Saturday, December 19, 2009

External supervisors confirmed!

Wow that was fast! David Wiley, Stephen Downes and Michael Wesch have agreed to being external supervisors over my open PhD project. This compliments an equally strong though perhaps lessor known line up of local supervisors, Keith Lyons, Robin McConnell, Robert Fitzgerald and James Neil.

Here's what I'm thinking:

David Wiley for his understanding of policy and implementation in western academic traditions. Especially his practical yet ground breaking work fitting that in with networked media and communications via open education. Dave was the first to blow my socks off with his paper Reusability Paradox back in 2003 (for some strange reason he omits the paper from his Selected Publications).

Stephen Downes is a must for his intensely principled stance, informed by a background in philosophy that I hope to get more grounding in, and an overview of the field like no other. SD is not afraid to challenge status quo, and will stand firm on ideas he believes in. On more than one occasion this has lead me to entirely new thinking and critical incite. I credit Stephen to starting me off on this journey with networked learning.

Michael Wesch has knowledge in ethnography applied to networked media and communications that inspires me a lot. I hope to learn his field and apply his methods to a focus group of people I am working with at UC. Video as a means of 'writing' is something I'd like do more of in this PhD as well.

I can certainly think of a few more 'externals' I will want to ask to be involved, but for now and for the purposes of my application, these confirmations are a great start. We all know wide and open review is how we work online anyway, especially in an openPhD model. This line up is really from the point of view of gaining acceptance to register for PhD. Many thanks David, Stephen and Michael for accepting the role.

Internally I look to James Neil, Robert Fitzgerald, Robin McConnell and Keith Lyons for majority supervision.

James Neil has always struck me as being very mindful in his use of the Internet. I've known and followed James' for many years now and the opportunity to meet and work with him at UC was a big draw card. I see him as a role model for networked teaching and research, and his expertise in psychology will be an important dimension to this study.

Robert Fitzgerald is the Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Education here at UC. He understands social media and is applying it in his own work. He also understands the PhD process within UC, and has been a key encouragement for me in taking on this project. Robert is cooking up a number of significant projects at UC that I hope my work will be helpful to.

Robin McConnell is someone I have only just met, who has next to no Internet presence, a veteran of higher education and research, and to top it all off - is a proud kiwi! Despite all his faults, he has shown me respect and enthusiasm that is literally like a breath of fresh air from a freshly whited NZ mountain top. He knows how academia works, and he's specialty in leadership and groups brings valuable and unique perspectives to my work. Robin is both a subject and supervisor to this project, and will make sure its a good time had by all.

Keith Lyons is protector, enabler, advisor and lead supervisor. I first met Keith back in 2005 when he invited me down to the Australian Institute of Sport for a day of edu-speak . He has quietly followed my work in the years since, recently offering me a job in Sport Studies at UC. Since the day I arrived he has taken me around to meet key people from Federal Senators, to leadership people at UC. (I have systematically but unintentionally offended them all! :( Keith is an avid enthusiast of what social media brings to teaching and research, and has a background in ethnography and deschooling! I am very grateful to have him watch over this ominous task, and I'm thinking hard on the notions of "invitational development" and being "platform agnostic"...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Starting an open PhD by Publication

I submitted an expression of interest to the University of Canberra to undergo a Doctor of Philosophy by Publication. I am still coming to terms with the whole PhD thing, but needless to say it will be openly documented, and I will push boundaries as I hit them.

My 250 word expression went like this:
Sport Studies at UC is engaging social media and the popular internet for teaching and research development. This project will determine pre development staff knowledge, skills, values and practices, and conduct an in-depth study of their progress. This includes evaluations of achievements; what level of investment is required by the University to support developments; a draft programme for skill acquisition; and recommendations on how the university can measure returns.

The project will primarily draw upon qualitative methodologies, particularly the use of life histories and personal narratives, researcher and subject diaries (journals of interaction, achievements, challenges, skill acquisition and critical reflection), participant observation, interviews (with participants, other staff, university administrators) and questionnaires. Participatory action research will include background stories from the staff and their own critical reflections on the developments. Document analysis will inform return on investment evaluations, engagement with University projects and policies, and researcher reports at key developmental intervals. An ICT industry partner will be sought sort for an ARC Linkage Project in 2010.

Discussion with the proposed UC Level 1 supervisors confirms there is no identical study that focuses on these questions at such depth. The outputs will be relevant to Australian Universities seeking to understand the value of social media and popular internet. Organisations and professional will gain insights in change management; leveraging new teaching and research opportunities, and developing new relationships between teaching and research practice and social media and popular internet.
My official academic publishing record is thin and a weak point in this application. I can only hope they will consider my public record by comparison...



I have asked some pretty top brass to supervise this work, but won't announce them until I have confirmation. I'd actually like to draw in a much larger network for supervision if you'd have me.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Developing copyright policy at UC

I have heard a rumor that the University of Canberra may be reviewing its Intellectual Property policy. I'm keen to make a proposal to that review, that UC changes its copyright policy to a default of Creative Commons Attribution. Those familiar with my work will recognise I made this same proposal to Otago Polytechnic - to which they agreed and went ahead with.

The CCby license structure for UC will assist and encourage staff to retain rights over their work when entering into contracts with publishers, as well as the development of open access research culture at UC. If some publishers reject the UC staff member's proposed license, then staff decide for themselves whether or not to enter into an agreement with such publishers under their usual all rights reserved models.

To be clear here, this proposal is a compromise for me. My real and perhaps radical opinion is that individuals and organisations think of ways to resist copyright as an organising principle all together. I'm well aware that those who I aim to make this proposal to will dismiss such a position, so the Creative Commons Attribution license structure is my compromise, and perhaps the most pragmatic step at this moment.

At the very least, a CCBy default will encourage and help publishing staff to negotiate the retention of their own rights to republish, and will assist in the promotion of open access to important and largely publicly subsidised research information. Further though, such a policy move will generate substantial publicity for UC (as it did for Otago Polytechnic), being the first Australian University to adopt such a stance. To my interpretation, all this is very much in line with the strategic direction of the University.

My boss seems enthused by this proposal, so I've gathered up information relating to the same policy change I proposed at Otago Polytechnic. Below is a link role I will keep adding to over time. I hope I get a chance to propose this to UC leadership, I feel quite confident that it is a logical, moral and economically sound thing to propose, and that the culture at UC is ready to consider such an approach to copyrights.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Deschooling playlist

Using embedr to bring together a video playlist on Deschooling. Teemu Leinonen has a great idea for how this sort of multi channel playlist would be a powerful tool for education. My colleague Wayne Goldsmith pointed me to embedr, and in the context of what Teemu calls for, I realise how significant such a tool could be - if only it allowed for offline viewing...

