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Recent blogs from IET staff

Waiting for the great leap forward

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Tue, 27/01/2015 - 11:38

Now that it’s 2015 (it is, check your phone!), it’s interesting to think about changes in ed tech over the past five years. People often use the 5 year timespan to make predictions, so it’s a convenient chunk of time. The major advance in technology in society, which has then impacted upon education, has been in mobile computing I’d suggest. We’ve also had MOOCs and Learning Analytics in that time as the main movements within education technology. I would suggest though that it’s been a fairly stagnant five years. More a case of stuff developing gradually rather than big revolutions. Consider the changes from 2000-2005: we had 14k modems, were coding in HTML, and the web was a niche topic (even dismissed by some). By the end of this period all businesses had websites, we had broadband and e-learning had become part of the mainstream for nearly all universities. This was a seismic shift in higher ed really that we’re still feeling the effects from today.

Then consider the change from 2005-2010: at the start of this hardly anyone blogged, no-one was on Facebook, and you could still find sensible comments on YouTube. By the end of it, social media had arrived, we went through the web 2.0 bubble and everyone was uploading, sharing, liking, etc. For education this changed the social dynamics around learning, and also the interaction with educators and concepts of digital scholarship. The effects of this change for education we are also just learning to accommodate.

But I don’t see such a big change 2010-2015 – which is not to say lots hasn’t happened. In specific areas I’m sure people will say “assessment has changed radically” or similar, but I don’t feel there has been this major social technological change that has then impacted upon education. It’s been a case of making the existing things better, bigger, more world-controlling. So does this mean we are due another major change soon? Or do we we enter a period now of settling down, of existing stuff expanding?

I’m deliberately not adding value judgements here, merely pointing out the impacts on education of recent years. But perhaps that moral, social, ethical aspect is the big change to come, and there are certainly signs of that. What does it mean when Facebook is the biggest country by population? Now that social networks are pervasive what does that do to our identity? We’ve struggled with this questions since the start, but they take on a different focus when the scale is now “everyone”.

Anyway, we’ve lived through such rapid changes in the past 15 years it’s interesting to reflect on those occasionally. And here is Billy Bragg singing the title song of this post:

The network corrections

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Thu, 22/01/2015 - 11:29

(doesn’t make cloud pun)

At the Open University we get a ‘study leave’ allowance every year, which was meant to replace the traditional summer breaks enjoyed by academics at campus universities. I try to take mine in December and January every year, last year it was when I wrote the Battle for Open book. This year although I’ve nominally taken it, I haven’t actually stopped doing any of the normal work because it doesn’t stop conveniently for you: bid deadlines need to be meet, project meetings are scheduled, PhD students still need supervision, management reports have to be written, etc.

This isn’t a moan about the pressures on academic life however, study leave is something of a luxury and unless you have a very specific project or plan, such as sabbatical at another university, I think this is just the way of things. But in order to actually do some writing, I booked myself a week in Cornwall, with just my dog for company. I’m writing this post at the end of this week, which has been very productive. It made me reflect on how we need to adopt new strategies to accommodate the pressures that being networked creates. At home I have created a non-screen room, which is just for reading, listening to music, watching the fish, playing drums. No screen activity. Actually it is more accurately a disconnected room – I don’t even allow myself to take my phone in there. It’s been very interesting to create this separate space, and I even retrieved my large CD collection from the garage to enjoy in there.

Just as this isn’t an moan about the pressures on academic life, it is also not another of those anti-connectivity pieces. When commentators such as Sherry Turkle bemoan the intrusion of the network life into the personal sphere I think they are usually comparing it with a very privileged past. For instance, when I was a teenager my parents ran a shop and would often work 6 days a week, not getting in until 7 most nights. Compare this with when my daughter was young and I used to walk her to school and pick her up most days. I could do this because network connectivity allowed me to work at home a lot, and when I picked her up I could take her to a play place or swimming, without feeling guilty because I could check emails a couple of times when I was there. Similarly, when my then wife was recovering from cancer a few years back I could spend time at home without losing touch with work, and also feeling that my profile didn’t disappear, because I could maintain it through blogs and social media.

