May 9 2014

Piirus: the researcher networking tool

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Would you like to be one of the first LSE researchers to receive an invitation to join Piirus, the new researcher networking website? CLT and the Library are working with the University of Warwick who developed this tool for their own staff initially but it is now being released on a limited basis to several other institutions, including LSE.

Piirus is a free service that helps you collaborate by putting you in touch with researchers with expertise on a specific topic or technique. If you want to make contacts, or find a collaborator, within your field or from a different discipline, then Piirus is a tool to help you get in touch. More details available on the Piirus website.

200 LSE invites will be sent out from 19th May 2014. You will automatically receive 10 invites when you sign up, and can invite researchers from any institution. LSE PhD students and researchers should complete this form if you would like to receive an invitation.

Posted by: Posted on by Jane Secker

May 8 2014

LSE Library launches access to BoB, an online TV recording service and archive of over 1 million programmes

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Box of Broadcasts logoLSE students and staff now have access to BoB (Box of Broadcasts), a shared online TV and radio recording service for UK higher and further education institutions.

BoB enables viewers to choose and record any broadcast programme from 60+ TV and radio channels, including BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

The recorded programmes are then kept indefinitely and added to BoB’s growing media archive of over 1 million programmes, with all content shared by users across subscribing institutions.

Programme clips can also be embedded into LSE Moodle courses. See this screencast for a ‘how to’:

The Library purchased its subscription for BoB after collaborating with CLT and following a consultation with the LSE academic community.

To sign up to BoB and start using the service, please use your LSE account to login.

Posted by: Posted on by Kris Roger

May 8 2014

The Flipping Conference

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On 29th April 2014, the University of Bath held the UK’s first conference on “flipping”. Flipping is the practice of taking the information content of a traditional lecture, and delivering it to students in some other way (e.g. video). This then frees the face-to-face time in class to allow the teacher to interact with students, and the students to interact with each other.


Flipping in action (CC Ffion Atkinson on

This short conference brought together teachers who have flipped their own lectures, those like myself who encourage and support teachers in doing so, and those who are thinking about trying it. Often, as a learning technologist, I find myself at conferences where I am surrounded by people who are at one remove from the classroom, so it was great to be at a conference where the majority of participants were themselves actually teaching in higher education. The conference came out of Bath’s Flipping Project, which is a concerted effort to promote, support and enhance the practice of flipping at Bath.

The morning parallel workshops focused on three distinct areas: What is flipping? for the beginners, Flipping with learning technologies covering the means of delivery, and So what do you do in the lecture room?, which was the main question I had come with. This session turned out to be rather similar in structure to the “Flipping lectures” workshop I run at LSE with Kris Roger (see the end of this post for more details on that). The session was led by Dr. Helen King from Bath, who presented us with 3 common concerns that lecturers often have about flipping, and challenged us to come up with some answers. Some of the thoughts that emerged from my group and the wider room are below:

 If I provide the content ahead of time, they won’t come to class

  • As with any learning innovation, it is important to explain your learning theory to students, so they know why they are being asked to do this, and why they will benefit if they engage
  • Hold back some content, or information about exam etc., to be revealed in class
  • Emphasise that the class provides an opportunity for asking questions
  • Provide opportunities for the students to feed back on the teaching and to articulate what they need as learners
  • Provide clarity about what they should expect to get, and to do, when they come to class
  • Put assessment-relevant activities into the classroom – so what they do in class will directly help them get a better mark.
  • Introduce elements of gamification and competition, e.g. shotgun presentations on a prepared topic, with prizes on offer.

How do I know they are talking about the work and not gossiping?

  • One teacher uses a “Ball of destiny” – which he throws randomly to someone in the class, who then has to speak on the current topic (this sounds like rather intimidating behavior to me…)
  • Use a roving mic, and get groups to report back to the cohort on the topic at hand
  • Wander about the room, listen in to conversations, join in, ask questions

How do I know that they are learning?

  • The answer to this is another question: How do you know that they are learning now? When you’re lecturing, or in fact doing any kind of teaching, how do you know that they are learning? This is a much broader question than one about flipping.
  • Use online quizzes to track progress
  • Set and assess coursework
  • Use clickers in the classroom to gauge understanding

Helen noted here that one of the benefits of getting lecturers to engage with the idea of flipping, even if they don’t actually do it, is that it means lecturers are reflecting on their teaching and talking to each other, with the focus on what students are doing in class. That has very much been our experience with our flipping workshops at LSE, where we get a group of lecturers from different disciplines discussing their approaches to teaching. That in itself is valuable, even if only a small number of them actually go ahead and flip their lectures.

