Thursday, 18 April 2013

If Global Education was a MOOC

Picking up on 'Education is Broken' talk from @dkernohan and @mweller, I've sarcastically blogged over at the Reed Diaries on 'If Global Education was a MOOC'. Check it out...

Creative Commons License
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

A New Beginning....

I guess most readers of this blog will come from either MMU, or from my social networks. In either case you'll likely know I've recently started a new post at the University of Liverpool.

As such, I thought it best to start a new blog as this one carries the Science and Engineering name in the URL. So.... you can now catch me over at The Reed Diaries. Hope to see you there!

Creative Commons License
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Is OER actually Open? Gratis vs Libre....

I've written intro posts to OER before here; I've written in slightly more detail visualising OER and liking openness to a dimmer switch; and I've even questioned whether OER is mainstreamed and sustainable.

However recently, the debate (if it is a debate) of 'Gratis' Vs 'Libre' in openness is gathering momentum. Admittedly I had to look up the meanings, but wikipedia does a useful job at distinguishing;
Gratis versus libre is the distinction between two meanings of the English adjective "free"; namely, "for zero price" (gratis) and "with little or no restriction" (libre). The ambiguity of "free" can cause issues where the distinction is important, as it often is in dealing with laws concerning the use of information, such as copyright and patents.

There is a definite difference between the two here, which have implications for OER. The real debate I want to consider is one that has been surfacing for some time, suggesting for something to be open, it should have no restrictions at all.

Stephen Downes initially identified that while 'open' may mean 'without cost', it does not mean 'without conditions'. He went on to suggest that 'open' should mean 'completely free' and even a sign-up/registration represents 'some sort of opportunity cost on the part of the user, an exchange rather than sharing' (Downes 2007, p32).

Supporters of this 'Open = Completely Free' argument suggest that OERs licensed with Creative Commons aren't really open if the Non-Commercial or Attribution conditions (for example) are present, as inherently they are 'costing' or 'restricting' the user in one way or another.

I don't pretend to be of a standing to challenge the intellect of Downes (who is?), and I actually agree that even a sign-up represents an opportunity cost, but things just aren't as cut and dry as this. Content isn't just open or closed, just like a dimmer switch for a light isn't simply on or off. There are varying degrees of 'on-ness', just as there are various degrees of 'openness'.
This is what my earlier post aimed to identify and somewhat explore. I also think that is the essence of what the Gratis Vs Libre concept is about. Neither is 'right' or 'wrong'. The tools we use, where we place the published output (and how people get to it), and the licensing we apply to that output, all impact on the degree to which an object is open, and each object will be more or less open than the next (as the two diagrams here attempt to visualise). David Wiley has picks up on Cable Green's recent frustrated email, and relates the free vs open concept to the frenzy of MOOCs. They're open.... to a degree. They might not be the easiest to pick up and reuse/remix how I see fit, but they're not completely closed.

I appreciate that there is more going on in this debate than just education, but as that's my experience I'll focus on it here.

Academics are (or at least should be) familiar with citing existing sources. Essentially, the attribution element of Creative Commons is just that. Perhaps not even as complex and therefore, not really a barrier preventing (re)use. The wider understanding of open licensing can be confusing (as I highlighted in a recent work), but  perhaps CC BY actually appeals to academics because of this academic-related activity (just a thought).

The non-commercial attribute (CC BY-NC) isn't a major factor effecting a large part of the education sector either, as much of our work isn't classed as income generation activity. Where it does impact though, is more enterprising initiatives within edu that are 'for-profit', or of course, full-on commercial organisations. I presume it is only these branches that are quashing the role of CC, because otherwise I don't see what the problem is. Reuse, on a 'not-quite-completely-open' agenda is fine with me. And it's fine with many of the staff new to reusing existing content. To us, such resources are indeed, still open. To the commercial sectors, not so open though. So this demonstrates that Openness is very much context-dependant.

Further to all of this, I wonder if there is an ethical issue related to selling a product that largely contains other people's work. An image, perhaps. A backing track, maybe. But I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable reusing a significant amount of content, whacking my company logo on and making a fortune off it. On the flip side, how would you feel if you released a piano/guitar piece of music with no restrictions, which Simon Cowell then went and splashed some X-Factor winner's vocals over and made Christmas No. 1 (making millions in the process)? Would you say, 'fair game, they can do what they like with it', or would you say, 'I want a piece of that fortune'? I wouldn't blame you if you did!