So, the benefits that networking has given me are worth the price of the resultant blurred boundaries and intrusion into personal space. Without going into digital natives territory, we are the first generation to have to deal with this mass connectivity change. It will be assumed from now on, but we, as individuals and society, have had to make the adjustment. Inevitably we will get it wrong, we will over adopt sometimes and under-utilise at others. The only surprise about that be that people are surprised when it happens. But we’ll get it right over time.

My writing week, the disconnected room – these are examples of the corrections we make to get the network balance right. And we’ll become more adept at this. Also, business tip: helping people make these corrections will be an increasingly fruitful area.

Publication statistics

ORO download statistics

According to the latest set of Open Research Online (ORO) figures, I now have 15,391 total downloads. This makes me the 46th most downloaded researcher of the thousands on the OU system.

Checking back in my blog, my work had been downloaded 8,780 times last March. The change in the figures suggests my work is downloaded from ORO 80 times a day on average. This seems surprisingly high, and underlines the benefits of having research easily searchable and downloadable online.

Meanwhile, over on Google Scholar, all this downloading activity translates into 768 citations to date, or one citation for every 20 downloads. That rate has remained steady since March. I’m also surprised at that consistency – I would have expected the rate to vary because the download numbers are so very different.

I’m pleased to see that my thesis has now been downloaded 912 times. Open access makes it so much more easy to open doctoral research up to the world instead of leaving it languishing on the shelves of the author’s family.


The stories in the legs

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Mon, 29/12/2014 - 11:20

For the past five years I’ve done an end of year review of my running (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013) . It’s the only running post I do now, and I usually add some philosophical rambling to justify it. I’d like to do it again this year, to carry on my own little tradition, but it’s impossible to do a running review this year without mentioning the major life event that occurred, namely the (unexpected) breakup of my marriage. I don’t want us all to feel awkward, so I’ll keep that bit to a minimum, but basically, assume ‘running’ is a great big life metaphor throughout this post.

First, the stats:

Mileage: 1008
Duration: 165hrs 39 mins
Av distance: 6.1
Av pace: 9.52

It’s been an up and down year with running, I trained for the Windermere marathon in May. Things went a bit awry before this, and it was agreed I would go up and do the marathon while significant things happened at home. Let’s just say I hope it’s a long time before I am again required to find the courage it took to complete that weekend and that race. The marathon was hillier than I expected (it was in the Lake District, why was I surprised?) and it was a hot, brutal day, so I limped around in 5hrs 15. But this one really was about completing – is it possible to be literally running a metaphor?


This was a welcome sight

I joined a local running club then, and June and July saw a real upsurge in the ‘running as therapy’ style. At this stage I was on target for about 1400 miles for the year. A holiday in Scotland with daughter reduced my mileage a bit, and I signed up for the inaugural Severn Bridge half marathon. This was hillier than I expected (you may detect a theme here), and for the first time I came in over 2 hours for a half. This was part of my build up to the Cardiff half though, so I wasn’t too bothered. However, my hip bursitis from a few years back began to niggle again, so in the lead-up to the Cardiff race, I eased off when I wanted to be pushing hard. In the end I was pleased with a time of 1hr 56 given this.


If they remade the Bridge in the UK, this would be it.

I then took 3 weeks off to rest my hip, and also had a week in Arlington, visiting George Siemens. I kind of lost my running mojo around this point, and with the annual goal of 1000 miles now beginning to be in doubt, I signed up for the Newport half in March. I’m the type of runner who needs a definite goal and a plan to stick to. This has meant that I have just passed the 1000 miles mark for the year, with a couple of days to spare. In the end I’m happy with this, any year I do a marathon, two halves and complete 1000 miles is a success. I know from having had years when I’ve been injured or not completed 1000 (see last year) I always berate myself ‘why weren’t you pleased when you did do it?’

