Questions from Scholarship in the digital age

Someone – Use Viewlet builder – do internal training with it.

Tony Nixon, MCT – Retain boundaries in University? Case for?

VC – Much more interdisciplinarity in calls for research funding, so breaking down boundaries is happening and matches the real world. Systems thinking is key; we have the best systems thinking group in the country.

Eileen Scanlon, IET – Conflict between move to Research Excellence Framework, citations framework – versus more open view.

VC – Not sure there is a conflict. Traditional measures take a long time to change. Want OU to be at the forefront of how we do measure those things.  Have philosophy (??!) blogger getting a lot of attention and reputation. Some academics deciding not to publish in print but just go to the web: academics are pushing at it.  More traditional measures are going to see enormous changes.

Brigid Heywood, Pro-VC Research – The REF is going to use very traditional measures – publish, citation. Academics should disseminate freely – but capture peer review and impact on the disciplines as well.  That’s the ground where we can lead.  In 2010 it’ll be classic measures, but we have a part to play in the new space.  All media to be used, but show peer review and academic impact too.

Web question – Martin Weller – via Twitter – Recognise in promotions criteria?  VC – yes of course.

Josie Taylor – move to Web 2.0 as scholars isn’t just learning to use the tools, it’s a culture shift.  Many of our colleagues need to recognise the demands on them – to rethink research and course development.  Very demanding!  VC agrees.

Anne deRoeck – Sustainability questions.  Web 2.0 turns everyone in to a publisher, but not in to a reader. Lots of stuff written but not read.  And environmental impact of technology.  Technologies are very new; has to be managed to make it sustainable.  How?

VC – Technology can help – e.g. collaborate online rather than drive or fly.  

Council member – how to get employer engagement, commercial ventures etc – how can OU lead on that area?

VC – People underestimate how much employer engagement we already do. But not shrinking from expanding it. A real grip on all this will make us more reputable and desirable to employers. Our stuff will show in the workplace.  Engage over what skills they want employees/graduates to have – and ability to work with the technology, and teamwork – are big there.  Management of teams learned via games.

Steve Swinthenby – Inclusion. Scholarship of inclusion?

VC – No favours by telling students you’re too poor or socially deprived to be engaged with technology.  Was pleased with Gordon Brown about giving broadband assistance to families – will help us greatly.  Access to Learning fund will include computers, we help in the costs of broadband for students.  And they think it’s fun and they enjoy it.  We have a problem with young men falling out of education – and they love the technology.

Pro-Chancellor (Lord Haskins) – Consumer power – e.g. reading bits from a newspaper.  A dangerous trend, narrows horizons – consumers are not guided through by an editor.  The same could happen in learning: students could set the agenda.  Consumer power has gone too far in some instances.  Academics will be running after the students, instead of helping students wider [their horizons].

VC – You won’t find that – academics aren’t engaging with the technology.  Still academics’ role to do assessment, curriculum design, students want the accreditation that comes out of that, and that’s a very powerful position so it’s not going out of the window.  Need to engage people more in learning. Participatory thing is good.

Conclusion – Pro-Chancellor (Lord Haskins) – VC has been a world leader in this, people listen to her wherever she goes.

Scholarship in the digital age

Liveblog from the OU Vice-Chancellor’s speech to Council, 26 Sep 2008

Largish audience heading in – interesting to be watching from outside rather than the inside.

Introduction from the Pro-Chancellor, Chair of Council.

Title chosen carefully – could’ve been “Why the web matters to scholars everywhere”. But the web and enormous computer power does make a serious difference to what defines scholarship – at every level.  For academics and students, and professionals.  Scholarship in each of Boyer’s classification.  Each are weighted differently.  Dr Johnson – scholars are bound for toil, envy, want, the garret, and the jail.  Not sure about the jail but the rest apply. Can you be a scholar and ignore all this?

Stephen Downes – shift is from web being a medium to a platform: remix, repurpose, stuff gets better the more people use it. Web 3.0 – the semantic web – harnessing the power of artificial intelligence.  Community of scholars takes on a whole new meaning, dimension, in this context.

Our students are the net generation: they expect to be engaged, with opportunities for input.  More visual, prefer to learn by doing than telling or reading: discover, not be told.  John Thompson, “Is education 1.0 ready for Web 2.0 students?”

Argue that it’s not possible to ignore this.  The Internet and social changes wrought require us to rethink what we expect of academics.  And reconceptualise policies to respond to that.

Scholarship of teaching and learning

Universities taking this more seriously than in the past. Staff refocused on student learning; students becoming more demanding – e.g.  Curriculum demand too.

We have always known that the process is more important in education than content, but it’s especially so now.

John Seely-Brown and Richard Adler “Minds on Fire” – learning 2.0 is active and passion-based.

The real world is more like this too: the real world doesn’t divide in to disciplines.  Requirement of all students to be able to evaluate research outputs.

There are negatives and positives.  Negatives – erosion of time for reflection.  But we can’t scrimp on pedagogical research: need solid research on what works and what doesn’t.