I suppose that's why I automatically reach for the NC badge. So I suppose to some degree, I portray my own expectations of reuse on the work I create, through CC. Is that such a bad thing?

One challenge I suspect might surface as HE evolves, is in treating students more as consumers/customers (yes, I hate it too). Perhaps Institutions will react to the 'student-as-consumer' model and act more like commercial businesses. This will present more challenges to non-commercial uses of CC licensed work, especially as they look to more income generation activities as a means to bring in some of the money have lost through changes in fee structure as well as fewer student numbers. Or, perhaps the licensing needs to adapt with the changing times? Who knows?

So which camp do you sit in? Are you happy with the 'open-but-some-restriction' model of using Creative Commons, or do you think there should be no restrictions at all? Do you think evolution will render NC redundant in education? How much do you like Simon Cowell (or indeed, the X-Factor)?


Downes, S. (2007) Models for Sustainable Open Educational Resources. Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects. 3 pp. 29-44. Edge Hill University (2009) The Learning

Creative Commons License
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Guidance on using Social Media

A little while back, I had a few Twitter conversations and blogged about the need to develop some type of policy or guidance for academics on using Social Media.

From looking across a ton of different policies from the public and private sector, I felt that a policy was probably not the best way to go, especially as what I wanted was something more snappy and supportive. So, working with Neil Ringan (and a few others here at MMU), we've put together 8 key points that academics should consider when using Social Media, as it blurs the boundary across personal and professional domains. It's licensed with CC so feel free to reuse as appropriate.

(.PDF) Good Practice Guidance in the use of Social Media to Support Academic Practice

(.Doc) Good Practice Guidance in the use of Social Media to Support Academic Practice

Creative Commons License
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Technology, and the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Education

I first became aware of Chickering and Gamson's 'Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education' about 6 years ago (even though it was published in 1987), and it's often referenced in academic research. The principles are really common sense, but can provide some key aims/objectives for academic staff in developing an effective educational experience for students. The principles are as follows;
  1. Encourages contacts between students and faculty
  2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students
  3. Uses active learning techniques. (a.k.a. "Encourages active learning")
  4. Gives prompt feedback
  5. Emphasises time on task
  6. Communicates high expectations
  7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning
I always find it amazing that some of the really pioneering work that inspire education(alists) today, were actually researched/published a long time ago. I was 5 when these principles were published!

Anyway, later, Chickering and Ehrmann (1996) applied the use of technology to support/aid the original principles, with suggestions like asynchronous discussion to encourage contact between students and faculty. But.... I wonder how, with the more recent burst of the social web, that we can use technology to support the 7 principles today. Here's some brief ideas that are really targeting many of the academics I support at MMU (rather than the expert innovators);

1 Encourages contacts between students and faculty

Moving beyond the basics of email discussed by Chickering and Ehrmann, today we have a range of other means, such as Social Media (Twitter, Facebook and even LinkedIn). Commentators (Hall 2009) have long been discussing how students arrive at University and have (or develop) their own Personal Learning Environments consisting of tools like Facebook and Twitter, and further research suggests that students are already using these tools to discuss aspects of their education (Junco, et al, 2011).

Further to this, students can feel greater contact with Faculty through the provision of bespoke audio and video recordings, as they can see/hear their tutors ( Lee, Mcloughlin and Chan, 2007; Stewart & Doolan, 2008; Middleton, 2009)

2 Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students

Again, the possibilities of the web enable learners to not only cooperate through the likes of forums, or again social media, but also through collaborative tools like Google Docs or Skydrive. Then, there are tools like PBWorks (wiki) that can be great for supporting collaboration.

3 Uses active learning techniques

It may not be the most innovative thing, but I love the activity of blogging. Not just to be participating in a growing craze on the web, but because it enforces a reflective approach upon the author. And reflection, is a key skill in active learning! Obviously I use blogger, but many of my students have signed up to Wordpress as well, and they are seeing some of the benefits I find.
As devices have become more portable, the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement can work well for departments without a wealth of resources available to them. For example, I encouraged students to bring their own laptops/tablets to class for a breakout activity to access and reflect on specific content on the web, then summarise for the rest of the class.