Up until now, I have made use of playlist features within the one channel, such as my Youtube playlist.. but of course it doesn't pick up videos from other platforms. A multi media playlist would be perfect. One where a video is followed by a slideshare, is followed by a PDF reading.. all with the ability to backchannel responses through comments, twitter, blogger etc. The closest thing to a multi channel multi media playlist I can think of is Delicious.. but its a far cry still from the offline playlist that Teemu points to.

Anyway, here's my multi channel video playlist on Deschooling so far:



If you know of other videos that relate to the notion of Deschooling, please let me know and I'll add it to the playlist

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Vote for free Internet in Australia

The National Broadband Network is meeting tomorrow. Help me get free (as in non user pay) Internet on their agenda. Vote for the free Internet suggestions.

"Access to free wireless broadband, incl comodity Internet, coupled with wide scale adoption of open educational practices from schools, techs and universities will help nuture a culture of inquirey and informal learning that will lead to formal edu."

"Free wireless broadband, incl comodity Internet, made available from all community hubs like bus shelters, libraries, halls and pubs. A nation wide drive to get all Australian towns on Wikipedia, linked to local newspapers with social media basis."

Free wireless broadband, incl comodity Internet, signon + timed. Paid 4 by tourism, arts, libraries, archives, edu, transport.. (ie: not user pay). 52% without broadband + clear rich/poor access&literacy issues prooves user pay market ideas failed."

"Incentives and rewards for health professionals to contribute to a national health wiki, providing a central and reliable source for Austrtalian health issues. Note: It must compliment popular media like Wikipedia and Yahoo Answers"


More information about free Internet
.

What I wrote on Wordpress about the importance of free Internet in countries like Australia and New Zealand.

Hope you will give the notion your vote, and at least see it discussed properly.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The academic publishing scam

The Australian published an article called, Let the Internet replace journals, in which Oliver Marc Hartwich attempts to expose a scam in academic journal publishing.
Funding for all the academics involved in the research, review and editing comes from you and me, the taxpayer. However, most of the research is published by a small circle of corporate publishers, most of whom are based in Britain and the US. These companies then charge the same Australian taxpayer-funded institutions ridiculous amounts of money for subscriptions to academic journals to which the publishers' contribution hardly exceeds the provision of the paper on which they are printed.
Looking abroad, Adam Habib published an article in Business Day called Huge journal profits hit universities in which he covers the issue from a in South African perspective.
The situation reminds one of feudal relations established in the colonies at the height of imperialism. Yet such an industry thrives in the 21st century: this is the world of the international academic journals publication industry.

There are huge profits that are made. Reed Elsevier, a UK- based international academic publication company, made £1,379bn net profit last year, while its competitors, Informa and Springer, made smaller, but similarly obscene profits of £305,8m and €285m, respectively.

But there are huge social costs to these profits. Most academic libraries cannot afford to get all of these journals, so hard choices get made. The most well-endowed universities do manage to get the best of the journals, but the poorest do not. This effectively means that the least well-endowed universities, those that service the poorest of our citizens, do not have access to a quality academic journal base, which is an absolute necessity for quality higher education to be delivered.

In addition to this, the Wall Street Journal reported in their article Lawmakers probe climate emails, evidence of leading climate scientists corrupting their own peer review processes, drawing into question the integrity some of what many claim to be the most important scientific research being considered by humanity!...
The documents, hacked from the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia University in the U.K., show that some climate researchers declined to share their data with fellow scientists, and sought to keep researchers with dissenting views from publishing in leading scientific journals.
The Wikipedia article Climatic Research Unit e-mail hacking incident, although locked, perhaps has the best coverage to date on this issue...

The issue of academic journal publishers profiteering from public (and private) investment in research, is compounded further by the fact that university academics are given financial and job security incentives to participate in this cycle. Success in their performance review is partly based on how many articles they have published in "peer reviewed journals" with noted "impact level". This in turn is driven by funding rewards that are offered to universities based on how many of their staff have been published in such journals. I don't know anyone up in the chain of command who is seriously questioning the academic publishing avenues, or the incentives and rewards that help sustain them. I would like to know their response to the growing evidence that these outlets are extremely inaccessible, increasingly irrelevant to those who can't be bothered even trying to access them, and perhaps even corrupt in their peer review and profit taking!

What I do know however is that the incentives to academics to publish in official journals are perhaps the biggest barrier to inspiring a serious consideration of alternative publishing outlets.
Instead this viscous cycle of academic publishing culture is perpetuated by those who are sold on the validity of their narrow, possibly corrupt publishing channels, and the incentives that go with it. Some believe in it so hard that they insist their students echo the respect and reference, cite and aspire to the journals as well. Many (though fewer and fewer it seems) ignore calls to consider more contemporary academic cultures like open journals, wikis or even networked self publishing. And I know of no university human resource incentive that encourages or rewards such publishing. As a result, I'd argue we have a die hard academic culture vastly out of touch with the needs of the society it seeks to inform, and ultimately running out of the information channels it relies on to function.

Combined with the return on investment evaluation and ethnographic report being prepared on the Otago Polytechnic case, I hope to find an opening at the University of Canberra to explore alternative peer review and publishing routes and perhaps a way can be found to reward and incentivise new publishing in such a way so as to satisfy the criteria of the government rewards that universities seem motivated by.

But just to end on a lighter note, Ben Rattray - frustrated by the seemingly non-sensible reviews he keeps getting back that are blocking publishing, sends us this video:

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Progressing staff social media presence

So far my proposal to UCNISS staff has received encouraging responses. What has impresses me is an intuitive understanding in the people I'm meeting, of the reasons and likely benefits of using social media. There is a willingness to engage and try things out, something I have not seen in the 5 years I've been helping tertiary teachers.

So what's different?

  • Perhaps higher education has a more accepting culture than vocational education? This is the first time I've worked in a Faculty of a university, with researchers and teachers. Up until now it has been almost exclusively vocational teachers in TAFE and Polytechnics
  • The boss gets it. This is the first time I have worked in a team where boss is a passionate user of social media himself, and who goes out of his way to introduce me to his colleagues, heaping praise and expectation :)
  • Maybe its time? Social media has had long enough time to bed down in this section of Australian society..
So far we have 6 staff using various accounts, and 2 more making tentative inquiries. I am playing a relatively passive approach, waiting for people to make contact with me, and responding to their levels of inquiry. This approach seems to be working so far.

