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Recent blogs from IET staff

Open Media Player – Jisc Accessible by Design challenge

Dr Nick Freear's blog - Fri, 02/10/2015 - 15:54

Today we entered our idea in Jisc’s Accessible by Design competition. I’ve got some
innovations I’d like us to pursue, and Jisc’s competition seems like a great vehicle.

We’re looking at two features. The first is interactive synchronized transcripts.
This should be of benefit to those with hearing impairments, and a general audience.
In an e-learning context, interactive transcripts may be of benefit to anyone
who is time-poor, and quickly wants to recap specific parts of a online lecture or talk.
User’s will be able to do a text search and jump to that point in the audio and video.
The current word or phrase will also be highlighted as the media is played.

The second is audio description (AD), sometimes called described video. This is
important for the blind and visually impaired. Its fairly established on TV, but
not at all common on the Web (only the BBC in the UK I think). I envisage using
a separate audio track for the descriptions –
a challenge then becomes synchronizing the buffering of the video and audio.

A third thing (sort of a feature?) that is long-overdue is a general refresh of
the Player’s visual design or theme. This is a good opportunity to improve usability
– based on what we’ve learnt previously. It’s also important to keep the Player
looking modern and attractive, so that authors want to embed it (there’s no point
having a beautifully accessible player, that looks a bit “old” and clunky).

We’re excited about the potential for these innovations.
Please show your support by voting on the Jisc Elevator web site.

Also take some to look at the other great ideas people have submitted.

Thank you!

Via: – Nick Freear's new blog!

SoLAR Flare learning analytics networking event

I am one of the chairs of this learning analytics networking event that takes place next week.

Sign up here to attend the event at The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK, in person
or join us on the livestream from 10.15am
Event website hashtag  #LACEflare

Moving through MOOCs at ECTEL 2015

Doug Clow and I took a new approach to presenting at ECTEL 2015. Our paper Moving through MOOCS: pedagogy, learning design and patterns of engagement was jointly authored with researchers from Edinburgh, Leeds and Birmingham. It combined a number of studies, involving cluster analysis of different MOOCs. An enormous amount of information to cram into a 20-minute talk.

So we produced two sets of slides. The first, available on my Slideshare account, takes viewers through the paper in detail. The MOOCs, the methods, the clusters. The second, available on Doug’s account, focuses on a simpler message – that massive open online courses vary enormously in pedagogy and in learning design. Before making grandiose claims for generalisability, we need to check whether our findings really apply widely – or if they actually only apply to MOOCs on our platform or in our subject area, or within our university. While almost all the people in our audience had visited at least one MOOC, the majority had not visited more than one MOOC platform.

You can investigate our research further, taking  the detailed route via one presentation, or the route with a simpler message and better pictures via the other, or the complex but clearly mapped route by reading the paper. Or, if you have the energy, you can explore a combination of routes and find out which works best for you.

Of course, this isn’t a fair test. The presentations aren’t offered in the same way and in the same place. Nevertheless, Doug and I will be looking at the stats for each of them, and making anecdotal use of those figures for some time – so choose your route wisely.

As I type, one of the Slideshares has 636 views, 5 likes, 5 downloads, 5 LinkedIn shares, 1 Facebook share and 24 Tweets.

The other has 571 views, 3 likes, 0 downloads, 0 shares on LinkedIn or Facebook and 25 Tweets.

The paper, following the link above, has 99 downloads and 2 Tweets

Scaling up analytics at ALT-C

I was invited to give a guest talk on Scaling up Learning Analytics at the ALT-C conference in Manchester during September 2015.

I talked about how innovation in technology-enhanced learning (TEL) always requires us to take into consideration all aspects of the ‘TEL Complex’. It’s not enough to think about just the teachers, or just the learners, or the researchers, or the technical experts, or the administrators. For an innovation to take root in an educational establisshment, it need to take all those communities into account, and their practices, and the environment in which they are working – including the funding context and the policy context.

That’s a lot of things to think about at the same time, and the Rapid Outcomes Modelling Approach (ROMA) provides a way of doing this. It starts with a vision or, more prosaically, the definition of a set of policy objectives. The next stages are to map the political context, identify key stakeholders, identify desired behaviour changes, develop an engagement strategy, analyse internal capacity to effect change and establish monitoring and learning frameworks. The process is a cycle, only coming to an end when you are clear that you have achieved your vision.

The ROMA Framework was developed by Young and Menizabal, and adapted by Macfadyen and Dawson. More detail in this paper,  Setting learning analytics in context: overcoming the barriers to large-scale adoption.

GMW Keynote

Personalised thanks from the conference organisers

On 3 September, I was invited to give a keynote talk for GMW (Gesellschaft für Medien in der Wissenschaft – Society for Media in Science) in Munich at the Interdis 2015 conference.


The promise of learning analytics is that they will enable us to understand and optimize learning and the environments in which it takes place.  The intention is to develop models, algorithms, and processes that can be widely used. In order to do this, we need to move from small-scale research within our disciplines towards large-scale implementation across our institutions. This is a tough challenge, because educational institutions are stable systems, resistant to change.
To avoid failure and maximize success, implementation of learning analytics at scale requires careful consideration of the entire ‘TEL technology complex’. This complex includes the different groups of people involved, the educational beliefs and practices of those groups, the technologies they use, and the specific environments within which they operate. Providing reliable and trustworthy analytics is just one part of implementing analytics at scale. It is also important to develop a clear strategic vision, assess institutional culture critically, identify potential barriers to adoption, develop approaches that can overcome these, and put in place appropriate forms of support, training, and community building. In her keynote, Rebecca will introduce tools, resources, organisations and case studies that can be used to support the deployment of learning analytics at scale.

ECTEL2015 Thu pm (3): Mark Brown Keynote

Dr Doug Clow's blog - Fri, 18/09/2015 - 13:48

Liveblog notes from EC-TEL2015 (#ectel2015) in Toledo, Spain, 16-19 September 2015.

[posted late and with no photo because of problems with wifi in the hotel]

Slides are on slideshare.

Keynote: Reframing the Network World: Transformative Life-long Learning for All

Prof Mark Brown, Director, National Institute for Digital Learning, Dublin City University

Socrates – unexamined life is not worth living. This keynote framed in that tradition.

What is the purpose of a keynote, right at the end? It’s important to bring you back to the conference theme. So I’ve done that in the design of this keynote. Also a role in taking the big picture look. I want to challenge some of my own thinking.

National Institute for Digital Learning – launched Nov 2013.

This week has been dominated by OECD report – headline “Lack of computers in schools may be a blessing”. There are not that many computers in Ireland, by comparison with other OECD countries. Have had live interviews on TV news about it. It’s important to engage in this technology debate.

Report is “Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection” – read the Exec Summary, the headlines don’t match. The data is from 2012, based on PISA data. A group of academics launched almost a petition against the PISA statistics as fundamentally flawed. Statistical significance, but that doesn’t mean it’s causal. Must remember this. Methodological flaw – computer is not a single entity. A computer can be used in such a wide variety of ways.

Dublin City University. In 1876 his family left Ireland. Had 18 children, 850 descendants now. I’m committed to EADTU, three large projects, two MOOC projects. From my European gaze, I’m taking a different world view. I was at ALT last week in the UK.

Another world view. Quite connected in to US communities. In particular, with Arizona State University, Michael Crow’s book about reinventing university education. He was at DCU the week before, we are partner universities. Also Penn State University, online distance. Work on a leadership academy.

Important is New Zealand. Image of Hobbiton. The view is typical of New Zealand – very green. But minus the hobbit houses.

I take a bit of all of these parts of the networked world. Discussions about theories. ‘It is theory that decides what we can observe’, Einstein. Rooted in social science view.

Turning the box inside out, pulling it apart, then putting it back together. Not going to offend everyone.

Framing – colour vision test chart. Most audience see a 3. Some see a 5, some see nothing.

If 16 in the circle is the answer, what is the question? Not 4 squared, date I came here.

Another one (with 1) – percent of what the world spent on weapons that could have put every child into school by 2000. We could have achieved the Millennium Goals for education if we’d spent 1% less on education [and spent all that efficiently on achieving them]

John Pilger – despite technology advancement, the wealth gap between developing and developed countries has more than doubled.

If we don’t address that, the wicked problems – unsustainable population growth, inability to feed ourselves, urbanisation. Climate change, whether you believe it or not. (?!) If we don’t, what will future generations think of us?

The role, the purpose of TEL is within a moral imperative. Not in a religious sense, but about the future of humanity. That’s what’s at stake.

