Apr 132012

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

Please note: the LTS team are livesketching the day with an iPad today as well: http://tweelearning.tumblr.com/

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

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

Welcome – Professor Dai Hounsell, Vice Principal Academic Enhancement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technological Trends (http://learn231.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/trend-report-1). In the 2012 Horizon report we’ve seen mobiles and e-books highlights. In Leicester the Criminology masters programme have just given all of their students iPads as part of the package. We have Game-based learning and learning analytics – that latter is a sexy new term to explain the types of analytics we can gather on how people learn and use our materials, resources, tools. Gesture-based learning and the Internet of Things – there was a lovely article on the Guardian. See Also: Personalised learning, cloud computing, ubiquitous learning, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), Digital content, and Flipped dynamics between student and teacher.

If you Google or look on YouTube Social Media Revolution and also The Machine is Us/Ing both of which really give a good sense of how things are changing. And you might also want to look at a report we did for the HEA where we looked at some key features of Web 2: Peer critiquing; User generated content; Networked – this is the power of tweeting; Open; Collective aggregation; Personalised. The report is: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assests/EvidenceNet/Conole_Alevizou+2012.pdf. If we had time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally…

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

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

The future of learning: technology immersed, complex and distributed… fuller notes on Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/GrainneConole/conole-edinb urgh.


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

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

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

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

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

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

And on to our next speaker…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

A3) that is a fair point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can have a look at the site here: http://www.eng.ed.ac.uk/teaching/courses/matlab

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then… ?

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

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

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

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

And now, to lunch!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So some examples…

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

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

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

So the commonalities here…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Economic Models..


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



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

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

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

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

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

The Cost for HEI:

IF (unbundled curriculum = 0)

ELSE (course materials/tutoring = MOOC)

+ full assessment for credit + ward)

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

Cost for learner = time, ££s

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Q2) So how do you manage those expectations?

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

And finally…

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

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


Mar 262012

This afternoon I’m here at the University of Edinburgh Business School in George Square to see Professor John Lee, of ESALA, Edinburgh College of Art and School of Informatics giving his inaugural lecture Learning Vicariously with Rich Media.

This is a liveblog and so all the usual caveats apply about typos, errors, etc. Please do comment below if you have any corrections you’d like to add.

We are being introduced to the lecture which celebrates the appointment of Professor John Lee to the post of Personal Chair of Digital Media. John works across both the School of Architecture and Informatics and blends those areas of expertise effortlessly. His interests include areas of design and cognition in design and learning and he has devised a method in order to film events and seminars by students so that they can be viewed again to reflect and engage that lecture which seems to have application across the university. And now over to Professor John Lee.

So this might be a confusing title on various levels so I will be coming back to that on various levels. I’ll start by talking about rich media, what they are and why we don’t make better use of them. Then I will be talking about vicarious learning, a topic that I and a number of other people have been working on for quite a while. And I’ll be talking about how this interacts and connects and can exploit rich media and technology for learning. I’ll talk about the system mentioned in the introduction, YouTute. And then I will talk about some further possible applications and future directions.

Rich Media Resources
What do I mean by that? Mainly audio and video really. Obviously there are many other types of media one might work with but I’m really interested in media which may be available, especially on the internet, media we can engage with. Audio and video are key but these media can be augmented by various other types of information – but they may be augmented by links, say to each other, or other forms of information or data. So annotation is a form of linking of media to other data. Tagging and cross referencing can be included. Commentary and discussion can be included. And there are a wider variey of internet resources that they can be connected to.

So when I talk about rich media I mean video, perhaps audio, but with these sorts of associated materials. And really rich media are not very common. The potential exists for exploiting these far more than they are being used at present, particularly in education. I think it would be useful to develop the potential for using these in a far more substantial sort of way. So I will not just be talking about my work in the past but also how we may use this sort of research to take forward these media in more fruitful ways.

Examples of rich media include YouTube which includes lots of less well known functionality such as annotation. So if we look at the video “hug the world” for instance we can see text and hotspots throughout the video. And those hotspots link to completely other videos. That is potentially quite useful type of thing that could be exploited, for instance in education. But they don’t seem to be widely used. You don’t see that many videos that use this functionality in videos on YouTube. Even those using video in teaching tend not to use these.

