3C’s competence, capabilities…and confidence

UCISA LOGO cmyk_correctPantones

The UCISA Digital Capabilities survey summary recommendations include Creation and embedding of holistic, relevant and creative digital curricula and training opportunities for students and staff.’ Highlighting the need for staff development opportunities is long overdue.

Less than a decade ago UoL hosted diagnostic tests on the VLE and ICT ran workshops on a range of different software packages. Today, anyone wanting support is directed to online help from Microsoft or WordPress or even the more personalised Blackboard support videos.

For a while the myth of the digital natives prevailed.  When Getting Started went institution-wide 5 years ago, it was suggested guidance for using Blackboard was unnecessary as new students could find their way around any online system. Yet recent Getting Started evaluations ask for help with Blackboard – because it’s not Facebook which would probably be the VLE of choice – after all it supports file sharing and chat – what more could anyone want? Yet when it comes to digital confidence, even the relatively unsophisticated Facebook can pose a challenge.

Lincoln EDEU have developed Blackboard Site Standards for September 2015. These will go some way to renewing essential conversations around engagement with VLE. The standards include online submission, having meaningful navigation structures and filenames as well as accessibility – ‘all content (text, images and multimedia) to be in an appropriate format and follow accessibility guidelines.’  Yep – that one was mine! 🙂

Support material will be developed alongside a  series of workshops. EDEU maintains the value of face-to-face contact. Our Digital Educational Developers run Drop-in Sessions twice a week; they can build workshops around programme team or school requirements or answer any of your digital questions. Just get in touch via edeu@Lincoln.ac.uk or http://edeu.lincoln.ac.uk/about-edeu/edeu-staff/

Digital confidence is not only technical support. It’s a behaviour shift which is cognitive as much as kinaesthetic and spatial. VLE have more potential than simply giant electronic notice boards or file repositories – they offer opportunities for connection and collaboration which are rarely utilised. Digital adoption takes time, which is always in short supply, but also demands answers to pedagogical questions around the value of technology for teaching and learning.

For too long a DIY approach has caused confusion about the purpose of VLE. The new required standards offer ideal opportunities to rethink the use of technology for teaching and learning. UCISA are right. We need to create  ‘holistic, relevant and creative digital curricula and training opportunities’ and EDEU are already looking to start discussions with staff who teach and support learning about how best to make these happen.



Think of the wheel; think of Student as Producer at Lincoln #SasP15

Student as Producer Wheel whosing the principles of the Student as Producer framework

Think of the Wheel. Think of Student as Producer being co-constructed for present and future cohorts at the University of Lincoln. Think of the new Educational Development and Enhancement Unit. If you missed EDEU’s first cross university event on Friday 6th March you can still contribute to the conversation about taking Student as Producer into a new phase – Beyond the University. Just email edeu@lincoln.ac.uk or fill in the form below and get involved. [contact-form to=’swatling@lincoln.ac.uk’ subject=’Student as Producer: Beyond the University ‘][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

SasP15 stage in the Engine Shed EDEU's Digital Education Developers preparing for SasP15 Karin Crawford EDEU Director  MaryStuart and Scott Davidson at SasP15

The Wheel contains the key elements of Student as Producer. It has four quarters; Collaboration, Discovery, Engagement, Production, and eight directions; Assessment, Citizenship, Employability, Resources, Pedagogy/Curriculum, Skills, Space, Technology. The Plenary Session of the event involved working in table teams to explore linkages between these component parts. Padlet was used to collate comments which were projected on screens for dissemination and further discussion. The future doesn’t exist in a vacuum but is always a product of past and present. Events like Student as Producer: Beyond the University are opportunities to explore where we’ve been and where we are going.

Examples of feedback from the Padlet Plenary activity  Examples of feedback from the Padlet Plenary activity

Student as Producer will always be about student engagement in their higher education experience and the merging of teaching and research. It will always have multiple layers of interpretation ranging from active involvement in learning like giving presentations, taking part in peer review or providing support for learning through schemes like PASS (Peer Assisted Study Scheme). It’s about developing students as partners in the university, not only in real-world research activities, exemplified through UROS  but also as Recruiters, Reviewers and Students Consulting on Teaching (SCOTs). Student as Producer has the flexibility to work across subject disciplines and be applied to individual, teaching team or school interests but fundamentally it’s a single message – come to Lincoln for opportunities to get more than a degree. The range of potential transferable skills available is huge and not restricted to student life on-campus but also beyond in the wider community. As with all University of Lincoln initiatives, the future of Student as Producer is is being co-constructed. Everyone has an opportunity to be heard and this week’s event was part of the conversation.

