May 022013

Today I am blogging from the University of Edinburgh Digital Scholarship Day of Ideas 2, a day long look at research in the digital humanities and social sciences. You can find out more on the event on the Digital HSS website. As usual these are live blog posts so apologies for any spelling errors, typos, etc. And please do leave your comments and corrections here.

Professor Dorothy Miell, head of college of Huminities and Social Sciences is introducing the day. Last year we shaped the day around external speakers but we are well aware that there is such a wealth of work taking place here in Edinburgh so this year we have reshaped the event to include more input from researchers here in Edinburgh, with break out sessions and discussion time. The event is part of a programme of events in the Digital HSS thread, led by Sian Bayne. The programme includes workshops and a range of other events. Just yesterday a group of us were discussing how to take forward this work, how to help groups gather around applications for grants etc, developing fora for post graduates etc. If you have any ideas please do contact Sian and let her know.

Our first speaker is Tara McPherson who is based in the School of Cinematic Arts at USC in Los Angeles. She is a researcher on cinema and gender. Her new media research concentrates on computation, gender and race as well as new paradigms of publishing and authorship.

Scholarship across scales: humanities research in a networked world – Dr Tara McPherson, School of Cinematic Arts, University Southern California

We are often told we are living in an era of big data, of large digital data sets and the speed of their expansion. And so much of this work is created by citizens, “vernacular archives” such as Flickr and YouTube. And those spaces are the data for emerging scholars. And we are already further along in how big data and linked data can support scholarship. There is a project called DataONE – Data Observation Network for Earth  – is a grant project for scientists, the grand archive of knowledge. This is the sort of data aggregation Foucault warned us about! But it’s not just in the scientists. In the humanities we also have huge data sets, the Holocaust Testimony video collection is an example of that – we can use that as visual evidence in  a way that was previously unavailable to us. Study of expression, of memory, of visual aspects can be explored alongside more traditional ways of exploring those testimonies. And we can begin to ask ourselves about what happens when we begin to visualise big data in new ways. If communication is increasingly in forms like video what are the opportunities for scholarship to take advantage of that new material, the vernaculars, and what does it mean that we can now have interpretation presented in parallel to evidence. Whilst many humanities scholars have been sceptical about the combination of human and machine interpretations there are rich possibilities for thinking about these not as alternative forms but as a contiunuum. And we will see shifts in how we collaborate, in sharing the outcomes of our knowledge. Rather than thinking of our outputs as texts, as publications, we also need to think about data sets, as software. Stuff that exists at multiple levels from bite size records – metadata that records our work for instance, to book size, to bigger. And we need to think about how we credit work, how we recognise effort, how we assess that work. How do we reward and assess innovation – how do we do that for research that may not lead to immediate articles but be much longer, much bigger scale.

Going back to DataONE there is a sub project called eBird, a tool to allow birdwatchers to gather data on birds. They are somewhat ahead of the game in thinking about crowdsourced science. Colleagues at Dartmouth are starting to look at crowdsourcing data. My son plays a game that lets you fold proteins that contributes to scientific research. There are examples from Wikipedia, to protein folding to metadata games, etc. which also challenge traditional publishing. The Shakespeare Quarterly challenges peer review with an open process – an often challenging form of peer review. Gary Hall and colleagues at Goldsmiths are also innovating with open journals. But we also see a change from academic knowledge as something which should be locked away, a move away from the book as fetish object etc. In the UK we saw JISC fund – from open access science but curated by humanists and scientists.

And we see information that can be discovered and represented in many ways. We can get hung up on Google or library catalogue search dynamics but actually searches can be quite different. So for something like Textmap we get an idea of different modes of discovering and browsing and searching the archive, opportunities for academics to reinterpret and reuse data. The opportunity to manipulate and reuse data gives our archive much more fludity. We can engage on many different registers. You can imagine the Shoah Foundation archive which I showed earlier having a K12 interface, as well as interfaces for researchers, for publishers etc. Some may be functional interfaces but some may be much more playful, more experimental.

Humanities scholars and artists are helping to design some of these spaces. The tools will not take the form that we need them to as particular humanities scholars unless we are part of that process. We often don’t think of ourselves as having that role but we have to shape those ways to communicate our data, to visualising it etc. Humanities scholars have spent years interpreting text, visual aspects, emotion, embodiment, we are extremely well placed to contribute, to help us build better tools, better visualisations etc. There is no logical fit between the design of the database and the type of fit with the work of humanities researcher. Data can have inconsistencies, nuances, multiple interpretations, they don’t easily fit into a database but databases can be designed to do that. Mukurtu ( is an ethnographic database and exploration space, the researcher has worked with the world intellectual property association and indiginous groups to record and access data according to their knowledge protocol, that reflect kinship relations, codings of trust. We also have much to learn from experimental interactive design. The Open Ended Group ( do large scale digitisation. They have digisted a huge closed detroit factory, and used 3D visualisation. It’s for an experimental art space not a science museum. It’s a powerful piece to experience and inhabit and explores the grammers of visuality. It’s not about literal reinterpretation but creative and immersive explorations.

Another example: Sharon Daniel – database driven documentary from IV drug users in a needle exchange programme in San Francisco. 100 hours of audio to be explored through the interface, work in Vectors. Vectors is a journal I edit, an experiment on the boundary of humanities research, visual interpretation and screen culture. Can you play an argument like a video game? Can you be emersed in an argument like a film? Another example here is an audio exploration of the largest womens prisons in California. Curated to make an arguement about our complicity in the rhetoric of imprisonment by the state. The piece has a tree based structure which allows exploration based on where you have been. You can navigate the piece through a variety of themes. You can follow one woman’s story through the archive in a variety of ways, and incarceration and the paradigms on which it depends. The piece is quite different to a typical journal article – it will be different every time. Which raises interesting questions for the assessment of scholarship. It’s fairly typical of what else is in the archive. We pair scholars with minimal or no programming experience with staff in design and programming staff in the lab. A fantastic co-creative process but not scalable, especially as many of these pieces are in Flash. But we have identified many research questions and areas for exploration here.

I work in a cinema schools, looking at visual cultures. We found we needed tools, we didn’t want to build tools but the scholarly interpretation needed by our scholars does not fit into existing rigid strcutures. Since we began to work in this area we’ve moved to thinking about potential around vernacular knowledge, collaboration with the Shoah Foundation, temporal and geographical maps from Hypercities that let you explore materials in space and time. And from those partnership we have formed a group, the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture ( funded by Carnegie Mellon(?) with partners from the Internet Archive, with the SHoah Foundation, with traditional humanities research centres, with design partners, 8 university presses to explore none traditional scholarly publications and those presses have committed to publishing these born digital scholarly materials. And you can begin to think about scholarship across scales, with new combinations, ways to draw in the archives. Traditionally humanities scholars have a vampiric relationships with the archive! We can imagine in the world of Linked Data that the round tripping of our scholarly knowledge back to the archive might become quicker and more effective. So we’ve been building a prototype… this is a born digital book about YouTube by a media scholar, which takes the form of YouTube. It’s an open access book but peer reviewed in the same way as any other. So we have built a platform called “Scalar”, a publishing platforum for scholars who use visual materials. Anyone can log in, to play with the software, to try to create and engage with the software. It’s connected to archives – partners, YouTube, Vimeo, etc. and particularly to Critical Commons – an archive that includes some commercial materials (under US copyright law) and also links to the metadata around that material. And it lets you create different structures that allow you to take multiple paths through materials, through data, more like a scholarly form but not neccassarily in linear routes. So, for example, “We are all children of Algeria” by Nicolas Mirzoeff. He had a book coming out in print but when submitted the Arab Spring took place and was very relevant to the book so he created a companion piece. As you built the piece on Scalar a number of visualisations are generated on the fly to show you data on the content of the book, visual Table of Contents, metadata, the paths, etc. Another recent project, “The Nicest Kids in Town” – on American Bandstand that includes video that couldn’t be in the book. Also Diana Taylor and the Hermispheric Institute

Henry Jenkins and colleagues interactive book on digital cultures. Third World Majority an activist archive and scholarly expert pathways through that archive. Blurring the boundary between edited collection and archival collection. And the Knotted Line blurs public humanities and public curation. It explores incarceration in the US and this is based on the Scalar API with their own interface which is quite tactile.

These tools allow us to explore the outputs of scholarly research in different ways, the relationship to evidence, but also to think about teaching differently. See programme in the humanities and media studies, at intersection of theory and practice, where students must “make” a dissertation rather than write a dissertation. See also Rethinking Learning – a series of cards and materials from which students could create peer to peer learning. It is also a dissertation. The author Jeff Watson will be in a tenureship track role in Canada in the fall. Susana Ruiz has created a dissertation prototype which is a model of learning around games and video archives. But both of these projects look at new possibilities for teaching and learning.

We are building tools here for humanities scolars not “digital” humanities scholars. We build upon rich traditions of scholarly citation and annotation. Our evidence can live side by side by the analysis which increases the potential rigour of scholarship, the reader has far more opportunity to question or asses those arguemens. And the user/reader has an opportunity to remix. This isn’t about watering down our scholarship or making it ritzy, rather it is about making our scholarship flexible to an ever changing world and accessible in new ways.


Q1 – Richard Coyne, Architecture & ECA) You raised the question of citation and academic and scholarly practices. Visual materials can be difficult to that

A) We tried stuff out here. A flash project is really hard to quote, accessing a specific audio file in Sharon Daniels work is really challenging. But in scalar each object has a unique identifier and URI, and you can export as XML and PDF, and you can use the API. It’s a traditional relational database with quite an idiosyncratic semantic layer on top. So you can build interesting stuff because of that combination.

Q2) You talked about emotion. There can be excitement around this sort of material but for some there is a sense of fear around knowing how to engage, particularly when incorporating into our own curricula and research. We can be quite traditional when we return to our desks. Any simple start up ramps to get through the fear barrier?

A2) It’s been a slog, even at USC. Dealing with visual rhetorics and argument. We have an institute in visual literacy for practice based PhD and interactive undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. We have guidelines and rubrics developed there for multimedia work and assessment and those have been useful rubrics for other schools in the university. At university level for tenures and promotion committee we have created criteria for assessing digital scholarship, the different ways to evaluate that work. The issue is less the form of the work but actually assessing the contribution of such a wide range of collaborators with very different skills. We have borrowed from the sciences but that’s not a simple mapping, there are issues. We have had only four digital media PhDs completed so far but all have gone on to good things. Visual temporality have traditions that it can draw upon… it will be an unevenly distributed move for next 10 years or so at least.

Q3 – Clara O’Shea, School of Education) the engagement with living archive, and the role of the scholar in that – what are the ethical implications? And what ways are your work changing the way scholars assess their own work?

A3) I’m just starting to look at assessing the role of the digital archive and the radical shift in purpose than the traditional archive. The library is about access, the archive to preserve. Digitally that split isn’t as relevant. Ethically it is very tricky though. The Shoah Foundation recorded materials long before the web, this was set up by Stephen Spielberg. Now they did sign away their rights to materials but we have been working with the board of the Shoah Foundation around what is and is not appropriate to do with the materials. There are projects for kids to remix video – so we have developed an ethical editing guideline for those students. At Dartmouth with that metadata game there has been a need to really think about the ethical and quality implications – exploring by layer, the difference of “expert” and crowdsourced, is a way that has been handled. In terms of scholars it changes the relationship to evidence and to scholars own work. So back to the Shoah material they have a policy of not providing transcripts as they want researchers to actually watch the video, to understand hesitancy and emotion. They have had scholars who have gotten students to make transcripts for them, analysed that and the Shoah foundation queries the analysis and whether scholars had seen the films. When those scholars actually watched the films their experience and analysis was quite different.

I was trained as a feminist film scholar when it was hard to find the film. I had read about the films before seeing them, often long before, and you could be left wondering if the scholar you had read was based on the same thing. Having the evidence there changes that, gives you a more direct relationship. Also writing small sections of arguments, writing more modually, that is what you start to do rather than long form structures we are used to, and that can be really appropriate for humanities scholars in some areas.

