Feb 252016
Today we have our second eLearning@ed/LTW Showcase and Network event. I’m liveblogging so, as usual, corrections and updates are welcome. 
Jo Spiller is welcoming us along and introducing our first speaker…
Dr. Chris Harlow – “Using WordPress and Wikipedia in Undergraduate Medical & Honours Teaching: Creating outward facing OERs”
I’m just going to briefly tell you about some novel ways of teaching medical students and undergraduate biomedical students using WordPress and platforms like Wikipedia. So I will be talking about our use of WordPress websites in the MBChB curriculum. Then I’ll tell you about how we’ve used the same model in Reproductive Biology Honours. And then how we are using Wikipedia in Reproductive Biology courses.
We use WordPress websites in the MBChB curriculum during Year 2 student selected components. Students work in groups of 6 to 9 with a facilitator. They work with a provided WordPress template – the idea being that the focus is on the content rather than the look and feel. In the first semester the topics are chosen by the group’s facilitator. In semestor two the topics and facilitators are selected by the students.
So, looking at example websites you can see that the students have created rich websites, with content, appendices. It’s all produced online, marked online and assessed online. And once that has happened the sites are made available on the web as open educational resources that anyone can explore and use here: http://studentblogs.med.ed.ac.uk/
The students don’t have any problem at all building these websites and they create these wonderful resources that others can use.
In terms of assessing these resources there is a 50% group mark on the website by an independent marker, a 25% group mark on the website from a facilitator, and (at the students request) a 25% individual mark on student performance and contribution which is also given by the facilitator.
In terms of how we have used this model with Reproductive Biology Honours it is a similar idea. We have 4-6 students per group. This work counts for 30% of their Semester 1 course “Reproductive Systems” marks, and assessment is along the same lines as the MBChB. Again, we can view examples here (e.g. “The Quest for Artificial Gametes”. Worth noting that there is a maximum word count of 6000 words (excluding Appendices).
So, now onto the Wikipedia idea. This was something which Mark Wetton encouraged me to do. Students are often told not to use or rely on Wikipedia but, speaking a biomedical scientist, I use it all the time. You have to use it judiciously but it can be an invaluable tool for engaging with unfamiliar terminology or concepts.
The context for the Wikipedia work is that we have 29 Reproductive Biology Honours stduents (50% Biomedical Sciences, 50% intercalculating medics), and they are split into groups of 4-5 students/groups. We did this in Semester 1, week 1, as part of the core “Research Skills in Reproductive Biology”. And we benefited from expert staff including two Wikipedians in Residence (at different Scottish organisations), a librarian, and a learning, teaching and web colleague.
So the students had an introdution to Wikipedia, then some literature searching examples. We went on to groupwprl sesssions to find papers on particular topics, looking for differences in definitions, spellings, terminology. We discussed findings. This led onto groupwork where each group defined their own aspect to research. And from there they looked to create Wikipedia edits/pages.
The groups really valued trying out different library resources and search engines, and seeing the varying content that was returned by them.
The students then, in the following week, developed their Wikipedia editing skills so that they could combine their work into a new page for Neuroangiogenesis. Getting that online in an afternoon was increadibly exciting. And actually that page was high in the search rankings immediately. Looking at the traffic statistics that page seemed to be getting 3 hits per day – a lot more reads than the papers I’ve published!
So, we will run the exercise again with our new students. I’ve already identified some terms which are not already out there on Wikipedia. This time we’ll be looking to add to or improve High Grade Serious Carcinoma, and Fetal Programming. But we have further terms that need more work.
Q1) Did anyone edit the page after the students were finished?
A1) A number of small corrections and one querying of whether a PhD thesis was a suitable reference – whether a primary or secondary reference. What needs done more than anything else is building more links into that page from other pages.
Q2) With the WordPress blogs you presumably want some QA as these are becoming OERs. What would happen if a project got, say, a low C.
A2) Happily that hasn’t happened yet. That would be down to the tutor I think… But I think people would be quite forgiving of undergraduate work, which it is clearly presented at.
Q3) Did you consider peer marking?
A3) An interesting question. Students are concerned that there are peers in their groups who do not contribute equally, or let peers carry them.
Comment) There is a tool called PeerAim where peer input weights the marks of students.
Q3) Do all of those blog projects have the same model? I’m sure I saw something on peer marking?
A3) There is peer feedback but not peer marking at present.
Dr. Anouk Lang – “Structuring Data in the Humanities Classroom: Mapping literary texts using open geodata”
I am a digital humanities scholar in the school of Languages and Linguistics. One of the courses I teach is digital humanities for literature, which is a lovely class and I’m going to talk about projects in that course.
The first MSc project the students looked at was to explore Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Dynamiter. Although we were mapping the texts but the key aim was to understand who wrote what part of the text.
So the reason we use mapping in this course is because these are brilliant analytical students but they are not used to working with structured data, and this is an opportunity to do this. So, using CartoDB – a brilliant tool that will draw data from Google Sheets – they needed to identify locations in the text but I also asked students to give texts an “emotion rating”. That is a rating of intensity of emotion based on the work of Ian Gregory – spatial historian who has worked with Lakes data on the emotional intensity of these texts.
So, the students build this database by hand. And then loaded into CartoDB you get all sorts of nice ways to visualise the data. So, looking at a map of London you can see where the story occurs. The Dynamiter is a very weird text with a central story in London but side stories about the planting of bombs, which is kind of played as comedy. The view I’m showing here is a heatmap. So for this text you can see the scope of the text. Robert Louis Stevenson was British, but his wife was American, and you see that this book brings in American references, including unexpected places like Utah.
So, within CartoDB you can try different ways to display your data. You can view a “Torque Map” that shows chronology of mentions – for this text, which is a short story, that isn’t the most helpful perhaps.
Now we do get issues of anachronisms. OpenStreetMap – on which CartoDB is based – is a contemporary map and the geography and locations on the map changes over time. And so another open data source was hugely useful in this project. Over at the National Library of Scotland there is a wonderful maps librarian called Chris Fleet who has made huge numbers of historical maps available not only as scanned images but as map tiles through a Historical Open Maps API, so you can zoom into detailed historical maps. That means that mapping a text from, say, the late 19th Century, it’s incredibly useful to view a contemporaneous map with the text.
You can view the Robert Louis Stevenson map here: http://edin.ac/20ooW0s.
So, moving to this year’s project… We have been looking at Jean Rhys. Rhys was a white Creole born in the Dominican Republic who lived mainly in Europe. She is a really located author with place important to her work. For this project, rather than hand coding texts, I used the wonderful wonderful Edinburgh Geoparser (https://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/software/geoparser/??) – a tool I recommend and a new version is imminent from Clare Grover and colleagues in LTG, Informatics.
So, the Geoparser goes through the text and picks out text that looks like places, then tells you which it things is the most likely location for that place – based on aspects like nearby words in the text etc. That produces XML and Clare has created me an XSLT Stylesheet, so all the students have had to do is to manually clean up that data. The GeoParser gives you GeoNames reference that enables you to check latitude and longitude. Now this sort of data cleaning, the concept of gazeteers, these are bread and butter tools of the digital humanities. These are tools which are very unfamiliar to many of us working in the humanities. This is open, shared, and the opposite of the scholar secretly working in the librarian.
We do websites in class to benefit from that publicness – and the meaning of public scholarship. When students are doing work in public they really rise to the challenge. They know it will connect to their real world identities. I insist students sow their name, their information, their image because this is part of their digital scholarly identities. I want people who Google them to find this lovely site with it’s scholarship.
So, for our Jean Rhys work I will show you a mock up preview of our data. One of the great things about visualising your data in these ways is that you can spot errors in your data. So, for instance, checking a point in Canada we see that the Geoparser has picked Halifax Nova Scotia when the text indicates Halifax in England. When I raised this issue in class today the student got a wee bit embarrassed and made immediate changes… Which again is kind of perk of work in public.
Next week my students will be trying out QGIS  with Tom Armitage of EDINA, that’s a full on GIS system so that will be really exciting.
For me there are real pedagogical benefits of these tools. Students have to really think hard about structuring their data, which is really important. As humanists we have to put our data in our work into computational form. Taking this kind of class means they are more questioning of data, of what it means, of what accuracy is. They are critically engaged with data and they are prepared to collaborate in a gentle kind of way. They also get to think about place in a literary sense, in a way they haven’t before.
We like to think that we have it all figured out in terms of understanding place in literature. But when you put a text into a spreadsheet you really have to understand what is being said about place in a whole different way than a close reading. So, if you take a sentence like: “He found them a hotel in Rue Lamartine, near Gard du Nord, in Monmatre”. Is that one location or three? The Edinburgh GeoParser maps two points but not Rue Lamartine… So you have to use Google maps for that… And is the accuracy correct. And you have to discuss if those two map points are distorting. The discussion there is more rich than any other discussion you would have around close reading. We are so confident about close readings… We assume it as a research method… This is a different way to close read… To shoe horn into a different structure.
So, I really like Michel De Certeau’s “Spatial stories” in The practice of everyday life (De Certeau 1984), where he talks about structured space and the ambiguous realities of use and engagement in that space. And that’s what that Rue LaMartine type example is all about.
Q1) What about looking at distance between points, how length of discussion varies in comparison to real distance
A1) That’s an interesting thing. And that CartoDB Torque display is crude but exciting to me – a great way to explore that sort of question.
OER as Assessment – Stuart Nichol, LTW
I’m going to be talking about OER as Assessment from a students perspective. I study part time on the MSc in Digital Education and a few years ago I took a module called Digital Futures for Learning, a course co-created by participants and where assessment is built around developing an Open Educational Resource. The purpose is to “facilitate learning for the whole group”. This requires a pedagogical approach (to running the module) which is quite structured to enable that flexibility.
So, for this course, the assessment structure is 30% position paper (basis of content for the OER), then 40% of mark for the OER (30%peer-assessed and tutor moderated / 10% self assessed), and then the final 30% of the marks come from an analysis paper that reflects on the peer assessment. You could then resubmit the OER along with that paper reflecting on that process.
I took this module a few years ago, before the University’s adoption of an open educational resource policy, but I was really interested in this. So I ended up building a course on Open Accreditation, and Open Badges, using weebly: http://openaccreditation.weebly.com/.
This was really useful as a route to learn about Open Educational Resources generally but that artefact has also become part of my professional portfolio now. It’s a really different type of assignment and experience. And, looking at my stats from this site I can see it is still in use, still getting hits. And Hamish (Macleod) points to that course in his Game Based Learning module now. My contact information is on that site and I get tweets and feedback about the resource which is great. It is such a different experience to the traditional essay type idea. And, as a learning technologist, this was quite an authentic experience. The course structure and process felt like professional practice.
This type of process, and use of open assessment, is in use elsewhere. In Geosciences there are undergraduate students working with local schools and preparing open educational resources around that. There are other courses too. We support that with advice on copyright and licensing. There are also real opportunities for this in the SLICCs (Student Led Individually Created Courses). If you are considering going down this route then there is support at the University from the IS OER Service – we have a workshop at KB on 3rd March. We also have the new Open.Ed website, about Open Educational Resources which has information on workshops, guidance, and showcases of University work as well as blogs from practitioners. And we now have an approved OER policy for learning and teaching.
In that new OER Policy and how that relates to assessment, and we are clear that OERs are created by both staff and students.
And finally, fresh from the ILW Editathon this week, we have Ewan MacAndrew, our new Wikimedian in residence, who will introduce us to Histropedia (Interactive timelines for Wikipedia: http://histropedia.com) and run through a practical introduction to Wikipedia editing.
Wikimedian in Residence – University of Edinburgh – Ewan MacAndrew
Ewan is starting by introducing us to to “Listen to Wikipedia“, which turns live edits on Wikipedia right now into melodic music. And that site colour codes for logged in, anonymous, and clean up bots all making edits.
My new role, as Wikimedian in Residence, comes about from a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia Foundation. And my role fits into their complimentary missions, which fit around the broad vision of imagining the world where all knowledge is openly available. My role is to enhance the teaching and curriculum, but also helping to highlight the rich heritage and culture around the university beyond that, and helping raise awareness of their commitment to open knowledge. But this isn’t a new collaboration, it is part of an ongoing collaboration through events and activities and collaboration.
It’s also important to note that I am a Wikimedian in Residence, rather than a Wikipedian in Residence. Wikimedia is the charitable foundation behind Wikipedia, but they have a huge family of projects including Wikibooks, MediaWiki, Wikispecies, etc. That includes Wikidata is the database of all knowledge that humans and machines can read, which is completely language independent – the model Wikipedia is trying to work towards.
So, what is Wikipedia and how does it work? Well we have over 5 million articles, 38 million pages, over 800 million edits, and over 130k active users.
There has been past work by the University with Wikimedia. There was the Women, Science and Scottish editathon for ILW 2015, Chris Harlow already spoke about his work, there was an Ada Lovelace editathon from October 2015, Gavin Willshaw was part of #1Lib1Ref day for Wikipedia’s 15th Birthday in January 2016. Then last week we had the History of Medicine editathon for ILW 2016 which generated 4 new articles, improved 56 articles, uploaded over 500 images to Wikicommons. Those images, for instance, have huge impact as they are of University buildings and articles with images are far more likely to be clicked on and explored.
You can explore that recent editathon in a Storify I made of our work…

View the story “University of Edinburgh Innovative Learning Week 2016 – History of Medicine Wikipedia editathon” on Storify

We are now looking at new and upcoming events, our next editathon is for International Women’s Day. In terms of ideas for events we are considering:

  • Edinburgh Gothic week – cross curricular event with art, literature, film, architecture, history, music and crime
  • Robert Louis Stevenson Day
  • Scottish Enlightenment
  • Scottish photographers and Image-a-thons
  • Day of the Dead
  • Scotland in WWI Editathon – zeppelin raids, Craiglockhart, etc.
  • Translationathons…

Really open to any ideas here. Do take a look at reports and updates on the University of Edinburgh Wikimedian in Residence activities here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:University_of_Edinburgh

So, I’m going to now quickly run through the five pillars of Wikipedia, which are:

  1. An encylopedia – not a gossip column, or blog, etc. So we take an academic, rigorous approach to the articles we are putting in.
  2. Neutral point of view – trying to avoid “peacock terms”. Only saying things that are certain, backed up by reliable published sources.
  3. Free content that anyone can use, edit and distribute.
  4. Respect and civility – when I run sessions I ask people to note that they are new users so that others in the community treat you with kindness and respect.
  5. No firm rules – for every firm rules there has to be flexibility to work with subjects that may be tricky, might not quite work. If you can argue the case, and that is accepted, there is the freedom to accept exceptions.

People can get bogged down in the detail of Wikipedia. Really the only rule is to “Be bold not reckless!“.

When we talk of Wikipedia and what a reliable source is, Wikipedia is based on reliable published source with reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. Academic and peer-reviewed scholarly material is often used (barring the no original research distinction). High quality mainstream publications too. Blogs are not seen as reliable generally, but sites like BBC and CNN are. And you need several independent sources for a new article – generally we look for 250 words and 3 reliable sources for a new Wikipedia article.

Ewan is now giving us a quick tour through enabling the new (fantastic!) visual editor, which you can do by editing your settings as a registered user. He’s also encouraging us to edit our own profile page (you can say hello to Ewan via his page here), formatting and linking our profiles to make them more relevant and useful. Ewan is also showing how to use Wikimedia Commons images in profiles and pages. 

So, before I finish I wanted to show you Histropedia, which allows you to create timelines from Wikipedia categories.

Ewan is now demonstrating how to create timelines, to edit them, to make changes. And showing how the timelines understand “important articles” – which is based on high visibility through linking to other pages. 

If you create a timeline you can save these either as a personal timeline, or as a public timeline for others to explore. The other thing to be aware of is that WikiData can be modified to search for more specialised topics – for instance looking at descendants of Robert the Bruce. Or even as specific as female descendants of Robert the Bruce born in Denmark. That just uses Robert the Bruce and a WikiData term called “child of”, and from those two fields you can build a very specific timelines. Histropedia uses both categories and WikiData terms… So here it is using both of those.


Q1) Does Wikidata draw on structured text in articles?

A1) It’s based on “an instance of”… “place of education” or “created on” etc. That’s one of the limitations of Histropedia right now… It can’t differentiate between birth and death date versus dates of reign. So limited to birth and death, foundation dates etc.

Q2) How is Wikipedia “language independent”?

A2) Wikipedia is language dependent. Wikidata is language independent. So, no matter what tool Wikidata uses, it functions in every single language. Wikipedia doesn’t work that way, we have to transfer or translate texts between different language versions of Wikipedia. Wikidata uses a q code that is neutral to all languages that gets round that issue of language.

Q3) Are you holding any introductory events?

A3) Yes, trying to find best ways to do that. There are articles from last week’s editathon which we could work on.

And with that we are done – and off to support our colleague Jeremy Knox’s launch of his new book: Posthumanism and the Massive Open Online Course: Contaminating the Subject of Global Education.

Thanks to all our fantastic speakers, and our lovely organisers for this month’s event: Stuart Nicol and Jo Spiller.

Feb 102016
Wikipedia Editathon Poster for ILW 2016

For the last few years the University of Edinburgh have run an “Innovative Learning Week” in which no traditional lectures or tutorials take place, instead students (and staff) are encouraged to experiment, to engage in new ways, to participate in events and teaching activities beyond their usual discipline or subject areas. It is a really lovely concept and I am always amazed at the range of events and collaborations that take place in that very busy week.

This year Innovative Learning Week runs from Monday 15th to Friday 19th February and I am involved in a few events that I thought I would share here for those based at Edinburgh (do sign up!) and for the interest of others who may be curious about what an ILW event looks like…

History of Medicine Wikipedia Editathon

This event, a follow up last year’s very successful editathon, is something I have been involved in the planning of (and will be baking for) although I’ll only be able to be there on the Thursday. However, a fantastic group of information services, academic and Wikipedian in Residence folks are making this event happen and it should be both fun and really interesting. Great for those wanting to brush up their Wikipedia skills too. 

Join the Innovative Learning Week History of Medicine Wikipedia Editathon (open to students, staff, and all others who are interested), where you will have an opportunity to edit Wikipedia and meet our new Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew. Join us in re-writing the Wikipedia pages of Edinburgh’s infamous medical figures including body-snatcher William Burke, the intriguing Dr. James Miranda Barry, or choose to enhance and create content for notable University of Edinburgh alumni (see the list under the How do I prepare section http://bit.ly/ILWEditathonEventPage).

Wikipedia training provides staff valuable digital skills to support CPD as well as hands on experience using an open access educational repository. No experience necessary as each session will offer Wikipedia editing and publishing training and the opportunity to observe online collaboration, public engagement, knowledge exchange, and scholarly communication in action.

Join in for one session, a full day, or for all three (sessions run in David Hume Tower, Teaching Studio LG.07):

  • TUESDAY 16                       Session1: 2pm-5pm
  • WEDNESDAY 17                S2: 10am-1pm; S3: 2-5pm
  • THURSDAY 18                    S4: 10am-1pm; S5: 2-5pm

Sign up: http://bit.ly/ILWEditathon2016 and/or follow us and share on Twitter: #ILWEditathon @LTW_UOE. If you are attending please bring your own personal laptop or tablet if you are able.

Creating an Effective Presence (Engineering)

I will be leading a section in this workshop on managing your digital footprint, developing and effective online presence, managing social media settings and options, as part of a wider session that looks at what it means to present yourself as a professional engineer and to evidence your skills and experience. 

This workshop on Tuesday 16th February (2-5pm), jointly hosted by the School of Engineering, the Careers Service and EDINA, will focus on Digital Footprint Awareness and creating an effective online presence to support summer internship and placement applications.