#SasP15 Student as Producer Beyond the University

Student as Producer event 6 March 2015 Engine Shed University of Lincoln Student as Producer event 6 March 2015 Engine Shed University of Lincoln

A ‘Student as Producer; Beyond the University’ conference is being held Friday 6th March in the Engine Shed. This is an opportunity to explore where Student as Producer at the University of Lincoln has been and where it is going. It’s an internal event for staff and students and the exciting programme includes current and future initiatives to embed the principles of ‘Student as Producer’ across three areas of practice:

  • Students as producers within the curriculum;
  • Students as producers of the University and of the curriculum;
  • Students as producers beyond the University.

To book a place and find out more visit http://edeu.lincoln.ac.uk/event/student-as-producer-2015/

The full EDEU team will be there supporting the event. If you haven’t already met us then do come up and say hello. To check out our roles and faces visit http://edeu.lincoln.ac.uk/about-edeu/edeu-staff/

The hashtag for the event is #SasP15 so even if you can’t be there, you can follow us on the day.

Dog ate blog and other stories…

the piles of research books all over my floor

Guardian Witness invites photographs on the theme of a ‘Day in the Life of a PhD Student‘ I sent in this photo of my floor. A sign of the shrine my floor has become to the Phd. Virginia Wolfe famously called for ‘a room of one’s own’. Often missed is the rest of the sentence ‘A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.’ JK Rowling’s story of writing Harry Potter in a coffee shop with free heating suggests neither is totally essential, or maybe that’s writing of a different kind. In the absence of money, I do have a room and it has been taken over by my work.

Tsundoku is the Japanese word for buying books and letting them pile up unread. Tsundoku is Me.  It isn’t just the floor – there are piles on the cupboard, under the table, beside my bed. I’m a bookaholic. My name is Sue. If numbers left by the back door I wouldn’t notice. Show me a spreadsheet and I break out in a sweat. Give me words and I’m happy.

Recently I’ve been pe tsundoku - japanese word for buying books and letting them pile up unreadpersuadinga fellow part-time ‘PhD-er’ to blog. Saying it helps to formulate ideas and structure thoughts. The art of reflection is a core learning tool and I’m not sure we promote it enough because blog routines are effective ways to cultivate the reflective mind. Give it a regular outing. Typically, I didn’t find time to blog this Friday. The dog ate my blog or the internet swallowed my work.

We all need warning signs and for me, an absence of Friday blog post says something’s out of kilter. It’s a busy time. Forget January. New year is September. The establishment of EDEU (Educational Development and Enhancement Unit) means a new team with a new remit. Different faces and spaces and routines to learn like kettle etiquette and tea towel management. There are the open-office conundrums; air con versus heating and blinds up – blinds down plus important issues like the art of entering a tiny toilet without activating a misplaced hand dryer which wooshes into life unexpectedly before you’ve even shut the door.

We’re on the edge. Relocated to the heart of the student village, above the launderette where molecules of fabric softener free float through the air. There are trees and masses of bushes by the railway line, all changing colour. Across the road is the FosGoogle Satellite image showing the location of EDEU at One Campus Way sdyke with a tow path where I can walk by the water. I like it. But this week I didn’t find time to blog.

I had a plan. It was going to be about the Graduate Teachers Education Programme. How the room in the engineering building had rows of benches fixed to the floor supporting a didactive teaching style; a pedagogy of transmission. I would compare this with the invisible e-teacher; the subject of my research paper for ASCILITE14 but instead I was catching up with emails, writing up the actions from the first VLE-Operations Group (Action 1. Change name) and responding to Blackboard queries. In this new EDEU shaped world I’ve been escalated to the realm of the ‘tough ones’ and they do take up time.