YouTube Preview Image

The other thing we see now is the capture of University lectures in video – like this one. Most lectures in Informatics, many others across the University and tools like iTunesU collate collections of videos of lectures. But it seems to me that these are not easy to use collaboratively or creatively. Looking at this video – it happens to be me lecturing – we can see indexes into the video automatically provided by seeing when the image changes. You can jump to various points in the lecture or a point where something is discussed in the notes. There are various different things one can think of that you could link to. So there is a useful layar on top of the lecture here – that’s quite a useful layar of rich media. So we can watch the video and move around it but we can’t do much else with it, we cant take pieces of that video and use them somewhere else for instance. The technical barriers seem overcomeable but something is stopping people making more creative use of this sort of video.

So I think we need new models of how to do this. Models of reusing materials in elearning is hardly a new topic. The old models are based on teacher-led creation of “learning objects”. There are standardised systems for development and re-use but they have never really become ubiquitous. You can find all sorts of collections of these but people don’t really use them that much. I think that’s partly because they are not always that easy to use but also because they tend to be built by teachers and particular ways that teachers think. Quite often teachers differ on these things. So often you find that University teachers have a strong tendency not to reuse other University teachers’ materials.

But i think we need to move away from that model and towards a kind of learner led recruitment of materials – from the web in particular. Learniers can search and discovery materials, to rework those materials and to share and collaborate around these materials to achieve search and discovery. And this is where we can see improvements. And technology can assist with the recruitment process here. So Google can help, the semantic web can help. But also within rich media there are opportunities opening up – such as the automated indexing of a lecture video. But there is more we can do as that’s just quite a simple example. But perhaps we can look at the speech in the video, at what’s happening in the video, what’s on screen to automatically interpret rich media.

So we can move away from passive consumption and use rich media to support activity, reflection, construction in an inquiry-led processes and to support the development of distributed collaborative learning through social networking. In particular what learners need to be able to do with these materials is to get engaged with these materials in some way. And we need to enable this engagement for distributed learners – they may be distributed geographically, distant learners, or they may be distributed in a more social sense. But tehse learners may be those that it can be difficult to get engaged in the learning process. And one of the things we’ve looked at in the past is using engaging learners through vicarious learning…

So what is vicarious learning? Well it’s learning from exposure to the learning experiences of others – e.g. students learn by watching other student’s problem solving in class. e.g. mast classes, design crits, etc. So this is where students discuss a problem and there is an audience – that might be a small or a large audience. Even without active participation vicarious learning arises from active listening and watching, it’s not just observational learning but active listening and watching, but it differs from observational, it’s not solely about observing expert performance. So the audience doesn’t just watch passively, but may not be part of the dialogue, but they are an active part of the process. So it’s somehow based on access to the learning process.

And vicarious learning is something that is perhaps done using technology. For instance a learner can watch another person engaging in a learning process.

We had a research project that aimed to attack this problem, this was some time ago. This was work with several collaboratoes funded by ESRC/EPSRC with Terry Mayes, Jean McKendree, Richard Cox, Keith Stenning, Finbar Dineen. And the project focused on capturing dialogue around specific problems – so in such a dialogue the process is exposed. These dialogues would be rated for the quality of learning content, matched to specific needs of learners, implies use in a controlled perhaps “intelligent” environment, which was difficult, and often based on “task-directed discussion” (TDDs) – which don’t always arise in tutorials.

The outcomes of this work kind of highlighted things like the benefit of exposure to student-student discussion. We were able to comapre these with tutor-student instruction, so if the tutor expounding material to students it was much less valuable to the students than a discussion in which the students perspective on the material was highlighted. If students discussed the material one found out how they were processing and understanding it. And students found watching “strugglers” most useful of all, though an uncomfortable thing to view.

The vicarious learning was effective in promoting reflection/discussion. And there seemed to be both cognitive and social benefits. And impact especially from modelling of dialogue skills and empathi identification with other students. There was less clear cut evidence for “domain” learning but there was potential importance for distance learning (and others), and it was an aid to “enculturation” into a disciplinary framework – exposure to the language and culture is harder to do in distance contexts on the whole. c.f. Laurillard, Schon etc.

