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.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Reading Group - Virtual Ethnography

Today our reading group is centred around Virtual Ethnography by Christine Hine. I have decided to blog this weeks in terms of my experience. I have started and read pages 14 to 34 but still have about 30 pages to go, and 40 if I do the extra bit.

I think I will try to get the reading group forum on OpenLearn going before the meeting.

Here is the link to it

So...I am off to the library for the next two hours or so to finish off the reading.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Forum Discussion

We are currently having a discussion on forums and learning journals...present are Jenny, Alex, Juliette, Patrick, myself and Simon.

We are having a problem in that the number of people who are using the OpenLearn forums and making postings is rather limited. It is felt that the reasons for this may be:

  • there are too many forums

  • the forums are often too deeply embedded

  • people may not be encouraged to enter the forum

Ideas discussed include making it look like there is just one forum, but with many threads, reducing the total number of forums so that there are a few key ones, centred around discipline areas for example.

Maybe forums are not the answer....learning journals can represent thought collection. What can we use the learning journals to do...encourage the idea of thought collections...personal learning journals.

They are personal, but you can get your journals so that they are viewable to everyone. It would be interesting to find out how many people are using the journal.

Discussed the need to make it easy to find the forums.

Jenny suggested there needed to be a generic invitation paragraph to each of the forums (rather than 700 or so different invites). The problems of getting and trying out good ideas and experimenting with them e.g. putting the tools next to the content.

Patrick said we were in an experimental mode and that there might be ways of doing things more quickly.

Jenny then added a new bit of information on the page following the discuss your ideas link. [TERM: Sticky block - part of the Moodel site that is stuck on every single page - usually located on the left and right hand sides]. This gave instructions of where to find the forums and a link to the forums.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Writing Week 1 - 57 papers?

Last week we as the openlearn research team decided to have a writing week. To start this process off we had a brain storming session to get ideas for writing. This could take the form of papers, reports, technical descriptions or whatever form we wished to employ. The point was to get ideas, and to get some writing done.

After the brain storming session we identified a number of areas to write about. Each of us had particular priority areas, and the rest of the areas were distributed randomly between us. There was then a little shuffling around of some subjects to those who wished to write about particualr areas. However, not too much of this was done so that it gave an opportunity to explore areas that did not necessarily fit with one's current expertise.

The topic areas are diverse and interesting and a full list for myself, Andreia and Patrick can be found at

As Patrick later jockingly suggested - 57 papers!

So if we get this lot done we woul never have to write another least for a number of years.

Anyhow, wishful thinking but a helpful start. I have included my list of topics below and will talk more about this in subsequent blogs. The aim was to prioritise one or two topics and then to write 5 or more shorter paragraphs on some of the other topics (all though to tell the truth I would like to do this on all of my topics). These topical paragraphs, or abstracts could then be shared with the others in the team. I will probably publish some of mine within my blog (if they are not too long).

In the case of the higher priorities each of us would become the lead author for our priotised paper but with the other two acting as second authors. That's the general jist of things but there is a lot of flexibility in all of this.

So, here is a list of my topics and priorities:
  • Learning taxonomies
  • Reflections on research using Activity Theory and Action Research (Denmark) (priority)
  • Feedback from pilot studies (tech report?)
  • Open research methods – remote research etc.
  • Ways of looking at the process of making open content and size of initiative.Story of the initiative.
  • Impacts on the host organisation: marketing, benefit, changes,
  • Learner experience: stories and patterns of use and wider contexts for learning
  • What XML does for us
  • Literature review of field of Open Education
  • Action Research in practice
  • Just in time learning through open content
  • Subject matter in open content: folksonomies and new subjects
  • Constructing short term communities for learning
  • Learning theories and their roles in open content.
  • Detecting paths of learning from user behaviour
  • Learning designAffordances – do people do what they can do with tools.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

At the OCW conference

16:30 At the Open Courseware Consortium conference in Santander getting near to the end of the second day of the course and some delegates are getting up to give good ideas. Battery is running low so may not have long to write.

Recommendation for new starters - visit someone else that already has one going such as MIT and TUFTS (and us of course at openlearn).

CORUS - group of students in Asia, Africa, USA. How to present open course to difficult and resistant institutes or countries. Course for 'mankind'. More discussion on usage.

Number of courses being studies - not just potential students - pick and combine materials as their own courses...this is what people often do with text based systems. Annotating and adding metadata a tags to data.

Aggregate, collate, all resources that exist.

Quoting former tutor form MIT 'Why are we here...two reasons - one it to have interesting ideas...the other is to make music'. Education allows us have to good ideas. Next year the group will have to fit into the stadium and Pedro will have to make music for us.

Talk about languages...start learning Spanish...see brochure on the table. Everyone in the world to be comfortably fluent in two languages.

Closing Remarks

Shortly we will be having a session where people will be able to present their projects. I shall be going along to this with Laura and others from the team.

Monday, February 19, 2007

users and openlearn - an analogy

I think of openlearn as a bit like a shop on the High people may pass by they may look in the window. The window in this sense is the Home Page, or one of the content pages. The window should suggest what a shop sells and should entice people into the shop. Many look but not so many enter. Once inside a shop some customers will buy things, others will not. High selling popular items are often close to the entrance, the more obscure less popular items are often located more deeply within.

If you think of this as analogous to openlearn it will give some idea of the pyrimidal nature of openlearn usage. Many will pass on by, fleeting visitors. Others will enter and have a little look at some of the courses and/or tools in the site. Some will study, or interact...these, at the end of the day, are the ones that tell us if the site is successful.

So besides asking ourselves the question of the proportion of passers by, fleeting visitors and engagers we need to ressearch each of these three groups and what factors in terms of content, site design, and the nature of the learning materials or, more appropriately, learning processes will lead to a successful site.

A marketing question:

Do you make the customer want the product or do you design the product to fit the customer?