UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Higher Education Web Survey

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 May 2014

TerminalFour’s Long-standing Support for IWMW

Terminal Four survey formFor several years TerminalFour has been a sponsor of IWMW, the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop. This year is no different. As described on TerminalFour’s Web site:

TERMINALFOUR is once again a sponsor of one of the UK’s premier events for institutional web management teams – IWMW. The event takes place at Northumbria University on the 16-18th of July 2014.

IWMW has grown into a unique forum to share best practice, hear about new developments and discuss their relevance with peers. The theme for this year’s conference is ‘Rebooting the Web’. The conference will explore what ‘reboot’ means for web teams. 

Higher Education Web Survey

In return for the financial support for the event I am happy to highlight TerminalFour’s current Higher Education Web Survey. As described by Laura Murphy, Head of Client Relations and Support:

If you work in a web, content, marketing, communications or senior management position in higher education I would be delighted if you could please take 5 minutes to complete our Higher Education Web Survey. You will be automatically entered into a draw to win €/$/£100 Amazon voucher for your troubles and will be among the first to receive a detailed report of the findings of this survey.  We’d also appreciate if you would share the survey – http://surveysandforms.com/e517uy93-67ufh69

If you are a customer of TerminalFour I am sure they would welcome the opportunity to chat with you at the IWMW 2014 event.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Guest Post: Building Cost-effective, Flexible and Scalable Education Resources using Google Cloud Platform

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 May 2014

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop takes place in Newcastle on 16-18 July. The workshop fee is only £350, which includes 2 nights accommodation.In a series of guest blog posts speakers at the forthcoming IWMW 2014 event have been providing an introduction to their talks in order to stimulate interest in their ideas and solicit feedback and comments prior to the event – an example of ‘flipped lectures‘ which can provide opportunities for more considered reflections on new ideas provided at a conference.

In today’s guest post Sharif Salah, Senior Systems Engineer at the University of Portsmouth introduces his talk on “Building cost-effective, flexible and scalable education resources using Google Cloud Platform”.

Sharif will give his plenary talk on the second day of the IWMW 2014 event, from 09.00-09.45 on Thursday 17 July 2014.


Building cost-effective, flexible and scalable education resources using Google Cloud Platform

This will be my first time attending the IWMW event, and I’m grateful to fellow speaker Martin Hawksey who highly recommended the event to me. I’m excited and fortunate to be both attending and speaking this year. I first met Martin in 2012 at the annual European Google Apps for Education user group meeting #GEUG12 where we were also both speaking. At that time I had been working with Google Apps for a little over three years and there was a sense that the Higher Education community was growing relatively comfortable with the principles and concepts behind Software as a Service (SaaS).

In fact my colleagues and I at the University of Portsmouth had begun to explore the use of other types of cloud technology to extend the capabilities offered by the Google Apps services. For example, we built a largely cloud-based student portal primarily using Google Sites and then used Google App Engine to provide bespoke functionality such as the delivery of assessment results, that was highly specific to an education context and wasn’t readily available as part of Google Apps. In 2012 Google App Engine was often described as a Platform as a Service (PaaS) that allowed developers to deploy application level code without having to worry about the burden of looking after the underlying infrastructure. Today Google App Engine is part of a growing collection of tightly integrated services that make us Google Cloud Platform and include additional services for storage, compute and data analysis.

I’ve continued to build on my knowledge of Google Cloud Platform and earlier this year it led to Google awarding me entry into the Google Developer Experts (GDE) program for 2014. A large part of our activities as GDEs relates to both community engagement and public speaking, and I spend a lot of my time volunteering help with colleagues from both the education and business communities make the most of their introduction to the cloud.

One big shift I’ve observed in recent months within the cloud community is that the model I describe above with clear demarcation between SaaS, PaaS and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) layers is hindering the way that we build and architect our IT services in HE and other large enterprise environments. All too often I find that developers try to shoehorn their requirements into one model or another. However it’s often the case that one layer of the cloud model doesn’t provide enough flexibility, at other times it comes at the cost of too high a management overhead. Google Cloud Platform is helping to define a new way of working across cloud boundaries and this in itself presents us with new challenges as we try to learn to use the new tools effectively. One big theme of my talk will be to share my experience of working across these layers in the process of building hybrid cloud solutions.

Perhaps more importantly for this audience I also look forward to the opportunity to share some of the work we have undertaken at the University of Portsmouth to build new services for our students that might not have previously been possible or practical prior to the availability of cloud services. Over the past year we’ve experimented with the use of Chromebooks for exams, Google Compute Engine to deliver Linux resources for teaching and research as well as the operational use of Cloud Storage for the delivery of content as part of student-facing services. Higher Education is a unique environment that brings with it challenges and opportunities that often don’t apply to the world of business and this is particularly true of cloud services.


Biographical details

Sharif SalahSharif Salah has worked with Google technologies since early 2009 when he began a role as a Google Apps technical lead in Higher Education. Along the way this has given him the good fortune to be involved in evangelising extensively and affecting change and progress on the adoption and integration of Google Apps, Cloud Storage and App Engine both internationally and locally. More recently he has become immersed in and advocate on Google Cloud Platform, open source software as well as mobile app development and strategy.

Sharif is a frequent public speaker and spends time working with both education and startups on making the most of their move to the cloud. He is a Google Developer Expert for 2014 and a Google Qualified Developer for Google Cloud Platform.

Contact details:


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Accessibility for E-learning: What We Can do Today and in the Future

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21 May 2014

The Cetis 2014 Conference: Building the Digital Institution

The theme for the Cetis 2014 conference is “Building the Digital Institution“. As described in the conference abstract:

Each year the Cetis conference provides a unique opportunity for developers, learning technologists, lectures and policy makers to come together to discuss recent innovations in the domain of education technology. This year’s conference focuses on the digital institution and explores how technology innovation can support and develop every aspect of university and college life, for teachers and learners, researchers and developers, service directors and senior managers.

The conference will open with a keynote talk from Phil Richards, the Jisc Chief Innovation Officer. The closing talk will be given by Audrey Watters, a Technology Journalist. If you’d like to hear more about Audrey’s talk a 60 second interview ahead of #cetis14 has been published on the Cetis blog.

Parallel Session: Building an Accessible Digital Institution

Abstract for the accessibility session at Cetis conference. Full details at http://www.cetis.ac.uk/2014-cetis-conference/building-accessible-digital-institution/ Although the two plenary talks will provide a shared context for participants at the conference the most important aspect of Cetis conferences has always been the parallel workshop sessions.

One important aspect to consider when looking to build the digital institution is to ensure that the digital institution is an accessible institution.

In the early days of the development of Web-based learning environments the Web accessibility content guidelines (WCAG) developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) were felt to provide a framework for the creation of universally accessible Web resources and services.

However we now know that the development of accessible Web services is more complex than simply following a set of guidelines. As summarised in the abstract of a paper on “A challenge to web accessibility metrics and guidelines: putting people and processes first

This paper argues that web accessibility is not an intrinsic characteristic of a digital resource but is determined by complex political, social and other contextual factors, as well as technical aspects which are the focus of WAI standardisation activities. It can therefore be inappropriate to develop legislation or focus on metrics only associated with properties of the resource.

But if institutions need to look before WCAG guidelines, what should they be doing? In the parallel session on Building an Accessible Digital Institution myself and Andy Heath will try to provide answers to this question.

In the first half of the half-day session we will review the limitations of the WCAG approach and describe how the BS 8878 standard, with its focus on policies and processes, seeks to address these limitations. We will explore how BS 8878 can be used in the context of e-learning.

In the second half of the session we will look at new developments, models and ways of thinking about accessibility.

We will welcome brief case studies from participants at the session who may be working in this area.  Please get in touch if you would like to contribute.

Note that registration details for the Cetis conference are available on the Cetis web site.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Accessibility, Events | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Guest Post: Wake Up and Face the Digital Reality

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 20 May 2014

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop takes place in Newcastle on 16-18 July. The workshop fee is only £350, which includes 2 nights accommodation.In the first guest post provided by a plenary speaker at the IWMW 2014 event Hiten Vaghmaria, Head of Digital Development at the University of Westminster, asked “Planning work: How can technology help the Workload Allocation process?“.

In today’s guest post Paul Boag, co-founder of the digital agency Headscape and regular speaker at IWMW events, urges those working in institutional Web management teams to “Wake Up and Face the Digital Reality“. Paul will give a plenary talk on “Digital Adaptation: Time to Untie Your Hands” on the opening day of the IWMW 2014 event, from 15.45-16.30 on Wednesday 16 July 2014.


Wake up and face the digital reality

IWMW 2014 programme

The opening day at IWMW 2014 provides talks from experienced speakers from the commercial sector including one from Paul Boag.

It’s time for us to face an uncomfortable reality — the way we are approaching digital is not working. I am not talking about how our institutions are approaching digital, although there are problems with that. I am talking about how we approach it as digital specialists. We are failing our organisations and feeling frustrated in our jobs.

We see so much potential. But if we continue to follow our present path, we will not fulfil our potential.

Our digital vision won’t succeed

We all share a similar vision for the future of digital and education. A day when students have a joined up, integrated digital experience. From their first encounter with a university until they are a well established alumni.

We talk of augmented reality apps to help freshers find their way around campus. E-learning environments that widen the reach of the university. Student portals that save users time and the institution money. Unfortunately, this vision is never going to happen if we continue working the way we are.

At the moment every step is a battle. We fight management, get resources, navigate committees, deal with politics and resist scope creep. By the time we succeed in putting one part of our vision in place it has become out of date. We complete one redesign just in time to start the next.

We need to adopt a different approach.

Our tactics have failed

Many of us have resigned ourselves to “the reality of university life”. We work the best we can within the system, making small incremental changes. We hope that one day, somebody with authority will realise how broken the system is.

We hope that maybe this will be the last redesign of the site, with management realising the need for ongoing evolution. That this time governance will be just as important as a new visual appearance.

We spend our days addressing symptoms. We struggle to stop yet another pointless mobile app or unnecessary microsite. We endeavour to set standards and bring order. But never do we address the fundamental problem. We never try and fix our organisations.

After all is beyond our pay grade. That has to come from the executive. But how are they going to know what needs doing? How are they going to even recognise the problem? They are not digital experts.

We fear moving beyond addressing symptoms because it means sticking our heads above the parapet. It means risking stepping on somebody else’s shoes. Most of all it means venturing into areas that we are not experts in.

But here is the thing — nobody is an expert in this kind of digital transformation. It’s new and scary but sooner or later things will have to change.

What it does offer is a unique opportunity that we must grasp.

The opportunity of digital transformation

Digital transformation has crept up the agenda of both public and private organisations. From the British Government to Starbucks, organisations are restructuring for the digital age. These high profile digital projects provides us with a unique opportunity to do more than treat the symptoms.

Now is the time to show management the barriers that prevent your institution adapting to digital. No more working within the constraints imposed on you. Challenge the operating procedures of the past and become agents for change.

Digital transformation projects in well known organisations gives us a precedent. But, we still need to present an attractive vision that gets the executive on board.

Forming an attractive vision for change

As digital professionals we are often bad at communicating the need for change. We talk about user requirements, frustration with organisational structures and the need for speed. But the truth is management don’t care about things like that. They don’t care because they cannot see the connections to things that matter to them.

If we want to see change happen in our institutions we need to speak in terms management care about. We need to help them make the connections. We can do this by focusing on three areas:

  1. Opportunities that will benefit the institution.
  2. Threats that could disrupt the status quo.
  3. Possible cost savings.

Let’s look at each in turn.

Highlight opportunities

Management are always looking for new opportunities. In the case of senior management that is opportunities that benefit the whole institution.

For example, don’t waste your breadth talking about the need to make your website mobile friendly. Instead talk about how a mobile friendly website will help attract overseas students from Asia. These students are valuable to the institution and rely on mobile devices. Use data to backup these claims and you have a compelling case.

Middle management are a bit trickier. They don’t care so much about the bigger picture. Instead they are more focused on their own position and influence.

Moaning about their blinkered vision does not help. Recognise they are in a vulnerable position and work hard to present arguments that make their lives easier.

Take for example forming a digital transformation team. This often involves consolidating staff from other departments. Soften the blow by suggesting secondment rather than a permanent move. You might even suggest this is only for a limited time. Anything to prevent managers feeling that you are stealing their staff. They will interpret this as an attempt to undermine their position.

Try suggesting to management that they want somebody on the digital transformation team. This will ensure they have somebody representing their ideas on the ‘inside’.

Use threats

Another powerful weapon in your arsenal is fear. Large institutions are reluctant to embrace new opportunities. They don’t see a need to change what has worked so well in the past. But if you can prove that past tactics will no longer work they will respond to this threat.

Spend time talking about the threats to the higher education sector. Competition from educational startups, shifts in student expectations, changes in student behaviour. The list could go on.

Reference sectors that have been decimated because they were too slow to act when change came. Talk about how the music industry had a clear sign that things were changing when Napster arrived, but how they failed to act. Apple stepped in with iTunes and HMV and Tower Records went out of business. Also reference stories like Kodak, Blockbusters and many newspapers. There are no shortage of stories that show the cost of failing to adapt.

The key here is demonstrating that not acting will lead to disaster. Change is coming anyway. Those who fail to adapt will become extinct.

Focus on cost savings

Finally, talk about cost savings. Money talks, even in a large institution like a university. At the moment most universities are inefficient in the way they manage digital assets. Each part of the organisation is doing its own thing. If you can show how a single approach to digital can save money it will get the executives attention.

I recently helped a higher education institution put together a case for digital transformation. As part of that I met with a member of senior management to explain why this needed to happen. We covered a lot of ground, but one simple argument won the day. We calculated that to redesign all school websites using the current approach would take seven years. If we implemented a transformation plan that figure would be closer to seven months. We could achieve this by restructuring how things worked. There were no extra costs. This simple argument of more results for the same money was enough to tip the balance.

Talking the language of management will get their attention. But, highlighting threats, opportunities and even cost savings is not enough. You must also present a clear plan for change.

Providing a clear vision

Let’s imagine for a moment that you have persuaded management that change needs to happen. That the way you currently work is failing and they give you free reign to change. What would you do?

Often we moan about the current state of affairs, but lack a clear vision of how we want things to be. We focus too much on fixing the immediate problems with our process, rather than looking at the bigger picture.

Lets take a moment to consider what our roadmap for change might look like. The first step is to form a digital transformation team.

Form a digital transformation team

Most public institutions have expertise scattered across the organisation. They have web developers, IT specialists, content creators, photographers. Often they have all the skills they need, but they are not working together.

Step one is to bring these people together into a digital transformation team. Notice the name I have chosen. There are two parts to it:

  1. Digital: The implication is that this is more than the web. You cannot consider social media, the web, email or mobile apps in isolation. They are apart of one whole.
  2. Transformation: This is not a service team. It doesn’t exist to serve other departments. Its mandate is to change working practices across the institution.

This team should not support the ongoing maintenance of existing digital assets. If things are going to change, updates and fixes cannot distract them. Too many web teams spend the majority of their time providing support for the existing site. Form a separate support team for that job and put new development projects on hold.

Once the digital transformation team is in place, start looking at customer requirements.

Map customer journeys

Any digital transformation project has to start with the user. For too long institutions approach to digital looked inwards. They focused on what it was they wanted to say. This led to a proliferation of content. Many institutional websites run into hundreds of thousands of pages.

One of the best ways to break this thinking is to focus on user needs. This provides an opportunity to rebuild digital assets from scratch. No more porting content from the old site to the new.

Mapping the customer journey identifies user goals when interacting with an institution. They outline the various touch points users use to achieve those goals.

Some argue that as an institution they already have a good idea how users behave. But, behaviour has changed since the arrival of digital. It is important to step back and understand exactly how things have changed.

Customer journeys help show that much of your website’s content is not required. They also help identify organisational problems. For example, they show how many departments prospective students have to deal with. Unfortunately these departments rarely present the same message. Customer journeys shows that to serve the needs of students you may have to make organisational changes.

With a clear idea of who your customers are and what they want to achieve it is time to move onto the prototype stage.

Build a prototype

When the Government Digital Service (GDS) began its digital transformation project it started small. It took a handful of people and built a prototype site. This site only encompassed the first few levels. It then deep linked into existing content on other government sites. This became known as alpha.gov.uk and we can learn much from this approach.

First, it allowed the government digital team to bypass the normal sign off process. Because they were only creating a prototype they didn’t need to get approval for every part. Some higher education institutions have adopted this approach with dramatic results. One institution even achieved design sign-off in less than two week!

Second, it allowed them to show other stakeholders what the future might look like in a much more tangible way than a written report. When people could see the possibilities in a working site they were much more inclined to listen.

Finally, building a prototype allowed the team to gather real data about user behaviour. This helped them to build a compelling case to support their new approach. It was no longer about opinion but rather hard numbers.

Form a digital framework

Digital transformation projects should lead to the creation of a digital framework.

This digital framework consists of guides, policies and processes needed to support the new way of working. They outline what needs doing and methods for achieving those goals.

Although this framework will vary between organisations, typical elements might include:

  • Key performance indicators.
  • User personas.
  • Top tasks.
  • Design pattern library.
  • Content style guide.
  • Accessibility policy.
  • Business objectives.
  • Content management policy.
  • Responsibility assignment matrix.
  • Analytics dashboards.
  • Working processes.
  • Service standards.

This framework is like the GDS service manual. It provides the institution with a pattern for working on digital projects. The digital transformation team should use this pattern. But other internal teams and even third parties should also work within this framework.

In short the digital framework helps educate colleagues about best practice.

Educate and disband

The primary role of the digital transformation team is to bring about organisational change. This will only happen through a programme of education.

What must not happen is for the digital transformation team to become yet another silo in the organisation. It needs to engage with colleagues across the organisation at every level. The aim should be to help them better understand the role of digital.

The best analogy for this role is that of Chief Electricity Officer in the 1900s. The arrival of electricity was changing business, but most organisations were unsure how to use it. Their solution was to appoint Chief Electricity Officers to help them make the transition.

Today the idea of a Chief Electricity Officer seems absurd. Electricity is ubiquitous and none of us would be able to do our jobs without it. Yet, at the time they needed somebody to show them the way. Somebody to help them make that transition. We don’t have Chief Electricity Officers today because they did their job in the 1900s.

In the same way, the job of a digital transformation team is to make the use of digital ubiquitous across the organisation. Their ultimate aim is to become redundant, with digital embedded in the DNA of their institution.

Maintaining this aim is essential. One day we will no longer need digital transformation teams. Transformation is a finite process.

This goal is important for two reasons. First it makes it clear that the aim is to empower others to use digital, not manage it in a single team. Second, it helps reduce the political backlash associated with the creation of a new team. Some middle management will feel threatened by having their team members and areas of authority taken away. Knowing it will not be forever maybe of some reassurance.

How long we will need digital transformation teams will depend. But, if one day they are not disbanded then they have failed. Failed to change their institution’s mindset from thinking of digital as a bolt on to digital being ubiquitous.


About the author

Paul BoagPaul Boag has been working with the web since 1994. He is now co-founder of the digital agency Headscape, where he works closely with clients to establish their web strategy.

Paul is a prolific writer having written Digital AdaptationWebsite Owners ManualClient Centric Web Design and numerous articles for publications such as .net magazineSmashing Magazine and theeconsultancy.com.

Paul also speaks extensively on various aspects of web design both atconferences across the world and on his award winning web design podcast boagworld.

Posted in Guest-post | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

The Plenary Talk as an Opportunity for Hands-on Activities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 May 2014

Traditional Lecture must DIE!

10 reasons to ditch lecturesThe “Traditional Lecture must DIE” argued Phil Root in a (err) TEDx lecture in September 2012. In the video he cited research which suggested that students learning is more effective when active engagement techniques are provided (5 minutes into the video).

Last Thursday an article in the Guardian’s Higher Education Network gave “Ten reasons we should ditch university lectures“.

Currently there have been 367 comments made to this article. If you have an interest in the relevance of lectures in teaching you may wish to contribute to the discussions. However my interest is in the effectiveness of plenary talks at conferences. A question I’d like to address is “Can we make use of interactive techniques in large-scale lecture theatres?” including conferences used for professional development.

