Mobilising The Open University

Thomas, Rhodri (2009). Mobilising The Open University. In: Handheld Learning 2009, 5-7 Oct 2009, London, UK.



This paper follows the moves by The Open University (OU) to build on a number of internal and external research and development projects, by initiating an institution-wide programme of activities to better support our mobile learners in our teaching and learning provision. Working at a distance and delivering a supported open learning model brings different challenges in supporting mobile learners than for campus institutions able to mediate by face-to-face interaction. The OU also needs to address technologies and devices that students already have, so while there may be a large degree of appropriation, there may not be a
corresponding awareness of device capabilities and methods to support learning while mobile or away from familiar study environments.

At a top level, work has begun in providing a ‘Mobile VLE’ through Moodle, tailoring services in response to student surveys, the details of which will be shared in the associated presentation. Subsidiary projects include
research into formative audio eAssessment as part of DVD-ROM adaptation, particularly leading to structured
conversation via a voice response system, to inform further work in incorporating user-generated content.

Development in open educational resources and electronic formats now include eBooks allowing student annotation in addition to conversion to synthetic voice implementations. Related work is also underway in exploring, prototyping and evaluating mobile applications, initially for touch-based devices, but aiming to be device-agnostic in future.
Underpinning the research and development work is an ongoing educational and professional development programme to promote mobile learning methodologies and familiarise staff with current and aspirational technologies. The OU now has a plan of activities which also include more in-depth consideration as how to best leverage mobile learning methodologies in courses, practice-based areas, fieldwork and residentials as well as for peer support.

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