The session will include:

  • advice on using LinkedIn effectively;
  • an introduction to PebblePad for online portfolios;
  • guidance on managing your digital footprint.

Before attending, make sure you’ve registered for an account on LinkedIn. This is a BYOD session (bring your own device e.g. laptop or tablet).

Sign up (students in the School of Engineering only): http://www.innovativelearning.ed.ac.uk/creating-effective-online-presence-engineering

Communicating science to non-academic audiences ? who, what, why and how.

I have been involved in the planning of this session which I am contributing some social media, copyright/licensing and science communication expertise and resources to.

This science communication workshop explores how critical it is to identify your target audience and tailor your Open Educational Resource accordingly. The group will identify audiences and explore what their specific needs are before creating an interactive, web based, Open Educational Resource.

Sign up:

Other events worth noting include… 

The ILW newspaper (below) includes some highlights or you can search the programme in full here: http://www.innovativelearning.ed.ac.uk/ilw-calendar

And I’ll be sharing some of the resources from the sessions I’m involved with here on my blog (likely on the Publications and Presentations page).

Feb 102016

Today I am at a Supervising Dissertations at a Distance workshop, co-hosted by eLearning@ed and the Institute for Academic Development. The session is based on a research project and is being facilitated by Dr Jen Ross, Dr Philippa Sheail and Clara O’Shea.

As this is a liveblog the usual caveats apply – and corrections and comments are welcome.

Jen Ross (JR): This event came about from some research that myself, Phil and Clara have worked on looking at online distance learners going through the dissertation process at a distance. So we will talk a bit about this, but also we have an exciting new development that we’ll be showing off: a board game based on our research!

So, myself, Phil and Clara worked on this project, funded by the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme, with our colleagues Sian Bayne, Erin Jackson and Gill Aitken.

This work was done with 4 online distance programmes – clinical education, clinical management of pain, digital education and law. We had 18 semi-structured interviews conducted with graduates almost all via Skype. We undertook thematic analysis of transcripts. We also had 3 focus workshops/conversations with supervisors which enabled us to trigger reflection on the interview data.

So, to start with I want to talk about the “campus imaginary”, after Taylor’s idea of the “imaginary”, and Goggin’s definition of shared beliefs and understandings (rather than imaginary imaginary). Drawing on these we came up with the idea of the “Campus imaginaries” – the shared understanding of the campus and the organisation for those not physically here. We have nick-named this “when it was good it was very very good, but when it was bad it was the internet”. Why? People had lovely things to say, but when they didn’t they often attributed this to being an online distance learner, even when describing quite common dissertation experiences.

For instance June talks about struggling with time to do her dissertation around full time work – she attributes this to being an online distance student. Eva felt she had a good experience but that the supervision wasn’t great, it was adequate but she felt that it could have been better. And she also attributed this to being a distance student.

Terry says: “If you are full time you can just pop in and see your supervisor, or you speak to his secretary and book an appointment to see him. I don’t think there is a limit for a full time student.” [this gets audible laughs in the room given the realities of supervision on and off campus]

Now, that is funny but it is also poinagnt. That imagined idea of the physical space isn’t helpful for Terry and his expectations around supervision, of the support and time available, and those perceived differences between (idealised) physical and distance experience.

Arnott, meanwhile had a poor experience with their supervisor and felt that maybe being able to talk face to face might have helped that.

Nieve didn’t complete the dissertation, exiting with diploma. She felt (in retrospect) that doing some of the degree online, and some on-campus would have helped her as she felt lonely during her dissertation, and wanted to have the opportunity to share experience with other dissertation students. But again we can recognise that as a concern of many on campus students too.

So the themes that came up here, specifically in relation to online distance dissertations are also very familiar: unexpected obstacles; issues with motivation; supervisory relationships; time and space to focus; isolation; doubt. I think we have to do better at being supervisors helping students to understand what they can expect, that they can talk to us about all of these things, that we can support them (and that we don’t have secretaries!)

Phil Sheail (PS): I’m going to talk about the sense of “hospitality at a distance” – of hosting each other as distance students and supervisors, in learning spaces that overlap with homes.

Ruitenberg (2011), drawing on Derrida, in a great paper called “The empty chair: education in an ethic of hospitality” in Philosophy of education. She talks about hospitality as a demand for openness to the arrival of something and someone we cannot forsee: a demand that is impossible to fulfil, but that confronts all of our decisions and actions…”

I think this concept is relevant as whilst I was doing interviews there were so many different students, from different backgrounds and cultures… and it forces us to question some of our ideas of hospitality and of being a good host. Ruitenberg also talks about the figure of the teacher in “at-home” education. And the ethics of the university, the spaces of education are not the teachers

Amplification – you have to amplify yourself to put across your normal sense of enthusiasm, and that works well online.

One of the other things I did on a project with support services – disability office, careers, etc. and that connects to this idea of hospitality, and very particularly the idea of arrival, of welcome. So, we’ve been thinking about

Q: For intermittent learners, students might be engaged in a programme that they started 6 years ago, and starting a dissertation in that context.

A: Well when you start dissertation you may have a supervisor that hasn’t taught you… And there can be a dependency in that relationship between student and supervisor which can be challenging…

Q: Some of our supervisors are not Edinburgh staff members but those from NGOs etc.

A (JR): That was the case with one of the programmes we looked at. There it’s almost a welcome for supervisors too, and what does that mean in terms of making a space for dissertation, and establishing that complex relationship.

A (PS): Even if you are away from the institution, your supervisor is in a hospital etc. it’s important that the University does welcome you, particularly if things go wrong in that relationship, so they know where else to turn.

Martin, a supervisor, talked about the importance of a good and deliberate welcome for students.

In the example you just gave, of students who take a long time… Some students have complex care requirements. June again comments that she had gone through marriage breakdown, family crisis, health issues, but that for her, the degree was actually useful as a consistent presence in her life.

Now we’ve talked about welcomes and being supportive… But not all students actually want that. Terry comments that he wasn’t keen for hand holding and wouldn’t be whether he was full time, part time or online. And we have to remember that not all students want the same thing here.

JR: So we are going to turn now to how we can think of other ways to imagine the campus, alternatives that make students welcome. And also around fostering connections and counteracting negative disconnections. So, over to Clara…

Clara O’Shea (COS): The Dissertation Festival is an idea that Marshall and I came up with and made happen. We started this in 2011 – so reading Jen and Phil’s work backwards into what we do. This idea came out of the experience of loneliness and disconnection which can take place as a student going through the dissertation. We wanted something to support students through the dissertation process.

So, we try to run this festival 6-8 weeks before dissertations are due (usually August) so the festival is generally in May/June. The festival runs in Second Life – so we meet in a virtual space with sunshine, beach, virtual champagne and sushi. And this is just to be welcoming, warm, to make students feel comfortable.

So, the idea is that students come into the space, they present their work – 2 or 3 in an hour or hour and a half period, usually somewhat themed to foster connections, allow sharing of resources, etc. We checked student availability but also tutor availability – and opened the sessions up to others on the programme, and those beyond the programme. Participants do their presentation on voice chat for about 15 minutes. Questions come in in text chat – the presenter may reply during the talk or afterwards, which we also help facilitate.

So, last year we had some sessions on game based learning, multimodality, etc. We also had some tutor and alumni sessions on academic writing, on surviving and thriving through the dissertation, and also literature hunting. All of these sessions are synchronous but they are also recorded. Those recordings and the sessions are also complimented by a wiki (on PBWorks) where comments, further information, etc. can be shared. Each student has a page on the wiki with video, transcript, etc. But they also played with other ways to articulate their idea… We have them write haikus – they hate writing them but then find them really useful. They also play with images as well.

We also have a new innovation since last year called “The Visualisations Gallery”. This is to encourage students towards multimodality… We had tutors, current students, alumni all sharing visual ways to imagine their research.

And, even if a visitor can’t access that wiki, you can leave comments in Second Life.

The dissertation festival gives students a few things. It gives students a touchstone when things are quiet, a way to stay connected with the community. Students not yet at dissertation stage have the opportunity to see what that looks like, how that works. We’ve had students making connections, reading over a draft for each other. It gives students a chance to touch base with other supervisors… Which means accessing other expertise, to fill the gaps, to suggest other content.

So, when Jen talked about campus imaginaries, I think maybe this gives an imaginary that is more realistic and helpful. Places like Second Life give a useful, shared delusion of the campus. We all experience that very differently depending on their own timezone, location, the version of software they are running… It’s an illusion we all buy into. But arguably that is the experience of being on campus anyway.

On a practical basis we move those virtual logs, we adapt the voice presentation to the speakers needs, etc. But every time people come into Second Life they bring in their home space – the sounds, the distractions – and share that. It makes that special overlapping space. The space changes every time anyone comes in and out, and the dialogic space that participants create. And I think that’s where hospitality fits in.


Q1: Can you say more about the interviewees – how many students, how many supervisors. I would like to know more about similarities or differences between supervisors and students.

A1 (JR): The interviewees were all students. The supervisors gave input through workshops, where they reflected and responded to student comments. Those haven’t been written up as quotes yet but inform our understanding here. One thing that struck me was that supervisors often also feel a sense of dislocation from supervisees… For instance maintenance of an authoritative supervisory role when you and the student are Skyping each other from home, you see the students kids running about, etc. And that giving those relationships a different character and nature perhaps.

Q2: For us the distance is often not as important about the fact that they are intermittant adn part time.

A2: That longer process does mean more can happen… Which can mean more likelihood to need to take an interruption of studies, and struggle to fit things in.

Q2: As a coordinator one of my challenges is managing supervisor expectations – that students don’t work full time for 10 months.

A2 (PS): Certainly some students took a while to get going… Changes in work or work priorities can impact on projects, especially work-based projects. One of our students had moved through 3 continents whilst doing their work.

A2 (COS): The festival can be useful for providing an additional deadline. Students often struggle to prioritise their own research over their work commitments etc. Students can also have unrealistic idea of their own – and their supervisors – availability during the dissertation process. When my students start we talk  through those things that

A2 (PS): We did have students feeling they were out of sync with other students. In one programme regular Skype chats were available but being ahead or behind made that chat less useful… They got into this idea that only students at the same pace/stage can share. There was also that issue Clara mentioned about being unclear on how much time they could expect from supervisors, or how much they were allowed. More clarity there might help.

A2 (JR): One of the most interesting things for me was seeing the difference in practice between programmes. Some started at the same time, some were rolling… But no matter how rigid the system some students always went out of sync. It was interesting to see how many ways there are to organise a programme and a dissertation process, you can only organise so far.

Q3: Are there resources we can give supervisors meeting students for the first time that they haven’t taught before?

A3: We have a dissertation planner that is for students to adapt, to help them manage the process, to understand availability of students at a given time, etc. These are on the website too. So things like work commitments, times when supervisors are away…

Q3: That sounds more like its for students. What about supervisors.

A3: There are resources for PhD supervision but if you talk to Velda (IAD) she will be able to comment.

A3 (PS): I think for student services it is important to have routes for students to access them online. Careers, counselling, disability and chaplaincy all have some some of page for what they can do for online programmes now, and are looking at ways to offer services online. I had a student I spoke to in this research who had a horrible personal time, and she was surprised that counselling was never suggested

Comment (LC): There are resources you can embed in Learn for your courses that point to those support services.

Q4: Is 6-8 weeks really enough time for capturing the problems?

A4: I think it’s about right. We’ve tried later – and that’s too late. We’ve tried earlier but students get nervous about what they can present. It seems to be around 8 weeks is about right. And, if they aren’t ready at that point then students are in trouble and need to have conversations with supervisors. At that stage they can’t change methodologies though… But our research methods course ends with an assignment which is a proposal for research which triggers those sorts of theoretical and methodological conversations early, and raise any major concerns on timing etc.

JR: And now…. We will have a short break but then when we come back we will be playing Dissertation Situation: the board game based around our work! This is a primarily discussion based game.

So, the thing that is useful to know is that the scenarios in the game have come from data generated in this project. So these are real world problems (slightly fictionalised). They have happened, they are likely to happen again.

Cue board games… 


Q1: We want an online version!

A1: We did talk about that – either to share and then print off, or to play online.

Comment: We should get students to play too!

Comment: I think that this would be really useful for supervisors, to know they are not alone, but also for students to understand what can arise.

Q2: I was also going to say that students should place. For us we didn’t get through the whole game in the time… And that was fine… But for me it wasn’t important to finish necessarily – that’s a game design thing perhaps, and a timing thing.

A2: I did some rough calculations… But it was guesswork.

PS: Any areas that weren’t useful for particular disciplines?

Comment: Yes, the data question doesn’t really apply to psychology in the same way, or for law. But literature related question on losing data would apply.

PS: One of things we were aware of was that some online distance learners wouldn’t have bandwidth – eg programmes with students in sub-Saharan Africa – to play this game online – or only a simple version. But actually a download version might work.

Comment: Would also be good to share this, or a list of scenarios to supervisors off-campus, not affiliated with the University.

Comment: I think it might be easier to get to students than supervisors…

Comment: And concerned it could be seen as patronising… But you could call it a simulation.

Comment: For new supervisors etc. you could set up a wiki with the questions, and have discussion there…

Comment: I think it would be interesting to know what potential there is for moderating, fact checking, or connecting this to other resources, things that new or outside supervisors just may not know are there. Some pragmatic solutions also potentially put a supervisor at some risk, or raise controversial issues, so knowing where to put those, flag those up… What to do next etc. would be great.

And with that we are done with a really interesting session. Huge thanks to Jen, Phil and Clara for this workshop. Do feel free to follow up with them about that game – it was a really useful tool for discussion. 

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Jan 062016

Today I am delighted to be hosting – in my eLearning@ed Convener hat – a talk from Martin Hawksey, from ALT.

Note: this is a live blog so apologies for any typos, errors etc – corrections always welcome.

I am one of about four members of staff at ALT – the Association of Learning Technologists. How many of you are ALT members? (a good chunk of the room are) And how many of you have heard of our conference? (pretty much all). I’m going to talk today about what else ALT does, where there are opportunities to take part etc.

A key part of what we want to do is improve practice, promote research and influence policy around information technology. We support learning technologists of course, but our members cross a wide range of roles reflecting the range of learning technology use. ALT itself was established in 1993 – before the internet which is an interesting marker. ALT has 1700+ individual and 180 organisational members at present. ALT works across sectors including Further Education, Higher Education and research, and ALT is also an international community. And, as you are all part of the University of Edinburgh you can join ALT for free as an associate member. To become a voting member/get involved in governance etc. you do, however, need to apply for full membership.

Before I worked at ALT I didn’t really appreciate that ALT is truly a membership organisation – and governed by its members. And that genuinely drives the organisation.

In terms of the benefits of membership there are three areas particularly relevant: keeping pace with technology; developing skills; recognition for your work. We also have the ALT-MEMBERS list (a Jiscmail list) and that is a really rich resource in terms of people posing questions, receiving feedback on what they are doing. You obviously have elearning@ed giving you a great insight into your local community, that ALT-MEMBERS list does some of the same stuff on a wider/global scale. For instance discussion on VLE Review (a conversation including 24 replies); tracking Twitter hashtags (a conversation including 14 replies); a post on appropriate use of social media and advice on inappropriate behaviour (had 15 replies and became a blog post drawing resources together); review of web conferening tools had 23 replies. So you can see there is huge interaction here, content to draw upon, trends to pick up, information being shared. If you aren’t yet a member of that list then you can sign up – it is a closed list and you need to be an ALT member to sign up.

Do you have any feedback on the mailing list?

Comment: It is just too busy for me, too many emails.

I think it is useful to have that health warning that there is a lot of traffic. You can manage that with filters, subscribing to the digest etc. But you need to be aware of the volume. In terms of posting we’d recommend a good subject line – to catch those eyes – and as with any list it’s good to do a bit of research first and share that in your post, that makes it more likely that you will have replies and engagement. Despite all the other technologies we have available email is still suprisingly important.

ALT also has Member Groups and SIGs (Special Interest Groups) on areas such as games and learning, open education, MOOCs, FELTAG.The SIGs tend to change as different trends go in and out of popularity – the open education group is especially busy at the moment for instance. There is also a specific ALT-Scotland group. So, for instance ALT-Scotland recently held a policy board with funders and policy makers to understand what they are thinking and doing at the moment which was hugely valuable.

In addition to email we are also using Twitter. For our conference and events we’ve moved away from specific hashtags for each towards a since hashtag – #altc – and that’s a great way to share your message with the community. We monitor and retweet that hashtag – and we have around 7000 followers. That hashtag can be used for projects, events, blog posts, etc. It’s pretty all encompassing.

As I mentioned ALT is your organisation, as a member. Our governance model is that we have a board of trustees including ALT members in Scotland – currently we have a member from Glasgow Caledonian, and another from Heriot-Watt. Our current vice-chair is Martin Weller, OU, our chair is ? and our current president is ?. We also have operational committees – a rewarding thing to do, enabling you engage with the community and good for your CV of course. And we have editors for the ALT journals as well.

I also mentioned recognition… How many of you have heard of CMALT – Certified Membership? (pretty much all in the room have) What do you want to know about it? It is a portfolio-based accreditation – you submit electronically and you can do that in whatever electronic format you like. That portfolio is certified by peers, and you can nominate one of your assessors. And they will give you feedback. There is a cost – about £150 – but if a group of you want to submit there is a reduced group rate.

Because there are a range of roles within ALT the skills assessed cover a range of core areas (operational issues; teaching, learning and assessment, wider context, communication), and specialist areas (such as leadership, tech development, administration, research, policy). The key thing is to certify your commitment to learning technology. It can feel like saying what you do but it is also about successes, reflection on success and failure, and working with feedback and support – about being a better learning technologist and making you have that professional journey. It isn’t just about the achievement of the certificate.

Question: How long does this take?

Once you are registered you have up to a year to complete and submit your portfolio. Obviously it doesn’t take that long to do. Maybe a few hours per area is sufficient – 20 or 24 hours perhaps for portfolios. There are examples of submitted portfolios and guidance on the ALT website. We also try to run regular CMALT webinars where you can talk to other candidates about the process and the detail.

Question: What are the benefits of doing CMALT?

Interestingly CMALT has been running for around 10 years now. We just passed our 300th CMALT certified members. And we have increasingly seen ALT members looking for CMALT as a desirable qualification for roles, which is obviously helpful for job prospects. The main benefit though is that process itself -the reflection, the capture of that experience, the opportunity to develop your practice.

Additionally CMALT maps to UKPSF and HEA Fellowship. We have mapped the requirements of UKPSF onto CMALT so that if you do either of those you may be able to reuse that work in applying to the other – there is more about this on the website.

Also we have the annual Learning Technologist of the Year Awards (#LTAwards), to recognise excellence in the sector. The awards are open internationally but most applicants are UK based. You can nominate someone else, or yourself. We normally announce these in April, so watch this space. Again, this is a great way to boost your CV but there is also a cash prize. This year the winner has been working on using Minecraft in teaching.

We have run ALT publications for years – we used to have the ALT Newsletter which we have now rebranded as the #ALTC Blog – anyone can contribute to this and we have editors who are all ALT members. We have around 225 posts and counting and look for posts of around 500 words each. Again, a great way to get information out.

We also have Research in Learning Technology (used to be known as ALTJ), and a great way to get full on research publications out there. It is a peer reviewed open access journal. It is rolling submission – although we have the capacity to do special issues. Again this publishing schedule fits with the roles and schedules of ALT members. There are no submission fees like some other open access journals – so little overhead to submitting. And the process can be very useful for preparing to submit to elsewhere. We have a bit of a boom at the moment so we currently have a call out for new editors – so if you are interested do take a look. Full details of submission processes can be found on the journal website.

