It’s started – the Nottingham professional services NOOC

The Changing University: Inside Nottingham is underway

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The University of Nottingham professional services NOOC (Nottingham Open Online Course) is underway. Thanks to a great deal of work by many colleagues a first four week course is now open and over 400 members of staff have signed up.

The NOOC has been designed especially for staff working in professional services across the University, in Malaysia, China and the UK.  The course, ‘The Changing University: Inside Nottingham’, covers the ways in which the University works and how different parts of the professional services operate.  During the four week course we will also explore what it means to work at a leading global university and how gaining a better understanding of professional behaviours can help with developing careers.

The course is entirely online and uses Moodle, the University’s online learning platform, and will require a time commitment of around 2-3 hours per week.  The course begins with an overview of universities and an insight into how they work including the role of professional services, the regulations that govern us, how our large numbers of staff collaborate and work together and the challenges that face the University as we look forward to 2020.

One of the really important elements of the course will be the opportunity to work with, learn from and collaborate with colleagues from across all of our campuses.  The first NOOC run by the University, on Sustainability, attracted hundreds of staff and students from the UK, China and Malaysia who engaged enthusiastically with its contents.  You can find a brief note about the Sustainability NOOC here.NOOC_Logo_RGB

Whilst ‘The Changing University’ is intended just for staff working in professional services and not students, we are already seening similar levels of participation and engagement across the campuses which is hugely encouraging.

You can find full details of ‘The Changing University: Inside Nottingham’ and how to join on the course page.

It’s not too late to sign up and get involved with learning more about the University and the work of professional services.

 

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Launch of the university professional services NOOC

The Changing University: Inside Nottingham – a post just for University Nottingham (UK, China and Malaysia) colleagues

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An earlier post invited views on the possibility of a University of Nottingham professional services NOOC (Nottingham Open Online Course). Following much discussion and a great deal of work by many colleagues a first four week course is about to launch.

In just a few days from now (Monday 13 October to be precise) we will launch a new NOOC designed especially for staff working in professional services across the University, in Malaysia, China and the UK.  The course, ‘The Changing University: Inside Nottingham’, covers the ways in which the University works and how different parts of the professional services operate.  During the four week course we will also explore what it means to work at a leading global university and how gaining a better understanding of professional behaviours can help with developing careers.

The course is entirely online and uses Moodle, the University’s online learning platform, and will require a time commitment of around 2-3 hours per week.  The course begins with an overview of universities and an insight into how they work including the role of professional services, the regulations that govern us, how our large numbers of staff collaborate and work together and the challenges that face the University as we look forward to 2020.

One of the really important elements of the course will be the opportunity to work with, learn from and collaborate with colleagues from across all of our campuses.  The first NOOC run by the University, on Sustainability, attracted hundreds of staff and students from the UK, China and Malaysia who engaged enthusiastically with its contents.  You can find a brief note about the Sustainability NOOC here.NOOC_Logo_RGB

Whilst ‘The Changing University’ is intended just for staff working in professional services and not students, we are really hoping for similar levels of participation and engagement across the campuses.

You can find full details of ‘The Changing University: Inside Nottingham’ and how to join on the course page.

Do sign up and get involved with learning more about the University and the work of professional services.

 

Mobile students

Student mobility in and out of the UK

The British Council has produced this nice graphic on student mobility in and out of the UK:

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This new interactive animation shows how the UK as a provider and host of internationally mobile students has evolved over recent years. From 2002 onwards differences in gender, age, level and disciplines studied are displayed for incoming students.The data has been sourced mainly from the Higher Education Statistics Authority and UNESCO Institute for Statistics

It’s fascinating to see the change of patterns of mobility over time and there are several different dimensions to play with. The huge growth in international student recruitment and the shift from European nations to Asia is impressive to watch.

 

Celebrating Student Success

We really do have an outstanding Students’ Union

A nice new website publicising the University of Nottingham Students’ Union’s successes over the past year and its centenary celebrations:

For the last week of the semester, your officers decided it was time to celebrate the things we’d achieved. So, we launched our very first Celebration Week. Celebration Week is the perfect time to look back on the successes of the past year. What’s was the most memorable moment of 2013/14? What was your biggest success? What would you have done differently?Most importantly, we wanted to know how you were celebrating everything you’d been getting up to, while we held some celebrations of our own. Special events, such as the free 100 Heroes exhibition tours, Women in Leadership Tea Party and Mooch Big Brunch, were put together just for Celebration Week.Thanks to everyone for a brilliant year – and we’ll see you again at Welcome!