Robin McConnell

Suggestions

  1. Add a profile image to Blogger and Slideshare
  2. Offer to change to a new template
  3. Consider activities to prompt quick and regular updates to the blog (perhaps Q and A)
Keane Wheeler

Suggestions

  1. Show how to use Delicious to update his links page on blog
  2. Presence is starting to look established, start looking at networking actions
  3. Ask for a post reflecting on my plan
Ben Rattray

Suggestions

  1. Suggest a navigation on blog that points to full presence. Pages that contain auto updating content from each area
  2. Encourage local networking - think of a posting a post that invites comment ("what do you think I should add to my blog?")
  3. Ask for a post reflecting on my plan
Wayne Goldsmith

Suggestions

  1. Suggest a thumbnail view of Slideshare in sidebar
  2. Profile image on Twitter
  3. More blog posts
  4. Invite comment, make comment. Be present.
Keith Lyons

Suggestions
  1. Add links to Twitter and Slideshare profiles
Jason Worthington-Smith
Suggestions
  1. Set up a Youtube account and create playlists
  2. Set up a Slideshare account and favourite presentations
  3. Leave comments on colleague blogs

Monday, November 30, 2009

Being mindful of a hype cycle

At this stage the implicit motivation of the handful of staff has been enough to maintain a fairly high level of engagement with social media, spilling over into program and course development and general awareness in the faculty. Some staff have become enthusiastic with the potential, encouraging others to make contact with me and find out more about social media.

I sense this is the beginning of a critical moment however. One in which there will be a down turn in that initial enthusiasm, with a dampening of expectation when the reality of time constraints and technical ability present themselves. This sort of trend is common in my line of work, generally known as a hype cycle.

I am hoping however, that a small second wave will help buffer that down turn, as well as the finishing of the UCNISS website. At this stage, my approach to avoiding a trough too soon or too deep is to advise the early adopters to focus on the use of social media for their own professional development and research, and to hold off thinking about uses for teaching. This takes away the risks of a failure under teaching pressure, but the risk of not finding a useful synergy with research and professional development remains. Ben rightly points to the absence of any explicit incentive or reward for academics adopting social media practices, citing the Performance Development Review process at UC as a potential hindrance or driver.

Keane Wheeler has referred me to a number of coaching concepts that could be very helpful in my work to keep up momentum beyond the trough. Frameworks such as FITT (Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type) coaching. Ideas of "over compensation" in cognitive loading. Periodisation as a basis for thinking about timing and types of activity. And the writings of I. Balyi and T. Bompa for ideas relating to all of this. Coaching concepts are something I have not considered, and I realise now that there is no-doubt a wide array of knowledge in this field that will be useful, and I have experts like Keane to help me understand and apply it.


Developing individual and group Social Media presence

Maintaining individual intelligence in an Institutional identity
My advice to staff new to adopting social media is to focus on using it for their own research and professional development, and to put off ideas for teaching just for now. A focal point for this is the establishment of the UCNISS website (link soon). It is being designed to capture contributions made in each of our individual spaces by RSS feeds. The syndication of the postings by each of us appears on the UCNISS website in a sidebar box called "news just in". Once each post is captured by the website, it is a simple editorial step to reassign any of those posts to a new category in which it will appear as though it was an official post to the site itself, placed in the correct section of the site, with its own graphics and layout fitting to the site. At a first glance, it would appear as though all the content is local, but to a search engine and experienced user, they will see that the content is networked from individual presence.



In this way I expect to over come the pitfalls of group work, group think and multiple identities, leveraging the motivation each individual has to establish and maintain their own web presence. Through each person maintaining their own presence with new posting, they will be helping to establish and maintain the UCNISS website as well.

This approach also aids search engine optimisation through the linking between the distributed and networked content - for both the individual and the Institution, and it demonstrates to some degree, how information can be made to flow across multiple channels. Much like Wesch's video describes:



Our challenge now is hacking away at the UCNISS website so that the layout maintains integrity when feeds come in, and that linkbacks to the original author are working.


Friday, November 27, 2009

On connectivism



Steve Downes' notions of connected learning is of course not new. He himself has been introducing the basic premise for many years now. Further, Illich (I argue) described it without reference to Neuroscience, or the Internet and its billions of artifacts and technical channels that gave it light. Bill Kerr and others argued that Connectivism is a method within the learning theory of Social Constructivism - I think I agree with this argument, but obviously if Connectivism is a method then it is one with an encompassing and complicated understanding, with plenty of evidence to consider. Whether or not it is a "valid" learning theory really doesn't matter. Learning theories themselves are poorly understood and practically useless to us anyway.

What is obviously new, and where all parties would probably agree, is that Internet technologies are becoming socially accepted and widely used. The result of this wide adoption and popular use gives us, among many other things, a tangible glimpse of recorded informal research and learning. The potential uses of this evidence has implications for formalised education - if only in considering how we view and potentially measure learning, but more hopefully - how it might bring about entirely new educational services, or give much more weight to existing ones such as recognition of prior learning, and open access education.

Education is culturally disconnected
Unfortunately, we in the education sector (including Downes), have not yet made enough sense of this vast and quickly changing array of behavioral changes through popular media. Not even the marketeers have worked it out yet - but they're getting close.

I've been watching the Youtube search feed on Social Media for about a year now and notice that more and more marketing and publicity services are dominating the subject.. educational voices are almost nowhere to be seen anymore, but for Michael Wesch. I agree with Sierra, education should look to marketing literature and practices, as they will likely inform our own motives better than educational theories will.
Here is my Youtube playlist on Social Media.




Further to the idea that education is absent, the Wikipedia article for Social Media had no reference to education until just now - when I added two links to compensate. The See Also section (a good indicator of the interest groups that are perceived to be associated with the concept) is dominated by media and marketing concepts. I added the links to the Connectivism and Networked Learning pages... my point here though is, am I the only one thinking about this!? Clearly I'm the only Wikipedia editor who is...

This absence of a relationship between education and 2 of the top 10 most used information sources is worrying but not-at-all surprising. There has been a long and barren relationship between education and popular culture for over a century now. Education has been absent from reality for as long as I've been a part of it and today is no different - even when Social Media has direct associations to the rhetoric of educational practice.

The challenge I think, is to educationally consider the culture being recorded in these mediascapes, in such a way so as to ask let alone answer more than the obvious questions. The obvious (and pointless) questions are "how can we use these tools to do what we're doing more effectively?" Questions like this miss the bigger issue. In depth engagement with social media seems to lead many educators to the question, "is what I am doing even relevant anymore? what is my new relationship to this culture - if it becomes dominant in my society?" Journalism has asked itself, the entertainment industry has asked itself, the retail sector has itself, the government arena is asking itself, why not the education sector? So far, too few of us are asking these questions, fewer still are exploring answers.

But can we find and measure learning evidence in Social Media that is disciplined enough to warrant such serious rethinking in our institutionalised practices? Given that the work we do is economically protected and market regulated, what will the motivation be for asking such a question?

Where to begin?
Take the institution to the media, don't try and bring the media into the institution.

