Jun 042015

Today I am at the Connect More with Jisc in Scotland, at Napier University, where I’ll be liveblogging but also presenting so this will be a partial capture of the day. As usual any comments or corrections are welcomed.

Introduction – Jason Miles Campbell, Head of Jisc Scotland and Jisc Northern Ireland

I am the head of Jisc Scotland. We have moved to a new model for support recently, but we’ll be saying more about that during the day.

During the day there will be a range of parallel sessions taking place across three strands of Capabilities, Connectivity, and Student experience. We hope you will come and speak to us and ask us questions. We have also had the announcement of the Herald Higher Education Innovation Technology Excellence Award shortlist today, with four Scottish institutions represented there which shows the quality of innovative technology work in Scotland.

I’ve got to remind you of why we are here as Jisc today. Our vision is “To make the UK (and today, Scotland) the most digitally advance education and research nation in the world”, and for that to also reach out beyond the UK. And in Scotland we have the highest number of top 100 research institutions per head of population in the world, and that is something that we don’t shout enough about.

Our Mission is “To enable people in higher education and further education to perform at the forefront of international practice by exploiting fully the possibilities of modern digital empowerment, content and connectivity”. But technology doesn’t do anything by itself, it’s about the people using and supporting it. And hopefully today’s sessions will help you think about things you may want to do in the days, weeks and months ahead.

I really enjoy my job and this is partly because when I was at University technology really wasn’t up to much. I’m a lawyer by training originally… I had the fun of using the early version of Lexus, which required a dial phone, and a physical key for security. But using that technology gave me a real advantage – I won a case by being able to cite a judgement made the day before a case using that technology! But over the last 10 years I have been the head of Jisc Legal. We have seen huge change in that time but we still have more to do to ensure that every student, every staff member, across the board makes the best very deal from technology. I want to do that and to help you to do that to. And it is also about making the best difference.. We have limited resources so we have to concentrate on those things that will truly make the biggest difference to teaching, learning and research. We also have limited time, so we have to best focus what we have to make the best possible. But we also have to also be realistic about the time and resources that you have available.

We are prioritising engagement. We need to work with you. There is no point Jisc deciding what you need, we are here to serve you, we are owned by you, so we need to work based on your priorities.

And we also want you to think about what your institutions provision will look like in 2020. What will the physical space look like, will degree programmes still be there… What will that provision be like?

Historically Jisc was operating lots of sub contractors. We have moved on from that with a much more coherant structure as one organisation with one purpose: to support you. We provide trusted advice for your benefit, scales to meet your needs, working in partnership with you, and hopefully efficiently. We also want to save a lot of money for institutions through economies of scale, and we save you around £200 million per year.

Jisc does essentially four things: Network & Technology – including Janey and security and technical support. That network is only for education and uncontended; Digital Resources – some we negotiate, some we broker, some we buy and some we advise on – all on your behalf; Advice & Engagement – as well as having those resources we need to understand the pedagogies behind their use and we are grateful to our speakers today from the community; Research & Development – we aim to take risks and innovate, and to do that on your behalf.

So what does Jisc Scotland do? We used to have a Regional Support Centre, but rather than being advisors we are now your interface to Jisc, to a whole lot of advice. Jisc is an organisation with a whole lot of things in it to benefit you. Jisc had a lot available but you had to seek them out, but now we will be that conduit for you, find the websites, projects, services for you. And every University and College will have an account manager to do that for you. And also to feed your views into Jisc about what you will need in the future. Well we are about championing the customer, it is about a fully managed relationship with Jisc. We handle account management – we have 3 account managers. We also have Scottish subject specialists, but beyond that there are 20-odd subject specialists also serving Scotland, as well as the rest of the UK, and further expertise to tap into.

I want to say a bit about Community Engagement. We have a range of physical and online opportunities to have shared conversations with one-another and Jisc on issues that matter, focusing on: Network and IT services; Digital resources; Student experience (including learning, teaching and assessment). We will continue to engage in local partnerships seeking to collaborate with key stakeholders for the benefit of the sectors as a whole. We have to focus on where that really makes a difference though, what has an impact. Jisc has less funding than it did so we really want to make a difference and focus on what has real impact.

Some of your questions:

– Where did the RSC go?

Well it is now part of a better structure, and a model that recognises your priorities and meets those. Regional support is still there, Support is still there.

– How can we bid for Jisc funds?

Well Jisc used to put out invitations to tender. Some organisations were good at bidding. Some projects did not have a good impact across the sector, sometimes for the organisation that had the funds. So instead we are moving to a model of co-design, that should much better benefit the sector.

– Can we get someone from Jisc to visit us?

Your account manager is there for you, and there will be events as well. It would be great if we could all visit you across the year, but that isn’t possible. But that direct engagement is still there.

– How do I contact Jisc now?

Well there are a number of ways – lots of information on that available here. Before there used to be a plethora of helpdesks and they were each good but didn’t join up all the expertise of Jisc, so now it is for us to connect you to that expertise so you only have to go to one place.

So now… To today’s first parallel sessions.

Parallel Sessions 1

I am presenting on Jisc MediaHub as part of a joint session with my colleague Anne Robertson, who is talking about Digimap for Colleges. So light blog post updating likely in this session!

Digimap for Colleges – Anne Robertson

I will be talking about Digimap for Colleges today, but also touching on other Digimap services as well. Digimap for Colleges is a new service so this is a chance to get an overview of this.

You may well have heard of Digimap, it’s been around for 15 years and has been available to HE and Colleges in that time. It is a functionally rich service which allows you to access mapping tools online, but also download that data for use in desktop GIS. There are Ordnance Survey, historic, geology and marine data sets from a range of data providers. More recently we created Digimap for Schools, which includes Ordnance Survey and historic online mapping for schools with Key Stage 1-4 and Curriculum for Excellence curriculum materials. But in launching that service we became aware that there was a gap for colleges, for more vocational courses. And that is why we created Digimap for Colleges. It is a simpler service to use, along the Digimap for Schools model. And it provides OS online mapping for colleges for GCSE and A level curriculum and vocational course support. It does not included data download but as a college you can have both Digimap and Digimap for Colleges if you would like.

The mapping available in Digimap for Colleges is Ordnance Survey including digital map projects for all of Great Britain, and includes MasterMap which has fantastic details, which is superb and is one of the reasons this mapping offers so much more than what is available through Google Maps. You can annotate maps with text, markers, areas, photos, graphs to the maps. You can also undertake quite sophisticated map analysis techniques, such as measuring distance, areas, buffer points and lines, but all in an easy to use interface. You can save annotations, and you can also create maps as pdf and jpg for printing and linking.

This is not a service just for geographers, it is useful across the curriculum, a great starting point for presentation of many types of information and use of ICT in learning. And it is all browser based so there is no software installations to do, no data management. It works with all up to date browsers: Chrome, IE, Safari, FireFox. We have curriculum materials. We also have both written and video help and support resources. The videos are much easier to use than verbose instructions so we offer a wide range of these. The interface has a simple start button to begin with, the annotation tool is straightforward and easy to use, and you can see that the annotations you can make allow you to look at landuse, route planning, etc. And you can click a selected area to measure the size, which allows you to think about population density etc. Using the buffer tool you can select but also set up concentric circles around areas of interest – simple but very useful. And you can upload images, and information.

And you can use Digimap for Colleges for College use too – when hosting an event, sharing information etc. The licence allows you to create your own maps and publish these too.

We have some very happy users already, showing that once you have raised awareness, students and staff find it simple to use. But I did also want to talk about a specific example as, at Jisc Digifest earlier this year I was presenting with David Scott of Kirklees College, and he talked about how it had been useful for construction students to look at the orientation of buildings relative to North South facing. And there is a reasonably high drop out rate for these courses, but Digimap for Colleges really engaged them. At Kirklees they used Digimap for Colleges quite strategically, they focused on where it would be most useful and identified construction as important, though they also hope to roll it out to other courses. It also helps contribute to FELTAG.

For your students coming through colleges and university understanding spatial information, how to present data and information on the map, is hugely important across many different industries including transport, planning, industry, renewables, etc. It is not just about geography, and these spatial skills are increasingly important across the workforce.

It is easy to get set up for Digimap for Colleges. There is a simple subscription process for instance campus access. You subscribe via the Jisc Collections Catalogue. You’ll receive email from EDINA helpdesk once set up. And you can always add Digimap later as you start to want some of those additional richer features. And we already have 189 subscribed colleges, including 11 in Scotland.

And next was my presentation. I’ll share a link to the slides for that very shortly.

Parallel Sessions 2: 2015 – A year to remember in TEL – Suzanne Scott, Borders College

Mark Owen, Jisc Scotland Account Manager, is introducing this presentation on the lessons learned from embedding the TEL team at Borders College. For the last three years Suzanne has been embedding TEL at Borders College.

Suzanne opens with a slide asking us the connection between Alice in Wonderland, fish fingers, Elvis, mobile phones… Well they are all celebrating anniversaries this year… But all of these things got me thinking about what we have been doing at Borders College, as it has been a momentous year for us. I’m going to talk about what I have been doing, and what our future plans are.

We have come a huge way since our first elearning project at Borders College in 2011, which was called Transform. That was about working with local SMEs to identify training needs and consider an online solution. It started us thinking more deeply about what we were doing within the college. It was quite an externally facing project but it got us reflecting on what we did internally, and how we could support our staff and students.

We then moved to BOLT, a Jisc funded project to create a toolkit to enable the college and other organisations to embed e-learning as core. We received £113k for this work and for a college that is a huge amount enabling a major and ambitious project. Initially it was about a better online provision. We’d had Moodle since 2009 but how could we make it more than just a repository of teaching documents? That was about changing the culture. We grew the team supporting the system, so now 6 (and soon 7) staff members bringing together technology enhance learning specialist, audio video production staff – enabling us to create our own materials rather than having to deal with copyright issues, developer roles, etc. There were so many tools and options… so we went through the pain of finding out what was needed. In FE we felt like it was useful for us to answer those questions and producing a toolkit to support that to benefit the wider sector. As a result of that we established the new Technology Enhanced Learning Unit, just at the end of the project.

Now that we are embedded we have had a lot of things to work out. We have had to identify our own remit. We have had to work out our relationships with others – for instance we didn’t expect to be working with Marketing but we do. We had to restructure some job descriptions. The way we are funded is that the college funds half our salary, and the other half has to come in through commercial activities. That is a huge pressure but what we actually do is 100% curriculum, and 75% commercial activities. A lot of my role is sourcing funding, looking for new projects… but that also means being part of projects we might never have been involved in. So for instance we worked with a partner who wanted to set up a media training unit – we set up a mobile bus set up as a library/archive and with training provided etc.

We have also been really involved in FELTAG. In England and Wales FELTAG is the be all and end all. That report requires 10% of content to be delivered online. That’s huge. And it means there is a lot of up-skilling to do, and funding to do that. And as a result a MOOC has been set up on FutureLearn with a consortium of colleges involved. The aim is for it to reach the staff, it’s a great opportunity and we are designing the curriculum for it. That’s an opportunity that arose from BOLT. We are constantly involved in being out and about, working with others, looking for the new big opportunity.

But we have also had real challenges in terms of technologies. As a team we have been making requirements for internet connections, wifi, softwares. And just last week there has been an announcement of restructuring that will see closer links between the library and ICT and that further highlights the role of TEL as core to the college.

And we are also now working on open badges, and the first video resources around that will be live soon.

This year we have seen a real growth in resources, with a graphic designer and instructional designer as well as in-classroom technology support office joining us. We have our own digital asset management system – to manage

And I’ve just established the Scottish Learning Technology Network, with representation from most colleges and some of the universities, to identify common concerns, share best practice, etc. So Open Badges for instance is an area we have been looking to collectively raise awareness, standardise our approach. And basically getting a lot done through short intense workshops to achieve a new solution etc.

And we have become part of the Fujitsu Ambassador programme, which is about the classroom of the future. And we want to deal with the skills gap around technology enhanced learning, but also to properly rethink what the classroom should look like, to query why we teach in such traditional spaces, with students in rows… etc.

We are always pushing boundaries, and looking at new opportunities. We are also thinking about ambitious ideas around having a day of remote learning next year [more details to follow as this is still being confirmed, I’m not scooping Suzanne!] to act as a focal point for staff skills and teaching materials being ready. To support that we are introducing a Digipals scheme to encourage students to come in and support staff with implementation of mobile learning. We have a huge amount to learn from our students.

We are also considering areas such as adaptive learning system development and increased use of learning analytics, to identify struggling students etc. And we are talking to Jisc about this and whether it could be a college wide system. We are also working with SQA to look at a Mahara template project. We are looking at open badges across the curriculum. And also thinking about Modern Apprenticeships in Learning Technologies. I think there need to be a clearer idea of the role, of what it could be, and a clear progression path. And that obviously feeds into the FE MOOC work as well.

We were a small college but anyone can do this stuff. We are all short on funding and time and face challenges around culture and infrastructure, but these can be overcome.

In terms of lessons learned one of the most important is that you have to have senior management buy in to drive things forward. You need to identify small and easy wins. You need to work with champions to share good practice and raise profile. And you have to engage students. But you can also never underestimate the importance of good ICT infrastructure.

You have to work smarter not harder with the funding that you have. You have to be clever about things. For us that commercial income requirement is really useful in giving us flexibility, new opportunities, and then chances to reinvest in the team. In terms of resourcing secondment opportunities can be hugely beneficial, as can shared services. In terms of time you have to get TEL on the timetables, which means that you have to secure CPD time and attention. Culturally you have to identify influencers, recruitment and key skills are crucial, and we also have to incentivise good practice. One of my concerns about the MOOC is about availability of time, so that learning technologists can actually participate and learn.

Internally it is important to have a strong TEL team with clear roles and responsibilities. On a recent away day we came up with our own team rules. There needs to be continuous CPD. The team is core.

More importantly, why do we do this? Well because we owe it to ourselves and to our students. Our students need to have a digital experience that is worthy of what they deserve, so that when they go into the workplace they are digitally literate, they deserve that.

One thing to do today… Some ideas to take away:

  • Ensure the TEL team has a clear remit – produce a service offering
  • Establish a process for new TEL related projects – links to policies and procedures are important
  • Create opportunities for staff engagement – with multiple channels of communication to keep them abreast of TEL work
  • And do join us in the Scottish Learning Development Network

And as we look further into the future we have to thinking about evangelising, collaborating and being more joined up across education at all levels, we also need to future proof what we do – keep up to date but be critical too. And we need to keep trying with an ongoing programme of improvements.


Q1) Thinking about your day of virtual learning, will all the students be equipped with the right technologies to take part?

A1) Many will but the university would be open to enable them to use central resources as needed.

Q2) Its a shame that it is hard to recruit learning technologists but there is also the issue of what the skills to be a learning technologist is – since there are social, technical, and all sorts of other skills required including being personable and persuasive. I am also interested in the Digipals scheme…

A2) We are excited about our Digipals scheme, and also thinking that they may eventually become our learning technologies modern apprentices in time. But the curriculum for that programme will have to cover a huge range of materials. At the moment it is so much about technologies but it also needs to be about negotiating, managing relationships, and all of that stuff beyond the technologies.

Q2) If the technologists are looking at pedagogies, people and technologies… what role does the academic hold?

A2) I would love to see more academics being learning technologists but it can too often be seen as a backwards step and we need to change that. But they have to understand the why of doing this, of using technologies.

Q3) That last comment is so important. I’m an academic working with academics and they are trained to query, and to be critical. And saying this is 21st century teaching, that our students are demanding it, those aren’t enough… So I wondered if you had any ideas about the why? and how to answer that.

A3) It is really difficult to do. Champions are great but you need to move the masses forward. I don’t like force from above for “you must” but sometimes with learning technology that’s the only way to do it – and that’s the idea of something like our Virtual Day, which states the importance and vision of the College. But the student voice is really powerful.

Q3) Maybe the classroom of the future work is part of the way to do that as well…

A3) It is exciting… but also scary. Taking chairs and PCs out of the classroom is challenging. Aberdeen have set up 2 very different rooms. Some staff love it, but others are confused by it. But you have to keep trying.

Comment) I think it’s really interesting what you say about the voice of the institution… For those of us who do want to teach with digital technology, there can be a disconnect about what we want to do and what we can do with the available technologies, feeling held back by the idea that we aren’t all there yet.

A) I think we also have to properly recognise where good things happen. “Champions” are a great thing but… I tried to set up a scheme where students would award a badge to staff to recognise effective use of learning technology. That proved very controversial. But you see academics doing great projects doing action research, but they are not that different from their learning technologist colleagues.

And we close this session with a reminder that the new Borders railway opens soon – so there’ll be a scenic route to visit Borders College direct from Edinburgh!

Parallel Sessions 3

I am presenting on Social Media and Managing your digital footprints, so again no blog post updating.

Parallel Sessions 4: Starting App: literacy development from iPhone to Youtube – Willie McGuire, University of Glasgow

I teach at the University of Glasgow and I want to talk to you a bit about a company who develop apps which we had specifically asked to look at literacy teaching. I’ve been thinking that digital technology is something that we need to look at in a lot more detail.

The recently appointed Scottish Minister for education, Angela Constance, described the literacy results of the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numberacy as “not as good as they should be”. Looking back further there are regularly written SQA Principal Assessor reports on national examinations, and I did some work looking over the last decade to identify recurring issues. These included technical errors around Grammar(ghhhhh!). I call it that because they really are perennial issues, I’m going to test you in a minute but when I’ve done this with post graduates and even examiners most get some of these grammatical issues wrong. Now issues like muddling I/me, We/were/There/their/Gone/went/Who/whom and so on… They don’t matter individually but when these are recurrent issues having over and over again, that is an issue. These are long running issues and difficult to solve.

I had been looking at these issues for a very long time. And a few years back we decided to make an app (back when fewer than half a million apps in the App Store). And we wanted to create literacy apps for secondary students that tackle the perennial issues. In the state schools though there is a huge resistance to paying for this stuff, and they are not free to make. You see a different attitude in the private sector but in state schools it’s almost in the blood that you shouldn’t pay for these sorts of schools. So there were some challenges here… Technically it is challenging, not only the coding but how to make this grammar stuff small, simple, workable on a phone.

Producing the apps (Appscool) was bloody murder: costly, difficult… So we thought lets ask the students about this, to look at other available tools and technologies… And we wanted a simple retro look… because something all complex and shiny isn’t what seems to be needed… So we will work through some examples here… And we use a sort of binary system: everything is right or wrong. These are horrifically complex grammatical issues… So our first example “It’s between John and me” – should that be “I” and “Me”… Actually to know why it is correct goes back to the Latin and nominative and accusative case. But we handle these in a very simple binary way.

Let me know you one other thing here… When you give explanations you can’t make reference to extraneous grammatical point, you have to explain through examples and simple explanations. And it has to be clear on this small screen.

Let me show you another app here… This is about “tricky words”.  And in this case It’s or Its… The uncertainty in this room also happens when you try this with postgrads too…  But actually asking the question means you start to see students figure out the rules and work this stuff out…

So, things that we learnt… Creating an app when you’re over 50 isn’t easy! It was really time consuming to do. We were kind of playing tricks using that binary approach… grammatical explanations are very complex and only cover one grammatical point, and overcomplicates itself all the time. But this approach hits the key issues, the common recurrent problems.

And why did we do that? It was partly to see if we could and because we thought it was important. We wanted to stimulate interest from younger audiences, and to try engaging those audiences. Trying to get into those minds and focus in a kind of fun way on grammar matters. The thing about grammar in the past is that it is painful and public… But actually an app is actually very private, that is something the students have picked up so student teachers understand to present the app in that way, to meet those concerns of students who don’t want to expose their errors. We also wanted to encourage the students to be creative when dealing with this difficult topic…

But we also wanted to think about how we could repurpose the app content in a different way, so we wanted to create videos for YouTube. They can’t use YouTube in the classroom but they can at home – like homework but not nearly as offputting! It’s a really well known format, accessible, “young” and it obliges the creators to think in terms of simple solutions to complex problems. It is about making difficult concepts accessible. See the PGDE English Glasgow channel on YouTube. For example, a video on lonely verbs… And another on using venn diagrams to understand analogy.


Q1) Is there a game mechanic in the app, or do you just move through.

A1) We thought about it. The quick answer is no. Partly it is tricky to code… but it is also distracting… the music on that video can distract you away from the focus. This is kind of a prototype of a game… It’s very old fashioned and I appreciate that… But you can’t move too far away from written script when you do this sort of thing… But then it looks traditional.

Q2) I like it like that… There are so many apps for primary schools now… all bright and shiny

A2) These days you’ll find thousands of primary school apps if you search for literacy apps… But so little for secondary. Difficult to prevent and manage those issues. It is quite a hard grammatical function, and they have to focus on that.

Q3) Are they available for Android?

A3) For iPhone, iPad and iPod only. Not Android. But you can go and buy

Q4) Have you trialled these with the students they are aimed at – you mentioned trainee teachers – and I was particularly wondering about the equality of access associated with internet access at home, and access to mobile devices.

A4) This was really a proof of concept thing… We were trying it out… It is difficult to do because of costs and timing. So probably funding up front and then making available free would be OK. But Glasgow City Council will not fund you to do that, say, because the App Store sells all over the place, it’s not just for their authority. The platform is tricky… And we also had a communication from Apple at one point requiring a fax. A fax! That issue of equality of access is always an issue… I am well aware of the digitally dispossessed… All you can do is try to make it available to students to try. My own background means I’m very aware of that…

Closing Session – Jason Miles Campbell, Jisc

I’ll be quick here and have brought out the voting gadgets to liven it up!

So I want to talk a bit about what we are working on at the moment. We are connecting with you and your institution – we have, as account manager, been reading your institutions corporate plans, strategies, etc. to ensure we are appropriately placed to help you meet those aims. We are also making sure that you’re getting the most of Jisc to meet your priorities – indeed also identifying free or already paid for resources where you may not yet be taking best advantage. We also want to identify those making great use so we can show you examples of best practice.

We are also translating our activity for the Scottish context. So you will have seen the FELTAG recommendations and how we ensure we meet that can be translated elsewhere, and in Scotland. We will also be delivering an online community of practice on young workforce development, and if you have anyone in your organisation working on that area we will be holding a webinar on that, and possibly other events too. We are also looking at other UK-wide subjects. We are ensuring we’re working best with other agencies, we have our offices (or at least hot desk) in Stirling, including the Scottish Funding Council.

So, some questions for you now…

Have you found at least one thing to implement in your institution out of today? (voting pads at the ready!). 85% say “yes”, 15% say they are “unsure” (or very polite). 0% say “no”. I would recommend that you schedule an email to yourself for the future with some of those good ideas!

What is your main barrier to realising digital opportunities at your organisation? 58% say “time”, 25% say “buy-in”, 17% say “other” (and no-one says “no barriers).

How would you describe your own (personal) engagement with Jisc up until now? 30% each say “occasional/sporadic” or “rare”, 10% each say “useful but could do more” or “fully engaged”, 20% say “none”.

Where do you think Jisc could have most future impact in your institution? 55% say “enhancement of teaching and learning”, 27% say “digital resources and content” and 18% say “network and infrastructure”.

To wrap up… Do keep in touch. You can reach us via Twitter, Jisc Scotland Jiscmail lists (we are reviewing the right cross section of those so that we don’t have too many), our website, email, telephone etc.

Finally, huge thanks who have been contributing and organising for today. And a huge thank you to all of you for attending – there have been some great conversations!

 June 4, 2015  Posted by at 11:00 am Events Attended, Jisc MediaHub, LiveBlogs Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
May 282015
Image of the first CSCS seminar

This morning I am at the first seminar arranged by the University of Edinburgh Citizen Science and Crowdsourced Data and Evidence Network. The Network brings together those interested in citizen science and crowdsourcing from across the organisation and this event is also supported by the Academic Networking Fund, IAD. Today’s seminar looks at the Zooniverse crowdsourcing organisation and suite of projects with two guest speakers, and I’ll be taking live notes here. As usual, because these are live notes there may be errors, typos, formatting issues, etc and corrections are welcomed. 

We are starting our day with an introduction by James Stewart on the focus of the network, which will particularly focus on methodological approaches.

Grant Miller (Zooniverse): ‘The Zooniverse – Real Science Online’

About Grant and his talk:

‘The Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most successful citizen science platform. I will discuss what we have learned from building over 40 projects, and where the platform is heading in the future.’ (Website: https://www.zooniverse.org/)

Grant Miller is a recovering astrophysicist who gained his PhD from the University of St Andrews, searching for planets orbiting distant stars. He is now the communications lead for the Zooniverse on-line citizen science platform.

I had kind of a weird introduction into crowdsourcing and citizen science.. But the main thing I will be talking about today is about how we engage the Zooniverse community to participate and enjoy doing that and being part of our community.

Zooniverse all started with Kevin, a student at Oxford who was tasked with looking at thousands of images of the universe to find two sorts of galaxies: eliptical galaxies and spiral galaxies. He had a million to classify. He did 50,000 and then met with his supervisor and had some strong arguements: he didn’t want to spend his whole academic career classifying galaxies, and he argued that it didn’t require his training. So, by show of hands who thinks this image of a galaxy (we are looking at one of many) is an eliptical, how many think it is a spiral? The room votes that this is a spiral and it is indeed a spiral – and that’s basically how Zooniverse works. We show an image, we ask people what it is, and they choose. And people, en mass, really went for this. They went through huge amounts of images very quickly.

Other things started to happen to… The first community around the project was the Galaxy Zoo forum. A participant called Hanny found a thing (vootwerp)… It didn’t look like the galaxies she was classifying. This was a completely new astronomical phenomenon, which was never known about. An amateur had found this through this very simple platform. People aren’t just good at recognising patterns, they also get distracted and find new things. And after discovering and publishing on this phenomenon – a huge cloud of gas associated with a galaxy – a group from the community decided to make a project of looking for more of these in other Galaxy Zoo images. And this is why communities are so brilliant. On another project our community found a whole new worm under the sea. That’s the power of having this community taking part.

So, how do we do this? Well we really simplify the language of the task, make it easy for people to take part. And when Galaxy Zoo took off we found other scientists and researchers approaching us to build new projects including humanities projects, and biological projects. So we set up projects such as Snapshot Serengeti – used to indicate what you can see in images from camera traps on the Serengeti. I was working with a group of computer scientists trying to work out how to identify the object in the image, and also my 4 year old nephew… and he said in seconds, the computer scientists are still looking for a solution.

So at this point in time we now have 42 projects in the Zooniverse. Old Weather in 2010 was our first humanities project. It started as a climatology project, but because it was using historic ship logs and those include so many other types of data we found humanities researchers and historians coming on board so it has had a second life. We have other humanities projects, cancer research projects, etc. Of those projects about 30-35 are currently live. We think this will expand rapidly soon but I’ll come back to that. And last year we passed the 1 million volunteer mark, that’s registered volunteers. Mostly those are in Western Europe and North America, but we have participants in 200 countries (7 countries have not).

The community is expanding, the projects are expanding… But there is a lot of potential out there, a huge cognitive surplus we could be using. For instance Clay Shirky notes that 200 billon hours are spent watching TV by adults in the UK, it took only 100 million hours to create Wikipedia. We are only beginning to tap that potential. On January 7th last year we relaunched a project called Space Warps – we had over a million classifications an hour – when Prof Brian Cox and Dara O’Brien asked the public to do it on live TV. That meant that overnight we had discovered an object it can take astronomers years to discover. It’s good but it’s no 200 billion hours… Imagine what you could do with that much time. Every hour there are 16 years worth of human effort spent playing Angry Birds… How do we get that effort into citizen science?

So, if gamification the way to go? For those working in citizen science you could probably run a week long conference just on whether you should or should not do gamification. We have decided not to but some of the most successful – foldit and Eyewire – do use it. Those projects gave huge thought about how to ensure participants reward efforts in the right way so that people don’t just game the system. For us we are worried that that won’t work for us, not convinced we would be good enough building a game and end up with something neither game nor citizen science. But some of our projects have tried gamification and we have studied this. On Galaxy Zoo we used a leader board to start with but that caused some tension: those in the lead were doing hundreds of thousands of classifications and people felt the leaders might have cheated, others felt that they could never get there so just left. On Old Weather we enabled those participants who focused on a particular ships log could become captain – but it put off as many people as it attracted. And those who became captain had nowhere to go.

This comes back to motivation for taking part. When we do ask our volunteers frequently it comes down to those participants wanting to contribute to research. So, for instance, The Andromeda project involved images that weren’t that exciting… They were asked to circle clusters of galaxy. The task is simple, they feel they are really contributing… They finished the task in a week. This time, when we had finished we put up a message thanking participants for their contribution, saying that we had enough for the paper, but they were welcome to carry on… And that shows a rapid fall down to zero participation – they were only interested while the task at hand was useful. And that pattern reminds us not to mess with our community, they use precious spare time and they want to be doing something useful and meaningful.

Planet Hunters is a project we used to detect planets based on data. People don’t take part to discover planets, it is because they really are interested in the science. Some of our really active participants choose to download the data, write their own code, doing work at PhD level as a volunteer and sending data back… The planets discovered in that project are rare and weird – things we didn’t spot with algorithms – the first one found had 4 suns. And recently we found a seven planet solar system, the largest other than our own .

Volunteers are keen to go further, so we have a discussion area – labelled Talk – for all of our projects. That means you can comments, Twitter style, or you can use old style discussion boards for long form discussions. Those areas are also used by the scientists, the researchers, the technical teams and developers, and the community can interact with them there – the most productive findings often come from that interaction between volunteers and scientists. The talk areas of our community are really important. In fact we have a network diagram for our community we can see some of our most active participants  – one huge green blob on this diagram is a wonderful woman called Elizabeth who posts and comments, and moderates, helps fellow volunteers come along. And we are looking at those networks, at who those lynchpins are, etc.

I said that people write their own code, do their own analysis… So can we get that on the site? We have been playing with the tools area, which we’ve tried this for Galaxy Zoo and for Snapshot Serengeti. We’ve been funded to build a broader set of tools, to map data, etc. from the website itself.

One of the other big things we are trying to do is to translate the site. For instance here is Galaxy Zoo in traditional character Mandarin. And we are doing this through crowdsourcing. You pick your site, and you show words or sections for users to translate. I talked about understanding the community and their interest and motivation. You also need to understand how we allocate images etc. We have done it based on seen/not seen but have been toying with the idea of shaping what images you see based on what you have seen, or are good at, or particularly like or are good at identifying. We tried that, shaping images to suit interested folk. When we tried that it wasn’t that successful, this was on Snapshot Serengeti, and realised we hadn’t been showing them blank images… So we looked at usage data to see to what extend seeing blank images impacts classifying images. It seems that the more blank images a user sees, the more they classify. When you classify a few/lots in one go they leave the site sooner. But psychologically we aren’t sure why this is yet – to classify a blank image its one click, that’s quick… But also what is the reward there for that image – is it just as rewarding to classify a blank image. There seems to be a sweet spot here… The same team trying to automatically spot a zebra has also been looking at identifying anything being in the image… But doing that may mean they leave the site sooner so we could be shooting ourselves in the foot…

So, we’ve been thinking who should see what? And as part of that we have been trying, with some of the space image projects, putting some simulated images into the mix  to rank/detect expert level – and looking at that in comparison to their experience/expert level within the system. We want to see if there is a smarter way to do a Zooniverse project.

The other thing that can happen is fear, a sort of classification anxiety. For instance for cancer images people can be quite scared to click the button and contribute to the research. So we are toying with showing volunteers how the consensus clustering works – so we can show people that their marking counts but that they are backed up by the wisdom of the crowds we think that may help them trust themselves. At the moment we just blog about this stuff, but how can we show this on the site.

Panoptes is our new infrastructure platform, which we’ve been building for the last year, built with 2 million dollars of funding from Google. And the first project using this appeared on Stargazing Live this year, looking for Super Novas. We discovered five Super Novas during the week long run of that programme. That project on panoptes is infrastructure we will be building projects on, but anyone can run projects on this site. You can build your own project with name, introduction, research case, work flows – mark an ellipse, answer a question, etc. Then you upload your subjects/data as images. Scientists were building things in half an hour that would have taken our developer six months during our trials here. We will be launching our beta today, and launching fully over the next two weeks… There are still only two types of work flows at launch: tree logic, and classifying. But there are still so many other questions and tasks to do – but we hope to tackle and add facilities later on, notably: humanities/transcription – consensus being the main problem there; audio; and video. We have tried audio and video before but they won’t be in the first iteration of Panoptes. And we still have to answer the question of whether audio or video can work for citizen science – they are not that popular in our experience, but maybe that is about the projects not the format… There are still lots of questions to answer.


Q1) Can you say more about social motivation here. But also what about subjectivity and objectivity here – and how much opportunity there is to learn, how you become more able to identify things that have previously been ambiguous. Your predecessor talked about people popping on for a few minutes, not gaining

A1) For citizen science, crowdsourcing and volunteering generally the majority of people do just pop in briefly. The learning is often through the discussion areas. But we do see that people who do more classifications become better at it… And we see that the most comments people do post in discussion, the more technical detail or terminology they include. But we are also trying to actively teach our volunteers. When I came in we started looking at ways to go further than the data processing – I wanted to create an educational course for Planet Hunters, maybe a 25 slide course that could appear every few classifications through an invitation to take part every 10 classifications. People did opt in to that… And we thought that would improve classifications and keep volunteers in the system, as well as supporting them to learn. But we are still looking at ways to educate through the site.

Q2) Can you say more about who decides which projects are made live? So many research communities in the world, who’s using the data? Also is there any communications between the volunteers and the scientists?

A2) The process, until now, was that we got grant money to build citizen science projects and we put out calls for proposals. People would come to us with a case, and we would decide in-house as a team which seemed worth doing, were buildable, might be interested to try. Research output was always put first – they had to have a good research case. We would get 50-100 proposals and build 5 per year. But that has led to the new infrastructure. There is huge demand for citizen science, and all areas of science have huge amounts of data… But to some extent the problem still exists… I could put up 100,000 pictures when this platform goes live, so we will still be reviewing and filtering projects before they can be become official Zooniverse projects. So you can use the platform to build private projects etc. but before they can be on the homepage they will be filtered etc, tested in beta, rated by the crowd, etc. On the communication front – that’s mainly on discussion boards. And each participant had a suitable label – you can tell who the researchers are. So when Hanne made her discovery that was discussion boards and researchers following up and discussing that. But some of our volunteers and science teams do their own thing with google groups, hang outs etc.

Q3) I’m interested in your use of the word “discovery” and what that might mean. That end point is easy to attribute, but how do you credit all that prior work?

A3) The first author for the Planet Hunters project is that research team, then us, then those who have classified the planets. We try to attribute credit there. We are trying to work out how to credit everyone who has ever taken part – on the website, not on the papers – but it is now more complex. Even just in science it is complex – there are 30 people on that paper discovering a new planet… It becomes really properly collaborative and hard to credit. We try to recognise anyone we thin

Q4) In general, but particularly thinking about the new platform, how are you handling the moderation of images, data and discussion – there seems to be potential for really problematic trolling/inappropriate activity here, but also legitimate but inappropriate images.

A4) We looked at various sites where you can upload images. We liked Flickr’s privacy policy – we can’t review all the images or monitor all those projects, especially the private ones. So we rely on if we do find something, we will remove them. Sharing our ideals… And there is a grey area where people might share adult material but in a legitimate research project 0 that will be case by case. In terms of comments etc. we do have moderators who can flag or delate comments, or can talk to volunteers about that. And we will keep those for people who moderate or have admin rights.

Q5) What do you mean by private projects?

A5) You will be able to create a project and share only with those you send a link to. So we won’t be able to review them all. Hopefully they will be built by those genuinely trying to run a research project but we know people could use or abuse that facility, so we will state our policy and will delete anything that we need to, and to report to authorities if needed.

Q6) Researchers can already pay to use crowdsourcing, is that something you will be doing? e.g. Crowd Power, Mechanical Turk.

A6) In theory someone could offer financial rewards for a project running on the platform, we won’t facilitate that in the infrastructure and we will be sharing our ideals and policies. I have no problem for financial incentives as long as that is above board, but that’s not our model and not what we are offering.  And there are serious citizen science questions about data quality where people are working for financial rewards. But it will be interesting to see what happens over the coming months.

Q7) Will all projects stay there forever?

A7) We already review our own projects. We do not want to waste people’s time. We will impress this on those using the new platform. And we will also make it possible for people to share the final products – papers etc – of those projects. Right now we have archive sites for our projects, we link to a GitHub site for retired projects, data etc.

Q8) Looking at loyalty for different projects. Presumably you have a small number doing large amounts of work… Does that pattern of loyalty track to different projects or do they only get very loyal about one project?

A8) In the past we deliberately separated our projects, we didn’t make great efforts to encourage volunteers to work across the projects, making it hard to switch between them. We’ve been thinking a lot about this when we think about delivering the right data to the right user, we are also thinking about letting volunteers know about the projects that will be of interest.

Image showing consensus classifications in Galaxy Zoo

Grant shows an image annotated with consensus classifications in Galaxy Zoo

Mark Hartswood (Oxford University & CSCS Data and Evidence network founder): ‘Intervening in Citizen Science: From incentives to value co-creation’

About Mark and his talk:

‘This talk reflects upon a collaboration between SmartSociety, an EU project exploring how to architect effective collectives of people and machines, and the Zooniverse,  a leading on-line citizen science platform.

Our collaboration tackled the question of how to increase engagement of Zooniverse volunteers. In the talk I will chart how our thinking has progressed from framing volunteering in terms of motivation and incentives, and how it moved towards a much richer conceptualisation of multiple participating groups engaging in complicated relationships of value co-creation.’

Mark Hartswood is a Social Informatician whose main employer is Oxford University and currently working in the area of Responsible Research and Innovation.

I am going to start with an answer to one of Grant’s questions.. volunteers find it fun to see a surprisung image – building up hope and tension for an exciting image… I’d taken this slide out of my slides but I thought I’d add it back in…

Grant: Isn’t it great when you see the same answer in two different places!

Mark: In my talk proper I’ll be talking about motivations for participation, and I will be looking at several projects here SOCIAM, Smart Society (which I work on) and Zooniverse, with acknowledgements to my colleagues on the study I will be talking about.

Our colleagues at Ben-Gurion University of Negev have been looking at incentive schemes for crowd sourcing, and Zooniverse offered us an opportunity to try this out with a group of real volunteers…

Our study in a nutshell was:

  • Auto ethnography – exploring Zooniverse as a volunteer
  • Survey of Zooniverse participants, looking at motivation, anxiety, engagement, disengagement. Targeted at volunteers actve in last three months
  • Develop an intervention to re-engage volunteers (essentially an email)
  • Intervention successful…

But that’s not the story I want to tell today. I want to talk about conceptualising citizen science as co-creation of value, looking at the literature and moving to a co-creation of value approach.

Literature wise: Peer production has been posed as a problem for economists in terms of understanding motivation (Benkler). Motivation for citizen science is important but it seems hard to properly explain. Roddich et al found motivations were multiple and compound – from appreciating scale and beauty of universe, supporting scientific process, personal connection to the project. There can be real mix. And they give complex narratives. Motivations are also shown to be dynamic, they change, evolve, wax or wane (Rotman et al). And motivation is non exhaustive in explaining participation – Eveleigh et al shows that people may be highly motivated but not have time/be able to participate in practice.

Coupled with motive are issues of reward and inventives. Often in the literature motives are coupled with the idea that the right motives can lead to use of rewards or inventives. Incentives seen to generate interest, sustain engagegemnt and improve quality in citizen science according to Prestopnik et al. Or exerting a form of leverage. Or “programming” participation (Maggi et al?).

So Dickinson et al (2012) looked at incentives and rewards. But there are some confusing combination of badges and certificates as incentives, discussion as social incentives, and other incentives. Building community and recognising effort are also part of the mix. There are real mixes of social individualised approaches, and more social processes.

There are some real problematic areas here. Kittur et al that motivation must be there first, incentives should just align otives to desiered behaviour. Gamification could produce ambivalent results in citizen science (Darch, Preist et al). Incentives can create perverse outcomes as well (Sneddon et al).

We want to not ask what motivates people, but ask how participation creates value for participants and for others. So what is co-creation of value? It has its origins in commerce and value. The idea is that value is created in the factory and delivered to the consumer, in the past. Currently the customer is active in creating the value of the product or service. That includes promoting the product, design of new products, aiding diffusion. Flows of value to the business, the customer, and to other customers – see for instance WetSeal which enables customers to combine garments into collections, to share those, to share images of themselves in garments, etc.

So, in science we can see co-creation of value in citizen science. In a mature platform like Zooniverse there are complex types of values shared. Different forms of value are shared by participants. There are diverse reasons to participate, very varied levels of participation by individuals. There is a difference between value made collectively (e.g. casual users who make only a few classifications), and value made individually (the few who make many classifications). And we see those conversations on forums on, say, anomolies, and scientist responses to those… add values to the community, become resources for the community, and scientist blog posts also add to that, and help acknowledge the role of volunteers. And participants also build social capital via social media, which also promotes the platform. And contributed data and project outputs we see materials like star catalogues becoming available for individuals to use in their own research.

So there are complex forms of value, and those values interact. Changes in incentives can therefore change dynamics in this web of value.

Looking at a scientist blog post “There’s a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one” – beginning with an image visualising all the contributions of a community, from super active participants, through to those making a few each. The text of this post speaks to the delicacy of talking about participants in a project with those dynamics, acknowledging contribution of all forms and emphasising that volume is not the only measure. The post is artfully written to achieve a number of delicate balances. The crowd each has to be acknowledged as valuable. It would be easy to praise the highly active participants, and dismiss casual participants, and this post carefully avoids any sense of jealousy, unfairness, etc.

If we have complex dynamics in these webs of value and co-creation, what happens when incentives explicitly value one type of contribution over another. And that brings us back to the effects of gamification. So, looking at Old Weather, where contributions enabled you to rise to the rank of captain… The leaderboard explicitly values volume of contribution. For non gamers game elements can be demotivating, and the heights of the leaderboard looks inaccessible (see Darch). But also leader borads can set a normative standard for contribution that demotivates the long tail (Preist et al). So, we think a co-creation model enables us to better understand the impact of changing the dynamics through incentives.

This takes us back to the inventions we looked at in our study… And comments from Zooniverse participants. In terms of how volunteers became disengaged that was about boredom/forgetting about the project, about distractions from work or home, and people said that to motivate them an email when they haven’t logged in might work. So we looked at an email to remind volunteers about zooniverse.

But there were other reasons too. Ideas about achieving a level of mastery, and if you are not reaching that it isn’t valuable, or fear of classifying in case of mistakes. And there we think an incentive that might be effective is reassurance about classification anxiety.

We also saw volunteers unware of other projects being available to participate in – which can be resolved through sign posting to other projects.

So, benefits of a co-creation perspective…

  • More symmetical idea – motives held by volunteer and incentives are things you do to the volunteer
  • Less individualistics – explains more complex relationships and dynamics between both participating individuals and groups
  • Don’t want to reject incentives or motivations – but want to put them in broader non-individualistic framework
  • Opens up a broader framework for design e.g. around diagnosing and repairing problems where participants fail to realise value for themselves or each other
  • Provides access to thinking about value and values and ethics dilemmas in participatory citizen science based on principles of mutuality and equitability
  • Much of this is half-articulated in the citizen science literature – but moving away from the language and logic of incentives and motives helps realse it more fully.

Q1) I think you’ve both given brilliant talks on the motivations of students in learning environments – that’s my area and educators have been looking at this for some time. With intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Is that something you are looking at?

A1) Is there a whole area of literature here then?

Q1) Betty Collis comes to mind on the issue of co-creation. But yes, there is a literature there in education.

A1) It would be interesting to make those connections there…

Comment) I think that you are also talking about the psychology of learning, and there are really different motivations there, some quite instrumental… Do you have any thoughts on that based on what you have seen in Zooniverse?

A2) I am certainly still exploring this area. But I think the idea that motivations are a priori has to be challenged. Zooniverse creates a space for volunteers to be challenged by things they may have never thought of before.

