Archive for the ‘Learning & Research Assets’ Category

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): How Staff are Responding to the Mobile Technologies Their Students Bring With Them to Class

December 23, 2012 2 comments

The end of the year yields an opportune time to reflect upon various teaching innovations that have been discussed, written about, and presented earlier in the year, but which have not yet been included on the Educational Vignettes website. In this, the first of a series of end-of-year posts, I offer some thumbnail sketches of initiatives implemented in my teaching during 2012 to embrace mobile technologies with which students have been engaging to support their in-class learning – but with which, crucially, I was myself comparatively unfamiliar.

It can certainly be offputting to a tutor for the students’ attentions to be apparently divided between the lecture and their mobile devices; but this year I have seen evidence that, far from being a distraction, even the unsolicited use of mobile technologies by students can actually lead to their being more engaged in class. For example, in one lecture, when discussing crossover between classical musicians and popular music, I alluded to a Los Angeles-based string collective, the Vitamin String Quartet, who have released a fascinating series of albums of arrangements of popular music. Moments later, the whole class heard the unmistakeable sounds of a string quartet emanating from one corner of the room – one of the students had looked up the group’s website on her laptop, but had forgotten to ensure that she had turned off the sound…

Another such instance seems rather appropriate to this time of year : I was chatting to a student after a lecture who rather impressed me by dropping into conversation that Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was the only track ever to have reached the UK singles Christmas No. 1 spot twice, in 1975 and 1991. When I asked him how he knew this, he reminded me that during the lecture, I had mentioned that the Spice Girls were the only act to have attained three consecutive Christmas No.1s (1996-98). His interest had been sufficiently piqued by this piece of information that he had used his mobile device to call up a list of UK Christmas No.1s, and noticed the double appearance of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ there.

Versions of the two case studies below were previously presented at the School of Arts and Social Sciences Teaching and Learning Fête on 20 March 2012, and I am indebted to several colleagues at the Learning Development Centre without whose input and advice many of my endeavours this year simply would not have been possible.

Impromptu lecture-capture

Punk rock lectureIn a lecture on punk rock earlier in the year, a few students and I re-enacted the infamous interview between the Sex Pistols and Bill Grundy broadcast live on primetime Thames Television back in 1976. Reconstructions based on archived footage are available, but we decided that it would be more fun and interactive for the students to come to the front and recreate the experience for themselves. Given the relatively large number of people involved in the task, one student remarked that at this rate there would be nobody left in the class – to which I responded that this was very much in keeping with the belief-system at the centre of punk rock: the idea that anybody can get up on stage and be a performer.

Perhaps most interesting was one student who declared that she would be playing a role I had not even considered – that of the cameraman. She filmed our entire reconstruction using her mobile device (from which the screenshot, above right, is taken), thereby taking the notion of student ownership of their teaching and learning to a whole new level. (More recently, another student has written to me that his participation in the role-play was one of the most enjoyable parts of his educational experience – which is particularly revealing in that although he was indeed a part of the scene, and appears in the screenshot above, he actually had no lines to say!) The footage is now being uploaded to Moodle as a helpful reminder of the endeavour, and of the wider points it raised about punk’s do-it-yourself aesthetic.

Video podcasting of lecture summaries

Earlier in the year I was loaned an iPad by the School, and set the intriguing challenge of finding innovative ways to incorporate it within my teaching. Personal research soon led me to the Wired Educator blog in which a compelling case is made, albeit in a different context, for using the iPad for podcasting (see here). I have been audio podcasting since 2009 but switched to video (not a medium with which I am particularly comfortable) this year. My rationale for the change was that, while the pedagogical function of podcasting may be largely fulfilled by audio-only resources, images are more engaging for the students, encouraging a greater level of concentration and enabling them to see and interpret the speaker’s gestures and body language. I was also mindful of recent experiences within the institution with lecture-capture, which I have been increasingly using as the year has progressed, and of wider innovations in education such as the implementation of flipped classes.

