Archive for the ‘Networking’ Category

E-xcellence Next project meeting in Paris

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011


Back in June, Keith, Jon and Karen attended a 2-day meeting in Paris as part of the ‘E-xcellence Next’  EU-funded project.

The first day was a meeting of the cross-European E-xcellence next project team.

The second day was the  European Seminar on QA in E-learning, at which Keith gave a talk and Karen and Jon presented a workshop on social networking and Open Educational Resources.

As part of the visit, Keith was involved in meetings hosted by Unesco to establish a Global Task Force for QA in E-Learning. This initiative involved our ex-Vice Chancellor John Daniels (see photo below).



Conference paper: Building a simulated Internet

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Before getting into the swing of his PhD research, Andrew Smith has been working with Cisco Systems over the last three years on the pedagogical (and semi-technical) development of their Packet Tracer network simulator, which is used as a key teaching tool on T216: Cisco Networking.

One of the key outcomes of this work, which has been driving Andrew’s current PhD research, has been the development of a simulated internet. Packet Tracer, unlike any other simulated networking resource allows groups to work together, either in class or remotely on a diverse range of simulated networking activities.

In exploring the question of how a simulated internet could be developed, Andrew has been working with Dennis Frezzo (known affectionately by the Cisco community as the Godfather of Packet Tracer).  An aim of this work is to present the educational world with a powerful simulated environment, with many of the experiences of the real system, without any of the risks or issues.

The intention is to develop a mesh of ‘relay-servers’ hosting the Packet Tracer application, each interlinked and supporting a virtual internet where Open University students, amongst many others, will be able to engage in a range of learning experiences.

With work already underway, and papers presented at two previous conferences, Andrew has worked with remote and in-class groups to build small ‘Internets’ and explore the pedagogy. The work has been accepted as a paper at ALT-C in Leeds this September, where Andrew will present a full research paper.

Solstice Conference – Edge Hill University

Thursday, June 9th, 2011
Edge Hill Campus

Yesterday I attended the Sostice Conference at Edge Hill University near Ormskirk. It’s a small,  friendly conference, in its sixth year, and was born out of CETL funding. It runs over two days, with a different focus for each day. Yesterday’s focus was Technology Enhanced Learning. The focus for today (which I am not attending) is Learning and Teaching Practice.

Keynote speakers

The first keynote Enhancing Learning, Teaching and Student Success in Virtual Worlds was by Dr. Mark Childs of Coventry University. For the past few years, Mark has been conducting a range of different learning activities in virtual worlds (Second Life), and in this talk he discussed his findings and presented some strategies for supporting students in virtual worlds. I found all this rather too evangelical but it led to an interesting discussion about the relationship between feelings of presence and perceptions of the effectiveness of the student’s learning experience.
There was a view from the audience that Second Life is somewhat dated now – that it’s ‘clunky’ and regarded by students as being ‘for old people’. The feeling is that Second Life is probably in decline and likely to be replaced by other technologies (though this was largely peripheral to the points Mark was making).
Look out for Mark’s book, co-edited by Anna Peachey, Reinventing ourselves: Contemprary Concepts of Identity in Virtual Worlds, due for publication in a couple of months.

The second keynote, Engaging and Supporting Students: is technology an answer?, was by Becka Colley, Dean of Students at the University of Bradford and a committed technophile.  Becka talked about the challenges ahead for universities to attract, retain and satisfy students in the post £9,000 per annum fees era, and how ‘technology focused solutions could help enhance the experience for all’. This was a fast and vibtrant ‘no holds barred’ presentation that Nick Clegg would not have enjoyed.


There were five groups of six or seven parallel sessions throughout the day. I tended to focus on those that were looking at some element of assessment.

Most interesting (pedagogically) presentations

Demanding Feedback: Supporting the few not supplying the many, Ollie Jones and Dr. Andrea Gorra, Leeds Metropolitan University.

