User:James Neill/Moodleposium/2009/Kirkpatrick

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Moodle at the OU

Denise Kirkpatrick.

Overview: Denise presented about the 40 year history of Open University in the UK with being a recognised teaching and research university which delivers its courses flexibility and which therefore must engage with and development educational technology systems.

The Open University (UK)

The Open University (UK) - 40 years old; only educational institution across 4 countries (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland)

  • Open to people
    • No prereq/entry requirements
    • But there are exit requirments
  • Open to places
    • Can study whether they happen to be
  • Open to methods
    • Using whatever approaches/technology/pedagogy will help to deliver effectively
  • Open ideas
    • Research-institution (top 50 in UK)
    • Researching own pedgagogy is essential

JN note: This seems to be institutional-emodiment of flexible learning.


  • 220,000 students
  • 1200+ academics: Develop materials
  • 8,000 associate lectures/'tutors': Face-to-face and online contact with students, marking etc.
  • Technologies are central to what we do
  • International reputation for quality
  • International research profile
  • International partners

DP indicated separation of material development and material delivery (separately bundled) is somewhat problematic - OU wants to bring the designers closer to the students.

JN: Comment; surprising separation by OU; maybe its a legacy of the British class thing?

Management of academics / material development

  • Team teaching; long course production (typical course is 3 years in development) - quite different from individualised Australian approach with a v. short lead-in
  • OU challenge is to speed this up.
  • Courses are very structured / industrial (may have up to 5,000 students enrolled in a subject)
  • Feedback is critical
  • Calendars feature strongly - and multiple calendars with
  • Lots of democractic consultation, getting student feedback, piloting, trialling etc.
  • Scalability is v. important - therefore, say no to lots of techological opportunities and tools
  • Strong emphasis on high quality feedback - OU see it as central
  • Different kinds of feedback for different tasks, wide range


  • Helps with instant, automatic assessment and feedback, working on building the tools for feedback
  • Staff bill is the biggest proportion of budget - feedback
  • Moodle has helped to provide standardisation of delivery tools etc.
  • If you want to use a blog in your teaching, you must use OU-blog (ditto OU wiki)


  • OU has been working on translating material into e-books

L120 - Learnosity

  • Voice training / development tools

Learning and teaching tools are used for other purposes too - admin/research etc.

  • if we are asking teaching academics to use different tools for admin and teaching then uptake is predictably difficult

Mobile work and learning

  • Students are/live mobile

Social networking

  • Extensive Second Life use
  • Strong social community

Moodle custom-build

  • OU (UK) built its own Moodle for its own needs

VLE reporting and tracking

  • Extensive collection of data - trying to catch up with analytics
  • "Voice" used to record onversations etc.


  • Staff development - developing a self-sustaining community
  • Specific engagement in use of VLE - reward adapt/reuse as well as innovate
  • Quality assurance - revising to take account of an enterprise VLE - how to ask the right questions at the right place in course development and other systems - but want to speed up development - usability of QA sounds key


  • Benefitting from the Moodle community - OU (UK) can learn more
  • Facilitating adoption
  • Communication
  • Gaining and maintaining buy-in
  • Technology skills & access arguments
  • Build vs buy
  • Customised vs vanilla
  • Access & equity vs sustainability
  • 20% of students in each of the 5 socio-economic bands
  • 8,500 students in prison - e.g., have to work hard to make it accessible to all - e.g., off-line Moodle
  • How customised to make the learning tools/experiences
  • Lots of dilemmas/challenges


  • How unique an instance of Moodle should we have?
  • Should we have engaged in a substantial Business Process Review exercise befroe we commenced our VLE developments?
  • How ubitquitous should our VLE be?
  • What was the real cost?
  • Did we adhere to all of our original principles?
  • Can we maintina a focus on enhancing the studnet learning experience?


There were a few questions.

Questions I want to ask

  • Where does OU (UK) sit with regard to IP and OERS
    • OU owns IP - allows staff some use
    • OU puts some materials as OERs?? (unclear answer - they seem largely protective of material with some sharing)
  • Is there a risk of over-Moodlisation - as opposed to integration with other tools/platforms?