Social Outreach -what can we learn from brand marketing/blogger relationships?

On the final day of Social Media Week, I’ve been at a couple of marketing and branding sessions hosted by Equator Agency a “digitally led marketing agency” based in Glasgow. Equator have totally embraced Social Media Week Glasgow. As well running several sessions, and sponsoring the event, they are the guys behind the geek glasses and badges which I shared earlier.

It’s always nice to get out of one’s comfort zone, and be at events with different faces and perspectives on things. And this was certainly true of the “social outreach – what’s in it for me?” session. Essentially this session was an overview of how brands and bloggers can work effectively together. The presentation was very much from a brand marketing point of view. However as the session progressed, it did start to raise some questions in my mind about my own approach to not only to blogging but wider questions of innovation support and the role of JISC and JISC innovation support centres such as CETIS in developing, supporting and encouraging our blogging networks so that ideas, good practice etc are shared more widely within the HE sector. Particularly as a large part of the presentation focused on the role of blogging networks and effective brand engagement with them.

Like many of my peers I have my own personal network of blogs which I follow. It’s built up over time, is very informal, but I suspect it is very similar to other personal networks of colleagues. In turn I suspect that I am also part of a larger, informal network of edubloggers – in fact I’m probably part of several. I comment and interact with them and vice versa. In general it’s a happy, informal, serendipitous space which is great but could it be more? There are some “star” bloggers in there who have a large following, and probably don’t need any support. But there are also some other blogs, particularly project blogs which maybe could benefit from being part of a more formalised network which could give guidance and support and encourage more participation and engagement. During the session BritMums was highlighted as an example of a really effective blogging network. It has over 4,000 active bloggers, provides support and guidance to newbies, runs events to share ideas etc.

I think that with some JISC funded programmes we have probably missed a trick with in terms of really supporting project blogs. Again with some programmes/projects there has been a lot of interaction, and with some not so much. Although blogging is being seen more and more as de-facto project practice, some projects are much better at it than others. In some ways having the blog set up is sometimes seen as a project outcome in itself, and not the updating and populating content regularly bit. In terms of project support, although I do try to comment and share project blog posts, I don’t diligently read every blog post from every project (but don’t tell anyone I said that).

Again being out of “JISC world” for a large part of this week, I’ve been struck again but the lack of knowledge of all the innovation in HE that is happening in the wider world. And I know even within HE itself, a lot of the work JISC funds isn’t known about. So, as JISC moves into its next phase, and with its new focus on customer enagement would the development and support of a trusted network (written by the community for the community) of bloggers not be ideal way to a) share innovation and new practice b) build on exisiting network connections c) help share knowledge of sustainability and embedding of outcomes/outputs of funded projects d) get feedback from the ground up on what the sector would like JISC to do?

One thing the session presenter Fiona Dow, mentioned was that Equator have an ever growing database of “trusted” bloggers who they are continually communicating with, and so have a number of people to approach for various campaigns. Is a similar edublogger database something that say an innovation support centre such as CETIS should develop and maintain? Time to develop relationships with “trusted networks and bloggers” was also highlighted. So, again, should we take more time to more formally develop and share our informal blogging networks? Currently the JISC comms team sends a daily email with related press cuttings to JISC staff – should we be producing a similar email highlighting interesting blog articles from within our community?

Does this sound like something you would like to be part of ? Or should we just continue with our own informal, self forming groups? I’d be really interested to hear any views on this or any other ideas this might have triggered.

What's it all about, sentiment analysis, branded content and bookgroups #smwgla day 2

I’ve had a varied day at Social Media Week Glasgow today covering a broad spectrum of engagement and uses of social media. Starting this morning with the Social Media -What’s it all about session at Glasgow Caledonian University. David Edgar (Social Media Officer ) gave an introduction to social media which, for an old hand like me, was actually quite nice to hear. He also gave an brief overview into how Glasgow Caledonian are using and developing their use of social media. Twitter is increasingly important to them and he described it as being part helpline, part recruitment channel, part branding and part news feed.

Moving things up a notch the next session I went to was an Introduction to sentiment analysis. In someways I was probably being a bit optimistic about this session as I maybe thought I would find out some more answers on “how to do it” than I did. However, it did seem that most people in the session were, and I hesitate to use the word struggling, maybe feeling their way is more accurate, about what to do with their data and how to really understand and use techniques such as sentiment analysis. The examples the speakers gave (particularly around analysis of hotel reviews) highlighted the practical issues around this type of analysis. A number of software packages were highlighted including R and also a number of paid for services including GATE and Brandwatch. The latter are obviously on the ball in terms of montioring social networks – I got a tweet from them about 2 seconds after tweeting their url.

