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COVID-19 research showcase highlights work of WELS Academics

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Academics from the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) will present their work next week at the “OU COVID-19 Research: Online Learning and Education” seminar. The event showcases OU-funded projects which have aimed to improve and support aspects of online learning and education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During 2020 and 2021, The Open University’s Research, Enterprise and Scholarship unit launched a call for research projects from across the OU, to explore areas that have been affected by COVID-19. Some of the resulting research included upskilling social workers, development of language learning, and examining the impact of COVID-19 on students. These projects, and more, will be highlighted at the free seminar on Thursday 27 May.

Professor Denise Whitelock, Director of the OU's Institute of Educational Technology (IET) and host of the event, explains:

“COVID-19 has raised unprecedented challenges for learning and education globally. This online shift has been difficult for institutions with face-to-face tuition however it has accelerated an appetite for Technology Enhanced Learning which can allow both learners and teachers to survive and thrive.

“Research from across the OU has aimed to support colleagues both nationally and internationally in a number of new ways so we can understand how improved pedagogy and distance teaching practices can improve skills, knowledge and experiences in online learning.”

Professor Whitelock will chair a panel discussion as part of the research showcase, featuring high profile researchers from across the higher education sector.

This free event will be held online on Thursday 27 May. View the full programme or register to attend here.


Find out more about some of the WELS projects which will be presented at the seminar:

Co-Evaluating E-assessment resources for HE in Africa

Pathways e-Assessment for African Higher Education, led by Professor Denise Whitelock, Director of IET, alongside Dr Tim Coughlan, Senior Lecturer in Educational Technology, and Research Associate Dr Nashwa Ismail (all IET), expands on previous knowledge exchange programmes that the OU has run with local partners, and is addressing the urgent need for online assessments across Africa.

CPD for social workers

“CPD for Social Workers”, led by Joe Hanley, Lecturer in Social Work in the WELS School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, has been piloting the use of free, online CPD resources to rapidly upskill social workers in disaster social work response. The resources are designed to be accessible to people of any level of social work, from experienced workers to students.

Effect of COVID on OU students

Dr Maria Aristeidou, Lecturer in Technology Enhanced Learning and Research Associate Dr Nashwa Ismail (both IET) are investigating factors related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on OU students. Among the themes explored the project has consulted students on the impact of COVID-19 on their academic progress, their communication with peers and tutors, their study behaviours and routines, and students’ recommendations on how the OU could better support students.

Open Centre for Languages and Cultures

Dr Mirjam Hauck, Senior Lecturer, and Dr Sylvia Warnecke, Associate Head of School, both from the WELS School of Languages and Applied Linguistics, launched the Open Centre for Languages and Cultures in October 2020 to support the learning of languages and cultures in a professional, academic and leisure capacity. The centre provides short courses which cover general linguistic, intercultural communication and particular skills for work.

Overcoming adversity through hope: the potential of picture fiction

Overcoming Adversity through Hope: Developing dialogue through picture fiction in homes and schools” received funding to enable parents and practitioners to support children to come to terms with and understand social and emotional challenges. The project, led by Teresa Cremin, Professor of Education (Literacy), and Research Associate Dr Sarah Mukherjee, both from the WELS School of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport, will develop resources for teachers, practitioners and parents to help them support children’s wellbeing.

Teachers’ professional learning during and after Covid: A role for open digital badges

Led by Dr Simon Cross, Senior Lecturer (IET), this project seeks to build on previous knowledge exchange programmes in addressing the need for teacher professional development during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project has involved work with researchers, state officials and policy makers in India to assess the opportunities for digital badges in supporting long-known regional challenges for learning, teaching and assessment.


This free event will be held online on Thursday 27 May. View the full programme or register to attend here.

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