Aug 122015

Today I am at the West College Scotland Information Technology Symposium at the Erskine Bridge Hotel in Paisley. I’ll be part o the e-Resources break out sessions this morning, and this afternoon but when not talking about MediaHub or Digimap for Colleges, I’ll be blogging the keynotes and presentations that are taking place in the main conference room.

As usual, because this is a live blog so there may be typos, spelling issues or the occasional error – please do just let me know if you have any corrections etc. 

Welcome – Audrey Cumberford

I am delighted to welcome you all here today. We are also videoing the event for some of your colleagues who are unable to attend as student inductions are also taking place today. Using innovative technologies is core to what we do and we want to lead in the use of technology to enhance how students learn, that’s our ambition and today is all about that. And if we do not do that we may end up with disengaged students and we don’t want that to happen, so we want to give you a sense of what is possible but also to show you what we are already doing in this area. We are already doing a lot and you can see what others are doing, and how you might do that too. For instance this afternoon we have a session on Augmented Reality, and there are some schools and colleges already exploring how augmented reality can transform learning.

I know there are challenges about how we do this, we have challenges here around skills, competence, experience so we need to ensure that you are trained, equipped and supported to be able to take on those challenges. But those challenges are not an excuse not to take this innovation agenda forwards!

I also want to thank the team behind the event today, to Erskine, and to our sponsors. So, enjoy today and thank you!

As we turn to our next session my Twitter handle has been spotted on the event hashtag: #WCS_WITS.

Putting the “e” into e-learning – Becky Barrington, Head of e-Learning and Innovation at The Cornwall College Group

I have been at Barrington just a week, so much of what I say today will be reflecting my previous experience, most recently at South Devon College. I’m going to talk about a lot of possibilities but these are free, easy to use and very practical things! And this will be an interactive session – with some paper and device stuff.

I’ll mostly be talking about Enabling, but I will also be talking about Exciting and Extending.

I was going to use an app called Remote Mouse but due to wifi issues that won’t happen. However, I recommend it!

So, first up I am going to ask you to play “barrier bingo” – this is about removing barriers… We’ll draw a 2×2 grid and I have some things we hear a lot about barriers:

Access – “I am never in a computer room”

Skills – “I don’t know how to do it”

Time – “I don’t have time to do it”

Confidence – “It always breaks for me or goes wrong”

Ideas – “I don’t know what to do”

Now, I’ve loaded those five terms into a tool called class that will let you randomly pick a term… And the virtual fruit machine picks… 


Often people want to know everything first… But that much information in a training session, that’s too much to take in sometimes. So you need to start small – don’t try and learn everything at once! You can also put the students in control, letting them work together to figure thing out – so you both do the things you have expertise in.

Another tool you can use here – Quizmasters (like Block Busters) allows to create games and quizzes for the classroom. The way that it works is that you have 2 teams. Team 1 have to get four questions right, team 2 have to get five questions right – works well for different abilities of students or unequal group sizes. So, when I use it teams take turns to ask each other questions…

Back to the fruit machine… 


The confidence bit is about practising an knowing the its you want to do well, rather than trying to know everything. You can also get yourself a buddy – a student or a colleague. That can build confidence in the sense of “I will be there in case it goes wrong”.

Back to the fruit machine… 


Try to do things that don’t require huge amounts of work ahead of time. Getting students making resources for you can be really useful. I have split classes into groups to create different quizzes, games, etc. It’s great for them as they have to think about the questions, and want to find difficult questions. Another great tool is the glossary tool in Moodle – a searchable bank of information that students can add too. So I will give students common words that will come up in a class. And they can then type in the information – whether to a light or very complex level of detail. That then becomes a resource for the rest of the year, but students also retain their understanding of the word(s) that they have looked up and added. And the glossary does automatic linking, so pop ups show up whenever that word occurs.

Also think about group working that you can just get up and go with. So two I’d recommend there are Padlet and Twiddla. Paddlet is a virtual pin board basically – can be used in class or as pre-work/homework. It embeds nicely into Padlet too. I can plan and create in advance, but I can create a Padlet ad hoc. And anyone can access that, either from their own device, or from a shared main computer/presentation machine in the room. Twiddla is similar – this can work better for remote activities as it has a chat room and has a white board type space. You can make private Twiddla spaces, but you can also do this ad hoc too.

Back to the fruit machine… Possibly someone will shout Bingo! now… 


An IT room enables use of IT, but not necessarily needed for learning technology. You don’t always need one computer per student. Most teaching rooms will have a computer and projector these days, and there is a lot you can do with that. Again some games activity work well for this sort of set up, for instance Penalty Shoot Out (£250 for a site license) lets you set up a multiple choice question as part of a “penalty shoot out” – getting a question right, lets you attempt to score a goal!

Another tool you can use is Flip Quiz… This lets you set up a quiz with various scores available…

Our side of the room picks General Knowledge for 500 points… And the question is “What does SQA stand for?” (deemed a wee bit too easy!). The other side picks Technology and also 500 points and gets the question “Name your plagiarism software?”. Now back to our side… Teaching and Learning for 500 points, the question is about which theorist has a taxonomy based on levels of understanding, which is of course Bloom. Back to Team 2 – which is the closest loch to the hotel? It’s Loch Lomand… And then get a bonus question to which the answer proves to be Jisc. A nice illustration of the engagement of these quizzes. 

So, that’s one way to deal with access. You can also get students to use their own devices. There can be concerns abut risk, but you can work around that. If you are worried about distractions, only use it at the end of the lesson. Or you can get students logged in early, then leave them on the table and only have them pick them up again as needed.


This is what today is all about!

So, how do we Excite our students? Lots of options. I’ve been working on gamifying lessons. For some students they can only aim for an A as the highest achievement, but for students for whom that isn’t a realistic goal gamifying means you can use class points, issue badges for achievements etc. to put people on a more level playing field in terms of motivation, and highlighting and celebrating students’ skills. And in general that highlighting and celebrating has huge value for students, and for potential employers.

So, another thing you can use here is You set up a game. To set up a game you go to – you add in questions and answers to automatically create a game. Players use their own devices to login, using a pin, and then questions appear on phones, and you find out if you are right or not. (Number of players in this room is 136 ish). So a question shows up, you pick a colour on your device… And on the main screen the number of correct/incorrect answers shows… What happens at the end is you can download the results and see who has gotten which question right or wrong – it means students are not embarrassed by what’s on the big screen but you get a sense of how students are getting on. (Cue questions whizzing past). At the end of the quiz each player sees their score, and then as asked for feedback on how the quiz worked. That’s all free, very easy, and works well but relies on access to the internet via mobile devices or computers.

I also wanted to mention which enables students to use in their own work and self-assessment. You don’t get feedback but students get feedback on their performance. You can provide questions etc. and then the student can choose which of several games to engage with those questions.

So, thinking about Extending learning, I want to talk a bit about Moodle. Moodle really can extend learning beyond the classroom. You can set things for the student to get on with. We tend to think about putting content online in Moodle, but there is much more you can do. For instance depending on grade you can release additional information to the learner. You can track progress, to manage students learning, and for students to understand their own learning. Particularly for Flipped Learning model, where homework is ahead of class, you can see how students do ahead of the lesson to inform your teaching and to understand what the students are and are not understanding.

So, the things we’ve seen:

  • Teachers Direct
  • Gamesbusters
  • Kahoot
  • Padlet
  • Twiddla
  • Poll Everywhere

I’m going to finish with Poll Everywhere. This is again completely free – for up to 40 responses. You can pay for more but for most classes 40 is a reasonable number. So, for our example, which idea will you be using in your classroom? The answer resoundingly seems to be Kahoot.

And with that Rebecca concludes her presentation and hands over to… 

RSA Animates – Jamie Cook, Head of RSA Scotland

It sounds grand, but I am the only member of staff at the moment! As an organisation we have been around for over 200 years, and have fellows across the World. We have many interests but pinning it down I would say we are fascinated by ideas, and how we respond to problems. It emerged from the coffee shops of the Enlightenment. We used to set “premiums” – prizes to solve those problems that arose – for instance successful growth of particular crops; machinery to clean chimneys so that children did not have to do this, etc.

We want to use technology, and innovative ways to solve problems. But how can we take the ideas we have and share them to maximum success. One of our solutions to this came from sitting down for a coffee. At our headquarters in London we have over 150 talks a year from experts on a variety of topics, they are live streamed to the world but that is not particularly innovative. We were wondering how to engage people with these ideas – there is so much to engage with, how do you identify which ones you should engage with yourself. Those videos are maybe 40 minutes, and although we have an app, they are not always as easy to access. Sitting and listening to talks on complex ideas are not always the best way to get information flowing. At that coffee meeting someone suggested that it would be lovely to just draw the talks, and one of our fellows, an artist, said “yes, I could do that”. And that has become our “RSA Animate” videos. These are the idea of taking lectures, condensing them, and putting them across to a condensed form. The speaker is still there, in edited form, but you also have a visual way in.

My favourite is “21st Century Enlightenment’ and our director Matthew Taylor used his annual talk in 2010 to talk about this concept of a 21st century take on the enlightenment. There was a really interesting reaction about the balance of philosophical and political content in his talk. They didn’t entirely get it. We then produced the animate, of 10-15 mins and what was interesting was that the use of those cartoons made all the difference, they got what he was talking about.

We have hundreds of staff, thousands of fellows – we are not that big – but we now have the most YouTube subscribers of any non-profit organisation. We have over 484k subscribers, and nearly 70 million YouTube views. These videos are being used in classrooms, apparently Yoko Ono tweeting about us, and the US Department of Defence is now using animate as a form (but we are not sure what they use them for).

That has been a fantastic success, but the popularity of Andrew and his team, who makes these, means we can only really do 2 animates a year. But also like anything we have to keep innovating… What is the next animate? So we now have a new series called “RSA Shorts” – these are even shorter videos (2.5-3 mins) to summarise key ideas coming out of key pieces of work. One of the key aspects of the shorts is that they can be a variety of formats and styles. We have had competitions at RSA to produce these. This is an interesting way to engage people who would not otherwise engage with us. Those shorts are, as we put it, an “espresso of the mind”.

These shorts are also changing how we present ourselves to the world. What we do is now set out in a short video. It’s not just about portraying information or being gimmicky, but also to explain what we do and what we are about not only to the outside world, but to ourselves. These are snapshots that capture what we do.

Please do have a look and feel free to make use of these resources in your own work.

And with that, we head to a quick coffee break… 

WCS Showcase – WCS Staff

YES: Your Essential Skills – Grant Taylor, Head of Essential Skills

I’ve created a short here to explain why we do… This is for the 7 people who didn’t know what YES was earlier on.

The video is outline the portal, which is system that West College Scotland students can use to understand required essential skills, that matter as much as academic and subject areas to employers. We use a universal language of skills, having that universal skills of what are important, that covers these 40 skills areas, enables a really global language.

The portal acknowledges that students learn in different ways, at different paces. Students have different skills, they may coach each other, they may do something more practical… They may all have the same lesson but we all experience that differently, so the ability to self reflect and your experience of learning at that moment, gives you a real chance for ownership and understanding. And you can articulate your skills in the language of the wider world, of employers etc. Students have ownership and puts learning back in the hands of owners. We want to try to change educational culture, a long term view across the whole of Scotland. Those essential skills have parity across the board, and are so important for jobs and for employers.

A student notes that it is hard to know you have those skills, but reflecting on those enables you to say what skills you have, to understand those skills, to tell employers what you can do.

WCS Sport: how we use Turnitin AKA The Helensburgh Incident – Pat Shearer

The Helensburgh Incident was known locally as “Hurricane Bawbag”… At the time we had a student that took about 2 and a half hours to get into college through all the disruption just to hand in a piece of written coursework. I felt really bad for them and so we started looking at an easier way for them to do that. So, we started off looking at Turnitin software, which is a tool for “fighting against the internet” and the plagiarism it had enabled.

I’m a bit of a pragmatist: technology has to help the student, and has to help me otherwise it would be a waste of time. We’ve now been using Turnitin for the last 4 or 5 years but I was surprised that few in the college use it yet. We use it particularly in HNC and HND work, particularly for the written assignments, reports and presentations. We use it conveniently enable them to upload their assignments so that they can submit 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world.

Once they have submitted we do 4 or 5 things. We don’t have huge amounts of paperwork for our subject, this system helps us capture all of our students work in one easy to explore place. It also means our wonderful course admin Debbie doesn’t have to be inundated producing time and date evidence. And actually this system helps us reduce paper and printing costs. The last thing we really use it for is to check for people trying to cheat – and that isn’t just about catching them, it’s about helping them to understand that they can’t just paste text from the internet, and to understand why. Before Turnitin we were finding that issue arising more, and being more challenging to do that. So we use Turnitin as a reference, so they understand how an assignment should be putting together an assignment, what’s expected of them at university etc.

So we use it for sustainability and for plagiarism detection and education. I also have a break out room – come and find out more!

Weekly Class Websites – Riona Rushton

Weebly is a way to build websites, for students to build websites. It’s a free tool –  as long as you go to – and you get 40 student accounts for free (so you have to delete and start again each session or use the paid for version). You can manage those sites but students can create sites, show evidence of research, etc. You set up your own account, set up classes and students within each class. And you have control of what they can and cannot post.

Once you have set up your account you can use templates and PowerPoint like tools. Students can create a blog, share things they have made, add content etc.

So, you set this up yourself – so good to have a standard format for naming those students in a consistent way. Students can change their password, but you can also reset as needed.

It’s a very simple process to use. Students take ownership and do their own creative thing… And students enjoy using it.

You can choose whether you want those sites to be public, or private which means behind a password. Students can only set up 5 pages – but they can be quite substantial, for instance one page can be set up as a blog. Students can choose the format they use – whilst a lot is in written form they can also embed and link to other types of materials.

Using Weebly as a reflective portfolio space encourages self direction and organisational skills, how to group information by topic etc. And provides some IT skills and experience for students.

Viewing a student site here we can see a student of Games Design share their five pages, things they are experimenting with, etc.  (and it looks lovely).

The Use of Virtual Patients in Pharmacy Education – Suzanne Thompson, Science Team 

Our pharmacy education course at Greenock requires students to ask patients about their needs, but many students do not like role play, which is what we would usually do. So, in 2013 I undertook some work to look at alternatives and I will be talking about some work, based on Keele University tools, that enable students to engage with real patients. These enable students to consider the interaction, the way that questions were asked. There are also activities to test and use underpinning knowledge. They can also then use that knowledge and experience to decide what kind of medication a patient requires. This helps students improve their knowledge and understanding but also to understand patients ongoing needs.

At the time of the study there was huge use of this tool – including away from the classroom. And these activities improved confidence in role play – which helps to prepare students for assessment which includes aspects of role play. Students also understood the reason for those role plays, and how to engage in them more effectively. And that tool is now embedded in the course as a core tool, and the students are really enjoying and benefitting from that.

And an excellent use of Powtoon for that presentation there!

Breakout 1 

I’m presenting in the e-Resources session but will summarise anything exciting later.

What do our students want? – Goerge Jonson, WCS

We ran a survey of our students and had a very good response of 685 participants, it was a really good sample from across the college and included both full time and part time students. I’m just going to talk a bit about some of those responses.

We asked students what type of learning students wanted, and they were keen on some or wholly online, that’s a priority for them. In terms of supporting their learning students want to use their laptop in class, online activities, but also face to face interaction. They want to use smartphones in class (about 85% have smartphones) and to use social media in teaching and learning.

There is a fair amount of blended learning going on – and about 66% of students felt their area of learning used technology effectively. We also saw that 75% use Moodle and most were very positive about this experience. We also asked about devices and 75% had a laptop, 58% owned a tablet, 88% owned a smartphone (fairly even iOS and Android split, a few other operating systems in minority use). The students did identify opportunities but also barriers for the use of smartphones (slow network connection and battery life were top concerns there).

In addition to the survey we also ran focus groups with our students and messages coming through there included: issues with reliable access to IT; lack of awareness of Office365 and their cloud storing there; effective use of Facebook groups – this came out of every campus.

So, some conclusions: there is demand among students for a blended approach to learning and teaching; there is widespread but not universal ownership of smart phones; and there is opportunity to do more with students own devices.

Angela Pignatelli – Creative Industries, WCS

I am going to talk a bit about the experiences our students have, and drawing upon Marc Prensky’s work on Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, but first a show reel here about how technology is the norm (Currently watching this – sequence of images collaged together and making effective use of the Humans title theme music).

[Note here that, as usual, I’m capturing the speakers comments in this post, something that mention of Marc Prensky always reminds me to flag up as I share the widespread concerns about the problematic nature of the Natives/Immigrants work. It’s worth reading some of that critical commentary, not least Prensky’s own more recent writing].

So, we have 3D printing becoming commonplace, robotics and augmented reality are all here. We were all raised in an education system with a start, middle and end, but these students coming in have a very different experience… As they arrive take a moment to see that you are tapping into those students cognitive processes: we have an unprecedented level of technological development, we need to make sure students are learner centred, are able to contribute and share their own voices. In some work we’ve been doing with Glasgow University, we’ve found that “digital natives” have “twitch speed” – swiftly understanding ideas; random access; parallel processing; image first; play orientated.

There is huge amounts of theory on games design and the theory of game design. I’m not a gamer but we apply that experience of being a gamer to their educational experience, to our curriculum design. Complex levels, structures in gaming are familiar and comfortable with. So how can we give them ownership to understand short, medium and long term goals. And we talk about pedagoguey, but we also need to talk about whotagoguey.

This image shows my 9 year old relative who is creating their own exercises whilst face timing her friend. We have to be prepared for students who operate like this.

There are various tips and techniques for dealing with digital natives. But be professionally discerning about what is applicable to you and your teaching and learning context.

And I’ll end on a quote from Steven Johnson, author of “Everything bad is good for you” who points out that many of the new technologies make more demands on us, improving our capabilities.

Making a difference in the short term for today’s and tomorrow’s students – Jason Miles Campbell, Head of Jisc Scotland and Jisc Northern Ireland

I’m not particularly an expert in teaching and learning but I can tell you, from my perspective as Head of Jisc Scotland and Jisc Northern Ireland, what others are doing, what works well…

So I will talk about how you can make a difference in your students’ lives. So…

1. Take the quick wins

Do the things that are achievable. One small change that is put in place can make a huge difference. For my example… Is an image of the three rail lines that run near Edinburgh Airport… Can you get a train there? No! There was a huge expensive diversion plan that didn’t happen but if they’d just put in a path or a shuttle bus, that would be great. So… Do what you can! Do what makes sense!

2. Rely on the Internet

Things can go wrong with technology, and sometimes you have to find a work around, but as long as you can divert, adjust, be flexible, it will be fine.

3. Listen to your IT people

Jisc, as you may be aware, provides the internet for your college. Your needs change and so we are always working to ensure we are fit for the future. And I would say that you should listen to your IT people. There are a huge amounts of attempted hacks etc. so if someone tells you that you should change your password every 6 months, then there’s a reason.

4. Use what you’ve got

We have students with smartphones and tablets, there are cheap tablets available… use what you’ve got. And there are Jisc resources you can use, there is Creative Commons stuff you can use, there are free things – like Beccy said, that you can use.

5. Take Risks

There are many ways we take risks every day… We do it when we speak in public. We do it when we use technologies that can fail. Sometimes we can be far too risk averse, when we are better benefitting from what we have available. We allow power tools on College campuses, but can be over restrictive on copyright?! I’d rather take my chances with copyright than power tools!

6. Immersion therapy

Try things out, experiment, immerse yourselves and see what ideas comes to you. My colleague spent an hour with Google Cardboard triggering huge amounts of ideas and excitement. You can use these sorts of tools to more literally immerse yourself – to look virtual patients in the eye for instance.

7. Use your students

Ask them how they want to learn, what they want to do. A great source for ideas, inspiration, etc. is to just directly ask your students. Students can also tell you the tools that they like using, and which are suitable and accessible to them. One of the advantages of Bring Your Own Device lets the students decide what they need, and set up in the way they like.

8. Embrace shared services

Now I would say that, Jisc is essentially a huge set of shared services. They enable co-operation, shared use of technologies etc. Even quite simple technology can be useful.