The Plenary Talk as an Opportunity for Hands-on Activities

At the UKSG 2013 conference I recall a plenary talk by Laurel Haak on ORCID: Connecting research and researchers. As flagged at the very start of the video recording of the talk Laurel invited those who had a mobile computer with them to register for an ORCID ID during the talk. “Here is the challenge to you” Laurel said 2 minutes 50 second into her talk “Anyone who has a computer and you don’t already have an ORCID identifier please take about 30 seconds to register for one“.

I have used this approach myself when talking about researcher IDs. Last week I spoke at the CILIP Wales 2014 conference and used this approach again, but this time to encourage participants to sign up for a Wikipedia account.

I was pleased that during the talk one delegate announced:

Inspired by to create Wikipedia account!!

I had announced that the talk would provide an opportunity for a CPD activity – I was pleased to be able to see evidence that this activity was successfully completed by at least one conference delegate.

Further Approaches for Encouraging Take-up of Wikipedia

Storify summary of cilipw14 twets about Wikipedia talkIn the opening talk at the conference, John Griffith, the Minister for Culture and Sport in the Welsh Government told the audience of the importance of the importance of gathering evidence of the ways in which librarians are engaging with their communities. He also encouraged Welsh librarians to “Make yourself heard!

Although I had planned the Wikipedia user registration activity, the inspirational opening talk made me wonder how I could adapt my presentation to relate to such political considerations. The theme of the CILIP Wales 2014 conference was “Making a difference: libraries and their communities“. In my presentation I argued that librarians who supported their users in use of Wikipedia, which included creating and updating Wikipedia articles would be a way of engaging with communities in an effective way in light of the popularity of Wikipedia. A show of hands confirmed that Wikipedia was not only popular with the users: the vast majority of the audience made use of Wikipedia with only one (brave!) lady admitting that she had never visited Wikipedia.

Gathering Evidence of Take-up of Wikipedia

But how might we gather evidence of use of Wikipedia by librarians, which might be used as evidence of how librarians are engaging in a rapidly changing information environment? In my presentation I suggested that after spending about 60 seconds in creating a Wikipedia account the next step should be to create a Wikipedia profile page and I gave examples of a simple profile and a slightly more advanced profile which might provide inspiration for a profile page for new Wikipedia editors.

Since the majority of the audience were librarians working in Wales I showed the Wikipedians in Wales page and highlighted two examples of profile pages: one in which the user is willing to share their interests and one in which the user chooses to remains anonymous. I noticed that the Wikipedians in Wales page currently contains 136 entries. Looking at the history of this page it seems that the version of the page in July 2005 also contained 136 entries. It seems that embedding the relevant [category] tag in user profile pages hasn’t taken off. If the hundred of so who were present on the first day of the CILIP Wales conference were to sign up for a Wikipedia account, create a user profile and include the following line in their profile

[[Category:Wikipedians in Wales]]

we would have significant evidence of take-up in Wikipedia in Wales.

Furthermore the Wikipedian librarians page currently contains 267 entries. If you are a librarian and have a Wikipedia account, why wouldn’t you add the following to your user profile:

[[Category:Wikipedian librarians]]

Reflections

I have created a Storify archive of tweets related to my presentation as this enables me to reflect on comments made. I particularly welcomed the comment:

absolutely agree with , if so many are using , it can’t be dismissed by info professionals, realise & engage

Audience at IWMW 2013I have given a number of Wikipedia sessions for those who wish to know more about editing Wikipedia. However such sessions are likely to attract only those who are already convinced of the value of Wikipedia. Of more importance, I feel, is being able to persuade sceptics or those who have not previously considered getting a Wikipedia account and updating Wikipedia articles or the reasons why updating Wikipedia articles is of particular relevance to information professionals and then to convert that moment of inspiration into actions: investing sixty seconds in creating a Wikipedia account and even spending a few more minutes in creating a user profile.

Traditional lectures won’t die, I feel. Especially as in today’s networked environment they can provide opportunities for the audience to be active during the lecture. And, of course, you don’t need mobile devices, Twitter and a WiFi network in order to interact with large audiences. As can be seen from the accompanying image taken at the IWMW 2013 event, you can engage with your audience in more traditional ways!


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

 

Posted in Events, Wikipedia | 2 Comments »

Top Wikipedia Tips for Librarians: Why You Should Contribute and How You Can Support Your Users

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 May 2014

Making a Difference: Libraries and their Communities

On Thursday 15 May I am giving an invited talk at the CILIP Cymru Wales Library and Information Conference 2014. The theme of this year’s conference is “Making a difference: libraries and their communities“. My contribution to this theme is entitled “Editing Wikipedia: Why You Should and How You Can Support Your Users“. In the talk I’ll be explaining why librarians and information professionals, whether working in academic or public libraries, should have a good understanding of Wikipedia and be able to support their users not only in consuming Wikipedia content but also in creating and updating Wikipedia content.

Top Tips for Librarians on Editing Wikipedia: Why You Should and How You Can Support Your Users

The top Wikipedia tips for librariansIn the talk I’ll be giving my top ten tips for librarians who wish to use Wikipedia to support their community. These are summarized below.

1: Understand why Wikipedia is important to librarians

In a talk entitled Wikipedia in the library – the elephant in the (reading) room? presented at the LILAC 2014 conference Nancy Graham and Andrew Gray pointed out a perceived problem: “The kids these days are reading too many encyclopedias“. However rather than regarding the popularity of Wikipedia as a problem librarians should welcome the opportunity this “perfect teaching moment” can provide. We can help students how to tell the good from the bad; how to think critically about online material and how they can engage with the means of production.

We should also be prepared to question what librarians and academic mean when they say “don’t”. The Wikimedia UK’s Expert Outreach page provides some example of the benefits of use of Wikipedia in education. For example in the Wikimedia UK Annual Review 2012-13 [PDF] Cameron Neylon, Public Library of Science, argued that:

If you’re serious about ensuring public engagement in your research then you need to make damn sure your work can be incorporated into Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the most important engagement channel for your research.

and in an article entitled “21st-century Scholarship and Wikipedia” published in the Ariadne ejournal Amber Thomas, a former JISC Programme Manager, described how:

Wikipedia is an illustration of the way that academic work needs to change to benefit from a more educated public, a more networked world, in an age of information abundance. 21st-century scholars should be working with it, not against it.

In light of the popularity of Wikipedia with the user community, it is suggested that librarians should gain an understanding of the value it can provide.

2: Understand how Wikipedia is being used in education

The Eduwiki (UK) 2013 conference was held in Cardiff on 1-2 December 2013. The event, the second EduWiki conference held in the UK, included case studies on use of Wikipedia in higher education and the schools sector. Two of the presentations were of particular relevance to librarians:

  1. Nancy Graham and Lisa Anderson outlined work at the University of Birmingham on Safe use of Wikipedia in the transition from school to University.
  2. Humphrey Southall’s talk on Introducing Students to Independent Research Through Editing Wikipedia Articles on English Villages described how “Each student on a large first year human geography course at the University of Portsmouth is assigned a different Wikipedia stub article, unedited for at least a year, about an English village. They are required to extend it “to provide a rounded description of the place and … an account of its historical development””.

In brief, librarians should seek to gain an understanding of the approaches being take to use of Wikipedia within the education sector. The

3: Gain a better understanding of the Wikipedia service

Librarians would be expected to understand advanced how search interfaces work in order to be able to support their user community. Similarly librarians should gain an understanding of the development of Wikipedia articles which can be seen from use of the View History option. The Talk page may also provide useful summary of discussions about the evolution and scope of Wikipedia articles.

4: Be willing to update Wikipedia articles

The entry for Ely in the Wikipedia article on Libraries in Cardiff states that:

Ely Library is due to undergo development Mid 2014, with plans to move into the Jasmine Centre on Cowbridge Road.

At some point during 2014 this will need updating. In addition to changes to the date this sentence doesn’t read very well – wouldn’t “Ely Library is due to undergo development by mid 2014” be an improvement? If you are a librarian or information professional should you take responsibilities for updating incorrect information and improving its readability, especially if such updates could be done in seconds?

5: Create a Wikipedia account

You can make updates to Wikipedia articles without having a Wikipedia account. But having an account and signing in when making updates has several advantages: as well as keeping a record of your contributions you need to be signed in in order to create new articles, join in discussions and have customised preferences.

6: Create a Wikipedia profile

lawsonstu rofileAlthough you do not need to create a profile page, such pages can be used to provide a summary of your interests and your involvement with Wikipedia. Creating a user profile can also provide an opportunity to learn Wikimedia markup language.

A good approach to creating your user profile is to browse existing user profiles and make use of the markup of one’s which appeal to you. For example Msnancygraham’s profile is a good example of a simple profile whereas Lawsonstu’s profile contains more advanced markup features, as illustrated.

7: Be ethical

When showing others how to use Wikipedia it’s not a good idea to encourage them to vandalise a page in order to demonstrate how quickly such updates are removed – remember that Wikipedia volunteers may have to remove such vandalism.

8: Be prepared for your contributions to be changed (but be willing to get involved in discussions on Talk page)

The fact that anyone can edit Wikipedia articles has been regarded as a weakness of the service but it is now increasingly being acknowledged as a strength. However you should be aware that updates that you make may be removed or new articles deleted. If you are thinking about making significant changes to an article it would be advisable to use the article’s Talk page to state your intentions.

9: Understand the Wikipedia principles

The reason that updates are removed or new articles deleted is likely to be due to a failure to observe the five fundamental principles by which the Wikimedia community operates. Wikipedia:

  1. is an encyclopedia
  2. is written from a neutral point of view
  3. is free content that anyone can edit / use/ modify / share
  4. editors should respect each other
  5. does not have any firm rules

In particular note that original research should not be published in Wikipedia articles. All research must come from published sources such as peer-reviewed journals and books; University-level textbooks; magazines, journals and books published by respected publishing houses; mainstream newspapers; etc. Also note that content should be provided from a neutral point of view:

  • If your viewpoint is in the majority, then it should be easy to substantiate it with reference to commonly accepted reference texts;
  • If your viewpoint is held by a significant minority, then it should be easy to name prominent adherents;
  • If your viewpoint is held by an extremely small minority, then — whether it’s true or not, whether you can prove it or not — it doesn’t belong in Wikipedia, except perhaps in some ancillary article.

10: Support others (and feel free to reuse existing materials)

Librarians will be well-positioned to support their users in making effective use of Wikipedia. This is particularly appropriate for the CILIP Wales conference in light of this year’s theme: “Making a difference: libraries and their communities“. As might be expected, the Wikipedia community is very supportive of openness and sharing so there is no need to design your training courses from scratch.

11: Don’t forget Wicipedia!

This post has provided ten tips for librarians wishing to support use of Wikipedia. Since the talk I will be giving will take place at the CILIP Wales conference I felt it would be appropriate to provide an additional top for Welsh librarians or librarians working in Wales: Don’t forget Wicipedia!

Slideshow

Note that the slides to be used in the presentation are available on Slideshare and embedded below:

Beyond the Presentation

Each year the Cetis conference provides an opportunity for developers, learning technologists, lectures and policy makers to come together to discuss recent innovations in the domain of education technology. This year’s conference, Cetis 2014, has the theme “Building the Digital Institution: Technological Innovation in Universities and Colleges“. In one of the parallel sessions myself and my colleague Simon Grant will be facilitating a half-day session on Open Knowledge: Wikipedia and Beyond. As described in the abstract:

Wikipedia is great resource for open education, but what challenges need to be faced to make it into an even more valuable educational resource? It remains the most significant encyclopaedic reference based in user generated content which seeks to develop an “open commons” based on consensus approaches and use of Wikipedia’s “Five pillars” principles which includes content being provided from a neutral point of view.

Participants with no experience of Wikipedia editing will be invited to create a Wikipedia user profile, and to understand the basics of creating and editing Wikipedia content. Experienced Wikipedia editors will have the option of sharing a lightning talk on what they consider to be its most significant challenges.

The session will go beyond the basic of editing Wikipedia articles and provide an opportunity for participants to address:

challenges include[ing] a skewed demographic of editors, and a culture that can too easily descend into edit wars, and conflict between “inclusionists” and “deletionists”. Can we envisage changes to make Wikipedia better, or that could seed a better alternative? Could aspiring editors be required to learn and prove their understanding of the governance principles before being allowed to edit? Can consensus process be trained? And would different approaches such as those taken by GitHub, the P2P Foundation, etc. help to improve the culture?

If you’ve an interest in going beyond the basics you may wish to consider attending the Cetis 2014 conference. Note that the online registration form is open for bookings.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Wikipedia | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Learning About Learning Analytics: Launch of the LACE Project Webinar Series

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 May 2014

The Value of Webinars for Professional Development

Last month in a post on “Video is now a ‘must have’ in Higher Education – but what are the implications for accessibility?” I cited a State of Video in Education 2014 report which described how “video has a significantly positive impact on all aspects of the student lifecycle, from attracting and retaining students to enhancing learning, boosting learning outcomes and building stronger alumni relations“.

In addition to its value in supporting student learning and recruitment video can now be used to provide professional development opportunities for academics and researchers. As described in a Jisc guide on Using videoconferencing and collaboration technology to reduce travel and carbon emissionsthe right technology can be a usable alternative to physical travel benefitting administrative, academic and research purposes“.

The Webinar definition provided by Webopedia explains “Short for Web-based seminar, it is a presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the Web using video conferencing software”. The article does not mention that the term ‘webinar’ is not popular in many circles as it feels somewhat contrived. However the use of networked technologies to enhance presentations, lectures, workshops and seminars should be appreciated by academics and researchers, especially those who are comfortable in making use of IT.

LACE Webinar on Learning Analytics and Learning Analytics Interoperability

LACE Project Youtube Channel

The EU-funded LACE project (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) is bringing together key European players in the field of learning analytics (LA) and educational data mining (EDM) in order to support the development of communities of practice and share emerging best practice.

The LACE project will be providing a number of face-to-face events including a half-day workshop session on Developing a Learning Analytics Strategy for a HEI at the CETIS 2014 conference.Such face-to-face events will be complemented by a webinar series which will be launched next week, on Tuesday 13 May 2014 starting at 13.00 BST.

If you are new to learning analytics interoperability a video recording of a short talk given by Adam Cooper, Cetis is available on the LACE YouTube channel.

Next week’s webinar, Big Picture of Learning Analytics Interoperability – LACE webinar, will explore the big picture for learning analytics interoperability and will ask questions such as “What are the main dimension of this domain?” and “Where do we find the low- hanging fruit?

Your Thoughts on Webinars

The LACE Webinar will make use of Google Hangouts on Air  which provides live streaming, storage of recordings on YouTube and management of audience interactions.

We welcome feedback on the technical environment we’ll be using as well as non-technical aspects of use of this technology.

If you’ve used Google Hangouts on Air previously, has the experience been useful or have you encountered difficulties? If you have not used Google Hangouts on Air what are the reasons for this? If may be that there have been no events of relevance to you, but if there are other barriers I’d like to hear about them.

Feedback can be provided as comments to this post. Alternatively feel free to use the online survey.

 

 

 

Posted in learning-analytics | Leave a Comment »

Guest Post: Planning work: How can technology help the Workload Allocation process?

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 8 May 2014

This year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop, IWMW 2014, takes place at the University of Northumbria. In light of funding changes this year’s event is ore closely aligned with institutional challenges. In today’s guest blog post Hiten Vaghmaria, Head of Digital Development at the University of Westminster, summarises a problem which all heads of departments will face: how they will allocate teaching, research and administration work to their staff though use of a model known as the Workload Allocation Model (WAM). Hiten will describe the approaches being taken at the University of Westminster at the IWMW 2014 event and will welcome feedback on these approaches. To start the discussion he invites those with an interest in this area to share details of the approaches you use within your institution.


Planning work: How can technology help the Workload Allocation process?

Talk by Hiten Vaghmaria at IWMW 2014Each year, heads of academic departments at universities across the country plan how they will allocate teaching, research and administration work to their staff, following a model known as the Workload Allocation Model (WAM). This crucial planning and resource allocation exercise is at the heart of running a successful teaching programme, and ensures that the institution can meet its strategic objectives, yet many universities run the process from basic spreadsheets. In the age of readily available web-based productivity services, are we doing enough to help our institutions plan their work?

There are many different ways of running the WAM, with one institution’s model invariably being different (albeit similar) to the next. The National Academic Workload Management Conference was held on this very subject in December 2013, where leaders from several Universities met to discuss the differences between their models. Whilst the focus for this conference was the model itself, there was some discussion around the mechanisms for collecting the information, and it’s clear that this will soon be a pressing issue for IT departments – if it isn’t already.

At the University of Westminster we’ve moved, within an unexpectedly short timescale, from a variety of different spreadsheets designed separately by each department, to one combined spreadsheet, to a prototype web-based system which is fully supported by the in-house team. It hasn’t been the smoothest of journeys but it has been a fascinating and challenging learning experience which has uncovered a host of issues, related to both technology and people, and we’re confident that a support network for those going through this process (or about to) would be enormously helpful.

As a first step, I’ll be hosting a discussion session on Friday 18th July at this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop, IWMW 2014, to discuss the ways in which institutions currently collect their WAM information, and ask how they might do so more efficiently. We’ll showcase some existing solutions and talk about how the process could be improved using the technology available to us as Web Managers and developers. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the following questions:

  • How does your University run the WAM?
    • What tools are used in this process?
    • What support is offered by IT?
    • What are the main concerns raised by Heads of Departments?
    • How could this process be made more efficient?
  • What other processes does this link up with (e.g. Timetabling, Module Costs, Transparent Approach to Costing (TrAC))?
  • Does it allocate work based on real hours, or use some form of proxy unit?

About the Author

Hiten VaghmariaHiten Vaghmaria is Head of Digital Development at the University of Westminster, where he leads a team responsible for the operation and development of web-based services for students and staff. Previously, Hiten has worked as a Service and Product Manager for the University of Edinburgh and the BBC.


About IWMW 2014

IWMW 2014, the 18th Institutional Web Management Workshop, will be held at Northumbria University on 16-18 July 2014. Details of the event programme are available. The three-day event costs £350 which includes 2 nights’ accommodation. Use the online booking form to book your place.

 

 

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Guest Post: Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 6 May 2014

In a recent post on “Preparing Our Users for Digital Life Beyond the Institution” I highlighted the need to ensure that academics had a digital identity which was not constrained to their current host institution. Earlier today Jonathon O’Donnell, a researcher at RMIT, Melbourne, Australia published a blog post entitled “Allow me to introduce myself” on The Research Whisperer blog in which he gives his thoughts on digital identity. This post is being republished on the UK Web Focus blog in order to encourage feedback on this important subject.


Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself

My university, like many others, is racing to embrace an open future. We are putting stuff into our repository as fast as we can. Each item has a unique identifier, like an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), so that we know exactly which book or paper we are talking about.

We are also encouraging staff to share their research data, where they can. We are working with the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), through their Cite My Data service, to make sure that these data sets also have Digital Object Identifiers.

Excitingly, these identifiers will link the papers, chapters, artworks, and (insert your favourite research output here) with the data sets. How cool is that? When I write my groundbreaking libretto, drawing on my amazing new data set, everybody will know exactly which dataset was used in exactly which libretto.

And everybody will know exactly which ‘me’ did it, because I’ll have included my ORCID ID, Scopus Author ID, Google Scholar ID, or my (insert your favourite researcher ID scheme here).

Everyone will know, that is, except for my university. My university will just have to guess.

Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m Jonathan O’Donnell. I’m not this Jonathan O’Donnell (although it would be really cool to work on the Arctic for the US National Parks Service). I’m certainly not this J. O’Donnell (I wish! He writes beautifully about digital humanities).

You might know me by my ORCID ID (0000-0001-5435-235X), or by my Scopus Author ID (23005925700), or even my Google scholar ID (3pvY_LgAAAAJ). If you know who that is, then you know who I am. Categorically. Unambiguously. Forever.

These three identifiers are examples of unique identifiers provided for free to academics. Admittedly, it is probably unlikely that you use identifiers like these day to day:

Hi, 3pvY_LgAAAAJ. How are you?

