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    Archive for the 'Domi’s Discussions' Category

    Social Media in Higher Education 2016 (#SocMedHE16)

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 23 December 2016

    Last week was the Social Media in Higher Education 2016 conference, which I was fortunate enough to attend. This was the second year of the conference which took place at Sheffield Hallam University, as it did last year also. The first thing that struck me about this conference was both the variety of different skills and usage levels that the various attendees and presenters had with social media.  Some people where slightly more advanced in their usage of social media, whereas others were just beginning.

    During the conference itself there were 3 key themes that struck me, which I will talk about in more detail in this post. The things that struck me most where;

    1. The importance of students as co-creators
    2. An interesting debate about ‘lurkers’
    3. Discussions about Professionalism

    Let’s start by looking at the first key theme, students as co-creators in more detail.

    1.The importance of students as co-creators

    One of the benefits of social media is that it’s interactive and so anyone can be a content creator. This makes it a powerful tool when used with learners, as they can learn by doing, creating content and even sharing it with the wider world and external subject experts. By engaging in this way student are raising their personal professional profile in their chosen industry and gaining experience. There is also another interesting side-effect of this, especially in relation to projects that are co-run with students, and that is the equalising of staff and students.

    Although there may still be a slight hierarchy on social media, it does tend to place all those using it on a more even platform. Connecting celebrities with fans, and experts with learners whilst enabling them to ask questions or engage in conversation they could not normally have. This idea of students as ‘co’-creators can be really empowering for learners and help develop a confidence and passion for enhancing their learning. Social media as a platform for learning has been seen to encourage heutagogy as it put the learner in a more powerful position of control over their connections and output.

    2. An interesting debate about ‘lurkers’

    One of the discussions I found more interesting was a discussion about ‘lurkers’ on social media platforms, that is learners/ participants who do not actively participate in discussion or other activities but instead only view content. There were three main talking points around this topic; terminology, definition and impact.

    The first discussion is one of terminology, should we use the term lurkers or does this have pejorative connotations? Is a better term, ‘silent participants’ or ‘passive learners’? Does it really matter what we call them? Personally, although I don’t mind the term ‘lurkers’ I do see why some would see it in a negative light and I think maybe ‘silent participant’ is a better term. Although the words we use do have significance, it is also important not to become too distracted by talking semantics at the determent of promoting good pedagogy.

    The next point to consider is what counts as lurking? This seemed obvious to me, but as we moved into a group discussion on the topic it seemed that there are varying opinions on this. Some consider complete inactivity to be lurking, as in someone who reads conversations and consumes other content but does not themselves produce anything to share. This was more my view of what silent participation was before the session, and remains so after. However, I was slightly surprised to hear some proposing that those who ‘like’ content but do not offer content are lurkers. The level of engagement that is required to be shown for someone to be considered active, seemed to be something that everyone did not agree on, but it is a valuable conversation to continue having.

    Finally, it is important to reflect on whether lurking is a bad thing. Do we need to consider ways to ‘lure’ those who lurk into the conversation and encourage them to actively engage? Would this enhance their learning, or are there some people who are happier and just as effective when they are consuming content, rather than producing it. If everyone where producing content, then is there a limit on how many people can be in a class? Surely at a certain class size not everyone can talk at once without diluting the conversation. How do we strike a balance in this case? Personally, I think that all participants should feel they have the opportunity to contribute and engage. For those who are hesitant or resistant we should investigate more closely what is holding them back.

    3.Discussions about Professionalism

    The final thing I want to talk about is the many discussions and presentations that focused on professionalism in the use of social media. This is a very natural topic to be considering in this sort of setting as social media puts learners in the public eye, and what they post could have effects long past their degree.

    The main takeaway here was to avoid simply scaremongering. There are potential risks, and plenty of horror stories but if these are focused on too much in guidelines or workshops it puts social media in a very negative light and can understandably make students resistant or hesitant about using online tools.