9. Enable, enthuse, inspire

There is so much potential in smart phones and there are such ideas there to play with. Mobile and home internet connections enable virtual meetings, web cams, mics, etc. You can access the world essentially, without even needing to travel. Technology can free you up to focus on what matters.

And that’s me… To find out more do get in touch!

Now onto Joe Wilson, who our compare feels strongly has the best Twitter avatar in the world… 

Open, Collaborative, Sharing Practice in the FE Sector – Joe Wilson, Chief Executive of CDN

I’m an old codger in FE terms (I remember working for local authorities), which means I’ve seen lots and lots of changes and I’ve always used technology. I started off with photocopiers, OHP projectors, epidiascopes, electronic typewriters…

But soon word processors arrived and, soon after, similar commands let me use webpages… So back in 1996 I was able to share links and presentations and materials on my ( website. By 2000 I was playing with Blogger, to blog to share ideas… All I do, maybe once every two months, is sit and reflect on stuff. Sharing what I’ve learned, what I’ve taken away… You build up a community. I started to work with Jisc and started using Jiscmail in 2001. It amazes me how few colleges who don’t know or engage with the communities on Jiscmail. You will find a huge range of communities who are sharing resources all the time…

All the things on my list here, I still use now. So I am still using delicious to capture groups of links… Built up over time… collected and curated. Pinterest is great – my kids do it all the time. Think of the subjects that showing a good weld, or a merit in cake decorating might look like… This is all about co-creating. Your head would spin if you looked at it all. I always think free is good. I started off as an adult literacy in Arden, outside of Comely Bank. They were quite cut off… But this isn’t about being technology, but what you do with it. I think that you should be on Twitter to build up a personal learning network – share good stuff, you get better stuff back. It’s about sharing and working globally, not only engaging locally.

Looking at the NMC Horison Report 2015 highlights major developments. The future, at the moment, are blended learning. All the statistics here about the take up of smart phones, tablets, broadband.. the challenge for us and our learners is to address the issue of the digitally excluded – those without internet, tools etc. But that should not hold us back, even if we are also looking at how we bridge that gap.

If you think about where learners are going, and what they want… Students want learning on demand to fit work and life schedules. They want self paced learning, and learning from home. They want to know that what they are learning is relevant to their career and life now and for the future. We need to reflect global learning and local needs, which means it has to be more collaborative. And we need to be meeting and listening to experts – high value but good value.

We also need to take our heads out of the sands and address the facet that education is changes. In terms of who is doing best Universities probably lead right now. Colleges were doing well, with VLEs, but all the changes and restructuring they fell behind  little. Schools are moving on now, Glow is getting bigger and can be a great way to build a personal learning network.

So, for an example, I’m going to mention the Glasgow ? of Art. You also have things like Phonar – an open undergraduate photography class – not a Scottish example but a great one, this guy just opened up his class online.

Another example, Tute… When I was a head of education you’d get asked to tutor struggling students. I have a friend in Glasgow, and this example down south, who provide tutoring online, they pay the same as other tutors, they work through Skype etc. So questions that might have come to you, may be going there already.

I also wanted to talk about OER and ukoer vision, and I’d like to encourage you to share your learning resources online. But it’s not just Scotland or the UK, it’s global. The drivers are various but the idea of education as a common good. If I can share my materials and benefit other people for free, that’s great. And there is loads of content coming, I want Scottish content in there. I chaired the UK FE Skills Window down south, and I’ve seen some of the content that is coming.

We also see the FELTAG objectives pushing a strong aspiration for content to be partially available online. That is making a big difference even though theses sorts of top down initiatives are not always successful.

There is so much out there already, and we should use them, but it should be us creating soon.

Open Scotland is a cross sector initiative that aims to raise awakeners of open education, encourage the sharing of open educational resources and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefits all sectors of Scottish Education. Universities in Scotland will be capturing lectures and sharing on YouTube, and there is so much you can do with this.

And Opening Educational Practices in Scotland – this is from Caledonian University, take a look. Publications are increasingly open, and teaching materials can also be shared that way, and should be.

See also: Re:Source – a repository to deposit and find stuff; glow; ushare – collecting useful websites etc; Mozilla open badges.

But what can you do in the future? What can you do this sugar to provide additional support for your leaners? How can students create things themselves. I think in the the University of West of Scotland might be useful here. I suggested they should talk to West College Scotland… And I’ll say the same again – why don’t you start that conversation.

Think about what you can do to promote open practice across institution and figure out business model? And as an individual practitioner, how do you start the learning journey, and building your personal learning network.. How do you begin that process? In this college you have three big sites, so you are part of the way there already! For me, on Twitter, I’ll ask a question and all these people come back and tell me, it’s brilliant!

Things you need to think about, are you ready? Do you have a social software policy – and which are yours (and your students) personal and professional digital identities; think about digital literacy and digital participation for all – thats the closing the gap part (and students can tell us their needs here); think about who your digital leaders are? Some will be leaders in the staff room, some will be leaders in the classroom but this is less about learning technologists and more about social learning. Do you have any open practitioners? Which apps do you use? (There are some great ones out there!). And where and how do you share, reuse and remix? It’s not about trying to copy Harvard, it’s about smart reuse and remixing of relevant materials.

Now, I have to do the promotional thing for College Development Network – we can help you get there! Increasingly you don’t need to come in person to Stirling to see us, as we will have lots of online webinars and other ways to engage. We have 31 development networks all connected up here, and those communities can all help and support you and share experience. And colleges are in a great place – that’s been clear today. As colleges we make people who fit into the future… You can do this.

Through places like Re:Source locally, and other things beyond, we can crack this.

Going back to my hardworking classes in Arden, we created a local history book and they got communication by stealth around communication! But what would they do now? Well they would have a choice of any book they wanted quickly. That information would be through Wikipedia pages, and they would be talking to the world. They would be doing something real. Some would be engaging with blogs but all would be participating and creating. We might even have a YouTube or similar. It would be so different – and we can do this now! So, do it! We will be with you all the way, hopefully leading with you all the way!

Breakout 2

Again, I’m presenting in the e-Resources session so the blog will go quiet for a bit…

Plenary and Q&A – John Collins, Speakers and WCS Senior Management Team

Q1) Becky, you showed us loads of examples today, where can we find those all?

A1 – Becky) I’ll send my slides to WCS and then that includes all of those resources.

And with that we are out of questions, mainly because things a somewhat overrunning, so finally it is back to 

Thank you to our main sponsors Prometheus, to our other sponsors. Thanks also to our guest breakout session presenters from Borders College and EDINA, to all of our external speakers, and to all of our West College Scotland presenters. And thank to John for his MCing today. Last but not least thank you to George Johnson and his team working to organise today.

Today is just the beginning!

And with that, we are all wrapped up… Thanks to West College Scotland for having me along to talk about MediaHub today, and to all who came along to those sessions! 

 August 12, 2015  Posted by at 9:45 am Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with:  No Responses »
Jul 102015

Today I am at the European Conference on Social Media 2015, in Porto, Portugal (where I presented on the University of Edinburgh’s Managing Your Digital Footprint campaign and research work yesterday – see Day 1 LiveBlog).

As this is a live blog so corrections, comments etc. are welcomed – and please be aware there may be errors and typos though I’ll tidy those as they are spotted!

After last night’s lovely dinner we are now all gathered back together for day 2 of ECSM2015 and are kicking off with another keynote:

Dr João Batista, Institute of Accounting and Administration, University of Aveiro, Portugal
Social Media in Higher Education: Issues and Challenges

My main research interests are focused on communication technologies in higher education, and some issues and challenges will be discussed. And I’m going to start with the mission of University (Ortega y Gasset 1940, 2003) which talks about the changing role of university, and the shift after the second world war towards three main functions:

  • Culture transmission, and the transmission of ideas.
  • Teaching professions – society needs doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. and the university is to train them.
  • Scientific research and the education of scientific people – needed for innovation and development.

But that was a utopian view. Sigmund Bauman (2007) say that we are living in liquid times and that we are now living in short time perspectives, we are “forgetting of outdated information and fast ageing habits” and we expected to be “free choosers” and flexibility. Do we feel we have long term security, do we expect to be in the same place, doing the same things for the long term? The future that claims to suit the future best is not about structure and rules, but about flexibility. Bauman (2011) also talks about Pointilist time – where we jump from place to place, to interest to interest. We discard data and information that is not useful anymore, replace with new information to remain up to date and useful to the market. But that gives a sense of huge uncertainty.

It is also true that we are now in a very connected world. Boundaries are blurred. Old communication processes are changing – when big events/news breaks we hear it first through social media rather than traditional media. We communicate more, and have a greater need to remain connected digitally at all times. And the way in which we are connected also encourages pointilism. Our contacts, data, etc. all connect together with our lives a network of connections and points, and we also have to have the power to discard these from time to time. We are more and more individualistic. Are we really connected? Yes, we are getting to be all connected.

The very last “Internet Yellow Pages”, and the ironic comments on it, speak to the swiftness of change we have seen in terms of information availability… When you first arrive at a conference, what is the first thing you do? You want the password for the internet! Sometimes we connect less with those in the room. But we are connected: almost half of the world’s internet population are active internet users (Global digital snapshot 2014), and there are over 3 billion unique mobile users…

So, what does this mean in teaching and learning? Diane Laurillard (2007) talks about teaching and learning using technologies to maintain our practices, rather than to change them.  Research (Batista 2011) found that learning management systems were mainly used for distributing lecture notes/materials. Email mainly used to answer questions. Our practice is the same, the technology is changed.

Looking at teacher training (Batista 2011) we see that teachers are getting technical training (50%) but they are less convinced about the pedagogies around technologies – only 36% felt that their training equipped them in that way. Meanwhile we are also seeing a growth in connected devices in higher education… Why do we mind students using connected devices to do something other than listen? How many of you are doing this now? Why should it be different for our students?

Think about 10 or 20 years ago. Studying involved library books, photocopies… we sometimes had financial, time or access barriers to the information we needed. The connections to find the right information are crucial. Siemens et al (2009) talks about connectivism being about knowledge and cognition being distributed across networks of people and technology and learning is about harnessing those connections.

An example of connectivism, Pablo Boixeda, won a top mathematics student prize, but when he describes his day he talks about attending class, studying… this is important, hard work is still what makes for a success.

Some issues of using social media in higher education include privacy and security, including issues of preservation and privacy of materials for assessment (e.g. a blog), and how the institutions accesses/has a role if material hosted elsewhere; institutional frontiers; copyright and authoring – if learning materials are open, how do you retain copyright. And if students submit work, how do we ensure that is original?

Another issue here are MOOCs – the first MOOC ran in 2008 by Siemans et al, and they are proponents of connectivism. At the end of 2014 (Shah) there are 400+ universities, running 2400+ courses, for 16-18 million students. There are issues around these including drop out rates (very high, often around 90%), when students are engaged the drop out rate falls.These courses are free to take, but they take huge resources to put together. Assessment and certification is also interesting here – how do you know who the student is, if it is them submitting the work. Less of an issues if students do not want a certification that is not so much of an issue, but where there is demand we are seeing authorisation systems etc.

Nonetheless MOOCs are having a significant impact, and some employers are recognising them, particularly from prestigious institutions [cue a video on Udacity on computer science MOOCs]. In this video the student, Kelly, mentions a MOOC she took, and then the full course she undertook via Udacity (Full Stack Web Developer Nanodegree) – this is not for free, but is $200 per month, for 6-9 months. Students are expected to work 10 hours per week and receive feedback within 24 hours. This is a course designed by industry. This is not unheard of, but is unusual in a MOOC, and shows that university is keen to be part of these scenarios. We can see that institutional frontiers continue to be more fluid…

The changes now taking place enable more people to access university, particularly via MOOCs [although our speaker is not noting the trend in MOOCs for students to already be unusually highly qualified]. In some research in MOOCs (Reich 2015) sees engagement translating into learning. This is an opportunity to research learning processes. To study the effectiveness of learning and teaching approaches it is also necessary to compare individual courses – the data to allow researchers to cross courses is needed, in order to make comparisons of instructional approaches. But closed systems and privacy policies are a barrier to this approach.

So, to revisit the mission of the university… Everything is now more blurred and uncertain. It is hard to see a common set of shared values, and more likelihood of flexibility in terms of employment location and culture making it hard to focus on a particular set of bales. So culture transmission is complex. Teaching professions is about preparing students to be open-minded, flexible, short-time competencies. MOOCs are important here, as that video makes clear. Scientific research and education of scientists does remain important.

And with that I close my presentation and ask you for questions.


Q1) I was wondering about different subjects, different fields of studies. When we talk about high tech subjects, the MOOCs are OK and are needed – the knowledge in high tech areas grow very fast. On the other hand universities have another kind of subject. I am from Psychology and there the knowledge does not change that quickly, and in the humanities that is broadly the case… What do you think the role of MOOCs is there – is it different? When the presence is importance to get some skills, what do you think?

A1) An interesting question. The wide range of subjects taught in universities… represent different challenges to distance learning in general, and in the MOOCs. But in MOOCs the humanities are well represented. Some very successful MOOCs are in this area. If you search for what are available you find many in arts, creativity and so on. I’m not sure about psychology, but I’m not convinced that distance is a problem for humanities subjects even if people from technology are also more keen to use technology… But then we are all keen to use technology nowadays…

Q2) An interesting presentation but I would like to hear your opinion on some of the changes taking place. In the US many universities are being forced to change in person courses into online courses. They have to compete with online and MOOC platform. Online courses see faster sign up than in person courses. When an academic was asked about using open courses, stated that MIT does these things to reach everyone, but in the knowledge that people will sign up for classes, will get students, because of the value and camradarie in-person. That was controversial in the US. Do you think MOOCs etc. mean we are depriving students of that social interaction they get in in-person courses.

A2) I think some trends are not unstoppable… But the availability of courses online is part of visibility, that is unstoppable. But not sure about the other side of that, of students not coming for online courses. I’m not sure how to stop that… We are now communicating with people 2m away digitally, even in conferences where there is a huge trend for applying for a conference at distance… I haven’t an answer for that trend of students not coming to classes. Maybe universities have to reinvent their approaches… I think that pedagogical preparation is crucial, because when students have interesting teachers, they go to classes. In Portugal the only level you don’t need qualification to teach, is higher education and that is a problem. But on the universities the concentration is on research, papers published etc… Why worry about pedagogical training etc… That is an issue that directors and politicians have to solve.

From me (not our speakers): given some of the discussion of MOOCs here, I think you might be interested in my colleagues’ Bayne and Ross (2014) HEA report on the Pedagogy of the MOOC for a UK perspective and a critical take on the phenomenon. I had questions for our opening keynote as I think to talk about some of those shifts without referencing the cost of Higher Education, particularly in the US context, is to miss some of the important factors that are very different to social media or changes in how we connect/engage with information. For those interested in a different take on the role of in-person vs online education I also recommend the University of Edinburgh’s Manifesto for Online Learning, which provides provocations and recommendations for treating online teaching and learning as a beneficial and positive model, with beneficial affordances and opportunities, when it is done thoughtfully and well.

And to finish this section of the morning, we have just seen a short video on ECSM2016, to be held in France. And we are now moving onto posters – we’ll be browsing those until 11am so expect more updates here after that.

We are back for parallel sessions, and I have headed to: The Rise of the Networked Citizen (chaired by Hedhir Hasno). 

Digital Anthropology and Youth Culture in Favela Areas: Digital Activation in Cantagio, Pavão and Pavãozinho, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil – Monica Machado, University College London / Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

This work had several aims, to gain knowledge about youth media behaviour, about their use of digital media, to understand the time and quality of digital networking for young people, and to identify socio-cutural values spread on social media activation in favela’s context. This work was all with the higher level aim of enabling the Favela museum to improve their own digital presence and effectiveness.

My theoretical perspective has been through digital anthropology as a an anthropology sub discipline (Miller and Horst, 2013). Ethnographers studies show that digital culture is basically dialectic with symbolic exchanges are processes that democratise social relation and produce negative effects as surveillance and social control. Another concern here is around authenticity. Miller and Sinanan (2014) coined the term “theory of attainment” and in this they argue that the principles of mediation is an intrinsic condition of human being. Many authors conceive of social media as a post human space, but anthropology emphasises that this is a human being process, not a post human or post post human space. So, for that reason we think digital media maintains social barriers found elsewhere.

So Rio is a very beautiful city and the favelas here are very close to the homes of the rich, they are very closely located. The main areas I was looking at Pavão-Pavãozinho has a population of 5,567 and Cantagio has a population of 4,771 residents. These are very poor areas but as a country there are a certain amount of benefits and as a result they almost all have mobile phones, paying monthly subscriptions by credit card to enable access. The population in this area are very young – they are up a hill which is part of the reason for that!

My team for this project include PhD and Masters students as well as young people from the favela. I spent 3 years developing ethnographic approach, observations, understanding the community. My main approach has been about ethnography. But in Brazil we have a lot of problems with statistics, especially in poor areas, so I felt it was very important to do a survey as well… This included 400 personal interviews, distributed to fit known demographic data.

We asked them about access to internet in everyday life: 76% said yes, and most of these (42%) said personal computer but 34% said mobile phones. They also indicated Lan House – a version of an internet cafe whose use has decreased since the rise in mobile phones. When asked about when they access the internet around half said at night, around a quater said all day / all the time.  And they are online for a lot of the day – most for 2hrs (25%) or 3hrs (27%).

We also asked about social media sites used – Facebook at 99% – but WhatsApp etc. also very popular, and the range of sites were wide (see slides for full information). We also asked about preference for type of information – text and images much more popular than email. Pictures (and video) also formed the majority of what these participants were sharing on Facebook, WhatsApp was similar but with added emoticons. We asked about political views, but these were not shared very much.  Specifically looking at WhatsApp we asked about how many groups participants engaged in, and over a quarter were part of more than 25 groups – showing how they use these spaces for sociability and connection.

In our ethnography experience, after understanding quantitative data too, we can see that they use social media in favela in Brazil in four particular areas/processes: For social life, relationships and families; for citizens issues including Favela claims – topics such as marginality and the sense of community; for a sense of spirituality; and for sense of humour – and a lot of memes and jokes!

So, in conclusion, We can understand that Facebook and WhatsApp are both about sociobility, and these types of spaces reinforce cultural ties that are present in the genesis of the identity of Rio’s slums. The sense of citizenship is seen in the sharing of community and messages about favela’s lifestyle. Spirituality wise there are a huge range and spread of views shared, they are complimentary but they are very diffused. It is an interesting way that Brazil works – we have influence from Catholic, from African religions, from Judaism, and favela’s observe all of these influences and we see that mix develop in favelas.

Playfulness and humour are very present in social media and reinforce favela’s traditional values – often bizarre, playful and pleasurable testimonials alongside those memes and jokes.

The social media interaction, as in Miller and Sinanan, is a movement of various cosmologies, plural and diachronic, rather than synchronous.

In the Favela’s that activity is about representing and overcoming stigmatisation in these communities.


Q1) I was just reading that WhatsApp along with IM and SnapChat may be banned in the UK because of the use of encryption. Is that a concern in Brazil?

A1) Yes. Sometimes they use the social media to reinforce… We have an interesting moment in Brazil. The middle class are very separate from the policies, the policies are very directed towards the lower classes. In Brazil the protests are the middle classes! The lower classes are not involved in that movement. The Middle class use social media in Brazil a lot to spread messages against the government. The poor people are reacting against mainstream media – the Brazilian equivelent of BBC for instance – who talk about favela’s as spaces for violence, marginality. They like policy, they get benefit and subsidy, they like the government. They object and react to media.

Q2) I am from Chile where there are huge literacy problems, especially in the favelas. I noticed in your data that Skype isn’t used much. If literacy is poor, texting must be an issue. But I see image are shared… Can you say more about that?

A2) I made this survey last year. Platforms change all the time… And last year we had huge issues with 3G last year, when I was running this, which made videos/video sharing and calling very difficult. But sharing of images is what happens instead. The new generation use SnapChat, exchange of videos too. But last year with this 3G and technology issue had a big impact, 4G is just starting in Brazil though… When the people who live in the favela, when they didn’t have access to mobile phones, just personal computers, that was really difficult for literacy, that caused problems. But mobile and 3G have enabled richer usage. But things change all the time..

