Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Flexible learning for part time students, but where's the OERs

A new report from from Michael McLinden, University of Birmingham for the HEA looks at Flexible pedagogies: part-time learners and learning in higher education
This is a really useful report to help focus strategies to meet these students needs, in the face of some scared decline in part time student numbers. See full report here

“a dramatic decline” in the numbers of entrants to part-time courses over the past two years in England (HEFCE 2013). 6pp
But it goes further. Than this an challenges the sector to see the blurring of full time and part time as all students take on increasing levels out work outside of education (Pollard et al. 2012). Higher Ed has to get over this idea of full time and pastime, and explore flexible models that help support both (2011 White Paper).
Obviously, technology is going to be a great enabler to raising the level of flexibility offered, but other changes have to happen like changes in the timetable of delivery (Outram 2011)
The report then uses case studies and examples to illustrate the educational landscape for part-time learners
"In 2010-11 there were 823,895 students studying part-time and 1,677,305 studying full-time with part-time students representing 33%" (Maguire 2013). Which has fallen by 40% since 2010 (HEFCE 2013). 
There are a number of reasons for this: impact of fee changes, economic factors, and fewer parttime courses.

Part timers are more likely to be mature, non traditional ( few previous qualifications), from disadvantaged backgrounds, and full time carers (HESA)

On case study looked at Foundation degree in Professional Golf (FdSc) part-time distance learning programme in partnership with the University of Birmingham. This course is mostly distance learning, is strongly connected to the industry, is international, with some residency.

Another Case study looked at using part-time students as mentors. In this example eng student parttime and full time work together on one distinct day, full time  student benefit from parttime's industry experience.

A useful resource is Collis and Moonen 2004, and Outram 2011 and a list of areas of flexibility and flexible learning provision.

Having said all this it was interesting that there was little mention of how open learning resources could provide resources for courses or learning experiences that might reconnect these types of students into higher education courses. 

Many of the case studies looked at niche courses, that would be hard to justify investment in OER development. However, all the common academic skills and research methods could easily be supported with some shared resources and modules.  

Another area which is lacking here is challenging the larger systems within organisations that limit innovations. Student record systems, enrolments, general admin and in some cases quality can impose and preference particular designs of programmes.

Collis, B. and Moonen, J. (2004) Flexible Learning in a Digital World. 2nd ed. London: Routledge and Falmer. 

Elliott, A. (2011) Increasing higher education access and pathways through normalization of flexible pedagogies and course structures. In: The 2011 Barcelona European Academic Conference Barcelona, Spain, 2011. Available from: 

http://conferences.cluteonline.com/index.php/IAC/2011SP/paper/viewFile/538/545 [Accessed 14 September 2013]. 

Freeman, C. (2010) Reflections on the part-time learning experience of mature students at the University of Glamorgan. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/subjects/escalate/6917_Resources_and_downloads_from_2nd_Annual_ESCalate_Student_Conference_Students_as_Stakeholders [Accessed 14 September 2013].

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (2013) Higher Education in England: Impact of the 2012 Reforms. HEFCE: Bristol. Available from: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/about/intro/abouthighereducationinengland/impact/ [Accessed 14 September 2013]. 

Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA): http://www.hesa.ac.uk/content/view/1902/#mode [Accessed 14 September 2013]. 

Outram, S. (2009) Flexible Learning Pathfinders: a review of the pilots” final and interim reports. York: Higher Education Academy. Available from: www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/.../HEA_Evaluation_report_Aug09.DOC [Accessed 14 September 2013]. 

Outram, S. (2011) Final evaluation of the HEFCE-funded Flexible Learning Pathfinder projects. York: Higher Education Academy. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/flexiblelearning/Pathfinder_2011_AW_2_281111_1614.pdf [Accessed 14 September 2013]. 

Pollard, E., Newton, B., Hillage, J. (2012) Expanding and Improving Part-time Higher Education. BIS Research Paper Number 68, pp.277. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/32397/12-906-expanding-improving-part-time-higher-education.pdf [Accessed 14 September 2013].

Maguire, D. (2013) Flexible Learning: Wrapping Higher Education Around the Needs Of Part-Time Students. Higher Education Policy Institute. Available from: http://www.hepi.ac.uk/files/HEPI%20Report%20(60)%20Full%20report.pdf [Accessed 14 September 2013].  

Yorke, M. & Longden, B. (2008) The experiences of part-time students in higher education: a study from the UK. York: The Higher Education Academy. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/research/surveys/Parttime_student_experience_of_HE.pdf 

Monday, 30 September 2013

Exploring the potential of Webpa

Well the first use of webpa has just about come to an end here.

Webpa was is open source, summative group peer assessment tool developed by loughborough uni amongst others. We are using a legacy version and have not connected it to the VLE. The tool is really well design and well constructed for the job that it performs. It uses a likert scale criteria and a single free text box for student justification of marks.

This was basically a road test making sure the system could get data in and out, which it has done very successfully. There are a couple of issues reported which were users and admin errors. 

Exploring the possibilities 
Interestingly, many staff who are interested in the tool want to use it as formative feedback to groups as well as final marks. They intend to run webpa a number of times during the group project. Trying to extend the webpa tool has so far involved using Excel sheets to create a mail merge of data back to the students. This involves organising all the feedback aimed at any particular student, creating an average fore the group on each criteria and linking this to individual average scores. This could be greatly improved by working at the SQL level within webpa, but at the me spent I simply don't have the time.

An obvious extension to this would allow groups to construct their own criteria, and time tabling. This would need to prohibit students to seeing each others results. I believe that this might improve engagement in formative feedback, allow greater group autonomy in the decision making process and cut staff workload. 

Cohort and group level health checks. Staff are interested in receiving overview reports of each group using the formative process. This would allow them to flag up issues when meeting the groups.Identifying dysfunctional groups might involved identifying the split of marks, looking for above normal distributions of marks, i.e. one or two students receiving very low marks compared to others. Also sub group marking patterns, i.e. when a section of the group are giving each other high marks and low marks for the rest. This would indicate factions within the group. 

