Reports & Papers

Emerging Technologies

 The 2011 Horizon Report includes predictions on the technologies that will enter mainstream use in Higher Education over the coming years.  I’m a bit sceptical of these predictions as they always seem overly optimistic.  For 3-years in-a-row Mobiles have been listed as entering mainstream use in one year or less… (or more it seems).

This year’s report suggests the following will be entering mainstream use in:

One Year or Less

  • Electronic Books
  • Mobiles

February 9th, 2011|Reports & Papers|1 Comment|


Last week, we were sent this article by a colleague in the philosophy department, entitled “Fortune favors the BOLD (and the Italicized ): Effects of disfluency on educational outcomes”. It’s an interesting short paper that describes the outcome of two experiments which support earlier research claims about the educational benefits of using disfluent, i.e.“slightly difficult to read”, fonts.

The motivation for these studies stems from earlier research into fluency, the feeling of ease we associate with a particular thinking operation. Apparently, we tend to have a bias in favour of fluency, so much so that it affects our judgment, e.g. to the extent that “stocks from fluently named companies are judged to have higher value, [driving] purchasing decisions, which inflates the actual value of stocks” (Oppenheimer, 2008).

January 14th, 2011|Reports & Papers|5 Comments|

Coming soon-ish

The annual Horizon reports track emerging technologies that are likely to have an impact on teaching and learning in the future.  The predictions of earlier reports are available elsewhere on this blog: 2009 2008 2007 and if you want to go further back see the Horizon website.

A short preview of the 2010 report (PDF) is already available.  The technologies it highlights (time frames for becoming mainstream to be taken with a pinch of salt perhaps) are:

  • Mobile Computing & Open Content (mainstream in the next year)
  • Electronic Books & Simple Augmented Reality (2-3 years)
  • Gesture-Based Computing & Visual Data Analysis (4-5 years)

If you want to know more about any of these then the preview is short, worth a look and has links to examples.  The other aspect of the Reports are the key trends and challenges that it highlights:

December 10th, 2009|Open Education, Reports & Papers, Research Skills, Teaching & Learning|Comments Off on Coming soon-ish|

on reading

Last night on Radio4’s Front Row novelist Susan Hill, talking to Mark Lawson about her new book (which charts a year in which she resisted buying new books, instead finally reading or re-reading those from her own  collection), revealed that she had also used that year to restrict her use of the internet, in particular her internet reading.

She had previously become aware that her concentration was not what it used to be and  suggested that “if you use the internet a lot you notice your concentration begins to become fragmented and you don’t have that complete concentration for two or three hours.”

With these comments she was not making a moral judgment, she was not condemning the internet for its pernicious, ruinous effects on the human ability to read; rather she was explaining how reading on the internet can embed the habit of skim-reading, of flitting from hyperlink to hyperlink, as most web pages encourage sound-bite (or rather: vision-bite) reading.

Tomorrow's Teaching Technologies

Or rather, today’s technologies for tomorrow’s teaching.

The 2009 Horizons Report has just been published. The annual report highlights 6 technologies that are likely to enter into mainstream use at educational institutions.  The six technologies and their likely time frames for mainstream use are:

  • Mobiles & Cloud Computing (within 1 year)
  • Geo-Everything and the Personal Web (within 2-3 years)
  • Semantic-Aware Applications & Smart Objects (within 4-5 years)

The horizon reports are always interesting and provide food for thought but the time frames rarely ring true to me for UK education (but perhaps they are not supposed to as the report advisory board is pre-dominantly North American). This time around, the one prediction that does seem likely is the idea of a personal web:

a collection of technologies that confer the ability to reorganize, configure and manage online content rather than just viewing it… …[to support] one’s social, professional, learning [activities]

There are many free tools already in use that allow this – delicious, WordPress, twitter, flickr, netvibes, citeulike, rememberthemilk – to name but a few.  Some of these tools are looked at in the workshops that we run for staff.  The report also highlights critical challenges facing educational institutions over the next five years, these include:

  • A growing need for formal instruction in information & digital literacies
  • Teaching materials, methods and assessment need to be more engaging to the ‘new generation’ of students (but see Digital natives a Myth?)
  • Need for innovation and leadership in approaches to assessing emerging scholarly practice for ‘tenure’ and promotion of staff
  • Delivering services, content and media to mobile devices (with their ever-improving interfaces)

CLT Staff Survey 2008

The CLT staff survey was conducted using Bristol Online Surveys between 30 May and 4 July 2008. There were 86 respondents, recruited from members of the clt-announce mailing list and from the readers of this blog.