Some more general points that emerged from the workshop:

  • We need to prepare students for flipped content, by providing plenty of warning and preparation. When a whole module is flipped, run a trial run for one session in a previous module.
  • Flipping is not so different from the traditional model. We already expect students to do follow-up readings to complement their notes after a lecture. In the flipped model, they are doing that work before the lecture, instead of after it.
  • Doing a controlled study is difficult, because in order to be ethical you need to populate groups voluntarily, which may lead to uneven groups or to selection bias.

In the afternoon came the swap shop sessions where flipping case studies were presented. Two lecturers from Reading University, one in linguistics and the other in entrepreneurship, presented their results of flipping:

  • The entrepreneurship lecturer found a very slight decline in results overall after flipping, but noted that his EFL and dyslexic students were raised up to a similar level as other students. Meanwhile, the linguistics lecturer found a general improvement in results across all groups.
  • The attitudinal survey results from entrepreneurship students were improved right across the board, even in areas not associated with flipping.
  • The linguistics lecturer found that flipping proved popular with Chinese students. This surprised her, as she expected their previous educational experience would make them less comfortable with this approach.
  • The flipping was heralded well in advance (it started in week 5, but was heavily trailed from the outset).
  • Students valued seeing video of the lecturer; they much preferred this to audio-only as it made the content seem more personal. Also, the low-ish production values and absence of editing (no topping and tailing, all hesitations and mistakes left in) seem to create a more ‘human’ feeling to the video content.
  • Some students who did not engage at first were eventually won over by the sense that they were missing out on something in class. The linguistics lecturer said that she would behave in class as if everyone had done the pre-work – no allowances were made for those who had not done the work.

I followed this with a case study of an LSE course in Business Transformation and Project Management, where several lectures were flipped by providing students with a filmed interview with an expert practitioner from the “real world”, and then using the lesson time for a Q&A session with that same expert. These are baby steps compared with some other institutions that are flipping entire modules, but they do serve as case studies to encourage others.

I came away from this conference with the feeling that in terms of understanding the possibilities and pitfalls of this approach, we already know what we are doing at LSE. Now we just need some more lecturers to try it out! If you’re an LSE lecturer, and you want to give it a try, please get in touch with us at, or express interest in our next workshop (LSE users only), which will be scheduled any day now.

Posted by: Posted on by Steve Bond Tagged with: , ,

May 6 2014

Open MOOCs and Closed OERs – Tautology and the benefits of saying something twice

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The idea of openness is one of the most used and often misunderstood terms in Higher Education. It informs many of the debates around access, delivery, equity, innovation and technology. It became quite clear though after attending the twinned conferences of OCWC14 in Ljubljana and OER14 in Newcastle over the Easter weekend, that this ever-greying definition is fragmenting the skills base and capacity for practice sharing within the sector.

The development of MOOCs is the perfect storm. Technology now has more institutional focus on it than it has had for decades. The mainstream media is howling for change, government policy is actively promoting it and the academy has to respond. The notion of ‘Open’ within MOOCs generally refers to the enrolment being open as opposed to closed. However, institutions like MIT argue that Open includes the fact that all the courseware delivered through the MOOC are themselves Open (as in free to use and repurpose). Alternately, FutureLearn does not currently allow for learners to universally save and reuse their materials (however it was noted at OER14 that this capacity was coming soon). There were a number of examples at the conference where open meant ‘open platform’ with Pearson launching their new ‘open’ platform ( as well as some institutions demonstrating the benefit of the new Open edX (

One thing that was patently obvious through the duration of the conference is the hypnotic sway of the MOOC. It pervaded every debate, every example and almost every paper. It even generated it’s own #klaxon when it was mentioned. As David White from Oxford notes, we are in a post-digital world. So in some ways these conferences opened up for the debates around the post-MOOC world. There were two key examples from the conferences that suggested the post-MOOC future. The first example was a good demonstration of the ‘elastic theory of innovation’ that roughly suggests that innovation pushes a boundary of practice and then through organisational or financial resistance or pressure settles back into a more reasonable change. A number of California and Arizona institutions are providing textbooks to all learners free. This seems to be a version of openness that causes little internal resistance but, at least for the learners, provides both a learning and financial benefit. At the other end of the scale you have the rebellious innovator pushing the boundaries of change even further, and this was clearly demonstrated by the DS106 digital storytelling course being run by Jim Groom from the University of Mary Washington. This is an innovative, rolling Open Course that truly creates a community of practice amongst learners which was clearly evident at the conference. There were a number of presentations around this course but the most interesting asked to think back to our first internet experience and how we have changed our own digital image and identity from then to now. Give it a go, it is a quite a weird and crazy journey. They also presented an example of how this course was run inside 3M as another way of encouraging innovative and creative thinking amongst staff.

