2011: a CETIS year in blogging

If you subscribe to any of our CETIS mailing lists you’ll probably be aware that each month I send out a newsletter summarising our blog posts and news stories over the previous month as well as information on our publications, events and sector funding opportunities.  As part of this I always include a Top Five posts section, highlighting the five most popular posts of the month – a really interesting look at what our audiences are actually interested in.  So with the new year now firmly in place, it seemed like the ideal time to take a look back at what you enjoyed reading – and we enjoyed writing – in 2011…

What you liked reading

The top 20 most read posts of 2011 were:

  1. UKOER 2: Dissemination protocols in use and Jorum representation (26 August 2011) John Robertson
  2. Mobile Web Apps: a briefing paper (2 March 2011) Mark Power
  3. A TAACCCTful mandate? OER, SCORM and the $2bn grant (25 January 2011) Lorna Campbell
  4. Weak Signals and Text Mining II – Text Mining Background and Application Ideas (12 May 2011) Adam Cooper
  5. W3C Opens UK & Ireland Office (19 April 2011) Mark Power
  6. Analysis and structure of competence (4 January 2011) Simon Grant
  7. British Standards in ICT for Learning Education and Training – What of it? (24 January 2011) Adam Cooper
  8. Playing with canvas and webgl (21 April 2011) David Sherlock
  9. eBooks in Education – Looking at Trends (10 March 2011) Adam Cooper
  10. Google custom search for UKOER (20 January 2011) Phil Barker
  11. JISC CETIS OER Technical Interest Group (6 January 2011 ) Lorna Campbell
  12. ÜberStudent, Edubuntu – A sign of what is to come? (8 February 2011) Adam Cooper
  13. JISC CETIS OER Technical Mini Projects Call (2 March 2011) Phil Barker
  14. Crib sheet for 2011 Educause Horizon Report (9 February 2011) Sheila MacNeill
  15. Weak Signals and Text Mining I – An Introduction to Weak Signals (12 May 2011) Adam Cooper
  16. From Design to implementation – DVLE programme Strand A Showcase (31 January 2011) Sheila MacNeill
  17. Considering OAI-PMH (21 January 2011) John Robertson
  18. The Learning Registry: “Social Networking for Metadata” (22 March 2011) Dan Rehak (othervoices)
  19. Using video to capture reflection and evidence (17 March 2011) Sheila MacNeill
  20. Google Apps for Education UK User Group (16 February 2011) Sheila MacNeill

This information was generated by AWStats for our blogs.cetis.ac.uk domain, although we’ve recently begun using Google Analytics for tracking, as discussed in David’s excellent post on developing a web analytics strategy for a distributed organisation such as CETIS.

The majority of the most popular posts are from the early part of 2011.  While this is unsurprising – the longer a post has been up, the more chance there is for people to find it – it’s also quite reassuring that the information we’re posting is still relevant and of interest to people after its original appearance!

As stats are collected only for our self-hosted blogs, those that are hosted elsewhere are unfortunately missing.  We don’t have any figures for Scott Wilson’s excellent blog which is always very well worth a read, or for Mark Power’s after May 2011 when he moved to his own domain – again, very well worth keeping track of.

What we enjoyed writing

While some of our posts are obviously of wider interest to our community than others, it’s not necessarily the ones with the most hits that are our personal favourites of the year.  I asked my colleagues which was their favourite story they blogged in 2011 and why…

Adam Cooper: Mine is Preparing for a Thaw – Seven Questions to Make Sense of the Future because I wrote it in the car park of Leeds University and because I enjoyed doing the visualisation which is still hidden in the comments (DOH!)

Christina Smart: My favourite post was Business Adopts Archi Modelling Tool which was an interview with Phil Beauvoir. I’ve done a number of interviews this year, and I always enjoy an excuse to chat to people who are so enthusiastic about what they do. I’ve picked this one because Archi had a great year last year, and to see a JISC funded tool gaining traction outside HE is quite rare, and clearly something to celebrate. (although no zombies)

David Sherlock: I’m not very good at writing and find blogging quite stressful so I’d say my favourite links are more to do with the things I was playing with that I found interesting behind the scenes rather than the writing bit.  I’m going to go with Playing with canvas and webgl because I found using the canvas element to draw shapes was fun, it reminded me of of when coding was fun on my Commodore 64.

Li Yuan: Big Data and analytics in education and learning.  “Big Data” and “analytics” is one of the topics that the JISC observatory working group have agreed to further investigate and look at since they are being applied to all sectors, including government, health, business, etc. This blog post was just an introduction to the concept of Big Data and the implications in teaching, learning and administration in institutions, many aspects are worth further exploring, such as technical, pedagogical and organisational issues in relation to application of big data and analytics in education.