[A special mention here for Monica’s assistant – her young daughter provided expert slide changes!]

What are Iranians doing in global social media and why? – Mortaze Kokabi, Shaheed Chamran University, Ahwaz, Iran.

Iranians seems to be particularly fond of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, instagram, WhatsApp, SMS and new tools (all the time). Youth are largest user group of these social media but they are used more widely, including elder Iranians. That is despite issues with connectivity – with speed and access – to the internet. And Iranian government concerns about social media’s use, and the filtering of the internet in Iran.

There is a lot of literature around Iran’s use of social media on individualism/activism in particular. Zeynep Tefekci and Christopher Wilson (2012) wrote about Egypt’s Tahrir Square protests and in particular the role of social media, in that case Facebook, as a route to protest and participation in political movements. There are also authors writing about the Green Movement in Iran, and the use of social media against government, some concluding that social media does not play the role it is often assumed to half. The aftermath of elections in Iran suggests that social media is changing the nature of political discourse in the world. By contrast the idea of social media enabling the overturn of government should be questioned, particularly in the context of Iran.

Gerbaudo (2012) in “Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism” compared the Arab Spring to the “indignados” protests in Spain, and to Occupy movememts. He argues that Twitter and Facebook isn’t used as a separated cyberspace, detached from reality, and instead argues that this is part of reappropriation of public space.

I have translated the news, into English, so let me present this news from Iran for you. Alexa center (2015) has explained that Iranians constitute the largest group of Viber audience in the world and in other words, the largest group in Viber members in Iranians. Alexa also indicates that some 5 million Iranians are WhatsApp users.

The Annenberg Center (2015) found that 8 out of 10 Iranian Facebook users access the network via a VPN. And one third of them are aware of the insecurity of filter breaks. A study of 188 Iranian Facebook users found that majority of 30-39 year old users held at least a bachelors degree. Most accessed the site from personal computers, about a third via cell phones. Most use social networks at their homes, 42 percent in their workplace. The researchers found heavy use of Facebook, despite the challenges of access.

So, I will skip to conclusions here… We know that social media have some characteristics that make them very popular. Social Media is based on modern technology… It facilitates conversation, and it is also prestigious in a way. Iranians are wide adopters of smart phones – older phones rarely seen. But SMS is used as a verb in Iran, so widely used it is. In Farsi “payomac”, meaning small message, is used instead of SMS is used by authorities, they have to use it, but that is not what people use.

Sharing photos, jokes, friendly messages are the currency in social media… Iranians also email proposals, papers, etc. Almost all serious scientific journals in Iran take digital submissions. There are pushes to more and more digital media usage. The Iranian government also prefer digital transactions to traditional transactions, as do companies by their charging models/perks for using these channels.

The Iranian government seems to both like and dislike digital technology. The government dislikes social media as they are much less controllable than other channels. Publishing and journals are published less often, so social media and digital exchange enables the sharing of ideas and information more quickly too. The Language used in social media is less sophisticated than mainstream media, because used by wider society. Less educated people are also able to use these spaces. And we see youth using “Fenglish” – a blend of Farsi and English – using non English keys to share English message. It is cheaper to send messages in Farsi, that is the model… But instead youth use Fenglish despite that.

But Iranian government like social media because these spaces expose networks. People focus on their tablets, phones, communications all the time… Banking is digital in Iran too, avoiding other issues of non digital banking in the countries.


Q1) I’m interested in the filter breaks – who does that?

A1) It is believed that filter breaks are usually provided by revolutionary party, in order to control the messages… The filter break is software enables working around the government filters. The revolutionary party opens breaks to control the message. We don’t advertise that filter breaks are in use… But at the same time filter breaks are in wide use. Filter breaks change all the time, the government will shut down one break, another one will open up. There is a desire for information that doesn’t stop, so adapts.

Responsibilities and Norms of Behaviour of Networked Citizens – Ustimenko Maria Helena Guimaraes, ISCAP, Instituto Politenico du Porto, Portugal.

I have been looking at how social media is shaping life, identity, and people’s way of thinking. As well as determining some norms of citizens using these tools.

I will start by talking about the ways in which networked citizens construct their identities. For instance sometimes young people, using SNS too much, they try to reinvent themselves and live up to an image they wish to present of themselves (see Martin’s The Insanity of Normality). It is normal to use networks, but the effect on the minds of young people can be quite destructive if they are not equipped to manage that. But then every identity of a person, is very linked to the nation, to the country – all have an impact on personal identity. The globalisation and dislocation of boundaries mean that people are a little bit confused about who they really are, and/or who they are supposed to be.

In order to construct ourself, we have to construct and understand the otherness (see Martin). So we have awareness of our self as much as we are aware of the other.

The other question is now people are responding to the increasing importance and visibility of social networks. I will see how the social network is not interfering with the construction of the identity but it is important that this gives us more power… We have the idea of decentralisation of power when we use the internet, but we see measures that actually reflect that the opposite may be the case.

And finally I will talk about the ways in which people are being induced to identify with dominant social identities through the internet.

So, firstly to that Media Culture and the construction of identity. There is a reconfiguration of the social and cultural patterns that mediate the activities of self-constitution. We see global citizenships, education and global networks; new possibilities for political and social participation – connection between Citizens and Government, and the notion of the “Digital Citizen” who is involved in global problems, local issues, and active partition in the community and institutions; building communities’ values and practices; building civic engagement and individual empowerment – perhaps ecological programmes for instance, but that increased engagement also gives some ownership in the citizen’s community; consciousness of cultural and social otherness.

These ideas are great theoretically, but many young people, at least in Portugal, are much more passive. They are less politically interested than this model would suggest.

Now, in terms of visibility of social networks… digital tools in general are ubiquitous, and they are different from other formats as there is a permanence of information shared via social media – once it is out there it is hard to take back, or to unpublish. That means a degree of openness. There are challenges here, youth socialisation into society is tough as they are resistant to requests to engage, we are raising quite a passive society. But at the same time a young person on the internet can access what they want and engage with who they want. We are seeing new pedagogies, new processes and construction and diffusion of scientific and other knowledges.

Turning to the dominant social and political ideologies and representations, we see participation in the deliberative processes of government concerning issues of local and global concern, but we also see alternative transnationalisation (movements, political uprising etc). We see influential contacts and influencers – individuals may think they take a free decision, but may be strongly influenced by these people. Technology becomes, often, a means of domination, control and exploitation. We also see a displacement of boundaries… and that is a reality beyond Europe.

In terms of responsibilities and norms of behaviour we need to develop alternative solutions for the problems of economic and social growth, we need to avoid new forms of illiteracy, to protect from fraud, attack, etc.

What are the downsides here? We see that educationally there is disinvestment in university, we see a high degree of uncertainty about the purpose of learning, and the next steps in terms of where young people will work. We also see issues with retention of information. Politically we see concentration of power – we saw a change towards democratisation before, but I think it is now in another period of change and in fact reducing. We have destruction of the state and the role of nation state, and of the importance of geographical boundaries, which I think makes us all feel unsafe. And socially the automatic selection of what one should read, watch of listen to has issues, but the wide availability of information also reduces the space for stillness, for creativity. We have informational and cognitive biases – seen in newspapers, TV, etc.

Conclusions here… interconnectiveness is important for prosperous economies, and vigorous research communities.


Q1) Are young people really passive? Or is a lack of response a reaction against the way they are being asked to take part, or are they being critical or methods of engagement and the structures they are asked to engage with?

A1) No. They are passive. When they are asked to research something they do that, they present, that’s all fine… But they don’t retain that, they don’t understand…

Comment) But isn’t that a much wider switch, to what they need when they needed it…

Comment) When I was a student you memorised information you needed to know but that doesn’t seem to happen now, it has changed.

A1) Yes, and from secondary school the students are not developing the skills to look at things critically…

Comment) That could be about the method of transmission – a teacher transmitting information does not encourage critical engagement, that’s cultural and has nothing

Q2) Did you consider the technical innovations and their role on passivity? You concentrate on relationships between people, but there is another actor – the socio-technical system.

A2) I believe they waste too much time constructing an image of what they want to be, and don’t understand what they are. Often they are much richer than the aspects they share on Facebook. What I can say of Facebook, which I used to have a profile in, when I wanted to finish that profile it was hard to close entirely. I renamed my avatar for a Portuguese writer… to give the idea that I am everyone and nobody. My lessons are very interactive… The idea I have is that because of insecurity when they are in Facebook they think they have a lot of people, but if they have a real problem they have nobody… 500 friends but who are they when they are in need? It is difficult to find somebody. That is why sometimes I don’t see much use… Facebook is too much fun, chat… Nothing profound.

Comment) But any beginning of a relationship or discussion can be profound!

A2) I’m not at all criticising… I know people who use Facebook and they really manage that.

Technology-Push and Need-Pull of Online Social network Citizen Engagement on Instagram Crowdsourcing – Hedhir Hasno, Universiti Sains Malaysia. 

I am going to start by talking about crowd sourcing, and that is about individuals participating en masse. Howe defined it in 2006, theoretically it really develops in Estelles-Arolas and Gonzalez-Ladron-de-Guevara, 2012, who define it as “undertaking of the task of variable complexity and modularity in which the crowd participate in bringing together knowledge and experience entails mutual benefit”.  And, following on from this. I want to talk about crowdsourcing as a way to values, who adds values, who generates value.

Moving onto consumer engagement, it is very interesting for a company to understand the customer perspective on that product. Word of mouth is much more powerful than marketing and engaging consumers is therefore valuable and important to brands (see: Bolton and Saxena-Iyer, 2009). Brody (2011) talked about engagement specifically in the context of consumer-brand dynamics, engagement specifically around consumerism. Engagement adds real value, and also raises questions of organisational alignment between the brand and the customer – how a product or service works, how it is supposed to benefit them. And if the engagement is write, that can work to great benefit for the financial benefit of the brands.

So, why did we choose Instagram for this work? Well there is a general assumption that users of all social media will obey the laws of privacy, ethics, rules of using those spaces and apps. Anyway we have these three elements: crowdsourcing; consumer engagement; social media (instagram) jointly combine to the concept of the online social network citizen. The notion of being a good citizen on social media is about sharing, and what you share. And these citizens spend significant amount of time on online social network activities, contribute on the online social network content and participate actively in major online social network sites…. And when can the content and value citizens create be coopted or used to others – thinking here, for instance, of the example of the artist selling versions of other people’s Instagram profile pictures for $20,000 and the backlash against that.

So this brings us to Katz, Blumler and Gurevitch, 1974, who talk about the idea of technology-pull and need-pull. And her we apply this to the social media context.

So, again, why did we choose instagram? Well this is because of the huge and rapid growth of Instagram. We see that users are posting pictures from Instragram to other networks too… Our work is not along the Instagram artist controversy kind, but is about collaborative participation. So an example here would be Lego Ideas – that is a progressive form of crowdsourcing which collaborates with fans, and provides encouragement and financial incentives for successful ideas. Coca Cola also have a progressive campaign around opening other people’s bottles for them – based around the consumers and meeting their interests and desires in order to sell their products.

So our research questions are on the motivations behind participative behaviour on Instagram, and on what the pull and push forces are of instragram that motivates crowdsourcing engagement. So, we want to explain and understanding the citizen and how and why they engage in crowdsourcing on Instagram.

This is based on literature around crowd sourcing from Berners-Lee, Hendler and Lassila (2001) work on the evolution of web 1 to semantic technologies (web 3.0) to Fuches et al (2010) on intelligent agents. We also looked at research on social media: Jang, Han, Shih and Lee (2015), McNely (2012) – on brand advantage around sharing, as seen in Nutella, Oreos etc – people invent new ways to consume these products via Instagram; Katz et al (1974) on media uses and graitification – consuming media motivates their desire to gratify a range of needs; Zolkepli and Kamarulzaman (2015) – talks about media uses and gratification in social media.

And we looked in more detail at work on Instagram and the citizen. When a brand releases a product, a brand, that is coopted, reinvented, and the value created by the perceptions of the consumers. The value can be recomposed by consumers – e.g. the raising of status of Levi jeans.

Our theoretical background was Users and Gratification Theory (Katz, 1974) which looks at psychological motivations underlying behaviours of media users. The choices users make gratify their own range of needs. So that relates to that individuals personal context, including media context that presents problems and solutions, so that brands are perceived as solutions to problems. And also our theoretical underpinning is the idea of Push and Pull (Sean? 1976) which conceptualises push as motivational factors or needs rinsing from disequilibrium of tension in the motivational system, whilst pull forces, in contrast, are about feature-related factors that create attractions towards certain motivation. So is Technology-push or Need-pull the more dominant factor for adopting new methods?

So, we have taken a quantitative approach and developed a concept model looking at two factors: H1 – the higher the technology-push forces perceived towards Instagram, the greater the possibility of participative behaviour of crowdsourcing; H2 – The greater the need pull by the Instagram, the higher the participation behaviour in crowdsourcing. We are proposing a a three layered approach to explore a range of variables to understand the role of variables in behaviour of crowdsourcing; to gain knowledge in strengthening brand value and understand consumers; so we hope to develop further our model for the citizen in this social media context.


Q1) How do you define push and pull in your model?

A1) Well we have a long list of variables. Push to me is about when the technology is forced onto you – peer pressure for instance. Pull is where you realise you have a need, that you want to use a tool. [cue a charming discussion on whether Push or Pull drove our audience and speakers original use of Facebook]

Q2) Have you looked at crowd funding here, and how that fits into this type of model?

A2) We are not looking at crowd funding in our work because it is interesting, but it does not result in user generated content which is what we are focusing on. Crowd funding is a different area for research.

Q3) So for you, if you are drawn to a project or a crowd funded project – I work with an NGO – how do you find this? What motivates you?

A3) To take the example of a film I have supported, that is based on interest and existing knowledge. For crowd funding, as in crowd sourcing you have to decide whether to create the value, or whether you let the crowd determine the value for you.

Q4) How did you come up with the Push Pull?
A4) It is an established theory, but our work is specifically looking at the application in the context of social media, and the context of Instagram specifically.

Q5) You mentioned web 2.0 and web 3.0, what is the difference?

A5) Web 2.0 is about facebook, interaction. For me web 3.0 extends beyond the online world into the physical world…

Comment) That change from HTML – a presentation format – to Linked Data which enabled you to understand who someone is, the roles, the connections etc.

Q6) How did you identify the variables?

A6) We have adapted these from the existing literature, but we are open to suggestions and feedback. This is concept work at present, but we want it to really work.

Q7) Is this approach tested?

A7) We have tested it with SPSS to ensure the concept model is appropriate.

And with that we have lunch. Blogging will kick off again with our final keynote at 1.45. And after a brief lunch – and some singers from the university! – we are back for our final keynote.

Dr Marco Lamas, Oporto Polytechnic Institute ESEIG, Porto, Portugal – Social Media: To be or not to be In the entrepreneurial XXI century

I am going to be talking about the role of social media in an entrepreneurial age, and I think there is a lot to talk about. We start with aquestions about an image [which I apparently win! €5 for me!] which represents fast movement and very rapid change. We see today everyone in an era of uncertainty, greater local and global competitiveness. We see birth rates falling in developed world, an aging population, changes in the environment, and no jobs for life but also no career for life anymore. And of course we see rapid technological development. That is what we have right now.

So, what happens online in 60 seconds? Well a huge amount looking at data of what is posted to each social media channel every minute. And interestingly we can look at sites and think about growth – Facebook is huge but not growing rapidly. Today we talk Facebook, Twitter, Instagram but tomorrow we might be talking about entirely different tools. The important thing is how we use these spaces. If we want to work well, to be successful, we have to adapt our contact and communication to the customer, to their needs, and we have a lot to do to get there.

If you speak about the current customers we have to talk about millennials – children born 1992-2002 – there are 81m children in this group, man already in college and university. Some in this room perhaps! We all are millennials in here anyway – we act in many ways like them. When I prepared this presentation I spoke with my son, he is 16… I talked with him. I was looking at characteristics of a millennial, my son has all of those… This generation will replace the baby boomers as they progress. We must adapt what we do to their needs and expectations. To serve tham better universities, colleges, business firms are having to change how they do their business. So, lets focus on the customer, on the client. Everyone says they will do that, but few do. This group are very different – the first generation to be exposed to technology and the internet since they were babies. They are the most casual citizens, they expect change, to be mobile (in terms of jobs and attitudes, not just technology), to be citizens of the world and are attracted to diverse environments.

Looking at some (Goldmann Sachs) qualities of millennials we can see that 34% use their online network when making purchasing sdecisions – looking at advice, comments, experiences, etc. Studies looking at what would be worst for this generation – is the sensation of being offline. Being offline for 1 hour, 2 hours is upsetting for a millennial – and in that way I am not a millennial. We are always online, this generation is always online… That’s to shop, to plan but most of all to talk to another person who has had the experience of the thing that are interested in. Everything is done online here.

This group are (according to Goldmann Sachs again) are the “first digital natives” and their use of social media is significant [although seeing the percentage of use of social media Gen X is only a few percentage points behind, Baby Boomers further behind them]. We have to watch by our customers, our consumers side, to see their perspective. In business we have to understand our business in that way, the great error is to only see your business from your own point of view. I have created 6 businesses in my time, and that experience taught me that building is a business you should not do for you, for your needs, it has to be for your customer, for their needs, their interests, their way of finding information.

We also see higher use of internet and smartphones by the Millennials than other groups. Huge uptake of smartphones in this group (data this time from eMarketeer). Social media is a strong pull for communication in business. So, for example, we see Yanis Varoufakis on Twitter – social media being used for communication, for engagement in business, in politics. Why do this? To share a message faster and to more people than by any other channel before. Unfortunately we have another example… ISIS uses social media as a weapon by this group. Social media is a tool, but it can be used by everyone and that is a benefit and a threat.

But whilst communications are rapid, our business approaches can lag behind by 10, 20 years, so we have to change our business and the way we do things. We have a lot of social media – which you use is unimportant, it is the usage. By now the question in my title… well to be present in social media isn’t enough, you have to know why you are using these tools, what you want, what your plan is… Once you know you have to find what you need to get there. It can be bad to be present without that plan, without that understanding.

There are also failures you can make in social media… These include: not having a social media policy; treating all social media sites as if they are the same; using social media as a megaphone’ focusing on quantity of followers instead of quantity. They are present but they are not making taking advantage of it, they lack strategy.

So, what do we need? Well we need practices and tools adapted to the reality and specificity of each business, a plan, a strategy… And we need to think about social media as a set of tools that have to be integrated in our much broader plans to communicate, to market, to achieve our goals. For me the key of our focus has to be on humanization – this is a key aspect for millennials. It is about socialisation, about experiences, about authenticity. When someone speaks to me I want it to be personalised, to understand the persons, how we must speak to them.

Segmentation gives us a way to address these needs, but nowawadays we can do much more than that, we can move into personalisation. Here in Portugal we saw a ballooning in surfing after an area began to reach 30m. But we see a real consistency across surfers – similar clothes, language etc. There is segmentation that can be seen. But we can get mor epersonalised to the level of the individual now.  It is a difference to speak to a surfer versus a cultural tourist for instance.

Creativity and innovation is key here, why should our customers choose us rather than another brand? For instance Milka’s main innovation is just the purple packaging – which marks their brand uniquely. We have to think outside of the box, but we live in routines so it is easy to get stuck in routines… we have to work beyond that. Working across disciplines can help with that, to get different people working on the same problem. We must practice and work hard to be creative. We have to do things in a different ways… You can’t do things better, its not enough, we have to think differently.

But we also have to stay focused… I am trying to upgrade my own personal memory – of my brain – theres a great opportunity there for someone! We may work, study, learn all of our lives but we cannot be great at everything. We have to focus on a few things that we can do best.

How many of you have done Rubicks cubes? Successfully? Many times? Fast? There are very fast world records for this but to get there you have to try things. fail, fail again… And business models for social media look a bit like that – failures again and again to find what works. Many of you may be aware of the Business Model Canvas model… This looks like a puzzle and thats a good way to think about this problem. There are 9 pieces here… but you have to get everyone right to find a suitable business model, a solution to this model.