Another collaborative project, VL-PATSy, funded by ESRC TLRP and working witH Richard Cox, Susan Rabold, Rosemary Varley, Julie Morris, Kirsty Hoben.

There was already a system called PATSy used with trainee speech therapists for diagnostic practice/training. This might include video, medical history, test results etc. These kinds of things could be augmented with other resources. And we augmented the materials with vicarious learning materials – TDD-based dialogues and interventions based on sophisticated student model. It was fairly effective but it was complicated and expensive to construct – it was a major 3 year project to set up and to repurpose it would also have been complicated and expensive. So we thought it might be more fruitful to try another approach.

So this other approach was around the idea of recycling stuff. Collating video recordings, of tutorial groups for instance. Then make these videos available to other learners – either automatically or manually by topic. And students could customise through selecting and annotating those videos. This is the idea which has become, with funding through the Principal’s eLearning Fund, “YouTute”. For this project we had Susan Rabold, Neil Mayo, Jon Oberlander, and Stuart Anderson involved.

So the idea was to recycle tutorial activity, captured on video. And then students would themselves be responsible for highlighting the useful aspects of these. We thought the effects might be enhanced if learners could edit the videos to pick out specific points, to annotate the videos to highlight issues, to rework the content for deeper learning. So looking at a capture of the main prototype system – this includes various video clips, notes from the session, topic and tags etc. This is an old version from perhaps four years ago but you can see we can view video of the whiteboard, we can see the tutorial roomm and we can see a camera looking at the smartboard. The students can actually use this to relive the tutorials in some sense. Either tutorials they were involved in, or those they weren’t involved in but on a topic they are looking at.

One of our undergraduate students, Marcin Bot, suggested a redesign of the system – a more student friendly interface intended here, bigger buttons, access to segments of video etc. But he didn’t feel this material was easy to rework particularly. This interface does help you access shared “tutes” (or create new ones) – these are the nuggets of tutorials on particular topics etc.

So this was quite a useful resource. We worked with it for several years whilst funded to do that. And some useful observations came out of that process. In particular that it was especially good for students who had failed the exam – they found it very useful for revising when away from Edinburgh. That seemed to be very useful for them. So I think this system could be taken forwaerd and developed. And improved with individualised tute collections, more developed social networking model, more interactive virtual editing of tutes, integration with recorded lectures, more streamlined collection and back end process etc.

So, I just wanted to finish by going back to the idea of really rich media. It’s not really new. There is plenty of work on mashup and remix culture. There are things like iMovie, the Open Movie Editor, Diver (stanford) – this was developed in Stanford and it’s quite a nice idea, it allows you to focus in on parts of videos, on some elements of a video and share that, jumpcut.com – used to allow you to edit online, it was purchased by Yahoo! and subsequently disappeared. But recently a thing called Adobe Premiere Express lets you do something similar – an online video editor. That’s the sort of thing we should pay more attention to but this is proprietary and probably expensive [note from Nicola here: YouTube does also include the facility to edit video online now].

So in future I’d like to see the development of integration of these sorts of ideas with learning systems – I have an EU proposal in train at the moment. I’d like to see improved automated annotation of video – recent and current work in Informatics on segmentation etc, using speech and/or image processing. And we could see this applied elsewhere, such as in schools, such as work with Tom Kane of a local company called Prescience Communications. So recently I’ve been working with Tom’s project and playing with the idea of a sequence of clips which you can move through, capturing the feel of jumpcut.com. This ability to personalise media in different ways would be useful for schools students in particular.


Q1 – Richard Coyne, ESALA) Seems to me there is an issue of professional presentation or lack of. These days you have kids recording themselves in their bedrooms with great charisma, great thought of setting. Does a lack of professsionalism in these environments matter?

A1) I don’t think it does. So this work here is bringing external organisations into schools – in this case it was a discussion of the classification of films. It seems to me the important thing there is the quality of the discussion. The visual presentation isn’t neccassarily a concern. So we had a top quality of speaker here, these are the things that matter really. Exactly how the film appears isn’t neccassarily the first consideration here. If part of the discussion itself is

Q1) You and I might think that but what about the poeple this is directed at, the audiences.