Not bad, thanks, nla.party-626227. Have you seen 0000-0001-5875-8744 around?

We don’t talk like that. Computers do. They do it so that we can disambiguate scholars of the same name. These sorts of identifiers are vital if you have variations to your name or change your name, lose your job, or move to a different institution (or country) or move between academic and #altac careers. I’m only a tiny researcher, so they are really important to me.

They are so important that I’m going to wait right here while you go and sign up for one right now. Go on – I’ll wait.

I don’t know what it is like at your university, but where I work, we don’t actually know who we are. We know what we publish, and we proudly tell the world about it. We know what data we collect, and are increasingly keen to share it with the world. But we don’t have a clue who we are. Or, to be more exact, my university doesn’t know who I am.

Unless you work at my university, you probably don’t know me as RMIT employee number 24323. That’s what my university knows me as. That’s all they know me as. They don’t know me as any of those other identifiers. At the moment, there is no easy way to link my external identifier (ORCID, Scopus, or Google Scholar) to my internal identifier, my employee number (e-number).

So, I’m having an identity crisis. My external identity is blossoming. It is becoming more and more intertwined as computers pick up these identifiers and I build cross-links between them. Meanwhile, my RMIT identity, the identity that pays my wage, is stagnant. External me is reaching out while internal me is stuck forever in its feeble e-number – limited, lost, dead. Go towards the light, e-number! Go towards the light.

It will take considerable work for my university to see the light. They will need to:

  • Decide that they should adopt an external identifier for all research-active staff.
  • Decide what identifier they should adopt.
  • Explicitly link that identifier to the internal identifier, preferably through our Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) server or similar technology.

Making policy is hard. On the face of it, this one should be a no-brainer. By linking internal employee numbers to an external identifier, my university would gain significant advantages:

  • We would encourage all our researchers to adopt an external identifier, which would be a good thing.
  • This would improve the profile of our researchers, in the same way that open repositories improve the visibility of papers and other outputs.
  • It would make it easier for our researchers to measure their performance using alt-metrics.
  • Most importantly for the organisation: it should make the collection of research statistics much easier. Given that we spend an enormous amount of staff time doing this now, that is a clear cost saving for the university.

If it is so smart to do this, why haven’t we done it already? Perhaps we are shy. I don’t think so.

Is it because we are allergic to things that we don’t control? It can’t be that either because we have championed external identifiers for a long time. I remember contacting my university library (probably 20 years ago) to ask for my first International Standard Book Number. I was so excited! In those days, the university library used to be the custodian of blocks of ISBNs and distribute them to staff upon request.

This is what I think it is: we’re allergic to these new technologies that we don’t control, blind to services outside the walls. Also, it is a bit hard to link to different external services, and to keep those links working over time. And it should be noted that identifiers like this are only relevant for staff who may be contributors to research, so they are not a universal solution. They won’t cover all staff. However, they will cover all staff with an academic output, which would be a lot better than the current situation.

Besides that, there needs to be a fight an evaluation of corporate solutions (à la Elsevier and Google) versus open solutions (à la ORCID), and whether the business case is worth the effort. For the record, I think that it is absolutely worth the effort, and that open beats corporate every time.

However it happens, I think linking to an external identifier is inevitable. When it happens, the triangle will be complete. When I write my groundbreaking libretto, which is built upon my wonderful data set, everybody will be happy.

  • People will know exactly what data I have drawn upon.
  • They will know exactly which research output I have created.
  • And they will know exactly who I am.

Everyone will know, including my employer. I will be able to stand up and be counted.


About Jonathan O’Donnell
Jonathan O'DonnellJonathan O’Donnell helps people get funding for their research. To be specific, he helps the people in the College of Design and Social Context at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. He loves his job. One day a week he does his own research into privacy, identity and transactions on the Internet. He likes that day, too, even when it makes his brain hurt.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Guest-post, Identifiers | 2 Comments »

Ensuring Discoverability of OA Articles in Hybrid Journals

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 May 2014

My talk at NASIG 2014

Consultancy Work

When I was offered the job as Innovation Advocate at Cetis with the agreement of the director I decided to work part-time so that I would have some flexibility for consultancy work.

I have just completed the first significant consultancy work, which was to give a presentation  on “Hybrid journals: Ensuring systematic and standard discoverability of the latest Open Access articles on behalf of the JEMO project at the NASIG 2014 conference.

The NASIG 2014 Conference

NASIG is an “[American] organization that promotes communication and sharing of ideas among all members of the serials information chain“. NASIG 2014, the 29th annual conference, which had the theme “Taking Stock and Taming New Frontiers“, took place in Fort Worth, Texas on 1-4 May 2014 and attracted about 360 delegates.

I gave my talk on Friday 2 May from 1.10-2.10.  In this post I will give a brief summary of the talk and the preceding talk which also addressed the issue of the discoverability (and management) of open access articles.

The Challenges of Finding Open Access Articles in Hybrid Journals

Articulating the Problem

Chris Bulock and Nathan Hosburgh gave a talk on “OA in the library collection: The challenges of identifying and managing open access resources” in a session which preceded my talk. Their slides are available on Slideshare and I have embedded them in this blog post. Their talk was based on a survey which sought to investigate current practices in the management of open access resources; identify the challenges librarians face and areas for improvement.

Hybrid OA is a nightmareI was particularly interested to note the comment they received in response to their survey that “Hybrid OA is a nightmare“.

They went on to summarise the responses they received to the question “What would make the management of OA resources easier?” The suggestion:

Harry Potter, the Elder wand and the help of Dobby – the free elf

brought a smile to the faces of audience. But this also provided me with an opportunity to use Harry Potter as a metaphor for describing the solution which has been developed by the JEMO project team to the nightmare problem of open access articles in hybrid journals.

Providing a Lightweight Solution

NASIG tweetsThe slides I used in my presentation are available on Slideshare and embedded at the bottom of this post. I will not attempt to summarise the entire presentation. Rather I will summarise the proposed solution in a single sentence: “The JEMO team propose a solution based on providing Creative Commons licence information for Open Access articles which is made available in RSS feeds for hybrid journals”.

I was able to give a live demonstration of the JournalTOCs service which has provided a proof-of-concept of the value of this approach.

It should be noted that the slides provide screenshots of the steps used in discovering an open access article included in a hybrid journal.

After the presentation I captured the tweets made during that talk in a Storify summary, as illustrated.

Conclusions

I was pleased to carry out this work on behalf of the JEMO team and to renew contact with Roddy MacLeod. My attendance at the conference also provided an opportunity to hear more about developments in the Web archiving world in a particularly  interesting plenary talk on “From a System of Journals to a Web of Objects” given by Herbert Van de Sompel. I also found  Richard Wallis’s talk on The Power of Sharing Linked Data: Giving the Web What It Wants providing a useful update on Linked Data developments in the library world.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in openness, standards | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Why I’m Looking Forward to the Cetis 2014 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly on 30 April 2014

About the CETIS 2014 Conference

Audrey Waters will speak at the Cetis conferenceThis year’s Cetis conference, Cetis 2014, will be held at the University of Bolton on 17-18 June. The theme of this year’s event is “Building the Digital Institution“. As described on the conference web site:

This year’s conference focuses on the digital institution and explores how technology innovation can support and develop every aspect of university and college life, for teachers and learners, researchers and developers, service directors and senior managers.

In this post I will summarise the reasons why I am looking forward to the conference.

The Keynote Talks

There will be two keynote presentations at the conference. Phil Richards, the Chief Innovation Officer at Jisc, will open the conference and the conference will close with a talk by Audrey Watters, Education and Technology Journalist.

If you’ve not come acriss either of these speakers before you may like to watch video recordings of the speakers.

A few days ago Phil Richards facilitated a workshop session on Digital approaches to smarter working  and in this video interview he summarises the workshop and shares some ideas generated about how Jisc could work with universities.

Audrey Watters is described as “a journalist, a high school dropout, and a PhD dropout — though she did complete a Master’s degree in Folklore. As a freelancer writing about educational technology, her stories have appeared on NPR/KQED’s MindShift blog, in O’Reilly Radar, on Inside Higher Ed, in The School Library Journal, on ReadWriteWeb, and in the Edutopia blog”.

Last November Audrey gave a keynote talk on the second day of the Open Education Conference. I have to admit that I’d not heard of Audrey before but when I came across a tweet from Dave Kernohan, Jisc in which he told us to “STOP EVERYTHING .. #CETIS14 @audreywaters is keynote” I was intrigued. I therefore watched the recording of her talk which is available on YouTube and is embedded below.

The Parallel Sessions

The keynote talks at the conference will be worth listening to. But, for me, the parallel session at Cetis conferences provide the opportunity for greater interaction and discussions. This year there will be two sets of parallel sessions. On  Tuesday 17th June from 13.20-16.50 there will be sessions on

The next day, Wednesday 18th June, the following sessions will run from 09.15-12.45:

Unfortunately as I’ve agree to be involved with sessions on both days (Open Knowledge: Wikipedia and Beyond and Building an Accessible Digital Institution) I won’t be able to attend any other sessions. On the first day I would have liked to attend the sessions on Developing a Learning Analytics Strategy for a HEI (in light of my involvement with the LACE project) and to have address the question Open Education: a New World Order?. The sessions on Web Services or Cloud, Open Source or outsourced? (“..how we revamp our IT procurement processes in an environment where “build vs buy” looks quaint and simplistic given the range of options we now have to weigh up“) and Open Education: from Open Practice to Open Policy  on the second day also look interesting.

The Old Man and Scythe

Ye Olde Man and Scythe.
Image from Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under a CC BY-SA licence.

Opportunities to Network

Having opportunities to develop and maintain one’s professional networks is always important at conferences. I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed going to pubs which serve real ale at previous Cetis conferences (such as the Sacks of Potatoes near Aston University).

For this year’s event my colleague David Sherlock has helpfully written a blog post on Cetis Conference 2014 – fringe activities in which he suggests that:

History fanatics and beer drinkers will want to check out the Ye Olde Man and Scythe which is one of the the 10 oldest pubs in Britain. The 7th Earl of  Derby was executed here during the civil war, his ghost has appeared in the book Bolton’s most haunted and plenty of YouTube videos

I hope to get to this pub at some point during the Cetis conference!

Note that the registration fee for the conference is of £120 (although an early bird registration fee of £100 may still be available). This includes the conference dinner, although accommodation has to be booked separately.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

 

Posted in Events | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Biggest Barrier to WebRTC Adoption is Lack of Awareness!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 April 2014

How Appear.in Led Me To WebRTC

The appear.in Tool Back in January 2014 in a guest post published on Sheila MacNeill’s How Sheila See IT blog I reported on our experiments with the appear.in tool. This service provides a lightweight video conferencing tool. As I described in the blog post “unlike Skype, no software needs to be installed and unlike Google Hangouts you do not need to sign up to the service“.

Although the blog post and subsequent discussion on Twitter generated some interest in the appear.in service of potentially much more significance is the emerging standard on which the service is based: WebRTC.

WebRTC: The ‘Most Exciting Technology for 2014′

On 30 December 2013 the ESNA Web site announced “WebRTC ‘Most Exciting Technology for 2014′“. The context for this was the view expressed by Davide Petramala that:

2013 was the year of democratizing video, driven by the momentum of WebRTC; Microsoft integrating Skype in its office portfolio; Google launching hangouts; and GVC and Cisco announcing Jabber C. We are finally seeing ubiquitous video across devices that is available to the masses and [we are] moving from consumer use cases (ex: calling family abroad) to business use cases (i.e. group meetings, virtual customer events and customer presentations).

This bog post aims to provide answers to the questions “What is WebRTC?“, “How well is it supported?” and, the big question, “Will it take off?“.

About the WebRTC Standard

The latest W3C’s WebRTC 1.0: Real-time Communication Between Browsers Working Draft was published in September 2013 although an editor’s draft was published 10 April 2014.

The WebRTC Web site states:

WebRTC is a free, open project that enables web browsers with Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities via simple JavaScript APIs. The WebRTC components have been optimized to best serve this purpose.

and goes on to explain that the mission of the WebRTC organisation is:

To enable rich, high quality, RTC applications to be developed in the browser via simple JavaScript APIs and HTML5.

Support for the Emerging Standard

WebRTC architecture

Figure 1: WebRTC Architecture (from 

From the history of development of Web standards we have learnt that such standards need to have the support of mainstream browser vendors in order to gain market acceptance. In this case the WebRTC initiative is a project supported by Google, Mozilla and Opera (clearly the lack of support from Microsoft is a significant omission).

Support for Developers

In order to enhance take-up of the standard Web RTC is providing a number of resources which are targetted at the developer community including:

As well as a number of discussion channels:

Note the architecture of WebRTC is shown in Figure 1 (taken from http://www.webrtc.org/reference/architecture).

WebRTC browser support

Browser support

WebRTC is supported in the following browsers on desktop PCs:

  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Opera

In addition these browsers also support WebRTC on the Android platform.

Commercial Interest in WebRTC

The WebRTC Global Summit was held in London on 1-2 April 2014.The summary for the event described:

Bringing together leading telcos, mobile operators, OTT/VoIP players, web developers, analysts, regulators and key enterprise players from across the world, WebRTC Global Summit will cover all the key issues in detail from a uniquely commercial and strategic perspective through a mix of incisive keynote presentations and debate. This standalone, single-stream, two-day event will also evaluate the technology’s impact on the industry, asking to what extent will WebRTC revolutionise the communications industry as we know it?

It should be noted that tickets for the event cost up to around £2,000 (although significant discounts were available).

Opportunities and Risks

WebRTC's barriers to adoption

Figure 2: Biggest Barriers to WebRTC Adoption

Since WebRTC is being developed and promoted by significant Web browser vendors (Google, Mozilla and Opera) and we are beginning to see an interest from the telecommunications sector there is evidence to suggest that this may be an important standard to monitor.

However one of the most significant risks appears to be the lack of involvement in the standardisation process from Microsoft and Apple (the WebRTC Outlook 2014 suggests that lack of awareness of WebRTC is the most significant barrier to adoption, followed by lack of support by Microsoft and Apple).

There are mixed messages regarding potential support for WebRTC in Internet Explorer and on the Apple platform.

An article published on Gigaom in August 2012 announced that Microsoft commits to WebRTC – just not Google’s version. As described in the article”Microsoft’s commitment to this kind of technology isa big deal for the future of Skype and other messaging applications“.

Meanwhile in November 2013 WebRTC World published an article with the reassuring title Don’t Worry; Apple Will Soon Support WebRTC which was based on the news that “Apple has started to attend W3C WebRTC Working Group meetings“.

More recently (February 2014) in “An Open WebRTC Letter to Satya Nadella and Microsoft” Phil Edholm, President & Founder, PKE Consulting encouraged the new Microsoft CEO to support WebRTC since “WebRTC is going to be as big as is being forecast (6.2B WebRTC devices by 2016), why risk giving users another reason to get Chrome or Firefox?“.

Conclusions

In the list of biggest barriers to adoption of WebRTC it was interesting to note that lack of standards or developers or limited features of the standard were not regarded as significant barriers. This article aims to address the lack of awareness barrier by ensuring that the higher education community is made aware of the emerging new standard. However the uncertainties of support by Microsoft and Apple are likely to inhibit take-up of the standard across not only the higher education community but the wider market place. Developments to WebRTC will continue to monitored and news of any significant changes in the current stances taken by Microsoft and Apple will be published on this blog.

In addition comments on WebRTC are welcomed. Is anybody currently using it?


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in standards | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Capturing the Conference Buzz: #LILAC14 as an Example

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 April 2014

About the LILAC 2014 Conference

Storify summary of LILAC 2014 conference tweetsLast week I attended the LILAC 2014 conferenceLILAC is the Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference and this years event was held at Sheffield Hallam University.

This was the second time I’ve attended the event. Last year I gave a talk on “When Staff and Researchers Leave Their Host Institution“. This year I provided a poster on “Preparing our users for digital life beyond the institution” which described follow-up work based on a survey on institutional polices on support for Cloud services. However my main activity at the conference took place on the first day when I ran a has-on session on “Getting to Grips with Wikipedia” and helped support LILAC’s first edit-a-thon on “Improving the Information Literacy Entry on Wikipedia“.

What Did People Think of the Conference?

I enjoyed the conference but unfortunately had to leave early on the final day. However since there were enough people at the conference who were using Twitter to share their thoughts on the various sessions I was able to view the summaries on my train journey home.

I have found that Twitter can be a valuable tool for getting feedback when running workshop sessions. For example the tweets which were posted during a Wikipedia Editing Workshop session I facilitated last year at the SpotOn 2013 Conference were particularly useful as this was the first time I had led a Wikipedia editing session. I was able to view a Storify archive of the tweets after the event and, in particular, observe the timings when participants had created their Wikipedia profile page. Without that information I would not have known (or remembered) that participants were able to create their profile in 30 minutes.

In the case of the #LILAC14 tweets it seemed to me that it would be interesting to see the tweets which were posted by conference participants after the conference had finished and they were willing to share their reflections on the event.

I have therefore created a Storify summary of reflective tweets about the LILAC 2014 conference.

It was interesting to observe the comments made by people who had attended their first LILAC conference:

Still buzzing from attending . A great first time experience. Hope it won’t be my last. Copious notes and ideas. Thanks everyone

to see participants sharing the ‘conference buzz':

Returning to work tomorrow after attending , buzzing with ideas on how to make Harvard referencing fun and improving IL college wide

and to read about the value of the professional networking:

Met some really lovely people at can’t wait to put some suggestions into practice. Looking forward to next year already :)

I would echo these comments and give my thanks to the conference organisers.

Who, if Anyone, Should Archive Event Tweets?

I occasionally here people question the value of event tweeting or archive of event tweets. However if sufficient number of people tweet at an event there can be value in an archive of the tweets, such as the evidence for event organisers in the participants’ thoughts on the event, as illustrated above.

It should also be noted that event tweets may also be read by people who aren’t attending an event but may be interested in attending similar events in the future, as suggested by this tweet:

Catching up on awesome tweets. I’ve been hoping to go to this conference for years. Will make it my mission for next year!

Eventifier archive of LILAC 2013 tweetsHowever it should be acknowledged that archiving event tweets may require an investment of time or money. Some Twitter archiving tools are licensed – for example, Eventifier, which was used for archiving 2,968 tweets and 105 photographs from the #LILAC12 conference, costs from $99 to archive a single event.

Other archiving tools, such as Storify, may be free but will require time to be spent in manually curating tweets (as I did for the Storify archived described above).

Some tools are free and will automatically archive tweets with minimal configuration needed. An example of this is Twubs which was used to archive #LILAC14 tweets.

It therefore seems to me that event organisers should take responsibility for ensuring that there is an automated archive of event tweets. In addition event organisers may find it beneficial to ensure that they keep a manually created archive which can provide feedback on the event itself.

But for events in which there are large numbers of tweets it may not be reasonable to expect busy event organisers to curate all tweets, especially tweets posted about parallel sessions. What can be done in such cases?

Looking at the results of a Google search for “lilac13 tweets” I was interested to note the following Storify archives:

It seems that there were two Storify archives of a session held at last year’s LILAC conference. Perhaps the answer to the question “Who, if Anyone, Should Archive Event Tweets?” should be “Conference organisers will provide an automated archive of all event tweets and will encourage participants to curate an archive of tweets on areas of interest to the participants“.

What do you think?


Note shortly after publishing this post was published I came across two Storify summaries were exemplified my proposal: Ned Potter (@theREALwikiman) (who didn’t attend the LILAC 2014 conference) published a summary of Susan Halfpenny’s talk on “The Contextagon”, a tool for identifying what you might need to consider for a literature review and Clare McCluskey (@librarygirl79) provided a comprehensive summary of the three days of the LILAC 2014 conference.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Twitter | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Video is now a ‘must have’ in Higher Education – but what are the implications for accessibility?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 April 2014

” Video is now a ‘must have’ in Higher Education”

Video is a 'must have' in HEA recent  tweet from @OpenEduEU (described as ‘Open Education Europa portal is the gateway to European innovative learning’) caught my attention:

RT @RECall_LLP: Video now a ‘must have’ in Higher Education? Report by @Kaltura ow.ly/vQeFk #lecturecapture #elearning #edtech

The article was based on a survey which received 550 responses. The respondents were drawn from IT, digital media, instructional design, senior administration and faculty departments of K12 and HE worldwide who completed an online surveyed between January and March 2014.