This talk described an experiement in providing assessment feedback to 260 L2 students on an Operations Management module. The background to the research was the well known problem of students not accessing and reading the feedback given. In this experment, all students were given some generic feedback two weeks after the assessment deadline followed a week later by some individual feedback (about a sentence) and their marks on each criteria . Students then had the option of requesting additional feedback, given as recorded audio, written comments or f2f. 23% of students accessed the generic feedback; 45% accesed their individual feedback with marks; 22% requested the additional feedback, but only half of these subsequently accessed it. Those engaging most actively with the feedback were the high achievers and those at the fail or near-fail end. The majority of students in the middle appeared to be uninterested. Conclusions: focus feedback where required, reallocating time saved to formative feedback.

Using Electronic Voting and Feedback: Developing HOT Skills in Learners given by Trevor Barker of the University of Hertfordshire.
This talk described the development of HOT (higher order thinking) skills in some Masters students studying web design, through the requirement to critically analyse (as a group and in public) the work of their peers and then vote to agree a grade.  This grade contributed 20% to the final grade, with the tutors’ grades (on the same work) making up the remaining 80%. Students were also marked on how close they were to the tutors’ marks, and there was a surprisingly close correlation between them. The whole experience of (a) examining and publicly discussing their peers’ work (with tutor input), (b) grading the work (and therefore having to internalise the grading criteria) and (c) comparing their awarded grades with those of the tutors appeared to lead to a much higher engagement with the assessment task than in previous years. A watered down version of the exercise was tried with Year 1 students, with similar evidence of improved engagement (evidenced by higher module scores).

Most engaging presentation

Augmented Reality – Unblocking a hidden curriculum by Stephen Rose, University of Exeter.
(In fact, I meant to go to the presentation in the next room, but walked in through the wrong door – then didn’t have the heart to walk out again. I’m so glad I stayed!) Stephen was describing a JISC project he was involved in on the use and deployment of Augmented Reality on a new generation of SmartPhones and tablet PCs, and how this can create opportunities to reveal hitherto hidden layers of information about the world around us. Amazing! I’d no idea all this was going on/possible. (Another reason to put an iPad on my wish list.) If you don’t really know what Augmented Reality is (I had only a vague idea) then look at Wikipedia, this BBC news item and  Exeter University’s site.

Workshops on social networking for learning

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Karen and Judith have each recently run workshops on social networking for learning. The workshops formed part of staff development days for Open University Associate Lecturers. Karen ran a workshop near Reading, attended by about 25 staff and Judith ran two in Ireland, each attended by about 40 staff.

The workshops were based on selected case studies in Karen’s recent book Online and Social Networking Communities including a case study on wikis written by Judith and Helen.  The other case studies - some from the Open University and some from other institutions – covered topics such as web conferencing, social bookmarking and photo-sharing.

Workshop participants discussed, in small groups:

The benefits of the initiative described in the case study

Problems which could arise

How the problems could be overcome. 

TERG members would be happy to run other such workshops in the future. Please contact

Learn About Fair

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Several members of TERG were on duty at the OU Learn About Fair yesterday.

This is an annual event with stalls on a range of topics related to technology for learning.

Judith was on the wikis stall. Jon was on Forums (with input from the iSpot project). Karen was on Social Networking.

The event, which lasted from 11.30 am to 2.30 pm, was very popular, and had a good ‘buzz’!

E-xcellence project start-up meeting

Friday, February 4th, 2011
Leuven town hall

Leuven town hall

The E-xcellence project on quality in e-learning started on January 1st 2011. The OU contribution is led by Keith W, with Karen, Jon, Giselle and Wendy forming the rest of the team.

Keith and Karen went to Leuven, in Belgium, for the project start-up meeting on 17th and 18th January.

Leuven is a lovely old university town with ornate buildings and cobbled streets. The meeting was at the Irish College which was founded by Irish monks - this was also a lovely building.

The project meeting was attended by representatives from the many project partners and associates. There were attendees from Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, Equador … The project partners gave presentations on their particular workpackages. Keith presented for the OU, and included a great whistle-stop tour of ideas and new developments in e-learning.

The project dinner

The project dinner

On the evening of the first day there was a project dinner in a Leuven restaurant. This was a very pleasant event and good for getting to know the other people, and finding out about education, and other aspects of life,  in the different countries represented. 