The next year will be interesting in terms of my relationship with running. Over the past year I’ve developed, or resurrected, a lot of interests: I’ve joined a book club, I’m a Cardiff Devils season ticket holder, I watch a shitload of films, I’ve upped my cooking and gardening, and I’m completing my Masters in History (albeit with minimal effort). I’m unsure whether to continue this broad approach or whether to go deep in one, and whether running will be it, or if it will continue to be part of a mix.

Running is an odd pursuit, both boring and exhilarating, and also quite an existentialist one. As I plodded around the marathon, firstly my intended target time became unrealisable, then my revised one became problematic. But even at mile 16, with yet another hill to slog up, the race is both decided and yet undecided. You carry the story of the previous miles in your legs (have you gone out too fast, or been too cautious?) but yet much of what happens can still be determined, you can push hard for a few miles, ease off and make sure you finish, drop out and go to the pub, or find a new constant pace. Yes, it’s a bloody metaphor.

Open Learning Analytics (Amsterdam)

Filming the OLA Summit

Back in 2011, I was part of a group of practitioners and researchers that published a proposal for an open and modularised platform for open learning analytics.  In it, we outlined the development of an integrated and extensible toolset that would help academics and organisations to evaluate learner activity, determine needed interventions, and improve advancement of learning opportunities.

Siemens, G., Gašević, D., Haythornthwaite, C., Dawson, S., Buckingham Shum, S., Ferguson, R., Duval, E, Verbert, K, and Baker, R. S. J. d. (2011). Open Learning Analytics: An Integrated and Modularized Platform (Concept Paper): SOLAR.

We moved forward on this idea in spring this year when,  following the LAK14 conference, I was invited to spend a weekend on the outskirts of Indianapolis, at the Open Learning Analytics (OLA) summit. One outcome of that event was the identification of domains in which future work may be conducted: open research, institutional strategy and policy issues, and learning sciences/learning design and open standards/open-source software – and ethical issues related to all of these.

At the start of December, there was another meet-up, this time in Europe and organised by the LACE project, together with the Apereo Foundation and the University of Amsterdam. In a room littered with classical sculpture, at Amsterdam’s Allard Pierson Museum, participants from across Europe gave presentations on their interests in, and vision for, Open Learning Analytics and its application to education or training.

  • Niall Sclater, from JISC in the UK, talked about developing the infrastructure for basic learning analytics systems.
  • Thieme Hemmis, from DelftX, talked about an open research framework – a standard instrument for collaborative research that can give access to data, people and instruments.
  • Erwin Bomas, from Kennisnet and the LACE project is working on a system to gain informed consent for access to data
  • Wolfgang Müller, University of Education Weingarten, is focusing on providing analytics to teachers to they can provide better formative feedback. The aim is to provide informative data on learning processes.
  • Patrick Lynch, University of Hull, introduced Apereo’s work on connecting up data, analytics and data presentation.
  • Vladimer Kobayashi is researching ways of linking the skills of graduates with the labour market.
  • Adam Cooper is leading a strand of the LACE project that is focused on  interoperability and data sharing.
  • Neils Smits, VU university Amsterdam, usesg cluster analysis to understand student activity on the Blackboard virtual learning environment. This analysis accounts for 50% of variance in later exam performance.
  • Alan Berg, of the Apereo Foundation, talked about the grand challenge of learning analytics.

Following these presentations, we brainstormed ideas for action, exploring objectives for collaborative projects that could be achievable in 2-4 years, the methods to achieve these objectives, and the nature of an Open Learning Analytics Framework as a means of coordinating action. A next step will be to work together on bids to Europe’s Horizon 2020 funding programme in order to make these ideas into reality.


Double Feature! November and December at the Hub

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 09:36

Originally posted on :

Team Hub wishes all its supporters, collaborators and friends all the very best for the forthcoming festivities and 2015! It’s been an amazing year and thank you for your continued support; we couldn’t do it without you all.

We’ve had a busy November and December (as ultra observant readers of our blog may have noticed, there was no monthly review for last month!)… so, where has the team been and what have we been up to?

