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 C & S Dept 


1999-2007 Meetings

Please see the latest page. Meetings are normally on the third Thursday of each month. All welcome - tell your friends.


13 Dec 2007 Hagit Tal Measuring Collaborative Learning in Wikis
15 Nov 2007 Ingrid Nix Helping students find what they need: an intuitive sliding scale design for formative CMA question sequences
18 Oct 2007 Wendy Fisher Working with distance lecturers, learning from each other, about Mobile Technology in e-assessment, wiki supported
19 Jul 2007 Mirabelle Walker TMA feedback: are we doing better?
21 Jun 2007 Geoff Einon How to Captivate your students?
24 May 2007 Nicola Whitton Computer games to enhance adult learning
19 Apr 2007 Nicky Moss Simulated Labs, training or education?
18 Jan 2007 Tony Hirst In Search of the googLE
14 Dec 2006 Jackie Bennett Cetlment Island: a virtual teaching and learning space for the Open University?
16 Nov 2006 Jeff Adams Artist-Teachers Engage with VLE Forums
12 Oct 2006 Keren Mills Game on! Do computer games have potential as learning tools?
20 Jul 2006 John Woodthorpe i-Skills: Preparing students to survive in an online OU
15 Jun 2006 Rob Parsons Is messaging good for your grades? An analysis of conference participation and final grade.
18 May 2006 Mirabelle Walker TMA feedback: can we do better?
25 Apr 2006 John Monk A Video about Teaching Engineering Ethics
16 Mar 2006 D Gould & R Butler of Network Social Bookmarking in the Work Place
16 Feb 2006 Neil Murray Earning while learning: implementing work-based learning within the Foundation Degree in ICT
19 Jan 2006 Jude Carroll Deterring Plagiarism in Higher Education
15 Dec 2005  Linda Price & Adrian Kirkwood  Engaging learners with media and electronic resources
17 Nov 2005 Nicky Moss On-line Assessment in the Cisco Networking Academy
20 Oct 2005 Angela Trikic Modelling e-learning system design using unified modelling language
15 Sep 2005 Ahmed Al-Shamma'a (GERI) Breaking Traditional Barriers in Teaching Computer Science/Engineering Students
21 Apr 2005 John Monk The role of language in engineering competence
16 Dec 2004Ellen Sjoer
Delft University
Learning Content Management System usage: facilitating individual learning paths using learning objects and metadata
18 Nov 2004Nick Heap & Karen KearNew features for computer conferencing systems
21 Oct 2004John MonkEthics in the ICT curriculum
17 Jun 2004Matthew HughesConstructivism, enquiry-based learning and peer review online: our experience
19 May 2004Martin WellerThe benefits of learning objects to course teams and students
18 Mar 2004Eileen ScanlonActivity Theory and Evaluation
19 Feb 2004  Simon Buckingham Shum  Hypermedia Discourse: Evolving New Technologies and Practice
15 Jan 2004John Richardson (IET)A quick introduction to the analysis of questionnaire data
18 Dec 2003 Marina Mozzon-McPherson An analysis of community building through the notion of sanctioning & rewarding
18 Sep 2003Kelvin StreetUsing online databases for educational research (hands-on session in OU Library)
17 Jul 2003John RichardsonPerceptions of academic quality & variations in student learning in electronically delivered courses
19 Jun 2003Nick HeapThe web apps certificate
20 Mar 2003Debbie EllenSoftware tools for analysing qualitative data
17 Dec 2002Jane LunsfordUsability
17 Oct 2002Mike ReddyRobots and Education
11 Jul 2002Geoff EinonAutomated evaluation of essays & short answers
20 Jun 2002Allan JonesGraphics and sound software as learning tools
16 May 2002Jon RosewellThe Physical World: multimedia Physics at a distance
18 Apr 2002Karen KearResearch methods in Education
21 Feb 2002Karen KearWriting for Publication - a workshop
20 Nov 2001Janet MacDonaldDeveloping competent e-learners: the role of assessment
16 Oct 2001John PettitWeb delivery: expensive communities or cheap updates?
18 Sep 2001Karen ShippT205's interactive web teaching experiences
1999 / 2001John NaughtonThe Future of Universities
1999 / 2001John MonkEmotion and Learning
1999 / 2001Martin WellerThe role of narrative in education
1999 / 2001Geoff EinonAsynchronous Learning Networks
1999 / 2001Karen KearSituated cognition and cognitive apprenticeship
1999 / 2001John NaughtonOpen Source Movement & implications for education
1999 / 2001Martin WellerMotivations for using the web in teaching
1999 / 2001Karen KearCollaborative learning about collaborative learning
1999 / 2001Judith WillamsCMC - a tutor's perspective
1999 / 2001Martin WellerIs distance education another form of e-commerce?
1999 / 2001Mirabelle WalkerKey skills, learning outcomes and curriculum reform
1999 / 2001Geoff EinonBeyond a constructivist approach - Wenger & CMC

13 Dec 2007 - Hagit Tal - Measuring Collaboration in Wikis

This talk will be focused on the methodology of measuring collaboration in wikis. At the beginning I will overview some of the ways that are used to measure collaboration in Wikipedia, then I'll explain why these methods are not suitable enough for measuring collaboration in academic courses setting, and then I will present some new methods we have developed in OUI (Open University of Israel) for measuring collaboration in wikis.Hagit's PowerPoint presentation.

15 Nov 2007 - Ingrid Nix - Helping students find what they need: an intuitive sliding scale design for formative CMA question sequences

One of the aims of the LINA project (Learning with Interactive Assessment), supported by the Centre for Open Learning of Mathematics, Science, Computing and Technology, is to optimize student use of formative Computer Marked Assignments (CMAs) in OpenMark by proposing a design to make the selection process of individual questions more predictable and meaningful to the student. Currently questions may be organized on an ad hoc basis so that students have little indication of what lies behind their selection until they view the question on screen.

