Aug 102016
Nicola Osborne presenting the Digital Footprint poster at ECSM2016

It has been a while since I’ve posted something other than a liveblog here but it has been a busy summer so it seems like a good time to share some updates…

A Growing Digital Footprint

Last September I was awarded some University of Edinburgh IS Innovation Fund support to develop a pilot training and consultancy service to build upon the approaches and findings of our recent PTAS-funded Managing Your Digital Footprint research project.

During that University of Edinburgh-wide research and parallel awareness-raising campaign we (my colleague – and Digital Footprint research project PI – Louise Connelly of IAD/Vet School, myself, and colleagues across the University) sought to inform students of the importance of digital tracks and traces in general, particularly around employment and “eProfessionalism”. This included best practice advice around use of social media, personal safety and information security choices, and thoughtful approaches to digital identity and online presences. Throughout the project we were approached by organisations outside of the University for similar training, advice, and consulting around social media best practices and that is how the idea for this pilot service began to take shape.

Over the last few months I have been busy developing the pilot, which has involved getting out and about delivering social media training sessions for clients including NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (with Jennifer Jones); for the British HIV Association (BHIVA) with the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) (also with Jennifer Jones); developing a “Making an Impact with your Blog” Know How session for the lovely members of Culture Republic; leading a public engagement session for the very international gang at EuroStemCell, and an “Engaging with the Real World” session for the inspiring postgrads attending the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science Summer School 2016. I have also been commissioned by colleagues in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences to create an Impact of Social Media session and accompanying resources (the latter of which will continue to develop over time). You can find resources and information from most of these sessions over on my presentations and publications page.

These have been really interesting opportunities and I’m excited to see how this work progresses. If you do have an interest in social media best practice, including advice for your organisation’s social media practice, developing your online profile, or managing your digital footprint, please do get in touch and/or pass on my contact details. I am in the process of writing up the pilot and looking at ways myself and my colleagues can share our expertise and advice in this area.

Adventures in MOOCs and Yik Yak

So, what next?

Well, the Managing Your Digital Footprint team have joined up with colleagues in the Language Technology Group in the School of Informatics for a new project looking at Yik Yak. You can read more about the project, “A Live Pulse: Yik Yak for Understanding Teaching, Learning and Assessment at Edinburgh“, on the Digital Education Research Centre website. We are really excited to explore Yik Yak’s use in more depth as it is one of a range of “anonymous” social networking spaces that appear to be emerging as important alternative spaces for discussion as mainstream social media spaces lose favour/become too well inhabited by extended families, older contacts, etc.

Our core Managing Your Digital Footprint research also continues… I presented a paper, co-written with Louise Connelly, at the European Conference on Social Media 2016 this July on “Students’ Digital Footprints: curation of online presences, privacy and peer support”. This summer we also hosted visiting scholar Rachel Buchanan of University of Newcastle, Australia who has been leading some very interesting work into digital footprints across Australia. We are very much looking forward to collaborating with Rachel in the future – watch this space!

And, more exciting news: my lovely colleague Louise Connelly (University of Edinburgh Vet School) and I have been developing a Digital Footprint MOOC which will go live later this year. The MOOC will complement our ongoing University of Edinburgh service (run by IAD) and external consultancy word (led by us in EDINA) and You can find out much more about that in this poster, presented at the European Conference on Social Media 2016, earlier this month…

Preview of Digital Footprint MOOC Poster

Alternatively, you could join me for my Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2016 show….

Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2016 - If I Googled You, What Would I Find? Poster

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas runs throughout the Edinburgh Fringe Festival but every performance is different! Each day academics and researchers share their work by proposing a dangerous idea, a provocative question, or a challenge, and the audience are invited to respond, discuss, ask difficult questions, etc. It’s a really fun show to see and to be part of – I’ve now been fortunate enough to be involved each year since it started in 2013. You can see a short video on #codi2016 here:

In this year’s show I’ll be talking about some of those core ideas around managing your digital footprint, understanding your online tracks and traces, and reflecting on the type of identity you want to portray online. You can find out more about my show, If I Googled You What Would I Find, in my recent “25 Days of CODI” blog post:

25 Days of CoDI: Day 18

You’ll also find a short promo film for the series of data, identity, and surveillance shows at #codi2016 here:

So… A very busy summer of social media, digital footprints, and exciting new opportunities. Do look out for more news on the MOOC, the YikYak work and the Digital Footprint Training and Consultancy service over the coming weeks and months. And, if you are in Edinburgh this summer, I hope to see you on the 21st at the Stand in the Square!


May 122016
Participants networking over lunch at eLearning@ed

Last week I was delighted to be part of the team organising the annual eLearning@ed Conference 2016. The event is one of multiple events and activities run by and for the eLearning@ed Forum, a community of learning technologists, academics, and those working with learning technologies across the University of Edinburgh. I have been Convener of the group since last summer so this was my first conference in this role – usually I’m along as a punter. So, this liveblog is a little later than usual as I was rather busy on the day…

Before going into my notes I do also want to say a huge thank you to all who spoke at the event, all who attended, and an extra special thank you to the eLearning@ed Committee and Vlad, our support at IAD. I was really pleased with how the event went – and feedback has been good – and that is a testament to the wonderful community I have the privilege of working with all year round here at Edinburgh.

Note: Although I have had a chance to edit these notes they were taken live so just let me know if you spot any errors and I will be very happy to make any corrections. 

The day opened with a brief introduction from me. Obviously I didn’t blog this but it was a mixture of practical information, enthusiasm for our programme, and an introduction to our first speaker, Melissa Highton:

Connecting ISG projects for learning and teaching – Melissa Highton (@honeybhighton), Director: Learning, Teaching and Web (LTW), Information Services.

Today is about making connections. And I wanted to make some connections on work that we have been doing.

I was here last year and the year before, and sharing updates on what we’ve been doing. It’s been a very good year for LTW. It has been a very busy year for open, inspired by some of the student work seen last year. We have open.ed launched, the new open educational resources policies, we have had the OER conference, we have open media, we have had some very bold moves by the library. And a move to make digital images from the library are open by default. That offers opportunities for others, and for us.

Extract from the Online Learning Consortium's 2016 Infographic

Extract from the Online Learning Consortium’s 2016 Infographic (image copyright OLC 2016)

There is evidence – from the US (referencing the EdTech: a Catalyst for Success section of the Online Learning Consortium 2016 Infographic). with students reporting increased engagement with course materials, with professors, with fellow students. And there is also a strong interest in digital video. MediaHopper goes fully launched very soon, and we are taking a case to Knowledge Strategy Committee and Learning and Teaching Committee to invest further in lecture capture, which is heavily used and demanded. And we need to look at how we can use that content, how it is being used. One of the things that I was struck by at LAK, was the amount of research being done on the use of audio visual material, looking at how students learn from video, how they are used, how they are viewed. Analytics around effective video for learning is quite interesting – and we’ll be able to do much more with that when we have these better systems in place. And I’ve included an image of Grace Hopper, who we named MediaHopper after.

Melissa Highton speaking at eLearning@ed 2016

Melissa Highton speaking at eLearning@ed 2016

Talking of Learning Analytics I’m a great fan of the idea that if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing a 2×2 matrix. So this is the Learning Analytics Map of Activities, Research and Roll-out (LAMARR – a great mix of Hollywood screen icon, and the inventor of wifi!), and there are a whole range of activities taking place around the university in this area at the moment, and a huge amount of work in the wider sector.

We also are the only University in the UK with a Wikimedian in Residence. It is a place entirely curated by those with interest in the world, and there is a real digital literacy skill for our students, for us, in understanding how information is created and contested online, how it becomes part of the internet, and that’s something that is worth thinking about for our students. I have a picture here of Sophie Jex-Blake, she was part of the inspiration for our first Wikipedia Edit-a-thon on women in science. Our Wikimedian is with us for just one year, so do make use of him. He’s already worked on lots of events and work, he’s very busy, but if you want to talk to him about a possible event, or just about the work being done, or that you want to do.

Here for longer than one year we have, an online collection of training videos which the University has signed up to for 3 years, and will be available through your University login. Do go and explore it now, and you will have Edinburgh University access from September. The stuff that is in there, can be curated into playlists, via learn, usage etc.

So, Wikipedia for a year, for three years, MediaHopper here now, and open increasingly here.

Highlights from recent conferences held in Edinburgh, chaired by Marshall Dozier

Marshall: Conferences are such an opportunity to make a connection between each other, with the wider community, and we hope to fold those three big conferences that have been taking place back into our own practice.

OER16 Open Culture Conference – Lorna Campbell (@lornamcampbell), Open Education Resources Liaison for Open Scotland, LTW.

This was the 7th OER conference, and the first one to take place in Edinburgh. It was chaired by myself and Melissa Highton. Themes included Strategic advantage of open, creating a culture of openness and the reputational challenges of “open-washing”; converging and competing cultures of open knowledge, open source, open content, open practice, open data and open access; hacking, making and sharing; openness and public engagement?; and innovative practices in cultural heritage contexts, which I was particularly to see us get good engagement from.

There was originally a sense that OER would die out, but actually it is just getting bigger and bigger. This years OER conference was the biggest yet, and that’s because of support and investment from those who, like the University of Edinburgh, who see real value in openness. We had participants from across the world – 29 countries – despite being essentially a UK based conference. And we had around a 50/50 gender split – no all male panel here. There is no external funding around open education right now, so we had to charge but we did ensure free and open online participation for all – keynotes live-streamed to the ALT channel, we had Radio #EDUtalk @ OER16, with live streaming of keynotes, and interviews with participants and speakers from the conference – those recordings are hugely recommended; and we also had a busy and active Twitter channel. We had a strong Wikimedia presence at OER16, with editing training, demonstrations, and an ask a Wikimedian drop-in clinic, and people found real value in that.

