Learning Innovation at The Open University

We offer a place to explore, develop and evaluate new ideas, promoting a culture of innovation at The Open University. Our goal is always to improve the experiences of students and support our academic and professional services colleagues.

Over the last four years we have worked on a variety of innovative products and projects, from developing Virtual Reality experiences, to building digital collaborative authoring tools, running Hack Days and conferences, and more.

We share our experiences across our channels and we use this website as a central point for our various updates.

Get in touch
Image of hack day logo

Human-centred design approach

We are strongly in favour of an evidence-led and iterative approach to innovation. We use human-centred design (HCD) to gain an in-depth understanding of users’ problems and combine this with our knowledge of distance and digital pedagogies, educational technologies and product development skills to deliver solutions.

It is this combination that allows us to develop products that meet the needs of students, while being innovative and pushing the boundaries. Our goal is to create effective, high quality, innovative solutions where pedagogy, technology and user experience are mutually supportive.

To do this, we use cycles of divergence and convergence until we get it right. HCD involves three main phases: Inspiration, Ideation, Implementation. We follow this pattern, iterating our designs, and testing and evaluating the results. It’s still reliant on having a good idea, as well as having the capacity and ability to deliver it, but using HCD helps us ensure we have done the right research, for the right people, for the right reasons. We’ve found that it helps us deliver solutions that do a better job of meeting users’ needs.

Graph from IDEO representing the main phases of human centred design

Graph from IDEO representing the main phases of human-centred design.
Credit: IDEO.org, https://www.ideo.org/approach

To find out more about human-centred design, it’s importance, and why we are among many who believe is the best approach for them, visit IDEO.org for a brief introduction, or you could use their Design Kit, as we have done: http://www.designkit.org/human-centered-design (opens in new tab) – it’s excellent! If you would like to know more about why we adopt HCD or learn about our experience using it, do get in touch.

Meet the team

The Learning Innovation team is built up of people from all backgrounds and specialities. We all share the same passion of inspiring positive and innovative thinking at The Open University.

Photograph of Stewart Nixon

Head of Learning Innovation

Stewart Nixon

Been around the OU for ages, mostly thinking about the digital transformation of learning and changing the way things are done around here.

Senior Product Development Manager

Andrew McDermott

I’m called the resident techie, but that probably is a polite term for nerd. I’m interested in digital authoring, educational and smart tech, VR/AR/MR, eBooks, Learning Systems and mobile learning. Basically, give me a device and I’m happy!

I’ve recently worked on new digital authoring tools and am currently working on a project to improve the student experience on mobile and smart tech devices.

For more info on strategic projects that I’ve contributed to, visit my OU biography (opens in new tab).

Photograph of Andrew McDermott
Photograph of Ewan Buckingham

Senior Product Development Manager

Ewan Buckingham

With a background in computer science training and data analytics, I’m interested in how learning experiences can be improved through the application of new technologies in an evidence-based way.

I’m currently looking at how virtual reality can improve skills acquisition and boost confidence for students in healthcare settings.

Learning Application Developer

Jamie Daniels

I am an experienced educational software developer with a passion for exploring the boundaries of new technologies to deliver and underpin impactful learning. I have been at the forefront of many landmark educational technologies in my 20-year career at the OU, including e-learning websites, mobile apps and most recently Virtual Reality.

Photograph of Jamie Daniels
Photograph of Lawrence Kizilkaya

Product Development Manager

Lawrence Kizilkaya

With a background in classroom teaching, I am intrigued by the differences in distance and face-to-face learning. I also love to experiment with new educational technology with the aim of balancing novelty against utility.

For more info on strategic projects that I’ve contributed to, visit my OU biography (opens in new tab).

User Experience Designer

Anna Chistyakova

With a background in Linguistics, Marketing and Management Consulting, I’m fascinated by the intersection of people, environment and technology.

Having lived in Russia, China and the UK, I firmly believe that the best solutions come from diverse ideas. This is why I simply can’t get enough of talking to strangers and love all things user research!

Photograph of Anna Chistyakova
Photograph of Dean Collins

User Experience Designer

Dean Collins

I like the use of creative thinking and design to solve problems. I aspire to create designs that empower, enrich and delight people. I believe in observing what people do, not what they say.

For more info on strategic projects that I’ve contributed to, visit my OU biography (opens in new tab).

Junior Unity Developer

Morgan James

I love working on creative projects and thrive off creating immersive experiences. With my background in video game programming, I feel it is my duty to make applications that are fun and easy to use while also serving a purpose.

Photograph of Morgan James
Photograph of Ayoub Laissaoui

Junior Unity Developer

Ayoub Laissaoui

I always loved technology and innovation, with a combination of strong foundation in fine arts and a passion for programming, i am able to achive my creative visions backed with a solid design.

Junior Unity Developer

Alec Stone

I'm a multi-disciplinary technical creative, coming from a web development and data-focused professional background. I actively support the enabling of alternative education routes through new technology, feel driven by the buzz of nascent technologies. I believe in a very bright future for VR, AR and technological advancements in distance learning.

Photograph of Alec Stone