As I mentioned we also have the annual conference, which is a really interesting conference but can melt your brain slightly – 3 very busy days! How many here have gone to the ALT conference? And how do you find it?

Comment) I find every second year works well. I like that you get a broad overview of what is happening in the sector, and a way to take the temperature of the sector in a fairly unique way.

Even if you can’t make it in person we do livestream a lot of the keynotes and plenary sessions, so we haven’t announced our keynote speaker. Last year we have Laura Cernovicz from Capetown, South Africa on ethics of education, open access, open education etc. We also had Jonathan Worth from University of Coventry, who has experimented with opening up courses to wider audiences and the challenges on informed and implied consent around use of social media in these. We also had Steve Wheeler. In the plenaries we had Rebecca ? from Oxford University on scaling learning analytics there. The videos of sessions are all available online on the ALT YouTube channel. It’s worth looking back to 2014 as we had some great speakers then including Audrey Walters, Catherine Cronin and Jeff Hayward.

In terms of other events note that OER16 is in Edinburgh next April – here at University of Edinburgh and co-chaired by Lorna Campbell and Melissa Highton.

Lorna: This year we are focusing on open cultures and making connections to galleries, museums. Submissions are closed at the moment – we are marking those right now. In terms of speakers we have Catherine Cronin, University of Galway; Melissa Highton, University of Edinburgh; John Scally, NLS; Emma Smith, Oxford University on Open Shakespeare work; and Jim Groom from DS106 – a MOOC or perhaps a cult – and the forefront of open higher education. The conference is on 19th and 20th April and registration will open up shortly. And it would be great to see a good cross-section of Edinburgh folk there.

Martin: ALT’s work with OER is a more recent thing, in terms of supporting its’ running. And that is in recognition of the importance of openness. And it’s worth noting that the call for OER17 chairs is now open.

The other thing to be aware of is the ALT Online Winter Conference 2015 – a free conference online, open to anyone to drop into and participate. Presenters all needed to be ALT members. And we hope to run this again this year. The call will go out in September so keep an eye out for that.

Something else ALT does is the policy side. So, a big plug here for our ALT Annual Survey – which is our opportunity to understand current and future practice, to enable us to represent our members needs. And this information helps us understand those needs for policy responses as well, for instance on the development of the Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland. Currently ALT is preparing a response to the TEF as well.

One of the things I wanted to talk about was… last night I tweeted that I’d be talking here and was looking for what the benefit of being a member of ALT is… Originally I asked about technology and I realised there were technologies I wouldn’t have had access to without being part of ALT… For instance last year we ran an event here at the Informatics Forum where we got to use a real Oculus Rift – certainly at CES VR is supposed to be the big thing. Also John Kerr at Glasgow Caledonian had Google Glass along to see how his projects with it worked. There are opportunities to be introduced to new technologies. Also BuddyPress was something that in 2009 at the ALT Conference Joss Winn was experimenting with BuddyPress and finding it useful… Fast forward and we use BuddyPress in ALT activities, online courses etc. And it was that connection and chat that led to that solution… Again these are part of the benefits of being part of this lovely melting pot of people, contributing to the ALT community… Less about what than who in many ways.

Other benefits include discounts for the ALT conference (a big one), we also negotiate with other conferences – e.g. Online Educa this year.

Finally… Emerging areas and my advice on this…

This is related to the ALT community/membership thing. Throughout my career I have gotten the most out of technology by being flexible in what I focus on – but you do need to focus on things in some depth. A benefit of being part of a wider community means they can filter through those a bit, making you aware of them as they do. I have at various times worked on voting systems, peer instruction, Twitter, learning analytics… So, my advice is… With such a broad field keep half an eye of what is going on – and the ALT community is great for that – but also delve in and get lost in…

And with that Martin is done… and we open up for some discussion on emerging areas… this group suggests they include: policy; what an institution is and what its bounds are in the face of online education; teacher presence in various contexts, including the impact of MOOCs on student expectations.

Martin: Expectations are a really interesting area… In peer instruction you move things out of the classroom. Back when we trialled some of those approaches and moved a lecture out, the students resisted… They wanted that lecture, and to be in that room.

Comment: I think that depends on trust in peers… My undergraduate experience involved trusting some but there were also risks of social bullying dynamics and I would have had real concern about that.

Martin: The social aspect of being at an institution is a high priority… Whether an online experience can replicate that is interesting. And digital identity and the transitions between one form of digital identity to another, the move to professional attributes. Which is why learning technology is never dull!

And with that we broke for lunch and discussion. You can explore Martin’s magic live tweets and Lorna Campbell’s (less automated but no less impressive) live tweets in the Storify below:

You can also view the full story “Martin Hawksey talk on ALT for eLearning@ed (6th Jan 2016)” on Storify.

Dec 182015

Today I’m here at Sheffield Hallam University today for Social Media for Learning in Higher Education 2015 (follow #SocMedHE15) where myself and Louise Connelly (from UoE Royal (Dick) Veterinary School) will be presenting some of our Managing Your Digital Footprint research later today.

I’ll be liveblogging but, as the wifi is a little variable, there may be a slight delay in these posts. As usual, as this is a liveblog,


At the moment we are being welcomed to the day by Sheffield Hallam’s Pro Vice Chancellor who is welcoming us to the day and highlighting that there are 55 papers from 38 HEIs. The hope is that today will generate new conversations and communities, and for those to keep going – and the University is planning to run the conference again next year.

Keynote by Eric Stoller

We are starting with a very heavily Star Wars themed video introducing Eric and his talk….

When he thinks about his day it has no clear pattern, and includes a lot of watching videos, exploring what others are doing… And I’m a big fan on Twitter polls (he polls the room – a fair few of us use them) and when you poll people about how universities are using social media we are seeing use for marketing and communications, teaching and learning, a whole range of activities…

There are such a range of channels out there… Snapchat, how many of you are Snapchatters? (fair few) and how many of you take screen shots? How about Reddit… yeah, there are a few of us, usually the nerdy folk… YikYak… I’m avoiding that to avoid Star Wars spoilers right now… Lots of sites out there…

And now what we say online matters. That is game changing… We have conversations in this auditorium and that doesn’t get shared beyond the room… But online our comments reaches out beyond this room… And that can be where we get into trouble around our digital identity. We can really thank Marc Prensky for really messing things up here with his Digital Natives idea… Dave White brilliantly responded to that, though few seemed to read it!

But there are some key issues here. Social media blurs professional and personal identities…

My dad was checking out Facebook but he’s not on Facebook, he was using my mothers account… My parents have given me a range of interesting examples of people blurring between different spaces… So my mom added me on Facebook.. Is she my friend? I think she has a different designation. I got on there and she already had 8 friends – how did they get there first? Anyway she is experiencing Facebook in a way that I haven’t for years… My mom joined Facebook in 2014 (“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a fad”) and when you have 8 friends you truly see everything… She sees people that she doesn’t know making fun of, saying snarky things to, her child (me)… We’ve never really had a space where we have that blurring of people. So, my mom hops into a comment thread to defend me… And then people make fun of her… So I have to defend her… We haven’t really adapted and evolved our ways of being professional, of managing relationships for this space yet.

One thing we haven’t come to terms with is the idea of leadership in social media. No matter who you are you can educate, promote, etc. One of my favourite leaders on social media is in the US, president of the University of Cincinnati (@PrezOno). He has a lot of followers and engagement. Typically if your academics, your leaders, are using social media and sharing their work and insights, that says a lot about the organisational culture you are trying to build and encourage.

When you are thinking about employability (and man, you can’t miss this University’s employability office)… It’s about personal brand – what you post and say matters… It’s being human.

Facebook has been around 11 years now, it’s massive… There are over 1 billion users… In fact in September there were over 1 billion in a single day. But people don’t use it in the same ways they did previously… Look at institutions with an older cohort age then Facebook is where it’s at.

I have this quote from the University of Edinburgh’s Managing Your Digital Footprint account that 90% of bosses use Facebook to vet candidates… Which is potentially an issue… As students don’t always post that carefully or with an awareness of how their comments appear later on…

As a consultant I tell people not to fall in love with one platform, but I’m a little in love with Twitter. And there are really interesting things taking place there. We have things like #LTHEchat – a discussion of technology in education. And this is a space where comments are kind of preserved… But that can include silly comments, things we don’t want to stick around. And I love when universities connect students to alumni… We have to think about criticality and digital literacy in these spaces too…

Different spaces also work for different uses… Some love Vine, those 6 second videos. And when we think about teaching we want to talk about story telling some of the YouTube vloggers are a create place to learn about creating narrative and story. So, for instance, Casey Neilson, a vlogger who has also directed commercials for brands like Nike, is a great person to watch. For example his video on Haters and Losers… [we are now watching videos]

How many of you are on LinkedIn? [we mostly are] I assume those not on LinkedIn don’t have a job… There is huge amounts of useful stuff on there, including organisational pages… But it doesn’t always have a great reputation [shows a meme about adding you as a connection]. This is a space where we get our recommendations, our endorsements. Right now LinkedIn is a powerful place. LinkedIn is the only major social media site where there are more users ages 30-49 than 18-29 year olds [stat from Pew Research]. How many here work in employability or careers? You get that thing where students only approach you 5 minutes before they leave… They should really be getting on LinkedIn earlier. People can be weird about adding their students – it’s not about adding your students as friends, its an opportunity to recommend and support each other – much better there than Rate My Professor.

I wanted to show this tweet from the Association of Colleges that “soft skills should be called human skills. Soft makes it sound inferior, which we all know they’re not”. Those soft skills are part of what we do with social media…

When I moved to the UK – my wife got a promotion – and I, as a consultant, had all my networks in the US… But I also had social media contacts in the UK… And I was able to use LinkedIn groups, connections, etc. to build relationships in the UK, to find my way into the higher education sector here. I was talking to a LinkedIn rep last week at Princeton… What do you think the number one activity is on LinkedIn? It’s lurking… And I did a lot of strategic lurking…

So, we have these new spaces but we also have some older online spaces to remember…. So, for instance, what happens when you Google yourself? And that’s important to do… Part of what students are doing when they build up their profile online is to be searchable… To have great presence there.

And email still matters. How many of you love email? [one does] And how many of us have checked email today? [pretty much all]. We are all professional email checkers in a way… Email works if we do it right… But we don’t. We send huge long messages, we reply all to unsubscribe… It’s not surprising if students don’t get that [cue a tweet that shows an email tactically bearing a subject line about free football tix miraculously was received by students].

How many of you are concerned about privacy on social media? It’s always a huge concern. We have spaces like Snapchat – ephemeral except some of you take screen shots – and Yik Yak. We’ve already had issues with Yik Yak – a lecturer walked out when she saw horrible things people were posting about here… But Yik Yak tends to be sex and drugs and Netflix… Also a lot of revision…

And we have Periscope. Twitter owns it now, so who knows where that will go… It’s a powerful tool to have… You can livestream video from anywhere, which used to be hugely difficult and expensive. And you get comments and discussion.

And you don’t need to always do social media by posting, there is so much to listen and learn from…

The student experience is holistic. Social media, just like it blurs personal and professional selves, the same thing happens with teaching and learning and higher education. There are not separate entities in an organisation now… academic advising, careers services, induction/orientation, first year success, mental health/wellness…. So much learning happens in this space, and it’s not necessarily formal…

There is no such thing as a digital native… there are people learning and trying things…

So, now, some Q&A.


Q1) When you see lecturers named on YikYak… Can you really just ignore it?

A1) On YikYak the community can downvote unpleasant bad things. In the US a threat can be prosecuted [also in the UK, where hate speech laws also apply]. But if I say something insulting it’s not necessarily illegal… It’s just nasty… You get seasonal trolling – exam time, venting… But we have to crack the nut about why people are doing and saying this stuff… It’s not new, the app just lets us see it. So you can downvote. You can comment (positively). We saw that with Twitter, and we still see that on Twitter. People writing on pointed issues still get a lot of abuse… Hate speech, bullying, it’s not new… it’s bigger than social media… It’s just reflected by social media.

Q2) On the conference hashtag people are concerned about going into the open spaces… and particularly the ads in these spaces…

A2) I am a big fan of adblock in Chrome. But until this stuff becomes a public utility, we have to use the tools that have scale and work the best. There are tools that try to be Facebook and Twitter without the ads… It’s like telling people to leave a party and go to an empty room… But if you use Google you are being sold… I have so much commercial branded stuff around me. When our communications are being sold… That gets messy… Instagram a while back wanted to own all the photos shared but there was a revolt from photographers and they had to go back on that… The community changed that. And you have to block those who do try to use you or take advantage (e.g. generating an ad that says Eric likes University of Pheonix, you should too… ).

Q3) I find social media makes me anxious, there are so many issues and concerns here…

A3) I think we are in a world where we need discipline about not checking our phone in the middle of the night… Don’t let these things run your life… If anything causes you anxiety you have to manage that, you have to address that… You all are tweeting, my phone will have notifications… I’ll check it later… That’s fine… I don’t have to reply to everyone…

Q4) You talked about how we are all professional emailers… To what extent is social media also part of everybody’s job now? And how do we build social media in?

A4) In higher ed we see digital champions in organisations… Even if not stated. Email is assumed in our job descriptions… I think social media is starting to weave in in the same ways… We are still feeling out how social media fits into the fabric of our day… The learning curve at the beginning can feel steep if everything is new to you… Twitter took me a year or two to embed in my day, but I’ve found it effective, efficient, and now it’s an essential part of my day. But it’s nice when communication and engagement is part of a job description, it frees people to do that with their day, and ties it to their review process etc.

Workshops 1: Transforming learning by understanding how students use social media as a different space – Andrew Middleton, Head of Academic Practice and Learning Innovation, LEAD, Sheffield Hallam University

I’m assuming that, having come to a conference on social media in learning, you are passionate about learning and teaching… And I think we have to go back to first principles…

Claudia Megele (2015) has, I think, got it spot on about pedagoguey. We are experiencing “a paradigm shift that requires a comprehensive rethink and reconceptualisation of higher education in a rapidly changing socio-technological context where the definition straddles formal and informal behaviours” [check that phrasing].

When we think about formal, that tends to mean spaces like we are in at the moment. Michael Errow makes the point that non-formal is different, something other than the formal teaching and learning space. In a way one way to look at this is to think about disruption, and disrupting the formal. Because of the media and technologies we use, we are disrupting the formal… In that keynote everyone was in what Eric called the “praying” position – all on our phones and laptops… We have changed in these formal spaces… Through our habits and behaviours we are changing our idea of formal, creating our own (parallel) informal space. What does that mean for us as teachers… We have to engage in this non-formal space. From provided to self-constructed, from isolated to connected learning, from directed to self-determined, from construction to co-construction, from impersonal to social, and from the abstract and theoretical to authentic and practical (our employers brief our students through YouTube, through tweet chats – eg a student oncology tweet chat, sharing content themselves but academic names coming in as well), moving from the taught to the learnt – and the learner-centred environment.

Social media is about transforming habits…

We see heterotopia – displacement; hybridity – mutation or disruption of spaces… These are the in-between spaces and liminality. And we see combinations of rich digital media, user generated media (including that oncology tweet chat), bring your own device, mobile learning, openness, social media for learning, all coming together in a transformational space… And you start to see conceptual lines between these areas that reinvent the notions of the formal and the informal…

So we see change happening… But do we all understand this different learning environment? I think a principle based design approach is what is needed here… Lets get back to the basics, the clear, the clarity, the principles… And I’d like you to explore the room, with various principles dotted around it, about how we’d bring this in to practices around social media for learning… And I’d like you to note those down…

[On which note… I’m going to sneak away into the session on Copyright…]

Copyright education in the age of social media – Chris Morrison @cbowiemorrison – University of Kent and Dr Jane Secker @jsecker – London School of Economics  

[Obviously I’ve joined this session late, so apologies for any lack of context here… ]

Jane: We have developed Copyright: the card game which we are using in training sessions, and I’m now regularly seeing 20-25 people at copyright sessions. In the game we explore, in this order: Works; Usages; Licenses; and Exceptions. We want to encourage the use of licenses first, only relying on exceptions later (as they can be more complex, making licenses a better place to start).

So, you have a deck of cards, you have a card handler, and you talk through scenarios which means you share experience – with more experienced and less experienced colleagues able to share and discuss…

Now, this game wasn’t originally designed for social media but we are going to try using the game in relation to social media content. So, each table gets a set of cards and in a moment I’ll give you examples about what type of work it might be…

Why consider copyright work? It’s a starting point to understand what a copyright object is, to understand the phrasing in the law… And to think about different durations, different layers of rights, different owners within content etc… So we have cards for e.g. artistic, performance, musical, etc.

And what I’d like you to do is identify what types of works are in the following… (1) a tweet (2) a blog post (3) a photo on Pinterest and (4) a photo on Facebook.

We are now discussing our objects… We (“Team Rudolf”) had a blog post – a literary work, with images (artistic work), and could potentially include typography and database works [although for me the database part is more of a stretch when looking at the post itself]. Across the post there are also moral rights as author to be asserted. We also had a Facebook photo – an artistic work, but there is also a text post there (literary or database work), and also trademarks and typography – though Facebook is relaxed about sharing of that…

The other group in the room (“Team Copycat”) includes a Tweet – a literary work but is it for copyright reasons? Maybe depends on the content. They also had pinterest – an artistic work but you are collating them… So it is a database… and those images are a more complex aspect of this as multiple owners and copyright implications [and across different territories].

Back to Jane…

So, I want to turn to usage, and what someone is doing… There are a series of restricted acts around copyright objects. So, I’m going to give you some more cards here, on usage.

So, what types of usages apply when…

(1) a colleague at another university retweets your tweet which includes a photo of the outside of the British Library

Much discussion… We generally think Communication with the Public, and Copying [we also discussed Issuing copies to the public… thinking about case law on retweets as a new publication around libel]. If the text were tweaked, or text added (e.g. a quoted tweet) it might also be Adaptation… But the wording of the law is very much geared to traditional formats, rather than social media.

(2) You Photoshop a picture of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood to include your work colleagues and share on Facebook…

Here we think that Communication to the Public, Adaptation, Copying, and potentially also [I’m arguing] Performing, showing or playing in public might apply if the image is a screen capture from a TV programme – which would be a performance. But also noting that a parody is, now, allowed as an exception under the Copyright law.

So… We can see that the law is not well worded for social media and there are some really interesting challenges for this reason. Licenses (terms of use) govern much of what you can and can’t do on social media websites. When is sharing not sharing – how social media changes our understanding of rules and cultural practices… In traditional senses sharing diminishes the size of the whole… It’s very different in social media contexts where there is no limit on available copies. There are social norms and practices that may not be legal but are understood to be how the world works… For instance that comment on Facebook and their design – and their happiness to share their trademarked stuff.

To finish we have a game to match up copyright positives, and copyright negatives with a social media source… Based on a game designed to teach students about understanding resources, and quality of resources… So far it’s untested – you are the first!

Also, Jane is noting that all of the cards used today are CC-licensed. [Check them out, they seem really useful!]

To finish Jane shares her and Chris’ top 3 tips…

(1) Think about the value of the content you want to use (to you and the person who owns it) – the issue of risk.

(2) Then consider licences/terms of use for social media sites.

(3) You always need to make a risk assessment.

You can find everything at http://ukcopyrightliteracy.wordpress.com (see also Jane and Chris’ blog)

The cards can be found on Jorum… But also on our website too.

Jane’s slides – which will be shared via SlideShare (see conference hashtag) – includes a lot of references… including the new UCISA social media toolkit.

