Beyond prototypes: Enabling innovation in technology-enhanced learning

Scanlon, Eileen; Sharples, Mike; Fenton-O'Creevy, Mark; Fleck, James; Cooban, Caroline; Ferguson, Rebecca; Cross, Simon and Waterhouse, Peter (2013). Beyond prototypes: Enabling innovation in technology-enhanced learning. Open University, Milton Keynes.



The TEL research programme, which ran from 2007 to 2013, has generated some substantial gains in our understanding of how to design and deploy technologies for learning. These findings, together with the growing field of technology-enhanced learning internationally, are witnessing the growth of TEL research into a vibrant academic field, extending throughout the UK and beyond. Yet there is a surprising failure to translate the findings, prototypes and outputs of projects into commercial products and services that individually and collectively achieve radical change in the quality of teaching and learning. This difficulty seems part of a general problem of translating innovation in the laboratory (or classroom or school) into commercial gain: A key recurring issue that has been raised in the Science and Technology Committee’s previous inquiries is the difficulty of translating research into commercial application, particularly the lack of funding—the so-called “valley of death”. (Commons Select Committee, 2011 ). The field of Technology Enhanced Learning, despite some notable exceptions, is rife with results that never made it across the valley of death. In the TEL research programme, there were some exciting and innovative examples of working prototypes that solved significant research problems. Yet few of these projects have successfully taken their prototypes to market. Three of the eight funded TEL projects achieved success in gaining follow-on funding from the ESRC specifically earmarked for the achievement of “impact”, although it is too soon to know if and how such impact will be achieved, and more generally, the relationship between impact and the commercial exploitation of projects’ outputs. In general, despite the fact that all projects successfully designed and built effective prototypes of systems: the question is how to move from prototype to product. This report addresses this issue head-on from an interdisciplinary perspective that brings together experts in diverse relevant fields including educational technology, organizational behavior, innovation dynamics.

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