Lisa Corley: Well, i’m not a prolific blogger, but would probably choose What’s in a Word(le)? Lifelong Learning and Work Based Learner experiences… mainly because it brought together lots of work in the programme I had just finished supporting, and after reading all the final reports and summarising them it felt useful to have the summaries in the public domain rather than in some report hidden away somewhere. I also really liked doing the ‘visualisations’ as I think it helps to look at the information in a different way.

Lorna Campbell: Suppose it would have to be a A TAACCCTful mandate? OER, SCORM and the $2bn grant which was an attempt to cut through the crap and  provide a rational summary of a rather overheated situation.  *cough* It also happened to be nominated for the second annual “Downes Prize”.

John Robertson: Hmm, I have to admit that some of the posts from last year which I like the best are ones that never quite got properly started or finished. Perhaps partially because of that and partially because it was a “throw away” response to a tweet which ended up drawing together and developing some of my thinking about open ed.  There’s lots about it that I think is imperfect (e.g. using the word “manifesto”) but it got some things right and there was a certain serendipity to its creation which makes me smile: An OER manifesto in twenty minutes.

Phil Barker: Modern Art of Metadata.  Unexpected interest during a meeting of the advisory group of the Resource Discovery Task Force Vision Implementation Plan Management Framework (I kid you not).

Rowin Young: My favourite post is my look at the excitement that surrounded the Mozilla Open Badges Initiative after the announcement of a substantial prize fund for developments, Badges, identity and the $2million prize fund.  It touched on a number of areas that are of particular interest to me, including gaming achievement systems as both motivators and exploiters and the increasing trend for using elements from gaming in other contexts, identity management in both the technical and social aspects, assessment and accreditation.  Writing the post provided me with an opportunity to work out a lot of my thinking around the topic, and I really enjoyed working on it.

Scott Wilson: My personal fave is this one: Converting Chrome Installed Web Apps into W3C Widgets.  Not because its that great a post, but because of all the chaos that ensued at W3C and elsewhere. This got picked up by Opera, who used it to publicly berate Google and Mozilla about supporting open standards, which drew in Microsoft, and before the end of the month even Adobe had joined in. It actually led more or less directly to the “future of offline web apps” event which was a huge success, and so there may even be a positive outcome.

Sharon Perry: Although I’m not a prolific blogger (only 3 posts in 2011!), I did like the story about using crowdsourcing to highlight and help companies repair inaccessible websites (Crowdsourcing to Fix the Web). I think crowdsourcing is becoming a very important part of social interaction on the web.  Not only can it help solve larger problems by developing micro-solutions but it encourages people to interact and engage with the area concerned.  There is often no financial advantage for those who take part, but the pay-off is perhaps more intangible, i.e. a person who provides such support or help may in turn get that “feel good factor” and a greater sense of well-being for being involved in the greater good.  I suppose I’m also highlighting this story again because the “Fix the Web” cause is now running out of funds and is struggling to survive.  I hope it gets the funds it needs to continue and that it may act as an example to other social enterprises.  Long may crowdsourcing continue!

Sheila MacNeill: My favourite post of last year was called Betweenness Centrality – helping us understand our networks. There are a couple of reasons I’ve picked it. Firstly what started out as as a serendipitous twitter conversation introduced me to a new concept (betweenness centrality)  which I was able to reflect on in terms of CETIS and its networks.  It also helped me to begin to consolidate some thoughts around SNA (social network analysis) and in relation to CETIS as how we can visualise, share understand and build our networks.  Over the past year I’ve been experimenting with Storify as a way to re-publish tweets into coherent stories, and this post allowed me to combine this technique within a more contextualised post.  And finally, the original conversation help brighten up quite a dull bank holiday Monday and legitimately referencing zombies in a work related post was just too hard to resist.

Simon Grant: I nominate Grasping the future (which I had completely forgotten about) for several reasons.  First, it wasn’t something I was thinking about self-consciously and deliberately, but thoughts that came to me from interaction with other people in IEC. I think often that’s the best tradition in blogging: something that would probably not see the light of day were it not for a convenient public platform. Second, because the comments it attracted are really interesting and stimulating in their own right. And third, because re-reading it makes me think, yes, there is something there that I or we really should take forward, something waiting to grasp in the future.

Many thanks to all my colleagues for their contributions to this post, and to all our readers for engaging with, commenting on and sharing what we write – here’s to a great 2012!

Under development: VWVLE

The VWVLE project, or Supporting Education in Virtual Worlds with Virtual Learning Environments to give it its full name, has been funded as part of the JISC Learning and Teaching Innovation Grants round 5 to examine the wide range of emerging pedagogical opportunities offered through the integration of virtual worlds and web-based virtual learning environments.

