Whose app (or map) is it anyway? #HEAVandR

Early this week my colleague Evelyn McElhinney and did our first visitors and residents mapping workshop for the current HEA Online Residency in the Disciplines programme.

The student co-hort we met with were all post registration health professionals, who are undertaking professional CPD courses here at GCU.  We had a good mix of participants both in terms of age and gender and in attitudes to using technology. From the self confessed luddites (always makes me smile when people use that term in a self derogatory fashion in relation to their own perceptions of “being rubbish at technology”, the original luddites were all highly skilled people) to those who seemed pretty confident about where and when they are online.

As we stated in our bid, one of the reasons we wanted to be part of this programme was:

“Effective online engagement is particularly relevant to health care professionals, who are bound by professional codes of ethics. The increasing use of social media for professional and public engagement requires them to develop understanding of the interactions between professional and personal spaces.”

True to David White’s experience, as our participants were developing their maps, some really interesting questions and discussions emerged, particularly around the use of apps. Is interaction with an app visitor or resident behaviour? Of course that very much depends on the app, and you connect to other services/online spaces with it. If you are for example using a fitness app to collect data about yourself is that resident behaviour or just a private record? As we were dealing with health care professionals, this led to another discussion about boundaries of personal and professional technology. If you have a say, blood pressure app on your phone should you use that with patients, or should you only use authorised apps and devices?

This led to another discussion or perhaps more accurately a series of questions about the whole quantified self movement and learning analytics. In terms of health care, in certain cases self monitoring can be very powerful. But if we all are recording everything on our Fitbits (or whatever) should that data be collected and stored by, the NHS? What are the practicalities never mind the ethics involved in that?

Lots to think about and I’m sure it wasn’t all just sugar and e-number induced nonsense.

Picutre of blank v&R map with biscuits and sweets

Essential kit for v&r mapping

Exploring the digital university – next steps digtial university ecosystems?

Regular readers of this (and my previous) blog, will know that exploring the notion of just what a digital university is, c/should be is an ongoing interest of mine. Over the past couple of years now my colleague Bill Johston and I have shared our thinking around the development of a model to explore notions of the digital university. The original series of blog posts got very high viewing figures and generated quite a bit of discussion via comments. We’ve developed the posts into a number of conference presentations and papers. But the most exciting and rewarding development was when Keith Smyth from Edinburgh’s Napier University contacted us about the posts in relation their strategic thinking and development around their digital future. Which in turn will help them to figure out what their vision of digital university will look like.

For the past year Bill and I have been critical friends to Napier’s Digital Futures Working Group. This cross institutional group was tasked with reviewing current practice and areas of activity relating to digital engagement, innovation and digital skills development, and with identifying short term initiatives to build on current practice as well as proposing possible future developments and opportunities. These will be shared by Napier over the coming months. Being part of the Napier initiative has encouraged me to try and develop a similar approach here at GCU.  I’m delighted that we have got senior management backing and later this month we’ll be running a one day consultation event here.

Earlier this week Bill, Keith and myself had a catch up where we spent quite a bit of time reflecting on “our journey” so far.  Partly this was because we have another couple of conference paper submissions we want to prepare.  Also as we now have a very rich set of findings from the Napier experience we needed to think about  our next steps. What can we at GCU learn from the Napier consultation experience? What are the next steps for both institutions? What common issues will emerge? What common solutions/decision points will emerge?  What are the best ways to share our findings internally and externally?

As we reflected on where we started we (well, to be precise, Bill) began to sketch out a kind of process map of where we started (which was a number of lengthy conversations in the staff kitchen between Bill and I) to where we might be this time next year, when hopefully we will have set of actions from GCU.

The diagram below is an attempt to replicate Bill’s diagram and outline the phases we have gone through so far. Starting with conversations, which evolved into a series of blogs posts, which evolved in conference papers/presentation, the blog posts were spotted by Keith and used as a basis for the development of their Digital Futures Working group, which is now being used as an exemplar for work beginning here at GCU.

Stages of the Digital University Conversation

I am more and more convinced that one of the key distinguishing features of a digital university is the ability of staff and students to have a commonly shared articulation and experience of the digitally enabled processes they engage with on a daily basis, and equally a shared understanding of what would be missing if these processes weren’t being digitally enabled. You know, the digital day of student, lecturer, admin person type of thing, but not visions written by “futurologists”, ones written by our staff and students.  Alongside this we could have the daily live of the physical spaces that we are using. So for example we could have overlays of buildings not only showing the footfall of people but also where and when they were accessing our wifi next works etc.

