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.


Dec 132011

Today I will be liveblogging from the University of Edinburgh IT Futures Conference 2011Social media in academia: a tweet too far? – which is taking place at the Informatics Forum in Edinburgh.

The usual caveats apply to this liveblog re:  typos, errors, etc. Today I am also presenting so things will be very quiet in one session I’m afraid.

Here’s what will be coming up:

Welcome and start of conference – Jeff Haywood, Vice Principal Knowledge Management

Jeff is opening the day by saying that it is a time of growing interest in the use of social media. What do you say talking to a room of people on social media – there’s an odd sort of disconnect there. Learning and Teaching, research and administration all benefit from social media. The sort of rolling news feed is great but it can also be a rod for your back. But you are also seeing discourse emerging online between groups who perhaps wouldn’t have been interacting. And you see this idea of reaching out to the community, of transparency, of citizen science can really add value. The discourse is clearly a very important and here to stay activity. But it also presents some real challenges. We only have to think about the REF. As research and as learning and teaching starts taking place away from the normal structured spaces it challenges us in terms of how you keep, how you value, how you refer back to it. And you see those questions emerging in the areas that are most active in that space.

From an administrative point of view even being able to tweet the state of buses, demonstrations, disruptions, changes of venues, events can be increadibly useful. And that forces some of us to participate. If that information takes place on our mobile hand held devices we have to engage with those in order to keep up with that activity. And that produces an odd sense of sczophrenic activity of participating and hiding. And I’ve had a lot of conversations recently about the way that technology is driving us. There is still a lot for us to work out here about how we deal with finding the right balance there.

Session 1 (chair: Hamish Macleod)
Fakers, fools and narcissists: How cultural narratives of blogging affect online reflective practices – Jen Ross, Associate Lecturer, School of Education

Jen is going to be talking about social media beyond the academic sector, particularly looking at blogging. The main arguement I am going to try and make is not that we shouldn’t do it but that we should be attuned to the way that we use those technologies from outside academia. A quote from Carpenter 2009 stats that “electronic environments allow for and even encourage active integration and dynamic interaction, resulting in a mixing of genre and literary practices…”

I will be drawing on my PhD work on reflective writing and online assessment and I found that reflective writing is greatly influences by the wider cultural narratives around blogging. Aspects of self-promotion and authenticity; accursations of narcissicm and pressures to confess; and the growing sense of duty almost for us as professionals to have some sort of online presence.

I am going to tell you 6 stories of blogging and as these are examples from a few years ago I’ll talk about what may be happening today.

Blogs, particularly when tied to real identities, have to be authentic and honest. The idea is that you get something from someone on a blog that you would not get any other way. One of my interviewees, a lecturer of post grad students, said that students shared things they hadn’t even told their partners perhaps, really opening up. Students seemed quite aware of their audience though, they had interesting take on the same issues. Student felt that he had to be creative honest and free – they felt that was part of the criteria whether that was explicit or implicit. Another said they didn’t write for their audience, that it was them… but with the performance indicators for their blog.

Some reflected on too much information being dangerous. One lecturer of undergraduates had put a lot of personal identifying information in their public web portfolio. The student hadn’t thought about the risk but also felt that the lecturer might mark him down for not sharing his information. By contrast others were quite cagey about what was shared, sharing fragments of identity for safety.

Putting your best self forwards… an undergraduate students commented on their own self-editing. Another undergraduate said that there was a difference between her scholarly eportfolio – her serious self and her facebook self, her silly self. And another student reflected that you are always performing in some way, no matter which context you are in.

Many of the students and lecturers were at pains to point out that they weren’t the sort of people to do this sort of blogging thing. Students were keen to point out that it wasn’t what they do. There was a lot at stake as students associated blogging with negative images – narcisscism, geekiness. There were so many ideas of the blogged as shallow and self-obsessed bloggers. A student commented on the cult of celebrity. Another commented on a dependency, getting hooked on the tutor, really needing that feedback, feeling forgotten, worrying that they had been forgotten about. When we set criteria we rarely think about the anxiety and stress about the speed of marking. Curtain 2006 talks about “anxiety may be the key risk associated with blogging”.

And finally there was this issue of the personal brand online. I asked a student about making her blog public. She said she might do when a graduate when she had rewritten or

A student commented that she would not write into an online form but into word first. It felt too live to write into the form “maybe it’s something to do with um what you, sort of preconceptions of what a bvlog is and what the internet is…”.

And I think we need to think about how we adopt these tools in academia and what we do.

So some news

There’s been quite a bit of hoo-hah this week about the idea that bloggers might be revealed by Google Analytics – real tension also more widely on the loss of anonimity.  There has also been a lot of discussion about requests/requirements to take down information on their blog, and freedom of speech. Another story here about a Beirut blogger writing a book – this isn’t news any more, the online and offline is beginning to really merge. This week Disney brought a series of mummy blogs. And there was a news item on “blogging your way to a better career”. And the Guardian is also running a session on blogging for beginners: driving traffic and engaging audiences – that’s something that you would expect media or organisations might do but that’s increasingly something individuals do.

I think if I interviewed my participants today I’d see more on that sense of personal branding and what that means for reflective writing I’m not sure. We need to review some of our ideas about reflective writing for networked learning contexts; we need to think about how we induct students into that culture of blogging at the outset.