Branding was the name of the game in the Branded Content: Social Network Innovation session. Led by the Inner Ear agency this was a fascinating insight into how advertising and marketing strategies are evolving from traditional text based roots to becoming more engaged with social media in variety of ways to strengthen brand image and of course in many cases increase sales. It was pointed out that were are probably living in the midst of a transition phase in terms of the development of really effective use of social networks and customer engagement for all types of brands and communities. There’s a lot of trial and error just now – but maybe not too much of the latter particularly for larger brands, as there is still a fear of loss of control and things going “horribly wrong”. All the panel members were advocating for more courage from brands to try more “risky’ strategies. I was particularly amused by Boris Johnston being used as an example of how disasters don’t actually always ruin “the brand” and actually can strengthen it. I don’t think anyone was advocating getting stuck on zip wires as a core part of a marketing strategy! Links to lots of really interesting examples of new content strategies should now be available in the session information page all of which are worth checking out.

I couldn’t help thinking are we too conservative and risk averse in education too? I think there are many similarities. Some people are doing really great innovative things, some are more risk averse. The need for changing attitudes and expectations at all levels from the personal to the “big brand” was a consistent message throughout the day.

The evening social media book club session, was a much more social in all senses (including nibbles and wine). Using google hangouts we were joined by Heikki Hietala from Finland who read an extract from one of his short stories (more details and a pdf available here). We also had a live reading from Scottish author Alan Bissett who read an extract from his novel Packmen.

I’m sure lots of book groups already use things like facebook to share meeting times, ideas for books etc but extending participation through google+ for both book group members and authors is something that I certainly find exciting. Particularly as I never really manged to commit to a book club due to travel commitments at work

There was the usual #technologyfail with slightly dodgy wifi today at the main HQ – but never mind – we still managed to get online and how can you complain when you get these kind of badges 🙂

social media geek badges
social media geek badges

Museums, apps and and the power of three (#smwgla)

Things come in three’s don’t they? And the power of three struck me this morning at the Guide Me Tours at Kelvingrove Museum session at Social Media Week Glasgow this morning.

Claire McLeod from Guide Me Tours gave an overview of the app they have developed for the museum. For those of you not familiar with Glasgow, Kelvingrove is one of the city’s main museums and is consistently in the top five visitor attractions in Scotland.

However like all (municipal) museums developing new income streams and improving the visitor experience is an ongoing challenge. And so to the power of three bit. The business model of Guide Me tours exploits the power of three. They develop the app (at no charge to the museum, but obviously working with museum staff) and then when the finished app is available, the income is split three ways – a third to the Apple/Android store, a third to the museum and a third to them. Seems like quite a good deal to me.

The new app (available on the Apple store just now and the Android version will be available in the next few weeks) gives a two hour audio tour of the museum. A free version gives a taster of the full experience and some of the highlights of the collection.

Screenshot of GuideMe Kelvingrove Museum App
Screenshot of GuideMe Kelvingrove Museum App

The team are now working on extending the user experience to produce other versions which are more inclusive with features for hearing and visually impaired visitors, and different language versions.

Currently there is no wifi in the museum, which gave rise to quite an interesting discussion about wifi provision in council buildings. I do find it disappointing that although we have wifi provision in our libraries, the City Council are still reluctant to widen provision to museums. This is just my personal view and I don’t know all the ins and outs of the decision process, costs etc. But I think wifi provision would increase visitor numbers and return visitors; as well as making downloading the app a lot faster (until we all have 4G on our phones!). It seems an interim measure of a wifi hot spot for access to the apple/android stores might be the first stage. There’s also a cafe across the road from the museum which has wifi – so you could just go there get a coffee and download the app there 🙂

Social Media Week, 24-28 September, 2012

This week is social media week, “a worldwide event exploring the social, cultural and economic impact of social media. Our mission is to help people and organizations connect through collaboration, learning and the sharing of ideas and information.”

Once again, Glasgow is one of the participating cities and I am one of the volunteers who will be at various locations and events around the city this week. There are a huge variety of events covering all aspects of social media for all sectors of the community.

I’m attending a couple of education specific events, including “What’s it all about? Using Social Media” at Glasgow Caledonian on Tuesday morning, and “Education on-line – mini-mooc” on Wednesday morning, where I’ll be part of a panel presenting a variety of view points on online education. My brief is to share some of the work JISC and CETIS have been involved in around curriculum design and course information.

As you’d expect, there are lots of ways to participate in all the events via hashtags, live streaming, youtube, flickr, facebook, apps etc. More information is on the main SMW website.

For the Glasgow event, here’s a twitter archive (courtesy of Martin Hawksey). There’s already a bit of activity on around the #smwgla tag. As the week progresses I’ll be sharing and checking out the top conversations using Martin’s tags explorer.

TAGS view of #smwgla twitter interaction
TAGS view of #smwgla twitter interaction

Again, using one of Martin’s templates, I’ve pulled together a timeline of videos/images which are using the #smwgla hashtag.

