Monday, 28 September 2015

Digital Storytelling at NUI Galway

 For the past six years, Bonnie Long, in the School of Education, has been pioneering a novel approach to encourage teachers to reflect on their professional practice, as part of their studies at NUI Galway. We caught up with her before the summer to ask her a little more about her approach of using digital storytelling as part of the formal curriculum.

The result is a three minute long interview with Bonnie, that explains in more detail. Watch it here:

Bonnie Long talks about digital storytelling in Higher Education

Friday, 24 July 2015

Summer Holidays

Earlier this week I became aware of #blimage - a challenge to write blog posts on learning, inspired by particular images. You can read more about the challenge from Steve Wheeler in his post Blimey, it's #blimage. Since then, there have been #blimage blogposts appearing all week, and I'm barely keeping up with them!

Following David Hopkins' post Desks of Doom, David challenged me to get involved.
To be honest, my first reaction was "I haven't got time for this", but actually, David's challenge image aligns nicely with my current phase of work. So, I decided I'd use the opportunity to get something written.

Birmingham Airport Departure Lounge (gate 14/15) 

Image by David Hopkins on flickr
I've been in plenty of departure lounges while travelling; sometimes for work and sometimes on holiday; sometimes as a solo traveller and sometimes with colleagues, friends or family. This one, at least, has seats - unlike some areas used in the past by Ryanair.

What I see here is not a dull, depressing scene. It's likely that, just minutes before, this area was full of people, old and young, excited about the journey ahead of them. In another few minutes, the space will begin to fill up, and the cycle will begin again.

This image shows just a snapshot in time, but it's a time when it's possible to take stock of the space - maybe do some cleaning up or perhaps rethink the whole area in terms of upgrading, arrangement and facilities. That type of upgrade activity can only take place at a quiet time, like the moment depicted.

So, why does this image align with my current phase of work? Well, I think it looks quite like the scene I can see out of my office window. I am lucky to have an office on the ground floor of a very central building, that looks out on one of the busiest areas of the campus: just outside the library, with the main university restaurant just down some steps, and many of the university's lecture theatres in easy reach. During the teaching year, there is a magnificent buzz, with students and staff milling around, grouped together in clusters, rushing from one space to the next. It is constant, and a perfect reminder to me of the main purpose of the university. To be part of the scene is energising, and I can't help but feel motivated by the anticipation of the crowd.

View from my office window
 But just now, this is how it looks. If you look hard, you'll see there are a couple of people outside the library entrance, and I do see people walking up and down the steps. There are people around, as evidenced by the collection of bicycles in the rack, but nothing like the buzz during term. It's hard to imagine that, in just over a month, this place will be teeming with students. Some of them may even be excited about the journey ahead of them.

So, what has me so busy? Well, this is my team's time to do all the necessary maintenance and updates before the term begins. We can only do this work at this time of year (and possibly a much shorter window at Christmas).

In addition to our ongoing support for staff, we have 4 fairly big projects scheduled over the summer including various upgrades to current technologies (VLE, video technologies, lecture capture, language labs), which entail development of new training resources and documentation. We are working on a completely new website (due to launch end of next week) and are planning a full schedule of training for academic staff for the second half of August. Some of our efforts will be visible to and appreciated by university staff, and we look forward to supporting their work in the new academic year.

Will the students notice any difference when they come back in September? Possibly not, or not immediately. A bit like improvements in an airport waiting lounge!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Learning Resources and Open Access in Higher Education Institutions in Ireland

The National Forum for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education has published 2 focused research reports today. One of these is the outcome of a project, led by Angelica Risquez at the University of Limerick, and involving a team of people from University of Limerick, Dublin Institute of Technology, Mary Immaculate College, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and National University of Ireland Galway, looking at the current state of Open Educational Resources in Higher Education in Ireland.

This report provides a considered account of some of the key issues which influence the sharing of open educational resources. These include questions of awareness and understanding of open educational resources at individual as well as institutional level, and the value placed on openness as a positive incentive for academic engagement. Acknowledging the complex interplay between these factors, the study suggests important practical steps to take forward OER engagement, including: awareness raising; professional development for academic staff; capturing excellent OERs and continuing relevant and targeted research to support particular OER initiatives.

The full text of the report is available from the National Forum website.