Q2) And what incentives would you recommend for an online learning forum

A2) There is that diversity… And that is quite healthy. And we don’t neccassarily want to convert all this sort of person, into that sort of person. Zooniverse is pretty successful in creating lots of different sorts of rooms – to participate in different sort of ways. Catering to that diversity, and accepting that, is actually sort of important.

Comment) A lot of the crowdsourcing systems in commercial academic fields started very nievely – individualised collective intelligence idea… realising the wisdom of the crowd but then seeing the community collaborating and changing things… So now we see discovering of the world of people, normal dynamics… But also new things are brought to that space… Mutual new ideas that can help fields think about social organisation and motivation and things…

Comment) You are seeking to do something different to us (educators) but you are similarly trying to avoid negative experiences through cliques, and you also don’t want to create that.

Grant) We had a Zooniverse discussion board, with many early super users… They were quite cliquey. They were not hostile but almost too much too soon for someone new coming in. They were using technical language, showing their knowledge, perhaps feeling or behaving in quite entitled ways. So we do think about how we get people to form a healthy community… And it’s not something we have solved…

Comment) And you haven’t written that up, as that would be divisive.

Grant) Indeed, but we have been looking at new ways to tackle that potential issue – breaking down walls between projects being part of that – by relaunching talk. We find commentators wanting a count of how many comments they have made – and we don’t want to convey authority in that way. It is common in forums but we don’t want to do that.

Comment) But people do invest time and knowledge… So levelling everyone to the shame can diminish contribution.

Grant) I like that blog post Mark highlighted for it’s approach to acknowledging contributions of all types. We have to think about how to reward everyone, without alienating the other types of contributions.

Mark) It’s not so much about levelling, but about emergent politics about values. And being thoughtful of those dynamics.

Comment) But to some extent you’ll never understand the reasons for participation. There was a US project with two users who were way ahead… proved to be a guy and his father in law competing!

Grant) There are a whole bunch of compound motivations – some may be petty, some may be

Mark) We had some really lovely motivations and some really sad ones – terminally ill people wanting to make a contribution for instance. But there were also motivations that were total turn offs – some wanted to look at alien worlds, some found that disturbing or frightening. People had really individual perspectives.

Comment) You’ve talked about people sharing what they do to social media accounts – bi-passing a lack of gamification by sharing in that way!

Grant) That is implemented more for sharing a lovely image – it’s not about numbers but sharing something interesting. We have talked about the idea – and have some new funding – to build a native Facebook app for four of our projects… But that sort of issue may arise there. Whether personal announcement is motivating or not.

Comment) More open platforms does enable more entrepreneurship and different approaches.. It becomes a game perhaps… Could be other things to search for… Scrapbooking the loveliest images, new ways into projects.

Grant) We are wary of gamification, but it can create motive for some but it is kind of treacherous. We have also seen volunteers make their own games out of ungamified projects – tracking how many animals or types of galaxies etc. they have seen. There are some who like the idea of a gamified Zooniverse project.

Q) How representative do you think the Zooniverse volunteers are – they are very heavily studied as a group, and the literature looks at very few niche groups but how do they compared to that big pool of untapped talent – that 200 billion hours.

A) Demographically it was a very flat age range – very level participation across age ranges. Participants tended to be quite highly educated. So a lot of untapped reserves would be about that less educated range of people perhaps.

Grant) One of the things we indicated in our funding we do have that flat age range, but we also have Facebook likes and that lets us see detailed demographic age range. We saw a massive discrepancy there with loads of young people, those under 25 who were interested on Facebook but didn’t participate on the Zooniverse projects.

Mark: Under 18s weren’t in our study for ethical reasons…

Grant: But even looking just at 18-25 year olds that discrepancy between the Facebook likes and the participation applied.

Comment) Just on that gamification front, it does work but why it works is really an issue.

And with that we are closing the session… This event has really shown the value of combining very different people in the room… That breadth of interests etc. And I think that bodes well for our network as a whole, and that will hopefully add real value to our events in the future.


May 132015

Today I am attending Holyrood Connect’s Learning Through Technology event in Glasgow. This is Day Two of the event and I plan to liveblog talks etc. that I attend today.

Welcome and introduction by the Chair – Mark Stephen, Journalist and Broadcaster

Session 1: Planning and leading the digitisation of learning and teaching

University Digital Education Comes of Age – Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, Principal & Vice-Chancellor, University of Edinburgh

I want to start with an iconic image for us at the University of Edinburgh – an image on the Masters that we give in Digital Education, and this is a student graduating. It is an online masters, in how to teach online. The students who graduate from that programme can either come along in person in McEwan Hall, or they can graduate virtually in real time – graduating electronically. Last year in the graduation season something very interesting happened – a student graduated in person with his iPad so that he graduated in person and electronically… So those online could see him graduate twice. If you have a serious interest in this area do look at our Online Masters in Digital Education or the MOOC that derives from it…

It is always good to remind ourselves of the history here. Computers really came about in the 1940s as part of code breaking. Vannevar Bush wrote the essay “As we may think” which is really the first essay to pose how we might use computing. We see Crowder’s Branching theory in the 1950s (which still powers modern tools like Scholar), Pask’s Conversation Theory work in the 1950s. Then in the 1960s Smallwood wrote the first self-improving computers; Papert looked at self-expression and the visual language Scratch very much came out of that – and is very much going strong, in fact we have a MOOC on Scratch at Edinburgh University, and worked on the first Spanish version of that MOOC; and Alan Kay came up with the idea of the Dynabook – effectively the netbook/tablet idea – at Xerox PARC; then in the 1970s Kimbell and I worked on computer based learning and Open University came up with CAL. The 1980s saw home computing coming into the Open University, 90’s brought collaborative learning and indeed mobile and “speckled computing” – wearables, internet of things type technologies. Open Educational Resources came about in 2000, and indeed MIT used OER to make courses freely available… didn’t seem to go anyway but in 2012 those resources became MOOCs and that really has changed things. I would also point out that, if you have interest in educational computing, go to Uraguay. For a long time Nicolas Negroponte tried the One Laptop Per Child programme… tried in various places but Uraguay it really took off (see Plan Ceibal) – and that’s part of why the University of Edinburgh is working with Scratch and MOOCs in Spanish. And recently the University of Arizona has announced a discount on first year of conventional undergraduate degrees for those completing their MOOCs…

So… We are seeing a move from Blackboard/Learn etc. to those sorts of systems sitting alongside other softwares, including search, social networks, blogs, video content – a rich world of content that the university does not necessarily build/support but which benefits and sits alongside central University resources and tools. There is no single technology platform anymore.

At Edinburgh our MOOCs cover a range of topics – from Andy Warhol – collaborating with the National Galleries – to chickens! Our most popular course has been philosophy – leading to new masters programmes, books, all sorts of things. And we see many pre-entry students taking that MOOC to find out what philosophy is all about.

We have run 24 MOOCs built, 7 under constructions, 12 MOOCs under consideration; 4 platforms (mostly Coursera and Futurelean) over 1.7m enrolements and we had the first ever real time MOOC last year on the Scottish Referendum – it changed every day in response to the polls and developments. So, why do we do that? Well it’s about reputation – we are early adopters of educational technology. MOOCs allow us to explore a new pedagogical space to inform practice. And we wish to reach as widely as we can with our courses. We also run 64 online masters programmes so it is not unhelpful that some of our MOOCs give some taste of those areas of teaching.

Our MOOC students particularly come from the US and UK, China very much unrepresented. Lots of age ranges – including some very motivated under-18 year olds. Few are motivated by certificates. And in terms of prior academic study we have a highly educated population – these are Edinburgh figures but this is seen across the board in MOOCs – many learners in these spaces have a degree (or several) already.

There are some real competing models of MOOCs… The xMOOC and the cMOOC model. Our #edcmooc kind of breaks these models – with open platforms and collaboration on cMOOC model, but also xMOOC characteristics. Of course MOOCs offer some possibilities for scaling… One thing you really can’t scale is one to one interaction, although you do see a lot of peer learning in MOOCs. And we are also experimenting with automated teaching in these spaces [see my notes on Sian Bayne’s talk].

So, where is the University of Edinburgh going? Well we have more and more online masters… Perhaps our most surprising is an award by the Queen to run an advanced surgery course at an online masters. This is a massively successful course but to take it you need to be a practicising surgeon, you need to be based at a surgical unit, you also need to attend a two week assessment in Edinburgh – but we see online masters takers getting better results than some of those taking similar courses on campus.

So what does all this mean for our mainstream business? Well it is not one or the other for us… on campus and online is hybrid, it’s about what percentage is on campus, what percentage online – which may be courses or resources. Right now we expect to have, by about 2020, about 40,000 students, all with at least one fully online course, we see open studies extended (and expect around 17,000 learners enrolled), and 10,000 fully online/remote students, 100,000s of MOOC learners and 100s of OERs. When we look at that fully online percentage of students by the way, we expect to surpass that estimate I think.

I want to quickly thank some key folk around University of Edinburgh including Jeff Hayward, Sian Bayne, Amy Woodgate, etc. all of whom have been hugely influential in our online learning work.

So, my conclusions? Well, elearning is not new; elearning is now mature. Hybrid will be the new normal. Leading university brands dominate. Better to borrow than to do badly – don’t build your own platform for the sake of it. Learning at scale is real – a successful MOOC is 100,00-200,000 with maybe 30k completing those courses. And the biggest contribution of MOOCs for us has been access – reaching out to schools we never would have been able to reach for philosophy courses (for instance), coming to us for that. And reaching new communities.

And, with that Tim O’Shea is done and, pausing only for an excellent unsavoury equine nutrition joke from our chair, we are moving onto Paul Saunders… 

The changing role of IT leaders – Paul Saunders, Chief Technology Officer and Director of Information Technology, University of Dundee

Any of you who have been to Dundee lately will know that it is undergoing huge change. Back in the 1980s Dundee was quite depressed but now the city is thriving, becoming one of the best cities in the UK. [and here we have a nice quote from Stephen Fry about the perfection of Dundee]. And the University of Dundee is also undergoing change, transforming from a College to School based system, we aim to be the best University in Scotland – and we have tough competition – and want to take this opportunity to transform ourselves and how we support our users.

We are quite a small university but even we have silos, so over the last few years we have been trying to join up what we do. This is not the same as centralisation, it’s about us all working together to deliver on our transformation agenda. We want to have a fundamentally different approach to the way we deliver services, conduct our business and function as a University. But universities don’t like change – I’ve only been working in the sector a few years but I’ve learned that! I used to work at Yahoo! when it was the market leader, before Google’s IPO, and I would say that in terms of change education shares characteristics with many industries, change can be hard.

In terms of IT, we need to work out what we provide, what we support. That doesn’t mean other things will not be used, it means that we focus on what we directly provide. Dr Eddie Obeng said in a recent TED talk that “we spend our time responding rationally to a worls that we understand, and recognise, but which no longer exists”. That applies to Dundee as a city I think, and to IT as a sector.

I worked in a group with Jisc and Educause to look at the changing role of an IT leader. What defines the skills and abilities to be an IT leader – where are the gaps? We also looked at what skills and abilities would be needed in the future (5 years ish). We worked together on a paper which is now available from Jisc and Educause.

We came up with the idea of an IT wheel as a model for IT leadership. We thought it was essential that you, as a human, were part of this. So, at the core of this model is a strategist… It is surrounded with Information Technology, but at Jisc Digifest we had some debate about whether that is an essential set of skills (my own background is in IT, but before that in performance art!). Surrounding the strategist there are roles and skills as Trusted Advisors, as a Visionary, and as a Relationship builder. You need to have that vision, but you also have to deliver on that, otherwise you will have no credibility. There are too many competing products/solutions/providers for IT services to not deliver to expectations. In the outer ring of our model we have Change driver; Promoter/Persuader; Master Communicator – not always a set of skills we, as IT professionals, have; Team builder – we really have to be great team builders, you have to engage people and you have to make sure your people want to do what you want to achieve; Ambassador – IT does not have a positive image in many spheres… ; Coach – you have to mentor people, to nurture your successess.

So how do you use this model? It’s freely available online for CPD, for coaching and useful for spotting talent – it’s much easier to build technical expertise than to develop some of those skills. You need to really take advantage and encourage areas of strength – encourage people to follow what they are passionate about. And that model can also be used in job descriptions for HERA profiles, along with SOPHIA from the BCS, so we can find the right people for the roles.

So take a look at the report! Thank you.

Analytics – creating a student’s “digital ecosystem” – Terry Trundley, Head of IT, Edinburgh College

I’m new to the education sector but I am experienced at working with computers in companies who use customer data in ways that we don’t yet do in education, we don’t exploit these tools like we should be. Back in the 90s I worked with a mobile phone company and we were working with leading edge technologies – working with a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) syste, IVR (Interactive Voice Response), analytical data etc. in 1996. Those are all still around, alongside social analytics, etc. And then we have all the data you have in your institution from your learning systems, from Google Analytics, etc. So we do that from first approach by a student, when we add them to the CRM, and can work with and track them through to alumni stage…

What do airlines and colleges have in common? Bums on seats! You need a lot of people for this to work. So, when I joined Edinburgh College two years ago that was very much the challenge… I spoke to the development team… experts from outside had suggested the website was the issue… blamed IT… But then they hadn’t had a spec, and they hadn’t been given a lot of the content needed. And behind the scenes our call management and enquiry processes weren’t working well – again they blamed IT. But I pointed out that course content could not come from IT, so we asked colleagues for that content… And we also then used Google Analytics to point out where the problems were… This showed that students came into the website, but when they looked for information they were getting stumped. Having gotten the trust, showing those analytics, and reviewing those processes, where we are now is a completely different situation. Part of the model we are using is that, say, for hairdressing (one of our most popular courses) we can look at job vacancies, previous graduates who have gone into those jobs, how many are studying – we can actually ensure that our courses fit into a supply and demand model.

And now over to my colleague Gavin, who will give a live demo of the system we are using.

Gavin: We were running courses without looking across the portfolio for uptake. We used an airline type model to understand our courses, and likely uptake, before we even run the courses. We had enterprise applications data… We could see unique applicants for number of places, we could break it into courses, and use analytics of views and applications to those courses to create a live conversion rates. And we created some gamification to allow the product managers to aim to be working on leading courses. We could also monitor uptake – with traffic lighting of red (low uptake), amber (reasonable uptake), green (full or oversubscribed uptake).

We can also look across our applicants and compare with SIMD (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation) to understand how we allocate our places to meet our targets. We plot our applications across the board, and across the UK. And if we look at a map of Edinburgh we can see what percentage of our students come from areas ranked high for SIMD so we can target and shape applications accordingly.

Terry: We are really just starting out with this, if anyone else is interested or working in this area we’d welcome your comments or feedback.

Questions and discussion

Q) Can I ask Terry two questions: Do we need to employ people with a degree in common sense? And how do we turn those models into applications?

A – Terry) That’s about working with marketing and with the communities. But Gavin showed you applications… But to increase those you have to get out there with marketing, to schools, campaigning, lobbying… We don’t have an electronic way to do that at present. And we have a CRM so if students don’t get onto one course, or haven’t applied but have made enquiries, we can go back to those students and engage them.

A – Gavin) And you can target places to those in high SIMD areas.

Q again) We find it hard to move students from one campus to another too…

A – Terry) When we mapped applications we did see students didn’t always apply to their nearest campus, in fact applying from all over the place.

A – Tim) When I worked at Birkbeck, a part time college, we mapped the public transport links to our institution and particularly noted that we had four key Northern Line Stations where we had a lot of students already, and Euston station… And that led to us advertising on those routes, in those stations as they aligned with suitable commuter routes to the institution. Doing analytics on learner data is a big big plus.

Q – Mark, Chair) Going back to your use of Google Analytics to identify the problem, I’m astonished you needed that. Why did it take that to demonstrate the issue.

A – Terry) Well we were in a merger situation which is quite difficult. The website had built up over time, through the marketing team… But we had changed a lot of courses etc. and we needed a new process. It was the breakdown of the process, and where that occurred, that particularly needed highlighting.

Q – Mark) How do you predict and project the performance of courses?

A – Gavin) We use historical data as an indicator – we might exclude outlier data there. Also starting to use market forces too – so if downturn in oil industry we’ll see drop there, but a rise in uptake of renewable data.

A – Tim) You also have to use demographic data – the numbers of school leavers etc – and that can really change a lot. It’s amazing how few institutions use that data of how many school leavers will they be, how likely are they to want to go to university or college… helps you raise or lower projected numbers.

Q – Mark) And how does that work for new course decisions?

A – Gavin) You can project likely uptake, or whether or not a course will meet required targets. And not run courses that will not

A – Tim) MOOCs are incredibly good for marketing, the interest from MOOCs can show interest and help locate demand for online masters, for evening courses, for degree programmes. ASking people hypothetical questions on courses they might apply for, that’s no use. Taster courses of different types (online and offline) are a good way to test market demand.

[Note from me as a graduate of the MSc in Digital Education (then the MSc in eLearning), and as a tutor on several online programmes: I think one of the reasons why online learners do perform well is because they are part-time learners with professional contexts and responsibilities, and often family responsibilities as well. To fit studies around other commitments, and to find and justify the use of time (and cost) of studying, these students tend to be very highly motivated and engaged. I think that is as much about the part time nature of courses as it is about them being delivered online. This is something I believe the Open University also sees when it comes to the success of it’s part time learners – online and offline/hybrid.]

After some particularly tasty biscuits we are back for workshop sessions…

Session 2: Innovative teaching and learning in colleges and universities

Workshop session 1: Virtual Classroom: Observe the Student Experience in a Virtual Classroom Environment – Tracy Matheson, West Highland College

This session is a walk through of how Blackboard Collaborate works in practice, exploring the roles available for those participating, use of screen sharing, the ways in which students can interact with the content, etc. I won’t blog this in detail as I suspect many reading this will be used to seeing and engaging in Blackboard Collaborate sessions. I do, however, really like that those leading the session are split between those in the room, and a colleague dialling in from their main Fort William College. That does give a real sense of being a student in this type of virtual classroom space (including some of the challenges associated with these spaces, and the internet connections they rely upon).

Workshop session 2: Building Your Online Professional Learning Network – Jaye Richards Hill, Managing Director, Tablet Academy Africa

Jave has begun by taking us through the idea of networks as tube maps – and the power of those interconnecting:

Networks have changed the way that we work, the way that we learn. We keep in touch with our colleagues, no matter where they are, through various online networks – Yammer, Twitter, direct messages… Much less so email for me now. And I do work like that, as part of a network. They enable me to listen to buzz and the rumble of what is going on, and allows me to tap into expertise in the subjects and areas I am working on. And if I listen, I can pick up so much about what is going on. And it changes the way that you do things, allows you to adapt and to grow as a professional. This is one of the reasons I love the idea of a personal learning network. I gave a presentation with Olly Bray in 2008 on personal learning networks, and that has always been a real favourite of mine because I work like this…

Our work these days is not linear, its disorganised self-directed learning. Wikipedia isn’t something you can read without clicking links – you learn things you didn’t expect to, it’s haphazard learning but your network is like that, and you find out great stuff… For me it all came into play in my probation year in teaching, which happened to be in Tenerife. I had to come back to the UK after that, in 2005, and I’d just gotten into computers and become a member of the Times Education Supplement Connect discussion boards – a brilliant way to follow what was going on in Scottish education. I found out about a job in Glasgow through that networking space, then as that contract was due to end, I found another opportunity, again through that space and through following up with contacts. That was the beginning of my networking. This is a very personal journey for me. Networking got me a job, which at the time was really important for where I was at.

Because I was seen as a bit of a computer person, because I put all my S3 biology teaching materials in PowerPoint, I got involved when Glow started off and started blogging about it, writing about what I was doing with Glow. At a conference I was astounded to fine out that the LTS team were reading the blog and wanted me to present on them, they were commenting and following those links and commenting on each others blogs enabled me to build up a network, serendipitous spreading… Then one day a contact suggested that we move that conversation to Twitter, and that was a game changer for me. It still is a game changer for me. I have work Twitter, a private Twitter, a Twitter for South Africa where I live. It’s still my go-to professional learning resource. For me I stay in contact with colleagues by DM – quicker responses too.

Then Tess Watson nudged me onto Facebook. I’m not sure about the value for professional learning, but it is useful for personal learning, and there is a bit of an overlap there… But I tend to keep Facebook more personal… I’ll stay in touch with grandchildren there for instance. But there is a joining of personal and professional. And we have Facebook pages for our companies, wherever they are in the world, so there is a connection there.

LinkedIn is a real professional space for me. I pay for LinkedIn professional now, and find I write more for LinkedIn Pulse than for my own blog. It’s a great way to stay in touch with contacts, with other corporations, to find new opportunities. It’s good for business and extended my network out there. And it’s particularly useful if you join groups, so many resources and writing to explore. But many struggle to use it professionally. It tends to be private sector who use it more… Does it have the mileage for public sector education? It’s choice I guess… Although professional networks, they are private too.

Andrew Brown got me onto Slideshare, and I find it a great resource for finding information really quite quickly. People post great presentations, many are willing to share them for downloading and reuse. And I post my work there, and I get comments, again find new connections… So I have this big network for really good quality professional learning.

The last time I gave this presentation was in India and the idea of a network with many options – that works with the Delhi metro too… That idea of having so many more options through many connected networks.

So, where am I now? Well things can get pulled very quickly. Things that are free can go… Twitter seems to have legs… Hopefully it won’t change too much because it works and works really well. But others come and go, so you have to be judicious in what you do.

Yammer is now part of Office 365 – huge potential for education. Not sure about plans for Glow but I’d like to see Yammer in schools some time soon as it’s safe and secure to your network. It’s safe for you to communicate with students as staff, there are records of what you discuss, you can attach photos, links, etc. And it’s now built into collaborative documents in Office365 online. And when learner management comes into Office 365 that will also help Yammer. And Sway, when that comes into Office365 will also have Yammer.

And there are other tools too. Skype is really useful – and I get it in Office365 too – but I’m not sure how that space would work for making new connections. And Lync, which is now Skype for Business, is also a great tool for professional networking.

The future of learning will be crowdsourced, as Andrew Brown has suggested. And for me, my network allows me to find the experts in the crowd, to make connections with people, to look for different points of view, to gather personal and social information. And I can create content, ask questions, evaluate information, devise solutions.

Comment) You need to discover what is coming next… When Twitter came out people were wondering what the potential of it would be… We didn’t see it’s potential as a community… But it’s hard to know… We’ve abandoned things that have been hot at some point. A lot of my learning is done via a sidebar on YouTube… the related content…

A) That’s the haphazard nature of self-organised learning… Some really interesting content can be the stuff that you don’t expect. And search engines, and tools like Delve, are getting better at predicting what you will find interesting, what you may use. That predictive element is becoming more important. Google work on that, both for delivering adverts and with content. And in Office365 Delve is going more that way too – I’ve just written a guide to using Delve in education. Are there plans for Delve to be in Glow in the future? [no comments from the crowd]

Lunch, exhibition and networking…

Session 3: Using technology to improve learning, teaching and student support

Exploring the use of data to support student engagement: learning analytics at the University of Edinburgh – Wilma Alexander, Educational Design and Engagement Team, Information Services, University of Edinburgh

I’m starting from a slightly different place to our analytics colleagues this morning, who were looking more at marketing and recruitment. What I’d like to talk about this afternoon is learning analytics. And in fact I’ll be talking about quite a bounded project to look at how we can look at student learning analytics, to inform and support their learning. This isn’t a new idea, it’s at least ten years that the analysis of data has been taking place, but learning analytics is something else…

There is now a Society of Learning Analytics Research and they have a clear definition of learning analytics.

To give you a bit of background about the University of Edinburgh: We are a huge university, with a huge range of types of study that students undertake. And more recently there is the whole digital profile that you heard about from Tim O’Shea this morning – work into online programmes, MOOCs, and increasingly online support for on campus undergraduates are part of that too. Recruitment isn’t as much the focus, generally we don’t have too much difficulty attracting students but that may be an area that is quite different from other organisations, in terms of motivations and focus of this work.

Getting started with learning analytics, I feel, has been a bit like trying to build a plane whilst it’s already flying. We started off very excited by the data, and what we thought we could do with it. We have two VLEs at Edinburgh: Blackboard Learn is our main supplier, the centrally supported VLE for on campus students, and for some online distance courses as well; but we also have Moodle, an open source tool used in some of our online distance courses. And when it came to looking for data we had one vendor quite unresponsive, or slow, to requests, whereas our open source community around Moodle can be really quite responsive and creative.

There are already some examples of data analytics in use. Purdue University use a traffic light system to flag up a student who could be in trouble – as a way to flag up to students and staff where intervention may be needed. We looked across these types of examples, but also looked at what would be possible with tools already at our disposal in Blackboard Learn and also in Moodle – and in research already taking place in the University. For instance my colleague Paula Smith has been doing some work with the online surgical skills course that Tim O’Shea mentioned earlier. Here they looked at individual performance against the cohort -and this makes sense in a highly competitive cohort in a hugely competitive field – motivating them to improve performance, based on the key structural elements of that course.

We also decided to look at what staff and students might like, what they thought they might want to get out of this data. I’m somewhat avoiding using the term analytics here as I think without analysis and context what you have is data. So we explored this potential use of data through user stories – we collected 92 stories from 18 staff and 32 students. The first interesting finding was how many of the “I want to…” stories could already be done – without developing anything – we just had to show users how to access that information, and to improve our documentation for the VLEs.

When it came to why people would want to do, we found staff that had given some thought about what they wanted but that was information like activity data – the use of materials etc. The idea that activity is a useful metric of engagement is not neccassarily the case in all contexts – some students can log in once, gather all materials, and that will appear very differently to someone doing that download week by week, but does not neccassarily indicate lower/different engagement.

So, we are now at the build stage but we proposed that we give students a view of their activity – a click count for any given day for instance. And also a way to view their marks against others in their cohort. We surveyed students on these proposals – 32% felt that the activity information might be useful, whilst 97% thought the grade information would be useful. Meanwhile our steering group had some concerns about the potential gamification of the system… The students seemed less concerned about that. And when we asked students about changing learning behaviour because of the data, most said no. We also asked what information students would find useful… And here we had some wonderful thoughtful responses.

When we look at student disinterest in this, we have to be aware of the context of how the on campus courses make use of the VLEs – few use discussions, social functions, most are just sharing resources. So activity data may reflect in part the way that the course is being used.

So, all of this information has led us to a slightly different place than we expected to be… The outcomes here are that:

  • Context is all – this VLE is used in thousands of courses, in many different ways. Part of this is putting course organisers in charge of whether these analytics are switched on, and how that is done
  • Must work for individuals and course-level  – it must be meaningful and contextualised for individuals on the course.
  • Building block and plug-ins
  • Mapping our territory – we’ve used the process as a way to map out where we want to go, and that also means understanding where we deal with or choose to focus in such a way as to work around legal and ethical needs, bounding ourselves so as not to raise some of those (e.g. not linking up to library and student records). That is less complex ethically, and in terms of security and privacy – those issues must be tackled very much head on. But another positive outcome of this project has been…
  • Staff awareness – has increased and startegy and policy for the institution as a whole are being looked at right now.
  • Student awareness – also raised in this process.

We are in this brave new world, with such potential, but we have to continue to be led by the pedagoguey in this process. And we really want this to be a really positive process, for students seeing their own data as a positive part of their learning. And over the next year we will be focusing more on this, and how we can support students with learning analytics.

Digital technology for students with additional support needs – Craig Mill, Assistive Technology Advisor, CALL Scotland and Edinburgh Napier University

I’ll be talking about support for older learners. Edinburgh Napier University has students from diverse backgrounds, and we do a lot of work on widening access, and students with additional support needs (ASN). Thinking back about 15 years the support for students would be through the “Disabled Computer” – which was labelled like that, attached to special kit… and no-one used it despite it being really great stuff. Then we had a student hub – but going there did mark you out as having, say, dyslexia, and our students really want to be like everyone else… And now we have a real shift away from that specialist technology idea, towards using every day technology. So iPads for instance come with lifechanging programmes built in, great for dyslexic students and visually impaired students. Chrome books offer great opportunites. There are super every day tools that empower students.

At Edinburgh Napier we have a range of provision. Students can be assessed and receive DSA funding/support – there is talk of students having to pay £200 towards this themselves so will be interesting to see if incidence of dyslexia goes up or down as a result. We provide resources including laptop loans, VPN, etc. Bring your own device, cloud apps, Office365 etc. are also provided.

Over the last few years we saw a huge growth in the number of students requiring support for dyslexia, but we are seeing that level off and I think that may partly be about bring your own device – students are more able to manage for themselves. Having Chrome Apps available can, for instance, make a big difference. Chrome extensions can also be very helpful – and most of these are free – because you can use those extensions to help you manage web based resources (Wikipedia, VLEs, etc) and see them in “Easy Reader” to view them in a more simple format. And you can also use text to speech on that text. All there and free to use – students love this!

But there is more we can do. You can use a free and open source software tool, called “My StudyBar” which lets you highlight parts of the text, or customising the interface, etc. to meet students needs. And that StudyBar also includes a mind mapping document that enables you to put down ideas in that format, then convert into a Word document to start planning your text.

That’s just a snapshot of the technologies that we use. We use tools like TextHelp and ClarRead but I think that actually they don’t always do students justice. Some do need that specialist hardware and software but for many students these widely available tools are hugely helpful.

Questions and discussion

Q) Do you think we should be blurring boundaries between assistive technologies and useful technologies – to stop that labelling?

A – Craig) For some people there is a real need for those specialist technologies… and that label matters. There are children who would have needed a £7-8000 piece of specialist kit, can now be done with an iPad for £7-800.

Q) So do we need a whole new label perhaps?

A – Wilma) In terms of assistive technologies for online learning, if we do something to make materials accessible, all students benefit. There is something there about mainstreaming good practice, so that specialists like Craig, and specialist technologies can focus on those who really need it. That allows you to support many students easily, then intensely focus resources on those with the greater needs.

A – Craig) The legislation is interestingly worded for that, but the more accessible your teaching, the more it is for all of your learners.

Q) In a professional sense how do you keep ahead of the students on technologies?

A – Craig) The students are really knowledgeable on Twitter, Facebook etc… But they don’t know about heading structures, speak tools for text etc. Students know what they know, but there is still lots they can pick up.

Q) What about students use of VLEs?

A – Wilma) I think for us one of the things we find is that there is really no time of day or day of the week where students are not using the VLE, are not learning online. That brings some support challenges – for instance for maintaining those systems.

Q) The idea of moving away from a deficit model of support, moving to proactive rather than reactive systems… In the old days the reactive systems might only kick in too late, so proactive technology can have real impact here.

A – Wilma) It is equally true that the more we can design everything we do to be accessible… There will still be some students that still require some specialist support but the more mainstream the tools and approach, the more you move from the deficit idea that the student somehow lacks something…

Q) And what are the differences between campus and on line systems?

A – Wilma) In on campus courses you will have some familiarity with your students, your systems will flag up changing assignment performance, etc. There is no need to automate that… But something like a traffic light system helps to flag that up – clearly a good lecturer will spot that too.

Q) You commented about the possible change in number of dyslexia after the £200 levy… Can you expand that…

A – Craig) I do a huge amount of work for Dyslexia Scotland but it is a term that covers a lot of very different needs and I’m not always sure the label is always helpful.

Session 4: Can technology help widening access to further and higher education? – Panel debate


  • Dr Muir Houston (MH) – Lecturer, School of Education, University of Glasgow
  • Lucy MacLeod (LM) – Depute Director (Students), Open University in Scotland
  • Tracy Matheson (TM), Curriculum Manager (Business, IT and Tourism), West Highland College
  • Dr Graeme Thomson (GT), Access Academy Co-ordinator, FOCUS West 

LM: The OU of course uses technology but actually it is about flexibility, it is about tutors, and about an open model of education, rather than the tools that we do. The other thing I wanted to raise is that the internet is full of stuff – many open educational resources, and you can quickly get into a debate about I have more stuff than you do… But does that actually widen access? Well, the jury seems to be out. We heard from Tim O’Shea this morning that 80% of those doing MOOCs have degrees, half of them have post graduate degrees. OK 20% do not but what is the experience for a learner on that course… It is about how you use this material. If we are about access to qualifications, learners really need that guide. The OU has tried to get learners together across communities, to look at pathways to degrees. Digital participation matters – 23% of adults don’t have access to the internet, 43% don’t use their phone to get online, 53% don’t use social networking. How do we get to these people? Wilma talked about some students understanding some online tools… But do they understand research libraries… To think about learning analytics it is really only useful if you know what you plan to do with that information, and I’m a firm believer that that is most useful when you use that information to trigger and inform conversations between tutors and students.

GT: FOCUS West work with schools in the West of Scotland, with funding from the Scottish Funding Council, to widen access. We have just built an online tool called “FOCUS Point” to share information and advice about post school routes, from schools that don’t have a tradition of sending students into college and university. So, introducing learners about what colleges and universities are about, what that experience is like, and practical advice about applying and taking up places. There are activities around subject choices, routes after school, entry routes, assistance with personal statement writing. And also getting students to set up a login that enables them to record their engagement, build up a portfolio, and build a certain element of social networking – to reduce potential isolation of being perhaps the only pupil in a school interested in pursuing a particular route/degree. So I’m here to say that whilst there may be some scepticism about use of technology, what we do has been well received but this stuff only work well when connected up with face to face experiences. I fear that MOOCs can potentially increase that sense of isolation…

TM: For us our face to face tends to have to be through virtual classroom. To do that face to face would mean not being able to access that education in some cases.

MH: Most non traditional students tend to be represented in main universities, but there are issues of the experience, inequalities, and also costs. It can be hard to convince an adult that it is worth paying for their child to go to university and leave with debts, and a job in a fast food restaurant. That’s where credit transfer can make a big difference – in theory that should work… Universities don’t like each others credits, everyone is quite protective of their own income streams.

Chair: So, whose responsibility is it to force those cautious institutions?

MH: The Funding Council.

Chair: What is the experience with the Open University in terms of credit transfer?

LM: The average age of OU student is 37 at the moment – and it’s dropping. We don’t have entry requirements, that’s one of our founding principles, so that is a barrier that simply isn’t there. And the courses are designed to be a ladder that takes you to a level 7 over the first year. The other big thing that the government has done for part time study and the OU, has been the part time fee grant. To allow people to study part time not to pay fees – that is not always well understood so students studying part time in Scotland do pay fees, and pay up front. In Scotland we have seen OU applications be stable, down south it has dropped due to the higher fees that students are now facing there due to the cut in government funding for the OU there, requiring students to take out loans.

MH: Learning paths can really go in different ways… It might start with a language course because a shopfloor worker is working in Spain, say, and that may then lead to the OU, and maybe a route to do an engineering degree. The union has negotiated a collective bargaining agreement so that their employer pays 40% of costs but that is still a huge financial and personal commitment – to study perhaps 6 years for a BEng alongside a 37 hour week. But that’s a great thing to do, and I know the OU does more of these sots of projects.

Chair: Is the ease of access for a lot of kids, a reason they are not engaged? Difficulty can be motivating?

GT: We find those that who do a free access programme are far more likely to continue progressing than those with a similar background without access to that programme. But people at Govan High, their local university is Glasgow which has very demanding grades, so you have to be really dedicated to get there really. But I think we’ll continue to see that…

Q) We’re having a regular conversation in the Scottish Borders about the drop out rate for our high school students as they go to university. What do we have to do as head teachers to help with that… Hearing Graeme talk about the social networks maybe we need to do more of that, or interventions we can make earlier… I’m not sure which way we should be going…

GT: I think just preparing students for what universities and colleges is actually like can make a big difference. There are many opportunities there but there can be some competition rather than collaboration between universities sometimes – blurring of marketing and recruitment with widening access. But activities like critical thinking, self led study, working with different sources, etc. those can be very valuable – and programmes offering that can have a big impact. Some HEIs can do more as well – with academic staff giving a sense of level 1 social science programmes for schools for instance.

MH: It’s not just pupils who need to understand social and cultural issues, it’s the parents too. I stole an idea from the OU – they used to have a guide for significant others which we adapted for parents as well. Things like timetable structures, when assessments are due… If you don’t know what your child is up to and what is expected of them, how can you support that. An understanding of important times in that calendar etc. can make a huge difference. It was a great tool the OU made. Knowing about that helps parents to work with their child, motivate them, help them manage stress.

Chair: But surely for your child, once they are there, it’s up to them?

TM: I think for rural students that can be a real challenge, and can really effect drop out rates. So we have some study skills modules designed for high schools, to encourage students to take them at high school to prepare them. But actually even if you’ve sent your child off to the big city parental support does still matter – and that’s not just financial, that’s about encouragement and emotional support. We also have three Highers for access to learners, using virtual learning, that are for students to take and manage themselves. We are quite strict about assignments etc. to help there. But working with colleges, universities, that your students will be going to can make a big difference to preparing students, and ensuring they have the skills they need to do well.

Chair: Occasionally you might be the only student in a school taking a subject, you said that you have this social network for students – does that work?

GT: It’s perhaps too early to say. Schools have been welcoming the stuff that we do, and it intersects with what they do for PSE, and eProfiles work. What hasn’t been embraced yet is the social networks side – we have more work to do there. Everyone have said it is a good idea, but you need enough people to make it worthwhile but it could be pretty innovative and worthwhile.

LM: A couple of things that occurred to me here, that I think are just as relevant for us. Some research we have done suggests “struggling students want to be noticed” and there is a responsibility for universities to use the sorts of analytics Wilma was talking about to really identify those students. At a big university you can easily feel lost, it’s really quite tough, and you are faced with being an independent leaner as well. The other project that may be worth mentioning. The OU, on behalf of the sector, is running something called “Back on Course” – we are working with 7 universities about drop outs from those universities, and follow up to see if they are OK, see if they are ok, if they would like a guided interview, if they want to adjust study plans, and I think there is potential there to come up with that sort of shared solution.

Chair: How easy is it to monitor outcomes of students once they have dropped out or finished?

TM: It’s really quite hard. In small communities there can be word of mouth and good will of organisations in some areas. But a telephone interview three months after school leaving gives a one off snapshot. I’m not sure what Skills Scotland do with tools like social networks. High schools generally have some idea – but only because they are smaller school.

Comment) It is becoming more critical… But I would like to be part of that conversation you are having with students who drop out, as in your work at OU for the moment.

MH: If you used the Scottish Candidate Number throughout Universities that would be hugely helpful. The dropping of that in HE breaks that pipeline. In the US they use the Social Security number – and that gives income as well. We don’t capture that but that would be really useful. I was on a working group with the Scottish Funding Council and UUK and income was deemed to be so useful, but there is a lot of resistance. I’m not sure if the issue is security of information. Postcodes are crude. SIMD 40 is useless, need SIMD 10 to really target support here.

LM: Another point about school leavers… When we talk about university I think we have to get away from the idea that the people who go to university are all young people. And also decrease the emphasis on what university leavers then do. We don’t talk about lifelong learning anymore, but that concept does matter. And 17 or 19 is maybe not the time to go to university for some people…

MH: And actually that may be where your drop out rates may come in… It may be that at 30, when you really proactively want to learn, you will be a much more motivated. In London there is an aspiration of 90% of students who want to go to university, and that may well not be right for them…

Comment: And apprentices, vocational education, etc. can be really good routes, without the debt etc.

MH: And in Germany those skilled jobs have real standing and less stigma about them as qualifications, as routes…

Chair: To finish, if you could change one thing, what would it be?

GT: I think we could achieve more as a country if there was more collaboration between institutions, and if widening participation was more separated from recruitment and marketing.

LM: I agree with that! I think I might take away money given to universities to work on widening access, and instead distribute it to primary schools in the poorest areas.

TM: I think that everyone should have access to the internet, to enable learning to take place no matter where they are – no matter what stage of education you are at, including school leavers, adult learners. Internet and transport infrastructures both need. I also think our college infrastructure is getting stronger and that lets young people stay at home longer, to find work locally, and for doing even one year of college can boost confidence and that reduces drop out rates if/when they then go into HE.

MH: I would like us to return to the thinking of education as a public good. And that education is about your own potential, the community, civic education and about quality of life issues. Increasingly degree programmes are focused on very narrowly defined jobs, when that job goes or changes your degree will be less useful than a broad degree will. These days everyone not only have degrees, you need postgraduate degrees! So you need to look at what you are doing and why, for there to be a broad skills such as critical thinking, personal reflection, etc.

Summary and conclusions by the Chair – Mark Stephen

And with that Mark thanks sponsors and all for taking part and attending.

Apr 272015

This afternoon I am attending a talk on the Privacy of Online Social Networks which has been arranged by the Social Network Analysis in Scotland Group (SNAS) and is taking place at the University of Edinburgh. The speakers are Jordi Herrera-Joancomarti, Cristina Perez-sola, and Jordi Casas-Roma, all from Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB). I’ll be taking notes throughout, although I think that the talk is also being recorded so may be available later. As ever this is a liveblog so corrections, comments, etc. welcome. (I will also be adding some images from the event later today as some of the processes discussed were quite complex and require illustration!)

We are opening with an introduction to the SNAS group, which meets at the University of Edinburgh on the last Tuesday of every month… They have a mailing list and I’ll add a link here later. Dr Jordi Herrera-Joancomarti is leading the talk, and is an expert on privacy and security.

Dr Jordi H-J: This is collaborative work with my colleagues Cristina and Jordi. My background is not social sciences but mathematics, so it is a good challenge for me to speak to a non technical audience here… Hopefully there are no scary mathematical equations here! I’ll open with an introduction, talk about Online Social Networks and graph theory, talk about the data you can mine, and I will talk about Online Social network Data anonimisation, and how you can release data from networks without compromising privacy, before coming to my conclusions.

So, to start with the definition of Online Social Network I am using is an “online service, platform or site that allos to create a user profle which can be connected with other user profiles of the network… ”  – a very computer science definition.

So this can be about specialisms like Flickr, LastFM, WikiLoc… specialised format (e.g. Twitter); Scope limited (e.g. LinkedIn); General purpose (e.g. Faebook, Google+) etc. The denomination of connectivity can be network dependent (e.g. Facebook: friends; Twitter: followers). An dinteractions between user profiles are also network ependent (e.g. Facebook: “like” action, post a message; Twitter: tweet, Retweet etc).

So, why are OSN interesting or important? Well they have become an important part of people’s everyday communications, with huge volumes of users. But there is also a book, Big Data (Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier) which includes chapter 5 “Datafication” talking about the quantification of the world along the time from differnt aspects. So, when words became data (Google books in 2004); when localization becomes data (GPS); and when relationships become data (OSN). For instance Facebook datafied relationships, and most notably with the introduction of “Social graph”.

To graph theory then. A graph is a mathematical tool used to represent objects (nodes) that can be connected by links (edges). OSN can be modeled using graphs and analysed with graph theory. So… You can represented connections between individuals etc.

There are different OSN propoerties that dertmine the type of the corresponding social graph:

– Undirected graphs are those with no meaning on the incidence of an edge in the node. Facebook social graph is an undirected graph. So, no arrows between individuals, no value to that edge.

– Directed graphs (digraph) are those in which the edges have a direction associated with them. Twitter social graph is a directed graph. For instance you can follow someone, they don’t have to follow you… So we have arrows here to indicate connection and direction.

– Weighted graphs assign a weight to every edge in a graph.

So, when you add direction to a graph you can borrow many analysis tools from graph theory. So if we try with a degree of a node in an undirected graph… The degree of a node is the number of edges incident to that node, denoted as deg(vi).

In a directed graph the same concept applies but it is more complex… We have In-degree of a node and that is the number of head endpoints adjacent to that node denoted as deg-(vi). Similarly we can have out-degree for number of tail endpoints, denoted as deg+(vi).

So, in a facebook social graph the degree of a node is the number of friends of that user. In Twitter social graph, the in-degree can be seen as the number of followers of that user. High in-degree may indicate a popular user. And the out degree can be seen as the number of users that person follows.

We can also talk about the clustering coefficient. We see local clustering coefficient of a node – the proportion of edges between the nodes within its neighbourhood divided by the number of edges that could possible exist between them… So it measures how far are the neighbourood of a node to become a clique. So this is how well the friends of a node are connected. These kinds of technical techniques can be used to understand user connections and relationships.