    Instead of focusing on the risk, it is good to present students with a realistic balance between the potential risk, so they are aware, and the positive impact social media can have. There are many success stories of students getting job offers and securing careers through their use of social media to share examples of work and connect with employers.

    Overall it was an interesting conference, although it did not add a great deal to my personal understanding of social media, it did prompt me to reconsider some topics that I had not been as actively thinking about (such as the ‘lurker’ debate). If anyone is interested in exploring the use of social media in education then I would recommend looking one of the many excellent books produced on the subject, or contacting the Digital Education team who may be able to offer some advice.

    An academic perspective on blogging

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 8 December 2016

    Words by David Bowler:

    I write a semi-regular blog (updated between weekly and monthly) which covers both interesting papers in my research area, and the teaching that I do to fourth year undergraduates and starting graduates (www.atomisticsimulations.org).  My research is in atomistic simulations, where we model the properties of materials at the nanoscale by taking into account their atomic structure; I apply and develop electronic structure methods, using quantum mechanics to understand the interactions between atoms.  I started blogging to support a book I wrote (Atomistic Computer Simulations, with Dr Veronika Brazdova, also at UCL) but it has developed.  The book is aimed at those starting to use atomistic simulations, and is, so far as we know, unique: it is the only book that contains practical advice on how to perform the calculations and analyse the output

    Last term (first term 2015-2016) I started to post blogs that summarised the discussions of background theory I had with my fourth year students.  I’m supervising four students, and wanted to explore whether posting the content of the sessions would help them, and the wider community.  The experiment has worked well, attracting interest both from my students and from further afield, with 50-100 views per month.

    I recently moved the blog from a local server in the department running WordPress, which I maintained, to GitHub, which provides simple, markdown formatted blogging with LaTex/MathJax for equations and symbols.  This was largely pragmatic (free, low maintenance hosting) but is also tied to the electronic structure code that I develop, CONQUEST (www.order-n.org).  We moved the source code for CONQUEST to GitHub, and having a single site and interface for all my teaching and research activity has been very helpful.

    Blogging and my associated Twitter account (@MillionAtomMan) has introduced me to new people in my research field, and educators across a wide area.  It helps me to keep track of the research literature, and to focus my thoughts within the very broad area that is relevant.  It should also help me with future teaching, focussing the sessions that we cover, and helping my students to know what is coming up.  I would like to explore having my students blog about their research, and the difficulties and interests of doing research, as a form of outreach, as well as giving them a forum for reflection.

    Course Overview – Navigating Moodle 3.1

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 21 September 2016

    Over the summer we upgraded Moodle to the latest stable version, which brought a number of new feature, many of which you can read about in our Moodle Resource Centre wiki New Features section.

    One of the biggest changes, which has caused some concern, is the new Moodle Course Overview block which fills the centre of the My Home page in Moodle (what you see when you first log in).

    Therefore I’d like to take some time to explain a bit more about how this block works, you can also find some guidance from the external Moodle HQ in the Moodle Docs for Course overview block.

    As well as listing courses, as the My Courses block previously did, this new block also offers an overview of activities on your course which may need attention, including Moodle Assignments, Turnitin Assignments, SCORM packages and forums.  If these have pending activities then they will display a message saying ‘You have ‘x’ [activity name]s that need attention’.

    If you click where it says that it will expand to show details of what the activity is and what actions may be required:

    • For Moodle Assignments this notice should only show for students if there is a submission (or re-submission) required and for tutors/ course admins if grading is required.
    • With the Forum this notification will display until you have accessed the forum, and until you have logged out and then logged in again – so it will display until you next log in to Moodle.
    • For Turnitin and SCORM activities the notification is a little different, as it will always display the activity but by clicking it you can confirm if the required submission/ grading has taken place.

    Please note this lack of clarity in language and information displayed has been communicated to Moodle and we are watching their future releases to see when this will be made clearer.

    The Navigation block on the right-hand side still features a ‘My courses’ list, which shows all the courses you are enrolled on in a much more compact way. This may be a better navigation tool than the Course overview, which can be limited in how many courses it displays. Alternatively you might also want to use the search box located above the Course overview block.