We (inside the institutions) need to go into social media and networked spaces to find out how it works and what our relationship to it might be. This means having an account on Wikipedia, Youtube, Slideshare, Twitter, uStream and Blogger or Wordpress and engaging with the networks there and at least finding a synergy. From a management perspective we should stop setting up internal systems that duplicate these cultural mediascapes, and sidetrack our engagement by catering to irrelevant institutional concerns. If the only reason you're using a Learning Management System is to easily manage assessment and feedback, then you're not asking a relevant question. If you haven't stopped to think if an "ePortfilio" service isn't already being offered in the "gift economy" market, then you're not asking if there is even a need beyond our institutional assessment methods. Is there really any benefit to having an internal blogging system beyond brand awareness? Same for a social networking system, or a wiki etc? What do we gain by having our own small and inadequate versions of the wider space? Why do we persist using password protected networks and Wifi? Do we even need a physical and centralised learning space apart from some specialised and technical facilities?

If a small percentage of staff in an educational institution achieved status on social media sites, that would be evidence of a readiness to discuss a relationship I think. Status such as Wikiversity Custodian or Wikipedia Administrator, or 200 thousand views on Youtube or 50 thousand views on Slideshare, or to have had a hand in creating a featured book in Wikibooks, or article in Wikipedia. If a number of people had such involvement then I think we'd be in a position to discuss a new research and educational relationship with our society in the wake of a Socialised Media culture. Until then we are merely as critically engaged as the common consumer, ignorant of the depths and personal customisations, illiterate on the workings of a larger picture. The path to achieving such incite does not involve the time spent humouring internal systems that do little more than interact with 15-300 participants motivated by fees and assessment.

I find Ask Ninja's video What is Podcasting persistently relevant to this vision:

I first used Ask Ninja's video in the post What would it be like to be the rain, where I describe what a socially networked researcher and educator might be like.

The key idea in these references is for an academic to set up a social media presence that affords people an opportunity to consider their work and expertise along side all other interests they may have. The academic's work is positioned so as to offer people a seamless transition between their everyday life, and their interest or motivation to learn from or with the academic. It is easy to do in a social media setting. I think once you do this, you start to wondering how much might be possible like this in "real" life. Setting up our own sites and password protected networks is just kidding ourselves, and misunderstanding the flows of information and knowledge in this culture.
If just a few of use can find that sweet spot of seemless transition, then we can reveal to people (as Wesch does) what they may have not recognised before, that they are closer than they think to the accreditation we offer, or have a significant interest in the subject, or are indeed capable of sitting the assessment, or simply finding a quick and true answer to a small question at a particular moment. If that doesn't motivate institutional change, then I suppose we'll have to just wait for the market demands growing along these lines.
This shift is going to take 10-15 years in 3 stages.

1st is the era in which we in formal education learn to use these spaces with authentic expertise and to demonstrate its disciplined use (3-5years). The struggle here is in the distraction of those woefully inadequate internal systems we keep setting up.

2nd is to show people who have the innate ability (net gens due in our undergrad courses in the next 3 years) that they don't have to play our institutionalized routine if they can remaster their own media worlds to disciplined study and learning (another 3-5 years for that to bed down).

3rd era begins when our society is more fully connected (2/3rds instead of the 1/3rd it is now), and begins to appreciate these alternative pathways to educational credential - even comes to expect it in some quarters. A measure of success in this will be when people not formally engaged in university education start following friends or family online, or by engaging as informal "students" themselves.
All this assumes we - the educational institutions, remain the gatekeepers to class and income.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

UCNISS Research ideas

Keane, Robin, Ben and I have been discussing possible research projects that UCNISS could take on in 2010.

So far we have 3 ideas we believe would be valued in the community, and to our knowledge don't yet exist:
  1. A video directory for ACT sport, recreation and activity
  2. Return on investment for cycleways
  3. Engagement in niche activities
Our current action is to investigate past projects in the ACT and see if these sorts of works have been done already.

A video directory for ACT sport, recreation and activity
What options are there for sport, recreation and activity in the ACT?
UCNISS will investigate and create a directory of sport, recreation and activity options around the ACT. From Rugby to orienteering; skate boarding to rock climbing; cricket to ultimate frisbee. Our objective is to find groups of people with a shared interest in an activity, and to create a profile for that activity complete with video interviews and activity footage, description, locations and maps and further details that someone with an interest can use to get involved. UCNISS will measure the impact that both the finished product and the production process has on levels of engagement in that activity.
Possible partners: ACT Health, ACT Sport and Recreation, Australian Capital Tourism, Canberra Tourism, ACT Skilled and business migration program...

Return on investment for cycleways
What impact do the Canberra cycleways have on community health and engagement in physical activity?
Canberra has exceptional infrastructure for cycling. Numbers of people cycling and walking along these sealed ways is a noticeable aspect of Canberra. UCNISS would investigate usage levels and value perceptions of these cycleways and attempt to compile a return on investment report taking into account impact on individual and community health, happiness and well being; influence on engagement in physical activity, prevention of road related injury, impact on business and economy, influence on lifestyle satisfaction rates. Such a study would require cross discipline and faculty collaboration.
Possible partners: The UC Faculty of Business and Government, the UC Faculty of Information Science and Engineering, the UC Faculty of Health, ACT Health, The Canberra Cycling Club, The Canberra Bicycle Museum, Pedal Power, Ride Canberra, other cycling groups, ACT Sport and Recreation, Australian Capital Tourism, Canberra Tourism, ACT Skilled and business migration program... I have emailed Pedal Power to see if they know of a any study like this.

Engagement in niche activities
Ben is investigating this idea, but essentially it is to find out if people who engage in niche or minority activities, engage in other forms of activity as well. It is to find out if for example a skate park was made unavailable in a community, would the people who use that facility remain engaged in other forms of activity. I'll let Ben describe this project more on his blog, but I really liked the sound of this one as it potentially gives value and understanding of the value that smaller fields give to the community.

Funding
When it came to the question of how we might find such research, we think the projects align with ACT Health's Community Funding Round which opened 7 November 2009, with application closing 25 January 2010, and funding available July 2010.
The Community Funding Round aims to support activities related to the promotion of good health in general and the prevention of chronic disease. Funding will be provided to organisations to develop partnerships that strengthen the capacity of individuals and communities to make healthy choices. The funding round also aims to build the capability of organisations to adopt health promotion principles and practices and deliver a range of health promotion strategies.

The Community Funding Round calls for projects that place an emphasis on ACT Health's key priorities. These include: physical activity, healthy nutrition, chronic disease prevention, environmental sustainability and health, smoking reduction and mental health promotion. The funding guidelines will be applied flexibly to project applications received from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.

Actions
We are looking into other possible funding opportunities, and forming up Google Docs for each. Over the coming weeks we'll investigate if similar studies have been done before, and if we were to conduct such studies - how we would build on that related work. Next meeting some time next week.

Comments and suggestions?

Friday, November 06, 2009

My research and development plan at UC

So, 1 month in and where am I up to with the National Institute of Sport Studies, The Faculty of Health and the University of Canberra generally?

