Exploring Open Educational Resources

Yesterday I ran a workshop about OERs at Van Mildert College, which is part of the University’s Centre for Academic and Researcher Development series.

Thanks to Dr Bex Lewis, It was captured via storify, making this post very easy to write :-) For people who like to start at the beginning, you should navigate to the end of the story and view the tweets in reverse order!

I will be uploading the slides to SlideShare shortly!

Posted in New

Students as Partners: HEA workshop

On Wednesday last week I attended the HEA event in York looking at students as partners.

The event aimed to look at various aspects of engaging and engaging with students regarding determining and inputting into their own learning experiences.


Mike’s keynote set a challenging tone for the rest of the day, prompting some real reflection on the extent to which we as individuals, professionals and institutions truly engage with students. Moving from a transactional response of “You said, We did’ to an ongoing and meaningful dialogue regarding the experience of learning and being part of the co-creation of knowledge with students. Mike also cited Mick Healey’s work cited as an example of universities being research led and pointed out that students have an important part to play in this process.

Abbi Flint echoed the challenging tone established by Mike and prompted a highly interactive workshop putting our practice of student participation, engagement and participation further under scrutiny. She was able to provide more details of the partnership learning communities and prompted us to reflect on to what extent the projects we as participants adhered to the principles of true student engagement.

partnership learning communities

Partnership Learning Communities: A conceptual model for students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education (Healey, Flint and Harrington 2014)

Abbi also presented the framework for student partnerships and suggested that locating activities according to the model was a useful exercise in determining, who, how and in what  we involved our students.

One interesting point to note from Abbi’s talk was the idea of empowerment. The group in which I had a smaller discussion, had the interesting idea the principles of student engagement were empowering for staff as well as providing opportunities to question and clarify the student voice. The ideas and principles of student partnerships didn’t necessarily mean a complete doing away with the distinction in roles between staff and students but it did mean that education wasn’t something ‘done to’ students. There was an interesting exercise that Abbi started off her session with, asking us to place ourselves along a line according to our beliefs regarding the extent appropriateness of students as partners in various scenarios. One being that student should have a say in determining their learning within modules and two being that both partners were equal. An interesting discussion then occurred from contrasting views provided by opposite sides of the room that covered professional standards and student expectations of education.

Over lunch I was able to contrast experiences of student involved projects with the other participants. Some others were engaging in such projects each bearing a different terminology and at times contrasting approach; from partners, co-producers, voice all were represented- some fully engaged and some still dipping a tentative toe in the water.

One thing that did strike me and in which I was slightly disappointed was a lack of student presence and voice at the even itself organised by the HEA. If there was a presence it was a low profile and for me did not demonstrate any active partnerships with students. I felt that the conversation was at times rather one-sided, potentially idealistic and perhaps the absence of students demonstrated some of the difficulties of undertaking student led projects (scheduling, inclusion, areas of involvement and potentially exclusion). The ethos behind student partnerships and engagement is one that is worthy, beneficial and with evolving eduction environments, agendas and requirements it strikes me as necessary. However I’m concerned that its something that we are discussing at length agreeing is a great idea in principle but doing little about.

Whilst some quotes presented by the facilitators did illustrate the benefits reported by students in undertaking student partnerships I felt the message would have been more convincing if they had been invited to share in the day and discussions. I still found the day incredibly useful but felt that the lack of student involvement did somewhat undermine the message that was trying to be conveyed.

Putting my concerns aside, the final session of the day was delivered by Jenni Carr, who explored the idea of students as researchers. Jenni’s session was interesting and involved participation and exploration of current practices in involving students in research as partners. The aim of the strand was to highlight the benefits both to staff and students of involving students in the research process and how this enhances the learning experience for students. There were some fantastic ideas shared by other participants including asking students to create a fully economic costed research proposal in their second year to undertake in their third year. The idea of this was to prepare students to become researchers and expose them to the realities of undertaking real world problems. This proposal is created by interacting with staff, both technical and academic and administrative and includes gaining ethical clearance. Other ideas looked at developing ‘Wicked’ problems for students based upon a real world scenario. The session was useful in highlighting some of the problems and issues that have been encountered by institutions undertaking this approach such as ethical clearance problems, health and safety and the distinction between the staff role in research and the student role in research. Ultimately though the session aimed at moving the view of teaching and learning towards a research orientated and based experience in which knowledge is constructed, re-imagined and discovered collaboratively between staff and students as a learning experience for all.