    Hopefully this explains it a little better. If you still have any questions then please contact the ISD Service Desk.

     

    Remember to reset before adding new students.

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 14 September 2016

    As with previous years, now that the Moodle Snapshot has been taken, and the upgrade has been successfully performed, all Moodle courses that have completed their yearly cycle or are no longer in use need to be reset.

    PLEASE NOTE. IF YOU ARE RUNNING A POSTGRADUATE COURSE, OR ANOTHER COURSE THAT CURRENTLY STILL HAS ACTIVE STUDENTS OR PENDING SUBMISSION – DO NOT RESET.

    Resetting is only for course which concludes prior to the 22nd July 2016 Snapshot. For any other courses please see our guidance on appropriate procedures.

    Why we need to do a course reset?

    Course resets are an essential part of the Moodle housekeeping process because they:-

    • Clear out old student data.
    • Remove students’ permissions from Moodle courses.
    • Remove student records from Moodle database.
    • Increase Moodle performance through database optimisation.
    • Keep our campus licensing agreements at the correct level.
    • Makes existing/current courses easier to manage and less prone to errors.

    What happens if we do not do course resets?

    • We build up dead data in the live database which still has to be queried by the system which in turn impacts upon Moodle’s performance.
    • We have to count these expired students against our Licensing for systems such as Turnitin, which increase our costs.

    But how do I do a course reset?

    Instructions on how to do a reset are located here https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/x/bR88AQ

    Portico

    During the upgrade process all Portico mappings in Moodle were de-activated. This was to ensure that no students are accidentally unenrolled when the Portico team implement the new enrolment data for the 2016-17 academic year.

    If you wish to keep existing students on a Moodle course (for example masters course, courses with an end date after 22nd July) then please DO NOT reactivate the Portico mappings.

    If you are resetting your course for the 2016-17 academic year, and all required data is saved in the Moodle Snapshot (https://moodle-snapshot.ucl.ac.uk) then please remember to re-activate Portico mappings.

    You can find out more about the Portico enrolment block on the Moodle Resource Centre wiki: https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/display/MoodleResourceCentre/Enrolment+-+Portico+enrolments

    The Moodle Snapshot (previously called archive)

    For anyone worried about a loss of historical data, please remember on the 22nd July 2016 we took the Moodle annual snapshot. This snapshot is a point in time capture of Moodle including all the student data, that is set in a read only mode for you to access as required as a separate instance from live Moodle (previous instances are located here http://moodle-archive.ucl.ac.uk/).

    My Course requires a reset at a different period of the year. What do I do?

    For those courses such as postgraduate, medical and other non-standard timetabled courses and modules please see the following guidance page.  https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/x/sBxiAQ

    We greatly appreciate you help in this activity any questions please contact the ISD Service Desk (https://ucl.ac.uk/isd/help)

    Lecturecast archiving complete

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 18 August 2016

     

    Lecturecast archiving is now complete. This means that content that is required for use can now be unarchived – this is straightforward and details are given in the Lecturecast Guide here http://bit.ly/17m3JOX

    Next academic year the usual monthly content deletion cycle will commence in October, according to the Lecturecast Archive Policy http://bit.ly/2bshOix

    PLEASE NOTE: Archived material will only be deleted two years after the date of its capture/recording. Thus it is critical to move old material out of the archive if you want it retained for viewing
    If you have any questions or concerns surrounding this procedure please contact the ISD Service Desk.

    Coming soon to Moodle

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 12 July 2016

    The Moodle summer upgrade will take place between the 22nd – 27th July 2016. During this process Moodle will see a number of improvements and new features.

    These include an enhanced grading interface for PDF submission in Moodle assignments, a new Turnitin marking interface (called Feedback Studio) and the ability to pin discussion in forums.

    If you would like to read more please see the New Features page in the Moodle Resource Centre wiki.