The following summary highlights the key results.

  • The vast majority of respondents thought that their course had benefitted from the introduction of a VLE. However, several commented on the high initial workload required to get a course online.
  • Respondents identified the following changes that they had made to their teaching since starting to use a VLE. Some respondents, however, commented that they felt they were not yet making the most of Moodle’s potential.
    • Enabled blog-type comments on course readings
    • Measured students’ extent of use of online resources
    • Used quizzes to monitor student progress
    • Provided online support outside office hours
    • Followed up issues online after seminars
  • There was an overwhelmingly positive view of the e-packs service, with personal commendations for the work of Mei Pang and Jane Secker. There were also, however, some comments that the process was rather time-consuming.
  • All agreed that the Moodle Training run by CLT provided the skills needed to get started developing a Moodle course.
  • More generally, there was almost complete satisfaction with the support and training offered by CLT, with several complimentary comments.
  • Areas that respondents wanted to see CLT cover in future workshops included the following. We shall be reconsidering our training programme in light of these requests:
    • Demonstrations of exemplar courses, to provide inspiration and directions for good practice. This was repeatedly requested.
    • Use of screen capture
    • Use of quizzes
    • Turnitin (plagiarism detection service)
    • Special workshops focussed on particular departments
    • Audio / Podcasting
    • Virtual Worlds (such as Second Life)
    • Techniques to motivate students
  • The question “Would you be willing to have your lectures video- or audio-recorded and made available to students?” produced a 3-way split between “Yes”, “No” and “Maybe”. Amongst the Noes and Maybes, some of the reasons given were as follows:
    • It discourages students from attending lectures. This was the most widely-cited reason.
    • Worries about intellectual property – about how long recordings will be kept, and to whom they will be distributed. This was also a common concern.
    • Discomfort about being recorded
  • Other requests and suggestions included:
    • Requests for an ‘Advanced Moodle’ course. (Note our “Moodle Next Steps” course is now available.)
    • Use of Personal Response Systems

One final comment we particularly liked:

“CLT has done a magnificent job over the past year and there are no suggestions for improvement.”

Given that, and the fact that it’s 6pm on Friday, I’m going home.

August 8th, 2008|Announcements, Reports & Papers|Comments Off on CLT Staff Survey 2008|

Lecture capture evaluation: report of the focus group

Methodology and design

A focus group was conducted in place of the survey that has previously been used to evaluate video lectures. A series of open ended questions were devised in order to gather opinions about student experiences of lecture capture including both video and audio lectures. This report includes student feedback, problems and issues and the value of recorded lectures as a learning aid.

Three students attended the focus group, so generalising about their experiences is difficult but their experience was varied and offered valuable insight. The first student recorded lectures himself with an audio recorder with permission from his lecturers. He said that the lectures were so inspirational that he wanted a recording to be able to listen to them again and again. A second student had access to recorded lecture material centrally provided by the Media and Communications department. The third student had access to both audio recordings (podcasts) and video lectures and could comment on the value of both types of recordings.

Value of Lecture capture

All three students commented on the value of recording lecture material. In particular they said it was extremely useful for revision. One student found recorded lectures very useful for a statistics course, commenting that they were especially useful for postgraduates who have to work and study at the same time. All students mentioned that recorded material was useful if you couldn’t attend a lecture or you want a recap, saying it’s “like having your lecturer with you any time you want”.

The students commented that were more likely to dip into certain parts of the lecture rather than watch the whole lecture again. This approach was particularly useful for revision but also really helpful for grasping a point they might initially not have understood. Students talked about how lectures could be extremely content rich or ‘dense’ and that the ability to go back and review the material really helped their learning.

Audio verses video

The student who had access to podcasts and video lectures commented that video lectures are much easier to follow than audio lectures. He said:

“Podcasts have the effect of nearly dosing off, you try to concentrate but all you see is the PowerPoint slides…because you lose the personal touch, you don’t see the face, you don’t see someone moving, interacting”.

Being able to see more than just PowerPoint slides was particularly valuable in economics courses for example, where the recordings are of limited value if you can’t see the graphs or additional notes the lecturer makes. However, one student felt that audio would be sufficient in his subject, which was not so reliant on visual material. Overall, in terms of retaining interest, the video lectures where the lecturer and the PowerPoint could be seen were preferred.