My mode of operation was to record a podcast of 8-10 minutes in advance of each lecture, providing a summary of the key material and concepts of the associated class as well as discussing the set reading, and to release the recording via Moodle. Each podcast was intended to give the students some grounding in the content of the lecture (as well as to act as a ‘trailer’) and to provide some context on the preparatory reading, but they had an unexpected secondary function as a resource for the end-of-module examination. In the module evaluation, completed one week before the examination took place, one student wrote that “The weekly podcasts which were made were very helpful for revision” while another commented on the “Helpful podcasts on Moodle for revision purposes”.

As noted, many students already owned mobile devices upon which the podcasts could be played, downloaded, and re-watched at their convenience. For the others, I came to class every week with the podcasts pre-loaded onto my iPad (see screenshot, below) and students who did not have the opportunity to watch them in advance, or appreciated a second viewing to refresh their memories, were able to borrow my iPad for this purpose before the lecture or during the break.

Podcasts - screen capture

Talking MOOCs

November 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Recently interest in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) has moved from the learning technology community into the popular press. Some of the coverage has been almost apocalyptic in tone.

This post, the first of a series of three on this topic, aims to provide an introduction to MOOCs. The next two posts will cover (i) some of the pedagogic aspects and (ii) some of the business models which have been suggested as ways to exploit the MOOC phenomenon.

The overarching aim of this short series is to provide some resources on the MOOCs, to explore some questions about them and to invite some comments about their potential impact .

A list of current and recent MOOCs can be found here. A more detailed survey of the development of MOOCs thus far can be accessed on this link

What are MOOCS?  

The term MOOCs emerged in 2007.  One of the MOOC pioneers, George Siemens talks about the genesis and development of the MOOC on this video where Martin Weller interviews George Siemens and Dave Cormier (originator of the term MOOC).  Building on Connectivist principles developed by Stephen Downes, early MOOCs challenged universities’ traditional control over curriculum, certification, tuition fees and access.

A great paper by Sir John Daniel draws an important distinction between these early cMOOCs, which continue, and those which have been the focus of recent press attention, which he calls xMOOCs, such as those provided by Cousera, Udacity and edX (though there are significant differences between the pedagogic and economic models each of these seeks to develop). It is

  • the vast number of student enrolments,
  • considerable investment of venture capital,
  • global publishing conglomerate interest
  •  Ivy League and Russell Group University participation

in these xMOOCs which has grown media interest and led some to argue that, largely due to MOOCs, Higher Education is on the verge of a profound transformation (the-most-important-education-technology-in-200-years/, ) whilst others are more sceptical.

The next post will look in more detail at how both types of MOOC (C and X) work and some of the pedagogic models which underpin them. The final post will explore their viability as business models.

If you have any thoughts or comments on MOOCs, please share them below.

‘Just come in and hook up’: The simple case for implementing Apple TV in Higher Education

November 1, 2012 7 comments


This educational vignette makes the simple case that Higher Education Institutes, including City University London, should adopt Apple TV because it will benefit both staff and students. Apple TV, has the potential to be a very useful learning technology.

City University London is currently engaged in the redevelopment of it’s estate. A major part of this is the reconceptualization of the Learning Spaces. The Learning Development Centre (LDC) is working closely with City’s Property and Facilities to ensure that pedagogical principles are considered in the redesigning of City University’s learning spaces. This is a very positive development, as learning spaces  is a combination of pedagogy and environmental psychology.

Students and staff can directly connect to the lecture room projector without the need of wires.

As part of the Learning Spaces stategy, City University London has created the Learning Spaces Group (LSG), led by Annemarie Cancienne and comprising City University staff with variety of roles including academics, students, researchers and professional staff . In LSG’s September meeting, I put this idea forward to the group; I suggested that by adopting Apple TV in our learning spaces it would benefit City University  students and staff.

This is because, I argued that although Apple TV is made to be used for more than just the lecture room (for example to download material from the iTunes store and connect to the internet) the Airplay feature of Apple TV makes it a great learning technology. Airplay gives the user the ability to project/ mirror their device in a classroom setting wireless and without the need to of restricting movement around the projector system.

Mirroring – puts your audience in the palm of the presenters’ hand.

