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Abstract for eLearning 2.0 Conference, Brunel University

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My keynote abstract for the eLearning 2.0 Conference, Brunel University, 6th-7th July 2011

Higher education is about to lurch into liberalisation. Institutions are now required to ask “What is my unique selling point?” In arts, humanities and social sciences learning, there is particular emphasis on ideas and communication, and often trenchant opposition to acquisitive or behavioural models of education. This presentation will compare established norms of higher learning with some nascent, reincarnated or ‘Big Society’ alternatives, including massive open online courses (MOOCs), online tuition-free universities, and those which elevate learning above accreditation. It will consider some principles of university learning and teaching, including original thinking, critical thinking, creative friction, commitment to a community of inquiry, the concept of scaffolding, and focus particularly on the constraints of assessment and accreditation. Returning university teachers to the centre of the institution, it will ask what university teachers contribute to learning that nobody else can and, with focus on wikis and blogs, under what circumstances might teachers use these technologies to support this vision of learning.

I’m looking forward to the conference – hope I can live up to the luminary presentations of previous years. Looking forward to catching up with some people I haven’t seen for ages.


Written by Mira Vogel

June 30, 2011 at 16:59

Posted in assessment, cck11, event

JISC Learning & Teaching Practice Experts Group Meeting – 23 March 2011

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Notes from the 22nd JISC Learning & teaching Practice Experts Group Meeting, 23 March 2011, Maple House, Birmingham.

See also

Session 1

SLiDA project – how are institutions creating and enabling opportunities that promote the development of effective learning in a digital age?

Rhona Sharpe and Greg Benfield (Oxford Brookes)

SLiDA stands for ‘supporting learners in a digital age’ – a project which explored which ways of supporting learners need or benefit from an institutional approach. Maintains awareness of the tensions emerging from previous studies – for example the skills gap between staff and students.

Output was web-based case studies co-created by 9 institutions (eg Edinburgh, London Met, Wolverhampton – institutions committed into developing digital literacies) with the project team.

The synthesis report expands on five key initiatives across institutions

  • preparing students for learning in a digital age (e.g. CoLab at Uni of Surrey)
  • enabling learners to use their own devices (Birkenhead)
  • Reconfiguring spaces for social learning
  • Listening to learners (e.g. University of Surrey; Student Voice representatives at Uni of Glamorgan)
  • strategic emphasis on course design for ‘blended’ learning

The project inadvertently found out how institutions were implementing their strategies including: student-led policy-making – students as researchers and scopers; seed funding for many different projects.

Sticker activity followed- place stickers on several activities undertaken by some of the institutions with JISC funding, described on posters around the meeting room: green=already doing it and evaluating it; yellow=planning it; red=not doing it – then brief presentations from project teams on the colour spread.

  • Greg on learning spaces – half are green, and the rest are more yellow than red.
  • Megan (Wolverhampton) – Strategic emphasis on course design (digital literacy) more reds; course redesigns mostly yellow.
  • London Met – listening to learner voices – engaging students and supporting digital literacy – a quarter green, quarter red, half yellow
  • Abingdon – digital literacies. Universal introduction and embedding development – yellow, then red, then green.

Break-out – I sat with the reconfiguring spaces for social learning group

  • Edinburgh’s huge investment in space – recognition of advanced digital technologies and simple ones e.g. tables as whiteboard surfaces.
  • IT suites hide students behind monitors – fixed learning spaces are a problem for social activity; but when flexible spaces are open, they become individual rather than social, because one group’s activity can disturb others.
  • power
  • eventedness: the coming together at the same time is special
  • will there be a new effort to use technologies to replace rather than enrich?
  • James Clay – for every lap top trolley (charging point) they have, they need three; flip-up laptop desks (showed picture); tried a star approach (all facing in). Changing rooms involves an internal charge there – no institution-wide bookable pool
  • Little territories within institutions designed in isolation. For example, if you go to your Scolarest coffee shop, you need to be drinking coffee if you want to use it as a learning space.
  • Front presentation spaces; experience;
  • The idea of contact time constrains the idea of ‘flexibility’ (but to what extent is a social learning space also a flexible learning space?)

