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!


Jun 152016

Today I’m at the University of Edinburgh Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme Forum 2016: Rethinking Learning and Teaching Together, an event that brings together teaching staff, learning technologists and education researchers to share experience and be inspired to try new things and to embed best practice in their teaching activities.

I’m here partly as my colleague Louise Connelly (Vet School, formerly of IAD) will be presenting our PTAS-funded Managing Your Digital Footprint project this afternoon. We’ll be reporting back on the research, on the campaign, and on upcoming Digital Foorprints work including our forthcoming Digital Footprint MOOC (more information to follow) and our recently funded (again by PTAS) project: “A Live Pulse: YikYak for Understanding Teaching, Learning and Assessment at Edinburgh.

As usual, this is a liveblog so corrections, comments, etc. welcome. 

Velda McCune, Deputy Director of the IAD who heads up the learning and teaching team, is introducing today:

Welcome, it’s great to see you all here today. Many of you will already know about the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme. We have funding of around £100k from the Development fund every year, since 2007, in order to look at teaching and learning – changing behaviours, understanding how students learn, investigating new education tools and technologies. We are very lucky to have this funding available. We have had over 300 members of staff involved and, increasingly, we have students as partners in PTAS projects. If you haven’t already put a bid in we have rounds coming up in September and March. And we try to encourage people, and will give you feedback and support and you can resubmit after that too. We also have small PTAS grants as well for those who haven’t applied before and want to try it out.

I am very excited to welcome our opening keynote, Paul Ashwin of Lancaster University, to kick off what I think will be a really interesting day!

Why would going to university change anyone? The challenges of capturing the transformative power of undergraduate degrees in comparisons of quality  – Professor Paul Ashwin

What I’m going to talk about is this idea of undergraduate degrees being transformative, and how as we move towards greater analytics, how we might measure that. And whilst metrics are flawed, we can’t just ignore these. This presentation is heavily informed by Lee Schumers work on Pedagogical Content Knowledge, which always sees teaching in context, and in the context of particular students and settings.

People often talk about the transformative nature of what their students experience. David Watson was, for a long time, the President for the Society of Higher Education (?) and in his presidential lectures he would talk about the need to be as hard on ourselves as we would be on others, on policy makers, on decision makers… He said that if we are talking about education as educational, we have to ask ourselves how and why this transformation takes place; whether it is a planned transformation; whether higher education is a nesseccary and/or sufficient condition for such transformations; whether all forms of higher education result in this transformation. We all think of transformation as important… But I haven’t really evidenced that view…

The Yerevan Communique: May 2015 talks about wanting to achieve, by 2020, a European Higher Education area where there are common goals, where there is automatic recognition of qualifictions and students and graduates can move easily through – what I would characterise is where Bologna begins. The Communique talks about higher education contributing effectively to build inclusive societies, found on democratic values and human rights where educational opportunities are part of European Citizenship. And ending in a statement that should be a “wow!” moment, valuing teaching and learning. But for me there is a tension: the comparability of undergraduate degrees is in conflict with the idea of transformational potential of undergraduate degrees…

Now, critique is too easy, we have to suggest alternative ways to approach these things. We need to suggest alternatives, to explain the importance of transformation – if that’s what we value – and I’ll be talking a bit about what I think is important.

Working with colleagues at Bath and Nottingham I have been working on a project, the Pedagogic Quality and Inequality Project, looking at Sociology students and the idea of transformation at 2 top ranked (for sociology) and 2 bottom ranked (for sociology) universities and gathered data and information on the students experience and change. We found that league tables told you nothing about the actual quality of experience. We found that the transformational nature of undergraduate degrees lies in changes in students sense of self through their engagement with discplinary knowledge. Students relating their personal projects to their disciplines and the world and seeing themselves implicated in knowledge. But it doesn’t always happen – it requires students to be intellectually engaged with their courses to be transformed by it.

To quote a student: “There is no destination with this discipline… There is always something further and there is no point where you can stop and say “I understaood, I am a sociologist”… The thing is sociology makes you aware of every decision you make: how that would impact on my life and everything else…” And we found the students all reflecting that this idea of transformation was complex – there were gains but also losses. Now you could say that this is just the nature of sociology…

We looked at a range of disciplines, studies of them, and also how we would define that in several ways: the least inclusive account; the “watershed” account – the institutional type of view; and the most inclusive account. Mathematics has the most rich studies in this area (Wood et al 2012) where the least inclusive account is “Numbers”, watershed is “Models”, most inclusive is “approach to life”. Similarly Accountancy moves from routine work to moral work; Law from content to extension of self; Music from instrument to communicating; Geograpy is from general world to interactions; Geoscience is from composition of earth – the earth, to relations earth and society. Clearly these are not all the same direction, but they are accents and flavours of the same time. We are going to do a comparison next year on chemistry and chemical engineering, in the UK and South Africa, and actually this work points at what is particular to Higher Education being about engaging with a system of knowledge. Now, my colleague Monica McLean would ask why that’s limited to Higher Education, couldn’t it apply to all education? And that’s valid but I’m going to ignore it just for now!

Another students comments on transformation of all types, for example from wearing a tracksuit to lectures, to not beginning to present themselves this way. Now that has nothing to do with the curriculum, this is about other areas of life. This student almost dropped out but the Afro Carribean society supported and enabled her to continue and progress through her degree. I have worked in HE and FE and the way students talk about that transformation is pretty similar.

So, why would going to university change anyone? It’s about exposure to a system of knowledge changing your view of self, and of the world. Many years ago an academic asked what the point of going to university was, given that much information they learn will be out of date. And the counter argument there is that engagement with seeing different perspectives, to see the world as a sociologist, to see the world as a geographer, etc.

So, to come back to this tension around the comparability of undergraduate degrees, and the transformational potential of undergraduate degrees. If we are about transformation, how do we measure it? What are the metrics for this? I’m not suggesting those will particularly be helpful… But we can’t leave metrics to what is easy to gather, we have to also look at what is important.

So if we think of the first area of compatibility we tend to use rankings. National and international higher education rankings are a dominant way of comparing institutions’ contributions to student success. All universities have a set of figures that do them well. They have huge power as they travel across a number of contexts and audiences – vice chancellors, students, departmental staff. It moves context, it’s portable and durable. It’s nonsense but the strength of these metrics is hard to combat. They tend to involved unrelated and incomparable measures. Their stability reinforces privilege – higher status institutions tend to enrol a much greated proportion of privileged students. You can have some unexpected outcomes but you have to have Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, UCL, Imperial all near the top then your league table is rubbish… Because we already know they are the good universities… Or at least those rankings reinforce the privilege that already exists, the expectations that are set. They tell us nothing about transformation of students. But are skillful performances shaped by generic skills or students understanding of a particular task and their interactions with other people and things?

Now the OECD has put together a ranking concept on graduate outcomes, the AHELO, which uses tests for e.g. physics and engineering – not surprising choices as they have quite international consistency, they are measurable. And they then look at generic tests – e.g a deformed fish is found in a lake, using various press releases and science reports write a memo for policy makers. Is that generic? In what way? Students doing these tests are volunteers, which may not be at all representative. Are the skills generic? Education is about applying a way of thinking in an unstructured space, in a space without context. Now, the students are given context in these texts so it’s not a generic test. But we must be careful about what we measure as what we measure can become an index of quality or success, whether or not that is actually what we’d want to mark up as success. We have strategic students who want to know what counts… And that’s ok as long as the assessment is appropriately designed and set up… The same is true of measures of success and metrics of quality and teaching and learning. That is why I am concerned by AHELO but it keeps coming back again…

Now, I have no issue with the legitimate need for comparison, but I also have a need to understand what comparisons represent, how they distort. Are there ways to take account of students’ transformation in higher education?

I’ve been working, with Rachel Sweetman at University of Oslo, on some key characteristics of valid metrics of teaching quality. For us reliability is much much more important than availability. So, we need ways to assess teaching quality that:

  • are measures of the quality of teaching offered by institutions rather than measures of institutional prestige (e.g. entry grades)
  • require improvements in teaching practices in order to improve performance on the measures
  • as a whole form a coherent set of metrics rather than a set of disparate measures
  • are based on established research evidence about high quality teaching and learning in higher education
  • reflect the purposes of higher education.

We have to be very aware of Goodhearts’ rule that we must be wary of any measure that becomes a performance indicator.

