Archive for March, 2013

The meaning of presence

Saturday, March 30th, 2013


I’ve been meaning to write about presence for some time, but Mark Childs beat me to it. I agree with a lot of his points, but disagree that immersion and presence are the same thing. Presence is only realised in relation to others, whereas immersion is a personal state/construct. I like Mark’s analogy in terms of being immersed in water; immersion is also an important aspect of ‘flow’.

So what is presence? Some dictionary definitions:

  • The state or fact of being present; current existence or occurrence.
  • Immediate proximity in time or space.

Neither of these really captures what I understand by presence. I think it is something more than this. This definition comes closer: ‘the bearing, carriage or air of a person; especially stately or distinguished bearing’.

I am interested in the difference between presence face-to-face and online. In a face-to-face context presence is related to a number of factors. It’s about someone’s aura, their stance. It might be that someone has presence because they are tall, attractive, have a deep voice or it might be related to their intellect. We have all experienced the feeling of being effected by someone, being very aware of them, feeling a connection with them on a sub-conscious level.

In the digital world presence is very different, it is conveyed primarily through text. Presence is channeled through your words and associated emoticons, etc. I often wonder how I am perceived online. What people make of the things I say, the pictures I post. What is my digital personality and how is it different from the way I interact face-to-face. As I said in my previous post I find online interactions liberating and different to the interactions I have with people face to face.

Of course technology plays a part. The affordances of different media enable or disenable certain types of interaction. So facebook is a good medium for sharing multimedia, Twitter requires you to speak in a certain way, with its limit of 140 characters. Virtual worlds provide a bridge to face-to-face interaction, via your avatar. The avatar you choose says something about you. Mine is very much the girl next door, with brown hair, wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Although I must admit I also have very nice wings ;-) Don’t know what this avatar says about me. Our digital presence is fragmented across these different media. The collective self is a culmination of these individual utterances. The way I speak on my blog is different to the postings I put on facebook or Twitter. They have different purposes and audiences. So what does ‘presence’ mean in a digital context? I think it is about how you are perceived by others through your interaction with them. Presence only has meaning in relation to others. It’s a social construct. For some people you will have presence, for others you won’t. It is all to do with whether your interactions have meaning for others.

The value of online chatting

Friday, March 29th, 2013


Was chatting with someone today about why we like text chatting, price what it offers over face-to-face interaction or a phone call. I chat a lot both on fb and Skype, story with a select set of people (about a dozen). It’s a mixture of personal and professional stuff and there is usually a lot of emoticons and banter involved. I think there is something about the text medium, malady can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s definitely different from verbal communication. Interesting the way you convey emotions through emoticons, hashtags and putting things in brackets <just saying> <ducks> <looks innocent> ;-)

Some people aren’t comfortable doing this. For one thing you certainly need to be able to type fast, otherwise the flow of the conversation doesn’t work. I can get totally lost doing this and then suddenly I emerge finding that I have spent over two hours chatting with someone. My friend was saying that for him chatting like this has enabled him to get to know people much better; he said he feels that people disclose more about themselves in the chat environment. Why is that I wonder? Is it because you feel freer because you aren’t face-to-face? Is it something to do with the anonymity of the medium? Now don’t get me wrong, I am very much a face-to-face sort of person, but I do love interacting with people online. I have found that I have really developed friendships in this way, getting to know professional colleagues on a personal level to the point where I would call them friends. It’s also a great way to spark off new ideas. Indeed this blog post is a direct result of my conversation on fb this morning! 

Seminar annoucement

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Institute of Learning Innovation Seminar 5th April 2013, for sale

The Learning Innovation Studio, malady

103 – 105 Princess Road East, 2 – 3 pm

Virtual worlds in practice and theory

A presentation of three examples of the use of virtual worlds in education and performance

  • Disaster Management Communication Studies
  • Digital Cultures
  • Extract / Insert mixed reality installation

The review of the examples will look at the rationale for the use of virtual worlds, the advantages compared to other media these presented and what lessons were learnt. This will be followed by an examination of what makes Virtual Worlds interesting as a teaching and learning tool, what requirements they make of learners and how they alter the learning experience. This will focus on three specific aspects.

  • The role of identity
  • Making sense of space
  • The role of embodiment

About Mark

Mark Childs is a Senior Research Fellow for Elearning at Coventry University in the UK. Since 1997 he has worked on 40 educational projects mostly involving technology-supported learning; at Coventry and in previous posts at the Universities of Wolverhampton and Warwick, as well as a freelance consultant. In 2010 he was awarded a PhD from the University of Warwick for his thesis on Learners’ Experiences in Virtual Worlds. His main research interest is the user experience of synchronous communication platforms, with his most recent work including virtual teamworking and digital identity, but particularly learning and performance in virtual worlds.


