Summer of Student Innovation 2016 #studentideas

As Jisc asks

Our challenge: could your students make an impact?

Jisc’s Summer of Student Innovation competitions are an opportunity for students to have an impact on life and study in work based learning providers, colleges and universities across the UK.

Do your students have a bright idea that uses technology to improve study or student life? If so we’d like to hear it, and the best will be given funding, support and an invitation to a multi-day mentoring event to turn their concept into reality.

Our goal is to unearth and develop the best ideas, creating apps and tools to be piloted in colleges and universities and harness the power of technology for better learning and teaching across the UK.

What’s more, our competitions fit in with core curricula and encourage employability skills like team working, business planning and viability testing. Many colleges and universities now recognise students’ work towards our competitions as part of their coursework.

Student Ideas Competition 2016 is open to all learners in universities, colleges or learning providers. We will select 15 successful teams who will receive £2000 per team to attend a four day design sprint on the 8-11 August. Each team will pitch to a panel on the 23 August and we will select five ideas to be developed into products who will receive a further £3000.

Support Technology Start-ups 2016 is open to established teams with existing products seeking to further pilot their product within colleges, universities or skills providers. Up to five selected teams with receive £20,000 and participate in a six month pre-accelerator programme.

The closing date for submissions is 23 May 2016.

For further information see: https://jisc.ac.uk/student-innovation and the blog post: Want to develop your own technology solution to support your learning? Enter our Summer of Student Innovation competition.

Can I book a PC please?

old books

When I managed libraries in FE you often had to field calls from suppliers of PC booking systems. They were always surprised, when I not only said we weren’t interested in their product, but I didn’t see the point and how they improved teaching, learning and assessment.

I know for many libraries I realise that a booking system for the PCs is seen as a vital piece of software, alongside the Library Management System.

However have you ever asked yourself why you have one, and what would happen if you turned it off?

iMacs in the library

We removed the PC booking systems, as no one could come up with a good business case for them.

Reasons given included to restrict the amount of time a student could use a PC for… never quite understood that one. Yes students should take breaks when using a PC, but is this down to software or better done through education and understanding?

Another issue with time restraints, is that it implies, if you have a one hour limit, that learning takes place in one hour chunks and only one hour chunks! That doesn’t happen!

Other reasons, is that there isn’t enough PCs in the library to meet the demand, so yes a booking system will help constrain demand, but isn’t the issue then to get more PCs, rather than a PC booking system?

PC utilisation data across the whole college, will probably show that there are unused PCs in classrooms, one question to ask is how can they be used more effectively?

I do understand, coming from an economics background that with limited resources and unlimited wants, you can have shortages. The question is do you go down the planned economy route or go for a more laissez faire approach.

The planned approach does cost money in terms of software, hardware, support as well as operational staffing costs. The laissez faire approach means allowing the learners to make decisions about when and how they use the PCs.

One feature of one of these systems said

Whether you use predefined or open text messages, there is no need to physically approach users.

…and this is a good idea, because you wouldn’t want to talk to the learners would you, enabling you to build a working relationship with them, so that they know who is who and whom to go to when needing help.

The sales pitch goes onto say…

“Possible confrontations are avoided, cultivating a more studious environment.

Well we wouldn’t want staff to talk to the learners would we, why would we want that?

From my experience, the opposite is what happens. The staff become more distant from the learners, the library staff see their role is about managing resources and not about supporting learners… resulting a more confrontational environment when it comes to anti-social behaviour, as the learners don’t have a working relationship with the staff and don’t respect the staff or the environment.

We need staff to talk to the learners, we need to build relationships through effective communication, it enables learners to understand that the library staff are a key part of the library and can be a wealth of guidance, knowledge and information that will support the learners in their learning and supporting them in their assessments

We had one complaint from a student who liked to book a PC, so it was booked and reserved, so they could then go and have breakfast… leaving the PC booked, but not being used.

Usage patterns after removing the booking system, demonstrated increased use and higher utilisation.

What we also found with booking systems was that students would book a PC at say 10am. The previous booking would leave at say 9:50am, another learner would find the PC, but knowing it would only be available for 10 minutes doesn’t use it, the learner who booked the PC, then fails to turn up at 10am, we wait 10 minutes before freeing up the PC. This means PCs were “unavailable” as they had been booked, but weren’t been used.

We also found that learners wanted to book PCs so they could sit with their friends and be social, not having a booking system did mean that they could all use a PC, but not necessarily together. This resulted in less behavioural issues in the library.

If someone was desperate and wanted to book a PC for a specific time, then no problem, we did this manually. In other words booking was the exception rather than the rule. The learners could even manage such a system themselves.

As Ofsted noted when they inspected the college:

Outside lessons, many learners make constructive use of the college’s libraries and resources.

No mention of booking systems, or issues with PC access. I should also note that at least one of the inspectors sat in the library alongside learners when working rather than sit in the base room we had provided.

So here’s an idea, why not turn off your booking system for a week, just as a trial and see what happens. Confusion, possibly, chaos, probably not. Another option is, if that idea is too radical, why not have some bookable PCs, but allow others to be fully open access and record utilisation patterns.

I understand that for some library staff they see the PC booking system as a critical component of how they manage resources, from my experience, and especially in times of reduced funding, they are probably one thing that can be removed and the funding used for staff or learning resources, with minimal negative impact and potentially a more positive environment in the library itself.