We study OSN privacy from an information-fundamental point of view, analysing OSN privacy from a graph mining perspective. We do not study specific OSN services, configurations or vulnerbailities. In some cases we do make some assumptions about the type of OSN: open vs closed profiles. For instance Facebook is more difficult to extract data from than Twitter, an open social network.

So there are two kinds of users information that can be extracted:

1) Node information – data about a specific user, details contaied in the users profile on a specific OSN

2) Edge information – data about the relationship between members of the network – and that is what we are most interested in.

Edge information can, however, directly disclose node attributes – e.g. an edge representing a sentimental relationships between two individuals of the same sex would be revealing about their sexual orientation. It is more difficult to protect edge information than node information – as it depends on behaviour of connected people whereas node information is controlled by just one user. Relations between users can also detect communities, and more node attributes.

So, I wanted to explain about data retrieval. How do you ontain social network information? Well you can ask OSN providers – but many are not that cooperative or put a great deal of restrictions/agreements to do that. They provide local and/or anonimised data. OR you can take the data from the OSN providers – that is not always possible adn depends on the open degree of the OSN service. And it is very important to take care on the mechanism used to obtain information as that may determine the bias of the data you collect.

You can gather data several ways. You can use a web crawler to gather daya from an open OSN (like Twitter). Web crawlers are computer programs that retrieve web pages starting from a single (or multiple) page and exploring all its linked pages and also the pages linked to those ones and so on. Since most of OSN interact through the web, you can use web crawlers for OSN data retrieval… The process is iterative…

A download is the interface between the OSN and the crawler – it downloads the users profiles and passes it to the parser, which then parses that data. You draw out the friends of that user and add them to the queue, which contains all the users that are awaiting to be explored, found when crawling every user. And the scheduler selects which user, from the ones in the queue will be explore and sends the decision to the downloader. The scheduler impacts on both performance and data quality.

If you are exploring the whole network then it is not so important to consider the crawler details… if I am crawling every member I will find all of the connections at the end… the order you gather data in doesn’t matter in that case. BUT you cannot crawl all of the network available now… So you will have to, at some point, decide to take a partial view of the network. So to do that we have to think about notification and assumptions…

Users can be crawled (one that all his profiles information and all friends are known to the crawler (v E Vcrawl). A discovered user (connected to the user crawled), and an explored user  (discovered by relationship to discoverd user)?

So… for instance a Breath-First Search (BFS) Algorithm would start with one user (h)… you find they have two friends (d and j)… I crawl j and then discover they connect to users l and k and g (and I’ve already crawled d and h)… Then I crawl user d, finding connections to f, e, b, c… others are already found… Then I crawl l, find connections etc…

So, that is your schedule, the order you crawl. And the idea is that you can end up with all the elements of the network… This is quite a linear process. So, this is one approach, and this BFS algorithm produces graphs quite dissimilar to other algorithms you could use.

An alternative approach is the Depth-First Search (DFS) which works as a traditional stack, the first nodes to be crawled are the last ones that have been discovered (LIFO management). So, in this approach… If you start with user h… you discover j and d… But the next node you explore is d… then when you find connections to f, g, e, b, c… and you next explore node c. At the end you will end up with all the nodes as well… But in a different order than you had before… So, again, if you do this with a group of users (example here being 162 flickr nodes) it looks quite different…

Then you can do more intelligent things… You can use “greedy” algorithms:

– Real-degree greedy (hypothetical greedy or higherst-degree-crawler) takes its decisions based on the real degree (which may be unknown to the crawler before the node is crawled) of the nodes in the OSN. So a user has degree 5, degree 7 etc. based on the edges between different nodes… You can gather the whole network, or you may have restrictions and only capture part of the network…

– Explored-degree greedy (greedy) uses the actual known degree of the nodes in the OSN… So if you graph that you see many many connections, you look more conciously to the mode connected nodes.

You can also choose to select more variance in the network, to randomise your sample to an extent. This can be done with a lottery algorithm…

So, if you take information from a social network or a social network graph you have to be really well aware of what you are getting. When you do your sampling from different profiles, etc. that you understand what your sample is of. As far as you can see you can just adjust the scheduler to get what you want… you can do that to focus on particular users, types of users.

Schedulers have implications on privacy… depending on the level you select that has different implications… So your scheduler can have different objectives for the crawler – taking the privacy attackers point of view. So you can then understand which scheduler algorithm fits those objectives most appropriately…

You can also do more tricky things… For instance the classification of users from a graph point of views. So, I want to classify users, identifying the set of categories a new observation belongs to. The decision is made on the basis of a training set of data containing observations whose category membership is already known. When you try to classify users within the network, you can see link information which may help you to classify a user – connections to a community for instance.

The idea is that you can see classification as a privacy attack – user classification allows an attacker to infer private attributes from the user. Attributes may be sensitive by themselbes, attribute disclosuer may have undesirable consequences for the user. So the design of a user (node) classifer that uses the graph structure alone (no semantic infomation needed)… So, for instance… We may classify the user, with a neighborhood analysis to better classify the user… So the classifer analyses the graph structure and maps each node to a 2-dimensional sample using degree and clustering coefficient. The output is an initial assignation of nodes to categories…

And you can make that neighborhood information to classify the node… You can also have a relational classifier, which maps users to n-dimensional samples, using both degree and clustering coefficient and the neighborhood information to classify users…

So coming to the issue of data and data release… When you obtain a collection of data… you may have a more anonymised data view… You may see connections etc. but without user names, for instance. The intention is to preserve the privacy of users. But is this enough? Well no… this nieve anonimisation potentially reveals huge amounts about the user… if you know other data (other than names), you may be able to deduce who is in the network, you might find one user in the network and thus expose others. Removing the identifiers is not enough… So, you have to do something more elaborate…

One approach is to modify the edges – adding or deleting edges to hinder re-identification… But the problem is that you have two opposite objectives: On th eone hand you want to maximise the data utility and you want to minimise noise in that data. But you also want to preserve users privacy…

So, there are different ways to quantify the objective…. There are generic information loss measures (GIL) – measures like average distance, diameter, harmonic mean of shortest distance, etc… You want to preserve that in your data. So… you have the original network, you do one metric… and end up with a different network that is anonimised, and you can apply a similar metric afterwards to use it… In statistical databases you can preserve the mean of all the registers that sold boots (say)… If you know the questions to ask of that data, you know the process to keep that anonimised data close to the original data set…

You can also use specific information loss measures (clustering process)… Similar problem here… You have the original clusters, you use a clustering method to get to an anonimised (perturbed) version.

So, some measures behave in a similar way independently of the data in which they are gathered.

And then you have the idea of k-anonimity. A model that indicates that an attacker can not distinguish between different k records although he managed to find a group of quasi-identifiers. Therefore the attackers can not re-identify an individual. So, node degree can be the quasi-identifier… We can presume the attacker may know some of the nodes in the network… We can preserve the degree sequence, and the ordered degree sequence. And you can measure the k degree by understanding how many nodes have the same degree. So if two nodes in the network have degree 4, then the k-degree anonymity is 2. You can then make use of this to preserve the graph…

To modify the graph you can use edge modification (adding and/or deleting); node modification (adding and/or deleting). You can use uncertain graphs – adding or removing edges “particially” by assigning a probabiity to each edge. The set of all possible edges is considered and a probability is assigned to each edge.

Edge modification can include edge rotation, random perturbation, relevant edge identification, k-anonymity orientated anonimisation. These can allow you to keep data you want to keep, whilst preserving user privacy.

So, in conclusion, OSN can be modeled with social graph and analysed using graph mining techniques. Web crawlers may retrieve sensitive information from OSNs but the quality of the collected information will depend on the scheduler algorithm specitifities. Relational classifiers may provide relevant user information by just analyzing the graph structure information… Data anonimisation is needed for releasing OSN data without compromising the user’s privacy. This is a research field that is quite new and quite difficult… unlike statistical databases, where you can change one user without impacting on others, any change here does effect the network. And anonymisation algorithms need a trade-off between information loss and user anonymity loss.


Q1) You talked about how much stuff is being datafied… Soon with smart watches we’ll have health data available. Because crawlers take some time… things could change whilst you are crawling.

A1) One of the problems in social networks and graph theory, is that algorithms for this sort of data are complex and time consuming… And that is a problem… Especially at scale. And sometimes you have the information, you make a lot of computation but the information is not static… so not only a lot of work not only on algorithms but also on understanding different and changes in the network – what happens when a node is removed for instance. There are people working on algorithms for dynamic data… But much m

Q2) What kind of research questions have you been using this with?

A2) There are two different issues for me in terms of social sciences… We don’t start with research questions… we start with problem and try to start it… So when AOL released data about lots of servers… you could identify individuals from the data… but you shouldn’t be able to… That happens because they don’t understand or care about anonymising data. So we are trying to provide tools to enable that anonymisation. We also have ideas about the crawling approach… So as a social network provider you might want to avoid this type of crawler… you might use this approach to trap or mislead the crawler… So the crawler end up in a dead end… and cannot crawl the network.

Q3) Some of the techniques you showed there were about anonymisation… do you use removal of nodes for that purpose

A3) There are several approaches for adding or removing nodes… Sometimes those approaches collapse those nodes… So you anonymise all the nodes too… But the general techniques that are more used are those that perturb and move the nodes.

Q4) One of the last things you said was about that trade off of utility of analysis and user privacy. My question is who makes that decision about the trade off? Would the people being studied agree with those decisions for instance, in the real world?

A4) The real world is much more complex of course. The problem is about deciding level of usefulness of the data… At the present time these methods are not used as far as they could be done… For statistical data this is often fixed by government… for instance in Census data you can see the method by which data has been anonimised. But for OSN there is nothing of that type, and nobody is telling… and basically no-one is releasing data… Data is money… So if we can try to give good algorithms to enable that, then maybe the OSN companies can release some of this kind of data. But at this moment, nobody is putting that idea of privacy there… Generally privacy level tends to be low, information level is high…

Q5) I didn’t totally understand how you set the boundaries of the network… Is it the crawling process?

A5) The idea is that there are no boundaries… Crawler goes… Maybe it completes within 1000 nodes, or 3 hours… or similar. You won’t crawl everything and you want some data. So 10 million users might be the boundary for instance… Then you have data to look at… So I have 10 million users out of a pool of 500 million… But which ones do I have? How representative? That needs consideration…

Q6) The crawler gathers a model of relationships and behaviours, and I’m sure that marketers are very interested. Is there potential to predict connections, behaviours, intentions etc.

A6) Yes, there are lots of techniques of graph theory that allow that sort of interpretation and prediction. OSN use these sorts of approaches for recommendations and so on…

Q6) How reliable is that data?

A6) Understanding similarities there can help make it more reliable… similarity rather than distance between nodes can be helpful for understanding behaviour… But I will say that they are quite accurate… And the more information they gather, the more accurate they are…

Q7) I was wondering when you were talking about measuring the effectiveness of different anonymisation methods… Is there a way to take account of additional data that could effect anonimisation

A7) In computer security in general, when you model someone you have to define the adversary model… What the adversary is able to do… So, what is the attacker able to have… The available information… So the more information is available, the harder it is to protect the individual. It is a complex scenario.

Q8) Is there a user friendly web crawler that can be used by non technicians…

A8) No. Sorry about that… No, because there are some frameworks… But you don’t have one solution to fit all… But the idea is that there are some frameworks that are more suited to computer science people… Tomorrow in the workshop we will explain extracting information from Twitter… And those techniques will let us explore how we could develop a crawler on Twitter… So exploring connections and followers, etc.

Q9) What are the ethics of web crawling in social sciences? And what are the positions of the OSN on that?

A9) You can crawl OSN because the information is public. So you can crawl Twitter, as information is public. If you want to crawl Facebook, you have to be authorised by the user to look at the profile… And you need to develop an algorithm to run as an app in Facebook… and authorise that… But that doesn’t mean the user understands that… But for instance in last US Election, Obama campaign did an application on Facebook that did that… graphing their supporters and friends… And use that in the campaign…

Q9) I was wondering about the crawling of discussion forums… where you cannot get authorisation. But you also mentioned that providers not keen… is it legitimate to do that…

A9) I think that it is… If you are crawling public information… There is another thing of the OSN not liking it – then they can make some restrictions. If I do things that avoid OSN restrictions that is fine… You can do that

Q10) I wanted to follow up on that… There are legal and ethical issues associated with crawling websites. You have to consider it extremely carefully. If I use a website that says it does not allow crawlers, I don’t expect it to be crawled and that would not be legal under data protection law. And there was some research about 10 years ago a research project found that bloggers, although posting in public, didn’t expect to be analysed and interpreted… And you do have to think about the ethics here… And you need to think about the user’s expectation when they put the data up.

A – Christina) Everyone uses Google, you can’t expect that when you put something on the internet you have to expect it to be crawled

A – Jordi) From my perspective, as a researcher doing cryptography what you say is quite strange… My work is about protecting information… It assumes people will be trustworthy with your information…

Q10) No, I’m saying an ethical researcher should not be breaking the law.

Comment) There can be an expectation of privacy in a “public” space…

Comment – from me) I would recommend the Association of Internet Researchers Ethics Guide for more on how you can mediate expectations of users in your research. For your cryptography work that may not be as relevant, but for others in this audience that guide is very helpful for understanding ethical research processes, and for thinking about appropriate research methods and approaches for ethical approval.

And with a gracious close from Jordi, we are done! There is a workshop running tomorrow on this type of analysis – I won’t be there but others may be tweeting or blogging from it.

Apr 232015

On this very sunny Thursday I am at the IAD in Bristo Square for the elearning@ed forum’s 2015 conference which is focusing on Designing for 21st Century Learning. I’ll be taking notes throughout the day (though there may be a gap due to other meeting commitments). As usual these are live notes so any corrections, updates, etc. are welcomed.

The speakers for today are:

Welcome – Melissa Highton, Director, Learning Teaching and Web Services, IS.

Thank you all for coming. It’s a full agenda and it’s going to be a great day. Last year Jeff left us with the phrase that it is “exciting times” and that’s reflected by how fast this event filled up, sold out… you are lucky to get a seat! Being part of this community, to this forum, is about a community commitment we will see throughout the day, and we are very lucky and very appreciative of that.

Designing for 21st Century Learning is our theme for today. As someone who did all their formal learning in the 20th century, I started with a bit of Googling for what 21st Century might be – colourful diagrams seems to be the thing! But I also looked for some accounts from the university of what that might mean… some things that came through where that it is about teaching understanding of difficult things in all subjects, do a little to remove the inequalities of life, practical work and making things with one’s hands “the separation of hand and brain is an evil for both”. But these words are from 1905, they are from the University Settlement. But actually many of those remain common values. But there are are also issues of technology, of change…

“It’s not ok not to understand the internet anymore” – Martha Lane-Fox delivering the Dimbleby Lecture at London’s Science Museum, March 2015. That is certainly part of what we are talking about. Most in this room will feel they understand the internet, but we also have to be thinking about the challenges raised, the trends. And I’m going to finish with a graphic from the New Media Consortium (which the university is part of) tracking some of these changes and trends here/coming soon.

Chairs session – Individual short presentations, followed by open panel discussion (chaired by Jessie Paterson)

Designing for 21st Century earning: the view where I sit Prof. Judy Hardy, Physics Education, (Physics and Astronomy) Profile

I was asked to give the view from where I am, in 10 minutes, which is fairly tough! So I will be sharing some of my thoughts, some of what is preoccupying me at the moment.

Like Melissa I saw the concept of 21st Century Learning and thought “gosh, what’s that”. So I tried to think about a student coming here in 2020. That student will probably be just about coming to the end of their first year at secondary school right now. So what will it look like… probably quite a lot like now… lectures, tutorials, workshops etc. But what they will have is even more technology at their fingertips… Whether that is tablets or whatever.

We have been working on a project tracking students use of technology. We didn’t tell them what to use or how. They used cloud based word processor saying it saved times, seeing each others writing styles benefitted the flow of the report they worked on together. They used Facebook and self organised groups to compliment and coordinate activity. They just did it. I think many didn’t mention it as they just took it for granting…

Interactive engagement in learning performs something like double the learning gain (see R.R. Hake 2007). But wht is that? We did research (Hardy et al 2014) on academic staff teaching in UK university physics departments. Many want to teach, many focus as much on teaching as research. So what are the challenges? Well time and time as a proxy for other things… We can’t ignore that if we really want to move from a dedicated few doing great teaching work, to mainsteaming that. Deslauriers, Schelew and Wieman (2011) in Science found that it took 20 hours preparation to teach with a flipped classroom – that reduces after the first run but it is a substantial investment of time. Pedagogically there is also confusion over the best tools or approaches to take..

What is preoccupying me quite a bit at the moment… It is not about the “what” and “how” but about the “why’. There is awareness of what we should or might do. How to do that is very important – you need to know what to do and how to do it. But you also need to understand the principles behind that, why you are doing that, what the purpose is. You need to know what you can modify, and why, and what the consequences of that might be. When we are doing teaching, when we are thinking about teaching, we need to have this in mind. Otherwise we end up using the same formats (e.g. lectures) just surrounded by new technology.

Prof. Sian Bayne, Digital Education, (Education) Profile

It was a bit of a wide brief for this session, so I thought I would talk about something happening this week. Some of you will be aware that the #rhizo15 MOOC is running again this week, the Rhizomatic Learning “cMOOC” idea. And I saw lots of tweets about a paper I’d written… Which got me thinking about what has been happening… and where things are going…

That paper looked at the Deleuze and Guattari (1988) concept of striated space (closed, hierachichal, structured, etc.) vs smooth space (open ended, non hierachichal, wandering-orientate, amorphous). And that these spaces, these metaphors, intersect… And this paper was using these metaphors in the design of learning itself. So, back in 2004 the VLEs and LMSs was pretty much what there was in terms of online learning – very striated spaces. Emerging at that time in a more smooth space – were ideas like scholarly hypertext, multimodal assessments, anonymous discussion boards (which went, but are kind of back with YikYak), wikis and blogs.

So, what has changed around 10 years later? Well in the striated space we have VLEs and LMSs, Turnitin, e-portfolios, and we have things that may be striating forces including personalisation (flexible but to rules), adaptive learning, learning analytics, gamification (very goal orientated), wearables.  In terms of the smooth spaces… we have Twitter (though some increasing striation), YikYak, real openness. And we also see augmented realities and flipped classrooms, maker spaces, and crowd-based learning as smoother spaces.

So, what’s next? The bigger point I want to make is that we have a tendency in this field to be very futures orientated. I was also googling this week for elearning and digital education trends 2015.. huge numbers of reports and trends which are useful but there is also a change acceleration, trends and practices to respond to and keep up with. We need to remember that we are doing those things in the context, to look back a bit, to consider what kind of teaching do we actually want to do, what kind of university do we want to be. And ultimately what is higher education actually for? And those kinds of considerations have to sit alongside that awareness of changes, trends, technologies…

Using Technology to support learners’ goal setting – Prof. Judy Robertson, Digital Learning, (Education) “Using technology to support learners’ goal setting”.  Profile

I am also talking about what I am working on this week, which has mainly been data analysis! My work looks at technology use by children (and sometimes university students). I design and evaluate technology for education and behaviour change, often designing learners in the design process. There are aspects of behaviour change and concepts from games that can be particularly useful here, but games tend to have set goals built in (even if you can choose your goals from a set), and I look at learners setting their own goals.

So my research vision is about working with users to develop technology which enables them to set and monitor appropriate goals for themselves in the context or education and healthcare – that could be working with children and teachers to develop software which enables goal setting around problem solving and physical activity, or to work with new undergraduates to help them to plan and monitor their studying, or even working with older adults to assist them to change their patterns of sedentary behaviour. But there is a risk of becoming like the Microsoft paperclip… How do we actually make technology useful here?

So I have been working on an exergame (a game where physical exertion is the input medium) called Critter Jam (aka FitQuest) which is looking at whether it is possible to motivate children to increase their activity. So the game might have you collecting virtual coins, or being chased by a virtual wolf… It is all about encouraging mainly running activities, with mainly playground game type activities. Within the game children can pick from different goals… For those with intrinsic motivation tendencies you can aim for your personal best… For some children you might set a custom points target – and how children (or indeed university students) pick that target is interesting. Some children may want to top the leader board  – that motivates some, but competition can be negative too…

So, we are also looking at fine grained log file data from around 70 kids over 5 weeks as part of a wider RCT data set. I’ve been looking on the sort of goals kids set and how they achieve them. And also looking at how self-efficacy relates to goal setting. And as you look at the data you can look at the high performing kids and see where there are patterns in their goal settings.

It turns out that kids achieved their goals around 50% of the time, which is a bit of a disappointment. And those who expect to do well, tend to set more ambitious goals – which raises some questions for us. And in terms of how goal setting relates to high performance gains we have some interesting qualitative data. We interviewed some students – all of our kids here were 10 years old – and they reported that if they had set too hard a goal, they would reset to a lower goal, but then aim to keep improving it. This seems reasonable and thoughtful for a 10 year old. At 10 that’s not what all students will do though (even for undergraduates that doesn’t even work). Speaking to another child they aimed fairly low, to avoid the risk of failure… again something we need to bear in mind with university students and how ambitiously they set their own goals.

Prof. Dave Reay, Carbon Management and Education, (Geosciences) Profile

I completely misunderstood the brief… or perhaps took it differently… I wanted to tell you a bit about what we do, and the work I do in digital education. I’m based in geosciences and I work on climate change. But seven years ago – in this very room – we started a new masters programme on carbon management, aimed at helping our students understand how we tackle the holistic challenges of climate change. And part of the challenge for us as lecturers was how we can make this issue apply, feel practical, that included applied experience. So we started to think about how we could develop online learning to do this. So we started by developing tools on “hot house schools” using Labyrinth to let students take the role of teacher, headmaster, etc. to understand decisions taken to keep students safe, to make changes, etc. And I got a real passion for online learning.

The interactive stuff worked well, the interactions with students online worked well… And we launched that online masters four years ago. As you will all know that interaction online can be at least as rich as face to face programmes. And we now have a new programme with both face to face aspects and a core course running online. We are also creating a course on sustainability, the idea being for our on campus face to face students to really understand sustainability in their field (whatever that is) and an online course was what we felt could deliver this. The vision is for every student on campus to have the opportunity to look at this, to think about sustainability in their fields. They will leave this institution understanding not only sustainability but also a positive experience of online education, that they think of Edinburgh when they think about lifelong learning, of retraining – a very 21st century learning issue. So, I think in a few years time I will have exciting slides to share on that.

Finally I wanted to talk about my research which is on climate change and carbon footprints. In the last few years I have been looking at digital education, ICT, etc. from the perspective of their environmental impact. So we have quantified all of the emissions associated with the programme – we are calling it the greenest masters ever! The face to face programme is great but travel of students is significant, estates and buildings have a big carbon footprint, so we can actually put a number on every aspect of the online masters and its carbon footprint – and we can offset it too! So, if you are interested in the kinds of innovations taking place, and how they relate to emissions and carbon footprints. We want data, we want to quantify online as a greener way for our students to learn, so please get in touch.

Learning Analytics – Prof. Dragan Gasevic, Learning Analytics, (Informatics and Education.) Profile

I am based in both the Schools of Education and Informatics. And I will talk a bit about what we are talking about when we say “learning analytics”. Usually we mean that we are looking at data from learning technologies. But before we get to that we need to talk about why we might do this. We have already heard about our learners as non traditional, heterogeneous… but we cannot personalise the entire learning experience for every students manually. Feedback loops are, however, so important to the learning process.

So, most educational institutions today have student information systems – from before enrolment, courses taken, financial information etc. And then we also have learning environments – LMSs and VLEs like Blackboard, Moodle, etc. But we also have so much more out there… From social networks, to searches, to blogs and other collaborative and reflective tools, and then we also have slides and resources. And wherever we go here we are always creating a digital footprint. And that is irreversible. Today we have the computing technology to analyse that data too. What we want to do with learning analytics is to use those digital traces, for use by instructors, by organisations. And that enables the provision of personalised feedback back to the learners.

We are touching, most of our research, on most of these nodes… But the guiding force here is that learning analytics are about learning. We must not forget that. It is not just data capture without questions. It is a reminder that we have to think about the critical factors that learning analytics need to account for. We have to remember that learners are not black boxes, they are individuals and they have traits but those traits change – background knowledge, understanding, technology and cognitive tools. To really deliver on the expectations of learning analytics we need to understand that.

So, one example here is a piece of technology, for video annotation, to enable reflective practice. Students can view a video and can then leave comments at a particular moment at the video, tag that comment, etc. But if learners are unaware that technologies or tools might be beneficial, they won’t be motivated to use it. So we have a responsibility to scaffold our learners use of these tools, and convey that to our learners so that they are motivated, and so that they understand those benefits rather than just be presented with the tools.

We ran a study in British Columbia we tried too approaches to creative reflective activities and tools. In one group they were not graded, in another they were graded and received feedback. But we also ran a third course which was similarly graded, but these students had previously used this tool and they started to internalise those benefits – they doubled their use of their tool. When those same students (who had initially been graded on their use) undertook a non graded task, they continued to use it… which tells us a lot about these students motivations. We did see some quality reduction in their annotations… So that tells us that we need to provide additional scaffolds for their work… So for instance simply encouraging students to share annotations with each other can do that.

Learning analytics are only useful if we know what we need, what conditions we work in – counts don’t count much if decontextualised. We need to think of this and approach it as a scaling up of qualitative analysis in some ways, and for that to be part of learning analytics as well.

I also wanted to say that pretty visualisations can be harmful. We have to be very careful when sharing visualisations with students. University of Melbourne showing visualisations of performance to a group of students that was quite demotivating – both for those doing less well, and for those performing well who saw they were doing better than others.

One size does not fit all in learning analytics and institutional policies and practices have to reflect that. And with that I will end for now.

Virtual Edinburgh – Turning the whole city into a pervasive learning environment – Prof. Jonathan Silvertown, Technology Enhanced Science Education, (Biological Sciences) “Virtual Edinburgh: Turning the City into a pervasive learning environment”.

The thing to know about the future is that the seeds of the future are already here… Perhaps in your pocket through your smart phone. Many of the devices you carry around with you already have huge potential, and may be starting to be used in education but there is more that can be done.

I’m talking about  a project we are calling “Virtual Edinburgh” which is looking to harness that existing technology and use the whole city as a learning environment. This picture in my slides is taken from a bus enabled with wifi – that’s part of what I mean by the future already being here… And there are already apps seeking to do this… Walking Through Time – lets you explore historical maps of the city, LitLong (formerly Palimpsest) – shares literature in the context of the city, MESH – looks at social history in the city, BGS’s iGeology 3D lets you explore the geology around you, FieldTrip GB lets you create your own research data collection form, iSpot lets you identify aspects of the natural world, and Wikipedia has a nearby function that can be used with students… There are already a lot of stuff we can use in this environment…

So I just want to show you an idea of how we could put this whole idea together… So a trip on a bus from Calton Hill to Kings Buildings… You might identify some wildlife on Calton Hill with iSpot – discovering what a plant species is, looking it up on Wikipedia… The missing link here is back to the university and what we do at University of Edinburgh – if you searched for that plant you’d get back to the scientists researching these plants at Kings Buildings… So, Virtual Edinburgh is looking to connect these aspects together and to expose these elements more widely.

Looking at the University’s ‘Emerging Vision of Learning and Teaching” I wanted to draw out the elements that call for students having greater agency in co-creation of learning, and of being part of the wider community and learning with them. So, I see Virtual Edinburgh as engaging in various modes of student participation – within pre-baked VE apps there will be elements of data retrieval and engagement; as well as more interactive aspects including students creating new data, new apps, new ideas as well. And the Infrastucture will be about a teaching and learning infrastructure, a data infrastructure and a technical infrastructure…

The ultimate objective is to make Edinburgh the city of learning.

Q&A (all speakers)

Q1) One of the running themes here was about digital literacy. Judy’s comment that students barely commenting on the use of Facebook, as not worthy of mention by them… So what baseline of technologies do we expect from students these days, and what do we expect staff to keep up with?

A1 – Judy R) That’s a really interesting question. Although children and secondary school learners are exposed to technologies we cannot assume they understand how to use them appropriately. We cannot assume that.

A1 – Judy H) One thing to add to that is that we have to understand how institutional and personal technologies are intermixed. In that study there were centrally provided technologies but most moved swiftly to their own personal choices of technologies, and we have to understand that and what we do with that.

A1- Dragon) We know that there are no such things as “digital natives”, that we cannot assume understanding. Students may be more exposed to technologies but young kids are not neccassarily exposed to creating things in these spaces… They may even be at a lower level of skills than in the past simply because of the affordances of the types of tools they are using.

A1 – Dave) I have an embaressing confession to make. When we first ran this course we looked to use Google Hangout… I was all set up… I was waiting… The time ticked over… and noone joined me but my email went wild with students unable to get in… And we learnt that we have to understand and pre-set up those spaces ahead of time…

A1 – Sian) What Dragon said is really important here in terms of our expectations of students and the realities of their knowledge and understanding of these tools.

[Apologies, at this point my sore throat kicked off so I was unable to type… We had some interesting questions about the gap between students in first and second year, the innovations there, and what happens later on in a programme… ; and on learning skills and how they relate to learning outcomes]

Q2 [in my numbering, about the fourth or fifth in the room]) Internationally we have MOOCs, we have students from across the world

A2 – Dave) Part of what is so exciting about teaching online is that so many students internationally could not attend in person – due to location, family commitments, immigration restrictions. And online learning not only has environmental benefits but also opportunities to really help make the university the brilliant place it can be.

A2 – Sian) I think that it is useful to distinguish between learning and education – where education is the formalised accredited aspect of what we do. It’s not that we shouldn’t be part of that wider space of learning but that that distinction matters.

A2 – Dragon) Sian’s distinction is very important here. But we also have to remember that students don’t just attend for course content. It is about the knowledge and skills of those they will be engaging with. To learn online students also need exceptional organisational skills and discipline to fit their learning around their lives. But we also see different types of learning – capabilities and competency based learning which can have negative connotations but are also quite useful concepts.

Q3) I’m always quite interested in the gap between primary and secondary school education in terms of technologies… And how we keep up with that…

A3 – Judy R) There are quite different expectations around technologies. We have primary schools using Microsoft Office – which seems kind of weird given that it’s a professional productivity tool – and some use of blogs appearing although there is something of a horror at the use of anything social, and of any tools beyond the walled garden.

A3 – Judy H) We also have to remember that not all our learners come from Scottish schools… There is a great range of backgrounds that our learners have come through…

A3 – Dave) I do see what my own kids encounter, how they are learning… But I would also refer to the oracles at Moray House as well to get an idea beyond what I see in our undergraduates…

A3 – Jonathan) Perhaps next time this event runs that is a talk we should see here in fact.

And with that Jessie thanks our wonderful speakers for a stimulating session, and we are off for tea, coffee, or in my case a lot of Fisherman’s Friends and a quiet glass of water.

“Co-Creation: Student Ownership of Curriculum” (Workshop) – Dash Sekhar, VPAA, EUSA and Tanya Lubicz-Nawrocka, EUSA

Tanya: The panel session today was a great way to kick off this event. And it certainly made me think about Ron Barnett, and his book Realizing the University in an Age of Supercomplexity. I’m going to be taking you through some of the theory I am looking at – as I am both a member of EUSA staff and a PhD student at the Moray House School of Education. 

Kuh’s definition of student engagement is “the time and effort students devote to activities that are empirically linked

Cathy Bovill (Cook-Sather, Bovil, Fenton 2014) also talks about Co-creation of the curriculum being about “partnerships based on respect, reciprocity and shared responsibility between students and faculty”. That has great opportunities but can also be difficult – students don’t always know they can share in a lecture, and that co-creation idea can seem scary to both staff and students.

Thinking about co-creation and representation, we just had our teaching awards last night. Students are the experts in their own learning so student representatives are not only invaluable as sources of feedback, but also as proposers of solutions as well. Co-creation of the curriculum is about recognising student expertise, their goals, where they want to go, and how the learning outcomes of the course relate to that. It opens up the boundaries of what we can expect of education.

Dash: We’ve talked about the concepts and radical ideologies and of moving governance of the university so that students are active at all levels. But I’m going to talk about examples, in a range of universities.

For instance student led community projects are already part of a number of courses, for instance in the Geosciences project presented at senate. The students create the project, they design that, they carry out that project. This puts students in charge of creating their own goals, their own content. Obviously there are technologies that make co-creation more possible. But the area that I want to focus on are about assessment.

This exampe is about student partnership in assessment (in Social Policy?). Students met early in the course with academic staff to discuss assessment options, weighting different forms of assessment. Projects, exams, etc. with students able to vote on options/weighting – so not all students got what they wanted. Students welcomed the opportunity of choice, reflection, to discuss those options.

Another example, in the US, enabled students to be involved in the grading criteria. They were able to create or influence the grading criteria, and to reflect back on that process as well.

I also want to talk about social bookmarking. This example is from a Statistics course. Here the lecturer asked students to tag 10 sites related to the course, handed back to professor, then they were presented in the VLE, trends were shown, professor referred back to those examples found within the course. It is surface level to an extent but it is students creating content, influencing the course.. It is a radical shift.

So, what we want to do now is to have some discussion about what these changes mean. We want you in groups to discuss:

– How can you integrate these examples within your work?

– How can new technology enhance this partnership further?

– What support may staff/students need to implement these?

[cue break whilst we discuss]

Comments back from groups:

Group 1) Advanced students, honours levels etc. quite well set up for those broader learning objectives

Group 2) I am teaching on an MSc where students have a choice over the units that they take, the students really thrive in that environment and the students really push themselves and achieve

Group 3) One of the things my colleague Peter Evans is seeing through accreditation for the MSc in Digital Education is a 20 credit course within which students can create their own 5 credit activities, giving students a lot of autonomy within a structure there.

Group 4) We were talking about assessment and how students can engage in that, and anonymity in that process. Getting students to write questions and challenges against which they evaluate their colleagues – particularly talking about Peer Wise

Dash: There is another example with peer assessment, students had to justify not just if they met that criteria, but also to justify why that was the case.

Tanya) One group I sat with was the issue of not all students wanting to assess or be assessed by others. They see the lecturer as having greater authority, that they may not like peer assessment at first.

Group 5) We were also talking about anonymity and tools like Textwall which allows students to share anonymous comments on a wall (like a Twitter wall), also clickers, etc.

Comment) We tried a Twitter wall with one of our large undergraduate classes. It was sort of 50% brilliant and engaged. And 50% really inappropriate. There wasn’t much self-policing.

Group 6) We talked about beaurocratic barriers, getting something through the board… That there is reluctance to change, that perhaps only 5-10% of what you can do can be novel. So it’s how to get the beurocrats who sit on the board to approve something new and innovative. And how do you then pass on the work to the external examiner.

Dash: Luckily we have an assistant principal pretty much responsible for that.

Ian Pirie, assistant principal) I would say that my background is art and design, where we already provide videos, images, etc. to external examiners, so I would say that that can be done. That’s a disciplinary culture issue, and do please talk to me if you meet those sorts of barriers.

Dash: There you go. We are at time but please do come and find Tanya and I about co-creation etc.

“Using e-Portfolios to recognise our student and graduate attributes” – Simon Riley (CMVM) and Prof. Ian Pirie, Asst Principal Learning Developments

I’ll be talking about a number of uses of portfolios in art and in medicine. In both fields portfolios enable students to capture and evidence competencies. Everything is documented in that portfolio. And the students will update and prune, and reflect on that – sometimes we have to stop students from pruning too much! I couldn’t take you into a lecture and talk to you about playing the piano, and an hour later you can play it. You have to assimilate that, to practice and engage, to construct the essential knowledge. That’s the reason portfolios come in to these disciplines.

Portfolios are already well established in Art, Design and Architecture, in Medicine, and in other fields such as engineering, healthcare, etc. And often that is associated with professional competencies and evidencing those.

In Art, Design and Architecture portfolios are central in visual arts education (for ECA that is since 1760). That is from admission to higher education, for further study, for professional purposes. Once someone has committed to study in these subjects, they maintain that portfolio. And already school leavers engage with portfolio concepts of enquiry, reflection, etc.

In 2008 there was a change in submissions, so applications for ECA now run to 7000 applicants for 150 places. The logistics for physical portfolios were impossible. We have moved to digital portfolios. But we have looked at this, checked the robustness, and the digital submissions are assessable in the same way as physical portfolios were, the same decisions are made.

Simon: I’m talking about medicine here. When Ian first showed me that set of slides of those portfolios I thought those were exit rather than entry portfolios. That standard is amazing.

I am talking about medicine here and we are governed by the General Medical Council. They convey their requirements in this document called the “Tomorrow’s Doctors”. I came to this through my running of the “student choice” element of the programme. Students have genuine choice over about 20% as long as it covers skills in the right way. Post graduate students already have a long history of a log book, a portfolio of their work and practice that runs alongside this.

So, the GMC gives us a set of learning objectives. And we have tightly mapped our curriculum into what the GMC requires. We have themes running through the curriculum… And we need to tie themes together in competancy, thematic ways rather than switching all the time. So, how do you do this? Well we did this with eportfolios. This is currently on bespoke VLE system (EEMC). So, what goes in? Well students do case reports on specialist tasks and activities. They do a range of projects and one of the characteristics of Edinburgh is that we use our research rich environment as part of teaching medicine – the students work on research projects, seeking new information, generating their own data sets, etc.

We are also getting students to reflect on their learning, and that is critical. How good are we at doing this? Well we are getting there but there is probably more we could do. And there is that maxim of “see one, do one, teach one” and whilst we’d like to think there are more gaps than that, we do have senior students and members of staff teaching junior colleagues.

There are some other elements to the portfolio – and this is where we are changing things as we move from EEMC to something open source, probably PebblePad. But the parallel strand here is the professional development portfolio – CV, reflection, etc.  If we look at our portfolio here, it looks a lot like Learn (though it is a precursor) but it lists competencies, evidence, etc.

So to give an example here is the SSC2 Group Projects are projects which generate portfolio items they use WordPress, and they are open to potential applicants etc. And the material produced here are absolutely brilliant. They look at novel areas of medicine, they take real ownership, and working with a not very senior colleague they create really excellent materials.

These portfolios capture competencies, they prepare students for professional life after studying, they allow us to assess reflective skills.

Now, as Ian and I put this presentation together, from our two disciplines which seem poles apart… We see that we actually share so much…

Ian: Based on Koh’s model, visualising stimulus, input, action… as a cycle of Action, Creation, Selection, Reflection and all aspects feeding into the eportfolio. That is a shared pedagogy between our subjects. The format of the lecture leaves us unable to understand what the student is learning, what they understand, what is going in… Fundamentally it is the understanding and reflection area where students can find themselves frustrated, wanting better feedback, etc.

ePortfolios have huge potential here but, for a while, our colleagues in England were required to do this. Student didn’t take to them but that is perhaps because they did not understand the benefits of them. When our students move onwards their degree might get them an interview but employers are really looking for everything else, all that stuff that would be in that portfolio. That is what will count for them. And what is really important in the eportfolio is that we really have to properly value each students portfolio and recognise it formally, as well as thinking about how they take that forward, how they make onward use of these portfolios they have spent so much time creating.

Designing for Open- Open Educational Resources and new media for learning – Melissa Highton Director, Learning Teaching and Web Services, IS.

One of the things we have to ensure we do at this institution is to close the feedback loop. And I’m very pleased that I’m able to do some of that. Last year we had a passionate plea from Alex at EUSA about opening up the institution so I’m going to report back on that…

When Alex told us we should be more open as an institution, he said there was an opportunity to open up all learning materials as an ethical issue, as a sustainability issue. The University set up a task group, the OER Short-Life Task Group to explore ways to take forward an OER strategy for the University and to report findings and recommendations to Learning and Teaching Committee. Open Educational Resources are about opening up resources, making them discoverable, reusable, etc. So, we had a very good think about an OER vision for the University of Edinburgh and we proposed three strands that extend the strengths of the university.

Since 2007 a number of institutions have signed up to the Capetown Open Education Declaration (2007) around philanthropy and practice in education. About sharing large collections of rich resources, shared to parts of the world where there are perhaps less. But there is also the issue of how one adopts, adapts, tweaks that material is also important. Often that can be a barrier, unless we understand how we can tweak that material. Or you can find a black market in reuse, where we reuse but try to hide our reuse of others materials…

There are also some pretty strong opinions about publicly funded institutions not sharing materials they have been funded to create, seeing this as a moral issue. But there is also a reciprocity issue – if you take from the internet, you should also give back. But one of the problems of the word “open” is that it has many different meanings… Some thing online is open, some think open is not open until there are no restrictions. But there is a website for this, opendefinition.org, provides a helpful definition:

“Open data and content can be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone for any purpose”

And that is particularly helpful as it moves away from thinking about open educational resources, towards thinking of our resources in the context of open content more broadly, and to the wider understanding of openness.

For us to share openly we also have to understand what we mean by open. We also need our colleagues, our students, etc. to understand what we mean by open as well… To understand the implications of openness, licensing, sharing and use of online materials – whether those you have found or those that you publish. And this is very much aligned with the University’s mission as a global institution engaging globally.

Creative Commons licensed work are increasing, and these licenses are very relevant to how we use and create and share materials. These licenses were invented within the academy – law faculties from the US and UK looking for new ways to license content for the web. These have been available since 2001, and more varieties since 2007. And these licenses come in different formats – lawyer readable, user readable, but also machine readable. And you can share content with that license attached, which is hugely useful.

Some countries have made legislative commitments to open education, including Scotland and the UK (separate countries in this list, probably because of the varying legal systems). And looking at where these CC-licensed works are published the majority are from North America, any from Europe… So for example we wanted to create some new learning materials on the LGBT experience and looked at how that might be developed, but as we calculated the potential time and cost of that.. and then we found OER resources from a North American university that could be easily adapted at a fraction of the cost and the time. That’s hugely useful for us, and for diversifying our teaching for that course where we felt we had this gap to address.

Open.Ed is a website, a vision, and a strategy with three strands… “for the common good” – teaching and learning materials; “Edinburgh at its best” – showing what we do best; and “Edinburgh’s treasures” – making a significant number of our unique learning materials available.

In terms of managing assets the licensing on materials make it possible to do this stuff. The license to adapt and change allows us internally to adapt and change materials, to store and keep and move and share and reuse. Without those types of licenses we risk great unsustainability. And Edinburgh has a great tradition of sharing – think of the common stair. So the license lets us keep material clear, available, clean, sharable, etc.

Lunch (where there’ll be some posters to explore) then Labs/practicals chaired by Marshall Dozier (this is where I may be at meetings and you may wish to switch to watching #elearninged) including:

 “Designing teaching spaces for the 21st century learner: The story of the nostalgic Dad and the horrified Son” – Victoria Dishon (School of Engineering), Stephen Dishon (IS Learning Spaces Technology)

DYNAMED: Student Led Development of a Dynamic Media Library for the R(D)SVS – Brian Mather and Rob Ward – (CMVM)

Experience with Cogbooks pilot on personalised learning. – Eduardo Serafin (Geosciences) and Mark Wetton (IS)

Offshoots and Outputs session chaired by Marshall Dozier:

CMC Vellore India partnership – online MSc in Family Medicine – Liz Grant (CMVM) and Jo Spiller (IS)

Digital tools for lighting education” – Ola Uduku and Gillian Treacy, (ECA)

Research, Teaching and Learning” – Michael Begg (IS)

 And I’m back… just in time for most of Sue Rigby’s talk… 

“Developing the Vision for 21st century learning” – Prof. Sue Rigby, VP Learning and Teaching

We have come up with a six point vision for where we want to go with learning and teaching. This has gone to every academic department, and to every support unit, within the university which we are bringing together our bottom up vision for learning and teaching. And I am going to talk about some of the ways that technology that will enable us to do… But this is about technology as enabler in learning and teaching, not just about use of technology.

1. A portfolio approach for an unpredictable future – making the most of the Scottish degree

That longevity of degrees can be a real benefit of our degrees – longer exposure for our students that benefits potential employers, novel approaches… But we want that portfolio of content to also reflect much more dynamic approaches to learning, a portfolio if learning styles.