From the report:

This project, a national analysis, set out to examine strategies for sharing open education resources (OERs) to enhance teaching and learning in Irish higher education. Drawing on the collective expertise and experience of colleagues, with on-going involvement in open education resources, the study explore current practices and potential approaches for future sharing of resources. The experiences gained through the National Digital Learning Resources project were also considered, along with options for the management and discovery of digital teaching and learning resources through local repositories. As part of the exploration focus groups were held with selected groups of academic, library, educational development and educational technologists.

 Consequently this report provides a considered account of some of the key issues which influence the sharing of open educational resources from primary data gathered and also from a survey of current research literature. The relevant issues incorporate questions of awareness and understanding of open education resources at individual as well as institutional level, and in particular the value placed on openness as a positive incentive for academic engagement and sharing. Alongside the increasing growth of social media and online sharing platforms which have altered the way resources are shared amongst some groups, there is also the question of how in an Irish context distinctive institutional missions and approaches can determine levels of OER engagement. Acknowledging the complex interplay between these factors, the study suggests important practical steps to take forward OER engagement, including: awareness raising; professional development for academic staff; capturing excellent OERs and continuing relevant and targeted research to support particular OER initiatives.

As a member of the project team, it was an honour to work again with such a dedicated group of people and it's great to see the report being launched.

A related presentation can be seen on slideshare, from the EdTech conference in UL in May.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Research Seminar with Caroline Kuhn H.

Supporting students in developing their digital research skills

Thursday, July 16th, 11am – 12noon, AM 207 
 (Arts Millennium Bldg.) 

Presented by visiting scholar Caroline Kuhn - Institute for Education, Bath Spa Univ

How can universities encourage and support students in developing their digital research skills — in particular through the design and implementation of their own Personal Learning Environments (PLEs)? Caroline Kuhn will share research from her current PhD study in this area and looks forward to engaging in discussion with participants. 

Further information:
Twitter: @carolak 

Any questions?
Please contact Catherine Cronin

On the afternoon of July 16th, you might also like to join the #GREAT15 Conference, also being held at NUI Galway. 

Update (27 July)

We are delighted that Caroline's seminar was recorded and can be viewed online.

Caroline has also written a blog post based on the discussion following her talk last week.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

More on Getting Real about Virtual Learning...

We've finally gotten around to uploading Doug Belshaw's keynote from last month's symposium...


Monday, 22 June 2015

#celt15: Getting Real about Virtual Learning

Last Friday (19th June) was our CELT Symposium on the topic Getting Real about Virtual Learning. It was a fantastic day (despite the weather) with about 200 participants and plenty of learning.

Twitter at #celt15

Thanks to the twitter team (@gramcgrath, @marloft, @allaboardHE, @catherinecronin, @rosenidhubhda, @TELtales) and all the lovely tweeps at the conference, there were almost 1200 #celt15 tweets on Friday alone, and we trended in Ireland for most of the day!

The quality of the backchannel was quite amazing. I've created a semi-structured archive of all the comments and pictures using storify, which gives a sense of the day.

A beautiful TAGSExplorer visualisation of all the tweets for the hashtag was created by Martin Hawsey's Twitter Archiving Google Sheet (TAGS). From here you can find the top tweeter from the conference (@iainmacl) and the top conversationalists (@worried_teacher and @sharonlflynn). TAGS also produces a searchable archive of the conference tweets.

Keynotes at #celt15

Both Sian Bayne and Doug Belshaw gave very exciting and thought-provoking talks at #celt15. These have been recorded and we should be able to make them available soon.

In the meantime, Doug has already made his presentation available on Slideshare:

Identifying, scaffolding, and credentialing skills in an ever-changing digital environment from Doug Belshaw

And Sian Bayne's paper Teacherbot: Interventions in Automated Teaching is also available online.

Presentations from the event

At least one presenter has shared his presentation using Slideshare. If anybody else has shared their presentation, please let me know and I'll add it here:

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

#celt15 Instructions to the twitter team

This is based on the original post by @derekbruff who has kindly given his permission to re-blog. It's an updated version of the #celt13 instructions, posted on this blog 2 years ago.

Hello #celt15 twitter team (you know who you are) and thank you for agreeing to take part. We're looking forward to an active twitter stream at #celt15 again this year and you will play a big part in keeping the backchannel going. What does it mean to be on the #celt15 twitter team? Glad you asked....