Feedback plenary

  • Working out what digital literacy means in a given handout.
  • How do you involve large numbers of stakeholders?
  • SMT needs to buy in to produce a college-wide digital literacy induction; makes a big impact on retention; should not be optional.
  • Ownership
  • (Is it that ‘stakeholders’ need some prior knowledge before they can make apposite contributions? Or is it down to the interpretative skills of the planners and policy-makers.)

See also

  • New Feb 11 briefing paper on transforming curriculum design
  • Watch out for a new JISC-wide call for projects on digital literacy in staff and students
  • There’s a London digital literacy workshop on 26th May – open to all

Ruth Drysdale & Paul Bailey – how is technology supporting life long learning and workforce development?

13 projects on the Life Long Learning & Workforce Development Programme.

Technology is supporting credit framewrks and AP(E)L, mentoring, eportfolios, and engaging with employers.

Negotiated frameworks for validation and accreditation – Uni Glouc co-creating curricula with employers – piloted with 6 institutions.

Uni Westminster example of using institutional systems v. 3rd party tools to move from placement visits to online mentoring.

ePortfolio-based pedagogies. University of Hull student showcases. But institutional systems are still not fitting so well with students’ lifelong learning continuum.

Employer interaction – Uni of Nottingham incorporating open standard data feeds from learning systems into an employer portal (ACT – mention to Computing, Social Work, Ed Studies).


Breakout looking at the LLL&WD projects.

CCLIP – Liverpool – portal to disseminate cultural learning opportunities

Courses, events, etc. Partners: Tate and Philharmonic theatres; small and medium arts bodies.

Wanted a simple system; no duplicate data entry – used XCRI common standard (UCAS for example has a statement of intent to become XCRI compatible) to capture as much as possible from the partners’ existing information systems. A lot of diversity. Tate Liverpool’s IT is controlled by Tate London, making it hard to roll in new standards. Other organisations were smaller and more nimble, or could enter the data manually.

Each institution needs structures in place to use the portal – what goes in it, what doesn’t.

Searchable by organisation or by field (e.g. Chinese music, exhibitions). Links to host organisation’s booking system; always branded with host org’s branding; always renders a google map. Possible to set up alerts. Possible to use search data as business intelligence.

Questions – does activity convert to bookings? Early days – they need to know that because they are going to have to start charging.

Q – where does Liverpool end? Are online opportunities advertised there? They are currently discussing just that.

ePPSME – ePortfolio based pedagogies with Small to Medium Enterprises

Students did a ten week course exclusively on a portfolio tool. 20 credits.

Patchwork text methodology(?).

First units very much structured activities and content – templated as scaffolding. Units two and three began to use more of the ePortfolio function eg web conferencing (very much valued).

Managing access after the end of the course. Accounts are closed, so the end process for students is to export the ePortfolio.

Exporting was a bit tricky – collaborative work gets fragmented into individual contributions. Is the conversation of lasting importance, or is it ephemeral?

UWIC – workplace learning for Welsh students

Web conferencing, video conferencing and ePortfolios.

Adobe Connect web meeting has helped dental students because it affords close camera work (couldn’t this be achieved in a lecture setting?).

Experience Through Work module – reflective report and log. Challenges – thinking reflectively and evidencing that. ePortfolio deployed, with frequent formative feedback from tutors.

Virtual classroom online – open mic approach so students could interact – question and answer sessions, and discussions. Technology enables students to meet one-another – helped socially and professionally. (Q how was this managed?).

Q Ground rules – open mic worked. (I am surprised that it did – there was no moderator, only the single tutor – not sure how large the group was – must have been very committed to each other.)

Q What is an ePortolio – immersive learning experience and/or presentation tool

Middlesex University – MUSkET – Skills and Education Planning Tool

Diversity – experiential learning, short courses, degrees.

Challenge of inconsistent terms – course, module, programme. XCRI standard was the chosen solution, with a front-end to generate standardised course description from the headings of a given faculty. Word document can become standardised information model.