The proposed design enables students to select formative questions by topic. Each topic contains a cluster of scenario-based, linked questions. The linked questions are presented on a sliding scale continuum from easy to difficult. Once students have been introduced to the concept of the continuum, they make choices of questions to visit based on their self-assessment of their skill and confidence levels, picking the point on the continuum appropriate to their need. The student can start anywhere on the continuum, move forwards or backwards as necessary, until ready to start the summative questions at the end of the continuum. This enables students to make optimum use of their study time, selecting only those questions which are relevant, with as much or as little practice as they wish.

To create the continuum, a typology of question types was devised. Results of recent user-testing in Aug-Sept 2007 will be discussed, exploring student perceptions of the continuum and issues raised regarding the effectiveness of the typology.

The development of the continuum is a new departure from current delivery of CMA questions. Findings could inform future authoring and design of assessment questions. Ingrid's PowerPoint presentation.

18 Oct 2007 - Wendy Fisher - Working with distance lecturers, learning from each other, about Mobile Technology in e-assessment, wiki supported

This research project, which is supported by the Centre for Open Learning of Mathematics, Science, Computing and Technology, is focused on the use of Tablet PCs by lecturers for e-assessment in distance learning. It is supported through an on-line forum and a wiki. The development of the wiki is an innovative departure from current on-line support for lecturers. The site has been under development since June 2006 with twelve project team members and each of them is invited to add their own contributions to the wiki during the lifetime of the project. As part of dissemination to the wider learning community, the wiki will be launched with open access at the end of 2007 to provide advice on how to use Tablet PCs in marking e-TMAs. The wiki has provided the research team with a new way of working collaboratively on a shared document at a distance; the sharing and learning from each other has provided insights for all using new Web 2.0 technology. The Tablet PCs have been used to provide relevant personalised feedback at points in a student's assignment that is not possible with existing PCs and text input via a keyboard. Findings could inform the policy and design of a variety of assessment systems (e.g. mathematical formulae, scientific nomenclature and diagramming). Wendy's PowerPoint presentation.

19 Jul 2007 - Mirabelle Walker - TMA feedback: are we doing better?

An analysis of feedback on TMAs in T173, T209 and T224, along with associated interviews with students, indicated ways in which TMA feedback can be improved. This talk describes the findings and what happened when the three courses tried to implement changes.

21 Jun 2007 - Geoff Einon - How to Captivate your students?

Screen capture programs such as Adobe Captivate and Camtasia make it possible for an individual or a course team to generate video tutorials to be delivered from a web page or from CD/DVD. The T189 (Digital photography) course produced almost 50 video tutorials to support students in the use of the Adobe Elements image editing software. I will describe how we used Adobe Captivate to do this, show examples of the video tutorials and reflect on the pros and cons of this approach to teaching. Geoff's PowerPoint presentation.

24 May 2007 - Nicola Whitton - Computer games to enhance adult learning

This talk will explore the potential of computer game-based learning in the context of learners in Higher Education. It is often argued that one of the main benefits of game-based learning is the ability of games to motivate learners, leading to deeper learning. While this may be true for children, the research described here shows that it can not be assumed for adults. However, there is still a justification for using games to enhance adult learning and this is discussed.

A number of stages of work will be presented, their rationales and research methodologies described and results discussed. These include two exploratory small-scale studies considering the nature of gaming motivation; development of guidelines for the design of educational computer games; and the design and development of an adventure game and a collaborative activity with identical learning outcomes. In addition, work was undertaken to consider the relationship between engagement and learning and ways in which to measure engagement and a comparative study will be described.

Conclusions will be drawn and discussed from the research findings regarding the nature of gaming motivation and engagement. Nicola's PowerPoint presentation.

19 Apr 2007 - Nicky Moss - Simulated Labs, training or education?

Perhaps we have forgotten the importance of labs.

Course T228 uses teaching material and tools developed by Cisco. It aims to provide students with the Internet technology skills essential for working within a global economy. It does this by focussing on the practical skills needed to work in the industry, skills that students can practice using a network building tool called packet tracer. I will argue that doing labs using packet tracer can lead to deeper learning. It may make us think again about the value of practical skills.

18 Jan 2007 - Tony Hirst - In Search of the googLE

Although best known as a search engine, the Google search box actually provides an interface to a much wider range of services that can provide part of a handy desktop toolkit for OU students and staff, as well as the general web surfing public. Beyond the search box, Google host a comprehensive selection of online web applications, from web based email to word processors, calendars, to spreadsheets.

In this session, we'll have a quick tour through some of the queries you may not have thought of trying before (like '0.94 pounds per litre in dollars per gallon', perhaps?), as well as some of the more exotic Google search tools, before going on to look at the web based applications that could possibly be useful in a googLE (Google learning environment)

This has the potential to be a participatory session, so if you have access to one, bring a wireless device and a web browser...

This link will provide you with information on the things Tony showed us.

14 Dec 2006 - Jackie Bennett - Cetlment Island: a virtual teaching and learning space for the Open University?

COLMSCT, part of the CETL group in the University, have recently funded the purchase of a virtual island, called Cetlment Island, in the virtual world known as Second Life. The island will offer learning spaces with interactive whiteboard, video, RSS feeds and web browser access as well as text and voice communication. Second Life is a MMVW (Massively Multiplayer Virtual World) and once you are inside the 3D virtuverse you interact with other 'residents' and objects through your fully customisable avatar.

