What Sheila's seen this week

This week started with the 2nd Open Data Glasgow meet-up on Monday night. There were a fascinating range of presentations which Lorna Campbell has helpfully summarised in this blog post. 

Duncan Bain’s presentation on open approaches to architecture provoke a lot of discussion around the cultural barriers in adopting openness. In particular there were comparisons made between software development and the common sharing of code and the lack of similar sharing in architecture. Given the impact buildings have on all our lives, having more collaborative, open approaches does seem to make perfect sense – but when did that make a difference anywhere ūüôā

Hearing an architect talking about design patterns and co-design approaches was also quite a change for me, as my introduction to these concepts has been through research around learning design where these concepts of design language and approaches have been “appropriated” or should I say re-used? ¬†and are being used fairly successfully. The overall concepts certainly cross over well.

On Monday I also came across the QAA report on Students Expectations and Perceptions of HE report, and I’ve been having some great twitter conversations with Peter Reed and Mark Stubbs about what Mark calls technology “hygiene factors”, which are all too often not given the recognition they need. ¬†Peter has been sharing the findings of surveys he’s conducted with staff and students around their use of TEL and he helpfully produced this post contexualising the hygiene issues too.

I found Peter’s findings around students expectations of lecture capture particularly revealing

“the most striking thing for me is that so many HEIs appear to buying into incredibly expensive, sophisticated lecture capture systems. Internal work at Liverpool costed out what it would take to rig out all our lecture rooms – the cost was around ¬£4 million. In actual fact, the majority of students would just prefer simple audio sync’ed with the slides, which can be achieved for about ¬£30k (I think)”

Lecture capture is something that is on our agenda here at GCU, like most we’ve had/are having mixed responses. The University of Leicester held a “great debate” on the issue this week too. Grainne Connole’s post¬†¬†summarises the outcome. It’s also worth checking out Alan Cann’s What’s wrong with lecture capture post, summarising his experiences and contribution to the debate.

Twitter timeline from 2nd #opendataGLA meet up #okfn

Last night saw the 2nd Glasgow Open Data meet up. Another great night with presentations ranging from openness in education, to open badges to open cities to open architecture to open maps. Not sure if I will have time to blog or do a proper storify but here are some of the tweets. Thanks to everyone who came along, the presenters and Jennifer and Graham for live-streaming the event.

Some thoughts on the "Students expectations and perceptions of higher education" report

Via a tweet from David Walker I’ve just come across a QAA research report¬†produced ¬†by Kings College around students expectations and perceptions of higher education.

The aims of the project were to provide:

  • A better understanding of student perceptions of quality and standards, leading to the¬†possibility of more effective relationships within and across institutions
  • Sector, academic and student groups that are better equipped to understand student¬†engagement and thus facilitate enhancement
  • Examine the impact of recent policy developments on students‚Äô perceptions of quality
  • A more developed understanding of how perceptions vary across student groups. iinstitutional types and regional settings

Although it’s primary focus was on students in English institutions, and the impact of increasing fees, ¬†a number of the key recommendations have wider applicability to the rest of the UK and beyond.

A couple of the recommendations stood out for me including:

1. Students’ Framing of Ideology: Consumerist ethos: Student perceptions of value.

“there should be greater information and transparency over of information on how money is spent on teaching and learning activities, what qualifications do academics have in their subjects and for teaching, how are academics hired and trained and how teaching is structured and allocated.”

I’ve been trying to write something polite about this, but in light of experiences at my former host institution finding it very hard! Needless to say, there needs to be more ¬†real buy-in and recognition of the importance of educational development within universities along side research activities. . . I’m very happy now to be in an institution that is providing increased opportunities and backing up rhetoric with adequate numbers of dedicated staff for CPD in educational development.

Related to this:

5. Staff: Attributes, practices and attitudes.  

“Students praised enthusiastic, experienced and engaged staff, but wanted mechanisms in place to develop staff and to manage ‚Äėbad‚Äô teachers. Students wanted staff to be qualified and trained ¬†. . .”

In relation to perceptions of technology the points below jumped out at me:

2. Students’ Framing of Practice: Student expectations of the learning environment: Clear benchmarks. 

“Students‚Äô expected their learning environment to meet clear benchmarks across four areas: instrumental (computers and physical spaces); organisational (timetabling and course structure); interpersonal (staff support and engagement); and academic (lecturers‚Äô knowledge and attitude towards students).”