I am not someone with a big issue with the National Student Survey – it is grounded in the right things but the issue is that it is run each year, and the data is used in unhelpful distorted ways – rather than acknowledging and working on feedback it is distorting. Universities feel the need to label engagement as “feedback moments” as they assume a less good score means students just don’t understand when they have that feedback moment.

Now, in England we have the prospect of the Teaching Excellence Framework English White Paper and Technical Consultation. I don’t think it’s that bad as a prospect. It will include students views of teaching, assessment and academic support from the National Student Survey, non completion rates, measures over three years etc. It’s not bad. Some of these measures are about quality, and there is some coherence. But this work is not based on established research evidence… There was great work here at Edinburgh on students learning experiences in UK HE, none of that work is reflected in TEF. If you were being cynical you could think they have looked at available evidence and just selected the more robust metrics.

My big issue with Year 2 TEF metrics are how and why these metrics have been selected. You need a proper consultation on measures, rather than using the White Paper and Technical Consultation to do that. The Office for National Statistics looked at measures and found them robust but noted that the differences between institutions scores on the selected metrics tend to be small and not significant. Not robust enough to inform future work according to the ONS. It seems likely that peer review will end up being how we differentiate between institution.

And there are real issues with TEF Future Metrics… This comes from a place of technical optimism that if you just had the right measures you’d know… This measure ties learner information to tax records for “Longitudinal Education Outcomes data set” and “teaching intensity”. Teaching intensity is essentially contact hours… that’s game-able… And how on earth is that about transformation, it’s not a useful measure of that. Unused office hours aren’t useful, optional seminars aren’t useful…  Keith Chigwell told me about a lecturer he knew who lectured a subject, each week fewer and fewer students came along. The last three lectures had no students there… He still gave them… That’s contact hours that count on paper but isn’t useful. That sort of measure seems to come more from ministerial dinner parties than from evidence.

But there are things that do matter… There is no mechanism outlines for a sector-wide discussion of the development of future metrics. What about expert teaching? What about students relations to knowledge? What about the first year experience – we know that that is crucial for student outcomes? Now the measures may not be easy, but they matter. And what we also see is the Learning Gains project, but they decided to work generically, but that also means you don’t understand students particular engagement with knowledge and engagement. In generic tests the description of what you can do ends up more important than what you actually do. You are asking for claims for what they can do, rather than performing those things. You can see why it is attractive, but it’s meaningless, it’s not a good measure of what Higher Education can do.

So, to finish, I’ve tried to put teaching at the centre of what we do. Teaching is a local achievement – it always shifts according to who the students are , what the setting is, and what the knowledge is. But that also always makes it hard to capture and measure. So what you probably need is a lot of different imperfect measures that can be compared and understood as a whole. However, if we don’t try we allow distorting measures, which reinforce inequalities, to dominate. Sometimes the only thing worse than not being listened to by policy makers, is being listened to them. That’s when we see a Frankenstein’s Monster emerge, and that’s why we need to recognise the issues, to ensure we are part of the debate. If we don’t try to develop alternative measures we leave it open to others to define.


Q1) I thought that was really interesting. In your discussion of transformation of undergraduate students I was wondering how that relates to less traditional students, particularly mature students, even those who’ve taken a year out, where those transitions into adulthood are going to be in a different place and perhaps where critical thinking etc. skills may be more developed/different.

A1) One of the studies I talked about was London Metropolitan University has a large percentage of mature students… And actually there the interactions with knowledge really did prove transformative… Often students lived at home with family whether young or mature students. That transformation was very high. And it was unrelated to achievements. So some came in who had quite profound challenges and they had transformation there. But you have to be really careful about not suggesting different measures for different students… That’s dangerous… But that transformation was there. There is lots of research that’s out there… But how do we transform that into something that has purchase… recognising there will be flaws and compromises, but ensuring that voice in the debate. That it isn’t politicians owning that debate, that transformations of students and the real meaning of education is part of that.

Q2) I found the idea of transformation that you started with really interesting. I work in African studies and we work a lot on decolonial issues, and of the need to transform academia to be more representative. And I was concerned about the idea of transformation as a decolonial type issue, of being like us, of dressing like that… As much as we want to challenge students we also need to take on and be aware of the biases inherent in our own ways of doing things as British or Global academics.

A2) I think that’s a really important question. My position is that students come into Higher Education for something. Students in South Africa – and I have several projects there – who have nowhere to live, have very little, who come into Higher Education to gain powerful knowledge. If we don’t have access to a body of knowledge, that we can help students gain access to and to gain further knowledge, then why are we there? Why would students waste time talking to me if I don’t have knowledge. The world exceeds our ability to know it, we have to simplify the world. What we offer undergraduates is powerful simplifications, to enable them to do things. That’s why they come to us and why they see value. They bring their own biographies, contexts, settings. The project I talked about is based in the work of Basil Bernstein who argues that the knowledge we produce in primary research… But when we design curriculum it isn’t that – we engage with colleagues, with peers, with industry… It is transformed, changed… And students also transform that knowledge, they relate it to their situation, to their own work. But we are only a valid part of that process if we have something to offer. And for us I would argue it’s the access to body of knowledge. I think if we only offer process, we are empty.

Q3) You talked about learning analytics, and the issues of AHELO, and the idea of if you see the analytics, you understand it all… And that concept not being true. But I would argue that when we look at teaching quality, and a focus on content and content giving, that positions us as gatekeepers and that is problematic.

A3) I don’t see knowledge as content. It is about ways of thinking… But it always has an object. One of the issues with the debate on teaching and learning in higher education is the loss of the idea of content and context. You don’t foreground the content, but you have to remember it is there, it is the vehicle through which students gain access to powerful ways of thinking.

Q4) I really enjoyed that and I think you may have answered my question.. But coming back to metrics you’ve very much stayed in the discipline-based silos and I just wondered how we can support students to move beyond those silos, how we measure that, and how to make that work.

A4) I’m more course than discipline focused. With the first year of TEF the idea of assessing quality across a whole institution is very problematic, it’s programme level we need to look at. inter-professional, interdisciplinary work is key… But one of the issues here is that it can be implied that that gives you more… I would argue that that gives you differently… It’s another new way of seeing things. But I am nervous of institutions, funders etc. who want to see interdisciplinary work as key. Sometimes it is the right approach, but it depends on the problem at hand. All approaches are limited and flawed, we need to find the one that works for a given context. So, I sort of agree but worry about the evangelical position that can be taken on interdisciplinary work which is often actually multidisciplinary in nature – working with others not genuinely working in an interdisciplinary way.

Q5) I think to date we focus on objective academic ideas of what is needed, without asking students what they need. You have also focused on the undergraduate sector, but how applicable to the post graduate sector?

A5) I would entirely agree with your comment. That’s why pedagogic content matters so much. You have to understand your students first, as well as then also understanding this body of knowledge. It isn’t about being student-centered but understanding students and context and that body of knowledge. In terms of your question I think there is a lot of applicability for PGT. For PhD students things are very different – you don’t have a body of knowledge to share in the same way, that is much more about process. Our department is all PhD only and there process is central. That process is quite different at that level… It’s about contributing in an original way to that body of knowledge as its core purpose. That doesn’t mean students at other levels can’t contribute, it just isn’t the core purpose in the same way.

Parallel Sessions from PTAS projects: Social Media – Enhancing Teaching & Building Community? – Sara Dorman, Gareth James, Luke March

Gareth: It was mentioned earlier that there is a difference between the smaller and larger projects funded under this scheme – and this was one of the smaller projects. Our project was looking at whether we could use social media to enhance teaching and community in our programmes but in wider areas. And we particularly wanted to look at the use of Twitter and Facebook, to engage them in course material but also to strengthen relationships. So we decided to compare the use of Facebook used by Luke March in Russian Politics courses, with the use of Twitter and Facebook  in African Politics courses that Sara and I run.

So, why were we interested in this project? Social media is becoming a normal area of life for students, in academic practice and increasingly in teaching (Blair 2013; Graham 2014). Twitter increasingly used, Facebook well established. It isn’t clear what the lasting impact of social media would be but Twitter especially is heavily used by politicians, celebrities, by influential people in our fields. 2014 data shows 90% of 18-24 year olds regularly using social media. For lecturers social media can be an easy way to share a link as Twitter is a normal part of academic practice (e.g. the @EdinburghPIR channel is well used), keeping staff and students informed of events, discussion points, etc. Students have also expressed interest in more community, more engagement with the subject area. The NSS also shows some overall student dissatisfaction, particularly within politics. So social media may be a way to build community, but also to engage with the wider subject. And students have expressed preference for social media – such as Facebook groups – compared to formal spaces like Blackboard Learn discussion boards. So, for instance, we have a hashtag #APTD – the name of one of our courses – which staff and students can use to share and explore content, including (when you search through) articles, documents etc. shared since 2013.