It’s all terrific stuff and serves to remind us of the essential role students’ unions play in the life of universities. Things have certainly moved on in the past 100 years:

Unions have moved on a little...

Unions have moved on a little…

The Varsity win was pretty good too.

So well done to all of this year’s officers and look forward to even more successes next year.

Most serious league tables of the year?

League tables of choice

All rankings have their shortcomings. Some though are perhaps even more methodologically questionable than others. I was struck recently by two league tables which seemed to be even less credible than this very important ranking of universities based on the length of their name.

First up is the ranking of the most influential UK universities on Twitter. This appeared recently in Times Higher Education but has since sunk without trace. The methodology, if it may be called that, is simply to use a site called followerwonk which magically creates a ‘Social Authority’ score for institutions based on some combination of followers, and number of retweets etc. It doesn’t get much more authoritative than this.

 

influential on twitter

Meanwhile, at the slightly more salacious end of the league table spectrum we have the University Sex League 2014. Nothing dubious about the scoring method here. It’s a self-selecting survey in which there is a slim possibility that respondents might be less than entirely accurate in their recall:

unisexleagueThe bottom 10 has not been reproduced here for obvious reasons.

Anyway, there you have it, two league tables which if they achieve nothing else manage the remarkable feat of making other rankings look pretty credible and methodologically robust.

 

Breakfasts of champions?

Academics and their breakfasts

Greatly amused by this story in Inside Higher Ed about a new website which encourages academics to photograph and consider their breakfasts:

What you eat for breakfast may not merit space on your C.V, but a new website called Academic Breakfast is based on the idea that how professors start their days matters.The website invites academics to post a photograph of their breakfast, and to answer six quick questions: where they live, their institution, their job, their research in five words, their breakfast in five words, and their food philosophy in 10 words. Many of the philosophies mix the importance of doing the right thing in terms of nutrition and the environment, but also enjoying food.

Not sure this is going to catch on as a breakfast idea

Among the food philosophies shared are “eat healthily but indulge your honest cravings without any guilt” from a McGill University graduate student and “Treat the planet and all beings well; have pleasure” from a California State University at San Marcos sociologist and performance artist.While there are plenty of healthy foods visible, one can also spot breakfast items — Diet Coke, cold pizza — that might not appear on nutritionists’ recommendations for the morning. Several people included shots of their morning pills. And while most of the photographs depict the food before anyone started eating, there are also shots that were taken mid-meal.

The full glory of the Academic Breakfast Tumblr is here and it certainly proves that everyone has different approaches, academic or otherwise, to the first meal of the day. It’s a bold and innovative idea. But whatever next? No doubt someone is already working on Deans and their Doughnuts, Provosts who love Pancakes and Vegetables which look like Vice-Chancellors.

More means worse? (Data that is)

 Lots of information is not necessarily a good thing for prospective students

I’ve written before about concerns about too much data and the importance of quality rather than just quantity in the information provided to applicants to higher education.

Now a new HEFCE report on Improving information for prospective students has come to a similar conclusion.

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The report summarises existing research into decision-making behaviour and comes to some interesting conclusion:

 

Relevant research was identified across a wide range of disciplines, including information science, cognitive and behavioural psychology, behavioural economics and social theory. This research is likely to be relevant to how prospective students make their higher education choices.

The research draws attention to the need to examine fundamental assumptions about how people use information in decision-making.

Key findings in the report include:

  • The decision-making process is complex, personal and nuanced, involving different types of information, messengers and influences over a long time. This challenges the common assumption that people primarily make objective choices following a systematic analysis of all the information available to them at one time.
  • Greater amounts of information do not necessarily mean that people will be better informed or be able to make better decisions.

 

It’s a really detailed, serious and comprehensive report and sets out eight principles which it is proposed should govern future information provision for prospective HE students. Let’s hope it is taken seriously and that we now take a fresh look at this important issue. Mike Hamlyn has also commented on this report and is entertainingly sceptical on its findings.

