Using Technology-Enabled Learning Networks To Achieve Practical Improvement Outcomes In The UK Open University

Boyd, Lesley (2022). Using Technology-Enabled Learning Networks To Achieve Practical Improvement Outcomes In The UK Open University. PhD thesis The Open University.



Collaborative learning technology is becoming ubiquitous across the globe for academic learning or professional development. However it also affords dispersed practitioners the ability to grapple together with a problem area requiring improvement. This process requires mutual and reflective learning so that each participant can bring to bear their professional viewpoint, experience and insights to the problem at hand. However, there is insufficient conceptual and practical understanding about how this unfolding process might happen.

This thesis explores how technology-enabled learning networks can be used to achieve practical improvement outcomes amongst disparate and geographically separated practitioners. It is situated within a challenging learning design and delivery scenario in the UK Open University, a Higher Education (HE) distance learning context.

The research investigated what practical improvement outcomes could be achieved; how the mechanisms of using technology-enabled learning networks to achieve improvement outcomes can best be conceptualised in the practice environment; and what factors enable or constrain the achievement of these outcomes. By embracing an insider action research and theory-building combined approach, the research both enacted and conceptualised a collaborative and equitable Pragmatic Inquiry process, and successfully demonstrated measurable impact. The new conceptual framework is entitled ULTIMATE - Using Learning Technology in Making Action-based Transformative Enhancements.

ULTIMATE provides an enacting framework for a structured, flexible and recoverable collaborative action research process which can be used by practitioners and be systematically and rigorously extended to other contexts. A successful ULTIMATE learning network will consist of learning technology infrastructure integrated with this action research process, and with engaged individual participation based on problem-solving role or interest. Together, they provide a means for a profound and ethical shift in the way that disparate and geographically separated practitioners and stakeholders can share their experiences, mutually transform, and address complex fragmented practical challenges in HE and beyond.

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