eLearning@ed 2017

Today I am at the eLearning@ed Conference 2017, our annual day-long event for the eLearning community across the University of Edinburgh – including learning technologies, academic staff and some post graduate students. As I’m convener of the community I’m also chairing some sessions today so the notes won’t be at quite my normal pace!

As usual comments, additions and corrections are very welcome. 

For the first two sections I’m afraid I was chairing so there were no notes… But huge thanks to Anne Marie for her excellent quick run through exciting stuff to come… 

Welcome – Nicola Osborne, elearning@ed Convenor

Forthcoming Attractions – Anne Marie Scott, Head of Digital Learning Applications and Media

And with that it was over to our wonderful opening keynote… 

Opening Keynote: Prof. Nicola Whitton, Professor of Professional Learning, Manchester Metropolitan University: Inevitable Failure Assessment? Rethinking higher education through play (Chair: Dr Jill MacKay)

Although I am in education now, my background is as a computer scientist… So I grew up with failure. Do you remember the ZX Spectrum? Loading games there was extremely hit and miss. But the games there – all text based – were brilliant, they worked, they took you on adventures. I played all the games but I don’t think I ever finished one… I’d get a certain way through and then we’d have that idea of catastrophic failure…

And then I met a handsome man… It was unrequited… But he was a bit pixellated… Here was Guybush Threepwood of the Monkey Island series. And that game changed everything – you couldn’t catastrophically fail, it was almost impossible. But in this game you can take risks, you can try things, you can be innovative… And that’s important for me… That space for failure…

The way that we and our students think about failure in Higher Education, and deal with failure in Higher Education. If we think that going through life and never failing, we will be set for disappointment. We don’t laud the failures. J.K. Rowling, biggest author, rejected 12 times. The Beatles, biggest band of the 20th Century, were rejected by record labels many many time. The lightbulb failed hundreds of times! Thomas Edison said he didn’t fail 100 times, he succeeded in lots of stages…

So, to laud failure… Here are some of mine:

  1. Primary 5 junior mastermind – I’m still angry! I chose horses as my specialist subject so, a tip, don’t do that!
  2. My driving test – that was a real resiliance moment… I’ll do it again… I’ll have more lessons with my creepy driving instructor, but I’ll do it again.
  3. First year university exams – failed one exam, by one mark… It was borderline and they said “but we thought you need to fail” – I had already been told off for not attending lectures. So I gave up my summer job, spent the summer re-sitting. I learned that there is only so far you can push things… You have to take things seriously…
  4. Keeping control of a moped – in Thailand, with no training… Driving into walls… And learning when to give up… (we then went by walking and bus)
  5. Funding proposals and article submissions, regularly, too numerous to count – failure is inevitable… As academics we tend not to tell you about all the times we fail… We are going to fail… So we have to be fine to fail and learn from it. I was involved in a Jisc project in 2009… I’ve published most on it… It really didn’t work… And when it didn’t work they funded us to write about that. And I was very lucky, one of the Innovation Programme Managers who had funded us said “hey, if some of our innovation funding isn’t failing, then we aren’t being innovative”. But that’s not what we talk about.

For us, for our students… We have to understand that failure is inevitable. Things are currently set up as failure being a bad outcome, rather than an integral part of the learning process… And learning from failure is really important. I have read something – though I’ve not been able to find it again – that those who pass their driving test on the second attempt are better drives. Failure is about learning. I have small children… They spent their first few years failing to talk then failing to walk… That’s not failure though, it’s how we learn…

Just a little bit of theory. I want to talk a bit about the concept of the magic circle… The Magic Circle came from game theory, from the 1950s. Picked up by ? Zimmerman in early 2000s… The idea is that when you play with someone, you enter this other space, this safe space, where normal rules don’t apply… Like when you see animals playfighting… There is mutual agreement that this doesn’t count, that there are rules and safety… In Chess you don’t just randomly grab the king. Pub banter can be that safe space with different rules applying…

This happens in games, this happens in physical play… How can we create magic circles in learning… So what is that:

  • Freedom to fail – if you won right away, there’s no point in playing it. That freedom to fail and not be constrained by the failure… How we look at failure in games is really different from how we look at failure in Higher Education.
  • Lusory attitude – this is about a willingness to engage in play, to forget about the rules of the real world, to abide by the rules of this new situation. To park real life… To experiment, that is powerful. And that idea came from Leonard Suits whose book, The Grasshopper, is a great Playful Learning read.
  • Intrinsic motivation – this is the key area of magic circle for higher education. The idea that learning can be and should be intrinsically motivating is really really important.

So, how many of you have been in an academic reading group? OK, how many have lasted more than a year? Yeah, they rarely last long… People don’t get round to reading the book… We’ve set up a book group with special rules: you either HAVE To read the book, or your HAVE TO PRETEND that you read the book. We’ve had great turn out, no idea if they all read the books… But we have great discussion… Reframing that book group just a small bit makes a huge difference.

That sort of tiny change can be very powerful for integrating playfulness. We don’t think twice about doing this with children… Part of the issue with play, especially with adults, is what matters about play… About that space to fail. But also the idea of play as a socialised bonding space, for experimentation, for exploration, for possibilities, for doing something else, for being someone else. And the link with motivation is quite well established… I think we need to understand that different kind of play has different potential, but it’s about play and people, and safe play…

This is my theory heavy slide… This is from a paper I’ve just completed with colleagues in Denmark. We wanted to think “what is playful learning”… We talk about Higher Education and playful learning in that context… So what actually is it?

Well there is signature pedagogy for playful learning in higher education, under which we have surface (game) structures; deep (play) structures; implicit (playful) structures. Signature pedagogy could be architecture or engineering…

This came out of work on what students respond to…

So Surface (game) structures includes: ease of entry and explicit progression; appropriate and flexible levels of challenge; engaging game mechanics; physical or digital artefacts. Those are often based around games and digital games… But you can be playful without games…

Deep (play) structures is about: active and physical engagement; collaboration with diversity; imagining possibilities; novelty and surprises.

Implicit (playful) structures: lusory attitude; democratice values and openness; acceptance of risk-taking and failure; intrinsic motivation. That is so important for us in higher education…

So, rant alert…

Higher Education is broken. And that is because schools are broken. I live in Manchester (I know things aren’t as bad in Scotland) and we have assessment all over the place… My daughter is 7 sitting exams. Two weeks of them. They are talking about exams for reception kids – 4 year olds! We have a performative culture of “you will be assessed, you will be assessed”. And then we are surprised when that’s how our students respond… And have the TEF appearing… The golds, silvers, and bronze… Based on fairly random metrics… And then we are surprised when people work to the metrics. I think that assessment is a great way to suck out all the creativity!

So, some questions my kids have recently asked:

  • Are there good viruses? I asked an expert… apparently there are for treating people.. (But they often mutate.)
  • Do mermaids lay eggs? Well they are part fish…
  • Do Snow Leopards eat tomatoes? Where did this question come from? Who knows? Apparently they do eat monkeys… What?!

But contrast that to what my students ask:

  • Will I need to know this for the exam?
  • Are we going to be assessed on that?

That’s what happens when we work to the metrics…

We are running a course where there were two assessments. One was formative… And students got angry that it wasn’t worth credit… So I started to think about what was important about assessment? So I plotted the feedback from low to high, and consequence from low to high… So low consequence, low feedback…

We have the idea of the Trivial Fail – we all do those and it doesn’t matter (e.g. forgetting to signal at a roundabout), and lots of opportunity to fail like that.

We also have the Critical Fail – High Consequence and Low Feedback – kids exams and quite a lot of university assessment fits there.

We also have Serious Fail – High Consequence and High Feedback – I’d put PhD Vivas there… consequences matter… But there is feedback and can be opportunity to manage that.

What we need to focus on in Higher Education is the Micro Fail – low consequence with high feedback. We need students to have that experience, and to value that failure, to value failure without consequence…

So… How on earth do we actually do this? How about we “Level Up” assessment… With bosses at the end of levels… And you keep going until you reach as far as you need to go, and have feedback filled in…

Or the Monkey Island assessment. There is a goal but it doesn’t matter how you get there… You integrate learning and assessment completely, and ask people to be creative…

Easter Egg assessment… Not to do with chocolate but “Easter Eggs” – suprises… You don’t know how you’ll be assessed… Or when you’ll be assessed… But you will be! And it might be fun! So you have to go to lectures… Real life works like that… You can’t know which days will count ahead of time.

Inevitable Failure assessment… You WILL fail first time, maybe second time, third time… But eventually pass… Or even maybe you can’t ever succeed and that’s part of the point.

The point is that failure is inevitable and you need to be able to cope with that and learn from that. On which note… Here is my favourite journal, the Journal of Universal Rejection… This is quite a cathartic experience, they reject everything!

So I wanted to talk about a project that we are doing with some support from the HEA… Eduscapes… Have you played Escape Rooms? They are so addictive! There are lots of people creating educational Escape Rooms… This project is a bit different… So there are three parts… You start by understanding what the Escape Room is, how they work; then some training; and then design a game. But they have to trial them again and again and again. We’ve done this with students, and with high school students three times now. There is inevitable failure built in here… And the project can run over days or weeks or months… But you start with something and try and fail and learn…

This is collaborative, it is creative – there is so much scope to play with, sometimes props, sometimes budget, sometimes what they can find… In the schools case they were maths and Comp Sci students so there was a link to the curriculum. It is not assessed… But other people will see it – that’s quite a powerful motivator… We have done this with reflection/portfolio assessment… That resource is now available, there’s a link, and it’s a really simple way to engage in something that doesn’t really matter…

And while I’m here I have to plug our conference, Playful Learning, now in its second year. We were all about thinking differently about conferences… But always presenting at traditional conferences. So our conference is different… Most of it is hands on, all different stuff, a space to do something different – we had a storytelling in a tent as one of these… Lots of space but nothing really went wrong. But we need something to fail. Applications are closed this year… But there will be a call next year… So play more, be creative, fail!

So, to finish… I’m playful, play has massive potential… But we also have to think about diversity of play, the resilience to play… A lot of the research on playful learning, and assessment doesn’t recognise the importance of gender, race, context, etc… And the importance of the language we use in play… It has nuance, and comes with distinctions… We have to encourage people to play ad get involved. And we really have to re-think assessment – for ourselves, of universities, of students, of school pupils… Until we rethink this, it will be hard to have any real impact for playful learning…

Jill: Thank you so much, that was absolutely brilliant. And that Star Trek reference is “Kobayashi Maru”!


Q1) In terms of playful learning and assessment, I was wondering how self-assessment can work?

A1) That brings me back to previous work I have done around reflection… And I think that’s about bringing that reflection into playful assessment… But it’s a hard question… More space and time for reflection, possibly more space for support… But otherwise not that different from other assessment.

Q2) I run a research methods course for an MSc… We tried to invoke playfulness with a fake data set with dragons and princesses… Any other examples of that?

A2) I think that that idea of it being playful, rather than games, is really important. Can use playful images, or data that makes rude shapes when you graph is!

Q3) Nic knows that I don’t play games… I was interested in that difference between gaming and play and playfulness… There is something about games that don’t entice me at all… But that Lusory attitude did feel familiar and appealing… That suspension of disbelief and creativity… And that connection with gendered discussion of play and games.

A3) We are working on a taxonomy of play. That’s quite complex… Some things are clearly play… A game, messing with LEGO… Some things are not play, but can be playful… Crochet… Jigsaw puzzles… They don’t have to be creative… But you can apply that attitude to almost anything. So there is play and there is a playful attitude… That latter part is the key thing, the being prepared to fail…

Q4) Not all games are fun… Easy to think playfulness and games… A lot of games are work… Competitive gaming… Or things like World of Warcraft – your wizard chores. And intensity there… Failure can be quite problematic if working with 25 people in a raid – everyone is tired and angry… That’s not a space where failure is ok… So in terms of what we can learn from games it is important to remember that games aren’t always fun or playful…

A4) Indeed, and not all play is fun… I hate performative play – improv, people touching me… It’s about understanding… It’s really nuanced. It used to be that “students love games because they are fun” and now “students love play because it’s fun” and that’s still missing the point…

Q5) I don’t think you are advocating this but… Thinking about spoonful of sugar making assessment go down… Tricking students into assessment??

A5) No. It’s taking away the consequences in how we think about assessment. I don’t have a problem with exams, but the weight on that, the consequences of failure. It is inevitable in HE that we grade students at different levels… So we have to think about how important assessment is in the real world… We don’t have equivelents of University assessments in the real world… Lets say I do a bid, lots of work, not funded… In real world I try again. If you fail your finals, you don’t get to try again… So it’s about not making it “one go and it’s over”… That’s hard but a big change and important.

Q6) I started in behavioural science in animals… Play there is “you’ll know it when you see it” – we have clear ideas of what other behaviours look like, but play is hard to describe but you know it when you see it… How does that work in your taxonomy…

A6) I have a colleague who is a physical science teacher trainer… And he’s gotten to “you’ll know it when you see it”… Sometimes that is how you perceive that difference… But that’s hard when you apply for grants! It’s a bit of an artificial exercise…

Q7) Can you tell us more about play and cultural diversity, and how we need to think about that in HE?

A7) At the moment we are at the point that people understand and value play in different way. I have a colleague looking at diversity in play… A lot of research previously is on men, and privileged white men… So partly it’s about explaining why you are doing, what you are doing, in the way you are doing it… You have to think beyond that, to appropriateness, to have play in your toolkit…

Q8) You talk about physical spaces and playfulness… How much impact does that have?

A8) It’s not my specialist area but yes, the physical space matters… And you have to think about how to make your space more playful..

Introductions to Break Out Sessions: Playful Learning & Experimentation (Nicola Osborne)

  • Playful Learning – Michael Boyd (10 min)

We are here today with the UCreate Studio… I am the manager of the space, we have student assistants. We also have high school students supporting us too. This pilot runs to the end of July and provides a central Maker Space… To create things, to make things, to generate ideas… This is mixture of the maker movement, we are a space for playful learning through making. There are about 1400 maker spaces world wide, many in Universities in the UK too… Why do they pop up in Universities? They are great creative spaces to learn.

You can get hands on with technology… It is about peer based learning… And project learning… It’s a safe space to fail – it’s non assessed stuff…

Why is it good for learning? Well for instance the World Economic Forum predict that 35% of core professional skills will change from 2015 to 2020. Complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, judgement and decision making, cognitive flexibility… These are things that can’t be automated… And can be supported by making and creating…

So, what do we do? We use new technologies, we use technologies that are emerging but not yet widely adopted. And we are educational… That first few months is the hard bit… We don’t lecture much, we are there to help and guide and scaffold. Students can feel confident that they have support if they need it.

And, we are open source! Anyone in the University can use the space, be supported in the space, for free as long as they openly share and license whatever they make. Part of that bigger open ethos.

So, what gets made? Includes academic stuff… Someone made a holder for his spectrometer and 3D printed it. He’s now looking to augment this with his chemistry to improve that design; we have Josie in archeology scanning artefacts and then using that to engage people – using VR; Dimitra in medicine, following a poster project for a cancer monitoring chip, she started prototyping; Hayden in Geosciences is using 3D scanning to see the density of plant matter to understand climate change.

But it’s not just that. Also other stuff… Henry studies architecture, but has a grandfather who needs meds and his family worries if he takes his medicine.. So he’s designed a system that connects a display of that. Then Greg on ECA is looking at projecting memories on people… To see how that helps…

So, I wanted to flag some ideas we can discuss… One of he first projects when I arrived, Fiona Hale and Chris Speed (ECA) ran “Maker Go” had product design students, across the years, to come up with a mobile maker space project… Results were fantastic – a bike to use to scan a space… A way to follow and make paths with paint, to a coffee machine powered by failed crits etc. Brilliant stuff. And afterwards there was a self-organised (first they can remember) exhibtion, Velodrama…

Next up was Edinburgh IoT challenge… Students and academics came together to address challenges set by Council, Uni, etc. Designers, Engineers, Scientists… Led to a really special project, 2 UG students approached us to set yp the new Embedded adn Robotics Society – they run sessions every two weeks. And going strength to strength.

Last but not least… Digital manufacturing IP session trialled last term with Dr Stema Kieria, to explore 3D scanning and printing and the impact on IPs… Huge areas… Echos of taping songs off the radio. Took something real, showed it hands on, learned about technologies, scanned copyright materials, and explored this. They taught me stuff! And that led to a Law and Artificial Intelligence Hackathon in March. This was law and informatics working together, huge ideas… We hope to see them back in the studio soon!

  • Near Future Teaching Vox Pops – Sian Bayne (5 mins)

I am Assistant Vice Principal for Digital Education and I was very keen to look at designing the future of digital education at Edinburgh. I am really excited to be here today… We want you to answer some questions on what teaching will look like in this university in 20 or 30 years time:

  • will students come to campus?
  • will we come to campus?
  • will we have AI tutors?
  • How will teaching change?
  • Will learning analytics trigger new things?
  • How will we work with partner organisations?
  • Will peers accredit each other?
  • Will MOOCs stull exist?
  • Will performance enhancement be routine?
  • Will lectures still exist?
  • Will exams exist?
  • Will essays be marked by software?
  • Will essays exist?
  • Will discipline still exist?
  • Will the VLE still exist?
  • Will we teach in VR?
  • Will the campus be smart? And what does eg IoT to monitor spaces mean socially?
  • Will we be smarter through technology?
  • What values should shape how we change? How we use these technologies?

Come be interviewed for our voxpops! We will be videoing… If you feel brave, come see us!

And now to a break… and our breakout sessions, which were… 

Morning Break Out Sessions

  • Playful Learning Mini Maker Space (Michael Boyd)
  • 23 Things (Stephanie (Charlie) Farley)
  • DIY Film School (Gear and Gadgets) (Stephen Donnelly)
  • World of Warcraft (download/set up information here) (Hamish MacLeod & Clara O’Shea)
  • Near Future Teaching Vox Pops (Sian Bayne)

Presentations: Fun and Games and Learning (Chair: Ruby Rennie, Lecturer, Institute for Education, Teaching and Leadership (Moray House School of Education))

  • Teaching with Dungeons & Dragons – Tom Boylston

I am based in Anthropology and we’ve been running a course on the anthropology of games. And I just wanted to talk about that experience of creating playful teaching and learning. So, Dungeons and Dragons was designed in the 1970s… You wake up, your chained up in a dungeon, you are surrounded by aggressive warriors… And as a player you choose what to do – fight them, talk to them, etc… And you can roll a dice to decide an action, to make the next play. It is always a little bit improvisational, and that’s where the fun comes in!

There are some stigmas around D&D as the last bastion of the nerdy white bloke… But… The situation we had was a 2 hour lecture slot, and I wanted to split that in two. To engage with a reading on the creative opportunities of imagination. I wanted them to make a character, alsmot like creative writing classes, to play that character and see what that felt like, how that changed that… Because part of the fun of role playing is getting to be someone else. Now these games do raise identity issues – gender, race, sexuality… That can be great but it’s not what you want in a big group with people you don’t yet have trust with… But there is something special about being in a space with others, where you don’t know what could happen… It is not a simple thing to take a traditional teaching setting and make it playful… One of the first things we look at when we think about play is people needing to consent to play… And if you impose that on a room, that’s hard…

So early in the course we looked at Erving Goffman’s Frame Analysis, and we used Pictionary cards… We looked at the social cues from the space, the placement of seats, microphones, etc. And then the social cues of play… Some of the foundational work of animal play asks us how you know dogs are playfighting… It’s the half-bite, playful rather than painful… So how do I invite a room full of people to play? I commanded people to play Pictionary, to come up and play… Eventually someone came up… Eventually the room accepted that and the atmosphere changed. It really helped that we had been reading about framing. And I asked what had changed and there were able to think and talk about that…

But D&D… People were sceptical. We started with students making me a character. They made me Englebert, a 5 year old lizard creature… To display the playful situation, a bit silly, to model and frame the situation… Sent them comedy D&D podcasts to listen to and asked them to come back a week later… I promised that we wouldn’t do it every week but… I shared some creative writing approaches to writing a back story, to understand what would matter about this character… Only having done this preparatory work, thought about framing… Only then did I try out my adventure on them… It’s about a masquerade in Camaroon, and children try on others’ masks… I didn’t want to appropriate that. But just to take some cues and ideas and tone from that. And when we got to the role playing, the students were up for it… And we did this either as individual students, or they could pair up…

And then we had a debrief – crucial for a playful experience like this. People said there was more negotiation than they expected as they set up the scene and created. They were surprised how people took care of their characters…

The concluding thing was… At the end of the course I had probably shared more that I cared about. Students interrupted me more – with really great ideas! And students really engaged.


