OU Conf: user-generated content etc

Darrel Ince – Let the students do it

Big idea: The student generated course.

e-Learning course – students learn about e-learning (20 weeks), then develop a course (12 weeks), use that as assignment. Select the best on TMA mark and rework them into a course.

We define the structure – the main chunks – for the students to develop. Give them the learning outcomes. “We don’t want anarchy” but may encourage it later. 15h chunk, done in collaboration with another student. A process for assigning topics.

The course is generic. Could get used very widely, incl beyond the OU.

Final draft May, Oct 2009 first presentation. Topic is Web 2.0.

Also got funding to get 120 students to write a book for us on computer music; partnership with OUP and local print-on-demand shop.

IPR issue – all Creative Commons?

John Woodthorpe, Jill Shaw, Mirjam Hauck and Tita Beaven –
User-generated course content: its application in ICT and language courses

John blames Tony for this.

fOUndit – Open Source CMS – collect, share and rate online resources. Basically links to relevant URLs that live beyond the course – social bookmarking – very very similar to Digg.

Pilot with T175 and L314 Spanish and L315 German. Languages students picking it up much more than T175 people. Interested in potential for gathering user-generated course content. Library involved too.

Karma system for rewarding/recognising valuable contributions. Important thing is not the quality of the resource you find, but the quality of your analysis.

Login credentials is interesting – don’t know if people really are OU students. OpenID might be the solution – Alex Little has openid.open.ac.uk working – an OU OpenID server, login with your OUCU – needs people to use it or it’ll fade away and die.
Terry di Paolo – U122 Recognising acheivement

Audience – little to no post-compulsory educ, paid and voluntary work.

APEL – need to be clear about what we want them to do and what past learning is.

30 pts, MCT host, 25 wks, 1st pres Nov 2007, 12 students and 2 tutors, 3 eTMAs + ECA. All online.

First four units – think about past learning and what we mean (4wks). Last three units (20 wks) analysing, looking across learning experiences, plan next steps. Record work in MyStuff. Experiences verified by manager/supervisor as a true representation.

Students like it. Desirable to employers, workers don’t want a degree/diploma; stepping stone to HE. Unions supporting. Accreditation of prior learning – not what the course is doing, it’s more using prior learning as material for a course, the credit is for the analysis.

Credit Transfer Centre – interesting links and issues.

Could be a very open offering? Tutors mainly do assessment – vital bit of course. Tutors also important in clarifying what is meant by a learning experience. So not entirely decoupleable.

Could be really interesting to accredit the actual learning experiences too, to give credit at multiple levels.

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OU Conf: Tony Hirst – Facebook apps

Back to liveblogging temporarily – if you can’t liveblog Tony Hirst’s presentation what can you do?

Vicky Smith chairing

Tony offers to do his talk from a seat at the back of the meeting room via a video link from his laptop to the presentation machine – only partly in jest.

Tony Hirst, Stuart Brown, Liam Green-Hughes, Martin Weller – Two unauthOUrised Facebook Apps

Presentation off-brand so trying to be on brand by wearing a pink OU T shirt.

Student peers are faceless – some chances in tutorials but hard. Lots of students inhabit Facebook – 6500 OU users in our network at last count with OU email addresses; lots of groups for courses.

Facebook growing – 4th biggest in terms of time spent – but traffic levelling off.  Over 50% of users go in once a day.

Why Facebook vs FirstClass? More informal, social first, say students.  Students use OU courses as conversation basis – in forums, in sigs, and so on.

First app – Sept last year – informal project with Liam and Stuart – Course Profile – not built on authenticated access or student records, it’s volunteered info from students.  Only OU stuff is the database of course codes and titles – rival app from a student doing similar mapping not as popular.

When add a course, appears on your minifeed, and messages from friends on your Wall.  With prompt to add app yourself.

Have had a handful of registrations from the app! For each course, shows OpenLearn, Comment Wall, Friends studying it, Recommend, find a study buddy. Now about 4500 users, probably saturated now unless big growth in OU users of Facebook.

Nice analytics on users, including study journeys through courses to programme/quals.

Courses Profile is not regular visit, came up with My OU Story – reason to visit regularly.  Student gives regular updates and moods – with graphs over time.
Can leave feedback to others, encourage mutual support.  Not promoted much yet, not much takeup.

Course Profiles and My OU Story

Questions: Contact from students and expectations need to be managed.  Have many privacy options.

How can you make this viral to get to people who aren’t already OU people? Hard. But could be decoupled and rolled out to students through the VLE or other social networks.