Conferences, workshops and travel 

November began with researcher Bea participating in this year’s International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) Blended and Online Symposium. Read Bea’s review of the conference and check out her slides on the impact of OER in the K12 classroom here.

Beck headed over to Washington DC early to carry out some visits and conduct interviews as part of case study work for OpenStax College, before heading to the…

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Double book launch online

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Mon, 15/12/2014 - 10:22

Tomorrow (Dec 16th) at 3pm UK time I’m doing an online book launch for my Battle For Open book. I’m sharing it with Martin Eve, who will be talking about his Open Access and the Humanities book also. If you’re interested in openness, open access, books, or just want to procrastinate, then please join us, The room will be open from 2pm (we’ll record it too so if you’re reading this after the fact, you can watch the playback).

One thing about going with a small publisher like Ubiquity is that they don’t have the marketing budget of someone like Elsevier. However, having published three books previously I’m not convinced this marketing does much. They generally ask you for ideas about where to send it, and much of the marketing is done by your personal networks. But I confess I don’t know how important all those catalogues, stands at conferences, and glossy flyers distributed via post are in terms of overall sales. I suspect they may help with giving the book a longer life. So, this represents a bit of a test. Ubiquity have some marketing and will get it into library catalogues, so it’s not a pure comparison of self-marketing vs traditional, but it will be interesting to see if it makes much difference in terms of citations (or sales even).

So, doing things like the webinar are part of that. I hope it’s interesting to others and not just self-indulgent. I will talk a bit about the book’s central theme but also about the process of writing this book also. And the relationship with Martin’s book will hopefully throw up some useful points for discussion too. Failing that, we can just sing Christmas carols and have mince pies.

Newsflash: Women, Fashion, Power at the Design Museum

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Mon, 08/12/2014 - 13:53

Originally posted on Theatre of Fashion:

        Image from @violettaboxill

As the days get colder and festive adverts start tugging on our collective heartstrings, the burning question on everyone’s lips is, ‘forget Christmas, what do I have to look forward to in 2015?’ Well – dear reader – let me enlighten you, as I’ve been invited to guest-curate a series of events as part of the Women, Fashion, Power exhibition at the Design Museum. The series examines how women use dress to negotiate issues around power throughout history and across cultures, from Muslim dress and modest fashion to West African spirituality, and the use of uniforms in western fashion from the 18th century to the present day. Come along!

January 27th:Faith, Fashion & Power in Muslim Dress: Barjis Chohan in conversation with Professor Reina Lewis. The dress of Muslim women continues to spark debates surrounding oppression vs empowerment, but often the question of fashion is conspicuous by its absence. In this discussion…

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Why a book?

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Fri, 05/12/2014 - 16:57

Did I mention my Battle for Open book is out? I SAID DID I MENTION MY BOOK IS OUT.

Ahem. Audrey Watters asks why a book, and it’s a question I asked myself with my last book. Here are some thoughts on the process of writing it, and how it relates to blogs and other outputs.

As with the last one, my blog is invaluable. It’s not quite like David’s book which is a collection of his blog posts, but anyone who reads this blog and then the book will be familiar with a lot of its content. When I realised there might be a book to write in this area I went through my blog and copied over anything that was relevant. This came to about 30,000 words. Now, some of that I didn’t use in the end, and nearly all of it I rewrote to an extent (there is a very interesting different tone of voice between book and blog). But nevertheless, for a 60,000 word book, to have nearly half of it in some form straight-off is a real kickstart. Whenever I do my blogging pitch people ask me ‘how do you find the time’, and I often counter that once you get past a certain point, it becomes a time saver. I don’t know how any academic writer functions without a blog. I sometimes found myself writing something and then thinking ‘hold on, haven’t I done something on this before?’ and I’d go back to the blog to find an erudite, well formed and argued article/rambling piece of nonsense that suited my needs.

