Smart Tech

Evaluating the impact of smart devices on student success

Discover more about the project

What is the Smart Tech
project for?

The Smart Tech project was born out of the need to understand more fully the potential benefits of smart device usage on student success and to assess whether there are changes that we can make to the production and delivery of learning materials to assist in this aim.

Students are streaming videos, listening to music and podcasts, and talking to Alexa, Google, and Siri, on a daily basis in their everyday lives and in order that we can better understand the opportunities available to us offer a better learning experience we first need to understand what these technologies and services can offer.

Research and surveys

A major element of the project is carrying out our own surveys among Open University students. In April 2019 we ran our first survey, looking at how student's smart device usage differed between study and non-study purposes. We have now run three additional surveys, with the report of the fourth edition coming soon. Editions one to three are available to download.

The survey will continue to be run every six months and the results will be published on this project site and disseminated more widely. Please feel free to download and share, with citation.

Download 3rd edition (opens in new tab)

Smart objectives

The project will cover a variety of research areas so that we can learn more about the variety of interactions that students carry out with smart devices and services. This includes research into streaming (including podcasts), accessibility, continuity between devices, assessing smart AI assistants, and reviewing environmental and behavioural aspects of smart device usage.

We are also investigating the impact of aspects of smart device usage, such as connectivity, data usage and speed, location awareness, and physical changes controlled by smart AI assistants to assess where we can inform on future changes to learning material production and delivery that could have positive effects upon student study and success.

Image of a Oculus Rift virtual reality headset

Digital skills and accessibility

One of the main areas of focus is on how can this work be of benefit to both staff and students in terms of digital skills training to help improve digital literacy and the ability to utilise the benefits that smart devices offer.

Working with colleagues across the university we will be looking to link up with a variety of projects and initiatives to help train staff and students and to run pilots and evaluation schemes to help establish a digital literacy baseline which we can work from to provide a better experience for all.

We will also be evaluating the devices we are using for testing in terms of accessibility features and assessing the potential benefit that they could offer our students.

Experiments (currently on hold)

We began running a series of experiments as part of the Smart Tech project to enable us to research and prototype to fully analyse the impact of smart devices on student success. We hope that our findings will in some way encourage or be used throughout The Open University.

As of November 2020, and due to the COVID-19 epidemic and the main OU campus being closed, we are unable to continue conducting the experiments at this time and they have each been paused. We will review this situation in Spring 2021 when we will hopefully have a clearer picture on when we can pick up the work again, once access to our test facility on campus is possible.

Contact us

If you would like to find out more, or would like to work with us, please complete your details using the contact form.

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