1. Degrees of disconnection
2. Dissecting Designs
3. Dilemmas

I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable with the whole metaphor of design.

The light comes through cracks. In 25 years as an academic, I hold to this. School education, I see too much of covering the cracks. Even more depressing is that going on increasingly in university education. Those cracks are where new insights come. Being colour blind I see the light more clearly.

Take a dose of realism and skepticism in what I’m saying. “All generalisations are dangerous, even this one”, Alexandre Dumas. I’m deliberately [overstating my case]

1. Degrees of disconnection

There’s a dream of disruption. Some say, unlike other areas –  photo, print – we haven’t [been disrupted]. When we look at traditional, campus education. Blended learning I don’t like [as a term], it’s not disruption. The traditional experience is they start, have 12 weeks, work their way through, have lectures, tutorials, crit, labs. We might celebrate when we’ve made some disruption, cancelled tutorials by putting content online. This is a weak sense of blending. It’s trying something differently.

A stronger version, has more personalised learning, different for learners depending on what they already know, they take different paths. We provide some kind of adaptive experience, they don’t experience the same. This is far more blended, in the sense of the use of affordances of technology. Common characteristic – still an exam at the end.

There are some times you have to front up and show what you know. I have no problem with exams. But we still put students – even distance students online – [they] have to come to venues and write with a pen. Or we put the computers in rooms like these. Writing for three hours – I can’t do that any more. I don’t know how we’re asking students to do that.

How far have we really come? In 5 years time, will this still be happening? [I think it probably will, sadly.]

Headline: “Apple Watch leading universities to ban wristwear entirely from exam theatres”. No sense that something is wrong with the technology – the exam is a technology. This is a metaphor for a tension, the disconnection in a networked world.

Another example – the pedagogy of the pipe. It’s great we can put material, make it available, engage, feedback, peer feedback. The cold, hard stark reality, with some empirical evidence. Unlike the dream of the VLE or LMS, where we want to create not a pipe, but a vibrant mountain stream. The river of knowledge, the life in the stream, always changing, lifelong learning, the water’s bubbling away, dynamic, rich. Moodle we brought in and called it Stream, using this metaphor – not just the VLE/LMS, was also Mahara eportfolio. Mahara is Maori word for thought, or think. We weren’t poor in commitment. But we ended up with a backwater, a swamp, with lots of stuff. Was stagnant, not many people went there very often. We’re not learning a lot. Look at those activity logs – lots of stuff, smelly, not very active.

MOOCs have re-energised us around the future of the VLE. A MOOC is an LMS or a VLE. Even Forbes magazine acknowledges that Alison is the first VLE. FutureLearn (yay!). Strong advocate for the work the OU in the UK does. But this announcement – “FutureLearn delivers the largest MOOC ever as more than 400,000 learners convene for English language learning”. Not sure that’s right, there is a world of those in Asia. I got more uncomfortable when I heard this. Peter Horrocks tweet “UK MOOC snatches world record for sign-ups. UK quality beating US $$?”. New VC making strong statement about international dimension of FL.

I felt uncomfortable because there are many many other languages in the world. For me, internationalisation is about understanding how the world is a very diverse place. The English way of viewing things. It’s a privileged view of things.

Krause and Lowe “Invasion of the MOOCs: The promise and perils of MOOCs” – another colonialist tool? I’m a product of neo-colonialism.

In NZ we are having a referendum on four new flags, to get rid of the Union Jack element of the flag that does not resonate with us.

Peters, M (2013) MOOC and Beyond: the Revolution to Come. Truthout, August 17. Points out the neoliberal theory, MOOCs are the ultimate of the free market, laissez-faire education. Australia and NZ have bought in to this.

Want to contrast this with an example, two week ago or so. Commonwealth of Learning, based in Vancouver. MOOC4D, MOOCs for development. Very different in vision and technology. Many parts of the world cannot play videos. in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu. There was no internet, only by satelite, worse than most parts of Africa.

[He had an audience participation bit here but skipped it. Shame!]

2. Dissecting Designs

Got people to point East (with eyes closed). Look round the room, everyone is pointing all over the place. It’s not a tested example – if we can’t decide as well-educated people which way East is, what are our chances for teaching and learning. [Didn’t actually do that exercise with us either. I’m not sure that’s the best strategy]

Can you design for learning? That’s at the root of the conference theme. Diana Laurillard – “using new digital tech to improve education is not rocket science … it is much, much harder than that.” I advocate her work, her Conversational Framework. Still has a lot of value as an explanation of the interactions in teaching and learning. Comes from pre-online days, but is a well-cited model.

Another framework – Community of Enquiry Framework or Model. To explain Social Presence, Cognitive Presence, Teaching Presence. Another body of literature arguing for Learner Presence.

The HoTEL project – has visualisation of Learning Theories.

If we can’t agree on the theory of learning, how can we set about designing for learning. There is a huge debate about this. Important to anchor what you’re saying in some kind of theoretical perspective. Being pragmatic is not good enough, you do come with a framework.

Sfard, 1998, educational researcher. Theoretical exclusivity and didactic single-mindedness can be trusted to make even the best educational ideas fail. [Side note: I wonder if we need a movement like the one that launched counselling – Carl Rogers – it’s not really the theory that helps your teaching, it’s how you treat your learners.]

“Not everything that can be counted counts, not everything that counts can be counted” – attributed to Einstein [but from memory I think it can be sourced more reliably elsewhere] What you choose to measure may not be an indicator of learning. It may be activity, at best.

Grainne Conole 2010, “The principle of designing learning for the future is to help make the design process more explicit and shareable.”

We can design for teaching. Most of the papers done in formal learning contexts. If you count up hours from 5 to 25, time for learning, the hours spent in formal learning, versus informal, formal learning is just so small. But we place so much focus on the informal.

More formal learning – modes of interaction framework, interactions paradigm. Teacher-learner, learner-learner, learner-content interaction. Overlaid with Tools, Plaes, Spaces. That’s why learning design is important. It’s more complex – Pace, Place, Mode.

Learning is not not, arguably, rooted in spaces [like the lecture theatre we’re in]. Most focus is there. On campus out of class is important in learning design. Off campus in class – synchronous, or async. [Acquisition vs participation axis crossed with physical vs virtual.] But there is leakage across those. Learning is messy. New technologies play a role. Entwined learning, it doesn’t fit in to tight quadrant.

Grainne Conole again – The 7Cs Design Framework, Designing for Learning in an Open World. It’s just a heuristic for the design for teaching. When I’ve run workshops, where rank and file academics, it doesn’t work. Don’t tell Grainne. It’s complex, they don’t operate like that. It doesn’t route in to their world.

I use the metaphor of a compass. We can’t design learning, but give teachers a compass. Learning by listening (instructionist), sharing (connectivist), doing (constructivist), making (constructionist). Direct teaching often seen as a dirty word. It’s what I’m doing right now. If I didn’t think that was of value I wouldn’t be here. Any good will swing between them, but there’s no recipe. If you put it in the hands of the learner …

To promote and critique another example. Really elegant, grounded in Diana Laurillard’s work. Designing for teaching, and I don’t think it resonates. A model for thinking through hough you do design at a high level. Course Resources Appraisal Model tool.

(video demo of it at this point) [Note: The OU uses a Learning Design tool that does something very similar to this. And I remember CRAM from back when Diana was at the OU.]

It considers over three runs, on assumption that most of the costs of prep are in first run, amortised.

I love the elegance of the theory behind this. But if I work with academics, with this tool. When I’ve done it with similar ones, you’re not going to get far. I will stand behind Diana’s work. Design, we have to be talking about costs as well. Every design has costs, whether direct or not. Typically we haven’t engaged in that.

I want to tap in to conversations about learning analytics. Link to LACE – 9 October – Open University – running a Learning Analytics event. [The LACE SoLAR Flare, in Milton Keynes, UK – come and join us!]

There’s much sheer naivety about the messiness of learning. Paper earlier today – PredictED – Moodle Activity, Insight Center. We can learn a lot from this. Good reasons to explore, so long as we are cautious about our conclusions. Paper about Moodle logs.

Make a jump from someone else’s work, sporting analogy. [Slide of Rugby data]. In NZ we don’t play much football, soccer. NZ went through last world cup but one (soccer) without defeat. The Rugby World Cup starts tomorrow in the UK. They all wear GPS trackers, whole list of players, we can monitor, track data, compare players against others, see what they did. Analyse it to death. really powerful. Again, in learning.

