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Cluster meeting in Exeter

On 2nd and 3rd September, our CAMEL colleagues from Bristol, Westminster and Hertfordshire Universities, and our Critical Friend Malcolm Ryan visited for the fourth and final cluster meeting of our JISC curriculum delivery projects. We met in hot sunshine outside Reed Hall, on the Streatham Campus where colleagues who had walked up the hill from the station were recovering with well earned drinks.

The main theme of the meeting was ‘Celebrating success’. This was a chance for us all to reflect on the different journeys the projects have travelled, and to gain valuable insight from collegues around the three questions:

What have you achieved?
What is the evidence for this?
What would you do differently if you knew then what you know now…?

For the INTEGRATE project team it was a chance to gain feedback on our ‘Talking Heads’ and to test out the materials we are producing to support staff development beyond the life of the project. We gained some really helpful input which will help us make our outcomes clearer and more useful.

During the meeting we were joined by Sue Burkill, Head of the Education Enhancement Unit and then by Juliette Stephenson and Carlos Cortinas, Teaching Fellows in the Business School, who were able to discuss their own use of technology and their support for a range of staff in the School.

Helen Beetham joined us for the final sessions on Friday to help tease out some of the lessons we have learned as a cluster, and to facilitate discussion around what it is that has been important in the CAMEL process. We are hoping to write up our collaborative work for the Greenwich conference proceedings.

We are planning to meet again in 2011 to look at how our work travels over the next academic year…so…the adventure continues!

Talking Heads

After a very successful mini away day, where Simon (our new GBP student) was able to spend some time capturing lots of useful “Talking head” videos from Theory of Management teaching fellow, Jenny Wren, he has continued to get his teeth into videoing the other teaching fellows and lecturers that have been involved with the Integrate project.

The aim of the short video clips is to capture staff feedback and comments about the technologies they have been using, putting them into the context of some of the project’s main themes, such as: internationalisation, large student cohorts, assessment and feedback, group work, etc.

The first talking head video was actually taken the week before our away day, taking an opportune moment after the Business School graduation to get a few words from Alex Janes who had used wikis for group work assignments with his 300+ cohort of Strategy students. We learnt several things about taking good talking head videos from our first attempt with Alex. We used the standard Flip Mino digital camcorders at fairly close range in a reasonably well-lit teaching studio. However, we found that the audio track didn’t come out very loud upon playback, with a distinct low-level hissing sound. This prompted Simon to do a few test clips with the Flip HD and the Flip HD Ultra to see if there was a noticable difference in sound quality. Both the HD Flips were not hugely better but did seem to give a little bit less background hiss and allowed for better volume levels. We have therefore decided to record all the other videos in HD from this point forward. Lesson learnt: do a few tests to check the quality of your video ouput before going ahead and interviewing.

The second issue we faced when playing back Alex’s recording was the length of the clips. Alex was saying really good and relevant stuff, but almost in a stream of consciousness so there were very few natural pauses in his speech to allow the larger (8-10min) clips to be split up into smaller ones. The lack of pauses made it difficult for Simon to edit in order to bring together the sections relating to the themes above. Lesson learnt: Ensure that you ask appropriate prompt questions and plan to record just for that question and then stop. This way it makes it easier to edit as the person being interviewed is guided by your question/prompt and knows to stop at the end of speaking about that particular topic. The clips can then be re-arranged in the most appropriate order without cutting off any of what is being said.

Greenwich Future Learningscapes Conference 2010

The INTEGRATE project, along with the three other JISC projects in our CAMEL cluster – e-biolabs, Making Assessment Count and The ESCAPE Project - presented at the annual Greenwich e-learning conference ‘Future Learningscapes’ on Wednesday 7th July. The two sessions, called  ’Synergy in Action : Getting more than we anticipated’ were designed as a way of drawing together the collaborative learning experiences of those working on the projects.  Having talked about the  findings of our projects and the key lessons we are each learning in the first session Mark Clements from the University of Westminster led discussions around some of the themes emerging from our work. Dominic Bygate and Mark Russell from Hertfordshire facilitated the second session with discussions around the benefits and fears of collaboration. They then  drew together the common threads of our experience.

The teams from all four universities get on well and it seems as if everyone has learned a huge amount from their own work, but also benefitted greatly from being part of a well facilitated cluster.