What can we see happening in HE?

Six technologies – Horizon report – likely to have an impact (very Web 2.0): 

  • Grassroots video – anyone can be a broadcaster with video.
  • Collaboration webs – no longer expensive to network
  • Mobile broadband – dramatic price drop, capability up (pervasive net)
  • Data mashups – large amounts of data with APIs, integrate and transform information
  • Collective intelligence – knowledge emerges when many people interact with much data
  • Social operating systems – next gen social networking systems, around people, not content

Four main responses.

Faculty are often unaware of technologies or unable to integrate them.  (We have a mountain to climb!)

Consequences for staff time.  

Shuster and Finkelstein: The American Faculty. Real changes in roles of faculty staff: including unbundling content preparation from presentation/supporting of learning. Accelerates trend towards teaching-only functions, whatever you think about that.

Faculty role in design of learning experience. Role reduced a bit by the amount of content out there. But libraries have been full of stuff for ages, and nobody argued that there was no role for a navigator through the sea of resources.  And we need training for navigator.

One member of a team can be more expert, but an academic not engaged will not fully understand the implications for learning, and the design will be worse as a consequence.

Impact on research?

Profound. Every stage in lifecycle can be improved and/or complicated by technology.  Can collaborate across the world.  Data as research capital.  Mass digitisation of books leads to all sorts of possibilities. Christine Borgman work cited.

We’ve never had quite to many research questions live at the same time: even the most jaded must be energised.

Consequences for institutions

John Tompson, Clayton Christiansen Disrupting Class – It’s a disruptive technology: asynchronous, 24/7.

But not so disruptive to the OU: we have a short/medium term advantage here, which we must build on. We can remake our leadership on the world stage through our deployment of digital scholarship.

Migrate innovation across the university more effectively – we will stand or fall on our use of innovation.

Need new business models.  Research strategy, IET, Student Support all under review.

Five things we need to look at:

1. Incentives and reward. Financial markets – only counting articles in certain articles may disadvantage web-published academics.

2. Need systematic response; staff development is a strategic priority.

3. Assessment of what students need to know and how they learn.  Move this research to the centre.

4. Look at what constitutes quality. We’ve always pushed the boundaries.

5. Research management. Not just playing RAE game: smart university maximises the potential of research in this new environment.


Argument: Scholarship has to be tied to these technologies. They reflect our (OU) distinctive mission and can enhance it. Staff understand that we need to engage with it, but are a little worried about the impact. And recognise this is a key part of the quality of what we do.  Everyone here strongly identifies with the mission: if technology helps us do this, it’s warmly embraced.  We aim to be the best.  Why not the best? 

The Upside of Down

We can be the leader here, now.

Medium and message (liveblogging debate round 2)

Today, the OU’s Vice Chancellor, is giving a speech to Council (the OU’s governing body – like the Board of a company) and an internal audience on ‘Scholarship in the Digital Age’.  She will be speaking “about the impact of new technologies, including Web 3.0, on the University’s business: how it affects teaching, research and the student learning experience”.

I’m really encouraged: this is exactly the focus we as a University need to be taking.  And I’m not just saying that because it’s my area and so I obviously think it’s important. (Although there probably is an element of that.)  I’ve said before that the VC is reading the right stuff (e.g. Here Comes Everybody) and there was further proof in the internal publicity for the talk – it was accompanied by a big copy of the xkcd Online Communities map:

But I’m also worried about whether to bring my laptop or not.  Last time I liveblogged from a talk by the VC, people complained – entirely reasonably – that I was disturbing them with my typing – which I was.  I did a post arguing (not entirely clearly) that the fact that such typing was disruptive showed that we have a mountain to climb in getting the OU to where we need to go. The discussion generated more traffic – and blog links – on here than anything else I’ve written, and ended up with me realising that by (inadvertently) reinforcing the stereotype of laptop users as antisocial inconsiderate types, I’d set things back, not forward.

Just to be totally clear: I am not saying that people are wrong when they say they are being disturbed.  They are being disturbed, and that impairs their ability to hear and understand what’s going on.  And with this particular presentation, people who aren’t (yet) natural laptop users and bloggers are the ones who really need to hear it: us techies are the choir the VC is preaching to here.

So do I bring it or not?  If I do, it’ll disturb people.  If I don’t, we lose (some of) the benefits of doing just what (I expect) the VC will be exhorting us to do.

Happily, our Comms team have come up with an excellent compromise: there’ll be a blogger area outside, with a screen showing the VC, and we can hammer away on keyboards to our hearts’ content without disturbing people who find such things distracting.  (There may even be sufficient power sockets!)

It’s not ideal – to exclude this group from the room itself is a little unfortunate.  But I’d rather leave the people inside free of distractions from technology so that they can come to love (appropriately used) technology.

… and I’m also going to try to keep the meta-discussion about liveblogging separate from the actual stuff, at least on here.  I’m sure there’ll be all sorts of stuff on Twitter.