2. Giving students agency to create their own learning – students at the centre, not degree programmes

This is about giving students the space physically and digitally to follow their own journeys, to craft their own narrative… They may do the same degree but have very different experiences… Every students experience are different but there are commonalities that matter here of skills, or experience. Things like the Wikipedia Editathon in ILW is about learning what makes a good Wikipedia entry, what warrants inclusions…

You also see things like one of our undergraduates working with the Girl Guides to explain physics and meterology to teenagers with common materials – and that reached many girl guides.

3. Extend learning beyond the traditional knowledge-centred course – e.g. international experiene, service learning, self-defined projects, entrepreneurship

As a scientist you can have a clear idea of the core of your skills and experience. By extending knowledge as undermining that centre, but as adding to that corona… So a colloquial example – chemistry students go on placement as students, but come back as chemists, actually doing their subject. And often that sort of experience isn’t in our course descriptions, and it matters that that is captured.

We also see students from civil engineering working on the rails – so they understand the work before supervising others. We have students giving TEDx talks – those presentation skills are hugely valuable.

And we can open up opportunities online, and our community online. And encourage and recognise that our students can be creative – students are sometimes more daring online than in our physical university spaces.

4. Every student a researcher or practitioner – joined at the hip to a research group from year 1, offered a higher degree place on attainment of a good degree

If we don’t do that, why should our students come here rather than to a teaching led institution? We need our research to be central to the learning and teaching practice…

So here we have a box of shells… Our student found a collection of old shells to exemplify evolution and the work of Charles Darwin… This was first class work but

5. Course design for 21st century learners – appropriate use of technology and student centred learning

Cue a plug for Fiona Hale’s Learning Design Project, which will clarify the requirements, both for IS and University partners, for learning spaces and technologies.

An example to share here – the Vet students are contributing to a virtual anatomy museum… you can help to break the boundaries of the university, and of what we share, and

6. Focus on multiple learning styles and learning for life – at least one online course taken by all students, explicit reflection on learning style and capacity

And that’s starting with Dave’s sustainability module, and an online big data module. And there will be more. But we also have our MOOCs… and we can start about aggregating MOOCs into our existing courses, by using them as learning objects, or to be used in credit bearing units.

So, I wanted to give you a context… What I would suggest is that we have to experiment for a while. When we find things that work, we have to bring them into the mainstream. We’ve been good at experimenting. I think we can be even quicker and even bolder, but also bring this into the mainstream!


Q1) Do you really think that large scale face to face teaching is entirely dead in the future?

A1) No, but we should aim for it. And we can keep them when this is the best possible pedagogical model… At the moment it works the other way around…

Q1) How would you host an event like this without these big spaces?

A1) But all of us have started to give presentations at conferences that I am not attending – virtual presentations. If there is a sliding scale we are stuck at the lecture end… I’m saying push the other way… and then find the right place – probably in the middle… Flipped classrooms worth well

Q2) Student views on this?

A2) We had schools ask students. And also workshops through EUSA… If you give students questions, they want what they have… Often predicated on response of their schools… So more conservative schools create more conservative students… But if you preface questions with ideas and alternatives, students do present new ideas, they are interested in new approaches.

Q3) Our students come from very different backgrounds. Some will be really used to having some agency…

A3) We have a somewhat damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation… Some come in from high tech environments and our teaching looks comparatively old fashioned. Others come from very strict, hierachichal, traditional places and we have to move students along from that. So we have to scaffold students in induction, in programme design… Really careful induction I think. BUt at the moment we are already moving towards a place where our early years education at the University is probably more conservative than what our incoming students are used to from school…

Q4) We’ve talked about community a lot today. We have to understand the importance of a large lecture, networking, serendipitous meetings of people… And we have to understand how best we utilise and capture that.

A4) I agree with that… But we have to understand that as part of the purpose of the lecture. Student halls used to be about housing, with accidental communities. Over the last few years Pollock Halls have actively supported and encouraged the building of community… So if we want a lecture for that purpose, lets say it as that and that we use the time in that way… And make sure that that is what happens in those spaces.

Conference closing – Wilma Alexander, Convenor, eLearning@ed Forum

I just want to say some huge thank yous to all my colleagues on the elearning@ed committee… And I’d like to thank you all for coming and to all our speakers for there fantastic contributions to the day. And we now have time for you to meet each other, to explore the posters further, ask questions, etc.

And with that, I’m done blogging for the day. Remember that you can catch tweets from the sessions I couldn’t make on the hashtag from today, #elearninged. 

Mar 102015

Today I am live from Birmingham again for Jisc Digifest 2015. Again, do keep an eye on those tweets though – all sessions will be covered on the #digifest15 hashtag. There is also some live streaming here. For those attending the event you can find me presenting in the following slot today (Hall 3):

My first session of the day is in one in the pods…

Transnational education: conversations for success – Dr Esther Wilkinson, Jisc TNE

Transnational education (TNE) is the provision of education qualifications from institutions in one country to students in another, plays an essential role in the delivery of international strategy in UK educational institutions.

There is huge interest within the sector on transnational education, and the policy around that. And here’s why. According to 2011/12 data transnational education was one of the UK’s major exports. The UK TNE Census 2014 (for HE) found the value to the UK economy at around £496m per annum. Average annual remittance per student of around £1530. We see relative stability in TNE host countries – many are around asia and the middle east. Subjects vary greatly but a real increase in engineering and STEM subjects. And TNE is growing.

So, it is growing… but what are the benefits? Traditionally TNE has grown up around partnerships at universities and relationships between universities, but we see it becoming increasingly strategically planned. Different institutions have different motivations for engaging. There are financial benefits but that’s not the motivation for many institutions. The cost of living in the UK is increasing, and visa clampdowns mean that delivery overseas increasingly makes sense. And there is a Taylor effect – when a UK presence in another country, a significant draw back to that country after graduation – estimated to be around £40m per year. The student also benefits as well. And all of these drivers are part of why Jisc has kicked off this work stream.

When we look at the UK providers of TNE (2011-12) we have to note that Oxford Brookes is so active in this space that they wholly skew the picture. But missing from that list is Nottingham… So, on that note, it’s over to Lisa Burrow, Director of global IT service delivery, University of Nottingham.

Lisa: Nottingham have had two campuses overseas for 10 years now, in China and Malaysia. We’ve been developing our 2020 strategy. Our vision within IS is for the majority of IT services to be available globally and provided on a global basis by one central team – that’s actually quite a challenge  for China in particular. So I have a team in Nottingham, and smaller connected teams in China and Malaysia. I have a team manager based with me dedicated to those campuses – we also have a business manager who is also dedicated to those campuses so both of those people spend around 2/3rds of their time at those campuses.

So, where does Jisc come in? Our current infrastructure in China and Malaysia was installed 10 years ago, but it is starting to show it’s age, especially with students coming in with all of their devices. So Jisc are supporting us to continuously improve, particularly to address issues of traffic. How do we meet those needs on an ongoing basis. So one area is Network Links – we currently use very expensive commercial links, and we are trialling possibilities from Jisc that are looking really promising, also CERNET and VPN. The other area is licensing. There are lots of opportunities for improvement there. And lots of challenges too. For instance in Malaysia a 10% charge is imposed by the government on some purchases. Lots of import and export issues. Some things are wholly banned in China. And we struggle on an ongoing basis with Google/Google Apps and some other services because of the “Great Firewall”. And there are also challenges around reseller rights. So I have been trying to negotiate a Microsoft licence, we have a global contract but the Chinese end has to be invoiced and paid in China, in yen. That is not acceptable to me, I want one global invoice, sent to Nottingham and paid there. Also reseller rights are often sold to different people, we had one provider say that unless we had a minimum spend of £1 million they wouldn’t even talk to us.

So, in summary, we think there is huge potential for working with Jisc, and we are really looking forward to that.

Esther: This is where Jisc comes in. A recent quote from Martin Hall, Jisc Chair, highlights this focus on transnational education. This area of work is not without challenges, some of which Lisa has already spoken about. Hidden costs can be a real issue in TNE. And the focus has too often been on curriculum design, academic quality, but not how we actually deliver. So when we want to deliver online courses, deliver seminars, then we start to see issues. And when things go wrong students are starting to be disappointed. We sell ourselves, the UK education sector, heavily overseas and so that student dissatisfaction can have a really problematic effect.

We have set up our Jisc TNE support strategy, to explore different models of delivery overseas, to support you in the spectrum of those services. Ideally we want to deliver you whatever we do in the UK, for use overseas. We know that may be too ambitious, but we want to aim at that… We are focusing on delivering the JANET network and connectivity overseas, that’s fundamental to getting everything else right. And we are focusing on China and Malaysia – where there is a prevalence of TNE activity.

We commissioned OBHE to run a series of research for us with UK HE providers. They ran focus groups in Scotland, Manchester and London. We ran a survey in July 2014 (38% response rate -84 universities). We did something interesting in commissioning this research. We did focus on IT staff but we also asked the international offices at institutions as well. So, we asked both types of staff what they are currently doing at the moment. A large number provising online, blended or MOOCs, many working in partnership, around 10% had overseas branch campuses. Growth likely to be online, joint working etc, likely 10% growth around branch campuses. We asked IT directors who works on the IT for overseas branches, many did not.

So, there is planned expansion fo TNE activities in the next 5 years. Branch campuses remain a minority, online/blended growing and a desire to shift to real time teaching delivery. Locations include Australia, Botswana, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia… etc. Network use was around email, browsing, access to library, registration systems and online courses hosted in the UK. And network issues encountered including poor network performance, protection of copyright data and intellectual property, integration fo IT with partner institutions. A couple of key areas for attention: a real lack of communication between IT and international offices – and we are already helping bring these groups together; and understanding what actually is happening at the branch campuses.

A lot of IT staff don’t know who is responsible at the other end of TNE at their institution, they don’t know who to go to when things go wrong. So we have models in China and Malaysia and our preference is to work with local partners. So, in China we have a strategic alliance with CERET, the Chinese Higher Education network, utilising the high-speed London-Beijing ORIENTplus connection. That gives increased bandwidth to international traffic at no additional cost.

In Malaysia this isn’t the case. They don’t have a good network so we have had to procure a commercial solution, from Telecom Malaysia. And we had three institutions approach us for assistance here – Newcastle, Southampton and Reading. This is for a local MAN established in EduCity – which is a co-located campus. But that relationship with the commercial ISP has also enabled us to negotiate a large discount for the new Heriot-Watt campus in Malaysia.

And a third example here: to provide a multi site service for University of Nottingham – to link up campuses but also deliver Eduroa and services such as telephony and video conferences. And this is a collaborative project with CERNET.

So, we are gathering evidence from the sector on what they want us to do next. We are working with Queen Mary, University of London; Heriot-Watt, Aberdeen etc. already. So far the experience has been very positive. And there are new opportunities coming. We have looked at British Council, HMG Industrial Strategy, and BIS value of TNE reports to look for concentrated areas of interest and opportunities. And we also looked to the survey responses, many already covered in that list. And together that generated out policy list, whic is:

  • South Korea
  • Mauritius – over 10 UK campuses there
  • Malta – Malta very keen to work with us.
  • Sri Lanka – aggregate of demand, there is an NREN there but their policy is to not engage beyond Sri Lanka and their HE sector
  • Pakistan
  • United Arab Emirates adn Middle East – many in Dubai, but Oman also growing
  • India – universities poised here, but policy issues at the moment
  • Africa – definitely the next big area. Difficult to connect. But the nature of TNEs is that you are not targetting well developed/connected areas
  • Hong Kong – still much to do
  • Singapore – still much to do

We are focusing on network, eduroam, video conferencing, security, cloud and data stroage. But licensing is also moving up the priority list and we are working with others in Jisc on that. And we are also working with some schools and private education providers in some of these areas, so it’s beyond HE. And we really need to be understanding these new methods and models for delivery. We also are looking at how to support for evaluation and assessment – some still paper based for TNE. And student experience also needs some work, many opportunities there. So, there is lots to do.

As we do these projects and look at new opportunities we are beginning to understand the Jisc TNE Support Programme value proposition. That is about Cost, Risk, Quality, Time. And services such as Global TNE policy development, in-country knowledge, etc.

So, we are only just beginning to understand how TNE will develop… It is critical we understand what you are currently doing so we can understand issues, things we can assist with, opportunities for the future. We have a sense of what TNE looks like now, but it’s about where TNE goes in the future…

Within your institution you need to know your own institutional international/TNE strategy; ensure IT support for TNE is fully considered and costed into the plans at the earliest opportunity.

Find out more at: http://jisc.ac.uk/rd/projects/transnational-education. And we are planning some workshops to help have those conversations across the sector.

Q: How does what you are doing compare to developed European countries?

A – Esther: On the whole there are good relationships with the rest of Europe. Some of our time is actually paid for by JALT. The TNE activities well developed in that space. But more competition coming up from the US and Australia, and that is why it matters that we do stuff well, to keep our competitive edge.

Keynote speech – Carole Goble

Before we begin our keynote session proper we are being treated to a video on the Janet network. And I’m now proud to introduce you to someone who has benefitted from and would not be able to do her work without the Janet network. Carol has been advocating releasing research as research objects, not just for scientists and researchers but for anyone inteterested in research and knowledge.

Carol: I was inspired by a colleague, Josh Summers, who has a nasty disease called Chordoma and he was motivated not to further to research, but to speed up research so that fewer people died. He said the research is too slow, the reuse of information was not easy enough to do. I think that it is useful to remember why we do science, why we do research.

So, how do we share knowledge at the moment? We share PDFs, and link to other PDFs. Other times we share data through tables and graphs that we have to pull out of a PDF… I have a colleague who built a tool to extract that – make data reusable again. But why do we do this? Well, it’s about virtual witnessing (Mesirov 2010), to announce results, and to be able to repeat the experiment… But in Bramhall et al (2015) you find only one of 58 papers looking at colitis research gave enough information for the research to be repeatable. Why? Well look at #overlyhonestmethods and you’ll see the sorts of issues that can arise…

I am a computational scientists and an article about computational science is a about datasets, collections, standard operating procedures, software, etc. That’s a lot of stuff if we truly wanting our research to be repeatable. Of 50 papers randomly chosen from 378 manuscripts in 2011 looking at the same process (Burrows Wheeler Aligner for mapping Illumina reads) – only 7 listed neccassary details; 26 no access to primary datasets but actually the methodology is the real issue. Even if you don’t share the data, sharing the method is essential. Bad software = bad results. Geoffrey Chang should be applauded for coming clean about an error in his homemade software – he retracted 3 papers, one of which had nearly 400 citations.

So, how are our software making practices… As a general rule researchers are not good at documenting what they do. Only 34% of scientists think that formal training in developing software is important. Something is a bit wrong here about how we are doing this. We have initiatives like Data Fairport, FAIR (Finadable Accessible Interoperable Reusable) publishing – which the EU is very keen on,. There are catalogues of code. There are manifestos on computational method. To summarise: record and automate everything!

All this activity has led to a soft of bottom up “republic of science” (Merton 1942), the regulation of science (OECD, EU, Research Councils, EPSRC data mandate etc) and in the middle all of this institution cores, libraries and public services. So, why do we end up with this situation on reusability in science? Well there is honest error. Because science is messy (like climate gate). Because of fraud – a real issue in biomedicine, a significant number of biomedical papers which are fraudulent. And there are inherant issues – there is one LHC, there is one super powerful computer and it would be excessive to replicate.

Research goes wrong because of scientific method – bad resources, black boxes, poor reporting, unavailable resources, bad training. With that some more #overlyhonestmethods quotes here, e.g. “I can’t reproduce my data as I can’t remember my exel filenames any more!”.

There is also an issue of reproducability debt. The time it takes to prepare something so that someone you don’t know can actually reproduce that research…. Maybe easy to prepare for others in your lab, but for a stranger that’s hard. And no one sees the value in taking the time to do that, the benefit of doing that. And there is a lot of work to make reproducable… but there is no motivation for replication studies, no one is excited about it in terms of funding or publications… And we have a complex, fragmented landscape of subject specific and general resources.

So I’m going to look at some specific things around reproducability…

The Journal of Biogeography and the migration patterns of crabs in the Baltic. To do this you need a workflow… need reference data, own data, need to clean and process the data… modelling, running again, tweaking, running again etc. and then data analysis. So here is the myexperiment data to support that – workflows and connected programmes to capture that data, that process, those tweaks. And that points to other third party systems, data in other repositories… a complicated environment…

So, to research objects… That is a research object.. compound investigations, research products.

These objects are units of exchange, commons, contextual metadata. They are multi various products, platforms/resources. So we see this all as a research object (see: http://www.researchobject.org).  And when you have the publications, data, results, workflows, slides, metadata, logs… then you have a first class citizen, an object including data, software, methods, id, manage, credit, track, profile, focus. So it’s a big box full os stuff, connected to stuff… Like a TARDIS… lets call it Time and Relative Dimensions in Scholarship. In honour of the tradis I’m going to use a tardis as my framework for enabling this stuff… [see the slides, I can’t do it justice!].

So we are working on an MRC funded multi site collaboration to support safe use of patient and research data for medical research. And looking at research object packages codes, study, and metadata to exchnage description of research data. And that is work with the Farr institute.

We also need to share code. There has been a big push around this from Mozilla Science Lab, F1000 Research – seeing research as versioned but living documents, so the figure changes as you access it. You can register with other labs to contribute, then re-calculate to get new versions of the paper, or the conclusions… That is a research paper as object. We should not be thinking of research as publications, but as something we release – just like software… With comparisons, versions, forks and merges, dependencies… ID and citations. And we can do that across research.

To go back again to research object work that I’m doing at Manchester… here’s a paper on parasites, and it’s associated model… And this is associated with a SEEK FAIRDOM site – asset registry, models and data can be loaded… So this one paper has 2 studies, 21 assays, 14 data files… and the DOI is to all of that, not just to the paper. So this brings together standards, personal data in local stores, models, external databases, articles. SEEK is a way to look across all of these. And this idea of FAIRDOM is an aggregated commons infrastrucutre provides enough to share experimental data across your colleagues. That is underpinned by the ISA model. This work is funded by the BBSRC… I have 7 FTEs on this project which I realise is better than many will have working in this space.

What is reproducabiity? What does it actually mean? The science changes…. If I run data through the same workflow again but the data has changed slightly, for instance, I won’t get the same results – and shouldn’t. And these instruments (whether equipment, machines, software) break, labs decay…. We see bit rot, black boxes, propietary licenses, “clown” services – a way to think with caution about “cloud”, partial replication, prepare to repair – we did some research with myexperiment and found labs are dependent on their instruments, their materials… So we have to think at the start of the experiment what the equipment and setup is.

So, we know in the research world we have a research environment and a publication environment… But we now know we have a range of options here… rerun – variations on experiment and set up; repeat – cam experiment, same set up, same lab; replicate – same experiment, same set up, independent lab ;reproduce – variations on experiment… ;reuse. No scientist wants to full reproduce after publication though, they just want to reuse. And that brings us to FAIR ideas, to the need to be transparant. And in software that means standards, packages, provenance, version control. And we can make use of an eLab, a virtual machine… A way to run/replicate what has happened but not to replicate it. With a complex workflow you are trying to put the internet in a box… ! So, we have a range from portability to transparency…

At Manchester we’ve been doing quite an academic thing… thinking about what the least possible we can do… Some of my own papers are not REF returnable are not “hard computer science” and because “you’ve written so that the people you have written it for can read and use it”! So, anyway, we are trying to use existing tools and standards. Can we use Zip as transport, Docker as packaging tool. That description and manifest has to be configured from the least you can describe…. it’s identity is the least you can describe – so how you cite it matters. We need objects to be born reproducable, and we need to have smart/pragmatic ideas of reproducability.

And with that, I’m afraid, I have to sneak off to prep my own 11am session. Watch the tweets for the rest of Carol’s excellent talk. And then I was in my session, then lunch… now back… 

Get involved in co-design

So I’m just goung to talk a bit about what co-design is… We have an innovation pipeline – it looks a bit like a caterpillar… But this is about co-design as part of the process of developing new projects and services. There are two underpinning process… the process by which we move things along (the product management process), and how ideas get into the pipeline – and those ideas may come in at any point in that pipeline. And that second process is via something we call co-design. We want people who will end up using what we develop is involved from idea through to delivery of service. We’ve now done that for two years, now working on ideas that came out of the 2014 co-design process.

There are some principles here. Our effort has to be focused – we have limitless areas that we might want to develop or work on but limited resources to do that. So we have to focus and prioritise. The next thing is partnership, and working in partnership with Jisc customers to ensure there is no deep divergence in what they need and what we deliver. That partnership can also be about relationships with other organisations, delivery partners etc. The next thing is absolutely being user-centred – we have to have end users in mind throughout… Can be tricky, e.g. for middleware… But it should be the number one priority for all of our processes. We still have to take risks and be experimental in one way or another… But we need a balance of risk in our portfolio – interesting things, innovation… but a balance that everyone benefits from. The desire to be agile, to be responsive and change as needs change, technologies change, opportunities change… things can change during that pipeline process…

The way we do co-design at the moment – and we do plan to make some changes based on the feedback from the Jisc community so from 2016 onwards will be different, particularly with the new account managers in place. But how it has worked at the moment is to start with a prioritisation meeting with high level representatives (UCISA, Colleges, NUS, etc.), that generates key areas – about 5 – and then we contact and engage with a much bigger group to look at possible ways to address those challenges. And then we prioritise again, deciding which ideas to pursue.

We then reach the stage of developing the ideas into new services through regular iterations with end users. So for the 2014 co-design process we’ll be in this phase until 2016 by which time all 5 areas should have delivered.

Thinking ahead to 2016 we do want to expand who we engage with, ensure it is wider without slowing down the process. We also haven’t had many radical innovations coming forward, and hope to support that to happen.

So there are five co-design challenges for (2014-16).

Research at risk – lead by Rachel Bruce

Essentially this is about research data management. This is turning research data management from a problem, into business as usual. This is really across two categories: shared services – since many universities addressing this issue so space to address with shared platforms and approaches for instance around storage, measuring usage of shared data, also research data discovery – how do you find research data? Papers are relatively easy, but how do you find data? Looking at share service for that; the other side of things is policy, compliance… and ways to ensure compliance or roadmaps to reach compliance. We also have a project called “Research Data Spring” – going direct to researchers for ideas. Started with 70 ideas, now refined down to 22… researchers are melding and merging their ideas as well.

How do you get involved? Mainly this will be later on. Early adopters of shared services, early users and provide ideas and steering of those. All of those are

Prospect to Alumnus – lead by Simon Whittemore

Andy McGregor: This is about a more joined up student experience from prospect through studies and into alumni. We will deliver short, medium and long term solutions here. So for instance thinking about data flow across institutional systems, pathways and use case of how students interact with the data stored around tham will happen shortly. We are also looking at student profiles, and the changing nature of students, so we’d like your help with that. Into the medium term we are looking to build an employer/student skills match system, looking at formal and informal skills, use of badges etc. And our longer term solution would be a digital data service, stuff that they own and can take with them from one institution to another.

So, in terms of getting involved, probably best to email Simon or myself.

Learning Analytics – lead by Paul Bailey

Paul: Looking at challenges of implementing learning analytics in higher and further education. We asked for ideas and prioritisation of ideas. The three areas desired was: some sort of basic learning analytics solution; policy and ethics – a code of practice – of learning analytics; a cookbook of case studies, what people are doing, the algorithms and approaches in use.

How can you get involved: currently in procurement process for learning analytics solution. Hope to have in place by May, ready for trialling in September.. And then we’ll be looking for pilot participants, and an idea of required strategy, policy, etc. to bring these tools into use. Also looking at an intervention tool for the outcome of the analytics. Also a student-facing app for presenting learning analytics. And we’ll be working with staff and students to work on that over the next year. The code of practice has been drafted, it’s out for comment… And the network – we have a growing active network of people involved and engaged with learning analytics (analytics@jiscmail.ac.uk). We have face to face meetings – community led, community based network meetings. We also have some small micro funded projects for exploring more advanced research around learning analytics – wider data sets than we may have in our basic solution.

Andy: For learning analytics the problem was well defined so we have been able to move more quickly.

Paul: See out blog on analytics.jiscinvolve.org. And reports there.

Digital Capabilities – lead by Sarah Davies

This is about staff skills and capabilities. This is essential to the student experience. But it is also, from an IT Director perspective, about getting best value from investment in technology. This builds upon previous work on digital literacy. We think we can move to a better set of resources, and set of approaches but there is lots of work to build upon. And we think we can build up a capabilities framework, to understand what is needed now, and what there may be. This framework will combine other frameworks already available and form a foundation for the tools we are developing. This work is well underway – see the Get Involved page on the Jisc R&D website. There are more opportunities coming up soon. We will have something by the end of 2015 – will be prototypes to see/engage with much sooner than this.

Implementing FELTAG – lead by Nigel Ecclesfield

Paul: This has come about in part in response to the FELTAG report about improving use of learning technology in FE and Skills. We’ve been through a consultation process with leaders in the sector, and we are helping to co-ordinate what goes on in the sector. So what’s coming out of that is an FE coalition with appropriate FE provider groups. They have put together a joint statement of their commitment to work on this agenda – a bit like a government steering group. It’s partly Jisc, partly that bigger coalition. The role of the FE Coalition is broader than England, and broader than FELTAG. We have the Scottish Funding Council involved and expect NI and Wales to be involved.

There are also activities around student engagement, change agency of students, and we we have four challenges coming up around change management. Two of those four are about FE and skills organisations and learner. One is for apprentices. The other things we are working on will looking at leadership and development, at curriculum design and development and content creation. Particularly discovery of that material. A lot looking at what is being called the FE discovery community – to pull together and share learning resources, and processes. A network to engage FE practitioners around what works in learning technologies. Currently discussing the specifications here.

A lot of this has been carried forward by collating activities across the sector, including other organisations already involved.

Andy: Of course this is still taking shape, so opportunities will be coming up as they progress. And do keep an eye on the Get Involved page of the Jisc R&D website.

So what we’d like to do now is to have a bit of discussion here around co-design… and any questions you may have…

Q1: Prospect to Alumnus work – has any account been taken of existing work around student identities etc.

Shri: Not a replacement. But we know many FE colleges looking at employability have their own systems in place…

Comment: There are lots of different things taking place, we are keen to understand that, develop an easily replicable approach and method to monitor that.

Shri: Things like how do we fit placements get represented, is that badged, etc.

Comment: This also responds to increasing localisation agenda…

Q1: At the moment you lose data from schools, again at the end when students moved to university… There is a lack of consistency in what is being recorded and how that has been recorded.

Shri: In co-design we are starting small and focused, but can then reflect and get feedback and expand into a more complex system…

Andy: We could start big and never quite get there, could work on edges… but we are trying to hit balance of what is needed right now, what’s practical, but also the imaginative work about where this could go – probably more to do in that second area, more thinking to do.

Paul: It’s a big one that. Had a go at it before.

Q1: I think it’s silly we apply the ULN, they haven’t had it applied before but should have done. It’s really fragmented.

Paul: In next few years use of ULN in universities should move from about 30% to about 70%. That may be a driver. For HE it’s about attainment, for FE & skills it’s much more about tracking that process, the learner pathway over time – that’s an interesting challenge. But that’s another stage of development. We are doing well with HE, fairly well with colleges, but more to do with skills providers.

Andy: Going back to learning analytics… An app for students to track process, is that a good idea?

Comment: Is there student demand?

Andy: We have some indications from the summer of student innovation that tracking own data is of interest…

Comment: But that may not be a representative group

Andy: Certainly the NUS are interested.

Paul: Those that have piloted student dashboards have found them useful. And the NUS are keen for greater transparancy. But cautiously in a productive way. Another issue is that students may be able to interact and respond to those analytics… maybe linking up their fitbit or something, linking to performance at university. At Research Data Spring there was a small project looking at that sort of activity, attainment and activity in the VLE – and if there is any correlation. But also to look at feedback and emotional response to that feedback.

Andy: And on that, we wrap up… Hopefully if another event next year, we can show off what we have achieved, as all of these areas will be delivering over the next year.

Find out more about this work here: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/rd/how-we-innovate

Improving buy-in for e-learning through a frictionless framework – Judy Bloxham and Allen Crawford Thomas

Judy: This is going to be a reflection on working with the FE community in particular… And that’s where this frictionless framework comes from… And this is about coping with a different sort of landscape, because we can’t stand still in the education world – external forces require us to change. Only last week we had an announcement of the changes in adult education funding – an 11% cut. For colleges that money is about 36% of their budget, so that’s a 24% cut to their budget overall. That money is being refocused on apprenticeships, and that will force other changes, such as college mergers. There is no way to stay static in that environment.

We are starting with a wee quiz/poll of the room… using Kahoot.it so we get dramatic music to pressure us into answers! Questions include organisational attitude to IT, IT support view of what they do. And how we feel after staff development session. And what we think of OERs and free technology.

There has been more pedagogic change in the last 10 years than the last 1000 years. There is so much we can do… the lecture needs to change… there is so much we can do…

“if you think eduation is expensive try ignorance” – Derek Bok. This applies as much to staff as to learners. If staff are not allowed to experiment, to try things out… That’s why the elearning agenda can stall. In big institutional reviews staff complained about the lack of time to learn things properly, to understand them properly. [now watching segment of David Putnam talk]. People want to hang on to things that they recognise, and that’s a dangerous place to be. We have so much of a push side for education… We will give you this knowledge… But now it needs to be a pull, learners need to take knowledge on, students need to understand how to find information when they need it. We can’t remember facts, information in our head… So learners need to find how to find information rather than hold a load of facts…

Technology has to be useful to actually make use of it, to feel ok learning how to use it (e.g. recent City & Guilds report). Quite often technology is about acquisition without vision. Some tools are not usable enough to use. Sometimes you have to acknowledge that what you have purchased may not be fit for purpose.

Larry Cuban has been quite critical about the use of technology in education, that there is a lack of relationship between the tools and technologies and the education and pedagogies themselves. And our use of technology in institutions are often behind what we do in other areas of our life, with our devices etc. Lovely quote in a recent report: “the quality of education can never exceed the quality of the teachers”.

There needs to be a clear vision for the role of technology including joined up thinking and co-ordinated action. The whole organisation needs to be involved in procurement and deployment, good support during roll out. And of course there has to be real relevance to your learners. Tech should absolutely be there to support learning not be seen as a “nice to have”. The FELTAG report also highlighted the importance of relevance, and training to uptake and you need senior managers have to buy in for things to actually happen.

So, what we need, is fast, friendly, and focused technology to make it frictionless. Is this stuff is easy to use your staff and learners will be able to and motivated to use it… So we get to this diagram of how everything needs to work together… With the organisation, staff and learners all working together…

Senior management want low cost and high quality solutions, they want easy adoption, improved retention and achievement, improved learner success, sustainable solutions, good practice that is easy to replicate – don’t underestimate how difficult that is to do, replication knowledge and skills can be really hard to pull off. IT Infrastructure require compatibility, security, low maintenance, to be partners in the planning of how technology is applied to support learning. [Various discussion here about restrictions around installation, processes, attitude, about the degree to which this issue has been raised again and again every year for probably 15 to 20 years, of the need to reward good practice professionally for good sensible innovation and for sharing that]. Teachers want easy to understand and use of technology, pedagogical relevance – how do they relate to their practice, technology to increase learner engagement, contextualised staff development.

And with that I’m going to sneak out for a coffee, as this is not quite the session I was expecting in terms of focus, hopefully others here will be tweeting highlights for the last 10 mins though. 

How do we change the learning landscape? – Lawrie Phipps,Will Allen and Peter Chatterton

For the last two years Jisc have been working with organisations, in a multi agency partnership with ALT, NUS, HEA, etc. looking at technology enhanced learning change. Having the NUS involved has been an incredibly important part of that.  Seven key things came through: strategy and leadership was key; students – institutions really engaging students in the change made the most difference; programme design and delivery; professional support services; staff capabilities and development; change management approaches – some really interesting findings around that and preparing for change; technology – change that people wanted, making it appropriate and relevant, looking for problems and looking for solutions which are not always going to be technological solutions.

Will: leaders recognise the importance of TEL as part of achieveing organisational goals. But terms such as “excellent learning experience” didn’t neccassarily mean anything practical at the chalk face. There is recognition of rapidly changing environment, mobile, BYOD. There was also an awareness that technology isn’t part of NSS scores.

Peter: What came back from students is the lack of consistency – that is their word that they are using. Part of the benefit of an HE education is that it is not consistent, you are exposed to different views etc… But when one teacher has real enthusiasm for technology, engages students, that can reset expectations only to have those expectations dashed on later courses. But another thing we see in HE – we are great at innovation, at pilots… but not at rolling out across the institution. And support staff are also tending to want to work with the innovators… and so universities aren’t good at spreading the knowledge that they have… I started working in TEL 15 years ago and a lot of these issues haven’t changed, we are not moving that far forward and therefore need to take a different approach to ensure what students want which is more consistent practices. We need to embed innovative learning across universities…

Students really like mobile access – I know one institution looking at a student centric mobile approach instead of a VLE for instance. And students like to see the benefits of technology, but not just the use of it for the sake of it. And students really still want face to face contact. econtact, efeedback has to be sold much more to students…

There are still lots of barriers for staff not using TEL – workload, capabilities, confidence for instance. We have to encourage senior staff to embrace TEL to make that happen.

Lawrie: In terms of change management we found a lot of institutions were really agile, really flexible about changes… But strategy needs to be contextualised, turning strategy aims into meaningful terminology for staff to use in their practice mattered. Some organisations were bringing in external/independent change managers. To talk through the process. And part of that is always about ensuring that the people who need to be engaged understand why it is happening, why it matters, what the impact is. Especially when you are talking about bringing digital literacies into the curriculum.

Peter: At the moment support staff are often from different backgrounds, I think we need to equip them with coaching skills, in order to skill them to coach academic leaders, deans, etc.

Q1: Isn’t there an opportunity here to persuade the professional skills organisations to properly recognise that teaching and those skills and those pedagogies are rewarded.

A1 – Lawrie: Many different organisations here, and great to aim at getting this all linked up, but that’s a long term/huge challenge.

A1 – Peter: There is a Change Agent Network and that has just launched some initiatives. But I think we also need to see academic practice linking up research and teaching – not seeing them as different things, but as sharing many of the same needs/qualities.

Q2: I have difficulty convincing academics that they are educators – eduation is almost what you get demoted to in the HE organisation I work in. So I have really been working in the area you are talking about for many years. Drivers vary so much in HE than in FE, where I worked before.

A2 – Lawrie: We do have to recognise the importance of teaching, and the status of teaching.

A2 – Peter: That is starting to happen and be recognised. But with so many modules and programme teams, how do you that? Training? Support teams? Or as part of processes such as course review. And it’s different in a modern institution, versus a traditional institution, versus an FE college.

A2 – Lawrie: But there is cross learning to be had here.

Q3: Do we need to have outside help? In my college I’m very keen to develop digital learning for my students but it is so hard to access time and money to do so. Understanding needs of educational staff is so important here…

A3: You don’t have to, but you can use them and they can help…

A3 – Peter: I would reinforce all you’ve said about educators. Educators absolutely want to do the best for their students. But don’t knock the role of outsiders – they can add legitimacy for senior managers. It’s a fact of life in my experience that senior managers listen to outsiders more than their own staff… So you have to work with those outsiders to ensure that they reinforce your position.

Q4: I think we also have to sing the praises of the local hero at departmental level. Recognising the roles of academic and support staff, recognising good practice, rewarding with extra time to support that. We have done this very successfully by introducing our VLE with local heroes/champions. You can be as top down as you like but unless there is local engagement your technologies will not be used.

A4 – Lawrie: There’s a balance to be had there. We have to reward local heros. And we need to find a way to bring commonality to case studies in terms of deploying in our own institutions.

A4 – Peter: And of course we have to influence senior staff, loosen those barriers – reward, recognition, word load…. these are hugely important.

Q4: Part of our project was also about engaging students as well. With academic and support staff. But enabled by senior management.

Q5: To sort of agree with Peter here, the role of managers is important. But isn’t one of the biggest problems with our organisations is that the organisation isn’t willing to put in place policies and practices to enable innovations to be sustained?

A5 – Peter: And why is that?

Q5: I think because we don’t have the processes in place to support that. Deans can query the VPs/VCs but ordinary teaching staff are unlikely to do that. We need to support the ability to change.

A5 – Peter: You need people – not the innovators but other types of people – who are better equipped to make that change happen. The innovators like to innovate!

Lawrie: The report we have written, “How do you change the learning landscape?” is now available from the Digifest site and app (and here). It’s just a starting point in this process of supporting change… We are also working on digital capabilities on the whole, and digital capabilities frameworks. These compliment and recognise these skills…

Jisc has also restructured recently, so we just want to talk about some of those changes and why they support this.

Will: One of the big advantages of CLL was that partnership working model. And there is a lot of overlap with Jisc’s new approach to projects and services. I am part of the Jisc Advice&Engagement arm, I lead Jisc North, but this is part of four areas that are part of our regional engagement model. There are all of these points of contacts for you to engage with, to work in partnership with you and provide support in a new customer service model.

Each customer has a dedicated account manager – every university, college, training provider. There are now 44 account managers to work with you. The parallels to CLL are important – this model reflects the way consultants worked in CLL. We have 25 subject specialists who support account managers. We have 7 community engagement officers, we have a customer contact manager. So, please do contact your account manager. If you don’t know who the Jisc contact point within your organisation, contact us and we may be able to help. And we will be giving that contact information about their services, how they are used, etc. as well as targeted support and advice. This is about focused attention, more opportunities to influence our priorities, more tangible and meaningful results and user stories, more evidence and data and a stronger relationship with Jisc.

And with that the short but informative hub session is done! I will be perusing the exhibition and other pod sessions but the liveblog will resume at 4pm for the closing keynote for the conference.

Keynote “Digital vs. Human” from Richard Watson

Robert Haymon-Collins, Executive director customer experience: We’ve had over 1000 people here over the last two days either here in person or engaged online. We also trended on Twitter yesterday – thanks to great live tweeting but also loads of retweeting of content, of useful materials. This was our first year playing with our own app. We’ve had nearly 600 active app users over the last few days. The only thing we have left to do is our closing keynote.

Richard is the author of many books on the future, he’s an advisor and speaker on future trends to companies including IBM, and libraries such as New South Wales.

Richard: This will either work, or it will not. It will be binary. So I want to start by asking “why are you here”. That’s not a theoretical question, I’m genuinely curious since you could take part at home. I think that says something about people, humans matter, showing that digital and humans can coexist. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that companies and corporations don’t neccassarily feel that way. I don’t want you to smash your ipad or ditch Facebook, just to raise your gaze from your compote of apples and blackberries to think about what is happening. These technologies are changing human behaviour. This year, or next, there will be more phones than people. 10% of 5 year olds have their own phone. By age 10 it is more like 75%. By the way calling your kids without warning quite shocls them! But then phone is pretty misleading – voice traffic is falling through the floor, we engage through screens not directly. Does it matter? Sometimes. Text is difficult for conveying tone – there are things that help but you can’t use body language there. Skype and telepresence technologies help a lot, and we lose stuff in that interaction. Research finds that being mediated in that way can mean we miss some of those clues. So good stuff is happening, communication is happening… but how much is being understood?

We are deluged with information, with updates, with tweets… Recent research found that we check our mobile phones over 150 times a day. We rush responses, we don’t read things through properly… I am as guilty  at this as anyone. A Microsoft researcher Lynda Small(?) called this a “constant partial attention”. I’m not saying we switch everything off… but when things really matter face to face really help. Digital technologies need to enhance human communication, not replace them. Increasingly we are distracted by notifications, alerts, etc. and we work in open plan offices that include loads of distractions… Some research found that workers were typically interrupted every 20 minutes, and it can take 40 minutes to remember what you have done. Another study suggested you lose 10 IQ points if you have two or more screens open!

And even text is becoming redundant, perhaps. We are beginning to speak to our computers. Siri is part of this. We will all in ten years have AI avatars, smarter than us. As recently as 2000 only 25% of the world’s internet was online. Now it is 98%. And it’s going up with the Internet of Things. Many things we’ve never quantified before will be turned into data, into money – usually for something else.

So will smart machines take over our jobs? Well we are familiar with this stuff in industrial contexts. There was a study from Oxford University academics predicting a huge loss of US and UK jobs as things more online, similarly Gartner found a likely 30% reduction in jobs. So if you do clear rule based work then you are at risk. So what is it that humans do, that robots and technology are bad at. I’d suggest the answer is in this room… There are a number of things that mark humans from machines… Humans are curious, they like to interact physically, and we are highly creative and care about people. So low level legal assistants might be at risk, lawyers great with people, less so. Surgeons maybe at risk, those able to engage and connect emotionally and intuitively should be safe.

One worrying trend is the use of mobile devices to filter friendship… We already have robots in kindergartens and care homes in Japan, in education in the US. What is interesting is how humans are finding human interactions stressful – people are avoiding people all together and using technology to distance themselves – you see this in avoidance of others in Tesco. In Japan men in their 20s, 30s or 40s seem to prefer relationships with virtual girlfriends thanks to games like that. Also they are seeing 16-30 year olds not interested in sex at all – some demographic issues there, but also cultural issues and digital cultural issues. Perhaps that is the virtual world being more tempting than reality.

I have school aged kids using screens in school. I have no beef with this. But I question the “why?”. The “why?” here seems to be about attention span. So, for instance, if you look at an episode of “Law & Order” now versus 10 years ago the editing and speed is so different. How can a book compare? Exams are still on paper, and handwriting and spelling matter… how does that fit in. And with these screens – well they are fantastic for finding and filtering stuff fast. But blindly following that without focus may risk the loss of focused reflective thought. How many people looking at Google go past page 1? It’s 1%. For some things – like finding a good Indian restaurant in Birmingham – that’s fine. But if you are searching for wisdom… well we are all looking at the same narrow set of information. Information only acquires meaning in context.

Now, I’m hugely encouraged that you are all here, and see value in being here… I really think that it is not Digital vs Human but actually Digital and Human. With digital complementing the human.

To finish I want to encourage (1) switching off; (2) understanding different communication technologies; (3) sleep.

So Switching off: I think we need to ritualise switching off our devices one day a week, for rest and recharge. If you can divide work and home devices, and then switch off the work device after 7pm that would be great. And you also have to physically switch your mind off from time to time. I read a book called Future Minds and during that reading process I wanted to ask people where they did their best thinking. I got about 1000 people – huge mix around the world. Out of them only 1 person said they did their best thinking at work. Quite shocking. And they were lying as they said “very early, or very late when no-one is around’. No one mentioned digital technology – was 2010 but it might still apply. And that wasn’t age specific. And to have a good idea, the first thing to do is to have space to have a good idea – have a walk, get in the shower… you need silence, stillness and slowness. All hugely underrated in the digital era…

The second suggestion is that we have to match the technology to the task. Paper and pixels are quite different. Screens are incredibly useful for connecting people, exchanging information and facts, for collaboration especially on tightly defined problems. Paper is good for complex arguments, spotting mistakes – copy editing etc, and for reflection. Work out what you are trying to do, what you want to solve.. and work out the best technology for the task. A pencil is a piece of technology remember, and an extraordinary one.

Finally I want to encourage you to get enough sleep. We can’t do without sleep – however much alpha males may brag about not needing it. Sleep is our library, our space to generate ideas. When we sleep our brains process the day’s information. And the brain takes recent information and stabilise them as memories… we actively filter information, linking ideas together to create new ideas. We can do that when we are awake. And much better when we are asleep. If we sleep less than 6 hours a night that memory stablisation is damaged or fails. It used to be that when we go to bed we slept. But not so much the case now… The information on the internet goes on forever… pressures of capitalism encourage us to work forever… that’s not our fault but how we’ve responded that’s a problem. Our bedrooms are now media centres… Recent research on Kindles and iPad is that the light of these in a darkened room changes our sleep patterns. Go back 100 years, to 1900, people generally slept 9 hours. The safe number is around 8 hours per night. Currently the average is more like 7 hours per night… and we should all sleep on that tonight.