Lorna Campbell speaking about OER16 at eLearning@ed 2016

Lorna Campbell speaking about OER16 at eLearning@ed 2016

We also had a wide range of keynotes and I’m just going to give a flavour of these. Our first was Catherine Cronin, National University of Ireland, Galway, who explored different definitions of openness, looking at issues of context and who may be excluded. We all negotiate risk when we are sharing, but negotiating that is important for hope, equality, and justice.

In the year of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death we were delighted to have Shakespeare scholar Emma Smith, who had a fantastic title: Free Willy: Shakespeaker & OER. In her talk she suggested teaching is an open practice now, that “you have to get over yourself and let people see what you are doing”.

John Scally’s keynote talked about the National Library of Scotland’s bold open policy. The NLS’ road to openness has been tricky, with tensions around preservation and access. John argued that the library has to move towards equality, and that open was a big part of that.

Edupunk Jim Groom of Reclaim Hosting, has quite a reputation in the sector and he was giving his very first keynote in the UK. JIm turned our attention from open shared resources, and towards open tech infrastructure, working at individual scale, but making use of cloud, networked resources which he sees as central to sustainable OER practice.

The final keynote was from Melissa Highton, with her talk Open with Care. She outlined the vision and policy of UoE. One idea introduced by Melissa was “technical and copyright debt”, the costs of not doing licensing, etc. correctly in the first place. IT Directors and CIOs need to be persuaded of the need for investment in OER.

It is difficult to summarise such a diverse conference, but there is growing awareness that openness is a key aspect that underpins good practice. I wanted to quote Stuart Allen’s blog. Stuart is a student on the MSc in Digital Education. HE did a wonderful summary of the conference.

Next year’s conference has the theme of Open and Politics and will be co-chaired by Josie Frader and Alec Tartovsky, chair of CC in Poland (our first international co-chair).

Learning@Scale 2016 – Amy Woodgate, Project Manager – Distance Education Initiative (DEI) & MOOCs, LTW.

I am coming at this from a different perspective here, as participant rather than organiser. This conference is about the intersection between informatics approaches and education. And I was interested in the degree to which that was informed by informatics, and that really seems to flag a need to interrogate what we do in terms of learning analytics, educational approach. So my presentation is kind of a proposal…

We have understood pedagogy for hundreds of years, we have been doing a huge amount of work on digital pedagogy, and the MSc in Digital Education is leading in this area. We have environments for learning, and we have environments at scale, including MOOCs, which were very evident at L@S. At University of Edinburgh we have lots of digitally based learning environments: ODL; MOOCS; and the emergence of UG credit-bearing online courses. But there is much more opportunity to connect these things for research and application – bringing pedagogy and environments at scale.

The final keynote at L@S was from Ken Koedinger, at Carnegie Mellon University. He suggested that every learning space should be a learning lab. We shouldn’t just apply theory, but building, doing, providing evidence base, thinking as part of our practice. He talked about collecting data, testing that data, understanding how to use data for continuous improvement. We are a research led institution, we have amazing opportunities to blend those things. But perhaps we haven’t yet fully embraced that Design, Deploy, Data, Repeat model. And my hope is that we can do something together more. We’ve done MOOCs for four years now, and there are so many opportunities to use the data, to get messy in the space… We haven’t been doing that but no-one has been. What was hard about the conference for me was that lots of it was about descriptive stats – we can see that people have clicked a video, but not connecting that back to anything else. And what was interesting to me was the articulation into physical environments here – picking up your pen many times is not meaningful. And so many Learning Analytics data sources are what we can capture, not necessarily what is meaningful.

The keynote had us answer some questions, about knowing when students are learning. You can see when people view or like a video, but there is a very low correlation between liking and learning… And for me that was the most important point of the session. That was really the huge gap, more proactive research, engagement, for meaningful measures of learning – not just what we can measure.

Mike Sharples, OU was also a keynote at L@S, and he talked about learning at scale, and how we can bring pedagoguey into those spaces, and the intersection of diversity, opportunity and availability. One of the things FutureLearn is exploring is the notion of citizen inquiry – people bring own research initiatives (as students) and almost like kickstarter engage the community in those projects. Interesting to see what happens, but an interesting question of how we utilize the masses, the scale of these spaces. We need you as the community working with us to start questioning how we can get more out of these spaces. Mike’s idea was that we have to rethink our idea of effective pedagoguey, and of ensuring that that is sustainable as being a key idea.

Working backwards then, there were many many papers submitted, not all were accepted, but you can view the videos of keynotes on Media Hopper, and there were posters for those not able to present as well. The winner of the best paper was “1A Civic Mission of MOOCs” – which gave the idea that actually there was a true diversity of people engaged in political MOOCs, and they weren’t all trolly, there was a sense of “respectful disagreement”. There were a lot of papers that we can look at, but we can’t apply any of these findings that can be applied without critical reflection, but there is much that can be done there.

It was interesting Lorna’s comments about gender balance. At L@S there were great female speakers, but only 15% of the whole. That reflected the computer science angle and bias of the event, and there felt like there was a need for the humanities to be there – and I think that’s an aspiration for the next one, to submit more papers, and get those voices as part of the event.

Although perhaps a slightly messy summary of the event, I wanted to leave you with the idea that we should be using what we do here at Edinburgh, with what we have available here, to put out a really exciting diverse range of work for presenting at next year’s third L@S!

So, what do people think about that idea of hacking up our learning spaces more? Thinking more about integrating data analysis etc, and having more of a community of practice around online pedagogies for learning@scale.

Amy Woodgate speaking about Learning@Scale 2016

Amy Woodgate speaking about Learning@Scale at elearning@ed 2016


Q1) I think that issue of measuring what we can measure is a real issue right now. My question here is about adapting approach for international students – they come in and play huge fees, and there are employers pushing for MOOCs instead… But then we still want that income… So how does that all work together.

A1) I don’t think learning at scale is the only way to do teaching and learning, but it is an important resource, and offers new and interesting ways of learning. I don’t feel that it would compromise that issue of international students. International students are our students, we are an international community on campus, embracing that diversity is important. It’s not about getting rid of the teacher… There is so much you can do with pedagogies online that are so exciting, so immersive… And there is more we can get out of this in the future. I find it quite awkward to address your point though… MOOCs are an experimentation space I think, for bringing back into core. That works for some things, and some types of content really work at scale – adaptive learning processes for instance – lots of work up front for students then to navigate through. But what do others think about using MOOCs on campus…

Comment, Tim) I think for me we can measure things, but that idea of how those actions actually relate to the things that are not measured… No matter how good your VLE, people will do things beyond it. And we have to figure out how we connect and understand how they connect.

Q2, Ruby) Thank you very much for that. I was just a little bit worried… I know we have to move away from simplistic description of this measure, means this thing. But on one slide there was an implication that measuring learning… can be measured through testing. And I don’t think that that that is neccassarily true or helpful. Liking CAN be learning. And there is a lot of complexity around test scores.

A2)  Yes, that chart was showing that viewing a particular video, hadn’t resulted in better learning uptake at the end of the course… But absolutely we do need to look at these things carefully…

Q3) At the recent BlackBoard conference there was the discussion of credit bearing MOOCs, is there any plan to do that now?

A3) This sometihng we can do of course, could take a MOOC into a credit bearing UG course, where the MOOC is about content. What becomes quite exciting is moving out and, say, the kind of thing MSc DE did with eLearning and Digital Cultures – making connections between the credit bearing module and the MOOC, in interesting and enriching ways. The future isn’t pushing students over to the MOOC, but taking learning from one space to another, and seeing how that can blend. Some interesting conversations around credit alliances, like a virtual Erasmus, around credit like summer school credit. But then we fall back of universities wanting to do exams, and we have a strong track record of online MScs not relying on written exams, but not all are as progressive right now.

Q4, Nigel) I’m in Informatics, and am involved in getting introductory machine learning course online, and one of the challenges I’m facing is understanding how students are engaging, how much. I can ask them what they liked… But it doesn’t tell me much. That’s one issue. But connecting up what’s known about digital learning and how you evaluate learning in the VLEs is good… The other thing is that there is a lot of data I’d like to get out of the VLE and which to my knowledge we can’t access that data… And we as data scientists don’t have access.

Comment, Anne-Marie Scott) We are still learning how to do that best but we do collect data and we are keen to see what we can do. Dragan will talk more about Learning Analytics but there is also a UoE group that you could get involved with.

Q5, Paul) That was fascinating, and I wish I’d been able to make it along… I was a bit puzzled about how we can use this stuff… It seems to me that we imagine almost a single student body out there… In any programme we have enthusiastic students desperate to learn, no matter what; in the middle we have the quite interested, may need more to stay engaged; and then there are people just there for the certificate who just want it easy. If we imagine we have to hit all of the audiences in one approach it won’t work. We are keen to have those super keen students. In medicine we have patient groups with no medical background or educational background, so motivated to learn about their own conditions… But then in other courses, we see students who want the certificate… I think that enormous spectrum give us enormous challenges.

A5) An interesting pilot in GeoSciences on Adaptive Learning, to try to address the interested and the struggling students. Maths and Physics do a lot with additional resources with external sites – e.g. MOOCs – in a curated list from academics, that augment core. Then students who just want the basics, for those that want to learn more… Interesting paper on cheating in MOOCs, did analysis on multiple accounts and IP addresses, and toggling between accounts… Got a harvester and master account, looked at clusters…. Master accounts with perfect learning… Harvesting were poorer, then the ones in the middle… The middle is the key part… That’s where energy should be in the MOOC.

Q6) I was intrigued by big data asset work, and getting more involved… What are tensions with making data openly available… Is it competition with other universities…

A6) That’s part of project with Dragan and Jeff Haywood have been leading on Learning Analytics data policy… MOOCs include personally identifiable data, can strip it, but requires work. University has desire to share data, but not there yet for easy to access framework to engage with data. To be part of that, it’s part of bigger Learning Analytics process.