What I like about a book is that you can make an extended argument, loop forward and refer back within one coherent piece. You can do the referring back in blogs but you write those over an extended period, and they’re usually short pieces. The book allows you a longer run at a subject and you have a reasonably clear idea how these ideas will build on each other. Blogs are much better at capturing thoughts over an extended time frame and for patterns to emerge. Like my last book, I didn’t realise I was in the process of writing this book on my blog for a period of a year or two. Then I began to see a common thread between posts that could benefit from the extended book approach. Again, how do people write books without blogs?

And why a book and not something more creative? Jim Groom might chastise me for being beholden to that text stuff. Alan Levine would have done something far more creative using photos and an application he developed himself. I could answer this by arguing that the form was appropriate for the content, but actually that’s not true. Others could have done something far more innovative and said the same thing. In the end I think it’s because, to paraphrase Laura Marling, I write because I can. It’s what I’m half-decent at, so you may as well go with that.

So, let’s end with some Laura:

Learning design & learning analytics – building the links

After presenting at the SoLAR Flare learning analytics event last month, I was invited to the London Knowledge Lab to present at one of their regular What The Research Says seminars. This month, the subject was on ‘Designing a MOOC’, and I talked about building the links between learning design and learning analytics. This included a look at patterns of engagement in MOOCs, and how they vary according to pedagogy and learning design.

Other speakers at the event:

  • Diana Laurillard: Introduction to designing MOOCs: Theory, practice and evidence
  • Russell Beale: Social Learning the FutureLearn way
  • Matt Jenner: The research says very little: Designing a MOOC Platform
  • Natasha Bonnelame: Tate / Khan Project: Learning in an Altermodern World
  • Tim Powell-Jones: Encouraging learning through social dynamics in a MOOC

Teaching in MOOCs: Unbundling the roles of the educator

Last week I gave a talk at the Design4Learning conference at The Open University, Milton Keynes, on the roles of educators in MOOCs. The paper was based on analysis of materials relating to six FutureLearn MOOCs, and was co-authored with Denise Whitelock.

Abstract

Educators in massive open online courses (MOOCs) face the challenge of interacting with tens of thousands of students, many of whom are new to online learning. This study investigates some of the different ways in which lead educators position themselves within MOOCs, and the various roles that they adopt in their messages to learners. Email messages from educators were collected from six courses on the FutureLearn platform, a UK-based MOOC platform with 36 university partners. Educator stance in these emails was coded thematically, sentence by sentence. The resulting typology draws attention to the different ways in which educators align themselves in these settings, including outlining the trajectory of the course, acting as both host and instructor, sometimes as fellow learner, and often as an emotionally engaged enthusiast. This typology can be used, in future, to explore relationships between educator stance and variables such as learner engagement, learner test results and learner retention.


Models for book publishing

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Thu, 04/12/2014 - 17:36

If you’re into edtech/open education (and who isn’t?) then your cup runneth over these last couple of weeks with books to read. There are four I’ll highlight (including mine!) and they represent different approaches to writing and publishing, so they make a nice comparison.

First up is Martin Eve’s Open Access and the Humanities. Martin is a great OA champion and this book explores the context and issues surrounding OA for the humanities. It’s published by Cambridge University Press, with the digital version available under CC-BY-SA licence. This represents a fairly traditional model, with publisher paying the author some royalties, although often a bit reduced from the normal rate. (Martin contributes his royalties to Arthritis research by the way). The publisher is taking the punt that it will sell enough copies to make a profit on the investment required for the services in producing the book (copyediting, layout, etc).

My book, The Battle for Open, represents a slightly different approach. It’s published by Ubiquity Press (who we recently linked up with for JIME also, they’re my new publishing BFFs). They operate a ‘gold’ model, where you pay upfront for the services. However, they’re not looking to make a profit on the book then, and as with their journals, these costs are reasonable. Depending on the services you choose, it is around £3-4,000. Now that’s a lot for an individual, but in terms of research projects, it’s the same sort of price as going to a fancy conference overseas, and that type of dissemination is regularly built into budgets. I would argue that publishing an open access book might be a better use of such funds. I’ve heard tales from colleagues who’ve been quoted figures along the lines of £20,000 from big academic publishers to make their book open access. This is taking no risk at all, since that would probably cover the profit on a regular book anyway. This is available CC-BY in PDF, Kindle, epub formats, with the hardcopy available for the reasonable price of £12.99.

