Our pick of posts from 2013

For the last few years we’ve started January with a quick look back at our posts from the previous year. 2013 saw a lot of changes for Cetis, with the ending of Jisc Core funding and subsequent loss of some key staff members. But there were some highlights too. So here’s our pick of the posts we liked the best and why.


My nomination from my own posts is On Semantics and the Joint Academic Coding System as I think it shows one of those areas where being involved at the intersection of several domains without being deeply embedded in any of them can be an advantage. We were able to use of technical knowledge of classification and semantic technologies to apply a nudge at policy review level. The nudge was successful at least at least at the first order, though I’m still waiting to see whether it has propagated through that level  to cause any change in the real world (see Heads up for Hediip )

The post that I most enjoyed reading has to be Sheila’s Learning Technologist of the Year #altc2013 even though it came after Sheila had left Cetis.  The award recognises Sheila’s role in disseminating information throughout the learning technology community, and so choosing it is the easiest way of choosing all the posts that Sheila wrote that helped keep me up to date with what I didn’t do.


After being invited to describe my Cetis blog post of the year I was very tempted to highlight my first post, in which I announced that I was Starting a New Job! as Innovation Advocate at Cetis. Or perhaps I should refer to my Permanent link to Reflections on the EduWiki 2013 Conference which took place a few days after starting the new job. Or more recently a post on Permanent link to Forecasting Long Term Future Events, Conditions and Developments in Technology described a joint paper by myself and Paul Hollins, the Cetis director, which was published earlier this year. But on reflection I feel it would be appropriate to describe a blog post about work which reflects my long-standing interests which are closely aligned Cetis interests in open education. The post on Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them  describes a webinar I presented for a unit on Open Educational Practices which forms part of a PGCAP (Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice) module on Flexible, Distance and Online Learning provided by the University of Salford. It seems appropriate to mention this post as, although I am a remote worked based in Bath, the webinar was presented from Cetis offices in the University of Bolton!


As my favourite post of 2013 I’ve chosen the Open Scotland Report and Actions,  together with presentations from the event.   Over the three years that Cetis supported the HEFCE funded Jisc / HEA Open Educational Resources Programmes,  I couldn’t help growing increasingly concerned that Scottish education might be in danger of missing the boat when it came to developing open educational resources and embedding open education practice.  Conversations with colleagues from SQA, Jisc RSC Scotland and the ALT Scotland SIG,  revealed similar concerns so we resolved to do something about it.  The result was the Open Scotland Summit, a collaborative event held at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh in June 2013.  The Summit brought together senior representatives from a wide range of Scottish education agencies, institutions and authorities to explore the potential benefit of open education policy ad practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education. This blog post is a summary of the Open Scotland Summit discussions and outputs,and it also marks the starting point of the wider Open Scotland initiative and the launch of the Open Scotland blog.



I think the most relevant post from me in 2013 is about the space where open source and open standards cross over – as do my roles at CETIS and OSS Watch. Although the concepts have been around for a long time, there is still a lot of confusion, particularly among policy makers, about how the two interact. A lot of people involved in policy tend to believe that supporting open source is a way of improving interoperability; which may be the case, but not necessarily in the way they think it does. Conversely, in the standards world there is often a misunderstanding of open source that can make implementation of standards far more difficult for open source projects. So clarifying this relationship is very important, and the resources that this post discusses go someway towards that.
Though my personal favourite was writing where I looked at how Google Glass might play out by looking at some SF stories that dealt with similar ideas. SF can sometimes provide us with a way of thinking through the “what if?” of new ideas and technologies, and there are some great examples of anticipating something like Glass in novels and stories. I think the Vernor Vinge novel Rainbows End is probably quite close to where Silicon Valley thinks this is going, though personally I suspect Bob Shaw’s Other Days, Other Eyes is more on the mark. Though that may just be an example of the typical British perspective on the future being a bit less optimistic.


My favourite post of 2013 squeaked in at the very end about privacy and self disclosure. It’s my favourite because it flowed from a long-standing sense of concern, and addresses the future far more clearly than many of my posts. Furthermore, it is not primarily technical, interesting though technical interoperability is, but essentially to do with society and how we might move in a better direction. I particularly like the way in which it blends technical topics into an ethical ground — we could do more of this!


“I have written several blog posts on MOOCs in 2013 and my favourite one is “MOOCs and Higher Education: What is next?”.
This blog post was based on my presentation at the SCONUL annual conference 2013. In the blog post, I used the Gartner Hype Cycle to examine the MOOCs phenomenon and how its development fits with the pattern of technology adoption in general. One of the question I posed in this post was “if and when MOOCs enter the ‘slope of enlightenment and plateau of productivities’, will they then have a real impact on the delivery of higher education?” This led to us writing a new report on “Beyond MOOCs, Sustainable Open Online Learning Institutions” following our first MOOCs report, which will be published in January 2014.”


I’d pick my post QTI 2.1 spec release helps spur over £250m of investment worldwide. It’s significant because, even though it was a brief inventarisation, it demonstrated how much a small but dedicated group of UK HE online assessment experts had achieved on a global scale, and how much impact a relatively small investment by JISC had on the development of educational technology interoperability as a whole.



My choice would be a post on the cabinet office and standards hub,I am still impressed by how thoughtful the people in the Government Digital Service are, and how genuinely committed they are to driving a sensible and pragmatic line on open standards and open source software.


My favourite post is about a new virtual reality headset that is coming out next year, the Oculus Rift. I’m most excited about the fact that people have got it working with WebGL in the browser. It’s not perfect at the moment but the next version of the Rift is looking great and the tools to create the content are getting better and better. With the tools to create stuff being more accessible than ever before I wonder how people will use it in the classroom?


There were two highlights of 2013 for me. Firstly Cetis13 “Open for Education” conference  held in March at Aston. It was the first time that the Cetis Comms team handled the whole event from venue booking to the conference itself, and we were pleased with how it ran.

The second highlight and the post I’ll choose is “New Cetis,  New Website” .  The launch of the new Cetis site co-in sided with the launch of Cetis as a Jisc free entity and represented a huge amount of work by Cetis colleagues. The new site design intends to present a cleaner, simplier view of the organisation and what we offer. The sense of accomplishment and relief on the 1st August was tinged with sadness as several Cetis colleagues left the very same day including, Mark Power who did the graphic design of the site, Sheila MacNeill and Martin Hawksey my colleagues on the Cetis Comms team, and my good friend Lisa Corley.

Like Phil I would choose Sheila’s #altc2013 post  not least because it was Lorna Campbell and I who nominated her for the award. It was fantastic to see Sheila be rewarded for her contribution to supporting learning technology innovation. And in giving Sheila the award the judges also recognised the role of those of us who have spent many years promoting and disseminating the work of others.


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