LAK’16 Learning Analytics & Knowledge Conference – Professor Dragan Gasevic (@dgasevic), Chair in Learning Analytics and Informatics, Moray House School of Education & School of Informatics

The Learning Analytics and Knowledge Conference, LAK’16, took place in Edinburgh last week. It was in it’s sixth edition. It started in Canada as a response to several groups of people looking at data collected in different types of digital environments, and also the possibility to merge data from physical spaces, instruments, etc. It attracted a diverse range of people from educational research, machine learning, psychology, sociology, policy makers etc. In terms of organisation we had wonderful support from the wonderful Grace Lynch and two of my PhD students, who did a huge amount. I also had some wonderful support from Sian Bayne and Jeff Haywood in getting this set up! They helped connect us to others, within the University and throughout the conference. But there are many others I’d like to thank, including Amy and her team who streamed all four parallel sessions throughout the conference.

In terms of programme the conference has a research stream and a practitioner stream. Our chairs help ensure we have a great programme – and we have three chairs for each stream. They helped us ensure we had a good diversity of papers and audiences, and vendors. We have those streams to attract papers but we deliberately mix the practice and research sessions are combined and share sessions… And we did break all records this time. This was only the second conference outside North America, and most of our participants are based there, but we had almost double the submissions this year. These issues are increasingly important, and the conference is an opportunity to critically reflect on this issue. Many of our papers were very high in quality, and we had a great set of workshops proposed – selecting those was a big challenge and only 50% made it in… So, for non computer scientists the acceptance ratio maybe isn’t a big deal… But for computer scientists it is a crucial thing. So here’s we accepted about 30% of papers… Short papers were particularly competitive – this is because the field is maturing, and people want to see more mature work.

Dragan Gasevic speaking about LAK'16 at eLearning@ed 2016.

We had participants from 35 countries, across our 470 participants – 140 from the US, 120 from the UK, and then 40 from Australia. Per capita Australia was very well represented. But one thing that is a little disappointing is that other European countries only had 3 or 4 people along, that tells us something about institutional adoption of learning analytics, and research there. There are impressive learning analytics work taking place in China right now, but little from Africa. In South America there is one hub of activity that is very good.

Workshops wise the kinds of topics addressed included learning design and feedback at scale, learning analytics for workplace and professional learning – definitely a theme with lots of data being collected but often private and business confidential work but that’s a tension (EU sees analytics as public data), learning analytics across physical and digital spaces – using broader data and avoiding the “streetlight effect”, temporal learning analytics – trying to see how learning processes unfold… Students are not static black boxes… They change decisions, study strategies and approaches based on feedback etc; also had interesting workshop on IMS Caliper; we also had a huge theme and workshop on ethical and privacy issues; and another on learning analytics for learners; a focus on video, and on smart environments; also looking for opportunities for educational researchers to engage with data – through data mining skills sessions to open conversations with with informaticians. We also had a “Failathon” – to try ideas, talk about failed ideas.

We also had a hackathon with Jisc/Apero… They issues an Edinburgh Statement for learning analytics interoperability. Do take a look, add your name, to address the critical points…

I just want to highlight a few keynotes: Professor Mireilla Hildebrandt talked about the law and learning as a a machine, around privacy, data and bringing in issues including the right to be forgotten. The other keynote I wanted to talk about was Professor Paul A Kirshner on learning analytics and policy – a great talk. And final keynote was Robert Mislevy who talked about psychometric front of learning analytics.

Finally two more highlights, we picked two papers out as the best:

  • Privacy and analytics – it’s a DELICATE issue. A checklist for trusted learning analytics – Hendrik Drachsler and Wolfgang Greller.
  • When should we stop? Towards Universal approach – details of speakers TBC

More information on the website. And we have more meetings coming up – we had meetings around the conference… And have more coming up with a meeting with QAA on Monday, session with Blackboard on Tuesday, and public panel with George Siemens & Mark Milliron the same day.


Q1) Higher Education is teaching, learning and research… This is all Learning Analytics… So do we have Teaching Analytics?

A1) Great point… Learning analytics is about learning, we shouldn’t be distracted by toys. We have to think about our methods, our teaching knowledge and research. learning analytics with pretty charts isn’t neccassarily helpful – sometimes event detrimental – t0 learners. We have to look at instructional designs, to support our instructors, to use learning analytics to understand the cues we get in physical environments. One size does not fit all!

Marshall) I set a challenge for next year – apply learning analytics to the conference itself!

Student-centred learning session, chaired by Ruby Rennie

EUSA: Using eLearning Tools to Support and Engage Record Numbers of Reps – Tanya Lubicz-Nawrocka (@TanyaLubiczNaw), Academic Engagement Coordinator, EUSA; Rachel Pratt, Academic Representation Assistant, EUSA; Charline Foch (@Woody_sol), EUSA, and Sophie McCallum,Academic Representation Assistant, EUSA.

Tanya opened the presentation with an introduction to what EUSA: the Edinburgh University Students Association is and does, emphasizing the independence of EUSA and its role in supporting students, and supporting student representatives… 

Rachel: We support around 2000 (2238) students across campus per year, growing every year (actually 1592 individuals – some are responsible for several courses), so we have a lot of people to support.

Sophie: Online training is a big deal, so we developed an online training portal within Learn. That allows us to support students on any campus, and our online learners. Students weren’t always sure about what was involved in the role, and so this course is about helping them to understand what their role is, how to engage etc. And in order to capture what they’ve learned we’ve been using Open Badges, for which over to Tanya…

Tanya Lubicz-Nawrocka speaking about EUSA's use of Learn and Open Badges at elearning@ed 2016

Tanya Lubicz-Nawrocka speaking about EUSA’s use of Learn and Open Badges at elearning@ed 2016

Tanya: I actually heard about open badges at this very conference a couple of years ago. These are flexible, free, digital accreditation. Thay are full of information (metadata) and can be shared and used elsewhere in the online world. These badges represent skills in key areas, Student Development badges (purple), Research and communication badges (pink) and ? (yellow).

Tanya shows the EUSA Open Badges at elearning@ed 2016

Tanya shows the EUSA Open Badges at elearning@ed 2016

There have been huge benefits of the badges. There are benefits for students in understanding all aspects of the role, encouraging them to reflect on and document their work and success – and those helped us share their success, to understand school level roles, and to understand what skills they are developing. And we are always looking for new ways to accredit and recognise the work of our student reps, who are all volunteers. It was a great way to recognise work in a digital way that can be used on LinkedIn profiles.

There were several ways to gain badges – many earned an open badge for online training (over 1000 earned); badges were earned for intermediate training – in person (113 earned); and badges were also earned by blogging about their successes and development (168 earned).

And the badges had a qualitative impact around their role and change management, better understanding their skills and relationships with their colleagues.

Sophie McCallum speaking about EUSA's work on training and Open Badges at elearning@ed 2016

Sophie McCallum speaking about EUSA’s work on training and Open Badges at elearning@ed 2016

Rachel: Looking at the learning points from this. In terms of using (Blackboard) Learn for online functionality… For all our modules to work the best they can, 500 users is the most we could. We have two Learn pages – one for CSE (College of Science & Engineering), one for CHSS (College of Humanities and Social Sciences), they are working but we might have to split them further for best functionality. We also had challenges with uploading/bulk uploading UUNs (the University personal identifiers) – one wrong UUN in several hundred, loses all. Information services helped us with that early on! We also found that surveys in Learn are anonymous – helpful for ungraded reflection really.

In terms of Open Badges the tie to an email address is a challenge. If earned under a student email address, it’s hard to port over to a personal email address. Not sure how to resolve that but aware of it. And we also found loading of badges from “Backpack” to sites like LinkedIn was a bit tedious – we’ll support that more next year to make that easier. And there are still unknown issues to be resolved, part of the Mozilla Open Badges environment more broadly. There isn’t huge support online yet, but hopefully those issues will be addressed by the bigger community.

Using eLearning tools have helped us to upscale, train and support record numbers of Reps in their roles; they have helped us have a strong positive quantitative and qualitative impact in engaging reps; and importance of having essential material and training online and optional, in-person intermediate training and events. And it’s definitely a system we’ll continue to have and develop over the coming years.

Rachel Pratt talks about EUSA's training approach, working with student representatives across the University, at elearning@ed 2016

Rachel Pratt talks about EUSA’s training approach, working with student representatives across the University, at elearning@ed 2016


Q1) Have you had any new feedback from students about this new rep system… I was wondering if you have an idea of whether student data – as discussed earlier – is on the agenda for students?

A1 – Tanya) Students are very well aware of their data being collected and used, we are part of data analytics working groups across the university. It’s about how it is stored, shared, presented – especially the issue of how you present information when they are not doing well… Interested in those conversations about how data is used, but we are also working with reps, and things like the Smart Data Hacks to use data for new things – timetabling things for instance…

Q2) ?

A2) It’s a big deal to volunteer 50 hours of their time per year. They are keen to show that work to future employers etc.

Q3) As usual students and EUSA seem to be way ahead. How do you find out more about the badges?

A3) They can be clicked for more metadata – that’s embedded in it. Feedback has been great, and the blogposts have really helped them reflect on their work and share that.

SLICCs: Student-Led Individually Created Courses – Simon Riley, Senior Lecturer, MRC Centre for Reproductive Health

I’m Simon Riley, from the School of Medicine. I’m on secondment with the IAD and that’s why I’m on this. I’m coming to it from having worked on the student led component in medicine. You would think that medicine would be hugely confined by GMC requirements, but there is space there. But in Edinburgh there is about a year of the five year programme that is student led – spread across that time but very important.

Now, before speaking further I must acknowledge my colleague Gavin McCabe, Employability Consultant who has been so helpful in this process.

SLICCs are essentially a reflective framework, to explore skill acquisition, using an e-portfolio. We give students generic Learning Outcomes (LOs), which allow the students to make choices. Although it’s not clear how much students understand or engage with learning outcomes… We only get four or five per module. But those generic LOs allow students to immediately define their own aims and anticipated learning in their “proposal”. Students can take ownership of their own learning by choosing the LOs to address.