POERUP country reports

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013


One of the main deliverables to date for our POERUP project  is a set of country reports on OER initiatives. The table above shows the countries included. This blog post provides a summary of some of the key findings:

  • Kuwait General: substantial e-learning and not only from Arab Open University. Schools: none found. HE: e-learning active, try no OER found. CPD: Open Knowledge Zone. OA: Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences
  • Qatar: General: Qatar National e-Learning Portal  within ICTQatar context.Schools: none found. HE: some e-learning including from non-Qatar providers but no OER.
  • Oman: General: eOman portal with focus on Knowledge Society. Schools: early e-learning activity, some content being developed. HE: Branch of Arab OU and some other early e-learning.
  • Thailand: Schools: significant e-learning (not OER): virtual schooling, TV as well as internet. HE: substantial e-learning in HE e.g. at Ramkamhaeng University. HE: OER initiatives at: Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University and Thailand Cyber University consortium (TCU). Chulalongkorn University (part of OCW)
  • UK: JISC/HEA OER Programme: Overall funding of more than GPB 13 million from 2009 until the Programme ended in 2012. Massive amount of OER covering a variety of subjects released. SCORE: Support Centre for Open Resources in Education. Provided support to OER-related activities, events, and service until closure in July 2012.
  • France: Digital universities (7 thematic digital universities in 2012, 23,000 resources (video, courses, exercises, MCQ), not all resources are OERs. Other OER initiatives (MOOC ItyPA: first French-speaking MOOC, SILLAGES initiative: multimedia educational contents as OER, preparing students for entrance examination and Exo7: an online math exercises sites for HE students).
  • Romania: OER in government programme (The Government Programme for 2013-16: support the innovative integration of Web2.0 and OER in education). OER in educational policies (The public policies for ICT integration in the pre-university system: promotion the use of open/free resources; development and sharing of resources by teachers).
  • Poland: Digital School Programme (Government investment of Euro 13 million
  • Schools will be computerized and educational materials will be produced and released in CC BY 3.0 licence). No significant OER activities in HE.
  • Australia: Open government (AusGOAL). Free for Education (FFE) movement.  OER for schools: National Digital Learning Resource Network, Scootle. OER for HE: A university consortium to develop an OER protocol; The Australasian Council on Open, Distance and E-learning to promote the uptake of OER; USQ has a formal OER strategy, and joined OCW and OERu,
  • Netherlands: OER available from both educational institutions as from cultural heritage and public broadcast. National program Wikiwijs (Mainstream OER in all educational sectors). HE uptake of interest caused by MOOCs. Some disciplines strong initiatives (Medical education (HE) and Green education (Sec. ed to university).
  • Belgium: National (Klascement, Content for special (needs) education). Leuven University (Ariadne, Cultural studies).
  • Italy: National (Only books with a digital version available are to be adopted. Oilproject (2004): 2200 lessons and 10K students). Regional (Trio Toscane (only free availability, no OER), Several institutional OER projects (HE), Survey 2009 revealed the common problems preventing an uptake of OER (a.o. distrust, no culture of sharing, lack of funding)).
  • Greece: OER activities through all educational sectors. Several OA repositories and an OA harvester. National (Digital school: all textbooks of all educational sectors (e-books)), No institutional initiatives.
  • Mexico: National programmes – e-Mexico (Telesecundaria – providing learning materials for 800,000 students and 23,000 teachers. Edusat - Educational Satellite Television Network - 6 tv, 24 audio channels reaches over 10,000 schools with a total of 20,000 receivers). OER in HE– small but growing (Temoa, developed by ITESM: is a specialized search engine that enables the educational community to search a public bilingual catalogue of Open Educational Resources, to find those educational resources and materials that best meet their needs for teaching).
  • Argentia: National programmes: (Virtual Campus of Public Health available to the public health community - any professional can use it to support his activity and can participate in the virtual classroom, see learning objects, create courses, presentations, or videos (using Moodle Elluminate, MyMLE-Moodle Móvil and eXelearning), and add them to the Campus). OER in HE - Oportunidad Project (Strengthening and sustaining the EU-LA Common Higher Education Area, through a bottom-up approach, by the increasing use of open educational practices and resources (OEP & OER)).
  • Spain: List of 78 OA initiatives identified (3 modes - Open Access contents on the Internet but authors’ rights honoured, Mixed OA and OER, enabling either the use of copyright, or the use of Creative Commons licenses). OER initiatives using only Creative Commons license. International level (Universia network of 1,1000 Universities located in 15 countries, 10.1 million students, 8 million users and 850,000 university teaching staff, Spain plus Latin American nations. OCW started by Universitat Oberta de Catalunya in 2008, 21 universities now offer OCW in Castillian, but also in Catalan, Galician and English).
  • Portugal: National programmes: (Portal das Escolas: repository of digital contents for teachers and that offers over a thousand digital educational resources - texts, images, videos or music and blogs. Teachers in public education up to 12th grade can upload educational resources into this repository. OER in HE (Repositório Científico de Acesso Aberto de Portugal - used freely by all the scientific and higher education institutions for hosting their repositories, thus integrating them into a coherent system of scientific metadata open access repositories in the country).
  • South Africa: OER policies (The Department of Higher Education and Training has included the development of an Open and Distance Learning (ODL) policy framework in its strategic plan for 2010–2014, which will include OER).Teacher education (All educational resources developed through funded projects must be released under a CC licence). Regional cooperation (The Southern African Development Community is developing an ODL policy and strategic plan for sharing learning materials).
  • Canada: National policy initiatives not possible. Open access policies: Athabasca University, Universities of Ottawa & Toronto/OIS Provincial OER initiatives: BCcampus in British Columbia; Contact North in Ontario. OER initiatives at Athabasca, Manitoba, Thompson Rivers, Royal Roads, Capilano and OCAD Universities. Lack of public funding – a serious threat.
  • New Zealand: National policy guidance (Government Open Access and Licensing framework (NZGOAL)). Schools sector (OER portals via Wikieducator). Tertiary education (OARINZ: open access research repository (Ako Aotearoa website), OER university – 8 NZ institutions, Otago Polytechnic has an OER policy).
  • Norway: General: strong development of e-learning. Schools: several initiatives including: Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, Norwegian Centre for Science Education, Ovttas: for Sami schools. HE: Not much except Universities of Oslo and Stavanger.
  • Denmark: General: Significant e-learning but little distance learning. Schools: Some major initiatives: EMU – main public portal, Danish Public Broadcasting: “Academy”, University of Copenhagen portal for schools. HE: A bit at Aarhus University.
  • Sweden: General: substantial e-learning and distance learning in HE; and some virtual schools. Schools: a few including: Länkskafferiet, National Library of Sweden Open Access. HE: OERSverige and a similar one for South Sweden universities.
  • Finland: Long history of e-learning but not massified. Years of good collaboration in EU projects. Schools Initiatives: LeMill, YLE, and HE: seems to be not much though note Helsinki Metropolia University (AS) in OCW.
  • Hungary: Strong in Open Access, quite strong in e-learning & distance learning, not in OER. Schools: OER activities in Sulinet. HE: activities under way at U Miskolc and Eötvös Loránd U. Grass-roots activities by students.
  • US: General: massive deployment of e-L and DL across HE, colleges and schools (NB Re.ViCa, VISCED, Sloan-C, WCET reports). HQ/core of many OER-related organisations. Schools: Free textbook movement is key driver; but only one OER Virtual School? HE: OCW and the MOOCs, but lots more. Business models emerging faster for free/low-cost HE – UNow, UoPeople, Coursera, Ameritas, edX, US HEIs in OER U, WGU use of OER, etc.

