Where Sheila's been this week – codesigning next gen learning environments with Jisc

You may or may not be aware of Jisc’s current co-design consultation exercise with the HE/FE sector.  The co-design approach is a way to try and ensure that Jisc developments are supportive and representative of the needs of the sector.   Building on feedback from the first iteration of the process, this time around there has been a concerted effort to get wider sectoral involvement in the process through various methods, including social media, blog posts, tweet chats and voting.

Yesterday, along with about 30 others, I attended a face to face meeting to explore, review and discuss the results of the process and feedback on the six “big” challenges identified by Jisc.

  1. What does the imminent arrival of the intelligent campus mean for universities and colleges?
  2. What should the next generation of digital learning environments do?
  3. What should a next-generation research environment look like?
  4. Which skills do people need to prepare for research practice now and in the future?
  5. What would truly digital apprenticeships look like?
  6. How can we use data to improve teaching and learning?

You can see the results of the voting here too.

The voting process does need some refinement as Andy McGregor was clear to point out, and we really used it and the comments as a guide for the discussions.  Personally I found the voting process a bit cumbersome – having to fill out a google doc for each one. I can see why Jisc wanted to get all that information but I would have preferred something a bit more instant with the option of giving more detailed information. That might have encouraged me to cast more than one vote  . . .

I joined the next generation learning environments discussion. I had been quite taken with the pop up VLE notion but as the discussion evolved it became clearer to me that actually the idea articulated so well by Simon Thomson (Leeds Beckett Uni) of connecting institutional and user owned tech was actually a much stronger proposition and in a way the pop up VLE would fall out of that.

The concept is really building on the way that IFTT (if this then than) works, however with a focus on connecting institutional systems to personal ones.  Please, please read Simon’s post as it explains the rationale so clearly.   I use IFTT and love the simplicity of being able to connect my various online spaces and tools, and extending that into institutional systems seems almost a no brainer.

We talked about space a lot in our discussion, personal space, institutional space etc (Dave White has a good post on spaces which relates to this).  For both staff and students it can be quite complex to manage, interact in and understand these spaces.

We (teachers, support staff,  IT, the institution) are often a bit of obsessed with controlling spaces.  We do need to ensure safety and duty of care issues are dealt with but activity around learning doesn’t always need to take place in our spaces e.g. the VLE.  Equally we (staff) shouldn’t feel that they have to be in all the spaces where students maybe talking about learning. If students want to discuss their group activity on snapchat, what’s app, Facebook then let them. They can manage their interaction in those spaces. What we need to be clear on is the learning activity, the key interactions and expectations of outputs and in which spaces the learning activities/outputs need to be.  The more connected approach advocated by Simon could allow greater ease of connection between spaces for both staff and students.

Providing this type of  architecture (basically building and sharing more open APIs)  is not trying to replace a VLE, portfolio system etc, but actually allowing for greater choice around engagement in,  and sharing of,  learning activity. If I like writing in evernote (as I do) why can’t I just post something directly into a discussion forum in our VLE? Similarly if our students (as ours do) have access to one note and are using it, why can’t they choose to share their work directly into the VLE?  Why can’t I have my module reading lists easily saved into a google doc?

This isn’t trying to replace integrations such as LTI, or building blocks that bring systems/products  into systems. This is much more about personalisation and user choice  around notifications, connections and sharing into systems that you (need to) use.  It’s lightweight, not recreating any wheels but just allowing more choice.

So at  a university level you could have a set of basic connections (recipes) illustrating how students and staff and indeed the wider community could interact with institutionally provided systems, and then staff/students decided which ones (if any) they want to use, or create their own.  Ultimately it’s all about user choice. If you don’t want to connect that way then you don’t have to. It’s lightweight, not recreating any wheels but just allowing more choice

As well as helping to focus on actual learning activity, I would hope that this approach would helping institutions  to think about their core institutional provision, and “stuff that’s out there and we all are using” – aka byod.  It would also hopefully allow for greater ease of experimentation without having to get a system admin support to try something out in the VLE.