And Jen closes with the classic xkcd “someone is wrong on the internet” cartoon


Q1) How much is this an extension of what students already do on the internet, building personas and identity. Does making this explicit make it easier to address some issues now

A1) I agree with you that students are very strategic about how they present themselves online and offline. But in a reflective context they sort of deny that as you are supposed to be telling the truth. I hope my research casts a question on that – are we glossing over some things that are happening there

Q2) I was a little nervous when you referred to an eportfolio that a student was talking about as being “safe within the walls of the institution” – I’m not convinced that anyone can do that…

A2) I had a few students that were saying that they were not worried about their items being used. Then they both told me about a story about one person’s information got shared with all the students… but they weren’t concerned about this. I think there is a real information literacy issue here – these tools are not thought of as “really online”. There’s a real tension there for teachers between opening students up to participate and warning them

Comment) I think there are so many terrorism regulations, for instance, that we have to educate our students about risk and safety.

A2) I think the key issue for me is around work to rethink reflection to see what we can do best online. But we probably do need to back away from the idea of authenticity to make the most of some of these things.

Q3) On that point I wonder about the genre of blogging if we are inducting students. Where are the role models. Should it be the public blogs or should it be something that academics do?

A3) That probably depends on the goal of that particular blogging context. If we give students the role model of public blogging, if we do then lets do that fully, lets make that a beneficial aspect.

Q4) Every student needs to find their own blogging voice and role model. You can put out personal things online but you have to be prepared to take that abuse. There are also lots of role models out there of researchers who blog. I think we need to ask students to explore the blogosphere to find their own voice and their own style.

A4) I think when we are assessing a blog we may have a duty to be slightly more specific about what we want as otherwise we’ll have students concerned about faireness of marking

Q5) What was the background of the students you spoke to?

A5) I spoke to students who were in sort of constellations around courses where they had been assessing online reflection for a year already. Most of those staff were quite committed to blogging but they were from a wide variety of disciplines.

Secrets of writing for the web – Richard Coyne, Professor of Architectural Computing, Edinburgh College of Art

Richard will be sharing his personal experiences of blogging today. Richard has created his ten secrets of writing for the web at http://richardcoyne.com and that’s the theme of his presentation.

I was talking to a colleague in another school and asking if he blogged and he said that he didn’t and couldn’t see the pay off. It’s interesting to have people from all parts of the academic spectrum in the room. Early career researchers have an interest in building their profile. And perhaps more reflective older academics who have, like me, many thousands of words under their belt.

Blogging aids my research, writing and teaching in digital, user-generated content, cultural theory, new media audiences. I’m trying to start an MSc by research in digital media and culture. It’s right that I’m out there and doing this stuff. Perhaps my blog will help with recruitment for that, certainly people will approach me as a potential supervisor because of that blog. And the blog helps explain what I do.

Like many people I’m involved in the REF and funding councils are also looking for impact. Through these media everything becomes numeric. So for instance here we have stats for television viewing. This used to be esoteric and difficult to acquire, now it’s just there online. We know that in mass media large numbers are better than small numbers. Does that apply to academia?

The most viewed video on Youtube has over 180 million hits (recently Evolution of Dance by Judson Laipply), Guardian newspaper averages 232k sales per issue (and falling), top selling book is Harry Potter selling over 45 million copies. The average live sciences paper is cited about 6 times (Maslov and Redner 2008).

We are bombarded with these figures. Whether you like it or not WordPress.com tells you your hits. It’s a think you look at, get worried about. You can tell if your work is getting read whether you want to or not. As a bit of an aside I’ve discovered a trick with WordPress. Bloggers want hits, and people sort of obsess about that. WordPress publishes links to the top ten “best” blogs on the front page. If you click on the page then you find that lots of other bloggers will comment or link to that blog to boost their own hits. Congregations around success.. but to what end?

Thanks to Nicola Osborne (me!) giving an excellent workshop on presence on the internet I realised that Google Scholar gives you your citations on any particular article whether you like it or not, I knew that but what to do about it… so if I search for myself I get a list of all it can find in terms of items and citations. There is also a paper that is not mine for an author with my name with some 9000+ hits. You can get lost in that mass of data. So you can now create a user profile in Google Scholar and you can link just your own papers, and give you citation graphs whether you want to or not, calculates your h-index and your i10-index and so on. Barraged by numbers again, we have to address it, or ignore it or deal with it…

Again on the theme of impact its possible to interoperate these programmes and systems. You can easily link your blog and twitter and facebook. I don’t tweet terribly often but my weekly blogpost is automatically tweeted. My dozens of followers therefore see the linbk, the same with Facebook. And there does seem to be a correlation between these other mentions and the hits on my blog on a given day.

So, what do we want?

Well I want to exert influence. Perhaps an indication of influence if you are into publishing is getting cited. And reputation may help with finding publishers and audiences, to sell books, or indeed for external committees, etc. Although I’ve yet to see much difference in sales of my last two books on my blog yet.