Short Papers 1Experiences of social media in higher education: Barriers, enablers and next steps
Alison Purvis @DrAlisonPurvis, Helen Rodger @HelenRodgerSHU and Sue Beckingham @suebecks – Sheffield Hallam University

Alison: We started looking at institutional barriers to use of social media, to understanding how we could enable use of social media. We undertook a survey on institutional practice in social media to understand strategic support and development activities. We started with 200 academics who had already attended social media workshops – those already interested. We also put the survey on our intranet as well. We got 50 academics involved in our survey, 70% were already using social media in learning and teaching, 60% wanted to give it a go. And the biggest barrier for them was time to do this…

We asked respondents what they used social media for… they indicated sharing work or information, collaborating with students, gathering information, etc… And the drivers behind their usage included usage in the sector, the technology enabled something not otherwise possible, pedagoguey driving the technology was a significant driver, but also strategic, colleague driven, student driven, and (most of all) seeing clear benefits from using social media in learning and teaching.

Barriers, well we’ve already mentioned time. But support, colleague confidence, own confidence to play with things, understanding the tool, not having kit or software, students not having the confidence (perhaps perception rather than reality given some other research we’ve been working on), and also cost and management buy in came into the picture.

Helen: We identified three rough themes that came out of our survey responses around why staff felt unable to use social media in learning and teaching. One of these was the tools themselves…

We named some of the big tools (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube), including social bookmarking (which we knew people would be less familiar with). We did ask about use in personal life, professional working lives, and teaching lives. YouTube is pretty much ubiquitous in personal, professional and teaching arenas… We don’t think they are using these sites as content creation, instead they are mining it as a resource – because its easy to do. When you look at social bookmarking – we mentioned Diigo – hardly anyone had heard of it, but as educators you’d expect that approach to be better used and better known… What we think that is about is the fact that these tools aren’t as much part of the popular culture as those other spaces, they are not as sexy. And they are not as easy to pick up and use…

We also identified a theme of attitude… Not of being anti technology or social media but they had clear rationale for what they were and were not using.

Our third theme was about benefit – if people saw the benefit, they were more likely to use these tools… They were seeing the pedagogic relationship and benefit, that was what made the real difference for those using social media in learning and teaching.

Sue: So, next steps… We’ve taken two focus groups and transcribed. They need to be evaluated. We want to follow up with interviews in depth. We have more work to follow and write up. The group we have researched is still quite a small pool… We’d like to do more and get management buy in for institution-wide research. And if you look to the US there are number of yearly surveys and maybe we also need to look to that, to get the broader picture…

We also want to think about more of an appreciative enquiry approach, what are the good things coming out of social media… There is a lot of sharing but that is often also in social media – and if you don’t yet use those spaces you can miss those conversations.

And we are also looking at development of a crowd sourced toolbox. We’d like to gather what others in the sector are doing. We mentioned at the beginning about social media guides… We gave that a creative commons license so others can use them. The other thing being done here that will extend beyond are links to three main questions… on myths of social media, on writing guidance – what works for your students, and challenges. Those tweets with those questions link out to Padlet where you can add your comments (you can also find the links on the conference website).

One of the things we’ve been really conscious about is that when people are using social media, and they start as personal users, then become professional users, it is more likely that they will go on to use social media in learning and teaching. As people become confident in these spaces, they engage their students in them. For instance in computing we have content on communication, for professional communication. LinkedIn is now a key space to be part of that classroom experience – to share their profile as a role model, the sharing of their work, being a case study for students to look at and learn from.

So I think the key take aways here are… We have a lot more questions than answers! We want to take that out to the community and find out more. And we have a few questions:

  • Are individuals in HE who are non users of social media at risk of being marginalised by increasing digitisation of academia?
  • To what extent is digital identity and practical application of digital capabilities of educators significant to potential and existing students.
  • What support is required to develop the digital capabilities of both staff and students? And that’s fundamental.


Q1) How do you address the issue of time?

A1 – Helen) A perrennial issue in academia… Not specific to social media… No easy answers! Seeing the benefit helps people make time…

Comment) It’s easy to say you don’t have time, it’s about prioritising… People don’t want to say they don’t have the skills.

A1 – Sue) People find time for all sorts of other things… They learn how to use new things…

Comment) It’s complex but it’s about replacing something too… Sometimes it replaces something else in your approach… But takes time to acquire.

Comment) Promote the benefits and bait the hook… Find out what’s resource specific, subject specific etc. to save time, get buy in… You find managers and leaders and find them ways of doing what they do. One or two at higher levels has a ripple effect.

Comment) I think you gave the answer in another section… If people use this stuff personally they are more likely to use it professionally… That reason and motivation lets them see the application in an academic context. And I think that observation of starting in a personal space, then professional leading to teaching… I think that’s true… I think the reverse may be true of students as a tactical decision to separate personal from learner identity. And we can be hard on learners for making these choices… I’m interested in the idea of LinkedIn etc. Because there is a thing of using the right tools for the job.

Comment) On time… I’d say that Twitter saves me loads of time in discovering things… then prioritising.

Q2) You mentioned reticence to use, and it not being a kneejerk thing… So what is it?

A2 – Helen) They don’t see the need basically. Their comments suggested more flexibility though… they were open to using in the future if they could see the benefit of that.

Short Papers 2: Student identities in transition: social media experiences, curation, and implications for higher education – Nicola Osborne @suchprettyeyes and Louise Connolly @lconnelly09 – University of Edinburgh

This was our session so, for now, here was our abstract (slides will follow):

Students are increasingly likely to use social media in a range of contexts, from socialising, informal peer support, and formal academic tasks to building complex networks of potential employers and contacts.

Research conducted as part of the University of Edinburgh’s Managing Your Digital Footprint research project, funded under the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme, has been investigating how students across the University use social media, how they manage and curate their online presence, and the extent to which they encounter both risks and opportunities.

Two surveys (n=587 and n=870) from across the student body (UG, PG, PhD) have provided a vivid picture of the student experience of managing their digital identities. Ethnographic tracing work (n=6) has explored students’ personal approaches and conceptualisation of their digital footprints in more depth.

In this paper we will discuss some of the relevant findings of the Managing Your Digital Footprint research around current student use of social media, approaches to managing their representation of self, and their experiences of both negative behaviours, and positive support and opportunities in these spaces. We will also discuss how social media is enabling peer support and fostering learning.

We will discuss how these current student practices have implications for the use of social media in teaching and learning contexts. In particular we will discuss policy, support and the role of student handbooks and skills needs that arise from the use of social media in formal teaching and learning contexts, as well as some of the challenges and risks associated with informal social media use in HE (e.g. Student Facebook Group).

This work will be presented with reference to the wider context, including professional bodies’ guidance, and the current support paradigm locally at University of Edinburgh (e.g. Your Digital Edge) and as captured in e.g. Jisc Digital Student case studies.

Managing your digital footprint website

The Managing your digital footprint website includes ”Resources for educators” and “Resources and guidance” sections, both of which we think will be of interest to #SocMedHE15 participants. These sections are being updated as we publish resources created for this research project and University of Edinburgh service, and as we develop new resources, for example a new “e-professionalism” guide which will be going live in the coming weeks. We also welcome requests for new materials that might be useful.

Managing your digital footprint blog

This blog, aimed at students and university staff, shares updates from the Managing your digital footprint campaign and the associated University of Edinburgh, including news, key events, updates, practical tips, guest posts, etc.

Workshops 2Applying critical digital literacy to social media practice – Juliet Hinrichsen @juliet_hin – Sheffield Hallam University and Antony Coombes – University of Greenwich

Juliet begins by switching off the projector – despite being a digital literacy session, they won’t be running the session with technology. When you look at digital literacy there is a huge range of what is included… But when you look at literacy you see two strands: functional literacy – the skills and functions that are curriculumised for a particular person, skills that employers need is often the framing; and critical literacy – which is much more about agency and ownership of those skills, and empowering individuals in the society and culture they are in. And it was a set of intellectual skills. With social media there are sets of intellectual skills that are coming in, around academic skills, notions of what graduate skills are. And we wanted to find a common approach across different disciplinary contexts, a commonality of approach that could be taken and worked into the curriculum. So we’ll be showing you what we’ve come up with here.

Antony: We’ll be showing you the sorts of activities we proposed to do with staff – initially at Greenwich – and hopefully you’ll see how this could work in your own context… So we will give each table a card – either an artefact, a challenge or a scenario.

Juliet: We’d like you to identify skills, competences, knowledge, etc. that you’d need for the task or to avoid a particular scenario [we’ll be doing this with post it notes… so I’m pausing my typing… We have a challenge for a student to organise, publicise and disseminate a lecture series].

Juliet and Anotony note that these are discussion and diasnosis tools. The cards etc. are available openly on the web under CC licence – search for “The Five Resources Model of Critical Digital Literacy”.

Juliet: A lot of people have an agenda to try things out… But our students can feel like guinea pigs so sometimes that thinking is “is this a fair expectation etc”. On the project we used the tool with a series of senior university managers, and also e-skills people, because there are lots of stuff about skills students need in the workplace… But there are competing and conflicting discourses. Sometimes employers want competence with the software… Want the organisation not to get into trouble… Want creative solutions… It means different things to different people… And different things at different times. So the idea of this approach is to develop a common language – including the option not to engage.

Comment) How much have you thought about this as a student employability resource tool… Although some of that language won’t be familiar.

Anotony) At the moment these resources were created for a Jisc Developing Digital Literacies programme, and designed for a particular set of stakeholders but it would be great to see students using this themselves, but also to understand the phrasing and language used.

Juliet) We did run this workshop with some students and that seemed to work once we’d gone through definitions, as we do anyway… On the website you can see further definitions here to help with terminology…

Antony) There is also an element that in a workshop… By creating a closed framework, and a game… understanding and questioning that lets you work through ideas, understanding, etc. It helps make it an exploratory playspace in a way.

Juliet) Normally we’d expect the academic to use this tool and how to facilitate those needs… But it can be used by students too. The idea is to think through the dimensions, and as an academic to look at your module, your curriculum, and whether you are actually addressing all the key elements – you can use it as a type of diagnostic.

Comment) I’d almost use this as a marking framework for creation of a digital artefact… This could be a brilliant way to build a marking framework around a new assignment…

Juliet) That would be brilliant – let us know if you do that too! We’d love to share more examples, ways in which this has been useful. The resources online include a workshop schedule, etc. Some of the work we also did was around group work in the curriculum, and facilitation through social media. And also around assessment and social media use there. And this tool is adapted from a model in Canada that is well established with teachers, with a practical provenance to draw upon – “The four resources model of digital literacy”. We have a paper here that you are welcome to grab as well…

Antony: I have some reflections on running these workshops… There are a number of very visual card based resources out there… It’s an approach that gathers momentum. It’s very useful… It has that play aspect, and it seems to be a real catalyst for discussion – especially if we pull together colleagues from different disciplines, triggering discussion and engagement. It allows you to think through issues in this whole area in collaboration with others…

That first activity, without the model… That’s deliberately to avoid people who want to work sequently and might cause the process to be less discursive and more predictable. When you pull the model out then it triggers spotting of gaps, questioning, and pulls in deeper discussion. On a very pragmatic level the more space you can have physically in the workshop, the better… So you can see and move around between tables.

Juliet: If you do find ways of using it, just let us know… We are still finding things out ourselves…

Comment) What is the next step after the use of the model? How do you move this to the next step? You could, for instance, define learning outcomes from that…

Juliet) It’s a conceptual framework around a text that is complex, particularly because of the technologies and multiple media and narratives involved. It is hard to cover all the aspects, so there is a lot of flexibility… But a shared notion of the scope, and a responsible attitude to developing student skills is really ensuring that that full circle is there… It is about the wider picture… Who has power, who doesn’t. What discourses are inherant in this… How does group size fit in… How do I engage? And what do I want to project? About judgement and analysis… Our concern was that that whole critical discourse, so central to graduateness, has been missing since the 1980s in our use of technology in education… Interesting to hear Eric raising issues that weren’t in a presentation I saw of his two years ago, because that criticality is moving into the mainstream. The resistors, that divide, can be around those who use but don’t act critically with technology, and those that don’t engage but do critically engage and examine. And we didn’t use technology today – something that many have been really valuing that…

Comment) That polarisation of users and non users seems a real risk…

Juliet) Everybody has expertise they can contribute to doing digital literacy practically.

Short Papers 3Bridging the gap between student learning and professional identity: Using Twitter to promote engagement in education policy – Damien Fitzgerald @teacheruni and Ester Ehiyazaryan-White – Sheffield Hallam University

Damien: We are going to go relatively quickly through the presentation as we’d love to focus on your questions and discussion at the end.

The module we’ve used Twitter on is a policy module… Students hate looking at policy. We work with early childhood development students and no matter how up to date the literature is, it won’t be totally up to date. And we wanted students to engage in policy, to be part of what is going on… To be active rather than passive recipients. And to have them understand that they have something to say that is relevant to other people. In our experience as practitioners we can find ourselves moaning about what happens to us… But do we do enough to shape the policy agenda? And we wanted students to understand they can have a role in shaping it.

We had an SIOE Conference and there Twitter (#SIoEARC) was used as a space for discussion, for capturing that discussion and resources, and as a CPD space.

I’m going to jump forward to a conclusion here… We decided we would use Twitter if it would add something to the learning, and only then. So we had this 140 student, first year HE module on child and family policy. There is a real push for more interactive sessions – a managerial and pedagogical push I think… Students sometimes voice that they find lectures as a format boring… And no-one wants to give a boring lecture! And we also have an expectation for online input. We have (to a degree) increased use of social media by young people. And we wanted interaction with current policy makers and practitioners – and that’s why we picked Twitter, because that’s where those conversations are.

So, we collected and analysed the data through a survey aproach to data collection, in a mix of open and closed questions via Google docs. Pedagogically we used Twitter as part of lectures, as parts of seminars, and also in their own time – as part of that independent study time. We wanted to get students to follow us, to look at who we follow… It was interesting hearing from Eric earlier… He said there perhaps shouldn’t be a divide between the personal and the professional. But we absolutely want to make a divide. We make it clear to students that they should build a professional identity. They have a right to a private life though… so is that the right thing to say… Our own (myself and Ester) Twitter presences are very much professionally orientated. In addition we had group posts, we engaged specifically with a policy debate.

We used two hashtags (#epeshu and #epeshuCD), if we do it again, we’ll make it very specific to individual sessions. Students posted policy, documents, posts, etc. as part of a tweet, others also shared work in progress – pictures etc. to share with fellow students. One of the things we found useful was that if students worked together in one seminar they would share that work, as a group, on Twitter – to keep the posts to a managable useful number. We also saw students independently pick up on issues like tuition fees (this was during the election debate), bringing those policy debates in. We also saw students finding current debate, news, etc… And bring that together…

The other way students engaged was in discussions and exchange, particularly one to one responses from tutors. They liked that direct responses. If they weren’t responded to, that wasn’t making them happy but on a practical basis that isn’t always possible… That reflects the real world of Twitter… But we don’t know really how to manage that expectation/need.

Some figures here… About 56% of students use Twitter weekly usually – which is what we were requiring them to do (to respond at least once a week – 68% did this) although really it should have been daily… few did that (3%). We asked them to create a professional Twitter account with their student email account… Not sure what works well for that… is that the right approach, should we make them use their own Twitter account? The majority of students (90%) used mobile phones to use Twitter. There was a preference for group use of Twitter as a response (51%) and/or as part of lecture/seminar (39%) as we did for the all party parliamentary paper that Damien spoke about.

Some points about what we think students learnt from using Twitter… Learning from each other, forming their own opinion, understanding the global nature and what happens elsewhere and that it can be accessed in this medium. And to understand what can be learned from others. They also developed digital literacy skills, their footprint, how they choose who to follow, what that means, who follows them… And how to take part in an interactive debate, and to engage online. Includig sharing and engaging in research.

Some of the challenges… Not everyone agreed that bring your own device works… Many bring a phone but you can’t assume access. We had a real amount of noise – so much information and they found that confusing, that they have to sift, that they have to use the hashtag wisely… So we probably need more targeted support in our seminar sessions to help with that.

Surprisingly students felt it didn’t count as legitimate teaching and learning… A few felt that online and social media wasn’t legitimate. We need to address that, to understand it as a course… This is a face to face course so this is fairly new… Perception of not legitimate is therefore perhaps natural…

In terms of pedagogy we found help and guidance from the tutor are key. Composing a tweet was what led to learning was key – so authoring mattered, it forced them to understand how to summarise and understand the content shared. The Twitter lecture format was unpopular – we probably won’t do that again. Students appreciate when the activity is structures, interactive and they are guaranteed a response – as in the Northampton uni task. Need more help and instruction on how to use it. Group tweets work well… But also students need to compose directly.


Q1) What was the Twitter debate?

A1 – Damien) It was about current policy…. But we have students with different digital literacy and skills… They expect chalk and talk… It didn’t work… They want us to be the experts…

Comment) We did similar… with about 10 out of 110 taking part…

Comment) They are paying for that expertise I guess…

A1 – Damien) It worked in a structured space… We wanted students to be empowered…

Comment) Could that be to do with what looks like legitimacy  in schools students come from…

A1 – Damien) Possibly… But we also had Twitter here as a standalone aspect, in a course that is otherwise face to face… Maybe as part of a blended course it would be find…

Comment) How many tutors were on this course?

Damien) There were four but two of us were much more engaged and thats an issue too…

Comment) I don’t particularly see Twitter as a discussion board… It’s an information space… I’m here because BlackBoard isn’t good enough for students anymore, you need new spaces… But also policy is pretty new and unfamiliar for students. You could use Twitter polls, e.g. for election debates might have been interesting…

Damien) The polls are new… But Twitter was brilliant for sharing new policy papers that came out that day, into your lecture and discuss it right away. That was fantastic.

Comment) If you have discussion, then a tweet you have instant feedback.

Damien) And you can take those comments away. We were in a session on accessibility earlier… recapping and summarisation with Storify.. Using that hashtag help with summaries and students like that…

Q2) I was wondering about using student email addresses – which won’t persist beyond their studies – for a professional presence? Are students still using Twitter now the course has finished?

A2 – Ester) We don’t have that data yet, but we want to run another survey soon…

Short Papers 4Heart and mind: Student Facebook groups emphasise that learning is emotional as well as cerebral – Tony Coughlan @tjcoughlan and Leigh-Anne Perryman @laperryman – The Open University

Leigh-Anne: We were interested in seeing how some of our concerns and perceptions of Facebook Groups may connect to actual practice – of interest in our research but also as teaching staff. The OU has thousands of Facebook groups but we focused on 10 groups, 4 disciplines, and 2600 members looking at whether these are learning spaces, how learning takes place, what happens there. We did some capture of number and types of posts etc. But we also did qualitative analysis on the posts. We used Galley’s Community Indicators Framework (Galley et al 2010) which proposes community indicators of participation, cohesion, identity and creative capability – Galley defines that last aspect the pinnacle of group formation and community. We used that framework in our analysis.

Tony: We quickly realised that there were three entirely different types of groups… The first one we found were “Umbrella Groups” that are discipline wide, e.g. Psychology, to discuss study routes, career patterns etc. Then we had “Module Groups” – where students are part of the same 9 month module – it is common for students to in several groups, which might be one umbrella group throughout your studies, but then module groups changing year by year. Then the third type of group are Student Life Groups – this is where you find kitten pictures, social activities, exchange of books etc, a really strong disabled students groups, etc.

