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Friday, May 30, 2008

I'm just a bulleted list kinda guy

This is an appeal on behalf of all aging (mostly male) edubloggers who are not only too old to be edupunks, but who also can't do mind maps. Stuck in an era when lists were the only form of learning design, they need your help. Please visit text2mindmap.com and give generously:

text2mindmap.com


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sad?

Tweet


Ustream.tv revisited




The problem with problem based learning

Ancient of Days I feel the same way about problem based learning that I feel about religion - both are fine in theory, I've just never seen a convincing implementation of either. It's hard to argue against PBL. Like the God meme, it ticks all the right emotional boxes. It's in the day to day that PBL falls down.

To pull PBL off, you need enthusiastic and talented teaching (yes, teaching) staff who are prepared to spend lots of time waiting for students to see the light. Sometimes, that can be a very long wait indeed. Similarly, you need open minded students who are filling to abandon years of spoon feeding from secondary education. (Primary education in the UK is quite good now, lots of PBL - secondary is where it all goes wrong).

Maybe a little PBL for appearances sake is fine (an hour on Sunday morning followed by a slap up lunch) - just as long as it doesn't take over your life.




Tuesday, May 27, 2008

FriendFeed is the Higgs-vector boson of social media

As a scientist, I've encountered some fairly difficult concepts, such as the Higgs-vector boson and string theory. (You may remember string theory - it was the point where you stopped reading Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time). In fact, the Higgs-vector boson (or Higgs boson as its friends call it) is so confusing that the Wikipedia entry on the subject says:

Confusing
(I love it when Wikipedia turns into The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy)

So confusing is the Higgs boson that in 1993, UK Science Minister William Waldegrave challenged physicists to produce an answer that would fit on one page to the question: What is the Higgs boson, and why do we want to find it? Similarly, we have had public competitions to explain string theory in two minutes or less.

Like me, you may have had difficulty explaining Twitter to a colleague or relative who asked you

Why are you wasting your time on this?

It's not any easy question to answer, and like many people, I've struggled with it in the past.

How much more difficult then to explain FriendFeed. Unlike Willie Waldegrave, I'm not offering cases of champagne to the person who leaves the best description of FriendFeed in a comment below. But I still need to understand FriendFeed properly. I think we all do, as FriendFeed points the way to whatever Web2.0 is evolving into.


B******s!
After I spent a long time writing this post, I think the prescient Loic Le Muir has answered the question:



New channels for student support

`Logos What's already clear about the online teaching developments I've got planned for the next year is that things will go wrong, there will be unanticipated consequences and that I'll have to think on my feet. For these reasons, new communications channels for talking to students and colleagues are required alongside all of the traditional ones.

The first thing I've done is to set up a dedicated Twitter account (DrCann) for student support. For this to work, the professional student support channel is going to have to be kept clear from the rest of my lifestream on Twitter as most students won't be able to cope with the signal to noise ratio. Similarly, I've set up a dedicated Seesmic account (drcann) for the same reasons. In both cases, these accounts are linked to my University email account, and of course, all of this is in addition to the existing support channels such as email, Blackboard and face to face. I'm also considering the possibility of setting up a FriendFeed room, but I haven't really grokked that yet.

Near synchronous channels such as Twitter and Seesmic create an expectation of instantaneous 24/7 response, and that's not going to happen. I can also think of plenty of other ways frisky students could break this model, so reluctantly, there will have to be a few rules. (If we didn't have rules, where would we be? :-)

Students will be told:
  • Twitter and Seesmic are external services. The University of Leicester is not responsible for the content of external web sites, and does not endorse any content, opinions, advertisements or any other services provided at those sites.
  • To use these optional services, you must set up a free account at Twitter and/or Seesmic using your University of Leicester username so that I can verify that you are a student on a course I am currently teaching. You can have multiple Twitter/Seesmic accounts and may wish to set up one for University use and one for private use. If on registering you find that your UoL username is already taken, contact me and I will assign you a username.
  • If you send me a message via Twitter or Seesmic, I will do my best to respond as quickly as possible, but if I am not in my office, it might take time for me to reply.
  • Read the Twitter/Seesmic help material and make sure you understand the difference between public and private messages. I advise you to use these services for advice only and not for any private issues. (Contact me by email or speak to me in person if you want to discuss something privately)
  • In the event of abuse (e.g. sending content likely to cause offence), I will block your account so that you cannot send me any more messages. To avoid sabotage (!), keep your passwords private and do not leave public access computers while logged in!