Now, I know we can/could do this already (for example we already show access/availability of computers in our labs via our website) and/or make pretty good educated guesses about what is happening in general terms. However it is becoming easier to get more data and more importantly visualise it in ways that encourage questions around “actionable insights’ not only for our digital spaces, digital infrastructure but our physical ones too. Knowing and sharing the institutional digital footprint is again central to the notion of digital university.

Alongside this, by using learning analytic techniques can we start to make see any correlations around where and why students are online? Can we understand and learn from patterns around access and engagement with learning activities?  Are students are using our uni provided spaces and wifi to do the majority of their uni work or to download “stuff” to listen/watch/read to on the bus? Are they just accessing specialist software/kit? Does it matter if they all have Facebook/youtube/whatsapp open all the time if we are confident (through our enhanced data driven insights) that they are successfully engaging with our programmes and that they have the digital literacy skills to connect and collaborate with the right people in the right spaces (both on and offline)?

As we were talking one word kept coming.  It’s maybe a bit old fashioned, I know they were all the rage a few years ago particularly in the repository sphere, but we did think that mapping the ecosystem of a digital university could be the next logical step. The ecosystem wouldn’t just be about the technology, infrastructure and data but the people and processes too.  Via the the SoLar discussion list I discovered the  Critical Questions for Big Data  article by Danah Boyd and Kate Crawford. As part of their conclusions they write:

“Manovich (2011) writes of three classes of people in the realm of Big Data: ‘those who create data (both consciously and by leaving digital footprints), those who have the means to collect it, and those who have expertise to analyze it’. We know that the last group is the smallest, and the most privileged: they are also the ones who get to determine the rules about how Big Data will be used, and who gets to participate.”

In terms of a digital university, I think we need to be doing our utmost to ensure we are extending membership of that third group, but just now there is a need to raise awareness to all about how and where their data is being collected and to give them a voice in terms of what they think is the best use of it.

What a digital university will actually look like will probably not differ that much from what a university looks like today, what will distinguish it will be the what happens within it and how everyone in that university interacts and shares through a myriad of digitally enabled processes.

How Sheila’s been seen this week – network visualisations and am I really a techie? (a touch of #lak14)

Like many of peers, my working life is a bit of a hybrid. Part of my invited speaker session at last year’s ALT-C conference involved me trying to deconstruct what I actually did.   Since then I have moved to a job with a more recognisable and commonly understood title ‘”Senior Lecturer”. However I don’t actually do much lecturing so it’s still all a bit complicated.  I’m part of the Blended Learning Team within our Learning Enhancement and Academic Development unit.  The three of us are technically literate but I don’t think any of us would identify ourselves as been technical or indeed techies. So I still find it a bit odd when the rest of our colleagues refer to us as technical. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about identity and networks and how I am perceived both internally and externally.

Now I know I am more technically digitally literate and crucially technically confident than many of my colleagues. Working with Cetis for so long it would have been kinda hard not to be. But I always have seen myself as a fulfilling a bridge or hybrid type role between the totally IT/technically focused people and those on the user/teaching and learning side of things.  I think this is becoming increasingly common place and it needs to be so. As technology becomes easier to use and more embedded into all aspects of our lives,  we need to encourage people to have a “let’s have a go” mind set, than “let’s ask the techies” – or in my case pseudo techie. Developing that aspect of digital literacy and confidence in our staff and students is, imho, crucial in terms of any institutional ambitions we at GCU (and anywhere else for that matter)  may have of becoming a digital university.

That said I’m not above donning the technical genius hat as I amaze colleagues with my skills and knowledge when they ask “have you heard of animoto?”  The hat has been firmly removed as two minutes after I demo’d it, they had rumbled how easy it was to use and all those links I sent were actually automagically created in the cloud. 

The annual learning analytics conference, LAK14, is taking place this week, and I’ve been dipping in and out of the twitter backchannel over the past couple of days. Thanks to the live blogging genius of Doug Clow, and others I feel like I’ve almost been there in person.  One of the sessions on Thursday was looking at networks and network visualisations.  These fascinate me, but like many I’m still trying to figure out what they actually mean in terms of learning and teaching. I’ve had some thoughts in relation to my experiences as a learner in MOOCs, but there’s lots more head scratching and experimentation to be done.  One of the tools being demo’d was Netlytic, 

“a cloud-based text and social networks analyzer that can automatically summarize large volumes of text and discover social networks from online conversations on social media sites such as Twitter, Youtube, blogs, online forums and chats. “

I had a bit of a play and within minutes had an analysis and visualisation on of text from the #lak14 hashtag – thanks to twitter it was almost like I was there!


and a visualisation of my twitter network 

Now, just need to figure out if this is more useful than the Martin Hawksey’s quite brilliant TAGs Explorer  . . .

