Category Archives: Research

Learning Technologist collaboration research project: Loughborough College and the University of Leicester

Learning Technologist collaboration research project #LTFE #LTHE

Learning Technologist collaboration research project: Loughborough College and the University of Leicester

I am pleased to be involved in a project with Geraldine Murphy and Rachel Challen from Loughborough College which looks to explore the identity of a Learning Technologist through the “analysis of language”.

Project outline
According to the Association of Learning Technology the definition of Learning Technology is defined as this; “Learning technology is the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching, and assessment.” Learning Technologists are then “the people who are actively involved in managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology.”(ALT 2010)

However, to those working in eLearning, on a daily or ad hoc basis, the explanation doesn’t seem to be as clear cut and there has to be a continual explanation of the job role and the skills, experience and knowledge the role of a Learning Technologist demands. Continue reading

Research in Learning Technology

Reading: Exploring the use of text and instant messaging in HE

Research in Learning Technology“This article examined how higher education students used text and instant messaging for academic purposes with their peers and faculty. Specifically, comfort level, frequency of use, usefulness, reasons for messaging and differences between peer-to-peer and peer-to-instructor interactions were examined. Students noted that they were very comfortable with using both text and instant messaging. Text messaging was used weekly with instructors and daily with peers. Instant messaging was used rarely with instructors but weekly with peers. Students rated text messaging as very useful and instant messaging as moderately useful for academic purposes. Key reasons cited for using both text and instant messaging included saving time, resolving administrative issues, convenience and ease of use. Text messaging appears to be the preferred mode of communication for students with respect to communicating with both peers and instructors. It is concluded that both text and instant messaging are useful and viable tools for augmenting student’s communication among peers and faculty in higher education.”

Lauricella, S. and Robin, K. Exploring the use of text and instant messaging in higher education classrooms. In Research in Learning Technology. 2013, 21: 19061 –

  • I’m sure text/SMS messages are 160 characters, not 140 as mentioned in the article? Perhaps they have Twitter and text/SMS mixed up?

Reading: “Experience of developing Twitter-based communities of practice in higher education”

Research in Learning Technology

Lewis, B. and Rush, D. 2013. Experience of developing Twitter-based communities of practice in higher education. In Research in Learning Technology 2013, 21: 18598 –

“This article presents the results of a case study of the use of a microblogging tool by a university academic to increase their knowledge and experience of social media for educational purposes. The academic had the role of digital steward in a university and attempted to use microblogging (Twitter) to increase professional contacts within the framework of a community of practice. Several types of data were collected and analysed. These included the structure of the network arising from the links formed with others by microblogging, the similarity of stated interests between the academic and others in the network, and the contents of postings such as their external references. It was found that a personal network had been established, with some of the characteristics of a community of practice. The activity demonstrated the utility of social media in supporting the professional development of academic staff using technology.”

Social Media in Academia

cup and tableAnnounced this week, the ETNA (Enhanced Training Needs Analysis) 2012 survey has found that “nearly three quarters of academics in further education agree that social media tools enhance the quality of the learning experience.”

The JISC news release – “Survey shows that social media has graduated to academia” – continues by saying that “YouTube is by far the most popular tool, while Facebook and particularly Twitter, lag well behind. However, the survey also identifies a strong need for staff training in the use of social media.”

Of those surveyed:

  • Academic staff seemed most in favour of social media: 70% agreed that its use enhances the quality of the learning experience and 69% agreed that students were at ease using it.
  • Some academic staff felt that social media is a distraction to learning.
  • Around half of all middle managers said their department uses social media tools for learning and teaching.
  • Fewer than 10% of staff, in any category, had received training in social media.
  • More than a third of staff identified a need for staff training.

Celeste McLaughlin, advis0r: staff development at JISC RSC Scotland said: “It’s clear from the survey that social media is now here to stay in colleges as learning tools. They offer a familiar environment for students and, at the same time, teaching staff clearly like them. In particular, the ability to share videos online has made YouTube a clear favourite. But training is patchy, so JISC RSC Scotland aims to help college staff improve their social media skills.”