Simon Riley talks about SLICCs at eLearning@ed 2016

Simon Riley talks about SLICCs at eLearning@ed 2016

The other place that this can raise tensions is the idea of “academic rigor”. We are comfortable at assessing knowledge, and assessments that are knowledge based. And we assume they get those other graduate attributes by osmosis… I think we have to think carefully about how we look at that. Because the SLICCs are reflection on learning, I think there is real rigor there. But there has to be academic content – but it’s how they gain that knowledge. Tanya mentioned the Edinburgh Award – a reflective process that has some similarities but it is different as it is not for credit.

Throughout their learning experience students can make big mistakes, and recover from them. But if you get students to reflect early, and reflect on any issue that is raised, then they have the opportunity to earn from mistakes, to consider resilience, and helping them to understand their own process for making and dealing with mistakes.

The other concern that I get is “oh, that’s a lot of work for our staff”… I was involved in Pilot 1 and I discovered that when giving feedback I was referring students back to the LOs they selected, their brief, the rubric, the key feedback was about solving the problem themselves… It’s relatively light touch and gives ownership.

So, here are three LOs… Around Analysis, Application, Evaluation. This set is Level 8. I think you could give those to any student, and ask them to do some learning, based on that, and reflect on it… And that’s across the University, across colleges… And building links between the colleges and schools, to these LOs.

So, where are we at? We had a pilot with a small number of students. It was for extra credit, totally optional. They could conduct their own learning, capture in a portfolio, reflect upon it. And there is really tight link between the portfolio evidence, and the reflective assignment. It was a fascinating set of different experiences… For instance one student went and counter river dolphins in the Amazon, but many were not as exotic… We didn’t want to potentially exclude anyone or limit relevance. Any activity can have an academic element to it if structured and reflected upon appropriately. Those who went through the process… Students have come back to us who did these at Level 8 in second year (highest level senate has approved)… They liked the process – the tutor, the discipline, the framework, more than the credit.

So we have just over 100 students signed up this summer. But I’m excited about doing this in existing programmes and courses… What we’ve done is created SCQF LOs at Level 7, 8, 10 and 11, with resources to reflect, marking rubric, and board of studies documents. I am a course organiser – developing is great but often there isn’t time to do it… So what I’m trying to do is create all that material and then just let others take and reuse that… Add a little context and run onto it. But I want to hold onto the common LOs, as long as you do that we can work between each other… And those LOs include the three already shown, plus LO4 on “Talent” and LO5 on “Mindset”, both of which specifically address graduate attributes. We’ve had graduate attributes for years but they aren’t usually in our LOs, just implicit. In these case LOs are the graduate attributes.

Simon Riley gets very animated talking about Learning Outcomes at eLearning@ed 2016

Simon Riley gets very animated talking about Learning Outcomes at eLearning@ed 2016

What might they look like? Embedded in the curriculum, online and on campus. Level 11 on-campus courses are very interested, seems to fit with what they are trying to do. Well suited to projects, to skill acquisition, and using a portfolio is key – evidencing learning is a really useful step in getting engagement. And there is such potential for interdisciplinary work – e.g. Living Lab, Edinburgh CityScope. Summer schools also very interested – a chance for a student to take a holistic view of their learning over that period. We spend a lot of money sending students out to things – study abroad, summer schools, bursaries… When they go we get little back on what they have done. I think we need to use something like this for that sort of experience, that captures what they have learnt and reflected on.


Q1) That idea of students needing to be able to fail successfully really chimes for me… Failures can be very damaging… I thought that the idea of embracing failure, and that kind of start up culture too which values amazing failure… Should/could failure be one of your attributes… to be an amazing failure…

A1) I think that’s LO5 – turning it into a talent. But I think you have touched on an important aspect of our experience. Students are risk averse, they don’t want to fail… But as reflective learners we know that failure matters, that’s when we learn, and this framework can help us address this. I look to people like Paul McC… You have students learning in labs… You can set things up so they fail and have to solve problems… Then they have to work out how to get there, that helps…

Q1) In the sporting world you have the idea of being able to crash the kit, to be able to learn – learning how to crash safely is an early stage skills – in skateboarding, surfing etc.

Keynote, supported by the Centre for Research in Digital Education: In search of connected learning: Exploring the pedagogy of the open web – Dr Laura Gogia MD, PhD, (@GoogleGuacamole)Research Fellow for the Division of Learning Innovation and Student Success at Virginia Commonwealth University, USA, chaired by Jen Ross

Jen: I am really delighted to welcome Laura Gogia to eLearning@ed – I heard her speak a year or so ago and I just felt that great thing where ideas just gel. Laura has just successfully defended her PhD. She is also @GoogleGuacamole on Twitter and organises a Twitter reading club. And her previous roles have been diverse, most interestingly she worked as an obstetrician.

Laura: Thank you so much for inviting me today. I have been watching Edinburgh all year long, it’s just such an exciting place. To have such big conferences this year, there is so much exciting digital education and digital pedagogy work going on, you guys are at the forefront.

So I’m going to talk about connected learning – a simpler title than originally in your programme – because that’s my PhD title… I tried to get every keyword in my PhD title!

Laura Gogia begins her keynote with great enthusiasm at eLearning@ed 2016

Laura Gogia begins her keynote with great enthusiasm at eLearning@ed 2016

Let me show you an image of my daughter looking at a globe here, that look on her face is her being totally absorbed. I look for that look to understand when she is engaged and interested. In the academic context we know that students who are motivated, who see real relevance and benefit to their own work makes for more successful approaches. Drawing on Montesorri and other progressive approaches, Mimi Ito and colleagues have developed a framework for connected learning that shapes those approaches for an online digital world.

Henry Jenkins and colleagues describe Digital Participatory Culture that is interactive, creative, about sharing/contributing and informal mentoring. So a connected teacher might design learning to particularly use those connections out to the wider world. George Siemens and colleagues talk about digital workflow, where we filter/aggregate; critique; remix; amplify – pushing our work out into a noisy world where we need to catch attention. Therefore connected learners and teachers find ways to embed these skills into learning and teaching experiences…

Now this all sounds good, but much of the literature is on K-12, so what does connected learning mean for Higher Education. Now in 2014 my institution embarked on an openly networked connected learning project, on learning experiences that draw from web structure and culture to (potentially) support connected learning and student agency, engagement and success. This is only 2 years in, it’s not about guaranteed success but I’ll be talking about some work and opportunities.

So, a quick overview of VCU, we have an interesting dynamic institution, with the top rated arts college, we have diverse students, a satellite campus in Quatar and it’s an interesting place to be. And we also have VCU RamPages, an unlimited resource for creating webpages, that can be networked and extended within and beyond the University. There are about 16k websites in the last year and a half. Many are student websites, blogs, and eportfolios. RamPages enable a range of experiences and expression but I’ll focus on one, Connected Courses.

Connected Courses are openly networked digital spaces, there are networked participatory activities – some in person, all taught by different teaching staff. And they generate authentic learning products, most of which are visible to the public. Students maintain their own blog sites – usually on RamPages but they can use existing sites if they want. When they enroll on a new course they know they will be blogging and doing so publicly. They use a tag, that is then aggregated and combined with other students posts…

So, this is an example of a standard (WordPress) RamPages blog… Students select the blog template, the header images, etc. Then she uses the appropriate tag for her course, which takes it to the course “Bloggregate”… And this is where the magic happens – facilitating the sharing, the commenting, and from a tutors point of view, the assessment.

Laura Gogia shows the VCA/RamPages

Laura Gogia shows the VCA/RamPages “Bloggregate” at eLearning@ed 2016

The openly networked structure supports student agency and discovery. Students retain control of their learning products during and after the course. And work from LaGuadia found students were more richly engaged in such networked environments. And students can be exposed to work and experience which they would not otherwise be exposed to – from different sites, from different institutions, from different levels, and from different courses.

Connected learning also facilitate networked participation, including collaboration and crowdsourcing, including social media. These tools support student agency – being interdependent and self regulated. They may encourage digital fluency. And they support authentic learning products – making joint contributions that leads to enriched work.

A few years ago the UCI bike race was in Virginia and the University, in place of classes, offered a credited course that encouraged them to attend the bike race and collect evidence and share their reflections through the particular lens of their chosen course option. These jointly painted a rich picture, they were combined into authentic work products. Similarly VCU Field Botany collaboratively  generate a digital field guide (the only one) to the James Richer Park System. This contributes back to the community. Similarly arts students are generating the RVArts site, on events, with students attending, reflecting, but also benefiting our community who share interest in these traditionally decentralised events.

Now almost all connected courses involve blogging, which develops multimodal composition for digital fluency and multiple perspectives. Students include images and video, but some lecturers are embedding digital multimodal composition in their tasks. Inspireed by DS106, University of Mary Washington, our #CuriousCoLab Creative Makes course asks students to process abstract course concepts and enhance their digital fluency. They make a concrete representation of the abstract concept – they put it in their blog with some explanation of why they have chosen to do this in their way. The students loved this… They spent more time, they thought more on these abstract ideas and concepts… They can struggle with those ideas… This course was fully online, with members of the public engaged too – and we saw both students and these external participants did the creative make, whether or not they did the reflective blogging (optional for outside participants).

In terms of final projects students are often asked to create a website. These assignments allow the students to work on topics that really talk to their heart… So, one module can generate projects on multitasking and the brain, another might talk about the impact on the bombing of Hiroshima.