Here are my top eight advantages for implementing Apple TV at City University London:

  1. Standard wireless set up across all rooms, sites and even between Universities. This is important as the user will find it easier to ‘just come in and hook up’.
  2. All Apple devices feature iTunes and the implementation of  Airplay allows users to stream music in a room without having to connect with a wire.
  3. Potentially, a group of students can come together in a learning space, use their Apple devices to project their work and should they wish, they can have their own personalised music playing in the background.
  4. Just by connecting the device and Apple TV to the same Wi-Fi network, the AirPlay icon automatically appears. Then the user simply taps the AirPlay icon in a specific app — Photos, Videos, Music, Safari, or any AirPlay-enabled app — and everything streams to the projector via Apple TV. It’s a simple way that allows students and staff to play material on the bigger screen and the lecture rooms sound system.
  5. Students can have better group discussions by being able to simply share any discussion related content straight from their Apple devices.
  6. All staff and students can use Apple TV to project their presentations straight from their Apple device, giving them more control and flexibility in their presentation. They do not need to worry about transferring their presentation slides to the projector computer as they can connect their Apple device directly. Also, they will no longer be restricted to one location, and instead they can walk around with their device at hand. Finally, they can control their slides seamlessly and if they use the Apple Keynote, they will have the ability to see their up coming slides.
  7. Furthermore, academic staff can use it as an effective tool for for lecturing. It can be used like a presentation tool (as outlined above) or it can be used in more creative ways to engage students with the material. One creative method is to use subject related apps on the Apple Device and project it to the students. This is great because there are many high quality educational apps in the App Store that can be used to demonstrate to students. In addition, the lecture could ask the students to connect to the projector with their device and to then demonstrate their own work. Please note that although the above examples are from schools, I think that the application of the technology is applicable in HE.
  8. I was recently in a meeting that desperately needed this technology. The speaker wanted to demonstrate the document he was referring to via his iPad but could not do this easily with the current provisions. So instead, after many failed attempts to connect the iPad with the projector system, he gave up and instead downloaded a copy of his presentation and opened it via PowerPoint. If Apple TV was present in that room, then it could have been used to allow speakers to demonstrate without the need to leave their seat or fiddle with wires.

I also recognise the limitations that come with using Apple TV as a learning technology. The three significant challenges are:

  1. Although Apple products are not the sole technology used at City University by staff and students, they are nonetheless very common. Recent research at City University (Reader, Lindsay, Sultany, 2012) shows that Apple devices account for 35% of many of the mobile devices our students us. This research is one year old and I believe this number has only increased recently, due to the launch of new apple products in 2012, including new range of Macbook Pro, iPhone 5 and iPad mini.
  2. The ability of City University’s wireless network to handle the potential new network traffic. AirPlay lets you wireless stream what’s on your iOS device to an external device and speakers via Apple TV, but this comes with the cost of more pressure on the wireless network. City University London is currently in the process of upgrading it’s network so this may no longer be an issue.
  3. Another limitation is the need for the projector system, or in the case of City University the “lecture pods” need to have an HDMI port. However, if the pods do not have this capability, a quick solution is to purchase the relevant converter (in City’s case, a HDMI to VGA converter).

The Learning Development Centre (LDC) at City University London is currently leading on a new learning space located at its new home, Goswell Place. This will act as a pilot space to develop our ideas further about our educational provisions, namely the further development of learning spaces. This space would be the perfect environment to pilot Apple TV and the Airplay capabilities.


Kate Reader, Sian Lindsay, Ajmal Sultany. Proceedings of the IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning. Berlin, Germany 11-13 March 2012.  Edited by Inmaculada Arnedillo Sánchez and Pedro IsaíasISBN (Book): 978-972-8939-66-3.

Video in Education – An invitation to our first webinar – 1pm on Thursday November 22nd, 2012

October 23, 2012 1 comment

Video in Education – a special interest group – invites you to grab a coffee and share best practice at our first webinar.

Formed in summer 2012, this group’s focus is on sharing practice within the schools, and gathering examples from other institutions, in: production and publishing of video for education; techniques for engaging staff in use of video for teaching and learning; and pedagogical principles behind video for education.

Sharing Best Practice in Educational Video at City University

Webinar – Thursday 22nd November 2012 –1pm  to 1.30pm

Webinar Room Link  (opens at 12.45pm on the day)

Event Details

  • Introduction –  Mo Pamplin
  • School of Law – Scenario-based learning video portfolios – Sophie Paluch
  • Cass Business School – Dubai MBA student research presentations – Luis Balseca
  • School of Health Science – Blood pressure self-assessment videos – Natasa Perovic

Moderators on the day, Stef Smith and Steve McCombe at the MILL

Instructions for participants:

There is no need to book a place, all City staff are welcome as are external guests.