So when is a blog post not a blog post? Only when it’s empty. Blogs are forgiving places. They don’t really care what you say so long as you say something and in the process, you’ll nearly always discover a different way of seeing or being which wasn’t there before. Try it and see. Now, excuse me please, apart from immersion in the back-end of Blackboard, I also have a few books to read 🙂






University of Lincoln has social authority in an age of digital expectation

Twitter Colleagues are a cross selection of twitterers. Some follow but don’t contribute, others make non-work updates only, some tweet a bit around their practice, while others don’t use it at all. None of us (or are not admitting it) follow Justin Bieber or those with over 30 million fans which social analytics tool followerwonk names as Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. Colleagues have differing views about twitter’s use and value and this reinforces the notion of digital literacies as digital mirrors.

Partially thanks to celebrity endorsement, Twitter division of opinions could all change. According to THES, the University of Lincoln’s Twitter account @UniLincoln has been ranked the 22nd most influential in the UK. This means the university has social authority.

Social authority sounds Orwellian. Big Google is watching you. I was surprised how few references were made to Orwell’s 1984 and the rewriting of the past in recent media coverage on deleting digital history.  There are now generations without knowledge of pre-internet life. After gender, the largest social divide is digital. I’m on the side with analogue roots. In half a century there’ll be none of us left.

These days I’m a technology DIY’er. On twitter, linkedin, flickr, I use delicious, pinterest and get edgy if I’m not online. I’ve crossed the digital divide. But there are times when the internet feels like it’s going off in directions I can’t – and am not sure I want – to follow.

Social authority is an example of the hip new language evolving out of social media use. According to http://followerwonk.com/social-authority social authority is ‘More than just another self-focused metric, Social Authority helps you discover influential tweeters.’  It’s no longer enough to tweet, you have to be influential too. The THES article links to the Moz blog  for explanations of the score components for calculating social authority. These are:

  • The retweet rate of a few hundred of the measured user’s last non-@mention tweets
  • A time decay to favor recent activity versus ancient history
  • Other data for each user (such as follower count, friend count, and so on) that are optimized via a regression model trained to retweet rate

I’m not sure I fully understand this new vocabulary, but apparently the half-life of a tweet is 18 minutes. Users who haven’t recently tweeted get their score ‘aggressively discounted’.  Retweets are a scarce commodity and we know what happens to those! An average user needs 10,000 followers before 25% of their tweets are retweeted so popularity bestows social authority. What Moz calls a ‘secret sauce‘ (which means ‘retweet bait‘ which means….)

The social impact of the internet has an increasingly linguistic element. The presentation of information  is changing too. It’s becoming more visual through infographics and sites like pinterest. The tweet’s requirement to send messages in 140 characters or less is encouraging brevity. Being succinct has value but higher education involves deeper more considered approaches through reflection and critical thinking.

Moz says social media is a ‘what have you done for me lately‘ medium. This reminds me of Christopher Lasch’s 1979 book the Culture of Narcissism. Like Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, it’s in my top two of dystopic non-fiction must-reads. Cultural historian Lasch offers a chilling pre-internet prophecy of egotistic social media. The subtitle includes ‘… an Age of Diminishing Expectations’. Social authority suggests the word diminishing could easily be replaced with digital.

MOOC praxis; do it different, make it new, ‘Call me Al’

Make it New by Ezra Pound

image source http://blog.ezinearticles.com/2013/03/new-ezinearticles-wallpapers-to-freshen-up-your-background.html

Make it New was a Modernist slogan, in particular for Ezra Pound. Early 20th century poets challenged the loose flowing vocabularies of Tennyson and Longfellow, preferring directness, a minimum of words for maximum effect. Modernist poetry is epitomised in Pound’s Station of the Metro and William Carlos Williams’ Red Wheebarrow. There’s a lot to learn from poets who are constantly making it new and doing things differently.

For a few months MOOC made it new. The MOOC front is quiet now. When the BBC News reported last week’s launch of the UK consortium FutureLearn the hype and fanfare were missing. Yet MOOC are valuable learning tools for higher education. All staff interested in blended or distance learning should do a MOOC.

For myself, poetry and MOOC connect through Modern and Contemporary American Poetry; a Coursera MOOC. It began its second run a few weeks ago. ModPo was my first encounter with MOOCing. I revisted the ists –  imagists, modernists, confessionalists.  I’m hanging around again, seeing what’s changed. Similar resources. The assessments seem more structured – peer review and comprehension-type multiple choice which require engagement with the content.  ModPo uses a range of different materials; text, image, video, audio, discussion and live webcasts (available afterwards through You Tube) and is run by Al ‘You can call me Al’ 🙂 Filreis (He really does say this!)


