Early days


Poster Session at ILiAD Conference 2014/Sue White © 2014/CC BY 2.0

A recent highlight was the ILIaD Conference, held at the University of Southampton, where I had the opportunity to discuss my summer research project with Digital Literacies expert, author of Rethinking Learning for the Digital Age, and keynote speaker, Helen Beetham during the poster session.

These early days in my life as a PhD research student seem to have been mainly taken up with training. I undertook an excellent Demonstrator training session at the end of September, which has led to some paid work evaluating first year student presentations throughout November. I have also undertaken the very useful Public Engagement and Presenting Your Research training as well as the Successful Business Engagement programme, Finding Information to Support Your Research and the Lifelong Learning PGR Training Package.

Public Engagement/Tim O'Riordan ©2014/CC BY 2.0
Public Engagement/Tim O’Riordan ©2014/CC-BY 2.0

Induction into the Web and Internet Science research group provided an opportunity to find out what my lab colleagues are mainly up to and to do some lightweight research into Provenance (see: WAIS Provenance Project).

I attended a seminar on the Portus MOOC (the focus of my summer dissertation project) and met with MOOC team leader and dedicated online learning exponent, Graeme Earl. It was great to hear Graeme talking about how he approached designing the course and using some of the key terms from the model I used for coding attention to learning in my project. He also raised issues about managing high numbers of learners comments. How do we scale MOOCs, engage larger numbers of learners and still pay attention to scaffolding? My hope is that my research will provide some support in this area.

I joined the PEGaSUs e-learning research group at the end of October. This is a interdisciplinary group of research students from diverse backgrounds who have a shared interest in online learning. Topics for discussion included teaching in emerging economies, blended learning, measuring teacher performance, communities of practice, e-portfolios, and (of course) Massive Open Online Courses. Post-meeting I set up a (closed) Facebook group to help keep the discussion going between meetings. I think PEGaSUs stands for Postgraduate E-learning Group at Southampton University (looks about right).

Finally, The British Computing Society Introduction to Badges for Learning event run by Sam Taylor and Julian Prior at Southampton Solent University at the end of October provided an excellent overview of this emerging method for enhancing learner engagement.

My growing to-do list is mainly taken up with the tasks involved in reviewing, editing and generally preparing my summer project for publication. This involves:

  • Finding suitable journals/conferences that may be interested in publishing my work.
  • Looking for what’s missing in my dissertation.
  • Interrogating my analysis (Is it watertight? Does it hold up under scrutiny?).
  • Reading more papers on learning analytics and content analysis.
  • Apply my analysis to other data sets (possibly the Web Science MOOC comment data).
  • Getting a paper ready for submission by the end of February 2015.
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