And now many thank yous and onto breakouts. I am going to Breakout 2, chaired by Professor Robin Williams:
I will be talking about  a project from the last three years looking at electronic literature as a model for creative innovation and practice. It’s mainly about networked communities of data analysts and practitioners. I was looking at ideas, concepts and new ontologies, of creativity in particular. And focusing on co-creation and collaboration. I say that is novel but really it isn’t, co-creation and collaboration pre-dates the digital era, pre-dates publishing in craftsmanship traditions. I was looking at both amateur and professional artists and practitioners, in a transnational, transcultural contexts. How we use the internet to create, say, art. So this is about exploring process, creativity, community, these sorts of aspects.
We came across the idea of creativity as a social ontology. Creativity as “an activity of exchange that enables (creates) people and communities” (Simon Biggs). You need interaction in the making process of this sort of ontology. In the communities I engaged with creativity was a subsequent activity of the collaborative community. They were interested in the making process rather than the objects of the making. Ethnographically I took a post-modern multi cited approach as a framework: follow the community; follow the artefact; follow the metaphor; follow the story; follow the life; follow the conflict; and I added the idea of follow the line (follow the rhizome). The communities are dynamic, changing, they move in different directions. The same in the voices, how many are there within those communities… The fieldwork was very nomadic both offline and online. I started following one community, then found many others connected. I followed online but also offline (within Europe). I looked at a network physically based in London, other communities started with New Zealand, moved to Germany, Italy, etc. and online presences moved beyond this.
I was looking at the idea of a “creative land” sat between place, artefact, practice. The practices are connected, through a community of bodies that make these assemblages happen. I look at the theoretical approach by (?) of creative lands. I didn’t just look at the creation of objects but also the creation of communities. Looking at creativity of Synergy and Assemblance. So I looked at, probably largest digital arts community in Europe. They have an offline gallery in London where I undertook fieldwork in January 2011 and this is still ongoing. This comes from the idea of being further than the leftfield, their basis is political and based in politics of late 1970s but also with criticism of commercialism of the New British Artists and Saachi’s influence on the arts. I looked at the daily activities, how they communicated their activities, and it is very equally distributed, not hierachical. For example one co-founder Mark Garrat talked of the community as “the medium” for this work. The artists were involved could come from sound, to network, to cyber performance, quite an open approach by Furtherfield. They have created the idea of DIWO – Do-It-With-Others, the making of art and artistic practice. This is defined on the website and clearly requires social interaction and collaboration as part of this work, about heteroarchy. The DIWO ethos is about contemporary forms of collaboration, an open and political praxis, about peer-to-peer processes for learning and sharing knowledge and making knowledge. And the idea of media art ecologies – based on Bucht who believes in a continuum of humans and environment, and from George Babbetson who talked about ecologies of mind, as multifunctional and different ideas and cultures coming together to make an assemblance.
The particular projects using digital platforms tend to focus on social change, particularly environmental change. And there is a movement called “make-shift”. Two groups, one around the world, one in Exeter. They have cyberperformances. And they have an open source “App Space” performance space for video, for materials, tweets, etc. This is one kind of process, of use of ideas. The artists have particular materials for performance including facilities to allow multiple audiences, multiple mixing, multiple points of access to be part of the performance. Another performance brings in comments from Facebook. As well as her belongings from the last 5 years, juxtaposing this with other forms of collection.
Another project, Read/Write Reality and their work Art is Open Source. Their idea is creating academies of knowledge. They share the knowledge of how to use open source tools to make art. So one project of Art is Open Source uses ubiquitous realities movies with WordPress. Their work is about co-creation and collaboration. I am also looking at AOS: Ubiquitous Pompeii through autoethnographic processes. This works with high school children in Pompeii, looking at designing and imagining possibilities to see the city in different ways. And co-creating and remixing material with schools. Using ubiquitous technology to co-create cities. It is still about peer-to-peer processes, about co-design… We are seeing the process of working together. The largest and best known project of Art is Open Source is La Cura – the call for a cure for a brain tumour, sharing medical information and scans etc. openly on the web.
Q1) We have a project on open source and film, how do people engaging in these works actually make money from them?
A1) Furtherfield are using crowdfunding, education projects etc. to keep running. Art is Open Source runs educational and other projects and provides funding to make some of these projects happen.
Q2) You write in scholarly journals etc. Did the keynote give you thoughts about how the projects you look at may be written up in new ways.
A2) Yes, I think one thing that is interesting is the idea of being open source but I would also like to see collaborative writing. The monograph is all about me. But I would like to see multi voice texts and would like to look at this for sure.

Copyright, authorship and ownership in digital co-creative practices – Dr Smita Kheria

My work arose from Penny’s previous project. Some of the participants will be common to Penny’s presentation just now. My research interest is in exploring the norms of collaborative practices so far as copyright and ownership are concerned. I am a copyright lawyer and I am interest in how authors relate to copyright law in their practices. Copyright law poses 2 problems. Firstly how it conceives authorship and how that author is credited; and the second problem is how collaborative authors are perceived and how that works in practice, and particularly in emerging collaborative processes online.

So, just to ensure we are all in the same place. Copyright protects the work, it must be an original work. There must be some originality, some effort, skill and judgement. Usually the first author is the first owner, they are the copyright holder and has the economic rights. In collaborative work there are particular assumptions. In co-authorship – for example distinct book chapters in a book – each author has the rights for their contribution. When a joint authoer is perceived, a collaborative authorship, then all contributions have rights. But there is no distinctions within the concept of a joint author. And that has implications for the perception of authorship.

Last year Penny and I worked on a six month AHRC project looking at creation and publication of the “Digital Manual” and looking at authority, authorship and voice. Explored through interviews and focus groups. Participants were working with open source mechanisms. We asked participants – and creators – what the role and meaning of collaborative authorship was for them. What they felt about this, rules of attribution etc. And we found no set rules here, some ideas of how they should perceive authorship. Some commonalities across all four communities – which included MakeShift (from UpStage) and Art is Open Source. What they created was built in real time, changing regularly, grounded heavily in collaboration. The first case study on Art is Open Source we saw a very hands off approach to authorship and ownership. They are a network, they provide open source platforms and software, and also a fake competition in the project we were looking at. They were clear about the ownership of the platform and the software – open source and GPL licensed. But in terms of authors they wanted to disappear, they don’t want control, do not mind what others do with the material they have created. So for instance a book which came out of the project was discussed, they felt forced to be on the cover by publishers. They did take responsibility for the process but didn’t want to engage in what was made with what they made available. They felt attribution was important, generally important but they were not concerned about attribution of their own work.

This was very different to Sauti ya Wakulima. This is a collaborative knowledge base project set up by a set of farmers in Tanzania who share materials gathered via smartphone. There is an ongoing community around farming practices, climate change, etc. The person who set up this project took a very active role in terms of the content created and in the platform etc. They spoke to farmers about the licensing of content etc. This was made available under Creative Commons. His own perception of authorship was different. He did see himself as the author of the software, although he talks about using others materials and code. He was the author but no “not everything came from my own mind”.

Looking at UpStage from make-shift. The platform is totally open. But what about the performances? Well they left that to  performers. There was no licence fee payment option within platform for instance. Performance organisers used the term “brokers” of collaborative performances in the space but, when asked about the performance, capture of the performance for instance, they conceived themselves as authors. They wanted to disassociated themselves from notions of authorships but that was very much their own perceptions. And there was ambiguity about contributed images around performances as well.

And the final case study was FLOSS Manuals – collection of manuals on free and open source software. It is entirely open and editable. A collaborative publishing platform. A lot of manuals there. When editing videos we had taken in this work I actually used one of their manuals for my own work. The platform is open but what about the content? The platform takes a very active role in the content. They have clear licensing, using GPL. Anyone can publish, sell, reuse content. Within the community creating the manuals there was no consensus, it was imposed by the platform owners. And the creative community here radically expanded attribution – anyone who had done anything at all (a single letter, a font face, etc) was credited. Some uncertainty when we spoke to them as the community was unsure about attribution and licensing.

This was a small study but it is clear that collaboration and co-creating has huge implications for perceptions of authorship and huge relevance for copyright law.


Q1 – Ewan Klein, Informatics) A comment more than a question: GPL does not let you do what you like. But do you think that Creative Commons would have provided a trail of attribution in the right way?

A1) Yes Creative Commons would allow that but not all of those we spoke to had the same feeling about attribution, about how work should be attributed and whether there is to be attributed. And under the law some may not be a copyright work (e.g. 1 line in a manual). Here attribution and copright ownership would be split. Do you attribute the collective or the individuals? The farmers went for collaborative attribution… that solves the problem but not the issue of who should be attributed.

Q2 – Chris Speed) something here to do with reciprocity. In terms of commons, in commons land… implicit models of not taking all your sheep… could that translate to copyright

A2) Reciprocity did come up as a suggestion on the basis of which attribution could be made. But how do you assess reciprocity? This comes back to Robin’s question of funding. All of these projects were started by grants, thereafter funded by second jobs, projects, PhDs, voluntary contributors. So if coming in voluntarily is attribution the least you can do (e.g. FLOSS), but maybe if getting a performance that is reciprocity enough? Now these were very different projects and that does need bearing in mind, but those differences were interesting.

Simon: There is a model in Open Source Software of attribution. In open source films we see this work at first but it falls apart when it gets to being an interface from enthusasim and creation and the longer term sustainability.

Penny: FLOSS is an interesting one. This is sort of a benevolent dictator model. He was reluctant to be involved. They do not have money, looking in different directions… This open source, almost utopian community have realised that they need funding to continue.

Smita: and they had an issue. They could publish those manuals but so could anyone else. It would be good to go back in a year’s time to see what had happened.

— And a break whilst I spoke at the Scottish Crucible —

“It’s a computer m’lord”: law and regulation for the digital economy – Prof Burkhard Schafer

I have come in a little late here but Burkhard is talking about new forms of data, such as monitoring data on older people, for the monitoring of their health but potentially ethical and legal concerns. What if you use technology to help people with their memory – what if it has legal issues? What if it leads to a criminal investigation? New forms of data collection invalidate traditional metaphors, traditional divisions of law.

I am based at the law school, notoriously the scene of a crime – the body snatchers of Edinburgh. The law tried to manage supply side, that led

Regulation through Architecture (Larry Lessig) – they restricted access, they build fencing around graves, they patented thick metal coffins that allowed you to view the decomposition before burying, to avoid body snatchers. I call this DRM (Death Risk Management!). But this does relate to the loss of things that are precious. There was a case of a father who gave his daughter, who was dying of cancer, a phone with unlimited voice mail box. But the phone was in her name and when she died the messages were deleted. He took legal action but this is not an easy case.

Whose assets are they, whose privacy is at stake? What happens to the digital artefacts after death? This is complex. This work is part of a multidisciplinary research project, not just informatics and lawyers but across anthropologists, sociologists etc. We came up with radical suggestions far from that of these judges. For instance the “Dead Man’s Switch” – a way to wipe your hard drive and remove embarrassing stuff on your death. There were joke companies promising to look after pets in the case of the rapture to ensure your pets were taken care of by good aethists. But there are serious questions about a service here… about legal liability when taking action on behalf of a dead person.

What about disintermediation? The body snatchers were banned so they cut out the middle man, killing for bodies rather than digging them up again. But could it happen again? Well child trafficking and sex abuse sits in some of the same places of preying on the nieve. We work on this area, looking at ways to understand the role of social workers, teachers, police so that they can extract information they need to evidence a case without breaching data protection law or compromising privacy. This is one of our more technical projects around encryption. And this includes consideration of risk to informants, what can be shared and how, to make sure that there is sharing of neccassary data without exposing others in responsible roles’ as informers on their clients or communities.

Robots bring deep seated problems. They will be something more than machines. They change how we think or interact with technology. To give examples is it appropriate legally, ethically… to give someone suffering with althzeimers a robot that speaks like her husband even if it comforts here? It may be justifiable emotionally but it is a massive deception. Similarly is it ethical to have robots looking like people, should that be another law of robotics.

Meanwhile we have Sensecam devices that automatically take images of their day. Althzeimers patients have been given these to go through their day and work through them with their support worker – to go through their day, remember what they have done, this seems to have benefits for retrieval. They use these devices on dogs too (for more fun purposes). Legally… well in galleries, theatres, movies… photography is banned but should there be an overriding right to take pictures. In Germany public buildings are copyrighted and images cannot be taken. We let guide dogs go where other dogs cannot, maybe this is a similar justification.

And a final example: David Valentine records his performances: “Duellists” and “The Commercial” in public space – demands made on council for CCTV films of his performance for his performers rights. Legally in the UK this is complex!


Q1 – Jen Ross, School of Education) In recent release of Google Glass some restaurants and business banned Google Glass and I’m wondering about the social response and impact of these technologies.

A) Google “St Patricks Day Google Glass” for amusing example. One of the concerns I have… these are being designed in health settings and medical settings but are being designed for live blogging. This is sort of a trojan horse for changing privacy laws and expectation. Private time has origins in latin for robbing time from others, we expect to be alone. It’s fine if we are OK to have images taken etc. But without ability to be alone, if privacy is a public good not a private good then we may not want people to give it up so easily. It becomes very complicated. Lots of frivolous uses trying to get public use on the back of essentially medical technologies.

Q2) I worked on a project with Charles Wab on data sharing. A thing I found in that context is that once you’ve released data into that space… you’ve talked about advocacy role of the social worker… but once released how do you retrench into your social role?

A2) It’s not surprising that in case of child abuse evidence was there but have not been shared. Rules have been changed but it still doesn’t work. People find a way around that. If I don’t trust the recording mechanism I don’t share the data. If I’m concerned about use of my data then I don’t write them down any longer. I don’t think all the evidence we’ve found from the social scientists, the political scientists is that technology doesn’t change that. People respond to requests in our approach, not dumping all their data as they just won’t comply in any manner of creative ways. And it’s a distributed system, rather than centralised for the same reason.