#smwgla timeline
#smwgla timeline

I’ll be sharing more of my experiences and thoughts throughout the week via this blog and twitter.

Lighting the UK SoLAR Flare

I’m delighted to announce that CETIS and the OU are co-sponsoring the first UK SoLAR Flare meeting on Monday 19th November in Milton Keynes.

This is the first UK gathering dedicated to the field of Learning Analytics. Under the auspices of SoLAR (Society for Learning Analytics Research).

Part of SoLAR’s mission is to improve the quality of dialogue within and across the many stakeholders impacted by Learning Analytics. Flare events are “a series of regional practitioner-focused events to facilitate the exchange of information, case studies, ideas, and early stage research.”

We are therefore inviting technology specialists, researchers, educators, ICT purchasing decision-makers, senior leaders, business intelligence analysts, policy makers, funders, students, and companies to join us in Milton Keynes for this inaugural event.

We’ve designed the day to maximise social learning with plenty of opportunity to meet with peers and explore collaboration possibilities, the chance to hear — and share — lightning updates on what’s happening and the opportunity to shape future Flares.

So if you’re involved in any aspect of analytics and want to share your work, or would just like to find out more, join us in Milton Keynes. The event is free to attend, but places are limited, so book quickly.

Big data, learning analytics, a crack team from the OU . . . and me

Yesterday I was part of a panel in the Big Data and Learning Analtyics Symposium at ALT-C.   Simon Buckingham Schum, Rebecca Fergusson, Noami Jeffrey, Kevin Mayles and Richard Nurse the “crack team” from the OU gave a really useful overview of the range of work they are all undertaking in the OU. Simon’s blog has details of the session and our introductory slides.

We were pleasantly surprised by the number of delegates who came to the session given we were scheduled at the same time as yesterday’s invitied speakers Professor Mark Stubbs and Sarah Porter. The level of discussion and interest indicated the growing realisation of the potential and the challenges for analytics across the education sector.

As ever it is hard to report effectively on a discussion session however a few issues which seemed to resonate with everyone in the room were:

*the danger of recommendation systems reducing and not extending choice 
*data driven v data deterimistic decision making
*the difference between measuring success and success in learning – they are not the same
*the danger of “seduction by stats” by senior management
*the need for the development of new skills sets and roles within institutions based on data science but with the ability to communicate with all staff to help question the data. 
*the increased need for development of statistical literacy for all staff and students 
*the potential for learning analytics in terms of expanding the flipped classroom model allowing teachers and students more time for sense making and actually thinking about the teaching and learning process.

Many of these issues will be covered in a series of papers we will be releasing next month as part of our Reconnoitre work.  And the discussions will be continued at a SoLAR meeting in November which we are co-hosting with the OU (more details on that in the next few days).



Confessions of a selfish conference tweeter

As many of you will know it’s the ALT- C 2012 conference this week, the UK’s biggest learning technology conference. I’m going later in the week but today am taking advance of the live streaming of the key notes and invited speakers (thank you ALT for once again providing this service); and of course following the twitter back channel.

During this mornings keynote the #altc2012 hashtag started trending on twitter.

Combined with this there seemed to be a growing number of complaints/ warnings about spam messages using the hashtag too.

The growth of twitter as an integral part of conferences is now, depending on your point of view, both a blessing and a curse. As well as some tweets from people who couldn’t be there positively encouraged tweeting, I also noticed a few tweets this morning bemoaning the level of tweets and harking back to the “good ol’ days” when it was a bit like the altc2012 google+ stream, with just a few “cool kids” hanging out.

So what’s my confession? Well there are a couple. Firstly, I never apologise for tweeting at a conference. If I go to a conference now I tweet. If you follow me you probably know this. I am in a very fortunate position that I am able to get to conferences/events that many in our sector can’t, so I think it is part of my role in publicly funded service to share my experiences/ relevant information and links etc. If that bothers you then I suspect you don’t/won’t follow me on twitter, and that is absolutely fine by me.

Secondly, I don’t use tweet deck or anything like that, and very rarely follow a conference hashtag stream. It may mean I miss out on a few tweets (or actually quite a lot), but you know what? (cue stage whisper) It doesn’t really matter. And there is the advantage of avoiding spam but sticking to my own (relatively) spam free stream.

Thirdly, I am slightly obsessed with the network views that people like Tony Hirst and Martin Hawskey create using the twitter data from conferences, and will no doubt be sharing during this week.

So, dear reader, there are my confessions, am I forgiven?

Confronting Big Data and Learning Analytics @ #altc2012

Next Thursday morning I’m participating in the Big Data and Learning Analytics symposium at ALT-C 2012 with colleagues from the OU, Simon BuckinghamShum, Rebecca Ferguson, Naomi Jeffery, Kevin Mayles and Richard Nurse.