Robert: I was taken by several things in your talk. Recently the easiest way to find my daughter – in the house – was to call her mobile! We have time for questions and observations…

Q: If I stopped doing all that, I feel I’d be the first in the room to do that… people will have the edge on me…

A: That’s the ultra capitalism point. That’s why people fear taking holidays… You have to manage expectations. When you first get a mobile you can manage stuff from the off… but when you change your use, that’s different. One thing companies do is to give employees two phones – and you switch off that work phone after 7pm. You keep your own one on but they can only use that number for true real emergencies. I lived in Australia for a while, when I came back there was a week where I could’t get email.

Q: Attention span – is it genuinely a new thing… I remember watching a 1930s screwball comedy with a group of students, and they really didn’t understand the pacing or editorial style of that – that’s an attention span change that goes far back…

A: There is a reduction in attention span – the dwell time on the Mona Lisa is currently 11 seconds apparently so those are real reductions… but that is not fixed. I’ve tried arthouse films on my kids and that is too slow… Titanic is slow too.. and that is fine. Quality matters. So good content can be compelling, there is so much dross out there… but good quality content is enough for people to genuinely give you their time.

Q: there’s a point there about being digitally switched off… for younger people to do drawing, painting, music, etc. where you genuinely have to take time out to focus…

A: One of the key things in the natural world is the feedback loop… You are already seeing the emergence of slow pursuits coming back… And often it’s our fault not their fault… I get home tired from work.. the kids are on screens… but if I say lets kick a football or go for a walk they are out of the door in a flash. Last year we went to the Isle of Wight and there were debates about taking ipads. They didn’t bring one… They sort of grieved and thought about where to find one… And then they sort of relaxed… as if they were seeking permission. Kids have to contend with the real and virtual world. And manage that. And the virtual one never stops. And if you get bullied that carries on… And they look to us for permission/restriction here. Those offline days or holidays they will scream and shout but they will cope with that. And we are somewhat self-regulating, we haven’t moved to fully being involved in ebooks rather than physical books, we get savvy.

And now it’s over to our Jisc Chief Executive for our close…

Martyn Harrow: We are still early into this digital world, so we have to continue to reflect and understand that.

I  want to conclude with thanks to all of our colleagues at the ICC, our sponsors and partners, our speakers and contributors, our international partners, our participants both here at the ICC and online.

Just a quick reflection… On Monday we set out to connect more to take this crucial digital agenda forward. And that seems to have happened. So, lets finish by seeing what we have been doing together over the last few days. [cue a video of the last two days].

And with that Digifest is over…. Thanks to all who have been reading my liveblog, who made it along to my own or my colleagues sessions, and who engaged and chatted in person or on Twitter over the last few days!

Mar 092015

Today and tomorrow I am in busy Birmingham for Jisc Digifest 2015. As I am speaking in two sessions this year I decided not to offer my tweeting services to the fabulous Jisc live coverage team, but I will be live blogging as the opportunity arises. Do keep an eye on those tweets though – all sessions will be covered on the #digifest15 hashtag. There is also some live streaming here. For those attending the event you can find me presenting in the following slots (both in Hall 3):

When not presenting I’ll be updating this blog with notes from keynotes and break out sessions. As usual this comes with the caveats that I welcome corrections and additions since this is genuinely live updating and that can mean occasional errors etc.

And we are off! Tim Kidd, Executive Director of Jisc Technologies is introducing us to the second Jisc Digifest: This year’s theme is “connect more” so please do, with each other, on Twitter, via the event app, etc. Now to formally open the proceedings I will hand over to Martyn Harrow.

Professor Martyn Harrow, Jisc Chief Executive

Welcome all, both in the room and online, to Jisc Digifest 15. But why are we all here? Well we have serious work to do together. Unprecedented challenges face UK Higher Education, Further Education and Skills, and digital technologies are some of the best tools to enhance human efficiency. And we are here to explore the potential for digital tools for higher, further education and skills.

Jisc is funded by higher and further education, overseen by the Jisc board. We are of the sectors, by the sectors, for the sectors. Jisc is dedicated to playing our part to help you achieve your success, including better exploiting existing Jisc services and support – already saving over £1/4 billion per year, but also on ground breaking innnovation. You told us you wanted more chance to do this and that is part of the reason for this event, and also why we have a new “architecture” for customer engagement. We also have a new account manager systems – for the first time every higher and further education organisation will have a dedicated account manager, there to support you, ensure you get the best out of Jisc services and activities, but also to ensure you have a voice in shaping what we do, in new activities.

We have many partners, including many strategic partners. I would like to acknowledge these relationships which are so important in what we are trying to achieve. In particular I would like to thank today’s sponsors (AM, CrossRef, Talis), supporters (Epson, Rapid Education, ?) and our media partner the THES.

Connected is the theme of our conference, we have the power to do much more for our sector, for our universities and colleges… And what we want to achieve over the next few days. That’s what we want to achieve over the next few days: a new level of ambition.

And, following a wee new Jisc video, we are getting an introduction to Simon Nelson, who aside from being the FutureLearn lead is also the man behind BBC 6Music, notes Tim Kidd. 

Welcome and keynote speech – Simon Nelson, Futurelearn

I am in some ways quite intimidated by speaking to this group, you have been navigating the difficult digital waters for over 15 years. I will be talking today about FutureLearn though, what we want to achieve, and where we are going. But I will start by looking back to my BBC days… here is a clip (of Toby Anstis on CBBC) which we think is the first BBC mention of a website. [which is wonderful! And includes an enormous URL!]. This takes me back to the days of trying to get BBC Radio announcers to mention websites – much chaos reading out those long URLs.

But I joined the BBC in 1997. And there was much discussion of whether the web would mean the end of radio. We didn’t believe that, so we spent the next ten years actually putting radio in a stronger place than when we started, launching 5 new digital channels, we made BBC radio available on demand – something that seemed difficult when first envisioned in 2002, but became a reality in 2004. And that made memorable moments of radio, like this, available for all [cue Charlotte Green corpsing live on air].

I then moved onto BBC Two and their digital offerings in 2007. At that time we again heard of the death of the medium, this time from YouTube (with NetFlix not far behind). We weren’t going to sit back and let that happen. iPlayer was, in many ways, even more important than radio on demand. And we made sure all of our brands had a clear online presence.

And now, I find myself in an industry looking at the role of digital. In part concerns here come from the idea of the MOOC, Massive Open Online Courses. In some ways this is an exampe of Amara’s Law – overestimating impact based on short term impact rather than long term changes. So for me this is much more than MOOCs, it’s much more about the internet and the role of the internet in education. Institutions can adapt and become stronger by adapting to the threats and opportunities of the internet. But so much is unknown that the best we can hope for is “informed bewilderment”.

So, the best I can do is to apply the same sorts of frameworks I used in previous roles, and my current FutureLearn role to outline the opportunities I see.

So, first of all, we can open up access – in new ways, to new audiences, on new platforms. At FutureLearn we want to work with partners that provide depth and experience across a range of curriculum areas, and skills associated with them. We want to update the old elearning experiences, to bring the concept up to date. We’ve built FutureLearn from scratch, making it easier and more attractive to use for the user. And we need to think about our audience as global… looking beyond institution walls. Global reach changes the social contract of the university.

I want to look at one FutureLearn example, a course on Ebola from a leading scientist working on the disease [now viewing a clip from that course]. The impact of this course has already been profound. Over 20k people took the course, and it saw some of the highest participation rates of any of our courses. Indeed FutureLearn received word from the Medicins Sans Frontiers Bo-Ebola Treatment Centre in Sierra Leone – where they had used downloaded course videos to enable staff and volunteers in the centre to take the course together.

Discovery. FutureLearn now has 19 universities around the world, and we have another 9 joining us which we are announcing today (Basel, Bergen, De Los Andes, Paris Diderot, Pompeu Fabra, etc.). We now have Korean universities, from two Dutch universities… [we are now watching a video on learning dutch]. The creativity being adopted by our partners, is one of the most exciting parts of running this company. [cue a diversion into the Steve McLaren adopt the accent language technique]. One of the most interesting aspects of these free open courses for the universities is the opportunity to attract new students. So we are developing our approach to optimising the free courses by enabling them to register interest in full courses offered by our partners.

We also want to move beyond our partners thinking about courses, we want them to share content openly on the web. And we’ve started that by opening up some of our step pages on the web, so that they are more findable in Google… We have great resources here, we want content in the courses to be found, to direct people into those courses and the expertise of those organisations.

Third is the importance of the opportunities afforded by Social learning. The opportunity for learners to work together around these MOOCs is one of the most important things. So, within FutureLearn, we have embedded discussion, social interaction facilities. We ensure all learners have their own profile page – they can like each others comments, they can follow other learners and the educators… That helps them turn the huge scale of conversation, into something more manageable. We are trying to build a social network that makes the learning more enjoyable and more effective. We know we are only at the start of what we could do here…

At the BBC we build the most amazing web resources, but trying to add social in was far less successful as it has to built into the foundations. So watch FutureLearn over the coming years, how that social interaction works in the site. Do look at our courses, and see the discussions. Our biggest course is Exploring English. There is something magic about asking learners where they are learning at a particular moment… This British Council uses existing resources but allows learners to develop their skills, and work together on those skills. There are great interactions here – one student says he wants to learn English in case he ever met Mick Jagger – and he did! (by befriending a bouncer in Singapore).

On a more serious note, we had a brilliant course from the University of Bath called Inside Council(?)… We had feedback from one of our educators for that course that this was one of the most rewarding teaching experiences of his career – because there were learners, there were professionals, there were patients all engaging together.

Fourthly, Engagement. We work with our course creators to take advantage of the potential to reinvent learning. These new skills are essential for all organisations to have in the modern digital era. So, we work with the best story tellers too – with the BBC on four WWI course, with the British Library around their Propaganda exhibition… We aim for a delightful user experience, and we facilitate invite only blended learning opportunities on campus.

With those other aspects in place there is so much potential for Extension. All these learners have lifelong learning interests, including skills for the workplace, courses for professional learners – changing jobs/sectors (Simon notes he started his career managing in a wig and hairpiece company!). The changes in work lives goes so far beyond standard undergraduate or postgraduate courses. And then there are so many personal reasons and motivations to learn [cue Pointless clip with contestent taking a course on Moons]. This wide range of motivations means we are trying to set up a variety of different revenue models. We are a wholly owned subsidiary of the Open University. We want to repay that investment. Anyone completing a course can receive a statement to that effect (£29) and those are far more popular than we anticipated. And we are looking at other possibilities, other revenue models… to recognise and create new pathways from free courses into employability opportunities.

So, finally, is a recognition that the recipient is more than a passive consumer, they are involved in Creation. Learners create their own games, they code, they take photographs, and we encourage those learners to share what they have made… But we are just at the beginning of what is possible here.

So, we are not at the end of the university. We have an amazing opportunity for them to reinvent their role in society.

There has been a break here as I was giving my MediaHub session (delightfully we had standing room only, and lots of good questions and comments!). And then some lunch… 

Mobile learning in practice

This is a workshop session so my notes may not be that detailed… however it’s a fantastic turn out so should be some very interesting discussion.

Steve Hall (speaking) and Tracey Duffy from Jisc are leading the session on Jisc Digital Media Infokits. Specifically we are talking about the Mobile Learning Infokit, which has been around a little while but have been substantially retooled and updated. The format for today will be that we have four sets of four tables, four sets of presenters… so each presenter will tell you about their work in just 10 minutes… and then they will rotate clockwise to the next table so you should hear from all of our presenters. And then we’ll have a panel session at the end.

Tracey: We wanted to add to our current infokit on app based learning. We put out a call for video case studies to HE and FE community. 30 proposals were submitted, 20 submissions then. The institutions created these case studies themselves, with support from the digital media team, and we hugely appreciate the work that those institutions put into those case studies, and we know that many of their staff and students gained new skills and enjoyed that process. So, I’ll show you a taster but first I can say that the infokits are live. jisc.ac.uk/guides/mobile-learning. [watching Newcastle uni video – on their use of campus apps]. Now I’d like to hand over to our co-presenters…

Reflection: Tarsin, University of Birmingham – Social Work Social Media App

I am based in the social work and social care department, and we are finding that students come in and we want to engage them with ethical issues about use o fthe internet and social media…. So I created an app for students to use before lectures… I am both a social worker and a programmer and so I learnt how to programme this app. So I created an app where they take the role of a team manager, and it raises a number of ethical issues… Allowing students to relate their learning to real life practice… So these are realistic scenarios. I’ve used a comic book and games based approach here. If the outcomes are not appropriate, the user has to go back and try again. The student really has to think through the process… The students get competitive and share their experiences which is great, it gets them thinking and talking about those decisions…

So, you’ll get a choice of options – these are relatively vague verbal answers, they require the student to think realistically about what they would do… If they do make a poor choice, they get an alternative argument – a branching approach… some more arguments get put forward…. So they see a range of potential outcomes… They can be complex scenarios… For instance about foster children using the internet and how carers might be supported to ensure that risks are minimised. So the students can use the app before the classroom session, and then that is not a lecture/transmission format, instead students come in, they can work in groups and discuss those scenarios… Demonstrating potential outcomes from decision making processes can be so useful here.

[Q about app building] I was given a grant of £5k by my university and I used Flash ? which enabled me to develop once for both Apple and Android. The only other option would have been xcode.

Assessment, Feedback and Submission: Lewisham and Southwark College – iMovie and Socrative

Socrative (two versions, Student and Teacher) is an app is used for checking, understanding and feedback…. As a teacher you sign up, you get an id that you use – and students use that id to log into the app. Normally I’d login, and also reflect that on a display/screen… You can ask a question to your students, and gather answers back in… You can share or collaborate on quizzes etc – with colleagues etc. So you can explore questions and info etc. And as a teacher I can see the results coming in live… I can download that data to use again later on… You can use the Teacher App, you can also use Space Race – where you can put people into team… This is web based so you don’t need the app if you don’t want to download it. So we are showcasing this app (we didn’t develop it).

Content Creation: University of Nottingham – E-Lecture Producer App

We’ve used the idea of the e-lectures since 2008 but we were using huge amounts of bandwidth for our students in other countries… video was too excessive, so now we have slides with audio… And we use an app to produce e-lectures like this. Teaching staff record in a recording studio, or in their lecture theatre… You can easily cut the audio to match the slides – a nice interface to do that, to ensure you use your best recordings. Also it means that when you update your lecture for the next year… Sometime you just change a few slides… And you can focus on just those few slides, record the new sound and you are fine. This is a web based systems so you can use on Windows based server or Unix server. We used it, via links, in WebCT and more recently in Moodle. Prior to 2008 we did manual editing… We developed the app in 2010… We always need to invite some business contacts etc. for guest lectures and the app is particularly useful for that, since they are very busy, often can’t make it to campus etc. When they export their file they can upload or share it anywhere – and can send to us via Dropbox, OneDrive etc. And it is very flexible for making web casts/presentations. And those files can be played in the browser (no need to use an app to open/access). And to bring your slides in you import from PPT or PDF etc.

Assessment, Feedback and Submission: Perth College UHI – Hairdressing App

This app was actually the output of a research project… Thiswas a research project on the use of tablets in FE contexts, which we thought there would be. The outcome of that project was published in the ALT Journal for Learning Technology last year (Google “use of tablets in further education sector” to find that). So to look at this we looked at hairdressing mobile apps, also looked at apps for those with social and educational learning needs – using multimedia they tended to use the apps for eportfolio systems which seemed to work well. We looked at modern languages, again using multimedia in those contexts… We also brought proprietary apps for language practice, etc. So, quite a range of activity. So in terms of the hair apps we needed a framework for evaluation, how to understand the added value. We looked at the Salmon model – four main quadrants for that… The app automated feedback, put in triggers around errors – the student gets automatic feedback, keeps them ranked without too much more traditional teacher input. Android devices were more popular than Android devices… We went for Android devices because they were cheaper, and also it’s easier to deploy an Android app than an Apple app. In terms of BYOD that was something possible for students and staff. Also an element of the flipped classroom – students encouraged to prepare for F2F session. Students were generally more engaged… Student feedback was positive. They liked using tablets – but an element of novelty there. But they liked the app, particularly the feedback. There were some issues around privacy…. if accounts were left logged in on devices etc.

Panel Discussion and Q&A

Q1: The apps and how they were made – was there any reason that students weren’t involved in the making of these apps?

A1 – Birmingham Uni: They were involved in mine. I beta tested with students… that helped with the interface, and also the content and feedback.

A1 – Tracey: And there are other case studies in the Infokit

Q2: All of you have used native apps, is that more preferential in terms of user experience, but can also exclude some people. Should we be building web apps with more complexity or native apps?

A2: Perth: Absolutely. We went Android but I think we’d go HTML5 for all devices/traditional computer access would work

A2 – Birmingham Uni: Things have changed over the last 12 months. Responsive apps have become much easier to display well on all devices and that seems to be where things are going.

Q3: To all:

A3 – Birmingham: Something encouraging debate and discussion rather than traditional transmission

A3 – Lewisham: Engage your students

A3 – Perth: Try to ensure that you genuinely engage your students

A3 – Nottingham: I think being increasingly multimodal is the trend.

Integrating TV programmes into your learning environment – Carol Parish, ClickView & Angela

ClickView gives educational establishments access to thousands (2300) of educational videos which are designed for secondary schools and FE colleges. The videos cover a whole range of subjects. And those familiar with Classroom Video, who made loads of materials, have just been brought by ClickView, and we have other publishers content joining us soon. Any content put into ClickView can be put into our BYOD video platform. And with our tool you can embrace multimedia by building up libraries of content… We expose iFrames and URLs that let you embed content in VLEs, and use those videos on any device and any computer.

So, the focus of this session is our television recording function in ClickView. We are digital video solutions for educations. We use  high quality educational videos and TV recording to help teachers create engaging lessons and improve learning outcomes… We are trying to solve the issue of bandwidth by using local cacheing etc. The idea is to build a video archive using TV recorded content, your own content and ClickView content.

So we’ll look at trends from ClickView 24-7 Cloud… Top news programmes, top current affairs, top documentaries, top feature films and series. As a teacher (in my former role) I wanted to just show the small relevant clip of video in my classroom, rather than play the whole thing. Sites like YouTube can take longer in terms of time to find content, to ensure that you find relevant engaging content… So we’ll look at searching and saving time by finding relevant content… You can search every word spoken on TV in the past 2 weeks across all the major channels – you can find it, store it, edit it, embed it in your virtual learning environment. So teaching staff are able to access, edit and store content, make playlists, to share those, to make and build an archive. And when you search, you get to search all of the materials – can bridge to Eclipse, Heritage, etc.

So this is the interface for ClickView: http://www.clickview.co.uk/ [Carol moving to live demo]. So ClickView is a cloud video tool, which allows you to have a local cache – and local publishing point – to help deal with the realities of bandwidth. If you are not on campus then you use the Azure Cloud that we run our cloud services from. And you can use your library and media store asset manager here to manage your own content. Each user of ClickView have their own work space assigned. You can assign that space (I’d suggest between 15-100GB at max). The idea of ClickView is you can push content to your library so that content is held centrally for all of your users to have access to. The idea is that you build up a media library for your establishment, and allow students to have their own autonomy through their own space…

So Cloud 24/7 ClickView lets you access any free to air channels. We have an English and Scottish (which goes back 3 rather than 2 weeks) data centres. You can go to England or Scotland regions. We don’t yet have enough users in Wales to support that region – but it will happen… We have Radio 4 across both data centres but will have more radio… The difference with iPlayer is that you can save and permanently keep the materials you want. Typically ClickView runs 1 hour behind real time. And of course you can edit that content – taking those clips is probably the most powerful part of what is on offer, so you can use the most relevant part of what is on offer.

ClickView is a lot about community. We have the ClickView Exchange which other universities and colleges have collected resources, over 11,000 programmes there. Just to say though that this service is legal because of the ERA licence – which enables access to recordings of tv and radio as long as that’s for educational use on campus or online with login/password access.

ClickView has an analytics function which enables you to see who is watching what. You can take a programme, save it, make a playlist, and/or add to my establishment media library. Now, for any programme, ClickView captures 5 minute buffers at either end of a programme to ensure it isn’t missed. We offer videos at 240p or 720p (HD quality UK TV) – you can choose according to your access/device at the time. And if you want to upload your own content, we support a variety of resolutions up to 1080p, and a wide range of formats.

So, looking at the ClickView Exchange we have over 400 feature films, because of them airing on free to view television and covered by ERA licence. You will also find lots of content for media studies, etc. This area is populated by our customers. So you could select a programme, add it to the exchange for universities and colleges across the UK to access. Probably the most powerful way to access the exchange is to run a keyword search of that. I can then explore the results, play them, push to the Library Server at my establishment, add to playlists, share that playlists etc. And that sharing can have a privacy level to pick from. ClickView works closely with Moodle, Blackboard, SharePoint – we have plugins to make this stuff easier to do. So for Moodle you can use a plugin rather than use iframe or URL. So here the plugin allows you to pick ClickView video as a resource, then you can explore anything from your workspace to add that content in… And save that video to bring it into Moodle. Its a quick easy way to get content from television into Moodle.

The app in ClickView also allows you to create videos from your mobile devices into ClickView, and make available for assessment, for students to share work from a mobile device etc.

[response to audience Q about ERA]: Most universities and colleges in the UK have an ERA licence. That allows you to record anything from free to view television, and that includes Open University courses. You can use any free to air television for education purposes, you can edit them, you can use them in the classroom, in the VLE, and the extended learning environment. However your students need to be based in the UK/be accessing that material from the UK. If you are putting your own content in, that’s your own copyright. TED talks might be OK – because of their copyright status. But a DVD, say, would require you to have permission from the copyright holder as you would be changing the format. Similarly YouTube videos you’d need permissions.

So… Looking at today’s TV… one of the stories was about the amount of Asbestos in our schools… Just by seeing the sentence in which that word appears (in the search results) tells us a lot about what the content is… You can find a lot out here… The reason this works is because of the subtitles on programmes… But in the UK we broadcast subtitles as a picture, we need to OCR that to be able to search through those subtitles…

Angela levins, Stroud College in Somerset 

Angela is joining us for Q&A

Carol: How long have you had ClickView

Angela: About a year, we needed some tech set up and it took a while to get up and running with our super users first, but just had a huge training session to reach a far wider range of staff.

Carol: Why was there a need for this?

Angela: We had staff expecting programmes but not telling us they needed it recorded – they asked if we can it from iPlayer and we had to explain that for copyright reasons that isn’t OK. So ClickView is really useful for that.

Carol: And are they seeing the potential?

Angela: We have staff helping each other out, recording stuff for each others… And being able to clip that video to just the bit they need has huge potential – so they are motivated to use the editor and seem to be finding it easy to use.

Carol: In terms of getting staff to understand the vision, we ran a training session for all users last week – that’s part of the package

Angela: Yes, we will then be running advanced one to one sessions.

Q: Do you anticipate greater uses in some courses/areas

Angela: It seems to be across the whole college. Obviously media and film are keen, but hospitality for instance very keen. I think because there is so much stuff on the TV that can be helpful – even Maths staff have been engaging with us.

Q: How about usage of video they have made themselves

Carol: That’s actually the next stage for this organisation… That training is yet to happen for Angela but we’ll get to that.

Q: If you want a programme from 3 years ago, and not in Exchange, how do you do that? And how much does it cost to set up local infrastructure

Carol: We have a Yammer group, we have in-person 3 times per year forums. Between those spaces, it tends to be that we can find a university that does have it… Then that person can upload to the exchange. In most cases that works. In terms of infrastructure… ClickView4 is about to come out – that can run entirely as a cloud based system. With ClickView at the moment, for the folder structure, you need to be able to publish those – requiring either Server 2008/12 or a Windows 7 computer/s. Local cache is helpful for many organisations.

So, just to show you an example of edits here… I can quickly find the  bits of the programme I want…. And select the areas I’m interested in. I can use chapter breaks as appropriate – and you can name/label these. You can add or delete chapters. Teachers can do this from any machine, including from home. And once you’ve made those edits it will be in your work space, ready for use, in about a minute, and available in plugins in about 2 minutes.

To return to the issue of uploading your own content… You can upload to your workspace from your own machine… You can add a title, description and age rating… then Save.

Q: Do you have to apply for the copyright for that content of what you are uploading?

One should.

I will mention “Albert” – a curriculum mapping expert who helps save teachers time. This is mapped to the English National Curriculum. So we have built ito Albert – a crowdsourced tool – all the National Curriculum content. Albert will look at your content, Exchange content, and also in “Media Store” – where suppliers can provide their own materials. So Albert finds videos quickly in line with objectives for National Curriculum. You can also search by key words. An easier way to find videos than trawling through YouTube etc.

If you do want to go forward from ClickView I’d say you need engagement from someone on the curriculum side, someone from IT/Infrastructure and someone from library and learning resources. Then you’d have a visit followed by a one month trial

What the learners say: FE learners’ expectations and experiences of technology – Sarah Knight; John Webber; Ellen Lessner; Chris Fuller, Jodran Holder, Tyler Bond, and Nikolas Melo

This session is opening with the Jisc “Supporting learners with their use of technology” video… 

Sarah: I thought it was so important to include some student voices to open our sessions, and that student voice and engagement is so important to what we do. We have a number of these videos. This work began as both an FE and HE excercise – two parallel strands here but we’ll focus on FE. We had a comment of “I look forward to the findings. Too often we try and guess what our student expectations will be and often get this wrong.” and certainly we found that there is no one student experience or expectation of technology.

So this project – the FE Digital Student project – aims to support colleagues in FE to (a) decide how and how often to monitor changing learner experiences and (b) ?

We started a study last year, doing an initial review of where learner views on technology was at. There was very little post 2009. So the real difficulties were around actual learner views – lots from teachers and the sector but much much less on learners themselves.

Ellen: We has 12 focus groups with 220 learners. Last week in Edinburgh at a consultation event we heard that staff wanted research evidence for their decision makers. This was done as research, we took specific subjects, looked at 1st year and 2nd year students. Within a subject area within year 1 or year 2 there weren’t huge differences, but between subjects there was a lot of variance. So we selected five subject areas here including childcare and IT.

But how do we do research in FE? So many levels are supported here… We had a learner profile – this was done by the tutor and could support students filling that out if needed. We then came in, had rooms set up with round tables, and we had a standard protocol to ensure these sessions were comparable. And we did a card sort exercise. Doing research in FE means needing to have staff who understand FE undertaking that research.

Sarah: One of the other things we’ve done is put together a blog post on running this sort of research – see digitalstudent.jisc.org for this and also the resources from the card sort activity. We also had feedback from staff that this was a useful process for them too.

So, what have we found from the literature, focus groups, and the consultation events (4 of the 6 have happened now). Probably not too surprising perhaps:

  • Their learning to be enhanced by the colleges use of technologuy ef VE, online submission and assessment
  • To have anywhere anytime any device access to coure materials
  • To have acces sto both formal and informal (e.g. social media) supports on and off campus
  • To learn at college how technology is used in the workplace
  • To be asked aout their views and for them to make a difference

And that latter point certainly has relevance for thinking about elearning strategy and development. But I hope these are areas of work that you are involved in, and developing. But our research should be useful evidence for you to use in that, in working with decision making.

We have created a model from this work. FE is very complex, there are so many different requirements, levels, and backgrounds our learners have. So there was a model was put together by Chris Davis at Becta – segmenting into “Unconnected and vulnerable”, “mainstream pragmatists”, and “Intensive and Specialist enthusiasts”, and that helped us to look at a framework for supporting learners with technology. Pragmatic mainstream learners seek support from tutors, so pedagogy-led experiences of technology are substantial. For the unconnected and vulnerable access-led experiences of digital environments are key. And at the enthusiast end of the spectrum we see learner-led and technology-led experiences.

Importantly from the focus group work we found 7 key themes for our FE learners:

1. Don’t assume we are digitally literate – hence the importance of tutors and teachers, particularly for using technology for learning and skills

2. We need ongoing development – and want to understand more about digital tools

3. We expect the same (or better…) services as in school – including having technology they need

4. We expect colleges to provide what we need –  including access at home

5. We expect modern learing resources that are easy to find and use – and consistency there.

6. We want to work with lecturers… – recognising teachers knowledge and expertise but also students understanding and ideas of how technology can support their needs.

7. Ask us what we need… – much more than surveys, they want a real voice here.

John: I used to manage technology for a site with 1000+ staff. Recently refocued on learning technology innovation. This work was informed by my work in the wider context of teaching and learning…

So, student voice is something OFSTED requires us, along with others, to do this… It’s where this stuff starts, but, regretably also often stop. We ask students questions at the start of each year… We’ve been moving further to escape the trap of just asking students to talk about quality of teachers with closed ended questions… Limited opportunity to unpack students comments and criticisms…

So, we adopted a process of Funded Action Research Projects, that are clear about what impact we seek to achieve, and how we will measure that… And part of that is involving students from the start, getting their views, eliciting their views throughout. Myself and a colleague has a chance to go in as an observer for their views on digital technology. Engaging students early on elicits some very informed and informative views. Having an idea of what you want to achieve is useful anyway, even if your focus in on the intervention of technology. And seeing students as partners help them understand that they are not passive in this process…

One of the things here has been the use of Flipped learning. We asked students to help us think about what they saw at various stages in the process. One student said that initially they thought “What? Homework”… And then they discriminated between homework and flipped learning.. because flipped learning was more useful (slightly sad to hear but…).  And students said “Set and maintain clear expectations”, and they also said “don’t repeat yourself” – don’t accommodate those who have not prepared, it punishes those who have prepared. Instead there was an ipad at the back of the room – and that became “the ipad of shame!”.

Students liked being able to pause the videos, to take better notes – some tutors recommend the Cornell Note Taking process, a sophisticated mechanism that really supports learning. And students reported getting much more out of class. Students also enjoyed being able to do their work outside the college day, when commuting, to catch up if off sick. Students talked about it levelling the playing field – those who picked things up quickly had space to do that, those who picked it up more slowly had space to learn and catch up so all started class at a similar point. All this from 5 minute videos with slides…

But we are moving from asking students to be our evaluators, to encourage their agency in this process… To encourage a digital leadership team of students. To help us find new opportunities that are available. And our students here didn’t wait to be asked…. they came to us!

Student 1: We live 30 miles from college… We travel 90 minutes a week, for a 1 hour session. We asked our tutor if we could Skype into class, and that means we can attend when we might otherwise be challenged to get there. This college is a really open college – Chris and I have attended 3 colleges before and others would have never been open to this. And that is a real issue, we could end up behind but these technologies mean that we’ve stayed up to date.

Student 2: Skype can be an issue – can lose connection to our teacher… Had to find online resources, ways around the tutor. So all three of us use Collabator, to share our code and work together, resolve issues without our teacher.

John: And these students are at least as up to speed as those working in class.

Chris: We still see our lecturer, Kev, twice a week… And we work together – can chat when the teacher is talking, work through an idea, figure it out. Then we can confirm with Kev later on that we have gotten the right idea. It’s more flexible and it works better.

Student 3: Was introduced to flipped learning at the beginning of AS years… So by the time I come to class I have a basic understanding of what the teacher will be talking about… It flips the idea that you learn in class, revise at home. Instead you learn at home, and revise and discuss in class… It’s like having a 24/7 home tutor – can just go back to YouTube and rewatch. My grades in classes using flipped classrooms have skyrocketed versus other subjects. And for instance my psychology tutor has summarised our textbook so that you can find your way through so much easier. She also has a blog sumarising each week’s lesson. Flipped learning has taught me a lot… You learn at home, revise in lesson, and catch up again at home if you still aren’t sure.

Student 1: Learning in a home environment has worked really well for us. At home we can find ourselves ahead of the class… we work together, we learn from each other and how each other learn. We’ve had lots of group projects – and we’ve really come to realise where our skills lie. We are a friendship group, not sure any group of 16 year olds would work. We were friends beforehand and that does help. But learning at home in a comfortable environment helped us, it gives us confidence… and then when you hit class I think you feel much more receptive and able to learn.

Chris: Often at home we’ve found things we want to learn, that aren’t covered in the lesson… we look something up… and a few weeks later that will come up in class… that really strengthens our understanding.

Student 2: Also for me using my own computer really matters. College computers aren’t that good. We have been working on Unity, and we have 2GB limit, so doing this stuff on my own computer can be a really big benefit as well…

Sarah: I think that gives us some really really valuable insights into our own expectations…

Chris, Woolwich 6th Form College: Would you guys who work at home a lot – would you be harder working normally… or

Chris: We did 2 years at sixth form, weren’t doing subjects we were passionate about. Dedication comes from that, and not something from every student perhaps.

Student 1: We are all very lazy basically… I put same effort at home as in class. One of the reasons we put in effort at home is that essentially is a day off and we could lose that easily if we weren’t putting the work in.

Chris questionnner: I think you are all university students, without knowing it… Have you had any issues with people not doing the work?

Student 3: Our teacher makes students do that walk of shame to the ipad if they don’t prepare, that helps!

John: I sat in on a class last monday that had been experimenting with flipped learning. A full class of 25 were there, not just enthusiasts. I asked if they all did that, and they said “of course, it would be so stupid not to”. It takes about 2 weeks to establish that sense that you don’t come to class if you don’t do the work. But students tell us they have to be firm..

Q: If this was functional skills, English and Maths, would it work the same?

Student 1: I would say there is still a big stigma that students don’t want to learn. Students are more passionate about subjects they pick. But students really want to learn… If students don’t want to be there, don’t make them. For English and Maths it’s so important, but those essential skills are less appealing… but there is still that idea that teachers are at the top, students are at the bottom… Students do want to learn so that has to be recognised.

Student 2: I think that working from home for functional skills… well if the students weren’t passionate it would show quickly – it would show really fast if we didn’t do the work.

Student 3: There is evidence that digital media can help people to develop English skills, across any subject area… So useful for subjects like English and Maths too!

Q: What do your parents think? And have their heating and food bills gone up?

Student 1: I think they didn’t quite believe we could do that… We have had some wifi issues… But we have also used CollabEdit and RealTimeBoard to get round any difficulties we do have – on our own.

Student 2: We have a genuine need, so we find a way around this…

Gary, Stroud College in Somerset: You are obviously doing a course you enjoy, in an environment you enjoy. What happens when you hit the world of work?

Student 1: Our Skype day is our least favourite of the week… We do do stuff that we don’t like, because there are courses we don’t like but we know are important to getting that A-level that will enable us to access that world of work.

Chris: The reason for Skype here was that the long travel times limited our amount of time to do work, to find part time work. The whole thing was to save us money… We wouldn’t have come to Skype without that need.

Student 2: To put a number on this… If we went into that 1hr20 minute lesson, travel would take over 5 hours out of our day.

John: How many know that PISA now measures collaborative problem solving… They snuck it under the radar! One of the reasons I was so interested in this group of students is that they have evidenced very high level collaborative problem solving. We’d have struggled to come up with scenarios to test that so realistically.

Sarah: I’d just like to thank John. And that comment that you are already university students, without knowing it. That reflection and understanding of your own learning is certainly applaudable.

Before we finish I wanted to share some resources that may be useful to you… [and we have a postcard to complete, which I will be filling in momentarily!]

So, resources here include:

  • 50 institutional exemplars (based around 7 challenge areas)
  • “Digital students are different” posters – those are in the room today but also available for download, to act as a trigger for discussion.
  • “Enhancing the digital experience for students” cards – to enable more detailed discussion on taking stuff forward, enhancements that add value and make a difference for your learners
  • FE Learner voices videos
  • “Enhancing the student digital experience: a strategic approach” guide – jisc.ac.uk/guides/enhancing-the-student-digital-experience

So I hope we have provided you with some inspiration and food for thought. If this has enticed you to find out more… our next session at 4.30, in Hall 7, will focus on university student experience.

Staff-student partnership working to effect institutional change – chaired by Peter Chatterton with Sarah Knight (Jisc)

Sarah:  a very warm welcome to all of you today. It is such a privilege to showcase institutions who are working with students. We have three fantastic examples of that working in practice. I will start with a brief introduction to the change network, but we will mainly focus on our learners and their experiences.

  • Fiona Harvey with Anne and Rebekah iChamps, University of Southampton
  • Deborah Millar, with Kirsty and Student Digipal Cai Rourke from Blackburn College
  • Tim Lowe, VP Education with Dr Stuart Sims, research fellows (student engagement), Eli Nixon-Davingoff, student fellow at University of Winchester

The vision for The Student engagement partnership, running over the last few years, has been about establishing principles for institutions to use to guide their engagement with students – and the importance and benefits of that. There was a 2014 NUS Report on “Radical interventions in teaching and learning” talks about the importance of students being active and engaged agents of change.

So, what is the change agents network (CAN)? It is a network to support students working as change agendes, digital pioneers, student fellows, and students working in partnership with staff on technology related change projects. The network facilitates the sharing of best practice through Face to face networking events, CAN monthly webinar series, CAN case studies. And we have a student partnership toolkit, for organisations looking to embed student partnerships in their practice. (see http://can.jiscinvolve.org/ or @CANagogy).

We have set up a SEDA accredited Jisc Institutional Change Leader Award, to recognise and showcase work in this area. We are also about to launch our first issue of the new Jisc Journal of Educational Innovation Partnership and Change – a peer-reviewed online journal welcoming articules case studies, and opinion pieces. Do get in touch as we have the next  issue being planned at the moment!

So, we will now have 3 quick pitches for today’s session… then you can choose 2 of the 3 sessions to hear more about.

Fiona Harvey with Anne and Rebekah iChamps, University of Southampton

We have iChamps at Southampton, Innovation and Digital Literacy champions. These sit alongside other student champions – around feedback, accessibility etc. We have a placement scheme with our careers service – they fund half of the time of the students over summer/easter etc. Our champs are in Music, Biological Sciences, Social Sciences, etc. They are there specifically to support the development of skills of staff and students. It’s about showing academics how to make a website, say, rather than doing it for them. All of the iChamps and champions have great online presences, great digital literacy skills, etc. What’s in it for them? Skills, expereince, profiles, etc. And the university benefits too – not just academics but those who work with and support them. We based this on digital literacy model (e.g. Future Lab structure). They start with a Digital competancies quiz to establish what their skills are, where development is needed. We have iPad coffee clubs to talk and try… We give them tools. We give them iPads (if they don’t have one) so that they can actually show this stuff off, demo or review apps in discipline specific areas. The champs get monthly support sessions – on new tools, on their online presence. And additionally I can be accessed via WhatsApp, SnapChat, Facebook etc. And they ahve a blog as well. And we have an iChamp badge – a group of three badges, as they work with academics they gain badges for their LinkedIn presence, etc.

Deborah Millar, Head of eLearning with Kirsty and Student Digipal Cai Rourke from Blackburn College

I’m Deborah from Blackburn College, to introduce the Digipals (#Digipals)… We use digipals as drivers of change, digital leaders, trainers, collaborators, creators… 12 members of staff looking for digipals to work with them. We have interventions to see how to make things more fit for purpose, more technology enhanced, etc. So we have an A-team style video to introduce the team to staff and students across the college… Fun and silly… So, what are our drivers for using technology? We look at it from a learner’s perspective – we want joy and playfulness in education, to be inspired to learn inside and outside the college… And we want staff to create more stimulating and interactive lessons, should provide further opportunities for collaboration on a global leel… And as a college we want to enable us to deliver deeper, more effective and cheaper learning. We have three questions for our learners – do you use technology in your learning, what is it, and how does that benefit your learning.

We have staff digipals, and we have student digipals… I want staff and students to be working collaboratively, to be treated equally… and I want employers and schools to come in… And the student voice informs our strategy and vision. We do research with our students… we have surveys about expectations and experiances, to help demonstrate to staff, and to college, that these opportunities really matter, that they expect that technology as part of their learning…

Tim Lowe, VP Education with Dr Stuart Sims, research fellows (student engagement), Eli Nixon-Davingoff, student fellow at University of Winchester

Tim: We had technology based research fellows in the learning and teaching section, as a proof of concept in 2012/13. We had student reps across the university (over 400) providing student voice. But they only did 10-12 hours per year. And there are lots of barriers to learning, loads of technologies to look at… We needed students to commit more time, to engage more strongly. So we set up a bursary to support 100 hours of student time. We won’t pay students hourly – changes relationships – hence bursary. So we recruited 60 student fellows… We had a really big mix of students – mature students, commuting students, some that were just annoyed at the university and wanted to make a change. Students can benefit themselves but also benefit their department by their impact. And those lessons learned have been shared across those student fellows…

Stuart: We have 60 students cross 53 projects. We had four key themes across those. The projects are identified by students or by staff or by support staff, and students then do research and exploration. The themes are technology, design and innovation, etc. Of these projects 53.8% benefited students, 69% improved their programmes. The second year is now in progress, have funding secured for next year, and it is increasingly embedded in the organisation.

Eli: My project was about an issue of students not making the most of contact time. We are expected to have 36 hours of contact time for a module across a semester… In the form of 3 hour session per week.  I applied to be a student fellow, I was able to work with staff in our department (sociology) and co-created an online questionnaire, went into lectures and asked students to fill in surveys on their phone. I had 76 responses from 1st, 2nd and 3rd students and generated data that will be used in future committee meetings on departmental timetabling decisions etc. Obviously that stuff could be applied to any subject later on as well.

I get to pick sections… I’m starting with Southampton

Q1: How does this work?

A1 – Fiona: The staff member has a question to explore, or area to think about… usually a student that they already know… And then I help them get trained up, support them to do that role… There is only one of me and our students understand the module, they are taking that course, and they influence the time. The iChamps do meet to discuss and share experiences, but f2f can be hard. We have a facebook group… and we will have a conference for all of the champions – not just the iChamps, to share and discuss….

Sophie: So we have specialist iChamps in sustainability, accessibility but there are core skills – photography, portfolios, how to write a blog etc. are areas we train all of them in.

Fiona: And actually we had this eportfolio tool, showed it in an authentic context, the use of that by iChamps has really demonstrated the value. And they can have several different types of eportfolios, and the badges system means they can create an eportfolio for each badge area. Our sabbaticals use eportfolio. And our medics use it in a very different way, to show the courses they have taken.

Sophie: I have portfolios for my role now, for my former experience as president of Winchester University Students, for my role as a classical singer… A great way to show off those skills and experiences.

Fiona: We had a wishlist for functionality… and students use it but also encouraging staff to use it too. Students want to show employers that they have their LinkedIn profile, links to portfolios. We got students to evaluate it…

Rebekah: With employers in the corporate sector, they have all told me they are sick of A4 PDF CVs and applications, they are boring. They much prefer a video of that experience, say, linked from a CV, but these online resources can see these things, they can see you, they can see you doing things that are enjoyable to you… and that these are real rounded people…

Fiona: the “3D Students”

Rebekah: And employers expect us to know how to use this stuff – Twitter, Facebook, social media etc.

Fiona: One last thing: It’s not easy though!

And now moving to the Winchester one… which is more of a round table session/discussion

Q1: How does student union fit in?

A1 Tim: We have a very small student union, very commercially orientated. We have lots of representatives… we had staff willing to work with students, but few students can volunteer that amount of time… If they can financially afford to do it, the enrichment is worth it, but that bursary bridges that gap. But the driver was from our executive team. We knew this stuff mattered… We spend 5 hours a week empowering 60 students to do something. The finances isn’t the main thing but the students also get the social research training. And these students are being change agents. We wanted the idea of “fellow” to reflect their relationship/similarity from staff fellows. So, our main motivation, which was from the student union, was to use this programme to focus on so many things. And Eli’s project won’t just benefit her courses, but out into other courses, all 7000 students there.

Stuart: Now that I can  empower Eli to do this sort of work…

Sarah: That impact of Eli’s work across the institution. Research can often be local to one department and not shared across the organisation. And you have that strategic support of the whole organisation.

Tim: We went to all of the deans of the colleges and spoke to them before the project, and we kept the university managers informed as well. We can update on all the projects but you need more. So we have an annual conference for the student fellows, these are staff development opportunities. And stuart speaks to more school sub committees as well. It is a partnership… It is students, but also staff too, that partnership matters.

Stuart: That initial funding from Jisc was so important. We trialled the methodology, mainly in Law, and can apply that elsewhere and look at themes across the university

Eli: Like student safety

Stuart: We had a student present to the vice principal, who is now looking at change based on that.