I'm sure there are other ideas out there webpa has a lively community

I need to write a survey to gather information about staff use of group summative assignments. This would help me understand the level of interest and need for this tool. 
Q1. Have you used summative group work within your marking schemes.
Q2. How did the marking mark in terms of process. Eg give same mark to all students in the group.
Q3. What were the reasons for using summative group work within the programme
Q4. Did any issues occur for staff and students during this process

A more localised survey for students would be good to see what they thought of the formative feedback.
Q1. Did you read your feedback from webpa
Q2. Did the feedback change or influence your behaviour when relating to the group.
Q3. How would you improve the process of feedback within a group

So, a promising start, just need more an extra day in the working week to complete this!

Friday, 27 September 2013

What would a MOOC be like if the BBC made one?

This post is completely of the cuff. I haven't had a search around on this one, its just something that's been buzzing around in my head.
I've been taking a few MOOCs recently, lets face it who hasn't dipped there toes in to get a feel of the experience. Out this comes many questions, but one is about old media an new media, old broadcasting and new social engagement with media. It's not escaped anyone's attention the phenomena of tweeting while watching TV. It's Newsnight on BBC being a typical example. This is a new mass social experience of media and interaction. Lets not focus on the detail of the quality of that experience, because it is a live programme, the reaction to it on social media from the viewers has to be instant, which can make it difficult to sustain concentration and analyse at any great level. Old media and broadcasting is not in conflict with this audiences desires to interact, but it's far from perfect.
What would be better, is debate and discussion happened over a longer period, and the various streams of information were less distributed over different platforms and discussion spaces.

Now there are many design faults within the MOOC platforms yet to be solved, but the experience of listening and reacting to content is far slower and more contained that the example above. What would a MOOC be live if the BBC made one

1. Content would be far more creative. Like it or not, unis are not great at producing sophisticated content, the visuals are a little stayed, the joke awful, the budgets just a little too small. 
2. It would super inflate the interest in the general public of engaging in this kind of educational experience as MOOCs my provide. It's still a niche market, by the BBC have always had a remit to educate.
3. The chosen topic would be overwhelmingly populist, and disregard the academic approach to knowledge and fields of study
4. There would be a few errors in there, the BBC are getting better, but the academic rigour would just not be there
5. It wouldn't happen because of there fears of control over the discussion spaces, public broadcasting has distanced itself over the years from social media, particularly ones that encourage debate. A fall out this would mean, more quiz elements than discussion and losing the whole meaning of the process.
6. Certification. There is no university of the BBC, so would anyone else step in to offer a badge of the area being studied. Open Uni would be ideal, and I'm sure somewhere the discussions have gone on.
7. Licencing, open content is still very difficult for companies particularly the BBC to adapt to

Never the less it's an interesting idea. The gap between old and new media is growing, leaving most large media corporations desperately exploring ways to reconnect with some audiences.
But if we turn this on its head, if all a MOOC is, is a space for collective learning and a badge to follow, are there not other spaces where this is already happening. Is the MOOC just offering a poorer experience to the wider social Internet?

If it did happen, what would be the first subject, I'm thinking cake baking, how about you?

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Ten years is a long time in learning technology?


This post is part of FDOL course, I read 2 of the suggested papers . . .

Online learning: it is all about dialogue, involvement, support and control- according to the research by Marion Coomey* and John Stephenson available here

Openness, Dynamic Specialization, and the Disaggregated Future of Higher Education, by David Wiley, John Hilton, available here

Cultures of Digital Research
Firstly the 2 documents are written in two very different styles, using almost opposite methodologies and styles. 'Online Learning' is seeking to support practice and identify benefits. It uses systematic methods to categories and collect benefits and 'tips' for practice from 100 other papers. It believes the gap between adoption can be filled with with these tips.

'Openness' by contrast feels bombastic, ideas are gathered from many places to give some kind of vision.
"People are more connected to people, content is more connected to content, and systems are more connected to other systems than ever before."
You could say exactly the same statement at any time in human history, surely.
The future in this paper is something that has to be addressed, and change is massive and wholesale. Adoption of practice is replaced by a need for urgency to remain 'relevant'.

Both papers suffer from the weaknesses of their approach, and perhaps point to a larger weakness in the limited ways we have to describe and demonstrate learning technology and learning research. 

Relevance is mentioned 7 times in 'Openness' but there seems little discussion of what it is to be relevant. This theme is still with Higher Education, and the active experimentation that this paper calls for is one way of seeking the answer, but there are others. There needs to be a far great, deeper and louder discussion on the importance of the values that underlie the relevance we seek.

Digital Me, past present and future

This is a reflective post as part of the first assignment to a course I’m taking on flexible, distance and online learning (FDOL). This is my reflection written partly on the train home on an ipad and then finished at home inbetween sorting the kids out.

Me and the past.
The day I left Art School, the lectures called me in to show me their first mac. The Schho had invested in an Apple 2. They gathered round the object from the future, fearful of turning it on. It sat on a crowded desk covered in papers and books. I'd already been creating a large stainless steel sculpture using computer to help with the drawing, so they knew I would like it. They showed me it as a symbol of how modern they were.

20 years down the line, several careers later, I have worked with the staff in the same department. Although nearly all of my old lecturers have left, and I know not what happened to the old mac, there is still something of that mind set. The new building has less paper filled offices, and the artists and designers use computers all the time to help them create and store their work. But how deep technology has penetrated teaching practice is difficult to judge, perhaps there are limits to the level that it should

Me and the present.
This current course is a reminder that I need to finish my doctorate. My thesis explores the group dynamics of academic programme teams. I'm looking at individual narratives of how the different processes work particularly when faced with change. I've finish 15 interviews and have some really interesting, surprising and a little bit frightening. Frightening because of the workload, and the courage to dive in and write, but also the stuff I've turned up is a little challenging.

I note that those I know taking similar courses tend to be in the digital area, tackling the bleeding edge. Me, I wanted to strip it all back and find out why people push and pull, for and against change. Although I must admit, I think it would have been easier to just pick the latest tech phenomenon, and turned up some results.Perhaps I share a similar technological gloss to my practice as my old lecturers.