The session will start will a brief overview from me of the analytics reconnoitre that CETIS is currently undertaking for JISC, followed by short overviews from different parts of the OU on a number of analytics projects and initiatives being undertaken there. We hope the session will:

“air some of the critical arguments around the limits of decontextualised data and automated analytics, which often appear reductionist in nature, failing to illuminate higher order learning. There are complex ethical issues around data fusion, and it is not clear to what extent learners are empowered, in contrast to being merely the objects of tracking technology. Educators may also find themselves at the receiving end of a new battery of institutional ‘performance indicators’ that do not reflect what they consider to be authentic learning and teaching.”

We’re really keen to have open discussion with delegates and engage with their views and experiences in relation to big data and learning analytics. So, come and join us bright and early (well, 9am) on Thursday. If you can’t make the session, but have some views/experiences then please feel free to leave comments here and I’ll do my best to raise them at the session and in my write up of the it.

More information about the session is available here.

eAssessment Scotland – focus on feedback

Professor David Boud got this year’s eAssessment Scotland Conference off to a great start with his “new conceptions of feedback and how they might be put into practice” keynote presentation by asking the fundamental question ‘”what is feedback?”

David’s talk centred on what he referred to as the “three generations of feedback”, and was a persuasive call to arms to educators to move from the “single loop ” or “control system” industrial model of feedback to a more open adaptive system where learners play a central and active role.

In this model, the role of feedback changes from being passive to one which helps to develop students allowing them to develop their own judgement, standards and criteria. Capabilities which are key to success outside formal education too. The next stage from this is to create feedback loops which are pedagogically driven and considered from the start of any course design process. Feedback becomes part of the whole learning experience and not just something vaguely related to assessment.

In terms of technology, David did give a familiar warning that we shouldn’t enable digital systems to allow us to do more “bad feedback more efficiently”. There is a growing body of research around developing the types of feedback loops David was referring to. Indeed the current JISC Assessment and Feedback Programme is looking at exactly the issues brought up in the keynote, and is based on the outcomes of previously funded projects such as REAP and PEER. And the presentation from the interACT project I went to immediately after the keynote, gave an excellent overview of how JISC funding is allowing the Centre for Medical Education in Dundee to re-engineering its assessment and feedback systems to “improve self, peer and tutor dialogic feedback”.

During the presentation the team illustrated the changes to their assessment /curriculum design using an assessment time line model developed as part of another JISC funded project, ESCAPE, by Mark Russell and colleagues at the University of Hertfordshire.

Lisa Gray, programme manager for the Assessment and Feedback programme, then gave an overview of the programme including a summary of the baseline synthesis report which gives a really useful summary of the issues the projects (and the rest of the sector ) are facing in terms of changing attitudes, policy and practice in relation to assessment and feedback. These include:
*formal strategy/policy documents lagging behind current development
*educational principles are rarely enshrined in strategy/policylearners are not often actively enaged in developing practice
*assessment and feedback practice doesn’t reflect the reality of working life
*admin staff are often left out of the dialogue
*traditional forms of assessment still dominate
*timeliness of feedback are still an issue.

More information on the programme and JISCs work in the assessment domain is available here.

During the lunch break I was press-ganged/invited to take part in the live edutalk radio show being broadcast during the conference. I was fortunate to be part of a conversation with Colin Maxwell (@camaxwell), lecturer at Carnegie College, where we discussed MOOCs (see Colin’s conference presentation) and feedback. As the discussion progressed we talked about the different levels of feedback in MOOCs. Given the “massive” element of MOOCs how and where does effective feedback and engagement take place? What are the afordances of formal and informal feedback? As I found during my recent experience with the #moocmooc course, social networks (and in particular twitter) can be equally heartening and disheartening.

I’ve also been thinking more about the subsequent twitter analysis Martin has done of the #moocmooc twitter archive. On the one hand, I think these network maps of twitter conversations are fascinating and allow the surfacing of conversations, potential feedback opportunities etc. But, on the other, they only surface the loudest participants – who are probably the most engaged, self directed etc. What about the quiet participants, the lost souls, the ones most likely to drop out? In a massive course, does anyone really care?

Recent reports of plagiarism, and failed attempts at peer assessment in some MOOCs have added to the debate about the effectiveness of MOOCs. But going back to David Boud’s keynote, isn’t this because some courses are taking his feedback mark 1, industrial model, and trying to pass it off as feedback mark 2 without actually explaining and engaging with students from the start of the course, and really thinking through the actual implications of thousands of globally distributed students marking each others work?

All in all it was a very though provoking day, with two other excellent keynotes from Russell Stannard sharing his experiences of using screen capture to provide feedback, and Cristina Costa on her experiences of network feedback and feeding forward. You can catch up on all the presentations and join in the online conference which is running for the rest of this week at the conference website.