There has been much discussion recently about Mozilla Open Badges, xAPI (Experience API, alias “Tin Can API“) and LRMI, as new and interesting specifications to help bring standardization particularly into the world of technology and resources involved with people and their learning. They have all reached their “version 1″ this year, along with InLOC.
Anyone who organizes conference knows – it’s hard work. So for this year’s #cetis13 conference, we drafted in some help in the form of Kirsty Pitkin and her team from TConsult.
As well as delivering the live stream they did some reporting on sessions for us. To get a taste of the conference have a look at their highlights:
(recordings of keynotes and interviews will be available soon)
Registration for this year’s CETIS conference Open for Education is now, er, open. It’s hard to believe that this will be our ninth conference, Jisc, CETIS and the higher and further education sector have gone through many changes since 2004. But some things haven’t changed, including our belief that open approaches (data, standards, software) have much to offer institutions, that’s why this year we’re focusing on the open theme.
As always the conference will be a combination of keynotes and parallel discussion sessions. This year we are delighted to have Josie Fraser and Patrick McAndrew offering their thoughts on Digital Citizenship and Open Social and Open Education respectively. The parallel sessions will be “unashamedly technical” offering an opportunity for the development community to discuss new technologies and opportunities. The full programme is available but briefly;
* On Day 1, Wilbert will be hosting a session on the IMS QTI v2.1 specification and exploring which assessment profiles the community wants,
* Adam will be exploring issues around how organisations use their data assets in HE Information Landscape – Seize the Day,
* As the UKOER programme comes to an end Lorna and Phil will be asking how do projects and the community build momentum and open practice,
* Paul and Li will be future gazing to look at the opportunities ahead both for the sector and for CETIS.
* On day 2, Scott will be asking what do Open Development and Open Innovation methods have to offer education,
* Simon and Adam will be asking what opportunities might emerge for skills and competence when standards have been agreed,
* In the Analytics and Institutional capabilities session Sheila, Martin and David will be exploring how analytic dreams can become realities for institutions,
* And finally, Mark will be hosting an Open Mic session for delegates who have something to say!
If that has whetted your appetite, join us (for free!) at the Lakeside Centre, Aston by registering on our Eventbrite page:http://www.eventbrite.com/event/3938857228
We look forward to seeing you in March.
It sounds counter intuitive but that was one of the messages from the opening keynote at this year’s ALT conference by Eric Mazur Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University. Eric’s keynote began with a plea “Let’s not abandon the scientific method when teaching”. My colleague Martin Hawksey has blogged about some of the brain activity data that Eric opened his presentation with, and Sheila MacNeill has been thinking about conference tweeting. I’d like to mention some of the research Eric has carried out with students in his Harvard physics course around the question “Does confusion indicate a lack of understanding?”.
Students were asked to read a chapter of a textbook before class and then asked three questions about the concepts covered. The first two questions asked for explanations of the concepts covered while in a third feedback question they were asked to give details of anything they were confused about. What the student’s answers showed is that 75% of students who said they weren’t confused in the third question actually got the first two questions wrong. What the data revealed is counter intuitive – that confusion can be good – and may be an indication of deeper thinking.
Eric’s talk reminds me (I can’t resist a personal anecdote) of something one of my teachers said to me after one of my A level exams (many years ago). After asking how hard the exam was they added, “only the good students can gauge how difficult an exam is”. For me the comment relates to Eric’s conclusions about confusion, you need a certain depth of understanding to be confused, or understand how difficult an exam is.
Mazur’s talk also covered research on gender differences in tests and the best way to teach demonstrations, and is well worth watching.
His slides are available at: http://mazur.harvard.edu/search-talks.php?function=display&rowid=1815
The two other keynotes at this year’s conference, by Natasa Milic-Frayling and Richard Noss will also be broadcast live, links are on the conference website http://altc2012.alt.ac.uk/pages/watch_live_sessions.
I finally got around to giving our monthly newsletter an overdue facelift. In response to feedback we’ve cut down the content to the top 10 blog posts instead of the nearly 40 posts that we actually write in a month.
Here’s a screen grab of the new format:
I decided to use the JISCMAIL templates to create the new format and was really surprised how easy the templates were to use. I would recommend them if you’re doing something similar.