Q2: How do you envision funding the scheme

A2: We had money from Jisc to pilot, then the first year we co-funded between the student union and the university. We demonstrated the concept, the university now pays, but the co-directorship by the union and the university is still there. But that sharing across different areas of the university, sharing with the student representatives, and we’ve also now got more reporting to support that and ask students to create abstracts/outlines for their projects to share.

And with that it’s back to the room….

Comment: The confidence and drive and vision and fun of these people leading these projects is brilliant, and the whole sector should thank them for that.

Sarah: What we wanted to try and get you to do was to get a taste of practice taking place across the sector. To have three different examples, start to help us evidence the importance of working with students. It has been so important to have students with us in the room today as well, and we really appreciate that.

We are looking to gather together discussion across people interested in this area, and we have a newsletter with information relevant to the CAN network. All three organisations here today are also case studies in our digital student site (digitalstudent.jiscinvolve.org). If you want more information do get in touch, join our mailing list, etc. We have an exciting 2 day event here in Birmingham coming up in the next few weeks.

Keynote from Bob Harrison

Robert Haymon-Collins, Jisc Executive director customer experience is introducing the closing keynote for this first day – and a thank you to our online participants and also to our wonderful sign language interpretors. Bob is someone who tweets a lot and I find so much of my best stuff comes from him! He has a huge variety and role in FE and skills and without further ado I’m handing over to Bob Harrison [with a brief stop for Bob  to take a selfie for his wife!].

Bob is starting with a straw poll here of FE organisations (lots), Adult and Community (low), Prisoner and Offender (none), other skills (few), and HE (a fair chunk). 

So, why FELTAG… FELTAG started with a tweet. I’d been criticising Jisc, alongside just about any quango that had anything to do with technology in education. I tweeted that. I found I had a tweet direct from the Minister – he said “dear Bob, I agree, I have no money. Lets meet and chat”. So we did… We have people in the sector keen to use technology, but issues of the sector and infrastructure don’t allow that. Now I’m passionate about FE and Skills. One of the colleges I worked at was funded by a penny tax from miners, choosing to educate their children. And my thesis is that our industry has it’s origins in this post industrial revolution culture. And that’s not where we need to be.

What is FELTAG? The last report we have, from 2012, showed less than 30% of FE and Skills were making effective use of technology. So the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group have a mission statement to aim to best support the agile evolution of the use of technology in FE and Skills.

And now, a cautionary note on research… with a tall tail of lions and zebras… how long and how you observe makes a big difference…

Sorry I’m a bit croaky btw, I had to come down today to support Jisc in what they are doing… And the great work Martyn has been doing to refocus what they do to really include FE and skills.

The Northern College for Residential Adult Education, set up by money from slavery… and an aside that recent funding cuts to adult education have been less than helpful here… however… What gives me greatest happiness is when you find, say, a 55 year old miners wife about to go off to Sheffield University, thats great!

OFSTED have reported tutors making good use of innovative learning and technlogy… But that’s the past… this is the future, my grandkids. The eldest came home all excited about going on a school trip overnight… She’s excited and keen! My daughter rings me, and she’s going through the list of what Millie has to take with her… halfway down it says sleeping bag, toilet bag, etc… If Millie wants to take photographs she’s allowed to take one disposable camera… She doesn’t know what that is! How do we take a system – schools as well as FE – that’s designed on an industrial, Taylor-based, type system whose assets are in land and buildings… And reinvest those assets in what will be fit for a digital future – from chalkboard to Millie’s iPhone (which she’s banned from using, of course).

The music industry has moved on a long way… You look at pictures from the nineteenth century versus a modern college.. looks the same, the only difference is a PC on the desk (in rows). So what is taking us so long? Well Prof Diana Laurillad talk about the barriers to change in the sector. I work at a technology company, Toshiba, and have done for a long time… Whilst technology doesn’t change learning outcomes…. But there is a correlation between organisations using digital technologies and improved learning outcomes… If we think about the Sigmoid Curve… and at Blockbuster, Woolworths, Kodak… there is  a paradigm shift required to change thinking, to keep up with technology. And that requires input at leadership, governance, etc, where FELTAG focuses and where Jisc needs to focus. FELTAG is about paradigm shift. But paradigm shift is hard…

Now, I think we need to sell physical buildings and assets… When you see colleges, with huge investment, they are empty for months on end… and not fully occupied when in use. We need to move funding further up Bloom’s taxonomy. The key principles are about realising assets we have, and making use of them, and reinvesting them… We had a six month report on FELTAG, from BIS….  We also have the House of Lords Digital Skills report. It’s not about new technology, it’s about new thinking…

Returning to our tall tale on research, Bob finishes the story saying that we can’t wait for research, to start doing what we need to be doing… 

So… we have a new ALT group with great people on board… But what happens if FELTAG doesn’t happen? Well these future learners will leave school with no books, no papers, no pens… no printers except 3D printers… They will be want to go to an FE college that can provide them with all the digital tools and technologies they need and expect to have. And only you, only you, can make that happen!

And with that we draw to a close… I will be at Digifeast later so if you corrections and comments on the blog, want to ask me about Jisc MediaHub, digital footprints, digital education, or just say hello, do keep an eye out!


Jul 112014

Today I am, once again, at the European Conference on Social Media (#ECSM2014) at the University of Brighton. I will be presenting my paper, “Learning from others mistakes: how social media etiquette distorts informal learning online” this afternoon but until then I will be blogging the talks I attend. As usual this is a live blog so please let me know if you spot any errors or omissions and I’ll be happy to fix them. 

Taking Education into Cyberspace – Chaos, Crisis and Community – John Traxler

I think my title here is slightly polluted by my perspective as a lecture in mobile learning, but I was trying to capture two thoughts that were colliding in my head: how increasingly educationally problematic cyberspace actually is; but also the idea of moving away from increasingly pointless short term technology driven projects and working with long term projects with the UN etc. concentrating on the impact of cyberspace in other cultures and languages. And part of that is because technology is culturally specific.

So, to some respect, looking back on my work it has been about the possibilities for the use of mobile technologies and cyberspace in learning. About extending the reach of education, opening up education to those who may otherwise have challenges to access. So that would apply to my work in Kenya, where issues are about infrastructure, but also can be about socio-economic and cultural barriers. But we also see mobile technology enabling more personalised, more location specific, opportunities for education. And mobile technology can change the ways in which education can be understood or theorised. In the UK Diane Laurillard’s conversational model is widely accepted and that tends to be about a simple set of checkboxes in some senses now, so it is important to continue pushing the theory, extending it. And I think that it is important to engage learners, particularly disenfranchised learners. So we want to challenge existing theories and reach out and reconsider education.

But in some ways that can be a backwards looking process, the idea that it is different… an elite technology that should be researchered and then trickled down, the JISC type model of thinking about technology/funding, and that approach can get us into a treadmill of forever trying out “innovation” technologies and miss the bigger picture that these scarce technologies are actually adopted by the wider world as commonplace, familiar. The rest of the world may be using this stuff that may be challenging what we do as educationalists. Even if you regard the world of education as merely servicing the economy – and I’m not saying that I do – then the economy is changing wildly. The economy is driven by digital technologies at a personal model – the tools, technologies, etc. that we use personally – but also in the sense of business models, the way that resources are changing. Bandwidth is like discovering oil – the 4G spectrum sales by government is like North Sea Oil all over again. It is changing the economy, and the things that move around in the economy.

And in terms of what happens at national level, I work with UNRA which works with the Palestinian refugee community and in that context the Israeli state governs mobile infrastructure so the technology there is a political issue.

So, digital changes what we trade, and keep, and value. So an example here, if you take tazers, which you can buy as retail items in the US, now have decorative holsters with MP3 players – the manufacturers say “putting the cute in electrocute”! That’s a whole artefact that never existed before the digital world!

Mobile also changes the nature of work, of supervision. The work that shapes the economy is being shaped by the ubiquitous mobile access to work, the changing patterns of access to information and connectivity. And we are increasingly see the idea of “performative support” – where information, guidance, support comes from within cyberspace. This is a step beyond just-in-time learning. It is like the Hitchikers Guide idea of a Babel Fish and that really challenges the idea of learning, the reasons for learning. That has advantages but it also deskills people, if judgements are made for you, you can lose your autonomy in planning your work routes or priorities for instance. Or your skills may no longer have the same value.

And we see increasing amounts of user generated learning in cyberspace. So, for example, podcasts. You can learn pretty much anything, and from sources outside of academia. I listen to a great deal of late bizantan and medieval history for instance, very little from academia or from the BBC. But those sources may not be accurate or authoritative. And you also see communities – like World of Warcraft – of discussion, production, translation, so many interactions. Although I could argue these people are developing meta cognitive skills, but also we see communities with a shared interest, understanding, corpus, which seems to replicate what we do in Academia but do so wholly separately. Similarly we can think about citizen journalism: the idea that people can capture images, text, audio of an event as it happens. They can share and transmit it without mediation from government or media. People mistakenly talk about it being democratic, I think it’s more demotic. It’s not mediated by traditional institutions BUT it is mediated by Facebook or YouTube or other large and often fairly opaque organisations. But this is a change. The spin of the London bombings citizen journalism was about plucky Londoners, blitz spirit etc. But from another perspective, from the middle east say, you could spin this as brave jihadists spreading chaos. And that points to the importance of criticality. The abundance of materials means that our students really have to be able to sort and sift these types of media. We see increasing transience of information – the cannon is not defined by middle aged European white men but something more democratic but that raises challenges. We see partial, complex, transient viewpoints and information and we have to be able to deal with that.

But that’s a really middle class European view. And I’m interested in other views, and at a number of levels. i think education and cyberspace interact with language, identity, culture. If I look at the way UNESCO or USAID look at education, they see it as delivered by the centre or as delivered by the state. Computers used to industrialise education to some extent. But most of Africa is safe from e-learning. But most of Africa is not safe from mobile and that is problematic. The interface alters the relationship between languages – QWERTY keyboards or alphanumeric keyboards shift the balance from, say, chinese characters, and the english language or transliterated language. It changes the expression of language, and alters the balance. If English is easier to use you may use it in preference to Cyrillic or Arabic etc. I saw this with young kids in Cambodia – and there there was also a cultural cache in using English/American tools and language.

And we see indigenous languages and peoples and technologies connecting with each other. Fragile language communities connected to the global economy can, again, privilege English and threaten those languages. I have worked with communities in Namibia, and their language is about both words and gesture… so for past and future tense they gesture rather than having different words. But mobile interfaces are not designed for their gestures – probably not ours either. We thought, as part of an EU project, that we could customise interfaces to localise them but I am ashamed of the idea that replacing a teacup from a coffee cup is enough, that concept. There does seem to be a real difference between functional or procedural languages versus object orientated languages and how we communicate in cyberspace. Is cyberspace irremediably infected with our values? But then those fragile language communities also appropriate technologies to preserve languages. The Tuva have a dictionary of their language, many of the Native American Nations have dictionaries… but then the issue of ownership for this captured, preserved language information comes up and potentially raises new issues of fragility.

But in terms of communities in Europe, the point that worries me there, is that what is accessed through cyberspace is our vision and not theirs. The state often tries to impose values. We had a project with Roma traveller communities and mobile learning… were we being helpful or were we trying to overwrite their values and communication traditions?

And we also see the idea of Skeumorphism – old fashioned technologies or analogies in interfaces – the floppy disc to save a file – so cyberspace polluted by language but also by the iconography of our past and working history, and not anyone else’s. And cyberspace and the education that opens up is complex. The arab or muslim world is not fragile but there are concerns that our technologies are somehow a trojan horse for western christian cultural values for instance.

But returning to a more conventional thread here… mobile technologies are changing our perceptions of time. You could argue timeliness was invented by John Knox. The literature talks of that paradigm of time being challenged by mobile technologies – we can reschedule our lives, we don’t have to obey Greenwich or Newtonian time. A colleague of mine writes about TV channels in Norway… everyone used to watch the same thing and that gave them a sense of identity… there isn’t that ontological security anymore. And if you look at how connected we are to other parts of the world… I was in Australia, my family were going to bed, in another country my publisher was just getting up… and that’s challenging. We work in fixed institutions in a world that is no longer fixed.

A few years ago I read an article called No Dead Air by Martin Bull? talking about how there is a change with mobile technologies – we carry our own communities, music, and exist in a sort of bubble. The places we inhabit are reconfigured by the opportunities cyberspace give us. That’s a real challenge for education, our institutions are fixed and located. There is also literature of how technology is changing social practices, learning new gestures to live in new spaces. So body languages when we overhear things on the train, enforced eavesdropping. We have a new set of what Goffman calls new “tie signs”, gestures to signify importance or discomfort – around, say, placement of mobiles on tables. And we have this idea of “absent presence” (Guergan) where people are in the room, but also on email, twitter, etc. But an upside to that too – that same concept brings absent others into the room, into the presence.

And we have new ethics, new humour, hierarchies, all different in different communities. I am sure there is humour that doesn’t fly in the World of Warcraft community, say. And we don’t always understand them. And one example we get is the idea of the “missed call”- the call you are not supposed to answer! (e.g. from a taxi driver). We also have the idea of “moral panics” – around literacy, around spelling, about child sex, etc.

So if education is to realise the opportunities of cyberspace we need to think about technology as going into a foreign country. You see JISC Legal developing approaches like this. Facebook, if it were a country, would be third largest in the world, so it really is another country. And we see different attachment to devices – a girl in the Guardian was quoted as saying she’d rather lose a kidney than her mobile – it’s not like the desktop route to cyberspace. And there was a reference to mobiles to being like our privates, in terms of our privacy, protective instinct, etc. You also see naming of children in KwaZulu-Natal like “handsfree”, “simcard” etc. The world we see on mobiles, is not what we are used to…

And another of the downsides… here is a tool designed for guilty New York cat owners tracking their cat. But that also means surveillance of children, by state, you could refer to Leotard, or Foucoult’s Panopticon here. And you can make an argument that cyberspace is a kind of post modernity partial, subjective, Bauman’s liquid modernity… you can be apocalyptic about it. Modernity is founded on language and learning as benign, as good things… and this depiction can undermine that.


Q: You talked about QWERTY keyboards leading to english dominance but have development of other interfaces, haptic interfaces made a difference, or could it?

A: I suspect not as I think the market is against it… not that I’ve heard of…

Q: Even with Japanese and Chinese manufacturers making this

A: Market is not universal though so can happen in one place, but not translating to other native communities, other languages.

Q: Mobiles are about multitasking… but meditation can be another way to become smart… do you see any contradiction between these two ways of becoming smart?

A: Well I have an issue of the idea of mobile learning as a kind of creed, something united there in learning or how we deliver it, I’m more inclined to talk about learning with mobiles. I’m also not sure about multitasking… some researchers would say we are time slicing in ever smaller parts.

Q: In your last part of the talk you talked about mobile as fragmenting experience…are there positive educational aspects there.

A: there is a reformist view of it being the same old stuff, but sexier. Or an apocalyptic view that the institution and education system is bust. There is also a sort of broader view that the world is beset by crisis… debt, deforestation, etc… what is the relationship with technologies… are we complicit.

Q: So I guess I was thinking in terms of actual practice. Many of us are within the academy, teaching… we are in a state of transition… students can pull in Google if we are lucky, Facebook if we are unlucky, during our teaching…

A: that’s the bit I’m not sure about, whether we can co-opt or appropriate what is going on, or whether that is a symptom that the education system is bust!

Q: The thing about saying it’s gone bust… if you see education about transmission of information then of course it is bust. But if it is about inspiring people, understanding the process of certain skills… then it is not bust at all. The technology is only a tool for delivery.

A: That would be a reformist view I think. There is all that information, we can recognise the restrictions, the limitations. We can adapt the metacognitive skills, the inspiration… but do we have a monopoly there versus, say, the World of Warcraft?!

Welcome to Porto – Anabela Mesquita

We are now hearing about the European Conference on Social Media 2015 (scheduled for 9-10th July) location, Porto, from Anabela Mesquita who will be hosting next year’s event in Portugal. I won’t capture that in detail here but having chatted with Anabela over the last few days I am quite sure that it will be a lovely location and that she and her organisation, the Polytechnic Institute of Porto, Portugal, will be wonderful hosts for the second ECSM. Anabela promises sunshine, good food, a beautiful river and the sea.

The event will take place at ISCAP, founded in 1886, one of seven schools in the Polytechnic Institute of Porto. ISCAP is business school there with almost 4000 students across undergraduate, graduate, specialised and post graduate programmes and short courses, crossing areas of business, marketing, commerce, and languages. It includes four research centres: Intercultural Studies; Economic Sciences and Taxation; Communication and Education; Technologies and Information Services. Social media bridges all of those courses and research centres. ISCAP participates in several European projects including a number in lifelong learning areas.

Issues of Using Information Communication Technologies in Higher Education – Paul Oliver and Emma Clayes, University of Highlands and Islands, UK

When we looked into the literature into the use of ICTs in HE we found Reynol (2013) found a complex relationship between Facebook and student engagement and that Facebook use can be negatively related to academic performance and time spent preparing for class. Gikas and Grant (2013) found students concerned about the lack of formal training or support given by their institutions. We took these and other studies into account in our design of this study.

We felt that there were common concerns arising around use of ICTs, especially social media, in education but ethics and views of staff involved were two areas that we felt had been overlooked. So we wanted to focus on practical and ethical issues and focusing on the schools of music and social sciences.

We decided to use surveys to explore student and staff views. We decided to use focus groups as previous studies had used these. And we wanted discussions focused around issues we were interested in, so 6 questions were drafted. We used quota sampling and that was very much about convenience sampling – so no particular social media enthusiasms of those volunteering really. And we conducted two focus groups for each schools, that was to reflect the in-person as well as the online student expereince/course delivery models. The conversations were transcribed and then key themes identified for positive/negative views in particular.

So, what were the findings? Well it seemed only staff were concerned with ethical issues, for instance whether all students would be included in these technologies and the importance of not excluding some students. But there were concerns across both staff and students around ease of access, as many experiences challenges accessing VLEs. And although many were positive about the use of social media, they also reported distractions associated with the use of social media.

So, the social sciences staff were daily positive around the use of ICTs in Higher Education, particularly social media. Some concerns around our VLE and it’s functionality and ease of access. And also concerns about students needing to get used to the VLE. One staff member commented that we are preparing students for the world of work, and that means they do not get to choose what technologies they use, they need to be able to use the chosen tool. Another staff member was concerns about the tone of communication in different spaces, and boundaries there – for instance on Facebook.

Alongside that positivity there were concerns about potential problems of inclusion, legal issues such as those arising from inappropriate posts, and concerns around bullying.

For social sciences students the majority expressed favourable views on ease of access of social media, particularly in comparison to institutional ICTs. They commented, for instance, on the difficulty of commenting and navigating discussions on Blackboard for instance. But they voiced concerns of distractions. They commented that they found it difficult to work from home with the distraction of things like Facebook.

With the staff from music there were really two extremes. One used Facebook with their students because that was the best way to get in touch with them. Considered the space the real world, what others do, and that’s beneficial for students. But another staff member uses Blackboard and was only happy to use Facebook if a specific page for the course. And another spoke about social media being called social media for a reason, it is for social use not for educational use.

For the students there were complaints about accessing webmail and the VLE from home. That was a big issue for students and, being based in the Highlands and Islands they can be very widely distributed geographically so that issue of access was a surprise that way. And there were mixed views around feeling comfortable with using social media for education – not all were equally comfortable with the idea. There were also some interesting ideas – one suggested banning Facebook to eliminate distractions. Another suggested a mobile app that feeds social media through it, or to integrate all ICTs into Facebook. One suggested the great idea of letting social media feed into Blackboard, which seemed like a constructive idea.

So, in conclusion, there was a really mixed set of views here. Students and staff have different but important views with regards to the use of ICTs in education. Access really seems to be critical – blackboard is a good product but having reliable use and access is a really key barrier for staff and students. The study did highlight potential problems that institutions may face with regards to ethical and practical issues. We did have concerns about inclusion voice but very few people voiced these, we were surprised at the lack of concerns. And there was an asymmetry of use – some staff used social media very freely and openly whilst others wanted many more barriers in that use. That variation was an issue, could give a sense of exclusion to some. I think we need to think about guidance. We used to have a blanket ban on social media, now it’s quietly encouraged but I think guidance and training is needed. We need to think about digital inclusion too.

More reflection and metrics on what takes place would be good. However, it may be that social media may always be somewhat informally used in education… as long as alternatives are in place is that a problem? And is it possible to set up features on institutional VLEs to obtain the best of both worlds? To make those key communications elements easier to use, more social media like.

And whilst there are practical issues here we also need to think about what is actually needed or wanted by students. Some really felt social media was a distraction – we can assume all students want social media engagement but that’s not necessarily the case. The most fruitful area moving forward is to think of that bridging the formal and the informal…


Q: When talking about social media were the students thinking about engaging with staff and peers on Facebook, or using pages for courses etc. If mixed use it may explain mixed results?

A: Some of our questions were about thinking about variation of approach, how staff engage with students in different ways in different classes.But we found that Facebook tends to be used by students only, set up by them and with no tutor interaction – and it’s not clear the tutors want that.

Q: some institutions use Facebook pages for particular courses, as a private space, so that conversation is focused in one place.

A: That can work but there are real issues of access and inclusion. But it’s the bridging of informal and formal that we need to look at.

Q: Are blackboard looking at logins via Facebook

A: We’d like to see that. In terms of ethics that’s the difficulty as Blackboard is a safe enclosed space.

Ranking the authenticity of social network members – Dan Ophir, Ariel University, Israel

I am looking for something exceptional – exceptional behaviour – to rank authenticity. I am using some tools here including syntax analysis, quantitative semantics, etc. The aim of this is to find the truth, the authentic internet users. Some parallels here with polygraphs perhaps.

The methodology here is based on a computer assisted cognitive behavioural therapy methodology. CBT was originally developed for psychological treatment and can also be used in measuring the probability of an individuals identity, their conversational or behavioural markers. You can see this in chat examples – where exaggeration might be a marker – or in cross-examination transcripts where certain use of language or emotional responses can, through CBT methodologies, help to identify the individual.

BNF (Bacchus Normal Form) is a computer science concept. In computer science we use programming languages to create a form of truth, very defined concepts. So the Bacchus Normal Form is about simple notation symbols. This is about defining different elements. For instance you define a digit. Then you may define a number as being a digit (having already defined that). This is about declaring terms and doing so in clear and consistent ways using a particular syntax. Thats the principle of this BNF, a metalanguage for other languages. But the challenge is to have a natural language syntax for analysis. So, for instance, we can describe a text with BNF – breaking terms into sentences, noun phrases, verb phrases, auxiliary, adverb, etc. So, from these natural language syntax we can build a derivation/parsing tree to understand the sentence in a way that avoids misunderstanding.

Another concept in our world is quantitative semantics. Ranking the words in the vocabulary according to some measure of significance. So, again, we can use BNF system to understand quantitative semantics such as determining terms, extremal terms, maximal terms, etc. This helps us understand the strength of a term. So we see a gradual escalation of terms. You can understand positive or negative terms, you are ranking the semantics on a spectrum of values. You can also look at connecting terms, auxiliary terms.

Now we move into the psychological model, which is supported by the lexical model, so we can use the 10 Cognitive Distortion Thought Categories that are at the centre of CBT methods. With these tools you can take a sentence and detect the thought categories present. And you can use BNF structures to define those thought categories so that the computer has a precise definition of what I am looking for. I am seeking sentences constructed in a particular way in order to understand the user and to rank that user. Different thought categories will therefore have different structures – again definable for use by the computer in parsing user texts.

So, we have these patterns, and they are tested for validity. We can then use pattern matching, based on these patterns, in order to analyse texts. So from this  you can use substitution to recommend correction or more moderate terms; you can evaluate and measure deviation, etc.

From all these models we can build a workflow for processing texts in order to make our rankings, some aspects will be iterative as the computer makes a decision. So, the english version of this work lets you rank intensity of the meaning of the words.

And with that I am off to the next session as it relates to COBWEB. Look out for tweets on the remainder of Dan’s talk from other attendees. 

NatureNet – Crowdsourcing design citizen science data using a tabletop in a Nature Preserve – Tom Yeh, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

I will be talking about a socio technical infrastructure here for nature. So, citizen science is, broadly, about democratising science education and fostering students understanding of how science can be relevant to their lives and communities. And this is a type of crowdsourcing where individuals engage in scientific processes without needing any specific scientific background or training.

So, NatureNet is a citizen science system for studying bio-diversity in nature preserve settings. So, at this conference we have heard lots of presentations on particular platforms. Our project is based around mobile devices, desktop machines and, particularly, table top technologies. Some of these platforms like Twitter and Facebook tend to occur in non Face to Face ways. We wanted to see what fitted those gaps, that opportunity to use table tops and face to face interactions.

So, we were working with the Aspen Nature Park. It is a hugely popular attraction in the summer. So, you can check out a phone at the site, you can take pictures, observations, ask questions – which many do, etc. and collect notes as you walk around. And you can comment and discuss the observation. So, we identified four main motivators to encourage participation in this project:

1. Personal interest

2. Self advocacy

3. Self promotion

So, when the visitor comes back to the visitor centre they can access the table top, they can explore resources, have discussion… they can engage in a face to face way around the table – rather than all having heads down on phones. They can see the pictures they have taken. They can do a kind of face to face social media here, they can engage and share there, they can comment. And answers and discussions can take place, feedback can come back on those questions and comments gathered in the field.

Now, that’s the model the first time they visit, but what happens after that? They have different motivations to take part in the future. If you paid attention in Jennifer Preece’s talk earlier [which I missed] you’ll remember that participation is about membership, feedback, ownership, and acknowledgement. So, for instance after you visit the park, you can look at the website and might reflect back, engage etc.

So, this whole project is about participation in scientific endeavours. And another way to motivating people…

4. gamification

So in terms of crowdsourcing design. These are similar design processes to individual and team design processes but also includes social networking. So we came up with a design model that allows people to add comments and discussion. And we get our users leaving comments and feedback as part of this system, and we use this feedback in our design model.

So, this design model is about collecting ideas, allow commenting on ideas, select ideas, implement ideas – to test effectiveness, integrate ideas, evaluate ideas, modify design. So next time people come back to the park they should see ideas being integrated back into the platform. That will give them some ownership of the platform and some acknowledgement for their participation. One suggestion we have had is for participants to be able to track comments and whether they have or have not been responded to. And we also want some voting on those comments – not just about the science here but crowdsourcing the platform.

This isn’t just a stand alone thing but about the development of scientific dispositions (Clegg and Kolodner 2014, Borda 2007, etc.). In terms of how this can be developed in learners Calabrese-Barton (1998) and Chinn and Malhotra (2001) found that engaging learners in authentic inquiry relevant to their lives enables then to develop scientific dispositions. But Fisher and Giaccardi (2006), Hong and Page (2004), Maher et al (2014 in press), Page (2007), Yip et al (2013) found that engaging learners in the development of tools and activities that support their scientific engagement is also crucial. And that’s why we are doing this, and seeing the tools as continuingly evolving.


Q: Is this specific to the Aspen location?

A: It is now but we also hope to text in two other sites in order to compare how it works there.

Q: We have a project called the Open Science Lab, it came out of a project around personal inquiry with young people. The tool coming out of that is being developed by Mike Sharples and it would be worth you being aware of that if you are not already.

Q: What is the scientific aspects in this project – you are crowdsourcing the interface development but how do comments and questions etc. feed back to scientists/data collection?

A: involved naturalists in the park to crowdsource design of learning activities in the par, but we hope to develop that out towards other citizen science activities. But we want the ideas to help shape relevance of scientific inquiry. People don’t easily identify these sorts of ideas… almost tricking them into giving good ideas.

Combining Social Media and Collaborative E-Learning for Developing Personal Knowledge Management – Tiit Elenurm, Estonian Business School

I started using e-learning tools in the year 2000. At first my focus was on collaborative application of elearning. At that time we used baker(?) but moved over to Moodle and there have been lots of shifts in tools over time, always trying new collaborative aspects, focused on knowledge exchange. So I will look at some of those and how they relate to e-learning.

So this leads to my research question of “What re the experiential learning opportunities and challenges of combining social media and learning applications in the academic context of business studies?” and I’m particularly interested in entrepreneurs. I will talk about 6 applications of social media and learning and their use in developing personal knowledge management skills of entrepreneurs.

So, in 1962 Marshall McLuhan (1962) was the first to popularise the term “global village”. For an entrepreneur the main challenge is about whether we rely only on face to face interactions, when could we use  social media for becoming and remaining successful entrepreneurs. We could set up a successful venture in our local area, but if we want to work with someone in Australia than only face to face contact would be expensive, so we need to be able to gain trust using social media. So we really wanted to study this.

And my point of view around these applications is to think about the benefit of entrepreneurs. We have to understand the entrepreneurial orientations, and whilst some literature suggests only one orientation we have a model of three which we think you see:

– Imitative orientation – looking out to what works as their trigger

– Individual innovative origentation – they maybe do not need so much networking

– Co-creative orientation – students and entrepreneurs focused on core creative work – And when we think about limitations and benefits of applications this is probably particularly important as a group.

So we use self-assessment questionnaire for specifying entrepreneurial orientations – a departure point for local and cross-border business opportunity when linking the entrepreneurship education to social media applications. So, when we have run various training courses related to social media, less so with eCommerce or eMarketing as that’s often reflecting positions of established businesses. We really want to reach at the idea of business opportunities of a networker in a broader sense – networking for self-development in order to understand new business trends and opportunities, networking for building personal brands, support for starting businesses, and also how to defend network against colonising marketeers/players.

So, if I place myself in the position of a small start up or entrepreneur I don’t expect to be an expert in every social media site or domain. Choices have to be made, and the same is true for trainers – there needs to be a more limited relevant focus.

So I looked at six learning and social media combination tools, their challenges and opportunities:

1. discussion forums in the noodle learning environment – for knowledge sharing between students studying international business and knowledge management, very much encouraged by tutors and teaching staff. Encouraged to discuss and exchange with other students. There are many good tools but initiallymuch discussion about how much transparency there should be around homework assignments and grades, what can be learned from. These are good tools and don’t require mainstream social media but it doesn’t cover everything.

2. Assignment for finding and reflecting MOOCs  – now we are trying to take this next step to open up learning. We have tested as assignments in courses, for students to find MOOCs and take them. So, in further we have a special elective where students study entrepreneurship MBA and to find MOOC course to fill a gap in our curriculum – they have to prove it will do that. They have to study that MOOC. And then we have blended learning sessions where they have to demonstrate lessons learnt from the MOOC. If they prove to us and other students that that has been a valuable contribution, then we give points/credit from us. That I think will open up the learning space much more than this first approach. And it is really opening up the curriculum! Perhaps we will develop the curriculum with these courses if we agree.

3. Sharing user experience about preferred social media sites and new online networking opportunities in the course blog – reflecting changing trends in social media use.

4. Ticider for online brainstorming – I have used the tool for years… but some students really opened up my mind here! They asked fellow students from exchange from Barconi to do it together… so this could be a closed or an open community… perhaps on future  more opportunities for open approaches like this.

5. X-Culture online project work – who creates online teams? In the US the lecturer chooses teams, we are trying this out to see what works

6. Cross-border online teams for assisting enterprises in their internationalisation efforts – teams have to work together from Helsinki and Barconi and that is a challenging task to do, finding right skills.

And, in conclusion when creating experiential learning paths of learners by applying social media, useful to take into consideration the readiness of the learners for co-creative entrepeanurship, their online knowledge sharing experience and their disposition to trust co-operation partners in cyberspace. So, in some ways these experiments where students create teams, experiment with them, they are very valuable. x-culture also valuable though as about building trust and teams with people they have never met.

So, the other main important conclusion for me is that minds should be opened up, not just of lecturers but also of students. Many use social media to connect with those who they already know and connect to. Very few proactively use it to find new partners and new contacts. So we have to encourage them to look forwards, not just backwards. To look to their career and knowledge management prospects. And there is the challenge of finding the balance of deliberation and self-regulation in social media and learning. If student judgement high for MOOCs task then why have university. And what is balance of face to face and virtual reality/activity.

Exploring User Behaviour and Needs in Q&A Communities – Smitashree Choudhury, Knowledge Media Institute, Open University

We are mainly a computer science department and we wanted to conduct a small research study on user behaviour needs. We wanted to undersnad user needs in the online communities – why they need contributions, why they contribute. And exploring the relationship between actual behaviour and possible latent needs driving those behaviour. And we wanted to consider if theories of human motivation might explain user needs and behaviour (Maslow).

There have been a number of studies of motivations for using different social media sites. We used Maslow’s theory, a fundamental motivational theory. And that makes use of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and mapping to online needs. From physiological; security needs; needs for belongingness; need for self-esteem; need for self-actualisation. But it needs some translation to the online world. Physiological needs may be about basic needs such as access to the internet. Security may be about security or privacy. And belongingness will be about groups and sense of belonging and participation. And self-esteem connects to reputation, honour, badges in use in these sides. In terms of self actualisation the online communities may fulfil that, but looking at behavioural indicators.

So we started by looking at data from SAP community network. This is a global network where problems are shared. They reward users who contribute significantly, they have a monitoring system for that. There are 32k users. Has run from 2004-2010. There were 427k posts, 34 different forums, 95k threads and many more replies.

So we wanted to seek features that might indicate motivation and behaviour. Factors including community age, how long a user is active in a community; post frequently; initiation; reply; self-reply; number of questions answers; in-degree – how popular are the users and who do they get replies from; tie strength; forum focus – different communities attended by user; topic focus; content quality (reputation points).

So, some statistics of those features… as in many communities a small number of users create a large amount of the content. 10% of users contributed 74% of content. 50% of users were active for less than 10 days of activity. 30% of users never replied to others. 35% of users have never asked a question, maybe they come to contribute and help others. And 70% of users had no reputation points – gives an idea of qualiy distribution.

So we did a simple exploratory analysis of features to factors (EFA) to try to see where correlations might occur. From that we basically found four or five factors that describe all of the behaviours.

1: socially active users/engagers

2. Askers and replies – a measure of community contribution.

3. short-term but active users

4. experienced users

5. Reputation/expert users

So with these factors we found users with these attributes cluster quite differently… we can see that helping behaviours are quite evident in those factors. So, do we see the need hierarchy? In order to investigate we extracted the patterns into time patterns – 16w timeline for each user to see progress for each user… It showed users having multiple behavioural characteristics over time. If we went to user level we saw aggregate community level… the community shows same level of needs in each category.

Then we looked at need evolution. 16% started with basic information needs. 51% start interactively by both initiating and contributing to other users. 12% of users start with high reputation score. 46% of users maintain same order of needs throughout community life. 25% moves from lower to higher oder needs. 28% moves in the reverse direction.

So, this suggests that the users in online communities may not follow a rigid hierarchy… Even Marlow says that it is a combination of needs – you may have more than one at play at the same time. There are also some limitations here, we did not directly involve the community here which may have changed things here. But behavioural analysts does provide insight into users intention of participation at different times.

Summary of issues raised during the conference and presentation of the best PhD Paper and Best Poster Awards – Sue Greener and Asher Rospigliosi

Asher: Sue and I wanted to bring together our thoughts… we noted a lot of stuff up on a wall, which you can see in this image, and we really want to focus on a few key things: do not make assumptions being a big part of this…

Sue: We have a few challenges here… So, firstly… the issue of ubiquity is known, is part of our world but it does really raise challenges…we came across several people at this conference who have twitter accounts but have never used them! Is that normal for academics to research something we haven’t tried ourselves? If we are seriously researching social media, as Farida said, you need to do this stuff first. We’ve said this about elearning for years, but how do we make meaning in our research without trying stuff out.

ASher: we also wanted to talk about ease and access… and issues around Twitter. So many of us use Twitter as a source of data – it’s easy to access, open. accessible. We can’t reach that closed data from other platforms… we can get Twitter data without complexity… maybe… but actually we need computer science to manage that and that changes what kind of projects we do, what skills we need. And again these are issues raised by Farida, as were issues of who we hear about in this space, how reliable data is…. and there can be huge differentiation between what dat you get depending on your source, your API, whether you have firehose access.

Sue: thirdly the issue of clash of worlds, clash of dimensions! I’ve had lots of comments about a mix of elements, not so much a blend. We saw that social media links across disciplines… I think that can be good, to bring people together. But we can find clashes there… in the education world Facebook might be great but it’s not owned by the sector, we have to think about the commercial world… risk management… we need to consider commerce, learning world of academics, and learning world of students. And student experiences can be quite different. And you have the institutional perspective… and the analytical perspective. You have governments watching, tracking, potentially shaping our destiny without us even knowing. So we have to critically examine that before we can say “I know that”.

Asher: fourthly the pace of change of the technology world, of social media is breathtaking. Several times I thought about the route to get a PhD… how long that takes to establish methodological approach, collect data, reflect on that data… if that had been on MySpace and you came out with a PhD around that it might be a bit disconcerting… stuff like SnapChat, Instagram, WeChat… We started by talking about Twitter and being involved… increasingly the new technologies and interfaces will change rapidly. I don’t know anyone using Google Glass yet but I’m sure it won’t be long before whole conferences may be full of people here… and so there is the issue of relevance and currency. I would say that you should be open, recording what you think at the moment or shortly afterwards – like Nicola has done in her liveblog – because you have established and shared what you are doing, particularly important if you are doing a PhD in this area.

Sue: Fifthly there is the issue of language, terminology and definitions too. This is a really shifting time… we don’t have the definitions… we find it hard as academics to talk about what we write.

Asher: this morning we had this idea of, Sue calls it, “QWERTY Lock” and how that may influence our behaviour.

Sue: And David Gurteen asked us to think about better smarter conversations online… we need a shared language to talk about social media and what’s going on, and we need to establish that…

Asher: Farida talked about images, how under represented they are in the literature. Ben Schneiderman also raised the issue of visual literacy when talking about visualisation and big data. And this week, along with twitter, we have also seen a number of images being shared, a lot of information there.

Sue: So there are five challenges to take away… but the main thing here is that, isn’t this an exciting time to be exploring and researching social media! And, as you may imagine we have been collecting everything as we go  – tweets, images, storify etc. So go to http://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/brightsoc/ for all of those.

Asher: So, stay in touch with us and each other and we welcome any feedback you may have…

Comment from audience: I’ve really enjoyed this. When we first talked about this year at ALT-C, an e-learning conference with many of the same faces again… and it was so fun to be at an event with such a mix of areas and with topics outside of my normal work area!

Sue Nugus: we are going to give the prizes for the best PhD Paper and the best Poster. We had some great posters today. At some conferences people can feel that posters don’t count in some sort of way, but thats not true – you can learn so much from the posters and speaking with the poster authors. And I am so pleased that we had such excellent posters that really reinforced that! And the best poster goes to Sue Beckingham and the team from Sheffield Hallam University for their poster The SHU Social Media CoLab.

We also wanted to thank Avril Loveless for chairing and organising the PhD Colloquium. There were some fantastic presentations which gave the judges a very hard time. But the unanimous winner was Jennifer Forestal from Northwestern University, and her paper was from “Demos to Data: Social Media, Software Architecture and Public Space”.

Finally I would like to thank Asher and Sue for being so up for organising this first ECSM conference, they have been wonderful.

Asher: And huge thanks both to Sue Nugus, to Sue Gardner and to all of the academic and technical support teams here who have helped make the event possible!

And with that we are all done! It was a really stimulating and useful conference for me and I look forward, hopefully, to going along to ECSM 2015 and meeting with this lovely community again soon!

 July 11, 2014  Posted by at 9:55 am Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Jul 102014

Today I am at the European Conference on Social Media (#ECSM2014) at the University of Brighton. I will be presenting my paper, “Learning from others mistakes: how social media etiquette distorts informal learning online” this afternoon but until then I will be blogging the talks I attend. As usual this is a live blog so please let me know if you spot any errors or omissions and I’ll be happy to fix them. 

After a welcome to the event from Sue Nugus of acpi, we are now hearing from Bruce Brown, Pro Vice Chancellor of Research at University of Brighton, welcoming us and stating that everything is up for grabs right now, a really important historic moment in time making this a really important conference which we are delighted to be hosting! Over 35 countries are represented here today, welcome! We are a post 92 University here but we have had a lot of success in research, and have a really exciting research agenda here particularly around arts and humanities. If I mention “impact” to UK colleagues here I can see a bit of a dark cloud looming… I chair the main panel for Arts and Humanities nationally, in which I have a group in Arts and Society and Commerce who met in Edinburgh yesterday, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised by just how much impact there is in these fields. So, I wish you well for a great conference.

Asher Rospigliosi, University of Brighton

Myself and Sue Greener, who’ll join me in a moment, have been working together for the last 12 years or so. Although we are located in a business school we have focused on e-learning, on the impact of the internet on everyday life. We were therefore very keen to look beyond the business world, to the wider range of how social media is impacting on life. We deliberately start with Farida Vis, who we are delighted to have here speaking about big data, for that reason. We also wanted to recognise the impact on business and changing business practices which is why we are delighted that our second keynote comes from David Gurteen.

Dr Sue Greener, University of Brighton

And the other side of what we are looking at today is learning, because we learn through social media all the time. So learn, discuss… and read about what happened at yesterday’s Social Media Showcase.

Farida Vis – The Evolution of Research on Social Media

As has already been said this is a really important moment, and something of a crunch point of academia, industry and government really coming together around social media. Social media research is becoming mainstream and visible across research and across sectors in different ways.

So, a few provocations…

Increasingly social media is becoming synonymous with big data. The tracks and traces we leave online mean that social media research is increasingly needing to engage with or at least acknowledge this big data. And real time analytics are an important part of this. What do they mean for academia and the time frames we are used to? How quickly can we produce findings, and findings which are robust… there are ways in which our work is being broken up and being challenged.

I was pleased to see the word cloud of keywords for papers and note lots of mentions of Facebook and LinkedIn and not so much Twitter. That would be good to see… in the literature we are seeing a real focus on particular platforms… Twitter seems to be a dominant platform there but social media is not Twitter, we have to be careful how we extrapolate from one platform to others… I think this is partly to do with attention and real time aspects. Other platforms that get researched a lot less have a very different dynamic. A site like Pinterest isn’t as concerned with real time, it works quite differently. We have to be careful how we build this field collectively.

So, where are the research questions, when we talk about social media? And big data? Often we are data driven – what is available to us not a series of critical research questions that lead to data, to tools. And social media research, at least in the early days, was a lot about how to get a handle on this data, how to deal with it… but we are now moving to a phase where we need to think about the theory. We can no longer get away with being theory-light.

And some other issues that come up time and time again, not least in relation to the Facebook contagion study, are issues around research ethics – do we need new ethical frameworks, do we need more agile ethics, how do we apply traditional ethics in a new research space. There are questions of methods. There are issues of sampling. And I think we still haven’t really grappled with is data sharing… when you deal with social media data it is data you cannot share with other researchers and that has real implications… For instance Twitter are really honing in on data use. Twitter, when they went public, have become very much concerned with selling data which is their business plan. That means for us as researchers we have real challenges with sharing proprietary data sets. And real issues with regards to open data and transparency, and with the funding council. Making applications for research funding you are expected to talk about data sharing and that means proprietary data is a real problem.

It’s brilliant to see so much research on social media… but less good to see a lack of funding for social media research. Both the AHRC and ESRC talked about funding a research centre last year, but for various reasons that funding never made it to a call… the funding calls could do a lot more to fund specific social media research. The ESRC are moving into their third phase of Big Data funding, but none specifically for social media, despite it being a major big data topic.

So, what is the future for this research field? In some ways we have this tension between huge enthusiasm and interest, there is a lot of excitement and innovation happening, but that has to be underpinned by a funding but also training framework to underpin this research.

I just want to talk for a while about where I have come from in this research field, and where I see this going… and how some future of social media may be going. I got involved in social media fairly early on. I did a PhD on the Israel-Palestine conflict and focusing on the representation of victims. And in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina happened the media representation of victims there, particularly two press pieces representing black people as thieves, white people as victims. There was a real backlash from the blogosphere and I found that community, that voice online, really fascinating and exciting, providing a voice for those not being represented.

