Feb 142012

On Thursday afternoon I was at the University of Edinburgh eLearning Presentations Showcase 2011 event. This is a really lovely idea as it brings together presentations given throughout the year on or around the subject of eLearning into one afternoon. It’s a great way to catch up on colleagues’ work but also interesting from the point of view of seeing lots of varying types and styles of presentation in a packed afternoon.

Tweets about the event can still be found on the #elpp hashtag and further information and the presentations from the showcase can be found on the ELPP wiki: https://www.wiki.ed.ac.uk/display/eLPP/eLearning%20presentations%20showcase%202011.

These notes were taken as a liveblog but due to wifi issues are only being posted live now. So, although I’ve done a little tidying up, please be tolerant of typos etc. I thought it would be better to get these live quickly rather than perfectly but will try to correct any errors as they spot them. 

Wilma Alexander, Chair of the eLearning Professionals and Practitioners Forum, opened with a note that the annual eLearning at Ed conference will  be on Friday 13th April and loads of exciting programme stuff information will be live soon. With that it was right into the presentations…


Jo Kinsley PostGraduate Virtual Open Week at the University of Edinburgh

Jo originally presented this at the Blackboard Collaborate Connections Summit 2011 in Las Vegas.

Jo originally introduced this presentation with the background of the University mission statement and international profile. The University of Edinburgh has 26k students, many from Scotland. Of those international students at Edinburgh the largest group is from the US but 137 countries are represented in total.

This project intended to let potential students around the world the opportunity to engage with staff and attend an online open day as they are unable to attend the on campus open day. The idea came from the School of Social and Political Sciences with the idea that this would be important to students from other countries, particularly North America.

It was always intended as an alternative and additional initiative. It’s the first time this sort of project had been done in the UK on this sort of scale.

The planning… we saw this as an opportunity for a central event, here information services would be the central point for coordination. A one day turned into a full week in the end. Some schools wanted to represent the whole school, just one single programme of study. Number of staff (and in some case alumni) varied. Lots of varying technical requirements. We limited registration for academic sessions to 15 people to make it manageable and we decided to record this to see the outcomes, the attendance level etc.

Project requirements – a website, online registration, promotional planning, choosing software and training. We did most of the website central, also used an online tool on the website for registration. Comms and Marketing assisted with promotion. The software selected was Wimba and the training would be by IS.

Wimba was chosen as it is easy to use, there is no client software to install and we already had a pilot running across the university. Wimba also, via the SDK kit, made it easy to replicate classrooms quickly as there were 100s of sessions.

There were 38 staff technically trained to support sessions – Wimba did 2 hour training sessions for these staff. But we also ha 135 staff who would be hosted and/or moderating a session. The training was close to the event – took place in the training suite in the library with headsets etc. We showed them how it worked as a student and how it worked as a moderator. We gave them a role playing session to get used to the role of host, and of students, and some slides and examples to let them get a sense of using the classroom and the etiquette of the space.

We also gave them scripts – hosts with scripts, moderators with scripts etc. We gave everyone a script. People were hesitant but it worked well. We also made the staff try the experience of a participant – questions they would ask, what they would want to know – to help them get an idea of slides or notes to have to hand.

Although people were initially embarrassed etc. But after a few rotations around people really enjoyed and got into the role play. The feedback was that people weren’t sure about the time commitment or role play BUT they felt it gave them a good experience, what they could do on the day etc.

So the Virtual Open Week was 21st to 25th feb 2011. Involving 22 schools, 6 support sessions. There were about 170 unique drop in session visitors. For the academic sessions we had about 740 registered participants. We had 369 unique visitors – registered vs attendance. Roughly 50% of those who registered showed up on the day. Actually not that far off the in-person open day experience.

There was some disappointment over numbers but some great in depth discussions did take place. One chap from the dental school prepared a fantastic presentation but no-one showed up BUT he recorded the presentation and is using it as marketing on the course website.

Feedback on non attendees tended to be that they had forgotten, timings didn’t suit as well as expected, etc.

But those that attended gave great feedback. Most responded that they were slightly or significantly more likely to attend as a result. They felt it was worth while. Some said it was better than travelling to Scotland – the travesty!

Issues and lessons learned – some sessions had no preprepared information, emphasize the need for having some powerpoints to break the ice and engage attendees.