So, what questions did we ask? Well we wanted to know:

  • Does social media facilitate student learning and enhance the learning experience?
  • Does social media enable students to stay informaed?
  • Does it facilitate participation in debates?
  • Do they feel more included and valued as part of the suject area?
  • Is social media complementary to VLEs like Learn?
  • Which medium works best?
  • And what disadvantages might there be around using these tools? \

We collected data through a short questionnaire about awareness, usage, usefulness. We designed just a few questions that were part of student evaluation forms. Students had quite a lot to say on these different areas.

So, our findings… Students all said they were aware of these tools. There was slightly higher levels of awareness among Facebook users, e.g. Russian Politics for both UG and PG students. Overall 80% said they were aware to some extent. When we looked at usage – meaning access of this space rather than necessarily meaningful engagement – we felt that usage of course materials on Twitter and Facebook does not equal engagement. Other studies have found students lurking more than posting/engaging directly. But, at least amongst our students (n=69), 70% used resources at least once. Daily usage was higher amongst Facebook users, i.e. Russian Politics. Twitter more than twice as likely to have never been used.

We asked students how useful they found these spaces. Facebook was seen as more useful than Twitter. 60% found Facebook “very” or “somewhat useful”. Only a third described Twitter as “somewhat useful” and none said “very useful”. But there were clear differences between UG and PG students. UG students were generally more positive than PG students. They noted that it was useful and interesting to keep up with news and events, but not always easy to tie that back to the curriculum. Students claimed it “interesting” a lot – for instance comparing historical to current events. More mixed responses included that there was plenty of material on Learn, so didn’t use FB or Twitter. Another commented they wanted everything on Learn, in one place. One commented they don’t use Twitter so don’t want to follow the course there, would prefer Facebook or Learn. Some commented that too many posts were shared, information overload. Students thought some articles were random, couldn’t tell what was good and what was not.

A lot of these issues were also raised in focus group discussions. Students do appreciate sharing resources and staying informed, but don’t always see the connection to the course. They recognise potential for debate and discussion but often it doesn’t happen, but when it does they find it intimidating for that to be in a space with real academics and others, indeed they prefer discussion away from tutors and academics on the course too. Students found Facebook better for network building but also found social vs academic distinction difficult. Learn was seen as academic and safe, but also too clunky to navigate and engage in discussions. Students were concerned others might feel excluded. Some also commented that not liking or commenting could be hurtful to some. One student comments “it was kind of more like the icing than the cake” – which I think really sums it up.

Students commented that there was too much noise to pick through. And “I didn’t quite have the know-how to get something out of”. “I felt a bit intimidated and wasn’t sure if I should join in”. others commented only using social media for social purpose – that it would be inappropriate to engage with academics there.  Some saw Twitter as a professional, Facebook as social.

So, some conclusions…

It seems that Facebook is more popoular with students than Twitter, seen as better for building community. Some differences between UG and PG students, with UG more interested. Generally less enthusiasm than anticiapted. Students were interested in nd aware of benefits of joining in discussions but also wary of commenting too much in “public”. This suggests that we need to “build community” in order for the “community building” tools to really works.

There is also an issue of lack of integration between FB, Twitter and Learn. Many of our findings reflect others, for instance Matt Graham in Dundee – who saw potential for HE humanities students. Facebook was particularly popular for their students than Twitter. He looked more at engagement and saw some students engaging more deeply with the wider African knowledge. But one outcome was that student engagement did not occur or engage sustainably without some structure – particular tasks and small nudges, connected to Learning Outcomes, flagging clear benefits at beginning, and that students should take a lead in creating groups – which came out of our work too – also suggested.

There are challenges here: inappropriate use, friending between staff and students for instance. Alastair Blair notes in an article that the utility of Twitter, despite the challenge, cannot be ignored. For academics thinking about impact it is important, but also for students it is important for alignment with wider subject area that moves beyond the classroom.

Our findings suggest that there is no need to rush into social media. But at the same time Sara and I still see benefits for areas like African Studies which is fast moving and poorly covered in the mainstream media. But the idea of students wanting to be engaged in the real world was clearly not carried through. Maybe more support and encouragement is needed for students – and maybe for staff too. And it would be quite interesting to see if and how students experiences of different politics and events – #indyref, #euref, etc. differ. Colleagues are considering using social media in a course on the US presidential election, might work out differently as students may be more confident to discuss these. The department has also moved forward with more presences for staff and students, also alumni.

Closing words from Matt Graham that encouraging students to question and engage more broadly with their subject is a key skill.


Q1) What sort of support was in place, or guidelines, around that personla/academic identity thing?

A1) Actually none. We didn’t really realise this would happen. We know students don’t always engage in Learn. We didn’t really fully appreciate how intimidating students really found this. I don’t think we felt the need to give guidelines…

A1 – SD) We kind of had those channels before the course… It was organic rather than pedagogic…

Q1) We spoke to students who wanted more guidance especially for use in teaching and learning.

A1 – SD) We did put Twitter on the Learn page… to follow up… Maybe as academics we are the worst people to understand what students would do… We thought they would engage…

Q1) Will you develop guidelines for other courses…

A1) And a clearer explanation might encourage students to engage a bit more… Could be utility in doing some of that. University/institution wise there is cautious adoption and you see guidance issued for staff on using these things… But wouldn’t want overbearing guidance there.

Q1) We have some guidance under CC licence that you can use, available from Digital Footprints space.

Q2) Could you have a safer filtered space for students to engage. We do writing courses with international PG students and thought that might be useful to have social media available there… But maybe it will confuse them.

A2) There was a preference for a closed “safer” environment, talking only to students in their own cohort and class. I think Facebook is more suited to that sort of thing, Twitter is an open space. You can create a private Facebook group… One problem with Russian Politics was that they have a closed group… But had previous cohorts and friends of staff…

A2 – SD) We were trying to include students in real academia… Real tensions there over purpose and what students get out of it… The sense of not knowing… Some students might have security concerns but think it was insecurity in academic knowledge. They didn’t see themselves as co-producers. That needs addressing…

A2) Students being reluctant to engage isn’t new, but we thought we might have more engagement in social media. Now this was the negative side but actually there was positive things here – that wider awareness, even if one directional.

Q3) I just wanted to ask more about the confidence to participate and those comments that suggested that was a bigger issue – not just in social media – for these students, similarly information seeking behaviour

A3) There is work taking place in SPS around study skills, approaching your studies. Might be some room to introduce this stuff earlier on in school wide or subject wide courses… Especially if we are to use these schools. I completely agree that by the end of these studies you should have these skills – how to write properly, how to look for information… The other thing that comes to mind having heard our keynote this morning is the issue of transformative process. It’s good to have high expectations of UG students, and they seem to rise to the occasion… But I think that we maybe need to understand the difference between UG and PG students… And in PG years they take that further more fully.

A3 – SD) UG are really big courses – which may be part of the issue. In PG they are much smaller… Some students are from Africa and may know more, some come in knowing very little… That may also play in…

Q4) On the UG/PG thing these spaces move quickly! Which tools you use will change quickly. And actually the type of thing you post really matters – sharing a news article is great, but how you discuss and create follow up afterwards – did you see that, the follow up, the creation, the response…

A4 – SD) Students did sometimes interact… But the people who would have done that with email/Learn were the same that used social media in that way.

A4) Facebook and Twitter are new technologies still… So perhaps students will be increasingly more engaged and informed and up for engaging in these space. I’m still getting to grips with the etiquette of Twitter. There was more discussion on Facebook Groups than on Twitter… But also can be very surface level learning… It complements what we are doing but there are challenges to overcoming them… And we have to think about whether that is worthwhile. Some real positives and real challenges.

Parallel Sessions from PTAS projects: Managing Your Digital Footprint (Research Strand) – Dr Louise Connelly 

This was one of the larger PTAS-funded projects. This is the “Research Strand” is because it ran in parallel to the campaign which was separately funded.