I would hope this would also help extend support and understanding of the need for non monolithic systems and get edtech vendors to build more flexible interaction/integration points.

Anyway hopefully there will be more soon from Jisc, and Simon actually has some funding to trying an build a small prototype based on this idea.  Jisc will also be sharing the next steps from all the ideas over the coming weeks.  Hopefully this idea is simple and agile enough to get into the Jisc R&D pipeline.

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-09-41-08
Jisc R&D Pipeline

What Sheila's seen this week: Developing a VIS strategy and plan

My weekly updates have become a bit thin on the ground recently, not because I haven’t been seeing lots of interesting things but mainly because I’ve been seeing and doing lots of “stuff ” at work and I haven’t really had the time to blog anything coherent.  My life just seems to be full of “stuff” that needs done.  Most of it is related in someway, but at times there is so much stuff around it’s hard to know where to start. However today is my VIS strategy planning day. But what is VIS? I hear you cry, dear reader.  Well, it’s my new favourite acronym – Very Important Stuff.

This morning my colleague Jim and I have been working with SD (stuff done)  methodology to develop our VIS plan.  Most of our most pressing “stuff” relates to our upgrade of VLE (GCULearn)  which will happen in late July.  Early this week we spent a really informative day with colleagues from Blackboard going through the changes in the April 2014 release. I had seen the main highlights at the #bbtlc2014 conference last month, but it was great to get some more time to go through them in more detail.  Some of the new things will be great (particularly the student preview) but we are also now planning to do a few other things like using LTI and integrating some more third party services which we haven’t done before.  We’re looking to trial MyKnowledgeMap with some of our student nurses when they are on placement and possibly WebPA too.

Anyway, as I have now have quite a long to do list, I best get back to that. I’ll be blogging more about some of the actions from our VIS plan as and when they happen.

 

VIS Diary Appointment
VIS Diary Appointment

Thinking about the almost now, some visual notes from #BbTLC2014

I’ve been fascinated by visual recordings of meetings for a while now. Once again I’ve been inspired by David Hopkins who I met for the first time last week at #BbTLC2014.  David has recently started to develop his sketch noting skills ( you can see his live notes from the conference over on his blog).

Over the past few years, my own note taking skills have really become  twitter-fied (not sure if that is a word). If I am at a conference I tend to tweet and that provides the basis for my note (and memory) of most events. In fact I think that the 140 limit in twitter has helped my synthesis skills. However, there is something about a picture . . . So  following  a chat with David on his experiences to date, I’ve decided to give it a go. I’ve ordered the sketchnote handbook and whilst  wait for that to arrive, I’ve been having a play with the notability app on my ipad.

I realise that my first attempts are a long way of what David and other such as Guilia Forsythe can do and I  have had a few days to think about things (doing things in the almost now!) But I just thought I’d share them.

So here are my very basic, slightly more visual notes from Professor Stephen Heppell’s and Jay Bhatt’s  (CEO, Blackboard) keynotes (click on the pics to see larger versions).   I think I might try and see if I can do a bit more visual note-taking and a bit less tweeting at conferences, and more practice of my drawing doodling skills.

Stephen and David’s approval has been  lovely and encouraging too.

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 🙂

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.

What can I do with my educational data? (#lak13)

Following on from yesterday’s post, another “thought bomb” that has been running around my brain is something far closer to the core of Audrey’s “who owns your educational data?” presentation. Audrey was advocating the need for student owned personal data lockers (see screen shot below). This idea also chimes with the work of the Tin Can API project, and closer to home in the UK the MiData project. The latter is more concerned with more generic data around utility, mobile phone usage than educational data, but the data locker concept is key there too.

Screen shot of Personal Education Data Locker (Audrey Watters)
Screen shot of Personal Education Data Locker (Audrey Watters)

As you will know dear reader, I have turned into something of a MOOC-aholic of late. I am becoming increasingly interested in how I can make sense of my data, network connections in and across the courses I’m participating in and, of course, how I can access and use the data I’m creating in and across these “open” courses.