Algorithm can perform semantic comparisons between programmes. Bus Info Sys, Bus Info Tech, Bus Inf Mgmt – are they similar or different? Can help students to transfer, can help with business intelligence, can help employer-institution collaboration through shared terms – help to identify pathways. Helps fit courses with other courses through AP(E)L. Get an AP(E)L claim and compare to course requirements.

Looking for institutions to try these outs. They are setting up events to demonstrate the tools. Apr 7th at Middlesex – presentations from MU Institute of Workbased Learning.

Bradford – work-based learning project – benefits realisation project

Reflecting on national e-learning benchmarking pathfinder programme, took similar approach, applied to workbased learning, came up with a WBL maturity toolkit based on self-assessment, but possibility to work in CAMEL cohorts.

7 areas of focus, with criteria to gather evidence to self-assess maturity of each (see website):

  • institutional readiness
  • faculty/school/dept readiness
  • Programme design
  • Programme delivery and assessment
  • Partnership engagement
  • Learner experience
  • Effective use of techs

To use the toolkit, go through the following steps

  1. Plan – identify priority areas
  2. Hold a methodology workshop
  3. Identify evidence
  4. Collect evidence
  5. Levelling workshop – dialogue about evidence
  6. Analysis and reporting – generate ideas for change
  7. Change/actions workshop – develop action plans

Will help institutions which have a strategy for workbased learning but need to go about implementing it in an evidence-based, structured way. Helps to benchmark existing workbased learning, with wider sector engagement, and with change management. Westminster, UWIC, and a Scottish institution

Pineapple APEL Open University of Plymouth

Nobody recording any information about students entering courses based on an APEL claim. Lack of coherence about APEL approaches across institutions, and about evidencing APEL.

Pineapple as a result. Institutions do not have a single APEL process – there is a policy but there are many exemptions. Students cannot produce APEL six months before enrolment, because only when they have begun a course might they realise that they have already covered that particular aspect of their programme.

Pineapple is designed for students, admission staff and others with a responsibility for APEL. Flexibility is a requirement (N.b. it is ages since I have heard anybody say that flexibility isn’t a requirement.)

Pineapple is a simple form to evidence APEL has taken place, who has carried it out, comply with regs and keep external examiners happy.

There’s a demo version on that link.

ePortfolion implementation study (ePI) – large-scale involvement

Gordon Joyes and Angela Smallwood – Uni of Nottingham


Technologies for eportfolios now are interoperable – allow looking outwards as well as reflectively inwards.

Politics and economics today make powerful case for eportfolio processes and products: planning capturing storing reflecting synthesising sharing discussing giving receiving responding to feedback. Economic situation pushes us into a retrograde direction of monolithic technologies and environments which we can afford to maintain, as opposed to a multitude of interoperable web services.

Nobody uses the whole of a system at once; everybody starts somewhere with their own purpose. There is a multiplicity of purpose.

In eportfolio work there’s a lot of talk about top-down v. bottom up – evangelical concept v. real need.

Noticed that everybody seemed to reinvent the wheel, no matter how much reusable stuff they had access to. This prompted an investigation into threshold concepts. Threshold concepts – passing through a conceptial gateway which opens up previously inaccessible ways of thinking about something (Meyer and Land 2003).

Activity: what are the threshold concepts with regards to ePortfolio implementation? You need to grasp the threshold concepts in order to grasp the guidance provided – implementation shouldn’t be a game of chance. ePI arose from the need to investigate how the successful implementations (e.g. Birmingham City) had come about.

Some misconceptions:

  • misconception that there is a shared understanding of an eportfolio. There is no shared definition.
  • misconception one eportfolio is a solution all can share
  • misconception a single induction is all that is needed
  • technical support offered without pedagogic support
  • misconception that students are ‘digital natives’
  • misconception that students understand educational terminology like ‘feedback’
  • misconception that institutional provision is enough (without consideration of what students are doing before or after)
  • misconception that eportfolio is not disruptive

Many more on the slides.

