Monday 16 November 2015

The EMA Nightmare at #M25LTG

Last Wednesday the M25 Learning Technology Group met at UCL for an afternoon of presentations and interactive sessions on the theme of 'Dreams and Nightmares'. While some presentations were really quite dreamy, Sarah Sherman and I decided we could present some of our ongoing work on assessment and feedback in Bloomsbury, specifically considering issues with electronic management of assessment. The slides below give a flavour of our presentation.

Storified tweets of the event below, courtesy of Vicki Dale.

Thursday 12 November 2015

ELESIG London: Come Evaluate With Me! 11 November 2015, UCL

The second meeting of ELESIG London took place at UCL yesterday. Mira Vogel and I facilitated an interactive morning considering the nature of evaluation, why do it, and how it can be done. Our aim was for participants to move forward with their own evaluation plans, as well as hear about some interesting work, so plenty of time for discussion and networking was built into the schedule. The room was (as hoped) a hive of activity as participants discussed their own evaluation plans and gave each other suggestions. We also welcomed some special guest stars, with a couple of great presentations from Tunde Varga-Atkins from the University of Liverpool (unfortunately only via Skype, rather than in person, but it worked well), who discussed the use of nominal focus group technique, and Professor Amanda Jefferies from the University of Hertfordshire, explaining how to get the best results from learner video diaries. It was also great to have London-escapee Vicki Dale down from Glasgow for the meeting.

All in all I think it was an informative and enjoyable meeting, and has taken us a step further towards a local (but extended), networked, community of practice in learner experience research. Many thanks again to Tunde and Amanda for presenting and everyone who attended for participating.

Links for presentation slides:

A Storify of the tweets from the event should display below.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Farewell to the things I never wrote - ambition is good, but realistic goals are better (some thoughts for #acwrimo)

It's already been a week since I realised that November is #AcWriMo (academic writing month) and read some excellent pieces of reflection, advice and encouragement such as the writing is never done – a post for #acwrimo from Pat Thomson and Why I changed my mind about #acwrimo from Inger Mewburn, and lots of other great stuff on Twitter via the hashtag

And so, I thought (as I often do), I should write something about this. And then I didn't, because to be honest, I was writing too many other things. In fact what I have been discovering lately is that having finished one quite major writing (and editing) project (an independently published, open access book I've edited with Javiera Atenas), I now want to encourage people to discover and read it, and that means writing more about it. And that made me reflect on another idea for a piece of reflective writing I never wrote, which was about how I have really, really intended to get a lot better about posting on this blog more frequently (are you noticing a theme developing here?).

The problem is not a lack of things to write about. I have ideas, sometimes even paragraphs. But that's where I get stuck; when I have got somewhere that is already too long for a tweet, but not long enough to be an adequate blog post, or so I feel anyway. Maybe I should be more relaxed about these short posts and think of them as more akin to a workshop, rather than a lecture, where the purpose is to generate or engage in conversation, rather than deliver an argument. And I should also give myself permission to say farewell to the things I never wrote, and enjoy completing things a bit more. 

What I really want to do though, and this #acwrimo phenomenon has definitely made me think about this, is set realistic, achievable goals, rather than just have an ever increasing list of stuff I need to get done 'now'. Yes I realise I was supposed to start the month by doing that. But it's harder than it sounds. I am going to get on to that straight away. Well, after the next thing I need to get written and sent off urgently.

Saturday 7 November 2015

Turnitin User Group meeting, London, October 2015

I recenty attended the 2015 Turnitin User Group meeting, with the same idea as many in the audience, it seems, of finding out how things are moving along in relation to some long-promised developments, and some further information regarding the mysterious forthcoming iteration of the platform, codenamed Turnitin Next.  

The ‘backchannel’ of the conference on Twitter tended to reveal the frustration of the user community with the slow progress Turnitin are making on many of the more UK specific requests, such as non-numeric grading scales and multiple marking layers that would support combinations such as double blind marking. 

The UK HE community is putting a lot of effort and faith into the Jisc EMA project, and we are really hoping Turnitin as our key supplier in this space is watching closely and engaging. Worryingly this wasn't mentioned during the many presentations from Turnitin staff. We were advised that they have been extensively reorganised in both staffing and in their move from ‘waterfall’ to ‘agile scrum’ development, which should help them to clear their ‘technical debt’ (it was a bit like being at a party conference). As they remain the only company with a product that covers submission, originality and marking, they continue to be the default option for the sector. But I must say that the sense that markets such as the UK are not seen as high priority was not dispelled at this event.

There is a good capture of main points discussed at the meeting in this blog post from Dewi Parry Cardiff Uni TEL team.

Tweets from the event Storified below.

Thursday 22 October 2015

Today's Reading: Online Teaching Manifesto / Digital Capability / Open Access Journals / Transforming Assessment and Feedback

For those of you out there who have blogs AND actually regularly write on them, I salute you. Today I thought I would try a new strategy. Rather than think, interesting, I ought to write something about that too, and never getting around to it as usual, I am just going to point you to some things I think are worth reading.

