Research · Editorial

Professor Anne Adams' presents her Inaugural Lecture

Image of Jennie Lee Building at The Open University Campus

This month, Anne Adams, Professor of Engaged Practice and Research at the OU’s Institute of Educational Technology (IET), delivered her inaugural lecture on 'Why learners, politicians, practitioners and users are not the enemy and how to listen to them!'. Watch the full lecture below.

Professor Adams' inaugural lecture took place on Tuesday, June 13, 2023, held at the The Open University's Milton Keynes campus.

In her inaugural lecture, Professor Adams, highlighted the fact that, from computer security systems to health informatics, educational processes and policy making there are poor assumptions made about what people’s needs are. Professor Adams writes:

'Computerised systems and process designs should effectively reflect peoples’ needs'.

Professor Anne Adams discussed the need to get over the fear of technology and fear of change.

Professor Adams shared the results of poor design approaches across diverse contexts and identify how they can be rectified by applying appropriate active listening methods. 

Professor Anne Adams, Prof of Engaged Practice and Research, joined by Professor Kevin Shakesheff, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Research and Innovation, for questions from the in-person and online audience.

Watch Prof Anne Adams full inaugural lecture below.

Anne's inaugural lecture abstract

Many system security departments treat users as a security risk to be controlled.

Professor Anne Adams revealed this lack of user-centred design in computer security systems almost 30 years ago. Privacy systems and diversity approaches were also identified as having been designed without truly listening to people’s needs and privacy invaded through systems that try to support inclusion, equality and diversity. 

Healthcare practitioners have similarly been ignored in systems and process design. As one clinician noted: ‘It’s like being given a Rolls Royce and only being able to sound the horn.’  Police forces and prisoners identified similar complex barriers to knowledge exchange and learning; solutions ignored because of a poor understanding of people’s needs and true system risks. Internationally in schools, universities and workplaces there is a lack of student-centred design approaches, resulting in teaching students as parrots not problem-solvers. Even the evidence that supports decision-making needs to equitably hear different voices before we can trust it is relevant for parliamentary scrutiny.

Since 2023, Professor Adams has been working with the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology to develop a horizon scanning method. This should help parliamentarians and researchers to identify tomorrow’s questions so we can find answers today. This lecture will discuss these topics and present successful tools, techniques and methods for specific and generic purposes. This is about listening and understanding practitioners, service users and learners’ issues to develop better technologies and processes for the future.

Find out more about Prof Adams work here on her IET People Profile.

Explore the full collection of OU Inaugural Lectures here.