I’m currently not very active member of the current LAK13 learning analytics MOOC, but the first activity for the course is, I hope, going to help me frame some of the issues I’ve been thinking about in relation to my educational data and in turn my personal learning analytics.

Using the framework for the first assignment/task for LAK13, this is what I am going to try and do.

1. What do you want to do/understand better/solve?

I want to compare what data about my learning activity I can access across 3 different MOOC courses and the online spaces I have interacted in on each and see if I can identify any potentially meaningful patterns, networks which would help me reflective and understand better, my learning experiences. I also want to explore see how/if learning analytics approaches could help me in terms of contributing to my personal learning environment (PLE) in relation to MOOCs, and if it is possible to illustrate the different “success” measures from each course provider in a coherent way.

2. Defining the context: what is it that you want to solve or do? Who are the people that are involved? What are social implications? Cultural?

I want to see how/if I can aggregate my data from several MOOCs in a coherent open space and see what learning analytics approaches can be of help to a learner in terms of contextualising their educational experiences across a range of platforms.

This is mainly an experiment using myself and my data. I’m hoping that it might start to raise issues from the learner’s perspective which could have implications for course design, access to data, and thoughts around student created and owned eportfolios/and or data lockers.

3. Brainstorm ideas/challenges around your problem/opportunity. How could you solve it? What are the most important variables?

I’ve already done some initial brain storming around using SNA techniques to visualise networks and connections in the Cloudworks site which the OLDS MOOC uses. Tony Hirst has (as ever) pointed the way to some further exploration. And I’ll be following up on Martin Hawksey’s recent post about discussion group data collection .

I’m not entirely sure about the most important variables just now, but one challenge I see is actually finding myself/my data in a potentially huge data set and finding useful ways to contextualise me using those data sets.

4. Explore potential data sources. Will you have problems accessing the data? What is the shape of the data (reasonably clean? or a mess of log files that span different systems and will require time and effort to clean/integrate?) Will the data be sufficient in scope to address the problem/opportunity that you are investigating?

The main issue I see just now is going to be collecting data but I believe there some data that I can access about each MOOC. The MOOCs I have in mind are primarily #edc (coursera) and #oldsmooc (OU). One seems to be far more open in terms of potential data access points than the other.

There will be some cleaning of data required but I’m hoping I can “stand on the shoulders of giants” and re-use some google spreadsheet goodness from Martin.

I’m fairly confident that there will be enough data for me to at least understand the problems around the challenges for letting learners try and make sense of their data more.

5. Consider the aspects of the problem/opportunity that are beyond the scope of analytics. How will your analytics model respond to these analytics blind spots?

This project is far wider than just analytics as it will hopefully help me to make some more sense of the potential for analytics to help me as a learner make sense and share my learning experiences in one place that I chose. Already I see Coursera for example trying to model my interactions on their courses into a space they have designed – and I don’t really like that.

I’m thinking much more about personal aggregation points/ sources than the creation of actual data locker. However it maybe that some existing eportfolio systems could provide the basis for that.

As ever I’d welcome any feedback/suggestions.

More steps towards wysiwyg widget authoring

One of the problems with being part of an innovation centre like CETIS is that we suffer a bit from the Dory complex. For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, it is based on the character Dory in the movie Finding Nemo who is rather easily distracted by new things. Sometimes we find that “stuff” drops off our radar as we have moved on to the next shiny thing. So it is always great when we get a chance to be involved in development for a sustained period of time. An example of this for me is the WIDGaT widget authoring tool and its development team at the University of Teesside.

The WIDE project was part of the Jisc DVLE programme which I supported, and developed a number of fully accessible widgets. The team then got further funding and were able to develop their methodology and practice into an authoring tool for widgets.

Earlier this week I joined the team and about 25 others for a “WIDGaT in Practice” workshop. We had a chance to see some examples of widget from both the HE and FE sectors and were able to get hands on and create our own widgets. Having taken part in their design bash day about 18months ago to help the team scope the design for the authoring tool, it was great to see and have a play with a useable tool which pretty much covered all the design elements the “expert” group came up with.

