Analysing your Learning

Way back in 2005 I visited Alton College to look at a Moodle module they had created to make access to the NLN materials easier for teaching staff.
They’d also invested quite a lot of effort into developing individual learning plans for students to access online. The plans included target grades and a progress tracker and were used in tutor reviews. Importantly the system allowed timely interventions to keep students on track, whereas the previous system of adding paper concern notes to registers meant it could be too late once the concern was noted.
The system allowed any of the lecturers or support staff to enter concerns about work or commitment into the college information system which would send a message to the student’s tutor. The tutor would then discuss the issues with the student. The system used a Red, Amber Green traffic light system, students started off in the green, but late or missed deadlines or absences triggered an amber light and an alert to the personal tutor and student services.
I can remember interviewing a librarian at the college who said the system had made her feel involved and listened to, as submitting concern notes about students now made things happen.
For the learners this system provided swift feedback on their progress and helped prevent mis-steps. I talked to some art students at the time who were very positive about the system, and heard anecdotes of students working hard to get themselves out of the amber zone. All this was great, and had a positive impact on retention and achievement. I was delighted when Alton became one of the Becta Technology Exemplar Network Colleges and started sharing their experiences.
And then in 2011 I went to FOTE and listened to the chap from IBM talk about Learning Analytics, which made me view things in another light.

Analytics is a business tool that allows those who use it to make the best use of resources- the Memphis Police Department worked with IBM who looked at their crime trends and enabled them to re-allocate resources, resulting in a 30% reduction in crime.
In Education these tools allow prediction of student failure before it happens. In an example Hamilton County department of education in the US (42000 students) worked with IBM to improve graduation statistics from only 25% to 33% in just one year using an automated student management system, because they could allocate resources where they were most likely to be needed.
In the UK many Universities are starting to talk to IBM about Analytics, Edinburgh Telford College invested in Predictive Analytics, highlighted the need for attendance to students, and linked it directly to their Educational Maintenance Allowance (a fund to encourage folk to continue in education)
The IBM fellow then moved on to talking about automated systems, which remove the need for costly lecturer or student services involvement, and the potential to identify which students will fail before they even arrive based on location information “not with the purpose of excluding them…”

predicting the future

It occurred to me then that the context is everything, whereas in the Alton College scenario the data flow was tightly coupled to caring pastoral support staff, and enthusiastic tutors, the IBM speaker indicated that similar data could be used as a business tool… to make business decisions based on predictions about the potential for students to fail…and the potential for staff to fail…

Since then Analytics has become a trending topic, and there is no doubt that such powerful tools will become more prevalent, but with great power comes great responsibility.
It is therefore timely that JISC-CETIS have released a series of 11 papers on Learning Analytics, and that the most recent deals with the legal risks and ethical aspects of analytics in Higher Education (though it is of equal value to those working in Further Education). The papers offer an insight into the world of Analytics and may help us predict some of the issues we will run into in the future.
Well worth a read.

#JISCEL12 sticking the bits together

Simon Booth and Stephen Vickers are tireless champions of practical interoperability.
I’ve had the great pleasure of watching their double act at events like Dev8ed.

Dev8ed Interview: Stephen Vickers on Vimeo.

The IMS Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) specification is supported by all major VLE platforms (including Blackboard, Moodle, WebCT, Desire2Learn, and Sakai) and offers a secure method to launch external tools and content from within the VLE.

This provides a way of extending a VLE to use tools that better meet a teachers need, or preference, an ideal solution for providing institutional support to tools which are only used by a small minority of staff (whether they are hosted internally or externally).
On Wednesday 14th November 12:30 – 13:30 Simon and Stephen will be presenting a live session that will discuss how the JISC-funded ceLTIc:sharing project is evaluating the use of LTI to provide a shared service for institutions interested in evaluating WebPA.
It will include a demonstration of linking to the tool from Blackboard Learn 9 and Moodle, as well as how the outcomes service along with the unofficial memberships and setting extensions are being used to enhance this integration in a VLE-independent way.

Register for the conference.

The fee for Innovating e-Learning 2012 remains unchanged at £50.
Current JISC projects are eligible for one free place, please contact Rob Englebright for details:

#JISCEL12 consumed by the machine?

Paul Glister coined the term “Digital Literacy” in 1997 to suggest a more active engagement with new media, emphasising it was about mastering “ideas, not keystrokes”. As we implement solutions in our institutions that require increasing levels of digitally literacy, we bump into the problem of “mainstreaming”.
This is frequently envisaged as a technical process, involving a formal and managed roll-out. The logistics and scale of this makes it an high-stakes,
high-risk process, and it can become detached from the engaging aspects of early pilots and trials.
As a contrast, the “Digital Literacies as a Postgraduate Attribute”
project ( has adopted a different approach.
This involves a structured process of working with students to generate
detailed accounts of their experiences, with a particular focus on their
struggles and coping strategies.
This has produced resources that influential actors within the institution can then adopt in order to effect changes.