More information can be found on the POERUP wiki.

Virtual schools and colleges

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013


This blog post summarises some of the key findings from the VISCED project  on virtual schools and colleges. The report states that these provide important alternative for learners who are not able to participate in face-to-face education. The report defines virtual schools and colleges as

Institutions that teach courses entirely or primarily online.

70 have been identified across 17 countries in Europe. The report summarises 8 case studies:

Analysis of the case studies identified the follow success factors:

  • Usability of the system, buy which supports students, ed teachers and others involved
  • Extent to which a clear e-learning strategy is in place
  • Appropriateness of recruitment and training policies
  • Extent to which regular evaluation is in place
  • Robust and reliable technical infrastructure
  • Strong leadership skills and competences
  • Strong emphasis on learning outcomes
  • Availability of appropriate learning resources
  • Clarity of the organisational system underpinning the operation of the school or college

POERUP: current activities

Monday, March 25th, 2013


I’m in a POERUP project meeting in Nottingham. We have a packed agenda of things to talk about. I’ll provide a summary of some of the key points in this blog post. Firstly, cure we began by discussing channels of communication; EDEN, Online Educa and the Media and Learning conferences were all suggested as potential avenues. Ming Nie from Leicester provided an overview of the work she has led on in terms of the country reports, 11 detailed country reports and 15 mini-reports have been collated and an impressive inventory of 300 plus international OER initiatives.

