11 Oct 2012

The Open University launches new creative learning initiative

The Open University has launched JuxtaLearn, a new international initiative to encourage students to express complex ideas through creative means.

The main goal of the project is to research and develop an educational and technological framework that utilises creativity and performance as scaffolding juxtaposed with science and technology learning.

Funded by a €2.1 million grant from the EU, JuxtaLearn aims to help students overcome learning barriers often presented by complex concepts in science and technology subjects through encouraging them to express the concept in a creative video making project. For example, explaining the Higgs boson particle in a video, chemistry illustrated in the kitchen, or plotting out the potential evolution of an alien race.

The programme is focussed on two educational approaches: juxtaposition performance and reflective performance. The former uses Interactive Computer Marked Assessments (iCMAs) so teachers can identify students’ threshold concepts that are personal barriers to their understanding. Students will then be encouraged to engage with the concept through a formal activity, and then again through a creative juxtaposed activity.

The reflective stage supports students through a film making process based on the concept they wish to comprehend; from initial planning through to a public screening.

Project Coordinator Anne Adams said: “The workplace is looking for people with science and technology abilities. Yet, kids today find these subjects dull and boring, definitely not ‘cool’ or ‘fun’. JuxtaLearn is going to change all this by building on children’s affinity for video, social networking and mobile technologies through juxtaposed learning activities on table tops and large screen displays.”

Juxtalearn officially launched with a kick-off meeting in Växjö, Sweden that ran on the 8th and 9th of October. It featured demonstrations of Juxtalearn for academics attending from institutions collaborating with The Open University on the project.

Other institutions involved with developing Juxtalearn alongside The Open University are Sweden-based Linnaeus University, Germany-based Rhein-Ruhr Institute, Spain-based Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Portugal-based Universidade do Minho, Catchermedia, and The University of Birmingham.

For more information on Juxtalearn, please either contact the OU’s press office on +44 (0)1908 654 305 or Alternatively, visit

Notes to the editor

About The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has more than 263,000 current students, including over 15,000 overseas.

The OU came top for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey this year, and has been in the top three universities every year since the survey began in 2005. In 2011/12 it had a 93 per cent satisfaction rating. Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.

In the UK’s latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) the Open University was ranked in the top third of UK higher education institutions. More than 50% of OU research was assessed in the RAE as internationally excellent, with 14% as world leading.

Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which has had more than 23 million visits, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded over 56 million downloads. The OU has a 41 year partnership with the BBC which has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to prime-time programmes such as Frozen Planet, Bang Goes the Theory, James May’s Big Ideas and The Money Programme.

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