There are a number of pre-built templates to chose from or you can start with a blank canvas. One of the common designs for widgets from practitioners has time/task management widgets to help students be more independent in their studies/life. We were shown a number of examples including a really nice simple visual reminder of key steps for each day for a student with autism and another with key stages for final year projects. The editor also includes a number of components such as embedding youtube videos and images, and social network components such as Facebook likes and comments. Examples of using these features included a widget which embedded a number of videos with a Facebook comment link so that students could share comments on content directly into their course Facebook group. There is also a simple quiz component which is proving also proving popular.

WIDGaT authoring stage
WIDGaT authoring stage

The interface is pretty straightforward but I did find manipulation things a bit tricky and the team are working at improving layout options. However as a quick and easy way to develop and share resources online it does have a lot going for it. It also has a lot of design support functionality built in to help users think about what they are creating and who they are creating it for.

WIDGaT Personna description function
WIDGaT Personna description function

At #cetis13 next month the team are also running a workshop at the end of day 1 where they will be actively looking for new components to add to the tool as well as any other ideas for enhancements. As the tool is open source, it is a great example for the Open Innovation and Open Development session on day 2 .

Prototyping my Cloudworks profile page

Week 5 in #oldsmooc has been all about prototyping. Now I’ve not quite got to the stage of having a design to prototype so I’ve gone back to some of my earlier thoughts around the potential for Cloudworks to be more useful to learners and show alternative views of community, content and activities. I really think that Cloudworks has potential as a kind of portfolio/personal working space particularly for MOOCs.

As I’ve already said, Cloudworks doesn’t have a hierarchical structure, it’s been designed to be more social and flexible so its navigation is somewhat tricky, particularly if you are using it over a longer time frame than say a one or two day workshop. It relies on you as a user to tag and favourite clouds and cloudscapes, but even then when you’re involved in something like a mooc that doesn’t really help you navigate your way around the site. However cloudworks does have an open API and as I’ve demonstrated you can relatively easily produce a mind map view of your clouds which makes it a bit easier to see your “stuff”. And Tony Hirst has shown how using the API you can start to use visualisation techniques to show network veiws of various kinds.

In a previous post I created a very rough sketch of how some of Tony’s ideas could be incorporated in to a user’s profile page.

Potential Cloudworks Profile page
Potential Cloudworks Profile page

As part of the prototyping activity I decide to think a bit more about this and use Balsamiq (one of the tools recommended to us this week) to rough out some ideas in a bit more detail.

The main ideas I had were around redesigning the profile page so it was a bit more useful. Notifications would be really useful so you could clearly see if anything had been added to any of your clouds or clouds you follow – a bit like Facebook. Also one thing that does annoy me is the order of the list of my clouds and cloudscapes – it’s alphabetical. But what I really want at the top of the list is either my most recently created or most active cloud.

In the screenshot below you can see I have an extra click and scroll to get to my most recent cloud via the clouds list. What I tend to do is a bit of circumnavigation via my oldsmooc cloudscape and hope I have add my clouds it it.

Screen shot of my cloud and cloudscape lists
Screen shot of my cloud and cloudscape lists

I think the profile page could be redesigned to make use of the space a bit more (perhaps lose the cloud stream, because I’m not sure if that is really useful or not as it stands), and have some more useful/useble views of my activity. The three main areas I thought we could start grouping are clouds, cloudscapes (and they are already included) and add a community dimension so you can start to see who you are connecting with.

My first attempt:

screen shot of my first Cloudworks mock up
screen shot of my first Cloudworks mock up

Now but on reflection – tabs not a great idea and to be honest they were in the tutorial so I that’s probably why I used them 🙂

But then I had another go and came up something slightly different. Here is a video where I explain my thinking a bit more.

cloudworks profile page prototype take 2 from Sheila MacNeill on Vimeo.

Some initial comments from fellow #oldsmooc-ers included:

and you can see more comments in my cloud for the week as well as take 1 of the video.