4 Gives prompt feedback

Many of the VLEs available today enable tutors to develop quizzes, with tailored feedback that students receive as soon as they complete the quiz. For example at MMU, Moodle allows tailored feedback for each answer to each question.  It's also possible to provide further feedback based on overall grade boundaries. The possibilities here are huuuggee.

5 Emphasises time on task

The developments in connectivity really makes the web available right in the palm of the learner. Literally. When we use tools like Twitter or Facebook, we can engage students in academic discussions when they're on the train, during their break in work, or even when they're eating their tea! Further, mobile friendly VLEs enable learners to access a whole range of course-related information/activities, anyplace, anytime. I can't wait for MMU to launch the mobile friendly Moodle next year!

6 Communicates high expectations

Engaging in some of the activities discussed above, we are promoting a positive working ethos amongst our students. Whether that's by communicating with students out-of-hours, or by providing things like assignment details in a short video. A lot of the time, when we make an effort, so do our students.

7 Respects diverse talents and ways of learning

Multimedia learning can not only support different ways of learning, it can build upon the Dual Channel Theory (Mayer & Gallini, 1990) of information processing by combining complimentary verbal and visual information (think VARK spectrum) to overcome/avoid cognitive overload and cater for different learning styles.

Perhaps the idea of the 'student as producer' takes this a step further, and even reinforces the high expectations mentioned previously? What about innovative uses of Second Life for students to develop fashion shows?

These are just some brief thoughts on technology and the seven principles. Do you have any particularly innovative approaches/experience to tackling any of the 7 principles? Get involved in the comments...


Chickering. A, & Gamson. Z (1987) Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. American Association of Higher Education Bulletin vol.39 no.7 pp.3-7

Chickering. A & Ehrmann. S (1996)  Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever. American Association for Higher Education Bulletin, 49 (2), 3-6. Available online at:

Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2011). Personal Learning Environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: A natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 15(1), 3-8. Elsevier Inc.

Mayer, R. E., & Gallini, J. K. (1990). When is an illustration worth ten thousand words? Journal of Educational Psychology82(4), 715–726.

Hall, R. (2009). Towards a Fusion of Formal and Informal Learning Environments : the Impact of the Read / Write Web. Learning, 7(1), 29-40

Junco, R., Heiberger, G., & Loken, E. (2011). The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27(2), 119-132.

Lee, M, Mcloughlin. C,  and Chan. A (2007) Knowledge Creation processes of students as producers of audio learning objects. In Beyond Control: Learning technology for the social network generation. Research proceedings of the 14th Association for Learning Technology Conference

Middleton, A (2009) Beyond Podcasting: creative approaches to designing educational audio. ALT-J, Vol 17:2, pp 143-155 Stewart, W. and Doolan, M.A (2008) Listen to this: enhancing the learner experience through the use of audio within next generation technologies. Paper presented at the Higher Education Academy’s fourth Annual Conference, July 1-3 at the Harrogate International Centre.

Creative Commons License
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

'Throwaway' MOOCs

For a while now, I've been signing up to MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and not really participating all that much. I'm a MOOC dropout!
I recently blogged some of my concerns, and feel a little better about myself by seeing @AJCann express some of his thoughts on his blog :-).

My latest strange thought processes about MOOCs presented itself when reading Alan's blog post. That is;

What is the mindset towards MOOCs doing to the wider views on our Education system? 

More specifically, I'm concerned that I'm not alone in treating these MOOCs with a somewhat throwaway mindset (not that I'm saying Alan takes this view, of course), and wonder if there would be further consequences that would seep out from our view of MOOCs to our general view of Education? OK perhaps this question is thinking more about the lay person, or the student, rather than many of the readers of this blog, but nevertheless, such close ties between the hype of MOOCs and the revolution of education could easily see cross-fertilisation in this sense.

Could this devalue our Education?
Is there any link at all?

I'd like to hear a psychologists perspective on this (and your's of course)....

Image CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Flickr User DeepLifeQuotes

Creative Commons License
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Embedding Twitter in Moodle

As many readers will already know, Twitter has recently announced major changes to the use of their API. This has a range of knock on effects, not least potentially killing old embed codes, etc, but as things currently stand, there are still a number of options for you to embed Twitter in Moodle. I'm quite into using Twitter in the classroom, and have presented research at the SOLSTICE conference this summer. So it was important for me to find out what all these changes mean.
This post will review a few of these options, but remember, these may change further. N.B. If you don't want to read it all, scroll down to the bottom and watch the screencast...