Letting your digits do the walking: on the road with Ben Jonson, 1618 & 2013 – Prof James Loxley  and
Dr Anna Groundwater

We are at the beginning of our digital journey in comparison to others who have been talking today. I will tell you a bit about the manuscript we are looking us, it’s significance and the journey we think it could take us on. In 1618 Ben Jonson walked from London to Edinburgh on foot – an extended walk with no evidence until James Loxley came across an account by a walking companion, a treasure trove of primary evidence for researchers, and a window into life along the Great North Road. So I will talk a bit about how we can recreat that world, to understand that using primary and digital resources.

My experience of digital online resources as a user was as a beginner. I physically dug around in regional and national archives along the Great North Road. Digital catalogues have really helped me to do this, it has allowed me to achieve much more and in a much more cost effective manner. Tools like EEBO have helped me speed up the collation of materials online, to gather biographical information alongside literary texts. Most apposite here is EDINA’s Digimap, I’ve been using it on a daily basis, a way to reinterpret and consider networks, social spaces in early modern britain.

And the literature allows us to understand social spaces, social practices. We can look at practices of hospitality at that time, the experience Jonson was having. Welbeck Abbey for instance is discussed in the manuscript, with specific descriptions of taking over the house from Sir William. Also mention of Mr Bonner the Sherief in Newcastle. Some of this text we have been able to verify. We have been able to use OED to understand some of the terminology e.g. hullock, a wine for very important people.

The texts also provide a history of cultural interests, antiquarianism of tourism and travel.Of the places visited, of the castles, buildings and grand houses along the way. And the route taken there. From Belvoir Castle through to Pettifour Well in Kinghorn. So Edinburgh castle, for instance, was one of his stops. We can use art and images of that era to recreate that voyage. We can physically make these journals, but we can make these journals digitally too. The digital journey remaking the mental and physical connections of that historical journey.

Over to James: I will touch on the dimensions of the project which have emerged as we have been going along. Dimensions of which we have become aware. This was a digital project right from the start, since we have been talking about the project and the manuscript, many have asked about how the manuscript came to light and why this has happened now. The story is a disappointing one. In fact it involved me sitting down to consider the potential for a set of digitised set of catalogues, done by the National Archives, which are catalogues of archives around the UK in a project called Access to Archive. This allowed discovery of collection and structure of collections. I was looking through materials and how they worked, I was able to find literary manuscripts and where it sat in the collection… seemed to refer to Ben Jonson but the spelling was such that no one searching would have found it. There was no rummaging in archive attics. But we have been further exploring digital dimensions.

Because we have a journey here, because it is not like Boswell’s account of Samual Johnson but is instead a list of people, places, food, etc. We can see dimensions that are not classically those that a literary scholar are looking for, what we see as a quantifiable text I suppose. For instance an account talks of the time a journey began, the time of arrival, the locations. And can work out the distance of 9.5 miles, a time of 3 hours, what the walking pace was. Jonson seems to be at about 3.17 mph (modern human average 3.3 mph). An interesting one since Jonson in his own notes says he is around 20 stone. maybe something is not quite right there?

We don’t know who wrote the account, we have candidates but the companion is still anonimous. We can work out the height of the companion using surviving architectural drawings of a venue visited. We can work out that he is 5’5!

We are inevitably working with small data here. We have places, times, distances, speed etc. allows us to visualise the journey in ways we maybe would not have been able to do before, a manifestation beyond the annotated text. We’ve initially been exploring that in terms of a map. (see This inital map on our website gives a sense of places visited (via map pins) and on those pins we include the time they were there and notes which is growing as metadata (excellent sweet water at York!). This is a starting point to begin to map out the data the walk has presented us with. This is really at “rehearsal” stage. There is a performative aspect to this walk – Jonson is greeted by crowds, by property owners, etc. markers etc. People have told us that we must reenact the walk! So we are doing a virtual walk, on 8th July he will tweet in real time on Twitter, that will be linked into the map and the information on the blog site, an interaction between those channels. Hopefully Ben will get into conversations as he is on his way, that’s part of what we’d like to do!

We are already thinking about the possibilities of expanding this for future projects. There is an example called Mapping the Lakes, a team at University of Lancaster made this tracking Thomas Grey and Coleridge journeys around the lakes, created with a GIS to visualise the walks. They have mapped obvious markers but have also tried to map more subjective things such as mood of the walk. You can look at them separately or together. That seems a way of thinking about the literary journey that we would like to develop for ourselves. We would like to think beyond the map we are “performing” this summer… There is clearly an interplay between sites and routes… some are easier to map and work out than others. In some places there was a guide to take them on their way – very hard to find the obvious route. Thinking also about how the mapping of the journey could bring in different possibilities, views, prospects, meaning of sites, etc. We haven’t represented those on the map but we would love to, particularly to compare their walk to modern walks. How do different models of the walk undertaken “for the sake of it” compare? And how can we take that walk, preserve that experience, feed in other materials etc. We hope to be able to approach the AHRC for follow on funding and we would love to talk to anyone interested in the spatiality of walking who might be interested in engaging.


Q1) A connection: Joseph Burlaff, an artist in the US, recreated Gandhi’s walk using a treadmill and hooked up to Second Life avatar and reproduced that there… possible digital precursor

A1) Interesting possibility. Could get gradients in perhaps. There are analogues or comparitives out there to explore. There is a deepening tension and intensifying interest in the process and practice of walking. And how that carries with it expectations and kinds of appropriate representational modelling, do some justice to spatiality but not assuming a single model is all that we need.. need to weave different senses of the spatial within literary walk.

Q2 – Rocio) Comment on idea of the walk: making a collective walk, ask people in surrounding areas to do a bit of it, make it interactive and add their part of the journey… If you can’t do it yourself.

A) Exactly what we hope to do. Want to bring in local history societies and walking groups etc. on the old roads and feed that in.

Old light on new media: medieval practices in the digital age – Dr Eyal Poleg

We are working on a project called Manuscript Studies in an Interoperable Digital Environment funded by the Mellon Foundation. We have found interesting parallels between the reading of medieval manuscripts and medieval practices. Perhaps we can learn from Medieval practices to think about developing digital practices. In many ways printed books are an interim step here between practices we see across old and new media.

Lets start with hypertext. Hypertext is very common in medieval manuscripts, particularly in the Bible. The problem with the New Testament is the Gospels, how do you jump from one to another. You can explore a version at University of Toronto for instance. But in the manuscript era we get the usepian cannons, in the margins of each episode the usepian cannons and use the tables to jump from one to another, very similar to click on a link. This starts something new in exploring the text.

In the 12th Century there is a beautiful text in France. It is a working manuscripts. It has physical cut and paste. It shows the authors wrestling with technology, with experiments in navigating the text. Inventing references. And they tie that to the “late medieval bible” – Gutenberg bible is a replication of one of these bibles. The innovation of these bibles is evident in the chapter division, previously no divisions in the text. From 1230 onwards, with help of Stephen Langton the Archbishop of Canterbury, we have the chapter divisions. And we begin to get Book and Chapter divisions. This fits into mindset of Christian Exegetists at the time of the linkages within the bible. But this linking etc. took off like wildfile – the most efficient way to link and navigate. When we think about hypertext in the Medieval we have to also think of the web of illusions that people also had. So when reading a text, for example a psalter, there is an interaction of text, image and sound. For monks reading the text created a world of illusion. So we can, using digital technology, replicate that to an extent. By adding musical strata of the text, intricate links that evoke the memory of the men and women who would read these texts.

The wiki is a structure we also see in medieval texts. Even now the interaction one has with a printed book is limited. In Middle ages books were different, they were communal objects even for the monks. Annotations were seen to add value to the text, a communal project to read the text. You can read generations of commentators through the margins of the text. The way it took place.. and this is worth considering… is by giving amply space to interact, to comment on the text. Space deliberately left, intermedial and marginal glosses, spaces for comments and annotation. You can see the different hands, texts, monks reflected in the communal commenting on the text. And you see some commentators responding to each other. In one manuscript in Glasgow an O character has been vandalised, a later reader finds this offensive, erases for future readers… so how much can readers interact, erase, changes to the text do we allow? That would have been a nice image…

There is also a sort of Open Code emerging in manuscripts. a Printed book is not that open. But looking across the same manuscripts we see differences – some are errors or changes by the scribe. In the medieval ages the scribe assumes the text could have been faulty, they try to correct them, the text was in flux. Scholars use this to reproduce the text and we can also explore connections between one manuscripts and another. But of course what is a text? What is a changed text? What is a fixed text?

And finally we have non linear texts here, this can be created now in digital environments. Not necessarily beginning, middle and end. Navigation can be very different. For instance a medieval teaching manual uses images and associated ideas to explore but these are non linear, the image point us in directions within the text. And this ties into a late medieval aesthetic vision of ellisons. The idea of a network of ellisions.


Q1) This is a fascinating talk, there are several very orchestrated ways to explore medieval manuscripts that this relates to. You touch on websites reflecting print books, not neccasarily taking advantage of the multimodal opportunities of the web.

A1) That was the starting point to the project. Mellon saw medievel manuscripts increasingly being digitised but that people were using them as printed texts and it wanted to look at new ways of working. So for instance you can see the Summarium, a prototype that uses TEI annotating a non-linear version of the texts, in a communal way.

Q2) Is there a connection between the idea of hypertext in medieval texts and the role of the church as an information system. There have been times where the physical church acted as an information system for state information etc. I’m not sure if that is true of the medieval era.

A2) In the middle ages, unlike the reformation, this is less about inforcement and more about the reality of texts. You live the texts. Monks especially live and breath the text and information. You wake and pray 7 times a day, you are surrounded by images, you are embedded within the textuality.

Q3) Do you find any dilution of the text transferring them to digital technologies? I am sure that institutions are very careful about this

A3) This is not an issue for us. The texts are not of interest to religious institutions today. Very early or very later texts might be an issue but these are not an issue

Q4) Have you ever come across work on roman law reception in the middle ages in codex, I think he came to similar conclusions analysing legal texts as hypertext and wikis. He has a secular models of the same phenomenon

A4) Yes I wasn’t aware of that but I will be interested to have the references. The manuscript texts were a little behind legal texts but it would be very interesting to compare.

And now onto the closing from Sian Bayne saying that it really has been a day of new ideas, very inspiring. And thank yous to the audience and the organisers and of course to all of our speakers.


Apr 132012

Today I am at the eLearning@Ed Conference 2012. This is an annual event focusing on experiences, innovation, and issues around elearning and based at the University of Edinburgh. As usual this is a live blog and will likely contain typos and occasional errors – do leave a comment if you have a correction!

Please note: the LTS team are livesketching the day with an iPad today as well:

::: Updated – you can now view all presentations here :::

The schedule for today (and these will be updated and transformed into headings as the day progresses) is:

Welcome – Professor Dai Hounsell, Vice Principal Academic Enhancement

It’s lovely to be here this morning and to be reminded of how wonderful a place to work this is with such a creative and innovative community. And this is such a wonderful Edinburgh title “Pushing the Boundaries, Within Limits”. Indeed you may recall a campaign for Glasgow called “Glasgow’s Miles Better” and someone created a mini local Edinburgh one “Glasgow May be Miles Better but Edinburgh is Ever So Slightly Superior”.  But that note of caution is sensible. There has been so much talk about how elearning is going in mainstream that we can lose sight of how

We are pushing boundaries but then what sits within those boundaries is really changing. The University in 2012 would be unrecognisable to someone stepping out of a time warp from 1992 say. I think many of our practices and notions of what makes good teaching can be the consequence of old ways of doing things. That’s part of the challenge of breaking boundaries. A lot of our boundaries are part of the past. If we had started with word processing rather than pencil and paper would feedback have become a thing we do after the fact? And if we think about collaborative learning it really challenges some of our colleagues in terms of what they think is right or fair, some funny words can come back in response like “collusion”. As an aside a colleague speaking in Scandinavia found there is no word in Swedish or Danish or Norwegian for “collusion”, it’s all just “collaboration”.

When our colleagues get nervous about the possible downsides of students collaborating together we have to recognise that they won’t change overnight but we also have to realise that it’s valid and right to push them. And on that note I shall hand over to Wilma.

Wilma Alexander, chair of the eLearning Professionals and Practitioners Forum is welcoming us and telling us that eLPP is changing it’s name officially today to eLearningEd. This is intentionally less obscure and should help to clarify what the group is about and particularly to help colleagues in the University understand what we are about.