OUSA President – responsibility on FirstClass social side; jump through hoops to meet requirements e.g. looking out for bullying.  They need agreement from Course Team to create a conference, so if CT says no they can’t do it. These FB apps look like official groups even though they’re not.  Where’s the boundary?  Creators are not declared members of OU.  OU can’t control what’s happening here – students can just do it.  Use of brand without policing.  Behaviour can be reported through FB procedures, so it doesn’t need to be us.

We have a mountain to climb

Three separate people complained about me liveblogging the OU Conference today.  They had found my typing very distracting from the presentations.  One was indirect, although it seems obvious to me that I was the problem, but two were direct to my face immediately afterwards.  This was from three separate sessions.  Most British people wouldn’t dream of complaining like that even if they were bothered, so I think it’s a very safe assumption that many more people were silently fuming but didn’t like to say anything.  It has been made unequivocally clear to me that I was breaking a social rule.  For the direct ones, I apologised profusely; with one I started trying to explain what I was doing but tailed off in the face of a withering stare.  I am genuinely sorry to have disrupted people’s conference experience.  But on reflection I think it shows up a big problem for the OU that I’ve been thinking about for ages.

Now, for me, I found it hugely useful to do.  My handwriting is awful – it makes my hand hurt and I can’t read what I’ve written.  By typing, I have excellent notes on what was said, that I can refer to and even search.  (Much better than even the best physical filing system!)  Even better, by having another browser window open and doing some fast flipping, I was able to pursue some of the references that interested me then and there and put in proper links to them for later. (Or read those if the presentation wasn’t very interesting – which didn’t happen often, I should stress.)  Even better better, by blogging it, I’ve made those notes and links available to the local OU community and beyond.  And also been part of the future of academic practice – as the VC was saying we must do in her keynote.

But clearly, those benefits came at a cost to the people around me.  Having someone banging away on a laptop (I did churn out over 9,000 words today – well over 10k if you include this rant too) in a conference was obviously a strange and new experience for them.  Just to stress, it wasn’t a particularly noisy keyboard – my current laptop is pretty quiet, certainly in comparison to a full desktop job.

Part of this is unfamiliarity, but part of it I think is a lack of engagement with technology bordering on technophobia.  I’m often struck by the deep lack of basic technical skill around – even among people who you’d expect to know this stuff.  I encountered today people who seemed almost proud of their inability to work a projector/laptop combo, or their lack of knowledge about what Twitter was, despite the fact that their jobs involve them teaching other people about technologies like that. (I won’t identify them.)

Technophobia seems a good word for it: as with homophobia, among polite middle-class people you can almost imagine that nobody’s bothered about it, but from time to time someone will come up to you and make it quite clear that decent people don’t like what you’re doing and wish you would stop, or at least go and do it elsewhere so they don’t have to see you doing it.  So you know that lots of people think that way, and you’ve no way of telling them from people who are genuinely supportive – or at least supportively indifferent – and so you end up changing your behaviour to pass as something you’re not out of fear.  (I’m not saying it’s the exactly the same phenomenon, but there are parallels.)

I’ve wondered and experimented in the past about using a laptop more to take notes in meetings – it really makes things much better for me.  But I’ve fallen back on a paper notebook for all but a handful.  (At least those can include meetings with my boss – Patrick is a very good boss.)  The laptop kept getting in the way of the social interaction, and that’s what meetings are for in my book, so the laptop went.  Until now I hadn’t realised that the ‘getting in the way’ bit was quite possibly a result of a deeply held technophobia.

The contrast with – say – the Open Learn conference I went to back in October is profound.  I foolishly didn’t take my own laptop there out of habit … and so now I want to refer back, I have no access to the paper notes I made (they’re in the office and I’m at home), and it’d take me ages to find the right page and decipher my handwriting even if I did.  But every session was stuffed full of people hammering away on their laptops – between 25%-50% I’d say, more in some particular ones.  Some of those were liveblogging, some were making some small notes for themselves … and some were off doing other useful tasks when the particular presentation wasn’t capturing all of their attention.  Nobody minded, or even noticed particularly.

I really think the VC gets it: in her keynote (see what I was able to do there that I couldn’t with the other conference?) she quoted Ernest Boyer and Clay Shirky – top-notch scholarship and top-notch new technology.  She argued that “Scholarship in this university, in this century, has to be irrevocably tied to the technology and knowledge media.”  I agree!  That’s what I want to be part of, that’s what I’m good at.  That has to be the only future for the OU.

