UK Web Focus

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Archive for June 23rd, 2009

Launch of ‘The Edgeless University’: a new Demos report

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 23 June 2009

A report entitled “The Edgeless University: why Higher Education Must Embrace Technology” was launched earlier today. As described on the JISC Web site:

The Edgeless University argues that technology in higher education is not just about virtual learning environments, but is increasingly central to the way institutions provide learning and facilitate research. Technology is making research and learning possible in new places, often outside of institutions. Far from undermining them, this is creating exciting opportunities for universities to demonstrate and capitalise on their value so will take strategic leadership from inside institutions, new connections with a growing world of informal learning, and a commitment to openness and collaboration. This is the radical role of The Edgeless University.

I haven’t yet had a chance to fully absorb this 90 page report but there were a number of aspects to the report which reflect my areas of interest. I should first disclose, however, that I contributed to the report (Peter Bradwell, author of this DEMOS report, was aware of my work in this area and invited me to give my views).

The need for fundamental changes in the higher educational sector:  The report describes the comment made by one participant at a roundtable meeting who described the current predicament of the higher education sector: ‘This seminar feels a bit like sitting with a group of record industry executives in 1999’. The report went on to say “It is no use lamenting the golden age of universities (or record companies). The goals of the two ‘industries’ remain the same, but they must refocus on how to achieve them. Society’s aspirations for the sector remain the same. The challenge for institutions is to find the way to do it.

The need to understand changing student expectations:  The report quoted an interviewee who said “Technology is part of people’s daily life in a university, I would say everywhere except in the classroom” in order to illustrate the need for institutions to “get better at understanding exactly what it is these students need” .

New tools to support teaching:  It was interesting to note that the report, in a section on how social media tools can support  collaborative teaching described Michael Wesch’s work at the University of Kansas in the US in using using online tools for collaborative and team-based student coursework including tools such as  sites such as Netvibes, Yahoo Pipes  and Diigo. Although I’m pleased to see Web 2.0 tools being highlighted in the report, it was somewhat strange to see a US-based example of use of these fairly mainstream tools. Aren’t there similar examples to be found in UK HEIs?

A renewed commitment to openness:  The report includes a section with this title. The opening quotation for the section “Science is as much about conversations in corridors as it is about papers in journals” strikes me as summarising the benefits which the Social Web can provide for the research community. However this section seems to focus more on the ease of access provided by tools such as Scribd and iTunesU rather than the issues of open access and open data.

“Experimentation and investment:  I was particularly pleased to see that JISC Developer Happy Days’ (Dev8D) being mentioned as an  “event brought together communities of coders and users from educational software and beyond” with the aim of  “mix[ing] people interested in civic society with those who have the skills to develop tools to encourage social change“. Dave Flanders (now of JISC) will be pleased to see that his work in bringing together a set of developers has been appreciated in this report.

A few weeks ago the “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World” report was published. And today we see another report which provides a similar top-down view on the importance of Web 2.0 in higher education.  If you encounter resistance to change from senior managers in your institution I’d suggest you beat them over the head with these two report until they realise that Web 2.0 is changing the higher educational environment.

Posted in Web2.0 | Tagged: | 6 Comments »

Openness and IWMW 2009

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 23 June 2009

IWMW 2009 Fully Subscribed

Bookings are now closed for this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2009), with the event again fully subscribed with 190 participants (the limit imposed by the numbers of bedrooms available and the size of the venue for the reception).

Amplification of IWMW 2009

If you haven’t booked a place but do have an interest in the range of plenary talks which will be given, don’t worry – the event will be ‘amplified’.

This reflects our commitment to openness which I argued the higher educational community should embrace more fully in a recent post on Respect Copyright (and Subvert It!).  In that post I also suggested that we need to be more open about the risks and the approaches taken to managing the risks. So here is a summary of the various approaches we are taken to encouraging openness for the event.

Maximising the Impact of the Plenary Talks

The plenary talks at IWMW 2007 and IWMW 2008 were streamed live and we will be doing the same again this year.

We hope to have an official ‘live-blogger’ who will take responsibility for providing a live summary of the plenary talks. This will be available using the event hashtag #iwmw2009 and may also be aggregated in another environment (such as Coveritlive, use of which has described in a Review of Web2.0 amplification at CILIPS Conference) to allow people to contribute to the discussions if they don’t have a Twitter account.

Due to logistical reasons (only one screen display in the lecture theatre)  we will not be providing a live display of tweets during the talks (which means we aren’t addressing the issue of whether a live display would be valuable or distracting). However we intend to make use of a live Twitter display (a ‘Twitterwall’) during the opening of the event and at other times in order to allow participants to say hello to each other if they are not sat in adjacent seats, an approach I felt worked well at the Museums and the Web 2009 conference.

We will also try to ensure that the speaker’s slides are available on Slideshare so that the remote audience is able to view the slides and the talk simultaneously. We know that speakers sometimes change the slides at the last moment – we’ll try and keep the versions in synch, but can’t guarantee this.

Note we’ll need speaker’s permissions for this – and will respect their (e.g. if their organisation doesn’t allow this; they want the freedom to be more open; etc.).

The Risks

I’ve described what we are planning on doing. But what about the risks of embracing openness more fully at an event?

We will be seeking permission from the speakers for the live streaming of their talks. And we do appreciate that there may be reasons why such permission may not be given (the speaker wishes to be able to speak freely or the speaker’s organisation may not allow this). We also intend to have a Creative Commons notice on the lectern (as we did last year) so that a rights  statement will be embedded in the video. We will allow the speaker to change their mind about making a recording of the talk available after the event (we will clarify this immediately after the talk, so that we do not have to write off time which may be spend on post-processing the video).

We will be providing a ‘quiet zone’ in the lecture theatre for participants who wish to avoid possible distractions caused by live-blogging and who do not wish to be photographed or videoed.  We will also ask other participants to respect the guidelines for this area.

We will, of course, be evaluating the event, including the innovative aspects as well as the mainstream aspects.  As we would like to share the user feedback more widely the evaluation form will state that anonymised comments may be published openly.

We appreciate that amplified conferences are still in their infancy, and there may be a diverse range of expectations from the audience, both local and remote. We are interested in learning from related events, such as Dev8DMashed Library UK 2009 ‘Mash Oop North’, Amplifiedat Nlab 09 day and the Eduserv Symposium.

We’d welcome feedback and suggestions. But, please no suggestions that will take too much time and effort – there’s not much time left!

Posted in Events, iwmw2009 | 1 Comment »