Friday, 1 August 2014

Sending multiple Blackboard announcements with the Qwickly building block

The announcement tool within Blackboard is a great way to get important messages out to students. Not only will the announcement appear in the specific Blackboard area, but it will be delivered straight to student's mobile devices (presuming they have the Mobile Learn app installed), and you can even make sure students receive the message as an email as well.

Well at one point last year, I had to send the same announcement to about 20 different Bb areas. It was a painful process as I had to go into each different area, paste the message in, tick the relevant boxes and send. So when I came across Qwickly, a third party plugin, I was a bit overjoyed. After a bit of persuasion, our computer services department have installed it as part of our summer upgrade!

Watch the video below to see how easy it is. Please excuse the use of 'VITAL' - that's what we call Bb at Liv...


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Thursday, 31 July 2014

Visualising Programme Assessments: do you know when assessments are due?

From time to time I try to step back from the work I'm doing and think about things from other people's perspectives - through Brookfield's reflective lenses. I find this helps take a holistic view of situations and identify challenges/benefits that you wouldn't normally come across. This is partly how I started thinking about visualising assessment timelines. As an academic, I've tended to only really care about how I'll be assessing within my own modules. What other people do in their modules is down to them.

But is it? Does anybody take a holistic view? How will my assessment requirements impact upon the wider student experience and workload? How will it impact on the admin team? The timetabling team? Marking and Moderators?
I'd love to hear about your views on this in the comments.

I wrote a few months back about visualising assessment timelines, and shifting from having a small number of high stakes assessment activities to more lower stakes assessments. Well in this post, I'm sharing a draft timeline of the entire Medical Curriculum at Liverpool.

The nature of the MBChB curriculum is different - there are no modules/units, so being able to see the bigger picture is increasingly important for the management and admin processes in the school. Furthermore, a simple visual take on assessments would undoubtedly be a useful reference for students.

Over the past couple of months I've met with the Director of Assessment in the School of Medicine to discuss the assessment timings in the new curriculum and have put together a visual overview (see below).
[please remember this is just a draft and not final details - more to be added]

The Year of study goes horizontal. Weeks go vertical. 

Now although some details are missing, you can see the general pattern of the programme from this overview - students are more heavily based at the University in the first couple of years, and then are pretty much never here later on (particularly 5th year). Here the assessments represent something along the lines of a sign off meeting to ensure the student is doing the things they're supposed to be (I'm actually not a specialist on the Medical Curriculum, as you can probably tell).

We can also see that in the back end of semester 2, there are quite a few assessments taking place across a short space of time. Over that 10 week period there is almost at least one assessment per week. The benefit of these visuals is that we can easily see that and plan accordingly. Perhaps we might shift assessments from one week to the next so we can more effectively manage the workload. Are we over/under assessing students across the years? Could we distribute the assessments more effectively?

So the overview can be a pretty useful tool, but a more specific view of (a year/module) can tell us more information. The image below samples Years 1 and 2.
[again, draft]

So this time, we can see the online formative/low stakes assessments (green) relate to the blocks of study (these used to be our PBL modules but have changed slightly in our new curriculum). If we wanted, we could add further details, just as I have done for the higher stakes/summative pieces e.g. 2 x 1.5 hr papers.

The Research & Scholarship refers to one of the themes in the new spiral curriculum. Again we could add more detail here.

What's next?

We could fairly easily make an interactive version of these timelines that enabled students to quickly browse all of their assessment requirements for the whole programme, with the ability to drill down to a specific assessment. We just need the information, and although that can sometimes be a painful process, I can't imagine a situation where any school management and admin teams would not want this overview. In fact, some institutions require assessment type and date, etc, at the beginning of the year - in which case this should prove an easy task.

So why can't/shouldn't we do this for every single programme?

When we do this on a modular programme, we could see how assessments might be clustered at specific points in the calendar. We could also try to emphasise a shift from high stakes to low stakes assessments. This would be less stressful for students if nothing else.

One key factor for consideration is the terminology we use when developing any guidance for students, let alone a visual guide with few explanatory words. For example;
  • 'high stakes' can strike fear into students;
  • 'low stakes' could be taken for 'doesn't matter';
  • 'formative' and 'summative' - well do students even know what they mean?
So as we release these timelines to students, we will have to consider the terminology we use.