On the right side of this model is the value proposition, thats what we can do differently, what we can offer our customers. And the most important piece in this section is the customers – what they want, what they are willing to pay… social media helps but we have to do this puzzle over and over again as things change. We have to get our customers to love us. We don’t want business/customer college/student relationship, we want more than that, we want a real relationship. It isn’t about networks on social media, but the relationships social media enables. And making a relationship work is hard, it takes work.

So we have planification, analysis, formulation, organisation and implementation. vision and mission. Social media is important but it is not a proposal in itself. We need a plan before we do it. And we also have to keep it simple (KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid). We have to think who am I talking to? And tomorrow? Will we have Facebook, linked in, Instagram? We don’t know. When I watch economic and policy discussion on TV, the change is so fast we can’t be sure… we need magic to solve that… Which means doing all that planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluating and then adapt adapt adapt…

Some research found that entrepreneurship occurs where there is happiness, and happiness where we are being entrepreneurial.

So, I would like to ask you to watch a short video… “Pig and cookies” [very cute!] – this is a real entrepreneur:

YouTube Preview Image

The pig gets there in the sense, but “If he had used social media he could have asked someone how to solve th eproblem!”

And with that we move onwards to the final parallel sessions… I’m headed to Personal Infomation Online – Dianne Forbes.

Investigating the Reasons of Hiding Personal Relationships in SNS – JianJun (Jacob) Li, Hong Kong Baptist University, China

My work stems from the use of social networks by criminals, using them to conduct crimes. Identity theft but also corruption/intervention can disclose and expose relationships. Most of the research in the past has focused personal information disclosure (e.g. Dwyer) rather than nondisclosure relationships.

I have developed a model to bring together various factors, but I want to also talk about some associated areas. Impression management – people want to give a good impression to others, especially in social media which provide many ways to control your image, your representation, what you share and how can see your message/content. So some users may hide some sensitive relationships in social media. There is also a lot of self-monitoring here that enables them to present the best/most appropriate face to others [Jacob is using some Bill Plympton-ish drawings here that seem to draw on Goffman’s (1954) idea of representation of self, of wearing different masks etc].

Risk perception is important here… higher risk perception may make them more likely to hide some social relationships. And people are increasingly concerned about privacy – the risks posed by hackers, but also research on internet users using Google to conceal search history, and the hiding of particular posts. Privacy concerns are connected to risk perception…

We also have the issue of control over information. Facebook provides a lot of controls for users to decide what their friends can see. Some users can therefore choose to have some concealed behaviour on social network. And those with some history of criminal offence have more reason/more likely to conceal some of their relationships, of their connections. And finally we have the issue of social network credibility – if a user trusts the network, they may be more likely to share more openly; and if they do not trust the SNS they are perhaps more likely to conceal relationships/activity.

So for research collection I set up a survey online (n=77). Most of those who took part had used social networks for over a year, and had more than 100 friends. I then did factor analysis around different constructs that include SNS credibility, guilty of criminal offence, impression management, privacy concerns, self-monitoring, control over information, risk perception, nondisclosure relationships. Almost all of these factors seem to be significant (using Cronbach’s Alpha/CR/AWE). Using correlation analysis between constructs we can see that impression management is the most important factor having very close relationships to risk management, and privacy concerns.

Undertaking multiple regression for predictors of nondisclosure relationship allowed me to add values to my research model for nondisclosure relationships. Here risk perception, privacy concerns; impression management and self-monitoring were all significant, whilst other factors were less so.


Q1) When you devise the sample did you look at different demographic factors?

A1) Yes, but the original idea was I wanted to try other factors, rather than demographic factors.

Q2) Who were your participants and what were their demographics?

A2) Most are university students, probably staff as well. Would like more data, perhaps from social networks… But my questions were too long.

Q2) The model looked very interesting but maybe too complex, so perhaps you can focus in more – so find a psychological model of risk perception so you can understand the impact. So that rather than having a lot of factors, focus on some of these. My students are doing research on self disclosure on Facebook, so this is really interesting though.

A2) Initially I tried a lot of variables to find what is and is not significant. I selected 8 of many… I want to carry on and develop this research model.

Comment) A qualitative angle would be an interesting thing to have, to have the rationale behind the numbers – to understand what people are thinking about. You could invite your respondents to be part of interviews – to get some quotes and stories to provide some narrative for those behaviours and predictors.

Personal Information Disclosure and Perceptions about Data Usage by Facebook – Soczka Leonor, ISEG University of Lisbon, Portugal

This is based on my masters thesis, but this is just a small part of the data we collected. Our work focused on user perceptions about how their personal information is used and its impact on disclosure, specifically the use of personal information for marketing purposes.

So, looking at the literature we came across the concept of privacy calculus of Personal Information Disclosure (PID). We also can see different aspects in understanding self-disclosure: the perceived benefit; trust in a company; control mechanisms, perceived risks – the possible negative consequences within a particular probability, global privacy concern – tendency for general concern around informational privacy; and past experience (involving privacy disclosure).

Facebook’s business model rests on the disclosure of personal information so we added some additional factors here: valuing targeted advertising; usage frequency – as an indicator of trust in the platform; data usage perceptions; demographic variables.

We had nine hypothesis around connections to personal information disclosure and the relationships between different factors.  Based on this we constructed a model for our research. We undertook that research through a survey (n=519). Of our respondents 41 was the average age, 84% were intensive users. Only 15% valued targeted advertising. Their perceptions varies – 16.8% had incorrect perceptions, 41% correctly identified how Facebook uses personal data, and the remaining ~40% did not know how facebook uses personal information. We did regression analysis and most of the hypotheses were confirmed. The model explained by 22% the variation on the decision to disclose personal information.

Comparing those who did not know how facebook use data (vs those who knew) tended to be less intensive users, with fewer concerns. Those perceiving that all information can be used in marketing perceived more risks, have less trust in facebook, and share less data on Facebook.

Those who do not know how Facebook use data were positively influenced by perceived benefits, intensive usage and audience filter usage. Those where some information is used positively linked to perceived benefits, audience filter usage, intensive usage and negatively by discomfort with information age.

In terms of our conclusions, the confirmation of our hypotheses indicates that perceived benefit, trust in facebook, usage frequency, control mechanisms, and valuing targeted advertising are all positively associated with PID. [and other conclusions – my typing couldn’t capture it all!]

So the consequences here are that business success of companies like facebook depend on perceptions users have on how their information is used for marketing purposes, specially if they consider their information is not used at all. Our recommendations for companies like Facebook is to reduce risk perception, and provide control mechanisms for users.

Some limitations here – convenience sample and possible cultural limitation of the sample. There was also a smaller group in the “no information is used” group, which may have impacted validity.


Q1) What age group responded to your survey?

A1) The majority were between 35 and 50 years old. About 32% were under 30, and 32% were over 50.

Q1) Eric Schmidt said several years ago that most people under 30 did not care about privacy, about terms and conditions… Millennials do not care about privacy at all… How many of us here have read Facebook agreement? Very few even here… There is a perception of what that should be… so does this study matter?

A1) I am starting with data we have collected – we have split the sample into two groups regarding age – along “digital natives” ad “digital immigrants” groups, as a different way to split the data. There was a correlation there between age and disclosure – the older they are the less information they share. But it is not clear that that is about age/generation or whether that is about life stage, so we have to evaluate and monitor that through time.

Comment) I would add to that that when young I was much more reckless in terms of risk etc. so I totally understand your point that it is not age related, but life stage related. So trends may not be generational but about life stage. My gut feeling is that surveying the same generation in 10-20 years you might find similar results…

Q2) How do perceptions of sharing something online connect to risk?

Comment, chair) A lot of what is is being suggested here cover a lot of different hypotheses. There is some research that suggests young people are much more risk aware, they learn from personal experience, and are savvy and adapting. We should be cautious about assuming that young people will be like us when they grow up, they will have their own cautions and fears.

Q1 again) I have asked 20 year olds to study as a group to find what they knew, whether they were aware of what could be found about themselves. I give them a questionnaire afterwards – asking if they would change their practice and NONE of them would change. That’s what concerns me. My daughter works at BuzzFeed tells me “you have too much information online” – because she knows what they do with data. Understanding how data is used, probably does change perception. But that is a good point that knowing more will change how they think about this.

A) People do share, they do use, even if they think Facebook uses everything. But it changes how much they shared.

Summary of the issues raised during the conference and presentation of the Best PhD Paper – Led by Anabela Mesquita

This event brought together around 100 participants from across the world – all five continents – and we tried to provide a platform for researchers to connect and exchange ideas. Yesterday we found that social media is safe for businesses to use social media, although the struggle between good and evil in terms of use of media continue. There is huge value to be derived from social media but also challenges too. We are moving from an information society to a networked society, where networks are a site of exchange between individuals and organisations.

How do we retain value and freedom, and how can we recognise sovereignty and identity in this changing world? We witness a change from the analogue to a digital world. Nowaways we see networks emerging that connect complex systems. They enable scale, flexibility and adaptability, without a single central entity. And we see fast changes. We see distance less of an issue than change. Society is constantly changing and we have to act in local and global competitiveness. Social media changes, as are we, and we must reflect on our usage, and how we adapt our own processes to these new changes. Millennials live online. We need to focus on customer perceptions. Organisation and strategy are at the core of productive and succesful use, along with monitoring, analysis, and learning from experience. We also considered specific aspects of connected world in higher education.

We bring to a close three busy days now, and thank all of my colleagues for their support in the organisation and assistance especially with PhD and Masters papers. I want to thank my colleagues here, including my colleagues behind the scenes who enabled all of this to take place. A huge thanks to Sue for all of her work bringing this all together. And finally thank you to all of you for attending, participating, presenting.

Sue: Before you go we have some presentations for students – for best PhD and best Masters presentations. The prize for masters students is fairly new but I have had good feedback about it. I am pretty sure our masters winner has had to leave – it goes to Romy Van Scharlin (sp?) and her colleagues – on crisis communications with police by Twitter. I know the decision on best PhD papers was hard fought but they have a decision and that was Anand Sheombar for his paper on simulating NGO use of social media.

The poster prize was interesting as we had a tie for second place, and a clear winner. The second prizes go to Elaine Garcia, Plymouth, for her “applying the wild west…” poster, and Elvira Terras and colleagues from Nottingham for their poster [on mental health, ethics and social media I think – will check]. Finally the clear winner was Christophe Capaz with his poster on video virality and brands.

We will send certificates to all of our winners!

And with that, we are done! See you at ECSM2016 perhaps?

 July 10, 2015  Posted by at 9:08 am Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with: ,  Comments Off on European Conference on Social Media – Day Two LiveBlog
Jul 092015

Today and tomorrow I am at the European Conference on Social Media 2015, in Porto, Portugal. Throughout the conference I will be liveblogging here and later this morning (in Stream B, for those looking for a session!) I will be presenting on the University of Edinburgh’s Managing Your Digital Footprint campaign and research work.

As this is a live blog so corrections, comments etc. are welcomed – and please be aware there may be errors and typos though I’ll tidy those as they are spotted!

We are starting off with a welcome from Sue Nugus the conference organiser, reminding us that the hashtag for today is #ECSM2015. She is also encouraging us to share and disseminate our papers and presentations – so do keep an eye out for these in the following weeks (I’ll link to my full paper once approved by the University of Edinburgh Pure team).

Welcome from the conference Chair: Dr Anabela Mesquita, School of Accounting and Administration at the Polytechnic Institute of Porto

The scope of this conference is to encourage participation form a range of disciplines undertaking social media research. There were 202 abstracts, of which 59 academic papers, 11 PhD papers, 3 masters papers, 11 work in progress papers and 1 non-academic paper – with speakers from 30 countries.

Yesterday we had a Social Media Student Showcase including a seminar on Social Media and Employability, as well as a Qualitative Research Methods seminar.

And I just want to take the opportunity to say thank you to all of you for coming, to my colleagues and all of the organisers.

Anabela’s colleague is also providing an official welcome to the Institute:

I am very proud to welcome you all to the second European Conference on Social Media. Throughout it’s 128 years of existance ISCAP has been making a remarkable economic and social impact on the surrounding community but we are also looking more internationally, working with universities and organisations around the world, but particularly in Europe.

Anabela is introducing our opening keynote speaker, Luis Borges Guveia, who has been working on social media since 1996, as the internet was just getting started. He has been working on digital cities and social media and he is going to share his experience with us today.

Keynote presentation: Dr Luis Borges Gouveia, University Fernando Pessoa, Portugal – Where is the Wisdom we lost in knowledge: security issues and human relationships in social media

This presentation represents an opportunity to reflect upon changing times. The main idea is that nowadays we are in a time of crisis and change. How can we explore social media in a business context? This is a need not a possibility… I’ll start with a bit of poetry, then my take on what an information society is, what social media is and has been, some of the challenges social media raises and then some final remarks.

So, first of all.. to T.S. Eliot.. Eliot is a worldwide poet – the Brazilian people love him even more than the Portuguese! His university career was in the UK, in France, and also in the US. He was a very keen social critic, through humour. I very much like his poem “The Rock”, which many say predict the Information Society… That we are running for what we can get, what we can capture. It is all about perspective. This is something that I would like to say: maybe in these changed times and changes economic times, we need to change our own perspective and maybe social media is one of the ways we can do that.

One may say that there is value in meaning, but we are very focused at the moment on value creation. We are in a time of value destruction (drawing on Peters’ (1934) notion of creative destruction).

The information society is a society where information and communication technology are the primary resource to exchance digital information and to support interaction between individuals using practices and ethods in permanent change (Gouveia and Gaio, 2004) but to some extent this is an intermediary change… If we move to a place where we pay for interactions we may make money but we may also kill relationships. So our business models have to change and move on…

So in the information society we see heavy use of ICT (compyuters and networks) and growing use of digital, towards a network organisation – which is why social media is interesting to deal with. We are already in a world where if something is not Google-able then it may as well not exist, such is our use of these tools.

We have ideas of a world that is highly networked, fast paced, with ongoing change, mutating workplace – and perhaps also leisure, do it now, everywhere society, highly collaborative, etc. These are not new ideas but they are now central ideas to what we do. We are already in an information society – information is not powerful anymore, access to information is the value now.

There are two many aspects here: issues of sustainability and sovereignty. These are the issues we are fighting for, that we are facing now. Sustainability – how can I generate the value to be myself, to have my freedom, for social, political, satisfaction or any other type. Sovereignty. And the information society is threatening and eroding both of these. We also see issues of availability of time – increasingly limited, and space – what does it mean to be present?

Now, I’m an optimist! My background is in computer science and we are seeing machine learning, mobile, ubiquitous connections. The computer is hidden, the network is hidden, but data is at the heart of everything – it is all transaction related. There is an almost religious quality to this. And it is not so much about the internet. We are at a place where we don’t need to learn or pay for our computers in some ways. There are therefore things we need to do…

1. From the analogue to the digital world:

  • We used to memorise to learn, in the digital world we forget to learn as we have to discard to learn, relearn, we unlearn! (read Gibson’s New Powers from 1994, you will get shivers – but that’s a diagnosis not a way to solve this).
  • Work used to be about taking time, in a digital worls it is about work without taking time.
  • And teaching was about organising, structuring and transmitting. In a digital world it is about curation, storytelling, creative aspects, and critical and analytical skills.

2. Mechanical Turk

This concept originates in the 20th century, with the concept of getting robots to play chess. The first machine learning work, Turing test experiments etc. But we have moved on from that… Looking to how we can get cheap labour based on micro tasks. So we make complex added value tasks into smaller units that have less added value, which means we can pay less for them, and make bigger margins and more profit. For years we said this isn’t possible for creative and intellectual work – but Wikipedia shows that it really is possible, that there is available free time of people. Getting simpler, direct, formats, work is done cheaper. And the mechanical turk model is really changing the valuing of creativity and work and that is a really important change.

3. Information Overload

In countries already engaged in information societies the main disearse is stress and overload, because we have to deal with information in quantity, in complexity… This means we have to filter and are forever ignoring, reading, discarding and discussing to manage that wide availability of information and our own limited time.

To revisit some ideas from 2009: The emergence and rise of mass social media we have seen a move away from traditional media towards social media, to client side focus. With organisations we now see marketing but also customer services etc. in widespread adoption – away from selling the concept to just using it. And we have seen the move away from the Social Media Guru to a mind shift towards adoption, usage, collaboration. So, six years on from some of those trends some of the issues and needs are still valid, though social media is already in wide adopting.

And it is still a challenge to engage people, in how to get not just the number but the real value. For instance I can have 600 friends on Facebook, but the value sits in a much smaller network of those connections. Actually our convergence of contacts and overlaps of networks seems like a timebomb machine!

And in social media we need to share value to get people’s time, attention, data. Towards getting some sort of money, satisfaction, something that rewards our effort.

I think that the “old days” matter because younger people, the millennials, are starting to be in the workplace and that will mean huge change… They can do somethings faster, better… They are used to using mobile devices, less TV, gaming, streaming music, online video, online reading and generally hours on the net every day.

The issue is content, context and experience. The drive is no longer to make content, but to make meaning, value and experience.

So I want to move onto some of the challenges for business… Negotiating the “old” and the new times – there has to be a relationship between the two, so that those who provide funding, backing, etc. for business can understand the new world on their terms. So we can start with the platforms – that’s a concept that can be grasped. Whether that is our own platform or our own cloud/cloudlet that we control.

Most of my personal research is the idea of networks and business networks, and that networks are a way to provide added value, joining the organisation on one side to individuals on the other side. For social businesses there is less distinction between those spheres though. Do we still need enterprise or companies anymore? Can we just work directly now? This is a new set of ideas we are engaging in now. The credit driven economy, the idea of currency backed by loans is game over. Even if organisations matter, power of governments, use of taxes etc. do not work as well, we need other ways to conceive of value and business.

Using social media to promote change. The global market is in an alarming transition. We don’t know how to implement, engage in that situation but the network is definitely part of it. Organisations moving to new digital models as cornerstones of their business – around market share, network effects, digital ecosystems, community centric, stakeholder experience. Stakeholders are not a juridic concept, but they are everywhere. It is a sustainability problem.

Now, I cannot talk on this without referencing email… If I was a terrorist I would put them to work on email. Email is such an issue for time, for information overload… Smart people could push me forward by taking advantage of my entropy. Email is a great notification system though and still central to business… But for businesses we see a scale from email, to website, to ecommerce tools, ebusiness tools, environments for networked organisations, to digital ecosystems.

The idea is not to use A platform… But to impose MY platform… In portuga one of the most popular platforms is for collecting taxes, very efficient. As a big enterprise I can say “no no no, use another platform for logical reasons” – but this is a power fight. As we move to digital systems, to digital platforms… for a long time now we have the idea of “if you want to play with us, you have to play on our terms, in our way”. And those tend not to be in the enterprise context but higher. So for instance learning environments have to be more interactive – from SAKAI type systems, to common tools Mediate in Spain, Coursera and EdX in the US. That is an issue of power, not an issue of service.

So, social media in terms of business can provide a position to change, as in system analysis we can have with agile systems. Agile systems provides a useful framework and context to understand social media… There are a lot of similarities… But there are also issues to consider… gaining power means that all the ideas of the network – the good ideas of openness, interaction, alternatives, changed costs, response etc… can be there but all are dependent on those with the power to enable that – Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. has the power to shape that, to say what appears in your timeline. It looks like the network has power, but that isn’t actually the case – it is not peer to peer or an open network anymore.

We need to remember that data is the new capital. If you read the big five Gartner predictions etc. you will see that we are in the big data era.  So we need to not just have data everywhere, know where it is, having it available and controlled, but we also need to have a holistic view of our data to know how we can spend/negotiate etc. We need to use our resources wisely, making best use of others’ data first.

So we are evolving from social media to social business. I see the future as being “smart” in terms of how we do information analysis. So we have social media enabling extension of space, time is a scarce resource but more reach can mean spending less time. For people in organisations we need less government, but more governance. When we perform digital it is not just related with computers and networks. We are still analogue, but our interactions are more digital than ever…

“Privacy is for rich people” – for security reasons our data is not private on the whole… Do you know where genuinely important people take their coffee? Have their meetings? Send their kids to school? No. And that’s the issue, that’s the change. The powerful have privacy, whilst the rest of us are public figures in some sense.