What's expected


Social media presence. The UCNISS wants to be leading sport studies institution through the use of open and networked research, teaching and learning. An invitation has been given to UCNISS staff then to develop online presence and adopt open and networked practices. To this end I am brought in to advise and develop the capability of staff who are interested in such an approach, and work closely with them to develop critical appreciation and skills in the use of the Internet and social media to achieve this goal.

The website. While 80% of my time is allocated to working with the UCNISS staff, 20% is to address the short comings of the Faculty of Health's web pages. The expectation is that the web pages will be updated and made more usable as soon as possible, and in time for our peak student enrolment season.

What I have done so far

Investigating existing services. For the first few weeks, I investigated the functionality of the services provided by the University of Canberra, and considered how they could be incorporated into the effort to establish online presence for the UCNISS staff. I looked at the following services:
  1. Moodle
  2. UCSpaces
  3. Yammer
  4. The UC Website
  5. The NISS.org Wordpress install
  6. UC's Wifi provision
  7. I am waiting to see the outcome of a lecture recording facility being considered
I was primarily looking for simple and intuitive two way integration between these services and the established popular media platforms that we would likely use:
  1. Blogger
  2. Twitter
  3. Delicious
  4. Wikipedia, books and versity
  5. Youtube
  6. Slideshare
  7. Ustream
  8. Smartphones

Moodle
The UC Moodle set up is one of the better setups I have seen. Users have the option to make their courses open access, including deep linking into the course itself from outside the network. Also, I was able to embed several forms of RSS fed media into a Moodle course, delivering a relatively seamless relationship to outside media platforms. Here is an example course I set up to automatically update based on my activities in the social media platforms outside moodle. Recently, I am told, Moodle now has the ability to capture a blog post on Blogger and update the blog instance for that user inside Moodle. Unfortunately the RSS feed coming out of Moodle is difficult to use, the URLs for the courses are not easily memorised, and Google search does not effectively locate pages inside the Moodle course.

UCSpace
UCSpace is run on Confluence, a widely recognised content management system based around the wiki and social networking software. It was set up to offer both an open and closed social networking space for UC staff (and students?) It appears to have received very little support or uptake. I found it too difficult to use and graphically unappealing. I tried to set it so that this blog would automatically update my blog in UCSpace, but I couldn't work it out. I tried to manage the RSS feeds coming out of UCspace, but it proved difficult to find the right feed, and the one I thought was right, appears to not be updating properly. I posted an initial plan for updating the Health website (and copy pasted it to my blog) but recieved little constructive feedback compared to the network I have established outside UCspaces. From what I can tell, UCsMoodle has a better chance of becoming the internal space that UCspace was intended for. To my thinking, both are unnecessarily limiting in that they encourage introverted thinking on the part of UC staff, and so probably facilitates poor understanding of the popular social media platforms.

Yammer
Yammer is an excellent micro blogging platform, and if I could, I would try and convert all the Twitter users to it. But again my established network is on Twitter and to a smaller degree a UC network is in Yammer. It is possible to feed Tweets into Yammer via the #yam tag, but it is not possible to reply to these tweets from inside Yammer. Observing the UC Yammer network for a month now, I believe that opportunities are missed by not using Twitter, and that Yammer facilitates an introversion again. It is important to strengthen networks inside one's organisation, but I hope to play a role in drawing more of my colleagues out onto Twitter, and so help establish #UC etc as relating to the University of Canberra, and establishing wider networks relating to our UC issues and discussions.

The UC Website
I have been totally bewildered at the difficulty in using the UC Website content management system. Apparently popular in the Australian public service sector, MySourceMatrix, or at least the UC instance of it, is incredibly inefficient to use, often crashing my browser, and requiring several tens of clicks and processes just to complete a simple task like creating or updating a new page. The UC web team have been very helpful however, generously providing their time in getting me confident in the use of the system. It is possible to capture an RSS feed into the site, and I have set up staff profile pages that capture information from their respective blog feeds. It is more difficult than it should be by contemporary CMS standard, but at least their is no official UC policy or procedure preventing such a feature on the website. Given the extreme difficulty in using this system, it is unrealistic to expect academic staff to be able to manage and update pages themselves, rendering the website almost useless for achieving the goal of establishing web presence for UCNISS. Instead, it would be wiser to set up the website to capture activity outside, and to represent a central point for over viewing UCNISS in relation to the Faculty of Health. As for the Faculty pages as a whole, again given the usability issues, there is a risk that I will become the only go-to person for updating the website, but for now it is manageable and complimentary to my learning how to use MySourceMatrix.

The NISS.org Wordpress install
The NISS.org.au domain name was intended for use for UCNISS, but as a colleague recently pointed out, NISS.org is currently operating and risks confusing the web presence, as do a number of other NISS type organisations. Discussion is being had with the likely result being to adopt UCNISS as the name, and change the domain to UCNISS.org. Currently there is a Wordpress install on the domain, administered by an employee at UC. It seems that person is very busy and might not be able to assist too much with the development of the site. My first recommendation would be to install Wordpress Multi User, and set the site to capture RSS feeds from the blogs and channels of the staff that make up UCNISS (rather than have them set up accounts on a central site like UCNISS). This approach will lesson the reliance on a UCNISS site administrator, and encourage UCNISS related content to dispurse over the Internet, helping with search engine optimisation, and developing staff skills in the use of a wider array of tools.

UCs Wifi
UC's Wifi is universally disappointing, and has not been properly resourced or developed to keep up with contemporary expectations. I attended an IT forum in which the IT support staff challenged the perceived expectation of Wifi, citing low usage statistics as a justification for not providing an enhanced Wifi service on campus. From this I surmise that it will be a very long road to getting free and open Wifi on campus, and so my colleagues and I are investigating alternatives, including roaming keys and portable wireless hubs to make our wired network open Wifi in lectures, meetings with guests and conferences. The Teaching and Learning Centre at UC in the meantime, continues to lobby IT for better Wifi support.

Lecture recording
The TLC is reviewing a system called echo360 for use as a lecture recorder. My previews of the system gives me cause for concern. The frame rate and image quality appears poor, the recordings centre around a screen recording positioning the actual lecturer and lecture room as a peripheral aspect to the lecture, the multi media recording (the one that includes an image of the lecturer and the room) does not output in a portable format outside Flash. I could be wrong on these points, but regardless - it seems to me to be another instance of using an expensive system when we have free and ready access to popular systems that will do much the same, and position our lecturers in the market so to speak. Some UCNISS staff for example are quite keen to use Youtube, Slideshare and Ustream to record and broadcast their lectures. I have argued that the money allocated to a lecture recording system would be better spent upgrading the Wifi and providing lecturers with smart phones to carry with them and broadcast lectures, interviews and other situational events through the Wifi to services like Ustream.