Several institutions. No large-scale evaluation activity. 2004-6 first wave of implementation found that VLEs were poor portfolio tools – hence Pebblepad developed at Wolv; hardly anybody using VLE tools any more. 2007-11 second wave – carrying forward; 2009-11 – integration of portfolio tool with VLE e.g. Mahara and Moodle – looking for extra-curricular, intra-institutional use.

Developing a narrative around the key milestones. Birmingham City implemented Mahara using the successful model they had used with Moodle. Invested 20k in developing Mahara. In two years it gained nearly full use across faculties.


From peach sheet choose one concept and discuss

Concept – purpose is aligned to context to maximise benefits

PG orthodontic students. One team – three different programmes – all around assessing and supervising clinical cases – so used for external examiners as well as supervision and assessment. Entirely work-based learners.

Multiple purposes – formative and summative assessment. Students have been asked for feedback, but the design is very much the course teams. Students had asked for a way to exchange out of email. But the purpose is clear – students need to use the portfolio to be assessed and gain their qualification


What is revealed about the processes? Historicity – decisions depend on previous decisions. Designed earning activities? Culture – key roles of individuals. Communities – advocates and champions. Subject and ownership. Tensions – diversity of purposes and stakeholders.

A course perspective. Stakeholders can be internal and external (e.g. employers). Stakeholders are sometimes only connected by eportfolio use – they don’t always communicate. OR they can all agree to view eportfolios from the learner’s POV – make that the common view

Qu – a proportion of institutional teaching and learning processes have drifted into Web 2.0.

April 5th/6th cloudworks event.

C-Link – information search tool AI Unit at Uni Bradford, National Media Museum in Bradford – Peter Hartley, Peter Cowling, Stephen Remde


Students don’t make the most of their information searches. Google, Wikipedia – don’t cultivate skills and critical analysis. How do you interrogate Google search results?

C-Link maps relationships between 2 concepts. Maps get dumped into C-Map and then you can play with it.

Wikipedia is not yet respectable – BBC – “Academics to ’embrace Wikipedia’ – Imperial.

Advantages – discovers unknown links. Visualisation helps with conceptualisation.

Trialled it – students found it easier to use than conventional search. You can search A against A (search for concepts around A) and A against B.

“Michael Porter” and Dubai to discover why some management ideas crop up in the Middle East.

(You need to refine your questions before you search.)

Searches an archived version of Wikipedia; links concepts on the map to their wikipedia entry.

The visualisation is absolutely gorgeous.

Conformity and conformity – you get some of the surrounding concepts like Asch and Groupthink.

If you search from social constructionism to social constructivism you can see that the former comes from sociology and the latter from learning theory.

See also

Written by Mira Vogel

March 24, 2011 at 23:52

Posted in event, pedagogy

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learn.gold and more – drop-in sessions for staff

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Drop-in sessions to find out about learn.gold, Mahara and other learning technologies, including e-voting, multimedia for learning, designing online peer learning, deterring and detecting plagiarism, e-assessment and feedback, conferencing and more.

Around Goldsmiths, learn.gold, its portfolio and group-work counterpart Mahara, and other technologies are being used for:

• Conversations and debates
• Tutor and peer feedback on assessment
• Surveying and polling
• Collaboration and peer learning
• Presenting in different media
• Meeting and conferencing
• Tutors setting, collecting, assessing and feeding back on work
• Building portfolios
• Deterring and detecting plagiarism
• Organising and communicating
• Representing courses online
• Making resources available
• And much more

We are here to help you get started or become more advanced and ambitious.

We know that colleagues are very resourceful, but some of you have told us that you feel you are muddling through. We can help you save time and effort, future-proof your course areas, find not-so-obvious short cuts, and reconceive activities to take advantage of the online environment.

If you have any questions about learn.gold, Mahara or other learning technologies, or if you’d like to meet up with us to discuss ideas, organising sessions for your department, or to plan a new initiative, come and see us.

N.b. we’re varying the weekly times to improve colleagues’ opportunities. Please see the Goldsmiths Events Calendar for ongoing dates.

See the Goldsmiths Events Calendar for dates and times.