Q1) Would you say that D&D would be a better medium than an online role playing game… Exemporisation rather than structured compunction?

A1) We did talk about that… We created a WoW character… There really is a lot of space, unexpected situations you can create in D&D… Lots of improvisation… More happened in that than in the WoW stuff that we did… It was surprisingly great.

Q2) Is that partly about sharing and revealing you, rather than the playfulness per se?

A2) Maybe a bit… But I would have found that hard in another context. The discussion of games really brought that stuff out… It was great and unexpected… Play is the creation of unexpected things…

Q3) There’s a trust thing there… We can’t expect students to trust us and the process, unless we show our trust ourselves…

A3) There was a fair bit of background effort… Thinking about signalling a playful space, and how that changes the space… The playful situations did that without me intending to or trying to!

Digital Game Based Learning in China – Sihan Zhou

I have been finding this event really inspiring… There is so much to think around playfulness. I am from China, and the concept of playful learning is quite new in China so I’m pleased to talk to you about the platform we are creating – Tornado English…

On this platform we have four components – a bilingual animation, a game, and a bilingual chat bot… If the user clicks on the game, they can download it… So far we have created two games: Word Pop – vocabulary learning and Run Rabbit – syntactic learning, both based around Mayer’s model (2011).

The games mechanics are usually understood but comparing user skills and level of challenge – too easy and users will get bored, but if it’s too challenging then users will be frustrated and demotivated. So for apps in China, many of the educational products tend to be more challenging than fun – more educational apps than educational games. So in our games use timing and scoring to make things more playful and interactions like popping bubbles, clicking on moles popping out of holes in the ground. In Word Smash students have to match images to vocab as quickly as possible… In Run Rabbit… The student has to speak a phrase in order get the rabbit to run to the right word in the game and placing it…

When we designed the game, we considered how we could ensure that the game is educationally effective, and to integrate it with the English curriculum in school. We tie to the 2011 English Curriculum Standards for Compulsory Education in China. Students have to complete a sequence of levels to reach the next level of learning – autonomous learning in a systematic way.

So, we piloted this app in China, working with 6 primary schools in Harbin, China. Data has been collected from interviews with teachers, classroom observation, and questionnaires with parents.

This work is a KTP – a Knowledge Transfer Partnership – project and the KTP research is looking at Chinese primary school teachers’ attitudes towards game-based learning. And there is also an MSc TESOL Dissertation looking at teachers attitudes towards game based learning… For instance they may or may not be able to actually use these tools in the classroom because of the way teaching is planned and run. The results of this work will be presented soon – do get in touch.

Our future game development will focus more on a communicative model, task-based learning, and learner autonomy. So the character lands on a new planet, have to find their way, repair their rocket, and return to earth… To complete those task the learner has to develop the appropriate language to do well… But this is all exploratory so do talk to me and to inspire me.


Q1) I had some fantastic Chinese students in my playful anthropology course and they were explaining quite mixed attitudes to these approaches in China. Clearly there is that challenge to get authorities to accept it… But what’s the compromise between learning and fun.

A1) The game has features designed for fun… I met with education bureu and teachers, to talk about how this is eduationally effective… Then when I get into classrooms to talk to the students, I focus more on gaming features, why you play it, how you progress and unlock new levels. Emphasis has to be quite different depending on the audience. One has to understand the context.

Q2) How have the kids responded?

A2) They have been really inspired and want to try it out. The kids are 8 or 9 years old… They were keen but also knew that their parents weren’t going to be as happy about playing games in the week when they are supposed to do “homework”. We get data on how this used… We see good use on week days, but huge use on weekends, and longer play time too!

Q3) In terms of changing attitudes to game based learning in China… If you are wanting to test it in Taiwan the attitude was different, we were expected to build playful approaches in…

A3) There is “teaching reform” taking place… And more games and playfulness in the classrooms. But digital games was the problem in terms of triggering a mentality and caution. The new generation uses more elearning… But there is a need to demonstrate that usefulness and take it out to others.

VR in Education – Cinzia Pusceddu-Gangarosa

I am manager of learning technology in the School of Biological Sciences, and also a student on the wonderful MS in Digital Education. I’m going to talk about Virtual Reality in Education.

I wanted to start by defining VR. The definition I like best is from Mirriam Webster. It includes key ideas… the idea of “simulated world” and the ways one engaging with it. VR technologies include headsets like Oculus Rift (high end) through to Google Cardboard (low end) that let you engage… But there is more interesting stuff there too… There are VR “Cave” spaces – where you enter and are surrounded by screens. There are gloves, there are other kinds of experience.

Part of virtual reality is about an intense idea of presence, of being there, of being immersed in the world, fully engaged – so much so that the interface disappears, you forget you are using technologies.

In education VR is not anything new. The first applications were in the 1990s…. But in 200s desktop VR becomes more common – spaces such as Second Life – more acceptable and less costly to engage with.

I want to show you a few examples here… One of the first experiments was from the Institute for Simulation and Training, PA, where students could play “noseball” to play with a virtual ball in a set of wearables. You can see they still use headsets, similar to now but not particularly sophisticated… I also wanted to touch on some other university experiments with VR… The first one is Google Expeditions. This is not a product that has been looked at in universities – it has been trialled in schools a lot… It’s a way to travel in time and space through Google Cardboard… Through the use of apps and tools… And Google supports teachers to use this.

A more interesting experiment is an experiment at Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, looking at cognitive effects on students behaviour, and perspective-taking in these spaces, looking at empathy – how VR promotes and encourages empathy. Students impersonating a tree, are more cautious wasting paper. Or impersonating a person has more connection and thoughtfulness about their behaviour to that person… Even an experiment on being a cow and whether that might make them more likely to make them a vegetarian.

Another interesting experiment is at Boston University who are engaging with Ulysses – based on a book but not in a literal way. At Penn State they have been experimenting with VR and tactile experiences.

So, to conclude, what are the strengths of VR in education? Well it is about experience what its not possible – cost, distance, time, size, safety. Also non-symbolic learning (maths, chemistry, etc); learning by doing; and engaging experiences. But there are weaknesses too: it is hard to find a VR designer; it requires technical support; and sometimes VR may not be the right technology – maybe we want to replicate the wrong thing, maybe not innovative enough…


Q1) Art Gallery/use in your area?

A1) I would like to do a VR project. It’s hard to understand until you try it out… Most of what I’ve presented is based on what I’ve read and researched, but I would love to explore the topic in a real project.

Q2) With all these technologies, I was wondering if a story is an important accompaniment to the technology and the experience?

A2) I think we do need a story. I don’t think any technology adds value unless we have a vision, and an understanding of full potential of the technology – and what it does differently, and what it really adds to the situation and the story…

Coming up…

Afternoon Keynote: Dr Hamish MacLeod, Senior Lecturer in Digital Education, Institute for Education, Community and Society, Moray House School of Education: Learning with and through Ambiguity (Chair: Cinzia Pusceddu-Gangarosa)

Afternoon Break Out Sessions

  • Playful Learning Mini Maker Space – Michael Boyd)
  • 23 Things – Stephanie (Charlie) Farley
  • DIY Film School (Gear and Gadgets) – Stephen Donnelly
  • Gamifying Wikpedia – Ewan McAndrew
  • Near Future Teaching Vox Pops – Sian Bayne


Short 10 minute presentations with 5 minutes for Q&A

  • Learning to Code: A Playful Approach – Areti Manataki
  • Enriched engagement with recorded lectures – John Lee
  • DIY Filmschool and Media Hopper (MoJo) – Stephen Donnelly

Chair: Ross Ward, Learning Technology Advisor (ISG Learning, Teaching & Web Services)

Closing Remarks – Prof. Sian Bayne, Moray House School of Education


eLearning@ed/LTW Monthly Meet Up #4: Learning Design

This is a very belated posting of my liveblog notes from the eLearning@Ed/LTW Monthly Meet Up #4 on Learning Design which took place on 25th April 2016. You can find further information on the event, and all of our speakers’ slides, on the eLearning@ed wiki.

Despite the delay in posting these notes, the usual cautionary notes apply, and that all corrections, additions, etc. are very much welcomed. 

Becoming an ELDeR – Fiona Hale, Senior eLearning Advisor, IS

Unfortunately I missed capturing notes for the very beginning of Fiona’s talk but I did catch most of it. As context please be aware that she was talking about a significant and important piece of work on Learning Design, including a scoping report by Fiona, which has been taking place over the last year. My notes start as she addresses the preferred formats for learning design training… 

We found that two-day workshops provided space to think, to collaborate, and had the opportunity to both gain new knowledge and apply it on the same day. And also really useful for academic staff to understand the range of colleagues in the room, knowing who they could and should follow up with.

Scoping report recommended developing reusable and collaborative learning design as a new university services within IS, which positions the learning design framework as a scaffold, support staff as facilitators, etc.

There are many recommendations here but in particular I wanted to talk about the importance of workshops being team based and collaborative in approach – bringing together programme team, course team, admin, LT, peer, student, IAD, IS Support librarian, IS EDE, Facilitator, all in the room. Also part of staff development, reward and recognition – tying into UKSPF (HEA) and the Edinburgh Teaching Award. And ensuring this is am embedded process, with connection to processes, language, etc. with registry, board of studies, etc. And also with multiple facilitators.

I looked for frameworks and focused on three to evaluate. These tend to be theoretical, and don’t always work in practice. After trying those all out we found CAIeRO works best, focusing on designing learning experiences over development of content, structured format of the two day workshop. And it combines pedagogy, technology, learner experience.

We have developed the CAIeRO into a slightly different form, the ELDeR Framework, with the addition of assessment and feedback.

Finally! Theory and Practice – Ruth McQuillan, Co-Programme Director, Master of Public Health (online)

Prior to the new MPH programme I have been working in online learning since 2011. I am part of a bigger team – Christine Matthews is our learning technologist and we have others who have come on board for our new programme. Because we had a new programme launching we were very keen to be part of it. So I’m going to talk about how this worked, how we felt about it, etc.

We launched the online MPG in September 2015, which involved developing lots of new courses but also modifying lots of existing courses. And we have a lot of new staff so we wanted to give a sense of building a new team – as well as learning for ourselves how to do it all properly.

So, the stages of the workshop we went through should give you a sense of it. I’ve been on lots of courses and workshops where you learn about something but you don’t have the practical application. And then you have a course to prepare in practice, maybe without that support. So having both aspects together was really good and helpful.

The course we were designing was for mid career professionals from across the world. We were split into two teams – with each having a blend of the kinds of people Fiona talked about – programme team and colleagues from IS and elsewhere. We both developed programme and course mission statements as a group, then compared and happily those were quite close, we reached consensus and that really felt like we were pulling together as a team. And we also checked the course for consistency with the programme.

Next, we looked at the look and feel aspects. We used cards that were relevant for our course, using workshop cards and post it notes, rejecting non relevant cards, using our choice of the cards and some of our own additions.

So, Fiona talked about beginning with the end in mind, and we tried to do that. We started by thinking about what we wanted our students to be able to do at the end of the course. That is important as this is a professional course where we want to build skills and understanding. So, we wanted to focus on what they should know at the end of the course, and only then look at the knowledge they would need. And that was quite a different liberating approach.

And at this point we looked at the SCQF level descriptors to think about learning outcomes, the “On completion of this course you will be able to…” I’m not sure we’d appreciated the value and importance of our learning outcomes before, but actually in the end this was one of the most useful parts of the process. We looked for Sense (are they clear to the learner); Level (are they appropriate to the level of module); Accessibility (are they accessible).

And then we needed to think about assessment and alignment, looking at how we would assess the course, how this fitted into the bigger picture etc.

The next step was to storyboard the course. And by the end of Day One we had a five week course and a sixth week for assessment, we has learning outcomes and how they’d be addressed, assessment, learning activities, concerns, scaffolding. And we thought we’d done a great job! We came back on day two and when we came back we spend maybe half a day recapping, changing… Even if you can’t do a 2 day workshop at least try to do two half days with a big gap between/overnight as we found that space away very helpful.

And once finalised we built a prototype online. And we had a reality check from a critical friend, which was very helpful. We reviewed and adjusted and then made a really detailed action plan. That plan was really helpful.

Now, at the outside we were told that we could come into this process at any point. We had quite a significantly complete idea already and that helped us get real value from this process.

So, how did it feel and what did we learn? Well it was great to have a plan, to see the different areas coming together. The struggle was difficult but important, and it was excellent for team building. “To learn and not to do is really not to learn. To do and not to learn is really not to know. And actually at the end of the day we were really enthusiastic about the process and it was really good to see that process, to put theory into practice, and to do this all in a truly collaborative experience.

How has it changed us? Well we are putting all our new courses through this process. We want to put all our existing courses through this process. We involved more people in the process, in different roles and stages, including students where we can. And we have modified the structure.


Q1) Did you go away to do this?

A1) Yes, we went to Dovecot Gallery on Infirmary Street.

A1 – FH) I had some money to do that but I wasn’t kidding that a new space and nice food is important. We are strict on you being there, or not. We expect full on participation. So for those going forward we are looking at rooms in other places – in Evolution House, or in Moray House, etc. Somewhere away from normal offices etc. It has to be a focused. And the value of that is huge, the time up front is really valuable.

A1 – RM) It is also really important for understanding what colleagues are doing, which helps ensure the coherence of the programme, and it is really beneficial to the programme.

Q2) Dow different do you think your design ended up if you hadn’t done this?

A2 – RM) I think one of my colleagues was saying today that she was gently nudged by colleagues to avoid mistakes or pitfalls, to not overload the course, to ensure coherence, etc. I think it’s completely different to how it would have been. And also there were resources and activities – lectures and materials – that could be shared where gaps were recognised.

A2 – FH) If this had been content driven it would be hard as a facilitator. But thinking about the structure, the needs, the learner experience, that can be done, with content and expertise already being brought into that process. It saves time in the long run.

A2 – RM) I know in the past when I’ve been designing courses you can find that you put activities in a particular place without purpose, to make sure there is an activity there… But this process helped keep things clear, coherent and to ensure any activity is clearly linked to a learning outcome, etc.

Q3) Once you’d created the learning outcomes, did you go back and change any of theme?

A3 – FH) On Day 2 there was something that wasn’t quite right…

A3 – RM) It was something too big for the course, and we needed to work that through. The course we were working on in February and that will run for the first time in the new academic year. But actually the UoE system dictates that learning outcomes should be published many months/more than a year in advance. So with new courses we did ask the board of studies if we could provide the learning outcomes to them later on, once defined. They were fine.

A3 – FH) That is a major change that we are working on. But not all departments run the same process or timetable.

A3 – RM) Luckily our board of studies were very open to this, it was great.

Q4) Was there any focus on student interaction and engagement in these process.

A4 – FH) It was part of those cards early in the process, it is part of the design work. And that stage of the cards, the consensus building, those are huge collaborative and valuable sessions.

Q5) And how did you support/require that?

A5 – FH) In that storyboard you will see various (yellow) post its showing assessment and feedback wove in across the course, ensuring the courses you design really do align with that wider University strategy.

Learning Design: Paying It Forward – Christina Matthews

There is a shift across the uni to richer approaches.

I’m going to talk about getting learning technologist involved and why that matters.

The LT can inform the process in useful and creative ways. They can bring insights into particular tools, affordances, and ways to afford or constrain the behaviours of students. They also have a feel for digital literacy of students, as well as being able to provide some continuity across the course in terms of approaches and tools. And having LT in the design process, academic staff can feel supported and better able to take risks and do new things. And the LT can help that nothing is lost between the design workshop, and the actual online course and implementation.

So, how are we paying this forward? Well we are planning learning design workshops for all our new courses for 2015-16 and 2016-17. We really did feel the benefits of 2 days but we didn’t think it was going to be feasible for all of our teams. We felt that we needed to adapt the workshop to fit into one day, so we will be running these as one day workshops and we have prioritised particular aspects to enable that.

The two day workshop format for CAIeRO follows several stages:

  • Stage 1: Course blueprint (mission, learning outcomes, assessment and feedback)
  • Stage 2: Storyboarding
  • Stage 3: Rapid prototyping in the VLE
  • Stage 4: Critical friend evaluation of VLE prototype
  • Stage 5: adjust and review from feedback
  • Stage 6: Creating an action plan
  • Stage 7: reflecting on the workshop in relation to the UK Professional Standards Framework.
  • For the one day workshop we felt the blue print (1), storyboard (2) and action plan stages (6) were essential. The prototyping can be done afterwards and separately, although it is a shame to do that of course.

So, we are reviewing and formalising our 1 day workshop model, which may be useful elsewhere. And we are using these approaches for all the courses on our programme, including new and existing courses. And we are very much looking forward to the ELDeR (Edinburgh Learning Design Roadmap).


Q1) When you say “all” programmes, do you mean online or on-campus programmes?

A1) Initially the online courses but we have a campus programme that we really want to connect up, to make the courses more blended, so I think it will feed into our on campus courses. A lot of our online tutors teach both online and on campus, so that will also lead some feeding in here.

Q2) How many do you take to the workshop?

A2) You can have quite a few. We’ve had programme director, course leader, learning technologist, critical friends, etc.

A2 – FH) There are no observers in the room for workshops – lots are wanting to understand that. There are no observers in the room, you have to facilitate the learning objectives section very carefully. Too many people is not useful. Everyone has to be trusted, they have to be part of the process. You need a support librarian, the learning technologist has to squarely be part of the design, student, reality checker, QA… I’ve done at most 8 people. In terms of students you need to be able to open and raw…. So, is it OK to have students in the room… Some conversations being had may not be right for that co-creation type idea. Maybe alumni are better in some cases. Some schools don’t have their own learning technologist, so we bring one. Some don’t have a VLE, so we bring one they can play with.

A2 – CM) In the pilot there were 8 in some, but it didn’t feel like too many in the room.

Q3) As a learning technologist have the workshops helped your work?

A3 – CM) Yes, hugely. That action plan really maps out every stage very clearly. Things can come in last minute and all at the same time otherwise, so that is great. And when big things are agreed in the workshop, you can then focus on the details.

A3 – FH) We are trying to show how actually getting this all resolved up front actually saves money and time later on, as everything is agreed.

Q4) Thinking way ahead… People will do great things… So if we have the course all mapped out here, and well agreed, what happens when teams change – how do you capture and communicate this. Should you have a mini reprise of this to revisit it? How does it go over the long term?

A4 – FH) That’s really true. Also if technologist isn’t the one delivering it, that can also be helpful.

A4 – CM) One thing that comes out of this is a CAIeRO planner that can be edited and shared, but yes, maybe you revisit it for future staff…

A4 – FH) Something about ownership of activities, to give the person coming in and feel ownership. And see how it works before and afterwards. Pointing them to document, to output of storyboard, to get ownership. That’s key to facilitation too.

Q4) So, you can revisit activities etc. to achieve Learning outcome…

A4 – FH) That identification of learning outcomes are clear in the storyboards and documents.

Q5) How often do you meet and review programmes? Every 2 years, every 5 years?

A5 – FH) You should review every 5 years for PG.

Comment) We have an annual event, see what’s working and what isn’t and that is very very valuable and helpful. But that’s perhaps unusual.

A5 – FH) That’s the issue of last minute or isolated activities. This process is a good structure for looking at programme and course. Clearly programme has assessment across it so even though we are looking at the course here, it has that consistency. With any luck we can get this stuff embedded in board of studies etc.

A5 – RM) For us doing this process also changed us.