One of the underpinning elephants in the room at both of these conferences was the discourse that technology is still fundamentally caught in the notions that it has the ‘potential’ to disrupt or transform higher education. Despite almost a century of development in distance learning and technology enhancements and over 20 years of fundamental societal change, the basic and prevalent practices of higher education are still firmly rooted in teaching and learning activities and models from over a century ago. Openness is something that should challenge that inherited tradition. Many of the papers focused on the doing of something, the platform that does something, there was very little integration into the student experience, the design and changing nature of pedagogy. This is a huge disconnect and possibly contributes to the reason technology is still potential, it is like a hamster wheel spinning endlessly (and pointlessly). The challenge for all HE providers including the LSE is to integrate pedagogy, learning, technology and openness into a seamless policy and practice experience. That is a challenge that no institution on the face of it had yet to crack, although FutureLearn noted they were well on the way. (through Paul Bacsich who had completed an external evaluation of the platform).

One of the key debates at both conferences was around the space in which the MOOC world exists. There were a number of twitter debates about the dichotomous position of being either in or out (in means with the crowd, out means curmudgeon or resistor). There were also debates around whether MOOCs are truly open in that they seem to be generally run by the leading institutions and not the smaller, often highly innovative HE providers.  This is a debate with no winners as it opens up the old wounds and prejudices where as a sector we would be far better learning collaboratively and collegially with and from each other.

The notion of community building was a common theme through both conferences. Communities of practice are well explored in recent literature. What is interesting is whether we are seeking to form community of practitioners or communities of learners? The work I presented as part of my former institutions strategic vision for learning innovation (called Greenwich Connect for the University of Greenwich) aimed to encourage the formation of networks and connections between all parts of the institution; learners, academic staff, employers and the community. There were a number of other papers that presented examples of the the ways and means of successful higher education community formation. What is important for me in that process is that the community contributes to and enhances learning. We know that social learning is an important and effective mode of learning and knowledge acquisition. However if the engagement with other learners, academics or industry is superficial, stage-managed, edited or controlled then we run the risk of the learning being equally so.  One of the key aspects of these conferences for me was the ability of projects and pilots to be scalable, sustainable and flexible across the wide variety of disciplines and teaching practice.

The area of institutional resistance to technology and change was at the heart of the presentations we made.  It was reflected equally in a number of the debates that occurred online and during the question and answer sessions. There were two layers of resistance well evidenced within the cases and papers presented at the conferences. The first was from the institutions who were actively supporting projects but did not subsequently fund them when the external funding ran out. This problem of sustainability cruels many learning innovation strategies. Successful projects, which are well implemented are generally designed to go further and have an institutional and perhaps even sector impact. Yet many of the projects presented were at end-stage with no further possibility of funding or support, leaving their impact as potential (again). The second layer of resistance was demonstrated in the types we discussed in our two papers, where at a staff, student and organisational level innovation was resisted through fear of change, fear of workload, fear of privacy, fear of losing power and control or just fear borne from ignorance (see the papers here and here). Whilst they are based on a case from the University of Greenwich, they were well received by a wide variety of other institutions who saw similar institutional resistance occurring in response to their own initiatives. The key lesson from the conferences was that successful open projects need to realise the existence of and plan for resistance and change, to develop a strategic approach to sustainability of initiatives and to place learning firmly at the centre of activity (more so than simply doing something).


Posted by: Posted on by Peter Bryant

May 2 2014

Moodle Moot 2014

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Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle, by Roel Wijnants on

This year’s Moodle Moot took place at Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange on 15-16 April. The inventor of Moodle, Martin Dougiamas, was in attendance (accompanied by his kids), and he popped up everywhere, participating in panels & discussion groups and giving his usual “what’s next for Moodle” keynote. This gave us an overview of the new features in Moodle 2.7 (released this month):

  • New events and logging model – allowing for more detailed logging, more control over logs, and event-driven actions.

  • New text editor: Atto. This has been built from scratch, so it’s very tightly integrated with Moodle. It uses HTML5, is very accessible, and has a built-in maths editor based on MathJax, so no server binaries required.

  • Bootstrap-based themes only, by default, so Moodle works properly on mobile. The old themes will still work, but are deprecated.

