Dublin eLearning Summer School 2019: Big Data in higher education

Very excited to announce the line-up for this year’s Dublin elss19_img_withbannereLearning Summer School! Taking place from 18-21 June 2019 at TU Dublin City Campus, the theme for this year is “Developing all learners: big data in higher education”.

With speakers coming from across the Irish and UK higher education sectors and beyond, it promises to be a really exciting week. More information (including online registration) is available at http://dublinelss.wordpress.com.  You can also follow the Summer School back channel on Twitter at #elss19.

ELSS19 is being funded by the National Forum as part of the #DALTAI project: a project co-led by Dr. Geraldine Gray and myself which aims to increase digital proficiencies  amongst staff and students to enable the effective use of learning data to promote student success. For more information on Daltai, see http://daltai2019.wordpress.com.


Using digital badging to support academic development: the big picture

Digital badging, or microcredentials, have been gaining traction over recent years as a valuable tool for publicly recognising and accrediting skills, achievements or knowledge. Keen to explore the potential of badging for accreditation, and in particular for supporting and recognising academic development, last year at the LTTC we initiated the design and implementation of a digital badging framework to support our professional development offerings. This means that DIT staff can potentially earn aDigital badging digital badge by engaging with various LTTC workshops and completing associated activities. The recipient can then choose to publish their badges on their personal websites, LinkedIN profiles, eportfolios etc.

Over the next couple of posts I’m going to provide an overview of this initiative, how we designed and implemented it, what worked and what didn’t. Before I go into the details however, let’s look at the bigger picture, starting off with….”what is a digital badge”?

What is a digital badge?

A digital badge is a validated representation of a skill, achievement earned or knowledge gained. Digital badges can be displayed or shared online via a range of platforms including virtual learning environments, blogs, eportfolios and social media sites such as LinkedIn.  Thus digital badges can be used by learners to provide evidence of learning and achievement to potential employers, organisations and other parties.

Recognised as a key digital trend in higher education in recent years (see for example, the NMC Technology Outlook for Higher Education: Ireland and Australian Tertiary Editions (2015), digital badges continue to be used by higher education institutions,  learning and development organisation and platforms interested in exploring their potential.

(It is interesting to note however, that the Gartner Hype Cycle for Education 2017 has placed microcredentials on their “trough of disillusionment” – a labelling usually reserved for those tools in which interest is waning generally because they have failed to fulfill hype around their usage. Thoughts anyone?)

Digital badging in higher education: the current scenario

Digital badges are commonly used to recognise learning that occurs both inside and outside the classroom. For students, they can be used within academic programmes or modules where they may be used to recognise the development of a specific skill or they may be used as a type of “microcredit” within modules where they can motivate and engage learners as they progress through various activities. Outside the classroom, digital badges are also increasingly used to recognised skills developed via extra-curricular activities including peer mentoring, volunteering and participation in societies.

In an academic development context, digital badges offer a way of officially validating and acknowledging the skills and competences that academics develop through their engagement with professional development activities (many of which are non-accredited). In recognition of this, the National forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning has developed a National Digital Badge System for the HE sector. Developed against nationally agreed criteria, these digital badges are awarded to HE professionals for the development of particular teaching and learning skills and competences. (Note: these digital badges do not include the awarding of ECTs.)

They are a fantastic resource for anyone interested in upskilling and/or facilitating one of the nationally recognised digital badge programmes within their own institution. Each digital badge comes with a comprehensive set of open access programme resources enabling “facilitators” to host the programme within their own institution. To become a “badge facilitator” you need to complete a facilitator development workshop and then register as a facilitator. Having completed three of these facilitator workshops (“Programme Focussed Assessment”, “Programme Design” and “Universal Design in Teaching and Learning”) I can definitely recommend them. Full details are available here.

Other examples of digital badging initiatives for academic development


Digital badging for “Master Blenders”Master Blender digital badge

In 2017, we decided to grasp the nettle and pilot a digital badging initiative in conjunction with a new “Master Blender” professional development series for academic staff. Over the next few posts I’m going to look back on this initiative, describe the rationale and design framework for the “Master Blender” series and outline the practical steps involved in implementing the digital badging functionality. Keep an eye out for the next posts!

The big squeeze and finding the time to write

As a quick scan of this blog will quickly show, my blogging activity has fallen by the wayside for too long. What can I say? Too much to do, too little time to fit it all in. blank page with cup

On the plus side I have many blog posts started………ideas bubbling away. But getting the time to write, reflect and ultimately publish here has been difficult – a problem which I know many of my colleagues in the field are also grappling with! Why is it so hard to find the time to write? As some seasoned writers suggest, it’s not about finding the time, it’s about making the time. Certainly a new year’s resolution for me.