A5 – FH) That report is huge but the universities I looked at these processes are mandatory not optional. But mandatory can make things more about box ticking in some ways…

Learning Design: 6 Months on – Meredith Corey, School of Education 

We are developing a pilot UG course in GeoSciences and Education collaboration, Sustainability and Social Responsibility, running 2016/17. We are 2 online learning educators working from August 2015 to April 2016. This is the first online level 8 course for on-campus students. And there are plans to adapt the course for the wider community – including staff, alumni etc.

So in the three months before the CAIeRO session, we had started looking at existing resources, building a course team, investigating VLEs. The programme is on sustainability. We looked into types of resources and activities. And we had started drafting learning outcomes and topic storyboarding, with support from Louise Connelly who was (then) in IAD.

So the workshop was a 2 day event and we began with the blueprinting. We had similar ideas and very different ways to describe them so, what was very useful for us, was finding common language and ways to describe what we were doing. We didn’t drastically change our learning outcomes, but lots of debate about the wording. Trying to ensure the learning outcomes were appropriate for level 8 SCQF levels, trying not to overload them. And this whole process has helped us focus on our priorities, our vocabulary, the justification and clear purpose.

The remainder of the workshop was spent on storyboarding. We thought we were really organised in terms of content, videos, etc. But actually that storyboarding, after that discussion of priorities, was really useful. Our storyboard generated three huge A0 sheets to understand the content, the ways students would achieve the learning outcomes. It is an online course and there are things you don’t think about but need to consider – how do they navigate the course? How do they find what they need? How do they find what they need? And Fiona and colleagues were great for questioning and probing that.

We did some prototyping but didn’t have time for reality checks – but we have that process lined up for our pilot in the summer. We also took that storyboard and transferred that information to a huge Popplet that allowed us to look at how the feedback and feed forward fits into the course; how we could make that make sense across the course – it’s easy to miss that feedback and feed forward is too late when you are looking week by week.

The key CAIeRO benefits for us were around exploring priorities (and how these may differ for different cohorts); it challenged our assumptions; it formalised our process and this is useful for future projects; focused on all learners and their experience; and really helped us understand our purpose here. And coming soon we shall return to the Popplet to think about the wider community.


Q1) I know with one course the head of school was concerned that an online programme might challenge the value of the face to face, or the concern of replacing the face to face course, and how that fits together.

A1) The hope with this course is that the strength is that it brings together students from as many different schools as possible, to really deal with timetabling barriers, to mix students between schools. It would be good if both exists to complement in each others.

A1 – FH) Its not intended as a replacement… In this course’s mission statement for this, it plays up interdisciplinary issues, and that includes use of OERs, reuse, etc. And talking about doing this stuff.

A1) And also the idea is to give students a great online learning experience that means they might go on and do online masters programmes. And hopefully include staff and alumni that also help that mix, that interdisciplinary thing.

Q2) Do you include student expectations in this course? What about student backgrounds?

A2) We have tried to ensure that tutorial groups play to student strengths and interests, making combinations across schools. We are trialling the course with evaluation through very specific questions.

A2 – FH) And there will assessment that asks students to place that learning into their own context, location, etc.

Course Design and your VLE – Ross Ward

I want to talk quickly about how you translate a storyboard into your VLE, in very general terms. Taking your big ideas and making them a course. One thing I like to talk about a lot is user experience – you only need one back experience in Learn or Moodle to really put you off. So you really need to think about ensuring the experience of the VLE and the experience of the course all need to fit together. How you manage or use your VLE is up to do. Once you know what you want to do, you can then pick your technology, fitting your needs. And you’ll need a mix of content, tools, activities, grades, feedback, guidance. If you are an ODL student how you structure that will be very very important, if blended it’s still important. You don’t need your VLE to be a filing cabinet, it can be much more. But it also doesn’t have to be a grand immersive environment, you need it to fit your needs appropriately. And the VLE experience should reflect the overall course experience.

When you have that idea of purpose, you hit the technology and you have kind of a blank canvas. It’s a bit Mona Lisa by numbers… The tools are there but there are easier ways to make your course better. The learning design idea of the storyboard and the user experience of the course context can be very helpful. That is really useful for ensuring students understand what they are doing, creating a digital version of your course, and understanding where you are right now as a student. Arguably a good VLE user experience is one where you could find what you are looking for without any prior knowledge of the course… We get many support calls from those simply looking for information. You may have some pre-requisite stuff, but you need to really make everything easy.

Navigation is key! You need menus. You need context links. You need suggested link. You want to minimise the number of clicks and complexity.

Remember that you should present your material for online, not like a textbook. Use sensible headings. Think about structure. And test it out – ask a colleague, as a student, ask LTW.

And think about consistency – that will help ensure that you can build familiarity with approach, consistently presenting your programme/school brand and look and feel, perhaps also template.

We know this is all important, and we want to provide more opportunity to support that, with examples and resources to draw upon!

Closing Fiona Hale

Huge thanks to Ross for organising today. Huge thanks to our speakers today!

If you are interested in this work do find me at the end, do come talk to me. We have workshops coming up – ELDeR workshop evaluations – and there we’ll talk about design challenges and concerns. That might be learning analytics – and thinking about pace and workshops. For all of these we are addressing particular design challenges – the workshop can concertina to that. There is no rule about how long things take – and whether one day or two days is the number, but sometimes one won’t be enough.

I would say for students it’s worth thinking about sharing the storyboards, the assessment and feedback and reasons for it, so that they understand it.

We go into service in June and July, with facilitators across the schools. Do email me with questions, to offer yourselves as facilitators.

Thank you to all of our University colleagues who took part in this really interesting session!

You can read much more about Edinburgh Learning Design roadmap – and read the full scoping report – on the University of Edinburgh Learning Design Service website. 


elearning@ed/LTW Monthly Meet Up: Assessment and Feedback LiveBlog

This afternoon I’m at the eLearning@ed/LTW monthly Showcase and Network event, which this month focuses on Assessment and Feedback.
I am liveblogging these notes so, as usual, corrections and updates are welcomed. 
The wiki page for this event includes the agenda and will include any further notes etc.: https://www.wiki.ed.ac.uk/x/kc5uEg
Introduction and Updates, Robert Chmielewski (IS Learning, Teaching and Web)
Robert consults around the University on online assessment – and there is a lot of online assessment taking place. And this is an area that is supported by everybody. Students are interested in submitting and receiving feedback online, but we also have technologists who recognise the advantages of online assessment and feedback, and we have the University as a whole seeing the benefits around, e.g. clarity over meeting timelines for feedback. The last group here is the markers and they are more and more appreciative of the affordances of online assessment and feedback. So there are a lot of people who support this, but there are challenges too. So, today we have an event to share experiences across areas, across levels.
Before we kick off I wanted to welcome Celeste Houghton. Celeste: I an the new Head of Academic Development for Digital Education at the University, based at IAD, and I’m keen to meet people, to find out more about what is taking place. Do get in touch.
eSubmission and eFeedback in the College of Humanities and Social Science, Karen Howie (School of History, Classics & Archaeology)
This project started about 2-3 years back in February 2015. The College of Humanities and Social Sciences wants 100% electronic submission/feedback where “pedagogically appropriate” by 2016/17 academic year. Although I’m saying electronic submission/feedback the in-between marking part hasn’t been prescribed. The project board for this work includes myself, Robert and many others any of whom you are welcome to contact with any questions.
So, why do this? Well there is a lot of student demand for various reasons – legibility of comments; printing costs; enabling remote submission. For staff the benefits are ore debatable but they can include (as also reported by Jisc) increased efficiency, and convenience. Benefits for the institution (again as reported by Jisc) include measuring feedback response rates, and efficiencies that free up time for student support.
Now some parts of CHSS are already doing this at the moment. Social and Political Studies are using an in-house system. Law are using Grademark. And other schools have been running pilots, most of them with GradeMark, and these have been mostly successful. But we’ve had lots of interesting conversations around these technologies, around quality of assessment, about health and safety implications of staring at a screen more.
We have been developing a workflow and process for the college but we want this to be flexible to schools’ profiles – so we’ve adopted a modular approach that allows for handling of groups/tutors; declaration of own work; checking for non-submitters; marking sheets and rubrics; moderation, etc. And we are planning for the next year ahead, working closely with the Technology Enhanced Learning group in HSS. We are having some training – for markers it’s a mixture of in-School and is with College input/support; and for administrators by learning technologies in the school or through discussions with IS LTW EDE. To support that process we have screencasts and documentation currently in development. PebblePad isn’t part of this process, but will be.
To build confidence in the system we’re facing some myth busting etc. For instance, anonymity vs pastoral care issues – a receipt dropbox has been created; and we have an agreement with EUSA that we can deanonymise if identification is not provided. And we have also been looking at various other regulations etc. to ensure we are complying and/or interpreting them correctly.
So, those pilots have been running. We’ve found that depending on your preocesses the administration can be complex. Students have voiced concerns around “generic” feedback. Students were anxious – very anxious in some cases. It is much quicker for markers to get started with marking, as soon as the deadline has passed. But there are challenges though – including when networks go down, for instance there was an (unusual) DDOS attack during our pilots that impacted our timeline.
Feedback from students seems relatively good. 14 out of 36 felt quality of marking was better than on paper – but 10 said it was less good. 29 out of 36 said feedback was more legible. 10 felt they had received more feedback than noral, 11 less. 3 out of 36 would rather submit on paper, 31 would would rather submit online. In our first pilot with first year students around 10% didn’t look at feedback for essay, 36% didn’t look at tutorial feedback. In our second pilot about 10% didn’t look at either assignments submissions.
Markers reported finding the electronic marking easier, but some felt that the need to work on screen was challenging or less pleasant than marking on paper.
Q1) The students who commented on less or more feedback than normal – what were they comparing to?
A1) To paper-based marking, which they would have had for other courses. So when we surveyed them they would have had some paper-based and some electronic feedback already.
Q2) A comment about handwriting and typing – I read a paper that said that on average people write around 4 times more words when typing than when hand writing. And in our practice we’ve found that too.
A2) It may also be student perceptions – looks like less but actually quite a lot of work. I was interested in students expectations that 8 days was a long time to turn around feedback.
Q2) I think that students need to understand how much care has been taken, and that that adds to how long these things take.
Q3) You pointed out that people were having some problems and concerns – like health and safety. You are hoping for 100% take up, and also that backdrop of the Turnitin updates… Are there future plans that will help us to move to 100%
A3) The health and safety thing came up again and again… But it’s maybe to do with how we cluster assignments. In terms of Turnitin there are updates but not all of those emerge rather slowly – there is a bit more competition now, and some frustration across the UK, so looking likely that there will be more positive developments.
Q4) It was interesting that idea that you can’t release some feedback until it is all ready… For us in the Business School we ended up releasing feedback when there was a delay.
A4) In our situation we had some marks ready in a few days, others not due for two weeks. A few days would be fair, a few weeks would be problematic. It’s an expectation management issue.
Comment) There is also a risk that is marking is incomplete or partially done it can cause students great distress…
Current assessment challenges, Dr. Neil Lent (Institute for Academic Development)
My focus is on assessment and feedback. Initially the expectation was that I’d be focused on how to do assessment and feedback “better”. And you can do that to an extent but… The main challenge we face is a cultural rather than a technical challenge. And I mean technical in the widest sense – technological, yes, but also technical in terms of process and approach. I also think we are talking about “cultures” rather than “culture” when we think about this.
So, why are we focussing on assessment and feedback? Well we have low NSS scores, low league table position and poor student experience reported around this area. Also issues of (un)timely feedback, low utility, and the idea that we are a research-led university and the balance of that and learning and teaching. Some of these areas are more myth than reality. I think as a university we now have an unambiguous focus on teaching and learning but whether that has entirely permeated our organisational culture is perhaps arguable. When you have competing time demands it is hard to do things properly, and the space to actually design better assessment and feedback.
So how do we handle this? Well is we look at the “Implementation Staircase” (Reynolds and Saunders 1987) we can see that it comes from senior management, then to colleges, to schools, to programmes, to courses, to students. Now you could go down that staircase or you can go back up… And that requires us to think about our relationships with students. Is this model dialogic? Maybe we need another model?
Activity theory (Engestrom 1999) is a model for a group like a programme team, or course cohort, etc. So we have a subject here – it’s all about the individual in the context of an object, the community, mediating tool, rules and conventions, division of labour. This is a classic activity theory idea, with modern cultural aspects included. So for us the subject might be the marker, the object the assignment, the mediating tool something like the technological tools or processes, rules and conventions may include the commitment to return marks within 2 weeks, division of labour could include colleagues and sharing of marking, community could be students. It’s just a way to conceptualise this stuff.
A cultural resolution would see culture as practice and discourse. Review and reflection need to be embedded and internalised way of life. We have multiple stakeholders here – not always the teacher or the marker. And we need a bit of risk taking – but that’s scary when we are thinking about risk taking. That can feel at odds with the need to perform at a high level but risk taking is needed. And we need best practice to share experience in events such as this.
So there are technical things we could do better, do right. But the challenge we face is more of a collective one. We need to create time and space to genuinely reflect on their teaching practice, to interact with that culture. But you don’t change practice overnight. And we have to think about our relationship with our students, and thinking about how we encourage and enable them to be part of the process, and building up their own picture of what good/bad work looks like. And then the subject, object, culture will be closer together. Sometimes real change comes from giving examples of what works, inspiring through those examples etc. Technological tools can make life easier, if you have the time to spend time to understand them and how to make them work for you.
Q1) Not sure if it’s a question or comment or thought… But I’m wondering what we take from those NSS scores, and if that’s what we should work to or if we should think about assessment and feedback in a different kind of paradigm.
A1) When we think about processes we can kid ourselves that this is all linear, it’s cause and effect. It isn’t that simple… The other thing about concentrating on giving feedback on time, so they can make use of it. But when it comes to the NSS it commodifies feedback, which challenges the idea of feedback as dialogic. There are cultural challenges for this. And I think that’s where risk, and the potential for interesting surprises come in…
Q2) As a parent of a teenager I now wonder about personal resilience, to be able to look at things differently, especially when they don’t feel confident to move forwards. I feel that for staff and students a problem can arise and they panic, and want things resolved for them. I think we have to move past that by giving staff and students the resilience so that they can cope with change.
A2) My PhD was pretty much on that. I think some of this comes from the idea of relatively safe risk taking… That’s another kind of risk taking. As a sector we have to think that through. Giving marks for everything risks everything not feeling like a safe space.
Q3) Do we not need to make learning the focus.
A3) Schools and universities push that grades, outcomes really matter when actually we would say “no, the learning is what matters”, but that’s hard in the wider context in which the certificate in the hand is valued.
Comment) Maybe we need that distinction that Simon Riley talked about at this year’s eLearning@ed conference, of distinguishing between the task and the assignment. So you can fail the task but succeed that assignment (in that case referring to SLICCs and the idea that the task is the experience, the assignment is writing about it whether it went well or poorly).
Not captured in full here: a discussion around the nature of electronic submission, and students concern about failing at submitting their assignments or proof of learning… 
Assessment Literacy: technology as facilitator, Prof. Susan Rhind (Assistant Principal Assessment and Feedback)
Open Discussion on technology in Assessment and Feedback          


eLearning@ed and LTW’s Learning Design and Engagement Team present Professor Gilly Salmon: Higher Education 1.0 to 3.0 LiveBlog

This afternoon, in my eLearning@ed Convener hat, I’m at a seminar with Professor Gilly Salmon which is being co-hosted by eLearning@ed and the University’s Learning, Teaching and Web Services team and Fiona Hale, who introduced Gilly’s talk.

This is a liveblog so, as usual, comments, corrections, etc. are welcomed. 

I have an interesting job, I’m Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education Innovation) at the University of Western Australia in Perth. It’s a long way away but it had a lot of similarities to Edinburgh – it is a research intensive university, it is very selective, and it has a very beautiful location. It’s perpetual summer – so not like Edinburgh in that respect! Our winter is warmer than Edinburgh’s summer!

And we have some of the same challenges as Edinburgh around teaching. We were doing well but we were a little behind in understanding C21st students and where they were going. So, it’s about innovation – the application of new ideas, new ways to do things.  I’ll talk a bit about this, and my background is in pedagoguey. But I’ve also turned amateur

  • Those who wonder about what happened – what was that?
  • There are those who try to take us to a past gone by
  • And then there are those who actually try and create it – rather than predict it!

Predicting the future can make you look silly, but it’s better than just letting it happen to you. I won’t tell you the way things are, but try and give you a spark to start that dialogue.

So, first of all I’m going to invite you to take a bit of hindsight – if you don’t have that you are doomed to repeat history…

The University of Western Australia is about 100 years old – not as old as Edinburgh, but very very old for Australia. But my hindsight here is that we pretty much deliver a model that is 1000 years old. So I’m going to pull apart some of the components of higher education, and how those are changing. And you can chop education up into many different components… I’ve made an attempt but I hope you’ll take this and critique it and expand upon it. So I have divided it into:

  • Learning
  • Teaching
  • Academics
  • Graduate-ness
  • Learning Locations
  • Knowledge
  • Technology

So, what is Learning? Someone from the audience suggests learning from experience, learning from mistakes. There are neurological aspects. Someone from the audience talks about it being about making connections – in a literal but also information sense. Another: learning is adapting to environment, where you are, when you are. Another: behavioural change, and modify behaviour. We could go on… We don’t know all that much about learning, although these are all valid ways of thinking about this. It’s complex, adaptive, systems, cognitive, physiological, all kinds of approaches…

So, I’m distinguishing between Learning and Teaching. No-one mentioned teaching just now. Traditionally it is thought of as being about someone informing a learner. There is the traditional one to many face to face context, also the Oxford tutorial model which is more discursive. Audience member suggests: it’s traditionally patriarchal or matriarchal. That’s a knowledge based hierarchy. There are also aspects of technology. We have a rough idea of the role of the teacher…

What about the role of the Academic? Audience member: create and share new knowledge. To add to the corpus of knowledge – I would argue that that “share” is important so good to see that there. Audience member: reevaluating old knowledge. Another: to model behaviour in a particular space. Yes, whether professional or academic – applies to medics, lawyers etc.

What about the idea of “Graduateness”? It’s the idea of if you go through Higher Education, maybe even later, is there something different about you? Audience member: it’s a badge in a way. Another: it’s a way to speak to other people in a group perhaps. It’s about being able to be part of particular communities. Audience member: it’s also suggestive of behaviours having changed. Another: and a warranty of your skills. Another: can also enable social mobility. Sure, career or personal development. Another: part of your identity, of being part of that. Another: for particular disciplines there is specific knowledge, but there are the transferable skills, the critical thinking, research skills, technical skills. Another: it’s also about the ability to learn… In Biology students have the ability to get into a subject they didn’t do when they started. If you tell students that they aren’t interested but that is something they would recognise. Has that idea of Graduateness always been a thing? I think the badging certainly has.

So what about Learning Locations? Why are we here? Historically people travelled to university… I’m not sure if you’ve been to pre-modern university. I went to ruins of a 3000 year old unviersity in India and the structure was very familiar – you could almost see your own university in their library/scroll area, the refectory, the rooms… That model of the space, of living, working, spending time together. Anything else? Audience member: I was thinking of location almost as a brand, as why you would go to a particular place. Another: I think that there is a sense of normalised locations – that it is less distracting, it is a space where it is normal to focus and study amongst others like you. I think that’s really critical.  That’s an interesting idea – in Australia many students live at home and attend their nearest university so that’s fairly different from here.

What about knowledge? Historically there was a shift from belief towards knowledge, and the focus on “proper knowledge”… The whole idea of what is “valid knowledge” is very complex. Audience member: Different disciplines have very different ideas of what valid knowledge is. Yes, and that’s part of inducting you to that discipline.

I left technology until last… We’ve always had technologies – the abacus is a mobile technology! I love using technology, like wearables, in my own teaching. Technology isn’t new to higher education… It’s useful to remember as our students fret about Audience member: I think technology also ties into the Learning Locations, in that it’s the only space that you can access some things. 