Working around admission deadlines of schools presented a timing issue.. One large event plus various school events would work.

From non attendees:

  • Reminders
  • Better account of timezone
  • And more programmes they were interested in to be included

Feedback from schools and staff has been positive. Since we did this Wimba has been in wider use across the university – PhD interviews, careers events etc. Been good for getting people used to the technology.


Q1) would you do it again?

A1 – Jo) I would but as it happens I won’t be. But I was on the technical end, not managing the whole thing…

A1 – Fiona) It will run again on 23rd Feb as a central University thing. It will be once a month with drop in session on fees, other topics of interest etc.

Q2) It’s very important to note that on-campus that open days only attract 50% – really encouraging that online has same. Also an hour for one student is a great use of time.  And the training sessions were rather lively!

A2 – Fiona) central services found it effective – could work away then attend to students as they came in.

Q3) I used Wimba with students in Japan last year. They had some technical issues with the software. Last summer I tried it and had a problem as well. Stephen Vickers helped with that. But maybe in other countries the bandwidth can/could be an issue with using this. Especially places like China

A3 – Jo) We did put up some training/guidance and a wizard to try out Wimba before the sessions to try and help.


Jen Ross Partnerships and Collaborations: Future Networks of Exchange for Museums

This was originally presented with Angelina Russo (at RMIT) at ICTOP 2011 in Toronto. Jen is associate lecturer at the School of Education and works on various projects including cultural heritage.

This presentation was part of work that began as the National Museums Online Project and that led to the Digital Futures for Cultural Heritage Organisations project which ran recently. Angelina is a world expert in social media and museums – she’s not here but she says hello! Angelina is also the founder of Museum3 which is a great way to find out about digital innovation around the world.

So this talk was about how museums and cultureal heritage organisations approach social media and digital technology. As they get to grips with this they also have all sorts of organisational challenges around what expertise and authority means now. And how to be relevant in the world. The idea of exchange, the relationship between the audience and the museum as an exchange rather than top down, is something that Angelina has been working on.

So, exchange is a challenging thing for Cultural Heritage organisations (CHos) to think about. Often museums etc. have a real sense of purpose, that they are guarding “everyone’s stuff” so how  you start conversations about opening up that stuff. An exchange is a two or maybe even a three way exchange – there are exchanges between patrons/visitors as well as with the organisation.

Exchange requires people to invest in your project, in your idea. So trialling and piloting ideas can work well but if you neglect that you can lose some of the good will built up in the project.

The idea of communities of practice might be too constraining or problematic in thinking about what the relationship between museums and their audiences. It implies a shared language or a sustained engagement. It is not a realistic paradigm in the online networked world.

Instead we have been thinking about networks and flows. Organisations can trigger these but ultimately cannot control, flows of information and communication in digital space. Digital networks thrive on border crossings. What about “knotworking” (Engestrom Engestrom and Vaaho)? <another ref here too to grab>.

The digital futures of cultural heritage education project

The project had two main aims. To begin to establish a research agenda

Heritage was the biggest group, but there were a number of commercial, academic and government sectors – this is brilliant, you want to create a network of people with a shared interest but diverse needs.

I did want to iklustrate something about how twitter was used in the project. We normally think of tweets as knowledge exchange mechanism – here are five of my favourite tweets (AddressingHistory gets a mention!). But  the power of tweets also moves outside the room – presence, reach, flow…

Someone in the room asked for questions, someone else asked “how you identify your brand/institution fanatics and let them be fanatical about you?” and another person in the room summarised and replied. Artifacts move in and out of physical and virtual spaces in this sort of way. And here we see three very different people retweeting the same information to three very different audiences here.

We think that networks are a very useful and powerful way of thinking abouyt exchange in a cultureal heritage situation and a social media situation. And we nee dto think about how trust is reconfigured and strengtherned by a willingness to echange. Onus is on the institution to earn that trust through their participation with broader audienes.

You have to tie projects up when they finish – fragments on the web can reflect poorly on your institution,


Q1) This might be premature. I can see the power of Twitter and other social spaces but they only reach a particular type/group of people but that canj provide some powerful insights into ow that moves into other digital and real spaces.

