Friday, 31 October 2008


I'm due to give a few presentations this month to academics on the current state of play regarding the technology to used in the continuing battle against bad scholarly practice. Yes I mean coping with plagiarism and collusion in assessments. You may remember in the summer I reported on the results of the three year survey on the (approx 50%) accuracy of Turnipin the popular text matching software. Well I've been trawling some JISCmail plagiarism posts to bring you some nuggets of effective practice and recent innovations in this area.

  • The second blog post discussed a new pebblepad plug-in and a comparison of text matching tools.

  • Please access the wealth of papers and presentations from June's 3rd International Plagiarism Conference are now available at .

  • I learned this summer that two academic experts based at the University of Birmingham and Aston University are collaborating to create their own text matching tool. Someone please tell me more about this and how it's progressing.

  • At the ALT-C conference in Sept 08 I was given some excellent student Turnitin crib sheets from the Elearning department @ Teesside Uni. I did try to find a link to electronic copies, but to no avail. If they were made public, they would make a good tool for all UK HE staff. Let us know if you've developed you own resources you would like to share.

  • There is a new Electronic Theses Online Service (EThOSnet) project web site. : . EThOS is: Improving research theses access to those who need it . Improving post graduate research knowledge transfer to students Creating a one stop electronic shop for all UK Theses. Promoting UK Higher Education post graduate research to the world .Contributing to the global knowledge pool.

  • An effective and tested approach that one University uses to improve scholarly practice/referencing skills:

1. find a willing volunteer who has handed some draft work in and use the work as an example with the rest of the class highlighting good and bad practice

2. showing students suitable (nameless) examples from the previous year's cohort

  • Toby Grainger at The University of East London
    has developed a very short and simple policy for academic misconduct and the use of text matching software. He gave it out to JISCmail subscribers, so I'm sure he'd be happy to let others use it as a basis for customisation.

  • For the BB users out there, a new (July 08) tool called Safe-assign that plugs into the VLE. Use instead of or as well as Turnitin?

  • "Smart students" check their drafts for plagiarism even before going to tutors, which is not a bad thing given some of the conversations I've just read. Be a smarter student using this free service, I just stumbled across :

    Free plagiarism detection
UPDATE!!! A number of experts have checked this site , since the post and all pulled it to pieces regarding it's usefulness. One academic categorises it as a cheat site. Be warned, treat this "site" with skepticism
  • I just discovered the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO), which is an independent body which offers advice and guidance to universities and other research organisations, and also to individual researchers, about the conduct of research. Hosted by Universities UK, our aims are to: Promote the good governance, management and conduct of research; Share good practice on how to address misconduct in research; and Give advice and guidance on specific cases. They have developed a Procedure for the Investigation of Misconduct in Research

down to biznezz

The above image is reproduced under the creative commons attribution 2.5 licence. And was located using the flickr creative commons cleared search engine.

In a recent communication I promoted the excellent Advantage West Midlands funded videos. These
business focussed videos are created by the Aston University Media centre. I 've previously added them to a VLE I used to manage and the lecture staff really rated their quality. The videos are chunked and are of high quality and high relevance to business educators.

I was also alterted to a new award winning business simulation game, which looks good and has plenty of endoresments from UK educators. Lets not forget the excellent website, thats choc full of resources for learning. I recently used a change management simulation "game" in a 1 day event run by JISC inofnet.

While I'm on the subject of resources, I was notified by our copyright officer about a new web site project that includes an information film recently made available from EduServ and featuring Richard McCracken from The Open University Rights Department, who with a fellow digital rights management colleague, and a lecturer, enact the procedure and good practice to try and avoid the pitfalls and frustrations regarding copyright and clearance permissions and actions etc. It's a 38 min film but very real in its observations and operations - we thoroughly recommend it to lecturers - click here to view

Thursday, 30 October 2008

A & I

No, not artificial intelligence (well it is - kind of), but Accessibility & Inclusion. This is an accessibility update and announcement of a competition to win an Asus Eee PC.

This week I sat through one of the regular online presentations run by Dr Simon Ball of the JISC TECHDIS service. Simon uses the Webcasting tool Instant Presenter to run a focussed 30 minute live webcast. The next scheduled sessions are December 12th at 2 pm and December 17th at 1 pm, and will last for just 30 minutes as usual. The URL to log into (put it in your calendar next to the appointment….) is always for the HE Online Updates – just go to that URL 5 minutes before the start time and make sure you have sound switched on (and headphones if you share an office!).

Simon focuses on HE specific themes , including an update on the HEAT scheme. For those who don't know the HEAT scheme funds small scale projects that promote accessibility and inclusion using technology. It's currently in round three and there are some really fab ideas. Two that stick out in mind are the use of 2D or QR bar codes that can be "scanned with a mobile phone to receive information that can be read out, or read from the phone, or even link to a web site. And the second idea I liked was use of USB drives to send out resources on staff development courses. I briefly mentioned 2D barcodes in a previous blog posting that discussed Professor Mike Wesch.