Similarly in 2008 the Fitna: the battle YouTube controversy similarly sparked response from a community that was not getting it’s voice heard elsewhere. Again this was very interesting, and I was moving through the platforms. And in 2011 the London Riots were getting blamed on social media, particularly Twitter, and I became involved in work investigating those claims, the Reading the Riots project.

So, my research was becoming about data, big data sets, and that meant requiring new tools, new approaches, collaborations with others. When I looked at Flickr in 2005 the scale was several hundred images, doable by hand, small scale. By Fitna there were 1413 videos and 700 individuals. You cannot collect all of those. And in social media there is this beguiling idea that because you can see the data, it will be easy to capture that data. So for YouTube I had to work with computer scientists to get at that data.

And by 2011 we were asked by the Guardian to look at the riots tweets – a data set of 2.6 million tweets – and that meant a whole lot of computer science. So over that period we were really moving into needing far more fire power, more computing power, and computer science input.

So, coming back to reading the riots… the Guardian were given this data set. Twitter were uncomfortable, as a brand, were uncomfortable to be linked to the riots particularly before the Olympics. They were happy to be linked to the Arab Spring, but not those riots. But the Guardian didn’t know what to do with that data, and this work was in the context of a parliamentary enquiry… We formed a multidisciplinary team, lead by Rob Proctor, but that was work with real and immediate relevance.

Something very personal to add here… I feel that I am something of a “border runner”, working within academia, with government, with industry. In my own time I sit on a World Economic Forum Council on Social Media. What is interesting in this moment is trying to have these discussions across these sectors, bringing perspectives from academia to industry… and I think that border running is really important.

So, back to big data. Gardner (in Sicular, 2013) define big data as being about volume, velocity and variety. And there is a huge industry built around “social data” and “listening platforms” but many of these are Black Box systems, not suitable for academic work where you want to understand what takes place beyond the screen. So there is a great set of provocations and challenges to big data from boyd and Crawford: about the mythology that big data sets offer a higher form of intelligence and knowledge that can generate insights that were previously impossible, with the aura of truth and authenticity based on scale. They highlight the importance of critiquing claims of objectivity of data.

There are issues of the overwhelming focus on quantitative methods. And does data answer questions it was not designed to answer? How can we be sure we are asking the right research questions? We shouldn’t put data before research questions. And there are inherent biases in large linked error prone datasets, a really complex area. And there is a focus on text and numbers that can be mined algorithmically. Natural Language Processing works on stuff that can be mined, but what happens with that data we can’t easily mine? And I will talk a little on data fundamentalism…

Data fundamentalism is about the notion that correlation always indicates causation, that massive data sets and predictive analytics always reflect “objective truth”. The idea and belief in the existence of objects. And in that we can fail to situate ourselves in relation to that big data. And where are the critical big data studies? This is an important call to to arms I think.

So, how do we ground online data? It’s important to foreground data and what we think the data can tell us. There is a tension in where people want to ground their data. When we talk about social media we need to think about whether we want to ground the participants as citizens, in their offline context as people. Governments do want to understand individuals as people. So, do we ground social media users in the real world, as citizens, in the online world. Or do we want to ground our online users in that online world, social media users as social media users. So a Facebook user in the context of other Facebook users… this idea of grounding in the online world was pioneered by Richard Rogers in his research methodologies. So, for instance, in the riots one of the big key Twitter users was “Lord Voldemort” and, whilst there is a real person behind that account, it really points to those tensions of how we understand the grounding, whether offline or on lie.

Important considerations:

1. Asking the right question – research should be question driven rather than data driven. And honestly there is something troubling about the Riots work – started with the data and it was donated by a company, it goes against many of my provocations here. But we have to be open to using the data that is made available – Twitter is fairly transparent in it’s data ecosystem and what is available.

2. Accept poor data quality and users gaming metrics – once online metrics have value users will try to game them. Approach this data with huge suspicion. Try to ensure that you critically investigate that data, ensure what you think you have are what you actually have.

3. Limitations of tools – they are often built in disconnected ways… they may be built by people with expertise other than your own research perspective… dealing much more with user requirements in tool building is central, but as researchers we also have to be much better at describing the limitations better.

4. Transparancy – researchers should be upfront about limitations of research and research design. Can the data answer the questions? Increasingly we struggle to know what the limitations actually are – factors include what companies give us access to, what limitations we have as researchers, as well as others we don’t envisage, even if trying to be transparent.

I wanted to talk about a paper I wrote on Big Data and APIs (Vis 2013), and those aspects we can be unaware of… I am very keen that we have to be clear about how we create this data… it isn’t ready and waiting for us. We co-create that data. We need to be much more aware of APIs, of the tools that we use. So for instance Twitter lets you access three free APIs (Streaming, Search, REST), you have to understand from the outset which you need and what implications that has, and often you may want all three APIs. There are a number of API sampling problems. Now, if you have a lot of money to spend – as commercial companies will do – you can access the “FIREHOSE” – all of the tweets. But the Streaming API is a 1% random sample of the firehose… but it’s not totally random. I spoke to them and gave them a grilling on this. Twitter could do a whole lot better to explain how that 1% is being selected, what is and is not included, so that we understand what it is we are dealing with. From the Search or Streaming API, if you are not rate limited in a timeframe, you may actually be collecting all the data. So the implications will all depend on the type of data you are tracking. If you tracked all the tweets from this conference we are unlikely to generate 3 million tweets… collecting all the tweets through Search of Streaming means we might get 100% of the data or very near to it… but for a major event like the Arab Spring or Riots it’s a very different beast.

But it gets more complicated… this data is absolutely the backbone of monetising these platforms. We are seeing new business models around enriched metadata. We did, until recently, see three big players here: Datasift, GNIP and Topsy. But GNIP has been brought by Twitter, Topsy by Apple… we can see a tweet for instance, but the metadata will tell us the context – how many followers the person has, what the connections are, etc. And that’s where the value is… so we have seen the emergence of a social data industry. We saw Social Data Week take place last year. Big Boulder, traditionally organised by GNIP but last month’s was ostensibly organised by Facebook, is another big key conference here. So this is some of the wider context in which some of our research is taking place, we are at the mercy of this industry, and how data is made available.

So… is this new enriched metadata that companies sell/want to sell actually useful? For academia, industry and government we are all interested in location and influence – geolocation and how influential users are and how their networks look, where the key nodes and influencers are for sales but also for spreading policies or curbing negative spread.

So, the difference between social media and social data. Last year Martin Hawksey spotted that when you sent a query to the Twitter search API you used to get a small amount of data back, but now are giving you about four times more data: much much more context, to help you understand better what individuals are doing. But I get suspicious when I see this… is this stuff they could give us before? where is it from? is some of it made up?

New Profile Geo Enrichment – a GNIP product that came out last year… on Twitter you can click the geolocation pin to switch on for all of your tweets to be giving an exact Lat/Long geolocation. This is the gold standard of geo location. But only 1% of Twitter users are comfortable to give away their location all the time… and this is a really skewed group of users. So 2-3% of tweets in Firehose have geolocation. And those tend to be early adopters who are comfortable with sharing that data, do not have privacy concerns. So this new GNIP tools uses your biography and the location you can state there to parse your proxy location. The crucial thing here is that many many Twitter users do give a location in their biography… so a company like GNIP claim you can hear from all Twitter users, that the data is representative… to find the people discussing your brand in which location… This tool also parses tweets that mention a location…. now you don’t have to think too hard to see some issues there. This “enriched” metadata product mashes together gold standard geo location data with all this other stuff.

And there is another issue… people often delete tweets, and they often delete tweets with exact locations. In principle the Twitter API will send data to the tool but you have responsibility to check that. People batch delete locations. They also delete content.

Back to that Geo Enrichment of profiles… they are linking data and talk about “unlocking” demographic data and other information that is not otherwise possible with activity location. But how do we conduct the cheeks and balances we want and need to do to actually use that data in research.

We are obsessed with influence, ranking, lists… and we are also increasingly concerned with how influential we are as individuals on social media, maybe not everyone in this audience but a lot of social media users. So you have companies like Klout who rank you on social media influence… but change your scores based on which tools you connect. And they would create dark profiles – harvesting data and creating profiles even if you are not interested. Mining your data and processing and profiling you whether or not you want to. And the results of who influences you, and who you influence can be bizarre… people you’ve never seen are apparently your top influences. Direct Messages appear in key moments…

And Klout is a gamified space… they reward users for giving data… more data = more influential?? And of course there is the tension between online or offline influence. Up until recently Justin Bieber had a perfect Klout score… is he really more influential than, say, Obama, offline?! And you can buy your Klout score… the site Fiverr for instance lets you buy a Facebook Girlfriend, or boost your Klout scores… this stuff is out there… these tools exist…

So in April 2013 Mitt Romney decided to buy 100,000 extra followers in one day… a huge spike in one day was suspicious and he was found out. There are as many as 20 million fake follower accounts out of the 200 million active users – that’s from last year – so 10% of the Twittersphere are fake followers. And that doesn’t count spoof accounts. If we think about offline data sets… these should make us incredibly nervous… but we forgot to be critical about this stuff and we should be.

One more word on Klout… GNIP is now partnered with Klout… we can now buy Twitter data with Klout scores… and those could really skew our research.

We really need to be better at describing the limitations of our data. We have to see APIs as data makers, once data is linked very hard to untangle how metadata is constructed and where problems might be. Included in terms of deleted content – people delete for many different reasons. And we need to think of ourselves as data makers as well. And when creating a dataset it is important to describe how it was made, what the limitations are. You have to be suspicious of your data, to verify it, to describe that process. And how do we do that in a standard journal article – perhaps we have to have a more detailed account elsewhere of how our data was created.

Tools as data makers… I increasingly see research projects designed around tools that will get them the data. That massively narrows the scope of what we are looking at… if that’s what we do, what kind of research landscape are we building. I essentially see the same Twitter tool being built over and over again. We do have to focus on the questions. So we really need to understand this as a very dynamic field where humans and tools co-create data. And we have to avoid thinking about social media as lots of data, and that it is for people who work with data to build those. Instead we have to have a good understanding of the platforms themselves. What kind of domain expertise do we need in this field? To do Twitter research you need to understand the platform, you also need to be a user of that platform.

So, what’s the future? Well we need to address what gets left out – all the stuff we are not looking at right now. One thing that gets left out is images, very little research on images but 750 million images shared daily, not reflected in research. Images grab our attention, key to engagement for companies. iPhone world’s number one camera. Top cameras on Flickr all iPhones. A camera used to be for special occasion. Smartphones are always on us… we take selfies, everyday snaps, but also witness to events. And smartphone penetration is really quite high – 65% in US, similar in UK – going along with this is mobile web access, and that’s shifting what we could look at… And we see a rise of platforms focusing on visual content… Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat. But academia just getting a handle on Twitter… and we have to move on again. And so many issues of ethics. We have issues of ephemerality… how do we research Snapchat? Through interviews with users? Through using it directly ourselves? Snapchat is a really important new player. 400 million images shared every day… we should be researching these areas.

In response to how images are being used Twitter has changed how we see images… now showing them inline. And saw a huge boost in RTs for inline pictures – changing practice in platform and in user behaviour, so important changes.

So, in the future, we need to think about pitfalls, limitations, and think about what are we not researching. I will be working on an image project in the next year. Images are not easy to mine. Maybe we are avoiding things it is hard to draw meaning out from. Images do, however, have huge interest in industry – and may move way ahead of academia, though we can learn a lot from certain developments. We need to switch our focus to understanding what all of this means… why are people doing this? How do we understand this social world?

Social Media for Informal Minority Language Learning: Welsh Learners’ Practices – Ann Jones, Institute of Educational Technology, Open University

This is an educational case study on minority language learning, specifically Welsh. This will be quite a straight forward talk on the challenges, the literature and this case study. We are quite a small number in this room but here is a map to locate Wales and to get a sense of Welsh speakers by local authority… So Cardiff is south. Aberystwyth, with a high number of Welsh speakers is in mid Wales.

Welsh is a very old language, from about the 6th century. It was the main language until the 1900s. Now about 20% of the population speak Welsh (~560k). The distribution is very uneven. In Cardiff it’s 8% of people, in Aberystwyth its 42%, in Caernarfon it’s 88%. So 2 challenges… small number of speakers, and uneven distribution. As a learner wanting to practice that can be tricky.

We thought about how one might be able to overcome this a bit online. Last year Lamy and Zourou (2013) “Social networking for language education: two particular foci: identity and community building” was really helpful, and included focus on minority and heritage language learning. Zorou (2012) talks about 3 terms for language learning:

1. social media as a set of tools

2. social network sites

3. language learning communities – more than just tools to learn the language, sometimes including peer assessment.

And I’ve also drawn on Conole and Alevizou (2010) and their topography for SM for language learning. And they talk about media sharing; instant message, conversation and chat; social networking; blogging and microblogging. In the study I looked at microblogging was quite important, even for beginners. But for me I needed to add another aspect…

In terms of studies of welsh there is quite a lot on the status of welsh on social media, not so much for learning, so what happens if you are a bilingual speaker – do you speak welsh or do you speak English? Honeycutt and Cunliffe (2010) looked at Facebook, found quite a lot of use… groups that ranged from tiny numbers, to those in the thousands… later studies haven’t been quite so positive though. And on the social identity of welsh learners (Prosser 1986) looked at how welsh isn’t usually learned in order to community, it is about identity and your relationship to welsh identities.

So, an informal welsh learning case study. This was a small study with quite lengthy interviews with 12 learners. This gives you an indication of what they were doing – all made some use of social media. Even beginners used Twitter – if only to follow a tweet of the day in Welsh. Some also used email if they felt confident and it was about exchange with another learner.

There was one community that has grown up, 30k participants, called Say Something in Welsh. It talks about welsh learning podcasts. It emphasises communication skills. It was used by and referred to by many of my participants. They have two courses, a forum, a weekly newsletter, and an Online Eisteddfod – encouraging learners to  take pictures, write plays, etc. And they also run physical bootcamps for intensive speaking practice. There are local meetings. There are 30,000 users. And it is run by passionate people so that forum is very actively monitored.

So I want to give you some examples of social media use. Media sharing is an obvious one, and tends to come top in informal language learning. They were watching and sharing TV, often via app, and they watched kids programmes and programmes for learners. But as their learning progressed it changed. So a participant talked about listening to a documentary and understanding a little bit for the first time. Many listened to Radio Cymru – at work it didn’t distract them but felt it was training their ears. And there were materials on YouTube, music downloads, BBC resources for learners, etc.

In terms of instant messaging and chat, even if not that well progressed, were used. Emailing was part of this. Skype was particularly useful – both audio/video and text chat. And texting also part of the mix. And the forum included hugely detailed and caring discussions of detailed language use, such as correct use of “i”.

The social media spaces here were basically only Facebook. A participant here talks about having a Welsh Facebook page – and using the spell checker as part of that process, quite a sophisticated learning use. And learners talked about using Facebook to bring learners together… for instance welsh learners in England who used Say Something in Welsh to set up and support meet up groups – see Welsh Learners in England Facebook Page for instance. An online space and advertising that compliments in person activities and meetings.

I mentioned that there was a really active forum on SSIW. There is real encouragement, sharing of experiences, etc. One of my interviewees talked about going to Wales for a week, looking for resources, and downloading resources onto his smartphone. And how he was using that. And he talks about going into a shop and being understood. So access to that online course and community has been key to his understanding of the language.

Conclusions. I did a small scale study here. All use social media but their use varies. And it changes from a beginner to when you become more experienced. Most commonly they shared media, used it to interact, used SNS – usually Facebook. SNS successful in connecting learners. Experienced learners particularly creative in supporting other learners – perhaps because of the identity of welsh learners. SSIQ has been particularly successful.


Q: have you looked at how welsh learners adopt new English words… when we have new words related to technology and whether there are common words…

A: People do ask each other. Perhaps similar to other minority languages there is a board of language, and when new words emerge they discuss what they should call that… some are quite amusing. “Microdon” was the word for Microwave, but popularly known as “Poptiping” because of the noise it makes.

Q: Was there a spread beyond the group, that people were drawn in?

A: I didn’t look at it, people at Glamorgan did, but I’m not sure that it did. They say online communities often mirror offline groups. For welsh community some mirroring. Different for learners though. Don’t

Q: Social media communities around politics are often the most active – do you think that the political aspect of learning and speaking welsh is important – would the community work similarly for other minority languages without that political aspect or is that political baggage important?

A: lovely quote I had about technology as a boon but also a real issue – because community is so big online. Welsh government funded rugby union for bilingual website and they hadn’t done it… they are located down south. Has to be a real push. And meanwhile remote communities still don’t have broadband, meanwhile driving with dongle to do homework… definitely a significant political element there.

Social media initial public offerings (IPOs): Failure and Success Factors – Piotr Wisniewski, Warsaw School of Economics, Poland

I will be talking about social media commercialisation, the learning curve and some of the investment challenges. The Global Social Media Index. And some takeaways from key IPOs.

Social media organisations increasingly tapped public stock markets yet, despite appeal and improving economics, the success of several high profile IPOs has been rather lacklustre. Social media have been very popular with younger generation but this is changing. We see them setting trends in the economy. We see projected demands as role of social networking rises. Their primary focus fuels expected growth – the young will become more affluent over time. They are seen as democratic resources because of their ease of access.

From an investment point of view social media can be seen as facilitators of existing offline operations. But you can also look at social media as an asset for investment per se, and that’s my concern.

You have seen growing awareness of social media by industry, and adoption of them. There are critical challenges though: business metrics and KPIs are difficult for social media. Social media stocks represent very different business models so hard to benchmark them against each other. And that makes it hard to put a safe valuation on them. Further many business models have been hard to monetise. They have been popular with users but it is hard to monetise that. Most social media companies are “hit driven” so they have to innovate to remain relevant and interesting to stock holders.

Global Social Media Index: the companies primarily looked at to see the trends for investment stories tend to be those with public status and global outreach. Not only local presence but a global dimension. Which usually, because of languages, have to mean sites in global languages.

In terms of the SOCL Key Components we see a real focus on US and Chinese companies, Facebook and LinkedIn significant here.

Some social media stock got off to inauspicious start, they are seen as highly volatile stocks. We see most indeces outpacing Social Media stocks initially, at their floatation, but then they recover losses over time. We see quite a bit of volatility but we see more favourable Sharpe Ratio… So they have gained ground in terms of risk adjustment over time. Looking at SOCL financials we see LinkedIn as one of the most highly valued stocks, partly about the variance in business models.

As we look at the IPOs, many floatations were made when no clear path to commercialisation and monetisation could be seen by investors. Timing of some IPOs was not so good in some cases. And there were issues of IPO management – aggressive pricing made it difficult to successfully list them on the stock market.

I would say the conclusions that could be drawn from the information on IPOs… whoever brings them onto the market has to pay attention to timing, timing is critical. Pre-IPO integration is important, to make the route to commercialisation more clear. And the IPO management has to be done better in order to limit the mishaps that occurred in, say, the Facebook IPO. Has to be a more coherent process and perhaps with more conservatism on the pricing side.


Q: Why are social media attractive on the markets?

A: See a broadening and widening of customer base. Public markets are susceptible to trends, to public interests. The stories behind the IPOs are attractive. We have a young customer base, a loyal customer base.

Q: How are they valued? What is the product?

A: Earnings, cashflow, projections for instance. The service is networking among people, the product is advertising on the whole. Some applications are paid for… some models more commercially viable than others. Investors have those doubts too… looking for clear path to commercial success. LinkedIn is valued high for that reason… may be too high…

Q: Is LinkedIn so high because it has a more traditional model, a recognisable recruitment model almost

A: It has high quality users, graduates, professionals, and high quality networks that are particularly of interest to investors.

Q: Has the perception of Facebook and transparency changed since the IPO?

A: Argueably it is more transparent now, since the offering. But still questions about commercialising and monetising. But they have come a long way.

Pro-Am Writing: Towards a framework for new media influence on Old Journalism – Andrew Duffy, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore 

I started here by looking at travel writing, the professional travel writers – often armed with trusty notebooks – and the amateur travel bloggers, usually armed with laptops. And you might ask whether this is a serious area of study… but media frameworks influence public perception and reflect pubic opinion (Curran 2002), media shapes world view, provides shares symbols and language (Keller 2002). And the media can change perceptions and behavioural intentions (Hsu and Song 2013).

But lets turn that around… tourists are now an important media source for the public (Duffy 2014). The ambulant traveller can tell the travel writer where to go and what to do when they get there. So I came up with three research questions on the user generated sites. So far we have looked at 18 travel journalism students from the UK, Finland, Singapore, China and Taiwan. They planned their articles before travel-writing practicum to Istanbul. I did a survey and one hour interviews on their experiences.

The first thing they did was to look at background information. And I was surprised at how very vague they were… “about Istanbul”, “Turkish culture”, etc. They looked up sites they had heard about “Blue Mosque”, “Hagia Sofia”. They also did specific travel arctic searches… for “Traditional Turkish Hamam”, “Istanbul moustache transport”. Everything coming back was mainstream, they wanted to be different… so finally they searched for off the beaten track information.

Now they mostly started with Wikipedia/Wikitravel. They were a bit embarrassed and nervous about them. But as a basic starting point it was worth doing it. None mentioned the collaborative nature of those sites. Then they went to Lonely Planet forum and TripAdvisor. Seen as trusted but often seeing only the obvious stuff. And a smaller percentage of students went to blogs by travellers and residence – seen as insider’s viewpoint, authentic… but also seen as rather boring because they were every day. A dichotomy there.

Motivations for using UGC… students noted for Wikipedia – “anybody could write it, hell even I could write it” as if that were the last word in dubious authorship. For Trip Advisor it was seen as a  method of verification. Often people start with the top 10… or if they want to be obscure they look down at number 53 or something more obscure.

For blogs it was important for the reader to decide whether or not the author was on the same wavelength, the same personality as the individual. They make a quick assessment. But seen as giving you new information you don’t find anywhere else. And at the end I had to prod them about whether they used Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter… we are told they are digital natives, told to use Twitter or Instagram… but they go there as a last resort. One said that Twitter might be up to date but wasn’t sure how to search it… another used Facebook pages for a club to find out about it… but it surprised me how grudgingly they used these spaces.

UGC is sought for alternative travel ideas, off the beaten track and real life as it is lived, an authentic traveller experience. Instead it delivers mainstream attractions (no social reporting), reconfirms existing knowledge first, authentic tourist experience. This desire really focused down their trips into really mainstream activities..

So I’m trying to put together a framework for future studies, good practice professional journalism values combines with UGC equivalents. So for news “impact on many” would equate to “must see, must do”. All of these students researched using Google, no one questioned results on front page. Four went to a page sponsored by a hotel, none of them noticed. They were not aware of SEO. These are communications students, they should know better. So what is the influence of UGC on travel journalism? Well many of these factors add up to popular, mainstream, recentness, and a focus on personal experience… that limits how people see the outside world. Self trumps destination – we are producing a generation of travellers that place themselves above their destination. Classic news value in journalism is objectivism, but subjective experience is the outcome from this authenticity as a gold standard factor in UGC. Quite an interesting aspect.

It pushes towards mainstream activities, replicates mainstream media conventions – research on NYT travel pictures sent by users found both those replicating conventions and the jokey tropes for instance. A real focus on tourist activities. A focus on personal experience and the self. In the mainstream rather than the independent. In theory the internet should be freeing us from monolithic media makers, but seems to be the opposite happening. And, as I mentioned, they didn’t really discuss the effect of SEO and how that pointed them towards the mainstream.. I found across a great tool that forces you to page 11 of Google – to see the soft white underbelly of the internet.

So they want to blaze the trail they wish when they actually follow in others’ footsteps.

Q: Are those journalistic frameworks still relevant, is that idea of objectivity still relevant when mainstream media is moving to subjective terms, columnists etc. Objectivity isn’t what is seen in the same way now, may be influenced by social media but much bigger than that.

A: I did think I’d be asked about that. These values are from textbooks, long standing values. Whilst these students may want to end up being a columnist but they have to do that objective stuff, that socialisation, to enter the media, to reach that point.

Comment: reminds me of Ira Glass concept of “The Gap”- the idea that you ape a style you like but have great difficulty creating to that level until you have had a lot of practice.

Q: Could the lack of use of Twitter be about students seeing Twitter as a messaging service? My students certainly see it that way.

A: I don’t think so, as journalism students they see Twitter as an information source, but they didn’t search them.

Q: Why did students trust Trip Advisor, and use in preference to Booking.com or similar.

A: Partly because it is so well known, it also appeared very high up in the search results. But they were embarrassed about using it, like Wikipedia, as created by amateurs. Much more comfortable looking at journalistic sources and newspapers, especially British newspapers, appear highly in search results.

Q: Lets flip this round a bit… what would you do as a travel site to be used more?

A: If I was going to well paid consultancy for travel websites I would tell them that they should use the first person. They saw third person as promotional in tone. They much prefer first person “If they did, then I could do it too”. Why can’t you write in first person in a blog style on the Istanbul website? Need to break away from third person.

Q: Doesn’t that link back to the point made earlier to the objective versus subjective voice. They prefer subjective account.

A: This was the revelation to me… that thing of subjectivity being what they look for, that being the internet way… the impact on journalism is likely to be a significant thing.

David Gurteen – Towards Smarter Socially Mediated Conversations

Let me take you back 12 years… I used to go to talks in London on knowledge management. And afterwards we would go to the pub to chat. Some were good but many were not so good… And on those nights the pub was the best bit, that was where the real connections and learning took place. And so, I decided to set up Gurteen Knowledge Cafe’s and that’s what I do now, I travel the world arranging these sorts of discussion events. People started to ask me about having those conversations online, but I was focused on face to face engagement. But when I was asked to speak here, I thought about what I would really see as being important to creating the right sort of online environment for good conversations.

For those of you familiar with the cafe it’s a really simple process… a way of getting people together around conversation on a topic of mutual interest. It’s a very open format. Tyically a speaker makes a short presentation, poses a short question. People gather in groups for conversation. And ideally we come together to share those conversations, what we have learned from them.

More by accident than anything I have ended up running these cafes across the world – in the UK, Spain, Norway, Russia, USA. etc. I could share many many stories. I ran a Knowledge Sharing Workshop in Jakarta in 2007, but I’d run one the day before in the Dutch Embassy. I realised that English language skills were not great and that meant people dried up, the conversations were not going to work. So I realised that I didn’t need to talk, I let the group engage in their own language, and my host indicated how it was going on. I learned the importance of allowing people to converse in their own tongue. Even when you know a foreign language well it can be hard to have fluid chat.

And a year later in Malaysia, in 2008, I ran a cafe as part of an IBM workshop. What I find is that at the end of the first conversation it’s good to move people to other groups… I did that here and nobody moved at all… my immediate reaction was curiosity… my host, who was Chinese, said “don’t worry, I know the culture! I’ll make them move for you!”. So I said to go ahead. He told them to stand up, and then asked a few to change tables. And no one moved. And someone there said they didn’t want to move and that I had said that I didn’t make them do anything, and they didn’t want to. They had all arrived in in their own groups, they didn’t want to leave their comfort zones. People are not always relaxed about talking to strangers. In future I’ll try asking everyone to move…

In Thailand a week later (2008) I had a big sign up but a small group arrived, the rest wanted to watch and were doing so via a web cam. And when it came to conversations the Americans, Brits, Aussies, Indians joined in big conversations. Thai people engaged in small groups but not in that big group. A real lesson there for me about the comfort of speaking outside your own group versus inside your group.

And the most moving one for me, in Abu Dhabi in 2011, ran a session with Arab man and Arab women. They weren’t really mixing but I asked them to mix a bit. At the end one came up to him at the end quite agitated, quite upset. He said he had, until that day, only spoken to his mum, his wife, his nieces, four women. And I realised how much we don’t know about each others’ histories and backgrounds.

There are so many stories, I’ve boiled it down to key barriers:

  • Poor English – quality and confidence of english
  • Fear of loss of face, of looking foolish, of other dominant people
  • Fear of causing someone else to lose face, particularly people in authority
  • Deference to authority, I saw two people at a workshop in Singapore not engaging but the next day they were hugely involved and the difference was that the CEO wasn’t there the second day which meant no risk of looking foolish or making them look foolish
  • Humility – fear that the individual doesn’t have anything to add, to say of worth
  • Culture – a Chinese woman I met in Norway talked about education as being about sitting quietly, sitting on hands, the teacher talked at them and they could never ask questions, and they were taught to never ever question superiors. She knew that that wasn’t what she wanted to do but it was ingrained.

These traits are dominant in SE Asian Cultures but also exist in our Western Cultures.

These last few years, as I’ve become more interested in conversation, I’ve started to investigate the research on conversation and I just want to draw out some highlights. In “Why is conversation so easy?” (Garrod and Pickering) the researchers find that humans have evolved for conversation, rather than monologue. Influence of group size – above about 5 people it no longer a conversations but a series of mini presentations or monologues (Fay, Garrod and Carletta). Small groups engage, larger groups tend not to. “Friends (and sometimes enemies) with cognitive benefits” (Ybarra, Winkielman, Yeh, Burnstein, Kavanagh) – I’d never thought of that before but I have found that having some friendly ice breaking chat at the beginning of a session really change the energy. And social sensitivity (Williams Wooley, Chabris, Pentland, Hashmi, Malone) find that groups where one person dominates are less collectively intelligent than in groups where the conversational turns are more equally distributed.

So this and other research I have read about had made the cafe evolve… and I have established principles that underly any good conversation:

  • Relaxed, non-threatening, open conversation (close to a pub or cafe conversation)
  • Everyone equal; no table leaders or report back
  • No one forced to do anything  – it’s ok to just listen
  • Trust people to talk about what is important  – it’s ok to go off-topic. for conversation to be engaging it has to have a flow of it’s own.
  • No capture of outcomes – outcomes are what people take away in their heads.

So, the question I have for myself, that I’d like to share with you, is what does this mean for online discussion forums and a potential virtual knowledge cafe? How would I do it given all of those issues. Now, I may not be so bright here but there are many issues here…

English tends to be the dominant language. Large number of people. Open to anyone. No idea who is in the forum. Do not know the people. No idea of the authority figures. No idea of the trolls. Everything is recorded. Maybe not surprising that we have the 90:9:1 law (90% lurk/read; 9% occasionally engage; 1% of really active users). Perhaps not surprising given the experiences of the conversation sessions I talked about before.

And then we think about the nature of many forum conversations: posts tend to be monologues; posts often very lengthy; grandstanding; responses carefully thought through; more debate/argument than dialogue; trolls and “intellectual trolls” thrive; easy to misunderstand someone; not easy to correct misunderstandings.

So, what’s the solution?

I don’t have the answers but I have some ideas. I think we need safe spaces where people can speak in their own language. I think you do need to have some conversations that are peer only. I think you need to know who is in the room, make it clear who is in the forum. The ability to edit or delete posts – to get rid of something that goes too far. Do not store threads for long. Small groups – of 3 or 4 people – and I don’t see anything on the web that does that. Permission to join conversations. Limit the size of posts – Twitter we use to some extent… it is not a conversational tool though. Perhaps limiting a forum to 500 characters would work. Real time dissuasions may make things more useful.

So… Randomised Coffee Trials…

In large organisations not easy for people to connect and build relationships. RCTs pair people at random for coffee once a week. Bank of England connects 4 people and call it “Coffee Fours”. SABMiller have pub chats! Lots of companies and organisations like NESTA trying this. But there is also telepresence as an option – would like to try out at my cafe some time.

Before I finish I want to ask you a question… How do you think we could improve engagement in online forums and how do we improve the quality of those conversations?


Q: A comment and a feeling of camaraderie: working in India I have faced the same issues of hierarchy and fear of loss of face. At first I tried to impose my way of doing things. But when I let go and let them do it their way, that was a huge change.

A: The real issue here, is how do we do this online… but we don’t see the dark side of who is online.

Q: We had a quick conversation and what we came up with is that the visual cue is so important. Online you need some sort of visual cue to connect to the other person.

A: yes, and these telepresence machines seem the best option thus far.

Q: I have a solution. We teach online, we have students all over the world. We use WebEx and Blackboard. We share a question early in the week and students can then post on forums, or can use that real time chat online, students then roll with it, people do chime in. Small groups of no more than 10.

A: I’ll try and chat with you later.

Q: I’m glad that Pat has mentioned the live web conferencing – I was going to mention tools like Skype or Google+ Hangouts. But I also wanted to raise the issue of text and the permeance of text. If you main format for conversation is textual than it carries less permanence, it is more ephemeral. So I recognise that barrier but I think that barrier may be shifting. It seems odd for text to be deemed more permanent than the chat in the pub – which you certainly can’t go back and delete or correct.

A: I do also do a lot of conversing via text but it is a major barrier for many people, the idea that what they say could be quoted back verbatim to them or held against them.

Twitter based Analysis of Public, Fine-grained emotional reactions to Significant Events – Dr Martin Sykora

So I’m talking today about some research funded by the EPSRC. I will be talking about the background, including the software we developed in house for this work, and I will say a bit about the analysis, the data  analysis we have done, and I will also talk about some of our future work.

In terms of the significance, I wanted to talk about the significance of social media which has been really interesting over the last two years as it has been taken up. In Meier 2011 we see an Egyptian activist talking about use of social media to change the world. And we also see Twitter as a way to poll public opinion (O’Conner et al 2010; Tumasjan et al 2010) and that can be a real issue as well. And we do see social media breaking the news – not always the case but it is genuinely disruptive. And there is also a big commercial interest in social media – companies like Attensity, Crimson Hexagon, Sysomas, Socialradar, Radian6 etc. All that attention is appealing to commercial companies. We also see the crisis mapping communities interested in social media. And the security services monitoring social media (Sykora 2013).

Social media streams allow us to observe a large number of spontaneous real-time interactions and varied expression of opinion, often fleeting and private (Miller 2011). And unprecedented opportunity to study human communication. And we wanted to study a range of emotions and a range of heterogeneous emotional measures.

So we have created software called EMOTIVE and the emotions we used there used Ekman’s 6 basic emotions (Anger, Disgust, Fear, etc) as well as Shame. And we decided not to use lexicons but instead to built an ontology – a map of words so richer than a list of words. And basically what we did was we said what emotional terms and expressions people could use with basic emotions. We allowed for intensifiers, for negation, etc. We have over 800 words, phrases, and substring matching as well. This system analyses around 2000 tweets per second.

We built the ontology with an English Language and Literature PhD level research associate, with training in linguistics and discourse analysis during a three month time window. They looked at 600MB of cleaned tweets on 63 different UK-specific topics/search-terms datasets. We focused on explicit declarations of emotions. And we tested that and reviewed it. And we built a Natural Language Processing pipeline. This starts with data pulled in from the Twitter API, we had terms we wanted to monitor live so we collected new tweets repeatedly, polling regularly. For most events we caught most tweets, for some the rate limiting will have meant missed tweets.

So, the pipeline included checking whether a verb or a noun – helpful for understanding meaning of expressions. We used a tree often used in spell checkers to quickly match words and phrases… which means it is very fast! And you can use this to spit out the appropriate basic emotions. We checked this tool against manual and other techniques. It performed to good or excellent accurate. So, we had a system so we decided to run this across some events. We used the Twitter Search REST API 1.1 and continuously retrieved during an event. And often the search term or hashtag chosen to find good data set, often trending. This was about being on top of the news and initiating the process – e.g. Nelson Mandela’s death – and ask for the system to gather tweets and being careful to do that in the right place (e.g. putting names in quotes).

We did this for 25 distinct events, over 1.5 million tweets. And there are 28 separate datasets from this (http://emotive.lboro.ac.uk/resources/ECSM2014/. Not all tweets have an emotion though, about 12% do, standard deviation of 9%. But the five most emotional datasets related to particular news stories – mainly about the nurse who committed suicide in Australia, mainly shame. And death of Daniel Pelka also very emotional tweets. But something more positive – Chinese new year – did trigger lots of emotions. And some hashtags more emotional than others, even around the same event (#september11 anniversary tweets less emotional than those tagged #twintowers).

Around the Woolwich incident we see really interesting ranges of emotions – anger at Anjem Choudary after appearance on newsnight. Sadness, disgust and surprise around the incident itself.

Looking at the September 11th anniversary in 2013 we had a range of sadness and shock. But a few odd blips of happiness – some casually mocking, some claiming to be from terrorists. And than you have some odd tweets – more quirky mixes of surprise or disgust.

And we then have a graph of emotions across a number of events – #JamesGandolfini; Ariel Sharon; Daniel Pelka; Nelson Mandela. Mandela was ill for some time but surprise a strong emotion around his death. A reasonably high level of happiness around Ariel Sharon for instance.

But I want to go back to the death of that nurse. We have a lot of sadness, of shame, of disgust. The ones associated with her person high for sadness and shame. For the radio station you see happiness highish – use of sarcasm there but not for her personally because that didn’t seem appropriate for her.

So there were some basic correlations… we saw happiness-sadness negatively correlated (-.614). Anger-confusion are correlated (.444). anger-disgust (.370) etc. But interesting to see how these emotions correlate with mentions in tweets (-.402) – interesting but based on a small data set. So we want to analyse a much bigger data set.

The other thing we did was clustering, looking for similarities of events based purely on emotional responses. So we saw bank holiday and chinese new year cluster together… some less obvious connections – Daniel Pelka, woolwich, horse meat and g8 summit. Interesting emotional clusters here, quite interesting.

So, we have this tool. We want to look at racism for instance. Our future work will want to be with more data although, as far as we know, this is the biggest study looking at emotions. And we want to look at emotions over time and how they change.


Q: To follow up on question on timings of events and picking up trends… different times of day seems to change engagement online… people may not engage when they are work.

A: A good point. We did look at volume of tweets over time so, for instance for September 11th anniversary you see activity all day, but daytime in US you see peaks. But that was a day and a bit only. But Prism and NSA was over a month. Mandela five days after his death were still quite active. But when we do time series analysis we will focus more on that.

Q: The reason I mention it is because you want the best data you can for when engagement is high.

A: it could effect outcome but we had the issue of not that much data in some cases, less of an issue. For us it was just data collection. Could be important in other studies

Q: What did you do with tweets with more than one emotion in them?

A: We took it case by case, so we assumed you are expressing both…

Q: Is there a range for the emotion?

A: Like a score? Yes, the literature is there. There is a range for each expression, intensifiers etc. and we used that to work out the scoring of that intensity. And we have stronger and less strong words.

Q: But if you have one word showing both fear and disgust together?

A: Independent scores, yes, for both.

Using Twitter for What? – Lemi Baruh, Koc University, Turkey

This is a very small study on how people use Twitter – or report using Twitter – during Gezi Protests. This was part of the Cosmic project that looks at social media in crisis situations.

A bit of background: Turkey is ranked 154th out of 179 countries in terms of press freedom according to 2013 figures – it has gotten worse in the last year. Critics argue that the Turkish media companies have mainly changed hands in the last 7 years, the influence of the ruling president. And at the end of May in 2013 a relatively small sit-in protest against the removal of trees for a new redevelopment project in Taksim square was violently evicted. Protests spread around Turky. Agenda evolved to move onto media and media bias (e.g. Turkish CNN ran a Penguin documentary during protest), often expressed via social media.

So we did a quick study with an online survey administered via Qualtrics. Survey conducted between June 10-June 29th. 10 days after protest started – as it took 9 days for ethics approval. We sent email invites and shared via social media. It took 15 minutes to complete and out of 890 started the survey, 230 completed. 64% female. mean age 28. 54% indicated being students at higher education institution, Internet use of 4 hrs per day. politically active. In many ways this group did not represent Turkey in any way, even the protestors, but it gives us some indications and insights.

We asked the sample how they got news, before the protests they mainly used websites of newspapers, social media and some TV. But after the protests began a huge drop in use of websites of newspapers and big rise in social media usage. They didn’t necessarily trust it… but they needed up to date information, and a desire for first hand information. They reply to email, to a tweet, want to verify what is really happening. About 20% of respondents said that mass media did not cover the protests, another 16% said mass media were biased. These individuals talked about filtering and finding information themselves. For some social media was about getting the feeling of participation…

And when we asked about activities performed on Twitter during the protests we had them report that they frequently read tweets from accounts they follow, reading tweets from accounts that they do not follow, retweets and tweets were less often done. And we saw a lot of people undertaking information verification. They verify with friends on location, they check with multiple sources online, and they check with mass media/news sites. That is despite individuals saying that they did not trust mass media. Some people did searches for information, some did direct background checks.

So in terms of the results. We had respondents indicating the extent to which they would categorise their use of Twitter during Gezi Protests as orientated towards a continuum go “voicing your opinions” and “share news/updates”.

In analysing the data we identified four types of Twitter users. Close to half were “Update Hubs” – getting information in, sharing onwards with minimal opinion in. Then we had about 22% of update seekers – using Twitter to read news/updates and for learning about what others have shared. Then Opinion Seekers (19%) seeking opinions. That remaining Voice Makers group (around 17%) were the actual opinion makers.

We compared these segments around uses and gratifications, focusing on surveillance, self-expression, relationship maintenance, connectivity. The opinion makers didn’t just use Twitter to share their opinions, but also to build their networks. And in terms of types of activities we saw a few significant differences. We saw most retweets from Update Hubs. Replying to tweets much higher in Voice Makers group.

The Opinion Seekers had significantly lower trust in information from Twitter than members of the other segments, interested in information verification, consciously checking information through multiple sources before resharing information. Voice Makers are less likely to cross check.

Conclusion. Well the main drivers of Twitter use ere were mistrust in mainstream media, the desire for access to direct information, willingness to spread information and voice their opinions. Preference for Twitter did not necessarily mean that users trusted social media as a source of information. Cross checking across different social media was commonplace.

And the four segments, whilst all motivated to get information, had quite different preferences and characters.

And finally I would like to acknowledge my co-author Hayley Watson at Trilateral Research and Consulting in the UK, and the European Union for funding this research.


Q: I know your survey sample was skewed but how representative do you generally think that those who were tweeting about these protests were, compared to the wider Turkish population, or those interested in those protests?

A: the people actively tweeting during the event were like this skewed sample… but after the event the pro government side started tweeting much ore actively. It’s reported that the current ruling party has actually recruited thousands of people to tweet on their behalf… we have reportedly got professional trollers for the party… Has shifted post event and now both sides are likely to be tweeting.

Q: Did you include data from those who did not complete your survey?

A: No, many of our respondents stopped when we ask about political views… they were happy to talk about social media but not about their politics.

Q: How did you do segmentation?

A: We used two step cluster analysis rather than hierachichal clusters – the latter I tried first, but didn’t work well for this data. Also tried random forest decision tree with the data – decided not to predict anything!

Q: Looking at your title.. As a marketer I am much more interested in segmentation and why you are focusing on particular controversial events.

A: The reason why this is happening is because this is a project funded by the European Union, we saw an opportunity to gather data for our research on crisis. But on the other hand we have just finished completed collection of data on American audiences on more general twitter using segmentation analysis. We did some work on privacy preferences which was quite revealing.

A Case Study of the Impact of Instructional Design on Blogging and terms Networks in Teacher-Training Course – Minoru Nakayama, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan

Social media can be useful in university courses – online discussion using blogs, wikis, discussion boards etc and can allow discussion and sharing of knowledge about the given concept with classmates, and promote critical thinking and interactive learning (Leh et al 2012, 2013). Good for fostering class discussion, attractive features of social media technology, sharing and collaborative filtering (Educase 2005). But the effectiveness may depend on the type of activity and that’s where instructional design comes in. And in terms of learning topics it can sometimes be useful to use a concept map concept.

So, how do you use concept mapping idea in online discussion? Well mapping discussion content (postings) to the concept map. Lexical analysis can illustrate relationships in discussion texts and individual term networks (Rabbany et al 2012). So we undertook a small case study in an online course looking at whether the online discussion can be illustrated using lexical graph visualisation techniques, and what features of this were.

The online course is fully online, at graduate level, on “Instructional Technology” which looks at how to design an online course. There are a series of assignments for the final projects which include discussion boards and blogs. They have specific blogging tasks which include a content task – a lesson plan for online course (to be posted to their blog); critique – every participants did a critique of two peer’s content and were required to address good/strength points; and the third task was suggestions  – every participant made suggestions for peers.

So in the case of critiques, the participants were required to address only good/strong points and suggestions. There were options for more controlled (critque) and open ended (suggestions) entries here.