Next are two books that come from blogging chums. David Kernohan’s A New Order and Audrey Watters’ The Monsters of Education Technology. Both of these arose from a hackathon exploring self-publishing. David’s is a collection of his blog posts and Audrey’s her keynote talks. The digital versions are freely available under CC licences again (although I’d urge you to buy the digital format of Audrey’s one).

There are a few interesting things about this approach to me. Firstly, it’s a good example of that guerrilla approach to research that I like to bang on about. David and Audrey didn’t need anyone’s permission to publish these books. Secondly, both books are really good, better than many monographs we see published. This is, of course, primarily a function of their ability as writers, but it also demonstrates the value in spending time on smaller outputs. David’s blog is always worth reading, and Audrey’s keynotes are like masterclasses. In her book she says people keep telling her she’s going about keynotes the wrong way, you’re meant to do one and then repeat it (guilty as charged), but she spends ages creating a new one each time. This book demonstrates the value in doing that, as does David’s in keeping a blog where you explore issues that fall outside your daily job.

I like all four of these books (especially mine) for their subject matter, but more so because they demonstrate that different models to book publishing are possible and valid. These different models will meet the needs of different authors, and the good thing is, they’re all appropriate. When I started blogging I was intrigued by the changes that the digital approach made to academic practice. I think we’ve all become a bit jaded to that now, but these four publications demonstrate that it is still an interesting, and ongoing process. Anyway, that’s your Christmas reading list sorted right there.

Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year

Congratulations to all the team for winning ‘Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year’ at the THE Awards.


Learning futures in Athens

The Plato Academy in Greece invited me to talk about ‘Visions of Future Learning’ at their Technology-Enhanced Learning conference on 14 November.

I talked about how we create visions of  learning futures, how we use them, and why we keep developing new visions. I covered visions of education, visions of school, visions of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and visions of pedagogy, the theory of teaching and learning.

Speakers

  • Maria Gregoriadou, University of Athens: Plato Academy – The Roads of Knowledge
  • Stella Vosniadou, University of Athens Benefits and traps of technology for learning
    Discussion
  • Rebecca Ferguson, The Open University, UK: Visions of Future Learning
  • Alberto J. Cañas, Institute of Human and Machine Cognition,: CmapTools: Towards a Worldwide Network of Knowledge Constructors
  • Kyparissia Papanikolaou, School of Pedagogical & Technological Education: Opportunities and challenges of digital technologies to support modern educational planning
  • Pantelis Balaouras, Kostas Tsimanis, Lazaros Merakos, Greek Universities Network (GUnet): Open courses at the University of Athens and Greek universities
Visions of future learning from Rebecca Ferguson

Better than Christmas – OER Research hub report

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Tue, 25/11/2014 - 10:17


The OER Research Hub completed its second annual report for the founders, the Hewlett Foundation in September. It plots the evidence we’ve gained against the 11 hypotheses of the project. It’s not the final report which we will deliver next year, but it has some very interesting findings. We have over 6000 survey responses from educators, informal and formal learners, and librarians.

Some of the key findings are:

  • 37.6% of educators and 55.7% of formal learners say that using OER improves
    student satisfaction
  • 27.5% of educators and 31.9% of formal learners agree that OER use results
    in better test scores
  • 79.4% of OER users adapt resources to fit their needs
  • 79.5% of educators use OER to get new ideas and inspiration
  • 88.4% of learners say that the opportunity to study at no cost influenced
    their decision to use OER
  • 74.9% of informal learners use OER to have a learning experience
  • Knowing where to find resources is one of the biggest challenges to using OER
  • General knowledge of well-established OER repositories is low
  • Only 5% of educators say they don’t share information about OER
  • The more educators use OER, the more they are willing to share
  • Only 12.4% of educators create resources and publish them on a Creative Commons license
  • Videos are the most common type of OER used.
  • Cost of and access to materials can have an effect on student retention
  • 40.9% of all formal learners in our sample consider that OER have a positive impact in helping them complete their course of study
  • 79.6% of formal students think they save money by using OER
  • 31.5% of informal learners say that their interest in using OER is a chance to try university-level content before signing up for a paid-for course
  • 31.3% say their use of OER influenced their decision to register for their current course.
  • 83.2% of informal learners say they are more likely to take another free course or study a free open educational resource, and 24.2% say that they would go on to take a paid for course as a result of using OER