  1. Take a few moments at several points during the day (during keynotes, during sessions, whenever) to share highlights of the conference.  What are you learning?  What useful resources are you hearing about?  (Include links when you can!)  What questions or answers are occurring to you as you  participate in the conference?
  2. Don't forget to use the hashtag! It's #celt15.
  3. You’re encouraged to tweet some photos of the conference. Having some photos in the Twitter steam makes the conference experience more concrete for folks not there.
  4. Feel free to be critical when appropriate, but please always be civil.  If one of the keynotes, for instance, turns out to be a big dud (unlikely - given that we've got Sian Bayne and Doug Belshaw), let’s not have any harshtagging or tweckling.  (See
  5. Engage with other #celt15 Twitter participants, including those not physically present: respond to questions and add value when you can.
  6. Finally, if a conference participant new to Twitter starts asking you about Twitter, be ready to share your experiences. The conference is all about new skills, so demonstrate how Twitter can be a part of it.
I am already collecting an archive of all the tweets related to the hashtag, using Martin Hawksey's excellent Twitter Archiving Google Sheet (TAGS). As of this morning, two days before the conference starts, there are already more than 300 tweets in the archive. Who will be top tweeter this year? And who will be top conversationalist? Watch this space to find out.
#celt15 is the official hashtag of the 13th Galway Symposium, entitled Getting Real About Virtual Learning.


Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Kaltura Connect Education Virtual Summit 2015

The Kaltura Connect Education Virtual Summit took place last week. All the sessions are now available to view on demand, so it you have a little bit of time, head on over to the VOD site to watch.

My own talk User Engagement and Learning Outcomes: How NUI Galway is Changing the way Students Learn Inside and Outside the Classroom is available, though I have brought myself to watch it yet. Hopefully the technical guys worked their magic and I don't look as completely nervous as I actually felt at the time.

The powerpoint slides from the talk are available on Slideshare and embedded here:

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The growth in video in teaching and learning at NUI Galway

The Kaltura Connect Education Virtual Summit will take place on 28th May this year (you can pre-register here) and I was absolutely delighted to be invited to give a talk, based on our experiences at NUI Galway. The talk was recorded last month in New York City, against the backdrop of Central Park.

The recording "studio". Photograph taken by Anna Dutton.

All sounds a bit crazy? Well, yes, it was. Especially since this has happened before. But I did get to New York last month, where I recorded my talk in front of two video cameras, to two cameramen, a sound engineer and a couple of other people. I also attended the Kaltura Education Customer Advisory Board, and caught up with new developments in video technology for education.

When the invitation came in, I spent a bit of time thinking about what I could talk about. NUI Galway has been a Kaltura customer for almost 4 years, so I thought I'd take a closer look at the analytics available to us. I focused on the calendar years 2012 to 2014, for which we have full data.

The Big Picture

To give some context, we integrated Kaltura into our Blackboard environment at the very beginning of 2012, keeping it in "pilot mode" for the second semester of that academic year by only telling a few video champions about its existence. A small number of other academic staff stumbled across its functionality and also started using it.

By the Summer of 2012, once we'd ironed out any issues, and learned about it more as a team, we began to promote the tools more actively. In particular, we offered workshops and demonstration sessions.

The number of contributors (staff and students) who uploaded at least one video to Kaltura via Blackboard increased from 58 in the first year to 156 in 2013 and to 319 last year. I think that this increase is down to two things:
  • The promotion and training offered by the Learning Technologies team to support staff in their use of the tools, and
  • The ease of use of the tools themselves. Most staff are very pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to created a webcam recording or record themselves talking over a powerpoint.
The number of uploads in the first year was 287, compared to a total number of uploads of 962 in 2014. The number of media entries played in each of the three years speaks for itself.

The Analytics within the Kaltura Management Console allow admins to dig deeper into these numbers. For example the most played video in the last year is Examinations Advice  which was made available to students at the appropriate time of the year as part of a Blackboard System Announcement.

Breakdown per month

By extracting some of the data from Kaltura Analytics, I was able to take a look at the content contributions and views per month over the three years.

The graph for contributions has been adjusted slightly. It had been skewed by the fact that a single contributor uploaded 181 videos alone in January 2014. By removing that figure, the graph is definitely more readable. It's clear that very little activity is taking place during the summer months, outside of the teaching periods. There is a very definite increase in August, in preparation for the new academic year, with a lot of activity taking place in October and November, and a decline again as teaching ends in December.

Targeted training events took place in August 2013, December 2013, August 2014 and October 2014 - the effect of which is quite visible in the graph above.