Is seems that this is broad agreement that “video has a significantly positive impact on all aspects of the student lifecycle, from attracting and retaining students to enhancing learning, boosting learning outcomes and building stronger alumni relations“.

Note that the full report can be downloaded after completing a registration form.

It should be noted that the report has been published by a company called Kaltura which describes itself as “The leading video platform: video solutions, software and services for video publishing, management, syndication and monetization“. A cynic might suggest that the company has a vested interest in commissioning a survey which show significant interest in use of video in higher education. I feel that the implications of the survey findings are worth considering but it would be helpful to have evidence of the popularity of video usage in the UK higher education sector.

YouTube Use in Selected UK Higher Education Institutions

Back in October 2010 in a post entitled How is the UK HE Sector Using YouTube? I explained how “It can be useful for the higher education sector to be able to identify institutional adoption of new services at an early stage so that institutions across the sector are aware of trends and can develop plans to exploit new dissemination channels once the benefits have been demonstrated“.

The post provided benchmark details on YouTube usage statistics for what appeared to be 15 official UK institutional YouTube channels which were easily identifiable at the time, together with details for the University of Bath and the Open University.

A comparison of the usage statistics recorded in the initial survey with the current findings is given in Table 1.

Table 1: Growth of YouTube Usage Across Selected Official UK Universities from October 2010 to April 2014
Institution Total Nos. of Views No. of Subscribers
Oct 2010 Apr 2014 %age
change
Oct
2010
Apr
2014
%age
change
1 Adam Smith College  25,606 1,063,820  4,055% 39 1,758 4,408%
2 Cambridge University 1,189,778 7,200,870  505%  6,921  37,030  435%
3 Coventry University 1,039,817  2,904,121  179%  1,147  3,668 220%
4 Cranfield School of Management      20,607  459,196  2,128%      82  1,502  1,732%
5 Edinburgh University    236,884 1,759,174  643%  1,280  9,338 630%
6 Imperial College    353,355 2,682,861  659%     859  8,131  847%
7 LSBF (London School of
Business and Finance)
     96,212  676,297  603%     244  2,778  1,039%
8 Leeds Metropolitan University    589,659 1,675,534  184%     512  2,465  381%
9 Nottingham University    284,820 2,151,187  655%     596  7,038  1,081%
10 The Open University    392,720    872,706  122%  2,944  16,562  463%
11 Said Business School,
University of Oxford
   660,541  1,545,331  134%  1,808  6,598 265%
 12 St George’s, University of London    338,276  1,209,538   258%     825  2,650      221%
 13 UCL    287,198 1,491,114  419%     810  5,718  606%
 14 University of Derby    117,906  758,874  544%     106  1,144 979%
15 University of Warwick     90,608 439,492   385%     276  1,520 451%
TOTALS  5,722,987 26,890,115    370%  18,449  107,900 485%

The survey carried out in October 2010 also provided statistics for additional UK University YouTube accounts which were found. A comparison with the current findings is given in Table 2.

Table 2: Growth of YouTube Usage Across Selected UK Universities from October 2010 to April 2014
Institution Total Nos. of Views No. of Subscribers
Oct 2010 Apr 2014 %age
change
Oct
2010
Apr
2014
%age
change
1 University of Bristol     18,171     56,651     212%     27      83     207%
2 Coventry University (CovStudent) 1,036,671 2,904,121     181% 1,139 3,668     222%
3 RHULLibrary       3,847      8,000     108%     10      27    170%
4 Aston University      (89,080)      -  -  (132)  -   -
5 UoL International Programmes 74,017 1,522,574  1,957% 499 5,640 1,030%
6 University of Greenwich          9,254     388,501   4,098%      19    712   3,647%
7 Northumbriauni          6,226     389,268   6,104%      23    412   1,691%
8 Huddersfield University International study 24,195 76,373     216% 22 111 405%
9 The University of Leicester 246,986 2,304,959 833% 320 5,019 1,468%
10 University of Kent 26,996 178,207 560% 102 935 817%
11 Canterbury Christ Church University 25,439 60,755 139% 36 244 578%
 12 Open University     391,625    872,706   139% 2,936 16,557      464%
 13 University of Bath 252,850 675,769   167% 93 1,196 1,186%
TOTALS 2,116,277 9,438,244  346%  5,226  34,604 562%

Note that the channel for Aston University from the initial survey no longer exists. In order to provide comparable statistics the data from the initial survey has been omitted. Also note that the data in the tables was collected on 7 October 2010 and 20 April 2014.

Reflections

The tables provide evidence of the, perhaps unsurprising, popularity of video usage in the UK higher education sector.

It should be pointed out that this information is based solely on use of YouTube. Institutions are likely to make use of a number of other video delivery services (the University of Leeds, for example, has an official YouTube channel which has 246,989 views and 949 subscribers and also a Lutube video service which currently hosts 3,447 public videos, although no download statistics appear to be available). Based on the sample evidence it would appear that we can agree with the statement “Video is now a ‘must have’ in Higher Education“.

This will have many implications for the sector including the question of what video management and delivery tools should be used. But in this post I wish to focus on the accessibility implications of greater use of video resources.

Accessibility Considerations

Institutional Accessibility Policy Statements

In a recent webinar on ‘MOOCs and Inclusive Practice’  I gave a brief presentation on Accessibility, Inclusivity and MOOCs: What Can BS 8878 Offer?.

University accessibility statementIn the presentation I suggested that institutional accessibility policy statements were likely to be based on WCAG conformance. A quick search for accessibility policies available at http:///foo.ac.uk/accessibility helped me to identify two ways in which WCAG policies are used:

  1. The University is committed to ensuring the all web pages are compliant with WCAG guidelines
  2. The University will seek to ensure the all web pages are compliant with WCAG guidelines

But are policy statements such as (1) achievable in an environment in which significant use is made of video resources? Will all video resources used on institutional web sites be captioned? In light of the greater use of video resources, it would appear to be timely to revisit accessibility statements – it should be noted, for example, that according to the Internet Archive the policy statement shown above is unchanged since at least September 2009.

But would a policy statement of the type shown in (2) be appropriate? Such statement do appear to be very vague. Are there not alternatives between these two extremes?

The Potential for BS 8878

In  my presentation on Accessibility, Inclusivity and MOOCs: What Can BS 8878 Offer? (which is available on Slideshare and embedded below) I suggested that the sector should explore the relevance of BS 8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice, a British Standard which provides a framework in which appropriate policies can be determined for use in the development and deployment of Web products.

Due to the lack of time during the webinar it was not possible to discuss the details of how BS 8878 could be used in an elearning context. However at the Cetis 2014 conference on Building the Digital Institution I will be co-facilitating with Andy Heath  a session which will address the challenge of Building an Accessible Digital Institution. In this session we will “explore how the BS 8878 Web Accessibility Code of practice may address limitations of the WAI approach and see how BS 8878 may be applied in a learning context” and go on to “explore emerging emerging models of accessibility and developing architectures and technical standards“.

Note that the early bird rate (£100 for the 2-day event) for the conference is available until 1 May. I hope that those who have an interest in accessibility for elearning, as well as in the broad range of learning issues which will be addressed at the conference, will consider attending the event.  In the meantime I’d be interested to hear what your current policies and practices are for the accessibility of your elearning resources and, in particular, whether your practices reflect the policies. Feel free to leave a comment on this post.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Accessibility, Evidence | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Supporting Use of Wikipedia in the UK Higher Education and Library Sectors

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 April 2014

Accredited Wikimedia Trainer

Accredited Wikimedia trainer certificateYesterday I received a certificate which confirms that I am now an accredited Wikipedia trainer, after participating in the Training the Trainer workshop held in Cardiff on 1-2 February 2014. I am now a “Full Wikimedia Trainer” which, according to the Training the Trainers/Accreditation page, means that I am “Able to write and or deliver, Wikimedia training modules to a high standard“.

This level of accreditation covers support for ‘institutions’ which covers:

  • Bringing in contributors with specific professional expertise, often via events in their own workplace. This is a broad category, covering librarians, scientists, JISC programme managers and others.
  • Experienced Wikimedians with the necessary background knowledge of institutions and academic bodies
  • ‘Institutions’ covers specialist experience of working in or with GLAMS, schools, commercial companies or other specific institutions
  • Trainers will have specialist experience of specific strands of various ‘Institutions’
  • This accreditation will normally be in addition to ‘Technical’ training
  • Separate strands of ‘Institutions’ will probably evolve over time.

and ‘Wikimedia UK member development’ which covers:

  • Bringing in contributors with specific professional expertise, often via events in their own workplace. This is a broad category, covering librarians, scientists, JISC programme managers and others.
  • Experienced Wikimedians with the necessary background knowledge of institutions and academic bodies
  • ‘Institutions’ covers specialist experience of working in or with GLAMS, schools, commercial companies or other specific institutions
  • Trainers will have specialist experience of specific strands of various ‘Institutions’
  • This accreditation will normally be in addition to ‘Technical’ training
  • Separate strands of ‘Institutions’ will probably evolve over time.

As summarised below I am pleased that I will be able to make use of my Wikipedia knowledge and expertise in promoting its use within the higher education and library sectors over the next few months.

Forthcoming Events

Wikipedia Sessions at LILAC 2014

The LILAC 2014 conference takes place at Sheffield Hallam University next week, from 23-25 April. I will be running a session on Getting to Grips with Wikipedia: a Practical Session which will help the information literacy librarians attending the session to register for a Wikipedia account and learn about basic Wikimedia markup by creating or modifying their user profile. After this I am supporting a session on Improving the Information Literacy Entry on Wikipedia: LILAC’s First Edit-a-thon!

Talk on Wikipedia at the CILIP Wales 2014 Conference

Since I feel that librarians have an important role in encouraging use of Wikipedia and supporting users who wish to create and update Wikipedia content and not simply consume it I am pleased to have been invited to give a plenary talk on “Editing Wikipedia: Why You Should and How You Can Support Your Users” at the CILIP Cymru Wales Conference 2014 on “Making a Difference: Libraries and their Communities”.

Wikipedia Session at the Cetis 2014 Conference

Further downstream on 17-18 June 2014 at the Cetis 2014 Conference: Building the Digital Institution I will be facilitating a session on Open Knowledge: Wikipedia and Beyond. I’m particularly looking forward to this session as it will be my first tie at a Cetis conference as a Cetis employee. I’m also looking forward to work with my colleague Simon Grant for the first time. As described in the abstract for our session

The session presenters’ view of the challenges includes a skewed demographic of editors, and a culture that can too easily descend into edit wars, and conflict between “inclusionists” and “deletionists”. Can we envisage changes to make Wikipedia better, or that could seed a better alternative? Could aspiring editors be required to learn and prove their understanding of the governance principles before being allowed to edit? Can consensus process be trained? And would different approaches such as those taken by GitHub, the P2P Foundation, etc. help to improve the culture?

The session will raise awareness of the key issues with Wikipedia, and prepare participants for more effective use of Wikipedia as consumer and author, and perhaps even as reformer.

I hope these sessions will be of interest. Let me know if you’re planning on attending.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Wikipedia | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

LILAC 2014: Preparing Our Users for Digital Life Beyond the Institution

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 April 2014

Preparing Our Users for Digital Life Beyond the Institution

Jenny Evans, Maths and Physics Librarian, Imperial College London and myself have had a poster presentation accepted for the LILAC 2014 conference which will be held at Sheffield Hallam University on 23-25 April 2014. The title of the poster is “Are institutions preparing staff for digital life beyond the institution?” We had originally submitted a proposal for a symposium which would be based on a survey of institutional policies on digital literacy related to use of Cloud services and invite LILAC 2014 participants to discuss the survey and the implications of the findings. However the reviewers accepted the proposal as a poster which would focus on the survey findings. This blog post summarises the background to this work, outlines the findings of the survey and poses questions on the role of university libraries for preparing staff and researchers for use of networked technologies to support their professional interests once they have left their host institution.

Background

The background to this work was the presentation I gave at the LILAC 2013 conference entitled “When Staff and Researchers Leave Their Host Institution“. The short summary for the presentation provided the context for the talk:

In this talk Brian Kelly describes the challenges to be faced when, due to withdrawal of funding, one is faced with the challenge of continuing one’s professional interests when a local institutional IT infrastructure is no longer available.

The presentation was prepared whilst I was preparing for redundancy, following the announcement of the cessation of Jisc funding for UKOLN, my host organisation. As can be seen from the slides (which are hosted on Slideshare) I gave a personal account of the challenges to be faced when the IT infrastructure, the support services, the email addresses and the means for authenticated with Cloud services is about to be lost. However since I was an early adopter of a wide range of Cloud services I found myself in the fortunate position that I was not over-reliant on institutional IT services. I also had the time to migrate content and services so that I did not lose the ability to continue my work once I had left my institution. I should also add that since most of my content is licensed under a CC-BY Creative Commons licence there should not have been licensing barriers to my continued use of content I created. When I gave the presentation I asked if my comments on the importance of preparing members of staff and researchers with the skills and confidence to make use of Cloud services when they leave their current institution especially if, for example, they are being made redundant or their funding finishes and they wish to continue to make use of their professional skills. There seemed to be agreement that information literacy (or digital literacy) should encompass this area. Howe er there was also a recognition that none of the institutions represented in the session a year ago were addressing this area.

Surveying the Community

In light of last year’s presentation it was felt that it would be useful to provide a more comprehensive survey across the sector to determine the extent to which institutions’ informal literacy policies and practices address use of Cloud services and whether support is given for staff and researchers when they are about to leave their host institution. Jenny Evans, Maths and Physics Librarian at Imperial College London agreed to submit a proposal for the LILAC 2014 conference based on this work. We submitted a proposal for an hour-long symposium with the intention of using the findings to stimulate discussion and debate. However the proposal was accepted as a poster display so it will not be possible to address the implication of our work in a formal context at the conference. This blog post summarises the survey and the findings. Comments and feedback are welcomed.

The Survey

The survey was carried out using SurveyMonkey. An initial prototype was set up and modified in light of the feedback. The survey was launched on 3 March 2014 when it was announced on a number of mailing lists, both in the UK (the lis-infoliteracy and lis-link lists) and in the US and Australia. We are grateful to Michael Stephens who publicised the survey on his Tame the Web blog. The survey was also announced on this blog and was also mentioned in the CILIP Update magazine. The survey was closed on 17 March, having been open for a period of 2 weeks. The survey provided the following background information:

This survey aims to identify institutional policies and practices to support use of Cloud services by staff and researchers. Cloud services can be defined as ‘web-based software’ hosted in ‘the cloud’ (on web servers outside your institution). This survey is being carried out by Jenny Evans (Imperial College London) and Brian Kelly (Cetis, University of Bolton) to support a contribution for the LILAC 2014 information literacy conference. The aim is to identify current institutional policies and practices for staff and researchers before they leave their host institution (e.g. due to redundancy, retirement or to take up a new post) who wish to continue to make use of IT services and digital resources. The findings will be published in a poster on “Preparing our Users for Digital Life Beyond the Institution” to presented at the LILAC 2014 conference. Note: this does not cover use of cloud services by taught course students.

The Findings

We received 89 responses during the 2 week period. A poster has been prepared based on the findings which is illustrated (and is available from Slideshare). This post provides additional information. The majority of responses (54 or 63.5%) were from the UK with 20 (23.5%) from Australia, 11 (13%) from the USA and Canada and 3 from other countries. [85 responses; 4 respondents did not answer this question]. The vast majority of responses (80, 96.4%) were from staff based in libraries with 2 responses from researchers, 1 from IT Services staff and 6 from other departments. [83 responses; 6 respondents did not answer this question]. In response to the question “What forms of support are provided to staff and researchers in the use of Cloud services?” it seems a diversity of approaches are taken as shown in Table 1. [58 responses; 31 respondents did not answer this question].

Table 1: What forms of support are provided to staff and researchers in the use of Cloud services?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Formal face to face training courses 12
2 Formal online training courses 5
3 Documentation 10
4 Other online resources 11
5 User support (in case of queries) 23
6 Integration of Cloud services with in-house services 13
7 None 31
8 Other 11

We went on to ask “Who provides formal training and support for members of staff and researchers in the use of Cloud services?“. From the results given in Table 3 the most interesting observation is that the vast majority (66%) of respondents report that no formal training or training is provided. [56 responses; 33 respondents did not answer this question].

Table 2: Who provides formal training and support for members of staff and researchers in the use of Cloud services?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Staff Development Unit courses  0
2 Library courses 10
3 IT Services courses  8
4 Training from other providers?  2
5 Provision of documentation  9
6 Online support 12
 7 No formal training or support provided 37
8 Other (Further Information)  8

We sought a context to these questions when we asked “Does your institution have a formal information/digital literacy policy?” The findings are given in Table 3.

Table 3: Does your institution have a formal information/digital literacy policy?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Yes 19
2 No 24
3 Not sure 15

Since only 19 of the 89 responses (21%) have a (or are aware of) their institutional formal information/digital literacy policy the answers for the following questions will only be relevant to a minority of the respondents. We asked “If you have an institutional information/digital literacy policy, does it cover use of Cloud services?” and “If information/digital literacy policy, does it address the needs of staff and researchers who wish to continue using IT services when they leave the institution?“. The findings are given in Tables 4 and 5.

Table 4: If you have an institutional information/digital literacy policy, does it cover use of Cloud services?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Yes  6
2 No 18
3 Not sure 16
4 Further information   4

 

Table 5: If you have an institutional information/digital literacy policy, does it address the needs of staff and researchers who wish to continue using IT services when they leave the institution?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Yes  2
2 No 20
3 Not sure 17
4 Further information  4

We were interested in the extent to which institutions had institutional licences for Cloud services such as Google Apps for Education, Microsoft Live and Dropbox. The findings are given in Table 6.

Table 6: Does your institution have a formal institutional licence for Cloud services for use by your user community?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Yes – Google Apps for Education   7
2 Yes – Microsoft Live   2
3 Yes – Dropbox   1
4 No 19
5 Not sure 19
6 Other   3

The context for this questions was the potential danger that content hosted in a Cloud service managed by the institution may not continue to be available to the content owner after they leave their host institution. From the findings given in Table 7 it seems that content will not be accessible in this situation or the status regarding continued access is uncertain.

Table 7: Will access to content held on Cloud services continue to be available when staff leave the institution?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Yes, as access is available to their personal account  2
2 No, as access is coupled to an institutional account 18
3 Not sure 22
4 Other  7

Use of Cloud servicesThe survey provided an opportunity to understand current policies and practices taken regarding use of Cloud services. As can by seen from the findings in Table 8 and illustrated in the accompanying diagram there appears to be no consensus across the sector on policies and practices.

Table 8: Use of the Cloud services (if any) mentioned in Table 7
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Encouraged where such use is appropriate? 10
2 Supported, with help and advice provided?  9
3 Discouraged due to concerns regarding privacy, sustainability, etc. 13
4 No formal policy provided? 15
5 Policies devolved (e.g. IT and Library may have different approaches)?  1
6 Other  6

 

Table 9: When staff/researchers leave your institution do you provide any formal training/support?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Yes   2
2 No 36
3 Not sure   7

Reasons forlack of formal training/support?What are the reasons given for the lack of formal training or support to prepare staff and researchers for digital life beyond their current institution. When asking the general question why new areas of work are not being addressed there are a number of responses which might be expected including a lack of time; a lack of staff resources; a lack of relevant expertise or “it’s not our responsibility”. As can be seen from Table 10 and the accompanying image, in this case providing formal training in use of Cloud services for staff and researchers who are about to leave the institution is not the responsibility of the Library.

Table 10: If you do not provide any formal training/support, why not?
Ref. No. Options Count
1 Time   4
2 Staffing   5
3 Lack of expertise   4
4 Not our responsibility 28
5 Further information   9

 

Conclusions

The survey findings include additional responses which have not been mentioned in this blog post but which may provide further insights into institutional approaches to support for Cloud services, especially to support the life-long learning needs of staff and researchers. However for this post I will conclude by inviting responses to the following questions:

  • Do the findings reflect the policies and practices for your institution?
  • Would you agree that it is not the responsibility of library staff to provide such support and training?
  • If it is not the responsibility of the library, then who, if anyone, should provide such support?

If you have an interest in this subject and are attending the LILAC 2014 conference to be held at Sheffield Hallam University on 23-25 April 2014 I will be providing a poster display about would during the poster exhibition which will take place from 11.00-11.45 on Thursday 24 April. I’d be happy to chat.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in information literacy | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

IWMW 2014: Programme Launch

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 April 2014

IWMW 2014

IWMW 2014 home pageI am pleased to announce the launch of the IWMW 2014 Web site.

The year’s event takes place at Northumbria University on 16-18 July. As has been the case for the majority of the previous 17 IWMW events, this year’s event will last for 3 days.

The price for attendance at this year’s event is unchanged from recent years: £350 which includes two nights’ accommodation or £300 with no accommodation.

The event this year is being provided by myself, Jisc Netskills and Cetis.

IWMW 2.014: Rebooting the Web

The official title of this year’s event is “IWMW 2.014: Rebooting the Web“. The idea for the title came from a suggestion made during the feedback we received at IWMW 2013, when we asked participants for their thoughts on whether the event should continue in light of the cessation of Jisc core funding for UKOLN. The answer was unanimous: there should be a IWMW 2014 event but perhaps the event could benefit from a ‘reboot’.

Organisational changes, in particular the large-scale redundancies at UKOLN following from the cuts in funding, necessitated rethinking for how the event was to be organised.

Due to the Jisc financial support for the event in previous years we sought to ensure that the event provided an opportunity for Jisc services and development programmes were able to describe their activities. Although these sessions have been useful the funding changes provided an opportunity to ensure that the talks and the sessions were more directly aligned with the needs of those responsible for providing and managing large-scale institutional Web services.

A Summary of the IWMW 2014 Programme

Perspectives from Outside

We had been told that the event would benefit from talks by charismatic speakers with a proven track record of delivering talks at prestigious national and international events. Since it had also been suggested that we should look for insights from outside the higher educational sector the opening session, Perspectives from Outside, provides the opportunity to hear the opening talk from Tracy Playle, founder of HE Comms, an online social network for Higher Education communications and marketing professionals who regularly speaks at conferences and seminars in the UK, mainland Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. Tracy will share her reasons “Why you don’t need a social media plan and how to create one anyway”.

The other plenary talks on the opening day are provided by two regular speakers at IWMW who, based on the feedback we’re received, are always successful in stimulating discussion and debate.

Paul Boag has been working with the web since 1994. He is now co-founder of the digital agency Headscape, where he works closely with clients to establish their web strategy. Paul also speaks extensively on various aspects of web design both at conferences across the world and on his award winning web design podcast boagworld. Paul will give a plenary talk on “Digital Adaptation: Time to Untie Your Hands“.

Ranjit Sidhu (or Sid) is founder of statistics into Decisions (also known as SiD!).  Ranjit has worked at several Internet based companies, but has found his niche in analysis and helping clients understand what is going on in the internet ether and how to use that information to improve what they do. Ranjit, who is currently working with 15 UK universities, will give a plenary talk on “‘You are ALL so weird!’ University sector analysis and trends”.

I’m particularly pleased that IWMW 2014 will feature three speakers who not only have spoken at conferences around the world but also have a good knowledge of the higher education sector.

Institutional Case Studies

IWMW 2014 programmeHowever if high profile speakers form outside the sector are valuable in getting the event off to a good start, provide challenging insights and stimulating discussions, the main focus of the event is in providing an environment for sharing institutional practices. Therefore this year  there will be two plenary sessions on Institutional Case Studies which will feature presentations from institutional Web managers on “Building cost-effective, flexible and scalable education resources using Google Cloud Platform”, “Using the start-up playbook to reboot a big university website”, “Marketing is dead, long live UX”, “Adding Analytics to the University Portal” and “Allocating Work: Providing Tools for Academics”.

Technical Perspectives

No IWMW event would be complete, however, without sessions which explore the opportunities which technical developments can provide for the provision of institutional Web sites. This year the session on Looking To The Future features two plenary talks on  “Hyper-connectEd: Filling the vacuum by switching from blow to suck” and  “What Does The Data Tell Us About UK University Web Sites”.

Workshops and Birds-of-a-Feather Sessions

When the name “IWMW” was first used for the Institution Web Management Workshop series the final “W” was meant to signify the importance of participative sessions. Although the plenary talks provide a shared experience which enables all participants to hear about and learn from institutional case students and practices, technical developments and perspectives form outside the sector,  the parallel workshop sessions provide an opportunity for more active involvement and group discussions. This year’s workshop sessions cover a range of areas including the usability (“Making Personas Work”), content (“Reframing Content Strategy” and  “Learning to COPE – Create, Once, Publish Everywhere”), metrics (“Google Analytics For Beginners”) and technical sessions on “Rapid Development: Analytics reporting powered by Google Apps Scripts”, “Working with data.ac.uk: Creating your Institution’s OPD (Organisational Profile Document)”,  “WordPress as a CMS” and  “How to Buy Free Software”.

As well as these workshop sessions we will also be providing an opportunity for participants to organise their own birds-of-a-feather sessions.

Providing Value for Money

We are very aware of reductions in staff development budgets which institutions may now be facing. The feedback received at last year’s event showed that participants were very aware that the event did provide value-for-money, with a recognition that if the cessation of Jisc funding necessitated an increase in the cost of attendance this would be understandable.

However I am pleased to say that we have been able to keep the cost of attendance at the event down to the same price as last year. Indeed as shown in Table 1 we have kept that price at the same level over the past five years, with the exception of 2011 when the event was reduced to a 2-day event.

Table 1: Attendance costs at IWMW 2010-2014
Year 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
Cost
(including accommodation)
£350 £350 £350 £250 £350
Length 3 days 3 days 3 days 2 days 3 days

We are able to keep the prices down to a very affordable level due to a combination of the support of the event sponsors  and the willingness of the event speakers and facilitators to provide their sessions for free, in order to support the community.

We do still have opportunities for additional sponsors who would like to be associated with a successful event which is now in its 18th year. For further information please get in touch.

I hope to see you in Newcastle in July.

Posted in Events | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

ILI 2014: Call for Submissions Close on 11 April 2014

Posted by Brian Kelly on 7 April 2014

About ILI

ILI 2014 logoILI, the Internet Librarian International conference, is my favourite library conference. I’ve attended (and indeed spoken at) all but one of the conferences since it was launched in 2000. In recent years I’ve also shared my thoughts on aspects of the conference on this blog including posts since 2011 on Twitter Archives for the #ILI2013 ConferenceILI 2013: The Future Technologies and Their Applications WorkshopSharing (or Over-Sharing?) at #ILI2012“Making Sense of the Future” – A Talk at #ILI2012What Twitter Told Us About ILI 2011Learning Analytics and New Scholarship: Now on the Technology Horizon and ILI 2011 and the ‘New Normal’.

I should also add that for several years I have been on the ILI advisory group. I am also one of the ILI blog supporters.

ILI 2014

ILI 2014 will take place at the Olympia Conference Centre, London 21-22 October 2014 with a series of pre-conference workshops taking place on 20 October. The theme this year is “Positive Change: Creating Real Impact“.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 11 April 2014. As described on the conference Web site:

This year, Internet Librarian International will present an exciting selection of session formats so that delegates can make the most of all the learning opportunities on offer. We are looking for speakers who can share their experiences in one of several formats:

  • 30-minute scene-setting themed papers
  • 15-minute case study presentations (as part of a themed session)
  • Teachmeet/unconference contributors
  • Workshop leaders
  • Panellists

The Call for Speakers has four main categories:

  1. Transforming library and information services and roles
  2. Innovation in content
  3. Innovative technologies
  4. Innovation in search and discovery

I intend to submit a proposal related to my work as Innovation Advocate at Cetis, possibly on my work with Wikipedia or perhaps on the implications of technological developments for librarians. But when I noticed the invitations for panel sessions I wondered whether a panel session might provide a useful mechanism for airing a diverse range of views. Back in 2005 I gave a talk on Folksonomies – The Sceptics View in a panel session on “Folksonomies: Community Metadata?” which provided an opportunity to raise concerns about the possible pitfalls and limitations of folksonomies.

When I took part in the Hyperlinked Library MOOC last year I felt there was an uncritical acceptance of the role of social networks in a library context. I therefore wrote a series of blog post which challenged the consensus positive view on the library of the future: The library of the future (part 1): a privatised future; The library of the future (part 2): services for the self-motivated middle classes?The library of the future (part 3): because we’re right!The library of the future (part 4): a dystopian future? and The library of the future (part 5): everyone’s a librarian!.

As described in the initial post on The library of the future (part 1): a privatised future a YouTube video used in the MOOC entitled “Library of the Future in Plain English” could be interpretted as a right-wing vision of the future of libraries, with a significant deterioration in the pay and working conditions for librarians (see the accompanying table which was included in the blog post).

As Ian Clarke commented on the post:

The video clip employs much of the kind of language we have come to expect. As always, it paints things in a way that, on the surface at least, seems agreeable and non-controversial. Of course, once you read between the lines it is clear that it is not necessarily a benign vision.

Would anybody be interested in taking part in a panel session which sought to explore the diverse visions of the future of the library in an Internet environment? If so, feel free to get in touch.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

 

Posted in Events | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Emerging Best Practices for Using Storify For Archiving Event Tweets

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 March 2014

“Embrace open practices which you are comfortable with; share your open practices with others”

In a post entitled Reflections on the #openeducationwk Blog Posts I summarised the guest posts published on this blog during Open Education Week. My post concluded with my thought’s on Sheila MacNeill’s post in which she gave her reasons “Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken“. I agree with Sheila’s view that “in reality things are more nuanced” than is suggested by the soundbite “the opposite of open is not ‘closed’, the opposite of open is ‘broken’“. My post concluded with the suggestion that you should:

Embrace open practices which you are comfortable with; share your open practices with others and be willing to learn from the open practices used by other. But don’t be dismissive of those who don’t share your beliefs and practices.

 As part of that philosophy in this post I will share the open practices I use to ensure that the ideas and discussions shared at ‘amplified events’ can reach a wide audience, beyond those physically present at the event.

Developing Guidelines for Use of Twitter at Amplified Events

Since January one significant new area of work I have been involved in is leading the Communications, Dissemination and Knowledge Management work package for the EU-funded LACE project, a project which “brings together existing key European players in the field of learning analytics & EDM who are committed to build communities of practice and share emerging best practice“.

The LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project is funded by the European Union in order to help exploit the opportunities afforded by learning analytics (LA) and educational data mining (EDM). A particularly important aspect of the LACE work will be in making effective use of online tools in order to help to build a community with interests in learning analytics and facilitate discussions, sharing of resources and awareness of the project,

Various guidelines for use of social media and other online tools and services are being developed. Since LAK14, the Learning Analytics and Knowledge conference takes place in Indianapolis next week from 24-28 March this will provide an ideal opportunity to evaluate use of our emerging guidelines for use of social media at events.

Tomorrow morning we will have a LACE project team meeting to discuss our plans for the conference and, in particular, use of social media to support workshops at the conference which LACE team members are involved in: the Second International Workshop on Discourse-Centric Learning Analytics (#dcla14); Computational Approaches to Connecting Levels of Analysis in Networked Learning (#lak14cla); Learning Analytics and Machine Learning (#lak14ml) and the LAK Data Challenge 2014 (#lakdata14).

In order to gain further experience of use of the tools which will be used to support these sessions and to provide examples of the approaches to be taken, earlier today a Storify summary of “What I Know Is: #WIKIsymposium” was created as described below.

Experiences from the #WIKIsymposium

Storify summary of #wikisymposium  tweetsThe WIKIsysmposium was held at the University of Stirling earlier today (19 March 2014). The symposium was part of the Research Seminar Series organised by the Division of Communications, Media and Culture, University of Stirling which was made possible with the generous support of Wikimedia UK.

Since I have an interest in the use of Wikipedia in an educational and research context I had an interest in following the event tweets and possibly developing my Twitter network if I identified relevant new contributors to the Twitter stream for the event.

The Storify summary of “the What I Know Is: #WIKIsymposium” was therefore of personal interest to me as well as in providing an example of the approaches which are proposed for next week’s LAK14 conference.

The Storify summary is intended to be self-documenting. In brief here are the proposed approaches:

  • Create archive(s) of event tweets in advance: In this case a Twubs archive of #WIKIsymposium was created.
  • Create a Lanyrd entry for the event: In this case the Lanyrd entry was created earlier today and speakers, participants and those with an interest in the subject area were invited to register using their Twitter ID in order to be able to easily identify others who attend or follow events of mutual interest.
  • Nominate or encourage live tweeters who will tweet consistently through an event: During today’s event at least two participants ensured that a full coverage of the talks was provided.
  • Identify emerging best practices for live tweeting at events: Useful practices identified at today’s event included:
    • Providing a meaningful summary of the event with appropriate links in advance
    • Announcing participation at the event on the morning of the event in order that interested parties are made aware of the event and the event’s hashtag
    • Providing a timestamp and, ideally, a photograph at the start of each talk
    • Flagging the name of the speaker in Twitter summaries of talk which enable readers to be able to identify reported commentary (e.g.”Murray: Putting content in Wikipedia can challenge the unassailable voice of the academic, but this is no bad thing ” or “RM: Putting content in Wikipedia can challenge the unassailable voice of the academic, but this is no bad thing “).
    • It can be helpful to clearly signal the end of a talk and the event with an appropriate tweet (e.g. thanks speakers at the end of the event).

I hope these examples are useful to others. I’d welcome further suggestions on best practices to help provide meaningful and useful archives of tweets at events.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

 

Posted in openness, Twitter | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Reflections on the #openeducationwk Blog Posts

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 March 2014

Summary of Open Education Week Blog Posts

Last week as part of the third Open Education Week event a series of blog posts were published daily: guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog and posts by Cetis staff which were available from the Cetis blog aggregator.

In total ten posts were published. These were, on the UK Web Focus blog:

and via the Cetis blog aggregator:

It is interesting to look at the different descriptions of open educational activities which have been described in these posts.

A number of the posts provide a generic overview on aspects of openness: Scott Wilson in “5 lessons for OER from Open Source and Free Software” looks on how those involved in OER work should reflect on the similarities with the development of the open source software movement; Doug Belshaw in “What Does Working Openly on the Web Mean in Practice?“reflects on the open practices which are embraced by those working for Mozilla and Simon Grant in “The growing need for open frameworks of learning outcomes” covers openness in the context of frameworks for learning outcomes.

Gillian Fielding provides an institutional focus in her post on “Open Education and Staff Development at the University of Salford“.

A national perspective in provided by Lorna Campbell in her post on “The Scottish Open Education Declaration“.

International perspectives are provided in Marieke Guy’s post on “Open Education Data” and Irina Radchenko and Anna Sakoyan’s post on “Data Expeditions and Data Journalism project as OER in Russian“.

Two Personal Perspectives

However it is the personal perspectives provided by Li Yuan and Sheila MacNeill which I found to be particularly interesting. In Li’s post on “A personal reflection on Open Education”  she shares “some thoughts and reflections on Open Education through my personal learning journey and some of the work that I have been involved in with OERs, Open Online Learning and MOOCs“; a journey which began back in 1985 when, as a school teacher in China, she signed up for a Self Study Higher Education Programme; continued after joining Cetis in 2008 and was involved in supporting the UK OER programme and her early involvement in MOOC work including development of an Open Online Course for Masters students studying educational technology in China and delivered it in partnership with a Chinese university. Li is currently involved in preparing a bid to address some of challenges in open education and help institutions develop new models for sustainable open online courses.

Sheila MacNeill: Topsy commentsSheila MacNeill’s post, in which she gave her reasons “Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken“, generated the most interest on Twitter as can be seen in the accompanying image of the Topsy archive of the comments on Twitter about the post. In addition more detailed feedback has been provided in comments on the post.

Sheila reflected on her previous role at Cetis and her work in open education:

A large part of my work with Cetis was increasingly predicated by engagement in open, online communities. My visibility in a number of networks was a key part in me getting my current position. Openness, from open software to OER to open educational practice was and continues to be a core value not only for Cetis but for my own professional practice and values. 

However Sheila is very aware of the dangers that the “echo chamber” may lead one to believe that open practices are being widely adopted:

Over the past few years, I’ve heard in various places (both online and offline) that the “battle for open” has been won, or that open education is now “ mainstream”. I’ve always been slightly skeptical about such grand claims. Whilst the open education movement has made considerably inroads in the past decade, OERs and open educational practice are still not universally known about and used. Now, I’ve not started to work at some backwater on the edge of civilisation but believe me there are people here who aren’t even aware there has been a battle let alone have any idea of who/what has won, and what the legacy of the war is. Perhaps the greatest Trojan horse for open education has been MOOCs, as nearly everyone has heard about them.

Sheila concluded by critiquing the sound bite “the opposite of open is not ‘closed’, the opposite of open is ‘broken’”:

Last year at the Open Scotland summit, Cable Green gave a great line “the opposite of open is not ‘closed’, the opposite of open is ‘broken’.” However good a line that is, in reality things are more nuanced. In trying to support others to be open I may for a time, appear closed, and may even feel a bit broken and bruised. I’m not working with broken people or systems, just ones that need time and support to be comfortable with being open in ways that work for them. It is my open practice and the support from my open networks that continues to give me the support I need to continue to be open and contribute to our collective development and understanding of what being open actually means.

I would agree. As I would put it: “Embrace open practices which you are comfortable with; share your open practices with others and be willing to learn from the open practices used by other. But don’t be dismissive of those who don’t share your beliefs and practices.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in openness | 3 Comments »

Guest Post: Data Expeditions and Data Journalism project as OER in Russian

Posted by Irina Radchenko on 15 March 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Myself and my Cetis colleagues are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. The Cetis blog provides a series of posts from Cetis staff which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. These posts are complemented by a series of guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog from people I have worked with who are working in open education.

The fifth and final guest post in the series published on the UK Web Focus blog is written by Anna Sakoyan and Irina Radchenko. In this post Anna and Irina describe “Data Expeditions and Data Journalism project as OER in Russian“.


Data Expeditions and Data Journalism project as OER in Russian

As the availability of education enhances internationally, in particular through the development of OERs and informal educational projects, predominantly in English, similar trends appear in other language environments. By their nature, they are less available for the contributors from all over the world, but at the same time, they often provide the only participation opportunity for those who for whom the English-language sources are not an option due to the language barrier. What seems important here is to create such projects in a way that makes them both their language audience-oriented and integrated into the international knowledge exchange.

Our online educational project DataDrivenJournalism.RU and its data expeditions are an example of an attempt to adopt this approach.

Context

Before we discuss the details of this particular project, we find it necessary to introduce the context, in which it was born and is currently developing. Basically, there seem to have been three deficiencies, or aspects to the problem, that we tried to address in this way.

First off, in the spring 2013 there was a surge of interest in open data among the Russian media, primarily due to the fact that the government was about to open its data officially. Many journalists turned to this subject, simply because it was promoted and supported by the state, so it was a discussed topic by default. Following the coverage, their audience was becoming aware of this kind of developments, but there was little understanding of what exactly it was about. Before the official move, there was some Open Data movement in Russia, but it was mostly promoted by a relatively small group of citizen activists and IT-developers with little response from the broader audience. All in all, by the moment when open data were about to be introduced officially, the bottom-up initiative was really scarce and with deplorably weak horizontal connections.

Second, there is a lack of Russian-language projects for those who might be interested in learning how to deal with data from scratch. Clearly, there were programmers’ communities and some of those were rather enthusiastic about building open data-based applications. But outside this scope, there were journalists, citizen activists, and scholars who could well make use of the new developments, but had no sufficient technical skills, nor even the idea of where to start acquiring them. While there are numerous international English-language learning projects of this kind, they are hardly available for those with a considerable language barrier. So there was a need for translated or newly created Russian-language manuals, as well as some supportive environment, which would encourage people to learn something really new.

Third, and most general, the project seems to comply with the trend all over the world. When there is a considerable number of open materials (books, manuals, tutorials), as well as open/free tools, and there are people who are trying to use them, at a certain stage there is also a demand for further structuring and adaptation of such materials and tools for learning. This means not only collecting relevant links in one catalogue, which is sometimes very helpful by itself, but creating something more interactive that could provide more comfortable learning facilities.

DataDrivenJournalism.RU and its data expeditions

DataDrivenJournalism.RU

DataDrivenJournalism.RU was initially created as a blog to accumulate translated or originally written manuals on working with data. Its mission was formulated as promoting the broad use of data (Open Data first of all) in the Russian-language environment. As the number of the published materials was growing, it was necessary to structure them in a searchable way, which resulted in making it look more like a website. After almost a year of its existance, the functioning of the project appears basically twofold. On one hand, it operates as an educational resource with a growing collection of tutorials, a glossary and lists of helpful external links, as well as the central platform of its data expeditions; on the other hand, as a blog, it provides a broader context of open data application to various areas of activity, including data driven journalism itself.

First Data Expedition

Being inspired by the School of Data example, we decided to try such format as online data expeditions soon after the blog was created. The first Russian-language Data Expedition (DE1) was launched in July 2013. It was a week long and its objectives were searching, processing and visualizing datasets on universities, both Russian and international. The review of DE1 was published on DataDrivenJournalism.RU http://datadrivenjournalism.ru/2013/08/04/first-russian-data-expedition-report/ (in Russian). Its English version can be found on Anna’s blog http://ourchiefweapons.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/first-data-expedition-in-russian-mission-complete/.

Our Second Data Expedition (DE2) launched in December 2013 was based on working with data collected in 2013 within a survey that was conducted by PSRAI Omnibus (http://www.psrai.com/omnibus.shtml). This dataset can be found at PEW Internet & American Life Project site: http://pewinternet.org/Shared-Content/Data-Sets/2013/July-2013—Online-Video-%28onmibus%29.aspx. It was chosen due to its clear structure and lots of variables in the first place. DE2’s main idea was to get beginners to try working with data in a friendly and encouraging environment. Unlike DE1, which heavily relied on self-organisation, DE2 had a ready-made scenario for those who might find it difficult to conduct their own research.

The review of DE2 can be found at DataDrivenJournalism.RU: http://datadrivenjournalism.ru/2014/01/02/de2-report/ (in Russian) and on Anna Sakoyan’s blog: http://ourchiefweapons.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/second-data-expedition-in-russian-mission-accomplished/ (in English).

Data Expeditions

Our most recent Data Expedition (DE3) had a special feature. This Data Expedition was dedicated to researching the subject of orphan or rare diseases. DE3 was organised in a partnership with NGO “Teplitsa of Social Technologies” so it was a joint project. They helped us to involve experts in the fields of rare diseases. The active participation of experts was an invaluable part of the research, because they provided extremely helpful navigation on the subject. This was the first time we have seen the combination of peer-learning and research in action. We are planning to publish the review of this DE3 in the near future. Right now, its participants are working on creating the follow-up digital story based on the findings.

Conclusions

Undoubtedly, data expeditions being a combination of a peer-learning project and a hackaton can be an extremely helpful tool not only for learning (and teaching) data processing techniques, but also for researching particular areas of knowledge or life posed as the subjects of these expeditions. In this respect, data expeditions could be a very flexible promising format equally applicable to things like an activist campaign or an educational project.

DataDrivenJournalism.RU was created as a response to the two former challenges, because it was designed to accumulate and generate the Russian-language learning materials and also to contribute to building a community of people interested in learning more about making sense of data. As to the latter, an interactive approach was implemented through the Russian-language online data expeditions as a subproject of DataDrivenJournalism.RU.

However, this is only one side of the project. Like any other open educational resource, DataDrivenJournalism.RU can’t exist in a vacuum. It needs to be integrated in broader OER networks and open data communities, both Russian-language and international. It might be some interaction on the basis of knowledge or experience exchange; it might be participation in international data expeditions or other project-based peer-learning projects. Due to the flexibility of open projects, the variety of cooperation formats is virtually great.


About the authors

Anna Sakoyan Anna Sakoyan is a co-founder of DataDrivenJournalism.RU. Anna is currently working as a journalist and translator for a Russian analytical resource Polit.ru and is also involved in the activities of NGO InfoCulture.

Twitter: @ansakoy
Facebook: anna.sakoyan
LinkedIn: Anna Sakoyan
Blog (English): http://ourchiefweapons.wordpress.com/

Irina Radchenko Irina Radchenko is consultant on Open Data at NGO Infoculture and Associate Professor at Higher School of Economics. She is co-founder of DataDrivenJournalism.RU and lecturer at Open Data School.

Twitter: @iradche
Facebook: iradche
LinkedIn: Irina Radchenko
About.me: Irina Radchenko
Blog (Russian): iradche.ru


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Guest-post, openness | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Guest Post: Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken

Posted by sheilmcn on 14 March 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Myself and my Cetis colleagues are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. The Cetis blog provides a series of posts from Cetis staff which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. These posts are complemented by a series of guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog from people I have worked with who are working in open education.

The fourth guest post in the series published on the UK Web Focus blog is written by by Sheila MacNeill. In this post Sheila gives her reasons “Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken“.


Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken

When Brian approached me to write a guest post for Open Education week, I was flattered particularly when he told me about the other guest bloggers he had lined up. And I was relieved that my last excursion onto his blog hadn’t put him off! But more seriously it seemed to the perfect opportunity for me to share some of my recent experiences of open education and open educational practice. Later today, along with Catherine Cronin, I’ll be taking part in a webinar latsr today (from 13.00-14.00 on Friday 14th March) organised by David Walker, University of Sussex as part of their open education week activities. This post will hopefully complement the webinar, as well as contributing to the discussions on this blog this week.

The title of our webinar is “Open and online: connections, community and reality“. It will give us an opportunity to explore the research and realities of open education, online identities, networks, communities and connections.

As some of you may know, I have fairly recently changed jobs from Assistant Director with Cetis to a Senior Lecturer in Blended Learning at Glasgow Caledonian University. A large part of my work with Cetis was increasingly predicated by engagement in open, online communities. My visibility in a number of networks was a key part in me getting my current position. Openness, from open software to OER to open educational practice was and continues to be a core value not only for Cetis but for my own professional practice and values. However I am increasingly conscious that my practice is changing in response to my institutional role and new physical networks. This ties in really well to Catherine’s research on open online identity and the role of the networked educator.

When Brian and I were talking about this post, I half jokingly said to him that I felt a bit like a time traveller and a bit like Marty McFly was experiencing some back to the future moments. At other times I feel a bit like one of the Tomorrow People, who has to be very careful about where and when to use their special powers, particularly in relation to open education.

Over the past few years, I’ve heard in various places (both online and offline) that the “battle for open” has been won, or that open education is now “ mainstream”. I’ve always been slightly skeptical about such grand claims. Whilst the open education movement has made considerably inroads in the past decade, OERs and open educational practice are still not universally known about and used. Now, I’ve not started to work at some backwater on the edge of civilisation but believe me there are people here who aren’t even aware there has been a battle let alone have any idea of who/what has won, and what the legacy of the war is. Perhaps the greatest Trojan horse for open education has been MOOCs, as nearly everyone has heard about them.

Of course we do have some pockets of excellent activity not least from our library who are currently developing an institutional OER policy. But open practice, and to take an important step back to just sharing “stuff” doesn’t feature on the radar of many of my colleagues. It’s not because they are anti-open, or closed, it’s just not their practice. They haven’t developed open practices or habits in the way I have over the last however many years. And you know what? I think some of us in our open, care-y, share-y, OER-y community forget how hard it can be to start being open and develop open habits. I am getting a bit of a reputation here for saying (perhaps slightly flippantly) “just slap a CC licence on it”, and then more importantly “stick it somewhere other people can find and use it”. It really is that simple. However I am still being met with wide-eyes and doubting, knowing faces. Sharing and being open is a great thing in context, but the benefits aren’t always obvious and there is a lot of confidence building and hand holding to be done yet. And that is always the part of “the war” that seems to be forgotten about. Developing people and habits is where any education battle is really won or lost.

I have come from an incredibly privileged position where I was able to be in on almost at the start of developments, particularly in the UK, around OER and open practice. I had time to explore the issues, play with open playgrounds, build my online networks , be a very small part of the twitterati, build up my confidence around blogging and sharing my thoughts with others, sharing slides with images attributed, try things just because I could. Most jobbing academics, learning technologists, librarian and other support staff don’t have that luxury. I now have even more respect for those who do make time to engage externally. With cut backs to funding from bodies like Jisc, experimentation and risk taking opportunities are becoming less and less common. However I can (and am) doing as much as I can to support open-ness across our institution – from policy to hand holding level.

The irony of this is that as I am connecting and sharing more with my new internal networks I feel that I am sharing less and less with my external networks. I certainly don’t spend as much time on twitter, which maybe isn’t such a bad thing . . . In preparation for this week, I was heartened to see that people in my twitter network do still consider me an open practitioner (this storify collates a few responses). My former Cetis colleague David Sherlock in this response to a tweet from me point out another side to why people might not be open, that of who controls our open communication networks and who owns our data? That hadn’t been on my mind thinking of this post, but it is a crucial point. Our networks and data aren’t only valuable to us, they have other economic values. We do need to remember that seemingly open and free services do have economic models.

Last year at the Open Scotland summit, Cable Green gave a great line “the opposite of open is not ‘closed’, the opposite of open is ‘broken’.” However good a line that is, in reality things are more nuanced. In trying to support others to be open I may for a time, appear closed, and may even feel a bit broken and bruised. I’m not working with broken people or systems, just ones that need time and support to be comfortable with being open in ways that work for them. It is my open practice and the support from my open networks that continues to give me the support I need to continue to be open and contribute to our collective development and understanding of what being open actually means.


Biography and Contact Details:

Sheila MacNeill

Sheila is UK Learning Technologist of the Year, 2013.

She is interested in all aspects of the development and use of technology in education. She is a Senior Lecturer in Blended Learning at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Over the past 10 years her work has centred on developments in the Higher Education sector through her work with CETIS.

For further biographical details please see Sheila’s About.me page.

Sheila MacNeill
Senior Lecturer
Blended Learning
Glasgow Caledonian University
Glasgow

Blog: How Sheila Sees It
Twitter: @sheilamcn


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Guest-post, openness | Tagged: | 12 Comments »

Guest Post: Open Education and Staff Development at the University of Salford

Posted by gdfielding on 13 March 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Myself and my Cetis colleagues are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. The Cetis blog provides a series of posts from Cetis staff which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. These posts are complemented by a series of guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog from people I have worked with who are working in open education.

The third guest post in the series is written by Gillian Fielding of the University of Salford. In this post Gillian reports on “Open Education and Staff Development at the University of Salford“.


Open Education and Staff Development at the University of Salford

Thanks to Brian for asking me to write a guest blog. Being ‘open’ I’ve never written a guest blog before so it’s a bit scary. Also thanks to the thought-provoking guest bloggers: Doug Belshaw who posted yesterday and Ross Mounce who wrote a guest post during Open Access Week 2012. Ross’s comment: “things were different before the Internet!” made me smile, and Doug’s suggestion of writing a policy openly are both things I shall return to later.

I am not going to debate definitions “open” etc, These been discussed elsewhere. I am going to focus on our staff development activity in open educational practice and on how the Internet has changed that.

I’d like to also say a thank you Tim Berners-Lee for the Internet (Happy 25th). It has not only kept me in work the last 22 years but it has made my work in learning and teaching even more interesting. Looking back I have loved (almost) every moment of it and I still feel as passionate about it today as I did in the early 1990s. Open education/al practices, elearning, collaborative learning, blended learning, interactivity, multimedia, mobile learning, … all open up new opportunities, debates and challenges. Sometimes we struggle to keep up, or should that be we always struggle to keep up? For example, it was only last year when we introduced a staff development workshop on Twitter, Twitter was launched in 2006. We do not have a social media policy yet. We just do it and to great effect I might add. Salford is in fourth position in “theunipod” national university rankings on social media use. Is that because we don’t have a policy I wonder? Similarly we do not have a University policy on open education practice/resources staff just do “it”.

We are currently developing both policies, better late than never. And I feel we need these policies to endorse open practices and social media use. To say to staff yes it’s great, embrace it, do it, it has huge benefits for you, your students and the University. (Just pay regard to the potential risks and drawbacks). In our development sessions we illustrate the benefits with a case study from one of our Professors. The month the Prof set-up social media accounts, he saw his open access article downloads triple (stored in the University’s Institutional Repository), he has seen other tangible benefits too. (Incidentally I am going to pass on Doug’s suggestion of open policy making to the teams concerned).

The other staff development workshop we offer in this area is “Managing Your Digital Identity” (introduced late last year). Next month, we are introducing a Facebook session and hopefully later in the year, other workshops too. We have always supported individual requests for support.

Last year we introduced a new module on the Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PG CAP) called, Flexible, Distance and Online Learning (FDOL). This embedded Social Media and included a unit on open educational practices.

The module was 13 weeks in duration. Eleven “classes” were delivered fully online (synchronously using Collaborate). However the initial class, and week 6 class, were an on-campus physical session (apart from the three students joined virtually – how flexible was that!?). It was only open to our PGCAP students, it’s not an open course. The original module designer has an open version available. We used a variety of tools used, both synchronous and asynchronous: Twitter, Google+, Google Hangouts, Blackboard, Skype, YouTube, WordPress, Collaborate, etc. (“Things were certainly different before the Internet!”). The module used online problem-based learning (pbl), the groups decided amongst themselves what problems to solve, their roles in the group, what learning technologies to use, etc.

During the module we held two “Twitter Journal Clubs” (twjc). A new concept introduced to me by a student (Chloe James). A twjc is generally open to anyone to join in on a discussion (via Twitter) of a journal. These are in a defined time period of an hour or up to 24 hours. The benefits are it was: open, educational, concise (140 characters forces that) though it can be challenging putting deep thought into 140 characters; it was fun and innovative but could be frustrating for others especially if they were new to Twitter or the session was unstructured (it works best if you go through the journal in order and the facilitator keeps time and people on topic. For more information on our first twjc see my post on Using a Twitter journal club for learning and teaching (and my first foray into twjc’s)The second twjc was more exciting as the journal’s author saw this as his opportunity to start using Twitter and joined our debate. “Things were different before the Internet!” that wouldn’t have happened.

Assessment of the module was the creation of a reflective portfolio (in WordPress). Students were encouraged to be innovative and creative and to use tools they had not used before. Examples included: cartoons, images, videos, even a specially written and performed song. In the spirit of the open educational practice, students were encouraged to make their portfolios open to the world, however this was not compulsory. Publishing on the web can be a very daunting undertaking, publishing your reflections on your own professional practice is even more daunting to those newer to this publishing medium.

With that note it seems entirely appropriate to finish with links to some of my students portfolios. These include their reflections on open educational practices and on using Internet tools, and how they are applying/will apply what they learnt in their own professional practice. Note that the unit included a webinar on open educational practices led by Brian. This can be viewed in the recording of the webinar and Brian’s reflections were given in a post on Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them

Links to students’ portfolios are available below:

Paul Crowe http://cpdpaulcrowe.wordpress.com/ 
Alex Fenton http://cpdalexfenton.wordpress.com/
Natalie Ferry http://nferry2013.wordpress.com/
Liz Hannaford http://pgcaplizhannaford.wordpress.com/
Joe Telles http://jtee78.wordpress.com/
Nadine Watson http://cpdnadinewatson.wordpress.com/
Juliette Wilson https://cpdjuliettewilson.wordpress.com/

Biography and Contact Details

Gillian FieldingGillian Fielding is responsible for the development of digital literacies of staff at the University of Salford. She is also a PhD candidate at Lancaster University. Gillian has a background in lecturing and has a strong passion for enhancing the student and staff experiences by using open access, the Social Web, learning technologies, mobile devices, etc.

Gillian has presented on learning technologies at conferences including: SOLSTICE, CLTR, LILAC, ECE, UCISA, and Blackboard World.

Twitter: g_fielding
Facebook: Gillian D Fielding
Email: g.d.fielding@salford.ac.uk
Telephone: 0161 295 2451

Posted in Guest-post, openness | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Guest Post: What Does Working Openly on the Web Mean in Practice?

Posted by Doug Belshaw on 12 March 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week  (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Myself and my Cetis colleagues are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. The Cetis blog provides a series of posts from Cetis staff which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. These posts are complemented by a series of guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog from people I have worked with who are working in open education.

The second guest post in the series is written by Doug Belshaw whom I’ve known in Jisc circles for several years. Last year Doug, who now works for the Mozilla Foundation, was a plenary speaker at the IWMW 2013 event. In this post Doug asks “What does working openly on the web mean in practice?“. This is a very timely post in light of today’s Guardian article on “An online Magna Carta: Berners-Lee calls for bill of rights for web“.


What Does Working Openly on the Web Mean in Practice?

I’m what’s known as a ‘paid contributor to the Mozilla project’. You may think that’s just a quirky way to describe being an employee of the Mozilla Foundation but I think it highlights something important that I’d like to explore in this post.

Open
Image CC BY-NC-SA mag3737

Mozilla is a mission-driven organisation. You can read the manifesto here. But it’s not only Mozilla’s mission that makes it different. After all, there are plenty of charities, NGO’s, and even for-profit organisations that aim to change the world for the better. Something fundamentally different about Mozilla is a commitment to ‘working in the open’.

There are many definitions of what ‘open’ means. At one end of the spectrum are those who use the term to mean nothing more than something being ‘accessible to everyone’. People who take this approach allow you to access their resources if you have the required hardware and/or software. At the other end of the spectrum (where you will find Mozilla) is what might be called ‘open practice’. This goes several stages further. You may access the resource and use it under the terms of an open license. You may remix (or ‘fork’) the resource to improve it or better fit your context. And you may discuss and suggest changes to the resource with those responsible for maintaining it.

Many of Mozilla’s working practices are heavily influenced by the Free Software Definition. However, it’s applied more widely then just to the creation of software. For example, Mozilla uses it when creating teaching resources as part of our Webmaker programme. It’s used when planning the future of the Open Badges Infrastructure. Mozilla chooses open source tools and protocols like BugzillaIRC and Etherpad that default to publicly-accessible outputs. Unless there’s a very good reason for doing otherwise, anyone can see what’s going in within Mozilla projects.

Working open is not only in Mozilla’s DNA but leads to huge benefits for the project more broadly. While Mozilla has hundreds of paid contributors, they have tens of thousands of volunteer contributors — all working together to keep the web open and as a platform for innovation. Working open means Mozilla can draw on talent no matter where in the world someone happens to live. It means people with what Clay Shirky would call cognitive surplus can contribute as much or as little free time and labour to projects as they wish. Importantly, it also leads to a level of trust that users can have in Mozilla’s products. Not only can they inspect the source code used to build the product, but actually participate in discussions about its development.

There’s a well-known saying called Linus’s Law that states, “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” In other words, problems can be fixed if you get enough people to work on solutions. Of course, there needs to be an architecture of participation to make the process distinct from chaos, but get this right and — like Wikipedia and Mozilla’s Firefox, you end up with a competitive advantage. The cognitive surplus can be channelled away from TV watching towards things that benefit humankind.

In practice, working open for Mozilla looks like this: if you’re interested in something (whoever you are and wherever you’re from) you can turn up and get involved. If the community find your input useful, then you are likely to be given more responsibility. There are many ways this can happen, but becoming a module owner is a good example. Module owners are people in charge of a module or sub-module of code within a particular codebase. They have responsibility and authority that has been earned through a meritocratic system. For more on this, I’d highly recommend reading Peer Participation and Software: What Mozilla Has to Teach Government (it’s a free download).

