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Thoughts on the OU’s Innovating Pedagogy Report

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 Nov 2014

Innovating Pedagogy

Innovating Pedagogy 2014 reportThe Open University has recently published the Innovating Pedagogy 2014 report (PDF format), the third in a series of annual reports on innovations in teaching, learning and assessment. As described in a blog post which introduces the report:

This third report proposes ten innovations that are already in currency but have not yet had a profound influence on education.

The blog post also provides links to summaries of these ten innovative areas:

  1. Massive open social learning
  2. Learning design informed by analytics
  3. Flipped classroom
  4. Bring your own devices
  5. Learning to learn
  6. Dynamic assessment
  7. Event-based learning
  8. Learning through storytelling
  9. Threshold concepts
  10. Bricolage

Some Thoughts on the Report

A few days ago I reported on the opening session of The NMC Virtual Symposium on the Future of Libraries, an event which was based on the NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Library Edition (available in PDF format). The Open University and the NMC report are important reading materials for those with responsibilities for planning and implementing use of IT in higher education. Although such reports can’t be guaranteed to describe what the future will bring they do provide useful background material which can be valuable in informing institutional planning and decision-making.

I’ll provide some personal thoughts on the areas of innovation which are of particular interest to me.

  • Massive open social learning: The report introduces this topic by describing how:

Massive open social learning brings the benefits of social networks to the people taking massive open online courses (MOOCs). It aims to exploit the ‘network effect’, which means the value of a networked experience increases as more people make use of it.” The section summarises this are as “Free online courses based on social learning“.

Initially I was surprised at the inclusion of this topic as the first innovative area since the Open University has led MOOC activities in the UK through its FutureLearn platform. However it seems that the emphasis is on “social learning” rather than simply massive open online courses. It should also be noted that the report gives this are a potential impact rating of high and suggests a short (1–2 years) timescale for its widespread implementation.

StackexchangeI was interested to note that the report had mentioned StackExchange as a service which illustrates the power of social learning in other contexts:

In our previous reports we have given the example of StackExchange, with over 5 million users, which exploits the power of social learning. It is an example of problem-led massive social learning. When people have a problem to solve in the
relevant field they pose it online. Other people in the community provide answers. Yet more people expand the answers and rate the contributions, so the most interesting questions and best answers become more visible to all users. 

Back in 2010 I asked the question “Is Stack Overflow Useful for Web Developers?” The answer, it seems, was ‘yes’: “I’m pretty sure that most web developers will have come across Stack Overflow quite some time ago“.

Looking at the StackExchange lists of sites it seems that although the original Stack Overflow “Q&A for professional and enthusiast programmers” is still the most popular, many other areas are also covered as shown (in part) in the accompanying screenshot. The less widely-used areas, which are not included in the image, include “History of Science and Math“, “Italian Language” and “History“. I have to admit that the extent of such communities which can support informal learning as part of the StackExchange range of services was a surprise to me, which I had previously thought was focussed on IT topics.

  • Learning design informed by analytics: This is described as “A productive cycle linking design and analysis of effective learning” which also has a potential impact rating of high although in this case a medium (2-5 years) timescale for its widespread implementation. The report describes how:

As learning is taken online, there are opportunities to collect data on student activities and analyse these, both to inform the design of new courses and to improve the learning experience. The data can also be linked with test results to show which learning activities produce good results and to identify where learners are struggling.

The reports highlights the question of “what to measure?” and “ethical considerations” as two important areas which need to be addressed.

The report concludes:

An important consideration for institutions wanting to implement learning analytics is their capacity to produce and act on reliable data. Organisational change takes substantial time, effort and financial resources. We expect an increased use of learning analytics by managers and teachers to improve the quality of their courses. This, in turn, will help the learning analytics community to understand more clearly which variables for learning are important, how to incorporate informal learning, and where the ethical boundaries of learning analytics lie.

Note these are areas which are being addressed by the EU-funded LACE (learning analytics community exchange) project which Cetis is involved with. I should also mention that my colleagues were authors of the Cetis Analytics Series and co-authors of Analytics for Education, an article published in JIME.

  • Flipped classroom: Flipped learning “reverses the traditional classroom approach to teaching and learning. It moves direct instruction into the learner’s own space. … This allows time in class to be spent on activities that exercise critical thinking, with the teacher guiding students in creative exploration of the topics they are studying.

I’ve an interest the learning and staff development opportunities which networked technologies can provide beyond the lecture theatre. In this context I tend to use the term “amplified event“. For researchers this may be characterised as the “amplified conference“, a term coined in 2007 by Lorcan Dempsey and described in more detail on Wikipedia. Initially communication tools, such as Twitter, were used to encourage a remote audience to engage with discussions. However we may also be seeing resources being made available before an event, in part simply to facilitate sharing with a remote audience, but this enables use of such resources in advance of a talk.