Two very different approaches to campus security

Sophisticated Mobile App or an Armoured Truck? Tough Call

The Chronicle of Higher Education had an interesting report on the introduction of ‘LiveSafe’, a mobile app that was adopted by the university in August and has been downloaded 4,200 times:

“We get the luxury of getting a lot of information from the students because we have this platform that is really, really easy to use,” Mr. Venuti says, noting that students can text alerts to officials anonymously if they chose. “These kids are text-driven. They are mobile-device-driven. They can text faster than any of us can probably type.”

LiveSafe, according to the report, was co-founded by a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, and is one of a number of similar apps being snapped up by colleges to help with emergency comms and response. This kind of technology is apparently gaining momentum in the US “amid a national conversation about campus safety that extends all the way to the White House”:

In some ways, the technology moves institutions beyond mass-alerting systems, which became a legal requirement in the wake of Virginia Tech and allow colleges to send out emergency notifications by email, text message, and loudspeaker, among other mediums.

While specific features vary, many of the new apps can be integrated into existing alerting infrastructures while also creating a two-way channel of communication. Users send written or visual messages tagged with their GPS location to public-safety officials, who monitor the apps’ back-end dashboards through web browsers, typically on monitors in command centers or on laptops in patrol cars. Officials can respond to alerts with follow-up questions or specific instructions.

It’s smart stuff and sadly likely to be very useful at US campuses where there seem to be fairly frequent severe incidents at universities.

Meanwhile, over at Ohio State University…

Huffington Post reports that the University has acquired Military-Style Armoured Truck.

There are no suggestions that Ohio State has had a problem with roadside bombs recently but they do now have a response to such eventualities. It is, apparently, a “mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle”. It’s army surplus we are told:

The 19-ton armored truck (specifically, a “MaxxPro,” manufactured by the Illinois defense-vehicle maker Navistar) is built to withstand “ballistic arms fire, mine fields, IED’s, and Nuclear, Biological and Chemical environments,” according to its product description.

This does seem a little over the top – surely things at US universities aren’t this bad?

It does look like the app may have a little more value than the truck but we’ll have to wait and see.

Free Education in Rwanda?

edX and Facebook say they are offering free education in Rwanda

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A previous post on a ‘university in a box‘ noted a report on a project to bring higher education to Rwanda in a novel way. Others are now following.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a report on another initiative in Rwanda, this time involving edX and Facebook.

edX will apparently work with Facebook and two other companies to provide “free, localized education to students in Rwanda on “affordable” smart phones”. It all sounds really positive:

edX, a provider of massive open online courses that was founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will help create a mobile teaching app that is integrated with Facebook and “optimized for a low-bandwidth environment.” As part of the program, called SocialEDU, edX will also work with the Rwandan government to adapt materials for a pilot course.1196px-Facebook_like_thumb

Anant Agarwal, edX’s president, said in a written statement: “Improving global access to high-quality education has been a key edX goal from Day 1. Nearly half of our two million students come from developing countries, with 10 percent from Africa. In partnering with Facebook on this innovative pilot, we hope to learn how we can take this concept to the world.”

Also participating in the program are Nokia, the device manufacturer, and the service provider Airtel, which “will provide free education data for everyone in Rwanda who participates in the program for one year.”

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The limited duration of the free data offer does rather suggest that some of the partners in the enterprise may not be entirely driven by altruism. However, this kind of initiative, in addition to the others mentioned in the earlier post, does claim to have an appropriate ethos. This really should be one of the great outcomes of current technological advances in higher education. Let’s hope it does deliver on the promise and does not stall for the want of free data packages or Facebook advertising revenue.

Netflix for University Selection?

An algorithm to help with university choice

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting report on a Netflix-like algorithm which is designed to help with selecting a university. A former admissions counsellor and now PhD student, Daniel Jarratt has been working on a tool which would help students find the right institution for them by focusing on the similarities in the choices they have already made and using this to highlight other possibilities.

College Admission Assistance | Find the Right College. Get in. Get aid. | PossibilityU

Mr. Jarratt … created an algorithm that could take several colleges and figure out how similar they are to one another and—more important—in what ways they are similar. Do they have a lower-than-average graduation rate? More than the average number of students living on the campus? Do a higher-than-average number of students study art or engineering?

Using that algorithm, he could explain what the students could not: what was it that a collection of colleges had in common. From there, Mr. Jarratt could highlight other institutions that shared some of the same attributes.

Mr. Jarratt’s algorithm is now an integral part of PossibilityU, a website that helps high-school students find the right college.

