03 Dec 2015

Embodied learning, analytics of emotions and improved assessment among new learning trends

Tomorrow’s learners could be using the mind and the body to aid their study, the OU’s Innovating Pedagogy Report reveals, in its annual look towards emerging trends in education.

Compiled annually by The Open University and this year in conjunction with SRI International, the US-based research institute, the report highlights the top 10 trends which it predicts will have the most influence on how education – in particular learning, teaching and assessment in the post-school sector – will change over the next decade.

Professor Mike Sharples, Chair in Educational Technology at the OU’s Institute of Educational Technology and lead author of this year’s report, highlights three emerging trends as:
• Embodied learning
The concept of embodied learning whereby mind and body work together to support learning, is becoming a reality with wearable sensors that gather physical and biological data becoming more common. Professor Sharples says embodied learning could allow students to become their own research labs. This approach has been trialled on an OU project, xDelia, (Xcellence in Decision-making through Enhanced Learning in Immersive Applications). The project is developing and exploring the use of serious games linked to physiological sensors which detect and address the impact of people's behaviours, habits and emotional states when they make financial decisions.

• Analytics of emotions
Through analytics of emotions, in the future, devices like eye trackers and facial recognition software will analyse students’ emotional states when they are learning. For example, they can track whether students find the content boring or frustrating, all of which can be fed back into course design. It means that understanding where students are struggling can help teachers and online learning systems offer more personalised responses.

• Stealth assessment

Through stealth assessment, data will be collected about students as they learn online in educational games to detect students’ skills in problem solving and creativity. Concerns have been raised around collecting vast amounts of student learning data. The OU is the first university in the world to develop and put into practice a policy for the ethical use of student data - and universities around the world are looking at this work as a model as the ethics of this research were drawn up in conjunction with OU students.

Innovating Pedagogy 2015 is for teachers, policy makers, academics and anyone interested in how education may change over the next 10 years. The OU takes the lead on this annually due to the fact that the OU’s Technology Enhanced Learning research priority area generates ideas which shape the future of massive-scale learning.

This year’s report was compiled with colleagues from the Center for Technology in Learning (CTL), SRI International, California. SRI is a world leader in consultancy for education producing reports that influence policy, teaching practice and educational technology products. The two Directors of CTL Jeremy Roschelle and Barbara Means as well as other CTL researchers, contributed to the Innovating Pedagogy 2015 as well as other researchers there.

"Innovating pedagogy is now a global activity, so we at SRI are especially pleased to work with colleagues at the Open University on globally important insights about the future of learning, said Jeremy Roschelle, co-director of Center for Technology in Learning.”

Peter Horrocks, The Open University Vice-Chancellor, said:
“The way we learn and teach is developing at breakneck speed, and keeping ahead of the curve is vital. The trends and innovations predicted in this authoritative report are fascinating in terms of the impact they will have on global education, as well as on other sectors such as business and technology.“

Innovating Pedagogy 2015 can be accessed at:



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