I’ve talked about connected learning but now I’d like to turn to my research on student blogging and tweeting, and my focus on the idea that if students are engaged in Connected Learning we require the recognition and creation of connections with people, and across concepts, contexts and time. I focused on Blogging and tweeting as these are commonly used in connected learning… I asked myself about whether there was something about these practices that was special here. So I looked at how we can capture connected learning through student digital annotation… Looking at hyperlinks, mentions, etc. The things that express digital connection… Are they indicative of pedagogical connections too? I also looking at images and videos, and how students just use images in their blog posts…

Because the Twitter API and WordPress allow capture of digital annotations… You can capture those connections in order to describe engagement. So, for the class I looked at there were weekly Twitter chats… And others beyond the course were open participants, very lightly auditing the course… I wanted to see how they interacted… What I saw was that open students were very well integrated with the enrolled students, and interacting… And this has instructional value too. Instructors used a similar social network analysis tool to ask students to reflect on their learning and engagement.

Laura Gogia speaking about linking and interaction patterns at VCU as part of her eLearning@ed 2016 keynote

Laura Gogia speaking about linking and interaction patterns at VCU as part of her eLearning@ed 2016 keynote

Similarly I looked at psychology students and how they shared hyperlinks… You can see also how sources are found directly, and when they access them exclusively through their Twitter timeline… That was useful for discussing student practice with them – because those are two different processes really – whether reading fully, or finding through others’ sharing. And in a course where there is controversy over legitimate sources, you could have a conversation on what sources you are using and why.

I found students using hyperlinks to point to additional resources, traditional citations, embedded definitions, to connect their own work, but also to contextualise their posts – indicating a presumption of an external audience and of shaping content to them… And we saw different styles of linking. We didn’t see too many “For more info see…” blog posts pointing to eg NYT, CNN. What we saw more of was text like “Smith (2010) states that verbal and nonverbal communication an impact” – a traditional citation… But “Smith 2010” and “nonverbal” were both linked. One goes where you expect (the paper), the other is a kind of “embedded description” – linking to more information but not cluttering their style or main narrative. You couldn’t see that in a paper based essay. You might also see “As part of this course, I have created a framework and design structure for..”… “this course” links to the course – thinking about audience perhaps (more research needed) by talking about context; framework pointed to personal structure etc.

I also saw varying roles of images in blog posts: some were aesthetic, some were illustration, some as extension. Students making self-generated images and videos incorporated their discussion of that making process in their blog posts… I particularly enjoyed when students made their own images and videos.

Laura Gogia talks about the Twitter patterns and hyperlinking practices of her research participants in her eLearning@ed 2016 keynote

Laura Gogia talks about the Twitter patterns and hyperlinking practices of her research participants in her eLearning@ed 2016 keynote

In terms of Twitter, students tweeted differently than they blog. Now we know different platforms support different types of behaviours. What I noticed here was that students tweeted hyperlinks to contribute to the group, or to highlight their own work. So, hyperlink as contribution could be as simple as a link with the hashtag. Whilst others might say “<hyperlink> just confirms what was said by the speaker last week”… which is different. Or it might be, e.g. “@student might find this on financial aid interesting <hyperlink>, now that inclusion of a person name significantly increases the chances of engagement – significantly linked to 3+ replies.

And then we’d see hyperlinks as promotion, although we didn’t see many loading tweets with hashtags to target lots of communities.

So, my conclusions on Digital Annotations, is that these are nuanced areas for research and discussion. I found that students seldom mentioned peer efforts – and that’s a problem, we need to encourage that. There is a lack of targeted contribution – that can be ok and trigger serendipity, but not always. We have to help students and ourselves to navigate to ensure we get information to the right people. Also almost no images I looked at had proper attribution, and that’s a problem. We tell them to cite sources in the text, have to do that in the images too. And finally course design and instructor behaviour matters, students perform better when the structure works for them… So we have to find that sweet spot and train and support instructors accordingly.

I want to end with a quote from a VCU Undergraduate student. This was a listening tour, not a formal part of research, and I asked them how she learned, how they want to learn… And this student talked about the need for learning to be flexible, connected, portable. Does everyone need an open connected space? No, but some do, and these spaces have great affordances… We need to play more here, to stay relevant and engaged with that wider world, to creatively play with the idea of learning!


Q1) It was fantastic to see all that student engagement there, it seems that they really enjoy that. I was wondering about information overload and how students and staff deal with that with all those blogs and tweets!

A1) A fabulous question! I would say that students either love or hate connected courses… They feel strongly. One reason for that is the ability to cope with information overload. The first time we ran these we were all learning, the second time we put in information about how to cope with that early on… Part of the reason for this courses is to actually help students cope with that, understand how to manage that. It’s a big deal but part of the experience. Have to own up front, why its important to deal with it, and then deal with it. From a Twitter perspective I’m in the process of persuading faculty to grade Twitter… That hasn’t happened yet… Previously been uncredited, or has been a credit for participation. I have problems with both models… With the no credit voluntary version you get some students who are really into it… And they get frustrated with those that don’t contribute. The participation is more structured… But also frustrating, for the same reasons that can be in class… So we are looking at social network analysis that we can do and embed in grading etc.

Comment – Simon Riley) Just to comment on overload… That’s half of what being a professional or an academic is. I’m a medic and if you search PubMed you get that immediately… Another part of that is dealing with uncertainty… And I agree that we have to embrace this, to show students a way through it… Maybe the lack of structure is where we want to be…

A2) Ironically the people with the least comfort with uncertainty and unstructured are faculty members – those open participants. They feel that they are missing things… They feel they should know it all, that they should absorb it at. This is where we are at. But I was at a digital experience conference where there were 100s of people, loads of parallel strands… There seems to be a need to see it all, do it all… We have to make a conscious effort at ALT Lab to just help people let it go… This may be the first time in history where we have to be fine that we can’t know it all, and we know that and are comfortable…

Q3) Do you explicitly ask students not to contribute to that overload?

A3) I’m not sure we’re mature enough in practice… I think we need to explain what we are doing and why, to help them develop that meta level of learning. I’m not sure how often that’s happening just now but that’s important.

Q4) You talked a lot about talking in the open web in social media. Given that the largest social networks are engaging in commercial activities, in political activities (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg in China), is that something students need to be aware of?

A4) Absolutely, that needs to be there, alongside understanding privacy, understanding attribution and copyright. We don’t use Facebook. We use WordPress for RamPages – have had no problems with that so far. But we haven’t had problems with Twitter either… It’s a good point that should go on the list…

Q5) Could you imagine connected courses for say Informatics or Mathematics…? What do they look like?

A5) Most of the math courses we have dealt with are applied mathematics. That’s probably as far as I could get without sitting with a subject expert – so give me 15 mins with you and I could tell you.

Q6) So, what is the role of faculty here in carefully selecting things for students which we think are high quality?

A6) The role is as it has ever been, to mark those things out as high quality…

Q6) There is a lot of stuff out there… Linking randomly won’t always find high quality content.

A6) Sure, this is not about linking randomly though, it’s about enabling students to identify content, so they understand high quality content, not just the list given, and that supports them in the future. Typically academic staff do curate content, but (depending on the programme), students also go out there to find quality materials, discussing reasons for choosing, helping them model and understand quality. It’s about intentionality… We are trying to get students to make those decisions intentionally.

Digital Education & Technology Enhanced Learning Panel Session, chaired by Victoria Dishon

Victoria: I am delighted to be able to chair this panel. We have some brilliant academic minds and I am very pleased to be able to introduce some of them to you.

Prof. Sian Bayne (@sbayne), Professor of Digital Education in the School of Education, and Assistant Principal, Digital Education

I have a slight identity crisis today! I am Sian Bayne and I’m Professor of Digital Education but I am also newly Assistant Principal, Digital Education. It’s an incredibly exciting area of work to take forward so I thought I’d talk a bit about digital education at Edinburgh and where we are now… We have reputation and leadership, 2600 PG online students, 67 programmes, 2m MOOC learners, and real strategic support in the University. It’s a good time to be here.

Sian Bayne speaking about her exciting new role, at eLearning@ed 2016

Sian Bayne speaking about her exciting new role, at eLearning@ed 2016

We also have a growing culture of teaching innovation in Schools and a strong understanding of the challenges of academic development for and with DE. Velda McCune, Depute Director of IAD, currently on research leave, talks about complex, multilateral and ever shifting conglomerations of learning.

I want to talk a bit about where things are going… Technology trends seem to be taking us in some particular directions…We have a range of future gazing reports and updates, but I’m not as sure that we have a strong body of students, of academics, of support with a vision for what we want digital education to look like here. We did have 2 years ago the Ed2020 trying to look at this. The Stanford 2025 study is also really interesting, with four big ideas emerging around undergraduate education – of the open loop university – why 4 years at a set age, why not 6 years across your lifetime; paced education – 6 years of personalised learning with approaches for discipline we’re embedded in and put HE in the world; Axis flip; purpose learning – coming to uni with a mission not a major… So it would be interesting to think of those ideas in this university.

UAL/LSE did a digital online hack event, Digital is not the future, to explore the idea of hacking the institution from the inside. Looking at shifting to active work. Also a great new MIT Future of Digital Education report too. And if you have any ideas for processes or approaches to take things forward, please do email or Twitter me…

Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal, Online Learning (@honeybhighton)

I am also having quite an identity crisis. Sian and I have inherited quite a broad range of activities from Jeff Haywood, and I have inherited many of the activities that he had as head of IS, particularly thinking about online learning in the institution, number of courses, number of learners, what success would look like, targets – and where they came from – get thrown about… Some are assumptions, some KPI, some reach targets, some pure fantasy! So I’ll be looking at that, with the other Assistant Principals and the teams in ISG.

Melissa Highton talks about her forthcoming new role, at eLearning@ed 2016

Melissa Highton talks about her forthcoming new role, at eLearning@ed 2016

What would success look like? That Edinburgh should be THE place to work if you want to work on Digital Education, that it is innovative, fund, and our practice must be research informed, research linked, research connected. Every educator should be able to choose a range of tools to work with, and have support and understanding of risk around that… Edinburgh would be a place that excellent practitioners come t0 – and stay. Our online students would give us high satisfaction ratings. And our on campus learners would see themselves continuing studies online – preferably with us, but maybe with others.