But my, oh my, how far we have to travel to get there.   Remember, this techno-hostile audience was a self-selecting group of those particularly interested in innovation.  One of the VC’s recurrent themes recently (including at the conference today) is how difficult but vital it is to get excellent innovation out of the individual pockets where it happens and spread out across the OU’s provision.  (I have some ideas about that but that’s for another post.)  Why’s it so difficult?  It’s not that people aren’t sold on the OU’s mission – in fact OU staff have a sense of ownership and deep commitment to the mission that most senior managers couldn’t imagine in their wettest dreams.  That profound and widespread technophobia is, I think, a big part of the answer.  Nearly every good innovation in OU teaching relies to a greater or lesser extent on new technology.  And the overwhelming majority of people who need to pick up that innovation don’t know or like new technology.

I don’t quite subscribe to the Private Frazer view of the situation (“We’re doomed!  Doomed I tell ye!”), nor the Sir Richard Mottram one (“We’re all f***ed.  I’m f***ed.  You’re f***ed. The whole department is f***ed.  It’s the biggest cock-up ever, and we’re all completely f***ed”), but we do have a serious problem.

We have a mountain to climb.  I’m not sure how to get there, or even what the next steps are.  Alas, I do know that my own next step is backwards: I’m not taking my laptop to the conference tomorrow.

OU Conf: Martin Weller et al – Learning Design

Martin Weller, Simon Cross, Andrew Brasher, Grainne Conole, Juliette White and Paul Clark

Martin – Umbrella thing for lots of activity.  1 – Fact finding and user reqs – workshops, interviews, etc.  2 – Tool and resource development using Compendium.  Now Compendium LD, Cloudworks for sharing designs.

LD at the OU – background of expertise from Moodle, SLED,  IMS LD spec, LAMS, Course Models, Grainne on LADIE, DialogPlus before coming here.

Aims – Focus on OU academics, not interested in IMS LD.  Scaffold and support the design process.  Capture practice, bridge pedagogy and technology.  Share designs/promote reusability.

Simon – Investigating practice.  Interviews, workshop evaluations (four or five done, more planned), course observation, eLearning case studies produced by Peter Wilson.  Building an evidence base.

Key themes: Support and guidance; Representation of designs and thoughts; Process of design; Barriers to design process; Evaluation of design.

Demand for more pedagogic evidence and chalk-face experiences – but case studies under-used.  Why?  Doubt in relevancy, trust in ‘success’ claims, too ‘cutting edge’, too time consuming to find/understand, difficult to abstract.  Also preference for local circuits, personal networks.

Andrew – Compendium LD

Tool built – adaptation of Compendium knowledge-mapping tool.  (KMi plus Verizon.)  Visual maps of connections between icons representing ideas.  Icons on left-hand-side to develop maps in standard Compendium way.  Building the map will help you think through the learning process you hope the students will be undertaking.  (I think we could really do with some examples at this point – aha! the very next slide.)

Very interesting example of a learning design shown – it’s clearly meaningful to the person designing it, and probably understandable by others, and even is very close to IMS LD/UML style roles-in-columns layout … but there’s no way it could be automatically instantiated in a VLE in the way you can with LAMS.

Martin again – Cloudworks

New thing – ‘Flickr for learning design’ – a social networking site for sharing learning designs, sharing resources, finding people.  “Collaborative Learning Design at the OU”.  Can put stuff in, tag it up – made by Juliette White, want funding to develop it further.

Next steps – JISC bid around Cloudworks (perhaps what we were twittering about earlier); strategic bid internally around reuse.  Develop CompendiumLD, populate Cloudworks, work on community, integrate with social:learn, more public facing.

Issues – Do people re-use designs?  Is the design tool open-ended or structured?  (We suggest the swim-lane model but it is open; other tools are more structured.)  Is the open approach to formats correct?  Will people share?  Integration. with other systems.

Me – Why developing your own tool for Cloudworks and not an existing file-sharing site?  Why not standards-based?

Martin – Because there isn’t a site for sharing learning designs.  Flickr is for sharing photos.  So we’re building a community that doesn’t exist.  And it’s made out of Drupal so it’s not so innovative.

Non – External links?

Martin – Yes, Cloudworks is supposed to be externally-focused.

s/o – How as a simple course team member supposed to know about all of this stuff?  Staff development is a key issue.

s/o – Is this accessible outside?

Andrew – Compendium LD should be but there are technical problems.  Martin – Cloudworks will be, but still in alpha.

Tim – Sharing learning designs is a lot like sharing patterns in software development (like architectural design) (talking about A Pattern Language)

Martin – Yes.

Linda – What’s the advantages to using Compendium?

Martin – From workshops, good to surface complexity in designs.  e.g. didn’t realise they were getting tutor to do 40 hours.  Can also help get agreement from course team.

s/o – Do you expect this would replace course texts?  Like IMS Learning Designs?