  • Bring your own devices: As described in the report “when students bring their own smartphones and tablet computers into the classroom, this action changes their relationship with the school and with their teachers“. The report feels that BYOD will have a high potential impact in a timescale of 2–5 years.

The importance of mobile devices has highlighted in the recent NMC Virtual Symposium on the Future of Libraries, with the opening session providing an “Emphasis on Mobile“. The session build on the findings of the NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Library Edition in which mobile apps was felt to have a time-to-adoption horizon of one year or less. It therefore seems surprising that the OU’s Innovating Pedagogy report predicts a longer period before ‘bringing your own device’ has a significant impact in learning.

Perhaps the differences reflect the differing perspectives from the teaching and learning and library sectors, with the library focussing on ensuring that content is mobile-ready, whereas the teaching and learning community will need to consider how BYOD policies can be integrated within the learning environment. The opportunities provided by BYOD approaches will also have to aligned with institutional policies regarding security, privacy and support issues, as summarised in the following image (taken from Bring Your Own Device: A Guide for Schools. Edmonton, Canada: Alberta Education, available in PDF format).

BYOD models

Your Thoughts

I’ve given my initial thoughts on four of the ten innovative areas mentioned in the Innovating Pedagogy 2014 report. I’d welcome your thoughts.

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From the Modernisation of Higher Education Report to the Open Learning Analytics Network Summit

Posted by Brian Kelly on 7 Nov 2014

More Personalised Learning Informed by Better Data

In a recent post on a Report on Modernisation of Higher Education I described how the High Level Group’s report on the Modernisation of Higher Education which covers New modes of learning and teaching in higher education gave a high profile to the importance of learning analytics. The report includes a section entitled More personalised learning informed by better data which explains how:

In traditional lecture hall settings, it is difficult for a teacher to follow the progress of each and every student. It is impossible to adapt the pace of the course to match individual needs. Online provision allows the capturing of a range of data that can be used to monitor student progress. Advances in big data and learning analytics can help our higher education system customise teaching tools and develop more personalised learning pathways based on student data. However, the collection, analysis and use of learning data must only occur with the explicit consent of the student.

Data can capture how students engage in the course, interact with other students and retain concepts over time. It can provide information on the learning process as opposed to just learning outcomes. Teachers can experiment with different approaches and examine the immediate impact. Data can also be used to identify at-risk students at an early stage, assisting in efforts to increase retention rates. While still a relatively young field, exciting developments in learning analytics are underway. Several universities in the United States have programmed automatic dashboards, giving teachers the possibility to monitor their student’s performance live. The massive availability and usability of data has also great potential for empirical research on learning and teaching. Stanford’s Lytics Lab is one example that applies empirical research to better understand the performance of students. Learning process and feedback tools are yet another development that allows students to monitor their own performance and adapt it accordingly. The Open-Learning Initiative of the Carnegie Melon University and the Check-My-Activity-Tool of the University of Maryland are two examples of these promising developments.

Note that the 37 page long report is available in PDF format.

Open Learning Analytics Network Summit

Open learning analytics network summit 2014As part of its work on the LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project, Cetis is organising a one day summit event to broker collaboration around the idea of an Open Learning Analytics platform – based on principles of modularity, open architectures, and open standards – in Amsterdam on 1st December 2014, collaborating with colleagues from the University of Amsterdam and the Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative.

We have seen how the Modernisation of Higher Education report which covers New modes of learning and teaching in higher education has given a high profile to the importance of learning analytics.

In addition Learning Analytics and interoperability are identified as key areas for research and innovation in the Horizon 2020 call ICT-20, “Technologies for better human learning and teaching“.

The time is therefore right to gather a European critical mass of activity behind the idea of an Open Learning Analytics platform.

The purpose of the Open Learning Analytics Network Summit Europe event is to develop a shared European perspective on the concept of an Open Learning Analytics framework, based on a critical view of where we are now and what is feasible in the next 3-5 years.

The intended outcomes of the summit are concrete plans for collaborative research and innovation. These plans will set out to meet the challenges and realise the possibilities of 21st century learning and teaching, including those outlined in the ICT-20 call, in a way that properly embeds the Open Learning Analytics principles.

The Open Learning Analytics Network – Summit Europe 2014 will take place at the Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam on 1st December 2014. Participation is invited from public and private sectors, including innovators from all sectors of education and training, open source and proprietary software developers, people with experience of learning analytics interoperability and architects of modular and distributed systems.

Further information including the full call for participation is available on the LACE project web site.

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Report on Modernisation of Higher Education: Focus on Open Access and Learning Analytics

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 Nov 2014

New Modes of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

Modernisation of higher education reportVia a post on the Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) LinkedIn group which described how a “Report on Modernisation of Higher Education specifically refers to LA [learning analytics]” I came across the High Level Group’s report on the Modernisation of Higher Education which covers New modes of learning and teaching in higher education. The 37 page report, available in PDF format, provides two quotations which are likely to welcomed by educational technologists.