There is so much I could cover in this presentation so I’ve picked out some areas I think will be practical and applicable to your research. I’m going to start by explaining what we mean by “Digital Footprint” and then talk more about our approach and the impact of the work. Throughout the project and campaign we asked students for quotes and comments that we could share as part of the campaign – you’ll see these throughout the presentation but you can also use these yourself as they are all CC-BY.

The project wouldn’t have been possible without an amazing research team. I was PI for this project – based at IAD but I’m now at the Vet School. We also had Nicola Osborne (EDINA), Professor Sian Bayne (School of Education). We also had two research students – Phil Sheail in Semester 1 and Clare Sowton in Semester 2. But we also had a huge range of people across the Colleges and support services who were involved in the project.

So, I thought I’d show you a short video we made to introduce the project:

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The idea of the video was to explain what we meant by a digital foorprint. We clearly defined what we meant as we wanted to emphasis to students and staff – though students were the focus – was that your footprint is not just what you do but also what other people post about you, or leave behind about you. That can be quite scary to some so we wanted to address how you can have some control about that.

We ran a campaign with lots of resources and materials. You can find loads of materials on the website. That campaign is now a service based in the Institute for Academic Development. But I will be focusing on the research in this presentation. This all fitted together in a strategy. The campaig was to raise awareness and provide practical guidance, the research sought to gain an in-depth understanding of student’s usage and produce resources for schools. Then to feed into learning and teaching on an ongoing basis. Key to the resaerch was a survey we ran during the campaign, which was analysed by the research team..

In terms of the gap and scope of the campaign I’d like to take you back to the Number 8 bus… It was an idea that came out of myself and Nicola – and others – being asked regularly for advice and support. There was a real need here, but also a real digital skills gap. We also saw staff wanting to embed social media in the curriculum and needing support. The brainwave was that social media wasn’t the campaign that was needed, it was about digital footprint and the wider issues. We also wanted to connect to current research. boyd (2014) who works on networked teens talks about the benefits as well as the risks… as it is unclear how students are engaging with social/digital media and how they are curating their online profiles. We also wanted to look at the idea of eprofessionalism (Chester et al 2013), particularly in courses where students are treated as paraprofessionals – a student nurse, for instance, could be struck off before graduating because of social media behaviours so there is a very real need to support ad raise awareness amongst students.

Our overall research aim was to: work with students across current delivery modes (UG, PGT, ODL, PhD) in order to better understand how they 

In terms of our research objectives we wanted to: conduct research which generates a rich understanding; to develop a workshop template – and ran 35 workshops for over 1000 students in that one year; to critically analyse social media guidelines – it was quite interesting that a lot of it was about why students shouldn’t engage, little on the benefits; to work in partnership with EUSA – important to engage around e.g. campaign days; to contribute to the wider research agenda; and to effectively disseminate project findings – we engaged with support services, e.g. we worked with Careers about their LinkedIn workshops which weren’t well attended despite students wanting professional presence help and just rebranding the sessions was valuable. We asked students where they would seek support – many said the Advice Place rather than e.g. IS, so we spoke to them. We spoke to the Councelling service too about cyberbullying, revenge porn, sexting etc.

So we ran two surveys with a total of 1,457 responses. Nicola and I ran two lab-based focus groups. I interviewed 6 individuals over a range of interviews with ethnographic tracing. And we gathered documentary analysis of e.g. social media guidelines. We used mixed methods as we wanted this to be really robust.

Sian and Adam really informed our research methods but Nicola and I really led the publications around this work. We have had various publications and presentations including presentations at the European Conference on Social Media, for the Social Media for Higher Education Teaching and Learning conference. Also working on a Twitter paper. We have other papers coming. Workshops with staff and students have happened and are ongoing, and the Digital Ambassador award (Careers and IS) includes Digital Footprint as a strand. We also created a lot of CC-BY resources – e.g. guidelines and images. Those are available for UoE colleagues, but also for national and international community who have fed into and helped us develop those resources.

I’m going to focus on some of the findings…

The survey was on Bristol Online Survey. It was sent to around 1/3rd of all students, across all cohorts. The central surveys team did the ethics approval and issuing of surveys. Timing had to fit around other surveys – e.g. NSS etc. And we we had relatively similar cohorts in both surveys, the second had more responses but that was after the campaign had been running for a while.

So, two key messages from the surveys: (1) Ensure informed consent – crucial for students (also important for staff) – students need to understand the positive and negative implications of using these non traditional non university social media spaces. In terms of what that means – well guidance, some of the digital skills gap support etc. Also (2) Don’t assume what students are using and how they are using it. Our data showed age differences in what was used, cohort differences (UG, PGT, ODL, PhD), lack of awareness e.g. T&Cs, benefits – some lovely anecdotal evidence, e.g. UG informatics student approached by employers after sharing code on GitHub. Also the important of not making assumptions around personal/educational/professional environments – especially came out of interviews, and generally the implications of Digital Footprint. One student commented on being made to have a Twitter account for a course and not being happy about not having a choice in that (e.g. through embedding of tweets in Learn for instance).

Thinking about platforms…

Facebook is used by all cohorts but ODL less so (perhaps a geographic issue in part). Most were using it as a “personal space” and for study groups. Challenges included privacy management. Also issues of isolation if not all students were on Facebook.

Twitter is used mainly by PGT and PhD students, and most actively by 31-50 year olds. Lots of talk about how to use this effectively.

One of the surprises for us was that we thought most courses using social media would have guidelines in place for the use of social media in programme handbooks. But students reported them not being there, or not being aware of it. So we created example guidance which is on the website (CC-BY) and also an eprofessionalism guide (CC-BY) which you can also use in your own programme handbooks.

There were also tools we weren’t aware were in usage and that has led to a new YikYak research project which has just been funded by PTAS and will go ahead over the next year with Sian Bayne leading, myself, Nicola and Informatics. The ethnographic tracing and interviews gave us a much richer understanding of the survey data.

So, what next? We have been working with researchers in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand… EDINA has had some funding to develop an external facing consultancy service, providing training and support for NHS, schools, etc. We have the PTAS funded YikYak project. We have the Digital Footprint MOOC coming in August. The survey will be issued again in October. Lots going on, more to come!

We’ve done a lot and we’ve had loads of support and collaboration. We are really open to that collaboration and work in partnership. We will be continuing this project into the next year. I realise this is the tip of the iceberg but it should be food for thought.


Q1) We were interested in the staff capabilities

A1 – LC) We have run a lot of workshops for staff and research students, done a series at vet. Theres a digital skills issue, research, and learning and teaching, and personal strands here.

A1 – NO) There were sessions and training for staff before… And much of the research into social media and digital footprint has been very small cohorts in very specific areas,

Comment) I do sessions for academic staff in SPS, but I didn’t know about this project so I’ll certainly work that in.

A1 – LC) We did do a session for fourth year SPS students. I know business school are all over this as part of “Brand You”.

Q2) My background was in medicine and when working in a hospital and a scary colleague told junior doctors to delete their Facebook profiles! She was googling them. I saw an article in the Sun that badly misrepresented doctors – of doctors living the “high life” because there was something sunny.

A2 – LC) You need to be aware people may Google you… And be confident of your privacy and settings. And your professional body guidelines about what you have there. But there are grey areas there… We wanted to emphasise informed choice. You have the Right to be Forgotten law for instance. Many nursing students already knew restrictions but felt Facebook restrictions unfair… A recent article says there are 3.5 degrees of separation on Facebook – that can be risky… In teaching and learning this raises issues of who friends who, what you report… etc. The culture is we do use social media, and in many ways that’s positive.

A2 – NO) Medical bodies have very clear guidance… But just knowing that e.g. Profile pictures are always public on Facebook, you can control settings elsewhere… Knowing that means you can make informed decisions.

Q3) What is “Brand You”?

A3) Essentially it’s about thinking of yourself as a brand, how your presences are uses… And what is consistent, how you use your name, your profile images. And how you do that effectively if you do that. There is a book called “Brand You” which is about effective online presence.

Closing Keynote : Helen Walker, GreyBox Consulting and Bright Tribe Trust

I’m doing my Masters in Digital Education with University of Edinburgh, but my role is around edtech, and technology in schools, so I am going to share some of that work with you. So, to set the scene a wee video: Kids React to Technology: Old Computers:

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Watching the kids try to turn on the machine it is clear that many of us are old enough to remember how to work late 1970s/early 1980s computers and their less than intuitive user experience.