Learning Analytics – Case Studies and Report

Blackboard

Probably the highest profile technology amongst senior managers and leaders at this time is the use of analytics to support teaching, learning and assessment.

Using the data that institutions gather on a regular basis for the purposes of analysis, looking for patterns is one that has gained traction over the last few years. There are also others who wonder if this analysis of data and patterns is useful and allowing us to make informed decisions about learners.

Jisc have released a new report: Learning Analytics in Higher Education: A review of UK and international practice  (PDF). Drawing on eleven case studies, they examine why institutions are deploying learning analytics, and what the benefits are for learners. They also discuss the main data sources being drawn upon by institutions and the technical architecture required.

The emphasis of the report is on investigating the evidence for learning analytics: what impact it’s having, and to what extent the algorithms can actually predict academic success.

I have always seen analytics as a tool to support and enhance existing decision making and support, that was already in place. The analytics reinforcing an existing view, or bringing to light patterns that were previously hidden.

Analytics in my opinion doesn’t replace good teaching decisions, support and intervention strategies, it helps inform them, so that we can ensure all learners receive the support and advice they need. Which is why I am also pleased to see in the report, that they also look at how institutions are carrying out interventions to attempt to retain students at risk, and provide better support for all students as they progress through their studies.

The interventions arising from analytics are probably the most important aspect of analytics, otherwise why bother?

The main report summarises the case studies.  The full individual case studies are:

  1. Traffic Lights and Interventions: Signals at Purdue University
  2. Analysing use of the VLE at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  3. Identifying at-risk students at New York Institute of Technology
  4. Fine-grained analysis of student data at California State University
  5. Transferring predictive models to other institutions from Marist College
  6. Enhancing retention at Edith Cowan University
  7. Early alert at the University of New England
  8. Developing an ‘analytics mind-set’ at the Open University
  9. Predictive analytics at Nottingham Trent University
  10. Analysing social networks at the University of Wollongong
  11. Personalised pathway planning at Open Universities Australia

I am not a meerkat…

Meerkat

…and this is not an invitation…

So can you be both closed and open in social media? Is it oxymoronic to be unsocial and be on social media?

I have been writing and reading many discussions recently on the openness of social media and identity.

Lawrie in a recent post on his blog recounted a story about an adventure on a boat and the potential impact having an active social media life can have on your real life. He makes this point in his post:

There is a role for curating your online self, a conscious curation, it does not have to impact on who you are as a person, your authenticity or credibility, but we should be mindful.

What I found interesting about the story was how being somewhat open and public on the internet, there was an assumption by some in that story that those same behaviours that we find online are acceptable offline in the physical world. It made me reflect on identity both online and offline. Can we be social online and not as social offline? What do we mean by social and what norms of behaviours are acceptable and which are not.

There is a balance between what you do online and undertaking a similar approach offline. I occasionally chat with people on the Twitter, discuss presentations at conferences and re-tweet and like posts that other people make. Off the Twitter, I occasionally chat with people on the train, or in the supermarket, I may discuss presentations at conferences whilst queuing for coffee, and will applaud at appropriate moments.

Though I do talk to retail assistants and other customers in shops, or chat to people at a conference, neither of those behaviours as far as I am concerned do not mean I am your friend and you can pop around my house whenever you feel like it! In a similar vein, just because I @ you in a tweet, or heart your tweet, comment on your blog, this doesn’t mean I feel I can pop around your house for a cup of tea, or you can visit me for Sunday lunch.

Continue reading I am not a meerkat…

Running around Albert Square

Albert Square

One of the things we seem to do in the world of e-learning is categorise ourselves and our learners into groups.

One of the key pieces of work on this was from Marc Prensky on Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants back in 2001. His premise was the idea that if you were old you were only a  digital immigrant and young people were digital natives. As young people were born into a digital world then they were digital natives. Giving a generation a name is one thing, but what people then conjectured was that as they had this name, digital native, they would be able to handle a range of digital tools, services and environments. They would be in a better position to handle online environments then the so called immigrants.

This conjecture is rather flawed and makes a lot of assumptions about behaviours, skills and experience, based on what is really just a name.

I reflected on this work in 2008 after Dave White published his blog post on visitors and residents. Though like a lot of people I did initially think it was about putting yourself into another group, rather than see it as a continuum.

Though visitors and residents has gained a lot of traction across edtech, and even Presensky has backtracked away from the term digital natives, we still see the term digital natives used again and again, across the media, on the Twitter and at educational conferences. It would appear, as tweeted by Donna Lanclos, that if the term is used often enough by people then it will become true.

So many people still think digital natives exist and are able to immerse themselves easily into a digital world. If you think Digital Natives exist then replace the word digital with EastEnders (as in the TV programme) and apply same thinking.

EastEnders Titles

So you have EastEnders Natives and EastEnders Immigrants.

Hmmm, so…

Those born after 1985 will be EastEnders natives, they will know all the storylines innately and understand everything about it. They will know all the characters, plots and locations. They will be able to describe Albert Square in detail and how to get there.

Whereas those born before 1985 will struggle with EastEnders, as they were brought up on Coronation Street and Crossroads.

Whereas those who live outside the UK will be wondering what the hell is going on!

So do you still think it’s useful to talk about a generation as being digital natives? Well sorry to say they don’t exist…. hit play!

news and views on e-learning, ILT and tech stuff in general…