Led by the University of the West of Scotland, with partners including Imperial College London, The Open University and the University of Ulster, the project builds on the considerable experience and expertise the project team have developed through their work on SLOODLE and the use of games for learning within virtual environments.  SLOODLE (Simulation Linked Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) provides seamless integration between the virtual world Second Life and Moodle, the popular open source VLE.  Pilot courses will see students in engineering, computing and medicine explore aspects of the core question of how web-based virtual learning environments can effectively support learning and teaching in virtual worlds, particularly focusing on personalisation and reuse of content, and gaming in VWs, and demonstrating the applicability of such technologies across different institutional and disciplinary contexts.

A number of outputs will be produced, including guidance for practitioners, a range of extensions or plug-ins for Moodle/SLOODLE, and a guide to producing reusable content in virtual worlds which will attempt to address some of the issues that present a significant barrier to the easy and effective exchange of such resources.  The emphasis on the integration of VWs and games with educational systems such as VLEs will both highlight the pedagogic benefits of such integration and attempt to clarify and address the challenges of doing so.  By making explicit the range of technologies and support resources relied upon by educators working with VWs, and identifying and sharing good practice, the project can make a real impact on practice in this area and future activities.

LTIG Round 6 call for funding now out (edited 21/2/11)

The JISC Learning and Teaching Innovation Grants programme funds a small number of projects each year to explore and support innovative approaches to teaching and learning.  These projects cover a vast range of subject areas, technologies and activities, from poetry to chemistry, LaTeX to Twitter, QR codes to the Wii, virtual worlds to augmented reality.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be blogging about a number of these projects, the innovative activities they’ve undertaken and the very wide range of technologies in use within this programme.

JISC have just released a call for the latest round of funding available within this programme.  The application process is designed to encourage speculative and innovative ideas, the first stage consisting of submission of an outline proposal rather than the traditional full bid.

The deadline for submission of proposals for the current call is noon on Monday 21 March 2011.  There’s also a briefing event being held at 2pm on Tuesday 22 February in Elluminate which potential applicants are strongly encouraged to attend.

Best of luck to all applicants!

Edit (21 Feb 11): Martin Hawksey offers some excellent tips on bidding through his JISC RSE Scotland North & East blog.

Assessment and Feedback event review

Last week saw a large audience of education professionals head to the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow to attend an event on Assessment and Feedback jointly hosted by JISC CETIS and the Making Assessment Count project led by the University of Westminster.  Over the course of a lively and fascinating day we saw a range of presentations on different issues around assessment and feedback, heard from a panel of wonderfully eloquent and enthusiastic students about their own experiences, and had the opportunity to discuss this vital area with a broad range of practitioners and experts.

The day opened with an introduction to some of the principals of effective assessment and feedback led by Mark Clements of the MAC project.  Delegates were asked to consider their own priorities and opinions, which led to a very enjoyable discussion around the topic.

The first full session of the day looked at eFeedback, eMarking and automated feedback.  Phil Denton of Liverpool John Moores University discussed Assignment Handler and Gradetime, a tool which allows automated but highly customisable feedback to be added to documents.  In the second presentation of this session, John Kleeman of Questionmark discussed some of the outcomes of recent US research on assessment and feedback, which sparked a lively discussion with the audience.

Session 2 looked at alternative forms of feedback, with Peter Hartley of the University of Bradford discussing a range of approaches to providing feedback and rediscovering the ‘feedback loop’.  I-Chant Chiang of Aberystwyth University then discussed audio feedback in greater detail, examining three projects that used various approaches around this method and her own experience of this in her teaching practice.  Two of I-Chant’s students attended the event and were able to add their own, very positive, insights into this method.

Session 3 was something new for us, but a session that our attendees (and I) particularly enjoyed: a panel of students discussing their own experiences of and opinions on assessment and feedback.  The students, Sophia Cullen, Koval Smith and Tom Edge from the University of Westminster, Saffron Passam and Melissa Croxon from Aberystwyth University and Graeme Allan from the University of Strathclyde and Vice-President for Education and Representation at the University of Strathclyde’s Student Association, spoke about a range of topics, reflecting on their experiences of traditional and more innovative assessment practices and their impact on their academic performance.  They also took part in a very lively and stimulating question and answer session that really explored the issues raised.

The final session of the day looked at ways of effecting change in assessment and feedback.  Sarah Davies of JISC had kindly agreed to join the event via Connect, but unfortunately technology (ironically) let us down; she did however make her slides available to the meeting.  The meeting closed with Mark Kerrigan-Holt’s detailed look at the Making Assessment Count project and the e-Reflect tool it developed, again very usefully complemented with insights from Westminster students who have successfully used the system and found it highly beneficial.