Another aspect of my work is teaching and Jen has already talked eloquently about this. I have used blogging in my teaching and blogging has lots of benefits for me and one of those big pay offs is teaching. My blog post is published at 9am every saturday – they are scheduled that way – and often that will relate to teaching work in some way. A colleague has created a blog aggregation based on RSS feeds – my own and others, one is Media and Culture, and that gathers blog posts for that particular course. I use categories on my posts to indicate which type of post it is, where or how it should be aggregated. Students can then explore and comment on these blogs. So what we require our students to do is not to ask students to blog their own reflective blogs but to comment – they can comment on any of the blogs in these aggregations. One of the advantages for me is that when I give written feedback I can even reference them to blog pages – 60 or 70 blog posts etc. that may give an expanded discussion of an issue.

The assignment regime for that particular course includes 10% of the marks for 1000 words (that the students choose) from their commenting on blog posts. We can do that here as we are learning about media and culture. So the assessment is about comments not posts.

And still rattling along the theme of payoffs… in addition to teaching and more important perhaps is the development of research ideas. My own writing and my own reflections are here being scrutinised by public affairs. Wikileaks, ethics, etc. all hot topics. What does my theory bring to bear on these current issues? Blogging forces me to do that and lets me keep my (public) notes, get feedback, collect searchable links, refine my writing. Now I do want to publish. So far I’ve been rejected by two publishers for the idea of turning my blog into a book… a blook perhaps? I do have this idea of a lexicon of terms perhaps – my grand ideas is to create that glossary – still waiting for publisher comments on that.

Finally there are costs. It takes time to create blogs. I limit myself to one post a blog. During slight periods or vacations one can compile a list of posts that can be scheduled. Time is an issue. I actually like writing – not everyone does. There is the concern that it is self-indulgent. Maybe I may look desperate here? Do we want to buy into quantification? And IP control, saturation,… plenty of issues.

So in summary, managing identity and personal branding is a new thing for academics; masification comes with the medium but there is a long tail, a gift society, prosumerism; scheduling – what is happening to the digital native generation is that they don’t submit themselves to scheduled tv programmes for instance as they download their content. In blogs we think about scheduling  and organising; and there is the danger of submitting to pop intellectualism.


Q1) I think there is an important aspect to blogging that you as a while male senior academic haven’t touched upon, the building of community. That is very important for early career researchers, for sharing experience as a woman in academia, as a non white academic etc. There are a number of bloggers – both under their real names and pseudonyms that do this. I’ll mention them in my talk later.

A1) I guess I was looking at this from my perspective but I’m interested in whether my practice encourages my early career colleagues. But I don’t force my colleagues to start their own blogs – they may not want to, writing ability may not be there. A lot of students may not have the same facility to write quickly without edits.

Q1) Many of those who do choose to do this really find it helps them develop and improve their writing. PhD students and research fellows are finding it really important.

A1) I was trying to work out why students resist. Possibly an issue of future proofing – the reluctance to share half-formed ideas, a temptation to wait until confident.

Q2) Two observations really. Some posts get loads of hits, some get hardly any. It’s great to understand what aspects of academic work chimes with people – that’s hard information to get any other way. An looking at PhD students they get really interesting things out of the process but they are concerned about giving away too much of their work. There is a difficult line to go along with blogging. If you are in a secure job it’s much easier to take those risks.

A2) I do remember you talking about blogging before, it’s value for niche work, do you want to say more

Q2) I had a colleague who was researching a family and had numerous responses to her blog from people who were writing books etc. But in some areas you don’t get that kind of response. And some students don’t blog because they are concerned about sharing information before funding has come in.

Q3) What is your thinking with the Saturday morning 9am scheduling? Is it to do with when students look at the blog?

A3) I think it was that the first post I published was at that time. It’s a bit of a shock that when you hit “publish” that’s it, you’re live.

Q3) Well I tweet and I worry about doing lots of posting in the evening.

The promise and pitfalls of academic blogging – Brad Littlejohn, PhD student, School of Divinity

For a blogger I’m very untechie. I’m a second year PhD student in ethics and I will be talking about my own personal experiences of the last few years. When I’m talking about academic blogging it’s not really for academics. It’s about topics at the intersection of my academic work and everyday life. that makes sense in my own research work – I focus on christian ethics and that is easy to apply to other areas of life. If you’re planning to teach blogging for academics makes sense. But for me I use blogging as a think space – a place to share book reviews, interesting sources, initial drafts etc. I also try to maintain bredth to write, organise and find new insights from my work. Lots of students try to write journal articles requireing huge care of the materials. Blogging is a great outlet to try out ideas without the time or vigour requirements of a traditional article.

Blogging forces you to think about simplifying complex terms, about making work more accessible to your audience. Blogging lets you try to write well, to engage people’s attention. And you can get criticism, feedback, suggestions of sources through these readers. You may find readers from academia who let you learn from them, form useful connections and challenge you in helpful ways. This has been my own experience, I blog for myself but it is useful for my work. I write to share my wisdom… To enlighten them from their misconceptions… it’s very easy to get an inflated sense of your knowledge! You can become a temporary celebrity overnight – for instance when I blogged the theological perspective on the final Harry Potter film. But 1000 clicks is no match for a good report from your supervisor or an accepted paper.