The session will introduce Cetlment Island, show some of the technologies in development and hopefully give a brief tour to view some of the other educational facilities already developed in the environment. After the session, colleagues will have the opportunity to download the client software and explore Second Life in their own time and (by invitation) to visit and explore Cetlment Island in more detail. Full details of how to do this will be available at the session. Jackie's PowerPoint presentation.

16 Nov 2006 - Jeff Adams - Artist-Teachers Engage with VLE Forums

This presentation will discuss a study investigating theoretical and pedagogical issues pertaining to art and design graduates as they embark upon their training as teachers, supported by a web-based virtual learning environment. The popularity of the platform and the expressive, 'confessional' nature of the forum posts are explored in relation to the students' new experience as classroom practitioners and their identity transformation into professional teachers. The transition is very pronounced in the case of artist teachers, for whom the contrast between their liberal artist practices and regulated professional practices is particularly marked, and this is theorised in terms of models of academic and personal identities. The success of the VLE medium masks fundamental problems of expression brought about by the juxtaposition of visually and spatially adept artist-learners constrained within a textual environment, an impediment that appears, however, to be ameliorated by the social-expressive exploitation of the forums.

12 Oct 2006 - Keren Mills - Game on! Do computer games have potential as learning tools?

Keren Mills has been investigating the potential of games in learning for the Library, by researching the ways games have been used in learning to date, with a view to establishing whether games could be used to teach information literacy skills. It turns out that playing games is not the mindless, instant gratification activity that most non-gamers assume it is. It can take hours to learn to navigate your way around a game, and the most popular games often involve hours of frustrating, repetitive play and complex high-level thinking before the gamer gains any gratification at all. This talk will cover lessons we can learn from the gaming metaphor and case studies of ways games have been used in learning by other organisations. Keren's PowerPoint presentation.

20 Jul 2006 - John Woodthorpe - i-Skills: Preparing students to survive in an online OU

The i-Skills project aims to reduce the duplication of online study skills in OU courses by re-using and re-versioning existing material to form a short "course" that all other courses can draw upon. The project started in July 2005 and has spent much of that time collating existing material and working with various groups across the university to determine how best to diagnose gaps in student knowledge and deliver material tuned to address those gaps. As the project progressed, it gradually became clear that it was trying to work ahead of many OU systems, especially those related to the VLE, online diagnostics, content management and metadata. The talk will give an outline of the i-Skills project. It will cover the content and delivery, as well as issues arising from the impending changes in the OU systems that promise to allow more personalised delivery of content.

15 Jun 2006 - Rob Parsons - Is messaging good for your grades? An analysis of conference participation and final grade.

TT280 is the first course in the Web Applications Certificate, taught entirely online and without tutors. Students have the benefit of moderated national conferences, which roughly half take advantage of to some degree. Rob carried out some statistical work to determine whether there was an association between the level of participation and the final grade achieved. His work demonstrated a strong direct correlation. He also carried out preliminary analyses of the content of postings of some of the least and most prolific contributors with an eye to determining the direction of future research. From this research and conversations with colleagues he has produced a profile of what we would count as a 'good', i.e. skilled student, and has identified some questions about how we can encourage students to acquire the necessary skills for working in such circumstances.

Rob's PowerPoint presentations: 0606a.ppt - 0606b.ppt.

18 May 2006 - Mirabelle Walker - TMA feedback: can we do better?

Mirabelle will start by presenting some preliminary results from her COLMSCT project, which is investigating the feedback on sample TMAs, and student use of that feedback, on three Technology courses: T173, T209 and T224. Then she'll discuss these results in terms of:

  • their comparability with those of the FAST project in Science;
  • their import for Technology staff - central academics, staff tutors, ALs, monitors
  • their import for Technology practices - writing TMAs and marking guides, monitoring, staff development.

Mirabelle's PowerPoint presentation.

25 Apr 2006 - John Monk - A Video about Teaching Engineering Ethics

Late last year John prepared a 10 minute DVD presentation as a contribution to a prestigious conference organised by the Royal Academy of Engineering. It consists of a series of comments made by university teachers, high ranking employers and recent graduates. He completed the whole production himself including the editing. The experience has made him ask if this is a medium that in the future (perhaps five years from now) we may be asking students to use when submitting assessments. Or whether perhaps, unless we say that assignments should be written, students will submit home made videos that answer assignment questions and we will be faced with marking them.

John will show the video and will also comment on how it was produced. He hopes that the seminar will end with an exchange of opinions about student use of video and maybe something about teaching ethics.

16 Mar 2006 - David Gould & Ryan Butler - Social Bookmarking in the Work Place

Social Bookmarking has gained in popularity for general Internet users and has massive potential for use within business and education as a knowledge management solution. David Gould and Ryan Butler from Network Ltd will present social bookmarking, the existing tools available and Network's approach to bookmark management and sharing. David & Ryan's Powerpoint presentation.

16 Feb 2006 - Neil Murray - Earning while learning: implementing work-based learning within the Foundation Degree in ICT

Although work-based learning (WBL) is an essential part a foundation degree (FD) no consensus exists on what constitutes best practice regarding:

  • suitable work settings
  • employer involvement
  • relationship to national occupational standards and frameworks
  • relationship to Sector Skills Council FD frameworks
  • personal and career development planning
  • key skills
  • employability skills

The University's FD in ICT (G04) is aimed both at ICT 'professionals' and the much larger group working outside ICT departments who use and manage ICTs as an essential part of their jobs. There are two (30 point) 6 month WBL courses within G04. At level 1, ICTs at Work (T121) was launched in October 2005 and at level 2, ICTs: Change and Projects at Work (T226) is due to be presented for the first time in November 2006. Both courses enable students to learn from their work and apply learning to their work. Reflective practice and learning through experience are emphasised through real work-based activities.

