Here is a summary of some of the impact of my research (originally written for a promotion case in 2020). More details can be found in my recent CV. You can also read about the impact of our team as a whole in this REF case study.
My research and its impact have been recognised as world-leading through several international awards including the ACE Award for Research Excellence; the Open Courseware Consortium Award for Innovation; the Open Education Global Award for Open Research Excellence; and the Research Councils UK Engaging Research Award.
My main focus is on open education as senior researcher with the Open Education Research Hub. I lead delivery of other high profile projects for the Institute of Educational Technology / Faculty of Welbeing, Education and Language Studies at The Open University which is the largest university in the UK and a world leader in distance education.
I have 80+ high quality scientific publications including 4 books; 18 book chapters; 20 journal articles; 14 reports; and 10 peer-reviewed conference proceedings. I publish in leading journals, shaping international open education discourse through research data and developing theoretical perspectives. I’ve recorded 1150+ citations on Google Scholar (h-index of 19; i10-index of 25). My 5 REF2021 papers were rated 2-3* by the Education REF panel indicating international excellence.
As an early career researcher, my position was dependent on securing income. I maintained extensive professional networks and developed a close relationship with my primary funder, The Hewlett Foundation. This crucially allowed me to more closely align research with their strategic goals. I have also secured funding from the European Union and worked on a range of knowledge alliances funded under Erasmus+.
As Co-I/PI, I secured grants c.£2.4m since 2014:
- (PI) European Network for Catalysing Open Resources in Education (ENCORE+) (2021-2023, €950k)
- (PI) OER World Map (2014-2018, $875k)
- (Co-I) Global OER Graduate Network II (2016-2019, $480,000) and III (2019-2022, $591,000)
- (Co-I) UK Open Textbooks (2017-2018, $300,000)
Innovation often happens in silos. For OER World Map (2014-2018) I co-led the development of a socio-technical platform for sharing data about the world of open education (services, projects, people, resources, events, publications, etc.). By connecting and engaging communities of practice through open technologies, I enabled 1100+ organisations and 1300+ educators to share experiences, resources and networks. There are now more than 7,000 entries shared as accessible linked open data on the map for global benefit, innovating how OER and related practices are shared worldwide.
Similarly, there are many doctoral candidates unable to access expert supervision in open education, particularly in the Global South. As Co-PI of Global OER Graduate Network I support these learners by offering critical feedback, networking, advice and pastoral support. I lead the design and delivery of face-to-face workshops; offer consultation; provide feedback on research plans and manuscripts; run an expert webinar programme; and social media engagement. Since 2018, 32 members have been awarded a doctorate and the network has grown to 100+ with every continent represented.
I have co-supervised two PhD students to completion (minor corrections) and have helped develop their work for publication. Their projects address key issues in open education provision. (I currently lead the supervision of a third PhD candidate due to complete in 2022 as well as an EdD student.)
Specifically, Dr. Sanzgiri compared experiences of Indian FutureLearn learners with those of the Indian platform NPTEL. I drew on my international research with non-formal learners to help him design a sequential mixed methods approach to yield high-quality data, enabling him to identify key trends in MOOC participation and honing his critical discussion. After successfully completing his PhD he worked as a consultant for FutureLearn, assessing best practice in micro-credentialing.
Identifying and accessing quality OER is another recognised challenge. Dr. Cortinovis investigated search & discovery strategies, developing a browser plugin for finding resources through a similarity algorithm. I shared his approach with authentic user testers, enabling iterative improvement through Design Science Research. The prototype is now considered for integration into official Creative Commons search functionality.
My work explores the use of openness to maximise research impact. I re-versioned BizMOOC (Erasmus+, 2016-2019) outputs to produce an openly licensed textbook (Massive Open Online Courses for Business Learning) highlighted by project evaluators as output of highest quality and downloaded more than 500 times. I adapted the OER Hub research approach for the Open Research MOOC and open access book. The MOOC attracted 207 participants (educators, academics, private researchers) from 39 countries and won the RCUK Engaging Research Award.
I have given 17 international keynotes/invited lectures and 120+ professional presentations. I write for OU courses, ensuring they are high quality and reflect latest innovations. I am course author and area lead for postgraduate course H819 The Critical Researcher; and contributed to FutureLearn’s The Online Educator.
Outcomes from my research have been influential at a policy level. Hewlett Foundation used evidence of OER impact in order to direct their complex global grant-making work (evidenced by REF interview). Similarly, Creative Commons used my research findings to develop communication strategies incorporated into their open policy toolkit.
Mentoring and Support
My practice models and popularises open research, with instruments, data sets and online courses made available openly to support others. Open datasets on OER use have had 1000+ downloads and been used by researchers for novel analysis in the USA (Tang & Bo, 2020), South Korea (Kim et al., 2019) and Fiji (Prasad et al., 2016). My open research instruments contribute to the quality and accessibility of OER research and are widely reused (e.g. Morales & Baker, 2018; Valdez, 2019).
