Thursday, May 08, 2008

User types and cluster analysis - Part 1

I am now approaching the last three months of my research contract on OpenLearn although I am sure that the papers relating to this will spill over into whatever I may be doing in the future.

I have a lot of data still to analyse - particularly on the qualitative side - which always takes longer than the quantitative.

Recently I have performed some Elementary Linkage Analysis on a couple of the questions in the survey. This is a form of cluster analysis that might be useful in identifying types or categories within the data. Some of this work has been reported by me and Patrick in a paper which I will be presenting at ED-MEDIA 08. In it I identify two clusters based on a question asking users about what types of facilities they would like to see in OpenLearn.

One of these clusters we have labelled as 'volunteer students'. These are users that represent more traditional types of study and highly value the content. They would like to see interactive content and a large choice of content. They would like to see more assessment, and Q and A sessions with experts. This type is likely to represent the largest proportion of users.

We have identified the other type of user as 'social learners' but it is also likely to include a small proportion of educators interested in using the resources of OpenLearn in their own teaching. This cluster might be thought of in terms of two sub-clusters; media, and social aspects in relation to learning.

Many may flag social aspects of learning but these may not be the priority for many users, who desire a traditional content based resource but perhaps to include interaction with more knowledgeable others achieved by way of Q and A with experts. It is possible that OERs such as OpenLearn could occasionally invite an expert to give a talk, say via FlashMeeting, and invite responses from users, perhaps via FlashMeeting or a forum.

One of the problems of any form of cluster analysis is the challenge of finding a label to name and encapsulate the nature of any clusters emerging.

An earlier draft of the paper can be found at:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Referencing A Blog

I have been finishing off a paper but wanted to reference the blog of the OpenLearn conference.

The link is

It was not that easy to obtain the information needed: the closest I got was in terms of how to reference a general web page although I did find some guidance about referencing blog entries. The journal required that I use the Harvard referencing system so I looked up their guidance which included a link to a guide at exeter university. This was OK in terms of web pages but really I wished to distinguish it as a blogging event. I was then directed to the Open University website by a colleague, Mariano, which gave advice about referencing and did indeed include how to reference the blog. There were however problems in that I did not wish to cite just one entry, but all the entries that related to the conference. So there was really no single, but many authors. Another difficulty is that there seemed to be no clear page title so I settled on the title OpenLearn2007 which was the end part of the URL address...see above. Finally the reference that I thought was most appropriate to the journal guides and requirement was:

OpenLearn2007 (2007) Open content holistic research environment, [Online] Available: [12 Feb 2008].

This is based on the Harvard method and that required for the paper (there seem to be variations in the Harvard system itself).

'Here are some interesting points made by a friend and eLearning Researcher, Rebecca Fergusson (Research Essentials):

I found the earlier version easier to understand, because it stated that it was a blog. I know the criteria for Harvard don't include 'being easy to understand' but I feel that, when the style guide is not entirely clear, it's best to go for the option which is going to be most helpful and informative.

I don't know if this is relevant, but I have seen JonKatz's piece, 'Luring the lurkers', which is essentially a blog posting, referenced in the following ways

2. Katz, J. Luring the Lurkers.

Katz, J. (1998) "Luring the lurkers." [On-line]. Slashdot, 29 December 1998. [On-line]. Available:

[8] Katz, J. Luring the Lurkers, available at, 1998.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Diary of a Day

11:12 I am trying to put together a list of users for a reminder email about filling in the online questionnaires. There are two directed at low users and one at high users (greater than 30 mins total time on site - ab out 50% of registered users). To do this I need to filter out those that have responded or sent emails saying they are unable to presently fill in the questionnaire. There are some other bits and pieces I need to do to try to ensure I do not re-email those who have already responded. It is however impossible to ensure for certain that there will not be a few who receive an unnecessary email. My aim is to reduce this to a minimum if possible.

At the moment I am some 10 questionnaires short of my desired 1500 received by Xmas. This reminder email should ensure I reach my personal target.

I am just about to go to a talk at KMI which I shall try to blog:

Coping with the complexity of pedagogical mediation in distributed learning environments: effective e-teaching and e-tutoring strategies in the web 2.0

Paula de Waal, University of Padova, Italy 20/12/2007, 11:30am, KMi Podium

Monday, October 29, 2007

OpenLearn2007 Getting it together - techno style

The OpenLearn2007 conference is almost upon us. At the moment I am just getting to grips with all the recording technology. This blog, as far as I can tell, if I have tagged it correctly should appear in some blog aggregator on somewhere on the Knowledge Network...not quite sure where yet.