Also, this Moodle will be an LTS (long-term support) release, with fixes being published for 3 years instead of the usual 12 months.

Martin also previewed plans for 2.8:

  • Complete redesign of gradebook and grading plugins

  • Improved, usable forums (led by Stuart Lamour, of whom more later)

  • Simpler navigation

  • A new “element” library, to make development simpler and more consistent

One common theme this year was responsiveness on mobile devices, and a frequent contributor was Bas Brands, the creator of the Moodle Bootstrap themes. Bootstrap is a CSS/Javascript framework, developed for Twitter, that has been used to create responsive themes for Moodle. Since Bootstrap uses the JQuery javascript library, and Moodle is committed to the YUI library, Bas had to do a lot of rewriting of functions. Furthermore, the new Bootstrap 3 framework is a complete rewrite of Bootstrap 2, so a lot of the work will have to be done again…

Now Moodle works well on mobiles, why do we need an app? This was the question asked at the mobile discussion panel. Martin’s view was that an app should allow for offline use, and should facilitate the collection of data and pushing of those data to Moodle; not that the app does either of those things well at the moment, so there is a lot of work to be done on that front. Furthermore, Moodle only have one FTE developer assigned to the app at the moment, so unless the rest of the community steps up, the app is likely to remain limited. On the bright side, it will soon work with CAS authentication, so we’ll finally be able to use it at LSE.

Another major theme was usability. Stuart Lamour, who was behind the unique look and feel of the University of Sussex Moodle, popped up all over talking on this subject. He quoted research done by Brad Frost, which showed that users of websites ignore everything on the page except the central content they are looking for – in other words side blocks are pointless. Elsewhere he argued for an approach to course design whereby teachers are encouraged to ask “what do my students need?”. At Sussex they surveyed students to this effect and found that they wanted a clear, logical layout that corresponds to the teaching that goes on in class and that reflects the personality of the teacher. They therefore started using a single-page layout, with all content inline where possible; they moved all updates and messages to the top, so students see what’s new as soon as they arrive at the page; and they made profile pictures larger, to make the content and discussions more “human”.

Later on, a panel session on usability brought out the following points:

  • A general agreement that students want different systems to look different, so that they know where they are. Glasgow City and Dublin City both said they had found evidence to this effect.

  • We debated ‘Theory X vs. Theory Y’ approaches: should we prevent teachers from doing anything dumb with HTML, or should we let them do what they want and they clear up their mess afterwards? The consensus was that we use interface design to encourage them to take a clean and  simple approach, but allow them to do more complicated things if they need to.

  • The use of tables for screen layout is still common, and text editors still encourage this approach. What is needed is a text editor that allows teachers to easily do layout properly, using div tags.

  • There was some debate around on-screen descriptions. These are needed by first-time users, to be able to understand the context of each item on the page. But thereafter, does it just become clutter? No clear agreement emerged.

Finally, “Moving Moodle Forwards” was another panel session with Michael de Raadt and the ubiquitous Bas Brands, discussing how the community can help developers via the Moodle Tracker. Some useful nuggets here:

  • Votes are only really relevant for improvements; bugs are prioritised on the basis on severity, not votes.

  • Fixes are welcome in any form – the gold standard is to provide a github link for the fixed code, for each active Moodle branch. But the silver standard (uploading a patch as diff files) or bronze (posting the fixed code as a comment) are also welcome.

  • Process for bug fixing is as follows: Triage (is it a bug?); Development (assigned developer does the fix); Peer review (different developer checks the fix); Integration (developer adds it to active branch); Testing (automated and human)

Another good Moot overall. I was impressed, as ever, by the developments being made and by the spirit of sharing and mutual support that pervades this conference.

Posted by: Posted on by Steve Bond Tagged with: , ,

Apr 14 2014

Changing the Learning Landscape: Digital Literacy workshop

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On 7 May, CLT and HEA will be hosting the Changing the Learning Landscape – Digital Literacy Workshop here at LSE. This workshop will be a fantastic opportunity to hear from leading figures in this field, including Helen Beetham and Lesley Gourlay, on the many aspects of promoting digital literacies in higher education.

Events on the day will include Alan Cann’s presentation on the challenges of developing staff and student online identities, a workshop on using digital literacy in teaching, and updates from LSE’s own project to embed digital literacies into undergraduate teaching through the Student Ambassadors for Digital Literacy project.

A full programme is available here: Programme-CLL-7-May.

