Category Archives: OCSLD online

FSLT16 Week 1

Week one has flown by like a simile. There are 58 participants on the course of whom 22 are doing the module for academic credit (10 credits, level 7) towards a PG Cert in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (PCTHE). Sixteen (16) of the assessed participants are from Brookes and six are from other places. So far 20 people have claimed the “Scholar” badge for contributing to the collaborative annotated bibliography. The most distant participant is in Central America, but this year the participants are largely based in the UK.

I am not sure what these numbers tell us. In many ways FSLT is now quite an “ordinary” online course. That doesn’t mean it isn’t engaging. It might mean the mooc buzz, such as it was five years ago has vanished into the maw of Coursera and Future Learn.  FSLT justifies itself because of the internal members of staff who take it as part of their mandatory PCTHE. We used to run our introductory module twice a year, once in each semester. No we run “Learning and Teaching in Higher Education” (P70405) face to face in the first semester and offer people the opportunity of taking 20 credits online in the second semester. Opening the course up to the world for free allows us to widen our audience and expose ourselves to a wider community of teachers in the expanding tertiary education sector. That is, as well as being good for what it teaches, it should be beneficial to our teachers because of the wider community they might meet. And for those from beyond Brookes, we trust it isn’t too bound up with local jargon.

Mark Childs on learner experience of distributed collaborative working

Mark reports on one international project in the built environment with Architects and Structural Engineers, working in three universities: Ryerson (Toronto), Loughborough and Coventry.

BIM3 is about co-creating online. Argues that BIM3 is not properly implemented. When it comes to training we train people on the minimum technical skills not the wider social context of tool use.

Draws on the idea of transactional distance. How can we bring people closer together.  Focuses on skills for online synchronous collaboration.

What is synchronicity in online environments. Does voice imply synchronicity?

So what drives trust? Perception of co-presence in time.

  • Fluency
  • Etiquette
  • Socialisation
  • Doodling
  • Don’t tell, show
  • Modify each other’s work

Jisc Digital Leadership Workshop

Semi-live blogging from the Jisc Digital Leadership project Workshop (Twitter #JiscDigLead. in Bristol at the Hotel Mercure, 22-23 October 2015.

Day 1

Lawrie Phipps opened the day mentioning the “dynamic online offer” from the Jisc Digital Capability service appearing maybe January time: “Online service moving into beta in the new year,” says Lawrie. I wonder if Jisc’s digital capability model

Jisc 6-element Digital Capability Model

Jisc 6-element Digital Capability Model

might assist in evaluations. And, I became exercised over a conflation of competitive comparison with evaluation. Just because s/he does it…

Clearly we want to Improve outcomes for learners and are trying to get our heads around the idea of adding value. Asking ourselves, what is learning gain? It is suggested there is an HE skills gap and that this goes top down. We are asked: Are you capable enough for the role you are undertaking? Who knows! I get a sense that Richard Francis and I, for Brookes are doing as well as many might hope. I suggest that there needs to be IT proficiency in the environs. You, the individual also needs to have to have some. What you don’t have others need. It is not only an individual good, it is a shared social good: education as well as the institution-digital. that is: the epistemic project rolls on.

See digital capabilities blog.

Moving on: Dave White asks why engage with technology? Is technology axiomatic? Is the digital being prefixed to everything? Why do we have a VLE? Can we reframe the discourse? What is the actual value? Dave is working with Donna Lanclos, who works at UNC Charlotte, NC, USA. Anthropologist studying the practices of  “the academic” in order to inform “the library”.

People are invited to question “George style”. Fame at last? Modelling practice? Or just annoying?

Dave and Donna show different pictures drawn by school kids asked to draw the Internet and my home in it (the internet mapping project). Map 2 Dave will want us to map our place on the visitor-resident continuum/a. He suggests, in response to questions that there are more than one dimension. Will we get near Hilbert space? Some of life plays out online. Other people are there. Social media, discussions all leave traces. Dave and Donna want to reassure us that modes of being online do not overdetermine our behaviours or experiences of the phenomenon of being online. We are asked to Google each other.

Dave raises the weak anthropic principle and the strong self-selecting assumption but doesn’t notice. Higher education so readily does the subject-object split to which is added an environment and within that (even going back to Lucretius) the waveform or quanta: movement and change. If the reference class is all people who might be invited and supported to attend this meeting then (as Wikipedia reports Brandon Carter says): “Although our situation is not necessarily central, it is inevitably privileged to some extent.”