The benefits of the CAMEL process have been:
- Getting away from the day-to-day
- Finding others in the same boat
- Meeting with openness and honesty
- Sharing thinking, airing challenges
- Gaining fresh perspectives
- Building a shared experience
- Sustaining energy, confidence, focus

The process of working together as a cluster has been a really good one, and given how incedibly busy everyone involved in the JISC projects has been over the past few months, we have done brilliantly to draw this together. Two key things about working together well, that were articulated during our discussions on Wednesday are that:

  1. The first meeting of the cluster organised by Gus Cameron in Bristol was really important for the group and set the tone for future meetings
  2. Skilled facilitation has been absolutely vital to this process - thank you to our critical friend Malcolm Ryan 

The INTEGRATE team are looking forward to welcoming everyone in our cluster to Exeter for our final celebratory  CAMEL meeting in September.

Gathering momentum

This academic year has been extremely busy and productive for the INTEGRATE project. So much so that it is very difficult to know where to start writing.  These are exciting times for us and in a meeting yesterday to update everyone on progress it was clear that we are all feeling the momentum and impact of the project has increased enormously over the past three months.  Finding time to sit back, to write and to reflect has been a BiG challenge as we are all so busy at the coal face.

However, we must start to write again and to celebrate our success….so perhaps for today a list of just a few things we are working on will suffice:

  • Embedding the use of Audience Response Systems across the Business School
  • Developing use of SMS in lectures
  • Developing processes for podcasts of lectures
  • Increasing use of Echo360 for lecture recordings
  • Using wikis for small group assignments in large student cohorts
  • Using online learning logs to develop reflective practice in Masters students
  • Redesigning modules to enhance learning in very large student cohorts with emphasis on opportunities for  formative assessment
  • Running an international photographic competition
  • …as well developing support materials, case studies and the project website…..
  • …and more…

It really is a time of great progress and change and hopefully we will find more moments to capture this over the coming weeks.

Project Activities

October: first half

Students are back! Everywhere!!

New staff

We look forward to working with seven new Teaching Fellows this year:  Thomas, James, Alexandra, Alexander, Jack, Aurel and Gary.

We also welcome two new Graduate Business Partnership students who will be working on the Students as Change Agents project: Dale Potter and Harriet Whewell. Dale in particular will be working with the Business School, and since he graduated from there in the summer, he is already known by a number of staff and students. Liz has been involved in their induction to the projects, and to Education Enhancement and the world of HE more generally, between their being introduced to Change Agents project by Roos, spending time with the Team Development programme (observing, videoing, taking photos) and making the video required by JISC for the two-day Curriculum Design and Delivery sessions in Manchester.

Laura was pleased to be on the panel for the Business School post for the new GBP student Moodle Migration Team. The students for the team have now been selected and are based in the main library, and they have also been completing their induction process. The Moodle migration is not directly connected to the Integrate project, but will certainly have an impact on technology use in the Business School and across the whole institution. The migration is due to be completed for next academic year.

JISC requirements

Laura and Liz (Ali has bronchitis) spent 2 days in Manchester with JISC projects – a very early start and late back the next day. Exeter created a lot of interest, both re numbers and what we’d achieved so far, and in relation to Student-led projects. Several invitations to speak elsewhere about this. Also arranged that David Nichol (national expert on assessment, see REAP project) would visit Business School in new year – seemed interested in idea of talking to a mixed group of students and staff (more to negotiate here).

The video and an A0 poster were asked for three weeks ago to provide discussion points for the meeting. This was not good timing for us, especially as we had already spent 2 days out in mid-September at Westminster Uni for a required meeting, and time is precious! Too much of Liz in video, but everyone else too busy at the beginning of term to contribute.

Team development feedback sheets collated and analysed by Liz for almost 500 students from the Business School  – so as to be clear of benefits perceived by students – very positive indeed – and potential links to teaching with technology. MACE scores (Module and Programme Evaluation scores) analysed for 83 undergraduate modules for last academic year in relation to two questions on technology. Need to work out what the figures tell us about technology use/desires across different year groups. Need also to collect more comments from staff about positive benefits of team development (Aurel, Jackie, Juliette, at least). NB. Also need to make sure that photos, etc. are accessible to the Business School. Printed poster for JISC sessions looks very professional – went back to the design team three times before we were happy with it. We should print some smaller ones?

Key meetings

Management group meetings were held to discuss Ali’s replacement (her last work day is 25 November, before she goes to Westminster). Job description updated and agreed, and the formalities for Personnel are completed. A new member of the group is David Boughey as School Director of Education (a new post). We welcome him and look forward to his interest and support.  Also met to discuss: returning to the pre-summer practice of a member of the project team spending time in the Business School; better lines of communication in general (hence more activity on this blog!); being more proactive; and being clearer between us about targets and boundaries for the second year of the project. The management group will from now on be comprised of David, Juliette, Roz, Ali or her replacement, and Liz.