You’ve all been doing some hindsight there… Some of these things feel unthinkable to change… And actually we can see this image of the University of Bologna in the 14th Century – you’ll have seen it before – which does look like a university lecture now, it’s very recognisable. In surfing you have the idea of the “seventh wave” – a wave that knocks you back, that changes everything, bigger, better, more powerful than what we’ve got. Most of us agree that movable type on the printing press (the Gutenberg press from around 1440) would be one of those. So, you need to look for the seventh wave things that will be the spark for a massive change.

So, we’ll look to where a lot of this has gotten to. So I’m going to start with the World Wide Web – developed around 25 years ago. Our students have never been in the world without it but many of us in this room will remember a world without it. And that has been a huge change, and has also changed the tools and challenges for the students. So we now need to think about creative and publishing aspects, information management, a thinking pedagogy (and learning journeys), learning environments (not lecture theature), web access, building a new paradigm, skills set for the 21st century…

So, lets have a look at those components we talked about, and think about where we might be in terms of Education 2.0… After the idea of Web 2.0. The technical part of the web didn’t change for Web 2.0, but the way it was used that change, hence adopting that rough idea here.

So, for example, learning is starting to change. We now know that informal learning is at least as important, if not more so, than formal learning experiences. Anyone who has held a newborn baby you can see that that baby is looking at everything you do. That’s how they listen and they learn. You just have to look at the literature in early education. So we really aren’t the only game in town when we are at University, there is so much more taking place. Students have always sat out on the grass in summer, only now are we really waking up to that.

And teaching, all of a sudden we’ve realised that peer encouragement, peer support, peer exchange, is important. And it doesn’t only have to be the teaching staff that do that. It might be teaching staff, but others too.

Academics, how many of you have started a research project, done it entirely on your own, and published it on their own. There must be some… But actually understanding, redefining knowledge has be to done as a team. The role of the academic is very much as a team leader. Years back when I moved from being a Senior Lecturer to my first chair I didn’t know exactly what that would mean. I had a professor emeritus as mentor who advised only that “you speak truth to power”, and that should be the only change. I’ve done a lot of that and always keep it in mind. You have to do a lot of that to innovate.

In terms of Graduateness…. Well the idea of licensing practice is much newer… We have moved from a graduation certificate as proxy for skills, to being much more about licensing for practice. And about the fact that those skills etc. need to be updated.

Learning Locations are also changing, from static spaces towards much more blended and flexible environments, often fully integrated. Every so often on campus I queue for the ATM and I ask students whats in their pockets – it’s my informal ATM survey – and the record so far was 19 devices on one student… But it’s rare to have fewer than 2 devices, often more. Students are constantly connected no matter what else they are doing. In our futures laboratory, where we look at new devices, technologies, approaches, we are looking to see where those devices might have learning and teaching possibilities.

Let’s see about Knowledge and what it is. For hindsight we had quite an academic view of knowledge, and around the transmission of knowledge. Audience member: we have more metadata about knowledge, to find knowledge. Another: isn’t that about finding knowledge – that it’s about understanding how to find knowledge, rather than having knowledge. Another: it’s not sufficient to be able to recite knowledge, but to be able to use and apply knowledge in their own field – hence discussion of whether exams are useful. Another: And anyone can have knowledge, not just academics. Another: it’s about volume too… And it’s about the ability to manage that, to interrogate it critically. In my area where I’m trying to change practice I have as many librarians and information specialists working with me as learning technologists. I think it’s a fascinating area, and we all need that insight as we create the future.

And what about Technology? I think we are at the point where technology is cautiously adopted. We need tools to manage that information but it is changing everything about the way that we gain information and knowledge. And those with true insight will see that almost every other sector, industry, area of the social world is transformed… And we are not at the forefront of that which is shocking. Audience: I think the way it has been cautiously adopted makes sense… There is choice and decisions to be made. There is a lot that can be done, and that has to be navigated… No matter what you pick, someone will think you are wrong. Another: there is a tension between individual and organisational choice. I agree, institutions have put huge investment in technologies to make them safe and accessible. Another: there is a tension between what the teacher gives out, and what the student uses… And student has preference there that doesn’t always align. Comment: I think that that cautiousness is about critical engagement with technology, and that is something that industry would sometimes do well to take note of. Not always… Another: And there are issues of accessibility, and that can. Comment: I think that some of that cautiousness is about the role of gatekeepers… Is cautiousness a good, critical, I’m not sure what sort of term. 

I am about innovation, and want my institution to be leading.. Comment: cautiously? Not particularly! Audience member: I think that many of our comments are about scale… About how you support work at scale. I see that. We are doing work at scale. Our futures observatory has 50 projects to see how technology impacts on teaching and learning, and in new technologies. Audience members: any insights into the winning technologies? I think that the leading edge virtual reality especially in medical teaching contexts, some of the robotics work, some of the 3D printing projects. We work with MIT and we have some big stuff… We’ve done a lot with holographics… But all they want to do is to put the teacher in front of the class…! But you just have to do stuff.

So, where do you think Edinburgh is? Audience member: I think it depends where you are here as we are a huge organisation… Some are way beyond “education 2.0”. Another: I think especially in postgraduate education. I won’t answer the question myself, but I want you to use this model as some sort of spark to have those conversations.

So… We are at “education 2.0” so what happens as we move to “education 3.0”? Well I think we already agree that learning is lifelong, that what we do here is a small part of the whole. As we live to 100/110, we will need to keep learning. And expectations are shifting with each generation. Teaching will have to change as a result, to be co-constructed and created. There is a kind of move towards co-constructed teaching. Our students go to Google so we have to ensure that they can interpret and understand the information they find. And we need not just to adopt and disseminate knowledge but to also be learning designers.

As we think about graduateness we have to be prepared for multiple futures. Australia has had a recent report on professions… Australia has a very strict immigration policy only accepting … the vast majority of non-professional jobs will be changed hugely, we have to enable students to be ready for that. And in terms of Learning Locations we need to enable our students, to blend in the right ways, to know how to put things together that support people in their purpose. And knowledge? We know it will be hugely available… It has to be available, contextualised, and reinvented. It’s a wider way of looking at things. And technology? It’s definitely going to be digital, definitely multimedia, definitely mobile, and definitely personal. And that will be hard in big undergraduate classes. The other thing that I’d put under education 3.0, following Tim Berners-Lee and web 3.0, it’s the coming of the semantic web… A different way to understand yourself and your role in the world.

So, I’ll leave you to invent education 4.0… But that’s 3.0. Do we all want to be part of this? (indications of things in the room is that we do).

If you want to look at what is coming… The NMC Horizon Report 2016 Higher Education edition are quite useful. They are built on a Delphi model, so it’s limited to what people already know, but you can look at these, look back at these. Right now we see near-term issues of Bring Your Own Device, Learning Analytics and Adaptive Learning; mid-term we see Augented and Virtual Reality, Maker Spaces, etc. You need to be aware of these if you want to make the future, rather than letting it happen to you.

So, what have I forgotten about? Audience member: I think the student perhaps, they are not fixed in space and time. Students now are very different from just five years – they are part of the c components really. For me, it’s embedded in what is already there, in learning etc. Audience member again: I think you could argue that that is an aspect you can’t control for…  Although I know I can’t control the other factors either! Another: I think there is the issue of globalisation, internationalisation, competition, and the many many ways in which our students are different from each other. It’s a change in the idea of cohorts – they aren’t neatly divided, they vary greatly. And they are more like consumers. Audience member: And that’s a big issue for the UK especially, of it being a market. Comment: And there is the issue of what the university is for, the motivations, the reasons for choosing that route rather than other options. Another: The role of Higher Education is changing – that is about consumers and catering to their needs… I think “service” is important because of that. Another: I think that when we look at scale the campus is very limiting… We no longer talk about a small proportion of learners at undergraduate level, but a large group for undergraduate, then post graduate and beyond… That is much more at scale.” That is the case that scale has increased, since the 1960s but also more recently… And in countries such as India there are vastly more people qualifying for higher education. I think many of these issues are very much where I see “education 4.0” sitting, and mobile sitting.

Comment: I don’t know where the role of teachers of students, and institutions and students sits, where support lies. I was wondering for a moment if you were talking about moral and ethical education… But you are thinking about the whole benefit. Comment: pastoral support really… That seems to have changing. My university has found that social media has entirely overtaken the counseling service (note: that is very much the case here). Audience member: there is also that issue of cost and travel, and the holistic experience of learning in context, which is important otherwise why would you be an international student given the cost. 

So, I am going to bring this to a close. You can have a copy of these slides of course, but also hopefully lots of sparks for ideas and discussions here too. Also you’ll find some references here as well.


Belated Liveblog: eLearning@ed 2016

Last week I was delighted to be part of the team organising the annual eLearning@ed Conference 2016. The event is one of multiple events and activities run by and for the eLearning@ed Forum, a community of learning technologists, academics, and those working with learning technologies across the University of Edinburgh. I have been Convener of the group since last summer so this was my first conference in this role – usually I’m along as a punter. So, this liveblog is a little later than usual as I was rather busy on the day…

Before going into my notes I do also want to say a huge thank you to all who spoke at the event, all who attended, and an extra special thank you to the eLearning@ed Committee and Vlad, our support at IAD. I was really pleased with how the event went – and feedback has been good – and that is a testament to the wonderful community I have the privilege of working with all year round here at Edinburgh.

Note: Although I have had a chance to edit these notes they were taken live so just let me know if you spot any errors and I will be very happy to make any corrections. 

The day opened with a brief introduction from me. Obviously I didn’t blog this but it was a mixture of practical information, enthusiasm for our programme, and an introduction to our first speaker, Melissa Highton:

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eLearning@ed/LTW Monthly Showcase #2: Open

Today we have our second eLearning@ed/LTW Showcase and Network event. I’m liveblogging so, as usual, corrections and updates are welcome. 
Jo Spiller is welcoming us along and introducing our first speaker…
Dr. Chris Harlow – “Using WordPress and Wikipedia in Undergraduate Medical & Honours Teaching: Creating outward facing OERs”
I’m just going to briefly tell you about some novel ways of teaching medical students and undergraduate biomedical students using WordPress and platforms like Wikipedia. So I will be talking about our use of WordPress websites in the MBChB curriculum. Then I’ll tell you about how we’ve used the same model in Reproductive Biology Honours. And then how we are using Wikipedia in Reproductive Biology courses.
We use WordPress websites in the MBChB curriculum during Year 2 student selected components. Students work in groups of 6 to 9 with a facilitator. They work with a provided WordPress template – the idea being that the focus is on the content rather than the look and feel. In the first semester the topics are chosen by the group’s facilitator. In semestor two the topics and facilitators are selected by the students.
So, looking at example websites you can see that the students have created rich websites, with content, appendices. It’s all produced online, marked online and assessed online. And once that has happened the sites are made available on the web as open educational resources that anyone can explore and use here: http://studentblogs.med.ed.ac.uk/
The students don’t have any problem at all building these websites and they create these wonderful resources that others can use.
In terms of assessing these resources there is a 50% group mark on the website by an independent marker, a 25% group mark on the website from a facilitator, and (at the students request) a 25% individual mark on student performance and contribution which is also given by the facilitator.
In terms of how we have used this model with Reproductive Biology Honours it is a similar idea. We have 4-6 students per group. This work counts for 30% of their Semester 1 course “Reproductive Systems” marks, and assessment is along the same lines as the MBChB. Again, we can view examples here (e.g. “The Quest for Artificial Gametes”. Worth noting that there is a maximum word count of 6000 words (excluding Appendices).
So, now onto the Wikipedia idea. This was something which Mark Wetton encouraged me to do. Students are often told not to use or rely on Wikipedia but, speaking a biomedical scientist, I use it all the time. You have to use it judiciously but it can be an invaluable tool for engaging with unfamiliar terminology or concepts.
The context for the Wikipedia work is that we have 29 Reproductive Biology Honours stduents (50% Biomedical Sciences, 50% intercalculating medics), and they are split into groups of 4-5 students/groups. We did this in Semester 1, week 1, as part of the core “Research Skills in Reproductive Biology”. And we benefited from expert staff including two Wikipedians in Residence (at different Scottish organisations), a librarian, and a learning, teaching and web colleague.
So the students had an introdution to Wikipedia, then some literature searching examples. We went on to groupwprl sesssions to find papers on particular topics, looking for differences in definitions, spellings, terminology. We discussed findings. This led onto groupwork where each group defined their own aspect to research. And from there they looked to create Wikipedia edits/pages.
The groups really valued trying out different library resources and search engines, and seeing the varying content that was returned by them.
The students then, in the following week, developed their Wikipedia editing skills so that they could combine their work into a new page for Neuroangiogenesis. Getting that online in an afternoon was increadibly exciting. And actually that page was high in the search rankings immediately. Looking at the traffic statistics that page seemed to be getting 3 hits per day – a lot more reads than the papers I’ve published!
So, we will run the exercise again with our new students. I’ve already identified some terms which are not already out there on Wikipedia. This time we’ll be looking to add to or improve High Grade Serious Carcinoma, and Fetal Programming. But we have further terms that need more work.
Q1) Did anyone edit the page after the students were finished?
A1) A number of small corrections and one querying of whether a PhD thesis was a suitable reference – whether a primary or secondary reference. What needs done more than anything else is building more links into that page from other pages.
Q2) With the WordPress blogs you presumably want some QA as these are becoming OERs. What would happen if a project got, say, a low C.
A2) Happily that hasn’t happened yet. That would be down to the tutor I think… But I think people would be quite forgiving of undergraduate work, which it is clearly presented at.
Q3) Did you consider peer marking?
A3) An interesting question. Students are concerned that there are peers in their groups who do not contribute equally, or let peers carry them.
Comment) There is a tool called PeerAim where peer input weights the marks of students.
Q3) Do all of those blog projects have the same model? I’m sure I saw something on peer marking?
A3) There is peer feedback but not peer marking at present.
Dr. Anouk Lang – “Structuring Data in the Humanities Classroom: Mapping literary texts using open geodata”
I am a digital humanities scholar in the school of Languages and Linguistics. One of the courses I teach is digital humanities for literature, which is a lovely class and I’m going to talk about projects in that course.
The first MSc project the students looked at was to explore Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Dynamiter. Although we were mapping the texts but the key aim was to understand who wrote what part of the text.
So the reason we use mapping in this course is because these are brilliant analytical students but they are not used to working with structured data, and this is an opportunity to do this. So, using CartoDB – a brilliant tool that will draw data from Google Sheets – they needed to identify locations in the text but I also asked students to give texts an “emotion rating”. That is a rating of intensity of emotion based on the work of Ian Gregory – spatial historian who has worked with Lakes data on the emotional intensity of these texts.
So, the students build this database by hand. And then loaded into CartoDB you get all sorts of nice ways to visualise the data. So, looking at a map of London you can see where the story occurs. The Dynamiter is a very weird text with a central story in London but side stories about the planting of bombs, which is kind of played as comedy. The view I’m showing here is a heatmap. So for this text you can see the scope of the text. Robert Louis Stevenson was British, but his wife was American, and you see that this book brings in American references, including unexpected places like Utah.
So, within CartoDB you can try different ways to display your data. You can view a “Torque Map” that shows chronology of mentions – for this text, which is a short story, that isn’t the most helpful perhaps.
Now we do get issues of anachronisms. OpenStreetMap – on which CartoDB is based – is a contemporary map and the geography and locations on the map changes over time. And so another open data source was hugely useful in this project. Over at the National Library of Scotland there is a wonderful maps librarian called Chris Fleet who has made huge numbers of historical maps available not only as scanned images but as map tiles through a Historical Open Maps API, so you can zoom into detailed historical maps. That means that mapping a text from, say, the late 19th Century, it’s incredibly useful to view a contemporaneous map with the text.
You can view the Robert Louis Stevenson map here: http://edin.ac/20ooW0s.
So, moving to this year’s project… We have been looking at Jean Rhys. Rhys was a white Creole born in the Dominican Republic who lived mainly in Europe. She is a really located author with place important to her work. For this project, rather than hand coding texts, I used the wonderful wonderful Edinburgh Geoparser (https://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/software/geoparser/??) – a tool I recommend and a new version is imminent from Clare Grover and colleagues in LTG, Informatics.
So, the Geoparser goes through the text and picks out text that looks like places, then tells you which it things is the most likely location for that place – based on aspects like nearby words in the text etc. That produces XML and Clare has created me an XSLT Stylesheet, so all the students have had to do is to manually clean up that data. The GeoParser gives you GeoNames reference that enables you to check latitude and longitude. Now this sort of data cleaning, the concept of gazeteers, these are bread and butter tools of the digital humanities. These are tools which are very unfamiliar to many of us working in the humanities. This is open, shared, and the opposite of the scholar secretly working in the librarian.
We do websites in class to benefit from that publicness – and the meaning of public scholarship. When students are doing work in public they really rise to the challenge. They know it will connect to their real world identities. I insist students sow their name, their information, their image because this is part of their digital scholarly identities. I want people who Google them to find this lovely site with it’s scholarship.
So, for our Jean Rhys work I will show you a mock up preview of our data. One of the great things about visualising your data in these ways is that you can spot errors in your data. So, for instance, checking a point in Canada we see that the Geoparser has picked Halifax Nova Scotia when the text indicates Halifax in England. When I raised this issue in class today the student got a wee bit embarrassed and made immediate changes… Which again is kind of perk of work in public.
Next week my students will be trying out QGIS  with Tom Armitage of EDINA, that’s a full on GIS system so that will be really exciting.
For me there are real pedagogical benefits of these tools. Students have to really think hard about structuring their data, which is really important. As humanists we have to put our data in our work into computational form. Taking this kind of class means they are more questioning of data, of what it means, of what accuracy is. They are critically engaged with data and they are prepared to collaborate in a gentle kind of way. They also get to think about place in a literary sense, in a way they haven’t before.
We like to think that we have it all figured out in terms of understanding place in literature. But when you put a text into a spreadsheet you really have to understand what is being said about place in a whole different way than a close reading. So, if you take a sentence like: “He found them a hotel in Rue Lamartine, near Gard du Nord, in Monmatre”. Is that one location or three? The Edinburgh GeoParser maps two points but not Rue Lamartine… So you have to use Google maps for that… And is the accuracy correct. And you have to discuss if those two map points are distorting. The discussion there is more rich than any other discussion you would have around close reading. We are so confident about close readings… We assume it as a research method… This is a different way to close read… To shoe horn into a different structure.
So, I really like Michel De Certeau’s “Spatial stories” in The practice of everyday life (De Certeau 1984), where he talks about structured space and the ambiguous realities of use and engagement in that space. And that’s what that Rue LaMartine type example is all about.
Q1) What about looking at distance between points, how length of discussion varies in comparison to real distance
A1) That’s an interesting thing. And that CartoDB Torque display is crude but exciting to me – a great way to explore that sort of question.
OER as Assessment – Stuart Nichol, LTW
I’m going to be talking about OER as Assessment from a students perspective. I study part time on the MSc in Digital Education and a few years ago I took a module called Digital Futures for Learning, a course co-created by participants and where assessment is built around developing an Open Educational Resource. The purpose is to “facilitate learning for the whole group”. This requires a pedagogical approach (to running the module) which is quite structured to enable that flexibility.
So, for this course, the assessment structure is 30% position paper (basis of content for the OER), then 40% of mark for the OER (30%peer-assessed and tutor moderated / 10% self assessed), and then the final 30% of the marks come from an analysis paper that reflects on the peer assessment. You could then resubmit the OER along with that paper reflecting on that process.
I took this module a few years ago, before the University’s adoption of an open educational resource policy, but I was really interested in this. So I ended up building a course on Open Accrediation, and Open Badges, using weebly: http://openaccreditation.weebly.com/.
This was really useful as a route to learn about Open Educational Resources generally but that artefact has also become part of my professional portfolio now. It’s a really different type of assignment and experience. And, looking at my stats from this site I can see it is still in use, still getting hits. And Hamish (Macleod) points to that course in his Game Based Learning module now. My contact information is on that site and I get tweets and feedback about the resource which is great. It is such a different experience to the traditional essay type idea. And, as a learning technologist, this was quite an authentic experience. The course structure and process felt like professional practice.
This type of process, and use of open assessment, is in use elsewhere. In Geosciences there are undergraduate students working with local schools and preparing open educational resources around that. There are other courses too. We support that with advice on copyright and licensing. There are also real opportunities for this in the SLICCs (Student Led Individually Created Courses). If you are considering going down this route then there is support at the University from the IS OER Service – we have a workshop at KB on 3rd March. We also have the new Open.Ed website, about Open Educational Resources which has information on workshops, guidance, and showcases of University work as well as blogs from practitioners. And we now have an approved OER policy for learning and teaching.
In that new OER Policy and how that relates to assessment, and we are clear that OERs are created by both staff and students.
And finally, fresh from the ILW Editathon this week, Ewan MacAndrew, our new Wikimedian in residence, will introduce us to Histropedia (Interactive timelines for Wikipedia: http://histropedia.com) and run through a practical introduction to Wikipedia editing.