Getting ready for learning analytics at GCU (not quite #lak14)

This week I’m going to try and keep up with the twitter back channel from #lak14 in Indianapolis, already it looks like some really interesting and innovative work is being presented. However, back in my world our learning analytics journey is really just beginning. 

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to do some basic investigation, introductions and explorations of learning analytics initially with colleagues from IT and the Library.  We are very much a the who, where, why, when and how stage.  So it’s been really useful to look back at the Cetis Analytics Series and also at the presentations from the UK Solar Flare events.  As ever the generosity of the community in sharing experiences is invaluable.  This presentation from Mark Stubbs at MMU helped to clarify a few things for our IT department in terms of data sources we need along side data from the VLE.  This slide was particularly useful. 


BTW we need another one of those SoLar events  soon . . . 

However we do have access to some data, particularly from our VLE, GCU Learn.  Every year we produce a Blended Learning report which gives a snapshot overview of activity in GCU Learn across the University.  Getting and cleansing the data is always a bit of a chore and we are aware that the we can only provide a superficial view of activity. I won’t go into the ins and outs of our data access and data gate-keeping issues but I suspect that you, dear reader will understand so of our “challenges”.  

In broad visual terms we have broken our blended learning activity into four main areas (click on the image to see in more detail, btw the tools/activities are just samples not a definite list for each area.)

Blended Learning areas of activity  at GCU

We can get data at school level (we have three large academic schools) but not at department or module level. Given the dates of our semesters, annual stats are not much use either as they include weeks when there is no teaching so again that can skew the data.  This year we decided to take one month, November 2013, and base the report on that.  So although what we have is a very high level overview there are some clear trends coming through. To quote the Cetis definition of analytics, these trends are indeed giving us some ‘actionable insights’ not only in terms of blended learning activity but also in terms of our wider IT  and support provision. 

So get ready here are our headline figures:

•        18% decrease in average student accesses to GCULearn via the web
•        420% increase in average student accesses to GCULearn via mobile app
•        25% increase in number of GCULearn Communities
•        82% increase in use of CampusPack blogs
•        134% increase in use of wikis
•        232% increase in use of journals
•        222% increase in online feedback via Grademark in Nov 13 compared to Nov 12
•        167% increase in online Graded papers in Nov 13 compared to Nov 12

We don’t have a mobile or byod strategy and looks like we might not need one.  It’s happening, our users are talking with their mobile devices, and 80% of those devices are iOS.  What we need to ensure is that our content is web enabled and ensure that students can interact fully with activities via mobile devices.  A “switch on” policy and, probably more importantly, culture for learning and teaching is something we need to work with staff and students to develop. Ubiquitous and stable wifi across the institution is key to this. Improvements to Bb’s mobile app would help too and we can’t wait for the roll out of their new web enabled design to be in place.  

Staff and students are using the more interactive and student centred functionality of the VLE such as wikis and journals. And the use of assessment and feedback functionality is increasing dramatically.  We estimate that 41% of our modules are making active use of GCU Learn as opposed to just having a course shell and some powerpoint slides. Now we need to drill down into that school level data to get more module level detail on the types of assignments/activities being used, and in tandem develop staff confidence in using, developing and sharing assessment rubrics and their overarching learning designs. 

We are only starting to scratch the surface of learning analytics in our context, but the data we are getting is leading us to ask more detailed questions and demand more nuanced data collection and sense making. We are starting to bring people together to have data driven conversations, and share just exactly where our data is, who has access to it, when they have access to it, what format it is in, and how they access it. We have had initial discussion with Bb about their analytics package, however we need to have more internal discussions about what we can and want to do internally before making any decisions about that.  I’m hoping that I’ll be able to share the next part of our journey very soon.

A peak underneath the Swan like MOOC #moocscoted

Picture of a swan

(image: http://www.desktop-nature-wallpaper.com/birds/swan.html)

About a year ago I wrote a post called Preparing for the Second Wave after attending and presenting at an internal staff development event at Newcastle University.  At that time Newcastle hadn’t committed to MOOCs and was grappling with issues of being part of the second wave of MOOC activity. After the event I commented:

“I suspect that for a number of the UK institutions in the first wave of MOOC activity, the reputational benefits are the key driver. Many of them can afford to underwrite the costs of developing and running the courses in the short term without having to think too much about the longer term benefits/costs . . .Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing for those institutions not involved with MOOCS just now, to take a step back to consider the most beneficial aspect of MOOCs for their aims and objectives before trying to become part of the second wave.”