But what does all this mean for education? As someone who’s worked in both schools and universities, I know how different the brave new world of the web can feel from the lived reality of institutions. One way to shake things up is to continually ask the question, “can we make this public?” And if that’s too radical, how about “is there any reason why this shouldn’t be shared with everyone at the institution?” It’s a truism that innovation comes from the edges; you’re unlikely to know where the best ideas are residing unless you give people a platform to share them. And one of the easiest ways to provide such a platform is to use the web.

I won’t deny that there may be legitimate reasons for sometimes restricting access to resources, using closed-source software, and privileging top-down decision making. However, I’d suggest that these cases are probably rarer than we collectively admit. Why not try inviting comments from everyone connected with your institution or organisation next time you’re drafting a new policy? How about throwing open the doors (perhaps virtually?) of your next meeting? Next time you’re choosing a digital tool, is it worth considering privileging Open Source software?

There’s much to say on this issue, but if you’ll excuse me I’m going to have to go. A Mozilla contributor is pinging me on IRC…


Biography and Contact Details

Doug BelshawDr. Doug Belshaw, Web Literacy Lead for the non-profit Mozilla Foundation is an educator, researcher and writer.

Contact details:

Email: doug@mozillafoundation.org
Website: http://dougbelshaw.com/
Twitter: @dajbelshaw


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Guest-post, openness | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Guest Post: Open Education Data

Posted by mariekeguy on 11 March 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Myself and my Cetis colleagues are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. The Cetis blog provides a series of posts from Cetis staff which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. These posts are complemented by a series of guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog from people I have worked with who are working in open education.

The first guest post in the series is written by my former colleague Marieke Guy. After working at UKOLN for 13 years Marieke moved to the Open Knowledge Foundation last year. In this post Marieke reviews her work at the Open Knowledge Foundation on open education data.


Open Education Data

Hi, I’m Marieke Guy and I work for the Open Knowledge Foundation, a global not-for-profit organization that want to open up knowledge around the world and see it used and useful.

My main area of interest is open education, I co-ordinate the Open Education Working Group and I work on a project called LinkedUp. LinkedUp is an EU-funded project that aims to push forward the exploitation of public, open data available on the Web, in particular by educational institutions and organizations. It is doing this through a series of competitions aimed at developers called the LinkedUp Challenge. For the challenge we ask developers to create interesting and innovative tools and applications that analyse and/or integrate open web data for educational purposes.

Defining the terms…

Within the project we use terms like ‘open education data’, ‘open educational data’ and ‘open data in education’ fairly loosely, partly because the terms themselves are ill-defined. For the sake of this post I want to drill down and consider one particular characterization of open education data, and consider its use.

Open education data can refer specifically to the open data that comes out of educational institutions. By educational Institutions I am here referring to all physical places of study from schools to further education and universities. One could broaden this out to include data from online courses, though that is a topic for another post!

So we are really talking about administrative data, which could include:

  • Reference data such as the location of academic institutions

  • Internal data such as staff names, resources available, personnel data, identity data, budgets

  • Course data, curriculum data, learning objectives,

  • User-generated data such as learning analytics, assessments, performance data, job placements

Naturally these types of data can be classified in a variety of different ways, so you can think of them in terms of content, but also in terms of provenance, openness (some are more openly available than others), granularity, legal restrictions and so on. The World Economic Forum report Education and Skills 2.0: New Targets and Innovative Approaches sees there as being two types of education data: traditional and new. Traditional data sets include identity data and system-wide data, such as attendance information; new data sets are those created as a result of user interaction, which may include web site statistics, and inferred content created by mining data sets using questions.

Whatever their classification it is clear that open education data sets are of interest to a wide variety of people including educators, learners, institutions, government, parents and the wider public.

Open Education Data Sets

Here in the UK you could start thinking about some of the datasets that fall under this definition, many of them are held by the government, such as school performance data, data on the location of educational establishments and pupil absenteeism. There is also data from individual institutions such as that collated on linked universities and on data.ac.uk and from research into education, such as the Open Public Services Network report into Empowering Parents, Improving Accountability.

Previously much of the release and use of open educational data sets has been driven by the need for accountability and transparency. A well-cited global example has been the situation in Uganda where the Ugandan government allocated funding for schools, but corruption at various levels meant much of the money never reached its intended destination. Between 1995 and 2001, the proportion of funding allocated which actually reached the schools rose from 24% to 82%. In the interim, they initiated a programme of publishing data on how much was allocated to each school. There were other factors but Reinikke and Svensson’s analysis showed that data publication played a significant part in the funding increase.

However recent developments, such as the current upsurge of open data challenges (see the ODI Education: Open Data Challenge and the LAK data challenge), have meant that there is an increasing innovation in data use, and opportunities for efficiency and improvements to education more generally. Their potential us is broad. Data sets can support students through creation of tools that enable new ways to analyse and access data e.g. maps of disabled access and by enriching resources, making it easier to share and find them, and personalize the way they are presented. Open data can also support those who need to make informed choices on education e.g. by comparing scores, and support schools and institutions by enabling efficiencies in practice e.g. library data can help support book purchasing.

Education technology providers are also starting to see the potential of data-mining and app development. So for example open education data is a high priority area for Pearson Think tank, back in 2011 they published their blue skies paper How Open Data, data literacy and Linked Data will revolutionise higher education. Ideas around how money, or savings, can be made from these data sets are slowly starting to surface.

Application of Data Sets

Some of the interesting UK applications of these data sets can be see through services like Which? University which builds on the NSS annual survey held in Unistats, the Key information sets and other related data sets to allow aid students to select a university; Locrating, defined as ‘To locate by rating: they locrated the school using locrating.com’ which combines data on schools, area and commuting times; London Schools Atlas, an interactive online map providing a comprehensive picture of London schools; equipment data.ac.uk – which allow searching across all published UK research equipment databases through one aggregation portal.

The UK is not alone in seeing the benefit of open education data, in Holland, for example, the education department of the city of Amsterdam commissioned an app challenge similar to the current ODI one mentioned earlier. The goal of the challenge was to provide parents with tools that help them to make well-informed choices about their children. A variety of tools were built, such as schooltip.net, 10000scholen.nl, scholenvinden.nl, and scholenkeuze.nl. The various apps have now been displayed on an education portal focused on finding the ‘right school’.

Further afield in Tanzania Shule.info (see accompanying image) allows comparison of exam results across different regions of Tanzania and for users to follow trends over time, or to see the effect of the adjustments made to yearly exam results. The site was developed by young Tanzanian developers who approached Twaweza, an Open Development Consultant, for advice, rather than for funding. The result is beneficial to anyone interested in education in Tanzania.

The School of Data, through their data expeditions, are starting to do some important work in the area of education data in the developing world. And in January the World Bank released a new open data tool called SABER (The Systems Approach for Better Education Results), which enables comparison of countries education policies. The web tool helps countries collect and analyze information on their education policies, benchmark themselves against other countries, and prioritize areas for reform, with the goal of ensuring that in those countries all children and youth go to school and learn.

All over the world prototypes and apps are been developed that use and build on open education data.

Data Challenges

However there are still challenges that those keen to develop applications using open education data face. Privacy and data protection laws can often prevent access to some potentially useful data sets, yet many data sets that are not personal or controversial remain unavailable, or only available under a closed licence or inappropriate format. This may be for many reasons: trust, concerns around quality and cost being the biggest issues. Naturally there is a cost to releasing data but in many cases this can be far out-weighed by cost-savings later down the line, so for example a proactive approach will save time and effort when FOI requests are made.

Open Education

So while you may find this all very interesting (I hope!) it’s possible you could still be asking how does this all relate to open education?

My answer would be that firstly Open education is fundamentally about removing barriers to education, this could be barriers to entry, or barriers to content, data or knowledge. Opening up data of any sort fits with this agenda and activities around open licensing in particular are both important and hugely supportive. But secondly, and possibly more importantly, opening up education data gives us the potential to see education and its components differently. This new perspective provides us with an opportunity to revolutionise education and make it better.

As David Lassner, Interim president and former chief information officer at the University of Hawaii explains:

Our opportunities for improvement are immense, and data provide a powerful lens to understand how we are doing internally and relative to our peers. This applies across all segments of what we do, from teaching and learning to administrative support. Performance metrics and dashboards are the beginning, but using data to understand deeper correlations and causality so we can shape change will be critical as we strive to advance our effectiveness.”

The movement for open education is ultimately about wanting better education for all. Open education data is proving to be an important instrument in achieving that goal.

If you would like to participate in more discussions around open education data and its role in open education then do join the Open Education Working Group mailing list.


Biography and Contact Details

Marieke GuyMarieke Guy is a Project Co-ordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation. She leads on dissemination and community building on the LinkedUp Project and co-ordinates the Open Education Working Group.

Prior to joining the Open Knowledge Foundation she worked at UKOLN at the University of Bath on a number of digital information projects focussing on digital preservation, e-learning and social networking for communities such as the cultural heritage sector. She spent two years supporting higher education institutions with their research data management via the Digital Curation Centre institutional support work.

Marieke writes a blog about remote working.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Guest-post, openness | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Open Education and Wikipedia: Developments in the UK

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 March 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Cetis staff are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. Cetis have had long-standing involvement in open education and have published a range of papers which cover topics such as OERs (Open Educational Resources) and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

The Cetis blog provides access to the posts which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. My contribution to the series covers Open Education and Wikipedia: Developments in the UK.


Open Education and Wikipedia: Developments in the UK

About This Post

As I explained in a post which asked “How Are You Using Wikipedia?” I will be giving a presentation on use of Wikipedia in the UK’s higher education sector at the Eduwiki conference to be held in Belgrade on 24 March 2014.

Since this post is published in a series on open education it seems appropriate to adopt open practices in the preparation of the talk. I am therefore ‘flipping’ my talk and have made my slides available on Slideshare (and embedded below)  in advance of the Eduwiki conference.The slides are accompanied by this blog post which summarises the key points I intend to make in the talk. I welcome comments which I may be able to incorporate in the talk when I deliver it in a few weeks time.  The availability of this blog post may also provide a complementary perspective on the slides which may be helpful in expanding on points which may not be obvious from viewing the slides in isolation.

A Wikipedia Approach to the Presentation

Opening slides for talkIt seems appropriate for a talk about Wikipedia which is being hosted by a Wikimedia chapter to adopt Wikipedia principles of openness and citation of sources in the talk itself.

The slides will therefore be available under a Creative Commons (CC-BY) licence. In addition the delivery of the slides will be available under the same licence, with recording or broadcasting of the talk being explicitly welcomed.

The slides themselves will be made available in advance. The slides will contain embedded links to resources mentioned in the talk or supplementary evidence or assertions made.

Slow Acceptance of the Value of Wikipedia in Higher Education

I will describe the initial resistance to  use of Wikipedia in higher education. However we are now seeing growing acceptance of its value with recent editing sessions for groups such as research scientists and librarians indicating the growing interest. Ironically the title of a talk at the LILAC 2014 conference  (“Wikipedia: it’s not the evil elephant in the library reading room“) suggests there is a need to address concerns that Wikipedia is an “evil elephant” which we may know exists but are reluctant to acknowledge. The title of an edit-a-thon session at the conference (“Improving the Information Literacy entry on Wikipedia: LILAC’s first edit-a-thon!“) again shows that this is a new area   Progress is happening, but Wikipedia, and especially updating Wikipedia articles, should not, yet, be considered a mainstream activities in higher education.

The Eduwiki 2013 Conference

The Eduwiki 2013 conference took place in Cardiff on 1-2 December 2013. This was the second such conference hosted in the UK. I have previously provided a report on the conference. In this post I will highlight two of the talks:

  1. Safe Use of Wikipedia in the Transition from School to University by Lisa Anderson and Nancy Graham, University of Birmingham.
  2. Introducing Students to Independent Research through Editing Wikipedia Articles on English Villages by Humphrey Southall, University of Portsmouth

These two talks addressed complementary aspects relevant to use of Wikipedia is higher education: how librarians can address information literacy by explicitly covering the strengths and weakness of Wikipedia and ways in which students can update Wikipedia articles as part of a formal assignment.

The presentation will go into more detail of the key aspects of these two talks. I should add that the slides used by Humphrey Southall in his presentation are available on Slideshare.

The Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador

The funding of a Wikimedia Ambassador for the period July 2013 – March 2014 by the Jisc was a welcome development which demonstrated how a funding body was willing to fund an initiative aimed at encouraging take-up of Wikipedia within the UK’s higher education sector. The work of the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador has included delivering six sessions and supporting three edit-a-thons, a Jisc infoKit on Crowdsourcing: the Wiki Way of Working and a project blog as well as a series of reports on the work.

Looking to the Future

Wikimania web siteThe Wikimania 2014 event will take place in London on 6-10 August 2014. As described on the event web site:

Education will be a key theme throughout the whole event, and while we will be honouring past achievements, this year Wikimania will always be looking forward to the Future of Education.

The key areas to be addressed at the event are:

  • Overcoming friction: “librarians and educators are starting to teach students how they can use Wikipedia effectively. Like any other encyclopaedia, students are being shown how to use the site to find the helpful links to primary and secondary sources that are precisely the material students should be citing in their research”.
  • Knowledge is produced, not consumed: “Instead of being passive receivers of information, students become the creators and curators of knowledge. Wikipedia becomes an opportunity, not a threat, to formal education, and the educators’ role becomes facilitating a shift from simply teaching answers, to teaching how to ask questions”.

These two areas reflect the topics of the talks given by  Lisa Anderson / Nancy Graham and  Humphrey Southall which I highlighted earlier in this post.

Since the Wikimania event is still inviting submissions (the closing date is 31 March 2014) I am not able to speculate on the issues which will be addressed  at the event. Instead I’ll give my thoughts on important areas which will build on existing activities:

Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers

The article goes on to explain how “the term “crowdsourcing” is a portmanteau of “crowd” and “outsourcing“. However the relevance of crowdsourcing is not widely appreciated in higher education, with the word “outsourcing” possibly leading to concerns due to its political  connotations. One of the significant deliverables from the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador project was the production of a Jisc infoKit on Crowdsourcing. Resources such as this should help to provide a better understanding of the theories behind crowdsourcing and its relevance to Wikipedia.

  • Promoting Wikipedia editing by ensuring there are well-trained trainers: Back in October 2013 an article entitled “The Decline of Wikipedia” argued that “The loose collective running the site today, estimated to be 90 percent male, operates a crushing bureaucracy with an often abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers who might increase participation in Wikipedia and broaden its coverage“. The article concluded:

But that community also constructed barriers that deter the newcomers needed to finish the job. Perhaps it was too much to expect that a crowd of Internet strangers would truly democratize knowledge. Today’s Wikipedia, even with its middling quality and poor representation of the world’s diversity, could be the best encyclopedia we will get.

Participants at Training the Trainers course

Training the Trainers course, Cardiff, 1-2 February 2014. Licernsed under CC-BY-SA.

Concerns over the alleged “abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers who might increase participation in Wikipedia” are being addressed. Wikimedia UK runs a Training the trainer course which aims to:

  • Recognise the importance of diversity in the training context
  • Respond appropriately to the needs of volunteer trainers
  • Understand the impact of different learning and communication styles when designing and delivering training
  • Use active listening to guide their interaction with participants
  • Give effective and appropriate feedback to other participants

I should add that I attended theTrainer the Trainers course which was held in Cardiff on 1-2 February. The accompanying image (taken from the Wikimedia Commons web site) shows the participants at the course.,

  • Maximising the pool of potential contributors: Last week an article in the Guardian pointed out that “It is thought that only around one in 10 of its editors are female“. In another article published the previous week in the Guardian entitled “Stop female scientists being written out of Wikipedia history Dame Athene Donald, fellow of the Royal Society & Professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge University went on to point out that “Many female scientists are either not there at all on Wikipedia or just [have] stubs.

The concerns regarding lack of female involvement in Wikipedia editing are illustrated by the photograph of the participants at the Training the Trainers course, with the only woman in the photograph being the course trainer.

However such concerns, together with concerns regarding the lack of content about noteworthy females, are being addressed. In March there are no fewer than six events which are addressing these issues: Women in Science Wikipedia Edit-a-thon; Women’s Art Practices editing eventWomen Archaeologists editing eventScottish Women in Contemporary Art Edit-a-thon and Scottish Women in Computing Edit-a-thon.

As well as the need to increase the pool of female contributors to Wikipedia there is also a need to make it easier for people with disabilities to create content in Wikipedia.  The Accessibility of the Wikimedia UK website project focus is on making Wikipedia resources more accessible for people with sight problems; hearing problems; mobility problems and cognitive impairments. However in conjunction with the WikiProject Disability project which aims to “co-ordinate the improvement and creation of articles related to Disability” we might expect to see edit-a-thons being organised which aim to provide people with disabilities with the the skills needed to contribute to Wikipedia.

Education Strategy

I’ve given a brief view of various Wikipedia developments within the UK’s higher education sector and provided suggestions on further developments which would help to take Wikipedia beyond the early mainstream adopters and become more embedded within the higher education sector.

WMUK education strategyBut such issues need to be consider at a strategic level. Wikimedia UK are working on an Education strategy but, as illustrated, this is currently under development. As might be expected in a Wikipedia environment user input into the process of development of the strategy is encouraged, with the Education Strategy talk page currently having brief sections on:

  • OER university model
  • Primary and Secondary schools
  • Language learning
  • Theory of Knowledge

Would anyone like to contribute further suggestions for the development of Wikimedia UK’s education strategy?


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in openness, Wikipedia | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Preparing our Users for Digital Life Beyond the Institution

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 March 2014

About This Post

This blog post provides background information on digital literacy and argues that digital literacy needs to go beyond student teaching and ensure that staff and researchers, who may wish to continue their professional activities when they leave their current institution, are able to migrate content and services to the Cloud, so that content and tools can be reused once access to institutional services is no longer available.

The post concludes with an invitation for those with responsibilities for or interest in digital literacy to complete a survey which aims to gather information about current work in providing digital literacy support for staff and researchers, especially in preparing for digital life outside the host institution. The results of the survey will be presented at the LILAC 2014 information literacy conference.

Common Craft and LILAC on Digital and Information Literacy

Digital literacy by Common CraftI recently came across an animated cartoon on Digital Literacy published by Commoncraft. The cartoon explains that:

… there is a new kind of literacy that touches almost everyone in our modern world. It’s not related to a specific industry or job title. This literacy matters to both young and old and has become more important as computers and electronic devices have become more of a necessity in daily life.

I’m talking about digital literacy – the ability to use technology to navigate, evaluate and create information. 

LILAC, the Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference, defines information literacy as ‘the ability to find, use, evaluate and communicate information’. I find this latter definition more useful, as it includes the importance of using and not just evaluating information. However I prefer the term ‘digital literacy‘ as this goes beyond information and can include digital services and not just digital content.

The LILAC Web site goes on to describe how information literacy is “an essential skill in this digital age and era of life-long learning“. This emphasis on the importance of use of information to support life-long learning highlights the need to be able to use and manage digital information – and the digital services which manages the digital information – throughout one’s life, and not just when one if studying or working within an education institute.

SCONUL, the main representative body for academic libraries in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, uses the term ‘Digital Literacies‘ in a page on the Jisc Web site. This describes how the SCONUL Working Group on Information Literacy has developed the 7 Pillars of Information Literacy through a Digital Literacy ‘lens’ (MS Word format) which includes the ability to “Use a range of digital retrieval tools and technology effectively“, “Use appropriate tools to organise digital content and data” and “Manage digital resources effectively taking account of version control, file storage and record keeping issues“. This emphasis on the need to be able to use tools to organise and manage digital resources is important. I therefore find a definition of digital literacy as “‘the ability to find, use, reuse, evaluate, manage and communicate digital information” helpful. I’ve expanded ‘use‘ to ‘use and reuse‘ to highlight the importance of addressing the life cycle of digital content, in which content may migrate to new services.

Digital Literacy for Members of Staff and Researchers

Many staff and researchers in higher educational institutions will make use of digital content and services and would regard themselves as digitally literate. Within the context of the services they use within their host institution this may be true. But what happens when they leave their host institution (which we all will at some stage) and wish to continue using content and services and their online communities? This may be particularly relevant for researchers on short term research contracts.

