So long and thanks for all the fish

After eight years very happy years my time with Cetis has drawn to a close.  I am moving on to pastures new as a Senior Lecturer in Blended Learning at Glasgow Caledonian University starting early next month.

When I started at Cetis, Sarah Currier, who’s role as EC SIG Co-ordinator, I replaced told me that it had been “the best job I’ve ever had”. And, eight years later, I can whole heartedly agree that working with Cetis has been the best job I’ve ever had. I’ve learned so much over the past eight years, moving from SIG Co-ordinator to Assistant Director. I know I wouldn’t have been able to get my new job without the myriad of opportunities I’ve had through Cetis.  I’ve had lots of laughs and a few tears along the way. I still remember that feeling of impending doom as I dialled into my first IMS content packaging working group meeting :-)   The support of all my colleagues has been invaluable and I’d like to thank Lorna Campbell in particular for taking a risk and hiring me in the first place.  I was convinced for quite some time that the decision had been based largely on my shoes . . .

I couldn’t have imagined a more fitting point to leave the organisation than just after winning the ALT UK Learning Technologist of the Year. As I said when I received the award, I really feel that it was a recognition not only of my work but of everyone in Cetis. It was also tinged with a sense of irony as myself and my colleagues Lorna and Martin  had recently been made redundant by our host institution as they no longer felt our work was strategically relevant.

However all good things come to an end and I am really looking forward to the challenges of my new post and being fully integrated within an institution. I will now be looking to Cetis now to provide me with insight and guidance for many years to come. If you are interested I’ll be sharing my new adventures on my new blog.

So in the words of Douglas Adams, who always comes to mind at times when I can’t think of anything else to say,

so long and thanks for all the fish

Small is beautiful: an antidote to big data #altc2013

Over the past year Cetis has been spending quite a bit of time exploring the context and potential of analytics within the education sector.  The Cetis analytics series is our on-going contribution to the debate. As part of our investigations we undertook a survey of UK institutions to try and get a baseline of where institutions are “at” in terms of analytics (see this post for more information ).

One of the issues around analytics at the moment is ownership and responsibility. Just who in your institution is responsible for learning analytics for example – someone in your VLE/Learning technology team, the stats team, someone in IS? We’re not sure either so we did try to hit as many areas and mailing lists as possible to get feedback. Unfortunately we didn’t get a huge response so we can’t draw anything conclusive from it apart from the fact that there is something happening, but it’s not quite clear what or where. However the data is providing a valuable starting point/ potential baseline which Adam Cooper has written up.  Adam’s post gives more information including links to his report and the actual data.

What does seem to be clear is that despite the hype of big data, at the institutional level small data is indeed beautiful and useful.  Last week at ALT-C 2013, Stephen Powell led a workshop around this theme.  During the session we used the case studies from  Cetis Analytics Series and the results of the survey to stimulate discussion around data and analytics in education. There is undoubtedly still lots of interest in analytics (particularly learning analytics) within the learning technology community as our very busy session demonstrated, however the discussion highlighted key concerns including:

  • An overall uncertainty about what might emerge
  • Are small scale initiatives more achievable than large scale institutional ones?
  • Ethics – including concerns about to what purposes analytics might be put – in the hand of managers who may use it in an unknowing way
  • Where is the data? who can access it? and what can they do with it?

You can also access the slides from the workshop via slideshare.


After eight very happy years working for Cetis based within the now sadly no longer with us CAPLE (Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement) at the University of Strathclyde my working life is moving a bit sideways over the next couple of months. The University of Strathclyde had decided to no longer continue its relationship with Cetis. See Lorna’s post for more information, and so my contract (like my colleagues Lorna and Martin) is terminating on Wednesday 31 July. Like Lorna I’d like to add a huge thank you to former CAPLE colleagues for all their support over the years.

I should point out that this has nothing to do with the change of funding between Jisc and Cetis, and that Cetis is going to be continuing after 31 July. However due to various issues with new jobs, contracts, summer holidays and general “faffing” I won’t be a Cetis employee on 1 August. Hopefully there will be new “Sheila shaped Cetis” hole which I will be filling later in the year.