Supervising Dissertations at a Distance Workshop – IAD & eLearning@ed Event

Today I am at a Supervising Dissertations at a Distance workshop, co-hosted by eLearning@ed and the Institute for Academic Development. The session is based on a research project and is being facilitated by Dr Jen Ross, Dr Philippa Sheail and Clara O’Shea.

As this is a liveblog the usual caveats apply – and corrections and comments are welcome.

Jen Ross (JR): This event came about from some research that myself, Phil and Clara have worked on looking at online distance learners going through the dissertation process at a distance. So we will talk a bit about this, but also we have an exciting new development that we’ll be showing off: a board game based on our research!

So, myself, Phil and Clara worked on this project, funded by the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme, with our colleagues Sian Bayne, Erin Jackson and Gill Aitken.

This work was done with 4 online distance programmes – clinical education, clinical management of pain, digital education and law. We had 18 semi-structured interviews conducted with graduates almost all via Skype. We undertook thematic analysis of transcripts. We also had 3 focus workshops/conversations with supervisors which enabled us to trigger reflection on the interview data.

So, to start with I want to talk about the “campus imaginary”, after Taylor’s idea of the “imaginary”, and Goggin’s definition of shared beliefs and understandings (rather than imaginary imaginary). Drawing on these we came up with the idea of the “Campus imaginaries” – the shared understanding of the campus and the organisation for those not physically here. We have nick-named this “when it was good it was very very good, but when it was bad it was the internet”. Why? People had lovely things to say, but when they didn’t they often attributed this to being an online distance learner, even when describing quite common dissertation experiences.

For instance June talks about struggling with time to do her dissertation around full time work – she attributes this to being an online distance student. Eva felt she had a good experience but that the supervision wasn’t great, it was adequate but she felt that it could have been better. And she also attributed this to being a distance student.

Terry says: “If you are full time you can just pop in and see your supervisor, or you speak to his secretary and book an appointment to see him. I don’t think there is a limit for a full time student.” [this gets audible laughs in the room given the realities of supervision on and off campus]

Now, that is funny but it is also poinagnt. That imagined idea of the physical space isn’t helpful for Terry and his expectations around supervision, of the support and time available, and those perceived differences between (idealised) physical and distance experience.

Arnott, meanwhile had a poor experience with their supervisor and felt that maybe being able to talk face to face might have helped that.

Nieve didn’t complete the dissertation, exiting with diploma. She felt (in retrospect) that doing some of the degree online, and some on-campus would have helped her as she felt lonely during her dissertation, and wanted to have the opportunity to share experience with other dissertation students. But again we can recognise that as a concern of many on campus students too.

So the themes that came up here, specifically in relation to online distance dissertations are also very familiar: unexpected obstacles; issues with motivation; supervisory relationships; time and space to focus; isolation; doubt. I think we have to do better at being supervisors helping students to understand what they can expect, that they can talk to us about all of these things, that we can support them (and that we don’t have secretaries!)

Phil Sheail (PS): I’m going to talk about the sense of “hospitality at a distance” – of hosting each other as distance students and supervisors, in learning spaces that overlap with homes.

Ruitenberg (2011), drawing on Derrida, in a great paper called “The empty chair: education in an ethic of hospitality” in Philosophy of education. She talks about hospitality as a demand for openness to the arrival of something and someone we cannot forsee: a demand that is impossible to fulfil, but that confronts all of our decisions and actions…”

I think this concept is relevant as whilst I was doing interviews there were so many different students, from different backgrounds and cultures… and it forces us to question some of our ideas of hospitality and of being a good host. Ruitenberg also talks about the figure of the teacher in “at-home” education. And the ethics of the university, the spaces of education are not the teachers

Amplification – you have to amplify yourself to put across your normal sense of enthusiasm, and that works well online.

One of the other things I did on a project with support services – disability office, careers, etc. and that connects to this idea of hospitality, and very particularly the idea of arrival, of welcome. So, we’ve been thinking about

Q: For intermittent learners, students might be engaged in a programme that they started 6 years ago, and starting a dissertation in that context.

A: Well when you start dissertation you may have a supervisor that hasn’t taught you… And there can be a dependency in that relationship between student and supervisor which can be challenging…

Q: Some of our supervisors are not Edinburgh staff members but those from NGOs etc.

A (JR): That was the case with one of the programmes we looked at. There it’s almost a welcome for supervisors too, and what does that mean in terms of making a space for dissertation, and establishing that complex relationship.

A (PS): Even if you are away from the institution, your supervisor is in a hospital etc. it’s important that the University does welcome you, particularly if things go wrong in that relationship, so they know where else to turn.

Martin, a supervisor, talked about the importance of a good and deliberate welcome for students.

In the example you just gave, of students who take a long time… Some students have complex care requirements. June again comments that she had gone through marriage breakdown, family crisis, health issues, but that for her, the degree was actually useful as a consistent presence in her life.

Now we’ve talked about welcomes and being supportive… But not all students actually want that. Terry comments that he wasn’t keen for hand holding and wouldn’t be whether he was full time, part time or online. And we have to remember that not all students want the same thing here.

JR: So we are going to turn now to how we can think of other ways to imagine the campus, alternatives that make students welcome. And also around fostering connections and counteracting negative disconnections. So, over to Clara…

Clara O’Shea (COS): The Dissertation Festival is an idea that Marshall and I came up with and made happen. We started this in 2011 – so reading Jen and Phil’s work backwards into what we do. This idea came out of the experience of loneliness and disconnection which can take place as a student going through the dissertation. We wanted something to support students through the dissertation process.

So, we try to run this festival 6-8 weeks before dissertations are due (usually August) so the festival is generally in May/June. The festival runs in Second Life – so we meet in a virtual space with sunshine, beach, virtual champagne and sushi. And this is just to be welcoming, warm, to make students feel comfortable.

So, the idea is that students come into the space, they present their work – 2 or 3 in an hour or hour and a half period, usually somewhat themed to foster connections, allow sharing of resources, etc. We checked student availability but also tutor availability – and opened the sessions up to others on the programme, and those beyond the programme. Participants do their presentation on voice chat for about 15 minutes. Questions come in in text chat – the presenter may reply during the talk or afterwards, which we also help facilitate.

So, last year we had some sessions on game based learning, multimodality, etc. We also had some tutor and alumni sessions on academic writing, on surviving and thriving through the dissertation, and also literature hunting. All of these sessions are synchronous but they are also recorded. Those recordings and the sessions are also complimented by a wiki (on PBWorks) where comments, further information, etc. can be shared. Each student has a page on the wiki with video, transcript, etc. But they also played with other ways to articulate their idea… We have them write haikus – they hate writing them but then find them really useful. They also play with images as well.

We also have a new innovation since last year called “The Visualisations Gallery”. This is to encourage students towards multimodality… We had tutors, current students, alumni all sharing visual ways to imagine their research.

And, even if a visitor can’t access that wiki, you can leave comments in Second Life.

The dissertation festival gives students a few things. It gives students a touchstone when things are quiet, a way to stay connected with the community. Students not yet at dissertation stage have the opportunity to see what that looks like, how that works. We’ve had students making connections, reading over a draft for each other. It gives students a chance to touch base with other supervisors… Which means accessing other expertise, to fill the gaps, to suggest other content.

So, when Jen talked about campus imaginaries, I think maybe this gives an imaginary that is more realistic and helpful. Places like Second Life give a useful, shared delusion of the campus. We all experience that very differently depending on their own timezone, location, the version of software they are running… It’s an illusion we all buy into. But arguably that is the experience of being on campus anyway.

On a practical basis we move those virtual logs, we adapt the voice presentation to the speakers needs, etc. But every time people come into Second Life they bring in their home space – the sounds, the distractions – and share that. It makes that special overlapping space. The space changes every time anyone comes in and out, and the dialogic space that participants create. And I think that’s where hospitality fits in.


Q1: Can you say more about the interviewees – how many students, how many supervisors. I would like to know more about similarities or differences between supervisors and students.

A1 (JR): The interviewees were all students. The supervisors gave input through workshops, where they reflected and responded to student comments. Those haven’t been written up as quotes yet but inform our understanding here. One thing that struck me was that supervisors often also feel a sense of dislocation from supervisees… For instance maintenance of an authoritative supervisory role when you and the student are Skyping each other from home, you see the students kids running about, etc. And that giving those relationships a different character and nature perhaps.

Q2: For us the distance is often not as important about the fact that they are intermittant adn part time.

A2: That longer process does mean more can happen… Which can mean more likelihood to need to take an interruption of studies, and struggle to fit things in.

Q2: As a coordinator one of my challenges is managing supervisor expectations – that students don’t work full time for 10 months.

A2 (PS): Certainly some students took a while to get going… Changes in work or work priorities can impact on projects, especially work-based projects. One of our students had moved through 3 continents whilst doing their work.

A2 (COS): The festival can be useful for providing an additional deadline. Students often struggle to prioritise their own research over their work commitments etc. Students can also have unrealistic idea of their own – and their supervisors – availability during the dissertation process. When my students start we talk  through those things that

A2 (PS): We did have students feeling they were out of sync with other students. In one programme regular Skype chats were available but being ahead or behind made that chat less useful… They got into this idea that only students at the same pace/stage can share. There was also that issue Clara mentioned about being unclear on how much time they could expect from supervisors, or how much they were allowed. More clarity there might help.

A2 (JR): One of the most interesting things for me was seeing the difference in practice between programmes. Some started at the same time, some were rolling… But no matter how rigid the system some students always went out of sync. It was interesting to see how many ways there are to organise a programme and a dissertation process, you can only organise so far.

Q3: Are there resources we can give supervisors meeting students for the first time that they haven’t taught before?

A3: We have a dissertation planner that is for students to adapt, to help them manage the process, to understand availability of students at a given time, etc. These are on the website too. So things like work commitments, times when supervisors are away…

Q3: That sounds more like its for students. What about supervisors.

A3: There are resources for PhD supervision but if you talk to Velda (IAD) she will be able to comment.

A3 (PS): I think for student services it is important to have routes for students to access them online. Careers, counselling, disability and chaplaincy all have some some of page for what they can do for online programmes now, and are looking at ways to offer services online. I had a student I spoke to in this research who had a horrible personal time, and she was surprised that counselling was never suggested

Comment (LC): There are resources you can embed in Learn for your courses that point to those support services.

Q4: Is 6-8 weeks really enough time for capturing the problems?

A4: I think it’s about right. We’ve tried later – and that’s too late. We’ve tried earlier but students get nervous about what they can present. It seems to be around 8 weeks is about right. And, if they aren’t ready at that point then students are in trouble and need to have conversations with supervisors. At that stage they can’t change methodologies though… But our research methods course ends with an assignment which is a proposal for research which triggers those sorts of theoretical and methodological conversations early, and raise any major concerns on timing etc.

JR: And now…. We will have a short break but then when we come back we will be playing Dissertation Situation: the board game based around our work! This is a primarily discussion based game.

So, the thing that is useful to know is that the scenarios in the game have come from data generated in this project. So these are real world problems (slightly fictionalised). They have happened, they are likely to happen again.

Related Links:




LTW + eLearning@ed Monthly Meet Up #1 – Jan 2016 Liveblog

These notes were taken live at the first Learning Teaching and Web Services and eLearning@ed joint Monthly Meet Up, which took place at Appleton Tower on 28th January 2016. The definitive version can be found on the elearning@ed wiki, where you’ll also find related resources. As these were live notes the normal caveats apply and comments, corrections, etc. are very much welcomed.

Jo Spiller – Introductions

Welcome to our first Monthly Showcase and Networking session, which will be around five key areas here.

A few things coming up that may be of interest. We have the soft launch of MediaHopper as of 21st Jan. We also have the launched of Open.Ed showcasing OER best practice on 4th February. And we also have OER Workshops on 3rd March in Central area, 4th May in Kings Buildings.

Innovative Learning Week runs 15th-19th February with loads of events including a Wikipedia Editathon, Photogrammatry on 16th Feb, and Plotting the Campus on 17th Feb. We also have Learning Technology Fairs – School of Geosciences (15th Feb); ECA on 22nd March.

Marketing ODL

Dissertations at a Distance & eLearning@ed

Prof Jonathan Rees – Using video in the clinical medical curriculum. What are we learning?

I’m going to talk to you about what the challenges are in the medical school. In clinical medicine we work on a “Carousel” model. There are 18 carousels, each lasting 2 weeks, over 40 weeks each year. 15 students per carousel. 14 hours of tutorial each week, and 30 hours of clinical observation. Each student engage with around 8-10  staff. You have 3 hours of lectures, spaced up to 3 months away from the carousel. So, that’s not a system you’d necessarily design so there are problems to solve…

And we’ve made a video here to show you how we addressing some of those challenges. This video addresses key concepts and introductions to material they will see in the course. So, essentially we’ve been trying to use videos to overcome some of these challenges. Many of our students don’t know who some of our staff are here – which means that a challenge for our modules is to put a face to the name, to make this course personal, to make those connections to the people in charge of their teaching.

People did use video when I was a student… But they work very well for procedures. We want to put some things online partly as students are based throughout the region, and that means it’s available close to when they need it. In some ways our course structure is not linear. Some of our material in year 4, is the just in time learning for year 5. One of the interesting things about videos is you get to see what other people are doing and thinking!

Q1: How do students respond to them?

A1: they look at them, we get told if they do’t work. They say that they like them and request them.

Q2: Now that staff are more recognisable does that change anything?

A2: We only started doing this in September properly, but too early to say.

Q3: You did something interesting on quality of iPhone recording and mic.

A3: One of the talking head ideas was to get students to know who the module leaders are, to make those connections… If you have to cross town to do things it can be a nightmare… The phone is good enough to create short content, timely content when needed. Even cheap mics in a good room are amazing.

Q4: Do you have a limit on videos to keep them short or is it any length?

A4: Some are 2 and a half minutes, which works great. We try to keep them under 5 mins or around 5 mins.

Q5: Are they scripted?

A5: No. The talking head ones we are still learning how to do that… No scripting but sometimes two or three takes to get the right version.

Q6: Editing can take the time, how have you managed this?

A6: In theory there will be a system in the college. Right now we can edit, it’s not great. But generally we try to do everything in one take… With maybe a stop and restart. But we try to avoid too much editing.

Comment: I do a few online sound clips with a PowerPoint… I find I have to do it twice… Run once with timer, then second go I capture it.

A6: I’m still learning… The more we do it, the better we’ll get at it… We’ll get used to doing it.

Imogen Scott – Creating high-qualiy media for teaching (advice from MOOCland)

I’m talking here about video for a much wider audience. You would’t always invest this much time and work for a video for a small group etc. I work in the Media Production Team, with my colleagues Lucy, Tim, Nichol, Kara, Andy and me. We create media for MOOCs and I’m going to draw on a couple of examples here, particularly from our Andy Warhol MOOC…

Imogen is playing a video from our Warhol MOOC.

So in that clip we had some locations – an art studio (not Warhol’s!), and he also found some Warhol images that we could use online. Now that is a very tricky thing to do… It was only possible because of our lecturer, Glyn’s involvement in a large scale research collaboration, and that brought it’s own challenges.

The Warhol course was 5 weeks long with a lot of video content each week. We had multiple stakeholders: Tate, Artist Rooms, Arts Council, National Galleries of Scotland. And they needed to negotiate rights etc.

By contrast we also made the Nudgeit: Understanding Obesity course, a 5 week course, 3 hours per week learner effort, 35 mins per week video content. This was all content created by the team. We used teaching spaces, we used the anatomy museum, and they created their own resources for the course – interpretations of data, visuals, etc. And they documented that process for the course.

We also did Mental Health: A Global Priority. This was done mainly with audio materials as this was designed to be used in the developing world and audio means much smaller downloads. And it also enabled anonymity for some participants, particularly important given some of the interviewees discussing mental health. (We are now hearing audio from the course.)

This course was quicker to source – no locations needed, minimal visual content. But it took a long time as the challenge was both the location and time zones of participants and partners, as well as the less reliable internet connections in some locations. We had plenty of time but only just got this completed when we needed to.

So, if you are thinking of creating video or audio. When you are putting together ideas we strongly advise creating a video script. That helps you finalise the words, but also to think about the visuals (which may be a talking head, but may be many other things). Think about what you want to say, look at other videos to think about visual aspects. Source images from creative commons, take your own images… And sometimes if you have an abstract concept to describe think about how you might do that…

You also want to think about what you want to call your video and how long it would be – we try to keep videos under 6 minutes. For Philosophy and the Sciences we filmed in a really lovely library… That looked good and let us do separate takes and do cutaways as part of the visuals.

If you do grab creative commons images do keep track of your sources. You can use our spreadsheet if you want to – capture source, source link, etc. And that means you can license your own work openly if you want to. You can’t always do that but when you do you want to provide a license, evidence any research used, evidence any source materials used.

For scheduling a production you need to think about equipment, location, contributors, script, images or other source material, licenses for these, and time to create transcripts.

Q1: Is there a university transcription service?

A1: We outsource at present. We think that there may be some opportunity to do this in house.

Comment: If there is a need here then it would be really useful to gather evidence of that need.

Ross: There is also some discussion from the Web Publishers Clinic around this too which I’ll share.

Comment: And Informatics has masters students working on automated transcriptions.

Imogen: The timescales here tends to be 6-8 months – including emails and preparation etc. More collaborators can mean that it takes longer. For about half an hour of video content you need to allow 1-2 days to record that, and then about a week or more for editing. Editing is where a lot of the creativity happens.

We have a webpage that lists our DIY media kit for hire. We also have our attributions spreadsheet template, and Creative Commons attribution guidance.

Q2: Have you found that you are required to put any of the people you record through media training? Is that something you advise?

A2: We tend not to advise that. It’s geared towards giving an interview on the news. For course materials it’s a different style – and being comfortable with the material and the setting. In some ways the MOOC production timeline is getting used to creating video. Every team we get is new to this… You try it and you learn it…

Q2: One thing from the previous speaker is that people seemed very natural…

Comment: But that’s a second or third take thing… The first take isn’t likely to have been as natural.

Imogen: And you get used to that experience anyway, you become more natural on camera.

We are now watching the Edinburgh MOOCs showreel… 

Prof Clive Greated – Use of video and sound in fluid mechanics and acoustics teaching

I have been teaching fluid mechanics at Edinburgh since the 1970s but back a while ago I began getting involved in teaching acoustics and becoming interested in sound. And one of the things that I created for this course were a series of podcasts of different instruments and although I stopped teaching the acoustics course ages ago I happened to mention that I had these. Now maybe 5 years back I was asked to take over a third year fluid mechanics students, and I wanted to use that idea of podcasts, or something similar, to bring out the practical aspects of engineering.

So my idea was to go into the field and look at real engineering sites, so students had a feel for the kind of realities of a real system. A large section of my course is on turbines, used in hydrostations etc. It’s quite difficult to visualise those for the students… But I wanted to encourage students to go take a look at real systems as there are 100s in Scotland. (We are now watching a video on hydroelectric systems). The videos are about 3 minutes long. I’ve made 50-60 of these. Some are a bit longer – one on the physics and astronomy department are 30 minutes long.

So, I’ve taken the various topics and made videos around that… One of the topics is waves and wave power, and Scotland had the first wave turbines attached to the grid, so again just giving students a view of what that looks like in practice. (Watching a wave turbine video now, showing a decommissioned turbine to explain the working).