Written by Mira Vogel

December 22, 2010 at 17:41

The Welcome Project – improved induction at Goldsmiths

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Induction in higher education has traditionally been front-loaded at the beginning of the first year when we bombard students with information over one short week, after which they’re expected to know all they need to participate fully in their course and in student life. It’s been a class mistake of confusing being told things with knowing those things.

Consequently academic and academic support colleagues at Goldsmiths successfully proposed a project on induction as part of the Higher Education Academy’s Enhancement Academy Programme, and completed ‘The Welcome Project’ to design a new form of holistic induction which extends from the point of a students’ first inquiry well into their courses, anticipating needs, joining up the work of the different stakeholders at Goldsmiths, and diversifying communication modes.

Watch a video in which the people involved talk about the aims and outcomes of Goldsmiths’ Enhancement Academy project. The induction conference mentioned towards the end happened in September 2010, and you can see the presentations archived on Goldsmiths Learning Enhancement Unit site.

See other institutions’ Enhancement Academy Projects on different aspects of higher learning and teaching.

Written by Mira Vogel

December 1, 2010 at 12:26

Wiki pedagogies and more from the M25 Learning Technology Group

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At the M25 Learning Technologists Group meeting, I presented on wiki pedagogies. For your perusal are my slides, the wikis category of my library (growing list of reading), and a concept map of wiki pedagogies [pdf] (the latter two are works in progress).

At time of writing, two of my fine co-presenters Nitin Parmar from Bath and Colin Loughlin from Kingston have also put their presentations – Colin’s is on e-learning for academics who don’t usually go in for that kind of thing, and Nitin’s is on the sickeningly dynamic stuff that is going on with classroom technologies at the University of Bath. Debbie Holley and Chris O’Reilly at London Metropolitan presented on their interactive resource on student debt (link to come).

Thanks to Eoin, Rose, Matt and all the other organisers.

Written by Mira Vogel

November 30, 2010 at 18:02

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HEA Event: EvidenceNet – evidence in HE learning and teaching

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Received by email:

Here are details of a forthcoming Elluminate Live! session on EvidenceNet.


Wednesday 22 September 2.30-3.30

EvidenceNet (http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/evidencenet) is a free, open-access service from the Higher Education Academy that promotes and supports the use of evidence in higher education learning and teaching. It provides easy access to the evidence base and the opportunity to discuss and explore that evidence by:

  • linking to resources, events and networks from across the higher education sector
  • providing summaries and syntheses so that even the busiest academics can keep up-to-date with the latest research and policy
  • supporting a Ning and Wiki to establish online communities on particular areas of interest
  • running face-to-face meetings, seminars and workshops.
  • allowing users to share their own content through EvidenceNet and create case studies at http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/EvidenceNet/contribute.

This Elluminate session will introduce participants to EvidenceNet and allow them the opportunity to explore EvidenceNet with members of the team. It will provide a brief outline of the background and rationale of EvidenceNet, and demonstrate the key features of the website. Participants will be shown how they can share their own materials through EvidenceNet, and in an interactive part of the session they will have the opportunity to browse and explore EvidenceNet and ask questions of the EvidenceNet team.

Session presenter: Dr Laura Hodsdon (Adviser, Evidence-Informed Practice).

EvidenceNet website: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/EvidenceNet/home

Contact the EvidenceNet team: evidencenet@heacademy.ac.uk

To register, go to http://bit.ly/Gm9Ni.  You will be sent a link to join the session in advance of the session.

Written by Mira Vogel

September 1, 2010 at 11:22

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The Open University’s online annual conference, 2010

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… has just ended.

This free conference took place on Elluminate (web, audio, video, and social networking platform for online conferences) and on the Open University’s open (as in ‘you can use it too’) social learning environment, Cloudworks.

Just below are some notes for anybody who hasn’t held or participated in a large online conference before (remember, I’m in the business of academic development for learning technologies), and under that are some of the most stand-out things in the conference, for me.

