Our research approach is typically multi-disciplinary and methodologically innovative. We are involved in a variety of projects as a research group and our doctoral research students are involved in a wide range of studies in both formal and informal contexts.

Current Research Projects

Understanding Widening Participation in Elite HE Institutions

PIs: Dr James Robson; Dr Katriona O’Sullivan (Maynooth University); Dr Niall Winters; Dr Ann Childs; Dr Hubert Ertl

January 2017-ongoing

This project aims to understand the different ways in which widening participation is conceptualised, measured and evaluated in elite HE institutions. The project focuses particularly on the new Foundation Year created by Lady Margaret Hall (LMH) College at Oxford University, which is modelled on the Trinity Access Programme (TAP) at Trinity College Dublin. The project investigates students’ experiences and the capabilities they develop through the year as well as the way in which the Foundation Year fits within the overall admissions system at Oxford University.

This project is systematically linked to a wider examination and comparison of alternative access routes in Ireland (TAP) and England (the LMH Foundation Year), funded by the Irish Research Council and led by Dr Katriona O’Sullivan. To find out more about this project, see:

For more information, contact Dr James Robson

John Fell Pump-Priming Award: addressing child abuse in the context of disability in Kenya
June 2015-ongoing
This new project emerges from the mCHW project. The ESRC-DFID funded mCHW project set out to train community health workers (who are volunteers selected by their communities to assist their community in health matters) and their supervisors (nurses and public health officers) to assess the development of children under five in two low income communities in Kenya.  This identified a large number of children with disabilities normally kept ‘hidden’ indoors, away from the public out of fear of stigmatization and the widely held belief that disability is a result of witchcraft.  The new project has two foci: First, to facilitate an innovative and interdisciplinary programme of research at the University of Oxford that addresses the gap in health care education in the context of disability in the developing world.  Second, in line with the core aim of the University of Oxford’s Social Science divisional research strategy, to “extend the impact and influence of Oxford’s social sciences research beyond academic communities”, and building on the success of our ESRC-DFID funded mCHW project, the project aims to train community health workers, parents and teachers to identify, understand and assess disabilities, thereby raising awareness in the community and contributing to the de-stigmatisation of disability.

Through the use of mobile technology, the proposed interdisciplinary research will gather data to generate new insights into children’s disabilities and the extent of the treatment gap. Analysis of this data will provide a novel perspective on existing care practices and enhance the understanding of the long-term medical and social needs of those with disabilities and their families. This will inform broader work on how to address the persistent stigmatisation, abuse and structural health care inequalities experienced by those with disabilities.

Go_Girl: Code+Create
April 2015-ongoing
Dr Anne Geniets and Dr Niall Winters have received a grant from the Oxford University IT Innovation Seed Fund for a project that aims to improve access to Oxford University for teenage girls from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds.  Go_girl: code+create, an interdisciplinary project, will complement existing programmes aimed at widening access, but will tackle the problem in a fundamentally new way using technology through exploring history, media production and developing programme skills.  For more information, see:

mCHW: a mobile learning intervention for community health workers
November 2012 – June 2015
The mCHW project ( – a mobile learning intervention for community health workers (CHWs) – addresses the issue of mobile interventions in supporting equitable health care training and supervision for community health volunteers working with marginalised and hard to reach communities in Kenya. Through this 2-year mobile learning project, the Institute of Education, University of London (IoE) and the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) aim to advance the training and supervision of community health volunteers in Kenya, resulting in improved access to primary health care for the marginalised communities of Makueni County and the Kibera informal settlement. The improved mobile-based supervision and training will link CHWs more closely to the local primary healthcare system so as they can be more effective in reducing poverty through improving the access of local communities to health care.

For more info, see the ESRC page on the project and follow us on Twitter and on our Blog

Centre for Research into Assistive Learning Technologies
November 2011 – on going
This centre was formed to carry out research into ongoing developments in the application of digital technologies to support the learning of a wide range of learners experiences obstacles to learning, both physiological, and social. The Centre is currently engaged in a project part-funded by Lenovo investigating uses of tablet technologies in Special Schools, and the use of mobile phones for English language learning in Dharavi, Mumbai. In 2012, the Centre published a substantial literature review of research in the field of assistive learning technologies.

Young people, technology and social exclusion
August 2013 – on going
The purpose of this project is to develop educational initiatives that aim to limit or avert the harmful effects of social exclusion by levelling the digital playing field and by seeking to use the new technologies in ways that actively support social inclusion of young people.

Conceptualising interaction and learning in MOOCs
October 2013 – ongoing
The overarching goal of this project is to propose a typology that describes the nature of learner interactions in MOOCs that develops our understanding of how learning takes place in such settings.


Past Projects

Social inequalities in the network era: Exploring the links between Internet use and social mobility in Britain
September 2013 – August 2014
At a time when many are concerned about growing social inequalities, and services and support are increasingly moving online, this project aimed to re-examine the relationships between social and digital inequality by focusing research on a largely ignored group of adults who despite being from less well-off backgrounds appear to be successfully using the Internet to improve their circumstances. This project explored the contexts and processes that led these individuals, the “unexpectedly digitally included”, to use the Internet “against the odds” and examined in what ways this use influenced their social mobility. This research was supported by the British Academy.

Breaking Boundaries
January – March 2014
The Breaking Boundaries seminar series brought together researchers, policy makers and practitioners to discuss the notion that information communication technologies can be used to break down boundaries to learning and participation in society.  Funded by the ESRC and coordinated by research students at the Department of Education and the Oxford Internet Institute, Breaking Boundaries provided an interdisciplinary forum to engage with important contemporary themes in three linked seminars.

Assessing the accuracy and quality of Wikipedia entries
This research project, funded by Wikipedia and in collaboration with Epic Learning UK, aimed to inform Wikipedia on quality issues relating to Wikipedia articles. Findings indicated that the quality of Wikipedia articles compared favourably (across what was a fairly small exploratory sample) compared with other online encyclopaedias in English, Arabic and Spanish.  View the project report here.

ESRC Seminar Series Educational and Social Impact of New Technologies on Young People
2007 – 2008
This ESRC funded Seminar Series ran from 2007-2009, organised jointly by the University of Oxford’s Department of Education  and LSE’s Department of Media and Communications. It sought to engage researchers who combine a knowledge of adolescent development, an interest in new technologies, and a commitment to capacity building in the research community.

The Use and Re-use of Oxford’s Online Resources by Teachers within the Collegiate University: an Examination of Practice
This project is exploring Oxford University academics’ use of open educational resources (OER) in their teaching, through interviews with academics from a range of disciplines across the university. The project aims to build a critical and theoretical perspective on the use of OER within the university, during a time of expansion and diversification in the use of open resources for teaching, learning and research purposes.

The Learning Companion
2008 – 2013
The Learning Companion project aimed to evaluate the feasibility of a computer-based digital tool to help adults whose engagement with learning is tentative or hard to sustain make productive use of the Internet for achieving their own learning projects.

The Learner and their context
2008 – 2011
This project, initiated as part of Becta’s major programme of research in support of the Government’s Harnessing Technology strategy, looked at the learning opportunities afforded by young people’s uses of new technologies in their everyday lives.