And the meme is not organised. One can expect to get data, information and knowledge from diverse non traditional sources. We have to rely on others. And that means we have to stay free, to have available time to actually engage, to visit etc. But there are pressures on time and how we use it already.

And we need skills to be smart… We need to deal with information overload and critical information skills.And alongside all of the practical skills we need to be unique and interesting and fun, and a brand, to create value.

To finish I want to quickly show the project management triangle – the choices across Good / Cheap / Fast… You can have any two parts of that, but not all at once… I like the idea that you can – I work in a University and yet I think we should be free – but I know that that just isn’t the case.

And we have project management monsters – people want everything that we do to be Faster, More, Cheaper and Beautiful!


Q1) You mentioned personal cloudlets in your talk, can you explain that.

A1) The cloud comes from providers like Amazon… It comes from the idea that you can provide services and products to others… Like the idea of building bridges. The idea of internet as a free space, sits with clouds for me. The clouds keeps those monsters alive – faster, cheaper, more – as they scale without limits. Data wise we cannot store all we need on our own machines now, and that is increasingly the case. The cloud is other people’s computers…. but that has some issues too. So cloudlets mean we have a data centre and services… But as a cloud provider I have the power. So a cloudlet is a personal version of that. That’s a way to make things easy and scalable but retain power over that data.

Q2) I would like to hear your opinion about – a new initiative from Facebook to bring internet and access to areas of the world without issue. They are working with phone companies. So whoever has the phone has internet access, but that access is limited to what Facebook provides access to. What is your opinion on that access which is restricted, and coming to areas where there are big inequalities.

A2) That is a good thing. It extends markets. Those markets are more challenging to reach… Media controllers already have a lot of power to filter information… The Portuguese media owners are being brought by someone – Chinese or American buyers… This is part of that power grab for space. But the internet is a little different… It is harder to control the space. All the ideas really are about conquering the people… People are central here, not the platforms and that makes these spaces work in a different way. So, for instance in Angola, where there are 24-6 million people, and most are in their twenties – they are a growing population and economy. You can invest in schools, but at present there is little power connectivity, no phone connectivity for most. But they do have some mobile digital devices – more empowering. Next year they will have their own satellite. They have a 150€ data centre. Those countries are moving direct to this new digital world. But maybe Facebook’s model is an old 20th Century solution to the problem…

And on that slightly enigmatic verdict on the ethics of Facebook deciding what is, and is not appropriate content, we move into parallel streams. I am presenting in Stream B:

Reputation and the Digital Footprint (chaired by Athanasios Mazarakis)

Understanding Digital Reputation on Instagram: A case study of social media mavens – Eman Alshawaf

I will be talking about a project which has been 2 years in the making and required lots of human coders, and the complex nature of Instagram data.

So, what was the scope of the study? Well Instagram is a social media based platform around images and business, creative, and personal activities of all natures. And we wanted to look at who influences others, predicts and leads trends, etc. And those are our “Maven” – this is based on Rogers (1983) work on opinion leaders/mavens who are experts in certain fields. In the modern world the tech community (see Janssen, n.d.) we have individuals who become influential by what they share, by their presences and networks, etc.

Instragram is image based, very popular… there are 300 million users across the globe. You need an email account and phone to get started, but that’s it. And we wanted to see how once contructs their presence on a social media platform to become influential, and what is it that makes them influential.

So we started with observation and a model looking at different flavours of promotion on Instagram – personal promotion, brand promotion (ambiguous as can be your desire to be associated with the brand or your own brand), and sponsored promotion (where you are paid to promote).

Our hypothoseis is that these three types of promotion as part of a self-promotion cycle, is what makes for influence.

Now, when we began this work little was published on Instragram, but there is a lot more published already. Suler (2008) found that  Khosla et al (2014). Silva 2014 enable observations of actions of hundres of millions of people in near real time. Hochman & Manovich (2013) found that information is no longer just produced by professionals. Kietzman, Hermkens, McCarthy and Silvestre (2011) looked at marketers realising that the publicity of brands in image based social media. Fiolet (2014) found that there is a strong connection between the number of follows and the number of likes, and images are value depending on the context they are shared in.

So our second and third phase of research was a content analysis process, of social media mavens on Instagram. We selected several mavens:

  • Camila Coelho – brazilian fashion and beauty blogger, based in the US, with huge popularity (2 m followers), and she is the face of many brands.
  • Chiara Ferragni – well over 2 m followers, a team that follow her everywhere, several brands and areas of influence.

For these mavens we did a content analysis of thousands of posts from each person, using the three levels of promotion as a variable. We sampled every 4th image from September 2012 to September 2013 . And then in the third phase of research we looked at every 1st picture of the month was analysed for comments.

So returning to those variables – an image of the person might be personal promotion, brand promotion may include an image of an item, and sponsored promotion are where they are clearly paid to do that promotion.

Doing that research we found a fairly consistent picture in terms of the mix of those promotion types… But there would be some variance when they were travelling, for instance. But over the year the balance was fairly even. And to track global reputation, we used language as a proxy. So for Coelho we could see Portuguese as an influential language for her, which is also her native language… But actually we saw that expand over time, to 12(?) different languages by the end of our research. Similarly Ferragni saw a real growth of recognition, to 19 different languages at the end of our research.

We saw a lot of change over time, but we found something interesting… We found that mix of promotions mattered… Personal content created authenticity and interest, but that promotion of brands and sponsorship was also important to building profile. There is a strategy one could adopt to become a maven…

In terms of future opportunities we would like to test this on a larger scale, and also to look at audience perspective.


Q1) Did you contact your mavens, to let them know about the study, the outcomes… If they are managing reputations they may be concerned about how they are presented in this way.

A1) We did try to contact them but they didn’t reply. And we have found that Harvard have also don a study on Ferragni. But I am sure they are aware of the strategic nature of their pro

Q2) Were there any non promotional variables or were all images classified as personal if not “brand” or “sponsored”?

A2) For brand promotion, had to be image, hashtagged etc. Had to be very clear. Similarly sponsorship had to be very clearly signalled. Some posts were ambiguous unless you understood the data – e.g. a selfie from a promotional event.

Q3) How did that issue of brands work?

A3) Just using brand name, even if self promoting in tone, that’s a brand promotion… Potential confusion…

Q4) Comments and the findings from that…?

A4) It was mainly about global nature of comments. Always recognising influence of that maven… even if negative in tone, discursive in tone. And our comments were sampled once a month

Q5) Even though it wasn’t the focus, when you looked at comments made… Was there any relationship between comments made, and category of posts…

A5) Interesting question. Our reaction was that personal promotion was more engaging, but brand promotion were quite exciting. Sponsored promotion was much more mixed – because some were not happy that mavens got special opportunities. But personal promotion was the most popular type of post.

Q6) How did you code comments?

A6) Just by language, from which we could estimate the location of the follower – but of course languages are used in multiple

Q7) Where did those types of promotions come from – that classification?

A7) For the comments we had a focus group around those categories… We saw a linear progression from personal promotion to brand and sponsored promotion. We did not allow overlaps between those categories in terms of our definition.

Q8) What is the definition of maven here?

A8) Varies but for us we selected fashion mavens here, people who are influential here. That area was selected because it is such a fast moving field, with changing influence and trends.

And now onto our second presentation:

Assessing Influence on Social Media: Reputation Risk in Networks – Nathalie de Marcelis-Warin

I am going to present research with my PhD students Willias Sanger and Thierry Warin. It looks at Twitter in particular…

To start with, lets think about what happens when a flight is cancelled… we’ve all been there. You used to worry and stress… and make phone calls… That’s for the last 30 years or so. But now what do you do? You tweet! So for instance a year ago a person I follow tweeted KLM to complain about a cancelled flight… The conversation began there on Twitter. KLM actively advertise that they will respond to queries within 10 minutes. So, do they do that in practice. Well they do, they respond with a personal greeting… And the complainent responds to explain the inconvenience. And they respond with an option of flights to rebook. He selects one… they book it. And say: look out for an email! But… Then he finds that flight is rerouted/has a stopover… so Tweets again… And they look again… And he thanks them but also explains the personal context – that he is travelling to a funeral. And KLM respond with condolences. And again more flight options… They reissue ticket etc. Everything is perfect. A happy ending…

When I saw this on my Twitter – tracking that conversation evolving… And wondering why they were so good. So I looked at my friend’s account… He has 21,5K followers… so he has influence. And he tweets a lot (59K tweets). I am trying to think about influence on Twitter… And I look further and see he is the Chief Washington Correspondent for Yahoo! News [and he has the verified tick]. Which got me thinking… how do you measure influence on Twitter?

For Twitter organisations those responses are a risk. If they didn’t have an alternative flight, what would the impact have been? We tried to look at how we measure and value reputation in a networked society… Reputation is ones greatest asset in a networked society (de Marcellis-Warin and Teoderesco, 2012) but also a real source of potential risk.

Looking at our literature review and research question we were thinking about the Democratisation of the Internet – and the fact that firms are more exposed to general opinion in that space (Leavitt 2009). There is importance in monitoring and measuring reputation through social media (Warin et al 2015?).

In Twitter discussions Cha et al (2010) studied how users were connected in Twitter discussions. They found that the number of followers does not ensure effective transmission of message. And that focus on specific topics had a big impact. Influence in networks is often about where information that is useful has been previously shared.

We also see literature on Twitter content as signals for trading strategy – Sentiment analysis (Bollen et al 2011, Brown 2012, Sprenger and Welpe 2010), and volume based strategies – regardless of sentiment (Ruiz et al, 2012). And we also see that there is a real need for the structuring and analysis of big data.

So. we looked at influence in financial messages on Twitter and influence around financial information. We acquiried data from the streaming API from Twitter with R packages (Barbera 2014, Gentry 2013). We looked at 400 firms, sampled 3 times a day – just after market opened, lunch time, and at end of day. We looked at use of hashtags, @names, use of Retweets, URLs, etc. In our data we found that 75% of the time a URL is shared, but just 6% mentioned a user (with @name).

We looked at testing four measures. Firstly Number of followers… Out of my 64,000 users, I checked the most popular users and these were all media companies, posting less frequently. They do not participate in debate. They don’t use $name to indicate stock listing.

Looking at number of messages sent… We had users tweeting most frequently, all of whom were stock news sites or automated feeds. The volume of messages suggests spam… Unusually access. This tells us that the power-law distribution is here – a few loud ones vs an important silent crowd.

Next we looked at different users retweeting someone. So the most retweeting account we see another stock website. But in this table we see our first individuals – two individuals receiving lots of retweets in amongst the popular media and website users. And those individuals are more engaged in conversation.

And, having done this, we next mapped the network of our 64000 users. We could identify our key users in this data. In terms of influence we see influencers associated with the media, and they are genuinely enmeshed in the wider network. But there was another group of influential people who were quite isolated – if they disappeared their impact on the network would be minimal but no one would take up that conversation.

We also looked at betweenness centrality – the probability of being on the shortest path between 2 nodes…. And our most influential individual is neither in the conversational/outsider group, or in the media group, they were in the middle of the much bigger network. So if we use network analysis we see apparition of individuals – traders, analysts, managers, journalists. They are really important in the network. And they are not widely followed on Twitter. And they capture information is not shared by or provided to all users – versus the accounts of the financial media.

Influence measure is more complicated to obtain than just considering the number of followers of a user. There is a real importance of key users in the network. And we see the importance and influence of the retweeter in the network.

That most influential person was a financial journalist… But the idea of many tweets, many followers, is a poor signifier for influence on the financial markets – everyone else already has that information.

Q1) Is the new Retweet style on Twitter a recognition of this type of influence? Or might it change it?

A1) Yes, a recognition.

Q2) So how do you find influential individuals?

A2) It’s not easy to find these people… You start with $, then hashtag… but if you then assess by number of followers or tweets that isn’t helpful. They really are quite hard to find, but valuable to follow when you do find them.

Q3) Did you look at relationship between stock market price and Twitter content?

A3) It is part of my PhD student’s work… He is looking at content analysis. In some cases you see correlation between negative comments on stock price. So, for instance Apple Watch all very positive… little impact. But a negative comment here didn’t have a significant impact. But for Nestle, Greenpeace attacked them on Twitter… Had bad and negative comments and there the number of negative tweets and comments had an impact on the stock! Greenpeace did a lot to do that but it had a definite impact.

Q4) You also mentioned effectiveness of forcasting and credibility of forecasting… I am cynical about that, having worked in various brockeridges.

A4) We know we can have a bad forecast, and thats ok perhaps. But with social media it is difficult. But experts and financial experts have credibility and it is interesting that what they forecast often includes what they put on social media and Twitter now.

Q5) Are financial houses using individuals on social media to influence the market?

A5) We found some publication on fake accounts… For companies and politicians you see that a lot.. It is a good point and we want to think about that too. But for our work, number of tweets as a proxy for influence is not useful from what we have seen. Influence and retweeting path is much more important. More important to be in the middle of the network, than to be a busy Twitterer.

Managing your Digital Footprint: Possible implications for teaching and learning – Me!

And then it was me! My prezi can be found here: My full paper, coauthored (as was the presentation) with Louise Connelly, will shortly be available to read here:

And now, to lunch…

And we are back for our second keynote…

Keynote Presentation: Dr Piet Kommers, University of Twente, The Netherlands – Vicarious Identity in the Networked Mind

I am very pleased to be here. Portugal has a place in my heart, I feel it is a place where you see a really interesting connection between rural, historical, even colonial aspects.

I will be talking about vicarious identity. And identity is about who we are but also about who we want to be and how we wish to present ourselves to the world. So my title indicates my intrigue in this topic. I will make some small steps to come to the thesis…

In general in terms of media we are very much intrigued by the potetial of what the media can do. We have two aspects… the Media have the cultural side – there is our ettiquette of what we should and should not to. But we also have our nature, things which are hard to change, aspects we have inherited and don’t change as quickly as the media does. And those aspects raise challenges for social media company. But many of those less appealing or problematic aspects are also parts of our survival mechanism – learning is a fairly modern concept really. Th emedia is a catalyst for our minds, for doing more than our minds might have done before, and before a multicolutural society, and we have to learn from that.

And we now have the mobile phone almost as prothesis… 50 years back we had no idea how the propogation of mobile devices would go… I gave a talk a while back called “before the lecture starts, please turn on your mobile phone” for teachers – and that was an important provocation for them – so many ways mobile can enhance the classroom with links, QR codes, associated information etc. And we also now see these tools as a way to bring people closer to government, to EU government. The technology helps us to be human… but also exposes us. If we do a naughty thing, it will be tweeted!

We have for a long time in history had two sides to media… So an image here has three lessons for life. If we have learning in mind, we have the idea that nature is good. And we have to build the programmes… and coach each other, to help each other to become good citizens. And we also have the idea of the Panopticon, and the fact that it doesn’t work (Bentham’s Panopticon by Kenneth Wain). Seeing is not the same as knowing. But having information available enables us… it is not just the commitment, but also the connection to our neighbours.

The early social media was 17th century- magic lightshows…. You could see spectacle but the people also gathered and shared ideas. That gathering is part of what makes this a fascinating thing to be part of. We do have risks of social isolation… But a snapshot of commuters reading their papers tells us this is not wholly new as a concern. Access, knowledge, awareness is improving and that is good. But that’s not everything… To trigger that we have an image to analyse… of farmers apparently growing or digging up sky scrapers in a field… Cue a wonderful bit of audience interaction… some really different perspectives…

So, there is a lot of ambguity. In learning we say “be clear” but in education being clear is not neccassarily what we do. Ambiguity is useful… And now another one…. an image of  a train going in circles… about a proposal to lay a second high speed track… So this picture – which we have interpretted many ways – is making a case for safety.

So, my first thesis is that identity is between rather than within the persons… What is identity in a small community… identity is really informed by comparison to others’ identities,to different cultures… So to think about: what is it about identity that matters for you.

So, kooking at Engestrom, Miettinen and Punamaki (199) an dtheir perspective on activity theory work (see slide from Sheve Wheller University of Plymouth 2013) frames this as being about rules and division of labour, and the role of technology, identity, learning and community… With perspectives on the role of tools of thinking, tools etc. (Vygotsky, McLuhan, Cooper quotes here to illustrate).

If we talk about privacy, and privacy we have lost on the internet is nothing compared to the Internet of Things. If we don’t change things, the next generate will be so transparant – big brother has nothing on this. There are marketing elements but also government, political and ideological discussion to be had here. But where is the moment of design? In design, egovernment etc… When the technology is here it is already decided and done… But we have decisions we can make. Not all devices/ideas are to serve a purpose… We try things out and these things become part of our life. So where is the moment of design here? What are the conceptual stages in design? This is a messy process, not top down… It’s about who we want to be, what do we like, what are our values…

The problem we have is that we have a lot of tools, a lot of production design, we have some detailed design, but we don’t have conceptual design tools – some like concept mapping maybe – but we need special sessions to think ahead of the technology, of the new ways to live together. This is a discrepancy. It’s not just the learning, the participation in society… but until recently we had the idea of “learning by heart”… this came from the idea of the heart as the soul…. whilst our thinking has moved on… learning by heart is not the actual process. Instead we have learnt to look through the material… It is about a critical mindset and understanding information from that perspective. We have a fisheye lens if you like – we nknw a lot… about EU matters, about earthquakes in the himalayas, all of the news from across the world… But the issue is what are you interested in… People don’t buy a second car now, they save for children’s education, or for international travel… We are thinking avot the future of life, as part of our identity…

If you look at a map of Finland from FinAir, you’d think it was the central to the world. If you see a postcard from Sofia, again it’s the centre. None of that information is wrong, but the context, the centre isn’t right.

We see cognitive styels that vary… You have the serialist – staying in depth in one area, and holists – picking from all sorts of different areas. We did some research and found that holists have a less good memory.. that’s a disadvantage at first but that means making connections, it becomes an advantage as the learning may be deeper.

Seeing a diagram showing the process of buying and selling a house in Netherlands (150 transactions involved!) – here we have procedural knowledge, episodic knowledge, epistemic knowledge (e.g. is Bistro a French word? No, it’s a Russian word dating back to th eNapoleonic wars and wanting food faster and faster), conceptual knowloedge…  So anyway this drawing is a helping assistant. There is a Jeudaic ideas of Portaelvcis of dinformation being brought down and organised. Schematic diagrams are useful but only if they reach the balance between comlexity and simplicity… For example a concept mapping diagram, based on a graph computation… That’s a computation for social networks. So you might think of social networks in epistemic terms, or in network terms.

We know from the London Underground map that position isn’t important = this is not an accurate scale map… The global view is correct… But in KM it is not corect at all. Schematics are a reduction, a simplification. Similar diagrams of travel infrastrcture give the same idea.

In terms of vicarious learning – another diagram. Here we have intersecting circles: learning obuzhenia (how do we change ourselves); working robot; playing igrat. We know there is connection between playing and learning. Playing is a way to open up thinking… A space to experiment. What is the link between playing and working? Or are they opposites? [cue lots of interesting discussion which in our wee group brought in elearning and playing, gamification, the idea of work and play as being very interlinked, and the fact that not everyone works in such a way where they have the privilege of play] And again we are hearing from the audience…

Maybe playing is a new ingrediant for working? Play can be rewarding.. that is lucky to have in your work. Playing is an ice breaker, a way to not know the outcome or what will happen… And about playing as fun. One member of the audience: “I read recently that humans will do everything they can to avoid work!” to which our speaker says “people trying to have fun successed? “Well I think that Bill Gates is having a great time, so I think the people who are playing are more successful.

Looking at Bhattacharya’s diagram we see a variety of learning styles…

So,  I have been able to be a visiting professor in Japan. There, after an exam, they have fun, cook food, hav ea party. One of the places I visited, the Future Univerity in Hannuken has an environment without lecture theatres, with collaborative spaces… already preparing students for the professional world.

We have a change in our model here… from research then filtered through media to others. Right now we have empowered consumers and much more diversity, which means they are the lab… That is good in terms of saving costs for corporate players… I am a violin player… That is my corner… finding new material, interests, opportunities, wouldn’t have been possible 50 years ago, but now we can each find our niche….