PossibilityU’s data-driven approach to college matching isn’t new, but Mr. Jarratt’s recommendation algorithm is unique. Rather than starting with a list of questions about what students are looking for, PossibilityU asks users to enter up to three colleges that they are interested in. It then spits out a list of 10 other, similar colleges to consider. A premium paid subscription allows students to compare an unlimited number of colleges and provides application deadlines and other advice.

It’s kind of like Netflix’s movie suggestions, says Mr. Jarratt, who studies recommender systems like those used by the movie service and by Amazon.

Do you like Valparaiso and the University of Minnesota? You might also like Marquette University and the University of Iowa, according to PossibilityU.

It all looks moderately interesting. Would a similar model work in the UK? Perhaps, although the range of choices is rather narrower than in the US. Nevertheless, there is certainly more than enough data out there to help this kind of approach.

More Problems for MOOCs

More gloomy news for MOOC enthusiasts

MIT Technology Review has a striking report on how some data mining has exposed a few embarrassing problems for MOOCs. The research confirms earlier reports about low continuation and completion rates and, perhaps surprisingly, notes that teacher involvement really doesn’t help:

But this new golden age of education has rapidly lost its lustre. Earlier this month, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania reported that the online classes it offered had failed miserably. Only about half of the students who registered ever viewed a lecture and only 4 percent completed a course.binary

That’s prompted some soul-searching among those who have championed this brave new world of education. The questions that urgently need answering are: what’s gone wrong and how can it be fixed?

Today, Christopher Brinton at Princeton University and a few pals offer their view. These guys have studied the behaviour in online discussion forums of over 100,000 students taking massive open online courses (or MOOCs).

And they have depressing news. They say that participation falls precipitously and continuously throughout a course and that almost half of registered students never post more than twice to the forums. What’s more, the participation of a teacher doesn’t improve matters. Indeed, they say there is some evidence that a teacher’s participation in an online discussion actually increases the rate of decline.

Filtering out the small talk from discussions is identified as one way forward but whether that will improve things remains to be seen. And there will still be some way to go to raise those completion rates. But there is plenty of scope for improvement.

(with thanks to Gerry Webber for alerting me to this piece)

What are academic bloggers up to?

What are academic bloggers blogging about? And why?

A great article for the Guardian Higher Education Network by Pat Thomson ( @ThomsonPat )  and Inger Mewburn ( @thesiswhisperer ) on bloggers in higher education. The piece is a summary of an article in a special edition of Studies in Higher Education and the longer one is well worth reading too.

Both of the authors are academic bloggers (Pat Thompson’s blog can be found here) who wanted to work out what other academics were blogging about and why. This was clearly not an unchallenging exercise and even deciding what counted as an academic blog was far from straightforward:

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We opted for the blogger who stated an institutional affiliation, had some kind of academic purpose and was connected to other academic blogs. We called the bloggers who weren’t professors, lecturers or fellows ‘para-academics’. We couldn’t get a representative sample as there is no handy index of blogs, the numbers change all the time, and frankly, there were just too many. And because we speak English, our choices had to be blogs we could actually read.

By using various online listings of academic blogs, we eventually compiled a list of 100 we could use as a sample set. Of these, 49 were from the UK and 40 from the US, five from Canada and six from Australia. 80 were by teaching and researching academics, 14 from para-academics and six from doctoral researchers.

By analysing and categorising the content of these blogs, we determined that 41% largely focused on what we call academic cultural critique: comments and reflections on funding, higher education policy, office politics and academic life. Another 40% largely focused on communication and commentary about research. The remainder covered a diverse range, from academic practice, information and self-help advice to technical, teaching and career advice.

The vast majority of blogs studies used informal essay formats and straightforward reporting styles of writing, but a significant proportion (40%) also used a formal essay style, not dissimilar to academic journal articles but with less intrusive referencing. Interestingly, given the rhetoric around blogging, 73% of the content we analysed was geared for other academics, while 38% was designed for interested professional readers.

We conclude that, in this sample at least, most academics are blogging for professional peers, rather than for the public in any general sense. Our results do not coincide with what the loudest advocates of academic blogging suggest we should do. But we think what we saw in our 100 blogs is understandable.

So, academic blogging is perhaps less about public impact than many have thought and much more about building new online communities and the sharing of ideas with peers in new and interesting ways.

A really worthwhile and absolutely fascinating study.

What about a university professional services NOOC?

