User:James Neill/Moodleposium/2009/Kirkpatrick

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James Neill's notes - but feel free to modify:

Moodle at the OU

Denise Kirkpatrick


Denise presented about the 40 year history of The 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.

OU makes extensive use of Moodle and in tailoring Moodle to suit its needs has fostered significant developments in the Moodle core code. Although Denise didn't claim as such, OU is the single largest instance of Moodle (in terms of users), and is therefore a key demonstration of its scalability.

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 requirements
  • 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-embodiment 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

DK 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 democratic consultation, getting student feedback, piloting, trialling etc.
  • Scalability is v. important - therefore, say no to lots of technological 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 conversations 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 before we commenced our VLE developments?
  • How ubiquitous should our VLE be?
  • What was the real cost?
  • Did we adhere to all of our original principles?
  • Can we maintain a focus on enhancing the student learning experience?


  • There were a few questions.
  • JN asked OU (UK)'s approach to Intellectual Property and OERS
    • OU owns IP - allows staff some use
    • OU puts some materials as OERs?? (unclear answer - Denise's response seemed to indicate that OU is largely protective of its teaching materials with some limited sharing)

Questions I wanted to ask

  • It sounds like OU is increasingly using Moodle for other functions, such as for administrative tasks, staff working groups etc.. Is there a risk of over-Moodlisation - as opposed to say using other fit-for-purpose tools/platforms?