The talk will highlight some of the issues involved in developing WBL courses and discuss some initial evaluations of the first presentation of T121 from the perspective of both ALs and students. Neil's Powerpoint presentation.

19 Jan 2006 - Jude Carroll - Deterring Plagiarism in Higher Education

The talk included:
  • rethinking the definitions of plagiarism, collusion and cheating
  • considering how best to inform students about regulations
  • teaching students the skills of academic discourse and citation
  • rethinking assessment and course design to crosscheck the authenticity of work.

Jude Carroll is the author of 'A Handbook for Deterring Plagiarism in Higher Education' published by Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development. Her interest in plagiarism dates from a request six years ago to run a lunchtime session for lecturers at Oxford Brookes which spiralled into developing exercises, activities and ideas for staff and students around the UK and internationally. Her current research considers two issues: institutional approaches to setting fair punishments and how best to meet the needs of international students studying in another academic culture. Jude's Powerpoint presentation.

15 Dec 2005 - Linda Price & Adrian Kirkwood - Engaging learners with media and electronic resources

Electronic resources - FirstClass conferences, ROUTES and so on - will soon be a part of every course, but are often poorly rated in student feedback in terms of their use and helpfulness. We will outline some ongoing research showing that OU students rate electronic resources much more highly when they are integrated into the pedagogy of the course. We will explain what integration can mean, and will give some examples from highly-rated courses to help you consider how better use can be made of electronic resources in courses.

17 Nov 2005 - Nicky Moss - On-line Assessment in the Cisco Networking Academy

The Cisco Networking Academy Program is a comprehensive e-learning program using web-based content, online assessment, student performance tracking and hands-on labs.

It offers industry standard certification with 1.6 million students having enrolled on academy courses since its launch in 1997. It is delivered in 150 Countries, in many languages.

This talk will provide a tour of the assessment, performance tracking and on-line labs.

20 Oct 2005 - Angela Trikic - Modelling e-learning system design using unified modelling language

Unified modelling language (UML) tools are proposed as an effective means of communicating the analytic design of the structure, process and dynamic perspectives of e-learning systems. The notation used by the Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) community is appraised and UML is offered as a semantically rich alternative. The e-learning development for the Centre for Postgraduate Pharmacy Education is the context in which the utility of the modelling and refinement has been undertaken. The talk considers the utility of UML for modelling e-learning and similar systems. Angela's Powerpoint presentation.

15 Sep 2005 - Ahmed Al-Shamma'a - Breaking Traditional Barriers in Teaching Computer Science/Engineering Students

The UK and European Union, through its various research and development funding initiatives, has been a major driver of educational change in Europe over the last 10 years. Some of these initiatives investigate the technology backbone, some the pedagogical approaches; others set up European study centres, yet others develop software and courses. All of these are a necessary part of the movement towards interactive, virtual teaching and integrated environment for a pan-European delivery of courses.

Using the approach of interactive/real time teaching students, in computer science and engineering education using multimedia methods, get a chance to "do" and "understand". This urges the development of a system in which humans and machines work in harmony, each playing the appropriate and affordable role for the purpose of creating intellectual as well as fiscal wealth. This means creating a better-educated workforce, at all levels, by building on existing skills, ingenuity and expertise, using new science and technology-based methods and tools, such as interactive multimedia. The goal for this approach is the improvement of mathematics, computer programming and usage of computer applications tools for first year computer science and engineering students.

Using the approach of an effective e-Learning initiative should give the students a wide range of experiences in various aspects of on-line learning, both as a supplement to traditional face-to-face courses and to support distance participation. The aim of this e-Learning is to give the opportunity to students from all over Europe to access the best education.

With this in mind, the seminar covers some examples using various approaches and methodologies in teaching our BSc, BEng and MEng/MSc students. Ahmed's Powerpoint presentation.

21 Apr 2005 - John Monk - The role of language in engineering competence

The behaviour of engineered products is becoming less evident from their outward appearance. Thus many current engineered products have unseen properties that become evident only after protracted investigation, analysis or use. Nevertheless marketing staff, potential users, disposal experts, financiers and so on will wish to make informed decisions about products and commonly their choices will be based on more accessible descriptions, explanations, directions, scenarios and accounts of a products use rather than their direct experience.

Within the enterprise the engineer, has a detailed understanding of the behaviour of a product or service and will act either an advocate or an adversary of artefacts and will be faced by other individuals or groups who because of their professional or cultural background will value things in different ways. The role of the engineer is then as a protagonist or opponent of the artefact within, using Bruno Latour's evocative phrase, a "Parliament of Things". Consequently competent engineers, as competent advocates of artifacts, need fluent linguistic and rhetorical skills as well as analytical proficiency and the knowledge that will give them the confidence to project their views. This talk will focus on the engineer's use of text.

16 December 2004 - Ellen Sjoer - Learning Content Management System usage: facilitating individual learning paths using learning objects and metadata

A Learning Content Management System (LCMS) is a multi user environment where learning developers can create, store, reuse, manage, and deliver digital content from a central object repository. The Dutch Emerge consortium is investigating the relevant usage of LCMS in higher education. One of the projects is about the delivery of learning objects on demand, to facilitate students in defining their own learning path. The aim is to adjust students' learning processes to individual needs according to the 'just for me', 'just enough' principle. How do teachers and students react to the concept and what problems did we face in the process?

18 November 2004 - Nick Heap & Karen Kear - New features for computer conferencing systems

Computer conferencing has many benefits in distance learning, but there are also problems. One of these is being overloaded with messages. This talk considers whether changes to conferencing system design can alleviate overload. This question is being investigated in the online technology course TT380. The course uses a prototype conferencing system which includes novel features such as message filtering, recommendations and a personal 'clippings' area. Nick and Karen presented separate Power Point presentations.