This all needs a bit more thought – particularly around what is actually feasible in terms of performance and creating “live” visualisations, and indeed about what would actually be most useful. And I’ve already been in conversation with Juliette Culver the original developer of Cloudworks about some of the more straight forward potential changes like the re-ordering of cloud lists. I do think that with a bit more development along these lines Cloudworks could become a very important part of a personal learning environment/portfolio.

Utopia, dystopia, technology, education and MOOCs

Stage two of my “adventures in MOOC-land” started this week as the e-Learning and Digital Cultures course started this week. I have signed up for Coursera courses before but for various reasons, I haven’t got very far. However I have a lot more motivation for sticking with this course. For the past couple of years I have toyed with applying for the Masters in Digital Education at Edinburgh so this seems like a good way to get a taster for that course, and also a change to “compare and contrast” what is now being referred to by the Mooc-gnoscenti as a “x-MOOC” (the US big ones!), and the #oldsmooc which is more in the “c-MOOC”(connected/community) or even the p-mooc (project) camp.

Despite the massive number of participants, I’ve actually found #edcmooc a relative oasis of calm and tranquility. Mind you I haven’t explored far in the google and facebook groups/forums. Certainly the design of the course is much more traditional and individually focussed than #oldsmooc. The main content (so far videos and suggested texts which I’ve started to curate here is in the Coursera VLE. There are the usual additional online spaces of a wiki, twitter, Facebook and google groups. #edcmooc is also running alongside the Msc module and the staff are very upfront about their involvement in the MOOC:

“We will be commenting on course organisational issues, and other matters which get voted up in the forums. We won’t be present everywhere, rather we perceive the various discussion spaces as opportunities for you to explore ideas and share interests with each other.”

So unlike #oldsmooc, with that upfront statement some of my strategies for successful MOOC-ing might not work 🙂

The final assessment is the creation of a digital artefact which will be peer assessed. Contributing to online discussions is encouraged but not mandatory. There has been a huge amount of blogging activity already and in terms of openness it is great to see that the collated #edcmooc tagged blogs are openly available.

The first block of the course centres on utopian and dystopian perspectives of digital culture and digital education and how these views impact our own practices as learners, students and teachers. Week one has looked to the past in terms of highlighting both sides of the fence. Currently MOOCs themselves are one of the best examples I can think of in relation to utopian and dystopian visions for education and technology.

I’ve collated some of the responses to this tweet in this storify.

Every week in the mainstream, technology and education press there is at least one post claiming that the education system is broken and more often than not MOOCs are being heralded as the “thing” to save the system. Particularly as Coursera, Udacity etc have been able to raise vast sums of capital, and enroll hundreds and thousands of students, which can only be a good thing, right? Looking to the past isn’t this massive engagement (on a global scale) what we need to do to address the education imbalance?

“The major problem in education today is that hundreds of millions of the world’s citizens do not receive it” (Daniel, 2002)

But are MOOCs really a stable and sustainable way of addressing this? There are are various flavours of “openness” in MOOCs. Increasingly as the business side of thing kicks in and investors want to see ROI charges are being brought in for the bit that really counts – assessment. Will as many people who signed up for the courses this year be able and willing to pay in subsequent years? If they don’t what then? I have yet to see any MOOC business model that isn’t predicated on paying for assessment – so where’s the change to the system there? When can/ will MOOCs break even?

In the UK we are still waiting to see exactly what FutureLearn (the OU UK driven MOOC platform) will offer. I’ve seen mentions of it “exciting” “learner focused” etc, but what will that look like? Do we really need another “platform” ? What will distinguish it from other VLEs? I can’t really see why any university needs to sign up to a mooc platform – they already have what they need in their VLE, and other technologies that are out there. Perhaps it more a case of having to be seen to be “playing the game” or being “in with the in-crowd”. Past experience should tell us that isn’t always the best place to be. Tony Hirst wrote a really insightful post on the possible development opportunities for FutureLearn early this week, and I noticed another one last night which brings in some more thinking and links to other possible models. I suspect tho’ the real reason is the dystopian vendor/commercial lock down one. Recognise this?