This reminds me of many of the findings from the Jisc¬†DVLE and Curriculum Design programmes and in particular what Mark Stubbs refers to as the “hygiene” factors that really need to be in place in learning environments to support students. We really need to concentrate on having these basics in place we can move on to other “shinier” things.

In this section the executive summary also states:

“Students value face‚Äźto‚Äźface interactions for learning and support. Students viewed technology as a means to access resources and support studying, and¬†no students mentioned pedagogical uses of digital technologies.” ¬†(NB words in bold are my own emphasis)¬†

“Recommendation:¬†Institutions should be cautious of using technology as a replacement for face‚Äźto‚Äźface interactions, or as a substitute for developing an active and collaborative learning environment and community.

I would agree that technology shouldn’t be seen as a replacement, but if we allow our staff more time for CPD then many more may be able to see the affordances that technology can bring to their teaching and in particular collaboration, ¬†and allow more students to understand that the use of technology in learning is not just about retrieval of content and uploading of assessments.

Once again another argument for emphasis on creating blended learning opportunities?

What Sheila's seen this week

Last week was quite busy, with lots of things that caught my eye and interest both internally here at GCU and out in the land of learning technology.

A post from David Hopkins at Leicester introduced me to a project he is involved in with colleagues from Loughborough college exploring definitions ov learning technologists, by learning technologists. There have been a number of very thoughtful responses which are collated here.

I was pleased to see that a pretty comprehensive draft report of a study on students’ expectations and experiences of the digital environment by Helen Beetham and Dave White is available from the Jisc Design Studio. I need to go back and read this in more detail, but I know this will be invaluable to us as we move into our next phase of planning technology provision and support for teaching and learning. Some of the findings from the study include:

*Students are largely ignorant of the range of services, software and support available to
them at university
*Students are so used to seamless access they do not understand when they are crossing
boundaries e.g. between institutionally-paid-for to free-on-the-open-web services
*Students rarely use technology for advanced knowledge-related activities or problem
solving unless they have been required to do so by their course or tutor
*Students want more guidance on academically credible sources and academically
legitimate uses of online content
*Students are familiar with aps, not applications. Academic software and specialist systems require structured introduction in the context of meaningful tasks.
*Students place a high value on experience with work-place technologies and research-like digital practices
*Students learn important and valuable digital practices from other students 

It wouldn’t really be a week without a couple of MOOC “things”, and this week was not exception. The ALT MOOC SIG had it’s first meeting/conference on Wednesday. ¬†Mainly exploring experiences of Future Learn, it was great to be able to join remotely via the live stream. Fiona Harvey’s storify¬† gives a good overview of the day. ¬†

Later in the week  I also joined  one of the JISC/ALT Digital Literacy webinars, which featured Sian Bayne and Jeremy Knox, University of Edinburgh, who gave a refreshingly different  and intellectually challenging presentation on MOOCs and digital literacies. Luckily the fabulous live blogger Nicola Osbourne was there too and I will be going back to her notes to ponder more on the sociomaterial aspects of MOOC participation. 

Closer to home I was delighted to meet some of this years Caledonian Scholars here at GCU and to hear about the innovative teaching and learning  projects they are working on. The Caledonian Scholars scheme is providing a way to encourage and recognise staff in developing innovative ideas and approaches in teaching and learning.

Rounding off the week, my colleague Sabine McKinnon organised a seminar on Friday morning with John Rubin from the COIL Centre¬† at SUNY University. ¬†Once again it was refreshing to talk about online collaborative learning without using the “M” word, and once again to hear about examples of international projects based here at GCU. ¬†I hope over the coming year we will be able to develop some more collaborations with the COIL centre and add to their impressive list of case studies.¬†

The lurking tipping point – socially and academically acceptable?


Lurking, just saying the word leaves a bit of nasty taste doesn’t it? Even though it is being defined in slightly less threatening terms by the Oxford dictionary. ¬†But as the march of the MOOCs continues and we are beginning to gain more insights into learner behaviour, drop out rates etc, lurking seems to be becoming more acceptable.
However I still don’t like the word. Perhaps because it still has connotations of internet trolls, and to be frank “not very nice people”. ¬†I recently tweeted that I don’t lurk on MOOCs, I absorb. Which might be a bit of an airy fairy statement, but I’m much happier being classified as a sponge than a lurker ūüėČ
However, as I’ve been listening to the #altmoocsig live stream today, and particularly Helena Gillespie talking about the UEA experience, I do now wonder if we have come to a tipping point in terms of valid educational lurking? ¬† There is research coming through (particularly the work done by Colin Milligan , Allison Littlejohn and Anoush Margaryan) which clearly shows that people are self identifiying as lurkers in a MOOC context.
Participating in a MOOC is still not common and requires a new set of skills and coping strategies (as I have found out), at times it can be so overwhelming that as a learner you either have nothing to say because you are taking in too much, or you actually don’t know where or how to contribute. ¬†I think this post sums up a lot of people’s first experience of a MOOC (particularly a cMOOC)