Smartphones
I have also spent the month using an HTC smart phone with the Android operating system, as well as a Nokia N97 smart phone. The affordability or these phones, along with their functionality could yield interesting uses for staff in UCNISS - such as broadcasting lectures and live events, are integrating their social media webpresence with a mobile device. This might be some way off yet.

This is a diagram for a plan I have been discussing with colleagues for achieving the goal of establishing UCNISS and staff presence on the Internet.


So far I am very encouraged by the enthusiasm and intuitive understanding my colleagues have shown towards this idea. Our conversation is well beyond the basics already and right into the exciting possibilities. 2 staff have lead a charge, having set up blogs and Slideshare accounts each, with one going on to explore Ustream, Youtube, and Twitter. Time does appear to remain an issue for both however, and so far the exploration remains superficial.

My intention is to work closely with these early adopters, and offer as much help for them as they need. I am trusting that that won't turn into me doing the work for them, and that their interest and enthusiasm for how these tools are useful will remain strong and inspired.

My next post will more fully articulate the thinking behind the flows of data, the how's and why's of using a plan like this, and how I am thinking to make this project with UCNISS the topic of a PhD.

How might P2PU do without copyright?

"I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man's copyright, nor ask another man to live for mine."
Steve Forester, in discussion with Minhaaj Rehman and others on the Resist-Copyright list, Nov 2009.

The Peer to Peer University is discussing copyright at the moment, and have invited comment from people who have something to say on the matter. They're looking for "1 pagers" to bring into their meeting for consideration and debate within the P2PU team.

The argument that I am going to try and make is that P2PU should actively resist copyright. So the question should not be which copyright license to use, but how to not use copyright at all?

I've been writing and acting on the topic of copyright in education for 6 years now. A seemingly short time, but pretty much the duration as it applies to copyright in education. Most of that time has been explaining and promoting the use of the Creative Commons Attribution License as the best choice for educational organisations. Not because it "enables" sharing (we shouldn't, and don't need a license to share) but because it was a logical compromise between the prevailing restrictive licenses at the time, and the objective to remove all bureaucratic costs over the free use and reuse of information and expression - especially educative. At that time, educational organisations and their contractors were following the Free Trade lead of corporatisation and privatisation, and at that time corporations and private organisations believed ownership and restricted access to information and media was the only way to protect their "property", competitive edge and/or income. Free software, open source, Wikimedia, OurMedia, Youtube and Google, and Creative Commons was to gradually show otherwise is possible.

The moral and even economic arguments for free and unrestricted information is as old as the Internet itself. The so-called CopyLeft offered a temporary enabler in the face of overwhelming restrictions, while the rest of us slowly came to terms with what new economic models where being made possible. Corey Doctorow took advantage of the Creative Commons star and showed how openness in book authoring is beneficial even to the old models of publishing. Many universities eventually saw the moral and economic advantage of open access to their information. Yochai Benkler academically legitimised what many in the popular sphere had been practicing for years. Google and the social media providers generally, showed that the Gift Economy can be happy bedfellows with the Market Economy.

The point here is not that copyright restricts or enables this new economy, copyright is merely temporary within it. The Gift Economy, Information Economy, free information world, what ever you want to call it, is driven by profound human will and desire, ages old, to know and communicate. This will, combined with digital formats and the Internet, completely decimated business models that relied on the preventative costs of production and distribution, and now they rely on the protectionism of copyright alone. Copyright is merely a nuisance to a truer force for free information, certainly not an enabler.

And so, we wait for groups and organisations to recognise the freedom that individuals enjoy regardless of copyright laws and protectionism. Look to the success-at-the-time of Napster and Pirate Bay for models of such freedom, and learn from their eventual weaknesses. As well, consider corporations like Google who boldly flaunt their disregard for copyright, helping the rest of us to push out and enjoy that freedom. Groups like the Peer to Peer University should join direct and indirect activist such as these and reject copyright as a defining policy over their activities. Their reasoning for such a stance should be abundantly clear by now, none-the-less there will be die hard and wanna be bureaucrats out there who simply cannot envision an operation free of copyright, and so a strong statement, coupled with a defiant stance in the face of what remains of such conservatism is necessary.

P2PU wants to be a network, made up of individual action and responsibility. As such P2PU should not impose a particular copyright policy on these individuals, instead focusing on the facilitation of the free exchange of learning and educational advance. Further, P2PU should not even recognise copyright as a legitimate governing force over the free exchange of learning or educational advance, and so it follows that it will not take action for or against any individual in the network based on copyright.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The way we should manage video

For some time now I've been talking about this idea on how an organisation should handle video (or all media it produces for that matter), I think I may have blogged it before - I know I tried to use the Heywire 8 meeting as a venue to bring it forward, and I had high hopes that NZ Telecom would show interest, or that Digital NZ would make it possible, but I haven't heard anything back from any of them. Perhaps those secretive Kiwis are forging ahead without me.. just like they did to some poor old Australian with the pavlova.

Recently my colleagues as University of Canberra have asked me to write the idea up in a one pager for use in a proposal. If you have any pointers on the idea, please comment in a link.

The way we should manage video

Someone wanting to upload a video at UC goes to the UC website and clicks upload. The select the file they wish to upload and then go through an extensive list of servers to send that file to. (UC website, Moodle, National Archives, Youtube, Internet Archive, Blip.tv, Facebook.. add their own server). When they click upload the file is pushed across the selected platform carrying with it a link to UC, and when finished they receive an email with a summary of file locations and embed codes. They use whichever one they like in their own sites, or leave it at that. The point of this is getting content out across the Internet in ways that suite the preferences of both the individual publishers and the viewers, as well as establishing a strong UC presence across popular media platforms. This is also a good form of backup, especially considering the addition of the Internet Archive and the National Archives.

A free web service that does most of this already exists at http://tubemogul.com. The thing that is needed on such a service however, is the ability to add other servers.

Given that most organisations use a Proxy server to manage Internet use, it is possible to use this file distribution idea to manage bandwidth use. For example, if someone on campus requests a file it is delivered from campus servers. If the request is from off campus somewhere, then the file is delivered from off campus servers thus saving UC outgoing and incoming data costs.

Leigh Blackall comments on the Second Life for Education in New Zealand project

Click to Play MP3 (14Meg)
Michael Winter of CORE Education interviews Leigh Blackall about the Second Life for Education in New Zealand project (SLENZ). Michael is interviewing all the project team as an evaluation of the project. This audio is raw and unedited.

Very late Milestone Report to AKO, regarding the Measure of Otago's Open Education

Terry Marler alerts me to an over due milestone report for the Ako Aotearoa project where we are attempting to evaluate the impact of open educational developments at Otago Polytechnic. Up until now, I expected that the my blog postings on the project and the wiki that documents the project, were acting as continuous progress reports. But it turns out that there is a word processor template that needs to be filled in! Blogging is beyond what is required, so this post is for me and you I guess, and I will attempt to squeeze it into the template provided.