You can book your place here. The event costs £50 from HEA subscribing Higher Education Institutions, and £100 for staff from non-subscribing institutions. A number of tickets for this event have been reserved for LSE staff, but will be in high demand. If you wish to avail of this, please contact Jane Secker ( as soon as possible.

Posted by: Posted on by CLTSupport

Apr 3 2014

Copyright briefing: report from event

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I attended the CILIP Executive Briefing on copyright this week to get a heads up on the proposed changes to copyright exceptions that we hope will come into force on 1st June 2014. If you would like to read the longer report on my blog, you can find out more about the day. CLT will ensure that staff are made aware of the changes and how they might affect copying they do for private study and research, for teaching and other purposes. However the Statutory Instruments and guidance is available on the Intellectual Property Office’s website.

Posted by: Posted on by Jane Secker Tagged with: , ,

Mar 24 2014

Moodle User Group

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On Tuesday 18 March, LSE hosted the Moodle User Group (Greater London), or ‘MUGGL’, the get-together for learning technologists and others who are using Moodle to enhance teaching and learning at universities inside the M25. Here are some notes from the meeting.

Online Moodle training

The session opened with presentations from Ben Audsley of the Royal Veterinary College, and Eileen Kennedy of the Institute of Education, both of whom are running moderated online courses as an alternative to the usual face-to-face Moodle training. This reflects a similar project at LSE, Using Moodle: Online, which is currently in its pilot phase. This is a useful opportunity to share experiences between the 3 institutions (and with Goldsmiths, as well, who are also running such a course).

Reporting tools

Jess Gramp (UCL) demonstrated a great reporting tool for Moodle. This can be pointed at a duplicate of the Moodle database, and it will produce a report for a given category, showing the types and levels of activity going on in each course. The report is organised in pedagogical terms, with columns relating to collaboration, discussion etc., so you can quickly see which courses are actually making the most of the features of Moodle. Jess will be sharing this with us at LSE, and we will try to generalise it for use here and beyond.

In a similar vein, Andy Konstantinidis from King’s College demonstrated “KEATS Analytics”, an Excel sheet that can import a downloaded Moodle log file, and perform various analytics on it. He later shared this with everyone on the MUGGL mailing list, so we can all take advantage of his work.

Sharing good practice

Stephen Malikowski from St. George’s has set up Virtual Learning Activities, a collection of exemplars published via on WordPress, and he invited contributions. These are real activites created by lecturers on Moodle (or other VLEs), and demonstrated in context. Rather than making the courses public on their host VLEs, they are presented as case studies by way of screenshots or screencasts, allowing for the framing context to also be presented.

Minimum standards for Moodle courses

Rose Heaney from UEL led a panel discussion on minimum standards. The main theme emerging was that what works well is to involve students; to work with them to understand what minimum they expect, and using them to create standards and communicate them to staff. Several universities are using some form of rating system for courses, allowing students to review and rank their own courses.

Here in CLT we have often been wary of such approaches, worrying that minimum standards can turn into simply “what all Moodle courses look like”. However, Jess Gramp said that the experience from UCL is that minimum standards can sometimes push teachers to go further; i.e. once they’ve started on the improvement journey, they keep going.


Posted by: Posted on by Steve Bond Tagged with: ,

Mar 20 2014

Exploring social media as data sources for research – workshop

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Yesterday, CLT ran for the second time a workshop exploring the use of social media AS research data (as opposed to using it as tools TO DO research). We first ran this in June 2013 as an experimental, exploratory workshop, which was a great success, but this time we wanted to shorten and improve it based on the feedback we received. By all accounts, it was a great success. I say “by all accounts”, because as misfortune would have it, I was struck with illness and could not make an appearance, after weeks of organising and preparing for it. Unfair beyond belief – especially since my colleagues raved about to me how good everyone’s presentations were.

Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Sonja Grussendorf Tagged with: , ,

Mar 4 2014

Trends in Educational Technology report

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Over the past few months, CLT have been looking into some of the key technological trends set to influence the higher education sector in the next few years. We looked at the benefits they may provide to teaching and learning at LSE (and indeed, other institutions), and the considerations that need to be made before these technologies are implemented.

Using horizon scanning techniques to identify suitable reports, academic articles, media articles and blog posts by institutions and commentators working in the field, four key technological trends were identified through this method; Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD), Gamification and Games-based learning and Learning Analytics.

A report on our research, Trends in Educational Technology, is now available on LSE Research Online. The report argues that these technologies can be beneficial, and should be embraced if they address institutional needs. However pedagogy must be at the heart of any technological adoption.

The summarized findings of this report are as follows: Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by CLTSupport