Lesley Gourlay and Martin Oliver will be leading a session on Wednesday 14th November 10:00 – 11:00,  and will outline their project and introduce the ways in which they have worked with students to document their experiences.

Participants will be asked to map routes from project data through policy
makers to institutional systems, and think about the work that needs to
be done at each stage to enable this to happen.

Register for the conference.
The fee for Innovating e-Learning 2012 remains unchanged at £50.
Current JISC projects are eligible for one free place, please contact Rob Englebright for details:

#JISCEL12 Making your mark

I’ve just finished a Skype call with Tony Toole who is preparing a presentation for Session 3 in the JISC Innovating e-Learning Activity week.

Tony was the project manager for the JISC “SWANI” (Secure Work-Based Learning Administration through Networked Infrastructure).

The Project successfully created a digitised document management system for the administration of Work Based Learning in South West Wales which included a digital signature system that satisfied the audit requirements of the EU and the Welsh Government who jointly fund the WBL programme.
The POTSPAN project follows on from SWANI, and is piloting the digitised system with the Skills Academy Wales WBL consortium partners.

We’ll be discussing solutions to problems of authentication and other related topics on Tuesday 13th November 2012 15:00-16:00 in Blackboard Collaborate.

Register for the conference.

The fee for Innovating e-Learning 2012 remains unchanged at £50.
Current JISC projects are eligible for one free place, please contact Rob Englebright for details:

#JISCEL12 The Noble @Dr_Black

@stephenfry: The noble @Dr_Black has her @unbounders book on Bletchley Park out now. #BPark How the war was shortened…

@stephenfry: The noble @Dr_Black has her @unbounders book on Bletchley Park out now. #BPark How the war was shortened…

Original Message:

“The noble Dr Black” has the ring of a first class Bond Villain, but in this case it’s Dr Sue Black, computer scientist, and friend of Bletchley Park.
Bletchley Park was the centre of code code breaking during World War 2, and home of not just pop heroes like Alan Turing and Tommy Flowers, but apparently thousands of bright young minds.
The work they did there not only saved millions of lives, and cut the war short by 2 years, but was the genesis of the modern computer.
@Dr_Black used social media in a campaign to help save Bletchley Park, and has written about this in an “unbound” book. You can support publication of Dr Sue Black’s book by pledging at:

You can hear Dr Sue Black provide the opening keynote at the JISCEL12.
The Keynote is titled: “Innovation, Innovation, Innovation” and will be looking at “What could be more important than helping others to learn?”.

Register for the conference.
The fee for Innovating e-Learning 2012 remains unchanged at £50.
Current JISC projects are eligible for one free place, please contact Rob Englebright for details:

#JISCEL12 Black magic

I can remember doing a very brief demo of some Augmented reality technology at an RSC event in Birmingham, probably in 2003?

The demo was from HITLabs NZ “Black Magic”, it involved printing out the big blocky fiduciary markers, aiming a web cam at them, and running a program in a terminal window.
If you held out the marker in your hand a little sail boat plotted a course around your palm.


Black Magic Augmented Reality demonstration

I waited for ages to see a really useful educational example, not having much use for small sailing ships in my day job teaching Agriculture, and the best stuff seemed to be part of the abortive BBC Jam project.

More recently I’ve had the real privilege of seeing the SCARLET project build AR toolkits to extend the teaching and learning capacity of rare books: and the work at Exeter on unlocking the hidden curriculum.

All this leads up to my delight on hearing that Kendal College were successful in getting funding for a project in the recent JISC Advance FE programme, to create some AR resources to support plumbers, having already seen their AR prospectus.

The second Activity week session at the JISC Innovating e-Learning conference  will look at the Kendal College project, the Colleges Wales project, to build an itunes hub, and reflect on the other 28 projects in the programme.

Register for the conference.
The fee for Innovating e-Learning 2012 remains unchanged at £50.
Current JISC projects are eligible for one free place, please contact Rob Englebright for details:

#JISCEL12 solving more interesting problems

In planning the JISC innovating e-Learning Activity week Timeline session I encountered an issue that will be picked up in the first session of the main conference week: “Open Architectures”.
We often say that we let the pedagogy lead our decisions, and whilst this is a noble aim, any decision on technology has an impact on what is possible, and what must be sacrificed. I am using Googledocs to populate my Verite teaching technology timeline. This has the advantage of being fantastically simple to set-up:

I then had to twiddle a few lines of html and it all sprang into life.
The form means anyone can submit items to the timeline, without needing to login, or run special software.
The disadvantage is that the Google API (Application Programming Interface) limits things to 100 entries.

google plus logo

restriction can be a plus

At this point I could have chosen to investigate building a form that submits entries to a timeline database as JSON, which was not without appeal.. but the more interesting problem is to see how I can make the restriction work to my advantage.