To do that there are a set of more procedural things that must be in place around efficiency, structures, processes, platforms, to allow you to do the teaching and learning activity that we need you to do to maintain our position as a leader in this area. We have to move away from dependence on central funding, and towards sustainable activity in their departments and schools. I know it’s sexy to spin stuff up locally, it’s got us far, but when we work at scale we need common schools, taking ideas from one part of the institution to others. But hopefully creating a better environment for doing the innovative things you need to do.

Prof. David Reay (@keelincurve); Chair in Carbon Management & Education Assistant Principal, Global Environment & Society

Last year at eLearning@ed I talked about the Sustainability and Social Responsibility course, and today I’ll talk about that, another programme and some other exciting work we are doing all around Global Change and Technology Enhanced Learning.

So with the Online MSc in Carbon Management we have that fun criteria! We had an on campus programme, and it went online with students across the world. We tried lots of things, tried lots of tools, and made all sorts of mistakes that we learned from. And it was great fun! One of my favourite students was joining the first Google Hangout from a bunker in Syria, during the war, and when she had connectivity issues for the course we had to find a tactic to be able to post content via USB to students with those issues.

David Reay speaks about the new Online

David Reay speaks about the new Online “Sustainability & Social Responsibility” MSc at eLearning@ed 2016

So that online course in Sustainability and Social Responsibility is something we’ve put through the new CAIRO process that Fiona Hale is leading on, doing that workshop was hugely useful for trying those ideas, making the mistakes early so we could address them in our design. And this will be live in the autumn, please do all take a look and take it.

And the final thing, which I’m very excited about, is an online “Disaster Risk Reduction” course, which we’ve always wanted to do. This is for post earthquake, post flooding, post fire type situations. We have enormous expertise in this area and we want to look at delivery format – maybe CPD for rescue workers, MOOCs for community, maybe Masters for city planners etc. So this is the next year, this is what I’ll speak about next year.

Prof. Chris Sangwin (@c_sangwin), Chair in Technology Enhanced Science Education, School of Mathematics

I’m new to Edinburgh, joined in July last year, and my interest is in automatic assessment, and specifically online assessment. Assessment is the cornerstone of education, it drives what people do, that is the action they undertake. I’ve been influenced by Kluger and DeNiki 1996 who found that “one third of feedback interventions decreased performance”. This study found that specific feedback on the task was effective, feedback that could be seen as a personal attack was not. Which makes sense, but we aren’t always honest about our failures.

Chris Sangwin talks about automated approaches to assessing mathematics, at eLearning@ed 2016

Chris Sangwin talks about automated approaches to assessing mathematics, at eLearning@ed 2016

So, I’ve developed an automatic assessment system for mathematics – for some but not all things – which uses the computer algebra system (CAS) Maxima, which generates random structured questions, gives feedback, accommodates multiple approaches, and provides feedback on the parts of the answer which does not address the question. This is a pragmatic tool, there are bigger ideas around adaptive learning but those are huge to scope, to build, to plan out. The idea is that we have a cold hard truth – we need time, we need things marking all the time and reliably, and that contrasts with the much bigger vision of what we want for our students for our education.

You can try it yourself here: and I am happy to add you as a question setter if you would like. We hope it will be in Learn soon too.

Prof. Judy Hardy (@judyhardy), Professor of Physics Education, School of Physics and Astronomy.

I want to follow up my talk last year about what we need to focus on “awareness” knowledge, “how to” knowledge, and we need “principles” knowledge. Fewer than a quarter of people don’t modify approaches in their teaching – sometimes that is fine, sometimes it is not. So I want to talk about a few things we’ve done, one that worked, one that did not.

Judy Hardy talks about modifying teaching approaches, at eLearning@ed 2016

Judy Hardy talks about implementing changes in teaching approaches, at eLearning@ed 2016

We have used Peerwise testing, and use of that correlates with exam performance, even when controlling for other factors. We understand from our evidence how to make it work. We have to move from formative (recommended) to summative (which drives behaviour). We have to drive students ownership of this work.

We have also used ACJ – Adaptive Comparative Judgement – to get students to understand what quality looks like, to understand it in comparison to others. They are not bad at doing that… It looks quite good at face value. But when we dug in we found students making judgments on surface features… neatness, length, presence of diagram… We are not at all confident about their physics knowledge, and how they evidence that decision… For us the evidence wasn’t enough, it wasn’t aligned with what we were trying to do. There was very high administrative overheads… A detail that is easily overlooked. For a pilot its fine, to work every day that’s an issue.

Implementing change, we have to align the change with the principles – which may also mean challenge underlying beliefs about their teaching. It needs to be compatible with local, often complex, classroom context, and it takes time, and time to embed.

Victoria: A lot of what we do here does involve taking risk so it’s great to hear that comparison of risks that have worked, and those that are less successful.

Dr Michael Seery, Reader, Chemistry Education. (@seerymk)

Like Chris I joined last July… My background has been in biology education. One of the first projects I worked on was on taking one third of chemistry undergraduate lab reports (about 1200 reports_ and to manage and correct those for about 35 postgraduate demonstrators. Why? Well because it can be hard to do these reports, often inconsistent in format, to assess online and I wanted to seek clarity and consistency of feedback. And the other reason to move online was to reduce administrative burden.

Michael Seery speaks about moving to online learning (image also shows the previous offline administrative tools), at eLearning@ed 2016

Michael Seery speaks about moving to online learning (image also shows the previous offline administrative tools), at eLearning@ed 2016

So Turnitin (Grademark) was what I started looking at. But it requires a Start Date, Due Date, and End date. But our students don’t have those. Instead we needed to retrofit it a bit. So, students submitted to experimental Dropbox, demonstrators filtered submissions and corrected their lab reports, and mark and feedback returned immediately to students… But we had problems… No deadline possible so can’t track turnaround time/impose penalties; “live” correction visible by student, and risk of simultaneous marking. And the Section rubrics (bands of 20%) too broad – that generated a great deal of feedback, as you can imagine. BUT demonstrators were being very diligent about feedback – but that also confused students as minor points were mixed with major points.

So going forward we are using groups, students will submit by week so that due dates ad turnaround times clearer, use TurnItIn assessment by groups with post date, and grading forms all direct mark entry. But our challenge has been retrofitting technologies to the assessment and feedback issue, but that bigger issue needs discussion.

The format for this session is that each of our panel will give a 3-5 minute introductory presentation and we will then turn to discussion, both amongst the panel and with questions and comments from the audience.

Panel discussion/Q&A

Q1) Thank you for a really interesting range of really diverse presentations. My question is for Melissa, and it’s about continuity of connection… UG, online, maybe pre-arrival, returning as a lifelong learning… Can we keep our matriculation number email forever? We use it at the start but then it all gets complex on graduation… Why can’t we keep that as that consistent point of contact.

A1, Melissa) That sounds like a good idea.

Q2) We’ve had that discussion at Informatics, as students lose a lot of materials etc. by loss of that address. We think an alias is probably the way, especially for those who carry on beyond undergraduate. It was always designed as a mapping tool. But also let them have their own space that they can move work into and out of. Think that should be University policy.

A2, Melissa) Sounds like a good idea too!

Q3) I was really pleased to hear assessment and feedback raised in a lot of these presentations. In my role as Vice Principal Assessment and Feedback I’m keen to understand how we can continue those conversations, how do we join these conversations up? What is the space here? We have teaching networks but what could we be missing?

A3, Michael) We all have agreed LOs but if you ask 10 different lab demonstrators they will have 10 different ideas of what that looks like that. I think assessment on a grade, feedback, but also feed forward is crucial here. Those structures seems like a sensible place.

A3, Judy) I think part of the problem is that teaching staff are so busy that it is really difficult  to do the work needed. I think we should be moving more towards formative assessment, that is very much an ideal, far from where we are in practice, but it’s what I would like to see.

Q4) A lot of you talked about time, time being an issue… One of the issues that students raise all of the time is about timeliness of feedback… Do you think digital tools offer a way to do this?

A4, Judy) For me, the answer is probably no. Almost all student work is handwritten for us… What we’d like to do is sit with a student to talk to them, to understand what is going on in their heads, how their ideas are formed. But time with 300 students is against us. So digital tools don’t help me… Except maybe Chris’ online assessment for mathematics.

A4, Chris) The idea of implementing the system I showed is to free up staff time for that sort of richer feedback, by tackling the limited range of work we can mark automatically. That is a limited range though and it diminishes as the subject progresses.

A4, David) We implemented online submission as default and it really helped with timings, NSS, etc. that really helped us. For some assessment that is hard, but it has helped for some.

A4, Michael) Students do really value that direct feedback from academic staff… You can automate some chemistry marking, but we need that human interaction in there too, that’s important.

A4, Sian) I want to raise a humanities orientated way of raising the time issue… For me time isn’t just about the timeline for feedback, but also exploring different kinds of temporality that you can do online. For our MSc in Digital Education we have students blog and their tutors engage in a long form engaged rich way throughout the course, feedback and assessment is much richer than just grading.

Q5) In terms of incorporation of international students here, they are here for one year only and that’s very short. Sometimes Chinese students meet a real clash of expectations around language proficiency, a communication gap between what assessment and feedback is, and what we practice. In terms of technology is there a formative model for feedback for students less familiar with this different academic culture, rather than leaving them confused for one semester and then start to understand.

A5, David) It’s such an important point. For all of our students there is a real challenge of understanding what feedback actually is, what it is for. A lot of good feedback isn’t badged properly and doesn’t show up in NSS. I love the idea of less assessment, and of the timing being thought through. So we don’t focus on summative assessment early on, before they know how to play the game.. I agree really.

A5, Judy) One thing we don’t make much use, is of exemplars. They can be very valuable. When I think about how we get expertise as markers, is because of trying to do it. Students don’t get that opportunity, you only see your own work. Exemplars can help there…

The panel listening to questions from the floor at eLearning@ed 2016

The panel listening to questions from the floor at eLearning@ed 2016

Q6) Maybe for the panel, maybe for Fiona… One thing to build in dialogue, and the importance of formative assessment… Are you seeing that in the course design workshops, use of CAIReO (blog post on this coming soon btw), whether you see a difference in the ways people assess….