Liz and Harriet met with the Guild Education Officer and Student Representation Officer re SSLCs and Academic Affairs meetings. Currently a bit vague – very few chairs of committees as yet and no meeting times decided. This is central to Student-led projects in the School, so a bit disappointing. Will arrange to meet with the Business and Economics (student) Society to ensure good links.

Liz and Dale met with Erasmus coordinator in the Business School. Dale gained useful feedback from attending the international students evening (brief questionnaire).

Training sessions

Laura and Ali ran introductory sessions for WebCT, Turning Point and Turnitin for the new teaching fellows as well as an introductory session about WebCT that was offered out to all Business School staff.

Other activities

Ali and Laura spent the previous week working full-time on getting the new BSD1000 Business School Development module up and running – no easy task! We hit many technical and administrative challenges throughout the week but worked around them and we are generally pleased with the final outcome. BSD1000 module is being accessed by students already – signing up for online skills courses. Problem with incorrect dates in spreadsheet for BSD1000 skills module rectified. Lots more students have signed up!

Laura and Ali also had a couple of busy afternoons in the Business School helping to sell ARS handsets (clickers) to the first year students. Mix of reactions from the students – some excited about using the new technology, some wary that they are for attendance monitoring purposes, and some completely unfazed by the devices because they’ve used/seen them before (particularly the Chinese students).

Twenty-two flip cameras have been charged (half of Education Enhancement helped with this!), marked and ready for Jenny’s group. FAQs for Jonquil’s flip video group added to slightly and uploaded to WebCT – will be useful for Jenny too. ‘Hire agreement’ sheet written for students, to add to ‘instructions for use’. (These could become ‘assets’ for JISC at a later date). All such info will be put onto the project website for reference (though not sure if we can do this as we’d planned, due to the style of the new Academic Services template). Detailed arrangements have been made in order to give full responsibility to Jenny’s groups to look after flip cameras, to video their own group presentations in taught sessions, and download presentations themselves (training session, to be run by Laura, arranged for students soon). Dale and Harriet videoed one of Jenny’s introductory sessions so that any instructions can be available in future without need for repetition. Will be made into a video for our new ‘Ning’ site.

Have spent many hours trying to find expert advice on/test out where to keep student video that can be accessed by the tutor groups but is otherwise private. Ning looks to be the best space (recommended by the JISC), but needs more testing. Other major possibilities were Facebook (mixed feelings from students about ‘intruding’ on their space) or Youtube (can only have groups of up to 25 if to remain private, so this is not possible for the size of groups required).

JISC Conference 2009

One of the key messages for me from yesterday’s conference came from Ewan McIntosh of 4iP.  He made the point that people tend to visit the same six websites everyday and if you’re thinking about launching a new destination site, you’ve got to be more popular than YouTube or Facebook.  He cited VLEs as the ultimate destination site – walled gardens where very little leaks out.  We make students go there by posting course notes and reading lists – students go in, spend a minimum amount of time there and get out as soon as possible.  Without compulsion they would probably never visit.  He likened VLEs to motorway service stations  – they’re somewhere you stop off because you have to, they’re not your ultimate destination.  This, he says, is a result of the lack of a participation culture in university level teaching and the top down approach often taken.  Participation culture is pretty much what the integrate project is about – trying to create an integrated learning experience for large student cohorts where participation and engagement is intrinsic to the teaching and learning experience in the Business School.

Something Ewan mentioned near the end of his keynote was the types of users to a destination site – 90% of them are likely to be visitors, 10% are likely to be fans and just 1% will be contributors/distributors. The trick is to turn that situation around and increase your number of contributors/distributors. We should be aiming to:

Grab attention…
Keep attention (again and again)…
Turn it into a tangible result…

Ewan went on to talk about the spaces where people spend their time:

Watching Spaces – TV, gigs, theatre, cinema etc
Participation Spaces – marches, meetings, markets, events etc
Performing Spaces – Second Life, World of Warcraft, Home etc
Publishing Spaces – Flickr, Blogger, YouTube etc
Group Spaces – Bebo, FB, Tagged etc
Secret Spaces – mobile phones, SMS, IM etc

Many of these have already seen uses in education, but Ewan was keen to point out that so far not much has been done to exploit secret spaces – he quoted there being more mobile phone users worldwide (around 3.5 billion) than there are internet users (around 1 billion) and asked why we’re not doing more to tap into this phone usage? It was interesting to see that mobile phones were being used in a similar way at the conference to how we’ve been using them in Integrate – to collect questions as you go and to display messages on screen live as they come in (although we haven’t tried this latter aspect yet). On the way to dinner at Whiski Bar in the evening with Michele Shoebridge (our Director of Academic Services) and Matt Newcombe (Head of e-Learning) we talked more about ARS vs. SMS and all concurred that the mobile phone is almost certainly going to be the way to go in the future – all we need is the right software platform to run it.