Join the webinar room, via the link below and settle in from 12.45 pm, participants will be able to listen to the speakers, view a web cam of the speakers, watch clips from video projects and pose questions via the chat room.  We will use the Adobe Connect webinar service to host this session for up to 100 guests.

Webinar Room Link  (opens at 12.45pm on the day)

Its good to check your computer audio settings in advance, to find out more see the quick start guide.

Quick Start Guide – Participants

any enquiries, please contact the organisers via email:

The webinar will be recorded and made available on  this page after the event.

We look forward to meeting you on the 22nd,

Mo Pamplin

School of Arts and Social Science


Digital Researcher 2012

February 24, 2012 1 comment

Digital Researcher 2012.

British Library 20.02.2012.

Having been placed on the waiting list for this event I was pleased to discover three days beforehand that I had managed to squeeze in as one of the 113 participants in the Digital Researcher 2012 workshop at the British Library. There were many more virtual participants via Twitter and Facebook.

Dr Tristram Hooley, event director,  set the context for the day by proposing that, whilst digital technologies in general, and social media in particular are transforming academic life, the current  evidence suggests that researchers are not using social media to its full potential due to a lack of training and development in the use of these tools. Yet there is a growing recognition that, given the social nature of the research process, recent developments in digital technologies have much to offer the research community.

The day consisted of 4 workshops: Identifying knowledge, Creating knowledge, Quality Assuring knowledge and Dissemination of knowledge of which participants were able to attend two. A flavour of the materials, tools and topics covered can be accessed from the presentations posted in advance of the sessions. I attended Identifying knowledge and Quality Assuring knowledge, which, though very different in style, were both stimulating and informative: the first about the tools which can help to meet the challenge of information overload, the second on the pros and cons of open publishing and the associated issues of intellectual property.

The highlight of the day for me was the opportunity to reconnect with Martin Weller, Professor of Educational Technology at the Open University, who gave the keynote address to close the event. Drawing on his recent book, The Digital Scholar, itself an exemplar of the move towards open access publishing, Martin outlined how social media is impacting on many aspects of academic life, including the challenge of teaching in the attention economy, how universities adapt to a pedagogy of abundance from a pedagogy of scarcity, how digital distribution of knowledge may produce new forms of public engagement with university research.

Attending the event has given me ideas for ‘Developing the Digital Researcher’ workshops at City University London, details of which will be announced soon.

If you would like to know more then please contact me.

Neal Sumner

What do Cowboys and Higher Education Technology have in common? EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative 2012

February 23, 2012 5 comments

What do Cowboys and Higher Education Technology have in common?

Nothing!! Well that’s not exactly true, the connection is that one of the largest Educational Technology organizations was in Texas last week and I with two fellow City University London colleagues were there to witness it.

Last week I presented at the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) 2012 Annual Meeting, which was held in Austin, Texas, USA. I presented results from a recent collaborative Learning Analytics research between the Learning Development Centre (LDC) and Centre for eHealth Research (CeRC). This research was relevant to the theme of the conference  (“Taking the Pulse: Connecting, Assessing, and Innovating”) as our research explored how to enhance the student experience through collaboration and interaction in learning and teaching. The session met the focus of the conference because this was an innovative and strategic approach to using Moodle data to encourage lecturers to make changes during the running of a module which had the potential providing an engaging and participatory student experience.

Learning Analytics Presentation

Our presentation at ELI 2012 was a showcase session of 15 minutes; this allowed participants to engage by listening to the case studies followed by a 15 minute question and answer section.  In the later section,  I was approached by a number of participants who were interested in our implementation of the project to understand how they may implement something similar in their own institution and what we plan to do next.

The presentation itself  provided an overview of the lessons we learnt from using learning analytics to enhance learning and teaching in two modules at City University London. Overall, we undertook a three-phase project using learning analytics to explore both student and lecturer engagement in the first year of implementing Moodle as our strategic learning environment (final report can be found here). The third phase, the focal point of this presentation, was focused on two in-depth case studies where lecturers were given live data in order to analyse the student experience of using blended learning. As such, the presentation concentrated on our findings and lessons learnt.