So to introduce our first speaker: Grainne has been invited along today because much of her current and past research looks at the kinds of issues Dai has talked about in his introduction

Keynote – Openness in a Digital Landscape. Professor Grainne Conole, University of Leicester. Abstract

I’m going to talk a little bit about the notion of openness which I’ve been working on at the Open University and more recently at University of Leicester where I’ve been since September. I’ll be talking about technologies trends. I’ll talk about learner experience. And I’ll talk about open practices – Wilma pointed out the hashtag for today (#elearninged) and how many of you tweet [it’s most of the room], that sort of thing is really changing what we do.  Then I’ll be a little more negative and talk about teacher practices and paradoxes. I’ll talk a littloe about new approaches to design. And then I’m going to talk about metaphors and the need for new ways and types of descriptions.

Technological Trends ( In the 2012 Horizon report we’ve seen mobiles and e-books highlights. In Leicester the Criminology masters programme have just given all of their students iPads as part of the package. We have Game-based learning and learning analytics – that latter is a sexy new term to explain the types of analytics we can gather on how people learn and use our materials, resources, tools. Gesture-based learning and the Internet of Things – there was a lovely article on the Guardian. See Also: Personalised learning, cloud computing, ubiquitous learning, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), Digital content, and Flipped dynamics between student and teacher.

If you Google or look on YouTube Social Media Revolution and also The Machine is Us/Ing both of which really give a good sense of how things are changing. And you might also want to look at a report we did for the HEA where we looked at some key features of Web 2: Peer critiquing; User generated content; Networked – this is the power of tweeting; Open; Collective aggregation; Personalised. The report is: If we had time

Gutenburg to Zuckerberg – John Naughton (blogs at and it’s a great book. And he says: take the long view – we could never have predicted the impact of the internet even in 1990; the web if not the net; disruption is feature; ecologies not economies; complexity is the new reality; the network is now the computer; the web is evolving…

Sharpe, Beetham and De Freitas (2010) found that learners are immersed in technology; their learning approaches are task-orientated, experiential, just in time, cumulative, social; they have very personalised and very different digital learning environment. I have two daughters, one is very organised and very academic in her use of technology but she thinks Facebook is the work of the devil. The other daughter is dyslexic and is quite the opposite and loves Facebook. Who loves Facebook? Why? Who hates Facebook? Why? Our students will also be conflicted, have different views. And our students will be using both institutional technologies and outside tools

Open. Open Resources span a huge range – there has been huge funding for the OER spaces like MERLOT, MIT OpenCourseware, OU Learning Spaces etc. Increasingly research here shows that making OER available isn’t enough. In a recent report ( and the OPAL site we looked at what sort of support people need to use OER effectively, I really recommend the recommendations and that OPAL site if you are interested in OER.

Open Courses. These Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) get huge numbers of participants but high drop out rate. Really interesting to have open educational materials and open courses ( There is also the Open Access University in New Zealand.

Martin Weller, author of Digital Scholar and blogger, talks about open scholarship and exploiting the digital network, new forms of dissemination and communication. I use Twitter on a daily basis and am connected to about 4000 people there, the speed of disseminating information through Twitter is unprecidented and very core to my practice.

Thinking about Open Research I wanted to talk about some of the spaces I use. My blog, e4innovation, is core to what I do. Repositories have become a core part of what we all do – we have the REF coming up and those repositories are being scrutinised in more detail. And there is use of things like wikis and semantic wikis, bookmarking like Diigo, Slideshare, Dropbox, etc. Although I tend to use Twitter and Facebook mainly. I’m on Google+, etc. but don’t tend to use it.

Really interestingly Google now has a Citation tool within Scholar and you can set up a profile. And for sure these will be increasingly used for promotion, for REFs etc. This uses an algorithm from Physics I think. I applied to be a visiting lecturer recently and they asked what my h-index was.

Teacher practices and paradoxes – there are huge opportunities here but they are not neccassarily being fully exploited, we see replication of bad pedagoguey (electronic page turning for example). And intensive research universities like Edinburgh there is also a real tension between teaching and research because promotion is based on research not teaching practice and that pressurises time and attention.

So thinking about Learning Design we have been building up a series of principles. At Leicester we have Carpe Diem workshops on learning design and we’ve been combining this with some JISC work quite effective. Our 7 Cs are Conceptualise then… Capture, create, communicate, collaborate, consider. That’s an iterative cycle. And at the end of that you Consolidate.

In September we will be launching an MSc in LEarning Innovation using much of those learning design resources to think about how we approach this new MSc. So I’m going to share some of our slides and resources here. The Programme includes a series of “e-tivities”. We trialled this with a group of sessions with teachers in South Africa online over two weeks with 8 slots of 1.5 hr face to face sessions and additional work around this.

Peter Bullen and colleagues at the University of Hertfordshire has this concept of How to Ruin a Course – a great way to think about and improve a course. So we used – a virtual sticky board – to think about what would and would not be included, what elements would be needed, and what would definitely not be in there. And then we colour coded for types of course content (eg communication and collaboration, content and activities, guidance and support, reflection and demonstration). And worked through this in Google docs, mapped this into a course map. And that has been pulled out into a plan for the course, technologies and expectations. The point about these different views is that they are designed to be iterative and improved over time. They may look simple but they are grounded in good and substantial imperical research.

We have also tried to reuse as much OERs as possible, to adapt others, and to create as needed. We’ve done a learning design resources audit to think through all that we need to deliver this course. We’ve built in various aspects, we decieded we wanted some podcasts, maybe a little interview or snippit of people like Diana Laurillad and at the OU we found students found these sorts of snippits really enjoyable and useful.

And then we’ve broken down the course activities into Assimilative, Information handling, Communicative, Productive, Experiential, and Adaptive activities. We have a little widget you can use here. And that gives us a picture of the type of profile of a course and lets you adapt it over time. This view can also be used quite significantly with students. I did an OU Spanish course and you get this amazing box labelled “Urgent: Educational Materials”. When I did OU Spanish my weakest area was communication by far. There is a really interesting link between what the course profile looks like and what the students need and take in.

As we started looking at the Learning Outcomes…. We didn’t do that first as you can get too stuck into the words here, easier to look at this later when you have a sense of what will be done. And then we can draw things together looking at how the Learning Outcomes and the Assessment (and all learning outcomes should be assessed) and how these are hit along the timeline of the course. So we mapped that conceptual model. And then we went back to linoit and set up a week by week outline where everything comes together. We can then drill down to a “task swimlane” and put into a little template for the e-tivities. And we are also drawing on some nice tools from the OU library in terms of information activities etc. And then finally we have an action plan for how we do this, a detailed thing to close the loop. These kinds of workshops can be very stimulating but you have to be able to follow up in a practical useful way.

And finally…

Metaphors. The ones I’ve been playing with are:

  • Ecologies – the co-evolution of tools and users, a very powerful metaphor; Niches colonisation of new habitats – Google+ perhaps; Survival of the fittest
  • Memes – particularly drawing on Blackmore here: something that spreads like wildfire on the internet, but perhaps we’ve gotten too cosy here
  • Spaces – campbell 72 talks about the cave, the campfire where we present, the mountain top, the watering hole – how might these apply in elearning
  • Rhizomes – the stem of a plant that sends out roots as it spreads… multiple interconnected and self-replicating and very like ideas and networking. Drawing on dave cormier here. Those of you on Twitter will recognise that sort of close furtive network of connections I thin.

The future of learning: technology immersed, complex and distributed… fuller notes on Slideshare: urgh.


Q1) You talked about Learning outcomes need to be assed, can you talk more about assessment

A1) Assessment is fundamentally about articulating whether students have understood what we wan them to learn. I’m certain our old approaches are no longer appropriate. One of my daughters was

Q2) I was interested in your last slide about digital futures and was interested in whether you had looked at opening up coding practices

A2) I was involved in a project around x-ray chrystallography as Chemistry is my original background. Making raw data available we have questions of ethics and a very different way to share our ideas when still developing. But when I blog things openly I get feedback that improves the work. I think more open approaches particularly regarding data coding could be really interesting

Q3) What can be done to reduce the marginalisation of those not already using technologies?

A3) A lot of teachers do feel threatened, they are under a lot of pressure. I think this goes back to day 1 of lecturing in Chemistry. I was given a bunch of content and drew on my experience. I learned as I went and I think that’s how a lot of teachers start. I think we need to ease teachers into to easy conceptual tools that let them assess what technologies may or may not be useful – they don’t have to use everything, they can’t possibly know everything, it’s about baby steps.

And on to our next speaker…

Motivated, Omnipotent, Obligated, and Cheap: Participating in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) – Jeremy Knox, PhD candidate, School of Education. Abstract and Biography.

The research I will be talking about today is my PhD research on MOOCs which has been a participant observation pilot here based on three different MOOCs: Change 11, Change Education learning and technology – George Siemens, Stephen Downes and Dave Cormier; Udacity CS101 – Independent company created by Sebastian Thrun; MITx – first course offered by MITx.

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. Udacity published 90,00+ enrollment numbers; MITx published 96,00+ enrollment numbers; Change11 has less, perhaps 1,300 active in the first three months based on my experience so far.

Open is perceived in the MOOC as both Open Access and Free. And for both Udacity and MITx that is what they do. That’s also why participant numbers are so hard to estimate for MOOCs – the door is open to entry but also to exit. Big gaps between enrollment and active participation. In the Change11 MOOC there is a more open curriculum and can decide their own outcomes and are encouraged to self-assess – a slightly different model.

Online tends to come down to either a central or distributed space. Udacity and MITx have central spaces where all the learning takes place – a little like an institutional VLE basically. So you have a central space with video lectures, notes etc. Again this is a point of difference with Change11 – all their content is created by participants rather than one organisation. So it is distributed across the web – blogs, twitter, etc.

Courses – MOOCs are structured courses. Udacity and MITx are very traditional with clear aims and objectives. Here you have to learn about building a search engine or about circuits and electronics. In Change11 students far more choose what they learn.

Hopefully that gives a sense of what a MOOC is, that there are various models in use here. So I want to talk about some terms I think might also define the MOOC.

Motivated – a central aspect of being a participant in the MOOC. Downes (2002) says that if you are not motivated then you’re not in the MOOC. There is an assumption of motivation and no central intent to encourage, support, motivate students. Perhaps an issue mappable to wider OER discussion. And some work by Downes found that as little as 4% of participants are active in the MOOC. Here I’m showing a viualisation of communication on Twiter between Change11 participants – you can see a small number of highly active participants/course members.

Omnipotent – is perhaps more relavant than open. They are sold as learners having lots of control over the learning process. They promote learner defined aims and self-assessment. That implies an innate ability to self-direct within the MOOC which we’ll come back to. Traditional education is framed as a passive process within this type of promotion. I suggest this isn’t just about Change11 which heavily promotes this way but also about MITx and Udacity the same need for self-directed students is assumed. The MOOC dissolves itself from responsibility for the students.

Obligated – Change11 requires students to aggregate, remix, repurpose and feeding forward. Participation is seen as essential in the MOOC. This is down to the model of the network that underpins connectivist theory and the MOOC. The more connected you are, the better the learning is. The network isn’t an analogy for learning, it is learning in connectivism. So as the network decreases so does the learning. So something to say there about collaboration. There is a tendency in the MOOC to enforce participation – important for the individual but also essential for the whole. So despite the idea of autonomy the network is crucial here.

So I think Omnipotent and Obligated are real clashing factors here… a problem for the MOOC.

Cheap – perhaps in the financial sense. But more in the sense of responsibility. Learners are responsible for own motivation, they must self-direct, in Change11 they have to decide outcomes and self-direct, if the learners don’t participate there is no course. There is a tendency for MOOCs to shift responsibility from the institution to the student.

So to finish… I would suggest that to rephrase Downes to “if you’re not motivated then it’s not my problem!”. Now I think there is an arguement for the institution or organisation to take that responsibility.


Q1) I’ve participated in Change and I was a wee bit late contributing materials. I was excited to take part but it was rather demotivating as little was going on. Rather than Cheap perhaps Collaborative is more appropriate. Is that a better word than cheap?

A1) Yeah I think that’s part of it but I wanted to get at the fact that the institution should be involved. I think collaboration there would have to mean the institution also collaborating in the process.

Q2) Aren’t you trying to impose formal learning expectations onto an informal, lifelong learning space?

A2) I think I am questioning whether being able to self-direct is innate and whether this discourse of openness and access is actually right as these are not neccassarily innate things, that access to technology and understanding is not open, these are learned things.

Q3) I’ll come back to some of these issues but there is an interesting philosophical difference in France where courses were open and people can join and disappear. Perhaps this about opening opportunities for people to find out more and explore that learning but perhaps dropping out of these spaces isn’t a failure but a choice also.

A3) that is a fair point.

Wilma is now talking about the university of edinburgh’s innovative learning week which took place for the first time this year and our next speakers will be reflecting on that experience.

Case studies – Law less ordinary: reflections on Innovative Learning Week in the School of Law – Dr Gillian Black, School of Law.