A1) That’s interesting. The DFCHE project had museums and RCAHMS etc. all part of this event. RCAHMS has had some dramatic things happen oin their education department happen as a result of these events. People working with digital things are often part of these big educational teams so are able to share that experience and develop it. In the msuems sector can be easier. But buy in from curational staff can be more tricky. Education and curation can be quite separate. Intra organisational issues can be just as profound as extra organisational issues.

Q2) Was the project combined with the resurgence of the National museums that has been going om – it feels really opened up now.

A2) We did have museums staff on the project but their refurb work was well underway. New Museology looks at the power relations within museums.

Q3) Was one project aim to raise awareness of flows and knotworking etc. in a systematic way.

A3) Yes and no. We wanted to establish a research agenda in Scotland. But we were all pleased and slightly surprised by the interest from the commercial sector so it was fantastic to see those people in those groups. Knotworking and flows it was more about what we have seen and looked back on.


Julie Moote & Erin Jackson Student learning in online discussions

Erin is teaching manager at the school of law. This presentation is related to the Principals teaching award. Julie originally presented this at a law education conference

Julie is a PhD candidate from the School of Education and has been working with up on the PETAS(check) project.

Julie – we are just near the end of this project, we really want to disseminate what we found. So this is a content analysis of discussion transcripts comparing synchronious and ascynchornous environments.

First step was to look at the literature of online learning. (e.g. Hara et al 2000, Heckman & Annabi,. 2005, Bliuc et al 2007,). There are real gaps in online learning environments and particularly in law learning and reasoning.

We had here main areas to look at – what is the nature of the learning taking place in online discussions – the level of cognitive engagement, the community of learners. How does the tutors online presence influence learning, the frequency of posts and the interaction betweein the students, and the final aspect – how to support a highly diverse cohort of students online? Suggestions for pedagogy, impact of legal background, language skills.

Over to Erin to introduce the elearning programmes in law. The LLM programme Innovation, technology and law, was launched in 2005/6:

There are three nominate eLLM degrees in IP Law, IT Law and Medical Law which began in 2008/9 and more are planned. There is a really diverse group of students and backgrounds here. And we do assess discussion as part of the programme – 20% usually – and discussions are led by academix tutors often with contributions with guest tutors and visiting scholars. Students value the opportunity to learn form the experiences  and insights of fellow students.


The most time consuming aspect of this project was thinking about how to analysis this content. We found an ascynchonous protocol that seemed to fit the programme. We found one and coded transcripts accordingly. Of the 30 students that consented, 9 students transcipts from the discussions were chosen fro detailed content analysis. One of the potential gaps or issues of this research was we eliminated postings from any student who had not consented so you do not get both sides of conversations often.

We found high levels of cognitive processing in discussion transcripts. They went beyond detailing factial information – connecting ideas, supporing opinions, application of judgements to different contexts. Personal interest side notes and examples etc. also were brought in.

We looked at students over 2 modules. There weren’t any obvious imporvements in discussion performance between modules 1 and 2. There didn’t seem to be a sense of tutor differences in assessment. Explicit student and outline of assumptions. We also did an in depth analysis of referenceing literature and how it was refefrenced.

We found that class size was not related to overall performance in the discussions. English languiage speakers may have a slidght advantage over non English speakers. But Lawyers fo not appear to have an advantage over non lawyers.

Limitations – we need a far larger number of students to get a sense of progression in terms of discussion. And although we used a strandard protocol it’s not well used and tested.

Conclusion s- some suggestions for pedagogy. Support for quality abd depth of student learning taking place in discussions. There are high levels of cognitive processing taking place.


Q1) Do students have marks released between module 1 and 2

A1) Erin: Yes, they are per semester. They get grades and qualitative feedback. They should have had feedback between modules 1 and 2.

Q2) Did students get feedback on the study

A2) Julie: That’s the next step.

A2) Erin: We are looking at how we give feedback to students. Looking at how to use findings from this study to feed into that.


Robert Chmielewski – INTEGRATE – INTerlinking and Embedding Graduate Attributes at Edinburgh

Robert works in IS and particularly on the excellent work that has been taking place with PebblePad in the university. And this was given at the ePIC2011 (elearning Portfolios International Conference).

