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Developing open content

October 16th, 2006 by Graham Attwell

Sorry not to have posted much lately. Up to my eyes in work and travel seems never ending.

Anyway, just to get the travel-log up to date. Spent most of last week in Romania – first in the beautiful; mountains of Transylvania and then in traffic clogged (but still beautiful) Bucharest.

I was in Romania for a meeting of the Reflective Evaluation project. We rolled out for the first time our as yet unnamed tool which allows an easy way for teachers and trainers to themselves create learning activities. This was always going to be interesting – given that the majority of the parters are teachers and trainers themselves rather than ICT experts. They seemed to like it. We benefitted from the input from Kris who has programmed the tool and is himself a specialist IT trainer. It was particularly good for me to watch how he presented the workshop. It requires a lot of patience in making sure everyone is keeping up and in guiding people through installing plug-ins etc.

The tool – about which I shall write more in the next month – is definitely a Web 2.0 development in that the activities of the learners or users form a key part of the learning materials. Of course this raises issues – particularly the relationship between expert and user based knowledge. This is quite a challenge for university researchers, used to the paradigm of expert knowledge drawn from research rather than practitioner knowledge based on practice.

What was particularly encouraging was that as participants became used to the idea of installing and ‘playing’ with the application, they became enthusiastic about other social software tools. By the end of the workshop everyone was sitting in the room sending messages to each other using Skype. Sometimes, working in the e-learning field, we can forget that many people have no knowledge of these tools and what use they might be for researchers and project development. We also forget that installing software – even modern, easy to use, web software, lays outside the experience of many users,

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    Digital Literacy

    A National Survey fin Wales in 2017-18 showed that 15% of adults (aged 16 and over) in Wales do not regularly use the internet. However, this figure is much higher (26%) amongst people with a limiting long-standing illness, disability or infirmity.

    A new Welsh Government programme has been launched which will work with organisations across Wales, in order to help people increase their confidence using digital technology, with the aim of helping them improve and manage their health and well-being.

    Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being, follows on from the initial Digital Communities Wales (DCW) programme which enabled 62,500 people to reap the benefits of going online in the last two years.

    See here for more information

    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.

    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time

    Postgrad pressure

    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”

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