To illustrate this point Jenni presented a fantastic quote from Freire (1986) at the start of the session with which I’ll finish this blog post. The quote from Pedagogy of the Oppressed for me underlined the importance of and link between learning, teaching and research and how including students and their viewpoints, input and experience, in this process can be beneficial for all.

“For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge only emerges through invention and reinvention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world and with each other.”

Freire, P. (1968) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Continuous Press, New York



Posted in New

DL forum – Thanks!

Thanks to everyone who attended the distance learning forum today. We had great representation from everyone across the departments and some great discussion about existing practices, ideas for development and suggestions on how best to provide support.

We’re currently in the process of writing up the notes from this event and will have these ready for circulation shortly!

A picture of Distance Learning

A picture of Durham Distance Learning

Posted in New

Distance Learning: Have your say

We’re holding what we’re terming a ‘Distance Learning Forum‘ on the 6th of November as a staff development event.

online learning

The aim of the event is to undertake a fact finding mission about distance learning as well as promoting the practice of those already undertaking distance learning activities. What we’d really like from the event is a clearer picture of what staff are thinking about distance learning, perhaps are already doing and explore  their ideas of what they’d like to do in the future. We’re also inviting student representation along to provide the voice of our online learners.

So if you’re a member of Durham University (sorry this one’s internal only!) come along and have your say.

Full details of the event

Posted in New

Dealing with the free rider or “Campus Slacker”

There’s an interesting article in the THE today by Jack Grove, highlighting research around a strategy to deal with free riders in group work - something that as the LTT, we frequently get asked about. To this effort we’ve tried; looking at the history of wikis, self evaluation questionnaires and are currently exploring other web based tools to support review of group work. Therefore it was with interest that I saw this article outlining research conducted at the University of Valencia by Miguel Arevalillo-Herráez  and wondered if this would be an effective way of dealing with this problem head on.

The method outlined is simple ‘…students were offered the chance to gain a higher mark for their group assignment if they managed to raise the grade scored by the weakest student in individual tests on the same subject’.

The results put forward by Arvealillo-Herráez (2014) in suggest the method was highly successful in encouraging peer support and learning. In the original article (apologies if you’re off campus) he concludes suggesting that ‘We believe that reactive methods should be given a greater relevance, and these should be supported by motivational techniques as opposed to punishment’ (530).

It’s a very interesting suggestion, using a motivation technique that utilises peer support and cooperative learning in a very effective way.

Posted in New


I came across an interesting app today (thanks to @drnickpearce for the link!) “Plickers”, using an app and printed codes as a voting system in small classes. How it looks like it works is that a question is posed and students hold up a card, rotating it a certain way to indicate A,B,C or D. Having a quick chat in the team about this, we also wondered if raised edges could be put onto some sides of the card to make them accessible.

Whilst this wouldn’t be of any use in a large lecture theatre (the limit is 40) it may be something to look at in smaller classes.
What I find most interesting is the idea of it being a very inclusive system, not dependent on every student having a mobile phone and given that the cards are printable, unlike voting handsets are easily replaceable.

Posted in New

What exactly is “Fair Dealing”? Quick online copyright training from JISC

I’ve just taken a few minutes to complete this course and found it useful so I thought I’d post it up here. (The registration is a bit of a faff, but don’t let that put you off!)
It’s got some useful information about the use of videos, images and music in lectures and what’s “okay” to include in your online materials. For anyone who is a little unsure of what exactly “Fair Dealing” is, it’s worth a look.

Posted in New

6th International Integrity and Plagiarism Conference

From 16th to 18th June I was at The Sage in Gateshead attending the 6th International Integrity and Plagiarism Conference hosted by TurnitinUK. The main themes this year were:
On-line evaluation tools and techniques
Promoting awareness in diverse cultures
Embedding institutional policy and practice
Techniques to develop student skills

Keynote Speakers
The conference started with a talk by Adrian Slater, head of legal services at Leeds University who, in a lively workshop highlighted some of the problems encountered in group work.