Module leaders were provided with Learning Analytics reports at set points in the term so they could examine it and explore whether by adapting their interaction and collaboration with students they could increase student engagement. To enable the research team to examine how useful the reports were, how the lecturers found the reports and what they did as a result of these, the lecturers were interviewed at the beginning and end of the module, and surveyed every time they were sent a learning analytics report. Our Prezi presentation outlines the main aspects of the project and our key findings.

I also had the pleasure of sharing my opinion on the future of Learning Analytics in an interview with Educause. Educause are at the forefront of understanding Learning Analytics and  as part of this work they are collecting the opinions of current practitioners and researchers (some of their past work can be seen here).

The Personal Journey

Travelling to present at an international conference is as much about the personal journey as it is about accomplishing business goals; so let me tell you about the personal journey (!)  For me, visiting Austin, Texas was my first visit to America, in fact this was the first time I crossed the Atlantic Ocean.  The overall flight, including transiting in Washington was a little long but the people I met along the way made it easy: they were interested in my stories of London and I was charmed by their accent.

Austin is a modern City with a Wild West twist where the people have a liking for all things quirky and weird, hence their motto of “Keep Austin Weird”. The weather was also interesting. As an introduction to my presentation, I had hoped to make a joke about the English weather until I experienced the Austin weather! On the first day we had the hats, gloves and umbrellas out as it snowed but by Tuesday we were wearing summer clothes and getting  sun tanned.

Although I started by saying that travelling to an international conference is as much about the personal journey as it is about accomplishing business goals, in fact it is more true that the personal is intertwined with the business.  Seeing the weather dance between the clouds and the Sun and from hot was an appropriate metaphor for the current state of affairs in Higher Education both in the UK and US. The HE sector faces increasing challenging times, most prominently, we have began to feel the cold winds of funding cuts. Furthermore, in the UK we have had warnings of sever downfall in student enrollment due to the increase in fees. Yet, the Sun does still shine. Although at the moment things look partly cloudy with a heavy overcast, having rich discussions and witnessing the innovative implementation of technology at ELI shows there is hope. For me the most promising areas are social media (especially the potential of Twitter like tools for in class and out of class conversations),  mobile technology (the use of various mobile devices and application of augmented reality), and learning analytics.

At the same time, there are a number of education technologies presented in ELI that I believe will not change the weather for the better, that is, I cannot envisage how they can support student learning. One such technology is the iPad. For one, I think the conversation is limited when we talk only of iPad rather than tablets in general. But even so, none of the presentation in ELI convinced me that tablets are more useful than tools we already have, such as smartphones.  I say this knowing that there is growing support for the potential of tablets in HE, such as The Horizon Report 2012 prediction. If tablets are to make a change, in my opinion, the greatest potential of tablets lies in the development of eText, especially with investments from large companies to create text books that go way beyond just printed books in electronic format such as the recent announcement by Apple and Pearson. Another educational technology that I am skeptical about is gaming; again, the use of education games may be useful in some areas but I have yet to see any real impactful examples of how games can be used to increase student learning and engagement with the material.

So I guess the original question should have been: what do cowboys, the weather, learning analytics and education technology have in common?! Based on my experience of attending the ELI2o12 conference in Austin, they have much in common!

Ajmal Sultany, Research Assistance, LDC.

(This blog post uses some text that was written by Dr Pam Parker)


Top tips on making your lectures count!

January 18, 2012 3 comments

With a sea of distant heads in front of you bowed over their notes it can be very difficult to tell whether your lectures are working well or not. Students will not answer questions so you cannot tell if they understand. The normal clues are missing and the normal informal methods of finding out do not work because you will meet only a very small proportion of the students informally. It is common in very large lectures for lecturers to feel quite out of touch with their audience. You need to adopt deliberate strategies if you want to find out how you are doing.

1. Show of hands

While students may not be willing to speak up in a large lecture, they are often willing to join in a show of hands. If you ask “Who doesn’t understand that point?” you are unlikely to get much of a response. However, you can ask straightforward questions which give students some control over what happens next in the lecture; for example:

“How many of you would like another example of this method? Can I have a show of hands please?”