There is still a lot more to do, in particular we really want to get at good comparative data demonstrating improvement in scores (or otherwise) following OER adoption, so if anyone has leads in that area please get in touch. Nevertheless, I would contend that this represents one of the most comprehensive investigations of OER impact, and so will be of interest to anyone in the field.

We’ll be doing further analysis and digging into some of the findings in further detail over the coming months. The report is available under a CC-By licence, and available in a nicely designed PDF booklet, so really, your Christmas wishes are already fulfilled, which is nice.

Innovating Pedagogy 2014

Innovating Pedagogy 2014 has just been published and is available as a free download. It is the third in a series of reports I have co-authored with colleagues at The Open University that explore new forms of teaching, learning and assessment for an interactive world. While many of these are enabled by technology, these are not reports on new gadgets, but on new ways of teaching and learning.

This year’s report focuses on

  • Massive open social learning
  • Learning design informed by analytics
  • Flipped classroom
  • Bring your own devices
  • Learning to learn
  • Dynamic assessment
  • Event-based learning
  • Learning through storytelling
  • Threshold concepts
  • Bricolage

One of my favourites is learning through storytelling. Of course, this is not a new pedagogy. Writing up an experiment, reporting on an inquiry, analysing a period of history – these are all examples of the use of narrative to support learning that have been used for hundreds of years. However, the use of technology opens up new possibilities. We are increasingly able to create virtual story worlds in which guided exploratory learning can take place. A storyline can also be used to build engagement and provoke discussion in massive open online learning, or in other learning environments where participants spread across the globe build a narrative together. This is an example of technology opening up new possibilities that allow us to expand our use of a tried and trusted approach to teaching and learning.

Postscript December 2014: Ida Brandão has produced a short video of this year’s report.


2nd Annual EU Project Review for JuxtaLearn

Just got back from Luxembourg, having attended the 2nd annual project review for the JuxtaLearn project. One of the things I do during these gruelling meetings is type didactic notes of everything the reviewers say or ask, and also of their final comments. They usually send their recommendations out about three weeks later. Yesterday I typed 7028 words and captured pretty much everything. The review was tough, but fair. The reviewers picked up on absolutely every weak point – any partner who was not fully integrated with the rest, any lack of progress, any over claiming. They did give us a fairly hard time, but their feedback was constructive rather than distuctive and ultimately their recommendations and conclusions will, I feel, make the project better.

It would be nice if this process could be a little less tough – but then sometimes you need to shake things up to get it moving.

As the Project Officer said – it is their responsibility to ensure that our EU contribution (looking at the UK contingent) is well spent. Cameron will be pleased to hear that

By Gill

Innovating Pedagogy report 2014

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Fri, 14/11/2014 - 15:30

It’s been slightly over a year since the last Innovating Pedagogy report, and 2014’s edition is now available. As before it was written by a small team in IET at the OU. The remit is to look at technology related innovations, but with more of a teaching and learning perspective than some of the technical reports around. We try not to revisit topics from previous years, although if some significant development has occurred then we will. This is the 3rd of these reports, and when we started we wondered if we’d run out of topics without revisiting things, but actually there were at least another 10 we listed that we wanted to write about, but felt it prudent to keep it to ten. So the topics included this year are:

  • Massive open social learning
  • Learning design informed by analytics
  • Flipped classroom
  • Bring your own devices
  • Learning to learn
  • Dynamic assessment
  • Event-based learning
  • Learning through storytelling
  • Threshold concepts
  • Bricolage

A lot of these are not necessarily new this year, and could have been incorporated in our first report, but it’s about trying to gauge when they gain enough momentum to be of interest to a reasonably wide audience. The report is written in an accessible style (we hope) and aims to be relevant to a broad audience in education. As always it’s not intended to be the definitive list of things that are significant, rather some topics we think are of interest. Anyway, you can download the report here and share with friends.