So with the beginning of 2018, I’ve decided it’s time to make a renewed effort! Over the past year I’ve been involved some really interesting projects, I’ve attended fantastic events (not least the Aurora programme which was a real highlight of 2017) and I’ve had the good fortune to meet, and collaborate with, new colleagues from across the sector. Over the coming year, I hope that I will be able to use this space to update, and reflect, on these experiences and make this blog a little fuller!

Just published! Game-based Learning and the Power of Play

I am delighted to announce the publication of a new book on Game Based Learning which I have had the pleasure of co-ordinating and editing alongside my colleague Professor Nicola Whitton (MMU).0337753_game-based-learning-and-the-power-of-play_300

Published by Cambridge Scholars, this book explores the application, potential and challenges of game-based learning and gamification across multiple disciplines and sectors, including psychology, education, business, history, languages and the creative arts. With chapters exploring the use of games across the full educational spectrum – from early childhood education, through to the corporate sector – it provides comprehensive insights into the potential of games and play for facilitating learning and engagement at every life stage.

Thanks to my co-editor Nicola, to all the authors who contributed chapters and of course to the reviewers who provided invaluable feedback throughout the peer review process. It is great to see everyone’s hard work and efforts come to fruition.

For more details see http://www.cambridgescholars.com/game-based-learning-and-the-power-of-play.


To tweet or not to tweet? Looking back at the #elss16 social media etiquette

As described in an earlier post, I was recently involved in developing a Social Media Etiquette for this year’s Dublin eLearning Summer School (#elss16). In this post, I’m going to explore how participants and the wider public responded to these guidelines and reflect on the implications for social media practice and etiquette in our future events. Before this though, let’s recap on why we thought it might be useful and appropriate to develop a social media etiquette in the first place!

social media 2

CC (SA) Kjyrstenolson

Many people have embraced social media on both a personal and professional level and social media now plays an increasingly important role at conference and other professional development events. However, while there are many benefits – not least enhanced openness, transparency and wider opportunities for sharing and networking – this has been accompanied by concerns regarding privacy, control, attribution etc. While social media ostensibly promotes an open and “sharing” culture, not everyone is equally comfortable with this. What is acceptable and “normal” practice for one person, may appear invasive  or inappropriate for another. (As mentioned by Dr. Eoin O’Dell (@cearta) at #elss16, Danah Boyd’s excellent book “It’s Complicated” provides a really interesting exploration of social media, identity and privacy and, in particular, how individuals conceptualise privacy differently.)

The theme of #elss16 – “Ethic and eLearning” – focused specifically on many of the issues which arise in discussions of social media at conferences: privacy, data protection, analytics, digital identities etc. Given this, and the potentially sensitive issues under discussion, it seemed particularly appropriate that we develop a social media etiquette for the event this year. This etiquette was published in the event website, emailed to all participants in advance of the event, and a hard copy was also included in participant packs. To encourage an open and sharing culture, while respecting the wishes of individual speakers, speakers were also asked to clarify at the beginning of their session if they were happy for their presentation to be tweeted/photographed etc.

Having disseminated this social media etiquette to #elss16 participants and the wider public, I awaited the response with bated breath! I was particularly curious about the response because (a) this was a new initiative for #elss16 and (b) in my experience such guidelines are not widely used for conferences in the field of education/elearning. (It must be acknowledged however that we are not the first to do this – many other events, particularly those in the fields of law/science/medicine, have published such guidelines. (See for example Social media guidelines for  events run by the American Academy of Family Physicians and Social media guidelines for the  European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2016.)

The response

So how were our #elss16 social media guidelines received? (Note, in my exploration here I am focussing purely on the public online response, for example via blogs and Twitter. In the spirit of the the #elss16 etiquette, private conversations with participants will not used here.) Responses were varied initially: overall, curiosity and interest was stirred as reflected on Twitter:

Some were very positive:

However, some tweeters also hinted at some underlying concerns:

And interestingly, these guidelines stimulated bloggers to address the topic, raising valid questions and stimulating significant debate. (See for example, Dr. Sharon Flynn’s Etiquette for tweeting at conferences – an honest question). Most of this debate surrounded the #elss16 request that participants do not photograph presenter’s slides and share them on social media without their permission.

For me, one of the most valuable outcomes of publishing our #elss16 social media guidelines has been the online debate that they have stimulated. While there seemed to be a general consensus on the inappropriateness of recording someone’s presentation without their consent, there was less consensus on the appropriateness of tweeting a speaker’s slides. In my  experience, it seems that the default assumption  is that speaker slides are tweetable. However, as Simon Wood posits, “is that fair?” Academics may be comfortable presenting evolving, unfinished work to peers in a conference setting: but is it reasonable to assume that they should be equally comfortable presenting these ideas to the world?  As argued by Adeline Koh in an interview with Steve Kolowich, “I see this as a divide between older and newer forms of academic culture…On the traditional model, you don’t put an idea out there until it’s fully formed and perfect.” 