Accessibility news Simon updated us on;

  • The innovative Lexdis website, any technology that achieves this has been called an Assistive Technology.
  • JISC TechDis has created a number of resources (on the excellence gateway) designed to enable staff to create effective, engaging and accessible learning materials for their learners.
  • A new part of their website which explores the accessibility issues around mobile devices, focusing on Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and mobile phones. Some really fab ideas in here.
  • An update on the NE Scottish RSC initiative Open Source (free) Accessibility Apps. We will be giving these away soon, but you can just download them for yourselves.

Now for the competition.

In an attempt to raise awareness of the importance of ensuring accessibility in education, I am giving away a Linux flavoured Asus eepc. These Ultra Mobile PC's are becoming really popular in education and are reaching the cost (approx £200.00) that they can be given away to students! The competition is open to any of our supported organisations in the West Midlands delivering higher education. I am looking for innovative use of one of these PC's in the form of a short press release. This could be building upon existing practice or a wholly new use in a University or College. It's open to staff or students. The press release will be used by us to publicise the winning idea, either on our website or in printed media. We will conduct a follow up interview at the end of this academic year to determine how useful the eeePC turned out.

The only rules are:

  • Open to RSC West Mids supported organisations,
  • must be HE delivery,
  • must supply a press release to me ( ) by end of November 2008,
  • Winner announced in next HE ebulletin – early December 2008.
  • The winner must attend a RSC workshop in Wolverhampton on December 14th 2008 to learn about the free accessibility apps I mentioned above.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

best practice for HEinFE

I stumbled across a useful report from the West London Lifelong Learning Network (WL LLN) 'tother day. In it a report comments upon the methods utilised to further develop the HE ethos in a FE College. The report recognises the challenges faced with this important agenda, but I did see a reference to the importance of elearning tools in this remit (quote below). So there is some evidence of using elearning tools to ensure differentiation is obtained by exploiting VLEs.

".....and also recognised the importance of VLEs"

This reminds me of another blog posting of mine where I discussed the methods of how the Colchester Institute had used a content management system (Microsoft Sharepoint) to map evidence to the IQER process. My original post on that subject in this here :

To continue this HEinFE best practice, my colleague from the north has collated some best practice links in his blog for all to see :

Do any other Life long learning networks have similar evidence of best practice to share? I'd hope so, but I'm not sure what the rest of the UK is doing. It's all very quiet/fuzzy out there.

While we're on the subject of HEinFE, the Association for learning Technology (ALT) are setting up a specialist interest group for action research. Please contact John Gray (Institute of Education) directly if you are interested in participating or contributing. Alternatively you could always use the existing British Journal of HE in FE to submit research articles?

Continuing this research topic, I stumbled across the journal entitled "Practice and Evidence of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education." This is free & can be accessed online @ URL :

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Legally web2.0

UPDATE : the notes from the sessions are here :

A JISC legal presentation last week in B'ham regarding the legalities of offering web 2.0 services to staff & students, scared us stiff. It was nearly enough to put me off recommending it [web 2.0 software] to anyone. There were some proper horror stories of people misusing the technology. Enthusiastic but ill informed dabblers of said technology were the main culprits. Mind you, I made a faux pas recently when I copied a private email conversation to a wiki. I forgot that even tho' the wiki page was "hidden", Google could still spider it, and therefore cache it. The page contents could be googled! And it happened. Luckily for me the offending text was fairly harmless, but acute embarrassment followed. Sorry again Lis. Note to self, emails are private, and wikis are searchable! My story paled into insignificance when we learned that a lecturer used a wiki to get students to recount stories of personal abuse. These highly personal stories were supposed to be hidden, but were in fact very public on an open wiki. Scary stuff. The same goes for your facebook profile and flickr photos, all set as public as default. Be warned, identity theft is rife.

The morning session was very interesting with two specialist lawyers giving case study examples and ideas to pursue. They rounded the session off by summarising the legal aspects to consider of different web 2.0 platforms;


  • Use behind firewall is preferable – but again consider appropriateness (see stories above)
  • Consider DDA/ Privacy – confidentiality – consider the implications of other peoples stuff on the web
  • Ensure fairness - guides & protocols in place for all users, inclusion/fairness issues
  • Limit editing & viewing rights

Facebook types:

  • Again is it appropriate for use
  • Privacy settings are very open – privacy issues
  • Terms of use in place
  • Deletion rights, specified upfront
  • Confidentiality – it's set to share as open - Flickr & myspace are examples . Migth be password protected – but google can see them in Google cache.
  • Use an internal closed environment – behind firewall


  • Ensure accessible Applications
  • Accessibility 2.0 guidelines 2007
  • BSI PAS 78 Web Accessibility Standards have some really good guidelines
  • DRC code of practice (equality & human rights commission) real world examples of issues you could face in education – very sensible
  • Ensure you have adequate policies & protocols in place

Student guidelines:

  • Terms of use for web 2.0 - Edinburgh Uni has good terms – put these in place in handbooks & website
  • Robust privacy & Acceptable usage Policies (AuP) in place
  • Inform students & staff regularly of terms
  • Restrict access to offenders
  • Must be able to delete offending content
  • Mindset of info is all free to use – no one owns stuff – social tools are open for all to use. It's not just an IT or HR issue – this flows through all organisation.


