The Open University, UK

Research School Knowledge Media Institute

EU ProLearn Project

Event photos...

Participants get to know each other over lunch (watched enviously by the online participants...)

Online participants from all over Europe watched the ProLearnTV webcast which uses KMi's Stadium infrastructure

Online participants were also aware of each other in the Hexagon video room

The Hexagon room was also projected on the side wall at the OU, bringing the virtual participants into the same space as the physical audience

Video conferencing using FlashMeeting over the Web with a PhD student in New York

Adding a shared desktop (using WebEx) to the video conference, to concept map the discussion using Compendium

Feedback from participants...

"...huge congratulations on the format, content and general interactivity of this afternoon's proceedings. Enjoyed it immensely... it was nice to exchange little remarks with the other hexes, none of whom I knew, while the rest of you were unaware of it. Nice feeling of hex-solidarity."

"...Even as a technical novice I found the workshop easy to follow on-line and felt that it was a pretty friendly technology that could have lots of useful applications - for students ... at home or somewhere else around the world. I was also impressed by the opportunity we have to get PhD students using this sort of technology to prepare them for their future careers."

"I attended Friday's webcast (from Cardiff) and found it fascinating. Lots of interesting ideas."

A Joint Workshop between The UK GRAD Programme and The Open University
hosted by the Knowledge Media Institute
with virtual presence provided by the European PROLEARN Project.


Developing Research Skills, Presence and Collaboration at a Distance


Fri 11th February, 2005: Lunch @ 1pm, Workshop 2-5pm
Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University, (Level 4, Berrill Building), Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK [Maps] [Workshop Programme]


Prof. Wendy Stainton Rogers, Research School Academic Co-ordinator, The Open University

Dr. Simon Buckingham Shum, Senior Lecturer, Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University



Check Your Setup

Slides [2.5Mb]

Compendium Resources FROM THE WORKSHOP:

NEW! Join/Leave the e-PhD discussion list.

Joint Statement of the UK Research Councils'/AHRB'S Skills Training Requirements for Research Students


More than half of the UK’s postgraduate research students are pursuing their PhD part-time and have limited opportunities to take part in face-to-face training sessions. In addition, many full-time students spend substantial periods away doing fieldwork. During such times they too cannot participate directly in the kinds of experiential group learning activities that are so powerful for developing generic skills and the capacity for reflective learning. A key question that will be addressed in this workshop is – how can we devise alternatives that can be accessed by students at a distance?


Part of doctoral training is learning what it means to be an active member of a research community, both local and global. This is picked up by osmosis when physically co-located in a research group, but it is important that distance research students do not become second class citizens, invisible to their host research groups, and unaware of events and daily social life. They must of course also be able to work synchronously and asynchronously with supervisors and other colleagues. This workshop will demonstrate to participants how developments in ICT make it increasingly simple to foster these critical skills.


This workshop will cover:

·         The pedagogy of skills development, including reflective learning;

·         Different kinds of learning support – for managing the process, to provide opportunities for experiential learning, for recording achievement;

·         Which of these can be provided at a distance? 

·         ICT tools and techniques for supporting learning, presence and collaboration;

·         Opportunities and barriers. 



Theoretical framework, examples, discussion and sharing innovation.

NOTE: We want to hear your experiences too... There is the opportunity on the program for you to share what you do to support PhD students, and show slides/websites/software tools if relevant. If you are willing to give a 5 minutes summary then please email James Whitehouse [] as soon as possible so that we know how many presentations we have, specifying:

  1. If you attending online, whether if you are happy to present using a shared desktop and talk over web video conference (we'll send details). (If this proves not possible, we can use phone + slides/website)
  2. If you are coming to the OU, whether you wish to email/bring PowerPoint slides with you to put on our PC, or use your own laptop (e.g. to show a software tool)


This workshop will practise what it preaches as a hybrid physical/virtual interactive event. As a 'virtual participant' you will be using some of the e-PhD tools developed at the Open University's Knowledge Media Institute, which we will be discussing on the day.


These will enable you to:

  1. receive the live webcast of the event with audio, video, slides and live demos of e-PhD tools

  2. have a visual presence at the event with a lo-fi video image of yourself displayed to other virtual participants, and in the venue for co-located participants to see

  3. post comments and questions to the event during discussion feedback sessions


To attend online, check your setup here...



Better understanding of how ICT tools and techniques can enable students to develop their skills and capacity for reflective learning. Awareness of what they can and cannot do. Able to start incorporating some of these into PGRS’ generic skills training.




Professor Wendy Stainton Rogers, Research School Academic Co-ordinator, The Open University: Wendy has more than 20 years experience in designing and producing learning materials to support skills development, in fields including social work, law and medicine. She was one of the first at the Open University to link the curriculum design of courses to vocational standards and to develop distance learning routes to professional accreditation. She also led the development of learning materials specifically to support training programmes. Wendy was, for instance, a major contributor to EPSRC’s training resource pack on Contract Researchers’ Career Development. Wendy manages the OU’s of generic skills training programmes for postgraduate research students (including those studying at a distance) and post-doctoral researchers. She is actively involved in developing IT-based support for generic skills training. []


Dr Simon Buckingham Shum, Senior Lecturer, Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University: Simon conducts research into collaborative knowledge media: information and communication technologies for knowledge negotiation. These have rich applications in virtual research environments, in which he is an active researcher, and which he has also been investigating in his capacity as chair of the OU's e-PhD Working Group, KMi's e-PhD Project, and PhD Admissions Coordinator for the Knowledge Media Institute. []



The event will start with complimentary buffet lunch in the Knowledge Media Institute from 1pm, with a 2pm start to the formal workshop, ending promptly at 5pm. There is no registration cost. Please email a completed Registration Form to Lesley Henderson [] to confirm your physical or virtual attendance. Phone (01908 653677; International +44 1908 653677).


How to get here

Maps and information about how to get to the OU’s Milton Keynes campus can be downloaded from If you are coming by car, you may find a space at main reception in front of the Berrill Building, but otherwise should park in the East Campus which is across the road (over the roundabout) from the main site. There is a shuttle bus to bring you across. (Please note that the main car parks on campus fill up before 9am, and it can be very hard to find a place after that time).


Workshop Sponsors

The UK GRAD Programme is the UK's main provider of personal and career management skills development for postgraduate researchers.

The Open University is the UK's largest university and the world leader in distance learning.

The OU's Research School coordinates all aspects of Research Degrees recruitment,administration and training for the OU's 766 PhD students.

The OU's Knowledge Media Institute (KMi) is a 70-strong state of the art research lab investigating theory and design at the convergence of knowledge technologies and global communications.

PROLEARN is a 'Network of Excellence' financed by the IST (Information Society Technology) programme of the European commission dealing with technology enhanced professional learning. KMi is one of the partners specialising in webcast multimedia, led by Dr. Peter Scott.