. . .the lines have already been drawn in the struggle which will ultimately determine its shape. On the one side university administrators and their myriad commercial partners, on the other those who constitute the core relation of education: students and teachers. . . It is no accident, then, that the high–tech transformation of higher education is being initiated and implemented from the top down. (Noble, 1998)

It’s actually about the early days of WebCT but could quit equally be used in the MOOC context. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

I can’t help feeling that the utopian ideals of MOOCs (open, massive, connected, community based) are getting squished by the venture capitalists, the existing ‘systems’ who are just going to repackage what we’ve already got in a slightly different way but if they keep telling us the system is broken we’ll have no option but to buy into their (dystopian) solution, which still equates “quality” with payment.

There’s already been some backlash to the peer assessment being used in some MOOCs. Is there an implicit encouragement of gaming the system ben encouraged in #edcmooc when were told we don’t have to contribute to discussion etc by online activity might help when it comes to the final assessment? The more you engage the more like it is that someone will review your assessment? So are the models being used really scale up to and incorporate some of the more visionary thinking around peer assessment? Some of the new “platforms” are turning to analytics for “excitement” and “insight”, but based on what, the data that is easiest to display – which is usually assessment data. I have a sneaky suspicion that will be monetized sooner rather than later. The more you want to know about your interactions, the more you’ll have to pay for those little nuggets of insight into your own behaviour.

And are the big MOOCs (like #edcmooc) really reaching out to a substantially different student cohort? I’ve already commented about digital literacy (proficiency in English) and overall confidence a learner needs gain meaningful inter-actions in a massive context. Every time I log into Coursera I’m reminded of my foolishness of thinking that I could cope with their natural language processing course. Of course, there was no cost – so not a lot of loss for me in that case. Most of the MOOCs I know about are aimed at pretty well educated people – not the really dis-engaged or disadvantaged and the ones who don’t just need a “nice video” but some real face to face support. Open content initiatives such as OpenLearn can (and are) helping to do that. But MOOCs not so much – yes there are some examples of “flipped classrooms” but most in HE are again with the students who are getting the grades, not the ones struggling to get into college. Wouldn’t it be nice if more of venture capitalist and Universities spent even a third of what they do on “systems” on staff development and enhancing face to face teaching? As John Daniels points out effective education combines people and technology.

Right now as a learner what I really want is a space (not a system) where I can create, connect and share my learning and activities. That’s why I have been really excited by the potential of representation of networked views of Cloudworks. The visualisations created by Tony give me hope that there is hope and that change can be driven from the educator/leaner point of view and not the vendor. My dreams of utopia are still alive.

References:
Daniel, J. (2002). Technology is the Answer: What was the Question? Speech from Higher Education in the Middle East and North Africa, Paris, Institut du Monde Arabe, 27-29 May 2002.

Noble. D. (1998). Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education. First Monday 3/1.

#oldsmooc_w3 Cloudworks challenge

It’s half way through week three of #oldsmooc, and once again I have been distracted from the actual course by the possiblities (and opportunities) that a bit of tweaking to Cloudworks could offer. One of the comments Tony Hirst made last week about the practicalities of including some of the network visualisation experiments he had been working on was that of caching and time for real-time diagrams to appear on a user page. Good point, well made, as they say – I don’t think this is insurmountable but it’s not going to be the focus of this week’s post, I’ll come back to it again. But I do think that this is exactly the type of user centred feature that any “new and exciting” (cos of course none of them are “as dull and boring” as the platforms we already have) mooc platform” should be trying to incorporate.

This week’s data challenge was much simplier really and you can see the twitter chain of events in this storify.

[View the story “#oldsmooc_w3 Cloudworks challenge” on Storify]

Once again Tony came up trumps and created a lovely visualisation, but as my last tweet said, was this maybe a bit too much? And as Tony himself asked earlier -what does another view “buy you”? In this case, where there is a essentially a growing list of four different types of “things” maybe just an simpler alternative view (without all the connections) would be more helpful? As the list grows it would be helpful to be able to quickly search for example the tools. This page is undoubtedly a useful resource and as such a bit of time in ensuring that is displayed in ways that help people use/contribute and sustain it is surely worth while. I’d be interested in any other suggestions people may have.