And we dive into a Boston Consulting matrix style 2D representation of digital leadership.

  • x axis= Visitor-Resident
  • and y axis is Personal-Institutional.

In some quarters we “decompartementalise”. Richard Francis asks whether

  • Visitor = Consumer
  • Resident = Producer.

This seems plausable equivalence. I wonder how many more axes are possible and if two-d is really useful. They acknowledge the incompleteness of any model.

We are asked to map an “observer moment” of our life in the digital.

Here is mine.

Tools as spaces as practises

Tools as spaces as practises

It is later presented by Dave and Lawrie among four or five others  and comment invited from each of the mappers. It is messy. In one construction, the embodied world envelopes a digital space. But this gives the impression of focusing on “the digital”. We might use two axes to make a small spider diagram: or a dream catcher for the internet maybe? In respect of my map, I noticed the four foci on public writing. I acknowledged visitor status in much other multimedia. I observed how my use of email, Twitter, Facebook and a VLE worked: how it was all generally squashed down to the right: institutional resident. How metaphorical is the location and name of that quadrant?

Next James Clay is took us onto personal effectiveness: our effectiveness at using digitech, and how we build our capacity with technologies. We are asked: “You on your own, define the term: digital university.” I suggest teaching is the core project of the digital university. It seems to me that the digital still has the power to force questioning.

I suggest:

the digital university is immersed in the capacities and contexts of its world using and misusing as well as rejecting “the digital”. In particular the digital university is not slave to an external “digitality” but shapes and enables the shaping of the wider institution-digital. The institution-digital is a “moment” in the emergence of tools, practices and places within which the epistemological project takes place, transforming and also resisting the transformation of society.

A university that constantly evolves to

#JiscDigLead consensus on the Digital University

#JiscDigLead consensus on the Digital University

… the consensus distilled by reps from each table:

We then do PESTLE analysis (badly-can it be done well? The categories are so broad) on our digital university.

  • Political
  • Economic
  • Social
  • Technological
  • Legal
  • Environmental

… sort of.

Our table asks “Why are we doing this?” several times. Someone suggests: “marketing”. Of what? By whom? For whom? I might conflate legal with social, otherwise we more or less agree that leadership is all about:

  1. the political/economic/technical and environmental (society and culture)
  2. the personal (individual experience of society and culture)

I return to the question of embodiment around the breakfast/coffee/lunch/tea breaks. The problem of embodiment is seldom mentioned in higher education gatherings. The presumption of an embodied self-aware narrator is strangely persistent.

Day 2

This morning I am anticipating sessions on social media, cybersecurity risk, persuasive narratives and more mapping before we conclude with building a digital vision and strategy. This will be an opportunity to sanity-check Brookes’ new TEL Framework.

I am in the stoirytelling workshop on creating persuasive narratives.

Keep it lean and focussed. Is the story always an elevator pitch?

Link to strategic policy working document

I wandered off into Medium and pen and book.

The narrative continues here.



Flipping questions

These are the questions about flipped teaching that we will be discussing:

  1. Why would you reduce the time spent on “homework” and increase the time given to didactics?
    • Is the significant difference only that texts are presented as multimedia?
  2. How do you design for the periods between class?
  3. Is higher education is moving from a knowledge-based enterprise to a “higher skills and competencies” based one?
  4. Does highly didactic, knowledge-based, autonomous, single-summative-assessment point education style suit everyone? (Discuss each of the terms in bold italics?)
    • And, what if it doesn’t?
  5. Are group assessment and peer assessment now emerging as significant trends?
    • And, how did you find the answer to this question?
  6. How might you support group work in a large group?


It struck me as I was preparing a session on “flipped teaching” that there may be two related  questions in the approach for higher education (HE). Kong (2014) suggests:

The flipped classroom strategy is that work typically done as homework is better undertaken in class with the guidance of teachers. At the heart of flipped classrooms is moving teachers’ knowledge delivery outside of formal class time and using formal class time for students to actively engage in knowledge construction through extensive interactions with peers and teachers (161).

In secondary school, the amount of homework given does not often exceed the amount of time spent in the classroom. From my memory any teacher who gave more than an hour of homework was harsh. As a teacher, You have about equal chunks of in-class and out of class time to work with. In a typical 15 credit higher education (HE) module in the UK, about 30 hours is devoted to “lecturing” and 120 hours to “other stuff”: sometimes described as self-study and assessment preparation. In HE the chunks of in-class and out-of-class are different sizes compared to school. And in HE the amount of homework expected is proportionally greater than the amount of in-class time available. Why would you reduce the time spent on “homework” and increase the time given to didactics? But that is what it appears that flipped teaching does. Is the significant difference only that texts are presented as multimedia?