How am I going to persuade students to use these services? I'm not. It's a choice they can make if they wish. The demand will come by viral marketing, e.g. showing them how to pull the feeds into Facebook.

So why are you doing this?
As an experiment, I can't say what the outcomes will be, but the hypothesis that I'm testing is that in the long run (not including learning how to do it), it might provide a better service, save me some time, and both the students and I will be happier. And along the way, we may just do some viral professional development too.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Life after Mars

Mars Phoenix On July 5th 1997 I gave a presentation called "Online interactive computer assisted learning" at the 3rd International Conference on Computer Based Learning in Science at De Montfort University in Leicester. (Is anyone who was at that meeting reading this I wonder?)

The talk was based on a series of online hypertext tutorials I had developed over the previous few years, so I decided not to use PowerPoint (or glass slides as most of the presenters still did) but instead to present my talk live using Mosaic. To make the point that what I was talking about could not be achieved in any other medium, I included a picture from the surface of Mars in the corner of each slide, taken by the NASA Mars Pathfinder mission which had touched down the previous evening and just started beaming back pictures that morning.

The tactic worked like a charm, except for one thing. When it came to the questions, the first one was "What's the URL for the pictures from Mars?" (this was a year before Google was founded). When I put it on the screen, the room cleared and everyone rushed off to the computer room the organizers had made available to look at the pictures. There were no other questions.

This morning, I'm sitting here looking at the pictures coming back from the NASA Phoenix mission, tuning into the Twitter stream and discussing the news with people on Seesmic. Some days, 11 years feels like a lifetime, but it doesn't seem like such a long time to me today.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Good, bad and indifferent

Timeline Excuse me while I ponder on a few thoughts which are going round inside my head.

In the beginning was the Blog. The Blog was the Word. And the Web looked upon the Blog and saw that it was good.
Except that most of the celebrity-obsessed idiots in our culture can't string two words together, but at least the Blog allows indexing and searching for serendipitous discovery. Much more importantly, blogging writing is hard work. Not many people keep up a blog for any length of time, which severely limits participation.

Then came Twitter, and word-stringing became less important. There's a limited amount of damage you can do to the language in 140 characters or less. And as Twitter is text-based, it still allows indexing and searching for serendipitous discovery.
Except that Twitter was chronically unstable and the Twitter-elves admitted that they didn't know how to fix the problem. So the Twitterati started muttering about jumping ship.

Twitter was followed by FriendFeed, which was like Twitter, except that it worked.
Except that FriendFeed isn't like Twitter. Twitter itself is hard for people to grok, but they get there eventually. FriendFeed is an order of magnitude harder to understand. This technologically superior service will not compete with Twitter once Twitter gets it's act together. It was VHS versus Betamax all over again.
Are there any Thwirl-like applications for FriendFeed? Doh! Twhirl *is* a FriendFeed client!


Most recently we have Seesmic. Seesmic might solve the participation problem because even an idiot can click, talk and click.
Unfortunately, idiots tend to talk rubbish, at great length, once the entry barrier of writing is gone. And Seesmic video does not allow indexing and searching for serendipitous discovery. So Seesmic needs automatic tagging, some sort of resource discovery mechanism and a 90 second time limit like a Flickr long photo.


So how do I resolve all these thoughts in my head?
By blogging about them. Because unlike the others, blogging is reflective and helps me think.


Stop yer whining

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Leicester Social Media Smartmob Followup

Nothing happened Yesterday, we used Seesmic to organize a smartmob to talk about social media. It was a huge success and the UoL campus was jammed to bursting point(ish). We eyeballed each other and confirmed that no-one is using a ringer to record their seesmic videos, consumed some beverages and chatted for a while.