I’m now going to do some more of the actual course work and try to respond to this.

#oldsmooc week 2 – Context and personal learning spaces

Well I have survived week 1 of #oldsmooc and collected my first online badge for doing so -#awesome. My last post ended with a few musings about networks and visualisation.

I’m also now wondering if a network diagram of cloudscape (showing the interconnectedness between clouds, cloudscapes and people) would be helpful ? Both in terms of not only visualising and conceptualising networks but also in starting to make more explicit links between people, activities and networks. Maybe the mindmap view is too linear? Think I need to speak to @psychemedia and @mhawskey . . .

I’ve been really pleased that Tony Hirst has taken up my musings and has been creating some wonderful visualisations of clouds, cloudscapes and followers. So I should prefix prefix this post by saying that this has somewhat distracted me from the main course activities over the past few days. However I want to use this post to share some of my thoughts re these experiments in relation to the context of my learning journey and the potential for Cloudworks to help me (and others) contextualise their learning, activities, networks, and become a powerful personal learning space/ environment.

Cloudworks seems to be a bit like marmite – you either love or hate it. I have to admit I have a bit of a soft spot for it mainly because I have had a professional interest in its development.(I also prefer vegemite but am partial to marmite now and again). I’ve also used it before this course and have seen how it can be useful. In someways it kind of like twitter, you have to use it to see the point of using it. I’ve also fully encouraged the development of its API and its open source version Cloud Engine.

A short bit of context might be useful here too. Cloudworks was originally envisaged as a kind of “flickr for learning designs”, a social repository if you like. However as it developed and was used, it actually evolved more into an aggregation space for ideas, meetings, conferences. The social element has always been central. Of course making something social, with tagging, favouring etc, does mean that navigation isn’t traditional and is more “exploratory” for the user. This is the first time (that I know of anyway) it has actually been used as part of a “formal” course.

As part of #oldsmooc, we (the leaners) are being encouraged to use Cloudworks for sharing our learning and activities. As I’m doing a bit more on the course, I’m creating clouds, adding them to my own #oldsmooc and other cloudscapes, increasingly favouriting and following other’s clouds/cloudscapes. I’m starting to find that concept of having one place where my activity is logged and I am able to link to other spaces where I create content (such as this blog) is becoming increasingly attractive. I can see how it could really help me get a sense of my learning journey as I process through the course, and the things that are useful/of interest to me. In other words, it’s showing potential to be my personal aggregation point, and a very useful (if not key) part of my personal learning environment. But the UI as it stands is still a bit clunky. Which is where the whole visualisation thing started.

Now Tony has illustrated how it possible to visualise the connections between people, content, activities, what think would be really useful would be an incorporation of these visualisations into a newly designed profile page. Nick Frear has already done an alpha test to show these can be embedded into Cloudworks.

A move from this:

My Cloudworks profile page
My Cloudworks profile page

To something kind of like this:

Potential Cloudworks Profile page
Potential Cloudworks Profile page

Excuse the very crude graphic cut and paste but I hope you get the idea. There’s lots of space there to move things around and make it much more user friendly and useful.

Ideally when I (or any other user) logged into our profile page, our favourite spaces and people could easily been seen, and we could have various options to see and explore other network views of people/and our content and activities. Could these network views start to give learners a sense of Dave Cormier’s rhizomatic learning; and potentially a great level of control and confidence in exploring the chaotic space which any MOOC creates?

The social “stuff” and connections is all there in Cloudworks, it just needs a bit of re-jigging. If the UI could be redesigned to incorporate these ideas , then I for one would be very tempted to use cloud works for any other (c)MOOC I signed up for. I also need to think a lot more about how to articulate this more clearly and succinctly, but I’d be really interested in other views.