I'll be talking about this a bit more at the eAssessment Scotland conference in September. So if you're going, try to forget this post ;-)


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Monday, 28 July 2014

Digital Scholarship

I read Martin Weller's book a while back - The Digital Scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice (you can access it free here). This is no book review, but I just want to pick up on a few things that this book has me thinking about.

The book begins with Martin explaining to his daughter the concept of the book, that is, how technology like the Internet is changing the way people work. It seems quite obvious now that the Internet has changed how we learn and how we teach, but what about how we work? And is this digital, and often open, way of working recognised and rewarded?

Well for me, yes. Anyone who has read any of my posts will know I'm very open in sharing the work I'm doing via this blog. This form of Open Scholarship has been around for quite a while, and Martin delves into Boyer's work on scholarship to focus on four components:
"Discovery – This is the creation of new knowledge in a specific area or discipline. This is often taken to be synonymous with research. This is probably closest to the public conception of scholarship, as universities are often the site of significant breakthroughs. 
Integration – This is focused on interpretation and interdisciplinary work. It is moving away from the pure, ‘genesis’ research of discovery. Boyer states that it is ‘making connections across the disciplines, placing the specialties in larger context, illuminating data in a revealing way, often educating non-specialists’. 
Application – This is related to the concept of service, but Boyer makes a distinction between citizenship and scholarly types of service, and for the latter it needs to build on the scholar's area of expertise. It can be seen as engagement with the wider world outside academia, which might include public engagement activities as well as input into policy and general media discussions. This can also include the time spent peer-reviewing journal articles and grant applications and sitting on various committees. 
Teaching – Much of the interpretation of Boyer can be seen as an attempt to raise the profile of teaching. He argues that ‘the work of the professor becomes consequential only as it is understood by others. Yet, today, teaching is often viewed as a routine function, tacked on’."

Social Networking and Blogging can either tick these boxes or certainly support the components, so I tend to disagree when some question whether blogging is dead. For me, you have to relate that back to the original purpose of blogging. If like me, the primary purpose of blogging relates back to Boyer's (or Martin's) points above, how can it be dead? One of my primary goals in blogging is take stock of my own thoughts - it's often like I'm thinking aloud in this online space. It is primarily for me and the way I write probably reflects that. If other people see that, can connect with it, then great. No major problems if they don't.

But is there academic value in it? Again, yes.
As I am employed on an academic contract, I am expected to develop an (inter)national profile, especially if I am to go for a promotion to the next pay scale. My online presence is certainly helping that - for example I've recently been invited to keynote the upcoming eAssessment Scotland Conference in September. That certainly wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the work I've discussed here. As a scholarship activity, that will be a huge tick in the box when it comes to PDR time.

Now I'm not getting carried away with this and I do recognise more formal routes of scholarship will need attending to - conferences, journal publications, etc. Why? Because the system is still the system. It takes time for these systems to change, and whilst that change is clearly happening, the transformation isn't complete. It may never be complete. But in the meantime, Digital Scholarship is valued.

Digital Scholarship is real.


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Monday, 21 July 2014

Talking the talk. Or not...

So it's been quite a while that I've been MOOC-free, (I wonder if I should get a coin of celebration for each month?), but I've fallen off the wagon! I'm back on the MOOC trail because I liked the sounds of this course from the Open University - Talk the Talk. I was/am particularly interested in this for a number of reasons:
  1. I've had a lot of experience presenting and talking to audiences, be it from teaching students, presenting at conferences or delivering staff development sessions. And well, it would be good to be able to polish that experience a little. Everyone can get better, and I'm no exception;
  2. It's from the OU - it must be good. They're like, the rulers of online learning.
The course intro suggests I'll be engaging people like Mr Bean (Martin, that is):
"Talk the Talk will provide you with the language and strategies to deliver talks with a difference. It will boost your confidence and turn public speaking into a valuable experience."
So my intro email popped through and I set aside some time to dip in. The first thing to disappoint me was learning that the MOOC would be so interactive:
"In Week 1 you will explore some talks online and decide on a topic for your own talk.
Wait, I have to do my own talk?
Weeks 2 and 3 will look at the content of your talk – the introduction, middle part and the conclusion. At the end of Week 2, you will record and share your own introduction and receive feedback from your fellow learners.
In Week 4 you will examine other elements of a talk – what does your body language say? Who are your audience? You will finish your talk in Week 5, and give and receive feedback after making a recording of your entire talk. You will reflect on what you’ve learnt in Week 6 and also examine how you can enhance a talk with visuals. " 
Now I don't know why this makes my heart sink, but it did. It might be because earlier MOOCs have somehow conditioned me that it's easy to be more passive. It might be because I already see myself as a reasonably experienced presenter and don't feel the need or want to go through a peer review process of my ability to present (in a totally non-arrogant way, that is).