One fundamental issue. Performance takes place in the network. Concern when learning is treated as a individual, being done to you. It’s a co-constructed activity, in a network with other people. With sports, in the course of a game, what one player does, and measurement of their individual performance is heavily dependent on what others do. In VLE terms, what one person does can’t be taken in isolation. Performance, on the sports field. It’s hard in rugby to be good as a fly half if your forwards are crap.

The sum of the whole is greater than individual parts – slide of the All Blacks doing a haka. Team in the world that has highest percentage win rate over the last 100 years.

[He skipped over the discussion and questions here too.]

3. Dilemmas

Three dilemmas –

Iron triangle – Cost, Access, Quality. Tradeoffs have to be made. John Daniel – can’t satisfy rising demand for HE by relying on trad approaches. People need education because humanity needs educated people.

It’s important to explore different designs for teaching, for institutions. OECD gave us a report, have estimate of growth of HE – it’s big.

ICDE reports series – EADTU – Quality models in online and open education around the globe: State of the art and recommendations. The report’s fairly superficial, describes frameworks.

We have to confront the situation around student success (vs dropout or retention). Truth is, we have a challenge around success, particularly in more flexible models of education. For those that are state funded, this is what the public gets back. In others where there’s more cost on the learner, huge obligation to provide an education where they’re more likely to be successful.

The challenge for all three – greater access, may have quality problems, but less cost, because scale.

It’s become an expensive activity, seen as a private activity. In continental Europe we see that. But see a very large private provision in education. A partnership model has a place to provide quantity. But in Australia and NZ. In NZ, education is the 3rd largest earner – agriculture, tourism, education.

Around cost, challenge to maintain, e.g. in Ireland – free provision. Not a single piece of research examining the public return on investment of more open HE. Greville Rumble – The Costs and Economics of Online Distance Education. This research should happen.

Analytics could help us. This plays out daily in Ireland. Officially only 3%, 2.7% of students are distance. They’re not funded, not seen as a good return on public investment.


TEL should be in the service of big ideas, not as a big idea in itself. (adapted from Barnett, 2011).

We must keep our goals and outcomes in mind and not get distracted. Costing, quality, access issues.

A design framework, more rooted in a transformatory one – UNESCO pillars of learning – learning to be, to know, to do, to live together. This is what they are. Fifth one that I add – learning to change and transform.

ELLI spider, measure against the UNESCO pillars of learning. I can tell you, Europe’s not doing that well on those measures.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them – again attributed by him to Einstein [and I’m skeptical]

We can learn from patterns of activity. They’re not that different from what we’ve always done.

The FUN of reflection – what’s the Fundamental point, what new understanding will you take away, [what new thing will you do]?


Q1, Andrew Ravenscroft: Agree it’s messy. There are some pointers. We invent taxonomies of learning, but not looking at fundamental. Learning starts with curiosity and imagination, then dialogue, then thinking. Learning relationships. It’s not that difficult. I say read Vygotsky. We can think about designing learning. It baffles me why fundamental DNA – imagination, dialogue – gets obscured by these diagrams.

MB: Feeling uneasy, I like to take the language of opportunity. I feel I pushed this too far in to the pedagogy of the depressed. This morning, adding creativity, the Arts in to STEM. It’s about the outcomes we’re looking for. We need more creative, inquisitive people. A lot of what we do is counter to that. But remember my generalisation comment.

Q2, Katherine Maillet: At the end of the day, we do 3h exams, in your research, can you give us hope this will change? We’re piloting innovative learning environments. Teachers would love to, but students have to take baccalaureat at the end of the year.

MB: Don’t have a problem having to perform. Whether it’s 3h, I don’t know. In previous institution, were trying to pilot online exams using Criterion system. Create flexibility to take exams, or tests, from their own home, flexibly. Why make it less flexible? That tech does exist. There are implementation issues. In an European context, listening to research funded in first keynote. Why aren’t we being more strategic? Funding a project to do something in this space. People are time poor. Students. If we can make more time, that’s sensible. Not seeing that level of strategic thinking. I would hate to think we’re still doing this in 5 years. For campus as well as distance.

This work by Doug Clow is copyright but licenced under a Creative Commons BY Licence.
No further permission needed to reuse or remix (with attribution), but it’s nice to be notified if you do use it.

This river’s full of lost sharks

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Fri, 18/09/2015 - 12:43

(Remember folks – most sharks are friendly)

I am a Professor of Educational Technology. I work at the Institute of Educational Technology. I run a blog called EdTechie. Let’s face it, I’ve nailed my colours to the educational technology mast. But it’s an odd discipline in many ways, and some argue it’s not really a distinct field at all. Unlike other fields people tend to drift into ed tech from elsewhere. It’s rare that, say someone becomes an academic physicist after having started out as social scientist. These disciplines have an accepted route into them, degree, postgrad, doctorate. But often with ed tech people will start out elsewhere and through accident, curiosity or managerial edict, find themselves engaged in the application of technology to some aspect of education. You’re a Biology lecturer who becomes interested in the use of virtual labs, a classic prof who gets funding for mobile learning, a computer scientist who is interested in learning analytics. And so on. I did my PhD in Artificial Intelligence, and it wasn’t the application of this to education that got me interested, but rather just the possibilities of the then nascent web. I experimented with online tutor groups, web pages, and found myself at e-learning conferences.

This serendipity and multi-disciplinarity is part of what I like about ed tech. You meet people who have very strong creative backgrounds, others with philosophical perspective, and others from computer science tradition. The differences these views bring to the field make it exciting, innovative and challenging. I like that people drift in from elsewhere, like a well positioned pub where walkers, cyclists, locals, shoppers, and arty types all mix happily. But it does mean we don’t have a common cannon of work to refer to. People pick up bits and pieces, some take a course (like our very own Masters), but unlike many academic disciplines, you can’t assume a shared understanding and knowledge.

The downside of this is that sometimes new entrants are uninformed about existing research. Generally I find that people who migrate into ed tech are humble and keen to learn the theory and research that can help inform their own work. You know what’s coming next – this is not the case I find with many MOOC researchers. As I’ve moaned about before, a corollary of the Silicon Valley Narrative that drives MOOCs is the Year Zero mentality. There was no research in online learning prior to MOOCs, because online learning did not really exist prior to MOOCs. This all came to mind with a recent Chronicle piece which declared excitedly “Students Learn More by Doing Than by Watching“. This has been known for so long, in so many forms that I don’t really know where to begin. Yet it is trumpeted as a new breakthrough. I would also suggest that had such a finding came from normal, online courses rather than MOOCs, the Chronicle wouldn’t have covered it.

So this post is basically a big Le Sigh.

PS – title is from The National’s ‘Secret Meeting':

ECTEL2015 Thu a.m. (2): Juan Pelegrin Keynote

Dr Doug Clow's blog - Thu, 17/09/2015 - 08:05

Liveblog notes from EC-TEL2015 (#ectel2015) in Toledo, Spain, 16-19 September 2015.

Keynote: Learning Technologies and skills in the EC

Juan Pelegrin, DG CONNECT, European Commission

Overview of the new work programme coming up. A disclaimer: it’s pre-published already. But it’s not the final and official text. So my slides are not the final ones.


  • Context/policy and R&I background
  • Challenges and scope
  • Research and innovation WP 2016-17
  • Conclusions


Digital skills shortage. Mismatch of rising unemployment, with 1m vacancies not filled. Have to modernise education and training systems, cheaply and effectively. Cost-saving a priority. The OECD report on Thursday, where the conclusions were misread to say digital technologies do not help learning. Not good news, we will have to prove them wrong.

Barriers: Limited uptake of ICTs in schools and universities. There is plenty of EU money for that. Regional funds, billions, are available for local authorities, regional authorities, to upgrade their educational infrastructure including the training of teachers. At EU level, fragile Learning Technology industry. We have 28 markets, no European market yet. 23 languages, so mobility, content sharing, OERs, does not help. Pedagogical approaches are changing only very slowly.

Opportunities: Technology has finally come to education, can have a great impact. MOOCs, cloud, tablets, interactive books. Open, flexible, ubiquitous learning. 21st century skills – not about content, but skills. Problem solving, team work, creativity – how do we teach those with technology? And how we build a European market.

Challenges: digital learning for 21st century skills. Match skills and employment market. Requirements move very fast – how can we anticipate those skills? We need a triple play – innovation, inclusion, impact (economic – growth and jobs). Politicians are concerned about growth and jobs. Politicians happy for you to write papers, but they want to see you contribute in the mid-term to have an economic impact.