Progress so far:

Reports
All reports are categorised and fed through RSS on the tag word project-ako
15 September 2009
Measuring our open education, finishing stage 1: Usage
Reporting initial findings on the costs, savings and gains of using social media platforms. Comments from peers were left, resulting in minor changes to the equations, and a finished stage 1 evaluation published on the project wiki.
16 comments to date from peers.

13 August 2009
Models of open education
Reporting on the talk given in Vancouver for the Open Education 2009 conference. Includes a video recording and key points and links made in the talk:
  • 4 stories
  • 4 models
  • Policy and support
  • Questioning
2 comments to date from peers.
17 July 2009
Measuring open education: How we value it?
Reporting on the second meeting with ethnographers being engaged to assist with evaluating the impact open education has on staff values and perceptions of performance. Report includes confirmation of a research plan.
0 comments to date from peers

7 July 2009
Measuring open education
Reporting on research direction after meeting with external and experienced ethnographers.
14 comments to date from peers.
Since the conference, stage 1 of a 2 stage evaluation was completed finding that:
It costs $4000 to train one person how to use social media to source, produce and publish open educational resources for their teaching practice. That person will go on to return $4542 per year worth of brand awareness for their organisation, $1031 per year in quality gains by sampling and reusing free content, and up to $3615 per year worth of savings in infrastructural and support costs by using free media publishing services.

How this approach to teaching practices impacts on senses of job satisfaction, motivation, and perceptions of teaching and learning performance is yet to be determined. We are waiting for reports from an ethnographic study to be conducted by external researchers. We also hope to gain insight into subjective perspectives on the impact the practice has on learning outcomes and satisfaction.

If it is agreed that these returns are tangible and useful, it will be recommended that a committed training regime (one that compensates for teacher time) be implemented, and that incentives and rewards be put in place for teachers that go on to use popular social media for open educational practices.

Mobile videos-Youtube, web-based editing Kaltura

Click to Play
How to email video clips from your phone to Youtube, then import the clips from Youtube to a Kaltura web based video editor

Mobile videos-Youtube, web-based editing Kaltura

How to email video clips from your phone to Youtube, then import the clips from Youtube to a Kaltura web based video editor

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Thoughts about ANU #gaggle, institutional learning vs networked learning

I attended a forum that is held regularly around Canberra, called Gaggle. It is an edtech forum generally, and I was excited to go, expecting to meet several of the edtech people I have been following for several years. Unfortunately they didn't attend this #gaggle, but I was still interested to see what ANU would bring to the discussion...

Unfortunately I was a little disappointed, leading to some frustration over there being no time allowed for discussion after each 10 minute presentation, seeing me tweet spiky comments and questions instead. Perhaps that lack of discussion is a good thing though.. we have the technology to carry on a discussion here, and maybe the face to face is better used to cover as much ground as possible in terms of ideas and content... I dunno, I tend to think the other way around would be better. Presentations online, face to face for discussion.

One of the presenters, Tom Worthington has been gracious enough to ignore the tone of my tweets and respond to each, at length on his blog. I should have tagged my questions according to the presentations I was referring to though, because not every one was to Tom. My frustration at the time was only added to by the 140 character limits, typing on an android with only one bar of signal and no open wifi in the room. Even more frustrating was the 4-10 seconds for a question or comment after a presentation, just as everyone is told its time to leave.. all of which is hardly conducive to discussion.. especially for someone like me who is yet to develop the virtue of patience.

Tom's come back to my main question:

LB Tweets: What if anyone could pick and chose anything from anywhere to make a degree? Why limit it to institutions?

Tom blogs: You can pick and choose anything for your education. But it may help to have someone help you pick and choose. That is part of what institutions do. They also provide a form of quality control for you, and for others, to say what you studied and what you did with it was worthwhile. This particularly applies to education for professions which effect on people's lives.
Tom's point is one that is often cited to refute Connectivism or networked and open learning, similar in ways that schooling refutes deschooling. That some professions require quantifiable skills and assessment, and that institutions provide that is a fair point in the context of "higher education" becoming more like vocational training, and a point that is exactly what is being challenged. Do the institutions really provide effective guidance and quality, or are they simply enjoying a governed monopoly over the idea? Many parallels have been made here with recent challenges facing newspapers and journalism - one being the institution, the other being the social value it keeps. What happens when that social value is more effectively found (or realised) in places outside that institution?

It would surely be a possible point of agreement that formal education and curriculum does more than simply guide and make quality. There is much more to the formalised learning experience than that. If we then extend that line into questions of what institutions displace in people's learning, and what those institutions might do if faced with evidence that their social value is being met elsewhere, then I think we would be having a discussion on something that is what Gaggle should be about. But this argument perhaps puts me in one historic camp and Tom in another. The argument is impractical to here and now, decades long, with my camp having become absent from most public dialogue within the institutions (Illich, Frier, Holt, McCluhan, Chomsky, and more recently, a medium sized network of blogging educational commentators).

Even in the areas of simple quantifiable education and training, we can find evidence of efficiency gains in self directed and networked learning - largely thanks to recent communications media reawakening old social ideas and the willingness of a % of people to try those ideas again. The values of guidance and quality Tom refers to, is it being diluted by inflated fees, bureaucratic overheads, open educational practices, open courseware, and more broadly - efforts to add value opportunities for learning through social media and connections? If this dilution continues, perhaps the only value left in institutions will be assessment and credentialism, and the learning that credentialasim rewards, finds more opportunities to take place everywhere else but the institutions. The rise in the practice of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), and Assessment of Prior Learning (APL) for example.

To be honest though, I am relatively inexperienced with the Higher Ed sector, having spent 8 years on the vocational training sector, and a few years in secondary. Even there, are threads of philosophical wonderings about competency based curriculum, assessment, and the wider stuff generalised as critical, ethical, social, creative and analytical learnings. All of it leading to what I think ought to be an identity crisis for institutions, and a massive topic of consideration at forums like Gaggle.