Me and the future.
Some days the white heat of technology runs cold through my head. I see re-occurring patterns in the processes, things I have seen before, mistakes running again only in a different format. Other times it is a joy, and the possibilities are real and tangible. This came home to me most recently revisiting old documentaries by a BBC presenter James Burke. This edition of his first TV series captures all that fascinates and terrifies us about technology http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgOp-nz3lHg. This rather pessimistic programme provides a marvelous counterpoint to his recent interview, which is such so amazingly optimistic vision of the future http://www.theanswerbank.co.uk/Science/Question1271792.html

Wikipedia staff session

This post is about a session I am running with staff on Wikipedia. I have called it  . . .
Wikipedia. friend or foe
Title: Wikipedia – wisdom of the crowds or confederacy of dunces
This session will provide you with an overview of the wild and wiki world of the Wikipedians. It will dispel a few myths, discuss the recent research and explore the recent moves by academics to create Wikipedia assignments. There will be a little hands on editing of Wikipedia too.

If you can’t make the session – I recommend this paper

Learning Chronobiology by Improving Wikipedia

JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL RHYTHMS; AUG, 2012, 27 4, p333-p336, 4p.

This paper shows a possible way to incorporate Wikipedia within a summative assignment. It provides evidence of the motivational and learning effectiveness of the process and all the assignment details to allow others to use the same process. http://www.nslc.wustl.edu/courses/Bio4030/wikipedia_project.html

The aims also include the demonstrating the ways in which social media and many other forms of social interaction allow opportunities for teaching practice to engaage, either formally e.g. let's make an assessment out of this or informal, lets discussion, analyse and explore this together. In the session I intended to:
  1. Start with introducing a wikipedian, describe how wikipedia works from their perspective, eg. workgroups, looking after pages
  2. Then show a particular group of pages that are from their subject area. I'm in the arts faculty. One of the pages was created by the wikipedian just discussed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010s_in_fashion. I'll talk about the 'talk' area of pages and 'history' and their relation to discussion and debate. Also the ways in which wikipedians display areas of concern in the page, e.g citation needed, and other warning signs. 
  3. I'll finish of with an example of assessment using wikipedia to hopefully lead into a discussion about innovation within teaching practice.
This is a very short session, so I might not get time to mention all the wiki research. What follows are some interesting links that have helped me prepare.

Facts and figures
From Townsend (2013) (apologies to wikipedians!!)
  • 17M registered users.
  • most are male, internet experts, childless
  • 5000 of these are active users
  • 1459 administrators within the system who are super users and step in to arbitrate over content
  • Administrators can block users or limit edit rights to some pages. 0.05 articles are blocked
  • 10% of authors – 90% of the acrtiles Ortega (2009, p. 106) in Shen (2013)

Research / Analysis

Rosenzweig's (2006) is the most notable study looking at the validity of the entries. 25 US historical figures where research in 3 different resources, eg two encyclopedias and wikipedia. Wikipedia was better than one and close behind the other. He critises the writing style of its choppiness.
But also see Nature 2005 article what compared accuracy and moved the debate from rejection to reluctant acceptance. Britannica had 3 errors per entry wiki 4

Shen (2013) conclusion is wikipedia is so huge power, control and hierarchy have to grow. Therefore it is not a true display of 'the wisdom of the crowds'

Systemic Bias - really interesting veiwpoint from a set of slides here

And the geographical location of page edits - http://www.zerogeography.net/2009/11/mapping-geographies-of-wikipedia.html 


Shen, XL,What leads students to adopt information from Wikipedia? An empirical investigation into the role of trust and information usefulness. BRITISH JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY; MAY, 2013, 44 3, p502-p517, 16p. 

Roy Rosenzweig, "Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past", June 2006
Giles, Jim. “Internet Encyclopaedias Go Head to Head.” Nature 438, no. 15 (2005): 900–901.
Townsend, S. Wicked Wikipedia? Communities of Practice, the Production of Knowledge and Australian Sport History. International Journal of the History of Sport Apr2013, Vol. 30 Issue 5, p545 15p.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

How we used to think in the 1999s

Online learning: it is all about dialogue, involvement, support and control -according to the research

This is an old literature review of 100 papers looking at examples of online technology to try to explore the different approaches to help staff identify the best on for them. The conclusions are still relevant but they do lack the later dimension of increased social networking with the wider world – see connectivism.
The result of the study is four dimensions that connect tutor control/student control and open/closed tasks. The general drive is that locating the course design within these scales will help with the design and delivery of the course.
What’s interesting is these quadrants aren’t as clearly defined as they are now, there is a greater divide between the different approaches to online education, open learning is much further way pedagogically and philosophically than training type courses. There also lacks the blended learning dimension that mapped the link between f2f and online worlds.

Below are a few notes of particular findings from citations that might be useful

Here are a few of the most interesting papers and their general conclusions.
•    Students won't engage with online debate just because they are told to or it is there Bonk, Angeli and Hara, 1998; Funaro, 1999; Mason, 1998
•    To be successful online debate needs to be embedded into the course Gregor and Cuskelly (1994)
•    These papers describe frameworks of online dialogue to help stage the process Beaudin (1999) and Bonk (1999)
•    Structure the process, students won't if it is too time consuming Wilson and Whitelock (1998). Note you could challenge this, if it is absorbing and motivating enough in its design then students will loose sense of time
•    The role of the tutor needs to be made clear Vizcarro (1998)
•    Students used to more traditionally delivered courses seem to expect more traditional feedback and are frustrated if they do not receive the level of attention they expect.