Results of a study – EC ICT and Schools Survey (2013). Very few schools highly digitally-equipped, teachers not confident, broadband a concerned, Europe lagging US and Asia. They are investing in this sense.

What has changed from last year? New Commissioner. Günther Oettinger – Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society. His main view is digital skills. His mission “to reinforce digital skills and learning across society, with a view to empowering Europe’s workforce and consumers for the digital era”. There is a dedicated Commission team for this. And a Vice-President also focused on this topic. For once, the EU has put real political attention on this topic.

Recent EU actions:

  • Digital Single Market Initiative (2015)
  • Initiative Opening up Education (2013) – broadband, content, innovative pedagogical approach in schools
  • Grand Coalition for ICT jobs (2013) – ICT skills shortages
  • Research and Innovation on ICT for Learning – FP7, H2020. Important to signal, we have to start to deliver. When we go for new money, have to show what this EUR 185m has delivered, beyond just papers.

What do we fund?

No area we don’t fund.

Outline of 2014-15 Work Programme

Not much money around. Difficulties within Commission and with member states.

Topic 20: Technologies for better human learning and teaching.

174 proposals, EUR 640m requested. Gave 54 proposals ranked above threshold, 12 retained, 5 reserve list. Quality of proposals could be improved. We see many resubmissions from other calls, other research programmes, trying to fit in to this. The cost of preparing a proposal ranges from 60k to 100k. Not much money, there is a finite budget. This is not the Olympics, going for the gold better. If you have something really good, go for it. But have seen things which are not new, the evaluators are very good in knowing what’s new, the iterative process of evaluation is really thorough. Go for it, but go for gold. Silver medal is not good enough at this stage, the amount of money we have is limited. We are aware the research funding in EU countries is limited.

In R&I, we had 10m, got >100m. The average proposal amount is 4-5m.

Coverage was very good. Formal to informal learning. Advanced personalisation and adaptivity – incl analytics. STEM, artistic, languages, open courseware, assessments, career development, skills for industry. All proposals addressed special needs. No PPI submission, funding purchases. The community, local authorities, are not ready to embark on these activities. This is a concern because the work programme is under the umbrella focused on innovation, growth. So too much research focus.

Outcome Topic 21 – gaming/gamification. 91 proposals, 49 proposals retained (above threshold).

Research was more targeted than the innovation actions. They [the innovation ones] are less well developed or drafted than the research proposals. We need to ensure deployment. The quality of the research was much better in the research actions than in the innovation. Lower scores in innovation action were funded, but high quality research was not funded in the research.

Coverage: applied games, tech transfer. Pocket Code, Hearing Aids, games for social inclusion.

Research and innovation Work Programme 2016-17

Two topics.

ICT-22-2016 Technologies for Learning and Skills

ICT-24-2016: Gaming and gamification.

Deadline mid-April. Evaluation in June. 43m available.

ICT-22-2016 Technologies for Learning and Skills

Learning changing, new players, changing roles of teachers. Build an open ecosystem, digital infrastructure for improved learning.

Innovation Actions (20m). Skills validation. Assessment of learner’s progress. Availability and wider adoption of education technology. Efficient and effective learning. Very large pilots in several European countries – means very large, scaling up, different schools, organisations. When text says “address at least one”, there are no extra marks if you go for three. Read the text in English as it is. Focus on primary and secondary schools ONLY. [gah] Narrowing the scope of actions. Looking for proposals in the area of 5m, ish – not bulletproof.

Research and Innovation Actions. Creativity. Focus on STEM plus Arts (STEAM). [So no social science!] Develop creativity. Foundational research (very basic, fundamental research) and piloting (and testing). Will do both. Looking for potential impact on key growth areas. Less ambitious projects, testing this area, small scale Proposals around 2.5m. There’s 10m in principle available.

ICT-24-2016 Gaming and Gamification.

Innovation Actions (12m available). Looking for gamification technology transfer, in to non-leisure contexts, especially education and training. Lots of studies suggest lots of potential, OECD, Horizon. But see it failing to deliver. So objective to increase takeup. Very small projects. Very focused, very targeted, time limited. Let’s try in different contexts, see where it works and it doesn’t. About 1m per project.

Competition is very high. If you have a good idea, go for it. The money is finite, may lead to frustrations. Half of the evaluators are in this room. There is someone who’s read a paper, see it’s not new. You’re really good, don’t try to play the system. If it’s new, draft the proposal, go for it. Otherwise, wait for a better …

16 April likely to be the date, don’t leave it to the last minute. Look for good partners, good process. More formal presentation will be soon. There is an amendment to some areas. But this is the overall vision. Interpret the language as it is – if it says “and/or”, it means that. We follow a wide interpretation of the text. Drafting EU Commission text, we have to give accommodation for many other services. Be quite open in your interpretation.


We have the potential to contribute, deliver skills. There’s loads of money – not in the research area, but for delivering skills, for providing the skills the market and the unemployed require. Digital skills can help, provide skills, validate skills. Potential for digital skills has never been better. It’s the right time to make our case.


Q1: There are some surprises in it. Can you give some reasoning about the Arts?

JP: The input there, we come from how Arts can contribute to delivering creativity. That’s the reasoning behind the STEM plus Arts deliver creativity. New ways of creating, designing, different ways of doing things. Creativity is a buzzword. Want to improve creativity of kids and graduates etc.

Q2: Appreciate Commission’s view. Talked about disastrous resources in developing proposals. Maybe it’s time to change procedure on Commission side. Good experience in regional funds. Two-phase process. Pre-proposal, very short, initial selection. Then full proposal. Less resource to develop. Easy on [all sides – proposers, reviewers, Commission]. H2020 was launched, have a third call, the game is as usual. Are you considering this?

JP: The official response. Or the real one. Personal capacity, I agree that we are fighting to get the pre-proposal checking back in to the system. Our experience is that most of the negative pre-proposal feedback was ignored. I’ve said do not submit, its out of scope, don’t bother, then you see the proposals in the evaluation. It’s a political decision from a higher ranking, it’s not up to us. We in the unit think it’s a good idea, to say if you are in scope or not. Second comment. Every time the Commission says streamline the procedures, there’s always a 1y process for each programme, and it gets worse. In terms of paperwork, there are many checks and balances, it’s out of our arena. Our comment is, we don’t negotiate proposals, the proposal as you send it is funded. Made case you can make very good proposal in to excellent. But moving whole Commission is not easy. I’ll take it forward.

Q2: The pre-proposal stage is a screening process. If it doesn’t go through, that’s it. If it does go in, then invite to submit 100 page proposal.

JP: It’s a long conversation.

Q3: In Germany, we have a way to do it, and it did not work properly, so I am not sure this is a way out.

JP: There is no excellent way of submitting.

Q4: Change topic. I came from robotics. Learning technologies call, a number of projects used robotics for teaching maths or other things. I don’t see well the connections. Given you say there are still broadband connectivity problems in schools, how the idea of funding big numbers, robots teaching something, can really fit in to the possibility of making schools capable to assess new technologies. It’s looking too far to what schools can today take on. Even in the next 5-10 years. It’s something for 40 years.

JP: The question is whether there is funding for that. The answer is yes. EU Regional Funds. With loads of money. It’s loads of money. Billions. E.g. Castille-La Mancha can make a bid, to connect schools, give training. Even if a gradual pace. There is EU money for this. It’s not the peanuts we have for research. Hundreds of millions for upgrading this. It’s the political mastters in your local region saying this is important, this is critical. Maybe it’s unknown, there are communication exercises we have to do. There’s DG REGIO, regional funds, looking for ideas for how to spend money! It’s a lose-lose situation. There’s a need in many areas, education. We at our place can only foster it, can not take the lead. Has to come from school heads, the Government, time, strategic plan, broadband suppliers. But nothing is easy. The promises of technology. We can’t say no just because it’s difficult. Training of teachers, there’s millions and millions. Make a bid. I know you’re not the audience. But teachers are not trained. I want to train 25,000 teachers, they will fund it.

Q5: Are you saying we should join it for research funds? It’s not connected. Question is whether suggestion is to combine research fund application with national or regional applications for training teachers and [developing ICT]

JP: There is no linkage. But local initiatives can build up with regional activities. 50% by EU, 50% by local initiatives. But this is only anecdotal evidence.

Q6 (Yishay Mor): Two-stage proposals. Even from 174 proposals would toss a coin, select just 20 and say you submit a full proposal, you would have saved millions of euros that go in to writing and evaluating them. Two-stage just follow logic. Elaborate money for training teachers to use ICT. A lot of us would be happy to engage in it, perhaps you could explain more where the moeny lies.