Perhaps this MOOC like so many others, isn't for me? Or, perhaps I can get away without engaging with the peer review aspect and get to some teaching material to help me brush up. So I clicked on...

The next page - why am I here? I was prompted to reflect on what I wanted to get out of the course. The same old stuff facilitators always as at the beginning of workshops. I looked at the discussion for this page. 598 comments already. None of the first 3 pages would actually class as a discussion though. Just individuals posting a message, with only 1 response to any post (occurring on 3 occasions) with a one line comment - 'sure, I know what you mean'. Hum...

On to to watching a short TED clip, encouraging me to identify good/bad aspects of the talk. It was alright. Reasonably interesting I suppose. But it didn't blow my socks off. I wonder if that was by design? I actually can see the point of this activity. Reflect on this to inform my own practice. But is it going anywhere. Well yes, but at no blistering pace...

A couple of pages of nothing much, and then the good old end of week quiz. Not much content in the week at all, and no multimedia content from the OU. Hmmm.

Questions 1, 2 and 3 were reasonably easy to answer without paying too much attention to the content. But it is question 4 that has prompted this post and ignited my MOOC-frenzied-fury (not too dissimilar that which sparked Beatrix Kiddo's Roaring Rampage of Revenge).
Which of the following words does Bill [the presenter in the TED video earlier] use most often to begin a sentence?
  • So
  • And
  • I
  • Well
Seriously? WTF? Does it matter? Who cares?

The correct answer was 'And'. And here's the feedback...
"He uses ‘and’ 18 times. Most of the times, it is used to join two related ideas together. You will learn in the next few weeks about both the importance of linking ideas together in a talk and how to link ideas effectively. 
Davenhall has obviously prepared and rehearsed, but he’s not reading from a script. Therefore, sometimes during his talk, his use of words like ‘and’ and ‘so’ serve no grammatical function. It is perfectly acceptable to do this in a relatively informal speech, but you need to be careful not to overuse certain words or phrases that do not carry any meaning."
So again, what is the point? Tenuously linked to learning about joining ideas together?
'And' and 'So' serve no grammatical function. This question serves no pedagogic function, but unfortunately for me, it is still there!

So what?

Ok, I don't just want this to be about me ranting. There has to be something to it. Right? I think my frustration is multi-faceted:

  • I expected something very good from the OU. 15 minutes spent completing this first week leaves a lot to be desired. 
  • Yet more poor attempts at instigating online discussion, which, whether being down to the prompts themselves or the platform, just doesn't work.
  • Let's say I am old and bitter in this MOOC game (which I probably am), what experience is this MOOC providing to the young and fresh, enthusiastic MOOCites? If I try to set my bias aside (if that's possible), I'm still left somewhat disappointed. The MOOC game, and the platform, haven't innovated at all. 

Ok, rant over. I will check back in for week two when the time comes. Right now though, I need a cuppa!


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Saturday, 19 July 2014

Social Network Analysis: using Hawksey's TAGS Explorer for #BYOD4LChat

So the #BYOD4L event has come and gone in the blink of an eye. It's gone so fast yet at the same time has been pretty tiring. I've used Martin Hawkey's TAGS Explorer to produce Social Network Analysis visuals for each day on the #BYOD4L event this past week:

Day 1 - Monday: Connecting
Day 2 - Tuesday: Communicating
Day 3 - Wednesday: Curating
Day 4 - Thursday: Collaborating
Day 5 - Friday: Creating

Although I've had a few anomalies that have needed rectifying this week, the tool is actually very easy to use and provides a ton of interesting information for analysis. This post hopes to provide some analysis for the whole week's worth of tweetchats (that is, any tweet that has included the #byod4lchat hashtag).