I want to talk about one of our most successful ILW events. This was our Criminology photo competition organised by one of my colleagues who lectures on the criminology degree. She asked students to identify images from news, videogames, films etc. around crime and injustice. The challenge was to use the image and use text to change our expectations. This was set up on PebblePad and you needed to send in an image, text and the name of contributors. Students took images, shared them with commentary. And she also wanted this to be freely available and publicly available. You had to login to add images. But you could comment as you would on a blog. It ran from the beginning of January to he end of Innovative Learning Week. It was very popular.

I think the winning entry was an image on the idea of “Facebook Rape” or Frape. The success was such that Dr Suami is looking at running an exhibition of these images. And that reenforces that this didn’t just happen online but also was part of our offline practice as well.

Why did this work? Well Dr Suami is a very popular lecturer with enthusiastic students. And it was fun. But those of us who found it difficult to get students along in person perhaps will understand that an advantage of this activity was that students could take place at any time and on their own terms. I hope this will have a lasting legacy.

The other aspect here was that the activity did cross courses, engage colleagues, really brought the programmes together.

Followed by: Changing Atmospheres – The 1 Minute Film Project at the School of Geosciences. Dr Elizabeth Olson.

This project involved 5 academics designing this over two months. We set undergraduate geography students a challenge! We set them the task of recording audio and video separately and then making a one minute film about it. So there was a technology aim here. It was a two day challenge. We trained them the basics of filmmaking – a good shot, storyboarding, artistic outputs, sound recording. Sent them out for 5 minutes to capture stuff. Then we had a full day for capture. We borrowed tools – H1 and H3 zoom mics, HD camcorders that the department has for research. We used Mac Pro and PCs – brought in some extra kit of our own into a lockable room. We ended up using Audition (free software) for audio, And some of our free tools we used what software we had so Adobe Premier CS5 and Final Cut Pro – we didn’t have to induct them in any of the software really.

Feedback we had was really interesting – the storytelling aspect complimented everyday practice. A worrying comment that this was the most useful 2 days of the year! And another found it invaluable as an opportunity to explore the city as good geographers from a very different angle. We let students vote on the films so I’ll show them from least to most voted on films. [great wee films although speeded up scenes seem particularly popular]

We had increadibly popular feedback, a lot of students want to carry on filmmaking as a hobby, and students have talked about using film and photography into their assessed work. It was increadibly labour intensive, increadibly good fun.

After a short tea break we are back for some case studies which are just being introduced by Marshall Dozier

Case study – 2012: A MATLAB® Odyssey – Antonis Giannopoulos, School of Engineering. Abstract

Really I should have Dr Craig Warren, my former PhD student, as author, it’s all his work but he is on holiday at the moment!

So I will be talking about turning a traditional lecture based course into a largely online course. But lets start with what MATLAB is, how we used to teach it, why it needed to change, the aims of the new course, what new material was creates, what tools we used and some feedback.

So MATLAB is a programming environment for algorithm development, data analysis, visualisation and numerical computation. But it’s about problem solving, they don’t come in to learn programming for it’s own sake. We teach some sort of programming, usually in second year, in Chemical, Civil, Electrical and Mechanical engineering – we all arrived at MATLAB separately but as we were all teaching the same thing we though that we could really do something here to bring our teaching toether in some way.

We were teaching MATLAB through lectures and some computer lab-based exercises. If you aren’t a programmer or don’t like programming these lectures can be really hard to engage with. We can have live examples, movies etc. but it’s not hugely effective. Those lectures were ok but not very exciting. We wanted to change this a software tool you really only learn and learn through programming tend to learn through doing something as a hands on experience. So we saw this as an opportunity to really create engaging interactive material. We created a 5 credit module and use this as part of other modules. We wanted it to be online, self-paced, self-study model. Pass the buck to the students to take responsibility for working through the materials. It was very much targetted to those with no prior knowledge of MATLAB or with no previous programming experience. And we wanted them to learn to be competent using the most common features of MATLAB to solve engineering problems.

The tools we used were screencasts created with ScreenFlor and also a Samson Go Mic. And we have online course PDF assembled from LaTeX source – LaTeX is old tech but lets you output your material to all sorts of different formats.

The new material created includes a core comprehensive PDF with link sto lots of supporting material; self-test excercises; tightly intergrated screencasts linked from PDF – showing and describing basic MATLAB concepts and providing solutions to exercises.

You can have a look at the site here:

And I’ll give you a demo here of a screencast.

This course is being used in all of the different 2 year undergraduate courses across engineering. They develop numerical and programming skills and are being used really well. We have the courses as self-paced materials but they are well supported – my course we have 10 x 2 hour labs to work through problems etc.

Student feedback has been really good. We intentionally limited screen cast to 5 mins maximum so you go and do and practice as you work through the course. The course is available outwith the university. The screencasts are on YouTube. They’ve been live for 2 years so we’re starting to be able to analyse usage. We plan to publicise the course within UoE. And we want to use this course to develop similar material for other software tools that are part of degree programmes in engineering. And we want to look at other ways to make core materials available in more interactive ways – maybe with tools like iBooks for instance.

Acknoweledgement here must be given to the Edinburgh Fund Small Project Grant which helped fund this work, to Dr Craig Warren of course, to colleagues across Engineering and LTSTS for their support.


Q1) You mentioned that MATLAB was really expensive and I was just wondering whether students have access to that software away from the lab as that can be really important for learners on self-paced courses.

A1) So the student version of MATLAB is available on all university machines across all labs etc. But students can also access MATLAB remotely via nx. It’s not as easy as it could be but they do have access whenever they need.

Q2) Any plans for transcripts for deaf students. And I think you could be making the course inaccessible to those students with those videos. And transcripts may help foreign language students.

A2) I haven’t thought about that particularly. I think that

Q3) You talked about analysing use -how are you looking at this and are you starting to look at student performance

A3) Craig is starting to do this. We have seen far better performance on final exams. But we need to do more.
Case study – Maps mashups as a teaching aid. Richard Rodger, HCA

I’m going to be talking about the AHRC funded Visualising Urban Geographies project. And I want you to imagine yourself as geographically challenged students here. We are great at the cultural aspect of history but I think we need to do far far more with geospatial perspectives on history.

Our objectives were to create a set of geo-referenced historical maps of Edinburgh, to reach a broader public, to develop open source software and avoid GIS…

And the contributions of my colleague Stuart Nichol and the staff at the National Library of Scotland’s Map Rooms – which is a fantastic resource – has been crucial here.

So we started with resource development. Maps were scanned and geo-referenced. One of the core issues to address was the thorny issues of boundaries and we wanted to make multiple types of boundaries available for all of these maps.

So maps have lots of historical information of course. I want to give you a few examples here. So looking at Edgar’s 1765 map we’ve given this topography – Edinburgh is certainly not flat! These maps have huge detail – looking at Edgar 1765 – so pick out something here, West Bow and Victoria Street perhaps, and I’ll show how this changes through 100 years of maps here. You can trace changes on the map and relate it to other documentary material and resources.

And then of course there is the chronological map – Chris Fleet of NLS is very proud of this form here, the map started in 1870 and gradually it grows to show the expansion and changes to the city over time, giving a 2D map a more dynamic feel that will appeal to a more general audience and their spatial awareness.

It’s probably evident here that our data is held in all sorts of different places… The Mapbuilder is all about address based history – census data, taxation records etc. So we used a geocoder to exploit these address based history. And we were plotting these points on a historical map – anyone can plot on a google map but it’s adding it to the historical map that adds important value here. So you can look, for instance, at clustering of addresses of solicitors in Edinburgh. When addresses have been geocoded they can be exported as a KML and viewed on a historical map. So the distribution of edinburgh solitors from 1861 superimposed on a relevant historical map. If we look at the same sort of group of solitors from 1811 we can see a move of location – that needs investigation. I think that’s very much about the change in practice in the law around this time, from lower new town to more central commercial areas.

Other ways to make this sort of data available to the wider public. So looking at James Colville, the Edinburgh Cooperative Building Company Ltd, the colonies and his walk to work in the 1870s – looking at this data you can see real social change over time.

Similarly you can look at James Steel, 1869 – Easter Dalry feu – and see the development of Haymarket over time.

Another tool we have here allows you to measure distance from the tool, you can see the trip of Colville’s walk around the colonies – the distance, the gradiant, the area of his travels. Very useful.

Of course addresses are one thing but also wanted to think about properties in Edinburgh. So boundaries and juristictions are very important here. So we’ve used our own data on properties here. One of the greatest contributions I think is in the definition of these maps – by creating shapefiles for these maps we can pour data into our thematic mapping engine. We can use those boundaries to express complexity in administration areas of the city. You have to imagine a mosaic of overlapping juristictions and some areas that are entirely dislocated from the rest of the city. For a historian to have that laid out so you can then plot data into those maps with the appropriate boundaries. Whilst we did it for Edinburgh it could be for any city really.


Q1) How have students been finding these tools and what have they been doing with them?

A1) History in practice. Dissertations and advanced projects. 8 different types of case studies of that. Possibly talking to the converted here but they have responded really positively. And there is a community neighbourhood project in Wester Hailes that has found this work really useful and there has been lots of community engagement here. And there is also a project on mill sites in Perthshire that have also been using this data.

Case study – ‘Engage & Reveal’ project – Lindy Richardson, ECA

I’m going to talk to you about collaboration. The title should be “Reveal & Engage”. But after listening to everyone today I’m going to rename it “Engage, Reveal & Engage”. One of the challenges we have is about engaging our students. We artists can be quite separate in our practice until it comes to showing off – much of how artists use the web is about showing off our work!

So I want to start by talking about collaboration, working together to achieve something. Artists do get together whether virtually or in the flesh. There are loads of collaborative drawing projects line the Moly_x:an international moleskin sketchbook exchange – you can find this on Flickr. Artists draw and send on and new material is added. It’s a progressive linear collaboration. You contribute and it is physically exchanged and posted on the web. You haven’t actually interacted with the other artists though. It’s actually quite remote.

I set up a project in ECA to help students to understand how to physically interact with others’ work. Student one had two areas of pattern, student two had two different areas of patterns. And the idea was that they printed onto the print bed. Then for the second screen you had to print on the person before you’s work. They freaked out! The idea was about physically interacting and engaging with their fellow students’ work. We do lots of physical stuff in art which allows lots of handing on of work rather than collaboration – but you wouldn’t do that with one person researching something, another writing an essay, etc. So the idea here was that they engaged with and reflected on the process but still students in the printing project were mainly thinking separately…

So, I then set up an international collaboration project. This was British Council funded across cultures encourages collaboration through physical exchanges of materials from indigenous cultures. So we showed students Ayreshire needlework and Paisley paislies. Students responded to that original inspiration. And partner students in China did similarly, took inspiration and sent to us. And then the idea was to exchange these fabric pieces and we would add or subtract to these as part of the exchange. And what I expected was absolutely not what we got! So we sent a beautiful hand embroidered pieces and many of thenm came back quite crunchy, quite glued. Some of our students were quite upset by that.

So… Reveal and Engage… was a project at ECA to encourage our students to work together and to move out of their bubble, and to find synergies and common research areas. So we wanted them to contact each other, to engage in dialogue and to be collaborative. As artists and designers when we put up our materials online that’s our name, our work, and some text. So we did this event in the sculpture court. Each student got a 1.5 metre square space to pitch themselves. We taped out squares, they could pick their own area and sell themselves. You were speeddating each others work basically. Interestingly a few programme directors said no to this event. But when the event ran the students kept coming up and wanting to join in. I was a bit naughty and let them take cards and engage but not pitch themselves.

So the students required to provide a concise statement about your areas of interest and research focus. And examples of their own practice. It was really good for the students to think about that. So the students had a name plate with name, email, mobile number, website (where appropriate) and programme. In the second year we were asked for name badges though one student hated that. The students had to make 5 contacts. This was excruciating for some of them. It’s so easy to do this by phone, email. etc. To force them to do this physically was alien but was really really helpful. They had to make a minimu of 5 follow up meetings for discussion and potential development. Some were nervous about having too little interest, others were overwhelmed. Students quickly became aware of how effective and relevant their approaches were.

One of the most important things was to encourage students to enjoy the experience. to make contacts outside your area. And it will have huge benefits in the future. So here is an image of an ECA fashion show where students from textiles and fashions have worked together.

And then… ?

The challenges of working together became apparent. We set up staff surgery sessions to help with this and this also allowed you to work with both students at the same time, staff from outside your own areas. And that helped a lot as you can set up “collaborations” but as staff we often leave students to it and they need some of that support to make that work.

Some great collaborations took place – lots of fashion and textiles students working together, a great example of a performance costume and jewellery designer coming together. And the students really became aware of transferrable skills, particularly around communication, presenting themselves, being professional.

So how is the collaboration and the success of this venture assessed? We use the e.portal – we give feedback and the students have to also reflect on themselves and only then do they see both aspects of feedback in parallel, we use peer assessment, we had some sessions with the students themselves. But there are challenges here. Our students are very visual but they are not as keen to put their work into writing so this means we can have great projects and work from students but then their poorer performance on written aspects and reflection can effect their feedback or performance.