We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world” David Warlick


… if we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow” John Dewey

The coverage and tone of the report can be gauged from the table of contents:

  1. Introduction: why Europe needs to act
  2. Harnessing new modes of learning and teaching to modernise higher education
  3. Challenges and how they can be addressed
  4. Recommendations
  5. Selective glossary of terminology
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. Members of the group

From the section on “Harnessing new modes of learning and teaching to modernise higher education” I noticed a number of areas of particular interest to me:

  • Greater global and local collaboration and cooperation: I noticed that this focussed on “collaboration and cooperation” rather than competition.
  • More personalised learning informed by better data: This was the aspect of the report which is being addressed on the LACE LinkedIn group.

Report Recommendations

Recommendations of the Modernisation of higher education reportHowever it was recommendation 13 which surprised and pleased me:

Governments and higher education institutions should work towards full open access of educational resources.

In public tenders open licences should be a mandatory condition, so that content can be altered, reproduced and used elsewhere.

In publicly (co-)funded educational resources, the drive should be to make materials as widely available as possible.

I also found it interesting that copyright concerns weren’t considered to a significant barrier in the report. Instead the report focusses on the legal challenges posed by the privacy implications for the collection, analysis and reuse of learning analytics data. For example Recommendation 14 states that:

Member States should ensure that legal frameworks allow higher education institutions to collect and analyse learning data. The full and informed consent of students must be a requirement and the data should only be used for educational purposes.

In addition Recommendation 15, the final recommendation in the report, states that:

Online platforms should inform users about their privacy and data protection policy in a clear and understandable way. Individuals should always have the choice to anonymise their data.


It’s pleasing when a significant report is closely aligned with the interests of one’s host institution! In this case the ebook Into the wild – Technology for open educational resources by Amber Thomas, Lorna M. Campbell, Phil Barker and Martin Hawksey (which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License) provides a series of reflections on three years of the UK OER Programmes from staff at Cetis and Jisc who were closely involved with the three phases of the Jisc OER programme.

In addition since the start of 2014 Cetis have been working on the EU-funded LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project. If you’ve an interest in this important new area feel free to visit the LACE project Web site, subscribe to the LACE Newsletter, join the Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) LinkedIn group, or simply follow the @laceproject Twitter account and the #laceproject hashtag. If you were following the Twitter stream you may have noticed the announcement of the Notes from Utrecht Workshop on Ethics and Privacy Issues in the Application of Learning Analytics –  a very timely report in light of the recommendations made in the Report on Modernisation of Higher Education!

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Posted in learning-analytics, openness | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

LACE Project Infographic (and Keeping Up-to-date With New Posts)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 Oct 2014

LACE Project Infographic

The EU-funded LACE  (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project 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“.

LACE project infographic (portion)Last week the LACE project blog included a post on “Infographic Learning Analytics“. This post described how learning analytics can help answering questions such as:

  • When is a student ready to proceed to the next subject?
  • When is a student at risk of dropping out?
  • What grade will a student most likely receive for a specific subject?
  • Does a student need extra support on a specific area?

The post, which provided comments on learning analytics from a school perspective went on to add that “It will take some time before Learning Analytics will be broadly adopted in schools. We expect that within two to five years approximately 50% of the schools will make use of systems that are more or less driven by Learning Analytics principles.

In order to encourage discussions on this topic the LACE project team have created an infographic which depicts “the roads to more differentiated and personalised education“.

A portion of the infographic is included in this post.The full infographic (which can be downloaded as a hi-resolution PDF) goes on from the traditional and personalised educational environments to summarise how learning analytics can help; the learning analytics cycle; the four levels of learning analytics; the teacher’s role and ask ‘what’s next?’.

Keeping Up To Date With LACE Blog Posts

Other posts on the LACE project blog published in the past two weeks have covered topics including:

But if you have an interest in learning analytics how should you ensure that you do not miss any of the blog posts? Traditionally this has been done by adding a blog’s RSS feed in your RSS reader. In the case of the LACE project blog the RSS file is available at . However RSS usage seems to have declined significantly in recently years, particularly since July 2013 when Google closed down the Google Reader.

These days many professionals seem to keep informed on new articles and blog posts through their Twitter network. If you use Twitter you may find it useful to follow the @laceproject Twitter account or monitor the #lacproject hashtag which is used by the project team.

However as well as RSS readers and Twitter, another way of ensuring that new LACE project web sites are delivered to you is to subscribe to an email delivery services for new posts.

LACE feedburner - subscription

The Feedburner service is basing used to provide this service. If you would like to receive automated email delivery of new LACE project blog posts simply click on the following link:

Subscribe to LACE – Learning Analytics Community Exchange by Email

You should note that if you wish to unsubscribe from this service you can do so at any time.


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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.




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