Ewan’s closing message summed things up nicely – we need to concentrate on the process, and in doing so will be working towards ingenuity, rather than the product, which will only allow us to be average…

Bursary Students

As a project we have just employed our first bursary students who are all kicking off their own projects.  So far we have six students working on five projects, with possibly a couple more in the pipeline.  The students and projects are:

Gemma Heath – Buddy Scheme

Susie Golics – International Students

Robert Cohen/Sara Collins – Web 2.0 Technologies

Tim Lowe – Employability

Sam Vaughan – Engagement in Lectures

The bursary students will be working with staff and with other students to promote and develop use of technology in the Business School.  More information about the Students Supporting Staff and Students theme of our project can be found by clicking here.

Visit by Grainne Conole

Last Wednesday we were lucky enought to have the undivided attention of Grainne Conole for the morning.  She gave us a very informative presentation about the work of the OU Learning Design Initiative and overviews of both Cloudworks and Compendium LD.  We first looked at Cloudworks last November after the programme start-up meeting in Warwick and could clearly see how it had moved on in functionality since then – it was also useful to hear some of the future functionalities that might be included.  Something that we found very interesting about Cloudworks was the potential for sharing information and documents about a meeting or an event as clouds and to group those clouds together as cloudscapes.  What you would then end up with is aggregated information from a variety of different sources, all in one place.  An area of future functionality we found particularly compeling was use of RSS and the ability to push information (about clouds, cloudscapes, people etc…) back out to us as users.

CompendiumLD also looked like it could have some potential for us, particularly in mapping out trickier delivery problems for specific technologies.  What we liked was that you could have your learning outcomes mapped to tools, tasks and resources and tht you could also use it as a repository to link to the resources you were going to use.  However, we did feel it would be more powerful if you could use it in a networked, or web-based way and more than one person could contribute to a design at a time.  One thing I personally really liked was the ability to output a design as a working, clickable website with all of the linked resources etc there to view.

Grainne also spoke to us at length about the OER movement (open educational resources) and we found synergies between some work we are proposing and some work Grainne is already involved in, so it was a good morning all round!

SMS vs. ARS? Experiment Two

Experiment Two
Module: Intermediate Microeconomics 2
Module Leader: Dieter Balkenborg

This experiment happened during lecture time and the results were delivered synchronously to students within lecture time. Ali Press, e-Learning Advisor, was present to collate the responses. The lecture, on the topic of game theory, used the example of the Battle of Bismarck Sea, where the Japanese forces’ dilemma was how to get their ships from Turvurvur, on the island of New Britain, to the port of Lae in Papua New Guinea – they could either travel north or south around the island to reach their destination. Similarly, the allied forces had the dilemma of whether to search to the north or the south of the island in order to intercept and bomb the Japanese fleet. There is also a storm to the north of the island offering protection to the fleet. Each strategy, sail north / sail south or search north / search south, holds benefits and costs to each side. The students (n≈120) were asked to send texts in a prescribed format to the PAYG handset voting for their preferred scenario.

In this case 67 text messages were received in a five minute period, 56 of which were useable (inappropriate messages and those not following the prescribed format were rejected). The texts arrived in batches with small gaps between them and although only a handful more texts were received in five minutes than the first experiment (67 compared to 51) the ‘live’ nature of the test made the receipt of the messages seem a lot slower. Once received, the messages needed to be filtered, collated and then exported to Excel for counting. During the collation and analysis of results the lecturer introduced and played another economics-based game with the students and once counted, the results of the first game were reported back to students in a matrix on a whiteboard:

Two students were chosen at random to receive a prize, weighted according to the answer they gave, for their contribution – at this point it seemed the students understood the game was live, was real and was really influenced by their input.

The live nature of this experiment meant five texts were not used due to their content. It’s possible the idea of the messages being received in the same room was enough of an impetus to send proportionally more inappropriate responses than during the first experiment even though once again the messages were not being displayed. Equally this could have been a result of group dynamics or simply because the texts were being received and processed by a person, not a machine. As soon as the phone number was revealed to the students someone rang it. The handset was on silent and the call was immediately dropped by Ali, but perhaps the call was a test and was actually a way of finding out of the experiment was live or not? Is there perhaps a way to use this positively?