  • Develop a central organizational policy for web 2.0 - Uni of Bradford is a good exemplar – NO ad hoc projects by the enthusiastic dabbler. Remember a little knowledge is dangerous!
  • Conduct a privacy impact assessment
  • DDA compliance – new laws out recently
  • Compliance with all policies – staff & IT policy need to be covered
  • Intellectual Property Right (IPR) policies in place
  • Information & training for staff – must be ongoing to ensure awareness
  • Involvement of knowledge management experts

There is also a checklist provided by JISC legal, to support these workshops. It's a worthwhile read if you are thinking of using these tools. I was assured that these resources would be online following the events. So have a look round early Nov '08 on the JISC legal website.

Watch this video and presentation on developing a web 2.0 strategy, it may help your institution embed web 2.0 tools alongside traditional VLEs?

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Beyond Current Horizons

FutureLab are doing what they do best, i.e. gazing far into the future. You can also help them by voting to compile a list of the most important issues for our future students. A vast database of academic papers will be created to help form a picture of education in 2025. This long term vision for education in the context of socio-technological change, will (apparently) help us plan to ensure our digital natives learn in a manner that best suits them! Apparently recent research is already pointing towards a shift in learning models :


Written -------------- Audio/visual
Static ------------------ Mobile
Prolonged ------------- Instant
Face to Face ----------- Blended
Tutor led --------------- self directed
Localised ---------------Networked

It's a pity traditional teaching styles are still primarily delivered on transmissionist principles. Try some active learning ideas.

This 2008 JISC report helps to understand the current state of play regarding formal Vs informal learning. And this excellent futrelab report on social software and learning highlights the need to push the creative side in learning development and how we are all learning to collaborate better, using Web 2.0 type tools.

Sir Ken Robinson discusses the need for creativity to be on a par with literacy in our future young learners.

It's all about the preferred styles, I think. And the multitasking, want it now/Mcdonalds/mashup culture. And not over testing our school kids. And... not running an education system based on league tables, where learning to learn is bottom of the agenda.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008


My third posting connected with the ALT-C 2008 conference. This presentation caught my eye as it featured the words collaborative learning + teacher training in the title. And that's what we do? Kind of. Anyhoo, the sesson was looking at a community of practice, namely trainee teachers, and how they were supported using technology.

ASSociate Online are a HEFCE funded collective of a number of HE organisations, that also contribute to the Huddersfield Centre for Traineee techers - HUDCETT. This is all quite confusing as our host organisation Wolverhampton Universiy are a part of this group. Surely they should be part of the WMCETT we have started to collaborate with? Can someone please explain?

Anyhoo, back to the plot. HUDCETT have a fantastic Moodle created to allow trainee teachers to collaborate under their subject specialisms. Their Moodle has been set up to allow collaboration and locaton of existing reosurces, etc. There should be one of these in every CETT in my opinion, that all HE and Colleges training teachers send their trainees - to find their study buddy! We were given a quick demo, and it's impressive. They also run an emoderators + ementors scheme, and encourage subject specialist to join on a contractual basis. You can join now.

You can try out a demo site here :

The last part of the presentation involved the Director talking quite candidly about the poor [pedagogic] uptake of VLEs right across academia. She discussed the challenge facing all educators/trainers, attempting to promote the use of VLEs for teaching and learning. We all chipped in with some ideas of our own why this is the case. Here are some quotes;

  • " The staff that embrace technology are racing ahead - the staff that are scared of technology are being left behind. The students suffer as their miss out of the power and opportunities of E-Learning and VLEs."
  • "There is a digital divide between Staff that embrace new technology and Staff that are scared/fear/misunderstand technology."
  • "pedagogic models are primary transmissionist. VLEs = no f2f contact. Students want to socialise @ college, plus a lack of good practice, inlcuding a lack of time to change pedagogy to student centred modes."
  • "getting 'lost' in the system. Fragmented versus holistic approach in design."

This is my favourite

  • Often a sandwich with no filling:
----------Resources (PDF/Word) on the top------------

+++++++++++No learning in the midde! ++++++++++++++

---------- Discusssion forums on the bottom------------

We did discuss benefits of VLEs as well. And I thought it was just me being a little to negative about lack of uptake for VLEs!