First up on my way to work this morning I read a thought provoking post from Jenny Mackness, reflecting on Uni of Edinburgh's update to their Manifesto for Teaching Online:

Next up Sheila McNeill (whose rants I always value) on digital capability:
Sheila's mention of the notion that "technology alone will somehow wave some magical digital fairy dust" particularly struck a chord with me.

As it's Open Access Week there is a lot of discussion taking place around what we want from open access, and how maybe transforming the business model of commercial academic publishers to APC-based rather than subscription-based (but actually how about we pay both for now), is rather an impoverished (and impoverishing) goal. See for example, Opening Up Open Access: Moving beyond business models and towards cooperative, scholar-organized, open networks. Javiera Atenas has also posted regarding this, arguing that we should be selective about where we publish, and identify and praise honest and reliable journals in our respective disciplines:
And Robert Farrow has followed this up with a post asking what other journals we could add to the list:
Replies welcomed by @jatenas and @philosopher1978.

I am cheating by including this, because I haven't read that much of it yet, but some useful work-in-progress on Transforming Assessment and Feedback has emerged from the Jisc EMA Project that is definitely worth a look for anyone who is interested in assessment practices:
They are looking for feedback on the guide which you can provide via this form.

Anyway, I'd better get back to today's other reading, emails...

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Step up to Postgraduate Study in Arts, v 3.0

The third and latest iteration of the summer blended module Step up to Postgraduate Study in Arts is drawing to a close (today is the second deadline or as we like to say, 'assessment opportunity', for students to submit the assessments, so there will still be marking to do). This year we signed up over 70 students, so the module continues to grow year on year, though of course as it is a free and non-credit bearing module, some people sign up but don't really get engaged with it. And on one level that's fine, because nothing about this is compulsory, but on another, it's a shame, because the feedback we are getting from the students who do work their way through the module, whether they complete everything, or just have a go at certain topics, is that they are gaining insights into academic skills and gaining confidence to begin their new chapter as postgrad students. 

It would have been great to have had a module like this available when I was starting my MA (back in the mid 90s!). But then, reflecting on that makes me think how much higher education has changed in the intervening decades - for example, as part of Step Up we encourage students to evaluate and develop their information and digital literacies, and to interrogate the concept of plagiarism by deliberately plagiarizing, as well as writing an unplagiarized version, and submitting both versions to Turnitin. And of course, the module is studied almost completely online (though supported by two engaging face-to-face events). For these reasons the module has been recognized by Jisc as an exemplar in preparing and supporting students to study successfully with digital technologies (see: 

Sunday 28 June 2015

Open Data as OER update

A few months ago (and yet, somehow, only a couple of posts ago, 'here'!), I posted the link to a piece I co-wrote for the Open Education Working Group blog with Javiera Atenas and Ernesto Priego considering the potential of open data to be used as open educational resources. We shared a survey and we got some responses.

Javiera and I spoke at the 7th Open Education Working Group call on the topic and introduced our proposal to gather case studies of pedagogic practice in this area.

See also:
Minutes and recording from the call
Reflections on the call from Lorna Campbell

Thursday 16 April 2015

Crowdsourcing Quality in Open Education

How can we assure quality in the context of Open Education? This question lies at the heart of the challenge of gaining mainstream acceptance of open content. It perhaps brings to mind the idea of some kind of gatekeeping process that would vet content before it is released for 'consumption' - sort of the way academic peer review is supposed to work. But there are questions over the efficacy and sustainability of the traditional peer review model, even for research publications. 

Traditional peer review is labour intensive, relying on a donation of free labour/time from reviewers (and academic time seems to become an ever scarcer resource). Crucially, it also operates in a 'closed' space, where authors and reviewers are anonymised, and editors pass messages back and forth, eventually resulting in a finished product which may later be cited, and possibly (but not necessarily!) freely distributed, but most likely never revised or updated. 

It appears inadvisable to transplant this model into an open space, where open licenses encourage reuse and modification (rather than simply consumption). Never mind the question of who exactly would be sourcing and providing the labour to peer review these open learning resources. Instead Javiera Atenas and I, in a new post for Open Education Europa, suggest that we must leverage openness itself, taking advantage of open educational practices to improve the quality of open content.

Our post about this is here: 

Crowdsourcing Quality (Or, Why Openness Matters)

Friday 10 April 2015

Open Data as OER: Blog Post and Survey

Recently in conjunction with Open Education Week, the Open Education blog over at Open Knowledge featured a guest post by Javiera Atenas, Ernesto Priego and me, in which we propose that Open Data is under-explored as an educational resource. See:

The piece ends with a link to a very short survey, through which we are trying to capture examples of OD as OER use. Many thanks to everyone who already completed the survey - please do/share if you haven't!