In terms of participants only five students gave consent for us to use their postings so a fairly small sample and covering several different blog types. So, with that data, we undertook lexical analysis and mapping. We used TreeTagger to extract nouns and extracted consequential nouns as 2-gram. Concurrent relationship can be summarised in adjacency matrix, and that can then be illustrated as a directed graph. So you can see a score for each noun indicating the points of connection, and that can be graphed…. most nouns have some form of connection. We also gather this type of map in order to analyse the texts, and we can then look for points of connection, density of connections etc.

So, looking at graphs we can compare the number of words and number of 2-grams for both the critique and suggestions, looking for similarities, complexities, etc. and differences between critique and suggestions. When you look for closeness you see a real scattering of the critique and suggestions. And most terms were centralised in critiques. By contrast in the suggestions there is a much less central pattern to the use of words.

So in terms of understanding the blog communication, that allows us to build rubrics with specific criteria for particular activities. The lexical analysis can be used to directly evaluate post – concept map can represent term networks. Some features of the postings in terms are measured. The analysis can be applied to the course design – so we can compare the appropriateness of the online discussion design – the controlled versus open ended tasks. And some difference in centralisation of term mapping were observed.


Q: That’s a nice objective measure of different learning activities. Were all posts analysed for lexical analysis. Did you differentiate between the key posts and the social conversations. That conclusion that the closed tasks led to more focused discussion is good, it’s plausible, but may be missing sociable stuff.

A: This is a fully online course… students will discuss things beyond the course. We can analyse all of those posts but we didn’t in this work. The blog post can also be evaluated in other ways and the text analysis compared.

Q: These were graduate students, in what kind of class…

A: This is part of a teacher training course.

Q: I wonder if that makes a difference in terms of the types of posting being done, would it make a difference in your results?

A: They are students in instructional design. They may use social media that we cannot measure. But using the blog posts for the Instructional Design course gives us a point of focus to analyse.

A Massive Open Online Courses Odyssey: A confessional account – Alejandro Ramirez, Carleton University, Ottowa, Canada

Firstly thank you for being here, because a confessional account requires an audience! And my title has both aspects of learning… Odyssey – the original way to transmit knowledge – but also MOOCs! The most modern of learning.

I came to think about technology in education when we were redesigning the curriculum in my school, and we decided to start using social media tools as they needed that competence in these areas. And I was about to go on Sabbatical when the MOOCs exploded! I thought there was a lot of hype taking place but there was always the worry part of the idea being that they may have to force people to use MOOCs. So I decided to spend my sabbatical researching MOOCs. So I thought that I should start by learning more about distance learning, and to think about the context of MOOCs.

MOOCs are not a revolution, it’s more of an evolution. We now have students very savvy with technology – they engage all day long… or they could be engaging in technology without even going into the technology. So it’s not a revolution… and it takes a long period of time for things to change. Technology is more reliable today and that gives us competence to use it properly. If we have MOOCs today it’s because we have Wedermeyer that came up with the concept of distance learning. And that concept is about transposing what we do in these rooms today into a distance setting – engaging in conversations with each other, to learn things, to ask questions, how can technology enable that to occur? That’s the promise of distance education.

I teach a course at first year and a course at fourth year. You see a real change in the students. In first year you see them think the university will be the answer to all the questions that they have, and at the end they realise that it is up to them to make the change, to learn, to take those skills into the future with them. Notes in the 21st century is taking a picture on the iPhone. It’s about remembering the content, things are changing, they expect me to change to.

So I looked at various aspects of the research and decided I could use ethnography. van Mannen (2011) advocates immersion as a student, so, I registered for a MOOC. That was the best way to understand what that experience is. So I registered in a MOOC to immerse myself. And I needed to keep track of the observer in me so that I could track the process. I wanted to be more aware of the process of learning using technology.

So, these big MOOCs were offered for major universities to reach out to wider audiences. You can view a list of courses, you have to create an account, and that’s it, you have registered. At first I was a bit skeptical that the Massive part might be an issue. At the end of the day I knew I would sit alone in my room doing the work. The Online part isn’t different from Open University or distance learning so I wanted to focus on the massive. What were my assumptions about what would happen in this course? I did the process, I did the homework, I viewed the lectures… and I recorded what had changed, how my expectations had changed. So, the first course was offered in fall of 2012, running September to November. It was offered by UC Berkeley via edX. That course was a foundation in Artificial Intelligence and also get hands on experience implementing AI algorithms in a video-game themed context. It included coding in Python which I hadn’t done before, I learned that online to do the course.

On day one I met the massive impact of the Massive factor. I had a question and there are lots of names, and TAs but there was no email address for them. There is a forum. I had no answer to my question. I still haven’t had an answer. That could have caused me to abandon the course, many did. 100k were registered. Less than 10% would finish the course. And of that only 5% had credit for it and passed. But that is the model. And we need to understand why, and what are the expectations for that…

So, to see what happens elsewhere I registered in a course on data science, offered by Washinton University via Coursera. I started to engage but the same thing happened. Again you cannot ask a direct question of anyone, you have to use the forum.

Whilst I waited for that course to take place I was invited to take an ICT in Education in Spring 2013, offered by UNAM in Coursera, in Spanish. But it was more or less the same thing. And there was more or less the same issue. And I needed to create two email accounts in order to be able to take part. I spent most of my day going through videos… these are really very good. Universities have learned from YouTube generation and from TED. There are subtitles, you can pause videos. They are spiced up with some tests to make sure you are listening. Most questions and assignments need to be done only by watching the videos. And one of the thing they have learned is that only the students who already have a degree actually watch the videos, others skip them. Not great. BUT it is a computer mediated teaching where the facility is within the tools that we use. But we have forgotten we can use technology to really engage the students. If we are able to capture the engagement of the students and reflect that back, see patterns, and maybe do that so that they can actually learn. Right now that is not available.

So in terms of my conclusions I see that computer mediated learning has had some missed opportunities. The computer is a means to an end… when it works… you want a conversation, the computer is just the means. It is the adaptable tool to help you to use the computer to achieve your goals and needs. And so there is opportunity there.

The second thing is that the computer is the other observer in an ethnography that we cannot use. It tracks what you are doing. And that could be used as feedback to the students, for them to understand habits and patterns.

And, since they are free, MOOCs are not upset about abandoning their courses. Hopefully we in universities can use them more effectively because they are great ways to engage and spread information. We can use the technology to learn to do things better, since our students are eager to use this technology.

I think that the future of MOOCs will be when we take out more than we pay for…


Q: sort of a question and observation. The original MOOCs were about collaboration and sharing and totally based on social media… and we are all a bit upset with this style of MOOC. But Harvard did a super one using a lot of social tools built in… it was about 2010… it was damn good and before the MOOC surge. I don’t think this style of MOOC is a dead end but I think we should be researching other ways of teaching crowds.

A: I think universities are presenting this option as a way to do research. But they miss the opportunity to empower the students who have signed up to the course. Maybe if they told me that they wanted me to be a research subject in that course, it would be different. If the issue is up front we can learn from that… bit of that history of massive opportunity, maybe it will change. We have to recognise that things have changed.

Q: I didn’t quite understand to which extent students acted as mentors to other students… a logical way to do this stuff at scale, based on pre-exercises perhaps. And secondly our business school we have a different approach where our staff can select MOOCs and report on what is learned, have workshops on how to adopt and use this knowledge. And also that idea of credit bearing courses, the paying for credits. MOOC seen as input to knowledge sharing in classroom.

A: I learned in this research that we have technologies to empower students, not to allow me to suddenly teach 10,000 students. But a bit of your comment before… yes there were groups that started to emerge from these MOOCs. I had an invitation in Facebook for people taking this course, at this time, in a given language and lots of communities popped up like that. But when posting questions etc. there were so may threads… overwhelming… scale was so huge. There are opportunities but they need more management. But I like the idea of having it blended, bringing the MOOC back into the classroom.

Learning from others mistakes: how social media etiquette distorts informal learning online – Me!

A link to the Prezi will appear here shortly once all happily synced from my machine to the web – currently the web is a version behind!

 July 10, 2014  Posted by at 10:36 am Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Jul 092014

Today I am at the Student Social Media Showcase (#SSMS2014) and the Mixed Methodologies Seminar, both precursors to the European Conference on Social Media (#ECSM2014) which I will be at until Friday. I’ll try to liveblog most of the conference days but today I’ll be posting notes as this is a loosely structured day. The Showcase, being Storified here, brings together both students and academic delegates of the conference and, for the student social media showcase, over 100 local school children as well as local businesses and apprenticeship schemes operating in Sussex. Both the conference and today’s event’s have been organised by the Brighton Business School, at University of Brighton.

This morning, while the kids have been experimenting in the creativity suite, I have met the organiser of ECSM2015 (which will be in Portugal), and we have been hearing about the DV8 Sussex Apprenticeship scheme which has been placing students, aged 16 to 23, in businesses from very small cafes to big social media agencies, on specific digital media and social media apprenticeships. They spend four days a week at their employer, and one day a week at college taking a number of social media, digital media, and marketing modules. It sounds like a really interesting scheme and the two students we met this morning seemed like great representatives of the scheme – they will be running hands on experiments in running mini campaigns for the students.


Asher, one of the main organisers, is talking about social media and how central it is in business and marketing, and the business school’s recognition of the centrality of social media in our day to day lives. Today the focus is on what social media means for us, for the kids in the audience, and for jobs. And Asher is also talking about some work on “what is it students get out of studying?”, we think that the most important thing is learning how to learn… if we give you a seminar on Snapchat, it will be out of date in 6 months time, so the important thing to learn is how to research this stuff, how to learn about it, and how to think about what social media can do in business, in media, in the arts.  And as you look at the displays around the building you will see work by students that demonstrates that.

Sue: When we knew we would be hosting this event we went out looking for partners from the local community. We knew that the research conference would bring in people from across the world, but we also wanted to pull in local graduates and near graduates, but also local employers, and schools. We want to see how this all works, and we plan to do it again and again every year. We should have lots of spontaneous conversations… talk to anyone, see what they do, what they use… And there will be stuff every hour in this theatre – and we have five students you can talk to right away…

Tom English: I will be talking about Snapchat and ASOS, and how Asos could use Snapchat to sell their clothes

Cecilia: I’ll talk about Zara and how they use Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to communicate with customers

Abiola Oduwasi: I’ll be talking about how people prepare to present themselves for the jobs market – graduates and recruiters

Sean Fitzsimons: promoting your writing and journalism through social media

Alice Britton: I did a project on how Bagelman, a local business, used social media for their business


Running throughout the venue today are screens showing digital media presentations from students. Some nice case studies that I’ve already seen included a presentation on beauty bloggers and brands’ use of sponsored posts – where the blogger receives direct or indirect benefit from the brand for writing about them. Some examples were shown and some research suggesting that consumers find reviews useful no matter whether or not they have been paid for was quoted – an interesting finding in the blurry authenticity space that is social media. More on that in Lu, Chang and Chang 2014.

Brighton Fuse Project: Why Social Media needs all your skills – Dr Jonathan Sapsed

It will be good to talk to you today about this project, the Brighton Fuse Project, a research project looking at new media, digital media, and creative industries in Brighton. There is real clustering of these industries in Brighton – you see it in Shoreditch, in Bristol and Bath to some extent, Salford, etc. There is no one big company in Brighton drawing people in – unlike the BBC in Salford – so we wanted to see what was drawing them to Brighton, what attracts them. And we also saw that these companies need people like you (the teens in the audience), and all your skills.

This was a £1.5 million project with University of Brighton, University of Sussex, Natioanl Centre for Universities and Skills, BBC Academy, etc. involved. And Ed Vaizey welcomed this report and it’s findings on the Brighton CDIT. We’ve had a lot of interest because we looked at how the creative industries and skills really intersect with business. And we’ve also seen a huge investment made in Brighton to encourage these industries, to improve infrastructure and the quality office space for these high growth creative businesses. These sorts of things can be exposed through this kind of research, and you can then talk about how to address this.

So what is “fusion”? Well the combination of creative design skills and digital technology skills, the mix of artists, programmers, and business skills. One of our participants from Plug-in Media talked about how important the relationship between creativity and tech is. And we’ve known that idea, that concept of fused content, is important for a long tie for converging platforms – games, tv, mobile, online, etc.  But we didn’t know the extent to which this fusion was needed in sectors like social media. So lots of these digital media companies who have been running since the 1990s are increasingly adding design skills, social media skills, it’s about working out what the company desires, what they will want next, how a campaign can engage people more, to sell more. So you need those sensibilities of the analytical, segments, and patterns of search but also the creative skills and sensibilities for this space.

We looked at entrepreneurs… those who did their first degree in Arts and Humanities or Design are about 48% of the entrepreneurs. That was a bit of a surprise. And those with more degrees, with PhDs, their businesses often were doing even better. And whilst STEM and Computing folks were also doing well, it was equally as well as those from Arts and Humanities backgrounds.

But we also found that some firms are more fused than others. Some – about a third – are specialist so only really employ developers, or only really employ designers. About a third have some mix, and then we have the “super fused” who are dependent on having a tightly integrated mix of these skills. In terms of what types of companies are represented here… the Digital Agencies are more likely to be super fused, as are design services. And the least fused were arts organisations – but that’s probably a good thing, they need to be specialists in my opinion. On the whole fused businesses correlated positively with innovation and turnover growth. The super fused firms grow three times faster than unfused companies. That mix is very important.

So, looking at business models, the firm iCrossing, probably the second biggest digital agency in terms of employees in Brighton, do lots of work as “creative technologists” for various big firms, including Rolls Royce. Now they have a small customer base, they are happy with sales levels, but they want their brand to be more popular…  [brief break as kids leave] So Rolls Royce is an example of a company not looking at sales as a measure. But they had 14 measures of engagement in social media – really playing into the geeky side of what they do, the craftsmanship is shared via YouTube videos and shares of those… so it’s about good creative skills, how to make that interesting and enticing engagement, that is needed. So those 14 measures also get used for triggering payments to iCrossing. Each time they meet a target there, they get paid. So iCrossing employs programmers, journalists, copywriters, graphic designers, tim makers. They are looking for “Creative Technologies” job roles.

And an iCrossing campaign – which I can show now the kids are gone – was for Ann Summers and around paid search (YouTube: Ann Summers: Sexy Paid Search). So this was about using high interest news related web searches that hijack that news story by triggering related ads – for the budget, the BA Strike in particular – and got a good reception and impact for clients – click throughs, media coverage, a huge boost in profile etc. So for that client they have that client on a retainer – giving space for creative ideas, something thought of on the fly. That’s a particularly useful space for experimentation, for lateral thinking, for trying stuff out that is clever rather than high tech, trendy stuff perhaps. Counter intuitive stuff.

We found high levels of innovation in the cluster… and we used the types of innovation used in the European Innovation Survey… usually they find 60-65% innovation but for this cluster in Brighton  99% innovation. And more innovation in super fused companies. And 37% of firms allow time for personal projects – and that allows space for unexpected products and services for the firms.

Fusion is linked to innovation but… it’s not new to the world technology, traditional R&D, or protected by patents. Instead it’s service-oriented, continuously attending to user-experience and design. The value is hard to capture, in spire of £231m revenues across the 500 companies we looked at.

In terms of location… these organisations work for some local firms 40% ish of the companies do local, often business to business work for each other. A good 56% work for clients in london. And about a quarter work for international clients. And these firms are relatively young… the average respondent is 41.7 years old, two thirds of respondents are in their 30s and 7.8% in their 20s. And there are real cross overs of backgrounds… some have STEM backgrounds (22.89%) but many are from Arts and Humanities, Design, Business Management or Economics… but some have, say, stage management degrees… and they bring that creative background to bear on their work.

And the people working in these companies… only 8.4% always lived in Brighton. Many moved to Brighton for the lifestyle (e.g. one of the most successful web company CEO’s cited Britain’s only Vegetarian Shoe Shop as a reason he moved to Brighton!), many for personal reasons. Rarely do they move to find a job, for professional reasons… we think that is starting to change… there’s a kind of second wave here… many of these companies started in the 90s and they need people like you guys to be part of that next wave… And Ian Elwick, Founder-Manager of Brighton Media Centre and The Werks cite the support, the peer communities, these physical co-working spaces, those types of aspects as being important to these communities [we are now watching video – findable on the AHRC website along with the report – on these types of spaces, how they foster knowledge sharing and “being a good corporate citizen in the modern world”].

There are a lot of different styles of network events… there are cheese and wine events… but those are not so much about help, collaboration, contracting in a business sense… and those engaging in those benefit in material terms… So, a good example. Black Rock Studio, a big developer which was acquired by Disney. They did so well for 10 years they were brought by Disney… something happened… probably a failure of marketing for two big games… closed in 2011… made all of their 279 staff redundant… but a whole group of “black pebbles”, companies started by former employees, set up… and they create apps, small games, smaller scale stuff… some work for hire… some brought out by big Shoreditch company… they meet up, they help each other out, they use social networks online and offline, supportive culture there that is so important to clusters. Though fusion tends to be weak at community level, strong at a business and project level.

But it’s not all perfect news… some risks and barriers facing these companies. Fused firms face skills barriers, they find it hard to find the right skilled candidates. Easy in Brighton to recruit good design hirees, but paid search, product managers, etc. are not skills easily found. Sometimes they have to hire more technical roles through London. That limits growth. They find it hard to find the right people with the right skills… and larger firms perceive artistic community as a barrier… perhaps too laid back, too bohemian according to some. The recession and skills barriers were the main issues facing these firms at the time of the report.

But a key conclusion for us is that arts and humanities is key to interdisciplinary interaction and innovation and economic growth… but the HE system can be suite set again interdisciplinarity, often fields of study are quite separate and that’s not a good fit for creating these fused individuals. And this is a really organic cluster in Brighton, it’s hard to create that sort of effect artificially… policy makers often want to support a wide geographic range of locations but we think they should fund succeeding clusters more, to stimulate growth there…. to let that growth be organic…


Q: You didn’t mention Brighton SEO… are you aware of any other conferences or similar happening that cement Brighton as a digital hub…

A: There are lots of those but tend to be very segmented and just known to that sector. In September Reasons to be Creative… and another which Warren Ellis is involved in, Deconstruct,… lots of these things… Twitter is the place to look for these things… a lot more smaller meet ups, in pubs, etc. and a great way to meet and make connections and find jobs, etc. That stuff leads to pub chat… I know one guy, now a senior manager for Electronic Arts in Montreal, who got the leads that led to that job through a pub chat…

Q: If you were designing a module or similar what would you include to address gaps… stuff to support such clusters in future…

A: We’ve talked a lot about this… but a lot of the message that comes from businesses themselves is that comfort with technical and creative sides is essential. And knowing how to manage a project, to be organised, to show leadership, also key. And we’ve thought about ways to best deliver that… practitioners say that graduates aren’t industry ready… and you ask them to help and to get involved in course design… and they are too busy to help… But the bureaucracy of developing courses, and the existence of disciplinary silos, can be the enemy of those sorts of skills…

Asher: if you are a graduate and you have experience of creative writing but never done SEO… or vice versa… what are the first steps to being part of this fused economy?

A: A lot of these skills are very much self-taught… a lot of people learn in that way. A lot of people hire someone they know with those skills and pay them for a morning to teach them on an ad hoc basis – as courses often exist that help with that. And they learn through others…

Information Visualization for Knowledge Discovery: Big Insights from Big Data – Ben Shneicerman, Professor of Computer Science at University of Maryland

One of the fun things here I think is the breadth of types of people involved in these spaces, as we heard before in Jonathan’s talk. Steve Jobs used to talk about his work being at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts. I am based at the Human Computer Interaction Laboratory, an interdisciplinary research community of Computer Science, Information Studies, but also Psychology, Sociology, Education, Journalism, and the wonderful Maryland Instute of Technologies for Humanities. Now many of you may know me from the book Designing the User Interface. Now the stuff you will be talking about at this conference was a real driver for the most recent update, in 2010, to that text. More than 5bn people have mobile phones now and they are changing the world, the way that we interact around health, around community. We have mobile, desktop, web, cloud. We have diverse users, diverse applications… so many opportunities to explore the world around us…

Now today I am going to talk about “Big Data”. In 2012 a release from Obama, announcing a Big Data initiative and talking about visualisation, talks about developing scalable algorithms for processing imperfect data in distributed data stores, and creating effective human-computer interaction tools. So we need to be teaching the key skills of visual reasoning, which we don’t usually teach… In 1999 we published a collection of papers on information visualisation. That area has now massively grown so no longer possible to capture in a book – the web gathers that whole world of papers that is emerging. But we do get some new directions… Jim Thomas and Kristin Cook wrote about the concept of Visual Analytics, Illuminating the Path, in 2004 (online for free). And in Europe Daniel Kein wrote on visual analytics (also available for free).

Now… one of our graduates set up an information visualisation company called Spotfire, growing a business out of their research work. For instance a visualisation showing Retinol’s role in embryos in vision – a rare example of a single image acting as an important research finding. That’s a rare occasion… but that tool became well known for genomic, biomedical, oil and gas discovery, etc. So…. increasingly visual tools are being used… we see a move to large display walls (10M to 100M pixels) helping productivity… Bloomsburg uses arrays of 8 screens with very fixed windows having huge value… we see radiology workstations with multiple displays to see a brain scan… some with 16 displays showing last weeks as well as this week’s scans… these sorts of workspaces are becoming common – multiple people sharing, collaborating, around multiple screens.

We are also seeing small screens (1M pixels and less) having a real impact… mobile screens with data such as Google’s expansive transportation interfaces through their maps, and historical data on that… There is a huge amount of data, our job as designers is to organise that, to understand data needed to make decisions…

So, the information visualisation mantra (and I once wrote this a dozen times in a paper – now cited over 27k times!):

  • Overview – the full range of items
  • Zoom and Filter – let the user do that, find what they want…
  • Details-on-demand – let the user drill into the data

The most compelling part here is the centrality of the human user. It’s not just about the algorithm…

And if we think about the last 50 years of Scientific visualisation in 1D Linear (Document Lens; SeeSoft, Info Mural), 2D Map (GIS, ArcView, PageMaker; Medica Imagery) and 3D World (CAD, Medical, Molecules, Architecture) forms… and they have a great future. And we now have the new area of Information visualisation… often about muti-variable data (Spotfire, Tableau, Qliktech, Visual Insight), Temporal (LifeLines, TimeSearcher, Palantir, DataMontage); Tree (Cone/Cam/Hyperbolic/SpaceTree/Treemap); Network (Pajek, UCINext, NodeXL, Gephi, Tom Sawyer). Loads of blogs here that are worth a read: Flowing Data; Perceptual Ledge; Etc.

So, let me go to the first demo… traditionally we often look at temporal data… for instance Stock Market Data. So… overview first… so looking at a year… February has a lot of uncertainty. Now you (an audience member) mentioned a “spike”… is that a spike upwards? Or downwards? We have the wrong language for visual reasoning yet! Now we can zoom into this data… look through this data…. seek patterns… Information visualisation allows you to see new patterns, new changes, to ask new questions. So with this [demo] visualisation you can create a pattern and look for that in your data set… but people were interested in how one might do the opposite – make a pattern and explore by inverses of that pattern… that’s thought patterns you can’t explore on paper and you can do it rapidly, and readjust them on a screen… You can try out and test hypotheses easily with these tools – and you can try this out, look for “TimeSearcher”. TimeSearcher was designed to do time series for stocks, wealth, genes, and to work with large data sets and allow the user to really shape interactions.

Now another tool we built was LifeLines, an attempt to create a visualisation for Patient Histories – with the overview acting as routes into that medical history, to understand changes, medications, interactions… And one of the nice things I like is that visualisations can also show you what isn’t there… harder to do algorithmically… but you can see gaps that might be concerns, questions, it’s a starting point…. we thought one patient was good, but a million patients would be better… so we worked with some data from the Pediatric Trauma Centre in Washington DC and using a tool we built called EventFlow (also free to download). The hospital (via video recordings then transcribed) record initial checks – airway, breath sounds, distol and central pulse in the first few minutes… and then you get longer for the secondary checks… Looking over a large set of data (216 patients) you can get a sense of how quickly secondary checks occurred… And you can spot anomalies in how staff conducted checks – not dangerous perhaps but not the hospitals protocol…. And you can see all the ways that these patients have been seen, how they vary… the most common variance was starting the disability check before secondary checks… there are some repetitions… some took ages to get their checks done.

So talking about Treemaps… that was our work… for instance SmartMoney Stock Data… looking at a terrible day you see a single blip of good activity – a real clear contrast… often you see patterns that are more subtle… but that visual training happens when data is spatially fixed, when you can spot change…

Treemap: Newsmap (work by Marcos Weskamp) looks at global news items and the number of online articles on a given topic… you can compare countries’ coverage directly… again, a free to use/explore visualisation.

And we did some work with the Hive Group on tree maps for Nutritional Analysis. SpotFire added tree maps in 2007, Tableau now has it. the New York times have used tree maps now. And a German researcher developed the idea of Voronoi tree maps – they look cool and organic it can be hard to read. There is a design aesthetic aspect here, these look cool but are hard to compare size of spaces.

Manual Lima has a great site called VisualComplexity.com with thousands of network visualisations…

And the work we did was in a tool called Node XL, it’s free to download and use, and it’s a network overview for discovery and exploration in Exel… designed to show interactions and connections between people… So for instance can be used to see voting in the US Senate… And you can use NodeXL to directly import from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc… feel free to create another importer tool… So one of our first experiments was for #WIN09 Conference back in 2009… and you could see from the 80 people in the room a kind of split between two groups of people – computer scientists and sociologists – and in the tweets you saw that clearly shown… just one cross over in a graduate student!

And that sort of connecting and cross over issue is even more compelling in political discourse… So we did this for the #GOP tweets… you could see a very cohesive densely connected group of republians. A less connected group of democrats. And a few cross over people… but they talk within their group but very little interaction between them. Cross over only via Politico. Media consumed between these groups otherwise really diverged…

But, this work kinda works…. but not a great way to visualise… using grapes for inspiration we tried to restructure around smaller clusters, separations, etc. in a more clear to view way…. for instance used in looking at #SOTU (State of the Union Address).

And… a researcher called Scott Dempwolf who looks at Innovation Networks… he took data on companies, patents, grants from government agencies… 26k edges, 11k nodes…. so he has created a beautiful visualisation for Pensylvania Innovation Networks… but hard to read…. so we tried to break this down a bit…. found a major pair of nodes who hold a lot of patents…. And you see real cluster of some of the big players in innovation…. Westinghouse Electric and the Navy being key drivers here…. So drilling down you see the big players…

We asked Scott to show us something on Maryland…. he created a visualisation for our lab…. again looking at connections and gaps… we can also look at innovation in Chicago to see how we see clusters here… You begin to see the finer grained structure more clearly when you have a visual way into the data…

Recently we published this on the Pew website – you can see Node XL Gallery for more of this sort of data – looked at Twitter network structures: polarised crowds; Tight crowds; Brand clusters; broadcast network; community clusters; and support networks… for those doing customer support via Twitter…

So, you can read more. You can find out about our Social Media Research Group. And we also want to talk about not only business but also other spheres in which these tools can help, for instance the UN Millennium Development Goals… Some progress towards their goals… Bill Gates is helping with next goals… The Gates Foundation is a big user of Node XL… in that presentation earlier we saw visualisations via Bar Charts but understanding interactions is key here.


Q: I’m sure over the next few days we’ll see a lot of papers with statistical analysis… what would your advice be for business and finance academics to get papers more visual, and get published…

A: A good question. You do see Science and Nature moving to printed visualisations… they are static…we have a long way to go to make those interactive… by contrast the web and blogs are much more interactive and visual… and increasingly you see that supplemental stuff – video or interactive website – online. Science encourages you to have a website, data if possible, and visualisation tools with your papers. Actually  there is an annual competition around visualisation run by Science and partners…

Q: This is on errors and potential for misrepresentation… with many of these tools there is so much potential to accidentally misrepresent the data…

A: You are right of course… statistics can lie, data can lie, and visualisations can lie… you can use colour, labelling, etc. in misleading ways. But for any visualisation I think an intelligent understanding can reduce that impact. But the majority of datasets I get into my office have errors that the person whose data set it is didn’t know about it…. I was looking at emergency room admissions data recently… 8 patients in that data were 999 years old… those kinds of errors are widely found in data, or a patient admitted 14 times, but discharged only twice… And you have people using flawed data to predict sales but miss one month when their sale is on! Statistics without visualisations risk never spotting that error… visualisation provides a sort of microscope, telescope… new ways to explore and understand our data. And you need a new sort of literacy, that concept of visual reasoning. And the tools have made that possible…

Q: You talked about a lack of vocabulary… what should we be using?

A: We have a tool, not quite as polished as a shape finder, but the question is can you make a measure of the spikiness of each spike? In books you see standards about what is and is not a spike. During a discussion a student suggested something brilliant… using the angles within the spike to find sharp spikes, and also areas of fall and rise. So we have started to explore this sort of stuff… but of course volatility can be a measure… but there are interesting shapes that we ca use and explore here… you have concepts like “value line”, sizes of plateau. It’s a rich space we’ve only just started to explore in the shape finder.

Q: In terms of the methodology to create these models… I am interested in customer journeys between social media channels, capturing those touch points between platforms…

A: You have some systems, like Klout, that gives you numeric data… but we are interested in networks here…. IBM did a project with their internal networks of these things, of connections in discussion. My colleague did work with emails, to see cohesiveness of discussions… but we are only 5 or 6 or 7 years into this social media world… but it’s definitely an opportunity to do good… And again there is an effort from the National Cancer Institute to use social media to make health related opportunities, for smoking cessation, obesity reduction, etc…. to get changes through use of social media… And you see media networks evolve. Jenny Priess and I wrote a paper called “From Reader to Leader”… On Wikipedia only 1/10th of 1% ever make an effort… and only 11,000 admins…. so we need to understand the dynamics of that… how one goes through that path, what the motivations, rewards, recognition, to encourage people along that path… The sciences of the natural world have been successful for 400 years but I think the science of the made world, of social structures, etc. is the science of the next 100 years.

Q: You mentioned bar charts etc. in my presentation earlier. We have looked at new ways to present this data… info graphics etc… there are a lot for quantitative data but fewer for qualitative data…

A: Well one step back…. it’s not about visualising your data…. it’s about your goal, your question, what are you trying to answer… in your data there was clearly more there… a simple taste of what’s possible… the network structure of these community might be interesting…. so it might be a geographic relationship… but you need to know the questions first, and use that to decide what you need, what you will find in the data, how you make new opportunities happen.


Mixed Methodologies Seminar – Professor Dan Remenyi 

Dan Remenyi is introducing himself as an itinerant academic, who teaches research methods at various universities and also supervises PhD students.

When I completed my PhD, rather late in life, I felt the most interesting part was the research methodologies but I felt like I needed to learn more in that area, and had a lot to learn. I have supervised a lot of PhDs now and most actually use “mixed methods” but, a bit like “reflection”, you needed to do this stuff… you have to do that… these days you can’t just do it, you actually have to write about, to describe that stuff. If you use the phrase “mixed methods” about your research – and I’m going to counsel you not to necessarily do that – you have to be able to say why you did that, what that means, what the implications are…

So today we will talk about what Mixed Methods really is, and how you talk about it… You should all have had the slides in advance… I took those slides and put them into Wordle… you can see I’ll be talking about Data, about Mixed Methods, and about Synthesis… Now… as I progress down this road of talking about research methodology I’ve learned that it is so important to understand the vocabulary of the research world, how to use them appropriately…. Some are easy perhaps but some are much more tricky. You should know these… I suggest you create your own glossary where you really pin down your own understanding of these words… You need to know what they mean, you need to be able to defend your work.

Now, lets talk Mixed Methods… Well this is an expression, some call it a misnomenclature – it really doesn’t explain what it does (a bit like Life Insurance, of Jumbo Shrimp, some often refer to “military intelligence” as the same type of misnomer!). Why? Well there is almost no way that methods can be mixed. What we mean is using both qualitative and quantitative data to make a convincing argument… In the previous talk the speaker talked about charts, visualisations, and that the research question is absolutely key. And that’s the case in methods… but think slightly wider than that… in actual fact when we do research the research enables us to understand better the research question, and come up with possible answers for it…

So what is usually meant by Mixed methods is that combination of qualitative and quantitative data in research. In your research you need to be contributing to the academy, both in terms of the findings and the theoretical aspects of the field. And you have to convincingly make your case. There is still a lot of confusion about Mixed Methods. Researchers sometimes lose sight f the fact that evidence, of whatever sort, is a constituent of the argument which underpins the findings. The challenging part is bringing these different dimensions of the argument into a convincing whole.

At it’s heart Mixed Methods is a research design issue. You can adjust that plan as you go along, academia is essentially about self-improvement… your plan will always emerge and involve as you go along. A research design might start with what data you require to answer the question, then think about how you will collect it. How will you analyse it? How will you use it to establish some findings? And increasingly you are expected to interpret those findings, to talk about what the implications of your research is.

So the term Mixed Methods is being used in two senses…

  • – There is an emerging school of thought, or community of practice, that argue for the use of mixed methods research design.
  • – There is the research practice which has been in place for decades which have called upon researchers to use different methods at different times, stages, phases in their research. Indeed it is hard to use an entirely quantitative approach in research.

Now, not all researchers welcome the concept of Mixed Methods… some think you have to be world class and that you cannot be world class quantitively or qualitatively…. the aspiration is to be world class but I think you can be extremely competent at both. But the philosophical argument is trickier… the ontological argument is that you can either be a realist – positivist, quantitative type road – or a relativist and that that takes you down the more constructivist, analytical route. In reality we are often a combination of both in reality…

Now the key person in this area, he has made it his own, is Creswell. He says you cannot tell your story unless you can put together the numbers behind your research and to tell the stories behind those numbers. He says that numbers never speak for themselves… you have to be able to see the numbers and the facts in context. Paulos (1998) talks about statistics as being uninterpretable without context, background, their origins then they cannot be properly understood…

An example here… stats on home runs in the US Baseball league show increasing numbers of home runs… what’s happening? More matches? More training? More reporting of games? Changes in recording measures? More rewards for better players? Stand out players like Babe Ruth? But a more important reason… they banned cheating! Generally Baseball was played in the afternoons… and the light got dimmer… flood lights weren’t great… pitchers started messing with the ball, spitting on it, rubbing it in the dirt… and the batter could see the ball…. How will you know that just looking at numbers? You won’t, you need some other form of research to understand that data. (For more on these stats Dan recommends Bill Bryson’s book A Short History of Nearly Everything – a great book for PhD students to read as, essentially, a history of science. And his book One Summer: 1927 include those statistics… in that book the most important thing is Charles Lindberg flying the Atlantic….)

Now, there is another phrase you need to be aware of and that is “Multiple Methods”… If you are using multiple methods in the qualitative arena then some say you are using Multiple Methods, that Mixed Methods is exclusively for the combination of Qualitative and Quantitative Methods. You also hear Combined Methods, Hybrid Methods, and (from an audience member) Multi-Level Methods.

A few really important distinctions… At the highest level research can either be Theoretical – this is based on secondary data, data that has been previously been published, and already-established ideas and you create something new from those existing ideas. Empirical Research is about the collecting of data. Now data is a hugely contested term, there is a surprising lack of papers on data… when I questioned what data was in a statistics department they thought I was mad but data is a really tricky term, I’ll come back to this.

Now, in theoretical research is highly linked to empirical research, but always relating that back to theory, and using existing empirical data.

And then we have the two major paradigms of Positivist which is about the qualitative world, numbers (mostly), the process is deductive so there are hypotheses that you are attempting to reject (you try to reject it, if you don’t you accept it pro tem), it’s interpretation with a “little i”. And we have Interpretivist approaches… an inductive process, uses a wide range of data… and it’s about taking that data and from it attempting to form a hypothesis from that. Now the vast majority of research is deductive, a faster process. An inductive approach can take longer and require much more data… Now… Mixed Methods sits between these, straddling both positivist and interprevist perspectives. And following a side chat on mathematical methods, mathematics fits not quite anywhere into these research paradigms… The concept of Ocham’s Razor is useful here: the explanation that the idea that is simplest is best… In general we can never say we have proved something… the only thing that is certain is that we know what we don’t know… But we can say “the evidence suggest”, or “it appears from the evidence”… that can be said… much harder to say that “the evidence shows this is true”.

Now… a comment on Qualitative and Quantitative research and how they differ…

In Quant: You articulate the research question, you collect evidence, you process evidence (questionnaire) – only after you have collected data, and you produce findings…

In Qual a learning loop is involved: you articulate the research question, you collect evidence (interview), you understand the question as you process the evidence and you really have a loop, you learn as you go, and you do produce your findings.

There are alternative approaches too… Action research often takes an iterative approach for instance.

Of course Mixed Methods can be used in theoretical work… you might collect data to support a theoretical perspective. And Mixed Methods are particularly useful in interdisciplinary work. And it can also be useful in applied research, where there are blurred boundaries between topics…

So we have 12 steps in research design:

Setting the course

  • 1. Field of study exploration and conceptualisation
  • 2. Literature review
  • 3. Research question
  • 4. Research design

Moving the project forward

  • 5. Data acquisition …………………… when is triangulation relevant?
  • 6. Data management
  • 7. Data analysis
  • 8. Presentation of findings

Completion Issue

  • 9. Theory development
  • 10. Research question resolution
  • 11. Implications for practice
  • 12. Limitation and future research

Each step informs the next step, although the research process is not a water fall based project

Remember that to do competent academic research we not only have to understanding our data and analysis of that but we also have to understand all of the arguments in the body of knowledge, and we have to be able to articulate that. And that has to feed into the research design.

There are different ways to approach Mixed Methods research…. One way is to start with qualitative data as a way to reach understanding, and to design a quantitative instrument (e.g. a questionnaire) that is then deployed and leads to findings… It’s a big deal to create a questionnaire from scratch! And in this approach each step is distinct. You take two steps… one step followed by another… the mixing is very minimal…

But there is no reason not to take a different approach… You use an established research instrument to gather data, then you conclude that stage, and you take a qualitative approach next, in order to reach your findings. That’s a perfectly respectable Mixed Methods approach.

Now you can also take what they call a “supportive mixed methods” design… here you have overlap between types of research, you can benefit from understanding the data of one type in your work collecting data of another type. Now I like metaphor… so take the buttress (flying and not)…. someone pointed out to me that the way that Cathedrals are built is fundamentally unstable… will push the walls out… and that’s why buttresses, and flying buttresses came about. And I like to think of scientific discovery as not always standing on it’s own without data from a variety of different sources. Multiple sources of validation are always welcome… they act like buttresses… (and now we have a side chat in which Dan makes  the point that doctoral students should not touch longitudinal studies… “that’s a different methodological world”).

You should know that academic research gives you a great deal of flexibility in what you do. It is based on peer review – your papers will be seen by at least two people reviewing it – but there is a lot of flexibility as to how you do it. Paul Feyerbiant wrote a famous book, a difficult book, called “Against Method”. And in that book he says the only universally accepted academic research methods, and that is “anything goes”! It doesn’t mean you can be sloppy… it means no one can tell you how you must do your research, or what you cannot do… you can do it your way as long as you can convincingly argue your case, and show that you are contributing to the academic body. As long as you can argue that your methods got you to the right answer, you have to be able to argue your methods, to justify them… I had someone come up for examination who had done 35 interviewers… a particularly tough examiner who said he needed more… but how many do you need? Well you need as many as need before you reach the point of data saturation… you have to be able to justify the number that is acceptable. As it happened this guy went out and found a whole load of papers showing that 35 could be a valid number… this is part of why you have to understood the literature… you have to have read everything that can be read about your topic… And the other thing about academic research is that you have a lot of flexibility but you have to use the language consistently, and to understand the meaning of those words… we had a chat before about what it means to be longitudinal… it means an extended period of time… is that 3 months? 3 years? 3 weeks? For anthropologists they conduct ethnography, they talk about a lived experience… how many of us in the business or management world truly have a live experience… Ethnography is, as a word, taking liberties there… but we can talk about being “ethnographically informed”, by the same token we could talk about “a longitudinal type study”. Teet was talking about interviews over a few months as being not a snapshot… but argued appropriately you could use some of that language of longitudinal language… Because, as we’ve said, we have to be clear of making a clear and justifiable case for your choice of methods… We have so many methods but you have to be clever about how you put your argument together…

So… back to a third model for Mixed Methods… this is a parallel or converging Mixed Model… Where you undertake quantitative and qualitative research in parallel… now I have gone light on talking about “triangulation” here… some people love that term, some hate it… to be precise the word is borrowed from land surveyors who use various tools to map particular features, measuring from different angles… social scientists have borrowed that term to talk about different perspectives… now when I did my research 25 years ago I was told triangulation was a way to resolve conflicts and contradictions in the data… that is nonsense… by being able to look at things through different perspectives, different lens, different data, different people… you get a richer understanding of the question, of the issues involved. Now some say the term “triangulation” is too positivist, that something like corroboration is better…. I don’t really mind… more perspectives is usually better. BUT…. it is tempting to believe that the more panoramic the view, the better… and that may often be the case, but is not always true….  Sometimes putting all this extremely rich view into a cohesive whole can be really problematic… Research does not seek complexity for it’s own sake… If you have a credible answer to the research question from one or two data sources then the job is probably done… Answering the research question is the paramount issue.

So in this third approach, the parallel or converging mixed method design… we will get two sets of data, from two different sources, and bring them together into an argument… and we will draw on both sets of data to draw our conclusions… There’s no other sense in which we want to mix it… Now in the literature you will see some discussion of putting numbers into words and vice versa but I am not convinced by that. Some critical issues… were the two different data collection strategies driven by the same research question? If not, then why to? Was the same research logic used for both – i.e. inductive or deductive? And are the results commensurable? They don’t have to be but you will have to argue your case well, you have to change your argument and explain any contradictory results. And again, you have to answer the research question.

Now, reflection is central to research. It has always been necessary. But it’s now really important to be able to discuss it… Reflection may be defined as a process of questioning the range of activities and thinking which have been performed by the researcher in order to surface any inadequacies or bias which may be present in research. And why you have come to the conclusions you have come to.

Reflexivity – and the piece in MIS Quarterly is worth reading – is about seeing the interrelationships between the sets of assumptions, biases and perspectives that underpin the different facets of the research undertaken. So you might ask yourself what assumptions are at play when you start your research? All research starts with assumptions that there will be an answer to the question, that that question is worth answering, and that the process of answering that research question will change you, will develop you to a higher level in the case of a doctorate for instance. Reflexivity is about understanding that, of understanding biases… nobody likes to feel that they are biased… but you can’t get away from the facts what you are… so I’m a white, British, elderly, academic… all of those mean expectations and values… I might work against those but there are always some residues there… You also want to ask yourself what values of yours affect your research? So all of us have the shared values that knowledge is important for instance, we want to learn more. As someone in academia you also have to believe there is some value in sharing, that’s part of being an academic… you could explore all of that much further of course… but that’s what we mean by reflexivity.

Some mixed methods researchers talk about integrating the qualitative and the quantitative data so that an overarching analysis can be performed… so about how and when you mix the data… now I argue that we are really talking about synthesising the arguments. And the test of an argument is whether it convinces… There are various types of evidence which include data, authority and logical inference… So in academia argument is used to support theoretical conjectures. The way we learn is influenced by the Greeks… Socrates, regarded as close to a tramp, walking around picking arguments, who developed the idea of the dialectic… and that is how academia works… you articulate a thesis… you float an idea, then someone does the “ah, but…”, they correct the idea or take the antithesis… and then you put those together, you synthesise them, and create a new idea… and that re-articulation of thesis starts a new cycle… that’s an ancient concept that still underpins academia.

Now, Teet earlier mentioned a model like an Advanced Mixed Methods Design, something which may result in a case study, experiment or action research project. But what actually determines the method? This can be influenced by your background… an engineer may not want to work in qualitative research, a humanist may not want to undertake complex equations… So it may be about the scale of the work required, the skills that you have and, in the case of doctoral students it may also be about the influence of the supervisor or culture of the institution.

And with that, we are done.


 July 9, 2014  Posted by at 11:15 am Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »