Our pick of Cetis posts 2014

It’s that time of year again, so as an antidote to post Christmas blues here is our pick of posts from 2014. Each member of Cetis has picked out a post from last year that they liked the best along with a brief explanation of why. 2014 was a busy year for Cetis, and the posts we’ve picked illustrate the variety of projects we’ve been working on. Enjoy!



On the Question of Validity in Learning Analytics

The question of validity in learning analytics is a can of worms, but one that seems to be largely hidden behind the cupboard door. I particularly like this post because of the responses it drew, including an extended “response to” piece by Timothy Harfield [http://timothyharfield.com/blog/2014/10/27/against-dumbing-down-a-response-to-adam-coopers-on-the-question-of-validity-in-learning-analytics/] . I am hoping to meet Timothy at the LAK 15 conference to debate the point: on a pragmatic level, what are the options for meaningfully engaging learning analytics stakeholders on the subject of evidence somewhere in between the banal over-simplification of “it works” and philosophy.



It’s appropriate, I feel, that the post I have chosen for my pick of the year is the one which generated much discussion on Twitter.  The post, published in September, on Using Social Media to Build Your Academic Career was based on an invited plenary talk I gave at the Research and Innovation Conference 2014 at the University of Bolton. In September 2014 I was invited to give a talk at a workshop on “How to Build an Academic Career“ which was held in Brussels for the five Flemish universities.  This provided an opportunity to update my slides and write a post which went into more detail than could be provided in the slides which are available on Slideshare.

The post concluded by providing a brief summary of the talk: Social media is valuable for researchers in enabling them to easily exchange ideas and engage in discussions with their peers and potential beneficiaries of their research. The evidence demonstrates the value of managed use of social media.



Cetis 14 was a real highlight of 2014 – so my choice would be:

Cetis14 Day2

It’s a Storify of my favourite tweets from the second day of the conference. The Cetis conference now in its 10th year was held for the first time in Bolton. Some 100 of the best thinkers in educational technology from across the UK  descended on a very hot (yes hot!) Bolton in June which made for some lively sessions and keynotes. For me the closing keynote, Un-Fathom-able: The Hidden History of Ed-Tech, by Audrey Watters was a highlight of all Cetis conferences, and it will live long in the memory.




Haiku Learning Analytics Educational Data Mining Communities

I picked this post because it was a fun way in to starting to explore the LAK14 dataset, something which I hope to do further on the LACE project Tech Focus site. Finding Haikus was also a nice break from the daily chores.




I would like pick my Cetis blog of 2014 on MOOCs and technology-enhanced learning: next steps and challenges which was based on my presentation at Westminster’s Higher Education Forum.

Despite the initial hype, MOOC’s are being used by universities to increase recruitment, widen participation and raise the brand and profile of institutions. This blog reflected some latest thinking and activities that explored the opportunities MOOCs provide for UK universities to develop their brand internationally and to expand their international market through online learning.




 It’s been very hard to pick my top blog post for 2014 as there’s been so much going on!  Phil has already chosen LRMI’s move to to Dublin Core, which was also one of my highlights, so instead I’m going to choose the Scottish Open Education Declaration which was launched to coincide with Open Education Week in March.  The Declaration is one of the outputs of Open Scotland, a collaborative initiative led by Cetis, ALT Scotland, SQA and the former Jisc RSC Scotland.  The Scottish Open Education Declaration is based on the UNESCO Paris OER Declaration but broadens its scope to include all aspects of open education.  The Declaration, which is now in its second edition, is an open community draft which all those with an interest in open education are encouraged to comment on, contribute to and adapt. Although the Declaration does not constitute formal policy at this point in time, it has generated considerable interest and enthusiasm and has helped to put open education in Scotland on the map. Quite literally in the case of Creative Commons who featured Scotland on their map of countries that have made national commitments to open education in their recent State of the Commons report.




My pick is On LRMI moving to Dublin Core, which represents the end of a year’s work by Lorna and me with our partners in the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative and the maturing of a specification that I have been involved with pretty much from the beginning. It also represents the start of new work on LRMI within the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative, showing that rather than being a maverick initiative, LRMI is embedded within a community of metadata experts.



I was pleased with the response I had to my post Is there such a thing as “strategic IT” in Higher Education?“. This is a post where I analysed a paper on enterprise IT by Kwan and West, and applied their framework in the context of Higher Education. As well as the post itself – which resulted in some interesting conversations over Twitter – I also delivered a workshop at CETIS 14 using the same framework to see how colleagues elsewhere positioned their IT systems. The workshop was a big success, and several participants there have delved into the Kwan and West paper as a result. It also gave me an interesting starting set of data, and I think this is turning into a promising avenue of research. Its certainly changed the way I look at IT strategy in my work.  However, one of my most popular posts this year was my more practical How to track student blogs using Google Spreadsheets and WordPress” article. Though I suspect some of the readers were actually my students wondering what I was up to!



December’s post How do I go about doing InLOC?” –  – follows up on work done on competence frameworks from 2011 to 2013, which now seems to be gaining interest, and may even start to break through. Μy post from October, What is there to learn about standardization?  in contrast looks forward to what we could research and teach in a suitable academic environment, or perhaps even outside academia, in a richer future, were one to happen…

Cetis14 Day2

A few tweets from the second day of the Cetis conference in Storify. I’ve added a couple of additional tweets at the end with were no longer available on Storify.

Every year I say never again – but the feedback has been so positive from cetis14, that we’re planning Cetis 2015 in Bolton next June.

David Kernohan ‏@dkernohan Jun 18

#cetis14 was “just an amazingly great event” says @audreywatters http://hackeducation.com/2014/06/18/unfathomable-cetis2014/ … . As she goes to ALL the conferences, praise indeed

Mark Power @markpower

#cetis14 was absolutely top class. No hype. No rhetoric. No bullshitting. It really is a unique edutech event. And lovely to see my pals.

Joe Wilson ‏@joecar Jun 18

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/moocs-opportunities-for-their-use-in-compulsory-age-education … one for reading later thanks all #cetis14 for great conference

Audrey Watters – 60 second interview ahead of #cetis14

For this year’s Cetis conference Building the Digital Institution we are delighted to welcome Audrey Watters, technology and education journalist to give our closing keynote. Audrey has written extensively about open education, technology myths, disruptive innovation and MOOCs on her own blog Hack Education but also for Inside Higher Ed, The School Library Journal, O’Reilly Radar, ReadWriteWeb, and The Huffington Post.  As a taster of Audrey’s talk here is a short interview about how she became a technology journalist, her thoughts on open education, and thinking more broadly about innovation.


Your background is folklore what drew you into the world of educational technology?

There are lots of stories I could tell about my experiences with education and technology that brought me here. A teacher that brought the LOGO turtle into the classroom when I was in elementary school. Being a young mom, wanting to finish her college degree, and taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by a distance education program (which meant getting boxes of video lectures in the mail and sending back packets of worksheet. But now that’s digitized. So it’s awesome. Right?) I helped manage ed-tech conferences as part of the University of Oregon’s continuing ed program (I worked there before deciding to return to grad school), and (after I dropped out of grad school) I worked for ISTE, the International Society of Technology in Education.

How did Hack Education come about?

In 2010, I started freelancing for a number of technology blogs. I’d noticed a growing interesting among startups in ed-tech, and I thought it was an important issue to be covered. But my editors told me “no one cares.” “No one reads stories about education.” So I started my own blog.

I’m still sort of amazed that the domain “Hack Education” was available. I mean, even the Gates Foundation and Facebook use the phrase now to talk about their ed-tech hackathons. (Sigh.)

You have written and spoken about open education, what is your view of open education and innovation in the UK HE sector?

One of the things I plan to talk about in my keynote is this notion of how “innovation” in education is increasingly being defined as 1) something that comes via new technologies (as opposed to new practices or new ideas) and 2) something that comes out of Silicon Valley and 3) when it comes to education, comes from outside of educational institutions. These definitions squeeze out “innovations” that come from educators but highlights instead those that come from business and technology.

What’s fascinating to me is that I see so many innovations — by that, I mean new ideas and practices, not simply new devices and software — coming from within educational institutions, coming from outside Silicon Valley. I think that both the UK and the open education movement are the perfect examples here. Open education could be seen as a business innovation, I suppose. It certainly challenges the business model of publishers. But the significance of open education can’t simply be judged on dollars (pounds) saved or spent. Innovating around pedagogy and opportunity and learning doesn’t neatly fit into a definition of “innovation” that focuses on efficiency and markets.

What are the barriers that prevent schools, colleges and universities from engaging with open education?

I spend a lot of energy defending educational institutions from the investors and entrepreneurs (and politicians) who seem eager to privatize them, from those that want to profit off of various education policies and practices.

But I think it’s important to recognize too the ways in which educational institutions themselves are implicated here. Because schools have to come to terms with the traditions and practices that they perpetuate, practices that simply do not work in our modern, technology, Internet-enabled world. (Indeed, traditions and practices that never worked but for a select few.)

I think open education does challenge some of these traditions, particularly those that made education about prestige and about restricted access. What happens if we crack open that restricted access? What is the role of the institution in a world where, as some people argue, “you can learn anything you want on the Internet?”

Do you think the term “open” has become devalued?

“Open” has certainly been co-opted. (And not just in education either.) I see it used all the time in press releases. Open has become the latest adjective added to marketing-speak.

Certainly the term “open,” when used to talk about open source technology or open educational resources, has a pretty clear definition: there are licenses; there are legalities. But a lot of the time, I think people use the word in a much looser sense. Open access. Open enrollment. Open data. And mostly, it seems to be translated into “open for business.”

What technology innovation are you most excited about this year?

The end of email. Someone’s working on that, right?

Seriously, I think that the “Domain of One’s Own” initiative out of the University of Mary Washington is one of the most important ed-tech innovations. A “Domain of One’s Own” gives each student and faculty member their own namespace on the Web. It hosts their website (until the student graduates, when they are transferred control.) It encourages them to build their digital portfolio, control their digital identity. It gives them the necessary skills to do so.

Can you give us a taste of your keynote at the Cetis conference?

I plan to talk about the a-historicism of the US ed-tech industry: how they don’t know their past (or their research) and as such are destined to make mistakes that could easily be avoided. I want to talk about how knowing our ed-tech history is completely necessary for our building an ed-tech future.



Thanks Audrey!

The Cetis Conference is on the 17th and 18th June at the University of Bolton. Tickets for the two day conference are £100 until the 15th May




#Cetis14 – Building the Digital Institution: Technological Innovation in Universities and Colleges

We are very pleased to announce that the annual Cetis conference #cetis14 will take place on the 17th and 18th June at our host institution the University of Bolton. This is the tenth year of the Cetis conference (prizes for anyone who has attended all ten). The theme this year focuses on the digital institution and how technology can and is being used in every aspect of university and college life. As in previous years the conference will consist of a combination of parallel sessions and keynote presentations. Sessions are being planned on learning analytics, MOOCs, e-assessment (QTI), Open Educational Resources policy, and systems integration to name a few.

In hosting the event at Bolton we intend to build on the success of the American Society for Cybernetics conference organised by our department last year. Hosting at the university also means we can make significant savings on venue costs, which means that although we will have to charge for the event this year, the cost will be very reasonable.

(There are other advantages of holding the event on our home turf my colleague David Sherlock is compiling a guide to some of Bolton’s finest watering holes).

The conference is our opportunity each year to touch base with our community and find out what they are working on and excited about,  as well as their concerns. While we are planning sessions around our current work, you may be interested in attending a session on a topic close to your heart that we haven’t thought of. If this is the case get in touch and we’ll see what we can do.

Details of the programme, registration and costs will be available in March.

We do hope you will be able to join us in Bolton in June.

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.


New Cetis, New website

You might have noticed that Cetis has a new web site www.cetis.org.uk. For the last six months I’ve been working with my colleagues, Mark Power, David Sherlock, Phil Parker, Sheila MacNeill and Martin Hawksey to update our web presence to reflect the new organisation. I thought I’d share some of the thinking behind the new site.

Colours and design

Cetis has been funded by Jisc for over a decade. When we became a service in 2005 we incorporated Jisc into our title and brand, marrying our blue with the Jisc orange.


Now that Jisc is not longer our main funder we decided to go back to a colour scheme based around our original dark blue. Mark Power worked on the brand design of the new site with input from Paul Dennis at Consul.


I think its safe to say that the logo created a lot of internal discussion! Mark designed the new logo using the original mosaic Cetis logo as a starting point.


The globe of the new logo acknowledges both the international aspects of our work and partners but also the importance of creating and adopting global standards for technology.


Word Press

The new site is a Word Press site with a theme Mark developed. Using Word Press means we can maintain the site more easily than we could in the Jisc Cetis site, particularly when it comes to software updates.

Simplified design

The next phase of Cetis activity will inevitably involve working with a variety of funders on a range of projects, so our audience is changing. We had a good think about the old Jisc Cetis site and decided it would be a mistake to think we could represent everything we do on the new site. We’ve tried to simplify the interface to give a simple overview of who we are, what we do and what we offer. Educational technology and standards are of course still at the core of Cetis work. The new design also contains more visual elements most notably the new slides on the front page.




We have a news feed cetis-news for updates on new projects, publications, events. This will complement the more personalised commentary provided by the staff blogs.


Our blog posts used to be at the heart of the Jisc Cetis site. Followers of the blogs need not worry, we will still be blogging over on blogs.cetis.org.uk, but we realise that not everyone we work with will be avid readers of our blog posts.


Our publications are still available at publications.cetis.org.uk, but like the other two sites has had a make over. Like the blog site we will maintain the publications site as a separate entity.

Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube

Our presence on other social media sites will be changing too to reflect the new branding. Unfortunately @cetis was taken on Twitter – so we’ve plumped for @cetisuk. The new logo has been added to out Linkedin site and our YouTube site.

Old Jisc Cetis site

The old site is not now being updated and we have begun the process of archiving the old site and the wiki which will eventually become static html.


I hope these notes explain some of our thinking behind the new site. Please do let us know what you think of the new site and brand.


Finally I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to Mark, David, Phil, Sheila and Martin for all their hard work on the new site.


#cetis13 highlights by @eventamplifier

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)

CETIS13: Open for Education, 12-13th March

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.

Eric Mazur – Confusion is Good

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.