And are these truly educational groups? Well they varied greatly… We gave scores from 0-100% and we found that they became more educational, the later in the programme students were. And we also saw extended educational discussion – around career paths, sharing insights into the career and jobs market – very high level and valuable stuff. So, overall, definitely educational.

In terms of practices we saw that they facilitated learning and inclusion through peer guidance around academic practices, study skills, extensive emotional support, discussion of module content. They complement formal tuition, improving retention. That peer guidance around academic practices etc. is really really valuable, and uptake was very high… There were more students in groups than were studying – it included current, previous, and future students (assessing the module, thinking about it) and all taking part. There was extensive emotional support… We have seen amazing threads where people are about to drop out and the group piles in to support them, to help them stay on board. But as students progress it moves from emotional content towards more content driven discussion. So, yes, overall we think they complement formal tuition and the practices we witnessed would be helpful for student retention.

In terms of bad practice… We just didn’t see any at all. I’ve since joined a group of Facebook Group moderators. The percentage of rude comments, slating tutors etc… We see very little of it, and we suspect that actually that happens in small private spaces.

Leigh-Anne: The groups we looked at are all public and open, and that may be part of the reason for that…

Tony: These groups are also very inclusive, which really opens education to those with less experience, those who traditionally may be excluded from learning – which is in contrast to MOOCs, for instance, which seem to benefit elite well educated people.

Leigh-Anne: We were also really interested in implications for institutions. There is hostility from institutions about risk, poor practice… At best they want to take over, bring them into the fold… Our argument is that they work well because they are not like that, it is student led, needs led, bottom up. They work with each other to meet each other needs of various types… We saw a parallel with student societies… At the OU we offer £100 set up costs for new student societies. We think as institutions we need to recognise the value of these groups – they are helping with retention, with student skills… That helps the institution no doubt. We need to help and support – perhaps through moderators – but not step in and take over.

We said already that this is a small snapshot, to get more of sense of working like this. We need to build a bigger picture… The body of evidence to counter the institutional imperative to control things…


Q1) Can you say more about those careers discussions that were taking place?

A1 – Tony) Some of the strongest were in the law groups – these are students wondering where they will practice, what topics to pick for essays, what combinations of routes will lead to what types of roles… One of the nice things there is turning students into consumers into creators and sharers of knowledge – their placements, their experience.

Q2) How applicable do you think your research with OU students – who are very deliberate students, choosing to study, they have reputation already… that is different as a context to an on-campus undergraduate student perhaps… Giving those organisational concerns potentially a very different context.

A2 – Tony) We looked at 10 groups, we started with more than 10… One was an OU nursing group… And only late on did we realise that it was Ohio University in the US… But Eric was saying that US students are more like OU students than UK on campus students.

A2 – Leigh-Anne) A comparative study with the same method applied to another space…

Comment) All of our OU Masters programmes have (closed) Facebook groups… Also for those professional reasons etc…

A2 – Leigh-Anne) And that issue of understanding the privacy and ethics of those groups comes in there too, about being public and private.

A2 – Tony) About 5% of OU groups are public. We didn’t feel we needed to ask permission to use these spaces.

A2 – Leigh-Anne) In our ethics session earlier, we talked more about this but… We’ve anonymised everything here. In the UK the rules are quite conservative, the US veers towards public domain…

Comment) The Association of Internet Researchers guidance are lovely for that subtlety of public, expectations etc.

Comment) I’ve just done some research on undergraduate pharmacy students and their use of a Facebook group – and it reflected much of what you’ve found here… That’s an on-campus course. I purposely didn’t talk to these students earlier… Their activity has changed over time and has tailed off now the cohort is coming to the end of the degree. When I asked about this it came down to concerns about sponging off colleagues, focusing on jobs etc… But for me personally I’m more self-directed as I mature as a student… That was pure students perspective.

Q3) When I was a student we had a Facebook group but were asked not to use it… But we found it useful to share discussion, to share across cohorts… My main question to you is how you are branding this to those who are against their students using these spaces?

A3 – Tony) We identified a role in many of these groups where one student would make a connection between the university and the Facebook Group – a go between alerting friends to changes, updates, etc.

Comment) That’s an interesting issue… When a student emails… I assume it is for that student… I might answer it differently if intended to be broadcast.

[We are having some interesting discussion of barriers and privacy… short summary: stuff gets shared, students attitudes vary].

And with that, the event is finishing… A really interesting and stimulating day but would be great to have had more space for discussion of some of the interesting points raised…


Oct 202015
Digital Footprint campaign logo

I am involved in organising, and very much looking forward to, two events this week which I think will be of interest to Edinburgh-based readers of this blog. Both are taking place on Thursday and I’ll try to either liveblog or summarise them here.

If you are are based at Edinburgh University do consider booking these events or sharing the details with your colleagues or contacts at the University. If you are based further afield you might still be interested in taking a look at these and following up some of the links etc.

Firstly we have the fourth seminar of the new(ish) University of Edinburgh Crowd Sourcing and Citizen Science network:

Citizen Science and the Mass Media

Thursday, 22nd October 2015, 12 – 1.30 pm, Paterson’s Land 1.21, Old Moray House, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh.

“This session will be an opportunity to look at how media and communications can be used to promote a CSCS project and to engage and develop the community around a project.

The kinds of issues that we hope will be covered will include aspects such as understanding the purpose and audience for your project; gaining exposure from a project; communicating these types of projects effectively; engaging the press; expectation management;  practical issues such as timing, use of interviewees and quotes, etc.

We will have two guest presenters, Dave Kilbey from Natural Apptitude Ltd, and Ally Tibbitt from STV, followed by plenty of time for questions and discussion. The session will be chaired by Nicola Osborne (EDINA), drawing on her experience working on the COBWEB project.”

I am really excited about this session as both Dave and Ally have really interesting backgrounds: Dave runs his own app company and has worked on a range of high profile projects so has some great insights into what makes a project appealing to the media, what makes the difference to that project’s success, etc; Ally works as STV and has a background in journalism but also in community engagement, particularly around social and environmental projects. I think the combination will make for an excellent lunchtime session. UoE staff and students can register for the event via Eventbright, here.

On the same day we have our Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme seminar for the Managing Your Digital Footprints project:

Social media, students and digital footprints (PTAS research findings)

Thursday, 22nd October 2015, 2 – 3.30pm, IAD Resources Room, 7 Bristo Square, George Square, Edinburgh.

“This short information and interactive session will present findings from the PTAS Digital Footprint research http://edin.ac/1d1qY4K

In order to understand how students are curating their digital presence, key findings from two student surveys (1457 responses) as well as data from 16 in-depth interviews with six students will be presented. This unique dataset provides an opportunity for us to critically reflect on the changing internet landscape and take stock of how students are currently using social media; how they are presenting themselves online; and what challenges they face, such as cyberbullying, viewing inappropriate content or whether they have the digital skills to successfully navigate in online spaces.

The session will also introduce the next phase of the Digital Footprint research: social media in a learning & teaching context.  There will be an opportunity to discuss e-professionalism and social media guidelines for inclusion in handbooks/VLEs, as well as other areas.”

I am also really excited about this event, at which Louise Connelly, Sian Bayne, and I will be talking about the early findings from our Managing Your Digital Footprints project, and some of the outputs from the research and campaign (find these at: www.ed.ac.uk/iad/digitalfootprint).

Although this event is open to University staff and students only (register via the Online Bookings system, here), we are disseminating this work at a variety of events, publications etc. Our recent ECSM 2015 paper is the best overview of the work to date but expect to see more here in the near future about how we are taking forward this work. Do also get in touch with Louise or I if you have any questions about the project or would be interested in hearing more about the project, some of the associated training, or the research findings as they emerge.

Oct 192015

I am delighted to see that my University of Edinburgh colleagues in Learning, Teaching and Web Services, working in collaboration with the Careers Service and the Institute for Academic Development, are piloting a new “Edinburgh Award (Digital Ambassadors“, to encourage and recognise the digital best practices of students at the University.

The Edinburgh Award, which recognises student excellence in activities beyond the core curriculum, is part of a University-wide employability initiative. The Awards were piloted back in 2011/12 and are now a mainstream concept at the University, with students able to gain awards for their contribution across a wide variety of activities, from volunteering and student societies through to peer support and mentoring. The new Digital Ambassadors award being piloted this winter will specifically be addressing excellence in digital literacy and practice through evidence of hands on contribution and activities – across areas such as social media, coding, etc., participation in personal development sessions and short form reflective writing on their experience.

I am really excited to see how this pilot goes since the Award builds upon, and works with, Managing Your Digital Footprint (now mainstream across the University). It also addresses a real growing need for broader graduate skills around digital literacy, and the need to evidence those skills properly. As someone who has been involved in recruiting staff I know that it can be complex assessing what a candidate has taken from, e.g. running their own blog: for some people it may be a matter of developing content strategy, monitoring progress towards appropriate goals, developing their writing style, etc., but for others it may be a very basic understanding of how to edit and share a post. The Digital Ambassador Edinburgh Award requires students to present a portfolio evidencing “the student’s contribution to online and technology excellence” which has taken place during the Award process which will, I think, prove to be an invaluable asset to the students themselves when it comes to presenting their skills and experience to employers.

You can find out much more about the award, the work involved, and how contribution is assessed over on the Your Digital Edge: Edinburgh Award page. Current University of Edinburgh students at all levels, whether online distance learners or campus-based for their courses, are invited to register their interest by 3rd November 2015.

The Edinburgh Award is part of the “Your Digital Edge” offering to students: an online hub and community supporting opportunities for, and participation in, digital literacy activities and for academic outcomes, employability and lifelong learning. Lots more on this initiative on the Your Digital Edge website, or you can follow @DigitalEduni on Twitter or Facebook.


Sep 282015

Today I am at the National Library of Scotland for a Clipper project workshop (info here). Clipper is a project to create a content creation tool for multimedia, with funding from Jisc.

After an introduction from Gill Hamilton Intro it’s over to John Casey who will be leading this through the day…

Introduction – John Casey

The tagline for the project is basically Clipper 1. 2. 3: Clip, Organise, Share.

We want your input early on in the process here but that means we will be trying out a prototype with you – so there will be bugs and issues but we are looking for your comments and feedback etc. The first outing of Clipper was from 2009, as a rapid development project which used Flash and Flex. Then it went to sleep for a while. Then we started working on it again when looking at Open Education in London

Trevor: I’m Trevor Collins – research fellow at the Open University. My background is very technical – computer engineering, HCI but all my research work is around the context of learning and teaching. And we have a common interest in HTML5 video. And my interest is working, with you, to ensure this will be helpful and useful.

Will: My name is Will and my background is engineering. Originally I worked with John on this project in Flash etc. but that’s really died out and, in the meantime HTML has really moved on a long way and with video in HTML5 we can just use the browser as the foundation, potentially, for some really interesting application. For me my interest today is in the usability of the interface.

With that we have had some introductions… It is a really interesting group of multimedia interested folk.

John Casey again:

This project is funded by Jisc as part of the Research Data Spring Initiative, and that is about technical tools, software and service solutions to support the researchers workflow, the use and mangement of their data. Now it’s interesting that this room is particuarly interested in teaching and learning, we are funded for researcher use but of course that does not proclude teaching and learning use.

The project partners here are City of Glasgow College as lead, The Open University and ?

So, what is Clipper? One of the challenges is explaining what this project is… And what it is not. So we are punting it as a research tool for digital research with online media / time-based media (ie audio/video data). The aim is to create a software toolkit (FOSS) deployed in an institution or operated as a n national service. We are about community engagement and collavorative design delivering a responsive design. And that’s why we are here.

So, why do this? Well time-based media is a large and “lumpy” data format, hard to analyse and even harder to share your analysis. There are barriers to effective (re)use of audio and video data including closed collections (IPR) and proprietary tools and formats. So we want to be able to create a “virtual clip” – and that means not copying any data, just metadata. So start and stop points on reference URI. And then also being able to organise that clip, to annotate it, and group into cliplists. So playlists of clips of excerpts etc. And then we can share using cool URIs for those clips and playlists.

This means bringing audio and video data to live, enabling analysis without breaking copyright or altering the soure data. We think it had streamlined workflows and facilitate collaboration. And we think it will lead to new things. It is secure and safe – respecting existing access permissions to data and does not alter or duplicate the original files. And it creates opportunities for citizen science/citizen research; user generated content – e.g. crowd sourcing etdata and user analytics. Colleagues in Manchester, for instance, have a group of bus enthusiasts who may be up for annotating old bus footage. The people who use your archives or data can generate analytics or para data and use of that can be useful and interesting as well.

So Clipped is… An online media analysis and collaboration tool for digital researchers (ie it supports human-based qualitative analysis, collavoboration and sharing. It is not an online audio/video editing tool. It is not a data repository. It is not using machine analysis of time based media. 


John: The best way to understand this stuff is to demonstrate and test this stuff out. We are going to take you through three workflows – these are just examples: (1) One source file, many clips, (2) Many source files, many clips, (3) Many source files, many clips, and annotations.

Over to Trevor and Will for examples.

Trevor: Hopefully as we work through these examples we should get more questions etc. and as we look through these examples.

Do bear in mind that what we will show you today is not a finished product, it’s a prototype. We want you to tell us what is good, what needs changing… You are the first of our three workshops so you get first say on the design! We want clear ideas on what will be useful… We hope it is fairly straightforward and fairly clear. If it isn’t, just tell us.

So, Workflow (1): Analysing a source file – the idea is an app developer (researcher) interviewing a user when testing an app. So the flow is:

  • Create and open a new project
  • Add the source file to the project
  • Preview the file – to find emerging themes etc.
  • Create clips – around those themes.
  • Add clips to cliplist

Now Will is demonstrating the system.

Will: I am going to create a new project, and I can edit the details later if I want to. And then I go in to edit the cliplist… And one of the collections included here is YouTube, as well as the BBC Collection (looks like their journalism trainee stuff), etc. I can choose a video, preview it, then I can choose to create a clip… I do this by watching the video and clicking “start” and “end” at the appropriate sections of the clip. I can then give the clip a title, and add a description and save it. Then close it. And any clips I create are kept in a “Project Cliplist”. Behind the scenes this is also getting saved to a database behind the scenes…

Trevor: So here we use the original source file, and we select a stop and start point… All the examples are based on video but the same player will do the same thing for audio. The intention is to support both audio and video within the same video.

Q1: What happens if you have a clip on a password protected Vimeo, etc.

Will: You have to have access permissions to the video… So it would attempt to play a video, and then that would be stopped.

Q1: But you would want students to be able to login, perhaps

Will: Would the tool then direct you to login, to anticipate that up front when you watch the list

Trevor: If you are signed in to Google, or signed in to your VLE, then as they would elsewhere in the browser, it will play clips. But if you are not logged in, no it won’t work. It would be nice to offer a pop up for sign in when needed. But we’ve tried that with private YouTube (only) so far.

Q2: Is there a way to separate out audio and video to save to different channels… So that you can strip down to just the audio… Maybe you just want to capture that.

Will: It’s not something that can be done in the browser, that’s more a server side function…

John: You could mark up the audio and video in Clipper. And then use that server side to extract the audio… And put the time references onto that.

Comment: Could hide the video, and play the sound…

Trevor: Hadn’t heard of that… But viewer is under our control… Could put a black filter over the video for a section.

Q3: The clips you are generating, can you tag them?

Will: Yes

Trevor: Thinking of ways to tag them, and to scale that up, is something to think about…

Workflow 2: Analysing Multiple Files

  • Create and open a new project
  • Add multiple source files to the project
  • Preview the files
  • Create clips
  • Add clips to cliplist

And the scenario we have in mind here is labs reviewing results across a distributed research team.

Will demonstrating a clip creation process using a Wellcome Collection video. 

Will: For some of our videos we can create thumbnails but that varies depending on rights etc. so instead we have a generic icon at the moment. And, as you can see, you can combine videos from multiple sources. So no matter what the resource you can create groups of clips.

Workflow 3: Adding Annotations to clips

  • Create and open a new project
  • Add multiple source files to the project
  • Preview the files and create clips
  • Add annotations to clips
  • Add clips to cliplist
  • So the example scenario is representations of climate change in mass media.

Trevor: Now this is where we’d particularly appreciate your comments on structures or tagging or approaches that might work, and that might scale.

Over to Will to demo again.

Will: So, when I have selected a clip I can click to annotate, and add an annotation to that clip at that moment. These annotations can then be associated with a particular second or moment in the video. And that is added to the clips metadata. And so we have time based annotation. And we will be adding a play button that enables us to jump to that moment in a video… And that information can be sharable – the clip,  the annotations, and the jumping to a moment in time.

Trevor: So it’s fairly light weight and pretty much wire framed… But hopefully enough there to understand the functionality.

Q4: Will annotations pop up when you reach them?

Will: Could highlight the clips…

Q4: Would be really useful, somewhere on the screen.

Comment: Even just a scrolling panel.

Q4: But also thinking about how it plays in fullscreen…

Will: Have seen demo on full screen video…

Q5: If you wanted to annotate a whole video would you have the option to do that as one clip?

Will: Yes, just use beginning and end of the video for a clip.

Q6: Would be useful to be able to use the hashtag or keywords etc. that a researcher wants to use – to easily find all the clips…

Will: So you could tag an annotation, or search for a keyword.

Comment: And see spread of tags etc.

Q5: The different ways the researcher wants to catergorise things.

Q7: All the moving image content on our site is only licensed for one site… Would this sit on the organisations site.. Where is it going?

Trevor: The YouTube videos are on their server… Played with this tool but the file stays on your server. Rights wise it would depend on how it is phrased. If hosted on your domain, then this would break it… But you could do this in house on your own system… Installing this software.

Q8: What if you have a video that specifies only the servers/IPs that can be used – which you can do on Vimeo – how would that work with Vimeo?

Trevor: I think it would work the same way… So if the user accesses the video from an appropriate IP range, it should work etc. But examples like that would be great to hear, so that we can address this.

Q9: How does transition between clips work?

Will: We can determine end of a clip, and fade out, fade in… But there are some buffering challenges potentially.

John: In the tool being tried out, the clips are on a host site… They are out on the web… Not on our demo site. Wellcome, BBC, YouTube is all coming in from different sites… So transitions have to take account of that.

Will: I am using the open source VideoJS player here… It does fire off nice events that allows us to indicate where clips begin and end… with a bit of jQuery.

John: Colleagues in North West Film Archive want to join clips up fairly seamlessly… But a gap or clear demarcation may be interesting.

Will: On the original flash version, to mask interruption, we took description from next clip and displayed that to smooth the transition.

Q9: Should leave to end user.

Trevor: Should maybe leave to end user for two or three options….

JOhn: We have been discussing options for end users… Because of how it is coded, it would be very feasible to have different options. Do I want to see the annotations this way or what… That flexibility does seem like it should be on the road map.

Trevor: May need to be decided at point of viewing.

Q10: Is this something Final Cut Pro could help, in terms of approach?

Will: Could be…

Trevor: Range of options is good.

Will: Almost drag and drop there…

Q11: Can you reorder the clips?

Will: That’s the intention, so yes. And likely drag and drop.

Q12: What about a web resource becomes available… And disappears… Hyperlinks can disappear and that would be a concern when I come to share it… And when I invest that time. And it’s quite likely… If a web link is dead, it’s a problem.

Trevor: With the Clipper server thing… If it was NLS, or a service based with the archive might be more trusted?

Q12: Not about trust, but fragility of web links…

Trevor: If we can surface the availability of content – if a source we know expires – we can show this.

Q12: I think that notifications would be useful here. But maybe also something that can be cached or kept so there is a capture of that.

Trevor: You don’t create the clip of video… But the annotation can be retained… And it can be saved and downloaded. So that even if the clip disappears, you might be able to switch the video URL and reapply that annotation.

Q12: Notifications would be really important.

Trevor: Managing a service that pushed out those emails could be really useful.

Will: We discussed that it would be possible to have video, captured by fancy proprietary video – once converted to e.g. MP4 – to annotate, but then also direct back to the original format.

Q13: You are pulling things through from websites elsewhere. If you make your own interview, can you upload it here… Or do you upload elsewhere and pull in URL?

Trevor: You can refer to a file on your own machine, or a repository, or on a private YouTube. But annotating a video that sits on your own machine is a good one for some researchers, e.g. on sensitive work etc.

Will: We have one challenge here… A fake path is used in the browser, and that can change… So you might have to browse to recreate that fake path…

John: But markup should transfer when you upload a video somewhere else – and upload a Clipper document that matches up with it…

Now watching a locally stored example – school children’s perceptions of researchers…

Q14: Question from me: Can you display rights information here – they should be available in metadata with video and/or APIs and are really important to indicate that.

John: We do take in that information, so it should be possible to display that… And we could do that with icons – e.g. Creative Commons symbols etc.

Q14: You might also want to include icons for locally hosted items – so that the playlist creator knows what can or cannot be seen by others (who likely won’t be able to access a file on a local machine).

Comment: For our collections the rights information is available in the API so it should be straightforward to pull in – that will apply to many other collections too (but not all)

Trevor: In addition to those indications it could be useful to foreground where rights information isn’t available.

Q15: My question is a bit different… Maybe how the clip is created… There are so many people who share clips and compilations of video items…

Trevor: We get to the same place really, but without reediting those videos etc.

Q16 – Me again: US vs UK copyright, particularly thinking about Fair Use content which might be legally acceptable in the US, but not in the UK.

John: Increasing ubiquity of video and audio online makes this stuff easier… But legal issues are there…

Q16 – Me again: In a way that level of usage, and so that issue would be a great problem to have though!

And now we are moving into testing out Clipper… So things will be quiet here… 

Comments on Demo

C1: You’ve only got one timestamp for annotations – would be useful to have end point too. And being able to annotation a particular frame/part of the frame to annotate as well. There are plugins for VideoJS with Overlay HTML. Being able to link annotations – link one to another would be useful.

Trevor: We thought about clips as URLs, and playlists as URLs. But we could also think about annotations as URLs.

C1: Version control on annotations would also be useful.

Trevor: Useful to think of that…

C2: A slide for the beginning or the end with credits etc. generated in the system would be useful. Would help with rights information.

Will: Also in Overlay VideoJS as well.

C3: General comment – do not understand technophobia of your audience. Web based service is a real advantage. Not many options, nothing to download, that is important. Capitalise on that… At the moment it looks more complex than it is. Has to not just be simple, but also look simple and user friendly.

Trevor: Absolutely. And that interface will change.

C4: I was wondering about nudging start and stop points…

Will: Set to read only now, was thinking about nudge buttons.

Trevor: Would you want to type or to have forward/back nudge buttons.

C4: probably both.

C5: I think you will need real usability testing to watch people using the tool, rather than asking them… And that will highlight where there is any misunderstanding. When I chose a video for a collection. How do I do anything creative with those clips… To merge or play all etc…

Trevor: Some of that sounds like video editing… If for those clips you want to change the order… You can shuffle them. You can’t merge them…

C5: Maybe you’d edit down elsewhere… Something to do with the content I have.

John: Are you wanting to select clips from different clip lists and then use in a new one?

C5: Yes, that’s one thing…

Will: That’s come up several times, and we do feel we need to add that to a roadmap… Perhaps creation of new video file maybe as compilation…

C6: From a users point of view you need confirmations on screen to highlight things have been created, saved, etc. For creating a clip, start and end, I didn’t get any visual confirmation. Need that to make it clear.

Trevor: Those are critical important things… Hopefully as we go through these workshops we’ll add that functionality.

Will: Notification systems might be useful in general within the system.

C7: It would be helpful to have maybe a pop up, or information symbol to remind you to cut off the clip. Thinking about the likely users here. Would be useful to have reminders.

Will: I think there is a lot to do on annotations.

C8: Searchable annotations would be really useful. And find all the relevant annotations. Things like NVivo do that.

Will: If anyone has looked on the JSON, I’ve had a tags property on the clip, but I can see we need that on the annotations.

John: On the annotations, people from Arts and Humanities suggest that an annotation could be an essay or an article. Several projects want storytelling tools using archives… The annotations side is potentially quite big in terms of length, and function it plays. From a rights point of view, an annotation could have it’s own rights.

C9 (me): That issue of annotations, also raises the issue of what the playback experience is. And how annotations etc. are part of that…

C10: How do you publish this content? Do you share the playlist? Do you need a Clipper account to view it?

Trevor: Well it may be the document of different clips… Maybe for projects you can invite people to join that project. Talking through the workflow might be useful. Sharing the link out there is something to think about.

Will: It may be just having a player, with a pane to the annotations. With a URL that works through the playlists, just as read only view. So we hope to have a sharable published HTML document to share. And could be maybe cached/saved for the long term (but not including original videos).

John: Could also have an embed code. Clipper fires information to a database, also into directories as HTML documents. If the database goes down, you still have reclaimable HTML documents. And you can send an embed code OR the HTML documents. Very transportable and friendly to Web 2.0 type stuff. But because in HTML, could deposit into catalogues etc. So good for long term.

Trevor: Any other ideas or comments please note them and share them with us – all of your comments are very welcome.

Now, after lunch we will have more discussion which includes implications for data management, service development and policy, etc. And then we’ll talk a bit more about technical aspects.

And now, for lunch… 

Discussion: Implications for Data Management

John: When we are looking at data management and implications: whose data? where stored? how is it stored and managed? why store and manage it? formats? retention? archive/deep freeze (available but maybe off site/harder to get to)?

Trevor: So, in your tables have a chat at your tables. And then we’ll feed back from these…

We’ve been discussing this so now for responses/ideas/comments… 

Table 1: If it’s research data a lot of this will be sensitive, and have to be within your control and your own students…

John: May also be issues of students data.

Table 1: We do use some cloud based services for student data though, so there must be some possibility there.

John: There is some of this in the paper economy, e.g. with assessment. But we find ways to do this. We are transitioning paper based to digital model… Perhaps we see problems as bigger than they are… And how long would you want to keep for a long time?

Table 1: Some for long term, some quite short.

Table 2: Some funders will have requirements too. But we were also talking about non-public video content… Maybe need two systems with permissions lined up… Asking students to sign in twice can be confusing. Institutional single sign on might be useful – map permissions across. But can the system recognise right to access data.

John: It could, and single sign on as a solution.

Comment: My students have access to very private recordings that have to be secure and has to be retained in that way, and keep it secure.

John: This can work as creating annotations, and can share pointer to the video clips… Outsider could view the annotations… It’s both a technical and policy issues. So you would tell students about protective identities etc.

Comment: password protection, encryption etc. might be important.

Comment: security of annotations may also be quite important.

Table 3: A question really: if it is someone else’s data and shared under CC licence (ND) – do clipper clips count as modifications or not?

Trevor: We think not but we should look at that.

John: But it might be fine, you are just excerpting the content, not cutting it. But could risk “passing off”.

Comment: You are still only showing part of a video, the whole video is available.

Comment: Could ensure links to full video… to ensure context is there.

Trevor: Again about how we present the content and it’s context, rights, etc.

John: It’s a user education issue, and a policy issue…

Table 4: We didn’t get beyond “whose data” and were particularly thinking about researcher data, and whether that data should be available to reuse by the institution, the funder, other researchers etc. And what are the funders requirements for that data etc. So really about how Clipper might be used inside that data environment.

Trevor: Funders are requiring data – some of it – to be made available openly.

Comment: Although not totality of data, it’s usually what supports publications. But open access aspect is certainly important. Clipper could find its way into that kind of environment and could be a good tool to show off some of your research.

John: And to do that in an efficient way… Maybe that FigShare concept of sharing data, even if not successful… Could have optional access to wider data sets, to the compressed video for easy viewing but maybe also HD huge files too…

Discussion: Policy

John: So what we’ve talked about already leads us to policy implications for service development. This may be legal issues (e.g. copyright, IPR); user generated content; licenses; access management; content management; data protection; data ownership and institutional IPR. Traditionally publishers owned the means of production and distribution and have high status with the University. But those issues of data ownership and institutional IPR are not well thought through. And that user generated content has issues of rights, license, access management.

After a lively discussion…

Table 1: How much do you need to worry about, how much is for institutions to worry about. Like data ownership etc. But you may need to worry about as a platform.

John: But we may need platform to support that, and therefore need to understand local platforms.

Table 1: And for access you’d want a lot of granularity of who might access these things, might be a large group or public, or might just be you, or just be a small group.

John: Clarity that that is possible could be a big winner.

Table 1: Having users fill in a field where they can state what they think the copyright is.

Trevor: A statement of intent?

Table 1: Yes, something that allows you to have a comeback is a collections owner comes back…

John: So it’s good for tracking, for due diligence. And maybe good for institutional procedures – for research projects where you need to know the rights involved. Might help raise awareness.

Table 2: Policy implications wise, there aren’t really any cases that shouldn’t already be covered by institutional policies. Licenses, derivative works, etc. should already by covered by institutional policies. Maybe some special cases…

John: Are the policies fit for purpose?

Comment: It is usually awareness not existence of policies which is usually

Table 3: Possibly a pop up indicating license and appropriate usage, so you know what you can do. Second aspect, if you can legally modify videos – why not do on desktop system offline, if not then how can this comply. Only the making of copies that this removes the issue for. Sorry for a super defeatist comment but how does this differ from what else is there.

Comment: I come at this from two places… Both the way into lumpy content, interrogate, search it, etc… And then also this more creative tool where you make something else available on the internet – alarm bells start ringing. For the creative side, why not use iMovie etc.

Comment: It’s not a video editing tool, it’s annotation. So clearly not that…

John: Useful to use, to make sure we describe it appropriately. It’s a challenge. We need to make it clear what we think can be done with it. We’ll take those comments on board and blog about it to try and make this all clearer.

Trevor: If you were just making clips.. .but in the context of research it’s more about annotations and descriptions etc. But when you have gone to that effort, you want it to look nice.

John: One of our original ambitions was to make it as easy for researchers to quote video and time based media as for print…

Comment: For digital preservation… preserving video is relatively difficult and is an ongoing process. Clips are basically JSON descriptions – easy to preserve.

Comment: A very good content. But I think being very clear on what this thing is for… And making it really good for these things. Really focusing on the annotations and textual aspects more.

Discussion: Service Development Implications

Trevor: Now for our final section we will talk about service development implications: scale – should it be individual, institutional, regional, national, international? Why bother? Benefits? Technical challenges – storage (e.g. 132 MB/s or 463 GB/h), transcoding and archiving; costs; metadata and data models.

Again, much discussion… 

John: We talked about scale of this system… There may be a role here for an individual service… For many here will be institutional… But may be national or international. Bandwidth could be an issue depending on resolution.

Table 4: Embargoes, on metadata, and issues of privacy, access, and license for annotations for the same reasons.

John: What about bandwidth?

Table 2: It depends on the video delivery…

Table 1: It’s not your issue really. It’s for content providers…

Trevor: It’s more institutional stuff then…

Comment: The system depends on you having a consistent URI for a playable version of a video… That may be an issue depending on how files are held.

John: What about a Service Level Definitions around persistent URIs? Would that fly?

John: And what about the role of cloud providers?

Several in the room indicate they are using them… 

Comment: Making annotations public will help others find your data.

John: Annotations coming up and up as being the things.

Comment: Costs wise it needs to be open source for people to import themselves? And if so, how can you skin it and brand it. And how often does it need maintenance and updates.

John: We are looking at sustainability options, that’s something we want to look at.

Trevor: This is currently funded under Jisc Research Data Spring initiative, and that is done in 3 phases… First stage is reaching out to show there is demand. This phase we are in now is developing our prototype it. And the third phase is to look at sustainability, things like support, update, development community, etc.

Trevor: The last bit for the day is to cover some technical stuff and go through some of that…

Technical Overview – Will

The system generates and stores HTML5 documents. And generates sharable URIs of playable clips and cliplists. JSON data structures (import/export CSV or XML). PHP scripts data handling with MySQL database and JavaScript interface. Responsible layout – computer, tablet and phone (already tested on iPad). And actually as you use a video on your system you can take a video in situ on tablet/phone. Will be free and open source software – the code will be posted to: https://gthub.com/reachwill/clipper.

So, just to demonstrate, when you have a playlist you hit “publish” to publish your playlist in various formats. At the moment generates JSON data. A nice quick way to describe data. Annotations are becoming very important so we will need some comma separated tags, and access privileges as well.

Comments: Is there documentation for the code so far?

Trevor: Not yet but software and documentation

Will: Does anyone have any questions about technology elsewhere. We are using VideoJS. We are hosting this in a WordPress installation at the moment – that’s for logins and id generation as well.

Comment: API for Clipper? So others can use the annotations etc.

John: Also discussing a metadata editor for those creating their own annotations.

Comment: If sensitive data, and videos, then annotations might also want to be private… Rather than being on your server..

Trevor: We’d suggest an institutional instance.

Comment: Or could they get a private instance from you?

John: We are not at that stage yet, but that could be an option.

Complex: We haven’t talked much about searching capabilities.

Will: Anything in this text content should be searchable… Might be able to searchable across the board… Might be that when sensitive and private you might have to request access rather than seeing it.

John: Worth making the point that it has to be easy to import data into Clipper, and export data out of it. If this is in a library or archive… We could ingest catalogue information… Could ingest metadata and then come up with an instance to point to. So, e.g. for Scottish Screen Archive you could use shotlist to create clips automatically. So lots of potential when metadata rich environment. So could take in metadata to help generate your collection.

Trevor: Within a project you can search within that project, or more when at the higher level… So we want search to be contextual…

Comment: I think for effective searching you are going to want to have a more complex annotation data structure – so you can do filters, indexing etc. so less computationally taxing and more accurate for users.

Comment: Does the system log who has created which annotation? So you can track who does what on a research project.

John: And with that we will bring it to a close… Thank you all for coming.

Thanks to John, Trevor and Will for today’s workshop and to Gill and the NLS for hosting. If you are interested in attending the next Clipper workshops you can register/find out more here: http://blog.clippertube.com/

May 082015
Image of surgical student activity data presented by Paula Smith at the Learning Analytics Event

Today I am at the UK Learning Analytics Network organised by the University of Edinburgh in Association with Jisc. Read more about this on the Jisc Analytics blog. Update: you can also now read a lovely concise summary of the day by Niall Sclater, over on the Jisc Analytics blog.

As this is a live blog there may be spelling errors, typos etc. so corrections, comments, additions, etc. are welcome. 

Introduction – Paul Bailey

I’m Paul Bailey, Jisc lead on the Learning Analytics programme at the moment. I just want to say a little bit about the network. We have various bits of project activities, and the network was set up as a means for us to share and disseminate the work we have been doing, but also so that you can network and share your experience working in Learning Analytics.

Housekeeping – Wilma Alexander, University of Edinburgh & Niall Sclater, Jisc

Wilma: I am from the University of Edinburgh and I must say I am delighted to see so many people who have traveled to be here today! And I think for today we shouldn’t mention the election!

Niall: I’m afraid I will mention the election… I’ve heard that Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond have demanded that Tunnucks Teacakes and Caramel Wafers must be served at Westminster! [this gets a big laugh as we’ve all been enjoying caramel wafers with our coffee this morning!]

I’ll just quickly go through the programme for the day here. We have some really interesting speakers today, and we will also be announcing the suppliers in our learning analytics procurement process later on this afternoon. But we kick off first with Dragan.

Doing learning analytics in higher education: Critical issues for adoption and implementation – Professor Dragan Gašević, Chair in Learning Analytics and Informatics, University of Edinburgh

I wanted to start with a brief introduction on why we use learning analytics. The use of learning analytics has become something of a necessity because of the growing needs of education – the growth in the number of students and the diversity of students, with MOOCs being a big part of that realisation that many people want to learn who do not fit our standard idea of what a student is. The other aspect of MOOCs is their scale: as we grow the number of students it becomes difficult to track progress and the feedback loops between students and instructions are lost or weakened.

In learning analytics we depend on two types of major information systems… Universities have had student information systems for a long time (originally paper, computerised 50-60 years ago), but they also use learning environments – the majority of universities have some online coverage of this kind for 80-90% of their programmes. But we also don’t want to exclude other platforms, including communications and social media tools. And no matter what we do with these technologies we leave a digital trace, and that is not a reversible process at this point.

So, we have all this data but what is the point of learning analytics? It is about using machine learning, computer science, etc. approaches in order to inform education. We defined learning analytics as being “measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting” of education but actually that “how” matters less than “why”. It should be about understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which learning occurs. And it is important not to forget that learning analytics are there to understand learning and are about understanding what learning is about.

Some case studies include Course Signals at Purdue. They use Blackboard for their learning management system. They wanted to predict students who would successfully complete students, and to identify those at risk. They wanted to segment their students into at high risk, at risk, or not at risk at all. Having done that they used a traffic light system to reflect that, and they used that traffic light system for students was shown both to staff and students. When they trialed that (Arnold and Pistilli 2012) with a cohort of students, they saw greater retention and success. But if we look back at how I framed this, we need to think about this in terms of whether this changes teaching…

So, also at Purdue, they undertook a project analysing the email content of instructors to students. They found that more detailed feedback, they just increased the summative feedback. So this really indicates that learning analytics really has to feed into changes in teaching practices in our institutions, and we need our learning analytics to provide signalling and guidance that enables teaching staff to improve their practice, and give more constructive feedback. (see Tanes, Arnold, King and Remnet 2011).

University of Michigan looked at “gateway course” as a way to understand performance in science courses (see Wright, McKay, Hershock, Miller and Triz 2014). They defined a measure for their courses, which was “better than expected”. There were two measures for this: previous GPA, and goals set by students for the current course. They then used predictive models for how students could be successful, and ways to help students to perform better than expected. They have also been using technology designed for behavioural change, which they put to use here… Based on that work they generated personalised messages to every students, based on rational for these students, and also providing predicted performance for particular students. For instance an example here showed that a student could perform well beyond their own goals, which might have been influenced by the science course not being their major. The motivator for students here was productive feedback… They interviewed successful students from previous years, and used that to identify behaviours etc. that led to success, and they presented that as feedback from peers (rather than instructors). And i think this is a great way to show how we can move away from very quantitative measures, towards qualitative feedback.

So, to what extent are institutions adopting these approaches? Well, there are very few institutions with institution-wide examples of adoptions. For instance University of Michigan only used this approach on first year science courses. They are quite a distributed university – like Edinburgh – which may be part of this perhaps. Purdue also only used this on some course.

Siemans, Dawson and Lynch (2014) surveyed the use of learning analytics in the HE sector, asking about the level of adoption and type of adoption, ranking these from “Awareness” to “Experimentation” to “Organisation/Students/Faculty”, “Organisational Transformation” and “Sector Transformation”. Siemens et al found that the majority of HE is at the Awareness and Experimentation phase. Similarly Goldstein and Katz (2005) found 70% of institutions at phase 1, it is higher now but bear in mind that 70% doesn’t mean others are further along that process. There is still much to do.

So, what is necessary to move forward? What are the next steps? What do we need to embrace in this process? Well lets talk a bit about direction… The metaphors from business analytics can be useful, borrow lessons from that process. McKinsey offered a really interesting business model of: Data – Model – Transform (see Barton and Court 2012). That can be a really informative process for us in higher education.