The graph of content views per month mirrors that of contributions, but on a much bigger scale. Again it's clear that most of the activity takes place during the teaching period, with reduced viewing activity from May to August.

How is it being used?

The numbers and graphs are interesting, and certainly useful when you need to argue a case. But more interesting are the stories behind the numbers. For example, the contributors are not just academic staff - there is also an increase in video assignments, where the students create a video and upload through the Kaltura tool on Blackboard.

In my recorded presentation for the Kaltura Connect Education Virtual Summit, to be shown as the opening talk on 28th May, I give some examples of the uses of video in teaching and learning at NUI Galway. I had quite a lot to choose from.

A final thought

There's no doubt that video offers a lot of opportunity in teaching, learning and assessment, for teachers and learners alike. The Kaltura tools make things very simple for users - there's no fiddling around with file formats and post-production can be minimal. But just having the tools and making them available doesn't mean that staff and students will use them, or indeed use them in an effective and productive way for teaching and learning. Support and guidance is crucial. That's where the Learning Technologies Team comes in at NUIG. We can help with the technical stuff, but we're also ready to advise with best practice and a wealth of experience.

Friday, 10 April 2015

We are on Facebook!

After some consideration, the Learning Technologies Team in CELT has decided to create a Facebook presence. And so, we are here!

Our intended audience on Facebook is staff at NUI Galway, though we're delighted to welcome other followers from further afield.

The main rationale is because we're finding that traditional communication on campus is becoming increasingly difficult, and staff are too busy and inundated with email that they are not aware of what we're doing or how we might be able to help. With more informal and bite-sized pieces of information floating through their Facebook stream, we're hoping to increase awareness and engagement.

We'll provide updates on our activities and post information about upcoming events and workshops. We hope you'll comment on our activity, ask questions and offer your suggestions.

So, Like us, Share our posts and tell us what you think.


The student as researcher

Last week, myself and my colleague, Margaret Forde, had the pleasure to help out in chairing at the 12th Annual Conference of IT in the Humanities- a conference is the product of module CT327: Humanities Applications in which the final year BA Information Technology class present on independently research topics of their own choosing.

The conference was an uplifting and fascinating insight into the curiosity and rigorous research activity of undergraduate students at NUI Galway. Forty one diverse topics relating to Facebook, social media, Sci Fi  fiction, the perils of working conditions and electronic waste, innovations in IT applications for health, forensics, construction, natural disasters, online dating, activism, and digital identity were among some of the themes addressed. 
Photo: Pat Byrne (Lecturer) with her class of Final year BA Information Technology Class, 2015

Several aspects struck me as interesting and innovative about the design of the module.

Firstly, it took place over an entire academic year, giving students ample time to get engrossed in their chosen topic. Students came up with their own theme, and developed a paper outline by November last year. They repeatedly met one-on-one with their lecturer, Pat Byrne, to discuss and get feedback. By February, a full paper was due. This was graded and students received additional feedback both from peers, and from the lecturer. A corrected version for the printed conference proceedings was submitted, and a final presentation at the end of March (consisting of 20% of the marks) emulated in the event I attended last week. These published proceedings were a source of great pride for students.

Photo: A copy of the conference proceedings

More attractive curricular design features included the module facilitated cross-curricular interactions with masters students in conference translations who paired up with the undergraduate students. These masters students were looking to benefit from the opportunity of undertaking live conference translations, and they served as peer mentors in a way, encouraging students to meet deadlines and targets (e.g have their peucha keucha presentation fully prepared a week in advance of the end conference). I can't recall ever having a presentation that prepared as an undergraduate! And this preparation was evident in the confident delivery of students on the day.

Furthermore, the undergraduates benefited from one-on-one conversations and guidance with an academic multiple times in the year. Their work was read and peer-reviewed by classmates at various stages, enabling them to also see into each other's written worlds. Throughout the entire process, they learned how to independently research and to adopt all the research practices that researching, writing and presenting an academic paper entails. Active participants, active researchers. 

Congratulations to them all, and particular thanks to Pat Byrne for the invitation!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Marvellous Mapping: Reflecting on online identities and practises using Visitors and Residents Mapping

Last month CELT hosted a workshop, "Marvellous Mapping: Reflecting on online identities and practices using Visitors and Residents Mapping".

The workshop facilitators, David White and Donna Lanclos, took the time while they were here to sit down with Catherine Cronin for a short chat and here it is...