JP: It’s not my call. EU Structural Funds, to upgrade regions lagging behind. Education is one of them. ICT is eligible. Regions or member states through their regions make a bid through their regions to the EU, saying this is an area of importance, want to train X teachers, address digital skills shortage. If that gets through, normally co-funded, need some backing from local/regional authorities. That normally gets through. Initiative from local or regional Governments, go to educaiton department, see who is looking after structural funds. Some requirements, but research project proposal is harder. It’s easier. It’s not from you personally, it has to come from a public body.

Q7: Strategic perspective beyond project. Some barriers and challenges we face in Europe. Could have shown the same slides 15 years ago in 5th framework. Temporarily limited projects, it’s hard to make long-term structural change. Europe is lagging, some are structural areas you mentioned. What could we do in a more long term way? In other countries, have organisations that co-own the work in a long-term scale. Pre-standardisation in TEL, those organisations are keen to collaborate with Europe. Particularly in multiculturality, privacy, they are open but hard to understand them without active collaboration. Chances to build long-term global coordination of activities?

JP: That goes a bit beyond my remit. All collaboration is good. Many research projects end when the project is finished. Taking up the knowledge in research, it’s only left in research papers. The next step, innovation, there’s scope for improvement in our field. 99% of projects usually fail, the website remains for 2y, but then it is not working. That extra step is where we need to improve. Other countries, especially the US, they are especially good at taking it forward. Europe in general, we buy the content from the West and the hardware from the East, and the EU makes all the research papers. [We’re not that great at those either.]

Q8: Reviewing process, number of proposals, amount of time. Last year, machine learning conference did expt with 2 panels looking at papers. Turned out, less than half of papers accepted by one were accepted by another. This was always my suspicions, the process is partly random. We say the most excellent get funded. It’s better than random, but not much better. Tossing a coin is almost as effective as an entire review process. I’m not saying you should do this. But it’s an argument. I don’t think it is always the case.

JP: I have to disagree.

Q8: Of course you have to. [laughter]

JP: 80 top researchers in the areas of digital learning in the world. I agree there is a random factor, component. I can tell you that, in our review process, the collective effort of all the bodies of learning, the experts we invite, normally we get a fair and good output of the call. A panel review, proposals are literally slaughtered. [?!] I would disagree with you. Many people here know, in a panel, those who have ranked, only the really good proposals are funded. Once you’ve seen the system.

Q8: I’ve been in the system, I know people do it very carefully.

JP: I cannot accept that the collective effort of 80 researchers is less good than tossing a coin.

Q8: Only slightly better. I know it is hard to accept.

Q9: Innovation part. New funding type, successful research projects with good results, to finance next phase of the transfer, work on the next step, to go to next phase with funding. Good prototypes, but companies not convinced to invest millions that it will really fit the market.

JP: We have a problem, we don’t know how to do it. We are thinking how to improve innovation, the next stage I call it. We are looking to that. Our new DG has been tasked with improving innovation at the European level. A need to look at what instruments to make that extra step, to make it available, to give projects a chance. Many do get left in the shelves when the project is finished.

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ECTEL2015 Mon a.m. (1): Lisa Marie Blaschke Keynote

Dr Doug Clow's blog - Wed, 16/09/2015 - 09:10

Liveblog notes from EC-TEL2015 (#ectel2015) in Toledo, Spain, 16-19 September 2015.

Tomaž Klobucar welcomes everyone. Introduces Katherine Maillet, President of EA-TEL, gives a bit of history. Bringing together disparate fields that contribute to technology-enhanced learning, through Networks of Excellence. Program chairs: always two, there are, one in learning sciences, another in computer sciences. Joint research, building communities of practice. SIGs.

Christoph Rensing has a video message thanking everyone for the contribution to the organisation of the conference. Gráinne Conole also can’t make it and welcomes everyone in a video message.

Tomaž gives some outlines about the reviewing process. Most papers from Germany, then UK. Full paper acceptance rate 21%.

Carlos Delgado Kloos, local organiser gives some local information.  El Greco was born in Crete and died in Toledo, 401 years ago. EC-TEL started in Crete but is hopefully not going to die here in Toledo. Practical local arrangements for the conference. We are in the Spanish press, apparently. He thanks everyone who’s helping out locally.

Keynote: Self-determined learning: creating personal learning environments for lifelong learning

Lisa Marie Blaschke, Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg



  • What is self-determined learning? A crash course in heutagogy
  • The practice of self-determined learning
  • Why should you be interested?
  • Designing for self-determined learning
  • Building PLEs (examples)

By show of hands, many people in the audience have heard of it.

What is heutagogy?

Hase and Kenyon developed it. (Stewart Hase and Chris Kenyon.) Holistic, learner is major agent in own learning. Full list of resources on it are here.

It’s learner-centred and learner-determined. Institution and instructor are not in the foreground. Focus on learners being capable, self-efficacy. Also able to transition that in to a unique environment. Common in medical contexts. Self-reflection, meta-cognition, double-loop-learning. Non-linear, learner defines the path.

It’s not new. Draws on many learner-centred theories, concepts and ideas.

Pedagogy-Andragogy-Heutagogy continuum. Level 1, learners are engaged, low learner maturity and autonomy. Level 2, andragogy, learners more autonomous. Level 3, heutagogy, fully autonomous, fully productive.

Why should you be interested?

Worked for a software company in Germany. From 1000 employees to 50,000. Was hiring people who had doctorates, top class. For programmers, had to be doctor of physics. She was knowledge management, information architecture. Some people would hit the ground running, fly high, were able to adapt. Others would fall on their faces, could not adjust. There were too many changes. There’s lots of complexity. Thought about why that was. They were all intelligent people. They talked about need to transfer skills in to new and unique environments. Decided that’s what she needs to teach her students.

Workforce needs lifelong learners, who need lifelong learning. Capable, willing, able to learn over a long period of time. Critical thinking skills.

Anecdote of talking to nephew at the bus stop. Said tell me how it is to learn at your university. “I go in to conference halls, the professor talks for an hour, then I take a test at the end of the semester.” This is too passive.

More institutions are moving towards learning-centred learning and competency-based education.

It’s a powerful combination with Web 2.0 Affordances. (!)

Benefits: improve critical thinking. Increases learner engagement and motivation – eventually, not at the start. Better prepared for the complexities of the workforce.

Designing for self-determined learning

How do you design for that?

Key elements: Explore, Create, Collaborate, Connect, Share, Reflect.

They need the opportunity to fail. Connection and collaborate, internet and social media. Not just consuming, but creating and sharing.

How do we make this happen? Learner-centredness

Do you remember the first thing you learned? [No! I was very young to be aware.]

For her, swimming lessons with her aunt, a native American. In a pond full of scum. She carried me in the water, talked about breathing, movements. Gave me time to transition. I felt I was doing it on my own, because I was actively involved, even though she was holding me.

Have to inspire learners to learn again. Some argue can’t talk about heutagogy for kids, but Stewart [Hase] says you can. I have grad students who say tell me what I have to do, I don’t want to think. I say, what do you want to do. Pushes them out of their comfort zone. One student hated it, wrote about it in self-determined learning, I just wanted them to tell me what to do. They say I have to think and I don’t know how to start. She ended up loving it, after that period of chaos. Then later hated her final course which was teach-to-the-test.  They’ll be happier at the end, for the most part.

Have to develop learner autonomy. Motivation is key. When people can make choices, they are more motivated.

Let learners create and play, and fail. From Germany, failure is not usually an option in German schools. Challenging to say to teachers they need opportunities to fail. Need a growth mindset. Learning isn’t something set and will never change, but will adapt over time. Learn from experiences and failures, and don’t see those as their characteristics. Fixed mindset, when they fail, see that as a reflection on them as an individual.

Build in activities for self-reflection, thinking about how they’ve learned. Learning journals, visual story-telling.

Encourage reflection. Scaffolding learning activities, learner-directed questions, action research.

Empower learners to collaborate/create. Places they can be creative. Students decide what they’re doing with their ePortfolios. E.g. YouTube reflections. Encourages empathy. Maker spaces.

Build skills and competences – personal knowledge management, digital literacy, social collaboration, self-efficacy. Gaming, Minecraft, kids love it.

Allow learners to define success. This is the biggest stumbling block. Learners aren’t used to this, it’s the institution, the teacher. Given the opportunity, they can do this. Issue of control – who’s responsible for assessment: the institution, the teacher, or the learner? Is our job learning, or handing out certificates and degrees.