Next a project with concrete, glass and textiles in collaboration with Saint Peter and his collaborator as muse [I’m pretty sure that’s wrong, correction to come], an incredible concrete thing. And we will produce something amazing marking collaborative forward direction with the University which ECA is now part of.

And now, to lunch!

‘Enhancing the student experience- Representing, supporting and engaging with our 20,000 members’ – Rachel King, Martin Gribbon and Andew Burnie, Paul Horrocks (in absentia), EUSA. Abstract

Through this session we hope to give an overview of EUSA’s activities and to give an idea of the practices and activities that IT tools have been used in our work. We had hoped that Paul Horrocks, a third year maths student whose work you will see, would be able to speak today but he’s tied up with exams at the moment but we wanted to acknowledge him here.

Our visiiojn is to represent the student voice effectively to the university and beyond, to support student academic and social wellbeing, provide opportunities for participation and development through student activities, and things like discounted food and drink etc. We like to be a collaegue, a critical friend etc. to the University. All students of the University are automatically EUSA members unless they choose to opt out.

Representation is really important, we have to show we are listening and responding and to know how best to support students. Our general meetings have had poor attendance in the past, often not quorate in fact, so we have, for the first time, run a referendum online this year. And we had an average of 2000 votes on each item versus meetings that would have perhaps had 120 students so that’s been a success we think. We do also try to encourage students to engage – we can seem like a strange and perhaps irrelevant interruption in studies. So we do things like supporting candidates for the student elections and telling them lots of tips and hints about how to run a successful campaign… [we are now watching a video made for candidates on how to deal with nice and very difficult students you are trying to engage with – on YouTube as Election Advice – Door Knocking; Election Advice – Lecture Announcements].

Representation is most effective when student led so I am handing over to Andrew to talk about a very successful online petition that he led…

So last year registry informed us that they planned to reduce the month of exam schedules down to two weeks, were really angry and upset as that crammed near 10 exams into a very short period. I am lucky, I’m a representative for my class so I could email student colleagues and to let the university know. We were able to get it increased back to a three week period. But that wasn’t great. Many students hadn’t heard about this until my email, they didn’t feel informed or consulted by the University. So I set up an online petition – I wanted name, I wanted to know about course and school to see if this was just an issue for me and my colleagues. Then I wrote some code to turn the responses into a spreadsheet and look at the statistics. I thought that we would have loads of Science and Engineering responses but we actually had loads from HSS. And we had good responses from first and second year students. The most responses were from Informatics, not surprising as my school and they personally had an email from me. And I got a lot of students on joint degrees commenting as they felt that their dual schedules were not properly accomodated. I also had Google Analytics on the site to see activity. I shared the comments that had been placed. Those pages were used quite frequently and students were really thinking about whether to sign it. It was first just promoted on Facebook by me and by emails to my school. On the third day I send EUSA an email asking for it to go to class reps. When you target emails at engaged people like class reps. And it went pretty viral on Facebook. So we saw lots more responses. And Twitter was useful too but not many. Most students use Facebook, a lot don’t use Twitter – but computer scientists do. So, we had all these responses and, with EUSA’s support, we got the decision reversed by Registry. So why was it successful? It was student led and that’s crucial. Well it was a petition about only one issue, it was focused and clear, but you could personalise it with the comments box. People could participate in different ways – by signing the petition, by sharing on Facebook or even coming to the meeting with Registry, allowing that engagement on lots of levels was really important. Back to Rachel…

One of the other things we do in supporting our members is the services like the Advice place – we offer accomodation, health, etc. advice and that’s all online now. And we have been working on outreach with a roadshow around the university campuses to explain what the Advice Place is and does. And part of that is ensuring their Facebook Page and Twitter pages are up to date. The Advice Place is now in the Dome with a lovely new centre. You can see that they are sharing information on Twitter about student support funds, condom deliveries, where to find them, etc.

Societies are a really big part of students lives here, there are over 160 and we have been setting up a database of all societies so we can train treasurers etc. And you can now engage online, join online, pay your subs online etc. Each society has a page they can update and let people know what they’re doing.

We also have a volunteering centre in the Potterrow dome now and students can come in or look online for volunteering opportunities. The volunteering centre can easily add opportunities and students can easily sign up. I really encourage you to take a look and think about volunteering opportunities you may have – there is almost no part of the university that wouldn’t benefit from some volunteering effort.

We also have various peer support services – there is an International Buddy Project, and a project called Tandem – for people who want to practice speaking various languages, just talking not academic stuff, and that’s open to staff and students. We also have a scheme called Peer Proofreading and it followed a pilot in recognition of demand among non-native English speaking students for reliable sources of help in proofreading student work. The proofreading is purely about spelling and typos, not about academic content. So the student submits some work, it gets sent to a trained volunteer proof reader, and they send back feedback and the student can meet to discuss issues etc. And there is a community of proofreaders building up – a Facebook group for them, we’ve been surprised about how many students were keen to train as proofreaders actually.

And we have an initiative called Path Finder which is about choosing appropriate classes. At the moment students have the DRPS only, it’s hard to navigate that system. And it also helps highlight prerequisites etc. The idea is that students and staff have coauthored course descriptions. Students can see both sets of information and can see the consequences of that course in terms of course eligibility etc.

So far they have the DRPS data and BOXE reports and we hope that Paul, who has been designing this, will be able to work on this over the summer and will be able to get some financial report to do this. And now over to Martin…

I’m going to talk about a Facebook page we set up for Freshers Week. I don’t think this is neccassarily groundbreaking but I wanted to explain why we used that approach.

This was a Facebook Group, called Edinburgh University Freshers Week 2011. It has 2131 members. The first post by a student was on 17th June 2011 and actually we had 1000 members already at 17th July 2011. Students really want to engage early in the year.

So why do this? Well students want to come together before September. It allows students to ask questions they might otherwise keep to themselves or each try to ask individually. So it allows students to share experiences and expertise. However a downside there is that not all answers will be correct so we have to keep an eye and comment where there is an incorrect answer address that. We use social media a lot but this is by far the most successful social media activity we’ve done, it’s really enhanced the student experience.

So to look at Facebook here you’ll see a typical question which was about whether or not accommodation services should have been in touch, it gets 26 replies and they find solutions and approaches. And we have another student looking for others on his course. And others share where they will be, finding out who will be in your halls etc. You also see students setting up their own groups for various accommodation spaces etc.

We have set up the Edinburgh University Freshers Week  2012 group already. They have to ask to join. I’ll accept them only if they are real people. Businesses we decline. But we’d encourage any staff who want to to join this group and help students feel part of the University. Back to Rachel…

Future challenges for us certainly relate to engaging with our ever-growing and diverse student body, and ensuring there are inclusive and accessible learning and teaching – podcasts and WebCT being of concern at the moment.


Q1) Are you thinking about having any special focus on distance students as we increasingly have more of these

A1) Rachel: We are talking with the University about this. There is alo an independent group called SPARKS that support student associations who are also looking at issues around distance students and how to support them so we are engaging.

A1) Martin: Obviously Facebook and Twitter etc. are globally available. We do also email about events on campus and campaign etc. to all students, distance or not.

Q2) DRPS is not only difficult for students, also very difficult for staff too. The Pathfinder system looks great but how do you plan to keep information current?

A2) One of the things that Paul has been so grateful is that the school felt that to set this up they needed the ability to maintain and keep this system up to date. And there would be a student coordinator every year and to add new data every year.

Q3) Are there plans to roll out Pathfinder to other schools?

A3) They would very much like to. They have tried to design it so that that’s possible.

Case Study – ‘The Idiots Guide to Collaborative work practises: Author, The students’ – Victoria Dishon, School of Engineering

I’ve been doing some work with our students on how they engage with their academic studies using technology. When I started doing that there were significant discussions in our school about what students do when they receive an assignment from us. I didn’t say what sort of technology I was looking at. I just asked students about technology.

Someone from another organisation said that “Engineering does a lot of group work, do you provide collaborative software? What do the students do when you give them an assignment?” and although I had some ideas I wasn’t actually sure.

So to see why we do so much group work we needed to look at our degree programmes. And all of these are accredited b the relevant professional body (e.g. Institute of Mechanical Engineers) and as a result the activities and assessment is very structured. So I’ll show you our mapping of specific learning outcomes to the degree programme from when we were most recently accredited in 2008. So if we have a look at these learning outcomes the ways in which these are phrased clearly requires you to talk to others, to exchange knowledge. And there is a requirement to manage and participate in shared experiences, in group experiences.And that is experience that you need to have for the real engineering world. And you need to understand customer relationships and peer collaboration.

So, I decided, going back to that original question, that I needed to speak to my colleagues about this and ask them that question. And my colleagues said: well it’s difficult to say; it depends on the assignment; I don’t really care as long as it comes in on time; well they must talk and meet. Some of my colleagues know really well what their students do. And it does depend on how much they are involved with a specific assignment. But generally it wasn’t really clear.

So I thought did I ask the right question? Did I ask the right people? So I decided that I better ask the students… So normally if you send out a student survey you will get 10-20 responses from super keen people. But I got 200 responses!

So I asked if they were using social media or file sharing sites for a class activity or an assignment. 94.5% said yes. I asked about what they were doing with them. There were tick boxes etc. and also loads of comments. I’m happy to share the detailed data here and will be doing that with my school of course. Students were using social media to discuss how they use class materials. Students upload tutorial sheets to Dropbox or Facebook and working their way through the tutorials. They write their workings out, take a picture, share it, correct each others work, explaining what they’ve done wrong. etc.

Students responded that they do this all the time, it’s not part of their assignments alone, it’s a core part of what they do. They do a lot of filesharing – for varying reasons. Mainly they do that because email isnt very efficient and don’t want stuff lost in the email boxes. And they are creating shared materials, not just assignments. So they had more in their toolbox than we thought. Not hugely surprising but the data is super helpful. We have decided we want to explore this more. I originally sent this survey to all our students. I followed up the survey asking if students wanted to come and chat and follow up on this. Seven students came to chat for half an hour, most went on for an hour and half in the end. All of those students were happy to work with the school to develop tools to help them with their learning. But that was a very self-selecting groups.

So some examples…

A 1st year Civil Engineering student has a laptop and smartphone. They are part of her life – not just her studies. She uses facebook every day mainly for social activity and she uses it as a lifeline to back home in Aberdeen. And that link was really important to making her feel her at home at university. She is also happy to join in work on there. There is a year 1 Civil Engineering FB group – they gossip, they share class info etc. Its set up by students themselves. She did join in a FB group for sharing documents and discussing an assignment. After that completed that group stopped. She uses dropbox as more reliable and harder to lose than a USB stick, She uses text messages to arrange personal and academic meetings. Not a big fan of email – it doesn’t seem personal enough for her. She’d prefer phone or Facebook.

A 3rd year Electrical and Mechanical Engineering student is a class rep and uses technology across personal and academic life. He use doodle to arrange meetings with email confirmations. He uses Dropbox to manage all files and to co-create academic materials. He doesn’t use his school file space at all. He also uses Dropbox to upload tutorial questions and past exam questions. And they use mobile phone or iPad camera to share notes etc – that was much more widespread than I realised. He regularly creates and managed FB groups, managing a University of Edinburgh Society page including advertising. And he uses FB to plug gaps in the knowledge between his two disciplines that are not fille sby the academic materials.

A 4th year Electrical and Informatics student. He considers himself to be completely digital, uses a laptop and mobile. He sees everything online as his front space to the world, that it is his personal brand, and how important he thinks that is. He uses Google docs, dropbox etc. And he’s created loads of spaces himself here.

So the commonalities here…

  • Ease of use
  • frequency of access – want everything when they need it and where they are
  • consideration of the tools that met the differing academic and social requirements
  • all demonstrated levels of understanding of privacy and security issues that suggested these had been considered before I spoke to them
  • all consider these tools to be essential to their acadenmic work set
  • the development of these strategies happen mostly without UoE staff directio or guidance, through peer discussion adn actions.
So… what do they do when we give them an assignement? They go out into the world and gather their digital office tools, on a bus, at the flat, in the library or in the computing labs,. They work together, they work separtely and they share. And they do a great job of this without us
Q1) This sounds very positive but are there students who fall off the edge here..
A1) We had a real mixed set of responses. Some students were struggling and didn’t want technology forced on them. One of the students – the one that created the 3rd year mech eng FB group. There were 102 students in that coure, and 98 were in the group and the four students were being sent that material separately to keep them up to date.
A2) We try to provide flexible students who have the knowledge to go out and find the materials needed for any task – whether an assignment or any other challenge. We are saying to them here is the way to identify the problem, find the right tools and find the solution. So it’s about giving them the skills and toolsets to address any number of issues.
Q3) By the time you’ve reacted to what students say they want they will have moved on… or by formalising that space they will move on because they don’t want you there surveilling.
A3) I would quite like to have shown you the FB groups students use so I asked for permission but they said no. It’s their space. If they want us to help they will ask that, or many will. My concern is about those who are not confident to do that. But us going into their spaces is an issue, it would put them off. It does raise real questions of how you support technology and what technology you support.
And after a short tea break it’s onto the next session…

Case study – Digital Feedback – Dr Jo-Anne Murray, CMVM Abstract

I’m going to talk about some work we’ve been doing out at the Vet School. Some of our students are engaged in online distance education courses so when I talk about digital feedback I’m talking about distance students in particular.