It’s interesting to reflect here on how much of this has and will change the generations of students become more used to online communication
•    Develop a strong workgroup mentality within the community (Rimmershaw, 1999)
•    Student who are not used to taking control of their own learning will fight against the process or become disengaged Oliver (1998)
The report then breaks down the research in to 2 by 2 grid. This is to help staff to see where they position themselves in terms of these area and what advise comes from the literature that supports these
•    teacher-controlled, specified learning activities;
•    teacher-controlled, open-ended or strategic learning;
•    learner-managed specified learning activities;
•    learner-managed, open-ended or strategic learning

The north-west quadrant (teacher determined, task specific)
Everything is tied down and controlled and for this area to work you need a lot of technical support for students (Alexander, 1999; Bonk and Cummings, 1998) and to make online participation a requirement and use ace to face sessions to review discussions (Funaro, 1999)

The north-east quadrant (learner determined, task specific)
This is where online tasks are developed but there is autonomy in the types of engagement. This area might include simulations Schlais, Davis and Thomson (1999) or problem based learning within the f2f lecture time (Bonk, Angeli and Hara, 1998; Gregor and Cuskelly, 1994)
You would need to keep groups small (Alexander, 1999) and give them clear roles and aims (Barros et al, 1998). Teach them how to behave online (Hackman and Walker, 1995; Marjanovic, 1999). And provide strategies that create dialogue and sharing (Bonk, Angeli and Hara, 1998). Students get credit for debate or active dialogue (Gregor and Cuskelly, 1994) and become motivation when they realize that their work will be displayed (Bonk and Dennen, 1999).

The south-west quadrant (teacher-determined open-ended strategic learning activities)
This areas structures the learning environment to promote co-operation within groups (Ewing, 1999) and provides examples and instruction of ways to work online in groups (model ways to have a lively dialogue) (Funaro, 1999). For instance keeping dialogue on topic through carefully designed questions, guidelines for learners, and online summaries (Beaudin, 1999) and categorize messages, summarize threads of discussion (Advaryu et al, 1999).

The south-east quadrant (learner-managed, open-ended activities)
Personal goals ('reasons for being there') are as important as specific learning outcomes. The role of the tutor, and the amount and level of tutor participation, should be clearly defined (Lewis and Vizcarro, 1998). Embed prompts and other ways for students to interact with the content in order to make the thinking process clear (Henderson et al, 1998). Provide synchronous events (along with asynchronous events) to maintain student enthusiasm and a 'real time' sense of participation (Mason, 1998). Develop criteria for students to assess each others' work (McConnell, 1995). Remember that 'free for all' open discussions do not usually work (Mason, 1998). Provide guidelines and carefully designed questions (Beaudin, 1999). Create a structure to make teams collaborate (solve problems through a voting system; write collaborative assignments by dividing tasks into sections) (Marjanovic, 1999). Beware that learners could become so involved in browsing that they might not be thinking about the learning related to specific subject matter (Ewing et al,1999).

Advaryu, S, Tzy-Peng, K and O'Grady, G K (1999) Online Role-Play: Facilitating an online asynchronous environment, Conference paper, Fifth International Conference on Technology Supported Learning, Online EDUCA, Berlin.
Alexander, S (1999) Selection dissemination and evaluation of the TopClass WWW-based Course Support Tool, International Journal of Educational Communication, 5 (4), p283.
Barros, B, Rodriguez, M and Verdejo, F (1998) Towards a model of collaborative support for distance learners to perform joint tasks, in The Virtual Campus: Trends for higher education and training, eds F Verdejo and G Davies, Chapman & Hall, New York.
Beaudin, B (1999) Keeping online asynchronous discussions on topic, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 3 (2), http://www.aln.org/alnweb/journal/jaIn-vol3issue2.htm
Bonk, C J (1999) Breakout from learner issues, International Journal of Educational Telecommunication, 5 (4), pp 387-410.
Bonk, C ) and Dennen, V P (1999) Teaching on the Web: With a little help from my pedagogical friends, Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 11 (1), pp 3-28.
Bonk, C J, Angeli, C and Hara, N (1998) Content Analysis of Online Discussion in an Applied Educational Psychology Course, unpublished manuscript, Center for Research on Learning and Technology Report, Indiana University at Bloomington.
Bonk, C J and Cummings, J A (1998) A dozen recommendations for placing students at the center of Web-based learning, Educational Media International, 35 (2), pp 82-89.
Ewing, J M, Dowling, J D and Courts, N (1999) Learning using the World Wide Web: a collaborative learning event, Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 8 (1), pp 3-22 Ewing, J M (1999) Enhancement of student learning online and offline, http://www.norcol.ac.uk/departments/educas/JimEwing/webversion/studentlearning/htm
Funaro, G M (1999) Pedagogical roles and implementation guidelines for online communication tools, ALN Magazine, 3 (2).
Gregor, S D and Cuskelly, E F (1994) Computer mediated communication in distance education, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 10, pp 168-81.
Henderson, L, Putt, I, Ainge, D and Combes, G (1998) Comparison of students' thinking processes when studying with WWW, IMM and text based materials, in The Virtual Campus: Trends for higher education and training, eds F Verdejo and G Davies, Chapman & Hall, New York.
Marjanovic, O (1999) Learning and teaching in a synchronous collaborative envi-ronment, journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 15, pp 129-38.
Mason, R (1998) Models of online courses, ALN Magazine, 2 (2), http://www.aln.org/alnweb/magazine/alnpaga.htm
McConnell, D (1995) Learning in Groups: Some experiences of online work, Springer-Verlag, Berlin. Ogborn, J (1998) Cognitive Development and Qualitative Modelling, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 14, pp 292-307.
Oliver, R (1998) Training teachers for distance education programs using authentic and meaningful contexts, International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 4 (2/3), p 147.
Rimmershaw, R (1999) Using conferencing to support a culture of collaborative study, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 5 (3), pp 189-200.
Schlais, D, Davis, R and Thomson, K (1999) Linking Good Neighbors and Faraway Friends into a Shared Student Centered Learning Environment, European Association of International Education (EAIE), Fifty-third Annual Conference, Maastricht.
Sloffer S, Duber, B and Duffy, T M (1999) Using Asynchronous Conferencing to Prompt Critical Thinking: Two implementations in higher education, unpublished manuscript, Center for Research on Learning and Technology Report, Indiana University, Bloomington.
Wilson, T and Whitelock, D (1998) Monitoring the online behaviour of distance learning students, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 14, pp 91-99.

Friday, 23 August 2013

half and half - summative and formative quiz in one

Research in Learning Technology 2013; 21: 19153 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v21i0.19153

Combining the formative with the summative: the development of a twostage online test to encourage engagement and provide personal feedback in large classes 
Susanne Voelkel

This paper explains a cycle of 3 years of different uses of online test technology.
Cycle 1 students have the choice of taking formative tests each we. Take up is small but learning gains appear to make it a useful activity.