The University of Lincoln Academic Workload Model 2014/15 (draft) contains six categories of academic activity. Under Formal Scheduled Teaching Duties (FSTD), the eighth category is ‘scheduled time spent on distance learning supervision and guidance’. None of the  seven categories under Teaching Related Duties (TRD)  mention online, nor does the word appear anywhere else in the documentation. This suggests the reality of online learning in terms of preparation and practice has not yet filtered through to process  at Lincoln. I’m searching for data comparing workloads between face to face and online teaching. One paper suggests online instructors spend three times more time than face-to-face instructors evaluating student work.  but this doesn’t take into account preparation, facilitation, admin and performance tracking (got to love the language of a VLE!) I wonder if the apparent scarcity of literature reflects the lack or the nature of online learning. Either way, MOOC show possibilities. With the current shift toward blended and distance learning they have much to teach us – for free – about how to construct and facilitate virtual learning opportunities. MOOC praxis challenges what it means to learn; turning tradition up side down.

Digital Education is not about replicating what is already being done but rethinking and reinventing  how we might teach and learn in the future. ‘The challenge is to systematically explore the integration of pedagogical ideas and new communications technology that will advance the evolution of higher education as opposed to reinforcing existing practices.’ (Garrison et al., 2010, p. 31)

As the gap between the rhetoric and the practice of digital education widens, questions are being asked about the failure of virtual learning to fulfil its promise*. In this space, MOOCs offer valuable opportunities to engage with alternatives. To do it differently.  Make it new. Call on Al


Garrison, D. R., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Fung, T. S. (2010). Exploring causal relationships among teaching,cognitive and social presence: Student perceptions of the community of inquiry framework. The Internet and Higher Education, 13(1-2), 31-36.


* Feenberg, A and Freisen, N. (eds) (2012) (Re)Inventing the Internet: Critical Case Studies. Rotterdan: Sense Publishers

Feenberg, A. (2011) Agency and Citizenship in a Technological Society. Lecture to the Course on Digital Citizenship, IT University of Copenhagen, 2011. http://www.sfu.ca/~andrewf/copen5-1.pdf

Freisen, N. (2008) Critical Theory. Ideology, Critique and the Myths of E-Learning. Ubiquity vol 9 issue 22

Reeves, T. C., McKenny, S. and Herrington, J. (2010) Publishing and perishing: The critical importance of educational design research.  Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 2011, 27(1), 55-65

Saljo, R. (2009) Digital tools and challenges to institutional traditions of learning: technologies, social memory and the performative nature of learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, (2012) 26, 53-64

Not with a bang, not even a whimper.

On Friday 30th August, it all came to an end. The University of Lincoln Hull Campus closed. Its final year in rented space on the University of Hull campus finished.  Nothing seems to have marked the occasion.

So… lest we forget

The University of Lincoln has history north of the Humber. It’s heritage is a direct line to the Hull School of Art which opened in 1861.   In 1976, the School of Art merged with other colleges to become Hull College of Higher Education. This became Humberside Polytechnic, gaining university status, between 1990 and 1992 when it was known as the University of Humberside.  Renamed the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside in 1996, it became the University of Lincoln in 2001.

  • The Virtual Campus – precursor to Blackboard, Web CT et al – was built there, pioneering the concept of virtual learning environments long before they became famous.
  • Work Based Learning was developed there.
  • Achievers in Excellence and Aim Higher set the standard for widening participation with local schools and colleges.
  • Getting Started began on the George Street city centre campus.

Colleagues with memories longer than mine will no doubt remember more than I do. Please feel free to comment.

So many people like myself were supported to return to education at Inglemire Lane and Cottingham Road as well as Queen’s Gardens and the Old Town.  Our lives would be very different without the opportunities to study and develop in these places.

I feel sad to know it’s all come to an end, not with a bang, not even a whimper.

#SasPConf – Student as Producer Conference – 26-27 June 2013

Student as Producer from University of Lincoln on Vimeo.