There were over 3000 tweets sent over the course of the week (that included the hashtag at any time of day, not just restricted to the live tweetchats). The tweets came from 135 unique users. Quite a few of those users only tweeted a few times, but I don't think that's necessarily a problem. If the event has engaged anybody at all and encouraged thinking and reflection about using devices and apps, then surely that's a positive. There was also some cross-fertilisation with the #edenchat hashtag (n=33).

Over the course of those 3000 tweets, 242 contained a link, which suggests the tweetchats were not simply a conversation, but also included the sharing of 'knowledge', or at least branching out those discussions to wider sources and views.

The bigger picture view of the network looks like one giant, close knit ball of wool. There's probably not all that much you make out from it actually...

I've zoomed in a touch to try to see the connections a bit, but the sheer volume of tweets, as well as the number of recipients makes it extremely difficult to make sense of anything. From what I can gather in this image, although many of the bigger names were connecting with each other, they were also playing a key role in facilitating and networking with a lot of participants, who were not necessarily the same. This is really important, as if they were communicating with the same people, the network could easily be seen as a clique. In actual fact, and as I blogged in previous posts, this event has demonstrated Lave & Wenger's Communities of Practice quite well, including the different roles that feature.

The top tweeters for the week are as follows:
1. @SamIllingworth
2. @BYOD4L
3. +Chrissi Nerantzi
4. @julieGillin
5. +Sue Beckingham
6. @amandaksykes
7. +Andrew Middleton
8. +Neil Withnell
9. @jimpettiward
10. +David Hopkins

I was only number 11 :-(
I'm sure Sam will be organising a party for tonight to celebrate his Top Tweeter Award!

In terms of the number of tweets sent throughout the week, Monday was the chat with the highest number of tweets.

Monday = 788
Tuesday = 583
Wednesday = 477
Thursday = 614
Friday = 607


You can view the interactive version of the network diagram (above).
You can use this searchable twitter archive (as part of the TAGS tool) to search for an individual's tweets.

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#BYOD4L Day 5: Creating

So Day 5 of the #BYOD4L event focussed on the theme of Creating, and took a slightly different format. Chrissi & Sue flipped this tweetchat around a little and got participants thinking a bit more than in previous tweetchats, by having us asking the questions instead of them.

It was interesting and there was a lot of buzz about - something quite surprising as it was the last twetchat at the end of a long week. So I think that is testament to the job they done in formulating the chat and facilitating it.

There were just over 600 tweets which appears to be around the mean for the week (higher on Monday, lower on Tuesday). Sam Illingworth once again won the prize for most influential tweeter in the tweetchat. What is also very obvious to see, is that there is a lot of two-way interaction. The Betweenness Centrality issue I discussed earlier in the week appears to be less prevalent in this tweetchat - that is, the network didn't rely too heavily on just one or two people. Rather, the network acted in a more distributed, non-centralised way.

I'm planning on creating an overall picture of the week, so hang fire...
How are you interpreting these viusals?

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Friday, 18 July 2014

#BYOD4L Day 4: Collaborating

This #BYOD4L week has literally flown by, with really rich discussions each evening. I'll cut to the chase with this post and get the visuals out...

There were 614 Tweets last night, back up from Day 3 and similar to the numbers of Day 2. From the bigger picture, there again appears to be less reliance on the central facilitators, as more people are gaining confidence and engaging with others. Lave & Wenger might define this as progressing from Legitimate Periphery Participation through to Full Participation / Membership within the Community of Practice. We'd seen Rod's progress in yesterday's post which also resembled this.

As you'll see, @SamIllingworth was the key player last night. He used #BYOD4LChat hashtag in 82 tweets last night (of course he may have tweeted and not used the hashtag as well). His significance in the network last night was actually not just related to the number of tweets, but the number of replies (29) and mentions (33). This would suggest Sam played a really key part in linking people together last night, and you can really see that by the number of incoming and outgoing edges in the diagram below.

I thought it might also be nice to use Martin Hawksey's TAGs Explorer in a bit more detail this time to demonstrate the tool. So in the example video below, I've taken a couple of minutes to look into SamIllingworth's tweets last night in more depth, and replayed his personal timeline....

A Storify of the Day 4 Tweetchat is available here....

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