Bieke Schreurs, from OUNL, provided an overview of the methodology we are planning to adopt for 7 in-depth case studies of OER communities. The research questions include:

  • How are the user networks behind OER initiatives structured?
  • Do users of the same online community networks’ size and density differ, in terms of: their role in the community, their educational level and their level of digital literacy?
  • What do users share around the use of digital learning materials?
  • What kind of activities do they develop within the network?
  • We are also interested in developing an OER community typology, in terms of what kinds of communities exist around OER initiatives?

Social Network Analysis (SNA) will be used as a means of understanding the nature and dynamics of the communities. Data will be collected via an online survey and a series of interviews. We are interested in three types of stakeholders: community organisers, community members and learners. 

All about MOOCs

Friday, March 22nd, 2013


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) seem to be the flavour of the month at the moment. Following on from Coursera the Open University UK recently announced the launch of Futurelearn (Leicester recently signed up) and the most recent addition is a new Australian MOOC platform from the Open University Australia 

The jury is out on whether or not MOOCs are a good thing. I took part in ‘The great MOOC debate at Ascilite in November. The recordings are available online. Given all the interest in MOOCs I thought it was be useful to collate here some of the articles on MOOCs.

The positives associated with MOOCs are that they are free and hence promote social inclusion to those who can’t afford formal education. UNESCO estimate that there are more than 100 million people who can’t afford formal education. MOOCs also promote connectivist learning, pharm enabling participants to harness the power of social media for learning. The negatives are that many are skeptical about the rational behind MOOCs; arguing that it is more about learning income that learning outcomes and that they are little more than a shop window for institutions – i.e. a marketing tool.

Rita Kopp wrote a nice article on the evaluation of one of the earliest MOOCs on Connectivism She argued that:

Self-directed learning on open online networks is now a possibility as communication and resources can be combined to create learning environments. But is it really? There are some challenges that might prevent learners from having a quality learning experience. This paper raises questions on levels of learner autonomy, try presence, and critical literacies required in active connectivist learning.

There is a nice scoopit space on MOOCs. Other articles include: 



And there are currently two call outs for special issues on MOOCs: 



Into the wild

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

An interesting new e-book has just been announced, doctor providing a summary of the JISC/HEA funded Open Educational Resources (OER) programme. It provides an overview of the three phases of the programme and discusses the key issues and lessons learnt, cialis which were: open content and open practices, OER re-use and repurposing, open is multidimensional, is use good enough?, what we do and don’t know about use, learners and OER, and libre vs. gratis OER. There are chapters devoted to resource management, resource description, and licensing and attribution.  

The METIS evaluation

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013


The METIS project has three main objectives:

  1. To develop an Integrated Learning Design Environment (ILDE). The ILDE will integrate existing free and open source solutions that include: co-design support for communities of practitioners; learning design authoring tools following different pedagogical approaches and authoring experiences; interface for deployment of learning designs on mainstream Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs).
  2. To run a series of workshops for teachers at partner institutions using ILDE. The workshops will be aimed at fostering the adoption of learning design methods among teachers and advancing their skills in the orchestration of ICT-based learning environments according to innovative pedagogical approaches. The ILDE will play a central role in the workshops, malady because one of workshop goals will be to support teachers’ familiarization with the ILDE and to promote the usage of the authoring tools integrated in it.
  3. To disseminate the project’s outcomes and maintain a community of teachers engaged with learning design and its tools.

Work Package 5 of the METIS project is concerned with evaluation. This work package is led by Istitulo Tecnologie Didattiche (ITD), cheap in collaboration with other partners. METIS is adopting a user-centred design approach: the development of both the ILDE and the workshops will be cyclic, nurse with two evaluation phases informed by practice. These two evaluation phases, nested within the four cycles of the METIS project development, will incrementally incorporate the needs expressed by end users for both the ILDE and the workshops. The workshops are the basis for the formative evaluation of the different versions of the ILDE and of the workshop packs themselves. Thus evaluation will play a crucial role in the project, will occur in an iterative way and will be formative, i.e. aimed at informing the following stages of re-design and development.

Section 1 provides an overview of the role of the evaluation. Section 2 provides a clear definition of what is meant by evaluation, with arguments being made backed up by relevant research literature. The approach adopted draws on Guskey (2002) definition; i.e. that ‘evaluation is “the systematic investigation of merit or worth” (Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation, 1994, p. 3). It goes on to state that:

… evaluation in METIS will be mainly oriented to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses of both the ILDE and the workshop package and to find useful indications to further tune and improve them, so we can state that our evaluation will primarily have formative aims. 