Again, I have another clip and then I’ll share some reflections on using these. Now, another topic is high speed flows and super sonic flight. We have the museum of flight just up the road so I made just a short clip about that (now watching this, which discusses the power and inefficiency of Concorde).

So for all of these I’ve tried to get real examples for students. And I just want to talk briefly on practicalities. You’ll see that in some of those videos I’m in the video… Sound recording is absolutely crucial – you have to monitor that really carefully. So you need a camera with proper sound facilities, XSLR inputs etc. And in most of these videos you have voice over… A very useful facility in the University is an anechoic chamber. You really need that sort of soundproofed space to do audio for video recordings. There is a small semi-anechoic space in Informatics. The high quality space is also available to use in Kings Buildings – you need to call to book it but that can be done.

In terms of audio, many of our students listen to recordings through iPads/iPhone and that’s an opportunity to record in binaural sound (now watching a video with binaural sound of a wave tank). In fact the first recording I made of the wave tank – recorded in slow motion and with binaural audio from the sea – had over 750k hits on YouTube.

I have found a real interest from students in this which I’m really pleased about. It is really good to incorporate the sound and the video. I’m an actually retired, but still teaching (full time!) so probably have more time than most.

Q1: I hope you’ve been nominated for teaching awards?

A1: I have been nominated every year, and students always cite that material as being helpful.

Q2: How have the rest of the faculty responded?

A2: I haven’t had a huge response. I have Video PremierPro editing on my machine, but I basically do this all myself.

Q3: Did you have a challenge getting people to be natural on camera?

A3: I have to confess my wife is my sound recordist – I drag her around Scotland.

Q4: How do you get to film on location – do you just call people up?

A4: Yes. My next film is in Orkney with Scot Renewables and that’s going to be the largest tidal generator in the world. We’ve already been to Harland and Wolf in Belfast, where it is being constructed so there’ll be that full lifecycle. People are keen to be in videos. You have to ask people, but they are generally happy to take part. It may be that for some commercial stuff there might be concern, but generally this is fine. People are quite up for that.

Q5: Are these openly on YouTube?

A5: I think they will be on the Open.ed website. And will be available there. So I have changed all the licenses ready.

Hands On MediaHopper Session – Stephen Donnelly and Mark Jennings

We are going to quickly show you how how to login to MediaHopper and download the CapturEd software. (Demo taking place).




Designing for 21st Century Learning – eLearning@ed Conference 2015 LiveBlog

On this very sunny Thursday I am at the IAD in Bristo Square for the elearning@ed forum’s 2015 conference which is focusing on Designing for 21st Century Learning. I’ll be taking notes throughout the day (though there may be a gap due to other meeting commitments). As usual these are live notes so any corrections, updates, etc. are welcomed.

The speakers for today are:

Welcome - Melissa Highton, Director, Learning Teaching and Web Services, IS.

Thank you all for coming. It’s a full agenda and it’s going to be a great day. Last year Jeff left us with the phrase that it is “exciting times” and that’s reflected by how fast this event filled up, sold out… you are lucky to get a seat! Being part of this community, to this forum, is about a community commitment we will see throughout the day, and we are very lucky and very appreciative of that.

Designing for 21st Century Learning is our theme for today. As someone who did all their formal learning in the 20th century, I started with a bit of Googling for what 21st Century might be – colourful diagrams seems to be the thing! But I also looked for some accounts from the university of what that might mean… some things that came through where that it is about teaching understanding of difficult things in all subjects, do a little to remove the inequalities of life, practical work and making things with one’s hands “the separation of hand and brain is an evil for both”. But these words are from 1905, they are from the University Settlement. But actually many of those remain common values. But there are are also issues of technology, of change…

“It’s not ok not to understand the internet anymore” – Martha Lane-Fox delivering the Dimbleby Lecture at London’s Science Museum, March 2015. That is certainly part of what we are talking about. Most in this room will feel they understand the internet, but we also have to be thinking about the challenges raised, the trends. And I’m going to finish with a graphic from the New Media Consortium (which the university is part of) tracking some of these changes and trends here/coming soon.

Chairs session – Individual short presentations, followed by open panel discussion (chaired by Jessie Paterson)

Designing for 21st Century earning: the view where I sit Prof. Judy Hardy, Physics Education, (Physics and Astronomy) Profile

I was asked to give the view from where I am, in 10 minutes, which is fairly tough! So I will be sharing some of my thoughts, some of what is preoccupying me at the moment.

Like Melissa I saw the concept of 21st Century Learning and thought “gosh, what’s that”. So I tried to think about a student coming here in 2020. That student will probably be just about coming to the end of their first year at secondary school right now. So what will it look like… probably quite a lot like now… lectures, tutorials, workshops etc. But what they will have is even more technology at their fingertips… Whether that is tablets or whatever.

We have been working on a project tracking students use of technology. We didn’t tell them what to use or how. They used cloud based word processor saying it saved times, seeing each others writing styles benefitted the flow of the report they worked on together. They used Facebook and self organised groups to compliment and coordinate activity. They just did it. I think many didn’t mention it as they just took it for granting…

Interactive engagement in learning performs something like double the learning gain (RR Hake 20?). But wht is that? We did research (Hardy et al 2014) on academic staff teaching in UK university physics departments. Many want to teach, many focus as much on teaching as research. So what are the challenges? Well time and time as a proxy for other things… We can’t ignore that if we really want to move from a dedicated few doing great teaching work, to mainsteaming that. Deslauriers, Schelew and Wieman (2011) in Science found that it took 20 hours preparation to teach with a flipped classroom – that reduces after the first run but it is a substantial investment of time. Pedagogically there is also confusion over the best tools or approaches to take..

What is preoccupying me quite a bit at the moment… It is not about the “what” and “how” but about the “why’. There is awareness of what we should or might do. How to do that is very important – you need to know what to do and how to do it. But you also need to understand the principles behind that, why you are doing that, what the purpose is. You need to know what you can modify, and why, and what the consequences of that might be. When we are doing teaching, when we are thinking about teaching, we need to have this in mind. Otherwise we end up using the same formats (e.g. lectures) just surrounded by new technology.

Prof. Sian Bayne, Digital Education, (Education) Profile

It was a bit of a wide brief for this session, so I thought I would talk about something happening this week. Some of you will be aware that the #rhizo15 MOOC is running again this week, the Rhizomatic Learning “cMOOC” idea. And I saw lots of tweets about a paper I’d written… Which got me thinking about what has been happening… and where things are going…

That paper looked at the Deleuze and Guattari (1988) concept of striated space (closed, hierachichally, structured, etc.) vs smooth space (open ended, non hierachichal, wandering-orientate, amorphous). And that these spaces, these metaphors, intersect… And this paper was using these metaphors in the design of learning itself. So, back in 2004 the VLEs and LMSs was pretty much what there was in terms of online learning – very striated spaces. Emerging at that time in a more smooth space – were ideas like scholarly hypertext, multimodal assessments, anonymous discussion boards (which went, but are kind of back with YikYak), wikis and blogs.

So, what has changed around 10 years later? Well in the striated space we have VLEs and LMSs, Turnitin, e-portfolios, and we have things that may be striating forces including personalisation (flexible but to rules), adaptive learning, learning analytics, gamification (very goal orientated), wearables.  In terms of the smooth spaces… we have Twitter (though some increasing striation), YikYak, real openness. And we also see augmented realities and flipped cassrooms, maker spaces, and crowd-based learning as smoother spaces.

So, what’s next? The bigger point I want to make is that we have a tendency in this field to be very futures orientated. I was also googling this week for elearning and digital education trends 2015.. huge numbers of reports and trends which are useful but there is also a change acceleration, trends and practices to respond to and keep up with. We need to remember that we are doing those things in the context, to look back a bit, to consider what kind of teaching do we actually want to do, what kind of university do we want to be. And ultimately what is higher education actually for? And those kinds of considerations have to sit alongside that awareness of changes, trends, technologies…

Using Technology to support learners’ goal setting – Prof. Judy Robertson, Digital Learning, (Education) “Using technology to support learners’ goal setting”.  Profile

I am also talking about what I am working on this week, which has mainly been data analysis! My work looks at technology use by children (and sometimes university students). I design and evaluate technology for education and behaviour change, often designing learners in the design process. There are aspects of behaviour change and concepts from games that can be particularly useful here, but games tend to have set goals built in (even if you can choose your goals from a set), and I look at learners setting their own goals.

So my research vision is about working with users to develop technology which enables them to set and monitor appropriate goals for themselves in the context or education and healthcare – that could be working with children and teachers to develop software which enavles goal setting around problem solving and physical activity, or to work with new undergraduates to help them to plan and monitor their studying, or even working with older adults to assist them to change their patterns of sedantary behaviour. But there is a risk of becoming like the Microsoft paperclip… How do we actually make technology useful here?

So I have been working on an exergame (a game where physical exertion is the input medium) called Critter Jam (aka FitQuest) which is looking at whether it is possible to motivate children to increase their activity. So the game might have you collecting virtual coins, or being chased by a virtual wolf… It is all about encouraging mainly running activities, with mainly playground game type activities. Within the game children can pick from different goals… For those with intrinsic motivation tendencies you can aim for your personal best… For some children you might set a custom points target – and how children (or indeed university students) pick that target is interesting. Some children may want to top the leader board  – that motivates some, but competition can be negative too…

So, we are also looking at fine grained log file data from around 70 kids over 5 weeks as part of a wider RCT data set. I’ve been looking on the sort of goals kids set and how they achieve them. And also looking at how self-efficacy relates to goal setting. And as you look at the data you can look at the high performing kids and see where there are patterns in their goal settings.

It turns out that kids achieved their goals around 50% of the time, which is a bit of a disappointment. And those who expect to do well, tend to set more ambitious goals – which raises some questions for us. And in terms of how goal setting relates to high performance gains we have some interesting qualitative data. We interviewed some students – all of our kids here were 10 years old – and they reported that if they had set too hard a goal, they would reset to a lower goal, but then aim to keep improving it. This seems reasonable and thoughtful for a 10 year old. At 10 that’s not what all students will do though (even for undergraduates that doesn’t even work). Speaking to another child they aimed fairly low, to avoid the risk of failure… again something we need to bear in mind with university students and how ambitiously they set their own goals.

Prof. Dave Reay, Carbon Management and Education, (Geosciences) Profile


– Prof. Jonathan Silvertown, Technology Enhanced Science Education, (Biological Sciences) “Virtual Edinburgh: Turning the City into a pervasive learning environment”.

– Prof. Dragan Gasevic, Learning Analytics, (Informatics and Education.) Profile

“Co-Creation: Student Ownership of Curriculumâ€� (Workshop) – Dash Sekhar, VPAA, EUSA and Tanya Lubicz-Nawrocka, EUSA

“Using e-Portfolios to recognise our student and graduate attributes” - Simon Riley (CMVM) and Prof. Ian Pirie, Asst Principal Learning Developments

Designing for Open- Open Educational Resources and new media for learning – Melissa Highton Director, Learning Teaching and Web Services, IS.

Lunch (where there’ll be some posters to explore) then Labs/practicals chaired by Marshall Dozier (this is where I may be at meetings and you may wish to switch to watching #elearninged) including:

 “Designing teaching spaces for the 21st century learner: The story of the nostalgic Dad and the horrified Son” - Victoria Dishon (School of Engineering), Stephen Dishon (IS Learning Spaces Technology)

DYNAMED: Student Led Development of a Dynamic Media Library for the R(D)SVS – Brian Mather and Rob Ward – (CMVM)

Experience with Cogbooks pilot on personalised learning. – Eduardo Serafin (Geosciences) and Mark Wetton (IS)

Offshoots and Outputs session chaired by Marshall Dozier:

CMC Vellore India partnership – online MSc in Family Medicine - Liz Grant (CMVM) and Jo Spiller (IS)

“Digital tools for lighting educationâ€� – Ola Uduku and Gillian Treacy, (ECA)

“Research, Teaching and Learningâ€� – Michael Begg (IS)


“Developing the Vision for 21st century learning” – Prof. Sue Rigby, VP Learning and Teaching


Conference closing – Wilma Alexander, Convenor, eLearning@ed Forum



Elearning@ed 2014 LiveBlog

Welcome – Jeff Hayward

Jeff is noting how this is the twelfth annual elearning@ed event, and that’s a really notable length of time for an internal event like this.

There’s a real buzz about technology enhanced learning, eLearning, or whatever you want to call it. There seems to be a stepping up a gear and a real sense of fun and creativity here. Lots of rethinking of pedagogies, and of teaching and learning and the use of technology in this. And I think we’ve tended to do it that way around, and kept a solid idea of skills that students need as they go out into the world.

I also want to thank all of you working on MOOCs. And I wanted to thank all of you who are involved in the online masters programmes. I think we are quite unusual to have so many of these, so fully across the university. As the first phase of the DEI programme comes to an end we are well on our way to the 10,000 student target. Now that’s the good bit. But I know our students would like greater consistency in our use of technology, and technology a cross the programme.

Part of the stepping up a gear has been the advertising of senior posts in online learning. We include online learning in the job descriptions of senior staff in schools, of senior management, and that’s really significant. We are seeing schools who haven’t been involved in DEI yet, are coming forward now. We have ambitious plans for investment in digital education. And we have recently formed a new division, headed by Melissa Highton, within Information services to take this forward. And MVM teaching and learning technology team are joining IS so we will have a big experienced team taking this forward. So a lot of excitement and fun looking forward!

Keynote: Cargo cult teaching- the importance of authentic practice – Ross Galloway

Thinking about what authenticity might look like I felt there were three key areas to authenticity: authentic practice by instructors; authentic practice by students – particularly thinking about what students will go forward with in their careers; authentic practice in educational research.

I want to start with the notion of authentic practice by instructors. Here we have our classic 12th C picture of a lecture… And that’s pretty much looks like lectures now…. Very passive audience…

But there are alternatives as well. But there are movements around active learning, group learning. Problem based learning where students are more active, more engaged. So another picture of a lecture theatre here shows students working in groups, directing their attention across the row, not to the front.

Why should we care about how we teach? Here’s some compelling data from physics (hake, am. J. Phys. 1998) which shows evaluation of a number of introductory physics courses. It shows “gain” – the difference between pre and post testing, showing any improvement. Normalised gain of 0 means people have learned nothing. Normalised gain of 1 means they have learnt everything. Passive learning doesn’t show much over 0.3 gain. Active engagement varies but sits much higher in the 0.5 the 0.6 and above. So I will be bold and say that active learning is what works. The evidence is there. Surely we should be in a golden age for active learning then?

Surveys in the US did show 87% awareness of evidence based reformed approach. And almost half used them. Slightly lower in the UK… But still good… Except there is a catch….

For physics in the US more than a third of instructors who try these new approaches, subsequently discontinue (Henderson etc al 2012). In biology instructors report that they don’t see better results? What happens? Well we hear instructors saying “I tried it, it didn’t work!”.

So I want to talk a bit about Cargo Cults. During the war cargo planes were dropping materials and supplies. Locals also benefitted. But the war ended and the planes stopped. So locals missed that, they knew you needed watchtowers, then planes would come… But they didn’t. And this is a real phenomenon….

And that’s a bit like what has been happening with these new teaching approaches. So in physics 1/4 to 1/2 of instructors deviate significantly from established design of evidence-based teaching approaches (Henderson and dancy 2009). And a wide variation in actual classroom practices for the “same” approach (Taylor and finkelstein?). It’s like those wooden control towers… It looks like they’ve done the right thing but it’s not going to work the same way…

So an example. Peer instruction… You might pose a question. Let students think and vote, let students discuss amongst themselves, students revote, whole class discussion, confirm and summarise. That’s the evidence based approach.

But what happens in reality in some classes is people miss out the “students think and vote” so you never get that marker in the sand. Asking the question first means you have thought and committed. So you have to confront why there is disagreement. You want to engage and resolve conflict, reform existing conceptions. Skipping it means students votes come from a very different place. How many of those skipping that stage don’t even know why that step is there?

The other part which Is often missed out is the confirm and summarise stage. Students can get partway through learning, be developing ideas. But that confirmation and summarising is really important,it firms up what the correct approach is and why, is confirms what has been learned.

So, what to do? Well don’t blame the instructor! “Us versus them is not constructive” (dancy and Henderson 2010). Instructors are often not hugely aware of learning theory but that doesn’t mean they are unbelievers, that they aren’t open to change even if they do use traditional methods.

Avid don’t tell instructors what to do – an informed partnership works better (Henderson and dancy 2007). We are instructors because we are experts, we know what we are talking about. And there are key pragmatic reasons that some practices are hard to do – room layout can make a huge difference for instance.

So what do We do?

Classroom approach needs to correspond to the authentic practices of the educational reform. Implementation needs to be supported.

So that’s the polemic, now some examples. And starting with a failed experiment in reformed approaches. I can talk about this failure because it is mine!

So for undergraduate physics we have an assignment marking rubric. It works well, it’s supported by research. We look for techniques that experts use. For instance for mathematical execution and final answers we explicitly include “evidence of meaningful evaluation of answers”. So we want students to check over, assess, confirm things are correct. So, it makes sense. Super. Expert like.

What happens in practice? Students do this for equations like e=mc2. Where there is no point of doing that! Or they fail to do something in the equation and note a discrepancy. But don’t go back and recheck it. So they evaluated it but did not actually used it as a tool. They got so very close!

What’s the problem? From an expert perspective you do this stuff automatically… You work and correct as you go. But students see it as a hoop to leap through. It’s not useful or effective.

It’s not enough to encourage students to do what we do. The practice must be authentic within the context of the students activity – right there at that moment. It must be real. If it’s not it’s just that hoop to jump to. So I will take these things out of the play context, focus them in actual useful practices.

And that last section. Authentic practice in educational research. A happy successful example. Let’s go back to that peer instruction process. Wouldn’t it be nice to close the loop, to feed results into how we write questions. Why do this? Well voting responses highlight some concepts that are easily shifted – big gain. But sometimes we see something where the gain is very small pre and post discussion etc. how do we find out what happens here? Well we use smart pens. They give real insight into what is going on. These pens digitise and include microphones, captures pen strokes and audio recording in sync. I don’t listen in, that’s not fair… But I get to see process data. So this technology told us what went wrong in this question with terrible gain…

Firstly it was a negative question so confusing doubles. And there were lots of confusions about the symbols using in the question – which isn’t important. The concepts are the key focus or should be. And the question saw students focusing on irrelevant features. And symbols activate formula-based approach. These are superficial but divert students from talking about the core concept. I learned a lot here. I do walk the rom but students can feel inhibited so this technology really helps.

So we rewrote the question. We added an image to set up the idea of what was taking place. It’s no longer negative. And we took out symbols. But numbers still had to be here. And we retested this approach. And we went from gain of 0.09 to 0.51. That’s a great result. We did this for a number of other questions, revising question based on insights. Some saw modest improvements, some substantial improvements.

The smart pen technology is highlY effective for observing student process. It was embedded in a really authentic experience, the real classroom setting, real problems students were solving. A really authentic experience.

So, authenticity. Are we being authentic as instructors? Are students playing at being students or can we make their experience authentic and real and relevant to them. And how can we ensure when we look at educational research it’s relevant and authentic to us, to our teaching context.


Q: thank you so much Ross. I was thinking about what you said about failure. You admitted something didn’t work. You talked about constraints for instructors… How can I encourage instructors to try something that might not actually work, that might be a failure, to engage and enjoy that experience regardless
A: I think there is no easy answer to that. But, welts all relative. Even when reformed practices don’t work well they are usually better than what went before. Didactic passive lectures work alarmingly poorly. Students often learn from books, from friends, from the libraries but take little from the classroom in that form. My practice could certainly be better but it’s an iterative approach. Even if you try it only once or twice a semester, to learn from something appropriate and authentic to their context. Incorporate small pieces and build from three,

Q: what data do you get from the smart pens?
A: you can see an animated PDF of line moving and audio effectively, it’s a proprietary format. Students transcribed, or looked for keywords, coded independently to make sure similar. That’s tricky actually. That takes some time to do but if I see two thirds hung up on symbols, that’s probably significant.