Twitter Widgets

There are a number of Twitter Widgets that can be customised (colours, etc) and embedded in Moodle. Access these by going into your Twitter settings (accessible via the cog icon in the top right), and clicking into Widgets.

You can create 4 different types of 'timeline' widget based on what it is you want to achieve;

  • User Timeline - display tweets from a particular user's timeline
  • Favourites - display a particular user's favourited tweets
  • List - display tweets from members of a particular twitter list
  • Search - display tweets matching a particular hashtag (#).

The major difference since the API changes, is the requirement of a Domain. If you wanted to embed the widget into a Moodle unit would need to enter the domain. e.g. (you don't need to include the 'http://www' here.

When you are finished customising the widget, click the 'Create' button and you will see the HTML code that can be copied and pasted into Moodle (more on this later)...


As well as creating widgets, you can also create a range of Twitter buttons. You can access these by clicking into Resources link that appears underneath the Trends.

The four options here are to create buttons to carry out a specific function;

  • Share a link
  • Follow a user
  • Tweet a Hashtag
  • Mention a user

Each button has options to customise, e.g. links, hashtags, usernames, etc. Again, this shows a Preview window and provides the HTML code that can be copied and pasted into Moodle.

What to do with the HTML code

In any of the above scenarios, you are presented with HTML code. You don't need to understand what this code is or does, beyond the fact that it's the magic to achieve your aim e.g. embed a timeline or create a button. Putting this in Moodle is surprisingly easy;

  • Decide where you want the widget/button to appear e.g. 
    • in a label within a week/topic (Add a resource > Label)
    • or in a HTML block in the right hand column (Blocks > Add > HTML)
  • You should see the pretty standard HTML editor (unless you are using Google Chrome). Look for the 'Toggle HTML Source' button on the editor toolbar - It looks like this: < >
  • Pressing the 'Toggle HTML Source' button deactivates most of the buttons and leaves the plain HTML text view. This is what Google Chrome users would automatically see, as HTML editors in general have problems with Chrome (one of it's few downsides)
  • Go ahead a paste the HTML code that you copied from the Twitter website, and click 'Save'.
  • Voila

Demo Screencast

Creative Commons License
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The eLearning Industry

This post is primarily aimed at students studying the final year eLearning Multimedia unit at MMU, although it would be great to get the views of other professional across the sector. The post hopes to give an insight into the types of jobs in the field of eLearning...

The eLearning industry has grown exponentially in recent years due to an increased awareness around the benefits of technology to enhance learning, teaching and assessment (and actually, the whole student experience). Some of the benefits of technology include;
  • Aid learning and retention (see Mayer)
  • Anytime, Anyplace access to materials
  • Support/facilitate social learning across geographical boundaries
  • Environmental advantages
  • Reduce travelling
  • Reduce costs

To this end, a range of new career pathways has emerged. According to video (below), the top 10 in demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004. So by this very fact we are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems. This places an obvious challenge on our education system.

The careers developed for the eLearning industry range from being purely technical, to purely pedagogical, with some in between. N.B. the following is a brief summary of some these roles - there will be many things I haven't included, but if any readers if feel I've missed something important, please share your views in the comments section.

Technical jobs: might include scripting/coding to integrate various systems. Take for example, MMU’s Moodle installation. When you log into a unit, the information in the right hand column is created dynamically. The Assessments block, which enables you to access more info about coursework/exams, has been custom developed to link with the University’s Coursework Receipting system. The information it presents doesn’t actually live in Moodle. The same is said for Reading Lists.

Other roles may include the hosting and development of VLEs. For example Moodle is an open source VLE so developers can write bespoke themes based on CSS to adapt the look and feel of the VLE. The same applies to other systems as well; things like repositories and media servers.

Pedagogic jobs: often focus on the direct benefit of technology to teaching, learning and assessment. These roles often include working with course teams to plan what technologies may be used, how they will be integrated, the support structures around integration, and at what points in the course lifecycle they will be introduced. As such, role holders may often be qualified teachers/lecturers, which helps their understanding of theories of learning and teaching, but they may also come from computing backgrounds (or a bit of both).
These roles may also include aspects of training other staff.