Here is a link to the 2012 ETNA survey: “Growth and Development – an analysis of skills and attitudes to technology in Scottish further education”

What I’ve got from the report so far is, as always, a careful and appropriate use of social media (or technology) can enhance (not necessarily improve) the “learning experience”. So, read the report, absorb it, take from it what you will; some will matter, some won’t. But keep an open mind and see what can ‘enhance’ your learning materials or assessment strategy.

Image source: Kings Hedges by Kevin Steinhardt (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Future of Learning: School in the Cloud #SOLE

Have you heard of the Hole in the Wall from Sugata Mitra (@Sugatam)? No, then before reading any further you ought to watch – “Sugata Mitra shows how kids teach themselves“.

“Young kids in this project figured out how to use a PC on their own — and then taught other kids. He asks, what else can children teach themselves?”

The results are still being discussed and dissected today, almost 6 years after he first announced and presented his findings. And now Sugata Mitra is back, building on this pioneering work, with his new TED Talk “Build a School in the Cloud” (below).

Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud

Continue reading

Scan a books barcode and get a fully formatted reference? #UKedchat

You probably know how keen I am on QR Codes, and how good useful I think they could be in a library environment (place the code on a shelf or book cover to indicate, and link to, the eBook version, that kind of thing).

However, I came across this little idea that brings together the scanning properties of smart phones (iPhone, Blackberry, Android phones, etc) and an online database of book titles and publisher details. Bring them together and you get the ability to produce a fully formatted reference for your academic piece of work.

Do you get it?

The idea is not new (it is to me, but not to these guys from the University of Waterloo) and this post “Smartphone App Makes Book Citations a Snap” goes some way to what I was thinking. The above project has it’s downsides, namely;

  • It only produces a fully formatted reference / citation for a limited reference style (at Bournemouth and a fair few other UK HEIs we use the Harvard style to format references)
  • It does not produce, as advertised, a fully-formatted citation, but a slightly concatenated version (“Cambridge Univ Pr” instead of “Cambridge University Press”)
  • It relies on books having a barcode. Not all books are young enough to have a barcode so students using that still rely and use older books (medicine, law, etc) will suffer here

If you could link this together with online sources like Amazon, Google Books, the (huge list of) publishers and journals, and get the citation/reference exact each and every time then this could indeed be quite a powerful little tool.

Oh, and you’d need an app that would have an edition for phones on the many different platforms to be truly useful. Just look around your campus and you’ll see a plethora or iPhones, Blackberrys and phones running Android OS.

Many thanks to Brian Knotts (@BrianKnotss) for this story.

Reading: "The Role of LTs in supporting e-research (eResearch)"

For those who read this blog with any kind of regularity you will know I’m always trying to find new tools to use, and new ways to use them. I find a lot of my information via my Twitter network (PLN: hopkinsdavid) but every now and then something actually comes to me via the print-media … yes, that old fashioned thing called a book, or journal (in this case).

But what of finding a new area of Higher Education where Learning Technologists can be readily utilised, with our background and knowledge of technology and pedagogy?

In the July edition of ALT-J (Association of Learning Technology Journal) there was an article on “The role of learning technologists in supporting e-research”.

Not everyone is going ot be able to read this online with Informaworld, but for those who have access (through UK HE Institutions) you an use this link:

For those who can’t … I’m sorry; I don’t think it’d be a very good idea to download and make available, I’m sure I’d break a few rules!

The abstract says;

“This article explores how the role of learning technologists … may be diversifying to include supporting e-research. It [the group] contributes to the current debate about the emerging profession and the roles it should play in contemporary higher education. Previous studies have shown that, typically, the profession’s role has focused almost exclusively on curriculum development; traditionally, learning technologists work with students and tutors to enhance the learning environment with technology.

“It is suggested that many learning technologists could extend their roles, transferring their knowledge to include supporting e-research. A more inclusive model of the learning technologist’s role in academia could help address the potential polarisation of the profession into researchers and practitioners.”