Then we got round to talking about how we're going to promote social media usage locally. And I think we're all agreed (?) locally is one of the key words here, the other one being grassroots.

We could just tag everything FAO the local network using a specific cross-site tag (leicnet?), and then simply aggregate the tag feed from all the different sites (although we didn't decide on how to do this - Friendfeed? Tumblr? Mixx.com?). The snag with this is that any spammer could use the tag to drop nasties into the feed, which could potentially be very bad PR with colleagues we are trying to influence.

The alternative is to create an account on one of the above services (group or shared details) and aggregate "approved" feeds. This has the advantage that we can add contributors who may not feel or know they would be "elligible" for the network, but the downside is that it would be closed network that people would have to "apply" to join, and it creates admin for someone to do.

So on balance, I think I'm in favour of the open approach, and we'll just deal with the spammers when they arrive (we need some way to moderate the aggregator).

So which aggregator shall we use? All of them?


Lovely Leafy Leicester



University of Leicester Learning and Teaching in the Sciences conference, 2008.

http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ssds/slc/events/lts2008


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why Seesmic changes the game

Seesmic If you've been around for the past week, you may have spotted that I'm excited by Seesmic.com. Launched in October 2007 and still very much under development, Seesmic is best thought of as the video equivalent of Twitter.

So why the fuss about this fledgling, yet-another-video-sharing service? Because Seesmic changes the game as far as online video is concerned. One way or another, there are few people who don't have the capacity to record video, but it's surprising the number of people who never use the webcam built into their computer. More usually, making even the shortest video means hunting down the video camera, charging the battery, recording yourself, finding the cable, capturing the video to the computer, editing, uploading to a sharing website, waiting for file conversion to be completed and the video to become available online and then sharing the URL. For all but the most dedicated geeks, this just isn't going to happen, any more than blogging would have happened if it involved making the ink and the paper, plucking the quills, writing your post in Latin or Greek, waiting for it to dry, popping it in a bottle and throwing it into the sea.

Seesmic changes the game because it brings the entire video process into realtime. Record, send, done. And like Twitter, the shorter the better - you're not David Attenborough. No waiting for video capture or conversion. Not only does this lower the barrier to participation, it makes conversation possible. And the architecture of conversation is inherent in Seesmic, as you quickly realize when you use the site and get your first comments back. Typing? forget it, it's so last month, man. I've been critical of the fact that most of the user generated video online consists of talking heads, and that's exactly what you get on Seesmic. But Seesmic is different because these videos are part of a conversation, where people talk to each other face to face.

I'm enormously excited about the possibilities that Seesmic (and the clones which will follow it) offer for communicating with students, such as the possibilities for student feedback (in both directions):
I've read your essay and...

Dr Cann, can you show me how to...
In fact, I'm so interested in Seesmic that I've changed my plans. Now I can't see me buying a 3G iPhone next month, unless it has a built in video camera and runs Flash. I'm even prepared to forgo the drooling Apple shinyness to get a lumpier device which can access Seesmic (are you listening Steve?). Seesmic presently calls itself an alpha release, and openly acknowledges that it has rough edges (while asking contributors to the site to help fix them). The interface is coded in Flash, which creates accessibility issues for some disabled users. So does that mean that we can't use Seesmic for students? We can if we follow Brian Kelly's advice about Accessibility 2.0 and risk management of outsourced IT provision.

So stop whining, buy yourself a 20 quid webcam and join the conversation. And for once, please don't leave me a comment below ;-)
Go to Seesmic and sign up, then send me your comment face to face (and add the URL to the comments thread below so the cavemen can see how much fun we're having).


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Time to wake up

Seesmic It's now an established fact that newspapers are dying, or at least, contracting into a niche market - how can bits of tree compete against social media when it comes to filtering and transmitting information?

I've also written here before about the impending death of broadcast television, and that has just been confirmed by the latest figures from the USA, with the networks down by 10% from last year in total viewers and down 17% in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic.