Feedback from the lecturer afterwards suggested that this wasn’t a successful use of SMS technology as, under normal circumstances, the lecturer would be on their own and wouldn’t have dedicated support from someone who could manage the receipt and collation of messages. In this case, where a prescribed response from a number of options and a quick turnaround between receipt, collation and display of responses are required and extra layer of software to count responses is required. In this situation ARS technology would be more appropriate. The lecturer also did not progress as far through the material he needed to deliver in the session due in part to the amount of time required to run the SMS game and in part to technology problems at the start of the session.

I should say a few things about the technology, but that’s one for another blog posting…

SMS vs. ARS?

Some of our modules are interesting in using audience response systems (ARS) for eliciting student feedback.  Many, many systems exist for this purpose – all of them offering similar functionality anf all of them similarly expensive.  Whilst ARS systems do offer a very convenient way of gathering quantitative data from your students, there are a few problems with them from an administrative point of view:

They can be quite costly, particularly if you want to purchase enough handsets for a whole module to use.
How do you manage the handing out and collecting in of handsets if you only have one set meant for use across a number of modules?
You can’t gather free text responses.
Who will take responsibility for batteries?

Thinking around these issues it became clear there might be a better way to go.  Many students already carry with them a device capable of sending numeric and textual data using a standard communicaton protocol.  They take care of these devices and keep their batteries charged.  In our survey of first year students, 99% of them (n=224) used these devices (yes, their mobile phones) in their personal lives and of those 97% used them daily.  It therefore seems sensible that we should tap into this pool of student owned and maintained equipment.  A very unscientific poll suggests many students have mobile phone contracts with bundles of text messages.

In order to leverage student ownership of mobile phones and apparent willingness to text one another during lecture times we decided to start using texting for learning – not quite mobile learning as the students in the experiements we’ve conducted so far are not mobile, but mobile learning in as much as mobile devices are being used.  Rather than use a proprietary text message system we decided to see how much we could do with a simple PAYG mobile hnadset.  We purchased a Nokia 2630 for not very much money, downloaded Nokia PC Suite for free and linked the phone to a PC using a bluetooth dongle (£5).  Students can then text numeric or text-based messages to the handset, the messages can be displayed on screen using Nokia PC Suite (and shared with students if the PC is hooked up to a data projector) and they can also be exported as a CSV file for further analysis.

Experiment One
Module: Philosophy of Economics
Module Leader: Juliette Stephenson

In this experiment Juliette asked students to text responses to two questions to the PAYG phone number.  The questions were ‘is economics a science?’ and ‘what is science?’  The first question generated mostly yes/no responses (y=19, n=6) and 4 free text responses.  The second question received 27 free text responses.  51 messages, answering both or either questions, were received in a 5 minute period which seems to indicate no bottlenecks were created when all of these messages were received by the same handset and no messages related to either of these questions were received at a time to suggest there had been any kind of network issues (commonly network providers don’t guarantee delivery of text messages).

At this point I should share some of the responses in their entirety to give a flavour of the level of engagement students demonstrated with the task and thought that went into their responses:

…looking at evidence to make conclusions…
…modelling theory, testing, gathering data, applying to real world…
…research and experiments that can be proved…
…precise quantitative measurements and calculations made to test a gypothesis [sic]…
…solving problems using proven models…
…science is the exploration, through rational thought and experimentation, of the existance [sic] we inhabit…

Note the lack of text speak!  Also note that to achieve free text responses using ARS pretty complex, and therefore expensive, kit would be required.

The free text nature of the second question meant the answers could be analysed well with a word cloud:

Word cloud for the question 'what is science?'

Word cloud for the question 'what is science?'

The word cloud (created using Wordle) analyses well common themes between the 27 messages.  The word cloud was created by exporting the received messages to csv and copying and pasting the responses into Wordle’s cloud generator.  In this case the word cloud was generated outside class time and fed back to students at a later date.  If you were to do this in a live lecture setting you would need to have an activity planned for the studets to undertake whilst you filtered out inappropriate messages (incidentally, none were received in this experiment), eported the csv file and dropped the messages into Wordle.

Something we’d like to build on is having students’ texted-in questions, responses and feedback displayed dynamically on screen as they’re received.  If we were able to make this happen (by using some of the marketing-type software that exists for receiving and processing text messages) we might find the quality of responses drops as some students use the opportunity to share their thoughts on other issues.  Something that would be useful would be the functionality to automatically create and display graphical representations of numerical data received in text messages – this is something ARS does so well – but, without more sophisticated (expensive?) software,  isn’t something we’re going to be able to achieve easily with SMS responses.

In this case SMS wins over ARS…. but will that always be the case?  Experiment two offers a different perspective…