Cycle 2 not surprisingly the author tries it as a summative  exam worth 20% of final mark. Take up is higher but learning gains decrease. Student feedback is also poor.

Cycle 3 a combination, students have to achieve 80% in a formative test in order to take the online test which are still worth 20%. Learning gains are the same as cycle 1, but number of attempts of formative have increased and student feedback is far more favourable.

Well worth a read

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Looking for a world clock for distance learning

I need a world clock for international delivery of distance learning. Staff and students need to realise the time difference, I’ve been looking for a solution, but not found anything that works in all browsers. All accept The solution was to use http://www.thetimenow.com/ for a nice embed that works in firefox and explorer. There are links that take you to the site for each time zone for lowfi and mobile users Then offer link to http://www.clocklink.com/clocks/world001-blue.swf?TimeZone=BST which displays a nice flash based interactive map. This seems to work in all browsers but the lowfi links are there for extra support. (see image for final effect)

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Curriculum mapping tools, where are they?

We have been looking for a tool to help provide an overview to students of their curriculum. This hasn't been a major project, just a curiosity sparked by a growing desire from staff to show how the whole programme thing fits together.
The modular system means the students miss some of the interconnections between subject and assessments. Seeing the macro level of the curriculum and linking the connections and can allow students to plan further ahead for the assessments and see how feedback connects with the next assessments. It also provides a talking point in class. By pulling up the map at the beginning of the session allows everyone to see 'here we are' and 'this is what's to come'.The most famous example of this type of map is the Bauhaus's (see image)

 What I was hoping for would be a time line mapping tool, that would give the names of the modules, the general aims, the assessments and a rough idea of when they occur. 
The tools needs to be embedded into web pages and PowerPoint slides. It needs to allow you to move in and out of detail.

There are a number of good time line tools out there that come close. The most notable is dipity.com They mostly fail because 
- they want to be precise about dates, which means the assessment dates have to be exact
- timeline tools lack the flexibility and connectivity of mind mapping tools
- mind mapping tools aren't good at expressing sequences of activities and events
- they  are very expensive for entry level people that just wants to pilot an idea

In the end we are going with prezi and building a template. Which will at least proves the idea. However, the interface of prezi is still fiddly for the novice users, and the embed in explorer opens a new window rather than display the content on the page.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Iste13 from a distance

The iste conference had me glued to twitter late Sunday night. The experience of waiting for the key speaker, and then receiving their presentation through the media of a few hundred tweets was a real entertaining and gloriously odd. First came tweets from the queue as people shuffled into the main hall, over looked by a different group gripping at the length of it and the herd mentality. Next came endless excited comments about the 'house band', the thrill of being there and occasional mention of the who the key speaker was. 
As the presentation started the tweets summarised the key points over and over again as each tweeter delivered their individual perspective. For every 20 tweets of diligent relation of the key points would come the occasional voice of decent "not sure a really agree with that". At the virtual back of the room a few 'bloggers' revelled in the fact that a few people were leaving the conference and preferred not to comment of the presentation, "nobody watching the presentation in the blog zone". 
I prodded with tweets of my own, trying to get a deeper response from those present. 
I don't pretend to understand the phenomena any better but the experience did have a tangible unique quality which I can imagine being highly addictive.  

Monday, 24 June 2013

Keynote at iste 2013 - digital games, I can't believe we are still thinking like this

Educational games and games for learning have been researched, produced and tested for over 10 years. Some fine examples exist, and interesting results published. But one major problem stands in the way of this new technological nirvana. Designing a successful digital game takes incredible skill. The successful games that kids and adults play are the very cream products that an industry is turning out. Where there is one success, there are 1000s of failures, that fail on such a wide variety of reasons, You can get a game design wrong on some many levels. If we take the equivalent in the literary world it's like saying, "wow life of pi is such as great book, and so many people are reading and enjoying it, if only my lesson on . . . . was like that, I know let's write a book that's as good as that but stick some learning in it". The audience is too savvy, the skill required to create this takes years to develop, unless you push the resulting book down the students throats the market is too saturated for people to discover it and, most important of all, the  material is already rich with meaning.  

I could expand more, but the message is simple . . . 
Don't design educational games, but if you must think about games in the classroom, look at current commercial games and discuss them, they are already rich in meaning.

But . . .  Simulations, that's where it's worth exploring.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Is that really me? Turning on student pictures in blackboard

This post is about this uses surrounding the process of making personal images available via blackboard VLE.

It is now possible for personal images that represent you in online spaces (avatars) to accompany any postings made in blackboard. This has great benefits but also carries concerns, and highlights the wider issue of representation on line or virtual presence.

The process could work in 2 ways, the start-from-blank way, users (staff and students) could be allowed to upload their own image, starting with a blank, or here-i-am way, users could have their university image uploaded for them, and could then change it.

Here-I-am, solves a major problem that has been discussed by lecturers many times.
It takes them a long time to remember and identify students names with faces. Seeing recognisable faces online will all help this process. And in a similar way students will benefit from seeing each other. So far, so good for overall student community.

Would the Here-I-am stiffly the emergence of online identity? Would this impact of student engagement in online activities.

Online presence embodied in avatars
No avatar image in neutral, they all say something personal about you. Other participants are hungry for information about you to help them analyse your text. Even having no image can be interpreted in a particular way. Having an egg as an avatar in twitter can say, I'm new, I'm shy, I'm not committed or I can't find how to upload an image. This is part of the process of becoming a tweeter, you commit a little bit more of yourself when you finally upload that image. This all connects with you immersing online identity. So would having an image of yourself already there make a difference to that process?

For students . . .Possibly yes and no.
Having an image already there, I would say, helps with making a positive break in the creation on an online identity. It says, here I am, both to the audience and to the student. Who will I be at university, becomes a more explicit process. However, when making that first posting in the VLE with not only text but also an image, may increase procrastination, as they battle with how to commit to expressing this identity. Now, anyone can possibly put a name and a face to those tenter time first postings.