A1) Well we’ll find out. It seems to me that students and audiences etc. it seems to me that audience are hugely accepting of varying quality of recordings. That first content on iTunesU you’d have very mixed quality filming, discussion of tutorial arrangements etc.

Q2 – Simon Higgs, BPA) Play, we all know how important play is in early learning but presumably it is also very important in vicarious learning and I was wondering how this relates to rich media learning and virtual worlds and games as a rich media space for vicarious learning.

A2) Certainly many people have looked at games and learning, Serious Games etc. In the rich media context I’m not familiar anything specific on this but in this area it certainly seems to be important, mashing up materials is about learning and about play at the same time, there would be an inevitable element of play that would be motivating in that activity. But how one seeks to exploit that more actively I’m not sure.

Q2) I think Richard’s comment about design is important there.

A2) Yes, you might be right. And one of the things that Marcin altered our design was to perhaps make it more playful.

Q3) I wanted to ask about incentives. Often things are most successful around examinations – so we get huge downloads of materials near exams, Youtube is heavily used then etc. What do you think you would need to incentivise wider use of these things? How do you reward students for co-producing materials that have high production values perhaps?

A3) One way of incentivising students is to give them some sort of credit for doing something, so that was one possibility that we considered at one point, that we could built some of these activities into their assessment. I would like to think that just the idea of sharing and co-create these things between each other, that this would be a resource to be their own in their own way would be motivating in itself. But I think it’s an unsolved problem really in this area generally, as to how to get those online activities of community to work properly and then stop working – they fizzle out, people drop out of the activity. But that is an interesting and unsolved problem in elearning I think.

Q4) On that point it seems to me that this seems to be something we would develop top down, that we’d need to develop special systems for this. Don’t you agree that this idea of students learning together and sharing artefacts is commonplace and is happening almost in a bottom up way, with people following each other on Twitter and so on.

A4) I agree to some extent but it’s patchy. I think with better tools and better context we could help them to do that. I think with things like Twitter and specific Facebook groups etc. these things exist but they are isolated phenomena to some extent.

Q5) Some of your interfaces are very media rich, how easy is it to divide attention when you have that going on – notes, lecture video etc. What’s important here?

A5) It’s a good question here. The interface I showed to the online lecture, often you don’t need the picture of the lecture, that’s probably not what students will watch, mainly they will focus on the main screen, probably the smartboard. Sometimes you want to see what’s being pointed at. The audio and main presentation screen are the main thing.

Q5) And diver with it’s zoom in?

A5) Yes, I’d like to built that in. None of these things are terribly hard to do. It’s not hard to code these things. It’s interesting in a way to me that we don’t see more being done with them.

Q6) I was quite interested in your comment about students learning more from struggling students – what going on there – is it that they make their process more obvious? is it about comparing your own understandings?

A6) Some of all of those. You benefit from seeing correction, from comparing understanding. It seems to me there is something quite useful about the affective side of this – empathy draws them in to focus on the solution in a way that a tutor with a blackboard wouldn’t do.

Q7) It seems emplicit in the name rich media that these are good, these are rich! But I find I use video as little as possible – I’ll see it if there isn’t a paper that they’ve written. I’d love to think that students watch me lecturing on video as the best medium but I’m not convinced that that’s not as valuable as looking the same thing up in a textbook.

A7) That’s fair, not all media needs to be rich. There are a lot of situations in which various elearning tools are in use where a blackboard might be equally effective or better. I’m not saying these are the only or always the best way to do education but they do have a value. But they do have a value for distance learners and it seems to be that seeing video of an experience is useful for those that were not there in person. It’s an attempt and not totally supplant other types of approaches but to make the best use of them that they can.

Q8 – Bruce Currie, formally of the Digital Design course) Enlightenment philosophers defacing images of god, the modern version of which might be the Taliban defacing images of Buddha in response to which it has been suggested that laser projections of Buddha to build peace. Do you see students using rich digital media to solve big world problems?

A8) I don’t know, I hope they may.