MOOCs are a great examples, especially the cMOOCs. Open learning environments. Open boundary courses. Bibblio.

Design Process

First, need some sort of learning contract – needs and outcomes, decided by student. Negotiate assessment process, who will do it. A contract with them, SUNY uses this for Masters programs. Adapt the curriculum accordingly.

Next, build learning activities. Bring in resources, make a roadmap. Not go here then here then here. But different options the learner can decide where to go. Provide formative feedback – very important, they don’t know if they’re on the right track. Self-reflection very important too.

Learning outcomes – assess different ones, let them demonstrate competencies, skills, and capability to apply in new situations.


Teaches English to first and second graders at CentGrundschule Reichasrtshausen once a week.

Sing, read books. Was in teachers’ lounge. Box of books there she’d given a year ago. Said, give them to the kids, but they put them in the teachers’ lounge. I freed the books, brought them to second grade English. Put them under my chair. Program, sing songs, read books. I was in control. I learned, they came at me, trying to get at the books, wanting to read the books. Finally I said fine, 15 minutes, do what you want, eat your lunch, recess early, or read the books. They all got a book. They were at different levels of English capability. It was incredible. They sat down and helped each other. Correcting pronunciation, synergy and excitement in the room. When my kids learned English it was dull, drill stuff. Have to make them autonomous, creative.

St Paul’s School, Brisbane, Australia.

In primary school, did self-directed learning. Challenging. Ages 3-12 years old. Chaos. Still has to meet Government-mandated goals. Read paper on heutagogy, came up with a model. Needs to be formative, negotiated curriculum, negotiated assessment, contracts with learners, inquiry-based learning. Took all teachers, sessions on SDL. Support, curriculum experts. Created giant roadmaps – what can learners learn, what are the options. Have some outliers on the maps. Having amazing success. Students are having fun learning. Teachers are having fun, and also learning. Students ask questions they never thought about. Also meeting the Government mandates. Next heutagogy conference is at that school.

University of Maryland and Oldenberg, foundations masters course.

Will become managers of distance education e-learning programs. Stuff they learn today will be very different. OMDE601 Foundations of Distance Education and E-Learning. Set out goals, learning outcomes, looked for specific skill-building activities. Selected social media to support those. Gave opportunity to build on their skills to transfer in to the workplace. Eportfolio. Twitter was an example. Followed a professor, had to retweet something. One guy, interested in Tony Bates’ online book, wrote comments to Tony. After 3-4 weeks, Tony said hey, you want to review this book. Developed rapport. Try to build those in to our course activities.

New book – Experiences in Self-Determined Learning. Collection of different experiences. Online Heutagogy Community of Practice, WordPress-based.

What does this have to do with PLEs?

Mine has social networks, online, E-portfolio, online resources. Not just the network, the technology, but calling someone on a phone, like a mentor.

Wanted to make this interactive but didn’t have time. [!!] Put together four ones.

Primary Education (K-4): They have to play, have fun.

Secondary Education (5-12): WhatsApp, WordPress, Instagram, others. Example of daughter in London, was spending time on her phone, you have to experience this. She said she was taking pictures, writing about it in German, sending it to WhatsApp group who are excited to learn about London.

Higher Education: MDE program. Dropbox, skype, Twitter, Evernote, Skype, Facebook. As teachers, we need to show how they can use this for self-directed learning.

Professional development:, MOOCs, LinkedIn, ResearchGate.

I wanted to get your ideas about what these would look like, but we don’t have time. [!!]


Learners design and created their own PLEs. We provide learning environments. Terry Anderson – technology defines the beat, pedagogy defines the moves. Create a dance between the two, self-directed learning is one of them.


Q1: I see a potential difference between learning languages and vocation, and more abstractsthings like mathematics. Motivating works well for languages at any age. But is a big gap if they are more abstract, like university mathematics.

LMB: I agree. Have to look at how to apply this. STEM is challenging. I see lots of group collaboration. Creating connections with the outside world. Setting up a learning map depends on the topic. We run in to the same thing about what goes online. We need to focus on what the learner needs are. Make it learner-centred, learn from each other, they’ll be more involved in the learning process, which will make the learning stick.

Q2: The theories remind me of Montessori method. I see the technology is different. But the concept is there at a deep level. These traditional methods vs this new one?

LMB: You’ll find these concepts in Montessori schools, Waldorf schools, because they’re learner-centred. Aspects of heutagogy built in to those environments. Self-efficacy, opportunities to explore. These are excellent examples. The Waldorf schools were very anti-technology. We need to learn from those examples.

Q3: I’m mind blown. I followed enthusiastically. I didn’t get the last point. Was it, to give learners the tools to make the PLE their own. Learner-centred self-determined learning would require them to bring their own tools, not the other way round. Maker movement, learners bringing in their own technology, with smartphones and tablets. Why do we give them the tools, they don’t really adopt them.

LMB: They don’t always know how to use them. Son in school, WhatsApping his friend, couldn’t reach him. She suggested Skype. So they used that to invite their group. Google Hangouts another example. They don’t always know. Last week, student wrote a long post on not using Twitter, not being a Kardashian. She said we don’t use Twitter that way – though some teachers do that. We’re using it to create connections, you create connections, build them with people in the field. People put their stuff on Twitter before it’s in any journal. Student had not thought about using it that way. An environment that’s life long. With a hashtag, class is never over. [!] Anything that gets tweeted on distance learning, all my students get it. In online learning, have to look at it that way. Not here’s this cool tech how can I use it, has to be what do I want to achieve.

Q4 (Andrew Ravenscroft): Really welcome. But, relies on students knowing what’s best for themselves. Your example about Big Ben and daughter Tweeting and reporting on the experience. Maybe bring in e.g. Guy Fawkes. An expert of mentor needs to interject with something. Otherwise will just self-report activity.

LMB: The instructor is very, very much involved. They also provide feedback. Your role changes, you’re not the sage on the stage like this. Allowing them to make the decisions, but guiding them through it. Good point about only relating the experiences.

Q5: Role of the teacher. Do you have some experience of the preconditions for a teacher to choose these methods. What are the time requirements, on the teacher: student ratio. How many can they guide?

LMB: From the MDE program, 25-30 students. We’re not fully self-directed learning. institutions don’t always support this. How do you get your institution to agree? I kinda did it and just got on with it. Sometimes you have to just bring it in. At St Pauls Schools, 530 students in junior school, don’t know how many instructors, ratio is also in the range of 25-30 students. It’s challenging, because it’s learner-focused. Yishay (Mor) did this on project-based MOOCs. That’s a huge environment, with thousands of learners. They build in many elements. For lower grades, need more intense interaction with the students, so a lower ratio. But in to higher grades maybe less so.

Q6: Technology. The use of PLEs. Don’t they already require self-directed learning skills, and technological skills? Meant to develop SDL. In the end, people make decisions for the learners, or they’re overburdened by choices. [Contrast between an environment to teach self-directed learning] for me [a PLE] is an environment for people who are already SDL and tech skilled.

LMB: I experience this in graduate courses, tell them to do a mind map. They have to choose which. It’s a question of formative feedback on how to choose tools, ask how will help you down the line. Has to start at a young age. People who have a PLE, they’re self-directed. How do we get them to that place? That’s what companies really want to have their employees do, solve problems and not have to guide them.

Q7 (Rolf?): PLEs, MOOCs. I would see PLE as opposite to MOOC. I would say MOOCs are the natural enemy, I have to fight them, I don’t understand your interest. Is that a tactic?

LMB: No! [laughter] What MOOCs offer, less the xMOOCs and more the cMOOCs, project-based learning – they have opportunities to collaborate, make new information. It’s learner-centred. They’re a self-directed learning. Some use MOOCs as part of their PLE. Like a community of practice. Represent different parts.

[I think there is a lack of understanding in the room about the distinction between xMOOCs and cMOOCs she’s making here.]

Q8: Someone who is missing courses, takes a MOOC on his own initiative? Think about combining tutor-directed and learner-directed. More scalability, dedicate your attention where it’s worthwhile.

LMB: We have to be flexible, adaptable. St Pauls Schools have done it 100%. My school, we haven’t done it 100% but we try to move them that way.

This work by Doug Clow is copyright but licenced under a Creative Commons BY Licence.
No further permission needed to reuse or remix (with attribution), but it’s nice to be notified if you do use it.


I just hit 10,000 views on a presentation I uploaded to Slideshare a couple of months ago.