Your own time management can be an issue. If you feel your blog is for readers then you feel pressure to post regularly. If you spend time on your blog that you should spend on research then you have let the blog go from useful servant to problematic master. Comments can also take up huge amounts of time – the more popular your blog the more comments you will get. And you can be tempted to be more polished and post more conservatively – this is not best for yourself or your readers. But a sense that no-one is reading can be risky – especially if you are talking about controversial subjects. There are unwritten rules about how one does this. There is more freedom in blogging but it can be easy to go too far. One can regret carelessness all too easily…

Once in writing about a visiting lecturer I made a few light criticisms that I thought were part of a generally positive post. But the lecturer read the post and angrily rang the school to ask about it. So now I assume that all posts might be read by anyone. You need to be genuine without being too informal. By making your ideas the key focus you can form great relationships and make good impressions. But that works best when it is the secondary goal of my blog, when the ideas are the primary goal.

And to finish a tour of my blog: http://www.swordandploughshare.com/

I have a contact form but I don’t make my email address available publicly. I’ve had very cool people contact me through the form. I show my essays, my recent posts, my publications – and also some unpublished papers that I don’t expect to publish.


Q1) What space are you using? It’s not wordpress?

A1) I use Squarespace – I was advised it was good for technologically challenged bloggers and it’s been great!

Q2) Have you been tempted to edit old material?

A2) I look at the statistics and fewer people read the old posts so I’m not too concerned. But I also don’t want to be too concerned about portraying a certain image. I want to accept and show that I don’t have all the answers

Q3) Why is your name not prominent on the pages?

A3) Hmm… A good question.. it probably should be.

Q3) Some sites use alias or esoteric names intentionally

A3) No, that’s not intentional!

And now for coffee…

And we’re back…

Session 2 (chair: Jessie Paterson)
Blogging on the New Testament and Early Christianity – why? – Larry Hurtado, Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology, School of Divinity

I didn’t set out to be a blogger, we just wanted to create a space for discussing the new testament and early christianity and blogging seemed like a good tool. But we didn’t know where to start. A colleague got me set up really quickly. He asked what it should be called – we didn’t want to represent the entire department so we went for Larry Hurtado’s Blog (http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com) and I picked quite a dull template. And we added a few pages about me and the site. And that was about it. And so we hit publish to see how it looked… and the next day I had 11000 hits, I clearly had to do something with the blog. And it probably helps that I’m retired, a very senior researcher I guess. And one of few people in my field. So people found me quickly. The one tip people had for me was “no comments”. At all. But I decided to be difficult. I decided I wanted comments and I did feel I wanted to make expert knowledge available to a wider audience – would you give a public lecture and not allow comments? So overall handling comments may take more time than the actual posting. It comes and goes… if it’s something particularly interesting, or if it’s something that requires reply it can take a really long time.

So a wee tour here… you have current posts of various lengths. My recent posts are shown, I have my tag cloud here for the tags of posts on my blog.

And here is how it looks to the blogger… you can see your stats for your blog. It will tell you about your hits. It averages about 10,000 per month as you can see. And you can look at which posts they are reading, where they came from and where they go to… and how many subscribers I have… I have 198 followers, gee, I’m almost like Jesus! And all of this blog tool and these stats are free.

It seems to me that there are two types bloggers. I believe there is a group that are highly opinionated but typically ill informed about and vent online… they often have astonishingly large followings. And there are blogs that are operated by people who know what they are talking about – graduate students, academics etc. and they are the smaller numbers.

And there are two types of sites. there are those with blogrolls that curate and dynamically add content to your blog. The other type is a public information site, things I’m interested in, books I’ve read etc.

On my site I have prepublications of my work. The copyright applies to the formatted typeset version of your paper so I convert the manuscripts in pre-publication format and share as PDFs with the published versions’ citation. The casual reader can read all the papers. The serious reader can then find the published citable version. And I have the publications list in a more formal way to show my authenticity.

A couple of comments here… Christian comments as with anything in this area always generates huge amounts of interest, often inflamatory. It comes and go. My best day in terms of hits was in May – 10,000 hits in one day – because of a news story about, supposedly, a cache of lead codexes discovered in Syria and that they were possibly the earliest Christian books ever written, by an early Jerusalem community. I saw the story and sniffed a rat and posted as much, that I felt it was a hoax. And that’s where the hits came from. Most days I get 200-400 hits a day. I post once a week or every 10 days on average. Sometimes more frequent than that but usually it’s once a week or so. And I try to put out information on my own work, things I’m interested in, and I try to engage with issues in the field. I try to stay carefully in my field but occasionally I do stray… I did post after woman scholar friends complained about lecherous graduate supervisors… I didn’t name them but I did say I knew who they were and that it was a travesty to our profession and to women… and that generated a certain amount of interest…

A few other blogs I wanted to show. April Deconick writes the Forbidden Gospels blog http://forbiddengospels.blogspot.com/ – she does use a blog role and includes images of the books she talks about.


Q1) May I ask… was that a hoax?

A1) Yes!

Q2) One of the previous speakers said that posting thoughts online helped them develop thoughts and get feedback online… what do you get out of blogging as a senior researcher?