What does research say
Strano (2008) sees the avatar image as a central mechanism to expression of identity in Facebook. In the study, younger uses change the image more regularly that older. This may be because younger users are less certain of their self image or identity. What's interesting is younger remains change their image more than any other group, and are more including to include others in their image, eg boyfriend. While older uses are much more included to be alone in their image. Zhou et al (2008) sees users upload more of a true representation of themselves in closed networks, which blackboard would be categorised as.

So Not much convincing evidence from research yet to say students may be more or less inclined to engage. However, the important point here is that students maybe more inclined to but an image up that will be of themselves. Being an internal network, where the pressure to preform in a more open social space such as Facebook maybe reduced. This change in demands to present yourself in a particular way may lead to the creation of new academic identities as the space offered is free of this pressure. Although, it may carry new pressures as yet unsurfaced by the literature. This might be interesting to research next year.

Staff and images
The reseach might indicate that the images will be less problematic. profile images are changed the lesast by older age groups. This also carries a very different dynamic. On the surface, getting staff to involve themselves in creation of profiles seems positive. However, I can image staff will be troubled by the pressure to perform in a particular way. We will have to wait and see on this one.


Strano, M. M. (2008). User Descriptions and Interpretations of Self-Presentation through Facebook Profile Images. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 2(2), article 5.
Shanyang Zhao, Sherri Grasmuck, Jason Martin, Identity construction on Facebook: Digital empowerment in anchored relationships, Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 24, Issue 5, September 2008, Pages 1816-1836, ISSN 0747-5632, 10.1016/j.chb.2008.02.012. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563208000204) Keywords: Anonymity; Facebook; Identity; Internet; Self-presentation; Social networking sites

Wiki, Blogs and Discussion boards

I'm putting information together to a session on these tools. I had some old nots that took me to Warwick University blog site. You might remember, but when blogs first became popular Warwick were very quick to make blog spaces available to all students. The site is still going, but as you can see from the stats, it tells a story of the rise in interest in this technology and the decline caused mostly by Facebook dominating university campus communications.

three character feedback - could this be the answer

We have been testing the latest version of blackboard today. The new editor interface is a lot better. I noticed in the feedback section you can add emotioncons. Perhaps this is the answer to quick feedback (only kidding ;)

Monday, 15 April 2013

My slides from blackboard conference

Here are the slides from the blackboard conference session. New connections and spaces, developing a data exchange system to support innovations in blackboard.
This session showed the details of how data is kept up to date and exchanged from the student information system into blackboard. This allows us to make accessible the blackboard community sites 4 weeks prior to students arriving on their course. I discussed the impact of the blackboard programme sites and Jack Butterworth provided the details of the process.

There were many questions, and people were interested in the efforts these sites might have on retention. Many of those who came to the session were in developer roles. They also commented that many of the presentations at the conference lacked a technical system wide detail.
You'll find more details about the project here http://www.ljmu.ac.uk/Academic_Enhancement/123182.htm

How I would like to see mygrades develop

Blackboard seem to be interested in re developing the my grades area in blackboard. This area allows students to see their grades and access any feedback.
I would like to make a few suggestions. However, they are perhaps more radical than wish. I have read extensively around the area of feedback, and these are some ideas that come from project and research I have come across.

Mygrades = myfeedback
In the UK the term 'feedback' has become a key area of research and interest. This is mostly because it features in the national student survey. Low scores for this area of the survey has meant that many student campaigns by universities have tried to educate the students about the benefits of engaging with feedback. The research around this area has also come to some very convincing arguments how feedback changes the student engagement and depth of learning. Taking all this into account my grades should be called myfeedback.

Separating the release of feedback and marks
In addition to this it should be designed in such a way to bring prominence to the feedback rather than the mark. Over concentration on the mark, by students, reduces their ability to see and use feedback. E.g." I got 55, that's a pass I'm though, I'll read the feedback later". I have worked hard over the past years to help staff bypass blackboard's design in order to get students to engage with their feedback and with online activities connected to it, before they are allowed to see their mark. This is very difficult to achieve with the current design, and it seems might even be harder in the future. The simple activities to be completed, such as planning and reflection processes in the form of online tests have allowed students to process their feedback, and provided staff with an understanding of how students are thinking and using feedback. Blackboard could build some functionality to help slow down the process of getting marks and allow the creation of activities connected with feedback.

General feedback.
There are no systems currently to allow generic feedback to groups of students. All feedback mechanisms are designed at the individual level, with the possible exception of the rubric tool. This is not about feedback for group work, but occasions when
- A number of students have all made similar errors
- An overview of common mistakes would help all or a particular targeted range of students e.g all those achieving a particular grade.
The tools to allow generic feedback to all or particular students could, if well designed speed up the process of providing feedback and allow greater depth of information provided.

Feedforward is the process where students and staff can see and make explicit connections between past feedback and the next assessments. for instance if i receive feedback commenting on my performance in a presentation, and can then . .
- See when the next time I will be asked to perform a similar task, where I can use that feedback to improve
- Have feedback actually talk about the ways in which I could work to achieve a higher grade explicitly for this next assessment
- be encouraged to review feedback before taking the next assignment.
Blackboard could support the process by which all students can, at a glance, see the connections between up and coming assessments, and plan which aspects of their learning need to be improved to allow them to complete these successfully. This level of engagement in their own learning process will help to build their independent learning skills so vital to future careers.
I would suggest a tool which allows staff to see all assignments across a programme, and allow then to visually connect these together. This feedback map could help all staff and students see the range and timings of assessment.
When marking work staff and be more informed when making comments because they will be more aware of the connecting assessments.

Mygrades should contain an indication of these links, and also a space for students to input their thoughts on improvements.
If future assignments do have links back to past assignments then these should be appear as links in the interface encouraging students to view the feedback.

Student reflections and planning
The mygrades tool needs to contain a space for student comments. This would allow the student to think and oceans the patterns of particular issues their may have. By seeing at a glance the past successes and failures, and see the comments on why those failures may have happened they can then plan for the future and change their behaviour. I believe that this information should be visible by key academics e.g personal tutor. The current eportfolio system in blackboard is being run down. I think this takes the best parts of that process and breathes new life into it.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

My blackboard: community or collaboration?