The second question arises from a traditional higher education practice: the large lecture. Large groups  lend themselves well to didactics and are hard to sub-divide and monitor individual progress in. Even if you had the staff.

The real question flipped teaching asks is how do you design for the periods between class or even: do you design for these periods. Even keeping quiet about “self-study and assessment preparation” time is a design decision.

Higher education is moving from a knowledge-based enterprise to a “higher skills and competencies” based one.

In the old days if you had a class of more than a hundred people, typically you gave them 12 lectures, a reading list and an exam. You probably related the lectures to the reading to the exam several times throughout the term/semester. Students shared notes between class in an ad hod fashion, And at the end of the semester they all trooped in and those who were good at that sort of thing did well on the exam.

Then you and maybe a colleague or two spent a couple weeks marking the exams. The students got jobs or partied on. Your work-load as a teacher was calculated on a similar basis as that of a student 12 x 2 or 3 hours of lectures at a 3 to 1 ratio meant  something like 100 hours and then you had a half an hour to an hour of marking per student. They did their 150 hours and you did yours. If you taught the same course year on year it got easier from time to time.

But that style, highly didactic, knowledge-based, autonomous, single-final-assessment point does not suit everyone.

As the numbers engaged in higher education increased, so did the challenges. Formative assessment and two stage assessment (mid-term exam or essay) came in. Assessed coursework and continuous assessment are all practiced to some degree.

I suggest that group assessment and peer assessment are now emerging as significant trends (Weaver & Esposito 2012).

One very effective way of getting large groups of students to work together is to make part of the assessment scheme done in small groups. Five or six is about optimum: minimum 4 maximum 8. But they will hate it and it will be hard work for everyone. However they will do the work, or far more will than would have if just left to their own devices. And those hated free-riders will have learned too, even if it is at the expense of their more diligent group members.

Questions repeated

So these are the questions about flipped teaching that we will be discussing:

  1. Why would you reduce the time spent on “homework” and increase the time given to didactics?
    • Is the significant difference only that texts are presented as multimedia?
  2. How do you design for the periods between class?
  3. Is higher education is moving from a knowledge-based enterprise to a “higher skills and competencies” based one?
  4. Does highly didactic, knowledge-based, autonomous, single-summative-assessment point education style suit everyone? (Discuss each of the terms in bold italics?)
    • And, what if it doesn’t?
  5. Are group assessment and peer assessment now emerging as significant trends?
    • And, how did you find the answer to this question?
  6. How might you support group work in a large group?


  • Siu Cheung Kong. (2014). Developing information literacy and critical thinking skills through domain knowledge learning in digital classrooms: An experience of practicing flipped classroom strategy. Computers & Education, 78, 160–173.
  • Weaver, D., & Esposto, A. (2012). Peer assessment as a method of improving student engagement. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 37(7), 805–816.





Teaching conference #fslt15

Reflecting mid-week in the fifth and last week of First Steps into Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (FSLT). In four one-hour webinars, two on Monday and two on Tuesday, I have seen and participated in 12 Virtual Conference presentations by participants in week 5 of this open online course. And, for the first time I can remember, I let out rock-and-roll whoops. Not something often said about teaching conferences. In part this was because I can take credit for some of this course design and it didn’t totally break down; in part it was because the platform has just about stood up; in part because the level of digital capability of the participants has for many broken through the novelty barrier. But mostly because these were among the 12 best presentations I have seen and participated in. Well argued, evidenced, structured, illustrated and in scope for time (not over the “wordcount”).

Continue reading

First Steps Again

FSLT15 is off to an easy start so far. It will be interesting to see how many attend the webinar on Monday. There are about 60 participants signed up and about 26 are taking the course for University Credit (10 credits CATS level 7, M-level). The course is validated and acceptable on 3 programmes: The OCSLD Associates Programme leading to Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy; The Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education (PCTHE) and the MA Education: Higher Education.

Participants are mostly from the UK, with people from South Africa, Spain, Ecuador, Portugal, Zambia, St Vincent, Ireland also joining. And there are a number who have not yet indicated, suggesting about 20% may be from outside the UK.