A post just for University Nottingham (UK, China and Malaysia) colleagues: what about a university professional services NOOC?

Following the success of the first NOOC (Nottingham Open Online Course) on Sustainability in, among other things, involving staff and students from the UK, China and Malaysia campuses in shared learning it occurred to me that it might be an idea to use a similar model to offer a course for staff in professional services.NOOC_Logo_RGB

A group of colleagues have had an initial discussion about what such a NOOC might look like and come up with a number of interesting ideas for subjects it could cover. However, before going any further I wanted to test some of these thoughts on colleagues.

What might a professional services NOOC look like?

If we did develop such a NOOC it would probably be similar in structure to the Sustainability NOOC (do have a look at it here) but would only be open to University of Nottingham staff in the UK, Malaysia and China.

The course would last perhaps 10 weeks and each week would provide a new activity through which key themes for Nottingham professional services would be explored.

So, thinking about such themes – could you select all from the list below which you think should be part of a professional services NOOC.

Would you be interested in taking such a course?

Would you think formal assessment for academic credit should be an option?

Could you imagine such a course forming part of your annual professional development and personal review (PDPR) or equivalent?

Any other comments or ideas for topics do add to the comments box below.

Unbelievable excitement as website updated

Big announcements about Unistats.

As previously noted there is no shortage of information available to prospective university students. Unistats was intended to enable better decision-making by students but, whilst it is not without merit, it is no substitute for effective advice and guidance. Unfortunately this shiny website seems to be pretty much all that’s on offer. Still, the good news is it has been updated to help students make even better choices:

The updated and improved Unistats web-site includes even more course information than ever before, and will make it easier for users to search and compare courses by location, as well as on the go via a new mobile phone version.

Unistats is one of the most widely used higher education course comparison web-sites in the UK for prospective students, their parents and advisers. Over the past year, it has attracted more than 250,000 unique visitors and over 5.2 million page views, helping to match students to universities and colleges.

unistats latin

It really is this exciting

Anyway, the Universities Minister David Willetts is a big fan and credits Unistats with students getting into their first choice universities (and I thought it depended on their A level grades):

‘We are empowering people by publishing unprecedented levels of information on their options.

‘It is making a real difference and more students than ever before are now getting their first choice university place.

‘The next stage is to let people access Unistats on their mobiles, at a time and place of their choosing.’

Times Higher Education, reporting on the launch, include a quote from Rachel Wenstone, Vice-President at the National Union of Students who seems really keen on all this:

“Deciding what to study and where to go to university is a big decision and it is crucial that prospective applicants have relevant, impartial information in an easily accessible format,” she said.

“I’m really pleased that the improvements to the site have been made with students, parents and carers in mind and I hope it will contribute to helping even more students make the right application choices,” she added.

(Indeed, NUS seems surprisingly enthusiastic about many government initiatives these days.)

Anyway, it’s all very exciting news. Even if it does make it all sound a bit like a dating site…

Badges, badges, badges

Earn your first badge now!

I’ve posted before about this nonsense but then I heard the exciting news about how you can bypass all that messy unpleasant formal education stuff and get straight on and get some real recognition for your achievements via this super Open Badges concept:

Want to get started? Earn a Mozilla Webmaker badge.

Or set up your Mozilla backpack to start storing, collecting and sharing your badges across the web.

Earn a badge from one of these members of the Open Badges community.

Need a demo? Take the badges 101 quiz, and earn a badge in the process!

Get recognition for the things you learn, online and off

 Not an accredited qualification

Not an accredited qualification

Open Badges includes a shared technical standard for recognizing your skills and achievements. Badges help make them count towards an education, a job or lifelong learning.

Earn badges from anywhere. Then take them everywhere. Collect and store your badges in your backpack, sort them into categories and then display them across the web — on social networking profiles, job  sites, websites and more.

Prove skills. Employers, organizations and schools can explore the data behind each badge issued using Mozilla Open Badges to verify your skills, achievements and interests.

Knit your achievements together. Whether they’re issued by one organization or many, badges can build upon each other, joining together to tell the full story of your skills and achievement.

And if you go to this site you can make your own badges. It’s all a bit Blue Peter really. I made my own:

Badge-1

Still struggling to see any merit in any of this. Also I really can’t take claims of shared standards at all seriously. And which employers are treating these kinds of things as comparable to formal qualifications.

Badge