Starting with Data – traditionally when we choose to measure something in HE we refer to surveys, particularly student satisfaction surveys. But this is not something with a huge return rate in all countries. More importantly surveys are not the accurate thing. We also have progress statistics – they are in our learning systems as are data but are they useful? We can also find social networks from these systems, from interactions and from course registration systems – and knowing who students hang out with can predict how they perform. We also find that we can get this data, but then how do we process and understand that data? I know some institutions find a lack of IT support can be a significant barrier to the use of learning analytics.

Moving onto Model… Everyone talks about predictive modelling, the question has to be about the value of a predictive model. Often organisations just see this as an outsourced thing – relying on some outsider organisation and data model that provides solutions, but does not do that within the context of understanding what the questions are. And the questions are critical.

And this is, again, where we can find ourselves forgetting that learning analytics is about learning. So there are two things we have to know about, and think about, to ensure we understand what analytics mean:

(1) Instructional conditions – different courses in the same school, or even in the same programme will have a different set of instructional conditions – different approaches, different technologies, different structures. We did some research on an University through their Moodle presence and we found some data that was common to 20-25% of courses, but we did identify some data you could capture that were totally useless (e.g. time online). And we found some approaches that explained 80% of variance, so for example extensive use of Turnitin – not just for plagiarism but also by students for gathering additional feedback. One of our courses defied all trends… they had a Moodle presence but when we followed up on this, found that most of their work was actually in social media so data from Moodle was quite misleading and certainly a partial picture. (see Gasevic, Dawson, Rogers, Gasevic, 2015)

(2) Learner agency – this changes all of the time. We undertook work on the agency of learners, based on log data from a particular course. We explored 6 clusters using cluster matching algorithms… We found that there was a big myth that more time on task would lead to better performance… One of our clusters spent so much time online, another was well below. When we compared clusters we found the top students were that group spending the least time online, the other cluster spending time online performed average. This shows that this is a complex questions. Learning styles isn’t the issue, learning profiles is what matters here. In this course, one profile works well, in another a different profile might work much better. (see Kovanovic, Gasevic, Jok… 201?).

And a conclusion for this section is that our analytics and analysis cannot be generalised.

Moving finally to Transform we need to ensure participatory design of analytics tools – we have to engage our staff and students in these processes early in the process, we won’t get institutional transformation by relying on the needs of statisticians. Indeed visualisations can be harmful (Corrin and de Barba 2014). The University of Melbourne looked at the use of dashboards and similar systems and they reported that for students that were high achieving, high GPA, and high aspirations… when they saw that they were doing better than average, or better than their goals, they actually under-perform. And for those doing less well we can just reinforce issues in their self efficacy. So these tools can be harmful if not designed in a critical way.

So, what are the realities of adoption? Where are the challenges? In Australia I am part of a study commissioned by the Australian Government in South Australia. This is engaging with the entire tertiary Australian institution. We interviewed every VC and management responsible for learning analytics. Most are in phase 1 or 2… Their major goal was to enable personalised learning… the late phases… They seemed to think that magically they would move from experimentation to personalised learning, they don’t seem to understand the process to get there…

We also saw some software driven approaches. They buy an analytics programme and perceive job is done.

We also see a study showing that there is a lack of a data-informed decision making culture, and/or data not being suitable for informing those types of decisions. (Macfadyen and Dawson 2012).

We also have an issue here that researchers are not focused on scalability here… Lots of experimentation but… I may design beautiful scaffolding based on learning analytics, but I have to think about how that can be scaled up to people who may not be the instructors for instance.

The main thing I want to share here is that we must embrace the complexity of educational systems. Learning analytics can be very valuable for understanding learning but they are not a silver bullet. For institutional or sectoral transformation we need to embrace that complexity.

We have suggested the idea of Rapid Outcome Mapping Approach (ROMA) (Macfadyen, Dawson, Pardo, Gasevic 2014) in which once we have understood the objectives of learning analytics, we also have to understand the political landscape in which they sit, the financial contexts of our organisations. We have to identify stakeholders, and to identify the desired behaviour changes we want from those stakeholders. We also have to develop engagement strategy – we cannot require a single approach, a solution has to provide incentives for why someone should/should not adopt learning analytics. We have to analyse our internal capacity to effect change – especially in the context of analytics tools and taking any value form them. And we finally have to evaluate and monitor chance. This is about capacity development, and capacity development across multiple teams.

We need to learn from successful examples – and we have some to draw upon. The Open University adopted their organisational strategy, and were inspired by the ROMA approach (see Tynan and Buckingham Shum 2013). They developed the model of adoption that is right for them – other institutions will want to develop their own, aligned to their institutional needs. We also need cross-institutional experience sharing and collaboration (e.g. SOLAR, the Society for Learning Analytics Research). This meeting today is part of that. And whilst there may be some competition between institutions, this process of sharing is extremely valuable. There are various projects here, some open source, to enable different types of solution, and sharing of experience.

Finally we need to talk about ethical and privacy consideration. There is a tension here… Some institutions hold data, and think students need to be aware of the data held… But what if students do not benefit from seeing that data? How do we prepare students to engage with that data, to understand this data. The Open University is at the leading edge here and have a clear policy on ethical use of student data. Jisc also have a code of practice for learning analytics which I also welcome and think will be very useful for institutions looking to adopt learning analytics.

I also think we need to develop an analytics culture. I like to use the analogy of, say, Moneyball, where analytics make a big difference… but analytics can be misleading. Predictive models have their flaws, their false positives etc. So a contrasting example would be the Trouble with the Curve – where analytics mask underlying knowledge of an issue. We should never reject our tacit knowledge as we look at adopting learning analytics.


Q – Niall): I was struck by your comments about asking the questions… But doesn’t that jar with the idea that you want to look at the data and exploring questions out of that data?

A – Dragan): A great question… As a computer scientist I would love to just explore the data, but I hang out with too many educational researchers… You can start from data and make sense of that. It is valid. However, whenever you have certain results you have to ask certain questions – does this make sense in the context of what is taking place, does this make sense within the context of our institutional needs, and does this make sense in the context of the instructional approach? That questioning is essential no matter what the approach.

Q – Wilma) How do you accommodate the different teaching styles and varying ways that courses are delivered?

A – Dragan) The most important part here is about the development of capabilities – at all levels and in all roles including students. So in this Australian study we identified trends, found these clusters… But some of these courses are quite traditional and linear, others are more ambitious… They have a brilliant multi-faceted approach. Learning analytics would augment this… But when we aggregate this information… But when you have more ambitious goals, the more there is to do. Time is required to adopt learning analytics with sophistication. But we also need to develop tools to the needs of tasks of stakeholders… so stakeholders are capable to work with them… But also not to be too usable. There aren’t that many data scientists so perhaps we shouldn’t use visualisations at all, maybe just prompts triggered by the data… And we also want to see more qualitative insights into our students… their discussion… when they are taking notes… And that then really gives an insight… Social interactions are so beneficial and important to benefit student learning.

Q – Wilbert) You mentioned that work in Australia about Turnitin… What was the set up there that led to that… Or was it just the plagiarism prediction use?

A – Dragan) Turned out to be the feedback being received through Turnitin… Not plagiarism side. Primarily it was on the learner side, not so much the instructors. There is an ethical dilemma there if you do expose that to instructors… If they are using the system to get feedback… Those were year one students, and many were international and from Asia and China where cultural expectation of reproducing knowledge is different… So that is also important.

Q) Talking about the Purdue email study, and staff giving formative feedback to students at risk – how did that work?

A) They did analysis of these messages, and the content of them, and found staff mainly giving motivational messages. I think that was mainly because traffic light system indicated at risk nature but not why that was the case… you need that information too..

Q) Was interested in rhetoric of personalised learning by Vice Chancellors, but most institutions being at stage 1 or 2… What are the institutional blockers? How can they be removed?

A) I wish I had an answer there! But the senior leaders are sometimes forced to make decisions based on financial needs, not just about being driven by data or unaware of data. So in Australian institutions many are small organisations, with limited funding… and existence of the institutions is part of what they have to face, quite aside from adoption of learning analytics. But also University of Melbourne is a complex institution, a leading researcher there but cannot roll out same solution across very different schools and courses….

Niall: And with that we shall have to end the Q&A and hand over to Sheila, who will talk about some of those blockers…

Learning Analytics: Implementation Issues – Sheila MacNeill, Glasgow Caledonian University

I was based at CETIS involved in learning analytics for a lot of that time… But for the last year and a half I have been based at Glasgow Caledonian University. And today I am going to talk about my experience of moving from that overview position to being in an institution and actually trying to do it… I’m looking for a bit of sympathy and support, but hoping to also contextualise some of what Dragan talked about.

Glasgow Caledonian University has about 17,000 students, mostly campus based although we are looking at online learning. We are also committed to blended learning. We provide central support for the university, working with learning technologies across the institution. So I will share my journey… joys and frustrations!

One of the first things I wanted to do was to get my head around what kind of systems we had around the University… We had a VLE (Blackboard) but I wanted to know what else people were using… This proved very difficult. I spoke to our IS department but finding the right people was challenging, a practical issue to work around. So I decided to look a big more broadly with a mapping of what we do… looking across our whole technology position. I identified the areas and what fitted into those areas:

  • (e) Assessment and feedback – Turnitin – we see a lot of interest in rubrics and marking and feedback processes that seem to be having a big impact on student success and actually plagiarism isn’t its main usefulness the more you use it, Gradecentre, Wikis/blogs/journals, peer/self assessment, (e)feedback.
  • (e) Portfolios – wikis/blogs/journals, video/audio – doing trials with nursing students of a mobile app in this space.
  • Collaboration – discussion boards, online chat, video conferencing etc.
  • Content – lectures, PDFs, etc….

I’ve been quite interested in Mark (?) idea of a “core VLE”. Our main systems group around SRS (students records system – newly renamed from it’s former name, ISIS), GCU Learn, the Library, 3rd Party Services. When I did hear from our IS team I found such a huge range of tools that our institution has been using, it seems like every tool under the sun has been used at some point.

In terms of data… we can get data from our VLE, from Turnitin, from wikis etc. But it needs a lot of cleaning up. We started looking at our data, trying it on November data from 2012 and 2013 (seemed like a typical month). And we found some data we would expect, changes/increases of use over time. But we don’t have data on a module level, or programme level, etc. Hard to view in detail or aggregate up (yet). We haven’t got data from all of our systems yet. I would say we are still at the “Housekeeping” stage… We are just seeing what we have, finding a baseline… There is an awful lot of housekeeping that needs to be done, a lot of people to talk to…

But as I was beginning this process I realised we had quite a number of business analysts at GCU who were happy to talk. We have been drawing out data. We can make dashboards easily, but USEFUL dashboards are proving more tricky! We have meanwhile been talking about Blackboard about their data analytics platform. It is interesting thinking about that… given the state we are in about learning analytics, and finding a baseline, we are looking at investing some money to see what data we can get from Blackboard that might enable us to start asking some questions. There are some things I’d like to see from, for example, combining on campus library card data with VLE data. And also thinking about engagement and what that means… Frustratingly for me I think that it is quite hard to get data from Blackboard… I’m keen that next license we sign we actually have a clause about the data we want, in the format we want, when we want it… No idea if that will happen but I’d like to see that.

Mark Stubbs (MMU) has this idea of a tube map of learning… This made me think of the Glasgow underground map – going in circles a bit, not all joining up. We really aren’t quite there yet, we are having conversations about what we could, and what we should do. In terms of senior management interest in learning analytics… there is interest. But when we sent out the data we had looked we did get some interesting responses. Our data showed a huge increase in mobile use – we didn’t need a bring your own device policy, students were already doing it! We just need everything mobile ready. Our senior staff are focused on NSS and student survey data, that’s a major focus. I would like to take that forward to understand what is happening, and more structured way…

And I want to finish by talking about some of the issues that I have encountered. I came in fairly naively to this process. I have learned that…

Leadership and understanding is crucial – we have a new IS director which should make a great difference. You need both carrots and stick, and that takes a real drive from the top to make things actually start.

Data is obviously important. Our own colleagues have issues access data from across the institution. People don’t want to share, they don’t know if they are allowed to share. There is a cultural thing that needs investigating – and that relates back to leadership. There are also challenges that are easy to fix such as server space. But that bigger issue of access/sharing/ownership all really matter.

Practice can be a challenge. Sharing of experience and engagement with staff, having enough people understanding systems, is all important for enabling learning analytics here. The culture of talking together more, having a better relationship within an institution, matters.

Specialist staff time matters – as Dragan highlighted in his talk. This work has to be prioritised – a project focusing on learning analytics would give the remit for that, give us a clear picture, establish what needs to be done. To not just buy in technology but truly assess needs before doing that, and in adopting technology. There is potential but learning analytics has to be a priority if it is to be adopted properly.

Institutional amnesia – people can forget what they have done, why, and what they do not do it before… More basic house keeping again really. Understanding, and having tangible evidence of, what has been done and why is also important more broadly when looking at how we use technologies in our institutions.

Niall: Thanks for such an honest appraisal of a real experience there. We need that in this community, not just explaining the benefits of learning analytics. The Open University may be ahead now, but it also faced some of those challenges initially for instance. Now, over to Wilma.

Student data and Analytics work at the University of Edinburgh – Wilma Alexander, University of Edinburgh

Some really interesting talks already to do, I’ll whiz through some sections in fact as I don’t need to retread some of this. I am based in Information Services. We are a very very large, very old University, and it is very general. We have a four year degree. All of that background makes what we do with student data, something it is hard to generalise about.

So, the drivers for the project I will focus on, came out of the understanding we already have about the scale and diversity of this institution. Indeed we are increasingly encouraging students to make imaginative cross overs between schools and programmes which adds to this. Another part of the background is that we have been seriously working in online education, and in addition to a ground breaking digital education masters delivered online, we also have a number of online masters. And further background here is that we have a long term set of process that encourages students to contribute to the discussions within the university, owners and shapers of their own learning.

So, we have an interest in learning analytics, and understanding what students are doing online. We got all excited by the data and probably made the primary error of thinking about how we could visualise that data in pretty pictures… but we calmed down quite quickly. As we turned this into a proper project we framed it much more in the context of empowering students around their activities, about data we already have about our students. We have two centrally supported VLEs at Edinburgh (and others!) which are Blackboard Learn, our main largest system with virtually all on campus programmes use that VLE in some way, but for online distance programmes we took the opportunity to try out Moodle – largely online programmes, and largely created as online distance masters programmes. So, already there is a big distance between how these tools are used in the university, never mind how they are adopted.

There’s a video which shows this idea of building an airplane whilst in the air… this projects first phase, in 2014, has felt a bit like that at times! We wanted to see what might be possible but also we started by thinking about what might be displayed to students. Both Learn and Moodle give you some data about what students do in your courses… but that is for staff, not visible to students. When we came to looking at the existing options… None of what Learn offers quite did what we wanted as none of the reports were easily made student facing (currently Learn does BIRT reports, course reports, stats columns in grade center etc). We also looked at Moodle and there was more there – it is open source and developed by the community so we looked at available options there…

We were also aware that there were things taking place in Edinburgh elsewhere. We are support not research in our role, but we were aware that colleagues were undertaking research. So, for instance my colleague Paula Smith was using a tool to return data as visualisations to students.

What we did as a starting point was to go out and collect user stories. We were asking both staff and students, in terms of information available in the VLE(s), what sort of things would be of interest. We framed this as a student, as a member of staff, as a tutor… as “As a… I want to… So that I can…”. We had 92 stories from 18 staff and 32 students. What was interesting here was that much of what was wanted was already available. For staff much of the data they wanted they really just had to be shown and supported to find the data already available to them. Some of the stuff that came in as “not in scope” was not within the very tight boundaries we had set for the project. But a number of things of interest, requests for information, that we passed on to appropriate colleagues – so one area for this was reading lists and we have a tool that helps with that so we passed that request onto library colleagues.

We also pooled some staff concerns… and this illustrates what both Dragan and Sheila have said about the need to improve the literacy of staff and students using this kind of information, and the need to contextualise it… e.g: “As a teacher/personal tutor I want to have measures of activity of the students so that I can be alerted to who are “falling by the wayside” for instance – a huge gap between activity and that sort of indicator.

Student concerns were very thoughtful. They wanted to understand how they compare, to track progress, they also wanted information on timetables of submissions, assignment criteria/weighting etc. We were very impressed by the responses we had and these are proving valuable beyond the scope of this project…

So, we explored possibilities, and then moved on to see what we could build. And this is where the difference between Learn and Moodle really kicked in. We initially thought we could just install some of the Moodle plugins, and allow programmes to activate them if they wanted to… But that fell at the first hurdle as we couldn’t find enough staff willing to be that experimental with a busy online MSc programme. The only team up for some of that experimentation were the MSc in Digital Education team, which was done as part of a teaching module in some strands of the masters. This was small scale hand cranked from some of these tools. One of the issues with pretty much all of these tools is that they are staff facing and therefore not anonymous.So we had to do that hand cranking to make the data anonymous.

We had lots of anecdotal and qualitative information through focus groups and this module, but we hope to pin a bit more down on that. Moodle is of interest as online distance students… there is some evidence that communication, discussion etc. activity is a reasonable proxy for performance here as they have to start with the VLE.

Learn is a pretty different beast as it is on campus. Blended may not have permeated as strongly on campus. So, for Learn what we do have this little element that produces a little click map of sorts (engagements, discussion, etc)… For courses that only use the VLE for lecture notes, that may not be useful at all, but for others it should give some idea of what is taking place. We also looked at providing guidebook data – mapping use of different week’s sections/resources/quizzes to performance.

We punted those ideas out. The activity information didn’t excite folk as much (32% thought it was useful). The grade information was deemed much more useful (97% thought it was useful)… But do we want our students hooked on that sort of data? Could it have negative effects, as Dragan talked about. And how useful is that overview?

When it came to changes in learning behaviour we had some really interesting and thoughtful responses here. Of the three types of information (discussion boards, grade, activity) it was certainly clear though that grade was where the student interest was.

We have been looking at what courses use in terms of tools… doing a very broad brush view of 2013/14 courses we can see what they use and turn on from: some social/peer network ability – where we think there really is huge value, the percentage of courses actively using those courses on campus are way below those using the VLE for the other functions of Content+Submission/Assessment and Discussion Boards.

So context really is all – reflecting Dragan again here. It has to work for individuals on a course level. We have been mapping our territory here – the university as a whole is hugely engaged in online and digital education in general, and very committed to this area, but there is work to do to join it all up. When we did information gathering we found people coming out of the woodwork to show their interest. The steering group from this project has a representative from our student systems team, and we are talking about where student data lives, privacy and data protection, ethics, and of course also technical issues quite apart from all that… So we also have the Records Management people involved. And because Jisc has these initiatives, and there is an EU initiative, we are tightly engaging with the ethical guidance being produced by both of these.

So, we have taken a slight veer from doing something for everyone in the VLEs in the next year. The tool will be available to all but what we hope to do is to work very closely with a small number of courses, course organisers, and students, to really unpick on a course level how the data in the VLE gets built into the rest of the course activity. So that goes back into the idea of having different models, and applying the model for that course, and for those students. It has been a journey, and it will continue…

Using learning analytics to identify ‘at-risk’ students within eight weeks of starting university: problems and opportunities – Avril Dewar, University of Edinburgh

This work I will be presenting has been undertaken with my colleagues at the Centre for Medical Education, as well as colleagues in the School of Veterinary Medicine and also Maths.