In the meantime I’m looking forward to starting some evaluation work with the OER Research Hub team at over August and September. But – and here comes the shameless plug – if you have a learning technology emergency over the next few weeks and think I can help then you know who to call, DM, email . . .

My primary email address will be changing to, but my twitter and Skype ids will remain (can’t get rid of sheilmcn!). I will hopefully still be blogging but maybe not quite as regularly over the next month or so.


CAPLE in happier times


Digital literacies toolkit

Earlier this year I presented at conference at the University of Southampton, and I was really impressed by the presentations, and work, of the students who were there, as I reflected in this blog post. The University is really pushing ahead in terms of providing real engagement opportunities for students with its Digital Champions project, and now the eLanguages Research and Development group have released their Digital Literacies Toolkit.

Primarily aimed at students to:

“*explore the educational uses of Web 2.0 tools and services;
*familiarise themselves with a range of useful applications for study-related purposes;
*highlight good practice in the use of social software and the internet, in general.”

the toolkit consists of a number of sections including video/audio/quizzes and input from real students about their views of what digital literacy means to them and how digital engagement can enhance job prospects. Other topics covered include online identity, collaborating online, personal learning environments and using other people’s online content responsibly – which sounds a lot less scary than copyright :-)

A great open resource for students and staff anywhere. Well done to all the team involved in creating and releasing it.

More resources around digital literacy are also available from the Jisc Design Studio.

LASI-UK a twitter summary

The LASI UK even held last Friday (5 July), brought over 50 people from across the UK to Edinburgh to join in the international learning analytics-fest accompanying the face to face Learning Analtyics Summer Institute being held at Stanford University.

I’m still trying to process all the great presentations and discussions from the day, but to give a flavour of the day I’ve pulled together some of the tweets from the #lasiuk back channel to provide a summary of the day. Martin Hawksey also live blogged the morning and afternoon sessions.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to give a public thank you to Naomi Jeffery and Hannah Jones from the OU Scotland for all their hard work in organising and ensuring the smooth running of the day.

LASI . . . going to many homes

The Learning Analytics Summer Institute (LASI) is taking place this week at Stanford University. Although I’m not one of the lucky few attending in person, Doug Clow (from the OU UK) is leading the live blogging brigade and I’ve been enjoying catching up with the sessions via all the posts, and looking forward to reading more – thanks guys! A number of the sessions are also being live- streamed via the SOLAR website.

But the action isn’t just in sunny Stanford this week, there are a number of other LASI local events taking place around the world from Hong Kong to Holland and many places in between this week. On Friday the UK LASI event takes place at the University of Edinburgh. Around 60 delegates will debate and demonstrate a range of learning analytics related topics and we’ll also be hooking up live with Stanford as well as catching up with some of the recorded sessions. The event is sold out but there will be a few “well kent” (as the say in Edinburgh) tweeters who will be sharing what’s going on during the day (follow #lasiuk), and I’ll be blogging more next week about the event.

New publication from Jisc on Enhancing Curriculum Design with Technology

Over the past four years I was part of the support team for the JISC Curriculum Design Programme. And I have to say it was one of the most fascinating “Jisc programme journeys” I’ve been on. Over the course of the programme the 12 projects all made significant progress and contributed greatly to enhancing more nuanced and shared understanding and articulation of the many aspects relating to curriculum design process from quality assurance to technical implementations.

A new publication launched this week brings together some practical strategies, tips and resources from the projects and will be of interest to anyone involved in development or strategic planning of higher education curriculum design in further or higher education institutions. The main aims of the publication are to:

· Find out about Jisc-funded work supporting innovation in curriculum design
· Discover the benefits gained and lessons learned from the work of the projects
· Become better informed about systems and processes underpinning the practice of curriculum design
· Consider curriculum design initiatives of your own
· Explore new resources to support you on your journey

You can download a copy of the publication from the Design Studio.