A2) Some of the time I have readers who are peers, occasionally I’ve had great pointers, references etc. from graduate students and other scholars. That’s definetly worth something. But for me I really do feel an obligation to see that information on my subject gets out there… I get satisfaction from that. And recruitment, one is constantly trying to hang out your shingle for possible PhD students for the school. It’s for the benefit of the school one hopes.

Q3) Can I ask if you’ve ever regretted going for comments? People who were advising you not to were presumably thinking about bad experiences they had had.

A3) I think so but also the time usage. The amount of comments varies enormously. Comments are not time consuming unless you feel you should respond to them. It depends on what the subject is. Some subjects are full of sane people – English, Cognitive Psychology, etc. – but everything to do with religion brings all the crazos out of the woodwork – and they are well known to the bloggers though it took me a few months to discover them. And one of the experts I consulted with said “look, it’s your living room… you decide if you allow guests to smoke or not. It’s your choice”. Some comments are so asinine… they come to you as an email and you choose to approve, or to reply, or to edit it. I have edited some slanderous things before now. It’s your site so you could have responsibility for those. Sometimes I just delete them. Sometimes I patiently email the commenter to explain why I haven’t posted it – that it’s not on the topic, or because it’s slanderous. Some say “thanks for that” others say “well in that case I’m not coming to your site” and you think “YES!”

Q4) Your goal for this site is about your putting yourself out there… do you systematically put yourself out there as connecting to key news stories or key topics etc. You could blog on the Guardian religious site for instance where you might sit next to others comments and writing on the same things…

A4) Maybe I should. But basically I open the window on my workshop and let people watch. I think to be more proactive about reaching out, connecting to major news sites would take time but it would be possible…

Blogging for Reviews of Biblical and Early Christian Studies – Kerry Lee, PhD student, School of Divinity

I will be talking about my work on the Biblical and Early Christian Studies blog (http://rbecs.wordpress.com/) written by students at Saint Andrews and also has contributors in Birmingham, Durham and I’m the blogger from Edinburgh.

We write reviews of books, articles, events etc. I’m fairly new to the site but so far my focus has been our Friday Biblical Studies seminar. So here is my most recent post – it’s one of the longer ones. Generally posts are 500 to 1000 words, relatively short. I tend to add some comment after my reports – questions, evaluative reports, arguements that need work. Nothing too heavy. I’m not sure we’re supposed to do rebuttals here. But that raises the issue of what we are doing here… I’m not sure we’ve worked it out ourselves yet. The contributors are still working that out. We are a little around the edges of the topic, sticking to reports etc. We haven’t decided about sharing our own work – the tacit answer is no/not yet. We are all blogging because we want to – we are friends now and there is an interpersonal aspect here. At least half of the contributors are from outside the UK, not sure if any are Scottish, it’s a fairly mixed group. Our stats show 40-60 hits per day – mainly it comes from other blogs and from our Facebook page. The rest from Google searches. Our blog is being noticed by the wider biblical and early Christian studies community.

So why am I doing this? Well it’s fun! It’s fun to reach out, to have people reading and responding to your work. It helps you develop two complimentary skill sets. We have self-imposed obligations to understand academic papers and summarise it for the blog. Sometimes that responsibility makes me have to tune in and find the value in a paper. Secondly related to that this also helps me to develop my succinct writing skills – make it at least as understandable as the original paper. And if I can make an unclear paper more digestible that’s great.

I do operate another blog, primarily political, where i have met poeple through the blog. I anticipate that happening here. And of course there is a perk of free books – review copies of books are hugely motivating for PhD studies. Can it contribute to a CV? I’m not sure blogging has solidified enough to effect your reputation. I’m not sure I can point to it yet in this way. And this is a blog of limited scope, it’s not about me, it’s me digesting other peoples’ things. Now it could turn into something with more “me” in it. We are discussing as a group whether we share our own papers etc. Of course we could create our own blogs for that purpose.


Q1) Were you forced to do this blog for the Approaches to Research course? I would be interested to know if this was different. That course is very similar to this and we give it to masters students as their first piece of assessed work – a summary and critique of an academic paper. And I’m interested in how that would be for assessment vs. doing that for your own choice.

A1) No, I didn’t do this for assessment. I do find it valuable. I hope if it was for a mark I wouldn’t have found it less valuable. One wonders if shifting that task to a blog output might change how students approach that task.

Q2) I’m really interested in this collaborative approach to bloggers. So are you sensing any tension in the collaborative process that someone will want to take control etc. Are institutions on board or is this individuals?

A2) I don’t detect any tension. There are discussions about what to include. But for this group it’s more about doing the basic thing we are doing. That collaborative effort keeps it really focused. A blog can easily explode into many directions. I know this from starting up other blogs… It doesn’t work. Because it’s a group we stay very focused. I don’t detect concern over control of the content. Today is probably the first anyone at the University of Edinburgh knows of my involvement in this. There are several St Andrews students who contribute though and I think staff there are aware and it’s fine.

Q3) You mentioned your Facebook page. Do you actively promote your blog anywhere?

A3) I think it’s pretty much online publicity via facebook and via other blogs. One of our contributors, Dan, has a really huge presence in this community and his name shows up everywhere and that usually also includes a link to this blog.

