditional narrative in film/TV
• Resource Based:
–offers no guidance, closest equivalent being an
• Guided Discovery:
–offers guidance in breaking down the task, but
narrative line not as strong as Linear version
Narrative Guidance: Navigating Galapagos
Summary of studies learning
from digital resources
• Less experienced learners benefit from explicit
narrative support to assist in process of narrative
construction, which can be effected through interface
• Leaving (even quite experienced) learners to drive their
own learning resulted in incomplete coverage of all the
• Need to explicitly support the development of this
Support ‘Volunteer’ students
• Structure interfaces to optimise narrative construction
• Have experts providing services, offering narrative
• Provide some explicit pathways through materials, with
options to branch and return
• Provide implicit support embedded in the interface that
influence learners implicitly
Pask: Conversation Theory (1975)
o Conversation is the converse of control.
o Concepts are exchanged in a conversation and often
some public concept is shared …
o ‘But may just as well lead to enrichment by divergence
(of our personal concepts) as to convergence...'
o Cybernetic view of conversation: participant might be a
computer or a person (or anything else)
– they care
Space in which learning happens
Ecological approach (Jenkins 2004)
• interrelationship among all the different communication
– the cultural communities that grow up around them
– the activities they support.
• Interactivity is a property of the technology, while
participation is a property of culture.
Formal education system
• Structures to sustain are
• Remain little changed over long
periods of time
• Communities are bureaucratic
and often national
• Does not allow for easy
movement in and out
Informal affinity space
• Structures to sustain are
• Can respond to short-term
needs and temporary interests
• Communities are ad hoc and
• Allows for easy moves in and
out of informal learning
Support Social Learners
• Provide ‘affinity space’ for learning
• Ensure it is populated with a rich mix of people (look at
the ecology of the community to make it sustainable)
• Optimise conversations between peers
• Optimise conversations between learners and experts
• Allow people to come and go easily
…to guide media use, development and integration
1970's 1980's 1990's 2000's
On-line and postal delivery
Disk-based media and postal
Broadcast and postal
Broadcast and postal
Web 3.0 and
• This work is at the heart of our SocialLearn project, an
affinity space optimised for learning
• Pilot running from November 10 – Mar 11 with staff in
the area of professional development (~ 11k staff
– What is required to establish a successful distributed
community of learners?
– What is required to ensure sustainability of learning
communities, and to support their growth?
– How can the community determine and agree ‘what
counts’ as learning and how it should be ‘counted’ and
– How are leaders identified, and supported in these
• Who is in control?
• Does it matter?
–Who decides what is of value?
–Who decides what counts?