Martin – Deliberately avoiding IMS LD spec, the entry level is way too high for most academics – they could understand it but they don’t want to sit down and learn the XML.  Not our intention to make it a deliverable system to students, it’s for the design process.  It could be useful for the students, as a guide to how the course works.

Tim – It might replace the course calendar (or guide), or a working view of that as it’s in development.

Martin – Yes, if it’s simple enough for people to instantly pick up.

Andrew – Can enter text that lies behind icons that’s not shown on the map, can export a textual version of the map.  But it’s not a good interface for inputting text compared to a word processor.

Martin – Aim is OU academics, but perhaps also ALs?

Non – powerful thing for other participants e.g. L&T librarians for skills development, at an earlier stage rather than right towards the end.  Could realise the benefits of institutional resources held in the library.

Keith – Done any retrospective mapping – typical structures of existing courses?

Simon -Yes, Peter Wilson’s case studies have all been mapped up in Compendium.  Working with Paul Clark and working through courses and how they could be mapped.  Taking an individual course unit and doing it.  So not just the final product but the process of development, asking questions, making notes – the nitty gritty of day-to-day development.  Work in progress.

OU Conf: Keren Mills – Digilab

Keren Mills and Non Scantlebury – Digilab/Library.

About half of the audience have never been in the Digilab.

Launched and opened Nov 2006.  Can’t miss it, it’s painted bright pink.  Professional development of non-academic staff, e.g. designers in LTS.  IET gets a mention for doing staff development.  Digilab to fill gap for hands-on opportunities.  A ‘createive play area to experiment with and explore new ideas and share knowledge’.

Can drop-in for physical stuff.  They have generic Digilab accounts for things like Second Life so you can have a poke around without having to register yourself.  (This is a cool idea, especially where you need to do a bit of running to get started.)  Also running f2f sessions on this stuff.

Lot of people don’t have confidence about what a podcast is or how to create one.  “If asked to create a podcast …” – half would ask for help, 32% would teach themselves, 9% would pass it on, 6% have experience of doing it already.  (And 3% would go on holiday to avoid it!)

Alas, tried to play a video clip from PPT and it failed.  Then tried a canned QT she’d wisely brought along – result.  Comments from Gill Clough and Rebecca Ferguson about how cool the Digilab is for overhearing what people are doing and asking them about what they’re doing.  (Maybe I should sit and play there more often.  Yes!  A proper work-related reason to play Guitar Hero III on work time.  I’ll be contributing to OU staff development, oh yes.)

Geocaching exercise – find your way to a person’s office and interview them.  Then the final treasure was lunch (!).  Got good feedback from the experts that they should offer this more broadly as an approach.  Participants really got a lot out of it.  An aim is to increase people’s confidence in the technology they hear people talking about.  People like Martin and Tony are keen early adopters, but we have a lot of staff who aren’t confident in engaging with them.  Researchers like using it as an informal meeting place; more inspiring place for a PhD supervision than a trad supervisor’s office.

Comment from Chris Pegler that the Digilab has been a great boon to the eLearning Community (the OU internal e-learning self-development community).

… and it got an OU Teaching Award this morning.  Long list of thanks to people, including Rhodri Thomas from Strategy Unit and Andrew Brasher from IET.

Martin – Like bumping in to people, watercooler effect.  Twitter offers this as well – can we combine the two – have screens with OU twitter feeds, really informal way of that going?

Keren – Yeah that would be really good.  And Ideascale too would be really interesting for an online presence for Digilab – and how to bring the Digilab to the regions.  Making one place to find who’s blogging about what.  Liam’s work on that.  Also Cohere from KMi adding to social networking – put up ideas and create links between them – this idea supports/refutes this other idea.

Non – We want to be user-driven, it’s a resource for the OU community.  Equipment loan service – can book out iPods, cameras and other stuff out from the Library to have a play with it.  Loaned out iPod shuffles with some content on them initially.

s/o – is there a web link explaining all this?  Virtual tour?

Keren – Yes, http://www.open.ac.uk/digilab.  Virtual tour would be nice but we don’t have the time.

s/o – Hard to get in regularly; when I went once I was the only one.  Can you stream from there when technologies are actually being used?

Keren – Contributing to Open Insights lecture series, with an activity at-a-distance.

OU Conf: Tim Hunt – open source developing

Tim Hunt – Developing in the Moodle open source community: Connections promotes quality.

Has been a developer on the VLE project.  Most of this audience know what open source software and Moodle are.  (That’s a relief.)

