Look back and wonder

It is normally around this time of the year that we look back to take stock of our activities and write an official report to our funders, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. There is the formality of looking at what we promised we would do with the spondulicks and assess how far we have travelled to reach our objectives, but also the opportunity arises to say ‘thank you’ for allowing us to sit on your shoulders and do all this wonderful work.

In the spirit of openness and to remind you all of what we have achieved together, here it is: a summary of GO-GN’s last twelve months, as I know them.

At the time of writing this, GO-GN comprises of sixty one PhD researchers registered at universities in fourteen countries –United Kingdom (14); The Netherlands (9); USA (9); Canada (9); Australia (6); Spain (4); India (2); Nigeria (2); South Africa (1); Sri Lanka (1); New Zealand (1); Brazil (1); Switzerland (1) and China (1). This number represents an increase of 15 PhD researchers in the last 12 months (between July 2017 and June 2018). An additional fifteen researchers –from UK, The Netherlands, USA, Fiji, Sweden, Turkey, South Africa, Rwanda, Canada, Portugal, Ireland and Spain, have been awarded their PhD since 2015. A map indicating the location and research topic of GO-GN PhD candidates and alumni is available here.

1. Activities and outputs


Since July 1st, 2017 GO-GN hosted 9 webinars as part of the #FirstWednesdayofEveryMonth webinar series. Established open education researchers and GO-GN PhD candidates shared their initiatives and work in progress, as follows:

July 5th, 2017 ‘Barriers to OER in Indian Higher Education’, with Sanjaya Mishra
September 6th, 2017 ‘Teachers’ Experience of Professional Learning through Open Education’, with Penny Bentley (PhD candidate)
October 4th, 2017 ‘MOOCs, community orientation and reclaiming the social justice agenda’, with Laura Czerniewicz and Sukaina Walji
November 1st, 2017 ‘An Unexpected Journey: How A Dissertation Changed a Life’, with TJ Bliss
December 6th, 2017 ‘OER for collaborative learning’, with Rory McGreal
February 8th, 2018 ‘Tensions concerning personal open designs and institutional closed artefacts in a HE Institution’, with Caroline Kuhn (PhD candidate)
March 21st, 2018 ‘How to Get Published in a Reputable Journal: Strategies and Advice’, with Dianne Conrad
April 21st, 2018 VConnecting session with GO-GN PhD candidates from Delft, The Netherlands
June 6th, 2018 ‘Open for the Public: Pedagogies Towards the Commons, with Robin DeRosa

All webinars have been recorded and are available under a CC BY licence on GO-GN’s YouTube channel.

Face-to-face seminar and OEGlobal Conference

The 7th GO-GN seminar took place in Delft, The Netherlands (April 21st – 22nd, 2018). A total of 14 PhD candidates and two alumni were funded to attend the seminar where they had a chance to share their work, receive feedback from peers and experts, and participate in workshop sessions aimed at discussing common PhD challenges (led by the alumni) and doing research in the open. We were joined by GO-GN supervisors Robert Schuwer (The Netherlands) and Carina Bossu Australia), and Fred Mulder, founding father of the network. Thirteen of the fourteen students went on to present at the main OEGlobal conference. A brief account of the group’s activities in Delft can be read here.

GO-GN Awards 2018

The 2018 GO-GN Awards for Best Open Education Research Paper and Best Open Research Practice were launched in Cape Town in March 2017 to encourage student members to publish their research and engage in open practices. We received nine submissions to opt for the Best Open Education Research Paper, and two entries for the Best Open Research Practice. An international committee adjudicated the winners:

An Honorable Mention (£500) was given to Aras Bozkurt for ‘Community Tracking in a cMOOC and Nomadic Learner Behavior Identification on a Connectivist Rhizomatic Learning Network‘, co-authored with Sarah Honeychurch, Autumn Caines, Maha Bali, Apostolos Koutropoulos and Dave Cormier, and published in the Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education (TOJDE).

The GO-GN Awards have been renamed the ‘Fred Mulder Awards’ to honour the work, dedication and generosity of Fred Mulder. A new call for submissions was released in June 2017.

Open Education Award for Excellence 2018

GO-GN received this year’s Open Education Award for Excellence in the category of Open Research, awarded by the Open Education Consortium.


GO-GN PhD members and alumni continue to publish in open access journals; an up-to-date list of publications containing 37 items is available at GO-GN theses (15) are also available at ‘Open Education: a Beginners’ guide’, produced by GO-GN alumna Katy Jordan in collaboration with GO-GN expert members Martin Weller, Vivien Rolfe and Irwin DeVries was published in November 2017, and has so far received 2,445 views on SlideShare.


A presentation about GO-GN was given at ICDE’s World Conference on Online Learning in Toronto, October 16th-19th, 2017, where we also collaborated with ICDE Global Doctoral Consortium to facilitate a one-day workshop for PhD candidates.

2. Dissemination

Our website ( received 8164 visits (June 2017 – June 2018) averaging 680 monthly (increased from 667 in 2016-2017). [I’m afraid stats were not available for a period of three months during 2017 due to a plugin failure, but the estimated total traffic over the year was 10,204].

In addition to our website, we maintain an active profile on:

  • Twitter = 702 followers as of June 8th, 2017 increased to 1,060 as of July 4th, 2018. I’ve been having a lot of fun with Martin Hawksey’s TAGSExplorer! Check out #GO_GN’s conversations here.
  • YouTube channel, sharing recordings of webinars (17 videos, 1,052 total number of views) and showcasing the varied research conducted by our members.
  • Flickr = 301 photos shared under a CC BY license.
  • SlideShare = 45 uploads, 6796 views (June 2016 – June 2017), increased to 60 uploads, 6,979 views for the period July 2017 – June 2018.

Soooooo, with a critical eye…

Things that have gone well Challenges so far and in the future
Face-to-face seminar successful, with active participation from members. How to better engage alumni (their priorities change once they are awarded their PhDs).
GO-GN Awards very well received, with a reasonable number of entries. Increase the diversity of the network, especially with regard to recruiting members in the Global South.
Twitter interaction as daily means of communication. Help members understand the importance of doing research in the open besides doing research about open.
Network established as leaders in the field of Open Education research. Members to contribute to the network, rather than simply sit and be happy to receive support without reciprocating.
Increase submissions to Best Open Research Practice.

What do you think? Did we get it right?

Featured image by Pete Wright on Unsplash.

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