These numbers don't mean that the ugly box in the corner of your room is going to go away, as we will all still continue to watch goggle-eyed, but broadcasting in the TV1.0, take-what-you're-given-and-like-it sense is doomed. We'll get our video fix from on-demand viewing and social sources like Seesmic, where we'll not only watch but also reply. I wonder when the first TV with a built in camera will appear - oh wait, I'm using one now!

I've also hinted before that now that higher education is a form of entertainment rather than being undertaken for vocational reasons, we are not immune to the same pressures faced by the rest of the media. If we continue to hand out education to students on stone tablets, we'll be in as much trouble as the rest of the media within a decade.

What you gain on the personalization and scalability swings you lose on the relationships and brand loyalty roundabouts. Alma mater? Google say it doesn't matter. I don't believe that new technologies or social media have any inherent overall educational benefit over traditional methods. I believe that we have no choice.


What the Faulks?




Sunday, May 18, 2008

Testing, testing

Inside HE I enjoy teaching but dislike giving examinations and grading. Is there something wrong with this picture? I became a college teacher to educate students, not to spend time deciding whether an essay answer is worth a B or a B- or whether average exam grades of 87.3 are B+ or A-. For me personally, grades are a secondary and derivative issue at best, an anguished responsibility at worst. My dislike of grades has led me to search for ways to separate them from my teaching. I don’t say “everybody’s teaching” — only from mine. If other instructors enjoy testing and grading, I won’t try to take away their fun.

Bob Sommer, Inside Higher Ed




PebblePad Blues



Saturday, May 17, 2008

If you think Twitter is a waste of time, wait until you try seesmic.com

Seesmic

Seesmic Updates


(Loading ...)







Scouting for compliments




The future of the internet and how to stop it

The future of the internet and how to stop it



Friday, May 16, 2008

YouTube Demographics

YouTube's new Insight video viewer analytics now includes free demographic stats on any video's viewers:

screenshot


screenshot


screenshot



Thursday, May 15, 2008

Joybringer

happy bunny After my previous post, Jo questioned my happy bunny status, so to prove I am indeed a cheery lagomorph, let me tell you what brings me joy.


This morning, I have subscribed to status updates from:
My joy is complete. England won toss and are fielding.


Its' not plagiarism we should wurry about innit?

Over the past year, I have grown increasingly concerned about the obsession with plagiarism currently gripping higher education. I was recently involved in a case where a student was accused of, and eventually penalized for, plagiarism. This involved the supposed copying of two sentences in quite a long piece of work which were identified by Turnitin. Although rather close to the line, in my opinion, this instance did not constitute plagiarism and the original reasoning given to me by the student was an acceptable explanation. But after the brute mechanics of Turnitin had picked out this short passage (even though other larger matching sections in the same work were deemed worthy of being ignored), the full force of the Law was brought to bear, and after two weeks of institutional bullying, the student gave in and changed their story so as to be given a lesser penalty and avoid the high risk strategy of defending their innocence. After all, once they had been fingered by Turnitin, what else could they do?

Let's examine some of Turnitin's marketing claims:
Turnitin
Why then is the incidence of plagiarism rising in institutions which use Turnitin? Increased detection year on year? Is Turnitin becoming so much more efficient each year, or are students becoming steadily more evil? How, exactly, do these figures show that Turnitin prevents plagiarism? Could our current obsession with plagiarism have anything to do with these numbers?
Turnitin
Unique? An interesting claim. How on earth was I able to to carry out paperless marking ten years ago, before Turnitin had been heard of on these shores? With the magical properties of being able to bend time and space, it's no wonder that students (and the academic staff which administer the system) are unable to defend themselves against this juggernaut.

But it's not Turnitin we should really be worried about.