Section 3 concentrates on the ILDE. Theoretically the focus is on user’s acceptance of technology, based around the follow factors:

  • Attitude Toward Behavior
  • Subjective Norm
  • Perceived Usefulness
  • Perceived Ease of Use
  • Extrinsic Motivation
  • Intrinsic Motivation
  • Job-fit
  • Long-term Consequences
  • Social Factors
  • Relative Advantage
  • Voluntariness of Use
  • Image
  • Visibility
  • Performance Expectancy
  • Effort Expectancy
  • Social Influence

The section then outlines six theoretical models in relation to technology acceptance:

  • Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA)
  • Technology Acceptance Model (TAM)
  • Motivational Model (MM)
  • Model of PC Utilization (MPCU)
  • Innovation Diffusion Theory (IDT)
  • Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT)

Having reviewed these the Technology Acceptance Model was chosen; Section 3.2 provides a clear rationale for the choice.  Section 4 describes the approach adopted to the evaluation of the workshops. It states that there are two approaches to this: objective/goal-based models and systems-based models, and lists the follow models:

  • Kirkpatrick’s 4 levels
  • Hamblin’s 5 levels
  • Guskey’s 5 levels
  • Tyler’s model
  • Hammond’s model
  • CIPP (Context, Input, Process, Product)
  • IPO (Input, Process, Output)
  • TVS (Training Valuation System)

Having examined the models, the team selected the Guskey’s model as the main source of inspiration for the evaluation of the METIS workshop packages, as this model seems to offer the closest fit with the project requirements. Using this the following aspects are listed: participants’ reactions, participants’ learning, organization support and change, participants’ use of new knowledge and skills, and student learning outcomes.

Section 5 states that:

In METIS the evaluation of both the ILDE and the workshops will be conceived and designed by a team of researchers of ITD-CNR, and then carried out with the support of all the METIS partners and particularly those partners who will design and run the workshops (UKOU, KEK and Agorà + ULeicester as WP4 responsible), as well as the partner who is developing the ILDE (UBa and all WP2 partners). ITD-CNR is not involved in the development of the system and the workshops, except for what attained to its role of formative evaluator.

Section 6 provides a discussion of the critical issues associated with the evaluation and in particular the fact that the evaluation will occur in real contexts. Section 7 provides a conclusion for the report and next steps.

The document provides a clear and methodologically robust outline of the evaluation plan. It makes a clear rationale for the approach adopted for the evaluation of both the ILDE and the workshops. The report draws on a range of theoretical models associated with users’ acceptance of technology and uses this to develop a robust and thorough evaluation plan. Clear timescales and milestones are indicated, along with a critical discussion of any anticipated issues associated with the evaluation.


Guskey, T. R. (2000). Evaluating professional development. Corwin Press, Inc. Thousand Oaks, California.

Guskey, T. R. (2002). Professional development and teacher change. Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, 8(3), 381-391.

Venkatesh, V., and Davis, F. D. (2000). A Theoretical Extension of the Technology Acceptance Model: Four Longitudinal Field Studies. Management Science (45:2), pp. 186-204.

Venkatesh, V., Morris, M. G., Davis, G. B., and Davis, F. D. (2003). User Acceptance of Information Technology: Toward a Unified View. MIS Quarterly (27:3), pp. 425-478.

Venkatesh, V., Thong, J. Y., Xin, X. (2012). Consumer acceptance and use of information technology: extending the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology. MIS Quarterly (36:1), pp. 157-178.




MATEL study on emergent technologies

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

The annual Horizon reports list the key technologies that are likely to have a significant impact in Education in one, clinic three and five years’ time.  The MATEL (Mapping and Analysing Perspective Technologies for Learning) study provides a good evidence-based survey of key technologies. The study undertook a survey across schools, pharmacy tertiary education, the adult learning community and the VET sector and validated the findings with an expert consultation group in the Autumn. 

The study aimed to:

  • get a better understanding of how technologies that are expected to play a decisive role in shaping future learning strategies will evolve in the short –medium term (5-10 years from now);
  • understand how the market of such technologies is expected to develop and
  • identify a set of strategies and actions to promote promising technologies, encourage implementation and ensure effective and inclusive deployment in formal, non-formal and informal learning environments.

Not surprisingly perhaps, social media, mobile technologies and Open Educational Resources featured highly in the results. What was interesting was the lack of much mention of the role of Virtual Worlds, despite the original hype on the role these might play in Education; interest appears to have dropped off significantly.