“Can I speed up in order to get through my remaining material? Please put your hand up if you want me to speed up.”

“Who would like a two-minute break?”

“Would you like to try tackling one of these cases yourselves? Can I see how many would like to try that?”

2. Three most important things

Listing the “three most important things” at the end of your lecture can be used as a means of summarising the lecture at its close in order to highlight its most important features. This same device can be used to check on student learning. You could say:

“I’d like to check whether I’ve got my main points across. I’d like you all to write down the three most important things about this lecture: those three things that, if you forgot everything else, would capture the essence of the lecture for you. You have two minutes”.

While students are doing this you write down what you think are the three most important things on an overhead projector transparency. When the two minutes are up you display your transparency and briefly explain your three points and why they are the most important. You then ask for a show of hands.

“Who, honestly, has written down all three of these points? Who has written down two? Who one? Who none? What other points did people consider important?”

If this seems too threatening to students you can do any of the following:

  • emphasise that what is on trial is your own competence as a teacher rather than their competence as learners;
  • ask for their points before revealing your own;
  • collect up students’ written statements to read in private;
  • emphasise the scope that exists for alternative perspectives, different conclusions, etc.

This exercise can be very salutary.

3. Instant questionnaire

Instant questionnaires are administered during lecture sessions or when the whole class is present. They require none of your paper and no advance preparation. All you have to do is display the following rating scale on an overhead projector:

A = Always true for me

B = Often true for me

C = Sometimes true for me

D = Seldom true for me

E = Never true for me

You then read out a series of perhaps six statements, which are your best guesses about what is going on in your lectures; for example:

1 I understand the lecture content.

2 I have encountered this material before.

3 My lecture notes are incomplete and probably inaccurate.

4 The pace is a bit slow.

5 I have questions which I need answers to.

6 Paying attention all through a lecture is a real struggle.

Students take a piece of their own paper and write down the numbers of the six statements. Against each they simply write down the letter which indicates whether they agree, like this:

1 B

2 B

3 C

4 A

5 D

6 B

You then simply ask students to leave their pieces of paper at the door as they leave and collate the data to see if your hunches are borne out. With very large classes you would not need to ask all students. A sample consisting of the front and back rows, and two rows in the middle, would be sufficient.

Instant questionnaire items can be thought up as a lecture is going on and jotted down for use in the last few minutes, using the following rating scale:
A = Strongly agree

B = Agree

C = Don’t know or unsure

D = Disagree

E = Strongly disagree

For example:

1 This lecture contained too much information.

2 In a room as overcrowded as this we need a break half way through.

3 I’d like to spend more time on…. in the next lecture.

4 I could use all four techniques introduced today.

5 I could explain Biggs’ theory to a friend.

6 I would like more examples of….

It is such a quick and inexpensive device that it is possible to use it regularly to check up, and to see whether steps you have taken in response to previous instant questionnaire feedback have had the desired effect.

4. The minute paper

Just before the end of the class, ask students to write a response to these questions. Please answer each question in 1 or 2 sentences:

(1) What was the most useful or meaningful thing you learned during this session?

(2) What question(s) remain uppermost in your mind as we end this session?

5. The “Muddiest” point

At the end of a lecture, ask each student to write down on a scrap of paper what, for them, was the “muddiest” point in this session – in other words, what was least clear to them. Collect these in. Look through them. Start the next session with the group by going over what were the most frequent muddiest points – ‘I am just going to go over the two/three areas that you had most trouble with last time’.

This technique was developed by Dr. Frederick Mosteller, a professor of statistics at Harvard University. For a detailed account of its development and use, see his article, The “Muddiest Point in the Lecture” as a Feedback Device in On Teaching and Learning: The Journal of the Harvard-Danforth Centre, Volume 3, April 1989, pages 10-21

“A Guide to Practice: Evaluating your Teaching Innovation”, by Ivan Moore.

Ivan was previously Director of the Centre for Learner Autonomy (one of the SHU CETLs) and is a strong and articulate advocate of experiential learning. He is now HE Curriculum Advisor for the Royal Academy of Engineering, and has published the document above as part of the National HE STEM programme.

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