Q: I like to throw the messiness at my students, all the ambiguities. So if you clean up that question are you removing those?
A: I do like those ambiguities but I include those a bit differently. I have my students read ahead. We focus on fundamental concepts as most peoples fundamental concept of the universe is actually different from physics and deceptively difficult to shift. We do embrace ambiguity but not in lectures, in workshops where we have four or six tutors around and we ask big real world ambiguous questions. So questions like “how many street lights are there in edinburgh” – a question to think about what they can see, what they can estimate… The technically gifted students hate this. At school they are rewarded for the right answers. Physicists get employed because they have the skills to think “well I can see 12 lights from here so if I think about how many there might be across the city based on that…” to think around the question, not to have a single right answer.

Q: I am trying to take the same approach online. But we are having difficulty with students response to this approach. These are a mixed mature student group from ten different countries and significant portion ask “where is the lecture?!” Have you had this?
A: we have had some responses like that. We ask students in teed back surveys about these formats versus other classes, about what works and what doesn’t. Overwhelmingly they embrace it and write very nuanced responses. 85-90% like it! a few are neutral! and a tiny but very civically core don’t like it. For them though it’s about explaining why, the evidence base for this approach. I don’t see it much in my class but in the literature there are reports that students think it’s instructors being lazy. Not true of course, it is more work and you absolutely have to be on top of your game. But we do have the issue of students being very conservative. Every year we have a few students who only want to study like school. Don’t want to do coursework, workshops etc. exceedingly risky for them. So you have to convince the students to engage here. One thing I do in lectures is ask students to speak to someone who doesn’t agree with them – little happens, then I say “and if you can’t find anyone I will talk to you” – and that does the trick!

ePortfolios, ACJ and reflections – David Pier CMVM

Our programme, ChM are surgical programmes devolved with the royal college of surgeons. So we will be talking about process we use at the milestone between specialist training and practice. W try to get our surgical trainees, who have been in raining for many years, to go from “how could you treat this condition” and instead to weigh up evidence based approach to “how will you treat this patient?”. These guys have a lot of core knowledge, but we are looking at the application of this knowledge.

And these guys have lots of surgical retaining but they may not have had any research training, to assess that evidence. They will have some skills but we have this academic skills module looking at evidence based practice in surgery, finding the evidence, assessing ones own practice and implementing change, critical appraisal, non-technical skills. We really want them to think how they as a leader can impact how things happens. We teach some of these skills through information, particularly through discussion boards but we also wanted to ensure there was assessment. And that assessment had to be e,needed in their day to day work, be real vent, and be based on wreak every day cases. So we came to the conclusion that we wanted to use a reflective eportfolio – which would be very well aligned to the types of portfolios used professionally. So these could see something in theatre, reflect upon it. We wanted to be as reflective as possible. Students can upload thoughts to VLE into a private area. We had some requirements but the main thing was to get thoughts down as they happen, to put as much in as possible.

What we hoped was that they would capture lots of events. They witness a huge number of events, they are in surgery every day. And they may see a different or new technique or practice or experience. Then we wanted to reflect on this event they had recorded. Then to look for the evidence, see how that relates. And hopefully that will lead to a set of objectives… Which may just be about doing more reading in the area…. And then there may be some follow up, some reflection back to those objectives. This is a two or three semester assessment. And we hoped that actually this could go further… There might be a gap in the evidence… Perhaps you design your own scientific study for instance… Could potentially use this inn the research project at the end of the programme. It has happened to some extent but not quite all the way through.

So for the reflective eportfolio we wanted to make it organic but there had to be some sort of structure. So we gave five categories to use – can be swapped around – but gives structure. These are: quality improvement and patient care, research and experimental design, teaching skills, self-learning, and ?)

So we asked students to go and do this. Some took it up but some were very skeptical. The personal tutor system has helped a lot here. When you tell them that you are already doing all of these processes – this is just a structure to use – that does click with most of them.

We obviously have to mark this, and we have six marking categories and they don’t match one to one. Self disclosure, critical analysis, evidence based analysis, learning objectives, teaching and learning, research principles. These are based on gmc guidance, experience from Undergraduate portfolios, form the evidence. We mark across all of these.

So, in the first hear that we did this we had some initial confusion. This was around the time the Adaptive Comparative Judgement (ACJ) tool appeared – a tool for comparing a pair of pieces of work (and selecting which is better). and we thought this would be brilliant for peer assessment, to leave comments, to find how their work fits with others, to understand the best one. The rank order is the only measure that comes out of the system. There was as slight hiccough. We wanted to students to mark all the examples. And we wanted tutors to mark them all as well to compare. But it didn’t quite work – both sets of marks were combined together. But this did help students look at lots of examples without having to deal with marking criteria. Students mostly found it useful (ranked it ok to very useful). About 70% of students tried it out. Those students did seem to do better in summative assessment. Now they are self selecting so that might be a bit biased, but it does seem to help.

The second time around we made some changes, we used exemplars from the first year, we did some peer assessment and asked students to assign a grade, and let them know our grade. And where a notable gap – where students don’t quite get it – between those we have been able to offer extra support. In the past we have had students concerned or not understanding where their marks sit. But that peer assessment has helped a lot so they can see how they sit against others. Students have questioned marks to tutors also mark and often that is very similar, meaning students are more accepting of the peer marks. We did reduce the narratives required… Students hadn’t quite understood that. And gave a word count. Posts got wordy… So having to reedit strange themed the writing and kept posts concise.

Largely students enjoy this. Even those that don’t love it accept that they need to do this as a consultant and do find it valuable. And many are now using in their own clinical practice building on this experience.

And just to end some acknowledgements and thanks to Paula Smith, helen Cameron, Ewan Harrison.


Q: how do you manage to keep it authentic from students point of view. Student reflections from students point of view, and personal take. Does looking at each other’s work mean mastering the art of producing outcomes that perform well but are not authentic.
A: interesting question. But there is a right way to do this. We want students to take this and becomes. Better student. Maybe they do a presentation, and see audience not engaging, so want to make it better. Students commenting May question the evidence, suggest ways to do that… All of the experiences they have are relevant. You just try to focus them on particular key issues and find places for improvement. The experiences a re what they are finding day to day. Very authentic in that sense. But there is a system to help them go through, to see progression.

Digital vs “realâ€� – Lindy Richardson, ECA
I am from edinburgh college art so we’re are teaching students about design. I wanted to talk about the difference between learning about design from real experience, or learning through a screen. My students would love to do everything through the screen!

I want to give you three examples we have given to our students to balance the experience of real design and the virtual elements of design,

So the first project was called THE CAST. We wanted to make sure that students engaged with real materials. They could bring smart phones, cameras, but also sketchbooks and materials to record the experience. So we went on a bus trip to a derelict modernist building. Full of beautiful tactile experiences. One of the problems with technology is that we don’t have that haptic technology yet!

So this building is concrete, it has burnt wood, it has graffiti, it has moss growing in it. It’s fantastic. And we asked them to record the experience, and not just with their camera – so taking sketches, rubbing, touching things, smelling things, noting what they might do with materials back in the studio. And then we mixed students up – different courses and differnt disciplines, all I’m workshops… This confused them a bit! They are printing in the fabric studio, they are making fabric formed concrete, working with hot glass, and engaging with and touching and examining these experiments. Sharing all this stuff too – they all want to prove they did this so they update Facebook or twitter. But they were physically together and talking and collaborating. It was so exciting. And it was wonderful for the staff – to have people in our department who had no idea what then are doing but up for experimenting. So they made 3d bags out of concrete. The materials were informing the design. The materials led here, and non soecialists pushing innovation through challenging preconceived expectations. Can dividing the tasks to experts inhibit what takes place?

So we have images here… Glass burning into the textile. Playful experiments scarring the concrete. And that’s brilliant. The expert wouldn’t have thought of that!

But let’s bring this back… Students have to be ready for the real world. So we get them in the studio designing repeating wallpaper… Create handrawn motifs, full scale designs in repeat manually using photocopies and drawing. Then photoshop workshops in repeats. Then work on colour separation.

What did students learn here? They learned how to create a half drop by hand which really helped me to understand the process before learning how to do it in photoshop – where the repeats can get very square.

Another learned how to make a half drop repeat by hand and it was less manageable than by digital means… Their finished wallpaper may not have looked as strong but the evidence was very strong…

And another found both new and found both helpful – and evidenced it well.

The thing here is that we have all these students with different learning styles. And it’s so important to understand the colour separation process, and what can go wrong. Ding that be hand makes a huge difference.

So we get students to manually and digitally create prints. Photoshop can really lack fluidity, but with experience of the manual process the digital pieces can end up more fluid…

Our students are amazing with their thumbs! They are skilled in some ways to we are loosing traditional skills as well. I am very conscious that I go to teach a technique. They will youtube it, try it once, and then never again. We don’t perfect, or get the nuances. W miss out because of that screen.

So… The 45 bus route project. Students had to travel the whole route and to work as a group… We’ve had a chat about group work already. It can cause a lot of friction… Students try to get out of it with Facebook, Instagram. Snapchat, email, blogging, phoning… But face to face interaction championed in the end. One made bread, one made jam. They met to make and do and prepare presentation. The blog is brilliant, I’ll make sure that’s shared with Wilma to pass on!

Now we’ve all been sitting paying attention to the front… I want a little hands on authentic experience, to chat with each other as they do this…. Hopefully you can chat to your neighbours. So I will teach you all to finger knit! My attic is full of fabric and wool and things! So I have wound up a ball of wool for each of you. Take one and we’ll all try it….

E is for experience – rob thomas

I think I am the case study here! I am relatively new to the full time academic world… When I first came to the university is was introduced to this term “eLearning” and I’m not entirely sure I understand what eLearning actually means yet. E, I think, is for experience. Everything else I think adds values to that experience, and adds value to that experience. In my trying and career I never went to unversity. I did my first degree with the open university in a pre digital age, everything was handwritten including the feedback. Very positive. But the highlight for me was the week long summer school where you had an opportunity to reconnect with reality, with yourself… And got a chance to play with things. It was an incredibly important moment. And I think it’s something that could be missed in eLearning, a critical element that cannot take place electronically. (Rob notes that he’s still attached to his finger knitting. It’s adding some swagger to his style though! )

So… Looking at a milk carton that has beef cows on it… It wasn’t authentic… It hadn’t been checked. There was an issue of credibility here… And looking at the notorious “bingo!” Poster after the budget there was a significant error of judgement there. A real issue of authenticity…

From my experience outside of academia much or learning, training and assessing is a person mediated process. We don’t learn from digital materials.

Whether organisational learning, individual in structure or evaluation, the central mode is the direct experience of those involved. Organisational learning can be a process… But organisations often don’t learn, they end up repeating mistakes in a loop.

Digital tools aid communication and information, to most learning is through doing. They are means to process and manage information. The learning is about the physical or the behavioural doing.

Life is authenticated by the self. Experience is self authenticating. If wea re caught up in rights and wrongs and assessment, we continue to believe in what someone tells us. There is a disconnect… When that person leaves academia that person needs to be able to understand their own authentic experience. It’s a very sensitive idea… Authenticity is spatial and temporal here. Things change.

I mostly teach online… We try to make it organic, to make them think of the content to an extent. Ideally when a course has been taught, the materials would self destruct. Don’t keep the traces (other than for the external examiner). We should be forced to rethink all over again. Just because we think we have authenticated something once, doesn’t mean it’s still useful one year on…. Can be so far from meaningfulness and relevant. Bit of a hangover from powerpoints and lecture notes. Should be forced to start again.

Out in the real world there is work experience. Some universities and colleges do sandwich courses (just 9.5% in 2002-3, 7.2% in 2009-10 of full time cohorts did this) And the Wilson Review found there were huge advantages. But it’s hard work to provide that experience, for industry, for employers. So it’s hard to do but gang disconnect is really important. So we have to to think about how we can better prepare students in vocational courses to be empowered to understand the workplace, the subject, and to learn about organisations. And those soft bits, how to work with people. Group work for an hour is fine but working with a diverse group for a year is a very different beast in terms of what you learn, how you relate content and how you project yourself in a team environment.

I think the general approach that didactic lectures is dead. Like online material can just kill it. And there is also an opportunity for students to step up and express an opinion, and encourage students to do this. In the real world that is how people learn. This is the medium by which information is shared, or dissected, or understood. The flipped classroom is effectively the way we learn in industry. Here we are implying this is a new concept, been going on for centuries in the outside world…

So individuals learn from colleagues, from mistakes. I think we need to allow people to make mistakes. To move away from grading and negative impacts of mistakes. To include training. To experience the outcomes of organisational learning. Organisations learn from consequences…

However lessons learned belong to the organisation but are held by the individual… And individuals leave… Which is why organisations end up repeating mistakes…

Blended learning tends to be the model for industry. Grown organically. Organisations have employed blended learning for some significant time.

The traditional project management cycle are: problem, design, implement, monitor, evaluate, adjust and go back to the problem. A cycle. But you can add in “innovate” between monitor and evaluate. That can feed up to a “new problem”, and some “abandon” at the point of evaluation – a cycle within the cycle essentially. Industry tends to abandon unproductive activity. And abandon unuseful problems or ideas when no longer valued. A speedy way to work.

A couple of examples… Logical framework (log frame): projects have objectives, they have means of verification, imdicators, assumptions, outputs and lessons. Those assumptions could be things we. Know but students don’t. Or assumptions students make that need to be addressed. And the important part here is how we learn from those lessons. So many discoveries that can be used.

When I joined the university last year the were performance and development reviews… A system that evaluates and makes you accountable… This seemed the norm for me so I didn’t understand some colleagues reticence. This is a key human resource management tool, it’s for your benefit to exploit…

So I will leave you with a T.S. Elliot quote “where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information”.


Q: why is abandonment different from adjustment
A: adjustment is you still working towards the same goal. Abandonment means a whole new goal is persued!

Networked Scholars and Authentic Influence? – Bonnie Stewart, University of Prince Edward Island
It is a big honour to be at the university of edinburgh, particularly because the university’s reputation for digital education is well known in my field. But also because my name is Stewart so it’s lovely to be in Scotland!

Now there is a question mark in my title to raise this as a question. How many in the room use twitter? (Quite a lot of us do). Now ther at cliches that circulate. But there are ways to use twitter beyond celebrity. My work looks at twitter and scholars. And I think twitter is a space for networked scholarship for us as scholars. With pedagogies… But what does it mean to be authentic in these networks, particularly in the scholarly ways.

The question of influence is a complex equation. Traditionally in institutional worlds is that teeny group that understands your work in that instiution, and we have outsiders, external markers, or the journal you publish in… Where you went to school, the last grant you had… And all of a sudden things like twitter come into that mix. Both concepts centre around reputation, albeit in very different ways. When you are present and active in spaces like twitter you are creating an identity position.

Willinsky 2010 says that in an academic world scholars are taught to understand reputation with some subtlty and depth.

Now, what am I doing here? In another country? Well I’m a graduate student. I have twenty years experience as an educator, early experience with MOOCs. But my twitter profile is probably a major reason I am here. This is a parallel identity really…

So I want to talk about authenticity in networked scholarship and how you perceive it in the world you live in. These people on screen are people I work with, whose books I read, who read my blog… They are the public sphere in which I speak and build my reputation, and I am part of how they build theirs.

Online networks enable different forms of identity legitimacy, and authenticity. There is the scholarly world, and the what people ate for lunch on twitter world. I study the overlap, the place where higher education is changing.

The fire hydrant is a great metaphor for information. There is abundance. We have moved from paper texts to a world of persistent, replicatable, abundance of information. How many of you teach? (Many of us), how many of you let students have devices out in class? (A lot of us). That’s happily higher than I sometimes expect. Our students can have Wikipedia at hand with more information than we could ever have.

And we have a real changing educational culture. Public and institutional values have been changing. Public values have moved to a more market value or vision of the university. It’s a messy mix and intersection of open and closed systems, of knowledge security and knowledge abundance…
And there is increasing pressure to go online – to engage with the terrible MOOC monster!

Within this networks are one way in which the channels of abundance can be managed. It is hard to try to take everything in from the fire hydrant of information. If we don’t have ways to structure and understand that information we will quickly be overwhelmed. Traditionally we had gatekeepers to knowledge based around institutions. They remain useful but many are not within those spaces, many are not allowed to speak in those spaces. So many use these open online channels.

Networks are not just online or offline. Not binaries here. If you have families you will have complex and different relationships with each individuals. Networks operate in the same way. We already have networks and literalise for dealing with them. T our institutions do not have ore existing literalise to deal with them. See yesterday’s LSE blog headline for instance – about the lack of reward structures within the institutions for public engagement. And my work looks at this as a matter of literacies.

So if we. See the marketoonist.com social network adoption cartoon for something on this,networks require time to understand what counts, what’s useful. In order to succeed in networks the price of admission is that you have to create a public identity. If you don’t have that centre to connect to, people cannot connect. That public identity can be confusing. It’s not about the tech or getting stuff online, its about building a different identity, creating those ways of being and of building relationships. Networked identities are multiplicitous and faceted.

I’m conducting a small ethnography right now. I have fourteen participants and eight exemplars who have agreed to let Bonnie show their profile to others to ask questions. And I did three months of participant observation on twitter and blogs and ten interviews about how they make sense of their networked participation.

The classic media story is about people reading more of your stuff – see pat thompson and Inger from Thesis whisperer’s recent paper – but it’s not just about dissemination.

I have three junior scholars or ohd students here, they don’t have big voices in their institution. They have used blogs and twitter to establish a presence, to share career and academic challenges.

If you see someone on twitter and they are quite formal and only talking about their work, and they are probably quite new. That’s not how we chat. We talk about other stuff – sushi and cake, and aren’t those nice boots. Ambient relationality between people. And twitter allows people to speak back to academia and to speak from the margins of academia. Whilst our academic policies are changing you can still be the only disabled person in your department , or the only queer person, or the only person of colour… An connecting to peers elsewhere has real value there…

Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times lamenting the lack off public scholars. He often does. People spoke back on twitter to point out that they are there, they just may not be of the lofty stature to get from attention… And twitter gives you a voice out, and from further afield…


The is real concern that institutions will try to control and contain these activity. The university of Kansas put in a policy to contain what they say on twitter, regardless of academic freedom, regardless of tenure.

And Alice tiara, a peer of danah boyd, feels that the more quoted or well known she is, the less candid she can be…

And there is a big signal to noise filters. I get ten or fifteen articles each week that look amazing on twitter. But if I expand them all I could never finish my research!

And positioning fatigue can be time consuming, complex, and really problematic. And sometimes identity can seem to get in the way of each other…

And sometimes immersion can be required. Tweets from a conference talking about how it’s hard to “get” twitter without full immersion in the space, in those relationships.

In terms of social media being a signal that is fully immersed… Well it’s not happening and might not ever. And I’m trying to see how to signals can come in, so I’m looking at literacies for understanding academic networked publics. Institutions tend to be product focused, about mastery, bounded by time/space, hierarchical ties, plagiarism, authority in role – and everyone knows what that role signifies. In the public sphere of networks the individuals actual works factors much more than your role. For the institution the audience is the institution and the academy. In the public social sphere the audience can be the world…

So, authenticity. There is a lot that circulates in public networks around influence there is snake oil. We have yo be wary. And the word “authentic” can be dangerous in digital contexts. For many people authentic means real, and not on the computer. And even for those of us looking at what it means to do authentic digital world, the word authentic suggests a binary. So what is synthetic work online? What does it mean to do synthetic education? We all encounter the cultural narratives where teaching online is perceived as synthetic in and of itself. Keeping those naming a and binaries open is important.

One of the keys of being authentic online for me, is showing your work. Showing the logic of where you got, and how you got there, and citing as you go, and credits ideas, then you are more likely to be taken up as authentic. Even if you are blogging you may want traditional citations. You should, credit a conversation on twitter that triggered the thought. In networks we also need something to fasten onto. Transparency is key.