21 October 2004 - John Monk - Ethics in the ICT curriculum

I am involved in a Royal Academy of Engineering Task Group that is concerned with introducing an ethics strand into engineering education. I will say something about why the RAE thinks this is important and something about the kinds of things that students might address. I will give a broad indication of some of the technical details of ethics and outline where examples requiring ethical analysis might be found in the field of ICT.

Ethics is a field where clashes of view are the focus interest but also potential sites of aggravation for learners. Forms of teaching, which are unfamiliar to technologists, may be required that raise the emotional temperature sufficiently to illustrate that conflicts are significant; simultaneously the teaching must make it abundantly clear that the engagement is intended to provide a context for a learning experience. I will look at drama as a form of teaching and learning and provide illustrations of plays with lessons on ethics for technologists. And perhaps say a little about why I think dramatic forms can work.

17 Jun 2004 - Matthew Hughes - Constructivism, enquiry-based learning and peer review online: our experience

This talk traces the development of a large, interprofessional, online module from the original objectives and attempts through to its working present day form. The educational approach and team management are discussed, along with the difficulties experienced, including some solutions. Matthew's Powerpoint presentation.

19 May 2004 - Martin Weller - The benefits of learning objects to course teams and students

Martin will look at how creating courses in the form of learning objects has a number of benefits in the course production process, and also in the learning experience for students. Some practical advice on how to write material in this form will be given and the broader issues considered.

Please note that Martin's talk will be on Wednesday 19 May at 12.30pm.

18 Mar 2004 - Eileen Scanlon - Activity Theory and Evaluation

In this talk Eileen described how she used Activity Theory to re-evaluate some learning settings involving ICT in school and higher education. She presented a view of the usefulness of Activity Theory for this purpose. Eileen described Activity Theory as a helpful conceptual/analytical framework.

19 Feb 2004 - Simon Buckingham Shum (KMI) - Hypermedia Discourse: Evolving New Technologies and Practice

We are in transition from the print paradigm to global hypermedia. Old media always cast their shadow over new media: print genres and their associated practices still dominate how we publish and contest scholarly ideas - - our challenge is to understand how to exploit the new tools to best effect. Knowledge and media are mutually reinforcing, each dependent on the other. The multimedia network is arguably todays knowledge media paradigm, as both the technical infrastructure and the emerging cultural and cognitive paradigm which questions hierarchies, assumes the interconnectedness of ideas, and is fostering new media literacies not required in previous generations. When both the media and the dominant worldview impress these messages on students, we should increasingly expect them to be engaging with material in new ways.

Hypermedia Discourse is a theme we are using to conceive new technologies for knowledge construction and negotiation - - in essence, the contesting of worldviews, whether in the small or large. And since there is no discourse without people, the tools will change, and must co-evolve with, work practices. I will describe projects which render discourse in a wide variety of contexts as a hypertextual network in various modalities, some of which are summarised below. Depending on the representational scheme used, these enable new kinds of services for document navigation, discourse analysis, and morphing into other forms. The implications are profound for how ideas may be generated, disseminated, analysed and contested in the future. Our applications range from e-learning and e-science, to knowledge management and scholarly publishing. Simon's slides.

15 Jan 2004 - John Richardson (IET) - A quick introduction to the analysis of questionnaire data

In his talk John gave an overview of some methods for analysing questionnaire data. For example:

  • measures of central tendency and variability
  • measures of correlation
  • measures of reliability
  • issues in factor analysis

John illustrated these analyses using data from a survey of technology students. John's Power Point presentation.

18 Dec 2003 - Marina Mozzon-McPherson - An analysis of community building through the notion of sanctioning and rewarding

This talk presented and discussed data from a research project which involved the longitudinal study of an Italian speaking community over a period of five years. After a brief review of the notion of community, Marina looked at the role played by sanctioning and rewarding in the construction or destruction of a community.

18 Sep 2003 - Tim Wales - Using online databases for educational research (hands-on session)

The OU Library provides access to many databases and other resources for researchers in Education and Educational Technology. Tim Wales from the Library led a demonstration and hands-on session introducing these resources.

17 Jul 2003 - John Richardson - Perceptions of academic quality & variations in student learning in electronically delivered courses

John discussed his studies of students' attitudes and perceptions for a number of OU online courses: M867, M864, TU171 and U213. Attitudes to study were measured using adaptations of the Approaches to Study Inventory (ASI) (Ramsden & Entwistle 1981). Perceptions of quality were measured using an adaptation of the Course Experience Questionnaire (CEQ) (Ramsden & Entwistle 1991). Approaches to study can be characterised as deep, surface and strategic. Perceptions of quality give students' judgements on a range of different aspects of a course.

For the OU online courses, positive correlations were found between perceptions of quality and deep or strategic approaches to learning. For U213 it was possible to compare the face-to-face version of the course with the online-tutored version - with worrying results. Students' perceptions of the tutoring aspect of the course were lower for the online version, although they were the same for all other aspects. Students on the online version also achieved lower marks. The results of this study clearly need to be considered when planning courses for the future. John's Powerpoint presentation.

20 June 2003 - Nick Heap - The web apps certificate

Nick discussed the production and presentation of the suite of 10-point courses which form the Certificate in Web Applications Development.

He described:

  • the content and delivery mode of the courses (set books with other electronic teaching materials);
  • the approach to student support (national FirstClass conferences moderated by Associate Lecturers, central staff and students);
  • the assessment method (CMAs and an ECA for each course).

