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 This rather pessimistic programme provides a marvelous counterpoint to his recent interview, which is such so amazingly optimistic vision of the future

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.
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 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 - 


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),
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,
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),
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.