Overall, it was a really interesting and enjoyable event, and I have to thank Mark Clements and the team at Westminster for all their work in making this such a great day.  Presentations from the day, together with links to blog post mentions and tweets from the day are all available on our site.

ALT-J renames and goes open access

ALT have announced that, from January 2012, Research in Learning Technology (formerly ALT-J), will be going open access, a move that should significantly increase its readership and availability to an international audience.  Although back issues over eighteen months old are already freely available through the ALT repository, providing unrestricted access to the most up-to-date issues won’t just benefit non-member scholars but also the visibility and online presence of ALT itself.

(Spotted via Grainne Conole)

Assessment and Feedback event – 2 February

Registrations are open for our event here in Glasgow on 2 February on Assessment and Feedback.  It should be a valuable day, covering a range of topics around assessment and feedback including research on effective feedback, alternative forms of feedback, the student perspective on feedback and approaches to transforming the feedback process.

This event is jointly hosted by JISC CETIS and the Making Assessment Count project at the University of Westminster.  It’s free to attend and open to all.  We look forward to seeing you there!

New CETIS White Paper on Competences

My colleague Simon Grant and I recently collaborated on a paper for the International Journal of IT Standards and Standardization Research.  In our paper we provide a broad overview of the domain, covering

  • concepts and terminology;
  • the motivation underlying standardisation efforts in the field;
  • past and present standardisation activities and projects;
  • the development of a conceptual model for the domain;
  • proposed future activities.

The text of this paper is now also available as a JISC CETIS White Paper: Concepts and Standardization in Areas Relating to Competence.

DCMA and fair use

A significant announcement by the US Library of Congress rules that jailbreaking phones and circumventing digital rights management (DRM) measures on DVDs, games and other digital media is legal for fair use purposes.  The decision was welcomed by the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) who have gathered an extensive collection of cases where the Digital Copyright Millennium Act (DCMA) has been (ab)used against fair use and consumer rights and legitimate educational, research and artistic activities.

Apple, whose notoriously Orwellian approach to stocking their AppStore has attracted frustration and ridicule in the past, and who were one of those  attempting to fight the change, responded by stating that jailbreaking would still void the warranty on their iphone, a stance which could lead to some interesting decisions in future.

While in practice educators and developers have generally seemed unconcerned about copyright issues when it comes to mashups and the use of extracts from digital media, perhaps as a result of coming from an academic background where fair use and quoting primary or secondary texts is not only accepted but required, it’s reassuring to see a more realistic attitude towards the practice.

IMS QTI implementation survey results and implications

IMS have now released (registration required) the results of the QTI 2.1 implementation survey launched in January, looking in great detail into current implementations of the specification.

Twenty-one implementations are covered by the responses, representing a wide range of approaches to implementation, and the actual responses are available for download for those interested.  The responses support the notion of a core set of basic features implemented by all respondents, with broader parts of the specification being implemented on a more individual basis.

The results are feeding in to the development of profiles for QTI 2.1:

  • Base QTI Profile, covering the features available in the most comprehensive implementations;
  • CC-QTI, which updates the functionality covered by the QTI 1.2.1 profile within Common Cartridge 1.0 and which will be integrated into a later version of CC.

Profiling work, including the CETIS QTI working group activities, and subject-specific activities such as profiles for maths are also discussed.

This information will be very valuable for developers of tools and content, and it’s great to see IMS making it available to the community.

Qyouti: MCQ testing with QTI and scanners

Developed in response to frustration at existing high stakes MCQ testing options, Qyouti combines IMS QTI and scanning technology to provide robust, inexpensive and flexible assessment and is now available for free download from the tool’s SourceForge site.

Jon Maber, who developed the tool for Leeds Metropolitan University, describes how the tool works:

Qyouti is software which takes an IMS QTI file containing questions, a class list and prints the questions on an ordinary colour laser printer with areas for the student responses to be made in pencil or pen. I.e. the responses are marked as crosses or ticks (or just about any other kind of mark) in boxes that are right next to the options in the question paper. Every page is bar-coded with the candidate’s name and ID so it is impossible to give the marks to the wrong person. At the end of the exam the papers are scanned with an ordinary desktop scanner.  Then Qyouti processes the scanned images and produces a list of candidates with their marks [...]  Each individual script has metrics encoded on it using square barcodes and so there is potential for customising font and layout for candidates with visual impairment or dyslexia.  A proper statistical analysis is done on the question items too.

Jon is keen to find volunteers to test and help contribute to the further development of the tool, and is offering free staff training in the use of MCQs in return for significant contributions.  He can be contacted through his homepage.