We should be more concerned about the damage being done to language and consequently to thinking skills than we are about micromanaging alleged plagiarism. I cherish the fond hope that in a far flung corner of the campus, the English language is alive and well. Sadly, from where I sit, it looks close to death. I've spent some time over the last week marking student dissertations. The truth that this reveals is that even some of the most talented science students (and I'm certainly not criticizing the students for the deficits I point to in this post) can hardly string two words together. In their desperate attempts to avoid being accused of plagiarism, even the few students whose language skills escaped secondary education relatively unscathed turn out inelegant and massacred phrases which obscure meaning in their paranoia to avoid published text. Respectful "plagiarism" with appropriate attribution is not a crime - the loss of language and the death of meaning is.

JISC tells us that Developed by iParadigms LLC, Turnitin offers a solution to the growing problem that is 'cut and paste' plagiarism. This is a corrosive falsehood. Turnitin is not a solution to any of the problems in higher education, rather it represents one of the biggest problems we currently face, the growing tendency to remove ownership of learning from the student and to try to micromanage every aspect of their knowledge.

Turnitin is just a symptom of what's wrong with higher education.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

File this under bleedin' obvious

drop.io ... but drop.io works well with Twitter to deliver a file payload in a tweet.


Faking it




Introducing students to RSS

RSS After the great feedback on last week's post Introducing students to social bookmarking, I'd like to move on and consider how we are going to integrate RSS into our personal learning environment (PLE) strategy for students in September 2008. RSS is going to be central to this project, both for students pulling information and resources into their PLEs, and later, for us to be able to assess the Web 2.0 resources they contribute to and produce, including their ePortfolios.
For many years, we've run a bibliographic databases exercise early in our key skills I.T. course, and we'll do so again next year. It seems logical to follow on directly with RSS so that students can pull down resources relevant to their modules.

Objective:
To introduce students to RSS feeds as a means of both acquiring and publishing information.

Implementation:
Students will receive an introduction to RSS via the VLE incorporating information about and links to a range of RSS aggregators (Google Reader, Bloglines, Netvibes/PageFlakes).

Assessment:
1. Students will be required to
open a Google account in their UoL username (or an assigned derivative if that account name is already taken) and to subscribe to at least six feeds (four? five?) related to their academic course, at least two from peer-reviewed journals and other of general interest, e.g. BBC News Health/Science, Google News keyword-targeted feed.

2. To embed an immersive pattern of RSS feed use, students will be required to tag and share - preferably with an added note - at least six (four? five?) items (in total) per week. (Shared items which are not tagged will not count towards the mark).

In week 10 we will assess (via the shared items RSS feed) whether they have completed the task and award marks or otherwise via the VLE gradebook. (Students will be advised that that can have multiple Google accounts if they wish for professional and social use).

Allocation of marks?

How do we encourage students to share the task of resource discovery?

What could go wrong? Answers on a postcard below please.


Monday, May 12, 2008

WoK gets social

Screenshot It looks like Thomson Reuters finally got around to adding some social features to ISI Web of Knowledge by tacking on something called researcherid.com:

Researcher ID is a global, multi-disciplinary scholarly research community. Each researcher listed is assigned a unique identifier, to aid in solving the common problem of author misidentification. Search the registry to find citations, collaborators, and more.

Unfortunately, the sign up process is clunky, bouncing you between sites. So clunky in fact, that after 15 minutes and eight failed attempts, I gave up. So if anyone ever does manage to sign into researcherid.com, please blog about it.

In the meantime, I'll carry on not using Connotea and CiteUlike, because scientists don't share. And I won't bother to allow Thomson Reuters to reduce me to a number so I fit more neatly in their marketing spam database.


ePortfolios, personalised learning and identity in healthcare education

Logo On 28 February the HEA Subject Centre for Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine ran a workshop on ePortfolios, personalised learning and identity in healthcare education. The associated resources are available on the Centre website.