This was about a project that took place last year. A Scottish initiative run by AQA and HEA and this project involved Jessie Paterson (project leader), Tina Harrison, Nora Mogey, and Robert Chmielewski.

We wanted to look at graduate attributes at the university of Edinburgh. It’s a useful thing for universities to recognise the development of students etc. Lots of projects and work looking at developing this sort of reflective practice.

We identified 3 projects, one for UG, one for PGT and one for PGR students. We wanted to make a story of these that could be shared on the employability website. So three strands were recorded. Graduate attributes are crucial and link to the student experience at the university. It’s a tough choice to pick a programme of study. Many choose the wrong thing, but you learn loads of things even if you don’t want to stick with the subject you studied for your degree… so being able to pick out graduate attributes and skills is really important.

So, jumping into the first branch, for undergraduate students. This was for Divinity students – this is from Jessie. You can become a minister or a researcher at the end of your studies but most become something else. Jessie is running an Academic Skills course for 1st year undergraduates where they identify their existing skills and those they want to develop.

From the very beginning of that course students are given a framework of desirable skills and they monitor their own development against that framework. That’s a compulsory course but not assessed in a traditional meaning of that word.

If I now skip to the second strand. So these are the Postgraduate Tought students, in this case nursing studies. They use PebblePad to make sure that students are able to track their skills throughout their studies. They track their progression, they share things with tutors, and they can build up a more informed picture of their skils. We also decided to describe their journey of how eportfolios began in that department. And how these were embedded within the programme – this work will be published soon so do have a look. Quite an interesting example. All assignments are done through PebblePad and they can also do web essays instead of traditional dissertations etc. Quite exciting stuff.

The third branch is the Principals Career Development Scholarship Scheme – a series of these have been released across schools and this is exclusively for PhD research students and includes training to help them put their skills across and make more informed choices for their career paths. And look at how to engage with the rest of the world – public engagement, entrepeunership, teaching, etc.

So the picture of graduate attributes developed by the employability part of the careers service – see diagram.

So this can be shown in PebblePad and students can grade their skills in each area etc.

And an example of a webfolio from nursing studies – in this case nursing inforatics – this is something students can submit in place of a dissertation.

There is so much mojre I could tell you that is going on now – lots has progressed since this was originally presented.


Q1) What’s happened since that project?

A1) The highlights: An aweful lot of new functionality in PebblePad that are now being used. And the user experience is hugely improved. And it looks like it may move into the School of Law for skills (not core teaching) etc. Also EUSA is working with ePortfolios now, as part of the Edinburgh Award which is recognition for non academic achievements – volunteering etc.

Q2) Is it linked with the new PEER project?

A2) Not yet. Lots of potential there and we will be expanding. It’s beginning to gain proper momentum at the moment.

A2) Nora: that group are well aware of PebblePad so those conversations are happening

Q3) What is the student feedback on PebblePad? How many students use it reflectively?

A3) Really only thoe using it as part of a structured programme in these sorts of way. Few students using it otherwise. It makes more sense with a purpose. At the moment we have about 5000 active users, but maybe less than 4000 who are properly active.  Our users are becoming users after they’ve logged in and begun using it.


The teaching and learning experience – a look back at the last ten years and the way ahead for the school of divinity, university of Edinburgh – Dr Jessie Paterson

This was given at HEA Subject Centre for Religious Education (check) at an event which was the last before the subject centre closed.

eLearning, as I mean it hear, is about teaching using technology usually via the web (not for us to do with teaching spaces). So very much about blended learning with very traditional lectures etc. Our approach has a strong pedagogic basis, teaching first, tool (technology) second.

Our mode of teaching is very traditional. So our Level 8 students (1st and 2nd year UG) are lecture and tutorial based. Our Level 10 and 11 students (3rd and 4th year UG and PGT are small seminar based).

We started out with our Integrated Virtual Learning Environment (IVLE) from National University of Singapore (U21 partner) as an easy entry point. At the time we looked at WebCT as a VLE and it was too complicated by comparison. But now on WebCT and about to move to Learn9 in 2012.

Initially only a few innovators used the VLE, they wanted to break traditional models a bit. Now all courses have WebCT presence. The usage very much depends on the teaching style of lecturer. The only requirement is that all essays are submitted via WebCT. Adoption based on seeing success from colleagues and also student pressure. The students pushed academics to adopt the VLE in some cases.