Interaction and communication is key to engaging students in online learning. This is really important when you look at the literature. So it’s about building a community learning experience. So we provide virtual lectures that can be accessed asynchronously. We have a virtual classroom that allows realtime interaction between students and the instructor. We also have text based syncronous discussion. And we have our own virtual campus in Second Life for students and interactions between students and instructors.

So we do provide an aspect of ongoing feedback. But when we come to assignment feedback this has typically been text based and has been delivered by email or through the VLE. Feedback enhances learning. Hand-written comments can be given weeks after submission. And when we think about students perspectives of feedback and the National Student Survey our students are not all that satisfied with the feedback particularly the timliness of feedback, the level of detail and the comprehension of that feedback.

We have lots of work on feedback for traditional students but there has been pretty limited work on the role feedback plays in distance education. Most studies have only examine text-based feedback. And can be limited due to lack of verbal and non-verbal information. Two important factors here are social presence and the sense of instructor interaction, things like friendliness, humour, ways to let the student know that the instructor is concerned and interested.

So thinking about digital technologies… we could use audio, screencasting, webcams. Although quite limited there are some programmes using digital feedback in HE. And this potentially gives us an opportunity to provide richer more detailed feedback, more comprehensive feedback, more timely feedback (but not taking more time to produce), nuances conveyed through tone of voice and use of learning. So hopefully enhancing the relevance and immediacy and usefulness of feedback.

So our case study here relates tio the MSc/Dip/Cert in Equine Science. This is delivered part time over 3 years. And it is delivered using a blend of online learning methods, through asynchronous and synchronous discussion. Students enjoy and thrive on quality unteractions and we really try to promote a sense of presence in the teaching. But feedback on assignments lacked that.

So we trialled feedback on dissertation proposal assignment. We used screencasting software called Jing to deliver this digital feedback – it’s a free to download software, it’s easy to use and it’s less time consuming than generic feedback sheets. So if I play you an example here you can talk through the feedback but also highlight relevant text and the key areas being discussed.

We asked students for feedback. All of the students reported digital feedback as helpful and preferable to written feedback. Felt it much more personal and helpful. Some also found seeing the text being discussed particularly helpful. In terms of improving the students work many of our students felt that it did improve their understanding of how to improve their work. All students said they would like this type of feedback again. Most found it was easy to access, we supported those who had more difficulties.

In terms of tutor feedback and how I found it it was very easy to use, it felt more personal to each student, probably included more detail – I was able to explain to a student how to improve her work far easier through talking than through writing it down. And less time consuming.

In conclusion I would say it’s a very valuable tool for providing feedback. It was a very positive experience for both tutor and students. And it really enhanced the quality and timeliness of feedback.


Q1) You used JING, I suspect that it was stored to their own server… so who has that recording. Are there any issues with that?

A1) You have to watch out how you upload the recording to the servers but you can make it private to a specific URL. I have downloaded those files to our own servers as flash files so they could be deleted if we wanted them to be.

OER, OCW, MOOCs and beyond: open educational practice European research & Discussion – Professor Jeff Haywood,Vice Principal Knowledge Management and Chief Information Officer.

What I’m going to cover is to quickly look through OER, Open CourseWare, MOOCs etc. and educational practice, and to speak about what we do and don’t do here at the University of Edinburgh. And to end on a set of slides on economics.

If you want to read the best text on this it’s Taylor Walsh’s Unlocking the Gates (available free from Ithaca). So OER or Open Educational Resources… it is an area of real interest to those that are in th eeducation for development and developing nations etc. so organisations like UNESCO etc. have funded these. And funding from HEA, JISC, Jorum etc. have been important to the creation of OERs. And people like Open Nottingham and Leicester for instance have really stepped into this. We have tried before and may want to revisit.

What is OpenCourseWare is kind of a hodge podge of resources, many of incomplete. MITs set are rated quite highly but many of the resources that are referenced are not open, you cannot do the readings here. There are standards coming through here… there is development of ISO standards takiing place. And the Open University is one of those who have stepped into this domain and into free courses and the space of the MOOC. The thing to note here is the idea of fully automated courses. Standford’s first course here was CS 101 and if you see their FAQs you are entirely walled out of the institution and you get no credits for the course. MITx awards you a certificate but not tradable in the academic exchange sense. And ChangeMOOC which is about the converted learning with the converted.

I also wanted to talk about Coursera which is a Stanford spin off. There is a question here for Edinburgh… do we build our own. For us we think it makes sense to join in with an existing leader so we are talking with Stanford adn Coursera to open that up and looking for volunteers to build materials for that space.

And I wanted to move on to OEP – Open Educational Practices. The OPAL website ( and this is about thinking about what you might do and what you might need. In terms of structure and need you will find some super thought provoking discussion in the documentation there. There is a classification scheme with a Low to High Learning Architecture scale and an OER Usage scales rom Low to High. So for an institution you can conciously think about conciously where you may want to be on that spectrum.

The OER University – also mentioned earlier – one of the crucial things here is that it is going to be cheaper for the learner – there is a note there for cheaper rates for assessment and credit. So it has the model of learners learning from OER, supported by volunteers, then open assessment from participating institutions, then grant credit for courses, and students are awarded diplomas or degrees [Jeff is showing a diagram adapted from Taylor 2007]. So we are seeing some decoupling of the institution here…

So I have been working on a project, OERtest, with Hamish McLeod, Sue Rigby and others, looking at how one can go about testing knowledge from OERs. And the guidelines we’ve been building up are concerned with entire course-modules offered as OER – the OER must be an entire course unit/module with full course materials, LOs, guides, assessment protocols, supporting documentation, equivelent to a unit/module offered in any HEI. It is intended for units which have been made available entirely online in one space. So it’s perhaps more like a MOOC.

We have several scenarios here. One is an OER traditional student who attends our institution, studies OER modules, request assessements, then use credits within the same institution. Many were nervous about that but seemed like the most straightforward idea.

The next scenario is an OER Erasmus which is the notion of a student completing a course from another university that is used at home institution – a Stanford CS module say as part of an Edinburgh programme.

Another scenario is an OER RPL is not a student at all, studies OER module from… whereever. And requests assessment from our university and uses credits from our university. This is very much like recognition of prior learning. It should work with relatively flexible institutions. But if you look across Europe some organisations regulate that sort of possibility and process and indeed regulate the cost for those sorts of work.

So the critical bit is you have to understand where in the qualification framework you will define yourself as an institution. You decide the level you want to work in. And how many credits you will assign to the work to be done. And then associated with that when you issue the marks you have to tell the people who are receiving those credits how the credits are acquired. And all of the students that graduate have a certificate explaining how the teaching took place.

So…. we took the proposal about teh University offering credits for other learning to the Senatus Academicus and actually they were quite unphased, as an institution we have real confidence in our ability to ensure that the right process takes place to ensure that we this properly if we decide to do it.

Economic Models..


  • cost for HEI is the sum  of value of all inputs needed to design, develop, maintain course materials and delivery platform plus ensure visible.
  • return on investment – reputation, increased applications, signals quality, pro bono service, complies with current ethos
  • Cost for learner – not a lot of evidance that suggests that the value to the learner community is significant. Time to use, need to integrate into other learning.
  • ROI for learner – additional learning materials for course or pleasure. There is some evidence that users of OER are already students looking for additional materials.



Cost for HEI: again as per OER plus lite-touch tutoring/support and lite-assessment mechanism for certifiate (if offered) and “advertising” and keep pushing these courses.

ROI for HEI – all of the above but stronger, arena to “practice” OEP – and that’s a place to play that is separate from your main institutional practice

Cost for learner – as OCW but more structured/demanding – and that can mean more drop offs/out

ROI for learner – closer to the “educational real thing”, possible “proof” of competence as certificate – not a trivial thing in some parts of the world, It will cost you ££s for your certificate but that proof of competance is fairly inexpensive and may be well worth that investment.

So… ROIs on accreditation of OER-based learning (=MOOC+Assessment+Accreditation)

The Cost for HEI:

IF (unbundled curriculum = 0)

ELSE (course materials/tutoring = MOOC)

+ full assessment for credit + ward)

ROI for HEI = as MOOC + ££s for assessment/accreditation

Cost for learner = time, ££s

ROI for leaner = accreditation, certification and the pleasure of learning.

So… the cost implications of OER-based learning… Well…

  • Level 9 UoE course = 120/6 = 20 credits @ £9000/6 = £1500 if taken “normally”
  • Cost to assess learning achieved = 1 day work – £300/£600 (gross salary/fEc)
  • Cost to validate/award = 1 day work = £300/£600
  • Cost to learner for 20 credits = £600/£1200

So cost only low versus normal course. So if we want this to be cheaper then the assessment must be lighter, must be different from normal assessment. So needs to be lighter and automated. Which is great for competance based courses, not so much for qualitative courses.

And finally… we know what it costs to do it… what are we going to chage for it. The price can be set for any number of reasons…what can the market bear – which is important for most of our courses and why the business school charges twice as much and dentists can charge even more. And then there is the impact on current offerings of price differntials, small or large. Impact on reputation for quality. Loss-leader approach? Purposeful cross-subsidy for pro bono services etc…  How do you position your institution?

Conclusions – well there are spaces that you can experiment and play with in th ewider educational ecologies for traditional universities. Change in education has been slow, perhaps leading to complacency, or at least low agility. Awareness of why one is there is important for reputation and sustainability. There really is no such thing as a free lunch both for universities and learners.


Q1) I don’t think I agree that the crunchy bit of the issue is the economic issue, I’m concerned that the MOOC movement isn’t going back to 1990s style automated learning and isn’t very pedagogically interesting.

A1) I agree to an extent if we’re talking about what MOOCs have largely done to date… a lot have come from computer science and engineering type disciplines where there are competencies that can be assessed in more automated ways. But you need to get the learning outcomes and credits right here and a trade off between the types of course you run in these spaces versus in person courses.

Q2) My issue is about what kind of learner we have in mind. Getting into the university has a bunch of pre-requistites, that’s partly about fairness of admission, partly to make sure students are able to complete and succeed in a course. If you create a course that anyone can take we might as well just open our doors.. that’s one of the implications I think. Isn’t there another or better way to tackle disadvantage of access. Should we provide a bridging process.

A2) I think those are legitimate concerns. But it depends on how you view entries to a MOOC. Participants only get assessment at the end of the programme, that’s one part of the answer, and the other is that this model is predicated on crowd-sourcing the answers to your questions. We shouldn’t assume we have to have the answers to everything. Maybe answers will come from knowledgeable others. Perhaps you moderate them, But it’s not your responsibility as an institution. It’s a different mindset to the one behind our closed gates.

Q2) So how do you manage those expectations?

A2) Well the key thing is it’s a different experience I’m talking about here.

And finally…

Dr Jessie Lee is closing the day for us with thank yous to the speakers, to the committee who have put today together, and information services and the Institute for Academic Development, and lets thank everyone who came along today as well.

And with that we are done here… lots of interesting stuff today and lots of thoughts and ideas to follow up on.


Sep 292011

Today I am at the e-Learning Professionals & Practitioners (eLPP – an internal University of Edinburgh group) brown-bag lunch session on Wikis. The current chair of eLPP is Wilma Alexander and she’s kicking off the introductions to today’s speakers just now.

How wikisite characteristics affect users’ editing anxiety and usability – Benjamin R. Cowan, Research Fellow at the HCI Centre, University of Birmingham

Ben will be talking about his PhD research, conducted here at Edinburgh University. He’s now based at the University of Edinburgh at the HCI Centre and they are a new group keen to work with others and look at possibilities for collaboration.

IT in Higher Education is pervasive and, when Ben began his PhD, the use of Web 2. and the drive towards collaboration and interactivity was starting to become apparent with a rise in popularity for wikis. A wiki is a fully editable web-space, users can collaborate, co-create content, structure and navigation, it’s totally modifiable and flexible, the user in in control. From an HCI point of view there are Read interactions and Edit interactions. So we are seeing an example (Confluence hosted) wiki on screen. The Read interaction is the site we see on the web. The Edit interaction is about the wiki markup interface and/or the Rich Text interface (with more limited features than Wiki Markup on the whole).

So, what’s the problem? Well literature shows a low edit rate, sometimes down to how wikis are or are not integrated into the curriculum. However students also report issues around usability and s sense of anxiety and lack of comfort with wikis amongst students, around editing. So Ben’s work looked at what might explain and change that uptake rate.