I’m pleased, but puzzled. There’s no clear reason why ‘Learning design and learning analytics‘ should have proved to be so much more popular than my other Slideshares, which typically get 500-1500 views.

The VLE isn’t the problem, the sediment is

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Fri, 11/09/2015 - 13:25

(big metaphor for changing institutional systems)

At the ALT C conference I went to a few sessions where VLE discussion came up, most notably Lawrie Phipps and Donna Lanclos’s session “Are learning technologies fit for purpose?“. They asked us to reflect on the main question in groups and nearly all of the discussions came back to complaints about the VLE. Lawrie picked on me to give the first response and I mentioned that the problem was not so much the technology but the “institutional sediment” that builds up around it.

This came back to me in later discussions about whether WordPress would provide a better VLE. I think that actually the differences between technology are quite small. Moodle for example is often described as a constructivist VLE, but I find very little in it that differentiates it from other VLEs. Canvas also has its fans. I’m not being as glib as to say “they’re all the same”, but I think we often over-emphasise the potential of a particular technology to make a change. This isn’t my main point, but before I get on to that, I feel that the social and cultural perception of a technology is as important to how it is implemented as the actual functionality. Put simply, Blackboard is corporate so doesn’t get much love but it does the job, like Windows, say. Moodle is open source, community base so gets solid tech love. WordPress is cool, so is seen as innovative. And so on. There is probably an alternative universe where every university has made WordPress their enterprise system and all the cool kids are clamouring to be allowed to use Blackboard.

Which does get me onto my main point (finally!), about that sediment. Brian Lamb and Jim Groom wrote about their issues with the VLE and while I agree largely with them, I think their focus is too technology oriented. The problem lies in how institutions adopt technology. We spend lots of money on technology, and employing people who become experts in using that technology. But even that is not the real problem, what happens is we develop administrative structures and processes which are couched in terms of the specific technology. We have roadmaps, guidelines, training programmes, reporting structures which all help to embed the chosen tool. This creates a sort of tool focused solutionism – if an academic wants to achieve something in their course, and they ask their IT, or educational support team for help, the answer will be couched in terms of “what is the Blackboard (or tool of your choice) way of implementing this?” Or, worse, “that isn’t in our Moodle roadplan”.

I’m not sure what the solution to this is, it tends to be how large institutions need to operate. But there are ways to combat it I think, for instance frame the processes in terms of the generic function, not the specific technology – what do we want our VLE to do? How do we make effective use of asynchronous communication to enhance student interaction? Can we design the use of tools in course to improve retention? And also think beyond the existing technology, have an ongoing experimentation programme. Most of all, be aware of every institutional action that adds to the sediment, and be conscious that the greater that sediment build up, the more difficult it is wriggle free.

The pseudo digital-natives argument

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Thu, 10/09/2015 - 17:32

When I did my degree in Psychology I remember a lecturer dismissing lots of theories of cognition as a ‘pseudo-homunculus” explanation. The homunculus explanations of psychology posited a little person sitting inside, driving your actions (think Inside Out). Of course, this was debunked hundreds of years ago, but a pseudo-homunculus explanation was one that went so far and then almost implied a little person. For example, theories of perception that posited a projection of the external world as if it was a cinema screen inside the head. It didn’t explain how that then led to action.

I was thinking about this with ed tech presentations. The digital natives myth has long been debunked, like the homunculus, but what we have are often pseudo-digital native explanations. I joked on twitter that we should ban presenters from talking about their children’s use of technology. I don’t really want to ban it (before people start telling me why a ban would be a bad idea), and I think sometimes it is used to effectively make a point. But often the deployment of these anecdotes (or videos even) is to sneak some pseudo-digital native juice in, without being derided for such. “Look, my daughter uses the ipad in a totally different way to me, we need to be ready for these kids in university” is often the implicit or explicit message. I blogged a while ago that there is something appealing about the digital natives idea, people want it to be true, and so it finds new ways to reassert itself. So when you hear a “my kids” anecdote in a presentation, I just ask you to do a pseudo digital natives check. Stay vigilant people.

Existential angst for a digital scholar

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Wed, 09/09/2015 - 12:00

I’m at ALT-C and Jonathan Worth gave a keynote this morning that brought to mind something I’ve been pondering for a while, particularly in relation to some of Audrey Watters writing. Jonathan was talking about the positive experience of Phonar, but then how he had considered the issues around privacy, and consent. He was suggesting that we need to discuss with students all the implications of going online, and also raise their awareness of how much information they are leaking.

As an advocate of digital scholarship I have been having similar anxieties regarding academics. When all this was new I spent much of my time encouraging people to blog, get on twitter, etc. And I still feel that the benefits of establishing an online identity for academic purposes are considerable. Plus it’s also very rewarding, I have developed great friendships, been pushed intellectually, established productive collaborations, and been inspired from my online network. I wouldn’t want to give that up. But increasingly, now that we are past the first flush of enthusiasm and this enters the mainstream, we have to be aware of a ‘dark’ side.

This can be the pressure to build such an identity as it becomes more important; the possibility of getting trolled and being involved in unpleasant (or even downright threatening) online discussions; increased monitoring by institutions through data; loss of control and privacy. And so on.

The reaction to this can still be “don’t go online” but I wouldn’t advocate that, partly because of all the positives I’ve mentioned and also because it becomes increasingly difficult to function. Doing the digital equivalent of hiding in a cave in Utah is not a realistic proposition, and I would argue it is a disservice to new researchers to discourage them from developing online identities.

Which means we have to develop an understanding of all these issues, and ways of dealing with them. And here’s the problem: when I used to encourage people to go online, they would often protest that they don’t have time. If they know need to be experts in privacy then there is even less time. I don’t really have an answer to this, I’m caught between the belief that developing that online identity is key, and feeling that increasingly we shouldn’t engage in that process without a better understanding of what it entails. Hence, my angst of the title.

Anyway, I was reminded of this Mitchell and Webb clip. PS – I don’t think I am one of the baddies, yet.

The ROI on open education

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Mon, 07/09/2015 - 10:17

Increasingly in education one is asked to justify the time and resource allocated to projects. I’m not adverse to this, no matter what political belief you subscribe to, everything comes down to allocation of resources in the end, and so considering the best allocation for your intended aim is useful. But this type of justification is often rather crude and determined by simple return on investment. This is easier to do for some aspects of education than others, and I want to make a case for open education.

You can view open education (in whatever form, MOOCs, OERs, podcasts, open access publishing) as a straightforward marketing and recruitment tool. There are established metrics then for determining whether it is effective in that role, compared with other forms, such as radio advertising, say. But unlike advertising, open education plays a wider role in the learning ecosystem (I know using ecosystem is a bit of a cliche now, but let’s roll with it).

Our research from the OER Research Hub, for example, illustrates that a good proportion of informal learners would consider moving into formal education. But not necessarily with the institution who providing the content they used. We also found that a lot of formal learners used OERs to supplement their study or to trial it before signing up. So students at one university may be using content from another to help them in their studies. And informal learners were likely to study with open content again, and recommend it.

What this does is create a society of learners, people who are more actively engaged in learning, both formally and informally. And that will benefit all learning providers (compared with a society of passive TV watchers for example). But the direct, traceable benefit from open education is probably quite small, and specific. For example financial benefits to students with open textbooks is a specific argument you can make for OER, but it is only one type of open education, and the benefits are more pronounced in North America than Europe.

This creates a game theory situation – it might be better for some institutions not to spend on open education themselves, but to benefit from it from others. And when budgets are tight it becomes increasingly difficult to justify expenditure on something that has indirect benefit. And this can lead to the tragedy of the commons, when selfish behaviour dominates to the detriment of all. One way of ameliorating this is to have central policy that mandates for open behaviour, as we have seen with open access publishing. So, for example a national agency may have responsibility for providing infrastructure and ensuring contributions from others. In the UK this has been JISC, but the closure of JORUM may indicate that this role is not seen as significant. The OU also plays a similar role with regards to being an open education champion. Governments might also mandate that a percentage of state supported fees are used to release open content. This becomes more problematic when it is student fees that solely fund higher ed, but a mandate is still possible.

The point is that we often make the case for open education about the benefits to society in general, but there are also very real, actual benefits for HE institutions. It requires a model that allows these to persist however, for them to continue to be felt by everyone.