A6, Fiona) We have queues of people wanting the workshop right now, they have challenges and issues to address and for some of them its assessment, for others its delivery or pace. But assessment is always part of that. It comes naturally out of storyboarding of learner activities. BUt we are not looking at development of content, we are talking about learning activity – that’s where it is different. Plenty to think about though…

Comment, Ross) Metaphor of a blank piece of paper is good. With learning technologies you can start out with that sense of not knowing what you want to achieve… I think exemplars help here too, sharing of ideas and examples. Days like today can be really helpful for seeing what others are doing, but then we go back to desks and have blank sheets of paper.

Q7) As more policies and initiatives appear in the institution, does it matter if we believe that learning is what the student does – rather than the teacher? I think my believe is that learning occurs in the mind of the learning… So technologies such as distance and digital learning can be a bit strange… Distance and digital teaching maybe makes more sense…

A7) I think that replacing terminology of “teaching” with terminology of “learning” has been taking place. Hesper talks about the problems of the “learnification of education”, when we do that we instrumentalise education. That ignores power structures and issues in many ways. My colleagues and I wrote a Manifesto for Teaching Online and we had some flack about that terminology but we thought that that was important.

Q8) Aspirationally there would be one to one dialogue with students… I agree that that is a good aspiration… And there is that possibility of continuity… But my question was to what extent past, present, and future physical spaces… And to what extent does that enable or challenge good learning or good teaching?

A8, Judy) We use technology in classrooms. First year classes are flipped – and the spaces aren’t very conducive to that. There are issues with that physical space. For group working there are great frustrations that can limit what we can do… In any case this is somewhat inevitable. In terms of online education, I probably have to hand to colleagues…

A8, David) For our institution we have big plans and real estate pressures already. When we are designing teaching spaces, as we are at KB right now, there is a danger of locking ourselves into an estate that is not future proof. And in terms of impinging on innovation, in terms of changing demands of students, that’s a real risk for us… So I suppose my solution to that is that when we do large estate planning, that we as educators and experts in technology do that work, do that horizon scanning, like Sian talked about, and that that feeds into physical space as well as pedagogy.

A8, Sian) For me I want leakier spaces – bringing co-presences into being between on campus and online students. Whole area of digital pedagogical exploration we could be playing with.

A8, Melissa) There is is a very good classroom design service within the Learning and Teaching spaces team in IS. But there is a lag between the spaces we have today, and getting kit in place for current/future needs. It’s an ongoing discussion. Particularly for new build spaces there is really interesting possibility around being thoughtful. I think we also have to think about shifting time and space… Lecture Capture allows changes, maybe we need fewer big lecture rooms… Does the teaching define the space, or the space that designs the teaching. Please do engage with the teams that are there to help.

A8, Michael) One thing that is a danger, is that we chase the next best thing… But those needs change. We need to think about the teaching experience, what is good enough, what is future-proof enough… And where the need is for flexibility.

Victoria: Thanks to all our panel!

eMarking Roll Out at Abertay – Carol Maxwell, Technology Enhanced Learning Support team Leader, Abertay University, chaired by Michael Seery

I am Carol Maxwell from Abertay University and I am based in the Technology Enhanced Learning support team. So, a wee bit about Abertay… We are a very small city centre university, with 4025 students (on campus) and 2091 in partner institutions. We are up 9 places to 86 in Complete University Guide (2017), And our NSS score for feedback turnaround went up by 12%, which we think has a lot to do with our eMarking roll out.

We have had lots of change – a new Principal and new Vice Chancellor in summer 2012. We have many new appointments, a new director of teaching and learning enhancement, and we’ve moved towards central services rather than local admin. We get involved in the PGCert programme, and all new members of staff have to go through that process. We have monthly seminars where we get around 70 people coming along. We have lots of online resources, support for HEA accreditation and lots of things taking place, to give you a flavour of what our team does.

Carol Maxwell talks about the work of the Abertay Teaching and Learning Enhancement Team, at eLearning@ed 2016

Carol Maxwell talks about the work of the Abertay Teaching and Learning Enhancement Team, at eLearning@ed 2016

So the ATLEF project was looking at supporting assessment and feedback practice with technology, this was when our team was part of information services, and that was intended to improve the University’s understanding and awareness of the potential benefits, challenges and barriers associated with a more systematic and strategic approach to technology-enhanced assessment and feedback, we wanted to accelerate staff awareness of technological tools for assessment.

So we did a baseline report on practice – we didn’t have tools there, and instead had to interrogate Blackboard data course by course… We found only 50% of those courses using online assessment were using Grademark to do this. We saw some using audio files, some used feedback in Grade Centre, some did tracked changes in Word, and we also saw lots of use of feedback in comments on eportfolios.

We only had 2% online exams. Feedback on that was mixed, and some was to do with how the actual user experience worked – difficulties in scrolling through documents in Blackboard for instance. Some students were concerned that taking exams at home would be distracting. There was also a perception that online exams were for benefit of teaching staff, rather than students.

So we had an idea of what was needed, and we wanted to also review sector practices. We found Ferrell 2013, and also the Heads of eLearning Forum Electronic Management of Assessment Survey Report 2013 we saw that the most common practice was e-submission as well as hard copy printed by student… But we wanted to move away from paper. So, we were involved in the Jisc Electronic Marking and Assessment project and cycle… And we were part of a think tank where we discussed issues such as retention and archiving of coursework, and in particular the importance of it being a University wide approach.

So we adopted a new Abertay Assessment Strategy. So for instance we now have week 7 as a feedback week. It isn’t for teaching, it is not a reading week, it is specifically for assessment and feedback. The biggest change for our staff was the need for return of coursework and feedback in 10 working days before week 13, and within 15 weeks thereafter, That was a big change. We had been trialing things for year, so we were ready to just go for it. But we had some challenges, we have a literal grading policy, A+, A, B+ etc. which is harder in these tools.

We had senior management, registry, secretariat, teaching staff, teaching and learning staff discussing and agreeing the policy document. We had EMA champions demonstrating current process, we generated loads of supporting materials to. So one of our champions delivered video feedback – albeit with some student feedback to him that he was a little dry, he took it on the chin. One academic uses feedback on PebblePad, we have a lecturer who uses questions a great deal in mathematics courses, letting students attempt questions and then move on after completion only. We also have students based in France who were sharing reflections and video content, and feedback to it alongside their expected work. And we have Turnitin/Grademark, of which the personalised feedback is most valuable. Another champion has been using discussion forums, where students can develop their ideas, see each others work etc. We also hold lots of roadshow events, and feedback from these have raised the issue of needing two screens to actually manage marking in these spaces.

Carol Maxwell talks about the support for staff in rolling out eMarking at Abertay, at eLearning@ed 2016

Carol Maxwell talks about the support for staff in rolling out eMarking at Abertay, at eLearning@ed 2016

The areas we had difficulty with here was around integration, with workarounds required for Turnitin with Blackboard Grade Centre and literal grading; Staff resistance – with roadshows helping’ Moderation – used 3 columns not 2 for marking; Anonymity; returning feedback to students raised some complexities faced. There has been some challenging work here but overall the response has been positive. Our new templates include all the help and support information for our templates to.

So, where to now… Carry on refining procedures and support, need on going training – especially new staff, Blackboard SITS Integration. More online exams (some online and some off site); digital literacy etc. And, in conclusion you need Senior Management support and a partnership approach with academic staff, students and support services required to make a step change in practice.


Q1) I’m looking at your array of initiatives, but seeing that we do these things in pockets. The striking thing is how you got the staff on board… I wonder if we have staff on board, but not sure we have students on board… So what did you do to get the students on board?

A1) There was a separate project on feedback with the students, raising student awareness on what feedback was. The student association were an important part of that. Feedback week is intended to make feedback to students very visible and help them understand their importance… And the students all seem to be able to find their feedback online.

Q2, Michael) You made this look quite seamless across spaces, how do you roll this out effectively?

A2) We’ve been working with staff a long time, so individual staff do lots of good things… The same with assessment and feedback… It was just that we had those people there who had great things there… So like the thinking module there is a model with self-enroll wikis… You end up with examples all around. With the roll out of EMA the Principal was keen that we just do this stuff, we have already tested it. But Abertay is a small place, we have monthly meet ups with good attendance as that’s pretty much needed for PGCAP. But it’s easier to spread an idea, because we are quite small.

Q3) For that 10-15 day turnaround how do you measure it, and how do you handle exemptions?

A3) You can have exemptions but you have to start that process early, teams all know that they have to pitch in. But some academic staff have scaled assessment back to the appropriate required level.

At this point we broke for an extended break and poster session, some images of which are included below. 

Amy Burge and Laine Ruus show their posters during the eLearning@ed 2016 Poster Session

Amy Burge and Laine Ruus show their posters during the eLearning@ed 2016 Poster Session


Participants explore posters including Simon Fokt's Diversity Reading List poster at eLearning@ed 2016

Participants explore posters including Simon Fokt’s Diversity Reading List poster at eLearning@ed 2016


Ross Ward provides an informal LTW drop in session as part of the eLearning@ed 2016 Poster Session

Ross Ward provides an informal LTW drop in session as part of the eLearning@ed 2016 Poster Session

Taking this forward – Nicola Osborne

Again, I was up and chairing so notes are more minimal from these sessions… 

The best of ILW 2016 – Silje Graffer (@SiljeGrr), ILW/IAD

ILW is in its fifth year… We had over 263 events through the event, we reached over 2 million people via social media…

How did we get to this year? It has been amazing in the last few years… We wanted to see how we could reach the students and the staff in a better way that was more empowering for them. We went back to basics, we hired a service design company in Glasgow to engage people who had been involved in ILW before… In an event we called Open ILW… We wanted to put people first. We had 2 full time staff, 3 student staff, 20 school coordinators – to handle local arrangements – and created a kind of cool club of a network!

