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Mr Tom Olney

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am currently employed as a Senior Manager, Learning & Teaching in the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at the UKOU with specific responsibility for the adoption and development of learning design and learning analytics approaches in open and distance learning module creation. My work also includes participating in, and project managing, institutional learning and teaching initiatives in the faculty to improve the experience of STEM students. These include work in the areas of student workload, sustainability, learning outcomes, assessment, learning analytics, and student communications. 

Before joining the UKOU I was employed as a secondary school teacher and humanities faculty lead in Melbourne, Australia. I designed and delivered learning and assessment that was aligned with Victorian Department of Education guidance in the subject areas of English, Global Politics and History for ten years. I mentored multiple student and beginning teachers. I hold a BA (Hons) degree in History and Politics, a MA Diploma in Education, and I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Association (SFHEA). I am currently working towards a PhD by Published Work. 

I have developed substantial expertise and experience in developing synchronous and asynchronous professional development products in both online and face-to-face environments. I am an experienced facilitator. I am able to draw on my extensive classroom practice and I am trained in consensus and group facilitation methodologies. At the UKOU I regularly facilitate learning design workshops for module teams across the faculty. I am particuarly interested in the cross-cultural application of learning design and as such I have also developed and delivered a range of workshop approaches for international and commercial audiences. These include: the Independent Institute of Education (IIE) in Johannesburg, South Africa (2017), the Enhancement of Lifelong Learning in Belarus (BELL) project (2018), and eight different Open Universities in China (2017-24). I am co-creator and co-faciliator of the Learning Design and Course Creation (LDCC) Workshop. 


Research interests

My research interests include professional development, learning design approaches and learning analytics. Specific areas of interest include the impact of professional development on the professional identity of Chinese HE educators, the implemetation and practice of learning analytics in HE, and the development of learning design approaches (both pedgogical and organisational) for supporting academics in HE. I regularly mentor visiting scholars from Chinese OU. 

Methodological frameworks of interest include; social informatics (Kling, 2007), shadow practices (McCoy & Rosenbaum, 2019), The Personal Interpretive Framework (Kelchtermans, 2009), the Cultural Dimensions of Learning Framework (Parrish & Linder-van Berschott, 2010), and the Theory of Practice Architectures (Mahon, Kemmis, Francisco & Lloyd, 2017).

My project, Measuring the impact of the LDCC workshops, received a Highly Commended award at the 7th eSTEeM Scholarship Projects of the Year Awards 2024. I am currently principal investigator on the OU Open Societal Challenges (OSC) project, Enhancing the quality of learning and teaching in the Chinese Open University system, the findings of which will form the basis of a Research Excellence Framework (REF) Impact Case Study for submission in 2029. 

I am a regular reviewer for a number of peer reviewed academic journals, which include Distance Education, The Journal of Learning Analytics, and International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education. I am co-chair of the LA practitioner track strand at the Learning Analytics & Knowledge 2025 (LAK25) Conference in Dublin. A full list of my published authored work can be found either in the 'Publications' tab on this site, or on my Google Scholar page.


The Learning Design & Course Creation Workshop: Impact of a Professional Development Model for Training Designers and Creators of Online and Distance Learning (2024-03)
Olney, Tom; Rienties, Bart; Chang, Daphne and Banks, Duncan
Technology, Knowledge and Learning, 29 (pp. 45-63)

Using the Theory of Practice Architectures to establish what it means to “do” learning design, and the arrangements that enable and constrain practice (2023)
Olney, Tom and Wood, Carlton
Frontiers in Education, 8, Article 1291032

Enhancing the quality of open and distance learning in China through the identification and development of learning design skills and competencies (2021-05-21)
Olney, Tom; Li, Chenxi and Luo, Juan
Asian Association of Open Universities Journal, 16(1) (pp. 61-78)

Are We Living in LA (P)LA Land? Reporting on the Practice of 30 STEM Tutors in Their Use of a Learning Analytics Implementation at The Open University (2021)
Olney, Tom; Walker, Steve; Wood, Carlton and Clarke, Anactoria
Journal of Learning Analytics, 8(3) (pp. 45-59)

Professional development for sustaining the ‘pivot’: the impact of the Learning Design and Course Creation Workshop on six Belarusian HEIs (2021)
Olney, Tom and Piashkun, Siarhei
Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2021, Article 10(1)

Effective usage of Learning Analytics: What do practitioners want and where should distance learning institutions be going? (2020)
Rienties, Bart; Olney, Tom; Nichols, Mark and Herodotou, Christothea
Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-learning, 35(2) (pp. 178-195)

How do tutors use data to support their students? (2019)
Walker, Steve; Olney, Tom; Wood, Carlton; Clarke, Anactoria and Dunworth, Moira
Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 34(1) (pp. 118-133)

Making sense of learning analytics dashboards: a technology acceptance perspective of 95 teachers (2018-11)
Rienties, Bart; Herodotou, Christothea; Olney, Tom; Schencks, Mat and Boroowa, Avi
International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 19(5) (pp. 186-202)

Gathering, visualising and interpreting learning design analytics to inform classroom practice and curriculum design: A student-centred approach from the Open University (2018-10-02)
Olney, Tom; Rienties, Bart and Toetenel, Lisette
In: Lodge, Jason M.; Horvath, Jared Cooney and Corrin, Linda eds. Learning Analytics in the Classroom: Translating Learning Analytics Research for Teachers (pp. 71-92)
ISBN : 9780815362111 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

The evolution of learning analytics practice over six years at the Open University, UK: what are the arrangements that enable or constrain this practice? (2023-11-30)
Olney, T. and Wood, C.
In : 16th Annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (13-15 Nov 2023, Seville, Spain) (pp. 449-455)

How might the cultural learning preferences of the participants of the enhancement of lifelong learning in Belarus (BELL) project impact on their learning designs? (2020-10)
Olney, Tom; Endean, Mark and Banks, Duncan
In : Final Conference on Erasmus+ project Enhancement of Lifelong Learning in Belarus (13-14 Oct 2020, Brest, Belarus) (pp. 20-28)

Evaluating the impact of the Learning Design and Course Creation (LDCC) workshop on the participants of the enhancement of Lifelong Learning in Belarus (BELL) project (2020)
Olney, Tom; Endean, Mark and Banks, Duncan
In : Proceedings of the final conference on the Erasmus+ project. Enhancement of Lifelong learning in Belarus (13-14 Oct 2020, Brest) (pp. 12-19)

Reviewing three case-studies of learning analytics interventions at the open university UK (2016-04-25)
Rienties, Bart; Boroowa, Avinash; Cross, Simon; Farrington-Flint, Lee; Herodotou, Christothea; Prescott, Lynda; Mayles, Kevin; Olney, Tom; Toetenel, Lisette and Woodthorpe, John
In : Sixth International Conference on Learning Analytics & Knowledge (LAK '16 ) (25-29 Apr 2016, Edinburgh) (pp. 534-535)