There was one presenter positing these questions at ANU #gaggle, Megan Poore. I would have liked to ask her the nagging question I have inspired by reading Illich. Do the utopian ideas of networked learning and socialism through these new technocratic devices actually displace more people than it empowers? Are we utopians watching that ball?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

On the trouble with scientific measures and accounting

A friend in NZ sent me this story recently. Posting it here for others to see, and so I don't lose it in email history:

A small story by Lobsang Rampa in his book Chapters of Life (strongly recommended for reading at least once in life time)

…………. Einstein dealt with theories. He theorized according to the facts available at the time, but you see, we must not always be led astray by what appears to be the obvious, because the obvious is not always so obvious. For instance, a scientist was studying the behavior of fleas, he thought he could correlate the behavior of fleas' psychosomatic patterns with that of humans. After all, fleas thrive exceedingly well on human blood, so our scientist went in for the study of fleas, an itching process, if I may say so. With great care and the expenditure of much time, he trained a medium-sized flea to jump over a matchbox every time he said, ‘Go.’ Then when the flea had the idea, the scien- tist pulled off two of the flea's six legs. ‘Go,’ he said. The flea jumped again, and was able to repeat the performance although not so successfully as before. The scientist grunted, with satisfaction, and pulled off two more of the six legs. ‘Go,’ said the scientist. Feebly the flea did so, and the scientist nodded his approval. Reaching for the flea he pulled off the poor creature's last two legs. Unfortunately now that the flea no longer had legs the scientist could shout ‘Go’ endlessly and the flea would not move. The scientist, after many tries, nodded his wise old head and wrote in his report, ‘A flea's hearing is in its legs. When it loses two legs it cannot hear so well and so does not jump too high. When it loses all six of its legs it becomes completely deaf!’

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

GAGGLE Program: Educational Design at the ANU

Why these things go out on email where only a few can see I dunno. It said all welcome, so I've put it up on my blog so I can easily link others to the info.

GAGGLE Program: Educational Design at the ANU


16 October 2009 4-6pm

Australian National University, Canberra. Sir Roland Wilson Building, Short Course Room 1 (on the left at the top of the stairs), here's a map to ANU.. you and me both will be lost finding the building.

The ANU has educational designers, developers and technologists in every College, each engaged in activities with a College-specific focus. This group meets regularly, but while there are common themes to their work, each area is using a slightly different approach to the issues. In this session, representatives from each area will speak briefly about their work, their professional practice, and the current focus of their operational activity. Each speaker will make a 10 minutes presentation, and then there will be a panel discussion about the issues and implications.
Session A: 1 hour

  1. Megan Poore, College of Arts and the Social Sciences: New media literacy in the new knowledge space
  2. Aliya Steed / Jonathan Powles, College of Law: The development of a simulated professional learning environment for law
  3. Lauren Kane / Debbie Pioch, College of Engineering and Computer Science: Online management of course information / CECS and the hubs and spokes project with UniSA
  4. James Meek, College of Asia and the Pacific: The Conference Model (and alternative to lectures) and Hidden Treasures (archival source material)
  5. Paula Newitt, Colleges of Science: Research experiences in the undergraduate curriculum
  6. Deborah Veness, College of Economics and Business: Finding a way to make standards descriptors useful to a University teacher in the business disciplines
Session B: 1/2 hour

Each speaker will finish with a provocative question, which will lead into a group discussion.

Session C: 15-20 minutes

Finally, Tom Worthington will give us a brief presentation on his Green ICT course, which is delivered without lectures or examinations.

*****

Everyone is welcome, so please pass this invitation on to any of your colleagues not already on the mailing list. Please remind them to let me know if they are coming ... by 12 noon on Thursday. deborah.veness@anu.edu.au

Monday, October 12, 2009

UC Health Faculty Website

One of my first projects here at The Uni of Canberra has been assigned by Diane Gibson (Dean of the Faculty of Health). It is to develop a plan for the Faculty's web pages within the University Website. My thinking is to add these initial notes here, in the hope of connecting with other interested parties within, and even outside the University were there is a chance for collaboration and advice. At the same time, good old word of mouth is working, and I am getting around various people in and outside the Faculty who have experience with the website.

The UC website is theoretically user generated, meaning that staff can obtain rights to edit and manage the website. I am yet to meet a staff member who edits and manages pages that relate to their work, it seems most people prepare information offline and then work with someone to get that information onto the website. I know there are people in Health who have big and small ideas for their website, and everyone seems to agree that it is a very important channel for attracting and supporting people engaged with teh University and the Faculty. So one of my first steps is to get to know everyone who is involved, interested or has responsibility for the website at the moment, and to collect their ideas and concerns. If anything immediate and urgent comes up, I'll work to addressing those straight away.

These are the notes I have from the staff in Sports Studies. It has been recommended that I make contact with Pharmacy and Physio as well.

So far identified as urgent
  1. Some courses are not listed accurately, or linked from the Faculty or Discipline pages
  2. Updates needed asap, in time to meet inquiries for enrolments in 2010
  3. Not enough information relating to facilities, research, partnerships
  4. Staff pages are out of date
General issues and suggestions
  1. Everyone commented on the difficulty to navigate existing information, or to locate known information.
  2. Some commented that information is very text heavy and unengaging, lacking a human face, needs plain English-ifying
  3. One suggested a FAQ page, as well as study advice like part time study options, from where to where pathways. Sports has someone working on a Pathways diagram.
  4. Interesting to note the page within Sports: "Australian Sporting Industry Short Course, 6th-25th June 2010", suggesting that all Unit or Course pages might have a welcome page along the lines of this. A suggestion was to create welcome pages that include more information - including resources, photos, class notes etc.
  5. Sports Studies submenu should include pages for Staff, Partnerships, Research, Consultancy, Honours and further research, testimonials, tweets..
  6. Suggestions to include videos (or audio with images) of staff describing their research areas and interests, as well as course descriptions.
  7. Comment that the web page information is weak, with no verifiable or supporting links outside the website itself, or no presence in other information channels outside the University.
If you have ideas for the Faculty of Health pages, or any of the disciplines within the Faculty, I would love to hear your suggestions, or alerts to urgent fixes.

A course of action roughly proposed for Sports Studies with a view to scaling through to other disciplines:

  1. Due 14 Oct @ 6hrs: Leigh to receive training on the website's content management system (appointment made with Fran for Wednesday 14 Oct at 10am, and with Judy Friday 7 Oct at 10am)
  2. Due 23 Oct @ 12hrs: Correct and update errors and absent information immediately, inserting images and addressing basic layout improvements along the way
  3. Due 26 Oct @ 6hrs: Meeting with staff to gather suggestions and follow up gathering content. Suggestions requiring content or significant work - listed for scoping.
  4. Due 1 Dec @ 24hrs: Implement changes based on suggestions and new content
  5. Due 11 Dec @ 6hrs: Another staff meeting to review changes, and train volunteers to assist with further maintenance and additions in future.*
  6. Due 18 Dec @ 24hrs: Begin spreading content, information and resources across wider web (Youtube, Wikipedia, Slideshare, perhaps even Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and Wikiversity etc)
  7. Due 18 Dec @ 12 hrs: Regather that distributed content back into the website via RSS, widgets and other content aggregates.
  8. Due 21 Dec @ 6 hrs: Another staff meeting to review distributed content exercise, and to get volunteers for developing new practices that compliment the ongoing endeavour.*

TOTAL HOURS: 96

*Should volunteers step forward for this steps, extra hours needed for training and support (approx 10 hrs each volunteer, for each step)