Wikis commonly use Sandboxes (exploratory technique) and/or WML Tutorials (instruction technique) as training tools but there was little literature on the effectiveness or response to these. So Ben wanted to look at In built training spaces – how do they effect ysability and emoptions towards wiki editing? How does a poor first experience link to a negative ongoing perception.


– editing wiki for Psychology course

personality background page

told other students have been adding content to the course wiki (done by Ben and colleages).


They gave them an introduction to wikis and then one of four training conditions – Direct Edit; Sandbox (without guidance); Tutorial; Tutorial with support.

They devised a Wiki Anxiety Inventory  (WAI-E) – a 24 item, 5 pt Likert scale for before interaction, during interaction and about future interaction. This is based on computer anxiety inventory and they are trying to develop this measure presently so do contact Ben if you would be interested in using this in your own work/research.

They  also created a Wiki Usability Inventory (WUI), a 22 item, 5 pt Likert scale, again based on computing usability scales. And interviews took place in addition to these questionnaires.

Summary of Findings

Tutorials significantly improved usabiliyt compared with other training spaces – we think this is because they create useful mental models for users.

Tutorials lead to less anxiety during interaction than non tutorial spaces.

They did not influence future related anxiety.

Sandboxes left students feeling left alone to find their own path and unsure what to do.

A second experiment took things further and shifted focus from novice to users with experince and from the interface to the wider wiki system.

The social side of wikis brings in lots of different actors who can potentially see the page, and others edits. This may bring in concerns about judgement and performing for others.

Existing Wiki research has been mostly qualitative, has found users fear jusdgement by other users, lack of confidence in the quality of contributions, and users are reluctant to edit “others” content – which is critical in making wikis succeed.

Can aspects of the system help?

Perhaps anonymity leads to increased satisfaction in chat scenario, Offers protective cloak from evaluation from peers, anonymity attracts lurkers to contribute. BUT anonimity leads to no increase in reputation or social capital for good contribution. And it’s very difficult for marking student contributions and identifying students. Perhaps the solution is a pseudonum so that contributions can be identiies, status can be built, and anonimity from the real world is still in place.

So the research aimed to investigate the effect of user identity in user anxiety around wikis. Students were given  editing tasks – they were asked to contribute to content on an existing wikipage, given extract from journal paper (BBS journal) and asked to contribute that in their own words, using the Rich Text Editor. They experienced in 3 identities, named, anonimised, and pseudonym. And under two conditions: adding content and editing others’ content.

They found that identity during editing impacted on anxiety but not usability. But the type of edit had no effect on anxiety – perhaps because of how that was administered. Did a correlation analysis to see how the number of edits effected usability – the idea is often that more use = less anxiety – but they found no such correlation in this experiment.

So the protective cloak seems to be in effect in wiki editing. But Wiki differ from other Computer Mediated Communication and vistural knowledge communities- there are no real time communications, no specific reference to user in viewable text, edits can be tracked in page history. There is a sense of negative emotions associated with social spaces even though this is only a partially social space.

Anonimity isn’t practical in a HE scenario. Pseudonum can be as anxiety inducing as names – people will be in the same student cohort for years and student numbers may not be anonymous. Something around role and transactions may be a better pseudonym.

Athough the experiment found no difference between types of editing this is very hard to test and we are still looking at this at the moment.

At the moment Ben is looking at Public and Private Wikis – there is some concern about these but public wikis can lead to more accurate content. Wikipedia is a far more social issue than a private wiki. BUT a private wiki is a small group that you communicate with a lot vs. the larger more distant Wikipedia community.

We are looking at the social dynamic of a wikispace – incorporating social psychological concepts into this work on how the social structures of wikis work.

And we are looking at the behavioural implications of characteristics – we have lots of data to look through.


Q1) Matric Number usage – surely students will feel tracked with that?

A1) That is definitely something we found in the interviews – fellow students, staf etc. could all trace back via student ids. They felt happier when anonymous but cared less about what they put up in this role.

Q2) How was the editing framed?

A2) They were told that they should edit work by another student. But they were told that that content was wrong…

Q2 again) But that’s very different. You give them permission to edit that content by doing that…

A2 again) Yes, it is a problem. Improving the page would be a nice way of doing that. We are in the process of developing that process for testing editing right now.

Q3) Wikis can be quite brutal social spaces. We’ve found people meeting offline before editing, or using comments to make contributions more tentative/less confrontational

A3) Before this study I was tutoring on Psychology and they were using Wikis. They had tiny pages with HUGE comments sections. Editing the page felt like making your mark, comments allowed social validation of comments before editing. It becomes a bulletin board not a wiki when that happened.

Q4) Maybe we use Wikis with students where we actually should be using a different tool. For comments on a paper or similar you want a different sort of aggregation. Maybe we are searching for other types of aggregation tools – something like Tweetdeck or A way to make a different sort of collaborative document. And I’ve seen wikis used where actually you want a blog with comments for that activity really.

A4) Yup, going around organisations using Wikis there is some of that going on – enthusiasm over fully thinking his through. Wikis have to be embedded in the curriculum for a good reason. Sometimes blogs, bulletin boards, etc. are a far better tool for the task.

Expectation, experiences and afterthoughts: student perspectives on wiki work Clara O’Shea

Clara will be talking about non-experimental use of wikis with students in courses here at Edinburgh. Clara will be talking about expectations, experiences and afterthoughts and will be using their words as much as possible as as a tutor you do start to see things differently to the students.

I will be talking about wikis in two modules on the MSc in eLearning programme, an online distance programme with about 150 students across 35 countries. We use a range of technologies: webCT, Skype, Social media etc. So use of the wiki is sort of pre-scaffolded. Students can be studying for from one to five years and that brings a different level of emotion and investment in the programme.

We have been running a student writing: innovative online strategies for assessment and feedback project, where students observed and blogged on their courses.

Psychological.. & eLearning run by Hamish McCloud (PsychSocial) and this is an open course. The first few weeks of the module are fairly stuctured but then the students choose what they look at, this all runs through a wiki which they are graded on. In this instance we had about 9 students on the course.

The other course I will be talking about is the Online Assessment module and in this instance we had about 12 students on the course. This also uses wiki and they are also collectively graded based upon that wiki.

Both courses have discussion boards. They are only really used in the first few weeks of PsychSocial but are used more over the course of the programme for Online Assessment.

I was originally thinking I’d address expectations, experiences and afterthoughts in a linear way but of course that is not what happens. People don’t work that way. Instead you have students reflecting on themselves, changing, reflecting on each other. Almost a shared mythology that everyone buys into. I am beginning to think that is an important part of online learning experiences – we have to pretend we share that space even when we are so diverse in terms of location and temporality.

We were looking at feedback cultures; emotion conflict and investment – because students are post grads, they study to develop their career in some way, because there is a sense of the programme as a small space, they are so involved and investment and work so hard but that can increase the risk of editing someone else’s work, you put yourself out there for judgement by peers (and higher!); and the tensions of absence and presence, isolation and community.

Isolation & Community – this comes through particularly in the newbie vs elder dynamic – a newbie being someone starting on the course, few contacts, just starting the introductory module in parallel perhaps, versus students who have done multiple modules, have been through the introductory modules, have good support in the programme. For instance a newbie feels “incompetant” when working with students who have been on the programme for a while whilst an elder talks about the group as being like a friendly tutorial room, to have a sense of them, their interests, their schedules even so a real sense of support. And there are technical understanding differences as well. Students who had been through the introductory modules knew how to navigate and manage the space more confidently.

Particularly for the PsychSocial wiki there is the issue of individually vs. convergence. The goal of that course was to build a connection across the course (similar in Online Assessment). A student comments that they are preparing around their theme offline even though they know they can go back and edit, others report exploring other topics as a fun aspect of combining different contributions. And there is a potential sense of disconnect voiced about the first few weeks due to emails wih tutors.

Of course online if you don’t post on discussion boards, you don’t edit pages, you don’t seem to be present, in fact you don’t seem part of the course. We found students on Online Assesment – a bigger group with a collective task – complained far more often about those not posting. On PsychSocial – a smaller group with some individual responsibilities – there seemed to a group dynamic. And students reported others not pulling their weight, holding them back etc. whilst those students reported reading and writing offline instead.

And finally I want to talk about “placeholders” – is a placeholder for something to be developed a seed or a fence? People posted a vague start – a seed – it was being read as demarcating a territory for developing that idea. We don’t think that is the motivation for creating those stub pages but it can be read that way by other students. There are interesting issues of arguementation – do you correct people or argue your point, how can that be appropriately handled in wikis.

These tensions are what we work with. We need to take the risks that cause those tensions. We have to make them creative and productive, we need to scaffold those situations. The course should work bcause of the tension.

Questions (for Clara or Ben)

Q1) I think the seed and the fence idea is really interesting. It happens in so many scenarios – like funding proposals on a wiki. Colleagues don’t want to offend one another.

A1) Because this was the experience of 2010 we decided to scaffold more for 2011 to encourage truly collaborative spaces by scaffolding more. Some technical stuff in week 1 and then in weeks 2 and 3 we asked small groups to look at papers and to co-author a critique. It created mass anxiety and I found it quite strange. We had had moments of anxiety before but nothing like this. Perhaps there was a cohort effect but making the co-authoring so obvious so early it may have been a step too far. A critique is also quite value laden.

Comment) Sometimes people can use difficulty with the technology (though perhaps not the right tool for the job) but as an excuse to avoid a complex intellectual task

A1) I almost put “procrastination” rather than “destructive” down around the tension.

Comment) People can find ruthless editing of text – style not content – very difficult to deal with, even in, academic publishing scenario.

Q2 – to both Clara and Ben) Social and task orientated interaction

A2 – Clara) Context can be so different. A Psychology cohort is enormous but our modules are tiny groups where you personally know everyone

A2 – Ben) Perhaps there is comfort from a known group, in a larger cohort the social anxiety is different.

Q2 again) Do you think length of task has an impact here – would anonymity

A2 – Clara) We try to let practice develop organically but we assess so of course we have an important role in that space. And 12 weeks is not long – asking something to organically grow in that space is tough, maybe more nuturing flowering plants. Also worth noting that where groups are more academically aligned in terms of skills, experiences, etc. there is less tension there, you can have competing cultures when distinct levels of experiences in the group.

Q3) Have you tried using Prezi or Prezi meeting for placeholder development collaboratively before going to the wiki?

A3 – Clara) We have tried to give each student spaces to experiment with ideas but actually we do want to encourage collaboration and sharing of comments. Having quite open discussions can be far more supportive and productive. So we have thought about having some “Opinion” pages like a newspaper to separate content from arguement and make it more clear for students

A3 – Ben) Yes, that clarity is very important. You want to develop people to gather opinion so using it that way would be very interesting.

Q4) Would you see one way of developing this kind of research to look at differences between different subject areas or different levels of student?

A4 – Clara) There is a lecturer from New South Wales (video of YouTube) who puts up his notes from his lecture on a wiki as a skeleton and lets students fill in lots of content and comment there.

Q5) Do Wikis promise more than they deliver

A5 – Clara) Well there is so much you *can* do but it’s getting students to do that. In this Online Assessment group there was a sort of expectation of equal contribution but we’ve had really interesting discussions about whether that contribution does need to be equal and actually perhaps it doesn’t

Comment) The thing is this is just a tool, we can’t ask wikis to do our job for us – they are just a way to facilitate classroom discussion. I would like to see sharing of experience here.

Q6) Clara mentioned that about half of the MSc in eLearning students were not UK students.

A6 – Ben) Many of our students were UK or American students but there was a mix representative of most of these sorts of course.

Q6 – follow up) I was wondering whether loss of face could be more of an issue for students from another culture or nationality or language background versus (say) a UK student.

A6 – Clara) It can sometimes be the opposite for us. The usual classroom dynamics don’t neccassarily reply. As a tutor I hear the same issues from all students, no matter what location: students doubt their contribution is valued, or what they want to say has already been said.

Comment) In community education there is research that you are given a role in the group then you may stay in that role, not sure that research is well understood with regards to wikis etc.

A6 – Ben) It can be hard to set up within a course that contributions can be different in size and value and type.

A6 – Clara) The problem online is that abence can be interpreted in very different ways – our subconscious fills in those blanks very differently and that can create anxiety and tension.

Q7) Did either Ben or Clara encounter students who had already edited Wikipedia before and did they bring that culture to private wikis with them?

A7 – Ben) We had very few people who were using wikis and there are so few people editing Wikipedia so I don’t think any of our students had done that. Wikipedia can also be quite a small cliquey space

A7 – Clara) We have had a couple of people who have edited wikipedia, more interestingly we have students who had used wikis in other course. That latter group definitely brought a culture and aesthetic into latter wikis. The practice developed over a few years, beyond just one iteration.

 September 29, 2011  Posted by at 12:42 pm Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with: , , , , , ,  6 Responses »