Development jobs: These roles are probably more popular in the US than in the UK (I think), and often focus on Instructional Design and Content Development. Therefore role holders will liaise with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) on actual content, and then develop this content into interactive and engaging packages, using a range of tools/technologies. Again, knowledge of teaching and learning might be a pre-requisite in order to understand and integrate suitable opportunities for formative and summative assessment.
Flash has traditionally been a key tool for bespoke software development here, but in recent times 3rd party ‘Rapid Development’ plugins convert Powerpoint presentations into interactive Flash files. Take for example, Articulate Studio, Adobe Presenter or iSpring. Other tools integrate Screencasting (a method of recording the activities of a computer screen) into such Flash packages. There are a number of free tools here, but Camtasia Studio is one of the leaders. This area of the industry is reacting to the Flash Vs HTML 5 debate by developing/releasing versions to output HTML 5 packages (as well as or instead of Flash, and to varying success). Many of these tools offer free 30-day trials.

Job titles across these three categories are often blurred. Variations on the ‘Learning Technologist’ role are quite common, and there is a lot of discussion across the sector related to the actual role of the Learning Technologist.
Further to these three categories, there is another higher level role, considering the strategic deployment of learning technologies. Again, these could be separate roles based on a technical or pedagogical focus, or even cover both.
It's probably fair to suggest these would be typical of roles in the UK Education Sector. If we expand this further, we see roles related to the Learning Management System (LMS) as well as hardware (SMART and Promethan) and software (PebblePad ePortfolios) companies.

Useful Resources 

Creative Commons License
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Social Media Policies

I've heard some pretty horrifying stories related to the use of Social Media recently, and have begun to explore the development of a Social Media Policy for MMU.
CC-BY-SA Flickr User Montage Communiations

I've flicked through a lot of policies after coming across Goldsmithsleu's Delicious Set for Social Media Policies, as well as a list of policies from various organisations on the Social Media Governance site. However, I quickly came to the conclusion that Policies can often be restrictive and unhelpful in areas that are so dynamic and ever-changing - like Social Media. Also, I don't think I have the patience/attention/mindset to read some of those 10 pages (and more) policies from some organisations. Rather, I think a more flexible and supportive set of guidelines would better serve staff in HE, which is a common opinion through Twitter discussions with @SueFolley and @MarkPower.

Based on this assumption, I can think of half a dozen statements/points (below), but I'm really hoping to gauge the opinions of readers through the comments section, on what messages are important to get across in such a document, if indeed one is needed at all. So please, share your thoughts...

  1. Staff are encouraged to develop a digital identity and use Social Media as a communication channel with students and colleagues 
  2. Staff can create separate accounts for personal and professional use, depending on preferences. Both options have positive associations
  3. Bare in mind you are always a representative of the University and should be mindful of the terms and conditions related to academic employment 
  4. When using Social Media in a professional capacity, you should be clear who you are and who you work for rather than using obscure aliases 
  5. Refrain from discussing personal information with students in an open environment
  6. If you witness inappropriate behavior from students/colleagues, raise this with appropriate line management for action rather than challenging those concerned in an open environment

Anything on here will be CC so reusable :-)

Creative Commons License
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Useful resources for the start of term

Term has started and all hands are to the deck!

I've had a number of requests about a couple of different topics over the past couple of weeks, so this post is really just about pointing you towards a couple of useful things.

1) Access to Moodle areas is controlled via the Staff Access Webform. Unit Leaders can enrol other colleagues to their areas here.

2) I'm sure everyone has already rolled their units over from last year, but this guidance is always useful to keep at hand...

3) This short post is largely based on student feedback, and demonstrates some good practice for the development of Moodle areas, to help keep them structured and organised.

4) Moodle has a range of excellent features. Having the ability for students to sign up to things - for group work or tutorial slots for example, can be a great facility.

5) As many people will know, we really shouldn't be uploading the PDF versions of journal articles into Moodle. This guidance produced by colleagues in the library talks through getting stable links to share with students.

6) This guidance on finding images on the web helps overcome the ongoing problem of copyrighted images and introduces the Creative Commons licenses.

Creative Commons License
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.