This facility should allow many people to blog and these blogs appear automatically in a shared space. Alse we have the OHRE blog set up by Patrick. I can blog directly into this if I wish since he has given team members access. This probably would also appear in the aggregator.

Besides this as theme chair I will be making sure that the sessions in my theme (Users) are blogged and photos are taken here and there. For this I will use Flickr. Photos taken on the digital camera can quicly be uploaded from the SD-card of my camera to my laptop and thence to flickr. I think that it is then easier to transfer the pictures to the relevant blog (perhaps becausee it nicely resizes the photos - must set slightly smaller size on upload program).

I will also be taking a video camera in tomorrow - just in case.

This is very much working it out as I go along....the digital camera is relatively new to me and the aggregation a new experience. So all of this by tomorrow I hope I've used the right tag!

Trip to Poland

to be completed

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Night Before

Here I am in Copenhagen - such great public transport! I am still putting together my slide show and have just been collecting any emails from work and tyring to get hold of some up-to-date bog standard statistics (need to check how many courses we now have - think it is over three hundred). Here is a key element list that I need to follow in order to polish up things...a to do list if you like:

1. Re-read paper for examples of contradictions - make notes and create 1 or maybe two slides on this.

2. Need to introduce basic elements of activity theory properly

3. Put website address on slide show - prominence

4. Include some bog standard stats

5. Look through slide show to identify new areas to tackle

6. Do a talk through - probably best to have two of these...must watch time

then take it from there....How much of this I will do tonight I don't know...will probably work for about an hour before relaxing with a drink...and then maybe some on the morrow.

Andreia is also presenting in UTAH so I hope here session goes well - perhaps she can blog me....that's a good idea perhaps I can get her to guest.

Spoke to two interesting people from the Copenhagen Business School who are hosting the event...try to find out a little more about them tomorrow.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Busy Time

This is only a ten minute post so shall write as much as I can within the time.

Will soon be going to the ECEL 07 conference in Copenhagen to give a presentation. I will see if I can blog this experience.

We had a good reading group last week and were looking at the interpersonal communication sides of online learning. There was debate about how these experiences can become effective in terms of learning. Gill illustrated from the Second Life research work at the Open University.

I, like Wallace in her article, recognise the importance of a teacher or 'more knowledgeable other' although I perceive a continuum or dimensional aspect where we are all more knowledgeable in some respect.

At the moment I am trying to get my slide show together for the ECEL conference, write up some older research work, conduct an ethnographic study about using OpenLearn where I am a learner (monitoring my own experience), preparing for my trip to Warsaw in a couple of weeks time (which requires gemming up on all things open in terms of International awareness), getting up-to-date with my neglected blogs, and adminstering our new questionnaire. Another thing I must do is push for the in depth interviews with OpenLearn users. Perhaps I should identify and email some tomorrow - before I go to Copenhagen.

I hope there is good wireless connectivity at the conference so I can continue to have web access. Of course I have once again left my adaptors in Bristol.

Perhaps I should experiment with this blog over the next few days or so.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Virtual Ethnography, the Reading Group and our research

I thought last weeks reading group on Virtual Ethnography was particularly good and interesting. The passages were taken from Christine Hine's Virtual Ethnography and it was a fairly substantial read. Since I am not too hot in terms of my knowledge of Ethnography it was a good introduction to the underlying principles of the method. Virtual Ethnography necessarily differs in terms of its method in that the principles of 'being there' within the community of study in terms of geography and time are very different. There was also some discussion on virtual reality and actual reality and the cross over between the two worlds.

As a result of this reading group the OpenLearn researchers (me, Andreia and Patrick) have decided to conduct an ethnographic research study ourselves where we will become users of OpenLearn, picking a number of units to study and recording, perhaps by blogging our experiences.

During my work on the Mellon supported project I acted as a participant observer by taking the Open University Astronomy course S282 - a 30 point unit. This was a great course and I was looking at its interactive elements. I was hesistant to call it ethnography however because I was not fully aware of the principles of ethnography in doing the research. Rather I considered it participant observation and S282 was a case study within our overall research on the Mellon project. We used Yin's Case Study text as a guide to structuring the research. Being a participant myself however gave me a very different understanding of the course and I could see how people responded the way they did to some of the technological evidence. The research however also involved other sources of data such as interviews with other students, staff members involved in setting up the course, and statistical data from our own research and the University archives.