One aspect of ‘our’ role is to provide assistance to any staff member that needs or asks for it. But how many researchers know about this, or indeed have thought about using technology to, as an example, implement an online focus-group?

With Higher Education Institutions becoming increasingly focused on research then why not use us to help you with this, as well getting us to work on new presentation tools for your under-graduate students?

This article highlights very nicely the way we can bring a different and possibly new viewpoint to the traditional research activities, especially where (as in the article) there are sensitive issues being discussed and individuals involved want a certain degree of separation and anonymity from each other. Even putting that aside, using technology (wiki, blog, discussion board, etc) means you can get a far wider selection of people to include in your research.

With research being conducted by Institution members, it is only natural that they will want to (or have to) use the Institution’s VLE, and can therefore “call upon the learning technologist for individual expert advice and assistance”. The article concludes by saying that;

“an e-research support role is within the scope of most learning technologists, many of whom are also accustomed to carrying out a diverse range of activities in their posts and are used to transferring their knowledge from one situation to another. This paper proposes that rather than endorsing the ‘bipolarisation’ of learning technologists into practitioners or researchers, we should view multi-skilled posts within the profession as a strength, with a set of core values held in common by all that work in a diverse profession.”

I believe that, in order to continue and grow the LT profession and our own individual skill-set, involvement in e-research (I prefer using eResearch, but that’s another discussion for another time) should be encouraged and supported by management and the Institution’s structure.

The conclusion supports this, saying;

“E-research is becoming commonplace and seems certain to increase in the next decade …  it is feasible to use e-learning tools to collect a wealth of rich, qualitative data in OFGs [Online Focus Groups]. Simultaneously, e-learning tools are becoming more sophisticated (especially Web 2.0 tools) and such tools have the potential to support qualitative research in many subject areas across an institution. As a result, learning technologists in the future are likely to be asked to provide expert support for the use of e-learning tools by researchers.”

How do you conduct a Focus Group?

Focus GroupFirstly, why would you want to use a focus group? Focus groups can reveal a whole heap of detailed information that you cannot possibly hope to get through a survey. When well produced, a focus group creates an encouraging environment makes participants feel relaxed allowing then to thoughtfully answer questions in their own words and add meaning to their answers.

Surveys are good for collecting information about people’s attributes and attitudes but if you need to understand things at a deeper level then use a focus group.

So, how do you do it?

  1. Assemble your focus group(s). Each group should have between six to 10 people. Ideally you should have at least three or four groups. These should consist of representatives from all interested (and disinterested) parties so you get a random sampling of the true population. Offering an incentive such as cash or a product to keep can help entice participants.
  2. Prepare your questions ahead of time. Approach it like a science experiment: you need an objective, a hypothesis, research method and a way to quantify the data. This information will help you formulate your questions.
  3. Reserve a place to conduct the group. Examples of good locations include conference rooms and banquet halls. Let each person in the group known the date and time well in advance.
  4. Get the room ready before the session starts. Organize chairs, set up refreshments and, if applicable, position any video or recording equipment.
  5. Start the session by introducing yourself and what you’re studying. Keep the conversation informal and make the participants feel comfortable and at ease enough to speak freely.
  6. Begin asking general questions of each participant, then follow up with more specific questions. Give each person as much time to answer as they need. Probe for details if they aren’t giving enough. Take notes as necessary.
  7. Stay neutral and don’t take sides on an issue or with a participant. Your duty is to run the focus group, not influence how you want the participants to respond.

Using a focus group in an educational environment (example; producing learning materials, developing a package, etc) then representatives of your target audience must be included in the group.

At the start of the project, you need to hold focus groups to help refine your educational objectives. You can uncover what participants already know about the topic, what material they already have and what they think they need, and how they envisage using different types of information and related materials.

As you then subsequently develop your materials, further focus groups can comment on the design and clarity of your rough drafts, evaluating their usability for the intended audience and suggesting revisions. The data you gather can also suggest strategies for distributing the materials to your audience.

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