Access and Quality Issues

Students reported no real problems accessing video lectures both on and off campus. That said, later on in the focus group the students stated that the recorded lectures should be easier to find. They thought it would be helpful to have a podcast web page, perhaps under departmental headings or an archive of recordings. Another student commented that it was difficult to find the statistics lectures on the Methodology Institute website. In terms of navigation, the students did not report any problems with the format of the videos. One student felt it might be nice to divide the video into chapters, although he appreciated this would involve considerable post-production work.

In terms of quality, it was felt that the audio could be improved. The audio quality of public lectures in large theatres was noticeably better than some of the recordings from classrooms.

Value as a learning experience

One student commented that it was reassuring to know that certain lectures in statistics were being recorded, so they could go back and revisit the material. Another student found many of his lecturers inspirational and knowing there was a recording of the event allowed him to enjoy the lecture without having to take detailed notes. Again it was commented that being able to review the material for a second or even third time was valuable to ensure they grasped everything that was being said. The students felt this was especially good for students for whom English was not their first language.

The challenge of taking notes and listening to a lecture properly was mentioned by students, who felt it was “Humanly impossible to make notes in full” without listening again. This student felt you might miss around 35% of what was said during a lecture. They found it both reassuring to know the video lectures were available and extremely helpful for their revision. Students also commented that being able to listen to the lecture again often saved the students from needing to consult their lecturer with questions at a later date.

Lecture capture and attendance

The students were asked specifically about whether lecture capture affected attendance and certainly some of the students had friends who didn’t attend some lectures because they knew it would be available as a video lecture. Students tended to skip those subjects that were perceived as less interesting or more generic if they knew it was being recorded. However, in general the students we questioned talked about enjoying attending lectures and didn’t think the recordings had affected attendance overall. They reported that even if they didn’t attend a lecture they still needed to dedicate the time to listen to or watch the recording, so it was really easier for them to attend. As one student said:

“You need to go to the lecture to make it real, solidarity with your friends…you want to see the people, ask questions and see your friends asking questions.”

Future Developments

The students were keen to see all lectures at LSE recorded if possible and they also thought it would be useful to have access to recorded lectures after the course finished.

Students were asked specifically about whether they might be interested in listening or watching the lectures via mobile technology, such as on their mobile phone. Two of the group felt this might be useful, although they felt they were more likely to listen to public lectures and inspirational lectures on the bus, rather than material you needed to concentrate on in detail.


May 2008

June 5th, 2008|Reports & Papers|Comments Off on Lecture capture evaluation: report of the focus group|

Lab Group Day

Oracle Building, Moorgate, 20 Feb 2008

This was a chance for various e-learning labs to show off their work and look for opportunities for collaboration. There were 16 labs represented in all, and chances to see 4 different presentations during the day. Unbelievably, there was no internet access in the presentation rooms on the day, so live demos were impossible and presenters had to use screenshots.

Notes from the 4 presentations I saw:

Chimera, University of Essex

This was previously a BT research lab that was taken over by the University, and it still has close ties to BT, who provide a lot of CASE studentships. They’re not specifically an e-learning unit – their research covers a wide range of subjects around the personal and social use of ICT.

On their site they have a dedicated 2-bedroom flat that they use for research into household technologies and ethnographic studies of how people interact with technology.

Projects include:

  • DELTA, a system for searching distributed repositories, harvesting metadata and allowing users to tag the results. Their findings were that academic users weren’t interested in sharing their own resources, and weren’t interested in tagging others’ resources either!
  • MiRTLE, a project in China to use a “mixed-reality” classroom. Provides a live link for distance students between a real classroom and a VR equivalent (using Wonderland, Sun’s version of Second Life). I couldn’t work out what the VR was adding, but then that is my usual attitude to VR, so maybe it’s just me. Apparently China sends 20% of its school-leavers to university, but wants to expand this to 50% – requiring the construction of 400 new universities!
  • UIDM, an e-learning development model. Shows a cycle of needs analysis leading to technical development followed by implementation and evaluation, which feeds back to the start. They were also trying to cram institutional change in there, but weren’t sure where it fitted.

