Future fit: building a digital institution

Pete's post

How can recent innovations in educational technology be used to support university life?

This was the essence of  the debate at Building the Digital Institution, a recent conference held by the Centre for Educational Technology, Interoperability and Standards (Cetis).

Pete Sparkes from the Technology Enhanced Learning team traveled to Bolton to explore the issues of e-books and learning statistics.

Meeting digital expectations

Paul Hollins (Cetis Director) put forward the case that both technology and standards have important roles to play in enabling universities to meet the new and growing expectations of students. Phil Richards (JISC Chief Innovation Officer), emphasised the ongoing need to innovate and highlighted that in response to recent educational and economic changes, JISC have altered their focus to ensure that institutions receive value for money.

You can view the full presentation on YouTube.


Learning analytics


Adam Cooper (Co-Director of Cetis), led the ‘Developing a Learning Analytics strategy for a Higher Education institution’ breakout session to look further into learning analytics.

On the positive side good analysis and application were identified as having the potential to increase student retention and improve the student learning experience.  However alongside these benefits it was acknowledged there was scope for data to be abused, either through misinterpretation or misuse to suit a particular agenda.

Reinforcing the need for care, Adam highlighted that data misuse can occur for a number of reasons; incorrect or incomplete collection, poor presentation, or insufficient support and training in place to enable staff to make the data meaningful.

Academic solution

A team effort by academics and analysts was a proposed strategy for harnessing the best of learning analytics. Academics have a wealth of knowledge of the HE landscape and the student journey – contextual information that could prove invaluable in terms of understanding and interpreting collected data.

Combining the expert knowledge from both academics and analysts in suitable roles within a learning analytics strategy would ensure that data is used accurately, fairly and with purpose. More information can be found on the Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) website.


e-books: learning platform of the future?

ebook reader pic _ Pete's post

Wilobert Kraan’s session looked at the requirements and expectations of using an e-Textbook. There seemed to be a desire for e-books to provide features typically found on the web, such as;

  • discussion forums
  • quizzes
  • analytics
  • multimedia
  • offline capability

Interest was also evident in the methods of e-book publication, creation and technical standardisation.

This discussion challenged the definition of an e-book. Was it was necessary when many of the requirements are already possible with a website?


Collaborative authoring and e-book remixing


Of particular interest was BookType, a content management system for collaborative authoring of e-books based on the philosophy of ‘publish once, read everywhere’.

Mick Chesterman (Flossmanuals & Manchester Metropolitan University) presented collaborative authoring tools and the concept of remixing e-books.

A book remix is achieved using a formless content approach which makes it easier to transport text to different formats and devices. Similar to a music DJ, it is based on the concept of mixing from multiple sources to create a new, single output. A powerful idea; relevant text can be put into context, combined and edited.


History of Educational Technology

Audrey Watters, educational writer, ended the conference with a discussion on the importance of accurately documenting the history of educational technology. Highlighting the point that ‘history is often written by the victors’, Audrey warned how, due to a lack of innovation and awareness, educators are in danger of repeating mistakes from the past.

You can view Audrey’s presentation on YouTube.

So, can innovations in technology be used to support and enhance university life?

Yes, but we need to handle innovation skilfully. Be aware of the pros and cons of different approaches and platforms, anticipate the future, without forgetting the past.







creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Stuck in Customs: http://flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/6495437857

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by Beantin webbkommunikation: http://flickr.com/photos/beantin/7649183772

creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by goXunuReviews: http://flickr.com/photos/43602175@N06/4070018782




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We are the Educational Enhancement team at the University of Sussex. We publish posts each week on using technology to support teaching and learning. Read more about us.

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