I feel a little bit bad about saying this, but here goes . . .
Blackboard's latest developments of a student lead social space has me confused. They have developed a set of tools that now sit on the homepage. These draw discussion topics or key dates from the calendar and present them in one handy place. So far so good, no one would argue that this is not a useful addition for any user, student or staff.
What's confusing is the addition of a small chat space within this area. This allows students to build a profile and share it with students in the institution or potentially with other institutions. What I'm surprised by is the lack of information that surrounds this development. I expected to hear some stories of piloting, or some connection with student demands for this service. It feels to me as if this is as Jessica Finnefrock put it at the beginning of the conference, a chance for blackboard to "play" with the potential of these systems.
I've got a feeling that the tool probably didn't take that long to develop, it is very simple in structure, but why dedicate development time to something that offers the user so little.
It all feels a little like the 'scholar' blackboard social bookmarking tool. Which tried to bring the power of 'delicious' into the blackboard environment. But the tool simply didn't match to the larger and more popular bookmarking sites, and was quietly closed. As delegates pointed out during the blackboard keynote, why concentrate on these types of enhancement, when the main tool is still crying out for development. Blackboard can never catch Facebook, or even emulate it. There seems to be a gap between what blackboard would like to give academics and students, and what is needed at this current time.

Distance learning development at Derby

There was an excellent presentation by Ester Jubb and Sandra Stevenson-Revill. Derby have been delivering distance learning for 10 years and have a couple of thousand distance learning students. This area is seeing the largest expansion in student numbers in the institution. The current management have made this a strategic development for the university. Which has help Ester and Sandra priorities the development of a distance learning business within the institution.

Key areas of interest from me was the quick development of customer services for distance learning students, making it easier for them to phone in a get help, rather than get lost trying to find the right department.

The carrier bag issue
Many of the old distance module sites were disorganised, and needed redesign. This all fitted with the notion of the VLE becoming the campus for the distance student and needed to be organised and pleasant to engage with.

Staff development was another key issue as the needs of these students are very different student and the transition for tutors to become online tutors is difficult

Webpa, up and running

We finally have a working version, can't wait to test it out tomorrow. I think this is going to be such a useful addition to our tools set.

Using blackboard collaborate to support distance learning students with computer issues

This is a neat idea that came from a presentation by Ester Jubb's presentation.
Distance learning students may have a variety of issues with their computers. The university help desk can help by using collaborate to share desktops and see what the issues are. It might be worth talking to our help desk support team about the possible extension of this.

Blackboard collaborate session

We have collaborate, and I was keen to hear from more people at the conference.

Key additional features include:
When you add a timetabled session it appears in the new calendar
Blackboard IM allows instant access to a wimba room, if discussions need to be taken further.

The session included some excellent examples from other institutions. Both reported a very high level of reliability for students and staff. Seeing that both examples were pulling students in from around the world, it gives me extra confidence that this tool will be useful of our distance development, even in hard to reach at areas of the world.

There were some nice examples of the use of the tool for distance student presentation which could also be recorded. Here students would be offered a practice space to make sure they are happy with the tool, and then be given a slot to go through their presentation.

There wasn't a chance to share ideas, but here's one that might be in development. Many staff here use the system to prerecord presentation materials. Two things would help with this process, a pause button for the recording, and a very cut down editing tool. This could be used to re edit the content if content change between each delivery.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Project report on programme community sites

Last year I was asked to run a project to introduce blackboard community sites to all 130 undergraduate courses. It was difficult but I was supported by a great team. Myself and Jack Butterworth from IT services are talking about it at the European blackboard conference this year.

Here is an overview
In 2012 all 133 LJMU undergraduate courses recruiting that year were provided with a programme level community site in Blackboard (the institutions virtual learning environment). Each site was populated with all students currently registered on that programme, and all new students who have been accepted ha the opportunity of being added 4 weeks prior to their start date. The sites were pre-populated with relevant information for these students, and all programme leaders were contacted and asked to add to this content, and generally make the sites their own.
For more information on the how this process was managed visit the project site here. http://www.ljmu.ac.uk/Academic_Enhancement/Academic_Enhancement_Docs/programme_sites.pdf
Project Aims
The aims of this project were to:
Provide a programme level space to support cross cohort communication and content access.
Allow early access for new students to pertinent information and university systems
Spread good practice in the use of programme level community sites (an increasing number of programmes were using them)
Automate the process of adding students to these sites
Review of the process
The project involved consultation with many different departments within the University as well and staff and the Student Union. The project plan was agreed at the senior level and a minimum specification of content defined. Exemplar sites were created and used to demonstrate the idea to as many programme leaders as possible. The creation and population of the sites with students and were automated. During the process a number of programme leaders wished for similar programmes to be merged into a single site, to enable a more efficient use of the sites.

Webpa project

I've wanted to get this technology installed, tested and available for a long time. Thanks to IT services, we seem to have cracked it. There is a growing number of staff using group work submissions, but because of the high numbers of students it's very difficult to run peer marking. Hopefully we will see some high use next semester.
We have decided not to link it to blackboard next year. If the tests work out well we will run it as a separate application for a year and then try and link it up with the next upgrade.

Flipping OERs

I know they are supposed to save academics time, but the cataloging and technology involved in their creation renders them almost useless. I have been trying to encourage staff to use them for several years, but unless those staff are very capable with IT, they have endless problems.

They are
Difficult to view unless you install them
Some of the more complex ones are not compatible with the latest browsers
The data bases could also be improved, they are growing unwieldy and difficult to identify anything useful

Beautiful designed study into academics changing identities

So jealous, I've been looking for a good process for my doctorate for years now. And in my final write up I come across this. So simple but very effective, qualitative and quanta give. Oh poo.

Note to self do more background reading!!