Research Ethics in the MySpace Era

Social networking web sites are popular among adolescents and may represent a new venue for conducting adolescent health research. Conducting research by using social networking web sites raises several concerns, including the social value of this research, fair subject selection, confidentiality, privacy, and informed consent. Addressing each of these concerns, we offer an ethical framework to promote informed and appropriate decisions. Pediatrics 2008 121: 157-161

There are several ways in which adolescent research could be conducted by using social networking Web sites. First, researchers may collect observational data from adolescents’ Web profiles without contacting the subjects. This research method commonly involves observation of public information and could be considered exempt from the need for institutional review board (IRB) approval. Second, researchers could use a social networking Web site to identify and communicate with potential subjects for recruitment into a research study. Third, researchers could use the functionality of a social networking Web site within an intervention (eg, recruiting subjects in person to sign in to a health-related MySpace group as an intervention).

Asking teens to volunteer information about health risk behaviors for research purposes has typically garnered strict scrutiny from IRBs, but it is unclear whether collecting this same information via social networking Web sites should or would be viewed similarly. In this article we discuss ethical and regulatory issues in conducting research on adolescents using social networking Web sites.

Research on the MySpace Web site could be viewed as analogous to eavesdropping on conversations that take place in a public place such as a coffee shop. The research subjects involved have chosen to be at the coffee shop, they understand their conversations may be overheard, and recording them often involves only minimal risk. However, these conversations, although held in a public place, are intended for a private audience. Subjects would consider eavesdropping to be impolite or disrespectful at the least and an inappropriate and unconsented invasion of privacy at worst. Although this analogy may be easily grasped, it falls short of capturing the relationship between researcher and subject on social networking Web sites. Social networking Web sites are a venue in which subjects voluntarily publish personal information, including contact information, in a global public forum. Unlike the coffee shop, participants clearly intend for their private information to be available to a wider audience, although they presumably do not expect or intend that researchers will be part of that audience.

A better analogy for research on social networking Web sites would be research on newspaper personal ads. Similar to a MySpace profile, the information is intended to be available to the public and invites correspondence. Both the personal ad and a MySpace profile may contain very personal and intimate information, but this information has been selected by its owner to be published in a public forum. The "subjects" might claim that they did not intend for the information to be used for research purposes, but they could not plausibly claim that the information was private.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hard lessons in horticulture

Explosion 1. If you're going to use the water holding crystals for your hanging baskets and you don't want them to explode overnight, make sure you follow the instructions on the packet. Oh wait, THERE AREN'T ANY! Sure, they they tell you how much to use, but no need to measure it accurately, just tip some in. And make sure you fill the basket to the rim. It can't possibly expand to three times the original volume.

2. Twiggy pea sticks. Where am I going to get twiggy peas stick from? Hmm, next door's hedge looks like it needs a trim...


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Angles

Angles My relatives gave me a generous Amazon voucher for my recent birthday. I think they wanted me to spend it on something educational. So I did.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Skimming

Skimmer
  • When reading online, users spend more time on pages with more words, but only spend 4.4 seconds more for each additional 100 words. When you add more than 100 words to a page, users will only read 18% of the words on the page.
  • On an average visit, users read half the information only on pages with 111 words or less.
  • On average, users have time to read 28% of the words if they devote all of their time to reading. More realistically (after subtracting time spent looking at images and navigation features), users will read about 20% of the text on the average page.

All of which makes putting detailed notes online a waste of time, which is exactly my experience in help sessions this year, where the answer to most of the questions asked was in the notes, and many students admitted diving straight into the assessment without looking at the notes.

Not quite the average: An empirical study of Web use, ACM Transactions on the Web (TWEB) 2 (1) February 2008


Thursday, May 08, 2008

PDP and Web 2.0

Read this doc on Scribd: PDP and Web 2.0




Numbers

You couldn't make it up

R.I.P email

Introducing students to social bookmarking

del.icio.us logo All of the best teaching ideas are stolen, with a twist of originality. This post is the first of a series in which I am starting the detailed planning for the roll out of our personal learning environment (PLE) strategy for students in September 2008. I'm hoping that crowdsourcing these resources will result in a better students experience and may be useful to others considering similar plans, so your comments are most welcome.

Objective:
To embed an immersive pattern of social bookmarking which the majority of students will continue beyond the assessment period.