Q1) It is a very interesting topic… but early on you showed the vicarious identity… Can you build the bridge between that and this model, this changed model…

A1) Let me do it in terms of this picture (Japanese students having their post exam party). I see this as two elements. Social as being aware of common needs, and also keeping our identity too. Common needs is difficult for identitity – since that is about change for conformity. But this image is about allowing students to escape. Many teachers see social media as being separate from teaching ad learning… That’s partly about identity of teachers, and of students. Do we have to sacrifice identity in education? OR do we have to rethink identity.

In those changing diagrams in my later slides we see the community describing their needs, rather than industry deciding their needs for them…

Q2) In those diagrams you are showing a new way to communicate… are we moving from identity to new ways to communicate.

A2) I think that when we look at the mechanism her, we see a process of co-creation emerging. HP designing copiers, printers etc… They can’t do full ethnographic study. Customers only know their needs when they have a tool. I brought a scanner for book pages… but when I did that, I found my phone camera works best… I kept it as a souvenir of this failed/changing laboratory… And being aware of that change we see a whole new view of life… Patients define end of life care and descide choices, healthcare providers no longer do that for them. And we have manufacturers creating devices that fit into that elderly care etc. too.

And we are now back to parallel sessions… I am in the Social Media in Teacher Education – chaired by Anabele

Building Connections: professional online presence and learning networks – Dianne Forbes, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

I wanted to plant a few seeds, share a few aspects that are discussed in more depth in the paper… and do follow up for collaboration etc. I am from a small city in New Zealand in Hamilton, Waikato is the University, and also the name of the area – we are a cow town essentially! I work in the faculty of education – I teach people who are teachers or who want to be teachers.

I’ve been teaching online for 13 years and I love that, that’s my favourite way to teach. But I wrote this paper after several years of thinking about online learning and professional learning. I have called this Professional Online Presence – but I’ve also heard reference to identity, to eprofessionalism etc. today. And I am also very interested in online networks and personal networks.

What I’m interested in is these teachers who we are training, and how we can encourage them to create a professional online presence that will develop their own learning, at university, but also life long professional learning. I have been carrying out a few experiments. We started with Twitter – to broaden undergraduate social media tools… But we have branched out into Instagram, eportfolios, and we have tweet chats and tweet meets. And we collate information to encourage students to think about the world beyond the course and the learning space (we use Moodle). Twitter is interesting because most of us use it as a public space… One of the most successful parts is the following, sharing, replying ad so forth.

From looking at teacher education I have been working with colleagues to look at professional online presence, and how that might apply in other professions and disciplines. So I am curious about engineers, scientists, business administration, leadership etc. So I have started a new project across all 8 faculties within our university… That work is still in progress!

According to the literature social media is useful for sharing content. But I think the other affordances of discussion and collaboration that are really important to learning networks and personal learning. The collaboration and communication is as important if not more so than the information.

The challenges and risks of social media include the time required to make good use of these channels, to make them valuabl; the privacy risks; and the integrity. From the literature my own explorations have shown me that it is nice to have the choice of asynchronous and synchronous discussion and collaboration. For student support syncronous channels can be hugely important – a tweet chat or tweetorial can really help for instance. Additional challenges and risks that I have encountered: just getting started can be a huge thing, putting yourself out there for the first time… And knowing what to do, who to follow… And students now saying they are struggling to move beyond habitual use of Facebook for strictly personal use. They aren’t comfortable doing that but I explain that learning shouldn’t always be comfortable, it needs to be challenging too. Those discussions enable us to discuss what the difference between personal and professional behaviours are, but of course effective teaching and learning is a sociable process too.

In Mauri we have the word “Apo” and that means to learn AND to teach and that idea that every teacher is a learner, and every learner is a teacher is important. One of my students commented on this, and her desire to be an open minded teacher, just as she had been an open minded leaner.

The other aspect here is that students will need to participate in learning networks to stay on top of their fields of interest and to advance their careers (Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011, p. 135). There is a lot of demand for PD/CPD but you can’t always send everyone on a course, nor can you run courses all the time. That sharing, discussion, personal development should just be part of what we do all the time. You google, you follow the trail… For instance my ICT support colleagues tell me 80-90% of queries they get could be answered by Googling – because you either find a solution or a community that has already encountered that problem.

So the idea of POP (Professional Online Presence) is that students think about the goal of their presence, the ethics of that, their identity, and ways to be visible and be visible in positive ways – particularly as para professionals looking for placements and posts. There is a code of ethics for teaching staff – there have been some bad behaviours so that will be replaced with a code of conduct very soon. Some of us are trying to change that – partly through that positive visibility. And this is about reputation – not what we shouldn’t do, but what we should be doing too. And it is also about harnessing power.

Then the idea of LN (Learning Networks) are about using the community, about adaptive help-seeking, pro-active, mentors, and new learning environments.

So for my traineers I set them a POPLN challenge, which requires them to select a tool to begin with, any free online social networking tool will do. They need to find that tool, establish a profile, explore the use for professional networking ad learning, find out how others use it, reflect on the potential for future learning and help seeking, share some of those thoughts on Moodle forum, responding to peers in the Moodle forum. This was optional and open, now more structured including writing a proposal, having a chat, and reporting back at the end. I have tried to make sure it is tied to marked work.

Seeing a student’s response to this challenge we see her identifying the expansion of her community of practice and the importance of that – all of our students spend one day in a placement.

And finally, on a related note, I am editing a special issue of elearning and digital technology on Twitter in education. And also a forthcoming book. Digital Smarts is a free CC licensed eBooks which is a collection of 10 chapters on how people in my institution are using digital technologies in their learning and teaching – including library and elearning support staff.


Q1) I don’t teach myself but I think that this is a really interesting aspect. But I was really interested in your use of the “affordance” of twitter to discuss. And that interests me… because research on Twitter finds that it is not useful for fruitful rich discussion, it enables it through links… But not for discussion.

A1) My doctoral work was about asynchronous online discussion in Moodle and how to enrich that, what students expect of each other and how students and staff talk past each other… Some of that work has leaked out to Twitter. I was talking about something controversial last week, someone had shared a newspaper column… and we had a chat.. And someone else hopped in and it was hard to argue… We agreed to go away and blog about that… then share. Twitter isn’t a panacea for discussion, but a way to alert people to discussion in other spaces. For some undergraduates, who need some pastoral support, it is useful to be there for them on Twitter… We can video cast etc. as well but Skype for instance is no good for 200 students. We have an asynchronous hashtag that continues… This year I kept last years hashtag… and students have used that to look back again… That’s cool – a legacy approach to what is happening…

Q2) A couple of the things you said intrigued me… On Pop and lifelong learning. My research focuses on professional service firms and the development of professionals, and young professionals in particular. And in many cases that is about formal professional mentoring/certifications and accreditation. I was curious about your lifelong learning take on that… Are you aware of recent research on using social media

A2) Will Richardson and Macabelli work for instance. But sometimes people treat professional learning like schooling – you go because you have to. But when there is something they really want to know, when real motivation in real life they find other ways… How can we apply those to professional learning. Some of the most successful, in computer programming and gaming etc… they are self taught, “self-made” – people who can figure it out, rather than waiting for someone to teach it. Teaching is more than knowledge transmission these days – the successful people are the ones that proactively figure that stuff out.

Q3) This call for papers… There was an issue in The Learning Organisation and Workplace Learning… In organisation science some of these issues are already being looked at.

Examining the influence of social media-infused teacher education courses on pre-service teachers first teaching practices – Paula Charbonneau-Gowdy, Universidad Andrew Bello, Santiago, Chile

We are all here because we believe that knowledge is power. Historically there were real barriers to accessing information and knowledge, that hasn’t totally disappeared but increasingly that information is being made more available. Increasingly knowledge and learning is about social construction of learning (see Vygotsky 1981).

From a socio-cultural perspective we are seeing that social media provides one of the most efficient ways to enable this. And we also see the practice of “mass socialisation” and activism (Clay Shirky, date?). But whilst we see that happening, we are not seeing education changing so quickly. So what is missed when education doesn’t change quickly enough. And we see people asking whether institutions have any value (Hon 2015). Wetzel et al (2014) compares this to being like “waiting for the ocean liner to turn”.

So we are looking for sustainable and relevant chance. Social media has the power to do that (O’Donnell, 2011). But many teachers have personal experiences and beliefs that makes change hard (He and Cooper 2011). Now I work in Chile, and we are quite isolated from the rest of the world in many ways. We have a huge economic divide – 10% have access to good quality education and that means there are regular education protests, demanding better. And Chile also has one of the lowest productivity levels of OECD countries.

We based our study on Bourdieu (1991) Social Reproduction Theory, and Social Identity as Dynamic (Nyordic 2011?). And Weeners Identity Theory is also important to my work in Chile. There is also a TPAG (technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) model that suggests that there must be connections between technology, content and pedagogical knowledge. Earlier studies found stand alone training isn’t adequate for sustainable change. So how can a four year pedagogic programme impact on the teachers practice. So I wanted to see those teachers in context, taking qualitatitive research approach in order to enable us to explore a complex context.

So this work was undertaken with 16 pre-service EFL teachers in their final semester. At Private university in Santiago Chile. and these students had has social media training and exposure as part of their training. Full details of the research are included in my full paper.

Several things occured… There are power structures in learning with social media. Even if teachers wanted to use it for learning, wifi and internet can be a limiting factor. And there are also tight deadlines and transportation issues that limited access and time. Cellphones are banned in the classroom in Chile – but students do use these spaces for information, facebook, as a distraction from boring classes). But students also use it to practice English.

There were also challenges in the teaching practice context. The mentors’ teachers views meant limited opportunities for learning through model – they feared loss of control over the learners. These teachers didn’t want trainees to use technology, nor did they want to use it themselves. That included videos, songs, etc.

And there was also a teacher education context here – participants spoke disparagingly about the use of social media tools by instructors. TEchnology use was limited to information transfer, Facebook for information management. Blogs were used for submissions but comments were not encouraged. One participant commented that that modelling was only from a few teachers, mainly from peers/friends.  And we also saw teaching students keen to use technology but not enough initiative to change their practice around that…

So a new teacher might use a video, but not in a constructivist way, just to present information. And novice teachers also spoke about their marginalised position as outsiders in the mentor teachers classroom in terms of change, pedagogy etc. They were not able or willing to take risks of any kind.

So there were power structures in the education process but also in their practice teaching sessions that disadvantaged and did not support or incentivise use of social media. SO we can’t fix this issue with a training course… we need the education faculty, the teacher mentors, those in decision making and leadership roles to support that. We see social media as a valuable tool in helping to make those changes.


Q1) I have been connected with education for a long time… There is journey from computers to web to web 2.0. Perhaps going from very little, jumping onto social media is maybe too big a step all at once? Societies putting lots of money in IT and education still not ahead despite that, so interested in that. Would introducing students to that history be useful?

A1) I’ve been working on social media type tools in education since 2000. Chile seemed so behind the times… Still very traditional, didactic, teacher fronted structures. But we can’t afford not to jump those steps! I think the technology infused model works. My students used all sorts of social media tools over three semesters – there was a mark involved, it was a safe space… They were very open to do that. The class is very learner driven… But they would use the social media tools to teach. But as soon as they went back to the classroom they would fall back to the textbook teaching… And this country has to change.. But it’s all about identity. Mentor teachers make them feel they will be judged and marked.

Q2) For teachers unhappy with using social media, are there special suggestions or examples etc. to use that…

A2) This is very context specific but… My students live in a very narrow world because of their geographic location, my message to them is to reach out, to be global citizens… We talk about global issues and use social media in that… But then the rest of the course students are responsible for doing their own global issue – they have a theme because of the university’s role… They have a lot of flexibility, and a model to use… At the same time that that is going on they have to discuss, share, engage beyond the classroom, connecting constantly via social media. I get them using it!

Q3) Your limitation is about the structure… If they don’t follow the plan and don’t follow the book they fear failing evaluation – a problem that I see as well… Those structures and standard models means that those innovative practices cannot be used in practice, even when teachers are keen.

A3) I’m not alone, right! But I was invited to be there at the university, but they do listen to me so I have opportunities there… But they do say the mentor teacher won’t let me do this. My research suggests we have to work as a community to change that… But I think there is a possibility for change. They have asked me in another campus to come and start a dialogue to connect with social media too, to share that experience, those practices etc… to share this… The other thing we have done is that I saw a resistance by teacher educators to change, so I decided to do this by changing the assessment – moving into something different. I ran some workshops, sent around articles, technology etc… They were a few weeks but that built interest and collaborative assessment writing in a new way. And when testing time came I could see that teaching had changed dramatically to reflect that new assessment.

Q4) Those mentor teachers who are risk averse – it sounds like that may not just be about technology but much bigger, and perhaps that is partly also about historical experience in Chile?

A4) Teachers in Chile are very poorly paid. They work 45 hour a week, teach 42 hours. No prep time, not well respected… They just want to get the job done… I have worked with teachers, and masters teachers… Some do take that step but there is such resistance in that class to what I’m talking about… I get horrible resistance from teachers who are working in this system… Until they have more support it will be a long road to change. But I will finish with this comment: I work with maybe 25 teachers in one course… But in their first year teaching they will teach 150-200 students… So any impact there that’s huge! But it’s one step at a time…

And now I am heading to the Adoption and Influences of Social Media (chaired by Stephen Burgess)

Social Media as New Arenas for Intangible Cultural Heritage – Severo Marta, University of Lille 3, France

So, what is intangible cultural heritage? Well it is a terminology defined by UNESCO, which covers everything from craft and busilding processes, falconrya also, carnivales and cultural events, etc. Many linked to dance, craft, languages… the common points are that there are people who recognise these objects as part of their cultural. So we can use this idea only if that community is there, and recognising that practice.

There are three inventories – the Representative list of intangible cultural heritage; the list of intangible cultural heritage at risk and ?

Countries can put forward an object for recognition, but it must have the support of the community. And we can look at the mapping of the communities and networks – for the ICH in France for example. So, having recognised these practics how do we preserve these objects? Tools that are suitable for transcribing oral history have some relevance but there is huge potential of new technologies. So you have for instance the prohect, using advanced technologies to capture movement of dancers, craftspeople, technician. We have motion bank as well… For transmission they are perfect… But how can they facilitate community? Are they just a new way to freeze the data? So we need a new approach suitable for this sort of engagement.

We want a decentralise networked, collaborative, adaptive, ephemeral and dynamic space – and social media provides opportunities for this (Urecchio 2012).  Indeed there are soe important similiarities between social media and ICH. Even its basic definition (boyd and ellison 2007) has parallels with the way that one must articulate the comunicate and describe it in order to register an ICH.

The second example to highlight is the interactive and shared structure of social media is expeceted to match the living and continisly evolving nation of ICH (Benkler 2006) – social media are empoweremnt tools for communities.

So we proposose two types of intervention with social media….

1) An external authority provides community members with a way to preserve ICH – Scotland is not a state so cannot propose ICH to UNESCO. The project started in 2009… And it captures living culture, and there are campaigns, fpcus groups, and a wiki is created. Another example is the official wiki for the republic of Korea ( so you can use the content but specific people update.

2) You go to a platofrm that communities already use to preserve ICH

So for example YouTube captures dance practices – but how you distinguish what is officially recignised, and what is not or is not authentic. There is no way to limit to an official inventory.

So, we undertook a case study, implementing both strategies. We did this for the Luminara Feast in Pisa, which takes place on 16th June and people put small lights in their window so the whole city lights up – various traditions. So the major wants to put this forward… But how do you define the community? And what are the shared practices? The city isn’t specific enough… So we set up a website (Candidiama La Luminara), a simple website which allowed people to express what Luminara is for them, the history, the practices, the people participating, a Google Map that people can add to. This is deliberately a simple approach so that it is accessible to all. And we set up a Wiki for sharing the nomination information. We had some focus groups and also a Facebook page which is also generated some interaction.

So, as a conclusion social media is a new arena for ICH – there is real complementarily between oral cultures and social media. There are two types of areas for this: ad hoc platforms (official inventories) vs popular platforms (informal inventories). And as there is a real issue for cultural heritage to engage young people, we also think these spaces have real opportunities to engage them.


Q1) Veery interesting. I was curious that you mentioned this semi official UNESCO inventories… I can see the benefit of recording this stuff, but how does UNESCO see this sort of activity – this use of social media

A1) I worked at UNESCO a few years back. I think they didn’t forecast this type of use so they have no policy on this… UNESCO is overloaded by nomination process, see this as a problem at the moment so no policy yet… They first went for official presences rather than YouTube, but they cannot go back… But this stuff is positive…

Q2) Can I just ask about the difference betwen the wiki and Facebook – before the talks we talked about librarianship and records management and the care for cultures these days… You had some interest at the start, and on Facebook… Would you then take that and put it on the wiki later on?

A2) No, we cannot be integrated but can suggest to people to post in both places. But we don’t do it.. The big problem between the two is that wikis are difficult for many people to use… Facebook are very user friendly to do…

Q3) I’d just like to comment that I’m shocked that UNESCO doesn’t recognise what is happening in 2015, and the research and impact that these spaces are having… Are there ways of raising this issue.

A3) My PhD is on cultural heritage… the problem is about money, not about resistance. If you look at decisions website is mentioned all the time – it is the official provider of information since 2006… But they are overloaded. But we have a conference coming up, an annual one, on ICH, and this year it will be on use of digital tools.

Q4) Has there been work to apply crowdsourcing tactics to this issue. Particularly thinking about some of the communities that you want to reach – traditional/older people passing on knowledge?

A4) Yes, there are established crowd sourcing approaches that work for cultural heritage – offline as well as online. But I’m also not saying social media works for all kinds of ICH preservation of course.


Predicting Influence of User’s Twitter Activity – Instzar Ali Lashari, The Mersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute, University of Southern Denmark

I will be talking about a case stufy from Pakistan, and that was data collected with API, then a process with an analytics app, and a tool I developed myself. And also talking about data based on hashtags from the data.

So I started by focusing on helping investigators looking at and processing information about political demonstration, terrorist or criminal activities. The objective is to analyse open data collected from online social networks where users post. We were concerned about ethical issues which is why we chose to focus on publicly available data, via the open Twitter API. We analysed 24,000 tweets on PTI anti-government mass protests in Pakistan. And from that I extracted the most important hashtags and performing sentiment analysis on the tweets associated with them.

Some of the issues and challenges that arose in analysing this data is that most NLP (Natural Language Processing) tools are for English language text, but this was not going to be a set of tweets in English, or not primarily in English. So I identified some tools and adapted some tools. I created a simple CBTA data model that drew Twitter data via the Streaming API, the Search API (the easiest and most accessible API), and the Current Trend API (woeid). Then I did the text processing (NLTK) which assigned the text either positive, negative, and neutral ratings… Also extracting the Tweets count/retweeting counts, the Twitter user (profile information).

So my tools make the user/tweet id available… And the NLTK using Indian has been used to do this analysis… Collecting data is easy… Around the hashtags from the data I captured were various cities/areas/placenames etc. Some were mentioning other countries – UK, UAE, USA etc. And also I got a snapshot of positive, negative, or neutral status.

From this work, I identified search keywords and hashtags for PTI Protests – a cluster of the most common terms. And those hashtags can then be looked at in terms of sentiment, and visualised. And from this work I have developed my own simple algorithm for measuring influence on Twitter. This is capturing the net effect of users’ Twitter activity – looking at sentiment in particular.

There are lots of ways to undrestand influenc eon Twitter. Yang and Counts (2010) found that mention @username in th etweets is more influential on the twitter network than the follower of the tweets. So they say that influence can be measured by mentions – and that is based on marketing strategies.

Korean 2012 presidential election found that twitter can be effective tool for the changes around social issues.

There has been a tremendous explosion in the aount of data generated, and often different groups exploit social media reports to suite their vested interests (Best 2011) – including product makers, politicians, etc. This is another persective for the use and implications for Twitter influence and how it may be used..

So, the API is very easy to use for data collection. I have learned in this project the colletion, processing, and R Studio for presentation all helpful.

So, in my analusis we found that a large majority of the tweets collected on the subject expressed positive sentiment followed by a section of neutral tweets and a large number of the most popular tweets as indicated by their favourite and retweet counts were positive. That indicates a particular cross section of political views were being represented on Twitter.