Resources are materials that are providing content – in differet ways, in contexts that are unusual.

So for instance we have here Katherine Rutven Seminar – historically very interesting as connected to John Knox, Mary Queen of Scots etc. So we built up this webste where her story could be explored and engaged with and combine various resources.

We also produced a Study Skills Treasure Hunt (HEA funded) – there are hugely good digital resources but students don’t know where they are. We gave students questions and missions to explore to find these resources. We still use a version of this. Students keep going back to this as a hub for finding materials.

An we also did a Special Collections resource digitisation project. There are great resources but accessing them can be tricky. So we took students physically to the library to see the real thing but then they could explore the digitised texts in full detail.

We used the Principals elearning Fund to create flash maps – this is quite a complex course that looks at the history of migration. They work well and help students understand the relationships.

This is a new resource – Jewish Non-Jewish Relations teaching resource – this is actually a new website which is a joint project between us and Canterbury University, it’s still a starting point that we’re just getting started with.

Overall comments

Think maintainability – especially with things like the flash map

Think costs compared with gains – digitisation is expensive for few texts so you need to tink this through

Tutorial and seminar preparation – it’s not about the tutorial/seminar itself, it’s a challenge to engage students to read as needed etd. So we trialled an idea of a Gobbet or Image of the Week (the Gobbet is a small bit of primary evidance).

For the Gobbet work: The students had to post this stuff to the discussion board. They could discuss it but at least they came to seminars really enthused to discuss it on the day.

For Image of the week we asked students to choose for an image that highlights the topic of the week. This again brought them engaged to class but they didn’t discuss the image ahead of time.


Used at all levels

Used in different ways but all have ideas around ownership – blogger versus commenter.  1st and 2nd year students use this in tutorials. A student is assigned to be the blogger and has to write fairly thoroughly on a topic, the others must comment ahead of the tutorial. For honours years blogs are used in seminars, in place of essay? These have really transformed the seminars – students are actually prepared and engaged and make the best of the face to face time.


We use this were we want to encourage group working more formally. We’ve done two honours level trials. We put students in groups of 3 and each had to write 1000 words but the whole thing needs to have a cohersive story – some used comments on wikis and you could see development. Some work more like “blog” but have more scope in what do.

We also have a tutor support wiki – a peer support tool for tutors and they pool and add materials all the time. Loads of great sharing and tips here.

Going Forward

We’ve extended our blogging idea but combine with the ability for students to annotate and critic written texts. So can relate blog comments more readibly with the context.

Blogs have transformed tutorials and seminars and it’s been an easy and effective intervention with few technical issues.

The Wiki needs more management, students can find the medium difficult – the technology can be a real barrier. I’m excited to see how the Learn9 wiki works.

Assessment and Feedback

Predominantly essay based but course work do include blog, wiki, tutorial sheet assessment. Now have guidance on non traditional modes, A lot of our work is on paper, marking is usually on paper, but we do use Turnitin and I think staff will quickly adapt to marking/giving feedback online

Exams on computers

We offer some courses students choice typing or hand writing final exam, only alteration from traditional exams. Doing research on this as we go and have only been using 2 years so far. Exam4 by Externity. Student uptake has been quite low so far. But uptake increasing. And a growth there. A lot to do with confidence.

Autumated textual analusis – we’re looking at help that would be automatic to give idea of needing more referencing, grammar etc. It’s not about marking of text but improvement of pre-submission work. Working with Informatics on this.

We’re also doing more work on why uptake of typing by students is low.

Overall comments

Marking criteria non-traditional modeas need to be clear – implications for common marking scheme and our working group here has made quite a difference.

Exams on computers – think they’ll be an increase of uptake. Some infrastructure issues here – need power at every desk, more space etc.

And we’ve like to be able to give formative feedback on student essays as well.

Academic Skills Course

This is totally online for timetabling reasons. The idea is to ensure all students have basic skill set that they need. They work in their own time. It’s a mixture online resources and it’s non assessed.

We have now embedded Graduate Attributes into that course. We try to get them to write in semi-formal styles, and that is an attribute, speaking in tutorials etc. We are trying to help them to think about that skill and demonstrating that they have these skills.  And starting to use PebblePad.