It’s been three years since the start of Student as Producer; now the organizing principle of the University of Lincoln. The Student as Producer Conference (26/27 June 2013) marks the end of the funded phase of Student as Producer. Opening the conference, Mike Neary, Dean of Teaching and Learning, described the layers of Student as Producer philosophy and practice.

The classroom layer where Student as Producer has influenced the curriculum and its delivery, changing the ways new knowledge is created.

The institution layer where Student as Producer challenges and critiques the purposes of the institution in order to develop and progress an alternative vision of what a university should be.

The broader layer where Student as Producer is a political movement,  protecting and defending the university as for the public good; Student as Producer is an act of resistance to students as consumers and the pedagogy of debt.

As Day Two of the conference begins it can be followed on Twitter #saspconf or via the live conference blog http://saspconf13.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/live-blog/

What’s in a name?

Quite a lot actually.  Juliet may have said ‘That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’* but you need to choose its substitute with care. Dogwort is the prettiest of spring flowers but would you recognise it? Exactly! Whereas everyone knows a rose even if your only experience is modern hybrids which are all colour and no scent.  

Fancy fonts are a bit like todays roses; all style and no substance. Fonts are like people; they have their own characters and personalities. The problem starts when  the font you choose says more about you than the message you want to put across. A disaster in the art of communication.  Naming is a tricky art; a conundrum which lies at the heart of marketing – how best to deliver the message succinctly and with style?

How best to name a staff development workshop where it needs to convey the message that attending is worth an hour or two of your time. I’ve developed a session which looks at working with digital data and ensuring the information we put online can be accessed by everyone, regardless of the ways in which they use their computers. It’s about recognising difference and diversity but in relation to operating within digital environments. Take-up on the sessions isn’t great. Paul Stainthorp has suggested this could be symptomatic of the lack of importance placed on accessibility, usability and access issues in general. I think Paul is right – but public institutions have a responsibility to ensure digital content follows inclusive practice guidelines. Which is why a little awareness raising is not a bad thing. But how best to get the message across?

With hindsight maybe the title Promoting Inclusive Practice with Digital Data isn’t the best of choices. I like the phrase Digital Literacy but first responses suggest it’s making the same mistakes. The meaning is clear to me but I’m not standing outside the box. I like Know your Fonts but it’s not much better – I know what I mean but how can I be sure that meaning is explicit? Maybe there isn’t a title with universal appeal. Maybe we’ve all become too set in our digital ways. I don’t yet have the answer. But you have to appreciate the subtle irony that a workshop about getting the digital message across successfully has a title which is failing to get that message across in the first place!

* Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Graduate School Conference 25th February 2011

Live blogging can be an effective tool as demonstrated at the Graduate School Conference (http://gradconf11.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/) but there’s also value to be had from reflection and blogging after the event. I felt the conference was a huge success and the high number of people returning to the auditorium at 4.15 was testament to a great day. I can’t select a highlight – there were so many!

Anyone who’s attended a student based conference will know the value of an eclectic range of presentation content and style. The mixing and matching of subjects and expertise provided audience experiences which were in turn provocative, intellectual, surprising, entertaining and above all educational. I learned so much – all of it relevant and interesting. Limiting presentations to quarter of an hour and maintaining good time keeping meant the parallel sessions ran well. The Arts, Sciences and Humanities were all represented and the attendant mix of home and international students with academic and support staff provided opportunities for discussion on a wide range of issues. The conference theme was networking and that was indeed the primary function of the day.

 I think, on reflection, what I took away and has stayed with me, is the importance of balance. Opening the conference, Mike Neary quoted Castells on how we are all living in a networked society with increasingly digital lifestyles and ways of working.  Mike suggested increased levels of contact through digital networks is leading to disconnection on the ground. The sense of community is getting lost. The processes of online social interaction are not only gaining dominance but are becoming divisive, leaving behind those with analogue roots and privileging the manipulation of digital communication and control. Ironically, the participation in digital networks is ultimately a solitary one. What is missing – and is needed – is the balance between digital and human interaction. Together they make a whole and that lies at the heart of the university experience; opportunities to take disparate approaches and put them together, to investigate alternative practices, try something you’ve never done before, learn something you didn’t know but which adds quality to your life.  Well run, well organised, student-based conferences like this one offer the essential exposure to difference which reminds us that diversity really is what it’s all about.