So the gaps are maybe not that wide anymore… But there are still gaps. The gaps for instance between what students experience at home, and what they can do at home – and that can be huge. There is also a real gap between EdTech promises and delivery – there are many practitioners who are enervated about new technologies, and have high expectations. We also have to be aware of the reality of skills – and be very cautious of Prensky’s (2001) idea of the “digital native” – and how intoxicating and inaccurate that can be.

There is also a real gap between industry and education. There is so much investment in technology, and promises of technology. Meanwhile we also see perspectives of some that computers do not benefit pupils. Worse, in September 2015 the OECD reported, and it was widely re-reported that computers do not improve pupil results, and may in fact disbenefit. That risks going back before technology, or technology being the icing on the cake… And then you read the report:

“Technology can amplify great teaching but great technology cannot replace poor teaching.”

Well of course. Technology has to be pedagogically justified. And that report also encourages students as co-creators. Now if you go to big education technology shows like BETT and SETT you see very big rich technology companies offering expensive technology solutions to quite poor schools.

That reflects Education Endowment Fund Report 2012 found that “it’s the pedagogy, not technology” and the technology is a catalyst for change. Glynis Cousins says that technology has to work dynamically with pedagogy.

Now, you have fabulous physical and digital resources here. There is the issue here of what schools have. Schools often have machines that are 9-10 years old, but students have much more sophisticated devices and equipment at home – even in poor homes. Their school experience of using old kit to type essays jars with that. And you do see schools trying to innovate with technology – iPads and such in particular… They brought them, they invest thousands.. But they don’t always use them because the boring crucial wifi and infrastructure isn’t there. It’s boring and expensive but it’s imperative. You need that all in order to use these shiny things…

And with that… Helen guides us to and the web app to ask us why a monkey with its hand in a jar with a coin… We all respond… The adage is that if you wanted to catch a monkey you had to put an orange or some nuts in a jar, and wouldn’t let go, so a hunter could just capture the monkey. I deal with a lot of monkeys… A lot of what I work towards is convincing them that letting go of that coin, or nut, or orange, or windows 7 to move on and change and learn.

Another question for us… What does a shot of baseball players in a field have to do with edtech… Well yes, “if you build it, they will come”. A lot of people believe this is how you deal with edtech… Now although a scheme funding technology for schools in England has come to an end, a lot of Free Schools now have this idea. That if you build something, magic will happen…

BTW this gogopp tool is a nice fun free tool – great for small groups…

So, I do a lot of “change management consultation” – it’s not a great phrase but a lot of what it’s about is pretty straightforward. Many schools don’t know what they’ve got – we audit the kit, the software, the skills. We work on a strategy, then a plan, then a budget. And then we look at changes that make sense… Small scale, pathfinder projects, student led work – with students in positions of responsibility, we have a lot of TeachMeet sessions – a forum of 45 mins or so and staff who’ve worked on pathfinder projects have 2 or max 5 mins can share their experience – a way to drop golden nuggets into the day (much more effective than inset days!), and I do a lot of work with departmental heads to ensure software and hardware aligns with needs.

When there is the right strategy and the right pedagogical approach, brilliant things can happen. For instance…

Abdul Chohan, now principal of Bolton Academy, transformed his school with iPads – giving them out and asking them what to do with them. He works with Apple now…

David Mitchell (no, not that one), Deputy Headteacher in the Northwest, started a project called QuadBlogging for his 6th year students (year 7 in Scotland) whereby there are four organisations involved – 2 schools and 2 other institutions, like MIT, like the Government – big organisations. Students get real life, real world feedback in writing. They saw significant increases in their writing quality. That is a great benefit of educational technology – your audience can be as big or small as you want. It’s a nice safe contained forum for children’s writing.

Simon Blower, had an idea called “Lend me your writing”, crowdfunded Pobble – a site where teachers can share examples of student work.

So those are three examples of pedagogically-driven technology projects and changes.

And now we are going to enter…

The first question is about a free VLE – Edmodo… It’s free except for analytics which is a paid for option.

Next up… This is a free behaviour management tool. The “Class Story” fundtion has recently been added… That’s Class Dojo.

Next… A wealth of free online courses, primarily aimed at science, math and computing… Khan Academy. A really famous resource now. Came about as Salmon Khan who asked for maths homework help… Made YouTube videos… Very popular and now a global company with a real range of videos from teachers. No adverts. Again free…

And next… an adapting learning platform with origins in the “School of One” in NYC. That’s Knewton. School of One is an interesting school which has done away with traditional classroom one to many systems… They use Knewton, which suggests the next class, module, task, etc. This is an “Intelligent Tutoring System” which I am skeptical of but there is a lot of interest from publishers etc. All around personalised learning… But that is all data driven… I have issues with thinking of kids as data producing units.

Next question… Office 365 tool allows for the creation of individual and class digital notebooks – OneNote. It’s a killer app that Microsoft invest in a lot.

And Patrick is our Kahoot winner (I’m second!)! Now, I use Kahoot I training sessions… It’s fun once… Unless everyone uses it through the day. It’s important that students don’t just experience the same thing again and again, that you work as a learning community to make sure that you are using tools in a way that stays interesting, that varies, etc.

So, what’s happening now in schools?

  • Mobility: BYOD, contribution, cross-platform agility
  • Office365/Google/iCloud
  • VLE/LMS – PLE/PLN – for staff and students
  • Data and tracking

So with mobility we see a growth in Bring Your Own Device… That brings a whole range of issues around esafety, around infrastructure. It’s not just your own devices, but also increasingly a kind of hire-purchase scheme for students and parents. That’s a financial pressure – schools are financially pressured and this is just a practical issue. One issue that is repeatedly coming up is the issue of cross-platform agility – phones, tablets, laptops. And discussion of bringing in keyboards, mice, and traditional set ups… Keyboard skills are being seen as important again in the primary sector. The benefit of mobile devices is collaboration, the idea of the main screen allowing everyone to be part of the classroom… You don’t need expensive software, can use e.g. cheap Reflector mirroring software. Apps… Some are brilliant, some are dreadful… Management of apps and mobile device management has become a huge industry… Working with technicians to support getting apps onto devices… How you do volume purchasing? And a lot of apps… One of two hit propositions… You don’t want the same app every week for one task… You need the trade off of what is useful versus getting the app in place/stafftime. We also have the issue of the student journey. Tools like socrative and nearpod lets you push information to devices. But we are going to look at/try now Plickers… What that does is has one device – the teachers mobile app – and I can make up printed codes (we’ve all been given one today) that can be laminated, handed out at the beginning of the year… So we then hold up a card with the appropriate answer at the top… And the teacher’s device is walked around to scan the room for the answers – a nice job for a student to do… So you can then see the responses… And the answer… I can see who got it wrong, and who got it right. I can see the graph of that….

We have a few easy questions to test this: 2+2 = (pick your answer); and how did you get here today? (mostly on foot!).

The idea is it’s a way to get higher order questioning into a session, otherwise you just hear from the kids that put their hands up all the time. So that’s Plicker… Yes, they all have silly names. I used to live in Iceland where a committee meets to agree new names – the word for computer means “witchcraft machine”.

So, thinking about Office365/Google/iCloud… We are seeing a video about a school where pupils helps promote, manage, coding, supporting use of Office365 in the school. And how that’s a way to get people into technology. These are students at Wyndham High in Norfolk – all real students. That school has adopted Office365. Both Office365 and Google offer educational environments. One of the reasons that schools err towards Office365 is because of the five free copies that students get – which covers the several locations and machines they may use at home.

OneNote is great – you can drag and drop documents… you can annotate… I use it with readings, with feedback from tutors. Why it’s useful for students is the facility to create Class Notebooks where you add classes and add notebooks. You can set up a content library – that students can access and use. You can also view all of the students notebooks in real time. In schools I work in we no longer have planners, instead have a shared class notebook – then colleagues can see and understand planning.

Other new functionality is “Classroom” where you can assign classes, assignments… It’s a new thing that brings some VLE functionality but limited in terms of grades being 0-100. And you can set up forms as well – again in preview right now but coming. Feedback goes into a CSV file in excel.

The other thing that is new is Planner – a project planning tool to assign tasks, share documents, set up groups.

So, Office 365 is certainly the tool most secondary schools I work with use.

The other thing that is happening in schools right now is the increasing use of data dashboards and tracking tools – especially in secondary schools – and that is concerning as it’s fairly uncritical. There is a tool called Office Mix which lets you create tracked content in Powerpoint… Not sure if you have access here, but you can use it at home.