The course is feeling like a “traditional” part of what we do, now that it is in its fourth year. It is easy to forget what a step it has been to develop this programme. The big thing is that many of the people taking the course for credit are Brookes Staff who feel that the online option may be more effective for them, even though they are based in Oxford.

So as we work through the Week 0 oddities I trust we will be fully engaged by Monday


Analytics are not relationships

Just read Niall Sclater’s literature review for JISC: Code of practice for learning analytics: A literature review of the ethical and legal issues. The report asks a lot of important questions. And it mentions, albeit in passing in the “Rationale” section, what for me is the key issue: “Greater trust and a better relationship with the people you collect information about.”

But that word “relationship” masks the hard human issue about education and learning that no amount of data will resolve. Ultimately “authentic” relationship is between embodied (or formerly embodied, in the case of dead writers) individual humans. I don’t want to get all Bakhtinian about it, but while analytics may help ask questions, they will not provide the solutions.

A problem we uncover when surveying students (either “failing” students, or students on “failing” courses) is that they do not feel that their teachers know them or care about them. I do not think these students will be impressed if the response is to fix the broken relationship with an algorithm.

At best analytics can help start a conversation. People have to be willing to take the conversation on. That is: people, not institutions. Analytics may help pinpoint areas where hard work needs to be done, but are not likely to make that work any easier.

Management wants “the” answer to achieving particular mandated targets in order to protect or augment resources (or consolidate and preserve “power”). People (learners and teachers) are not trusted to do this “consistently” (as if they ever could!). So it is hoped that algorithms will: a) discover the right answer and then b) enforce a solution in line with targets and outcomes (which shift with the political wind).

We must not let loss of trust be simply collateral damage.

Other important contributions to the discussion

Diversity in Higher Education

At a recent workshop, we were asked to reflect on how we experienced diversity through the PCTHE. This is a contribution to that discussion.

I observe that on this course for new lecturers in higher education, diversity is governed by employment, but that shouldn’t deter our engagement with equality, diversity, accessibility: values we assert. We assert that we practice equality, diversity and accesibility through inclusivity. I do not want to call out those whose physiognomy might mark them as “Other”. We are all “Other”. But despite good intentions, we appear not to be all that diverse. Gender is balanced, but “colour” is not. And I use that term, colour as possibly less problematicaly marked than race or ethnicity. We could argue that the PCTHE should be extra enabling of individual diversity but we appear to follow rather than lead. (As an aside, the University has recently signed up to implement the Race Equality Charter Mark.)

In the workshop, we were asked to write a story related to diversity: short, true and relevant.

Mine arises  from three observations of exchanges I had. One with a participant in a wheelchair. She was very engaged, a scientist, and advocate for accessibility. I am a cyclist. I like a good set of wheels. So, I remarked that she had a nice set of carbon fiber, aerodynamic wheels on the chair. “Nice wheels, ” I said. Her reaction got me thinking. “All you guys see is the wheels!” She said a lot more, as well about commenting on clothing and looks. I apologised. I had hoped I had found a space – a third space? – that we could connect on, that could expose one point of difference and get beyond it in both our particularities. But it is complicated being embodied. On another occasion, at a committee meeting I assumed a black man had a role supporting BME participation. He supports all student representation. The third, personally, has to do with my beard. I grew it last February. After 6 weeks or so, men began to comment on my appearance, Men don’t do this. (Do they?) Beards appear to license men to be kind to one another.

These incidents, cause me to reflect on my often unexamined underpinnings that are still not sufficiently touched by training and profession of values: to respect individual learners and diverse learning communities, to promote participation and equality of opportunity in HE, and to acknowledge the wider contexts within which higher education operates. I am more reticent now. Less inclined to remark on elements of diversity embraced within the law and to focus on diversity of epistemology as being the main thing of relevance to education. But we have to note that one’s embodied cultural identity cannot help but to affect one’s epistemology. We know what we know as who we are.












Feedback online

There is an active conversation about teaching online, teaching teachers online and teaching about giving feedback online to people who teach online and face to face.

I am attending an online conference: Giving Feedback to Writers Online. International and Virtual Conference 26th June 2014- 9.30am-2pm BST (now!). Content now available here.

Teresa Guache of the Open University of Catalunya is giving the keynote on giving feedback on academic writing online. “Loads of things for thought,” says Marion Waite. Teresa suggests a multi-modal approach using synchronous and asynchronous academic multimedia. Teresa provides excellent empirical evidence for the benefits of dialogic: epistemic and suggestive feedback.