The ability for highly skilled academics and researchers to be able to continue to be productive members of society is important when one considers that “Universities in the UK contributed £3.3 billion to the economy in 2010-11 through services to business, including commercialisation of new knowledge, delivery of professional training, consultancy and services” – might the commercial value to the economy provided by the sector be undermined if members of staff leave their host institution and are hindered from continuing to make use of their digital content due to a lack of expertise?

Ensuring that staff and researchers were able to continue to make use of their digital content and manage their online communities was probably not of great importance in the past, when one’s content could often be transported on floppy disks or memory sticks and the digital services which were used were could only be accessed within the institution’s network. However there is now a need to be able to respond to the radically changed environment in which Cloud services can be accessed by anyone, anywhere, there is a much greater volatility in the job market and the increasing important of open content, open data and open source software is minimising licence barriers to reuse of digital content and tools.

What Should Be Done and Who Should Do It?

Last year, in the run-up to my redundancy following the announcement of the Jisc cessation of core funding for UKOLN, I gave a talk on When Staff and Researchers Leave Their Host Institution at the LILAC 2013 Conference. The talk was based on personal experiences and described my views on the importance of researchers profiling services, such as Academia.edu and Researchgate, not only for providing a record of my research outputs but also  osting the content so that I could continue to manage the papers and the metadata once I lost the ability to manage information for my content hosted on Opus, the University of Bath repository.

Who is Responsible?

Vitae's Concordat

But what is happening across the sector in terms of ensuring that members of staff and researchers are being provided with the skills and expertise needed to continue to be effective professionals when they leave their host institution?

Should it be the responsibility of the Library, who have responsibilities for information literacy? In light of the importance of digital tools and services, perhaps it should be the responsibility of IT Service departments? Or maybe research support units or careers advisory services? In cases in which staff are being made redundant, perhaps the UCU or other unions could have a role to play in ensuing that union members are provided with appropriate training.

National Strategies?

If it is felt that there is a need for approaches provided at a national level perhaps SCONUL should look to ensure that their 7 Pillars of Information Literacy through a Digital Literacy ‘lens’ goes beyond undergraduate teaching.

For researchers, it might be appropriate ensure that Vitae’s Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and, in particular, the Concordat’s support and career development:

Principle 3: Researchers are equipped and supported to be adaptable and flexible in an increasingly diverse, mobile, global research environment

is implemented across the sector to address researchers ability to manage their digital content in a Cloud environment.

What is Being Done?

Ubfirmatuion Literacy Policy SurveyJenny Evans, the Maths and Physics Librarian at Imperial College London, and myself have had a proposal accepted for the LILAC 2014 conference entitled “Are Institutions Preparing Staff for Digital Life Beyond the Institution?” This will be based on a survey of institutional practices in providing support for staff and researchers so that they will have the skills needed to make use of digital content and services when they leave their current institution. We have created an online survey in which we invite staff across the sector who may have responsibilities for developing policies in this area and delivering the appropriate training and support to summarise their current practices or their plans. Since we appreciate that there may be a number of groups with interests in this area, including:

  • Library departments within institutions.
  • Library organisations such as SCONUL and CILIP.
  • IT departments within institutions.
  • IT organisations such as UCISA.
  • Staff development departments within institutions.
  • Academic departments.
  • National bodies such as Jisc, Vitae, etc.
  • Research funding organisations.
  • Unions.
  • The BCS (British Computer Society) and its Digital Literacy for Life programme.

We invite feedback from anyone with strong interests and involvement in this area; it would be better to get duplicate information than to have gaps in the information we gather. We would also invite those working outside to UK to provide information in related activities happening outside the UK. We will, of course, provide a public summary of our findings. In addition to the invitation to complete the survey, comments on this topics are also welcome on this blog post. The comments may address the topic area, but suggestions on ways of sending an invitation to complete the survey to relevant groups would also be welcome.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Web2.0 | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

How Are You Using Wikipedia?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 February 2014

My Involvement With Wikipedia

Wikipedia logo. Used with a CC-By licence from Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia logo. Used with a CC-By licence from Wikimedia Commons.

I signed up to Wikipedia in 2004 in order to create an entry for my hobby: rapper sword dancing. I saw the value of the service in providing a easy-to-use content creation tool which would benefit from crowd-sourcing content in order to maintain the content. However such ease-of-use and the crowd-sourcing model, in which anybody could edit the content, was initially not appreciated by many in the educational and library sectors. So although I created a small number of articles related to my professional interests (including Amplified conference and Microattribution) and encouraged use of Wikipedia (in blog posts such as Having An Impact Through WikipediaHow Well-Read Are Technical Wikipedia Articles? and How Can We Assess the Impact and ROI of Contributions to Wikipedia?) I felt that such work was not appreciated as having value in promoting innovative use of technologies within the sector.

It was therefore only after having received notification of the cessation of Jisc funding for UKOLN, my host organisation, that I took advantage of our funder’s agreement that we could spend some time developing our professional skills to prepare for life after redundancy, that I became more involved with Wikipedia activities. This included joining Wikimedia UK and taken part in two Wikimedia UK events: the Queen Victoria’s Journals University of Oxford editing day which provided an initial opportunity to familiarise myself with the format of an editing workshop and participation in a Sphingonet Wiki workshop (see accompanying photograph), which provided me with initial experience in working with other Wikimedia experts.

Since leaving UKOLN I have continued by involvement with Wikipedia including taking the lead role in Facilitating a Wikipedia Editing Session at the SpotOn 2013 conference and attending the EduWiki 2013 conference. I will also be running a Wikipedia editing workshop session at the LILAC 2014 conference and supporting an edit-a-thon at the conference.

Such work is appropriate for my new role as Innovation Advocate at Cetis, since my work encourages use of innovative practices as well as innovative technologies. Interestingly the value of Wikipedia is now being appreciated by Jisc who, in conjunction with Wikimedia UK, are funding a Wikimedia Ambasssador.

I’m pleased that this post has been funded and that Jisc are helping to promote take-up of Wikipedia and related Wikimedia services across the sector. I hope this will help in seeing active use of Wikipedia move beyond the early adopters and become mainstream.

What Else Is Happening in the UK Higher / Further Education Sector?

The Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador post has been funded from July 2013 to March 2014. There will therefore be a need to ensure that sharing of approaches taken to use of Wikipedia continues to take place after the funding for the post finishes.

The Eduwiki 2013 conference held in Cardiff 0n 1-2 November 2013 provided a valuable opportunity to hear about ways n which Wikipedia is being used across the broad educational sector. I was particularly impressed by talks on Introducing Students to Independent Research Through Editing Wikipedia Articles on English Villages by Humphrey Southall and Safe use of Wikipedia in the transition from school to University by Lisa Anderson & Nancy Graham.

But what else is happening in the sector? I have to admit to a personal interest in this question as, as described on the Wikimedia UK blog, on 23 March I will be giving a talk at the EduWiki Serbia 2014 conference on educational use of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia tools in the UK. I would like to include further examples of work taking place which I am unaware of. If you are working in this area I would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment on this post or get in touch. Thanks.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Wikipedia | 3 Comments »

What I Noticed For The First Time In The Past 24 Hours

Posted by Brian Kelly on 26 February 2014

Techniques for Predicting Future Trends and Their Implications

Back in October Tony Hirst and I co-facilitated a day-long workshop session on Future Technologies and Their Applications. Mechanisms for predicting future developments and being receptive to the possibilities and implications of technological and societal developments has been a long-standing area of interest to me.

Back in 2007 in a post entitled The History Of The Web Backwards I was inspired by the “History of the World Backwards” comedy series on Radio 4 programme to describe the demise of the web from the data of the blog post to its extinction on the early 1990s. The aim of that approach was to provide different insights into technological developments. Two years later in a post on Forecasting Trends Backwards I described a YouTube video entitled Romancing Your Soul Absolutely Brilliant! which provided another take on time travel: it began with a young woman’s dismal view of the implications of technological developments which concluded “And all of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it“. The talk was then reversed to provide an optimistic view of developments. If you’ve not seen it before I’d recommend spending 1 minute 44 seconds to watch it (there have been over 201,000 views since the video was uploaded in October 2009).

In our Future Technologies workshop Tony Hirst introduced me to a new technique for helping to spot technological developments and reflect on their implications. As Tony described in a post which asked “What did you notice for the first time today?” this question “can be important for trend spotting – it may signify that something is becoming mainstream that you hadn’t appreciated before“.

Tony went on to give some examples of how he uses this approach:

I’ve started trying to capture the first time I spot tech in the wild with a photo, such as this one of an Amazon locker in a Co-Op in Cambridge, or a noticing from the first time I saw video screens on the Underground.

In a post in which I gave my thoughts on this technique I posed the question slightly differently: What Have You Noticed Recently? and went on to comment on developments I’d observed in recent months (e.g. badges for gaming activities; evidence of use of mobile devices in bed; WiFi on buses and making payments using a mobile phone).

Providing examples of technological developments you have observed today is more challenging – especially if you noticed the developments at 8pm! This was when I was struck by something I had not come across before, so I’ll keep to the spirit of Tony’s methodology but tweak it by commenting on “What I Noticed For The First Time In The Past 24 Hours“.

What I Noticed For The First Time In The Past 24 Hours

Cinime

The Cinime app

The Cinime app allows you to interact with the cinema screen display

Last night I went to the Odeon Cinema in Bath. The advertisements included one which encouraged viewers to download the Cinime app (available on the iPhone and Android market places). I installed the app on my Galaxy Note phone and started to use it during a number of further advertisements which were shown on the screen.  Unfortunately as I had to download the app over a slow 3G network I wasn’t able to play the computer games during which you could interact with the display on the cinema screen. However I was able to hold my phone up to the screen and receive further information about a trailer which was displayed.

Wondering How It’s Done?

On my way home I speculated on how the app might work. I had stated that I was in an Odeon cinema when I launch the app so it had some contextual information about me. But did it know which cinema? If not, how would it relate my responses to the quiz displayed on the screen? Perhaps there are only a fixed number of quizzes?

However the quizzes were quite simple. I was more interested in how taking a photo of a trailer shown on the cinema screen would provide information about the film. Was there some clever pattern recognition (there didn’t appear to be any QR code or equivalent code visible on the screen)? Or perhaps, I thought, the app might be processing the audio; after all apps such as Shazam and Soundcloud are able to recognise popular music.

How Was It Done?

An article in The Next Web gives some hints as to how the app works:

Cinime uses audio watermarking and image recognition technology to enable users to unlock brand and film-related content on their phones. During the interactive quiz, cinemagoers are invited to answer a series of questions displayed on the silver screen, questions that are tailored to different audiences and movies. If they get two or more questions correct, they can redeem a PlayStation-sponsored prize after the movie or during their next visit.

So both audio watermarking and image recognition are used, but more detailed information is not provided. Interestingly as a Google search for “how does cinime” is automatically expanded to how does cinime app work” suggests I’m not the first to ask this question.

A Change in the Culture in Cinemas?

As I held my phone up to the screen and took a picture of the screen (as illustrated) I felt somewhat self-conscious. Previously adverts had asked cinema goers to switch off their mobile devices, with adverts highlighting how embarrassing it could be if a phone went off while a film was being shown. But now cinema goers are being encouraged (indeed bribed, with prizes being offered for those who complete the quizzes) to use their mobile phones.

How Could Such Approaches Be Used In Other Contexts?

However rather than wondering how the app works or the implications of the culture change, my main interest was in how such an approach could be used in an educational or cultural contexts. That won’t be an issue I’ll address in this post, although I’d welcome suggestions.

A Portfolio of Techniques

This post has been primarily about how the question “What have you noticed for the first time in the past 24 hours?” or “What have you noticed for the first time recently?” can be a useful tool in future-planning workshops.

Lat year at the CETIS 2013 conference I took part in a session on the “Future of CETIS” in which Paul Hollins made use of the Delphi process to “identify emerging trends and the future technology landscape in education and predict as a group what technologies will have most impact on the short, medium and longer term in Higher Education in order to prepare institutions for the challenging future which awaits them“.

CETIS have also been involved in the EU-funded TELMap project which looked at emerging technologies and practices in educational technology which collected perception of timeline, potential impact, feasibility and desirability in respect of developments that are not currently mainstream.

I, together with my Cetis colleagues, will continue to explore ways of engaging with our communities in seeking to predict innovative developments and plan for their implications. The resources used for the workshop on Future Technologies and Their Applications are freely available under a Creative Commons licence. I intend to make further use of the “What have you noticed for the first time recently?” technique in future workshops, alongside use of the Delphi process which Paul Hollins and I described in a paper on “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow“.

But in addition I’d welcome suggestions on other approaches which can help in providing new ways in predicting and planning for innovation. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments. I also invite comments on things you may have noticed for the first time recently – with bonus points if you noticed them today! You could even share your observations on Twitter using the #whatInoticed tag.

Posted in General | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Being Post-Digital (or BEL activities in a PLE)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 February 2014

The Research Unbound Launch Event

The Research Unbound Web siteLast Friday I was an invited speaker at IRISS’s launch event of the Research Unbound project. As described on their home page Research Unbound  is “an online journal published by IRISS as a place for sharing research whether completed or in progress” with the aim of “linking research and practice in social care“.

The approach being taken is to encourage open sharing of research activities and practices through, for example, the provision of a blog platform (based on WordPress) which can be used by those working in sector.

I had been invited to give a talk on the role social media can play in three areas:

  1. Supporting dialogue with one’s peers
  2. Developing one’s professional network
  3. Enhancing the visibility and ‘impact’ of one’s research

The third area, in particular, can be helped by adoption of open practices, such as making one’s research available with a Creative Commons licence and ensuring that it is easily found through use of appropriate open access repository platforms.

But open access, I said in my presentation, is not sufficient; there are many papers hosted in open access repositories which have very low download statistics.  There are benefits which can be gained through use of social media. My talk was based on a paper on ” Using social media to enhance your research activities” which I presented at the Social Media in Social Research 2013 conference last year. An updated version of the presentation, which I gave at the Research Unbound launch event is available on Slideshare and  embedded at the bottom of this blog post.

BEL activities in a PLE

Since I have previously published blog posts about use of social media to support research activities (see the posts on “Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities“and “Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities – Workshop Session at the #DAAD2013 Conference””) I won’t repeat the contents of those posts here.

What did occur to me, however, was how social media technologies are now becoming embedded in everyday activities, in a wide range of locations and throughout the day.

I illustrated this point by asking how many people in the audience had a smart phone. The answer was all but one person of the 31 people attending the event. The vast majority had accounts on social media services and also used these services for work-related purposes. In response to my final question: “Who has used a mobile device for work-related purposes in bed?” I found that I was not alone, with many of the participants admitting to tweeting, reading email or work-related documents on their mobile phones, tablet computers or e-readers in bed.

The technology, I would argue, is being invisible. Many people are no longer interested in questions such as “What OS does your tablet run?” or “My tablet runs a dual core Atom processor. What about yours?“. Similarly many people are now indifferent about the social media services themselves- when did you last hear a discussion on whether, for example, an open source competitor to Twitter should be used?

We now seem to be moving towards a post-digital environment to use the term coined by Dave White in a blog post on “Postdigital: Escaping the Kingdom of the New?” published in 2009 on the TALL blog. In the post Dave argued that:

Too much time is spent arguing about the relative merits of digital spaces such as Twitter and Facebook. The key term here being ‘relative’. We are pitting digital against digital, new against new, a form of one-upmanship which distracts from the larger picture.

A Pub Learning EnvironmentI thought about Dave’s blog post the night before I gave the presentation, when I was in the Blackfrair’s pub with Ian Watson (from IRISS who invited me to speak at the conference) and Sheila MacNeill, formerly of Cetis and now working at Glasgow Caledonia University. While we were in the pub we caught up on what we’ve been up to since we’d last met and, as those with interests in educational technologies and future-gazing activities tend to do, shared examples of developments which we felt were interesting.

As I described it the next day we took part in “BEL activities in a PLE” or “Beer-enhanced learning activities in a pub learning environment“!

Now having a drink and a gossip with friends and colleagues is not post-digital, although there are parallels with the benefits which can be gained from use of social media.

Activity Social Media Pub
Supporting dialogue with one’s peers Joining in a Twitter discussion Joining in a conversation
Developing one’s professional network Being followed by someone on Twitter, looking at their bio and following them back Being introduced to new people and swapping business cards
Enhancing the visibility and ‘impact’ of one’s research Tweeting “Here my latest blog post on xxx bit.ly/xxx I wrote  paper on that. Give me your business card and I’ll email you a copy

But whilst a legal framework and social protocols have developed over an extended period for pubs this is not the case for social media. But what would happen if we were in an environment in which pubs were new, perhaps the prohibition era in the US had lasted until recently and had been extended across the western world, in the same way that social media extends globally?

If Pubs Were A New Invention

Let’s imagine a parallel universe in which President Obama’s election was welcomed across the globe and his first presidential act was to ban prohibition. Just as with the fall of the Berlin Wall, this led to changes across the western world, with pubs, bars and nightclubs being allowed to open. No doubt the risks would be highlighted by those who do not welcome change, and a risk register would be needed to address such concerns.

Risk Responses in the Fictitious Pub Environment
They might be used for pornographic purposes. Access to pubs requires signing form stating no illegal activities will take place.
Inappropriate conversations may take place. Recordings made of conversations, which will be analysed for inappropriate keywords.
Illegal activities, such as selling pirate copies of DVDs, may take place. Visitors searched as they enter establishment

In addition to the risks as perceived by those who do not welcome their introduction, there will also be risks as pubs become established and sustainable business models are needed once they move beyond the early adopters.

Risk Responses in the Fictitious Pub Environment
Visitors “social spaces” are “appropriated” for work-related purposes. Informal human protocols become established
Pubs seek to monetise the social environment though advertising, promotions, etc. Although some argue “if you don’t pay, you’re the product not the customer” eventually the need for pubs to make money becomes accepted.

In Dave White’s blog post he concluded

Maybe it’s time for a metamorphosis in approach, away from the digital, towards the postdigital.

True. And maybe the move towards the post-digital can be helped by an appreciation of the pre-digital. What do you think?


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Social Networking | 3 Comments »

Call For Submissions for IWMW 2014

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 February 2014

IWMW Continues!

IWMW 2014 Call for SubmissionsThe Institutional Web Management Workshop series (better known as IWMW) was launch in 1997. The event aimed to develop a sustainable community of practice for those with responsibilities for providing institutional web services.

The event has been running for 17 years and has attracted participants from the web management community from across the UK’s higher and further education sectors. The growth of important of the web to support a range of institutional activities has also seen the event attract participants from beyond web teams, including those with responsibilities in teaching and learning and research, in addition to those with interests in marketing, design, user interfaces, gathering user requirements, accessibility as well as the technical aspects of providing large-scale web services.

For the past 17 years the event was provided by UKOLN with funding to support the organisation and planning for the event being provided by the JISC. In light of the cessation of JISC funding for UKOLN at the IWMW 2013 event we explored ways in which the event could be sustained without Jisc funding and backing from UKOLN.

The feedback at the event made it clear that there was strong demand for the event to be continued.

I’m pleased to announced that the IWMW event will continue! The IWMW 2014 event will be held at the University of Northumbria on 16-18 July. The event will be supported by myself, Cetis (my host institution) and Jisc Netskills.

Call For Submissions

Although the event needs such institutional support in order to maintain its unique profile, the most important aspect of the event lies in the contributions made by the speakers and workshop facilitators. The event aims to provide a forum for sharing experiences and we wish to continue that tradition.  We therefore invite members of the community who stories to share and ideas to explore to submit a proposal for the IWMW 2014 event.

We will continue to provide a mixture of plenary talks (typically lasting for 45 minutes) and workshop sessions (lasting for 90 minutes). However we will also welcome suggestions for other ways of engaging the workshop participants. In the past, for example, we have held debates, panel sessions and bar camps. if you feel you like to make use of such approaches, or perhaps even make use of a novel approach, we would love to hear from you.

And although we particularly welcome submissions from practitioners in the sector, we also welcome submissions from outside the higher and further education sectors.

Details for the call for submissions are available from the IWMW Web site. Alternatively feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions, ideas or suggestions.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 1 Comment »