Pre-arrival skills

We piloted in 2011-2012 we’ve shared this material ahead of arrival. When is a student really a student – A-Level results don’t come out until August, hard to define when they start. So we have a light touch graduate attrivute – two defined areas – academic writing and tutorials. Lots of skills bound up here. So those umbrellas let us bundle all those skills. These resources need to help and be encouraging – don’t want to put people off.

Some issues of the Academic Skills course though. The fact that it’s a discreet course. And studet engagement and sustainable engagement – making it compulsory has radically helped.

Other areas

First year learners experience project. We worked with STEER tracing of VLE usage – with Physics. WebCT doesn’t track everything you’d like really. And we are looking at student technology ownership and issues/opportunities around that.

In the future we are thinking now about distance education. Employability is becoming a growing issue – particularly as course fees  rise. Very few people come to be church ministers and they go on to a whole range of careers – and it’s the skills that enable that. Mobile U@Ed – we will be keeping an eye on. And Flexible learning.


Q1) First of all I was thinking about how fantastic the work you are doing at Divinity is, it’s inspiring! I was wondering about whether you care about sharing study skills with those pre-admission students of any type – other students that don’t come here may value them

Q2) It all depends on the definition of the student – that really matters from a library/publishers point of view. That’s for us to deal with here. Preparation for university is so much about using the library

A2) we really want our students using both the physical and electronic resources of the library.

A2) Christine: Students know they are welcome to come to the library, using a visitor card. Some of our licenced resouerces do allow access for non registered students so perhaps we can give students a taster to work with that. And the library catalogue is completely free of course.

Comment) you could probably stage it so some parts are fine for all, other levels are only for registered students.

Comment) Students do arrive looking or flats and other stuff early, they show up at the library and need that card, that proof of ID for those rental and council tax type things as well. They don’t know when they are a student.

A2) It’s a huge issue.

A2) Wilma: I’ve just become a matriculated student and we are not clear about what we want them to do, what instructions to follow.


“That ever ephemeral sense of being somewhere” – Reflections on a dissertation Festival in Second Life – Clara O Shea and Mashall Dozier

This is to be presented at Experiential Learning in Virtual Worlds in Prague in 2012. More on the Dissertation Festival can be found here: http://www.elearning.education.ed.ac.uk/events/ and images can be viewed at: http://tinyurl.com/3ap3v32.

Clara teaches on the MSc in eLearning course with various colleagues,  including Marshall. So first off… the programme has about 150 students. About half UK, quarter EU and a quarter other parts of the World. We use Second Life and Twitter and Wiki and Adobe Connect and blogs and a social networking sites, a whole range of stuff. It’s awesome!

But then… students come to the dissertation… after all that aswesome collaboration they are alone and by themselves. They are doing a research projects on their own. They have a bit of a culture shock. And few people will do a similar topic. It can be quite a lonely and isolating experience.

So we thought that would be sort of a need to solve that problem and were thinking about what might work, drawing on our experiences. So we wanted to give people a cjance to get together. But students are very busy professionals. So we need those meetings to be synchronous and asynchronous. We wanted multiple ways to articulate an argument. We wanted sharing and exchange, to feel part of the environment, and to use some of these environments.

So – ta da!  – we wanted to do a Dissertation Festival – inspired by Japanese cherry blossom and Koi fish type festival ideas. So… over to Marshall…

Fiona Littletone raised part of our MSc in eLearning Second Life present out of the sea and made a space where students could share a poster of what the students were trying to address, and then visitors could leave comments, suggestions etc. for each presenter. And also we have them write a haiku summarising their dissertation. These were ways to succinctly describe their dissertation or research.

Clara again. We had  students as guinea pigs for this. The display was up for several weeks and we also had synchronous sessions where the presenters could explain their work.

The feedback boards and comments were useful – students found the summative nature of the displays very helpful, the feedback was great but also made some students feel exposed or a sense of risk.

So for the synchronous sessions we used voice to speak to the audience, the audience mainly used text. A bit like Twitter at conferences. Some of the Second Life “casual” poses tell you very little – so the audience can type “nodding” or “agreement” – some cues but not really disruptive. That seemed to work quite well.