I also attended the Solstice conference, where there was a session on online feedback in all dimensions. They had an excellent feedback instrument (discourse instrument: form) to collect pre-feedback, framing information, in session discourse analysis, and post-session semi-structured discussion. (this is in paper only on ALG02 table).

Clara O’Shea and Tim Fawns from Edinburgh wants us to experience what their students do. Move is into writing guidance we might give one another. Living the experience. Part time students who are doing a programme over 2 to 5 years. Online assessment module: classwide PBworks wiki-based assessment. Self selected groups of five. Group has to produce 5,000 word multi-modal ; co-authoring and critical friending other groups produces a class-wide grade. Is any of this peer marked? Peer writing: co-authoring towards shared understanding is participatory, dialogic, epistemic and may be suggestive. The polls are interesting, but the mode of the instrument is being pushed to its limit.

Ros Stuart-Buttle speaks about church-school leaders online course (3,000 people over ten yeard!). Encourages online collaboration as well as interior dialogue. This is an important dialogue to emphasise in professional reflection. Ros distinguishes between individual private writing (journal shared only with the teacher) and public (blogging) to promote interior dialogue. “The students need to be advised to have a private and a public reflective space…” summarises sue schutz in the chat. It is through the interior dialogue that we have dialogue with the past: writers, memories, culture. Through interior dialogue the essentially dialogic nature of Language can be subject of understanding (Bakhtin, Bhabha). Deliberative reflection must be a part of distributed collaboration. Ros takes a critical ethnographic approach. Has analysed over 500 documents. The prompts she gave at the start of the project were closed and directive. Soon realised that this made for a good forum discussion but not what she wanted from a reflective journal. Moved away from explicit and concrete task to throw the topic back on the learner to interrogate in their own context, with reference to the study materials, wider reading (the literature), peers (colleagues and students), as well as own experience (Brookfield’s lenses again).

John Hillsdon explores more philosophical and existential aspects of writing. Acknowledges his own impostership. Mixes synchronous and asynchronous discussion in online writing retreat. “On the crest of a wave… a threshold moment.” Existence and presence are linked. Brings in Habermas. Ideally humans can achieve communication and this is emancipatory (improvement). Uses Activity Theory as instrumentalisation of social constructivism as a means of developing emancipatory learning. Are emancipation and improvement equivalent? For distributed cognition see Gavriel Salomon.

Salomon, Gavriel, ed. 1993. Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Had to return to my own online feedback task!

Great conference.

Creating active open online courses (OOCs)

My second stab at disseminating our thoughts about open online courses and the pedagogical implications of open courses is in this abstract submitted to the ALT-MOOC-SIG.

The workshop addresses SIG themes:

  • Growing your own Mooc
  • Designing & planning for ‘massive’

In the workshops participants will

  • Identify & share examples from experience of new learning designs & spaces
  • Synthesise or adopt an explanatory framework (model) for dialogic (M)OOCs
  • Apply their framework to designing, delivering and supporting open online courses.

The wider aim of the workshop is to promote open academic practice through OOCs.

Oxford Brookes University is developing and offering open online courses in a range of subjects. These short courses of four to six weeks duration are founded on group & individual activity. Participants engage in sustained discussion with ideas & people for about 2 to 3 hours a day, for 2 or 3 days a week (about 10 hours a week). Like all our courses, our OOCs are:

  • Activity-based: we do & make things in groups, using online tools
  • Experiential: tutors & participants draw on their experience
  • Dialogic: we talk together both synchronously (real time, e,g, in webinars) & asynchronously (e.g. discussion boards & social networks)
  • Participatory: tutors are present & engaged as participants
  • Community-based: linked to disciplines & relevant communities in work & society.
  • Peer evaluated
  • Outcomes-led: structured around curricula & aims, mapped, & in some cases accredited, to UK Higher Education frameworks.

Activities & Timings

  1. A troublesome threshold between the utopian & the real: open OOCs as heterotopia
  2. Examples of heterotopia in your teaching & your institution (Small group, facilitated discussion & feedback from 4 or 5 perspectives)
  3. Creative appropriation: blended learning as third space. Learners create their own learning environments outside, inside & in-despite of institutional intentions.
  4. What works: tools, roles, norms & community: applying discipline to creativity, responsibly, in OOCs
  5. Synthesis & final questions.