Implementation:
Students will receive an introduction to social bookmarking via the VLE incorporating information about and links to a range of bookmarking sites.

Assessment:
1. Students will be required to open an account on del.icio.us in their UoL username and to post at least three (two?) items related to their course per week. In week 10 we will assess whether they have completed the task and award marks or otherwise via the VLE gradebook. (Students will be advised that that can have multiple del.icio.us accounts if they wish for professional and social use).

2. Students will be advised to tag bookmarks with the relevant UoL module codes (BS1005, MB1004, etc) so that they can identify each other. They will also be required to demonstrate (how?) that they have added at least n members of the course to their del.icio.us network. (n=10? Use del.icio.us RSS feeds? Incorporate search functions and resource discovery?)

Allocation of marks?

What could go wrong? Answers on a postcard below please.


Cheats Charter?

Hmmm...



Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Network Arithmetic

Followers 100 (possibly misguided) people are now following me on Twitter. Actually, the arithmetic is a little more complicated. I currently follow 70 people, so:

100 - 70 = 30


But because each of the people I follow has their own small world network, I learn much more from them than they ever learn from me. So rather than talking about followers, the statement which more accurately reflects what's going on would be:

I owe my Twitter network. Bigtime.


TweetWheel




Friday, May 02, 2008

Wrestling with access control

Plone As part of one of our PLE projects, we've been wrestling with access controls. The tutor of the MBChB Medical Law and Medical Ethics course needs to be able to:
  1. Let all the students on the module (340) have access to core presentations and documents, but restrict public access because of the nature of some of the material contained and the wishes of some of the contributors.
  2. Allow the students to work collaboratively on presentations and documents which will then be available to all the other students on the course, but not be publicly available.
It seems that the answer to (1) might be Plone, which has good granularity of access control based on institutional logins. And I'm starting to think the that answer to (2) might be Plone as well. Annoyingly, it seems like the answer to (3) might be the Plone Survey feature too.

I've been critical of the UoL implementation of Plone in the past, and I stand by that as the original UoL platform was pretty bad. But the Plone team both here at UoL and in the wider development community have done a good job with Plone, and for this particular project where we need such fine granularity of access control, Plone is looking like a winner. Good job Nick!

Phew, glad that's sorted. All we have to do now is build it :-)
And the next trick is to resist the constant pressure/temptation to use the Web 2.0 tools as a push medium...


Thursday, May 01, 2008

We're Happy Bunnies

according to The Guardian:



Leicester students certainly appear to be happy bunnies: it came joint top for teaching quality and overall satisfaction in the National Student Survey two years in a row and the drop-out rate is notably low. The appeal might lie in the friendly and compact campus - a 10-minute walk from one end to the other, providing you don't get sidetracked by any of the on-campus facilities. Victoria Park next door is a convenient and popular place to relax when the weather is good. As well as that, Leicester puts up a consistently strong academic performance across all its subject areas. It's understandably proud of its most famous research achievement: the development of DNA genetic fingerprinting. Add on Leicester, a lively, multicultural city with great facilities and transport links, and it's no wonder everyone is so pleased to be there.


And if you're interested in biology:

The Guardian



HEA Centre for Bioscience e-Learning Reference Group

logo The HEA Centre for Bioscience maintains a list of academics interested in the application and development of e-learning in the Biosciences.
The initial purpose for this reference group was to enable community comment on specific matters or issues. We would like to build upon this list to improve communication in the biosciences without forming yet another email list. Our new self subscribing list offers the opportunity for links to alternative mechanisms for displaying members interests and activities. It should include at least one member from each department who communicates or represents e-learning matters with their local colleagues. It may even be the Bioscience Representative already in place. However, with the e-learning reference group we would like to present the members by their web page and, where possible, their blog page so that they might find and follow others with similar interests. Many academics in other disciplines are beginning to take advantage of blogs and use it as an efficient and effective medium to report their academic activities. Cross linking these should be fruitful for the e-learning community especially. Most blogs will offer RSS feeds to alert interested parties to new content without having to generate more email.