The OU team will be developing a set of self-assessment guidelines and benchmarks for quality in e-learning. The project will also run a number of local workshops where an institution can carry out a supported review of their e-learning.

Web 2.0 workshop at ICL2009 (write-up)

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

International Conference Villach/Austria Sept. 23-35 2009 ICL (Interactive Computer Aided Learning)
Workshop: Exploring Web 2.0 to support online learning communities: where technology meets pedagogy


Giselle, Wendy, Jon and Karen, recently presented a workshop at the ICL2009 conference, currently in its twelfth year, at Villach in Austria.  The aim of the workshop was to raise awareness of how Web 2.0 tools can support collaborative learning.

The three-hour, interactive workshop was facilitated by Jon and Wendy in Austria, with Giselle and Karen making real-time presentations and contributions to the workshop via Flashmeeting and other online tools. Twenty three international participants took part in the workshop, which was a mix of discussion and hands-on activities via participants’ WiFi enabled laptops. The participants really valued the opportunity to work together in a face to face environment and at the same time work through online activities.

Two weeks prior to the event, the organisers of ICL 2009 provided the names and e-mail addresses of the twenty eight participants who had registered for the event. On the same day they were invited via email  to join a ‘Ning’ social network set up by Wendy. Using three profile questions, the organisers of the workshop were able to find out where people worked, what their interests were in Web 2.0 and what they hoped to get out of the workshop. This meant that the activities could be personalised for the participants prior to the workshop.

The workshop started with brief presentations from Jon and Wendy about the Open University and their own research interests, punctuated by a ‘speed-dating’ ice-breaker, to help everyone get to know each other. Giselle and Karen then joined the workshop via Flashmeeting and gave presentations from Milton Keynes on their research interests.

In the next activity, participants were invited to join the Ning social network (if they had not already done so) and explore its features, contributing their thoughts as blog postings within the Ning environment. (This ‘Ning’ activity was built on previous experience of its successful use at the 4th Blended Learning Conference at the University of Hertfordshire by Mark Russell.)

Workshop participants 

In the final activity, participants worked in small groups using a wiki. They were invited to choose from eight scenarios which each described a Web 2.0 tool used in an educational context.  The groups were asked to consider the scenario in relation to issues chosen from a list provided in the wiki.   They were asked to write a short commentary, in the wiki, on how these issues related to their chosen scenario. The issues and scenarios were then discussed in the final plenary. 

Feedback from participants at the workshop was very positive, showing that people value the chance to try web 2.0 tools and discuss their use in education. These are just some of the participants’ feedback comments from the evaluation of the event.

• “Very interesting and useful to get to know these tools.”
• “Very good to use the tools that you talked about, direct in the workshop.”
• “Very interesting, great to discuss the use of these tools in ODL environment.”
• “Just what we expected.”
• “To be made online : )”

Link to the workshop’s ‘Ning’ social network – if interested then e-mail for an invite.
Link to the workshop’s wiki – if interested then e-mail for a password.

Link to workshop’s presentations

Technology and Education Research Group (TERG) blog

The organisers would like to gratefully acknowledge the support of: COLMSCT, the ATELIER-D project, Regional Director Nick Berry, TERG and the Department of Communication and Systems for their sponsorship and financial support.

Co-related Research Group in Cisco Academic Community

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Whilst a little more subject and discipline specific the Cisco Learning Institute the educational research charity, autonomous from Cisco Systems and the Cisco Academy programme has been working with the Cisco Networking Course Team at the Open University amongst many others to develop end deploy the Networking Education Research Collaborative which can be found at

This research community is still in its infancy, work has already begun to share thoughts, ideas and research, with the site supporting an independent repository for papers as well as work spaces for projects.

As a member of TERG and an academic within MCT at the Open University you are more than welcome to sign up, submit papers and create potential links to international academics with a similar mindset and background.

With over 37000 educators in the international programme, many who work in research as well as teaching we are in the the unique position of being able to support the development of this initiative.