Then we heard from Dr Toni Sant who is part of Wikipedia and was promoting students writing articles for Wikipedia as an assignment task.

Tricia Bertram Gallant made the delegates think by suggesting we focus too much on academic integrity which makes students think that this is a skill only for the time they spend at university instead of promoting professional integrity which they will need for all their working life. She believes we fail to teach student critical thinking so they do not have the skill to make important decisions when there is a conflict of loyalties such as helping a friend who is struggling with their work against getting both into trouble for collusion or plagiarism.

Samantha Grant spoke about her documentary on the fall of Jason Blair at the New York Times explaining how a series of circumstances including 9/11 allowed him to get away with fabrication and plagiarism for as long as he did.

The final keynote was Professor Dan Ariely who explored the human capacity for self deceit. His findings indicate that peer view can carry more weight than legal considerations and gave music downloads as an example of this behaviour. He conducted an experiment where 20 mathematical questions were provided and the subject was asked to report how many they completed in 5 minutes with a financial reward for each completed question. The subjects believed they were shredding the papers (which were only shredded at the edges) and analysis proved that people routinely added 2 or 3 to the number actually completed. From this Professor Ariely concluded that we will cheat or be dishonest to the level we think we can get away with.
He points out that cheating is something we do to ourselves and can be destructive. His findings also seem to indicate that creative people are more likely to be able to convince themselves that their cheating is justified than intelligent people or risk takers.

On-line evaluation tools and techniques
Dr S. D. Sivasubramaniam School of Science and Technology, Nottingham Trent University presented his method of continuous based feedback using the originality report from Turnitin together with custom feedback to each student allowing mistakes to be highlighted and discussed thus promote learning of good practice. Dr Sivasubramaniam admits this is time consuming but feels the benefits are worth the time spent. He also concedes that this is a continual process throughout the students time at university.

Promoting awareness in diverse cultures
Esme Anderson from Edinburgh University presented some work she had done with Dr Frank Mill on trying to detect plagiarism in 3D CAD work using shape similarity and some open source software called NodeXL. While this does seem to highlight students of concern it is far from easy and not yet reliable enough to be used on a regular basis.

Dr Mehmet Şahin et al. from Izmir University of Economics, Turkey presented their findings on the level of plagiarism in translated versions of Robinson Crusoe. There is a great deal of money to be made from translated books in Turkey and the conclusions of this study where that only 20% of the translations available were genuine. They found many translations were attributed to people who could not be traced.

Embedding institutional policy and practice
Stephanie Jameson and Frances Chapman discussed the implementation at Leeds Metropolitan University of Jude Carroll’s recommendations for a holistic institutional approach to academic integrity policy and practice. In order to have a consistent approach across the whole university they have:

  • academic integrity officers
  • a university panel to decide the penalties for misconduct
  • introduce a tariff of penalties which are made public to students

Annamarie McKie introduced an interesting theory by suggesting academic integrity was ‘Troublesome Knowledge’ as identified by Meyer and Land. She works for the University for the Creative Arts and in these courses borrowing of images is encouraged. She reinforced the message that you need to educate students as to why you should avoid plagiarism and this integrity message needs to be repeated throughout the time at university.

Simon et al from Newcastle University, Australia talked about how good a fit an institutional academic integrity policy was with non-textual assessments such as computer code and concluded that there is ‘no one size fits all’ policy.

Dr Tracey Bretag presented her work with the Australian Exemplary Academic Integrity Project which seeks to embed the five core elements for a policy:

  • Access: A policy which is easy to locate, read and which is concise and understandable to all.
  • Approach: A statement of purpose which should, ideally, not be punitive.
  • Responsibility: Every stakeholder is responsible for the implementation of the policy.
  • Detail: Extensive descriptions of breaches, likely outcomes and the processes followed.
  • Support: Systems embedded to enable the implementation of the policy.