A year later and Newcastle is firmly part of that second wave along with a number of other UK institutions as part of FutureLearn. Now I now all the ed tech hipsters are “so-o over MOOCs” but the questions around the long term costs and benefits MOOCs have still to be answered. For an institution like mine who hasn’t been part of the first, second or third wave of MOOC activity, we are still very interested to see what we can learn from others to help us develop our own strategies which may or may not involve an element of MOOC-yness.

Yesterday the Jisc RSC Scotland and the University of Strathclyde hosted an event on MOOCs in Scottish Education. Teams from the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde shared their experiences to-date with FutureLearn. And the team who just keep giving from the University of Edinburgh shared their experiences from their ever increasing experience and research of MOOCs on a variety of platforms including FutureLearn.

If you want anyone to convince you of the positive benefits of MOOCs, then look no further than Professor Niamh NicDaeid, University of Strathclyde. Hearing her speak about the the murder mystery themed introduction to forensic science course almost made even my MOOC weary self consider signing up if they run it again.  What a joy to hear someone continually emphasise the importance of fun in learning.

Niamh also talked about the experience of actually running the MOOC and the amount of work behind the scenes to keep its swan like appearance for the learners.  As anyone who has done any kind of online delivery will know once something is live and running there is a huge amount of world that needs to be done behind the scenes. With discussion boards getting around over 6000 posts a week the effect is multiplied beyond most peoples experience.

Staff time for both development of courses and running MOOCs is crucial.  We heard yesterday that Glasgow is committing £2.5 million to developing online learning, we know Edinburgh has a pot double that size, and although Strathclyde didn’t quote any figures it has obviously made a substantial commitment. Again for institutions like mine who maybe haven’t got such deep pockets, there are some fundamental investment questions that need to be addressed about where, what and how to invest and future developments. We aren’t in the MOOC club, unlike Glasgow we weren’t invited to the FutureLearn party, unlike Strathclyde we weren’t gallus enough to “chap on the door” and ask to be let in. And now do we even want to be in the club?  Maybe we are better off doing something in a different way.

FutureLearn (like many MOOCs, and courses) is pretty content driven, and there was lots in the presentations from both the Glasgow and Strathclyde teams about the development process. My colleague Linda Creanor and I did notice get a bit of a “them and us” division creeping in between academic staff and the learning technologists who seemed to be just doing the ‘techie’ stuff. I hope that this is just an impression and not the truth. Certainly the strengths of the skills of all members of teams was emphasised but there was just a bit of a niggle of LTs being put to the bottom of the pile.   I raise this issue in the hope that I will be shot down with evidence to the contrary.

In terms of institutional drivers and evaluation it still seems to be reputation,  staff development and wider engagement with online learning for campus based activities that are key.

Presentations from the day will be made available via the RSC website, and I just want to thank everyone involved for providing a very informative session.

Not now, not ever!

It’s not been the best week for women in IT. Early In the week we learned that Julie Ann Horvath quit Github due to allegations of harassment. Any story like this saddens me. I have generally had positive  experiences of working in IT, but I have been in many situations where I am one of a few women in a sea of men. I also have had that feeling that I have been judged and my capabilities underestimated due to the colour of my hair. Equally I have, and continue, to work with some fantastically supportive male colleagues. And I am I now working somewhere with a very high proportion of female senior staff which shouldn’t be something I feel need to comment on, it should be normal. But sadly it isn’t.

Over the past two years former Australian PM Julia Gillard was subjected to what I can only describe as horrific misogyny. However as many of you know she did make a quite wonderful speech in Parliament in 2012. Today I spotted via BoingBoing that this has now been set to music.  I’m not sure if it is as powerful as the original speech, which still gets me standing up and cheering “go Julia” whenever I see/hear it, but I found the overview from the composer of the piece Rob Davidson very thoughtful.

“The resulting choral piece, in which the singers echo and support the Prime Minister’s speech melodies, is initially quite humorous, as we are confronted with the melody that perhaps was not evident to us before. As the music goes on, it passes into something more serious, and (it is hoped) we hear the Prime Minister as a woman experiencing very real emotions.”

Enjoy – and I am humming, “not now, not ever” as I type

Guest Post: Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken

Originally posted on UK Web Focus:

Open Education Week 2014 logo The third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide “.

Myself and my Cetis colleagues are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. The Cetis blog provides a series of posts from Cetis staff which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. These posts are complemented by a series of guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog from people I have worked with who are working in open education.

The fourth guest post in the series published on the UK Web Focus blog is written by by Sheila MacNeill. In this post Sheila gives her reasons “Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken“.

Why the Opposite…

View original 1,265 more words