Metrics. The numbers that track your performance and participation. Tweets, followers, etc…. They are not meaningful. You can buy followers. Not common in education… I used to circulate in the blogging world and I’d meet bloggers who started six months previously with 60k followers… Signalled that’s what they were into.

Now I will show some exemplars. David White (@daveowhite) people looked at his profile and thought maybe it didn’t look exciting, but saw he was at Oxford, so they thought maybe they should follow him. But he tries to show more in his profile. He signals a joke in his bio – “the “o” is hitchcockian” (a North by northwest reference). This is playful. He’s doing visible identity work. As individuals we are really not used to doing visible identity work beyond the age of 24 really. You have to in networks. It takes courage to do that.

Looking at Audrey Watters profile! she does lots of identity work. She has a playful picture obscuring her face a bit. She links to her site, she calls herself an author – traditional credibility. And the big thing people note is her 21k followers. What that means, particularly when she follows fewer people… And note she follows almost 2000 people, she’s not broadcasting and following no one, she is networking. And she tweets a lot. About 21k tweets. She’s contributing. She has credibility… Now the numbers don’t tell us if she is entertaining or if it’s the quality of her work. I would guess both. But those number lend credibility.

Now Valerie Lopes at university of Toronto has a simple profile and bio, no background picture. Not massive follower count, fairly equal number of followers and people she follows. Her focus seems to be on her main role to she tweets a lot and has credible. Audrey doesn’t have an institution, she’s a freelance journalist. And dave uses twitter as a parallel research space to his institutional space.

If you see someone following a lot of people, tweeting a lot, pushing out stuff about products or projects…

At NLC 2014 Terry-Lynn talked about “technologies alone are not going to create mobile practices. Fluencies of navigating scale, negotiating openness, way finding, and curation”. The more you leave traces of your work and connections, the more you make sense of it and show credibility. Curation also matters. If you get overwhelmed by twitter, shut it down for a bit, come back to it and them manage it.

Maha Bali just published Bonds of difference: illusions of inclusion – hybrid pedagogy. She is in Egypt and I met her in a MOOC, a group that came together really in Facebook. It feels likea. Global conversation. T in this article she and an author from, I think, India say that yes, this is global and super but we really still need to think about the power relations here. Networks open up the power relations of the institutions. Hunt networks can continue power relations of sexism, racism, ableism. We always have to think about the power relations and who has a voice in networks.

I won’t make you use networks but we need to learn and keep learning to read networks, institutions need to keep learning, to understand what is authentic contribution, and what may not be.


Q: I was interested in your slide with a sort of binary between the institution and the individual. And I’m thinking about staff having issues with negotiating that space, navigating having a public role in the networked sphere. And the balancing act for supporting students to balance that sphere. Do you have questions from your research to negotiate an area where we ourselves may lack expertise?
A: those institutional and network literacies are binaries in a way but they already interact. I think we still need institutional literacies, that’s really a space where we need reflection. A way to see what we already do and not leave those behind, but to learn new literacies as well. And in power terms institutions have a crucial role in keeping vibrant spaces for education. But we have to recognise that institutions adna be hide bound…. I’d like to think of ourselves as almost code switching – knowing when to call on the reserves and power of the institutions, and when to look out to the public sphere for what it does well. I would be concerned to see us only on one side of that screen. For my teaching – bachelors of ed students online, and offline but mostly blended. Sometimes my students are very institutionalised and concerned with moving beyond the social contract. Sometimes they need me to be fully literate in what the institution can provide to support. Sometimes they need me to be literate in networks and what that can offer them professionally. Depends so much on I divas students or groups of students and how they see their role.

Q: I’m sure many of us are guilty of saying what we do on our twitter profiles where we say what we do then adding “views are my own” for a mixed personal and professional account…
A: it can be difficult to have multiple accounts. Depends partly on an individuals role and status within the institution is. Avid what can be shared. I do not have my institutional role on my twitter profile. When I started on twitter I was on maternity leave. I have changed images but not text (much). I basically trade that freedom for the lack of credibility or affiliation. I’m ok with that trade off. Most do have their institution on their profile. If you do that… If you know you want to say things that are possibly unregularly and your institution may not want to hear… You might want to take it off. If you are having general conversations about eLearning that’s probably fine. If you want a presence to speak truth to power from a vulnerable position you have to remember that is persistent, that is replicatable that is public, you have to put your paycheck behind it. But this is why Kansas is so concerning, this idea of full overview of all accounts. If there is viewing of everything that public sphere becomes constrained. And we may see more pseudonymous accounts. And those aren’t anonymous, they are trustworthy and trusted identities… So you could be that person and build relationships without knowing your real name, recognising what you have to say may require protection.

Q: does @bonstewart resemble Bonnie Stewart and how does that work/change?
A: I think @bonstewart may be a better representation of me. In class my students don’t see a full rounded picture of me as a person, we are pushed for time. Following someone on twitter you can get bigger broader ideas of the person. For me what you see if what you get, especially online.

The student experience – Alex munyard

This year I have convened a short arts group or look at how we can maximise the open online resources online, within the university and also in a sort of global academic community. There are also questions about who will use this, just academics and students or more diverse audiences. So there is a real opportunity to become an open access leader.

So what is opening up lectures live? How does the open educational resources work? It means opening up lectures, slides, syllabi, the materials we share with students. Somewhat along the MIT open courseware model but more slickly, and justified on pedagogical grounds. There are good reasons to open up materials across the university – for revision, for learning, for developing ideas. If the university of edinburgh strives to be a global university they have to make moves to prove that. The idea that universities are global public goods, and I think this is something OER can be A hugely important pat of this. Students can record their own lectures but doing this across the university will assist those with students for whom English is a second language, to maintain quality. And the idea that you wouldn’t go to class if the video were available is just wrong, the evidence shows that students do go to class. But we need to use tech to stretch learning, not just using tech for its own sake. Talking out to a room of students isn’t pedagogically justified, just what we’ve done for centuries.

In terms of lecture recording… ELearning represents a real opportunity to make education more accessible, particularly for those with disability. Offer greater efficacy for tapping into students with diverse needs or interests. And a real benefit for international students. When more staff online and more resources available, there is a greater onus on staff to think about how they put material together. I guess to reiterate my core premise, technology should only be researched, invested in, when proven, and when there is pedagogic rationale. To it should in no way limit playfulness or creativity or risk taking.

So to conclude let’s innovate and embrace change. Predominant age old teaching methods need to change, we need to overcome traditional views of that.


Q: at the risk of being slightly unfair… If we go down the oath of not only recording lectures, but also massively open course ware… Where is the value in paying your fees, coming to edinburgh, finding a flat… What’s the authentic experience there
A: I think the benefits of OER are multiple faceted. Firstly they would benefit in person students preparing to attend, selecting their course, and engaging in interdisciplinary work. And the wider audiences won’t become students here. MOOC takers are using resources not students at a edinburgh university. So that model can accommodate that idea.

Q: interesting initiative. Do you think full time students will be able to take advantage of having resources from other courses. They are time pressed so will they actually devote their time to that?
A: I think different students will have different focuses. A physics student might use mathematics resources to support that. Science students passionate about the arts may want to engage. But some will not want to engage in other subjects, but I think seeing and engaging with different theories of pedagogies could be very beneficial.

Q: my concern would be huge materials available without support… How would that work? Particularly if they felt they had expertise from doing or engaging with that material without support.
A: well I think not everyone in the University will take that course. It would need to be presented appropriately. But I think if we went down this route there would need to be massive support for staff to make this martial available. I don’t think that students would be graduating from every subject. But something that let’s students have a more rounded and holistic experience. If we make degrees better for employability… A holistic degree should equip students for the world. I’m not claiming that this agenda will make students in every subject… But that space for exploration can only enhance opportunity.

And now we have two videos from students from the MSc in a digital education

Authentic online learning – Ed Guzman and Anna Wood

Ed’s video:

Anna’s video:

Technologies and collaborative learning – rubie rennie and students

Technology offers lots of opportunities for scaffolding (gibbons) for students in the zone of proximal development (vygotsky 1978). So for instance collaborative opportunities include teaching language and vocabulary around animals by engaging with authentic virtual animals in second life.

And technologies, particularly web 2 (mak and coniam 2008) enable comment, feedback, peer support, and feedback that is rapid and regular, not just from the tutor and not just at the end of the course. For instance through reflective blogs.

And technologies promote collaborative learning by creating environments wher learners can change the social context cues (Ortega 1997) that may be problematic or inhibit the,. They can play with gender, even present themselves as animals.

Technology offers many opportunities for collaborative learning and when I become an English teacher in china I plan to make use of them!

I have already been doing some online teaching in china? There are two ways this tends to be done. One is video recording lectures, replicating the lecture experience, not really eLearning really. The other way is using chat software or teaching software to teach students, whether commercial software or sns and chatting software. A word about the commercial software… There is potential value here for us to do this. There are huge quantities of people online and using online courses. But there are softwares we are already using… QQ, YY chat, wei Bo, sian UCAS, Wei chat, Skype. But there are disadvantages… Of seeing each other, not very secure… But these are very commonly used, very flexible, vary familiar, and in Chinese context we could easily use these software.

I want to talk about the main problems in my teaching process… The infrastructure needs to be considered. And we have to understand the students use of the internet. And the use of the technology should consider the context. Students used to technology can easily use it to achieve their gaols. For those less familiar with technology the class can be a much bigger challenge. Also worth noting that in china it is not usual to use email or blackboard to access information, and there is room to develop here. But we have some restrictions. We can’t use youtube or twitter or Facebook in China. Can’t share that. Can’t share experience of using them. Here we could share that experience and those learning materials with classmates, tutors, supervisors etc. so we need to think about that context carefully when we think about our students. Infrastructure is part of that too. There aren’t computers or internet access everywhere, sometimes videos could be downloaded and shared with a class, say.


I’m going to talk about my online learning experience in china, at high school . But in china we cannot use computers or mobile devices in school. But one teacher did set up a course on non Kent Chinese literature via blogs, for us to access after school from home. We hadn’t studied this topic before and was really exciting. And it could help students to create their identities. School life can be very sessful and very separate from daily lives. But online courses can let us reshape our knowledge and identities through learning online.

After we entered university we had more opportunity to access online courses. But these courses are videos. Students can only watch the videos and not directly contact the tutors… And there are some people who came up with the idea of a video chatting course using taobao.com, the biggest shopping network online in china. So teachers sell courses in their taobao shop, and students can talk to teachers via Skype, FaceTime, or QQ. Helpful as some students in remote areas of china don’t have access to many learning resources. And moreover these courses are very flexible, students can negotiate with teachers. And it’s closest to face to face interactions.


I became a student when I was 6 years old, and I have been exposed to traditional Chinese pedagogic models for 17 years. So Herrington 2006 really struck a chord. We need something exciting and interesting and new to engage us. So I chose online learning as an additional course.

When I was an undergraduate student of English we did have an online learning space… It did have lots of functionality but we barely used it. So when I first got here I struggled with the ideal of communicating with staff via emails, how to use learn/blackboard. I think that online students are more likely to be a let To access good authentic materials to explore as language learning.

With online technologies tasks can be set to be authentic experience. Learning in second life enables students across the world to share in a learning event. It provides authentic opportunity for English learners to meet and learn. The authenticity it provides is bette than any other computer mediated communication tools. In techno life seminars, interviews, presentations can be simulated. Presenting in techno life is pretty similar to doing that in real life. And second life is in china, as are other technologies like this, but many teachers are not realising the benefits yet so when I go back to teach I hope to do that!


Q: when you showed the screen of the learning environment I had a sudden shift in perspective about what our VLEs look like for our Chinese students. I can’t read the symbols at all and obviously my students do know the language. But it was a real shift in perspective was really interesting. Do you think the challenges can be overcome?
A: I think it’s good to explore tools like second life etc. but for learners especially at younger ages, we have to provide support and explain these environments to the students so that they can cope….

Q: do you think checking all the blogs that students might come up with will take more time for the tutor?
A: I think making a blog is a new experience for a student. There are disadvantages to using blogs but lots of advantages too. And I think that for me everyday I use ten or twenty minutes for a app that could be spent on a blog. It’s just a way to learn and I think we just compare disadvantages and advantages.

A: it is true that at the beginning of using something you haven’t used before it can take some time. When ruby first introduced us to second life I found it hard to find where our meeting was… So I asked coursemates. I thought this is a waste of time but as. Got more used to it it becomes more useful and valuable.

Making it real: authentic teachers online Daphne Loads, IAD
I wanted to talk about authentic teachers…. We have talked about authentic tasks, authentic assessment…not sure we’ve heard authentic teacher yet…

So let’s talk about what an authentic teacher may be, particularly online? Snuggest ions here include a catalyst for learning, someone who brings their own perspective and personality to learning, and someone who continues to learn.

So here’s my thinking… I’ve been a teacher for a long long time… Ie tried to be an authentic teacher for a long time, now trying to learn what it is to be an authentic teacher online… I’d like to take you through my thinking about being an authentic teacher…. About artefact… Some think a crown or jewels, something precious, something old, something that shouldn’t be there that is produced in the profile, hammers and spanners and tools.

Well often people talk about something made by a human hands, or art. (Seeing image of the tenth muse/Sappho, a relatively modern sculpture in Jupiter art land. Something invested with human meaning and that sets up human exchanges. And might be something historical, telling us something about the humans that created it.

Or it tends to be some sort of evidence of something… Something that reminds us of human error or weakness – for instance an X-ray with a. Shadow that is actually created by a braid of hair…

And the other response is just “a thing”!

So saying that an artefact is something made by human beings that tells us about being human, an object.

Teaching is an artefact. There was a time when saying teaching was almost a dirty word, needed to talk about learners and learning. So teaching is an artefact, something made by someone human, their creativity and perspective but also errors and issues from being created by a human.

I think as a teachers learning and teaching online I try to be genuine. But it comes and goes. Maybe I want to reach out to you. But sometimes I just want to run away home. But most of the time I am trying to be genuine, to share myself. Sometimes sharing my humanity brings something valuable to my teaching.

If you want an example see prof al Phil rice of Philadelphia university, his MOOC on modern American poetry. It was a series of interactive, engaged conversations with (graduate) students that gave me a real sense of what it was to engage with American poetry… Tackling difficult stuff, Gertrude stein, because of his authentic engagement. I got a bit of an unlikely crush on him because of his humanness… Carl Rogers said that one of the things that happens is that if we use our humanity we have an authentic feeling that we can use. And my being authentic tic can draw out the humanity and authenticity of students.

Parker Palmer talks about there being something important about being human and making a mistake… Look at what happens in the room… If students are ok calling it out, and the teacher acknowledges and discusses that then real learning is taking place, it’s subject centred learning…

Some yes sharing my humanity or our humanity can get in the way of teaching…

For instance I was learning to use illuminate live… The instructor I could see him, he couldn’t see me. I had to press happy or confused… I could press either… (Ace this wasn’t at this institution) and that was my choice as a learner…. There was no “shut up and let me do something button”. Or humanity is not always the nice bits, the warmth, the inclusion… Sometimes it’s the wanting to just tell you everything you know… He’d given me this unhelpful little piece of autonomy. Not good.

Another example, more complicated. A friend in another institution teaches on the sociology of pain… She was teaching online… Had built up good rapport with students… And she wanted to talk about her experience of childbirth… Something strange happened… Students stopped calling her “doctor” and started to call her “mrs”. A shift in the relationship… They had the ridiculous idea that someone who had had children could not be an academic expert. Now I think my friend should have come back at that with the sociology of power but I think she was too taken aback by the reponse…

And then we have the issue of not accommodating the context. When I first started teaching large groups it was after teaching small groups. I wanted to make eye contact… And I found myself running around the room like a demented chat show host! So I had to adapt… Getting them to talk to each other, to write notes to each other, things like that…

Recently I did a talk on collaborate and couldn’t see the students… And I found the silence really disconcerting… A colleague said “well that’s easy, get them to vote every two minutes”! Not being aware of the context, that got in the way of learning a little bit for me…

So I think authentic teachers online are not people who tell you absolutely everything, or disclosing everything…. But about making careful judgement about when that precious artefact of their humanity. So I think authentic teachers online… Are aware of their humanity and making careful judgements about how much of their humanity me to share. And those themes came out of others talks for me today!

Authentic Information – what can analytics tell us? Anne-Marie Scott, Information Services TELS
I wanted to share with you today some reflections looking at some of the analytics we can get from our technology enhanced learning contexts. I can’t thank daphne enough for setting me up well for this. My background, like Daphne’s, is in literature and Scottish literature… Thinking about moral fables like the cock and the jasp, a chicken who finds a jewel and throws it away… But it is symbolic of knowledge and and nature and of not valuing this precious thing… And I think that can be a lens for analytics…

I’ve been digging through some of our data… Kind of two facets… Learning analytics (personal use of data) and educational analytics (institutional data) and a lot of that work so far has been about figuring out what the heck this stuff is!

So an example from one of the medical VLEs (heat map of activity). This is based on some excellent work our team in MVM have been doing on analytics and student engagement… This is data on how and when students engage. One works mainly towards the end of the evening, the other works intensely early in the morning… But no value to bring to this without understanding the student, the stuff that is not in the analytics. This is a real fast and frugal sort of measure!

The next piece is data from inside our VLEs… Which tools two schools within the same college use… And here we have school A and school B… It looks really very different… Both schools about 70% of courses use learn, pretty high level. So how would this compare with obligatory online medical msc vle usage. Would logins be a good proxy for engagement Less pretty patterns here… Logins turn out not that useful…

So I did the same pattern checking for the school with all the use of social tools… Same patterns… But actually it turns out they don’t use these tools… Discussion boards are in the default template so every course has it, but they are not being used…. But it’s no proxy for understanding what is happening… There is useful stuff here but context and interpretation is everything… The machine can’t do this for us…

Great article – learning analytics: the new black (booth 2012) talks about learning analytics risking becoming reductionist approach for measuring “a bunch mod stuff that doesn’t matter”.

And I’m just beginning this work… We have some work this year and next year… So this year we are looking at what so of analytics might be useful in the VLE, gathering requirements… Maybe trialling MVM approach in moodle. Bet also how to find bette management information, quantifying the data available, seeking feedback. Sense making activity. Next year we have some funded resource available to make some of this happen… Developing tools to better expose data within the VLEs. Developing reporting on our use of central eLearning services. We want to particularly highlight to schools what is happening in their local context and to continue this work Ina. More engaging and inclusive way…

So, what can analytics tell us? Wella. Glib answer (a) quite a lot AND (b) absolutely nothing at all. Humans make these decisions, won’t be machines or business information systems that will make the difference here, context is everything.

Summary and close of formal presentations – Paul McLaughlin, eLearning@ed Forum Committee, School of Biological Sciences
I started this conference but it wasn’t my idea… We were trying to illustrate a concept to Ruby.. And came up with “authenticity”. But it was accidentally no great idea. Land I think it’s gone pretty well! I took note of some key themes I saw coming out today…

The idea of authenticity and messiness… Going against each other to an extent… Came up in Daphne and Ross and Lindys talk. And also we had the idea that our systems or structures can get in the way – in Inger and the business schools talk about cultures that exist… Also institutional failures – Bonnie highlighted failures to reward public scholarship and public engagement. And we haven’t come to terms with students making mistakes (as in robs talk) or teachers making mistakes in front of students (Daphne’s talk). Bonnie kind of talked about the dichotomy with real life. I think none of us will forget the highlight of the day, Lindy’s knitting stuff…. That physical learning matters. And then we saw David peer talking about authenticity and engagement in the portfolios. And I was amused by Micheal begs and the idea of prescribing under stress… The exam being stressful is probably authentic… But you could make it really authentic with switching between tasks – a plate spinning task! And I was impressed by the TESOL students form a moray house and their experiences of learning…

So we took an abstract idea and had everything from finger knitting to load balancing in the cloud! And we can reflect how lucky we are to have such diversity in the university!

Finally a note of thanks to all those who have organised today: Jessie Patterson, Jo Spillar, Marshall Dozier, Ruby Rennie, Sharon Boyd, and anyone else I may have missed!

And with that the talks are finished and we are off for refreshments and the poster sessions.