Discussion about blogging

Comment 1) I’m interested in the possibility of collaborative blogging but for more generic purposes. But I was interested in the last two speakers. Kelly talked about collaborative blogging and Larry talked about having a big popular blog. I was wondering how having someone high profile

Comment 2) Two models from the science community: 1 is a site that hosts a variety of bloggers, each blog connects to the others. If someone gets a really well known blogger that sparks interested. And there is also a collaborotive Science and Medicine blog that gives a chance for less well known

Comment 3) Multiplicity of blogs… how many read and how many write…

Comment 4) EDINA and guest blog posts

COmment 5) One thing that Kelly has done that is very clever is that they use the names of those that give the seminars – those are well known names that drive traffic. But I notice you have replies from some of those who have given talks – commenting, critiquing the summaries etc.

Kelly) I would welcome that and on book reviews we’ve certainly had some comments from authors

Larry H) Sometimes the topics, the words, the tags etc. of your blog post will be high profile – that’s another way to promote the site. Obviously if you use “sex” or “drugs” you get loads of hits… but obviously names, subjects, terms etc. will all make your blog high profile. The other thing is that I do think that, particularly for junior level scholars, I do think this can be another way to recruit postgraduate students. It’s only been in the last 10 to 15 years that people have realised that there is a web out there and that students are interested in this space and not just in the published space. I think serious worthwhile blogging is another way that Masters and PhD students can find out about a person or a programme and that is very worthwhile. If you do good intelligent helpful blogging, even as a junior academic, you will really draw attention, build reputation, and attract postgraduates.

Comment 8) I think Richard was saying that he did use his blog in that sort of way – that he hoped to attract PhD Students

Comment 9) Is there a collaborative blog internally to manage projects, for sharing experience etc.

Comment 10) I’m actually from student experience and admissions and we don’t use a blog but we do use a wiki for that purpose. That is not public in that way, it’s more for a virtual frontroom for meeting. You can either be a spectator or contribute. And that’s closed to the outside world but open to the university (though you can make wikis public). That wiki is almost like a blog. IS will provide wikis for any part of the university.

Comment 11) Please do feel free to share your ways to read blogs… I use Google Reader and things like FlipBoard for the iPad lets you have a more magazine-like interface.

And now it’s off to Lunch…

Session 3 (chair: John Lee)

Tweet Dreams are Made of This – Nicola Osborne, Social Media Officer, EDINA

And that was me presenting! View my slightly festive Prezi here: http://prezi.com/zawuuuga5tan/tweet-dreams-are-made-of-this/

A Year on Twitter: Self Promotion, Whingeing and Starting Fights – Richard J. Williams, Professor of Contemporary Visual Cultures, Edinburgh College of Art

Richard is going to talk about his experience of using Twitter. I’m not professionally involved in this year. It’s the one social media I see real potential in. So I’m going to say a bit about what I’ve been up to.

So a bit about who I am. Like many academics in the middle of their careers I do many hings. I am th edean of postgraduate studies here at the university. I’m also a researcher in architecture and art history. I’m a manager and supervisor of various kinds. I’m also an occasional journalist and critic though the bottom has somewhat dropped out of the architecture magazine market at the moment. Not all of us academics are like this but a fair few of us are. Twitter has helped me maintain a presence in all of these communities. Most of my work is with peer groups and networks with academics and Twitter is very good for that.

What is Twitter – well that;s been dealt with – and how I’m using it, and what has been happening. Nicola dealt with what Twitter is but I guess I’d add it’s a bit of a game to gain followers. It has real potential to displace other sorts of communication. I’ve caught myself being slightly irritated when people aren’t on Twitter. A lot of people use it instead of email. It’s also a sort of defacto news channel. About a decade ago at media conferences people would talk about narrowcasting rather than broadcasting. And it’s routinely faster than mainstream media for news. Anyone with any interest in the middle east will have found the news was routinely  4 to 5 hours ahead of the television news. To me I get increasingly annoyed with the narrowness of the BBC and the Guardian, etc. coverage.

One of the key reasons Twitter is so good is that it’s brief – we need more of that in Academia. It’s in public – I like doing things on Twitter. It’s simple. It’s fast. I’ve tried various social media and I think I was quite a late adopter. I couldn’t quite see what Twitter was for. I got Facebook for a while, maybe for 6 months and went off it as it can be too personal, you get into too small a conversations. And Twitter is quite impersonal in a way. You need a certain impersonality to carry on effective public debate. The intimacy of Facebook was getting on my nerves and I did want to stay up to date. And students, and people I respected were using Twitter. I like to try things out even if I don’t go for it. I actually recently got into digital in a big way. And I really wanted to get into public engagement for – increasingly I feel that if we’re not doing public engagement we are failing in some way. I want to reach out beyond a small academic audience. I wanted to publicise my research and also an MSc programme I was running called The City. And that was partly to do with my frustration with print media – mainstream architectural journals have a circulation of maybe 6000, some only a few hundred.

In 2009 we tried Twitter as we thought it could publicise the MSc programme. We were sharing our news, we were boring, we hadn’t found our voice.