He also highlighted the pros and cons of the approach taken, and demonstrated some of the software tools developed for the current courses. Nick's Powerpoint presentation.

20 Mar 2003 - Debbie Ellen - Software tools for analysing qualitative data

Debbie gave a demonstration of Atlas-ti - a software tool for analysis of qualitative data. Debbie uses Atlas-ti for her work on the JIVE research project, and had previously used it for her PhD work. Debbie also mentioned an alternative product N6 (formerly Nudist). The OU has a licence for N6, and the software (and training) can be obtained via LTS. When undertaking her PhD research Debbie had compared the two products and decided to use Atlas. Since then she has only been using Atlas.

Atlas allows for annotation and coding of textual data (though Atlas datasets can also include images and audio). Data might be interview transcripts, conference messages, and any other document relevant to a research project. The researcher can define keywords or phrases (codes) and attach these to parts of the text. This process can be used to investigate themes and to group ideas which emerge from the data analysis.

17 Dec 2002 - Jane Lunsford - Usability

Jane's talk described usability work carried out by NTSS (New Technologies for Supporting Students). NTSS develops web sites to help students with their OU studies. Jane discussed usability testing which can take place at different stages in the development process.

For the formal testing process, 6-8 volunteer students come on-site to try out a web site. They can simply be asked to explore the site, or to carry out certain tasks or to role-play a certain type of user. The testing is carried out using a PC linked to a VCR in a separate room which records the screen image and sound. A facilitator sits with the student, and the student is asked to 'think aloud' to the facilitator as they work with the website. In the VCR room, other people take notes.

NTSS have also carried out informal testing at summer schools, giving volunteer students a questionnaire to complete as they go through the web site. Another valuable technique is to send out a copy of the website on CD for students to test in their own homes. Students are give an instruction book to follow, with spaces for their comments. They are also interviewed by telephone to get their feedback on content.

Other techniques which can be used very early in development are to give potential users a questionnaire to research a new concept, or to discover what students would like. Early prototypes can also de developed, using tools such as Powerpoint, and shown to users to get their reactions. Jane's Powerpoint presentation.

17 Oct 2002 - Mike Reddy - Robots and Education

Mike spoke about his work using robotics with young people. Teams from local schools are given the task of designing and building robots, using Lego Mindstorms, for an expedition to Mars. The robots are designed, programmed and then set to work clearing a landing pad and rescuing stranded astronauts. The aim is to use robotics to help the younsters learn in an active way about design, problem solving and working with others. Mikes slides about this work and some of the movies which are used in the projects are available.

11 July 2002 - Geoff Einon - Automated evaluation of essays and short answers

Two events lead to my literature search of computer based essay marking. On a number of occasions, I heard Diana Laurillard extolling the virtues of computer based evaluation of essays and short answers as a viable solution for some of the OU's marking 'problems'. Since she was normally a hard-nosed critic of technological determinist applications of ICT to education, this surprising endorsement stuck in my mind as 'something to follow up - sometime'. The second occurred at an ALT workshop on assessment, where one of the key note speakers, in passing, gave a reference to a paper on automated evaluation of essays. This then triggered my literature search which revealed three different approaches that I described in my talk.

My conclusion from the literature search is that the most viable approach is provided by Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA) - at first sight this (to me) seems similar to the pattern matching carried by neural networks - where clustering within a space indicates similarity. If you are interesting in LSA the PDF of 'How latent is LSA' gives a good overview and some references to original work.

After the talk I learned that Denise Whitelock (IET) is using (or planning to use) LSA as an assessment tool.

See for more details:

Whitelock, D., Raw, Y., Watt, S. and Moreale, E. (2002) Improving Feedback to Tutors: Constructing an electronic monitoring system. ALT-C2002, 9th International Conference of the Association for Learning Technology. 9th-11th September 2002, Sunderland. Ó Association for Learning Technology.

Moreale, E., Whitelock, D., Raw, Y. and Watt, S. (2002) What measures do we need to build an electronic monitoring tool for post graduate tutor marked assignments? 6th International Computer Assisted Assessment Conference. 9th-10th July 2002, Loughborough.

20 June 2002 - Allan Jones - Graphics and sound software as learning tools

Allan's talk was concerned with the educational potential of relatively cheap commercial graphics and sound editing packages (e.g. PaintShop, Cool Edit). These packages could be used to explore quite sophisticated concepts relating to file formats, coding and perception, and were thus potentially educationally useful, even though they were not primarily designed for educational use.

Allan demonstrated how different types of graphic could be compressed using both lossless and lossy techniques. Depending on the type of graphic, one sort of compression was shown to be more successful (in terms of file-size reduction) than the other. Adjusting the depth of colour changed the effectiveness of each type of compression, and also allowed the viewer's sensitivity to colour variation to be explored. Sound-editing software was used to explore psycho-acoustic phenomena such as the importance of attack in determining instrumental timbre and the extent to which the ear could extract pitch information from short bursts of periodic waveforms.

Allan suggested that an academically respectable short course could be constructed around such software. The course would use theoretical principles and models, and would be intellectually searching in a way that training courses often are not. Ex-students of T171 and T170 whose interests did not extend to the more sociological and philosophical areas of T209 might welcome such a course. Anecdotally these students feel there is no clear sequel to their level-1 studies.

16 May 2002 - Jon Rosewell - The Physical World: multimedia Physics at a distance

Jon's talk was about the introductory Physics course S207 The Physical World, first delivered in 2000. This is a mixed media course including books, video, and software. About 20 of 450 study hours are delivered as multimedia CD-ROMs.

Jon briefly reviewed the range of multimedia packages produced for the course, and focused on the use of audio supported tutorials. He reported on some evaluation of students' use of the material carried out by his colleagues Fiona Thomson & Canan Blake. Jon's Powerpoint presentation.

