Wales Wide Web is Graham Attwell’s main blog. Graham Attwell is Director of the Wales based research organisation, Pontydysgu. The blog covers issues like open-source, open-content, open-standards, e-learning and Werder Bremen football team.
I have been looking hard at Learning Analytics in the last month. In particular, as part of the European EmployID project application, as a bit of a not really thought through objective, we said we would experiment with the use of Learning Analytics in European Public Employment Services. this raises a series of issues which I will come back to in future ports. It seems to me that whilst there is much talk around the potential of Learning Analytics in the workplace, there is very limited research and actual applications.
One of the reasons for this is that so much learning in the workplace in informal. As Boud and Hager (2012) say:
learning is a normal part of working, and indeed most other social activities. It occurs through practice in work settings from addressing the challenges and problems that arise. Most learning takes place not through formalized activities, but through the exigencies of practice with peers and others, drawing on expertise that is accessed in response to need. Problem-solving in which participants tackle challenges which progressively extend their existing capabilities and learn with and from each other appears to be common and frequent form of naturalistic development.
I would also add that much workplace learning is also driven through personal interest – a fact that is largely ignored and which has considerable economic implications in terms of workplace competence development. Although we can dream of a world where water cooler conversations are recorded by smart devices and sensors and added to other traces of digital activity, I am not sure this is a desirable outcome. So we have a challenge. most (university and formal education based) learning analytics focus on analysing digital interactions in, for example, a VLE. How can we sensibly and ethically extend data capture and analysis to informal workplace learning?
It is around two months since I last posted on the Wales Wide Web. And in the nine or ten years the blog has been running (on this WordPress site and another earlier, iteration on Plone), that is the longest I have gone without writing a post.
I am not sure why. Certainly there has been a lot of travel, a lot of meetings, some very long reports and I have had a nasty dose of flu. But there is nothing new here, to blame those factors would be merely to make excuses. The nearest I can come to it is writers block – if that really exists? Each day I have said I will start again tomorrow, each day I have found an excuse to put it off for another day. Interestingly there was once a debate over whether so called microblogging applications such as Twitter were killing blogging. For me the two go together. While I have not been writing on the Wales Wide Web, neither have I been using twitter (although I find myself increasingly ambivalent about Twitter anyway).
Any way – whatever the reasons, it is the start of a new week and the Wales Wide Web is back. Watch this slot!
The EU funded RadioActive project is in its final days but that doesn’t mean we are suffering from RadioActive decay! Shows are set to continue with our prize winning Portuguese partners securing funding for another year, UEL funded Post grad courses, DragonHall and co.in the UK have made the RadioActive system their usual way of working and there’s no stopping the teams at Deichstadt Radio and KO-N-RAD in Germany.
Along with the great radio shows and podcasts we have produced a number of useful products;
ePub and pdf versions of RadioActive Practices – a report containing many of the common practices developed and refined by participants and RadioActive researchers across this European partnership over the last two years. And there are several examples of the significant impact felt by some of the individuals who became ‘radio-activists’ along the way.
The Training Suite with Technical, Journalism and Organisational hints tips and tutorials.
A Moodle course explaining the digital badge system and curriculum
A RadioActive curriculum which details many of the activities completed whilst making Internet Radio and cross matches them with the EU Lifelong Learning Key Competecies.
In the Learning Layers project we are aiming to produce tools to help Small and Medium Enterprises support informal learning. For most of the first two years of the project we have been focused on a co-deign process – working with small groups of users to iteratively develop the tools and applications. Our user groups are, at the moment at least, drawn from the construction sector in north Germany and the health sector in north east England.
In years three and four of the project, we are aiming to roll out these tools to significant numbers of users. In preparing for this we have had discussions with literally hundreds of stakeholders including managers of SMEs. Three big concerns have emerged. the first is whether our work is sustainable. Many are interested in what we are doing but want to know how as a research project we can guarantee our applications will still be around and supported after the project ends. To deal with this not unreasonable concern we have had to seriously explore business models and are in the process of using the Business Model Canvas approach to identify and develop business models for each of our applications.This is new to me – but I can see the value. I have worked on too many projects where systems and tools are developed and tested with small user groups and then abandoned as project funding ends. Of course such processes are legitimate as a research aim. But all too often promising developments are wasted just because no-one has though out how to make their work sustainable At the end of two, three or four years, researchers and developers move on to the next project – and so it goes on.
Secondly people are concerned that our tools and applications will integrate with systems they already use. they do not want yet another stand alone system – and certainly do not want another log in to circumnavigate. We are implementing Open ID Connect for our own services and this offers the possibility for integration with the LDAP systems more commonly used by companies.
The third big concern is data security and server hosting. Our original idea was to use a cloud system developed by the University of Aachen. however we have encountered a surprising degree of distrust of cloud systems. This is not necessarily based on any particular technical reason. The aftermath of the Snowden affair seems to be that in Germany at least company owners and Systems Administrators want to be able to control their own data. This means they want it inside their systems – and cloud is not trusted. Data being held in the USA is not on. As Ben Werdmuller says:
There are all kinds of reasons why you should care about where your data is stored. If you’re a business or institution, there may be legislative and auditing requirements relating to your servers. Many educational institutions in Europe, for example, can’t store data in the US without jumping through numerous hoops – and requiring service providers to jump through more.
My feeling is that managers in small businesses know they should care and that it is important where their data is held. However they do not have the expertise and time to research legislative and auditing requirements. The answer for them is to hold data on their own servers – preferably where they can touch it. And I suspect this situation is not going to change in the near future. For the Learning layers project, as well as a hosted cloud solution, we are now developing the Layers Box, a box containing the Learning Layers software which can simply be plugged in to existing server systems. We will see if this helps allay people’s fears.
I’m back from lunch and have just forwarded the podcast version of today’s broadcast to the press office at the Online Educa Berlin. I still work on the text about the participants but here is already the podcast for you to listen too.