In 2010 I decided to try again. I decided to go beyond my own interests, I just signed up for anything that I thought was interesting – following all the news channels, also things like NASA, lots of other things, lots of people I knew. I was very catholic in who I was signing up for. And I tried to develop a mode of conversation  that would work. And I started to enjoy the discipline of writing at this very short length. And I try to be funny a lot of the time. But also to be serious – always a serious point there. Occasional anger or irritation. I tried to filter that stuff out but just occasionally there’d be an angry or irritated tone. I thought quite carefully about what the identity would be.

I found it a great discipline. I am convinced my writing has improved. I almost wondered why write an 80,000 word book.

So what was my experience… it’s been a fantastic way to find out about stuff, for news. It’s more or less displaced my use of paper. I was quite a major newspaper reader before, I just want electronic newspapers now. It’s displaced a lot of printed material. And it’s been a great way to find things out fast. And in an academic context it’s been a great way of testing opinion. A lot of us like to have our ideas tested. I like to be challenged and it’s been a really good way to do that. So I’ve put out ideas about potential grant applications and they’ve been instantly been shot down and that’s very useful. It’s also been really useful for thinking through my ideas on some topics. So there was a book earlier this year, Katherine Hakim – Honey Money, a sort of post feminist take on the workplace which caught a bit of a stink. And discussing that has been fantastic.

I’ve had discussions with Simon Kirby, Tiffany Jenkins who writes about museums, etc. I have conversations with them every day and I don’t think I’d have done that in other mediums.

There’s quite a range of things I’m looking at in my stream now. In the future I want to develop better more focused network on Twitter. Test out ideas for grants and research. Do more with images – I’ve been testing that more now. Perhaps the most exciting thing that happened in the last year. I got an early approach from a TV company called Utopia about a large scale international TV series on Culture/Art – an updated take on Micheal Clark’s Civilisation. We had 3 or 4 serious meetings. That came purely from Twitter. They said they deliberately looked for academics using social media and how to communicate using social media.


Q1) You said right at the start you got annoyed with people not being on Twitter. I don’t think that Twitter is perfect for real time conversation. I dont see it as a means of conversation

A1) It’s a particular form of conversation, it’s far better than email.

Q1) You’re bringing others into the conversation and I see that but if I’m offline for a while how do I know what you’ve been saying

A1) Well if I’m away it’s easy to look back at what the person you’ve been talking to has been saying. And if it’s important then people will say it again! It replicates a conversation in the real world – like a pub chat – in a lot of ways.

Q2) If there’s a consensus it’s pretty easy to have a conversation but for disagreement it’s not so straight forward

A2) There are a number of ways you can stage that – you can sent private messages. That’s a useful stage between shouting across the room and doing something more serious. It’s very brittle with anything that involves real conflict.

Q2) Someone did some analysis of video, voice and text. And synchronously and asynchronously. That conversations move from box to box.

A2) I wouldn’t do accurate things with this but for sharing, for networking,

Q3) Do you separate personal and professional accounts?

A3) At first I intended Twitter to be fiercely professional but it’s been almost impossible to do that. But there is something helpful about that. It doesn’t seem like work. Maintaining a webpage seems like so much work, this almost seems like play. But that also means it’s never off.

Q4) People are trying to compare Twitter to email and other forms of writing to people. Saying “but you can’t have this deep conversation” and that’s missing the point. I was teaching a course in informatics and suddnely I was taloking to Jimmy Wales one to one. And I’m working on Digital Scotland and then I got to meet the head of BT in the pub this lunchtime. I could not meet those people any other way. Seeing Nicola’s presentation I saw that map and I hadn’t seen that before – I have followers all over the world! It’s not a replacement for email. It’s something different.

Q5) You said you got a lot of your information on what was happening in North Africa. A lot of spoofing and inaccuracy has been reported. How do you know it’s reliable.
A5) It’s fair. You take all news with a pinch of salt. But that’s true of any media, including the established media. A lot of my news was coming from a Libyan friend who was a fairly reliable source. Many of the print media are staffed by almost no-one. The Evening News is pretty much written by 2 people.

Q5) Surely you limit your horizon to who you choose to follow, the limited filter of your interest. Google already filters results for you, there’s a danger of only listening to what you want to hear.

A5) My experience is that I look at more stuff, a wider range of stuff, but it has the possibility to do that.

Q6) One assumes that Lady Gaga does not read what all her followers write. Of your followers how do you pick who you will follow back.

A6) I tend to follow those people I know already in some way. Theres no strategy.

A rollercoaster ride through the world of social media in science and medicine – Maria Wolters, Research Fellow , School of Informatics

Maria will be doing a whirlwind tour of science and medicine blogging. The four topics I will focus on are transparancy, engagement, privacy, ?

I am going to start with blogging and that’s about a long format dialogue in the community. There is a huge culture of public engagement type science blogging on the Research Blogging (http://www.researchblogging.com/) site. If you include a link in your post it will be indexed and surfaced there. That is one way communicating science, aggregating.

I want to show you two examples of specific bloggers:

Brian Switek (http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/lealaps/)

Did not train in palentology but through his blog he has become part of the paleontology community. He started blogging and improving his writing based on feedback. He started writing a book and sharing that process on his blog and then, bang, he had the preorders. And now he writes for Wired and is a really prominent blogger.