18 April 2002 - Karen Kear - Research methods in Education

Karen's talk gave a brief overview of some approaches and methods used in education research. These included interviews, questionnaires, observation and 'action research'.

21 February 2002 - Karen Kear - Writing for Publication - a workshop

This workshop was based on one run by the ILT. It focused on writing articles for academic journals, and getting them published. A main lesson is to write your article with a specific journal in mind, and do your homework about that journal: its purpose, editorial team, style and readership.

20 November 2001 - Janet MacDonald - Developing competent e-learners: the role of assessment

Janet's talk discussed different ways in which assessment can be used to improve learning in networked courses. Janet's Powerpoint presentation.

16 October 2001 - John Pettit - Web delivery: expensive communities or cheap updates?

John talked about two courses in IET's MA - H802 & H804. He focused on:

  • how online courses can be enhanced during presentation
  • the increased role of the presentation course team in online courses
  • resource issues in presenting and improving these courses
  • the experience of students, tutors and CT

John provided some relevant OU web links:

18 September 2001 - Karen Shipp - T205's interactive web teaching experiences

Karen's talk discussed experiences with new forms of student interaction in the systems course T205. The course web site uses 'Xlets' which allow students to input their thoughts, ideas and views, and see those of other students. Xlets can be embedded in web-based course material at any point, and allow student interaction to be closely integrated into the course material.

Earlier talks

Below are various earlier talks people gave to EATING, and some of the issues they raised:

John Naughton - The future of universities

This talk used Eli Noam's paper "Electronics and the dim future of the university" as its starting point. We discussed trends in higher education, and the role of the university. Particular relevance was given the effect the Internet would have on universities, the OU in particular. In many respects it is both an opportunity and a threat to the OU, and how it might change over the next few years became the focus for discussion. Related Publications:

John Monk - Emotion and Learning

John talked about the work of Martha Nussbaum, particularly the importance she has placed on the emotive aspect of learning. John discussed his own reaction to a dialogue he had seen performed by Martha Nussbaum at a conference which was based around the (actual) death of her father.

Martin Weller - The role of narrative in education

This talk looked at how narrative is used as an educational tool. It focused particularly on Diana Laurillard's paper "Multimedia and the learner's experience of narrative", and the work of the MENO team which looks at how narrative can be used to provide structure to multimedia resources. Narrative has been used in the level 1 course T171 You, your computer and the Net, in the form of two readable set texts. Here it serves several functions: It provides a familiar framework for students who are entering an unfamiliar medium; it provides an inherent motivation for students to continue with the story; it humanises the subject matter and places it in context. Martin suggested that narrative is the means by which individuals and cultures represent themselves, and thus if you wish to bring people into a new culture one of the best ways of achieving this is to make them familiar with the narratives of that culture. One of the main aims of the course T171 is to enculturate students into the society of computers and the Internet, and thus the use of narrative performs an important role in the course.

Related publications:

  • Laurillard, D.(1998) "Multimedia and the learner's experience of narrative" Computers and Education, 31. pp 229-242.
  • Gudmundsdottir, S. (1995) "The Narrative Nature of Pedagogical Content Knowledge" In McEwan, H. and Egan, K. Narrative in teaching, learning and research. New York: Teachers College
  • McCloskey, D. N. (1990) "Storytelling in economics." In Nash, C (ed.) Narrative in culture: The uses of storytelling in the sciences, philosophy, and literature. (pp 5 - 22) Routledge, London.
  • Mitroff, I & Kilmann, R. H. (1975) "Stories managers tell: A new tool for organizational problem solving." Management Review, July pp 18-28.

Geoff Einon - Asynchronous Learning Networks

This talk was based around the work of Turoff and Hiltz. They have developed the concept of the Asynchronous Learning Network, and particularly the virtual classroom. Their work has been influential in the development of distance education courses delivered via the Internet, with a strong conferencing element.

Related publications:

Karen Kear - Situated cognition and cognitive apprenticeships

Karen discussed the work of Seely Brown and Collins, who have proposed the cognitive apprenticeships as a learning model. This suggests that the best way to learn something is to be an apprentice to an expert, in the same way blacksmith's used to pass on their expertise through apprenticeships.

Related Publications:

  • Seely Brown, J., Colllins, A, & Duguid P.(1989) "Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning". Educational Researcher, Jan-Feb, pp:32-42.

John Naughton - The open source movement and implications for education

John talked first about the open source movement, particularly how software such as Linux has been developed by the source code being freely available, and modified by enthusiasts. such software is now seen as a serious threat to that produced by the closed proprietary approach, such as Microsoft. As software become increasingly complex it may be that only by utilising the resources of a global network can that complexity ever be managed and developed. John suggested that there may be an analogy for how courses are developed. Such systems work on the basis of a 'gift culture', where prestige is related to how much you give, not how much you own. There was some debate as to whether courses could be produced in this manner, and what implications this might have for students and academics.

Related Publications:

Martin Weller - Motivations for using the web in teaching

This talk was based around Martin's experience of attending various educational conferences. The use of the web in teaching was a dominant theme in all conferences. Martin proposed several possible motivations for using the web:

  • teacher enthusiasm
  • as a supplement for face to face teaching
  • as a window for computer based learning
  • institutional benefit
  • to support collaboration
  • remote delivery

There is usually more than one motivation at work, and often it is hard to discern from papers what the motivations were. Martin had analysed 30 conference papers, giving 2 motivations to each paper. Supplementing face to face and as a window for computer based learning were the most popular motivations in this sample.