I also support researchers in the open education world through international mentoring, e.g.:
- Research mentor to Iowa State University on behalf of SPARC to develop the first survey instrument & user guide for vocational OER, offering extensive feedback on survey design and dissemination strategy. This successful initiative has expanded to 3 further USA universities (Elder, 2019a; 2019b)
- Working on behalf of UNESCO to develop open education advocacy in South Africa, co-developing an action and evaluation plan. This project was developed into an official course for developing skills in advocacy and facilitation offered by Nelson Mandela University (BOEI, 2019). I have since acted as a mentor for two more OE4BW projects.
- Mentoring for the UK Research & Innovation Future Leaders Fellows Development Network
As Research WP lead for European MOOC Consortium – Labour Markets (2019-2021), I co-ordinated the 5 largest European MOOC platforms (FutureLearn, France Université Numérique, OpenupEd, Miríadax, EduOpen) to consolidate a shared evidence base for catalysing European training through flexible learning. This supported effective collaboration across the Knowledge Alliance and allowed further key deliverables to be met.
Bringing Learning to Life (2018-19), was a collaboration between OpenLearn and 3 FE colleges to flexibly provide basic maths and English OER. As Evaluation lead, I designed and implemented an programme combining survey data, web analytics and statements from educators. I led the entire evaluation process through planning, HREC approval, data collection, reporting and dissemination, co-ordinating across institutions to ensure successful delivery. Recommendations made influenced the OU’s informal learning strategy at the highest level and were fed back to the Department for Education. I performed the same leadership role in a related project in Wales funded by HEFCW .
In 2011, my leadership was recognised with a special staff award at The Open University for delivering an evaluation schedule for a large scale (€10m) accessibility project, EU4ALL. I initiated an alternative evaluation combining focus groups, user-testing, management consultation and student surveys, presenting results to the European Commission and ensuring final payment of c.£170,000.
Analytical Approaches to Problem Solving
I’ve developed several successful analytic approaches which have been adopted by peers. My framework for open education ethics (#25) has been used by 14+ researchers from 6 countries to identify and describe ethical issues in their contexts. My expertise in ethics was also recognised by invitation to join a JISC Advisory Panel (Code of Practice for Learning Analytics) and co-author the Framework for Ethical Learning Technology on behalf of the Association for Learning Technology.
I co-developed the OOFAT model for HEIs used by Flexipath project (Ireland) to facilitate strategic, inter-institutional discussions about flexible CPD; and by Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México to analyse their own educational strategy (Cervantes-Perez et al, 2019).
I designed a way to consolidate, weight and visualise diverse evidence of OER impact collected around the world. This “Evidence Map” enabled sharing perspectives, cross-sector collaboration and knowledge exchange. My approach and code were re-used by OU projects JuxtaLearn and LACE, saving substantial development time and budget (see Ferguson & Clow, 2015).
I’ve been an active member of CREET for 10+ years, contributing to conferences and doctoral recruitment and training. I support the wider OU postgraduate CREET Academy by delivering sessions on Open Research to ECRs, enabling them to meet academic professional development objectives; interviewing doctoral candidates for IET/LTI/WELS and directing Leverhulme/OpenTEL funding through expert feedback.
My contributions to OU research groups include the Open AI for Education group, leading to becoming Co-I on a £1.6 million Horizon 2020 bid (p.3). I promoted scholarship quality as co-editor (2011-2018) of Journal of Interactive Media in Education and editor of The Open Education Handbook (p.10) on behalf of Open Knowledge Foundation. I have contributed to wider research communities through peer review for 17 conferences and around 30 scientific journals.
BOEI (2019). Becoming an Open Education Influencer. http://oe4bw.ijs.si/project/open-education-influencer/
Cervantes-Perez, F., Vadillo, G., Bucio, J., & Herrera, A. (2019). Characterizing UNAM’s Open Education System Using the OOFAT Model. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 20(4). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v20i3.4108
Elder, A. (2019a). Identifying OER Needs by Discipline. https://oersurvey.pressbooks.com/
Elder, A. (2019b). The OER Starter Kit https://iastate.pressbooks.pub/oerstarterkit/
Ferguson, R. & Clow, D. (2015). Evidence Hub Second Review (D2.8). Learning Analytics Community Exchange. http://www.laceproject.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/LACE_D2_8.pdf
Kim, D., Lee, I.‐H. and Park, J.‐H. (2019), Latent class analysis of non‐formal learners’ self‐directed learning patterns in open educational resource repositories. British Journal of Educational Technology, 50: 3420-3436. doi:10.1111/bjet.12746
Morales, R. and Baker, A. (2018) Secondary Students’ Perceptions of Open Science Textbooks. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2018(1): 4, pp. 1–9, DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/jime.455
Prasad, D., Bhartu, D. and Yusuf, J. (2016). Open Educational Resources and Practices at the University of the South Pacific: Status Report and Future Directions. Commonwealth of Learning. http://dspace.col.org/handle/11599/2516
Tang, H. and Bao, Y., 2020. Social Justice and K-12 Teachers’ Effective Use of OER: A Cross-Cultural Comparison by Nations. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2020(1), p.9. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/jime.576Valdez, R. A. (2019). The Relationship Between Institutional Climate And The Creation And Use Of Open Educational Resources. The University of Arizona. https://repository.arizona.edu/handle/10150/632734T