10:00 – 10:45 Meeting the needs of OpenLearn learners – Patrina Law (OMU) and Leigh-Anne Perryman (IET)
Who is using The Open University’s OpenLearn platform? What are their motivations and priorities and how do these align with those of the OU itself? How might OpenLearn be further developed in order to better meet users’ and potential users’ needs in the interests of widening participation in education and achieving the OU’s social mission, while also bridging the gap between informal and formal learning?
In 2013, the OER Research Hub collaborated with the Open Media Unit in conducting a large-scale online survey of OpenLearn users in order to help answer these questions. The 2013 survey results (see Perryman, Law and Law, 2013) gave a valuable insight into the demographics of open learn users while also revealing that in addition to providing a ‘shop window’ showcasing the OU’s paid-for provision, OpenLearn offers learners the opportunity try out a subject before registering on a paid-for module and to build confidence in their abilities as learners. Furthermore, the study found that that using OpenLearn resources during formal paid-for study can improve learners’ performance and self-reliance, leading to increased retention and satisfaction with the learning experience.
In 2014 the survey was repeated. This paper reports a comparison of the results of the two surveys, highlighting considerable changes in student characteristics, priorities and motivations over a two-year period and identifying the implications of this for the future development of OpenLearn.
10:45 – 11:00 Break
11:00 – 12:00 Designing Massive Open Social Learning – Mike Sharples (IET/FutureLearn)
The FutureLearn platform has enabled over 980,000 people to learn online through courses offered by leading universities. Design of the FutureLearn platform has been guided by theories of learning as conversation, and informed by evidence of effective methods of teaching, learning and assessment. Each new feature is developed in relation to the design aims of telling powerful stories, enabling productive conversation, and celebrating progress. Consequences of this pedagogy-led design include: building courses around explicit ‘learning steps’; making learning visible through profile pages and discussions linked to each learning step; enabling users to follow other learners; and designing peer review as a formative and discursive activity. All these elements must be deployed for massive-scale courses of up to 120,000 participants and for learners with a wide variety of abilities, interests and types of engagement. I shall describe the pedagogy-informed design process for FutureLearn, the structure and elements of the platform and learning experience, and data analytics showing patterns of learning.
Contributed by: Anna Comas-Quinn