CARET, University of Cambridge

This unit is independent of faculty or colleges, and is centrally funded, so it has to justify its existence by being as useful as possible. There is no institutional VLE at Cambridge but Sakai (a.k.a. CamTools) is a de facto standard on all their projects now because they like it so much. They build bespoke specialist tools, such as a molecular structure visualiser, and integrate it into CamTools.

Other projects:

  • Distilling the essence of the “supervision” sessions, i.e. tutorials, that are an important part of Cambridge teaching. They found that much time in these sessions was given over to correcting the same old misconceptions, so they videoed these sessions and created Apreso-style snippets that target these misconceptions.
  • Repositories, especially the Shahnama project to digitise the Persian Books of Kings.
  • Learning Landscape: an ethnographic study to find out exactly how students spend their time. Includes students videoing themselves and each other during the day, and SMS messages sent out at random times to ask “what are you doing right now?” Also the “Shutdown Challenge” to see how students behaved when denied access to the internet.
  • Facebook-CamTools integration. User can access their CamTools course resources from within Facebook. CamTools generates a unique key that Facebook can use to authenticate the user.

ILRT, Bristol

They host Intute, BOS and TASi, which will soon have a moving-image remit as well.


  • Clinical case recorder: students can upload multimedia information about a case into a database where it can be viewed by others. Also the materials are then imported into ToolBook templates to create stand-alone multimedia case studies for use by future students.
  • Experimentation with new web technologies: HTML 5 and its <canvas> tag for drawing, the W3C X-Forms spec for easy form-building.
  • CREW – an attempt to collect information from conferences and meetings that is usually forgotten about shortly after the event has finished. Allows delegates to upload materials and make meaningful connections using sematic web stuff.

IET, Open University

I didn’t really get a great deal out of this one, but here are some disconnected tidbits:

  • They have a new building, the Jennie Lee laboratory, which is all kitted out with video cameras, other sensors, robots etc.
  • They’ve done a lot of stuff with eye-tracking, showing what users actually look at on a web page. The answer is very little beyond the first paragraph of text. Perhaps we could burn some budget on one of these machines (a TOBII monitor), the results could be very interesting.
  • You may remember some time ago I suggested that I should spend some of my working day investigating the educational potential of World of Warcraft, since it seemed so much better than Second Life. Well, they actually have a guy doing that.
  • 50% of all the disabled students in the UK are studying through the OU
  • This rang true: “Evaluation feedback for new educational technologies is almost always positive – but it doesn’t mean you are doing a good job”.

All in all quite an interesting day.


February 25th, 2008|Conferences, Reports & Papers|Comments Off on Lab Group Day|

Horizons 2008

The annual Horizon reports from the New Media Consortium highlight emerging technologies that they believe are likely to impact on learning & teaching over the next 5 years. The 2008 Horizon Report (PDF) suggests the following are set to become mainstream in learning-focused organisations over the next few years:

  • On the immediate horizon: Grassroots Video & Collaboration Webs
  • Mid-term horizon: Mobile Broadband & Data Mashups
  • 4-5 year horizon: Collective Intelligence & Social Operating Systems

Some new terms to me there. Looking back at a post on this blog about the 2007 report it seems to me that the horizons have previously been a bit optimistic… while user-generated content & social networking (last year’s immediate horizons) may be considered mainstream in the wider world, I don’t think that’s the case in “learning-focused organisations”, particularly UK HE institutions. Far from it. While some individuals within these organisations may be ‘generating’ and networking I don’t feel its mainstream practice, certainly not here in the UK HE. Only a few organisations have implemented & encouraged such activities at the institutional level. Timing aside, an interesting look into the future.

January 29th, 2008|Reports & Papers|1 Comment|

On the Horizon?

What are the emerging technologies likely to impact on learning & teaching in the next 5 years? According to the 2007 Horizon Report (PDF) we might expect the wide adoption in education of:

  • User-created Content
  • Social Networking

in the next year or less… and

  • Mobile Phone
  • Virtual Worlds

in two to three years… and

  • New scholarship and Emerging Forms of Publication
  • Massively Multiplayer Educational Gaming

in four to five years.

The report is worth a look, each section contains links to existing examples and further reading plus the bookmarks used by the writers. It’s quite US-focussed so perhaps add a few years on?

It’s a collaboartion between EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative and the New Media Consortium and earlier predictions are available.

I spotted it on SocialTech written by Josie Fraser who seems to be the only UK-based member of the 27-strong Horizon Advisory Board (the authors).

January 24th, 2007|Reports & Papers|3 Comments|