JIME, Ubiquity & OA models

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Thu, 13/11/2014 - 12:32


I’m a co-editor of JIME at the Open University. It’s had a long tradition here, started in KMi it piloted open peer review, using it’s own software back in the late 90s. It has always been open access, and when maintaining our own software became a burden, it switched to using the open source system OJS. It’s focus has changed over the years – although it’s called the Journal for Interactive Media in Education, it is more about open education and ed tech in HE now. It has remained free to publish in and open access. I think its story is similar to that of many journals run by universities, they tend to operate on the periphery of people’s time. This means we can’t spend as much effort on things such as updating the website, implementing new features, experimenting with technology, or pushing it through different library registers and databases as we’d like, because any time we do have for it is spent on maintaining the core journal operations.

We’re now entering a new phase of JIME’s life, which I think offers a model for other university owned journals. We have stopped hosting and maintaining the site, and handed that side of things over to Ubiquity Press (who are also publishing my book, more of which later in another post). Ubiquity use OJS at the back end and they keep the Article Processing Charges (APCs) as low as possible at £300 per article, to handle all the back end work (their model is explained here). Compared with the £3000 type APC fee from many publishers this represents a reasonable charge, and it also includes a portion which goes to a fund to allow fee waivers for anyone who can’t pay the fee. I’ve been critical of Gold OA before, but I think it’s a question of degree, a modest charge to cover the type of work that is needed to run a journal site, do all the library stuff, layout, etc. seems appropriate.

Because JIME has always been free to publish we didn’t want to start charging APCs, so IET are covering the cost of 3 issues per year. This isn’t that costly (as our US friends say, you do the math). And previously we were probably spending more than this in staff time for the technical input and admin time spent on running our own system. It also allows us editors to concentrate on the stuff we do know about, the academic side of things, instead of running the journal. Ubiquity will handle updates to the new system, and implement things such as altmetrics.

When universities talk about impact, and outreach, paying for a handful of such journals from each university would represent a modest outlay for any one institution, but a considerable overall collection of journals. All free to publish and free to access. Some of these costs could come from the library funds currently spent paying large publishing firms who make considerable profits. It’s a critical mass problem, when enough universities do it, then it’s worthwhile and makes an impact on the bigger system, so becomes more worthwhile to participate in. We’ve taken the step, why not join us?

SoLAR Flare

Speaking at the SoLAR Flare

On 24 October 2014, the Learning Analytics and Community Exchange (LACE) project invited everyone interested in the research and use of learning analytics to a one-day networking gathering event in October at the Open University in Milton Keynes (UK).

This Solar Flare event – co-chaired by Doug Clow, Simon Cross and I – formed part of an international series coordinated by the Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR). SoLAR Flares provide opportunities to learn what’s going on in learning analytics research and practice, to share resources and experience, and to forge valuable new connections within the education sector and beyond.

Around 50 people attended in person, with another 356 from around the world tuning in via the livestream.

There were two keynotes: one from Alan Berg, talking about the Apereo learning analytics initiative, and another from Chris Lowis, talking about learning analytics on the FutureLearn MOOC platform. In addition, there were 13 lightning presentations from people working with learning analytics in multiple countries and contexts including the UK, France and Spain. My lightning presentation focused on patterns of engagement identified in FutureLearn MOOCs from a variety of different universities. In the afternoon, participants split into four sub-groups that discussed evidence about learning analytics that can be added to the LACE Learning Analytics Evidence Hub.

Recordings of all the LACE SoLAR Flare presentations are available online.


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