Basically the moderators and presenter had microphones, the rest of us could use chat at any time and (during the time set aside for questions or breakout sessions) raise our hand icon for the microphone. Chat was active and engaged, though with a small minority of participants – but the questions, observations and links were flying. Credit to the moderators, who were the soul of inclusivity and monitored the chat pane for questions. Several of the speakers – hats off to them – were also successfully dividing their attention between their presentation or response and the ongoing chat pane conversation, responding to it as continuous feedback, and incorporating responses to chatted comments into what they were saying.

This kind of contingent presenting is very exciting to see and harder to achieve in face-to-face conference settings (although there are ways – microblogging e.g. Twitter is increasingly used). The potential for each participant to get a comment to the presenter during the presentation without interrupting it for anybody else is unique to chat technology and microblogging. Without these technologies, there would be no interaction at all in the case of an online conference or else, in the case of a face-to-face conference, a cacophony of vocalised comment drowning out the speaker and that comment would be atomised, limited to you and your near neighbour in the auditorium. So, as a consequence of the Elluminate platform’s chat pane, participants had the sense that they could contribute.

The participant-to-participant discussion in the chat was often very pertinent and incisive, too – there were knowledgeable people joining in. You might imagine that the chat competed for attention with the presenter. Yes, for me it did – and I need for strategies to cope with that. You certainly work hard at these things. I was also doing some work on the side.

Again, credit to the organisers and moderators, and deep gratitude for opening it up to outsiders – there were people from across the world there as counterparts of the OU people. And the presenters were great – for example, Peter Scott of the OU talking about iTunes U, Grainne Conole talking about how Cloudworks is being used by online communities of inquiry, Jimmy Wales founder of Wikipedia, George Siemens, to whom I frequently link, on connectivity and learning, Helen Milner discussing digital inclusion, and Joe Smith on opening up learning about the climate change, and the intellectual journey of climate sceptics.

The presentations were captured and will be available soon on Cloudworks, and a moderator undertook to digest the chat.

Selected jots (there was a lot of politics, indicating that openness is still a radical proposition):

  • barriers to accessing higher education persist for institutional reasons only (I’m not sure about ‘only’)
  • contrary to my reading, 50% (if I have that right) of students do listen to podcast material on mobile devices – Peter Scott says to look out for a publication.
  • What is a class? What is a course? In higher education we’ve created spaces for interactions, but we haven’t necessarily created the connections that learning needs.
  • As we in HE change our emphasis from what we ‘input’ into students’ education, to instead what they ‘output’ (yes I know this is systems speak, and interestingly enough the lecture format – i.e. input – endured in this conference, for good reason of its considerable learning potential, I’d say) I was very interested in the proposal that subject expertise would be a diminishing part of an academic teacher’s role. Can’t reconcile this with the research into teaching movement; also don’t see how teachers can be acute metacognitive or epistemic mentors in their field without actively practising their own inquiries. Melodramatically I thought of the financial crisis. The foundations of teaching and learning in HE are the findings of other people – from those all new sense is made. Subject knowledge and the ability to reason depend on each other. The ‘guide on the side’ metaphor (and I need to make it clear that nobody at the conference used this) doesn’t recognise (or at any rate, acknowledge) that academics are role models within an intellectual tradition their successors will build upon. In books, in presentations, and in institutions, they induct learners into what it is possible to achieve with knowledge in higher learning.
  • The idea of undiscovered public knowledge, requiring analytics to discover it.
  • Open materials yes – but their production model is still closed. Tony Hirst blogged his.
  • Wikipedia revealed that France and Britain had different accounts of the beginnings of aviation – giving credit to the Wright brothers and a Brazilian aviator Santos Dumant alternatively. Once noticed, this was resolved into a more nuanced account.
  • Wikipedia’s community norms are impressive for maintaining a neutral stance. I asked about consensus generation techniques for controversial areas, given Wikipedia’s concern to keep a low barrier to entry. The reply: “go meta” – discuss the positions, stances and assertions of important people or groups, rather than your own. I thought this might make a good academic practice case study.

Written by Mira Vogel

June 23, 2010 at 17:46

Posted in event