In this instance the restriction works well, giving me a limit to the timeline size, and adding in a level of competition to the Activity week session, where folk will have to defend their choices. It also lets me use the “History in a 100 objects” in the title, resonating with Radio 4 listeners.

The sacrifice is the lost data points, the additional stories that might not get told.
The first session of the main conference week: “Open Architectures – solving more interesting problems” will be looking at how the decisions we make shape what is possible.

I will be looking to see what happens when I reach 100 objects.

Register for the conference.
The fee for Innovating e-Learning 2012 remains unchanged at £50.
Current JISC projects are eligible for one free place, please contact Rob Englebright for details:

#JISCEL12 The final countdown

There are just 19 days left till the JISC Innovating e-Learning Online Conference 2012 opens its virtual doors for the first Activity week session… my session!
The theme of the conference is “shaping the future”, and it occurred to me to plot our trajectory we really need to think about where we’ve come from. I’d seen the XCRI timeline that Lou McGill had created for CETIS, but wanted something that could be used collaboratively.

I asked the champs list for suggestions for suitable timeline tools, and settled on the remarkable Verite timeline script  combined with a Google spreadsheet and form, as suggested by Martin Hawksey.

The Verite TimelineJS can use Flickr, Googlemaps, Youtube and maybe even tweets, and even creates an embed generator to run the script from their site.
Here’s a link to my  first attempt at adding some of the key timeline landmarks from my teaching timeline plus a few I pinched from Ben Ryan’s talk at Dev8ed  :

PLATO running a fractional distillation simulation

We’ll be starting fresh in Activity week.

What technology made a difference to your teaching?
Register for the conference.
The fee for Innovating e-Learning 2012 remains unchanged at £50.
Current JISC projects are eligible for one free place, please contact Rob Englebright for details:

#JISCEL12 The way of the future

The theme of this years JISC Online e-Learning conference is “shaping the future”, and it’s perhaps timely to look back and think that we’ve been running the conference for seven years and consider how far we’ve come.
Would the conference delegates of 2005 think we’re living the dream, or still asking the same questions, and trying the same solutions?
In the run up to the conference I’m going to be looking at the topics covered in the conference Activity week sessions, considering the distance travelled, and what the future might hold.
To help with this reflection, I’ll be asking three questions…

What does the future hold?
What do we need to change?
What are we doing to adapt?

Of course my flip answer to “What does the future hold?” is always jetpacks and rocket-boots.

But if I’m serious, what does the future hold?…

What are your answers?

I’m also going to be picking up on the idea of pledges from the closing keynote of #jiscel11 Ewan Mackintosh. Did you make a pledge last year? Did you stick to it? Will you make a pledge this year?

Recording of closing keynote 2011

Powerpoint from closing keynote 2011
I’d be delighted to hear your comments.

Changing the learning landscape

JISC communities may be interested in two current opportunities in the Changing the Learning Landscape programme, a new partnership venture we’re involved in which aims to take a multi-pronged approach to helping English higher education providers make strategic changes in the way they use technology to support learning, teaching and the student experience. If that sounds a bit all-encompassing, it’s meant to: the programme has a broad focus which encompasses technology-enhanced learning as well as using technology in other ways to support students and staff. It’s also broad in its audience group – the programme’s activities will be relevant to senior managers, anyone involved in implementing technology-enhanced change, educational developers, and academic programme teams. There is a strong theme of student engagement which runs throughout the programme.

The progamme is a partnership between the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, the Higher Education Academy, Association for Learning Technology, National Union of Students and JISC, and is funded by HEFCE. It has three strands of activity:

The first two of these strands are currently open for applications.

The strategic change programme aims to equip leaders of learning, teaching and the student experience to develop, communicate and deliver a vision for the enhancement of these areas through the strategic use of learning technologies. It has interesting links with JISC’s Developing Digital Literacies Programme, which has identified digitally literate senior management as one of the key emerging themes: what skills do strategic managers need in order to develop digital capacity across the institution and develop a cutting-edge digital environment for learning and research? Applications for the strategic change programme are now closed, and the programme started with a face to face event on 27-28 November.

The consultancy support strand offers the equivalent of six days of support to institutional teams to help them implement strategic change in the use of learning technology. Support is available in a wide range of areas, and is provided free of charge to the institution. JISC is planning to bring everything we have learned about supporting our projects to this strand. Bids from institutions will need to outline the project they wish to work on, with evidence for the need for the work. Round 1 is now closed, but watch out for round 2.

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