About KMi

EnquiryBlogger: tools for reflective learning

Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
3 year fully-funded PhD (Oct. 2012-Sept.2015)
Stipend: £40,770 (£13,590/year)


Enquiry-based learning is shaped by students' interests and driven by their curiosity. As learners engage in an authentic enquiry, they not only acquire knowledge and skills but also develop the values and attitudes necessary for learning [1]. The Knowledge Media Institute (KMi), working with partners, has developed an online toolset, EnquiryBlogger, in order to support awareness and reflection for enquiry-based learners [2]. Writing a blog offers learners opportunities to incorporate many perspectives, develop carefully crafted contributions, reflect and make considered responses [3]. It also provides an environment in which people can observe, articulate and refine practices [4]. EnquiryBlogger extends the core features of a robust, open-source blogging platform, offering four additional tools:

  • Enquiry Spiral provides a graphical representation of the enquiry; clickable links allow learners and teachers to track progress within and across blogs.
  • ELLI Spider provides learners with a pre-defined set of tags to reflect self-perceptions of their learning power. The resulting spider diagram provides a searchable graphic representation.
  • Mood graph reflects users' affective response to their enquiries. Learners select an emoticon, and the written explanation of their choice is recorded as a blog post. The resulting clickable graph charts changes in emotional state.
  • Dashboards provide educators with clickable overviews, allowing them to see how each enquiry is progressing, which learners are having difficulties and which learners are reporting success and high levels of reflection.

Our strategic goal is to develop EnquiryBlogger, its visualisations and its dashboards to help learners at all levels engage in enquiry-based learning and, ultimately, build their capacity as life-long, life-wide learners.

PhD Challenge

This PhD will fund a candidate to evaluate, design and implement tools for reflective, enquiry-based learning.

EnquiryBlogger is currently being trialed with groups including junior school pupils and Masters students. A key next step is to extend and evaluate these trials, which will drive the design and development of tools to support learning and teaching using authentic enquiry. The current tools provide a basis for the development of learning analytics, visualisations and dashboards that could be deployed in other contexts, for example within other Open University platforms such as SocialLearn [5] and Cohere [6]. A possible outcome is an integrated set of tools and dashboards that can be adapted to diverse situations, that are grounded in a theoretically robust framework, and that offer visualisations with the potential to transform learners' and teachers' experience of enquiry-based learning. The PhD will be in collaboration with learning scientists and practitioners in the global LearningEmergence.net research network, who are well placed to provide pedagogical input, user communities and impact evaluations.

Seize the Day

This is a fantastic opportunity if you are passionate about the future of learning and want to engage with next-generation pedagogy. You may be a great web, widget or app developer, aiming to develop a research career in technology-enhanced learning. Or you may have a background in education, and be aiming to build your skills as a developer alongside your experience as a researcher. Your supervisors will be Simon Buckingham Shum and Rebecca Ferguson, who are active contributors to the field of technology-enhanced learning research. Get in touch online for informal enquiries. The OU is the place to do research in learning technology, this being a mission-critical challenge. The Knowledge Media Institute is an 80-strong state-of-the-art research lab, prototyping the future for The Open University and the many other organisations with whom KMi partners. KMi is renowned for its creative, can-do culture, and its high impact on the OU's strategic thinking and technical capacity. The Institute of Educational Technology (where Rebecca Ferguson is based) is home to world-leading research on learning technology, as well as conducting institutional research to inform the university's core business.


For further information on this PhD project please contact:

Dr Simon Buckingham Shum
Snr Lecturer & Associate Director
Email | Dr Simon Buckingham Shum Website | Dr Simon Buckingham Shum
+44 (0)1908 655723


[1] Deakin Crick, R., (2009) Inquiry-based learning: reconciling the personal with the public in a democratic and archaeological pedagogy. Curriculum Journal, 20, 73-92.

[2] Ferguson, R., Buckingham Shum, S., & Deakin Crick, R. (2011) EnquiryBlogger - Using Widgets To Support Awareness and Reflection in a PLE Setting. In W. Reinhardt, & T. D. Ullmann (Eds.), 1st Workshop on Awareness and Reflection in Personal Learning Environments. http://oro.open.ac.uk/30598/

[3] Ferguson, R., Clough, G. and Hosein, A., (2007) Postgraduate blogs: beyond the ordinary research journal. In: S. Wheeler and N. Whitton (eds.), ALT-C 2007 Proceedings. http://oro.open.ac.uk/12275/

[4] Efimova, L., Fiedler, S., Verwijs, C. and Boyd, A. (2007) Legitimised theft: distributed apprenticeship in weblog networks. I-know 04, (Graz, Austria).

[5] Ferguson, R. and Buckingham Shum, S., (2012) Towards a social learning space for open educational resources. In: A. Okada, T. Connolly and P. Scott (eds.), Collaborative Learning 2.0: Open Educational Resources. IGI. http://oro.open.ac.uk/33457/

[6] De Liddo, Á., Sándor, A. and Buckingham Shum, S., (in press) Contested collective intelligence: rationale, technologies, and a human-machine annotation study. Computer Supported Cooperative Work. http://oro.open.ac.uk/31052/


The relevant application form can be found at http://www.open.ac.uk/research/research-degrees/overview.php.

It is essential that you include both a proposal and a CV with your application. These are central to our judging of applications, both at shortlisting time and afterwards.

Application submissions can be directed to KMi Recruitment Coordinator at the Knowledge Media Institute, Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK, Tel. +44 (0)1908 654774, Fax +44 (0)1908 653169.

Application Deadline

7th June 2012

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Journal | 25 years of knowledge acquisition