Other data in schools tools include Power BI… Schools are using these for e.g. attainment outcomes. There is a free schools version of this tool (used to be too expensive). My concern is that it is not looking at what has impact in terms of teaching and learning. It’s focused on the summative, not the actual teaching and learning, not on students reporting back to teachers on their own learning. Hattie and self-reported grades tells us that students set expectations, goals, and understand rubrics for self-assessment. There is rich and interesting work to be done on using data in rich and meaningful ways.

In terms of what’s coming… This was supposed to be by 2025, then 2020, maybe sooner… Education Technology Action Group suggest online learning is an entitlement, better measures of performance, new emerging teaching and learning, wearables, etc.

Emerging EdTech includes Augmented Reality. It’s a big thing I do… It’s easy but it excites students… It’s a digital overlay on reality… So my two year old goddaughter is colouring in book that is augmented reality – you can then see a 3D virtual dinosaur coloured as per your image. And she asked her dad to send me a picture of her with a dinosaur. Other fun stuff… But where is the learning outcome here? Well there is a tool called Aurasma… Another free tool… You create a new Aura trigger image – can be anything – and you can choose your overlay… So I said I wanted to change the words on th epaper converted into French. It’s dead easy! We get small kids into this and can put loads of hidden AR content around the classroom, you can do it on t-shirts – to show inner working of the body for instance. We’ve had Year 11’s bring Year 7 textbooks to life for them – learning at both ends of the spectrum.

Last thing I want to talk about is micro:bit. This is about coding. In England and Wales coding is compulsory part of English now. All students are being issued a micro:bit and students are now doing all sorts of creative things. Young Rewired State project runs every summer and come to London to have code assessed – the winners were 5 and 6 year olds. So they will come to you with knowledge of coding – but they aren’t digital natives no matter what anyone tells you!


Q1 – Me) I wanted to ask about equality of access… How do you ensure students have the devices or internet access at home that they need to participate in these activities and tools – like the Office365 usage at home for instance. In the RSE Digital Participation Inquiry we found that the reality of internet connectivity in homes really didn’t match up to what students will self-report about their own access to technology or internet connections, there is such baggage associated with not having internet access to access to the latest technologies and tools… So I was wondering how you deal with that, or if you have any comments on that.

A1) With the contribution schemes that schools have for devices… Parents contribute what they can, school covers the rest… So that can be 50p or £1 per month, it doesn’t need to be a lot. Also pupil premium money can be used for this. But, yes, parental engagement is important… Many students have 3G access not fixed internet for instance and that has cost implications… some can use dongles supplied by schools but just supporting students like this can cost 15k/yr to support for a small to medium sized cohort. There is some interesting stuff taking place in new build schools though… So for instance Gaia in Wales are a technology company doing a lot of the new build hardware/software set up… In many of those schools there is community wifi access… a way around that issue of connectivity… But that’s a hard thing to solve.

Q1 – Me) There was a proposal some years ago from Gordon Brown’s government, for all school aged children to have government supported internet access at home but that has long since been dropped.

Q2) I fear with technologies is that if I learn it, it’s already out of date. And also learners who are not motivated to engage with these tools they haven’t used before… I enjoyed these tools, their natty…

A2) Those are my “sweet shop” tools… Actually Office365/Google or things like Moodle are the bread and butter tools. These are fun one-off apps… They are pick up and go stuff… but its getting big tools working well that matter. Ignore the sweets if you need or want… The big stuff matters.

And with that Velda is closing with great thanks to our speakers today, to colleagues in IAD, and to Daphne Loads and colleagues. Please do share your feedback and ideas, especially for the next forum!

Dec 182015

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

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


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

Keynote by Eric Stoller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, now, some Q&A.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social media is about transforming habits…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Jane…

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

So, what types of usages apply when…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find everything at (see also Jane and Chris’ blog)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Q1) How do you address the issue of time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing your digital footprint website

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

Managing your digital footprint blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Q1) What was the Twitter debate?

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

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

Comment) They are paying for that expertise I guess…

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

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

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

Comment) How many tutors were on this course?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Oct 062015
Jisc's #jisc50social branding

Today I am delighted to share the news that I have been included in Jisc’s 50 most influential higher education (HE) professionals using social media! I am also very pleased to see others on this list whose work I follow and admire, including Jennifer Jones and Sue Beckingham.

The list of 50 influencers forms a really useful array of snapshots of practice and mini case studies of how social media is being used across UK Higher Education and I’d recommend taking a look for inspiration and ideas. It would be lovely to also get more great people and social media best practice shared, so I would recommend sharing your own additions and tips to the hashtag, #jisc50social, as there is such a rich variety of use that a list of 50 people cannot, of course, capture that is taking place in the sector.

My write up in the Jisc list of influencers particularly talks about the Managing Your Digital Footprint work, which is progressing well. If you missed my posts from the European Conference on Social Media you can get a good sense of how the project is developing from my paper with project lead Louise Connelly, “Managing your digital footprint: possible implications for teaching and learning“. We are in an exciting phase of the project so do look out for new resources appearing on the project website very soon, and further research publications in the months to follow.

Finally, as the individuals who nominated me for this list did let me know that they would be putting me forward I would like to share my thanks to them for their support and enthusiasm. I feel honoured to have been regarded so highly by colleagues from the University of Edinburgh who are engaged in their own wonderful, creative, critical and playful use of social media in their day to day practice.

#codi15 update

Finally, and on a somewhat unrelated note, you may remember that I blogged earlier this summer about writing our Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas show, Back to the Statistical Future. The show took place on 26th August and I’m delighted to say that both a follow up blog post and a video recording of the full show are now available so, if you have an hour spare, do have a watch and let us know what you thought of it!


Apr 272015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q6) How reliable is that data?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Mar 092015

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

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

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

Professor Martyn Harrow, Jisc Chief Executive

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome and keynote speech – Simon Nelson, Futurelearn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mobile learning in practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panel Discussion and Q&A

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q3: To all:

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

A3 – Lewisham: Engage your students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Angela levins, Stroud College in Somerset 

Angela is joining us for Q&A

Carol: How long have you had ClickView

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

Carol: Why was there a need for this?

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

Carol: And are they seeing the potential?

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

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

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

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

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

Q: How about usage of video they have made themselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

One should.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Student 2: We have a genuine need, so we find a way around this…

Gary, Stroud College in Somerset: You are obviously doing a course you enjoy, in an environment you enjoy. What happens when you hit the world of work?

Student 1: Our Skype day is our least favourite of the week… We do do stuff that we don’t like, because there are courses we don’t like but we know are important to getting that A-level that will enable us to access that world of work.

Chris: The reason for Skype here was that the long travel times limited our amount of time to do work, to find part time work. The whole thing was to save us money… We wouldn’t have come to Skype without that need.

Student 2: To put a number on this… If we went into that 1hr20 minute lesson, travel would take over 5 hours out of our day.

John: How many know that PISA now measures collaborative problem solving… They snuck it under the radar! One of the reasons I was so interested in this group of students is that they have evidenced very high level collaborative problem solving. We’d have struggled to come up with scenarios to test that so realistically.

Sarah: I’d just like to thank John. And that comment that you are already university students, without knowing it. That reflection and understanding of your own learning is certainly applaudable.

Before we finish I wanted to share some resources that may be useful to you… [and we have a postcard to complete, which I will be filling in momentarily!]

So, resources here include:

  • 50 institutional exemplars (based around 7 challenge areas)
  • “Digital students are different” posters – those are in the room today but also available for download, to act as a trigger for discussion.
  • “Enhancing the digital experience for students” cards – to enable more detailed discussion on taking stuff forward, enhancements that add value and make a difference for your learners
  • FE Learner voices videos
  • “Enhancing the student digital experience: a strategic approach” guide –

So I hope we have provided you with some inspiration and food for thought. If this has enticed you to find out more… our next session at 4.30, in Hall 7, will focus on university student experience.

Staff-student partnership working to effect institutional change – chaired by Peter Chatterton with Sarah Knight (Jisc)

Sarah:  a very warm welcome to all of you today. It is such a privilege to showcase institutions who are working with students. We have three fantastic examples of that working in practice. I will start with a brief introduction to the change network, but we will mainly focus on our learners and their experiences.

