Open University UK - Department Computing and Communication

Contact person:  Annika Wolff

annika.wolff [at]


is a researcher in the department of Maths, Computing and Technology at the Open University. Her research interests include Smart City technologies, learning technologies, narrative, games, hypermedia, mobile-learning and learning analytics. She is currently working within the MK:Smart project to bring big data skills and smart city topics into schools to create a future generation of urban innovators.



Description of the smart city learning group operating in the affiliated institution


The Open University undertakes a broad spectrum of research much of which is in the domain of educational and learning technologies, in schools, in distance learning scenarios and ‘in the field’, including research into mobile and ubiquitous computing.





Close collaboration between three departments of the OU contribute toadvancing knowledge in the field of smart city learning. The departmentsare Maths Computing and Technology (MCT), the Institute of EducationalTechnology (IET) and the Knowledge Media Institute (KMi). Key researchthemes include:

• Ubiquitous computing

• Energy and the Environment

• Design, development and evaluation of future learning systems

• Design and evaluation of mobile technologies for learning

• Innovative technology-enabled pedagogies

• Game-based learning

• Citizen Science and open inquiry learning

• Open science laboratories



Relevant achievements, best practices, products


A small cross-section of projects has been chosen to highlight achievements:

Personal Inquiry aimed to develop a new approach of scripted inquiry learning in which students aged 11-14 could use personal technologies to guide scientific investigations that span the classroom, home and field locations

Decipher project which developed new approaches for telling stories across cultural artefacts in museums and their grounds.

Maseltov which aimed to create mobile anywhere/anytime assistance for more efficient and sustainable support of immigrants.

nQuire  which developed technologies to support young citizen inquiries.



On going challenges


MK:Smart  is a current 3 year project in Smart Technology, led by the Open University, focused on the city of Milton Keynes. MK:Smart is designed around the MK Data Hub, a large scale repository for urban data. A key component of the project is the smart city education programme engaging a wide range of audiences, from local schools to higher education students and businesses. To this end, an urban data school is being created through which teachers can access and contribute data and find materials for teaching ‘smart city’ data skills to young learners. MK:Smart will focus also on citizen engagement in innovation-centric decision-making processes through the establishment of a Citizen Lab. Key to these endeavours is the research of methods to facilitate Smart City learning and urban innovations across many domains of energy use, water consumption, transport, culture and business enterprise.



Relevant publications


• Wolff Annika and Mulholland Paul 

“Cultural learning across the smart city” 

In: Smart City Learning 16 Sep 2014, Graz, Austria.

• Wolff Annika; Mulholland Paul; Maguire Mark and O'Donovan Danielle

“Mobile technology to support coherent story telling across freely explored outdoor artworks” 

In: Advances in Computer Entertainment, 11-14 Nov 2014, Madeira.


• Wolff Annika; Kortuem Gerd and Cavero Jose 

“Towards smart city education” 

In: SustainIT 2015: 4th IFIP Conference on Sustainable Internet and ICT for Sustainability, 14-16th April 2015, Madrid, Spain.

• Cavero Jose; Wermelinger Michel and Wolff Annika

“Some Future scenarios for ‘in the wild’ visualisations.  Death of the Desktop.”

Envisioning Visualization without Desktop Computing. Workshop co-located with IEEE VIS 2014 | Paris 9-14 Nov, 2014

• Kukulska-Hulme Agnes; Gaved Mark and Paletta Lucas 

“Mobile incidental learning to support the inclusion of recent immigrants.” 

In: 11th International Conference on Technology, Knowledge and Society: 'Big Data and the Politics of Participation in the Digital Age', 23-24 February 2015, University of California, Berkeley.

• Bourgeois Jacky; van der Linden Janet; Kortuem Gerd; Price Blaine A. and Rimmer Christopher

“Conversations with my washing machine: an in-the-wild study of demand-shifting with self-generated energy”

In: 2014 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp 2014), 13-17 September 2014, Seattle, Washington, US