This work resulted in the production of The Academic Integrity Toolkit (http://resource.unisa.edu.au/course/view.php?id=6633&topic=9) as a guide to developing an Academic Integrity policy (aimed at Australian HE initially). The lessons for UK Higher Education are:

  • Use data already collected to inform policy.
  • Appoint champions from all stakeholders (management, academics, students, those outside the university).
  • Introduce a robust decision making process.
  • Keep records for evaluation purposes.

Techniques to develop student skills
Deryck Payne from the Institute of Technology in Dublin spoke of the social norm perspective on academic cheating. He proposed that the main influence in the decision to cheat is above all else the risk of being caught. Information campaigns do not address the cause of cheating and tend to be short lived in their effectiveness. Awareness campaigns also fail and can be counter-productive. His study looked at the causes and determined that misconception was at the root of cheating. Students know when cheating takes place and perceive this behaviour to be typical even when it is not. Students then adjust their behaviour to conform to this misconception. In view of this, intervention was targeted at specific groups using workshops and on-line courses. A strategy was implemented with goals and anticipated outcomes made clear.

Open Themes
Ann Rogerson from the University of Wollongong, Australia talked about the prevalence of essay mill and file swapping sites on the internet today and the problems associated with spotting work submitted by students from such sites. She suggested that sharing is the norm for students who are used to bartering and re-purposing material. Spotting work from essay mills is not easy but there are some clues which can give it away such as:

  • differences in spoken and written English
  • a very generic response to the question
  • references misrepresented, made up or non-existent
  • discussing the essay with the student to determine understanding

Turnitin was not a reliable indicator of purchased essays, although a zero match should set alarm bells ringing.

Conference details can be found at http://plagiarismconference.org/


Digicon Dublin

Today I attended the digicon pre-conference blackboard workshop in a very sunny Dublin. I thought I’d take a few minutes to go through the notes that I’ve made today to reflect on some of the key points and take home messages.

The workshop was obviously looking at digital content in its various guises, both text, interactivities and video, and there were a series of presentations on this from both blackboard and software reps.

Kate Worlock from Outsell wphoto 1ho outlined a report on the current use and uptake of digital textbooks as well as putting forward her vision of what digital content would look like in 2020. Her current reports stated very clearly that ‘Print is not dead’ and the need for a duality of systems with print living alongside the digital. She suggested that students prefer print using this as what she described as a “safety blanket” something familiar but when exposed to digital version of the same items they did slowly move away from this dependence. This point was echoed by Jenni Evans later in the day, however both also pointed out that students have developed working practices that involve working with print medium such as annotation and are reluctant to give this up.

Kate stressed the importance that digital content must deliver more than its print predecessor in challenging times as many believe that digital content ‘should be cheaper than the print version’ in her presentation though she shared the finding that ‘students were not yet taking advantage of the additional features’. One final interesting point from Kate was that staff were also not exploiting potential for digital media, as reliance on ‘old faithful’ textbooks was less time consuming that finding, vetting and maintaining the use of open content.


Another interesting pphoto 4resentations were given from Sam Weber who put forward a thoughtful piece on how students engage with learning materials using an effective example of anatomy from a static textbook to a range of interactive online resources to promote deep learning rather than rote memorisation. He also discussed staff making the corresponding progression from users who simply upload content to the VLE to users who will build material for open online content. For me, one of the most interesting things that Sam suggested in his talk was that ‘Content was commodity’ and that the real value is in what staff build around the content. I think this echoes much of what students see as the ‘added value’ provided by interactivity and engagement with staff.


One presentation from the day that caused most discussion was given by Alice Duijser, who demonstrated learn smart ‘adaptive study tool that continually adapts to a student using continual assessment the tool is designed to track a students performance throughout a course and provide material at the point of need, for instance she cited Ebbinghaus (1885) ‘Curve of Forgetting’ as an example of how revision content would be released at certain points in time to support a student in transferring material from short to long term memory. This would be an incredibly useful tool in students getting the fundamentals of a subject but may have limitations in terms of supporting deep and higher order skills as at first glance it doesn’t facilitate interactivity with staff and peers. However it was a presentation that prompted a number of questions in the audience and  a lively debated that spilled over into the break.

So all in all, a very interesting first day in Dublin. Digital content in all its various formats and how staff and students engage and use this is a thought provoking area and today has definitely given me some ideas to take back.

Posted in New