  • Fiona Harvey with Anne and Rebekah iChamps, University of Southampton
  • Deborah Millar, with Kirsty and Student Digipal Cai Rourke from Blackburn College
  • Tim Lowe, VP Education with Dr Stuart Sims, research fellows (student engagement), Eli Nixon-Davingoff, student fellow at University of Winchester

The vision for The Student engagement partnership, running over the last few years, has been about establishing principles for institutions to use to guide their engagement with students – and the importance and benefits of that. There was a 2014 NUS Report on “Radical interventions in teaching and learning” talks about the importance of students being active and engaged agents of change.

So, what is the change agents network (CAN)? It is a network to support students working as change agendes, digital pioneers, student fellows, and students working in partnership with staff on technology related change projects. The network facilitates the sharing of best practice through Face to face networking events, CAN monthly webinar series, CAN case studies. And we have a student partnership toolkit, for organisations looking to embed student partnerships in their practice. (see or @CANagogy).

We have set up a SEDA accredited Jisc Institutional Change Leader Award, to recognise and showcase work in this area. We are also about to launch our first issue of the new Jisc Journal of Educational Innovation Partnership and Change – a peer-reviewed online journal welcoming articules case studies, and opinion pieces. Do get in touch as we have the next  issue being planned at the moment!

So, we will now have 3 quick pitches for today’s session… then you can choose 2 of the 3 sessions to hear more about.

Fiona Harvey with Anne and Rebekah iChamps, University of Southampton

We have iChamps at Southampton, Innovation and Digital Literacy champions. These sit alongside other student champions – around feedback, accessibility etc. We have a placement scheme with our careers service – they fund half of the time of the students over summer/easter etc. Our champs are in Music, Biological Sciences, Social Sciences, etc. They are there specifically to support the development of skills of staff and students. It’s about showing academics how to make a website, say, rather than doing it for them. All of the iChamps and champions have great online presences, great digital literacy skills, etc. What’s in it for them? Skills, expereince, profiles, etc. And the university benefits too – not just academics but those who work with and support them. We based this on digital literacy model (e.g. Future Lab structure). They start with a Digital competancies quiz to establish what their skills are, where development is needed. We have iPad coffee clubs to talk and try… We give them tools. We give them iPads (if they don’t have one) so that they can actually show this stuff off, demo or review apps in discipline specific areas. The champs get monthly support sessions – on new tools, on their online presence. And additionally I can be accessed via WhatsApp, SnapChat, Facebook etc. And they ahve a blog as well. And we have an iChamp badge – a group of three badges, as they work with academics they gain badges for their LinkedIn presence, etc.

Deborah Millar, Head of eLearning with Kirsty and Student Digipal Cai Rourke from Blackburn College

I’m Deborah from Blackburn College, to introduce the Digipals (#Digipals)… We use digipals as drivers of change, digital leaders, trainers, collaborators, creators… 12 members of staff looking for digipals to work with them. We have interventions to see how to make things more fit for purpose, more technology enhanced, etc. So we have an A-team style video to introduce the team to staff and students across the college… Fun and silly… So, what are our drivers for using technology? We look at it from a learner’s perspective – we want joy and playfulness in education, to be inspired to learn inside and outside the college… And we want staff to create more stimulating and interactive lessons, should provide further opportunities for collaboration on a global leel… And as a college we want to enable us to deliver deeper, more effective and cheaper learning. We have three questions for our learners – do you use technology in your learning, what is it, and how does that benefit your learning.

We have staff digipals, and we have student digipals… I want staff and students to be working collaboratively, to be treated equally… and I want employers and schools to come in… And the student voice informs our strategy and vision. We do research with our students… we have surveys about expectations and experiances, to help demonstrate to staff, and to college, that these opportunities really matter, that they expect that technology as part of their learning…

Tim Lowe, VP Education with Dr Stuart Sims, research fellows (student engagement), Eli Nixon-Davingoff, student fellow at University of Winchester

Tim: We had technology based research fellows in the learning and teaching section, as a proof of concept in 2012/13. We had student reps across the university (over 400) providing student voice. But they only did 10-12 hours per year. And there are lots of barriers to learning, loads of technologies to look at… We needed students to commit more time, to engage more strongly. So we set up a bursary to support 100 hours of student time. We won’t pay students hourly – changes relationships – hence bursary. So we recruited 60 student fellows… We had a really big mix of students – mature students, commuting students, some that were just annoyed at the university and wanted to make a change. Students can benefit themselves but also benefit their department by their impact. And those lessons learned have been shared across those student fellows…

Stuart: We have 60 students cross 53 projects. We had four key themes across those. The projects are identified by students or by staff or by support staff, and students then do research and exploration. The themes are technology, design and innovation, etc. Of these projects 53.8% benefited students, 69% improved their programmes. The second year is now in progress, have funding secured for next year, and it is increasingly embedded in the organisation.

Eli: My project was about an issue of students not making the most of contact time. We are expected to have 36 hours of contact time for a module across a semester… In the form of 3 hour session per week.  I applied to be a student fellow, I was able to work with staff in our department (sociology) and co-created an online questionnaire, went into lectures and asked students to fill in surveys on their phone. I had 76 responses from 1st, 2nd and 3rd students and generated data that will be used in future committee meetings on departmental timetabling decisions etc. Obviously that stuff could be applied to any subject later on as well.

I get to pick sections… I’m starting with Southampton

Q1: How does this work?

A1 – Fiona: The staff member has a question to explore, or area to think about… usually a student that they already know… And then I help them get trained up, support them to do that role… There is only one of me and our students understand the module, they are taking that course, and they influence the time. The iChamps do meet to discuss and share experiences, but f2f can be hard. We have a facebook group… and we will have a conference for all of the champions – not just the iChamps, to share and discuss….

Sophie: So we have specialist iChamps in sustainability, accessibility but there are core skills – photography, portfolios, how to write a blog etc. are areas we train all of them in.

Fiona: And actually we had this eportfolio tool, showed it in an authentic context, the use of that by iChamps has really demonstrated the value. And they can have several different types of eportfolios, and the badges system means they can create an eportfolio for each badge area. Our sabbaticals use eportfolio. And our medics use it in a very different way, to show the courses they have taken.

Sophie: I have portfolios for my role now, for my former experience as president of Winchester University Students, for my role as a classical singer… A great way to show off those skills and experiences.

Fiona: We had a wishlist for functionality… and students use it but also encouraging staff to use it too. Students want to show employers that they have their LinkedIn profile, links to portfolios. We got students to evaluate it…

Rebekah: With employers in the corporate sector, they have all told me they are sick of A4 PDF CVs and applications, they are boring. They much prefer a video of that experience, say, linked from a CV, but these online resources can see these things, they can see you, they can see you doing things that are enjoyable to you… and that these are real rounded people…

Fiona: the “3D Students”

Rebekah: And employers expect us to know how to use this stuff – Twitter, Facebook, social media etc.

Fiona: One last thing: It’s not easy though!

And now moving to the Winchester one… which is more of a round table session/discussion

Q1: How does student union fit in?

A1 Tim: We have a very small student union, very commercially orientated. We have lots of representatives… we had staff willing to work with students, but few students can volunteer that amount of time… If they can financially afford to do it, the enrichment is worth it, but that bursary bridges that gap. But the driver was from our executive team. We knew this stuff mattered… We spend 5 hours a week empowering 60 students to do something. The finances isn’t the main thing but the students also get the social research training. And these students are being change agents. We wanted the idea of “fellow” to reflect their relationship/similarity from staff fellows. So, our main motivation, which was from the student union, was to use this programme to focus on so many things. And Eli’s project won’t just benefit her courses, but out into other courses, all 7000 students there.

Stuart: Now that I can  empower Eli to do this sort of work…

Sarah: That impact of Eli’s work across the institution. Research can often be local to one department and not shared across the organisation. And you have that strategic support of the whole organisation.

Tim: We went to all of the deans of the colleges and spoke to them before the project, and we kept the university managers informed as well. We can update on all the projects but you need more. So we have an annual conference for the student fellows, these are staff development opportunities. And stuart speaks to more school sub committees as well. It is a partnership… It is students, but also staff too, that partnership matters.

Stuart: That initial funding from Jisc was so important. We trialled the methodology, mainly in Law, and can apply that elsewhere and look at themes across the university

Eli: Like student safety

Stuart: We had a student present to the vice principal, who is now looking at change based on that.