There is good evidence that performance in first year will map quite closely to performance as a whole in a programme. So, with that in mind, we wanted to develop an early warning system to identify student difficulties and disengagement before they reach assessment. Generally the model we developed worked well. About 80% of at risk students were identified. And there were large differences between the most and least at-risk students – the lowest risk score and the highest risk score which suggests this was a useful measure.

The measures we used included:

  • Engagement with routine tasks
  • Completion of formative assessment – including voluntary formative assessment
  • Tutorial attendance (and punctuality where available) – but this proved least useful.
  • Attendance at voluntary events/activities
  • Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) exports (some)
    • Time until first contact proved to be the most useful of these

We found that the measures sometimes failed because the data exports were not always that useful for appropriate (e.g. VLE tables of 5000 colums). Patterns of usage were hard to investigate as raw data on, e.g. time of day of accesses, not properly usable though we think that is useful. Similarly there is no way to know if long usage means a student has logged in, then Googled or left their machine, then returned – or whether it indicates genuine engagement.

To make learning analytics useful we think we need the measures, and the data supporting them, to be simple, to be comprehensible, accessible – and also comparable to data from other systems (e.g. we could have used library data alongside our VLE issues), to scale easily – e.g. common characteristics between schools, not replicating existing measures, discriminates between students – some of the most useful things like the time to first contact, central storage.

We also found there were things that we could access but didn’t use. Some for ethical and some for practical reasons. IP addresses for location was an ethical issue for us, discussion boards similarly we had concern about – we didn’t want students to be put off participating in discussions. Or time taken to answer individual questions. We are concerned that theoretical issues that could be raised could include: evidence that student has been searching essay-buying websites; student is absent from class and claims to be ill but IP address shows another location, etc.

There were also some concerns about the teacher-student relationship. Knowing too much can create a tension in the student-teacher relationship. And the data one could gather about a student could become a very detailed tracking and monitoring system… for that reason we always aim to be conservative, rather than exhaustive in our data acquisition.

We have developed training materials and we are making these open source so that we can partner with other schools, internationally. Whilst each school will have their own systems and data but we are keen to share practice and approaches. Please do get in touch if you would like access to the data, or would like to work with us.


Q – Paula) Do you think there is a risk of institutions sleep walking into student dissatisfaction. We are taking a staged approach… but I see less effort going into intervention, to the staff side of what could be done… I take it that email was automated… Scalability is good for that, but I am concerned students won’t respond to that as it isn’t really personalised at all. And how were students in your project, Avril, notified.

A – Avril) We did introduce peer led workshops… We are not sure if that worked yet, still waiting for results of those. We emailed to inform our students if they wanted to be part of this and if they wanted to be notified of a problem. Later years were less concerned, saw the value. First year students were very concerned, so we phrased our email very carefully. When a student was at risk emails were sent individually by their personal tutors. We were a bit wary of telling students of what had flagged them up – it was a cumulative model… were concerned that they might then engage just with those things and then not be picked up by the model.

Niall: Thank you for that fascinating talk. Have you written it up anywhere yet?

Avril: Soon!

Niall: And now to Wilbert…

The feedback hub; where qualitative learning support meets learning analytics – Wilbert Kraan, Cetis

Before I start I have heard about some students gaming some of the simpler dashboards so I was really interested in that.

So, I will be sort and snappy here. The Feedback Hub work has just started… this is musings and questions at this stage. This work is part of the larger Jisc Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA) project. And we are looking at how we might present feedback and learning analytics side by side.

The EMA project is a partnership between Jisc, UCISA and HeLF. It builds on earlier Jisc Assessment and Feedback work And it is a co-design project that identifies priorities, solution areas… and we are now working on solutions. So one part of this is about EMA requirements and workflows, particularly the integration of data (something Sheila touched upon). There is also work taking place on an EMA toolkit that people can pick up and look at. And then there is the Feedback Hub, which I’m working on.

So, there is a whole assessment and feedback lifecycle (as borrowed from a model developed by Manchester Metropolitan, with they permission), This goes from Specifying to Setting, Supporting, Submitting, Marking and production of feedback, Recording of grades etc… and those latter stages is where the Feedback Hub sits.

So, what is a feedback hub really? It is a system that provides a degree programme of life wide view of assignments and feedback. The idea is that it moves beyond the current module that you are doing, to look across modules and across years. There will be feedback that is common across areas, that gives a holistic view of what has already been done. So this is a new kind of thing… When I look at nearest tools I found VLE features – database view of all assignments for a particular student for learner and tutor to see. A simple clickable list that is easy to do and does help. Another type is a tutoring or assignment management system – capturing timetables of assignments, tutorials etc. These are from tutor perspective. Some show feedback as well. And then we have assignment services – including Turnitin – about plagiarism, but also management of logistics of assignments, feedback etc.

So, using those kinds of tools you can see feedback as just another thing that gets put in the learning records store pot in some ways. But feedback can be quite messy, hard to disentangle in line feedback from the document itself. Teachers approach feedback differently… though pedagogically the qualitative formative feedback that appears in these messy ways can be hugely valuable.  Also these online assessment management tools can be helpful for mapping and developing learning outcomes and rubrics – connecting that to the assignment you can gain some really interesting data… There is also the potential for Computer Aided Assessment feedback – sophisticated automated data on tests and assignments which work well in some subjects. And possibly one of the most interesting learning analytics data is on the engagement with feedback. A concern from academic staff is that you can give rich feedback, but if the students don’t use it how useful it is really? So capturing that could be useful…

So, having identified those sources, how do we present such a holistic view? One tool presents this as an activity stream – like Twitter and Facebook – with feedback part of that chronological list of assignments… We know that that could help. Also an expanding learning outcomes rubric – click it to see feedback connected to it, would it be helpful? We could also do text extraction, something like Wordle, but would that help? And the other thing that might see is clickable grades – to understand what a grade means… And finally should we combine feedback hub with analytics data visualisations.

Both learning analytics and feedback track learning progress over time, and try to predict the future. Feedback related data can be a useful learning analytics data source.


Q – Me) Adoption and issues of different courses doing different things? Student expectations and added feedback?

A) This is an emerging area… IET in London/University of London have been trialing this stuff… they have opened that box… Academic practice can make people very cautious…

Comment) Might also address the perennial student question of wanting greater quality feedback… Might address deficit of student satisfaction

A) Having a coordinated approach to feedback… From a pedagogical point of view that would help. But another issue there is that of formative feedback, people use these tools in formative ways as well. There are points of feedback before a submission that could be very valuable, but the workload is quite spectacular as well. So balancing that could be quite an interesting thing.

Jisc work on Analytics – update on progress to date– Paul Bailey, Jisc and Niall Sclater. 

Paul: We are going to give you a bit of an update on where we are on the Learning Analytics project, and then after that we’ll have some short talks and then will break out into smaller groups to digest what we’ve talked about today.

The priorities we have for this project are: (1) basic learning analytics solution, an interventions tool and a student tool; (2) code of practice for learning analytics; and (3) learning analytics support and network.

We are a two year project, with the clock ticking from May 2015. We have started by identifying suppliers to initiate contracts and develop products; then institutions will be invited to participate in the discovery stage or pilots (June-Sept 2015). Year 1 in Sept 2015-2016 we will run that discovery stage (10-20 institutions), pilots (10+ institutions); institutions move from discovery to pilot. Year 2 will be about learning from and embedding that work. And for those of you that have worked with us in the past, the model is a bit different: rather than funding you then learning from that, we will be providing you with support and some consultancy and learning from this as you go (rather than funding).

Michael Webb: So… we have a diagram of the process here… We have procured a learning records warehouse (the preferred supplier there is H2P). The idea that VLEs, Student Information Systems and Library Systems feeding into that. There was talk today of Blackboard being hard to get data out of, we do have Blackboard on-board.

Diagram of the Jisc Basic Learning Analytics Solution presented by Paul Bailey and Michael Webb

Diagram of the Jisc Basic Learning Analytics Solution presented by Paul Bailey and Michael Webb

Paul: Tribal are one of the solutions, pretty much off the shelf stuff. Various components and we hope to role it out to about 15 institutions in the first year. The second option there will be the open solution, which is partly developed but needs further work. So the option will be to engage with either one of those solutions, or to engage with both perhaps.

The learning analytics processors will feed the staff dashboards, into a student consent service, and both of those will connect to the alert and intervention system. And there will be a Student App as well.

Michael: The idea is that all of the components are independent so you can buy one, or all of them, or the relevant parts of the service for you.

Paul: The student consent service is something we will develop in order to provide some sort of service to allow students to say what kinds of information can or cannot be shared (of available data from those systems that hold data on them). The alert and intervention system is an area that should grow quite a bit…

So, the main components are the learning records warehouse, the learning analytics processor – for procurement purposes the staff dashboard is part of that, and the student app. And once you have that learning records warehouse is there, you could build onto that, use your own system, use Tableau, etc.

Just to talk about the Discovery Phase, we hope to start that quite soon. The invitation will come out through the Jisc Analytics email list – so if you want to be involved, join that list. We are also setting up a questionnaire to collect readiness information and for institution to express interest. Then in the discovery process (June/July onward) there will be a select preferred approach for the discovery phase. This will be open to around 20 institutions. We have three organisations involved here: Blackboard; a company called DTP Solution Path (as used by Nottingham Trent); and UniCom. For the pilot (September(ish) onward) we have a select solution preference (Year 1-15 (proprietary – Tribal) and 15 open).

Niall: the code of practice is now a document of just more than two pages around complex legal and ethical issues. They can be blockages to move that forward… so this is an attempt to have an overview document to help institution to overcome those issues. We have a number of institutions who will be trialing this. That’s at draft stage right now, and with advisory group to suggest revisions. It is likely to launch by Jisc in June. Any additional issues are being reflected in a related set of online guidance documents.

Effective Learning Analytics project can be found: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/rd/projects/

Another network on 24th June at Nottingham Trent University. At that meeting we are looking to fund some small research type projects – there is an Ideascale page for that. About five ideas in the mix at the moment. Do add ideas (between now and Christmas) and do vote on those. There will be pitches there, for ones to take forward. And if you want funding to go to you as a sole trader rather than to a large institution, that can also happen.


Q) Will the open solution be shared on something like GitHub so that people can join in

A) Yes.

Comment – Micheal: Earlier today people talked about data that is already available, that’s in the discovery phase when people will be on site for a day or up to a week in some cases. Also earlier on there was talk about data tracking, IP address etc, and the student consent system we have included is to get student buy-in for that process, so that you are legally covered for what you do as well. And there is a lot of focus on flagging issues, and intervention. The intervention tool is a really important part of this process, as you’ll have seen from our diagram.

For more information on the project see: http://analytics.jiscinvolve.org/wp/

Open Forum – input from participants, 15 min lightning talks.

Assessment and Learning Analytics – Prof Blazenka Divjak, University of Zagreb (currently visiting University of Edinburgh)

I have a background in work with a student body of 80,000 students, and use of learning analytics. And the main challenge I have found has been the management and cleansing of data. If you want to make decisions, learning analytics are not always suitable/in an appropriate state for this sort of use.

But I wanted to today about assessment. What underpins effective teaching? Well this relates to the subject, the teaching methods, the way in which students develop and learn (Calderhead, 1996), and awareness of the relationship between teaching and learning. Assessment is part of understanding that.

So I will talk to two case studies across courses using the same blended approach with open source tools (Moodle and connected tools).

One of these examples is Discrete Math with Graph Theory, a course for the Master of Informatics course with around 120 students and 3 teachers. This uses problem (authentic) posing and problem solving. We have assessment criteria and weighted rubrics (AHP method). So here learning analytics are used for identification of performance based on criteria. We also look at differences between groups (gender, previous study, etc.). Correlation of authentic problem solving with other elements of assessments – hugely important for future professional careers but not always what happens.

The other programme, Project Management for the Master of Entrepreneurship programme, has 60 students and 4 teachers. In this case project teams work on authentic tasks. Assessment criteria + weighted rubrics – integrated feedback. The course uses self-assessment, peer-assessment, and teacher assessment. Here the learning analytics are being used to assess consistency, validity, reliability of peer-assessment. Metrics here can include the geometry of learning analytics perhaps.

Looking at a graphic analysis of one of these courses shows how students are performing against criteria – for instance they are better at solving problems than posing problems. Students can also benchmark themselves against the group, and compare how they are doing.

The impact of student dashboards – Paula Smith, UoE

I’m going to talk to you about an online surgery course – the theory not the practical side of surgery I might add. The MSc in Surgical Sciences has been running since 2007 and is the largest of the medical distance learning programmes.

The concept of learning analytics may be relatively new but we have been interested in student engagement and participation, and how that can be tracked and acknowledged for a long time as it is part of what motivates students to engage. So I am going to be talking about how we use learning analytics to make an intervention but also to talk about action analytics – to make changes as well as interventions.

The process before the project I will talk about had students being tracked via an MCQ system – students would see a progress bar but staff could see more details. At the end of every year we would gather that data, and present a comparative picture so that students could see how they were performing compared to peers.

Our programmes all use bespoke platforms and that meant we could work with the developers to design measures on student engagement – for example number of posts. A crude way to motivate students. And that team also created activity patterns so we could understand the busier times – and it is a 24/7 programme. All of our students work full time in surgical teams so this course is an add on to that. We never felt a need to make this view available to students… this is a measure of activity but how does that relate  to learning? We need more tangible metrics.

So, in March last year I started a one day a week secondment for a while with Wilma Alexander and Mark Wetton at IS. That secondment has the objectives of creating a student “dashboard” which would allow students to monitor their progress in relation to peers; to use the dashboard to identify at-risk students for early interventions; and then evaluate what (if any) impact that intervention had.

So, we did see a correlation between in-course assessment and examination marks. The exam is 75-80% (was 80, now 75) in the first year. It is a heavily weighted component. You can do well in the exam, and get a distinction, with no in course work during the year. The in-course work is not compulsory but we want students to see the advantage of in course assessments. So, for the predictive modelling regression analysis revealed that only two components had any bearing on end of year marks, which were discussion board ratings, and exam performance (year 1); or exam performance (year 2). So, with that in mind we moved away from predictive models we decided to do a dashboard for students to present a snapshot of their progress against others’. And we wanted this to be simple to understand…

So, here it is… we are using Tableau to generate this. Here the individual student can see their own performance in yellow/orange and compare to the wider group (blue). The average is used to give a marker… If the average is good (in this example an essay has an average mark of 65%) that’s fine, if the average is poor (discussion board which are low weighted has an average of under 40, which is a fail at MSc level) that may be more problematic. So that data is provided with caveats.

Paula Smith shows visualisations created using Tableu

Paula Smith shows visualisations created using Tableu

This interface has been released – although my intervention is just an email which points to the dashboard and comments on performance. We have started evaluating it: the majority think it is helpful (either somewhat, or a lot). But worryingly a few have commented “no, unhelpful”, and we don’t know the reasons for that. But we have had positive comments on the whole. We asked about extra material for one part of the course. And we asked students how the data makes them feel… although the majority answered ‘interested’, ‘encouraged’, and ‘motivated’, one commented that they were apathetic about it – actually we only had a 15% response rate for this survey which suggests that apathy is widely felt.

Most students felt the dashboard provided feedback, which was useful. And the majority of students felt they would use the dashboard – mainly monthly or thereabouts.

I will be looking further at the data on student achievement and evaluating it over this summer, and should be written up at the end of the year. But I wanted to close with a quote from Li Yuan, at CETIS: “data, by itself, does not mean anything and it depends on human interpretation and intervention“.

Learning Analytics – Daley Davis, Altis Consulting (London) 

We are a consulting company and we are well established in Australia so I thought it would be relevant to talk about what we do there on learning analytics. Australia are ahead on learning analytics and that may well be because they brought in changes to funding fees in 2006 so they view students differently. They are particularly focused on retention. And I will talk about work we did with UNE (University of New England), a university with mainly online students and around 20,000 students in total. They wanted to improve student attrition. So we worked with them to set up a system for a student early alert system for identifying students at risk on disengaging. It used triggers of student interaction as predictors. And this work cut attrition from 18% to 12% and saving time and money for the organisation.

The way this worked was that students had an automated “wellness” engine, with data aggregated at school and head of school levels. And what happened was that staff were ringing students every day – finding out about problems with internet connections, issues at home etc. Some of these easily fixed or understood.

The system picked up data from their student record system, their student portal, and they also have a system called “e-motion” which asks students to indicate how they are feeling every day – four ratings and also a free text box (that we also mined).

Data was mined with weightings and a student who had previously failed a course, and a student who was very unhappy were both aspects weighted much more heavily. As was students not engaging for 40 days or more (versus other levels, weighted more lightly).

Daley Davis shows the weightings used in a Student Early Alert System at UNE

Daley Davis shows the weightings used in a Student Early Alert System at UNE

Universities are looking at what they already have, coming up with a technical roadmap. But they need to start with the questions you want to answer… What do your students want? What are your KPIs? And how can you measure those KPIs. So, if you are embarking on this process I would start with a plan for 3 years, toward your perfect situation, so you can then make your 1 year or shorter term plans in the direction of making that happen…

Niall: What I want you to do just now is to discuss the burning issues… and come up with a top three…

And [after coffee and KitKats] we are back to share our burning issues from all groups…

Group 1:

  • Making sure we start with questions first – don’t start with framework
  • Data protection and when you should seek consent
  • When to intervene – triage

Group 2:

  • How to decided on what questions to decide on, and what questions and data are important anyway?
  • Implementing analytics – institutional versus course level analytics? Both have strengths, both have risks/issues
  • And what metrics do you use, what are reliable…

Group 3:

  • Institutional readiness for making use of data
  • Staff readiness for making use of data
  • Making meaning from analytics… and how do we support and improve learning without always working on the basis of a deficit model.

Group 4:

  • Different issues for different cohorts – humanities versus medics in terms of aspirations and what they consider appropriate, e.g. for peer reviews. And undergrads/younger students versus say online distance postgrads in their careers already
  • Social media – ethics of using Facebook etc. in learning analytics, and issue of other discussions beyond institution
  • Can’t not interpret data just because there’s an issue you don’t want to deal with.

Group 5:

  • Using learning analytics at either end of the lifecycle
  • Ethics a big problem – might use analytics to recruits successful people; or to stream students/incentivise them into certain courses (both already happening in the US)
  • Lack of sponsorship from senior management
  • Essex found through last three student surveys that students do want analytics.

That issue of recruitment is a real ethical issue. This is something that arises in the Open University as they have an open access policy so to deny entrance because of likely drop out or likely performance would be an issue there… How did you resolve that?

Kevin, OU) We haven’t exactly cracked it. We are mainly using learning analytics to channel students into the right path for them – which may be about helping select the first courses to take, or whether to start with one of our open courses on Future Learn, etc.

Niall: Most universities already have entrance qualifications… A-Level or Higher or whatever… ethically how does that work

Kevin, OU) I understand that a lot of learning analytics is being applied in UCAS processes… they can assess the markers of success etc..

Comment, Wilma) I think  the thing about learning analytics is that predictive models can’t ethically applied to an individual…

Comment, Avril) But then there is also quite a lot of evidence that entry grades don’t necessarily predict performance.

Conclusions from the day and timetable for future events – Niall Sclator

Our next meeting will be in June in Nottingham and I hope we’ll see you then. We’ll have a speaker, via Skype, who works on learning analytics for Blackboard.

And with that, we are done with a really interesting day.

Apr 232015

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

The speakers for today are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A (all speakers)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– How can you integrate these examples within your work?

– How can new technology enhance this partnership further?

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

[cue break whilst we discuss]

Comments back from groups:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offshoots and Outputs session chaired by Marshall Dozier:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Q2) Student views on this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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