Blogger Andrew asks “What is the copyright status of slides?” and “why tweet?” These are valid questions: IP issues may arise, particularly if someone is simply capturing and disseminating someone else’s work, as opposed to making their own contribution or response to the work.

So where does this leave us?

At #elss16, our aim was to respect speaker’s preferences, while encouraging the openness, transparency and sharing across our personal learning networks that is so valuable. For us, it appeared to work. However, key to this was the fact that we explicitly asked each speaker to clarify their preferences regarding sharing via social media at the start of their presentation. All #elss16 presenters were happy for presentations to be tweeted etc. and it seemed that participants were happy to know that they were free to tweet  with consent.

However, I think there are still questions that are worth grappling with here and I have to say I am still working through my own thoughts on this, which undoubtedly will evolve. Perhaps a future blog post?

Developing a social media etiquette for conferences and events

socialmediaFor some time now we have been discussing the increasing pervasiveness of social media at conferences and professional development events. Undoubtedly this has great benefits. For example, Twitter backchannels can enable attendees to follow multiple parallel sessions at the same time. Those who are unable attend in person can also follow event conversations online. And of course, Twitter now affords the potential to extend these conversations beyond attendees, opening up a potentially global conversation. Also, tools such as Storify can be used to create a useful archive of conference tweet for browsing after the event.

Some organisations have used social media to facilitate gaming activities which complement conference events: #senatesecrets, a treasure hunt game designed specifically for the FOTE 2014 conference, is one interesting example which blends offline and online activities, the latter using a range of social media tools including Flickr and Twitter.

Similarly blog posts from conference attendees can provide a wonderful synopsis of an event, prompting reflection on, and discussion of, conference themes. (See for example Catherine Cronin’s #oer16 blog post for an excellent reflection on the #oer16 conference, which itself includes a collection of blog posts from other academics.)

As academics become more conscious of their digital identity, and the benefits of engaging in such networking via social media, the blogging and tweeting at conferences and similar events has increased exponentially. However, at times it seems as if, in our enthusiasm for sharing via social media, we have paid insufficient attention to the privacy and ethical issues which inevitably arise.

For example, if you have presented at a conference, are you happy with attendees taking photos of you and/or your slides and tweeting them? Would you be happy for an attendee to record and stream your presentation via social media without asking you? Would you feel comfortable if someone tweeted a keynote-related comment you had made informally over coffee?

With this in mind, I’ve been involved in developing a Social Media Etiquette for this year’s Dublin eLearning Summer School: an etiquette which we felt was particularly relevant considering the theme of this year’s event – “Ethics and eLearning”. All #elss16 attendees will be asked to follow the guidelines below:

Please do:

  • Make sure to include the official hashtag, #elss16, when sharing event-related posts on Twitter and elsewhere on social media.
  • The default assumption is that all presentations are “bloggable” and “tweetable”. However, some presenters may request that certain slides, or findings, be left out of the social media conversation. Please respect any such request.
  • Please respect other participants and presenters – remember that your posts are public and live forever.
  • If you are tweeting or blogging during a session, please consider sitting near the back of the room to avoid distracting presenters or other participants.
  • Please mute your mobile phone/laptop/tablet volume to avoid disruptions.


Please do not:

  • Video or audio record any session without the presenter’s explicit permission. This includes the use of mobile apps such as Periscope.
  • Post online any images, audio or video that have been recorded, without first having the presenter’s explicit permission to post it.
  • Photograph presenter’s slides and share them on social media without their permission.
  • Capture, transmit or disseminate research data presented at the event – this may jeopardise subsequent publication of the data in an academic journal.
  • Tweet, or post elsewhere online, comments made by fellow attendees at the event.
  • Engage in rudeness or personal attacks online.


Watch this space for the response from participants and presenters as #elss16 begins tomorrow!

Tools for facilitating collaboration

I’ve recently begun using Edshelf for curating, annotating and sourcing tools and apps for teaching and learning. It’s a really useful platform, particularly given the ever-increasing number of tools available. Having an accessible online space to curate these tools, and to share reviews and experiences with the wider educational community, is invaluable. And even better, it’s free to use! For starters, see my “Collaboration Shelf” at https://edshelf.com/shelf/paulinerooney-collaboration/ (or click on the preview image below). Note: all my “shelves” are works-in-progress!

Tools for facilitating online collaboration