Q2: How do you envision funding the scheme

A2: We had money from Jisc to pilot, then the first year we co-funded between the student union and the university. We demonstrated the concept, the university now pays, but the co-directorship by the union and the university is still there. But that sharing across different areas of the university, sharing with the student representatives, and we’ve also now got more reporting to support that and ask students to create abstracts/outlines for their projects to share.

And with that it’s back to the room….

Comment: The confidence and drive and vision and fun of these people leading these projects is brilliant, and the whole sector should thank them for that.

Sarah: What we wanted to try and get you to do was to get a taste of practice taking place across the sector. To have three different examples, start to help us evidence the importance of working with students. It has been so important to have students with us in the room today as well, and we really appreciate that.

We are looking to gather together discussion across people interested in this area, and we have a newsletter with information relevant to the CAN network. All three organisations here today are also case studies in our digital student site ( If you want more information do get in touch, join our mailing list, etc. We have an exciting 2 day event here in Birmingham coming up in the next few weeks.

Keynote from Bob Harrison

Robert Haymon-Collins, Jisc Executive director customer experience is introducing the closing keynote for this first day – and a thank you to our online participants and also to our wonderful sign language interpretors. Bob is someone who tweets a lot and I find so much of my best stuff comes from him! He has a huge variety and role in FE and skills and without further ado I’m handing over to Bob Harrison [with a brief stop for Bob  to take a selfie for his wife!].

Bob is starting with a straw poll here of FE organisations (lots), Adult and Community (low), Prisoner and Offender (none), other skills (few), and HE (a fair chunk). 

So, why FELTAG… FELTAG started with a tweet. I’d been criticising Jisc, alongside just about any quango that had anything to do with technology in education. I tweeted that. I found I had a tweet direct from the Minister – he said “dear Bob, I agree, I have no money. Lets meet and chat”. So we did… We have people in the sector keen to use technology, but issues of the sector and infrastructure don’t allow that. Now I’m passionate about FE and Skills. One of the colleges I worked at was funded by a penny tax from miners, choosing to educate their children. And my thesis is that our industry has it’s origins in this post industrial revolution culture. And that’s not where we need to be.

What is FELTAG? The last report we have, from 2012, showed less than 30% of FE and Skills were making effective use of technology. So the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group have a mission statement to aim to best support the agile evolution of the use of technology in FE and Skills.

And now, a cautionary note on research… with a tall tail of lions and zebras… how long and how you observe makes a big difference…

Sorry I’m a bit croaky btw, I had to come down today to support Jisc in what they are doing… And the great work Martyn has been doing to refocus what they do to really include FE and skills.

The Northern College for Residential Adult Education, set up by money from slavery… and an aside that recent funding cuts to adult education have been less than helpful here… however… What gives me greatest happiness is when you find, say, a 55 year old miners wife about to go off to Sheffield University, thats great!

OFSTED have reported tutors making good use of innovative learning and technlogy… But that’s the past… this is the future, my grandkids. The eldest came home all excited about going on a school trip overnight… She’s excited and keen! My daughter rings me, and she’s going through the list of what Millie has to take with her… halfway down it says sleeping bag, toilet bag, etc… If Millie wants to take photographs she’s allowed to take one disposable camera… She doesn’t know what that is! How do we take a system – schools as well as FE – that’s designed on an industrial, Taylor-based, type system whose assets are in land and buildings… And reinvest those assets in what will be fit for a digital future – from chalkboard to Millie’s iPhone (which she’s banned from using, of course).

The music industry has moved on a long way… You look at pictures from the nineteenth century versus a modern college.. looks the same, the only difference is a PC on the desk (in rows). So what is taking us so long? Well Prof Diana Laurillad talk about the barriers to change in the sector. I work at a technology company, Toshiba, and have done for a long time… Whilst technology doesn’t change learning outcomes…. But there is a correlation between organisations using digital technologies and improved learning outcomes… If we think about the Sigmoid Curve… and at Blockbuster, Woolworths, Kodak… there is  a paradigm shift required to change thinking, to keep up with technology. And that requires input at leadership, governance, etc, where FELTAG focuses and where Jisc needs to focus. FELTAG is about paradigm shift. But paradigm shift is hard…

Now, I think we need to sell physical buildings and assets… When you see colleges, with huge investment, they are empty for months on end… and not fully occupied when in use. We need to move funding further up Bloom’s taxonomy. The key principles are about realising assets we have, and making use of them, and reinvesting them… We had a six month report on FELTAG, from BIS….  We also have the House of Lords Digital Skills report. It’s not about new technology, it’s about new thinking…

Returning to our tall tale on research, Bob finishes the story saying that we can’t wait for research, to start doing what we need to be doing… 

So… we have a new ALT group with great people on board… But what happens if FELTAG doesn’t happen? Well these future learners will leave school with no books, no papers, no pens… no printers except 3D printers… They will be want to go to an FE college that can provide them with all the digital tools and technologies they need and expect to have. And only you, only you, can make that happen!

And with that we draw to a close… I will be at Digifeast later so if you corrections and comments on the blog, want to ask me about Jisc MediaHub, digital footprints, digital education, or just say hello, do keep an eye out!


Oct 032014
Found a foot

This Monday (29th September 2014) the Managing Your Digital Footprint project launched across the University of Edinburgh.  I’m hugely excited about this project as it is a truly cross-University initiative that has been organised by a combination of academic departments, support services and the student association all working together, indeed huge thanks and respect are due to Louise Connelly at IAD for bringing this ambitious project together.

I am representing EDINA across both of the project’s strands: a digital footprint awareness-raising campaign for all students (UG, PGT, ODL, PhD) which is led by the Institute for Academic Development (IAD) in collaboration with EDINA, the Careers Service, EUSA, Information Services, and other University departments; and a research project, a collaboration between IAD, the School of Education, EDINA and EUSA, which will examine how students are managing their digital footprints, where such management is lacking, and what this might mean for future institutional planning to build student competence in this area.

Before saying more about the project it is useful to define what a “digital footprint” might be. The best way to start that is with this brilliant wee video made specially for the campaign:

YouTube Preview Image

Digital footprints, or the tracks and traces you leave across the internet, are a topic that frequently comes up in my day to day role as social media officer, and is also the focus of a guest week I provide for the MSc in Digital Education’s IDEL (Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning) module. Understanding how your privacy and personal data (including images, tags, geo locations) are used is central to making the most appropriate, effective, and safe use of social media, or any other professional or personal presences online. Indeed if you look to danah boyd’s work on teens on Facebook, or Violet Blue’s writings on real name policies on Google+ you begin to get a sense of the importance of understanding the rules of engagement, and the complexities that can arise from a failure to engage, or from misunderstanding and/or a desire to subvert the rules and expectations of these spaces. What you put online, no matter how casually, can have a long-term impact on the traces, the “footprints” that you leave behind long after you have moved on from the site/update/image/etc.

When I give talks or training sessions on social media I always try to emphasize the importance of doing fewer things well, and of providing accurate and up to date bios, ensuring your privacy settings are as you expect them to be, and (though it can be a painful process) properly understanding the terms and conditions to sites that you are signing up for, particularly for professional presences. Sometimes I need to help those afraid to share information to understand how to do so more knowledgeably and safely, sometimes it is about helping very enthusiastic web/social media users to reflect on how best to manage and review their presences. These are all elements of understanding your own digital footprints – though there are many non-social media related examples as well. And it is clear that, whilst this particular project is centered on the University of Edinburgh, there is huge potential here for the guidance, resources, reflections and research findings from the Managing Your Digital Footprint project to inform best practice in teaching, support and advice, and policy making across the HE sectors.

So, look out for more on my contributions to the Managing Your Digital Footprint campaign – there should be something specifically looking at issues around settings very soon. In the meantime  anyone reading this who teaches/supports or who is a student at the University of Edinburgh should note that there will also be various competitions, activities, workshops, resources and advice throughout 2014-2015, which will focus on how to create and manage a positive online presence (digital footprint), and which should support students in their: professional networking; finding the right job; collaborating with others; keeping safe online; managing your privacy and the privacy of others; how to set up effective social media profiles; using social media for research and impact.

Digital Footprint campaign logo

The Digital Footprint project logo – anyone based at the University of Edinburgh will be seeing a lot of this over the coming months!

The research strand of the project is also underway but don’t expect anything more about that for a wee while – there will be a lot of data collection, analysis and writing up to do before we are ready to share findings. I’ll make sure to share appropriate updates and links here as appropriate. And, of course, questions and comments are welcome – just add yours to this post.

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