Robotisation will follow digitisation’s path

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Fri, 04/09/2015 - 13:47

Robots aren’t really my area of expertise, but they’re this year’s thing, in movies and the news. This BBC article “Will machines eventually take on every job?” is fairly typical. However, I have followed the impact of digitisation over the past couple of decades, and I think the implementation of robots will follow a similar path. The difficulty is to tread the path between determinism, utopian and dystopian views, and excessive extrapolation. Also, there is a tendency to forget that pesky human nature in all of this. But we are well down the path of digitisation of a previously analogue world now, and this offers some useful lessons I think. I’m not making any claims that these are positive or negative outcomes, merely offering them as where I think it will go.

Firstly, we see the mass of mundane tasks are taken on. As with digitisation, where renewing car tax, shopping for groceries, and booking holidays were all tasks that people were happy to cede to a new digital version. This was usually quicker, more convenient and had distinct advantages. The same will happen for robots – in fifty years (or if you prefer, 100), it’s hard to imagine that we will still be driving to big supermarkets to trudge around and collect our weekly groceries. This stuff will be picked by robots, and delivered by driverless cars.

Secondly, we learn what we value and create artesan economies. This is where people tend to forget the impact of human nature. iTunes and Spotify may dominate the market for music, there has been a renaissance in the appreciation of vinyl. The coffee shop has flourished, as people buy the mundane stuff online, but decide they want to still exist in social spaces. So it will be with robotisation – your grocery stuff may be delivered by a robot, but you’ll value the expertise of the cheese shop run by an enthusiast down the road.

Thirdly, it’ll be both better and worse than we anticipate. In the early days of the digital revolution there was a lot of hope, and utopian vision around. It turned out to have many downsides (eg loss of privacy) that we didn’t always anticipate. The reverse may be the case with robotisation, the predictions are mainly gloomy (undermining labour, invasion of privacy again, loss of humanity), but there will be unpredicted upsides to it also.

There’s probably lots more, my main point is that we have lived through a very recent technology driven social upheaval, and that provides a good model for considering the next one.

Future direction of the OER Research Hub

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Thu, 03/09/2015 - 11:32

The OER Hub team prepare for launch

[Reblogged from OER Hub]

July marked the end of the initial phase of the OER Research Hub. It’s been a great three years, and Beck has pulled out some of the highlights. But what next, you are all asking! Well, we’re delighted to announce that we have received further funding form the Hewlett Foundation. The aim of the last grant was twofold: to try and develop an evidence base for many of the beliefs that people held about OER, and to raise the profile of quality research in the OER field. The new project seeks to continue these broad aims, by establishing the hub on an ongoing basis.

Having gathered data and developed tools for OER we also want to broaden our scope to other aspects of open education, including MOOCs, open educational practice, open access, etc. To this end we’re slightly rebranding by dropping an R and calling ourselves The Open Education Research Hub.

So, what’s happening next? Well we’re going to transition to the new Open Education Research Hub with a new website. We’ll also be publishing a series of data reports over this month from the previous research that focus on the different sectors of formal learners, informal learners and educators. If you’re into OER research, these are for you. We’re also running the Open Researcher course from 14th Sept.

The new Hub will become increasingly an umbrella for other projects. We already have a few of these underway, with OER Research Hub staff involved to some extent in the following:

We’re developing bids around other areas also. And of course, if you have any open education related research you’d like to collaborate on, then get in touch.

Open Research 2015 Launches for Sign-Up!

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Fri, 28/08/2015 - 10:00

Originally posted on :

At the beginning of August I blogged about the return of our successful open research course on P2PU’s School of Open this Fall. Well, I’m excited to announce that the course is now live and will run from Monday 14 September – Sunday 11 October 2015. Sign-up is now open so head on over to P2PU and put your name down to participate!

We’re looking forward to having you along for the ride whether you are a seasoned researcher, dipping your toe in the water or just interested in finding out more about open research. Come and share your experiences and thoughts!

So, what’s new…?

For those of you who are super observant, you might recall that we promised some tweaks and surprises in this iteration. The main changes to the course have been as a response to previous participant feedback and our own experiences of facilitating the course. Changes include:

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Corbyn, higher ed & the Overton window

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Thu, 27/08/2015 - 11:34

This post follows on from the previous one regarding our view of higher ed (yes, I’ve been thinking about it over the summer). As those in the UK will know, but overseas readers (hello!) may not, there is currently a leadership election underway for Labour, the opposition party. To everyone’s surprise, and to the chagrin of most of the senior Labour figures, it looks as though the left-wing candidate Jeremy Corbyn will win. This isn’t a post about Labour, or politics really, but about what the more general value of someone like Corbyn is in the current climate (and possibly why that has proven popular).

There is a political concept known as the Overton Window, which is defined as the range of ideas the public will accept. If an idea falls outside of the Overton window it is rejected. However, as Owen Jones argues in his book The Establishment, there are people, and groups, whose function is to effectively shift the Overton Window. It has been moving steadily right since the 1970s, so that ideas that even Margaret Thatcher thought were too radical, are now seen as standard practice. Ideas, such as privatising the NHS, would once have been political suicide, but aspects of them can now be discussed. For me then, Corbyn’s role is to help drag the Overton Window back to a more central position. For example, if a privatised part of the prison service performs badly, the media will focus on discussing whether that company is doing a good job, providing value for money, etc. But they will not question whether selling of services such as this is a good idea in the first place. That falls outside of the Overton Window currently. Corbyn’s presence makes that question a viable one to ask, and thus helps shift the window back. I’m not saying this will make him a successful leader, my point is rather that what is interesting here is the control of narrative.

And this shaping of narrative is something I’m interested in with regards to educational technology and higher education in general. I touched upon the importance of narrative regarding MOOCs in the Battle for Open. It is evident also in the “university degree as personal investment” narrative that has come to dominate higher education. In my last post I talked about the value of viewing higher education as a process and not just a product. The reason it is difficult to do so, is because a process view falls outside of our own Overton Window in higher education.

And just as I value Corbyn’s presence for helping shift the narrative ground in UK politics, so I regard many of the bloggers whose work I admire (Audrey Watters, Kate Bowles, Jonathan Rees, Richard Hall) as performing a similar service – they help shift the higher education window (or at least help resist it being dragged in a certain direction).

Product and process in higher ed

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Wed, 26/08/2015 - 10:26

When I was a young man I harboured dreams of being a novelist (instead I became the next best thing, an ed tech blogger). Recently by way of entertaining myself I have taken to writing fiction again. But I do so without any intention of ever publishing, sharing or doing anything with it. This was quite a liberating decision, it means I can just enjoy the process. And this set me thinking about tasks we do for the joy of the process itself, and those we do for the end result, the product.

Fiction writing is quite odd in this respect, and different from many other leisure pursuits. If you tell someone you are writing fiction, they will often ask (or assume) that you intend to get published. That you harbour dreams of doing a JK Rowling (and this is indeed true of many people who take up writing). In that respect it seems a pursuit that tends more (although not exclusively) towards the product side. Contrast it with other past-times people may take up, such as painting, or pottery. One would probably not ask of someone who is doing an evening class in painting “are you planning on holding an exhibition?” the way you might ask a writer “are you going to publish?”. It is understood that painting is something most people do for the joy of the process itself.

Exercise or sport is also similar in this respect. While people may have a product, a goal, in mind such as entering a race, or losing weight, exercise is usually undertaken for engagement in the process. You do not assume that your friend who has started running is planning on becoming a professional athlete.

And this brought me round to thinking about how we view higher education. It used to be firmly in the process camp. People went to university because the act of learning, critical thinking, engagement with peers and time away from the pressures of career were seen as valuable in themselves. There were undoubtedly vocational degrees which were more product centred – you did an accountancy degree usually because you wanted to become an accountant – but largely it was the process that mattered. Over the past twenty years we have seen a shift where the dominant rhetoric and mindset around higher education is one of product. When I did a degree in Psychology I would be asked by people of the older generation who hadn’t been to uni “what job are you going to do with that?”. They didn’t mean it unkindly, it was just that they had a more pragmatic mindset. But it was understood by most that in some ways the degree subject didn’t really matter. I was the first generation at uni and that was significant.

But the “what job are you going to do with that?” question now dominates, and is even the one students often have uppermost in their minds. I hesitate to use the term neo-liberal but I think this change in mindset did coincide with the rise of the neo-liberal dominance during the 00s. And it has become solidified with the introduction of high student fees. Fees make the conversation all about product. And a product focus is not necessarily wrong, I’m glad a surgeon had one, for example. But I’m pleased that some countries have resisted this product centric view of higher ed, and still understand that, like painting, and for me, fiction writing, there is value in the process that shouldn’t be underestimated.

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