So now we will look at Context and Variation – Kate Clancy. This is a blog that cross the boundaries of sciences and humanities. She looks at reproduction in a cultural context. She takes studies poorly explained or distored by the mainstream media and she explains and expands and reinterprets those studies. She also looks at what it means to be a woman in academia. Women have childen and being a parent in academia is much more of an issue so she also loooks at that.

Now staying with the theme of Kate’s blog we have Petra Boynton who is also very prominent on Twitter and on television. Her blog http://drpetra.co.uk/blog addresses the distortion of sex education and research on her blog. And her personal experience of being a prominent woman educator in this space.

The view from the states is Dr Jen Gunter http://drjengunter.wordpress.com/ who is on WordPress. She disconstructs an app that Cosmo has about the sex position of the day and she deconstructs the ridiculousness of this.

These are all science communication, communicating the outputs of science.

Now if you remember the arsenic-is-life work but scientist Rose Redfield cried foul – see http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/tag/rosie-redfield – so she pointed out all the holes in the paper. The authors were appalled that this criticism had been done on blogs, rather than in letters to the journals. And now they are live blogging an attempt to rerun the experiment to check if it really does work.

For women the classic is science professor – http://science-professor.blogspot.com – this blogger posts anonymously about being a woman in academia. So he blogs about strange occurances and latent sexism in academia. If you want a UK version of that sort of perspective you can see Francine Donald’s writing on being a woman in science in the UK.

Scientopia – http://scientopia.org/blogs/scicurious/2011/07/24/on-the-issue-of-pseudonymity – defends her use of a consistent pseudonym across the web. She wants to be judges on the quality of what is written, not who is behind it. She is a woman and wants to evade the sexism against women in sciences. And she conducts animal research so her use of a psuedonym is a safety measure for her and her family. And it also is liberating for her.


Q1) I have a question about abuse online from a feminist perspective. I don’t blog but I comment sometimes under non gendered handles, and sometimes under gendered handles. I know that on newspaper comments sites – even on the Guardian – you will get far more abuse with a female handle than a male one.

A1) My personal practice is to stay sane. I try not to comment on newspapers anyway. I try to comment in spaces where the community is engaging in a more constructive ways – specific blogs etc. I’ve not personally had any issues. But I’m not that high profile. But I’m also up front, I don’t tolerate abuse. And I take swift action when needed. And I always moderate comments.

Social media: Steering a safe and responsible path – Dawn Ellis, Director, University Website Development Programme

This is a little overview of social media guidelines that are coming up, it’ll be very brief.

The background to the document is that an IS communications meeting about a year ago I mentioned that quite a lot of people were coming to me and my team asking about how to get started with social media. I knew that Nicola was doing lots of activity in EDINA and other active groups. And we had a document in a 2008 Web 2.0 guidelines. and also to look at the EDINA Social Media Guidelines. And to come up with something. And about it being a guideline NOT a policy. To be supportive. We put together a group from schools, support groups and EDINA. And we have been producing that document.

That document has two areas. Firstly on personal presences. Then on hosting a professional official presence. And some general good practice. There is some legal considerations materials – some indications on how to find out more on data protection, university policies etc.

On building an official presence, the key area for help here, we focused on approval, making sure that your supervisor knows that that is going on. Is there contact information. Are you prepared to actively manage your profile and keep that up to date – how will that be monitored in that absence. Monitoring mechanisms for your social media spaces – we’ve heard today about the importance of moderating comments. And your brand and identity.

We encourage you to think about tone and authenticity. To manage comments – and that being a core part of having a social media presence. And you need to think about your exit strategy – you know what you will do at the end of your project. Just to make you think about what you do.

And you will also find handy checklists, links to other university policies, and a flowchart to help you deal with comments which may come in.

And that is it!

It will be placed as a live document in several places – the Comms & Marketing website, the IS Apps website, the Website team website. This document has gone to the website governance steering group and they have suggested an all staff email to all staff with the first page and a link to the rest in the new year – so look out for that. Comments and contributions are welcomed as it should evolve.


Q1) Are guidelines re: the University crest in the guidelines

A1) There is a reference out to the suitable part of the Comms and Marketing website.

Discussion about Twitter and tweets on the Twitter wall

Comment) I was helping my wife set up her Twitter account yesterday and she was asking me how to use it and I said that I mainly follow on Twitter. And as I said earlier I use FlipBoard to look through linked images, etc. rather than tweet.

John Lee) Yes, I think that’s quite a common approach. We have question about people who tweet as part of the community.

Discussion around accessing old tweets…

Comment) who in the university is researching Twitter? Do we know? It might be good to

Peter) Nicola is doing so much on this is because EDINA wants to find out what’s going on. How others use that tool and how we as an organisation engage with that. We don’t… in the R&D arguement we don’t do big R’s we do little r’s and a big D. But we’d love to work with you to work out how one can properly engage without showing up at the disco every time, where you are positioning yourself. If you are reaching out with services etc. you have to be reaching out. And to get that knowledge would be great.So we’d be interested in EDINA to finding out what you want from our platform for your research.

And finally we ended with discussion of the best way to encourage students to follow a course account on Twitter, suggestions were to post engaging content that is slightly off topic, to share essential information that makes the account indispensible, and above all to tweet regularly.

And with that we are done with a really excellent day!