Karen Kear - Collaborative learning about collaborative learning

Karen's talk was about research she has been doing on the use of CMC in THD204. The students carry out a collaborative assignment using computer conferencing part way through the course. They are asked to discuss the use of CMC in education in a small group conference (typically 5 or 6 students). For their assignment they submit a selection of their messages, and a written summary of the discussion.

Karen was interested in the effect of the conferencing system user interface on the character of the discussion. The 1998 and 1999 student conferences provided an opportunity to investigate this, because Wigwam was used in '98 and FirstClass was used in '99. She studied Judith Williams' student groups - 2 groups from '98 and 4 from '99.

Conference transcripts were studied in depth, looking particularly at the threading links between messages, but also at the message contents, and the relation between these two aspects. Karen's hypothesis (based on an earlier study) was that Wigwam would support a better integrated discussion because its interface showed the threading of messages graphically.

The study of students messages was valuable in itself, aside from investigating this hypothesis, because the messages revealed the benefits and difficulties that students found when using computer conferencing for small group discussion. Karen's talk presented these pros and cons in students' own words, through quotes from their messages. The main difficulties identified were (with students' descriptions in quotes):

  • lack of social presence - "no social glue"
  • a disjointed sense of time - "jet-lag effect"
  • problems with the organisation of messages - "information chaos".

Students commented on the importance of threading and organising messages into subject areas, and found that FirstClass V5.5 was a considerable improvement on V3.5.

By creating 'message maps' she was able to show that the threading of messages was quite different in Wigwam than in FirstClass. The Wigwam conferences were highly connected, with very few stand-alone messages. In contrast, the FirstClass conferences contained a significant number of stand-alone messages, most of which were clearly intended as replies to existing messages, but had not been threaded to them. FC V5.5 was an improvement on V3.5 in this respect.

Karen attempted to establish whether the 'connectedness' of the discussion was correlated with any measure of 'educational quality' - but such a measure was hard to find! She tried categorising the messages according to whether they seemed to show 'deep' or 'surface' cognitive processes. There seemed some indication that the Wigwam discussions might be 'deeper', but this certainly was not conclusive. More work is needed on this aspect, and particularly on finding measures for how much students learn when they engage in CMC discussions.

There was a good discussion both during and after the talk. Points raised included:

  • How can we find out the views of the students who are not active in CMC discussions, and why they are not active?
  • To investigate whether students are learning from this CMC discussion, it might be helpful to look at the contents of the assignments which they hand in.
  • CMC is a written medium - the process of writing down their ideas will be helpful to students.
  • What is the role of the tutor in these discussions? What do students expect?

Judith Williams - CMC - A Tutor's Perspective

Judith has tutored on a number of OU courses which require CMC, and has contact with other tutors. She gave an informal talk about her experiences, and those of five other tutors, on three different Technology courses using CMC in different ways (THD204, T293 and T171).

The aims of her talk were to identify some issues of good and bad practice and to stimulate discussion amongst the group, many of whom work on the courses in question.

Of the tutors Judith communicated with the following observations were made:

  • They logged on to check messages a minimum of every two days.
  • None were in conventional full time employment
  • They all used their own facilities for Internet access
  • All were tutors on more than one course.

They felt the benefits of CMC were:

  • It facilitated support and dissemination of information from the course team
  • Tutors felt closer to the students
  • It helped foster a feeling of community on the course.
  • It allowed them to be more supportive to the students

Their concerns were:

  • They felt there was an increase in workload when working this way
  • There was inadequate financial compensation for this
  • There was a lot of information in the conferences, often irrelevant to their needs.
  • Running electronic tutorials effectively.

Judith then looked at the tutor conferences (ie those which the tutors and course team have access to, but not students) on these three courses. There were a number of differences in the set-up of these, although all used the FirstClass system. The main issues for effective use of these were highlighted as:

  • Quantity of sub-conferences - some courses had a confusing amount of sub-conferences, which made locating information difficult. However if not properly maintained too few sub-conferences can mean they quickly become full with messages on many different topics.
  • Naming of sub-conferences - in order to find information effectively, the conferences need to have representative names.
  • Interface issues - small issues such as the size the window defaults to, placing of icons and so forth can have an effect on the overall usability of the conference.
  • Expiry dates - some messages expired before being archived, which meant tutors could not then find the information again.
  • Moderating - good moderation to keep conversations on track, move messages to appropriate sub conferences and so forth was invaluable
  • Archiving - regular archiving so the main conferences remained relatively uncluttered greatly improved the usability of the conferences.

In general the tutors felt the training and support provided was good, although timing was a crucial matter.

Martin Weller - Is Distance education another form of e-commerce?

Martin had spent some time reading material for a new e-commerce course, and was struck by the relevance of the issues facing commercial organisations to distance education. In this talk he explored these issues, and the similiarities and differences with education.

Here is a draft paper written on this topic, submitted to WebNet 2000 - Is distance education another form of e-commerce?

Mirabelle Walker - Key skills, learning outcomes and curriculum reform

Mirabelle based her talk on this paper:
Whitston, K (1998), 'Key skills and curriculum reform', Studies in Higher Education, Vol 23 No 3 pp 307-319
She gave an overview of some of the history of key skills, then outlined what she saw as some important aspects of Whitston's paper, before moving on to express her own views on the problems, and opportunities afforded by key skills and learning outcomes.
Her PowerPoint presentation is viewable here: Key skills PowerPoint slides

Geoff Einon - Beyond a constructivist approach: learning in practice

Geoff gave an overview of Wenger's "Communities of practice" work which places learning very much as a social function tied in with the notion of identity. The talk then looked at how some of the points raised by Wenger's work could be applicable to the work we do in the OU, including the form of assessment, the nature of course design, the overall aim of a course and how identity and meaning relate to CMC work.


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