In future I would like to do some work on authentication of users Twitter accounts. And also to categoraise the Twitter tweets – from Media people, politicians, and fake accounts. Differentiating about that.


Q1) My understanding is that the Twitter API is a partial snapshot/ a version of Top Tweets, so is there perhaps a potential that your data and finding of positive sentiment is related to how Twitter prioritises interesting content?

A1) I used the search API and that gives 7 days so it is the best coverage of tweets as possible…

Q2) How do you determine sentimant here?

A2) That is through natural language processing, and that is largely a reasonable assesment of the content. But using other algorithms and approaches could be done. My work is my use of some of the (many) available approaches.

Q3) You are measuring influence – but how you define influence?

A3) My take is to see who are being supported, retweeted, positive tweets etc.

Q3) There is a lot of work in psychology on influence that could be used with your work – working with someone in psychology and social science to better interpret context… I think that’s what may be missing at the moment.

A3) You are absolutely right…

Q4) I was wondering the NLTK – presumably a list approach of positive and negative terms?

A4) There is a database there of indian terms. These are text mining tools already in place. There are different models here…

Q4) I also wanted to connect that to how you define positive, negative, neutral – normally you would annotate that, check that, and use things like sentistrength, ways to benchmark that data etc. See if similar or different… Wondering about validity of positive/negative approaches.

Comment from chair/Q5) I probably learned a lot from the questions! So I will probably bring the quality of questions down… Your paper is called predicting influence, this seems to be describing…

A5) Well it is a model… But these comments are right, I should have psychological and social science aspects.

Q6) I liked how you decribed how you pulled the data together, using your own algorithm… But my comment would also be on your methodology – what is your theoretical context?

A6) I am only working on collection of data, methodology is only based on API… Influence is using that but my research is on the data collection.

And, as there is no third speaker in this strand I have hopped over to the  Mini track on Social Media Technologies for Learning and Teaching (Chairs: Johannes Konert and John Knight) for…

Lessons Learned From Four Years of Using Social Media to Support Transition to Higher Education – John Knight, Rebecca Rochon and Becci Hailey, Bucks New University, High Wycombe, UK

John: Why use social media? Well many of our students are transitioning into higher education from less traditional backgrounds, perhaps lower socio-economic groups… Social media seemed like an ideal tool to help address this, particularly as many of our students are already keen users of these spaces. But they enable interaction, peer support, community building.

So, we created our own social media community using Ning. There were lots of communication tools – very rich, very lovely. Students set up profiles. And they did what you would expect – some customised their profiles, presenting themselves in different ways… We ran it like that for about 3 years. But we have just switched approach from bespoke platform to existing tools, and a whole range of them: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest. We wanted to try Google+ but that was more of interest to staff than students as it turned out!

This work is integrated into other transition initiatives – our main programme is called “Bucks Welcome” and this will be “Bucks Welcome Online”.

So I wanted to reflect on what we have done over the last few years… About connect (social, practical and academic), staff use, barriers, privacy and issues around that, management.

If we are going to use social media in educational contexts, it is easy to forget we are using social media, and focus on what we want to give students. But in order to do that we have to be social, and exploiting the affordance of the social media spaces we are using. We forget that at our peril. The key thing we have learned is that if we are using social media tools. you actually have to use them for social networking. We forgot initially… We set these things up but not one student engaged as they were nothing to do with social interaction – we were in transmission mode. When we refocused on interactions, that was hugely successful.

So the main thing students are interested in as they come to university is finding friends. The social aspect is absolutely fundamental. Many of our initial conversations were about social interactions and enabling those in a multitude of ways. Almost nothing to do with learning at all, about making friends… But that is fundamental and important.

The next thing was dealing with practical issues… How to cook meals, how the university works, who to talk to about money issues, what they should bring with them… And we had an interesting theme emerge in our latest incarnation – about Toga parties!

Becci: When I first joined it was as a student. We don’t have a Freshers week, we have a Freshers fortnight! The toga party is a major draw and we had Facebook page, updates, count downs and, because of the increased number of dyslexic students we also promoted it via more visual platforms – Instagram, Pinterest etc.

John: Interestingly the use of multiple platforms means you can connect between those platforms – e.g. tweeting a photo that has been shared on Instagram.

So for us as academics we set up things we thought would be great but students didn’t seem keen. But there were other areas where students were very proactive – preparations for class, softwares, equipment, etc. But it was very subject related and dependent on tutor/academic presence from that environment. Where there was real interaction around teaching and learning that required presence from the tutor but also genuine engagement there, including the use of pictures and appropriate informal staff presentations.

Being authentically available and present, enabled genuine engagement and interest from students. Those who were not there, or who presented themselves poorly (no picture, “blue face of doom”/info/availability) that engagement was a non starter. So a finding for us was around staff using these spaces appropriately in order to actually make this useful for the students.

In terms of barriers… All the staff we talked to were very keen, very enthusiastic… But despite that they also stayed away in droves. Relatively little staff engagement and interactions. We went back to ask about that. They cited time, they talked about a form of initiative fatigue – there is lots of interest in transition in our institution and people saw it as another thing they needed to do. They didn’t know what to do – despite available support etc. And there was also the issue that transition work occurs in the summer – when staff are less engaged due to holidays etc. Birnback and Friedman (2009) identified some of the issues in organisational change and they identified the idea of piggy backing – not making a new initiative but adding to usual processes/familiar work.

I did want to talk about privacy issues. The literature talks about the importance, to students, of universities not intruding in their private lives. To avoid that we set up that bespoke environment, when students could choose what to share. But students seemed rather unconcerned – either they managed their concerns through settings… or they were not bothered. There were issues about staff using. And that student disinterest in those issues was part of why we are moving to mainstream tools. Bespoke spaces seen to be burdensome – another space to be.

Students are quite happy to share… But they are really resistant to being forced to do that. In Bucks we don’t manage email at all – students have an alias that directs to their personal accounts etc. Students perceive those emails as spam… They either complain or move email account… That sort of response has to be considered when you are talking about these sorts of spaces and how you do/do not encourage participation.

In terms of managing social networking projects we ran out of staff time, so we recruited students to manage that bespoke space… They had brilliant social media skills, but not as strong organisational skills. That organisation, systematic and reliable approach is central and we have learned that lesson now – which is why Becci has been doing that for us lately.



A1) John: One of the things I’ve learnt today is that we do lots of outreach to schools, physical outreach to students, to bring people in… But there is much more we can do with social media as well. Because we now use existing tools we can now reach students more easily, through their existing accounts etc. A very useful thing to be aware of.

Q2) Do you know if the work you have done has had impact in terms of preventing early exit from courses/retention. There was a handbook in 2013 about preventing school leaving was about working with students.

A2) John: Anecdotally I’d say yes, but evidence is trickier. But interactions online have translated to real friendships and relationships when they get to University. I know that had an impact. And it also increased interactions between staff and students – and in the literature that is linked to retention and learning. My sense is yes. We do know in our work in learning development we know the transition to HE and within HE… We see how that feeds into all of those areas.

A2) Becci: I had a student messaging on Facebook about a choice of course, providing guidance on fit for what she wanted meant I could advise her of which one was best fit, and she said that she may not have finished the course had she not made that choice.

Q3) Did you encounter any issues with social media around narcissm, lack of collaboration, deviant behaviour?

A3) John: No. But it’s worth being aware of what you do, when using existing environments, how do you deliver on your duty of care to the students in your institution… If someone is behaving inappropriately how do you police and respond to that? We didn’t have the experience, we would have found that problematic.

Q4) On the issue of privacy concerns – do you think this is because of a genuine lack of concern or a lack of awareness of implications of what could be shared? Might that opinion change by the time of graduation, say? So a picture of a toga party – it’s not that risky as a student but, for instance for a trainer teacher can find employment issues just for being photographed drinking – there have been some cases of that. So I’m wondering if students are genuinely not concerned, or if they are not aware enough in order to be appropriately concerned – in which case how do you handle that?

A4) Increasingly students are switched on about this… We have had one of two issues of inappropriate postings, not related to this work. Students are developing their understanding of that, particularly with employability agenda. Increasingly in the UK university is seen as preparation for work, for better or worse, and that does mean that they are increasingly aware. But that is a serious consideration: whether we should worry for our students even if they are not worried.

A4) Becci: I was interviewing students last week and a student looked at my Twitter presence and read things back to me! Nothing untoward there but it was scary in a way!

And with that, we are done for the day. I’m off for a walk in the Porto sunshine before our conference dinner, but I will be back liveblogging all day tomorrow! And keep an eye on the #ECSM2015 tweets for more from the conference.

 July 9, 2015  Posted by at 9:04 am Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 302015

Today I am at the Connect More with Jisc in England (Leeds) event being held at Shine, a social enterprise in a big old school building – a lovely venue but very warm! Unfortunately it is also a bit patchy for wifi, hence this live blog being a wee bit late in the day.

Introduction from head of region – Will Allen, head of Jisc North

Thanks for coming to Leeds on this sunny day. This is the third Jisc Connect More event – there have been two, one in Scotland, one in NI. And there will be three more – one each in Bristol, London and Cardiff.

There are various parallel sessions today, do go along to those.

Feedback is central to Jisc North, we want your comments, engage with me, engage with my colleagues… I trust that you all share in Jisc’s vision “to make the uk the most digitally advanced education and research nation in the world” – I suspect if you don’t share that vision you are in the wrong place!

I believe that Jisc makes a considerable difference to the education difference, but what matters is that we strive to make the best difference we can. But we have to do that in a way that is realistic in the current climate. And we want to engage with all of you. And I’d like all of you to think about what might your institution’s provision look like in 2020. I’ve done a lot of work in scenario planning and found that looking to the future, disrupts the present, so I urge you to look to the future!

Changing tack… What links these words? Goat; strut; kit; nurse; palm; north… They are part of a lexical set which allows socio-linguists to understand what part of England you are from…Try those out with the person next to you… I’m sure we have a real range in the room! But there is some method to this madness… I was a researcher and I worked in linguistics and language… I was an undergrad in York, a post grad in Newcastle University… And I did a lot of talking with 7-13 year olds just as they formed their identity… And that connection between language and society, language and identity, that work was underpinned by technology. In those days we had to store our sound recordings on DAT tape as we didn’t have the space to store them on servers.

And I then worked on a project using the Tyneside Linguistic Survey – a transformative and massively complicated transcription system. They used technology to try to analyse these – tying the transcription to a code for a punchcard computer. I was part of a project that digitised the old reel-to-reel tapes and made them available for the research community to use in their work… Today where socio-linguistics is, is all about corpora – massive datasets of recorded languages that can be processed with various tools and technologies, using massive machines, massive corpuses etc. There are lots of examples… But I wanted to mention one that isn’t quite linguistics, but is about bird songs, called Xenocanto, which is crowdsourcing those bird songs, then analysing them with computers.

Just to finish off on my story… The thing that stopped me being a researcher was that I had this passion for research, and society and technology… But it wasn’t all connected up. I didn’t want to be  a lonely researcher, I wanted to connect. And making connections is what today is all about. I truly thing we live in a networked era, and traditional organisations is being changed by the network effect. A guy called Harold Jardi is the person to look up about that, about the power of people and networks…

So, quickly, I just want to say more about what Jisc does… We have Network and Technology – years before broadband we had an undisputed high speed network. Through Digital Resources, Through Advice and Engagement, and through Research and Development. And we shape around your priorities. We are a more joined up organisation. I hope that we are trusted to give impartial advice… And we aim to work with you to be as effective as we can.

So here you can see the regions here. I am head of Jisc North, one of six regional teams. Across those teams you now have a number of account managers and various engagement officers. You now have one customer contact point, we are much more joined up…

So, Jisc North, we are about championing th voice of the customer, to deliver a fully managed relationship with Jisc. We have account managers, and we have a regional awareness, to understand the North of England and reflect that back to Jisc. And to be part of Community engagement.

I just want to touch on community engagement. Angela Harvey is our community engagement manager and she sis leading that work through events, networks, etc.

Here are the various account managers in the North – all competing in their image for the biggest smile! You’ll meet them today so do say hello.

Our venue today, Shine (a social enterprise) used to be a middle school, which means we have some interesting room names, like the headmasters room!

So, we have our first parallel sessions starting now…

Session two: connectivity: New digital learning content for the skills sector – Presenters: Ruth Hansford (Jisc), Roger Clegg (Oldham College), Belinda Turner (Stubbing Court Training) and Emily Armstrong (Hull College)

We will talk about some of the cross cutting employability themes across these projects.

So, a bit about the project, which was Jisc Interactive Learning Resources for Skills project (#ilrforskills), which was a project commissioning 22 training providers to create open educational resources for a range of vocational areas. This was partly about transferring experience from FE to Skills. Partly issues around books – not a big feature of Skills sector – and also Shibboleth access not really used there so not resources requiring that. And we asked the sector, who were keen to focus on resources that they create within the skills sector and the sharing of those.

So we commissioned these 22 projects, and these finished around the end of April. You can find all of the content that was commissioned, via, or in Jorum, the national repository for open education resources, which is being pensioned off about this time next year – but the content, or the good content, will be ported over to whatever platform that replaces Jorum, which they are working hard to put in place at the moment. So, if you do want to create content, inspired by this work, you can put it in Jorum – this massive bit of free storage!

Of those 22 projects a disproportionate quantity were in the North of England – there were none in Scotland or Wales, one in London, and a few in south east, but many in the north.

Belinda: I will be talking about horse training, but first… How many of you already do online learning? (about 1/3rd room), How many want to have online learning? (about 2/3rds). How many of you have to have online learning soon? (a few)

We wanted to create world class training available anywhere, anytime… We developed the online diploma, but we didn’t have anything for english, maths or grooming  and realised the costs of getting that online were high, but then the Jisc project came along. We knew we needed everything to be easy, usable, 3 clicks or fewer, all clearly tied to Diploma practice test, and to the portfolio.

Watching an introductory video on mathematics and horses – a rider talking about heights of jumps etc.

So, if you are an apprentice with us, or an employer, these are all world class people who have done apprenticeships with us.

What we learned in this process was planning. Making sure we had the top people who were engaging and would appeal to your students, and be authoritative. And it needs to engaging to teach. Always takes longer than it should…. Everything has to be quality assured, checked, proof read… We also did some filming in Spain, because it is sunny and attractive, and world class standard – as filmed at top level show. Rather than filming in Janary, in the rain!

Ruth: Because there were so many projects commissioned, we had several mentors – Elizabetta, David Roe, Juliette Green, and Juliet MacKenzie – who travelled the countries far and wide. We also had experts in intellectual property from Jisc Legal, and also a techie team to support the filming etc. That was part of the project set up…. But I think the projects

Julie: My project was on bricklaying in Oldham in about three foot of snow – looks a bit different! Our content is quite yellow… with background of their own workshops. They asked for that. That’s what they wanted. And bear in mind we work with Level 1 learners. We had them along at 9.30 in the morning to watch what was going on… We got the media studies students in to film… But planning was rather out of the window as various tutors moved job, were off sick… It was a bit like an action research for us – we hadn’t created content outside of Moodle before.

We used Articulate story here, which was a steep learning curve but we got there… We delivered the content on time, had feedback from students… Unlike powerpoints, which they usually get, these are interactive. Not all of our apprentices are full time, many are in only part time. And we also had common areas here with other projects – maths, employability skills. We originally aimed to do a few, but we expanded it on the request of the tutors…

The content is assessed as you go through it… We tend to use Moodle as repository of materials… But we are moving to more of this sort of content. The college is keen to do more of this – converting work books etc. And we also had to put lots of links in to health and safety, to government websites, etc. for when they are working online.

Ruth: That project cost £5k, no idea what cost would be on the open market. For Belinda we gave £30k, but they also subsidised by half as much again… Do not underestimate the costs of creating this stuff.

Ruth: Emily will talk about Hull projects, they had two – one was construction – we had a lot of construction applications for the projects – and one for hairdressing.

Emily, Hull – Our construction one is an app which I have here… For hairdressing we did apps and web materials. We used something calls app ski which made developing apps easy, we also used a tool for creating video from text.

So, an example here… We have content on The Colour Wheel, for hairdressers but also beauticians, and we hope this will be helpful for art and design… And we have lots of quizes, drag and drop… Keeping text to a minimum… We have used copyright cleared videos from YouTube as well…

Ruth: All of these resources have a “In partnership with Jisc” marking, but all will be creative commons licensed…

Emily: Looking at rights clearances was a big deal for us… A colleague got very excited about Google Sketch Up but he had to make some changes to ensure images were copyright cleared… We haven’t really built anything to go in the public domain before, so that was big. And workig with a subject specialist was also very important for us…

Ruth: We wanted to help trigger the creation of content, but we only had £400k to spend so it was only ever going to be a certain amount of content. But we also did it to learn… What came up were rights, issues around IPR clearance before you can make content Creative Commons licensed. The other thing was around metadata and discoverability… When the content that stays in your institution you can find it, but putting it on the web means explaining the content in ways others can understand… Newcastle did a food enterprise project… and after the final project meeting someone who had done a lot of work there to make that content available, found their content on the open web.

The other thing was about planning, and not underestimating what is involved. The other thing was the difference between elearning and learning.. having the technology doesn’t mean you are doing elearning yet.

There was also something interesting there about what is ok in house but may not be to others… for instance very strong regional accents were fine of course, but made the content slightly less reusable to others on the web.

We also found that breaking content into smaller chunks means you can remix that content, it can be reused in other places more easily.

You’ve heard already about some of the themes that are available… Can you all say that you think stand alone for employability…

Emily: One of our painting and decorating items is about how to calculate area – the context is an area, but applies to any area…

Julie: Also ratios to buckets, spades etc…

Ruth: Also some nice horticultural examples around area and volume of a circular bed, to calculate top spoil.

Belinda: Really good horses have treadmills, with a platform… that you can turn into a hill… So you can work out the mathematics of that angle, and how much work the horse is doing when they use that!

Ruth: What about English…

Belinda: We had a sports presenter explaining the importance of communication…

Ruth: Yours also had some negotiation… Also some on problem solving…

Belinda: We had the Olympic team coaches talking about problem solving…

Ruth: Another brick laying and construction course had Kevin, someone self employed, doing a role play over costs and issues with a difficult customer – real life stuff. And health and safety… Loads on PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), hazadous substances, insurance… And also some of the enterprise requirements – e.g. for a new food business. That one was interesting as well because almost everyone in the college had gotten involved in production!

We are always concerned that more than those who are funded benefit… So we have the website there, which lists all of the projects. We will soup this up a bit but you will find them all there… Manchester college were interesting – their material was from the offender learning programme. They spent a great deal more than we gave them… They did four areas – horticultural, catering, brick laying and english language. Their stuff is available on their Moodle platform, but they will also be going into their campus in prison.

Each of the projects has their own page/site that you can look at. For instance Accrington and Rossendale College have an open Google site… Not all of the sites look glamorous but they have great content in there…

The other way to find this content, and you want to use/reuse/remix this content, much of which is in SCORM format… So you can go into Jorum and download the content… Now this search results screen will look better than this in the future, but it is all there…

There are also QA and publishing checklists on that site, a metadata checklist, model release forms for students under 18 who might be in a video etc.  We also created an accessibility checklist – actually a hard one to crack, as some requirements would be hard to actually achieve, so we had an element of pragmatism.


Q) Would you go with making things open in the future?

A – Emily) We will continue doing this openly, because we want them to be open for reuse in our own college and by other colleges.

A – Belinda) It’s hard… For some things, where you have contacts you only have to pay a certain amount (e.g. the Olympic coaches)

A – Julie) I would absolutely. We all deliver similar curriculums so should be sharing… Wouldn’t necessarily use the same technology though, might use Moodle…

Comment – Ruth) I was told people wouldn’t share in Skills sector, but that just wasn’t true… I think that they know that time isn’t on their side… And if you trust each other, you’d be mad not to share it and use it really…

Q) Will there be a block on uploading to Jorum?

A – Ruth) Not for now, as Jorum being pensioned off… So upload as normal, and that info will follow for the new platform.

Q) How many learning objects or hours are there from that resource?