Speakers could also respond in real time – very dynamic. It felt like a real experience of presenting to the student, it had meaning.

On the first day we also had a synchronous session in text for students to discuss the dissertation process – asking questions both straightforward and more complex. Also students not at that stage yet as well. And a champagne poster viewing session (that;s virtual champagne btw).

Students liked the chance to share. Students commented on the invisible blending of tutors and students. We had quite in depth discussion with people who attended. One commented about how nice it was to have tutors there. Another commented that they would have liked to have students there – there was a difference as the usernames aren’t obvious and that really flattens the hierarchy and gives a real sense of community.

Over to Marshall again…

We tried to make this feel like a party – we had sushi and champagne etc. (all virtual). The students said it felt like a group of friends – like discussion boards on steroids according to one syudent. One student said they think of the Uni on SL as a safe space. The wine and sushi gave a sense of presence to on estudent. And another commented that having that space was far nicer than emailing posters around.

The students who attended were current and past student s, some staff and ab outsider. And that was a nice number – like an in person seminar number. It felt very special. It was done in August when things are a bit quiet for students. Just before the restart of courses it sort of warmed people up. Partly we think its partly about how we use SL in the programme – coming together for fun tutorials but also graduations and Christmas parties etc. And that stuff – the sushi and wine and stuff all adds to that great environment. It’s all playful and special. The behaviours we model is very chatty and informal, that makes a difference. The flatterned hierarchy makes a difference. And that synchronous but not exclusionary interaction. And there’s a sense of “hard fun”.


Q1) At what stage were these students?

A1) Different stages – one was writing up and using it to get thoughts in line. One student thought she was further along then she was. She was able to have a reflective moment and get a better sense of her own journey. Another was heading to get stuck. And another had completed and we were just finding out what he’d been up to. We’ve decided to run it once every year. Maybe slightly earlier in August than they were before. But not just people about to hand in. Good kick up the pants.

Comment) All our students hand in at the same time.

A1) Thinking about the idea of exemplars of student work – you show both good and bad work and the range of ideas. I’d like to encourage more students in, those that are a year off say.

A1 – Marshall) Some students were taking a year off and this got them excited about coming back

A1 – Clara) We have a lot of students who get excited about handing in and want things to do over the summer

Q2) IS it still up?

A2 – Marshall) It is down so we can use the space for Innovative Learning Week

A2 – Clara) We left it up for a couple monhs but you can find the Flickr pictures as well.

Comment – Jen Ross) It’s radically asynchronous. A student this semester asked something and it reminded me of one of the boards up on SL and those students have now been discussing their research. Also Clara said “we” but this was her vision.

Comment – Fiona Littleton) We are looking at doing something similar with the Vet school and extending  a physical poster session they do there to SL.

A2 – Marshall) And it would be great to have an archive as well!

And with that we were done for the day…


Sep 292011

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

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

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

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

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

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


– editing wiki for Psychology course

personality background page

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


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

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

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

Summary of Findings

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

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

They did not influence future related anxiety.

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

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

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

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

Can aspects of the system help?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Q2) How was the editing framed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions (for Clara or Ben)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q5) Do Wikis promise more than they deliver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 September 29, 2011  Posted by at 12:42 pm Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with: , , , , , ,  6 Responses »
Apr 012011

Today I will be liveblogging the eLearning@Ed 2011 conference which is taking place at the National eScience Centre at Edinburgh University today. The usual rules of liveblogging apply of course – posts will be updated through the day and there will be typos, errors, etc. that I will be correcting as I spot them or when I clean up this blog post at the end of the day.

Welcome by Tim O’Shea, Vice-Principal of UoE

This is the 8th eLearning @Ed conference. Emphasized that Informatics one of the top 5 depts in the world, a leader in ISG etc.  All 3 colleges and ISG are here represented today. We are a really huge university. We could have just had elearning in Moray House or the Vet School but a fundamental of the approach that Jeff Hayward and I have taken is to make sure there isn;t just one unit where all elearning is based but a community across the university. The university’s mission is to ensure we have valuable non trivial use of elearning across the university. We are doing something new here, we are creating new spaces for students to learn in. At events like this we can think about taking best advantage of the unique aspects of elearning.It is not about economics but about the student experience.

Continue reading »