The curriculum lifecyle

The curriculum lifecyle

Open Scotland, the twitter story

Yesterday Cetis, in collaboration with SQA, ALT-Scotland and the Jisc RSC Scotland hosted the Open Scotland Summit. The event, brought together senior managers, policy makers and key thinkers, will provide an opportunity for critical reflection on the national and global impact of open education (see Lorna’s blog post for more information and background to the event) .

There was a lot of really engaging discussion over the course of the day and we will be following up on that over the next week with some more detailed reflections and other outputs. However, to give a quick flavour of the day and the discussions it inspired, I’ve pulled together a summary of the #openscot twitter back channel.

Inuagural Open Badges (Scotland) Working Group Meeting

Bill Clinton isn’t the only one creating a buzz about the open badges movement at the moment. Perhaps with slightly less coverage than the Clinton initiative, yesterday saw the first (Scottish) open badges working group meeting.

Organised by Grainne Hamilton at RSC Scotland, following the success and interest shown at their recent Open Badges Design Day, the meeting was very well attended with a group of really enthusiastic practitioners from across the Scottish education sector, many of whom are already implementing badges. There was also good representation from key agencies such as the SQA and the Colleges Development Network.

What struck me about the meeting was how much real buy-in and activity there was for badges from schools to colleges to universities. Whilst there was a lot of diversity in approaches (most people implementing badges are still at pilot stages), there were also a number of common themes of interest for future developments including badges for staff development purposes and the sharing of implementation of “badging” through VLEs in particular Moodle and Blackboard.

One of the great selling points of badges is their potential to bridge the gap between achievement and attainment of formal qualifications and give people (and in particular students) more opportunities to present things which aren’t recognised through formal qualifications. This was a prime motivator for many at the working group as they want to be able to allow students more ways to showcase/sell themselves to potential employers, and not have to rely on formal qualifications. This of course links to developments around e-portfolios.

There was also a lot of interest in using badges for staff development within colleges and universities. RSC Scotland is already paving the in this respect as they have developed a range of badges for their online courses and events, and a number of colleges are beginning to use badges for staff development activities.

Over the coming months a number of sub-groups will be forming around some of the key areas identified at yesterdays meeting, setting up a shared workspace and of course, most importantly sharing their work with each other and the wider working group, and of course the rest of the community.

If yesterday afternoon was anything to go by, there will be lots more to share around the development and implementation of badges. I’m certainly looking forward to being part of this exciting new group, and thanks again to Grainne and Fionnuala and the RSC for bringing this group together and their commitment to supporting it over the coming year.

Meanwhile back in the real world . . .

We’re all very guilty of getting caught up in our “own wee worlds” and sometimes it we all need to just “step away from the computer”. I recently did just that. I had a week’s annual leave, and came back to the usual overflowing in-box.

In one sense I felt I’d missed a lot, but have the reassurance of colleagues and networks who can bring me up to speed if necessary. It seems we are just about over the threat of MOOCs too (see Martin Weller’s post. Universities as we know them are no longer doomed – hurrah, people might even stop using the word – hurrah, we can all move on to the next shiny thing. But there has been a lot of (justified) concern about licences, terms and conditions (see Lorna’s excellent post on FutureLearn’s t&cs ).

But then yesterday I was sharply reminded that what I had missed in a week is really nothing compared to what is actually being related and shared to the wider community. So much just passes everyone by. I was asked to speak on a BBC Scotland Radio show about MOOCs. I know, not exactly hitting the big time, but hey it was the Fred MacAulay show :-) – he’s on Radio 4 sometimes and even gets on the telly every now and again. What struck me when I was speaking to the researcher and during the (very) short interview is how taken “normal people” were by the notion of having more and free access to education. In the UK anyway, most non ed tech people have missed all the hype (and angst) and are actually more interested in just finding out about how they can find ways to learn some “stuff”. So hopefully we can, as Martin says in his blog, take comfort that “back in the real world” people really do want more “access and experimentation and not hype and commercialism”. The big messages are getting across, however slowly it seem to us.

If you are at all interested the interview is available to listen to again via the BBC iplayer (the interview starts at 5mins 20 and last a little over 5 minutes and I did manage to blow the “MOOCs started in America” myth.