A – Ruth) There are 163 resources in Jorum… But some of those contents are one item that is a whole site being linked to… Others have maybe 40 items but they are smaller chunks… The average was about 5 or 6 items… How many is not that relevant. In terms of learning hours, there is a lot!

Q) Do you have learning technologists, elearning experts etc. in house?

A – Emily) We paired tutors with learning technologists.

A – Belinda) We brought in various experts to inform our work.

A – Julie) I was main learning technologist on this work, but pulled in experts and students from specialist courses etc.

Session one: capabilities: Meeting the FELTAG challenge 12 months on… one college’s journey – Presenter: David Scott (Kirklees College)

Why did Kirkless adopt 10% of all FT courses as blended learning by the start of or during academic year 2014/15? Well we wanted our students to develop the skills they need for university, for the workplace etc. And the sector is being squeezed… Although actually in the first year it was not less expensive, but there are efficiencies we may see in the future. We followed the Worcester (who did save 250k through online delivery recently) model – an hour lecture online, timetabled into the learning resource centre. And we did this via SOLA packs via the VLE.

We timetabled that into the learning resource centre – so all students had a focus on participating and a place to do that, but over the year learners gradually chose to participate from home, not always in the LRC.

We did this with 10% of all level 2 and 3 full time long courses. And that was a huge undertaking as we are a very large college, so that is about doing this for a lot of learners. To do this we undertook substantial planning… We ensured we added 140 PCs in the LRC, that staff there were trained in using these tools, and with “what if?” scenarios. We timetabled students – 170 groups in total per week – additional to what had come in previously. And we knew there would be many more people using the LRC than before, which meant we also did recruitment and timetabling of LRC staff to facilitate the blended learning, across our six centres. The principal mandated that English and Maths would be scheduled first, then blended learning, then everything else.

One of the biggest tasks was training 5000 tutors about what blended learning is…

Neil: Our VLE was kind of a filing cabinet before. Some staff were very keen, some really had a lot to learn… So we developed SOLA packs for self study on key features of the VLE such as assessment and monitoring usage – practising what we preach! We also created a training programme and rolled out to all staff over a 4 month period. And the ILT development unit developed and rolled specific training to over 30 SOLA coordinators – enthustiastic people. But it was a huge undertaking… We had people signing up but not attending… Eventually named and shamed to heads of departments to ensrure all were trined.

We also created SOLA Quality audits, although not all staff filled this out properly – left in defaults! But this documentation let SOLA coordinators carry out the audit termly and identify any further support or training requirements – they used the audit forms to identify fine, at risk, or problematic courses based on how ready and appropriately set up they were.

We decided to use the open badge system for these courses, already built into MOODLE, and you can set criteria to automatically reward badges. That’s allows us to pull out a report of which students have done what work – for reporting to funders etc. It has been quite effective and encouragingg for students… We were quite late issuing badges, so as staff built up SOLA packs throughout the year, we had less time to implement them. But if they are set up late, they will issue retrospective badges based on criteria achieved.

David: There are clearly other ways to undertake elearning and satisfy FELTAG requirements. But this worked well. Worcester have don this for two or three years, we have done it for a year at scale… If you are looking to get started, why reinvent the wheel? We support colleges in our area, and have been able to share back and forth with them. This isn’t the deficit way to do things, but it does work well…

So, what worked well in the first year?

Well, t was a whole cross-college approach to delivery – pretty much the whole college were part of this. And it was planned to perfection, so in September 2014 the infrastructure was in place, ILT/IT support was in place, timetabling was done, LRC staff had been recruited, trained and timetabled SOLA training had been rolled out across all curriculum areas. SOLA packs were prepared – but not all ready at the start of the year, some only came on board for January. Students arrived 1st September.

But there were challenges too. Staff time to develop the SOLA packs. Worcester have 12 staff on the ILT team – the model there is tutors prepare content, but ILT put it in place… Our model was different. We say preparation of content as part of tutor lesson planning, as part of tutor workload. But this was an issue of staff skill sets – we recruit many tutors from industry but they don’t necessarily have those sorts of skills, but we are feeding that into recruitment process. Staff also realise that the efficiencies of blended learning can cause tension with staff, with their engagement. So making it clear that this opens up staff time for new, innovative classes, european projects etc. We did take 5200 hours out of course curriculum so you do need to sell the benefits of that.

Student engagement wise we will have an induction programme, including a video about what blended learning is, so that they are prepared for what they see in the LRC – not all tutors shared the same amount of information this year. We also will have self-enrolment and enrolment keys…

Elona: For me I had 10% of teaching time ripped from my staff… We were not happy… But we had a lightbulb moment that we could make it work for us. So we had 4 months to train, and had 2 months to build everything. We grabbed all we good, and added in interactive elements, and borrowed some text from Health and Safety Act… (This is a health and safety section from a hair and beauty course). And we assess the knowledge and understanding through multiple choice questions, across week by week activities… Which means no marking! All my team do not mark… But that means that 10% time gives us time to do new innovative ideas… There was nothing out there for health and beauty really – because we had to make this in a panic… So we made content for one unit only, and did make use of a powerpoint we had used before. We’ve got a powerpoint that is already there, then a document from industry, a web link, and a quiz… So in that first task we tell them what we want them to do, what to engage with, and that they should then do the quiz.

So, for that video for instance we created our own content – avoiding Americanisms, licensing issues etc. My friend charlotte had a massage that we videoed as a demo for students. We will be videoing demonstrations from tutors in September. Students really engage with this demonstration video, in a way they don’t always do in person.

So, we structure content week by week along similar lines. And when students finish a unit, they get an badge. When learners have done the massage mock revision… When they are prepared with this, they go on and find the exam really easy.

And that free time means that I now have time to think about new ideas,,, And we find some of our adult learners were working ahead… So I now have an enrichment programme for those learners, which they will then be able to move onto in that LRC time. For instance on the Gender Pay Gap – which is really interesting in hair and beauty. With this growth… !

David: This is really embedded in what we do in Kirkless – so Careers are doing this too, our learning and resource staff have a resources page, its reaching every single department now… Everyone is becoming aware of what SOLA is and how it can be used.

Elona: I now have a progress bar in place to see how our students are progressing. There are a lot of quizzes in these SOLA packages and I can use that SOLA bar to see what they have/have not done, track progress, what time they are learning etc. Some are on at half eleven at night!

I also have an overall progress bar, that allows me to see how each tutor’s students are progressing – and they can also look in and check progress.

Because of all this content is there, I can ask students can study particular materials ahead of class, to prepare them for particular sessions etc.

But there are hiccoughs here… If students log in on their phone, they can do the test, get answers wrong… and then retake in the web version… But we are wise to that now… So we now do direct questioning in class to be sure they have understood that learning properly…

IT skills wise we are health and beauty, we aren’t huge fans of computers. We have found support from ILT necessary…

In that homepage for the course, there is also a link to our (VTCT) eportfolios – where badges appear!

I’m really proud of it, but getting staff on board was the challenge. We have exceeded the 10% now, with 30% online. If the government wanted 50% that might be challenging though – hair dressers do need to be able to cut hair!

David: When we started many of the SOLA stuff was in list form, but Elona and her team have created something more visually appealing here… I feel like we are light years ahead. The more colleges get involved, the more resources we have to share, the more our skills develop.

Elona: My team’s motivation has improved because they are no longer spending all of their time marking! And you see


Q) What version of Moodle?

A – Neil) 2.6 but moving to 2.8

Q) How big is college support team?

A – Neil) It’s about 5 people, two and a bit in terms of time etc. are supporting this.

A – David) We also have two teaching qualified LRC team members. You should go back to your principal and be clear that if you go this way, you have to be all in and support it…

Q) Sharing resources?

A – Elona) Sharing them on the system

A – David) All are available on Moodle

Q) How did you get staff on board?

A – David) I think it helped a lot that principal has strong supported and driven this.

Q) Any copyright issues?

A – Elona) We worked with LRC staff to help us, and then made some stuff ourselves

A – David) Use those expert staff… But second year of running is about quality. Good open stuff is out there, so do use it.

Q) How many students come in at a time? How does that work in the LRC?

A – David) We have a room in LRC with 70 machines, and a block of 50 tend to be working at a time, LRC support that…

Q) What happens with block bookings if students aren’t coming in in person – as you say happens

A – David) Software kicks user off if not logged in after 15 mins – so PC becomes available…

Q) How long does it take to develop an hour of teaching

A – Elona) Varies, but we have fully refreshed our content here.

Q) How about entry level courses and part time courses?

A – David) We are letting people explore. Level 1 come on board next year but in class. We are looking at access to HE courses moving this way at the moment…

Q) We have some enthusiasts, but some are resistant. How have you managed that sort of issue?

A – Elona) For me, I found that selling the lack of marking as a carrot here, to get them to move content online.

A – Neil) I think t’s just a case of supporting them whenever possible. Some people are quite scared of computers, but our IT team are approachable, and show them one step at a time an whenever possible.

Q) So you are there to support teaching staff, you aren’t doing the content?

A – Neil) No, we are not a big enough team to do that – Worcester does that though.

David: We do work with other colleges… Neil, myself and Elona are happy to come out and speak to your senior leadership team… Grab us at any time during today.

Session one: capabilities: Digital capabilities and leadership – Presenter: Lawrie Phipps (Jisc)

By show of hands the room is a mix of HE, Colleges and skills.

I will be talking about Digital capabilities and leadership. I’m from Jisc Futures – we do the research and development, and my area is specifically the student experience. But the work I’m doing at the moment is all about leadership.

I will talk about what we are doing, some examples, and then also I will talk about the jisc digital capabilities and leadership project. Everyone is aware of our digital literacy work? We have been doing this since 2010, identifying seven areas of digital literacy. We have managed to embed this into the curriculum, focusing on it being a student focused programme, without really meaning to. As this started to create outputs, I began working on a project called the Changing the Learning Landscape project, working with ALT, HEA, NUS, and the Leadership Foundation… We spoke to staff at universities from senior managers through to cleaners.

Through this work, across interviews at 58 universities, we identified massive variation in technology enhanced learning, across various thematic areas.

In terms of Strategy and Leadership… Many places were using a VLE, but often as a repository… And many places had these tools, and felt they should increase the scale of TEL. All identified mobile as something they should be aware of, and doing something about. But we couldn’t get people to identify what they wanted to do with mobile… When you asked they said “well students have phones” – that was as far as it went for some of them.

We also saw Open and Distance learning coming up as an issue, we didn’t hear much about efficiency from leaders. But students talked about a huge lack of consistency in their experience… at all levels of that experience. We did see more and more of students as partners in FE and HE. But we also see students wanting to leverage value from their learning. Students wanted to understand practical and efficiency benefits of why they should use a tool – they were always looking for a reason.

Talking to lecturers we saw huge amounts of varietyn again. Some were very honest about what they did… Some just put slides in, some had a discussion board… Most used it for repository of sides. And majority had the essential descriptions and timetabling, that was their main use. There were a range of barriers to use… Last week I worked with Reading College – they switched off Moodle in their institution and no-one noticed!

Anyway… Whilst we hear about digital literacies, many didn’t see how they could embed them in their programmes. They didn’t always see themselves as digitally literate.

And looking ahead we saw various things coming… questions about Maker cultures… More and more students coming through with coding skills. And early questions about Internet of Things… Also seeing open learning, open code, open publishing, becoming prominent. And seeing students co-creating their learning, especially in FE actually. And funding changes and organisational changes – e.g. funding announcements on FE next week. And we see the rise of KPIs, globalisation etc.

So, talking to the sector – HE, FE and Skills – showed that we really need to build the digital capabilities of our staff. So that is our priority, in my team, to develop that in the next 12 months, with the first stuff coming in over the next 3 months…

So we have this idea of Digital identity and wellbeing as a surrounding concept, with ICT proficiency at the centre, supported by Information, data and media literacies; digital creation, innovation and scholarship; communication, collaboration and participation; digital learning and self development.

  • ICT proficiency is core skills, from use of style sheets, to how to get onto Eduroam.
  • Information, Media and data literacy is about critical use of content
  • Cretion, scholarship and innovation – is about creative production in all areas of our work
  • COmmunication, collaboration and participation
  • Learning and self-development
  • Idetity and well-being – and safety online, and the safety of staff identity.

And we have developed a model for an envisioned #digitalcapability service. There will be a digital capability online course, and materials for digital leadership. And this resource will be aimed at staff at all levels. So, IT managers tend to implement systems without consulting staff on what is needed… e.g. on the choice of VLE or ePortfolios.. They tend to talk to vendors, rather than staff…

This modelis a pyramid of leadership development, online courses, digital capability framework, and diagnostic tools.

The leadership development will be a course, starting in October. It is aimed at leaders at any level, or those who aspire to leadership. So if you run a project for instance…

So we’ve mapped the digital capability framework to digital leadership. And this course will work across two priority areas:

Being an effective digital leader/manager (personal/professional development)

Leading/managing an effective digital organisation or part of an organisation (organisational development).

We will run this as a two day course, then webinar, then another two day course. That will be free for the first pilot and that first pilot will run once for HE and once for FE.

The core skills around ICT proficiencies around being an effective digital leader/manager would include adopt and adapt digital devices, services and applications to meet your professional needs, Use digital applications/services to manage time and tasks. Stay up to date with organisational systems. Know how to find work-arounds, switch devices/services/applications and recover from technical failures; model confident use of digital technologies to others.

In terms of the second leading etc. section: develop and communicate a strategy for digital technologies, policy, etc.

Again there are core aspects around information, media and data literacy; and around creation, scholarship and innovation. On that area of creative production we had many asking about making a risk tolerant innovative environment – particularly a concern at FE. We have traditionally been risk averse in some of these contexts…

I’m guessing most of this room are digitally literate but the communication, collaboration and participation aspect will be the idea of how we lead, influence and participate in online communities of practice related to your role, building personal networks, and having an authentic voice in this space.

In terms of learning and self-development thinking about, for instance, using online courses for staff development.

Digital identity and wellbeing… So for instance who has a Twitter account… who has two? I wonder why people do that, if they are splitting personal and professional presences… But we will look at that, to ensure people make choices in an informed way. And we talk about brand, but that’s also about having an authentic voice. When it comes to online staff capabilities work we are doing, there will be case studies for different roles, practice mapping that against professional association for CILIP, SEDA, HEA, and FELTAG. All of this is coming online, first course runs in October…

Let me just go back to staff capabilities – do these map to your expectations?

Comment: I am tremendously excited about this, much better than 7 elements that were there before…

Are there any gaps here?  This is still draft until this year.

Comment: Where does mobility factor here – learning away from physical learning space?

I would put mobile in collaboration perhaps, but also creation, collaboration and participation… But we will write examples of practice in colleges and universities, and then map where those might sit for professional development. And we are desperate to speak to people who have recently made changes that we can speak to.

And we welcome your comments and input on the blog: or email me: or on Twitter @Lawrie.


Q: What is the intention for the long term for this?

A: Right now the intention is for the online content to be available in chunks for you to download and use. The course will run once, be developed and rerun in Spring. Then, if successful, it will be handed over to the Jisc Customer Services team for them to look at options to role out.

Q: A few years ago you did work on digital literacies for schools. Our staff have gaps… But I don’t know the current status of students. Our staff report both very digitally literate, and other say not…

A: Are any of you aware of Dave ? Resident/Visitor thing, and Don, a US researcher has turned that into a tool to map digital literacies. And we are working with her to see how we can map that so that staff can map digital literacies of students, to capabilities and expectations of the students. To make sure that that maps to institutional strategy. So, for instance, you get answers about how students use content… download stuff in VLE, upload to Facebook and discuss, then upload to VLE… But in that institution they had mandated slides and discussion forum be used.. that was artificial to the set up… So we said you will save staff time and efficiency by changing environment. So Don’s tool will be available in October.

Parallel session: capabilities: “How to use social media effectively for student engagement – Presenter: Nicola Osborne” (EDINA)

That’s my session so you’ll be seeing no update here from me for this one!

Closing session: FELTAG – so what? – Presenter: Bob Harrison

In introducing the final session Will Allen is thanking us for surviving the sauna like conditions today! And he is also taking the opportunity to thank the Jisc North team, Jisc Events team and particularly to Gemma who has been organising this event. And now to Bob…

My good friend Martin is Periscoping this… So I will try not to be too offensive about Yorkshire, as a Lancastrian!

I was working in FE, but I decided to quit and go to work for Toshiba, with head teachers in the National College of School Leadership. And then I got a call in 2002 from the new head of the DFES standards invoices who had been asked to look at elearning… So for the next two years I worked with them – they paid on time but didn’t listen!

So FELTAG… Most of you know that this started with a tweet from MatthewHancockMP saying “Been following your tweets, read your articles – I agree with you. What can we do? There’s no money. Please come and see me ASAP.” He really got FE and Skills and when the civil service said they would set up a working party in six months, he said no. We should just get on with it…

His first meeting he said “we agree with all you’ve said” – and I’d been writing posts criticising the government, Jisc, BECTA, BIS, etc… He wanted to know what the problem is… The underlying problem isn’t money, it’s that our sector was built post industrial revolution, and based on a very factory, QA, put out there sort of process which is not fit for the digital world. You and I know that but unfortunately the ministers, the civil servants, the SFA, etc. their mindset is still in that industrial mindset. So, the key words about FELTAG here is… Agile and Evolution.

If we don’t evolve we die… But our ability to evolve to the changing environment. But we have been held back by OFQUAL and OFSTEAD etc… OFSTED reports for the College I chair talks about “Tutors making exceptionally good use of…interactive learning technologies and social media to help students learn…” And the key word there is Tutor.

So, that’s the past, so to the future… How many of you have watched Kes? I was a PE teacher in Barnsley… This is my Ken Loach bit… One of my grandkids comes home from school excited beyond belief at her first night away… She has a list of things she can take… Torch, ruck sack, toilet bag, sleeping bag… And if she wants to take pictures she can take one disposable camera…. And so Bob has us trying to explain a disposable camera to a kid… It’s hilarious but also serious here… Has pedagogy kept up with the potential of the technology? I would say not.

When I was a teacher two rooms of BBC micros had less computing power than the phone our kids carries around with her every day… Looking at a school room from a Victorian school, and one from last year… They are set up the same… There may be computers in the latter but they are the same – that classroom designer wants shooting!

We have to challenge decision makers to see the different paradigm… I’m not sure the new minister does sees that but Matthew Hancock did… We can look at the Sigmoid Curve (a biological concept) here… of Start Up, Growth, Maturity, and Decline… At the point of most success… at this point you need people who are paradigm pioneers to change the way currently being thought about, to do things better, more effectively, by using technology… Cue some silliness to ensure we are thinking about paradigm shift…

Now I’ve used a silly image here… To illustrate the fact that I think Digital Natives as an idea is bollocks… Marc Prensky wrote a nice article but children need teaching too… So here is an image of my grandson and my mum… who is teaching who? Well, they are both teaching each other!

Anyway… FELTAG themes are there. The most retweeted tweet I’ve ever had was that those FE providers that really embrace FELTAG will not only survive but thrive! Not to 10% or 20% but really embrace it, and don’t wait for targets and requirements.

In any of you think, like me, there is something wrong with the House of Lords – Digital Skills report… well have a read.

Two things have happened since Digifest read Alison Wolf’s Heading for the precipice, highlighting the need to refocus on resources that are and have been going to HE, to FE and Skills. The second thing is to see Skills minister Nick Boles AELP Annual Conference – if you want a laugh take a look at that. I went to to a school set up by contributions by miners to educate their kids, and them. I worked for a college in Nottingham erected by voluntary contributions to educate the working class forever… Forever… So no minister has any right to talk about a movement that has been going for hundreds of years, about self improvement, saying we need to reexamine the model…

So, folks… What is the opportunity cost of not embracing FELTAG and all it’s recommendations… If my grandkids leave school in 10-20 years they will be leaving schools used to gesture based computing, voice to text recognition, anytime and anywhere learning… And if you are wise you will pick the brains of these folks at Jisc to ensure that your FE provider is still there when they leave school!

And with that, back to Will with further thanks.


 June 30, 2015  Posted by at 2:43 pm Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with: , , , ,  No Responses »
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:

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,, 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: 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:  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 ( 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 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:

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 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!