Silje Graffer talks about the Innovative Learning Week team, at eLearning@ed 2016

Silje Graffer talks about the Innovative Learning Week team, at eLearning@ed 2016

So we went back to the start… We wanted to provide clarity on the concept… We wanted to highlight innovation already taking place, that innovation doesn’t just happen once a year. And to retain that space to experiment.

We wanted to create a structure to support ideas. We turned feedback into a handbook for organisers. We had meet ups every month for organisers, around ideas, development, event design, sharing ideas, developing process… We also told more stories through social media and the website. We curated the programme around ideas in play. We wanted to focus on people making the events, who go through a valuable process, and have scope to apply that.

Silje Graffer talks about some of the highlight events from ILW16, at eLearning@ed 201g

Silje Graffer talks about some of the highlight events from ILW16, at eLearning@ed 201g

So I just wanted to flag some work on openness, there was a Wikipedia Editathon on the history of medicine, we had collaboration – looking at meaningful connections between different parts of the university, particularly looking at learners with autism which was really valuable. Creativity… This wasn’t digital education in itself, but the Board Game Jam was about creating games, all were openly licensed, and you can access and use those games in teaching, available from OER. A great example for getting hands dirty and how that translates into the digital. And iGEM Sandpit and Bio Hackathon, are taking ideas forward to a worldwide event. Smart Data Hack continued again, with more real challenges to meet. Prof Ewan Klein gas taken work forward in the new Data, Design and Society Course… And in the Celebratory mode, we had an online game called Edinburgh is Everywhere, exploring Edinburgh beyond the physical campus! And this was from a student. You can browse all the digital education events that ran on the website, and I can put you in touch with organisers.

Next year its happening again, redeveloped and imagined again.

Q1) Is it running again

A1) Yes! But we will be using some of the redesigning approaches again.


CMALT – what’s coming up – Susan Greig (@SusieGreig),

Are you certified… I am based in LTW and I’m really pleased to announce new support for achieving CMALT within the University. And I can say that I am certified!

CMALT is the Certified Member of ALT, it’s recommended for documenting and reflecting on your work, a way to keep pace with technology, it is certified by peers, update certification every three years. So, why did I do CMALT? When back when I put my portfolio forward in 2008 I actually wrote down my reasons – I hoped to plan for my future careers more effectively, the career path isn’t well definied and I was keen to see where this would take me. And looking back I don’t think that career path has become more clear… So still very useful to do.

Susan Greig talking about support for CMALT, at eLearning@ed 2016

Susan Greig talking about support for CMALT, at eLearning@ed 2016

So, to do CMALT you need to submit a portfolio. That is around five areas, operational issues; teaching, learning and/or assessment processes; the wider context; communication; and a specialist area. I did this as an individual submission, but there is also an option to do this together. And that is what we will be doing in Information Services. We will provide ongoing support and general cheer-leading, events which will be open to all, and regular short productive cohort meetings. There will also be regular writing retreats with IAD. So, my challenge to you is can we make the University of Edinburgh the organisation with the most accredited CMALT members in the UK?

If you are interested get in touch. Likely cohort start is August 2016… More presentations from alt 3rd june, showcase event there in july

Making Connections all year long: eLearning@ed Monthly meet ups – Ross Ward (@RossWoss), Educational Design

Today has been a lovely chance to  get to meet and network with peers… Over the last year in LTW  (Learning, Teaching and Web Services) we’ve looked at how we can raise awareness of how we can help people in different schools and colleges achieve what they are trying to do, and how we can support that… And as we’ve gone around we’ve tried to work with them to provide what is needed for their work, we’ve been running roadshows and workshops. Rather than focus on the technologies, we wanted to come from more of a learning and teaching perspective…Around themes of Interactive learning and teaching, assessment and feedback, open educational resources, shakers, makers and co-creators, and exploring spaces… From those conversations we’ve realised there is loads of amazing stuff coming on… And we wanted to share these more widely…

Ross Ward talks about recent elearning@ed/LTW Monthly MeetUps, at eLearning@ed 2016

Ross Ward talks about recent elearning@ed/LTW Monthly MeetUps, at eLearning@ed 2016

Luckily we have a great community already… And we have been working collaboratively between elearning@ed and learning, teaching and web services, and having once a month meetings on one of the themes, sharing experiences and good practices… A way to strengthen networks, a group to share with in physical and digital shared spaces… The aim is that they are open to anyone – academics, learning technologists, support teams… Multiple short presentations, including what is available right now, but not ignoring horizon scanning. It’s a space for discussion – long coffee break, and the pub afterwards. We have a 100% record of going to the pub… And try to encourage discussion afterwards…

So far we’ve looked at Using media in teaching (January); Open Education – including our Wikimedian in residence (February); Things we have/do – well received catch up (March); Learning Design – excellent session from Fiona (April). We put as much as we can on the wiki – notes and materials – and you’ll find upcoming events there too. Which includes: Assessment and Feedback – which will be lively if the sessions here are anything to go by (27th June); CMALT (27th July); Maker Space (August) – do share your ideas and thoughts here.

In the future we are trying to listen to community needs, to use online spaces for some, to stream, to move things around, to raise awareness of the event. All ideas and needs welcomed… Interesting to use new channels… These tend to be on themes so case by case possibilities…

The final part of our day was our wrap up by Prof. Charlie Jeffrey, who came to us fresh from Glasgow where he’d been commenting on the Scottish Parliamentary election results for the BBC… 

Wrap Up – Professor Charlie Jeffrey, Senior Vice Principal.

I’m conscious of being a bit of an imposter here as I’m wrapping up a conference that I have not been able to attend most of. And also of being a bit of an obstacle between you and the end of the day… But I want to join together a few things that colleagues and I have been working on… The unambiguous priority of teaching and learning at Edinburgh, and the work that you do. So, what is the unambiguous priority about? It’s about sharpening the focus of teaching and learning in this university. My hope is that we reach a point in the future that we prize our excellent reputation for learning and teaching as highly as we do our excellent reputation in research. And I’ve been working with a platoon of assistant principals looking at how best to structure these things. One thing to come out of this is the Teaching Matters website which Amy (Burge) so wonderfully edits. And I hope that that is part of that collegiate approach. And Ross, I think if we had blogs and shorter contributions for the website coming out of those meetings, that would be great…

Charlie Jeffrey gives the wrap up at eLearning@ed 2016

Charlie Jeffrey gives the wrap up at eLearning@ed 2016

I’m also conscious of talking of what we do now… And that what we do in the future will be different. And what we have to do is make sure we are fit for the future… Traditional teaching and learning is being transformed by Teaching and Learning… And I wouldn’t want us to be left behind. That’s a competitive advantage thing… But it is is also a pedagogical issues, to do the best we can with the available tools and technologies. I’m confident that we can do that… We have such a strong track record of DEIs, MOOCs, and what Lesley Yellowlees calls he “TESEy chairs”, the Centre of research in Digital Education, an ISG gripped in organisational priorities, and a strong community that helps us to be at the forefront of digital education. Over the last few weeks we’ve had three of the worlds best conferences in digital education, and that’s a brilliant place to be! And an awful lot of that is due to the animation and leadership of Jeff Haywood, who has now retired, and so we’ve asked Sian and Melissa to help ensure that we stay in that absolutely powerful leading position, no pressure whatsoever, but I am very confident that they will be well supported. It’s pretty rare within an organisation to get 90 people to make time to come together and share experience like you have today.

And with that the day was finished! A huge thank you again to all who were part of the event. If you were there – whether presenting or to participate in the poster session or just to listen, I would ask that you complete our feedback survey if you haven’t already. If you weren’t there but are interested in next year’s event or the eLearning@ed community in general, you’ll find lots of useful links below. Video of the event will also be online soon (via MediaHopper – I’ll add the link once it is all live) so anyone reading this should be able to re-watch sessions soon. 

Related Resources

More about eLearning@ed

If you are interested in learning more about the eLearning@ed Forum the best place to start is our wiki:

If you are based at Edinburgh University – whether staff or student – you can also sign up to the Forum’s mailing list where we share updates, news, events, etc.

You can also join us for our monthly meet ups, co-organised with the Learning, Teaching and Web Services team at Edinburgh University. More information on these and other forthcoming events can be found on our Events page. We are also happy to add others’ events to our calendar, and I send out a regular newsletter to the community which we are happy to publicise relevant events, reports, etc. to. If you have something you’d like to share with the eLearning@ed community do just get in touch.

You can also read about some of our previous and more recent eLearning@ed events here on my blog:


May 132015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So take a look at the report! Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions and discussion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Session 2: Innovative teaching and learning in colleges and universities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lunch, exhibition and networking…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions and discussion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q) What about students use of VLEs?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

MH: The Funding Council.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary and conclusions by the Chair – Mark Stephen

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

Apr 232015

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

The speakers for today are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A (all speakers)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– How can you integrate these examples within your work?

– How can new technology enhance this partnership further?

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

[cue break whilst we discuss]

Comments back from groups:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offshoots and Outputs session chaired by Marshall Dozier:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Q2) Student views on this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mar 102015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more at: And we are planning some workshops to help have those conversations across the sector.

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

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

Keynote speech – Carole Goble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get involved in co-design

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

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

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

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

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

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

Research at risk – lead by Rachel Bruce

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

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

Prospect to Alumnus – lead by Simon Whittemore

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

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

Learning Analytics – lead by Paul Bailey

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

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

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

Paul: See out blog on And reports there.

Digital Capabilities – lead by Sarah Davies

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

Implementing FELTAG – lead by Nigel Ecclesfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment: This also responds to increasing localisation agenda…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment: Is there student demand?

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

Comment: But that may not be a representative group

Andy: Certainly the NUS are interested.

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

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

Find out more about this work here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A5 – Peter: And why is that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keynote “Digital vs. Human” from Richard Watson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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