Where‚Äôs the door? How do I get in? [struggle with site, find dashboard, maybe this will help . . . nope. Lost again] ¬†Who else is here? Do I know anybody? [read through introductions, post mine, ¬†try to find it again because there were some pretty good questions in there, can’t find it. Keep reading to get some sort of sense of who’s here too many posts, can’t make sense, can’t connect. ¬†I’m lost again.] (How do I get to know anybody?) What can I do here? [cool idea, massively crowd-sourced writing, whoops, the deadline is past. I’m still lost, can’t find my way in.] ¬†What are people thinking and saying, maybe I can just lurk. [Wander around from blog post to blog post, twitter post, not sure why some of this stuff is here, it seems there are intimate conversations going on, I really feel like an outsider here.]

What I looked forward to, I have come to dread. Tonight I found myself sitting in front of my computer, my head in my hands, feeling like an utter failure. ¬†Saying for the 10th time, that‚Äôs ok, you are learning how to do something new, and that means you don‚Äôt know how to do it. Keep trying. Just another half hour. Realizing ten minutes later that I‚Äôm standing in front of the refrigerator, thinking about making some cinnamon toast ‚Äď my version of comfort food.

I still wish I could find a better replacement word, but I am glad to see that the positive aspects of lurking are being increasingly recognised.

What is a Learning Technologist?

The question of what is a learning technologist has been on my mind quite a lot recently, for a number of different reasons. Firstly, my new role here at GGU involves me working very closely with our school based learning technologists, so I am in the process of getting to know them and their varied work and backgrounds better. ¬† There certainly isn’t a one size fits all LT at Glasgow Cally, and (imho) that is a good and very necessary thing. Like most institutions, each of our three schools has different needs and expectations to fulfil and develop their learning and teaching provision, and the LTs in each school work with “their” academics to develop the use of technology and blended learning approaches.

Yesterday I spotted some tweets from David Hopkins¬†(one of my favourite learning technologists)¬†¬†linking to a piece of work he is undertaking in conjunction with¬†Geraldine Murphy and Rachel Challen¬†from Loughborough College, which is exploring¬†the identity of a Learning Technologist through the ‚Äúanalysis of language‚ÄĚ. ¬†The full project brief is available here.¬†¬†The main data collection is via twitter using the¬†#LTFE and #LTHE hashtags between now and December. Already there are a range of different responses coming through. ¬†David has written a number of posts around this question too which are well worth reading.

The other reason this question has been on my mind recently is because, as you may know dear reader, in September I won the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year award. ¬†I was of course thrilled to win the award, and as I said at the time I felt it was recognition for the work and sharing with the community that everyone in Cetis was/is involved in. ¬†I think it importantly highlighted another really important aspect of the role of a learning technologist – that of sharing. ¬†Increasingly I was (and continue to) share via my online presence (via blogging and twitter in particular). ¬†In my institutional role I’ll now be doing more face to face sharing and working, but I’ll still continue to share with my extended virtual network, and use to it to continue to increasing my knowledge via the “good stuff” others share.

I have always liked the term Learning Technologist, in fact it was probably my favourite job title. In some ways I think that was down to the diversity of the role, and the backgrounds of people in the role (particularly 10 years ago or so when I actually was one!). ¬†So a part of me hopes that there will always be a quite a bit of space for ambiguity about the exact role and skill set of learning technologist as it is always evolving and shouldn’t become too rigid.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the end results of the project, and how ¬†Learning Technologists themselves describe their varied roles.

Where Sheila should have been this week #CD3RIDE13

I should have been at the RIDE conference today, but instead I have to do my civic duty and go to the High Court later today for potential jury selection. ¬†Not that I want to shirk my civic responsibility, but I am disappointed I can’t make the conference and be part of a couple of ¬†really interesting sessions around, yes you guessed it MOOCs.

However here is the presentation I would have given (NB link to prezi  from image below opens in a new window).