Negotiating professional identities in higher education: dilemmas and priorities of academic staff.
Authors: Calvert, Mike
Lewis, Thérèse
Spindler, John
Source: Research in Education; Nov2011, Issue 86, p25-38, 14p, 1 Diagram
Document Type: Article
Subject Terms: *CASE studies
*UNIVERSITIES & colleges -- Employees
EMPLOYEE empowerment
Geographic Terms: ENGLAND
Abstract: This article reports a case study of how staff in a new university in England are making choices about their use of time. Weekly time logs, small discussion groups and individual interviews reveal that the principle of 'service' is embedded in the professional identities of staff. The paper explores how this perspective is reinforced by notions of 'professionalism' that are encouraged within the community of practice. It indicates how keeping the narrative of service going can result in self-denial, with implications for reflection and scholarly activity. The paper concludes by posing questions about how staff can take care of their professional selves, as their work intensifies and resources fail to keep up with increasing government expectations of Higher Education. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
Copyright of Research in Education is the property of Manchester University Press and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)
ISSN: 00345237
Accession Number: 70101060

Persistent link to this record (Permalink): http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=70101060&site=eds-live

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Distance learning forum. Generous libraries and quick course turnaround

These are the notes from the distance learning forum run in LJMU. We meet every semester to share good practice and chat. This month the library team turned up on mass. Cath Marlowe, Rob Caley, Jackie Fealey and Pauline Smith. They demonstrated the new Discover tool, and how blackboard can connect with resources more easily. The huge amount of possible resources brings its own headaches. Anyone interested in embedding material from this recourse into their courses needs to connect with the libraries to find out the possible availability. They also showed their extensive range of online support materials which can be directly placed within your course. All in all, they were very receptive to working along side staff developing courses, so well worth connecting with them if you are in need.

Matt Tucker from Built Environment then presented his course design. This is for a small number of postgraduates and is in the first year of its development. His process is to create a recording of a lecture every week, which links to weekly blog questions and then an online seminar. Points of good practice being the consistency of the process, which the students found very easy to fit into their working life, and connecting online task feedback into the seminar. The small number of students allowed Matt to create the course as he went, although there were some issues with workload. He admits that the model wouldn't work with larger groups that 25, but is ideal for creating a course on the go!

Research into how students use video to learn

This post is a short lit review ie just completed to support an online course. I thought I might be useful to share. It's interesting how many studies are appearing just recently.

key questions
A limited literature search indicated some key findings but also reveals conflicting results.
Key questions
What evidence is there that video presents an efficient or valuable method of learning when compared with other media?
Under what conditions does is learning maximised, impeded or reduced?
In what ways can video be used as submitted course work?
In what ways can video support the communication of assignment feedback?

Key findings
Previous studies
Watching a video without controlling its play back is inferior to text DeFleur et al., 1992, Furnham et al., 2002 in (Tibus et al., 2012). There were many empirical psychology studies comparing tv delivery and text which showed text to be superior. Many of these could be easily discounted, because of the progress in the development of the online individual control of video. But this assumes that people use online video in a stop start way. Analysis of youtube statistics would provide interesting evidence of student viewing behaviour, interviews would also provide a glimpse into the world of learning via video.

Good practice
(Eick and King, 2012) Shorter videos of high quality were preferred by students. (Plon 1993) we need to think about the number of learning elements that the viewer has to understand in a sequence. This paper contains the beginnings of an interesting perspective on how to measure when students believe they should pause a video.
(Tversky et al., 2002) importance of design of materials e.g. animations
(Merkt et al., 2011) Most powerful in terms of learning process was stopping and browsing, using the video as part of a process which used a number of technologies and activities.
(Ibrahim et al., 2012) how to direct learners’ attention to relevant information and decrease cognitive load, creating conditions for the learners’ cognitive system to meet the processing demands

Evidence of learning
(Tibus et al., 2012) empirical evidence of learning during video, such as inferring information, making connections not explicitly in the video
(Merkt et al., 2011) video is just as good as print, probably because of the pause play function
video-based multimedia material generates the best learning performance and most positive emotion for verbalizers (Chen and Sun, 2012)
video and animation are more appropriate for visualizers (Chen and Sun, 2012)
(Brecht, 2012) empirical evidence that additional graphics, animations and music increase learning benefits
(Brecht, 2012) most significant findings are that video lectures are used by students for tutorial help, they improve initial learning, they reduce dropout rates, and they improve course grades
(Kay and Kletskin, 2012) results indicated that a majority of students used the video podcasts frequently, rated them as useful or very useful, viewed them as easy to use, effective learning tools, and reported significant knowledge gains in pre-calculus concepts
(Wright et al., 2012) in supporting learning software classroom, and problem based learning with textural support worked best
(Ramsay et al., 2012) (1) use real scenarios; (2) provide short segments; (3) present simple, single messages; (4) convey a skill-in-action; (5) develop the videos so participants can relate to the settings; and (6) support participants' ability to conceptualize the information.
Video Feedback
Learning from seeing yourself Dowrick 1983 in (Bobo and Andrews, 2010). The strength of this “video self-confrontation” approach was believed to lie in viewing oneself,
Viewing yourself changes (Bobo and Andrews, 2010) improved self efficacy
(Jones et al., 2012) gives the student an impression of being present during the marking process
(Jones et al., 2012) demonstrate step-by-step answer formulation; algorithms; show the solution, alternative answers,
(Jones et al., 2012) this medium has advantages over traditional methods of communicating feedback, (b) that students enjoy this new form of feedback, and (c) that this encourages them to engage with and learn from the tutor assessment of answers, rather than concentrating only on obtaining marks
(Crook et al., 2012) this study has revealed that the use of video instigated positive changes in theways in which staff thought about and developed
(Crook et al., 2012) feedback for their students; and for students, the use of video enhanced their active engagement with the feedback they received.
(Crook et al., 2012) the pilot study the majority of staff and students surveyed would like to continue to use video as a method of feedback.


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CHEN, C.-M. & SUN, Y.-C. 2012. Assessing the Effects of Different Multimedia Materials on Emotions and Learning Performance for Visual and Verbal Style Learners. Computers & Education, 59, 1273-1285.
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DIEKER, L. A., LANE, H. B., ALLSOPP, D. H., O'BRIEN, C., BUTLER, T. W., KYGER, M., LOVIN, L. & FENTY, N. S. 2009. Evaluating Video Models of Evidence-Based Instructional Practices to Enhance Teacher Learning. Teacher Education & Special Education, 32, 180-196.
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