Goes through software, free software (Stallman), open source (Raymond).  (After we’ve just established the audience already knows this, ah well.)  Licensing.  Issues with distros and mess and how you manage it. “Open Source projects have incredibly good project management” with a benevolent dictator.

Moodle principles, Martin Dougiamas – Moodle community is a learning community.

Tim – took responsibility for Moodle quiz as module maintainer from May 2006.  He really enjoys it, done a lot of good for OU rep, has given us a degree of control.

Very surprised at the peer review leading to better tools effect – enough eyes principle.  A very potent testing team.  People convinced him that he was wrong on some proposals, “and that’s quite a difficult thing to do”.  30 people who regularly participate in the forums on this, despite the hundreds or thousands of Moodle sites.  Wouldn’t get the feedback at just the OU.

Also get stuff for free – stuff you want but can’t afford to do for yourself – STACK (maths assessment system from Univ of Brum – in tomorrow’s talk!), new question bank, email notification.

But … it takes time away.

Jonathan Fine – What’s the secret strategy for convincing you that you’re wrong?

TIm – Oh, you have to be right.  And make a good argument.

s/o – Emergent leadership role – are there examples of Open Source communities where that doesn’t happen?

Tim – Hundreds of thousands of projects on SourceForge going nowhere – if you don’t have that then nothing happens.  Martin is an okay software developer but an excellent leader.

s/o – It’s open to the community – if it’s good and dropped, can take on a life of its own and someone else can pick it up.

Linda – In terms of quality tools – is this a good model for us?

Tim – Yes.  Choices – buy commercial, build our own, do open source.  The commercial stuff was no good.  Some think we should have done our own.  Moodle avoids us having the arguments about how it should work since it already does work, incorporates a lot of best practice, which is almost more valuable than the code itself.

OU Conf: Ekkehard Thumm et al – OpenStudio

Ekkehard Thumm, Jamie Daniels, Esther Snelson (MPM for T189 Digital Photography). Stephen Peake, CTC for T189 here too.

(Linda Price chairing)

Ekkehard – Photography traditionally thought unsuitable for distance teaching … but it is now.  Less about the course but more about the process and the software.  (If you are interested in T189, there’s a talk tomorrow morning about it.)

Jamie demos the tool – it’s pretty cool – a lot like Flickr (!) only with OU stuff and organisation  (Just remembered link to OpenStudio from Biodiversity Observatory – it is very relevant and we want to do it.) Does autoconversion for you to a web-based format, and thumbnail and so on.  Comment interface, arrangement in to small group – and week by week.  Very very tightly integrated to how T189 works at the moment – including assignments and so on. Has flag for possibly-offensive stuff to alert Course Team – only used twice and in each instance didn’t need taking up.  Also has way in profile to say “here’s my other photo site (e.g. Flickr)”.

Has a bit in a profile to indicate participation level – photos posted, comments made, comments received, photos made favourites by others.  Some permutation of those gives a final judgement that gives you e.g. a smiley face.

Students plot themselves on a skills graph – visual awareness on one axis, technical knowledge and skill on the other.  Then visualised on a graph showing X for each students – can click on Xs to find individuals to contact for help – to give or to get!

Esther – collaboration with course team has been very good.  Has created a real community.  Looked at student forums to see what they were saying about it, and took that on board for further developments.

Stephen – Course Team Chair – it was a co-design process, like an agile programming team, work together on a daily basis.  Originally said ‘let’s just use Flickr’ – why reinvent the wheel?  Started like that but kept hitting barriers – especially about rights, keeping outside world out of the digital classroom, and so on.  Corporately you just can’t deal with them – our lawyers just couldn’t get a reply.  So eventually said ‘Oh let’s just do it’.  Can now be used for all sorts of applications – not just applications.
Martin – Congratulations, it looks decent unlike other things we’ve done.  Still don’t understand why not Flickr.  Can’t we just go Creative Commons, and isn’t it better to just be open? We try to bring too much.

Esther – At the point of negotiation , Flickr were getting taken over.

Jamie – creating logins, getting groups together, managing IDs

Stephen – sense of trust, it’s all moderated; they all migrate to Flickr anyway

Martin – we’re teaching them to be part of that broader photography network

s/o – Didn’t get to end of course.  Application in other areas – expand?  Looks like can only do one thing.

Stephen – Holy Grail of Design is collaborative design, in teams, so could adapt this for a team design project.  Second area – coming of spring plants and animals, biodiversity projects, for monitoring seasons and so on – in science, geology (could this be Biodiversity Observatory? we may not be picking it all up)

Esther – also a computer animation game course, upload those & other AV media