Research course

Online science experimentation

Open University · Department of Education

Entry requirements

2.1 in a science or science-related subject

Months of entry


Course content

The Open University is a world leader in providing distance learning in science. Online experimentation and observations are at the heart of our pedagogy and our students are able not only to learn about the facts and concepts of science but also to practise as scientists.

New technologies (e.g. mobile devices, immersive environments, crowd sourcing) are opening up new possibilities to practise science authentically. We recently won the Times Higher Education (THE) award for outstanding ICT initiative of the year (2014) for the Wolfson OpenScience Laboratory that exploits these technologies. The laboratory, which was launched in July 2013, is a cross-disciplinary initiative involving Science, other OU units and UK and international partners. It has a major educational research component (see below for details). Researching in this area will bring students into contact with a very diverse academic community who are working to advance an area that is challenging but has profound developmental importance.

Current/recent research projects
  • Helping citizen scientists read and write like scientists: learning analytics and authentic inquiry
  • Open inquiry learning in citizen science
  • Practical science instruction via remote and virtual experiments: relating authenticity, sociability and metafunctionality to effective pedagogy (Marcus Brodeur)
  • Design and evaluation of technology-enhanced learning for field trips within and across cultures
  • Teaching practical physics in Africa
Potential supervisors

There are many potential supervisors. They include:

Department specialisms

The following indicate broad areas within which individual projects on online science experimentation would be framed: the design and value of inquiry-based science exploration by the citizen development and evaluation of learning analytics to assess and guide learning supporting conceptual understanding through practical science investigations development and evaluation of 3D immersive environments as virtual laboratories, for 3D visualisations and virtual field trip experiences exploration of the utility of smartphones in linking nature to databases evaluation of remote tools for observation and experiment design and evaluation of mobile devices in learning practical science design and evaluation of online practical science experiences for students in countries with limited technical infrastructure.

Fees and funding

Please see The Open University website

Qualification and course duration


part time
72 months
distance learning
variable months
full time
36 months

Course contact details

Administrative support
+44 (0)1908 659036