The other advantage is that we now have a nicely formatted web version of the newsletter that we can point people to on twitter etc.
So the million dollar question: What do you think?
Is the content more accessible? Are there the right number of news items? Are you more likely to read our posts now?
The full version is available at:
I look forward to your comments….
Our current Learning Analytics project Analytics Reconnoitre is exploring many of the issues around collecting and analysing user data.
There is quite a lot of information available on complying with the new legislation. We found the following particularly useful:
We’d appreciate any feedback on our new policies and how you feel about cookies and using your data for web analytics. (And thanks to colleagues David Sherlock and Sharon Perry for writing the policies!).
For those that missed yesterday’s Webinar on The Future of Web Applications, the presentations and recording is now available from the JISC website: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/events/2012/05/webinarwebapplications.aspx
Briefly, the webinar includes:
An overview of the current trends in web design by Scott Wilson,
A summary by Scott of the new JISC Observatory TechWatch report on Delivering Web to Mobile.
An introduction to the recently completed JISC Distributed Virtual Learning Environment programme by Rob Englebright,
A presentation by Franck Perrin from the WidG@t project at Teesside and a demonstration the new widget authoring tool.
An update on the EduKapp Educational App Store project from Fridolin Wild and Lucas Anastasiou from the Open University.
If you want to get up to speed with current web application developments, the webinar is a good place to start.
I used storify to crowd source a view of the keynote presentations from #cetis12.
Here it is:
There are only 36 days left until our biggest event of the year, our annual conference. This year’s event, titled The Future Just Happened? Technology Innovation in Universities and Colleges, will be held again at the National College for School Leadership in Nottingham and promises to be a fascinating couple of days.
The conference title is inspired by Michael Lewis’s 2001 book, Next: The Future Just Happened, which predicted the massive impact that technology and the internet would have on every aspect of our lives. Ten years on many of his predictions have become a reality. Meanwhile 2012 will be a year of unprecedented change in the way that higher education in the UK is funded. For the first time students (especially in England) will be funding their own way through university taking out loans of up to £27,000 for a three year degree. This marketization of higher education will certainly have a profound effect on the HE landscape over the next few years; an interesting backdrop then for this year’s conference.
The keynotes for the conference will reflect on these themes of technology innovation and institutional change. Ian Hughes Metaverse Evangelist, TV presenter and Director of Feeding Edge Ltd opens the conference by looking towards the technologies emerging in the next few years. This year’s conference is immediately preceded by the IMS quarterly meeting and Rob Abel, IMS Chief Executive Officer will consider the role that interoperability standards play in technology development. In closing the conference Mark Stubbs Head of Learning and Research Technologies Manchester Metropolitan University, will respond to a challenge from the 2007 CETIS conference to deliver better information systems to support learning and teaching in 2012 by describing the new MMU core+ virtual learning environment which has been rolled out to 35,000 users.
As well as the keynotes a CETIS staff are running ten parallel sessions over the two days. Two sessions (a codebash on day 1 and demonstration session on day2) will focus on the Question and Test Interoperability 2.1 specification which is nearing final release. Student retention is becoming increasingly important for institutions and a session on using data to improve student retention will be a popular choice. The Thwarted or Embedded session will attempt to determine the key factors which determine whether technology is adopted by organisations. JISC has is now working in partnership with the ROLE project to develop an educational app store, and there is a session on day 1 to help define requirements, use cases and contribution to this work. The Learning Registry session will report on another new initiative from the US which will investigate how social activity around online educational content can be captured and fed back to users, creators and publishers.
Looking to the future the Emerging Reality session on day two will imagine what new learning organisations might emerge as funding conditions change. The idea of open badges emerged as a hot topic in 2011, and there will be a parallel session to discuss whether it is an approach that could work in education. Analytics is also becoming more important as we struggle to get a grip on how learners behave online, the Social Network Analysis will look at some of the latest tools and techniques. And if none of the above appeals there is (back by popular demand) an open mic session where delegates have 10 minutes to hold forth on a subject close to their hearts.
A packed programme then, and if this hasn’t yet whetted your appetite maybe a browse through reports from our previous conferences will.
Many technologies and tools in use in universities and colleges are not developed for educational settings. In the classroom particularly teachers have become skilled at applying new technologies such as Twitter to educational tasks. But technology also plays a crucial role behind the scenes in any educational organisation in supporting and managing learning, and like classroom tools these technologies are not always developed with education in mind. So it is refreshing to find an example of an application developed for UK Higher and Further education being adopted by the commercial sector.
Archi is an open source ArchiMate modelling tool developed as part of JISC’s Flexible Service Delivery programme to help educational institutions take their first steps in enterprise architecture modelling. ArchiMate is a modelling language hosted by the Open Group who describe it as “a common language for describing the construction and operation of business processes, organizational structures, information flows, IT systems, and technical infrastructure”. Archi enforces all the rules of ArchiMate so that the only relationships that can be established are those allowed by the language.
Since the release of version 1.0 in June 2010 Archi has built up a large user base and now gets in excess of 1000 downloads per month. Of course universities and colleges are not the only organisations that need a better understanding of their internal business processes, we spoke to Phil Beauvoir, Archi developer at JISC CETIS, about the tool and why it has a growing number of users in the commercial world.
Christina Smart (CS): Can you start by giving us a bit of background about Archi and why was it developed?
Phil Beauvoir (PB): In summer of 2009 Adam Cooper asked whether I was interested in developing an ArchiMate modelling tool. Some of the original JISC Flexible Service Delivery projects had started to look at their institutional enterprise architectures, and wanted to start modelling. Some projects had invested in proprietary tools, such as BiZZdesign’s Architect, and it was felt that it would be a good idea to provide an open source alternative. Alex Hawker (the FSD Programme manager) decided to invest six months of funding to develop a proof of concept tool to model using the ArchiMate language. The tool would be aimed at the beginner, be open source, cross-platform and would have limited functionality. I started development on Archi in earnest in January 2010 and by April had the first alpha version 0.7 ready. Version 1.0 was released in June 2010, it grew from there.
CS: How would you describe Archi?
PB: The web site describes Archi as: “A free, open source, cross platform, desktop application that allows you to create and draw models using the ArchiMate language”. Users who can’t afford proprietary software, would use standard drawing tools such as Omnigraffle or Visio for modelling. Archi is positioned somewhere between those drawing tools and a tool like BiZZdesign’s Architect. It doesn’t have all the functionality and enterprise features of the BiZZdesign tool, but it has more than just plain drawing tools. Archi also has hints and helps and user assistance technology built into it, so when you’re drawing elements there are certain ArchiMate rules about which connections you can make, if you try to make a connection that’s not allowed you get an explanation why not. So for the beginner it is a great way to start understanding ArchiMate. We keep the explanations simple because we aim to make things easier for those users who beginners in ArchiMate. As the main developer I try to keep Archi simple, because there’s always a danger that you can keep adding on features and that would make it unusable. I try to steer a course between usability and features.
Another aspect of Archi is the way it supports the modelling conversation. Modelling is not done in isolation; it’s about capturing a conversation between key stakeholders in an organisation. Archi allows you to sketch a model and take notes in a Sketch View before you add the ArchiMate enterprise modelling rules. A lot of people use the Sketch View. It enables a capture of a conversation, the “soft modelling” stage before undertaking “hard modelling”.
CS: How many people are using it within the Flexible Service Delivery programme?
PB: I’m not sure, I know the King’s College, Staffordshire and Liverpool John Moores projects were using it. Some of the FSD projects tended to use both Architect and Archi. If they already had one licence for BiZZdesign Architect they would carry on using it for their main architect, whereas other “satellite” users in the institution would use Archi.
CS: Archi has a growing number of users outside education, who are they and how did they discover Archi?
PB: Well the first version was released in June 2010, and people in the FSD programme were using it. Then in July 2010 I got an email from a large Fortune 500 insurance company in the US, saying they really liked the tool and would consider sponsoring Archi if we implemented a new feature. I implemented the feature anyway and we’ve built up the relationship with them since then. I know that this company has in the region of 100 enterprise architects and they’ve rolled Archi out as their standard enterprise architecture modelling tool.
I am also aware of other commercial companies using it, but how did they discover it? Well I think it’s been viral. A lot of businesses spend a lot of money advertising and pushing products, but the alternate strategy is pull, when customers come to you. Archi is of the pull variety, because there is a need out there, we haven’t had to do very much marketing, people seem to have found Archi on their own. Also the TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework) developed by the Open Group is becoming very popular and I guess Archi is useful for people adopting TOGAF.
In 2010 BiZZdesign were I think concerned about Archi being a competitor in the modelling tool space. However now they’re even considering offering training days on Archi, because Archi has become the de facto free enterprise modelling tool. Archi will never be a competitor to BiZZdesign’s Architect, they have lots of developers and there’s only me working on Archi, it would be nuts to try to compete. So we will focus on the aspects of Archi that make it unique, the learning aspects, the focus on beginners and the ease of use, and clearly forge out a path between the two sets of tools.
Many people will start with Archi and then upgrade to BiZZdesign’s Architect, so we’re working on that upgrade path now.
CS: Why do you think it is so popular with business users?
PB: I’m end-user driven, for me Archi is about the experience of the end users, ensuring that the experience is first class and that it “just works”. It’s popular with business users firstly because it’s free, secondly because it works on all platforms, thirdly because it’s aimed at those making their first steps with ArchiMate.
CS: What is the immediate future for Archi?
PB: We’re seeking sponsorship deals and other models of sustainability because obviously JISC can’t go on supporting it forever. One of the models of sustainability is to get Archi adopted by something like the Eclipse Foundation. But you have to be careful that development continues in those foundations, because there is a risk of it becoming a software graveyard, if you don’t have the committers who are prepared to give their time. There is a vendor who has expressed an interest in collaborating with us to make sure that Archi has a future.
Lots of software companies now have service business models, so you provide the tool for free but charge for providing services on top of the free tool. The Archi tool will always be free, anyone could package it up and sell it. I know they’re doing that in China because I’ve had emails from people doing it, they’ve translated it and are selling it and that’s ok because that’s what the licence model allows.
In terms of development we’re adding on some new functionality. A new concept of a Business Model Canvas is becoming popular, where you sketch out your new business models. The canvas is essentially a nine box grid which you add various key partners, stakeholders etc to. We’re adding a canvas construction kit to Archi, so people can design their own canvas for new business models. The canvas construction kit is aimed at the high level discussions that people have when they start modelling their organisations.
CS: You’ve developed a number of successful applications for the education sector over the years, including, Colloquia, Reload and ReCourse, how do you feel the long term future for Archi compares with those?
PB: Colloquia was the first tool I developed back in 1998, and I don’t really think it’s used anymore. But really Colloquia was more a proof of concept to demonstrate that you could create a learning environment around the conversational model, which supported learning in a different way from the VLEs that were emerging at the time. Its longevity has been as a forerunner to social networking and to the concept of the Personal Learning Environment.
Reload was a set of tools for doing content packaging and SCORM. They’re not meant for teachers, but they’re still being used.
The ReCourse Learning Design tool developed for a very niche audience of those people developing scripted learning designs.
I think the long term future for Archi is better than those, partly because there’s a very large active community using it, and partly because it can be used by all enterprises and isn’t just a specific tool for the education sector. I think Archi has an exciting future.
Phil has received some very positive feedback about Archi via email from JISC projects as well as those working in the commercial world.
“The feeling I get from Archi is that it’s helping me to create shapes, link and position them rather than jumping around dictating how I can work with it. And the models look much nicer too… I think Archi will allow people to investigate EA modelling cost free to see whether it works for them, something that’s not possible at the moment.”
“So why is Archi significant? It is an open source tool funded by JISC based on the ArchiMate language that achieves enough of the potential of a tool like BiZZdesign Architect to make it a good choice for relatively small enterprises, like the University of Bolton to develop their modelling capacity without a significant software outlay.”  Stephen Powell from the Co-educate project (JISC Curriculum Design Programme).
“I’m new to EA world, but Archi 1.1 makes me fill like at home! So easy to use and so exciting…”
“Version 1.3 looks great! We are rolling Archi out to all our architects next week. The ones who have tried it so far all love it.”
Find Out More
If this interview has whetted your appetite, more information about Archi, and the newly released version 2.0 is available at http://archi.cetis.org.uk. For those in the north, there will be an opportunity to see Archi demonstrated at the forthcoming 2nd ArchiMate Modelling Bash being held in St Andrews on the 1st and 2nd November.