Archive for the ‘Updates’ Category

Students expectations of technology

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Two recent studies looking at student attitudes to technology have found similar themes, despite being conducted on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2010 is the annual survey of US undergraduate students that looks at their ownership, use and perceptions of technology both inside and outside the classroom.

Student Perspectives on Technology – demand, perceptions and training needs is a report from the NUS undertaken as part of the HEFCE Online Learning Task Force. It took a more qualitative approach using consultation events, online discussions and an online survey of FE students.

So what did they discover …

Searching skills

Both studies show that students think that they are good online searchers.

88.6% agree that they were effective online researchers. (NUS / HEFCE)

Eight out of ten (81%) students considered themselves expert or very skilled in searching the Internet effectively and efficiently. (ECAR)

Information literacy training

However, both studies also reveal that students have concerns about how to use the information they find online for academic purposes.

There was a common request for more skills training, particularly around how to effectively research and reference reliable online resources in the NUS / HEFCE study.

Student ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of online information and understand ethical / legal issues was lower than their assessment of how effective they are in searching the Internet in the ECAR study.

Amount of technology used in teaching

Both studies show that students are cautious about the amount of technology used in teaching and prefer a blended approach of technological and traditional teaching methods.

The NUS / HEFCE study shows that students prefer a choice in how they learn and that opinions are fundamentally divided over e-learning. It was recognised that not every area of study needed e-learning and that is would be more effective if it was an option, not an obligation.

The ECAR study has consistently found that students only want a “moderate” amount of technology in their courses, although the definition of what a moderate amount is, is probably very different now than it was five years ago.

Other issues

Perhaps the most important findings to bear in mind, come at the end of the ECAR study which concludes that “many student technology adoption patterns are surprisingly stable,” but that “there is no stereotypical student when it comes to technology”.

Women’s Studies or WAGS?

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Is there still a place for Women’s Studies in the world of coalition politics, Strictly Come Dancing and WAGS?  A quick survey of postgraduate courses in the UK, on showed that 39 universities do indeed have courses.  Titles range from Women, Culture and Society, to Women’s History and even the wonderfully named The Menopause and Beyond. But do students need help with finding information on Women’s Studies? Feedback which the Virtual Training Suite receives from librarians and educators tells us that there still  is a need for information literacy help for students.

A new version of the Virtual Training Suite’s Internet for Women’s Studies was released this summer, offering good advice, a list of fascinating websites for academic research, and scenarios of students using the Internet for research, such as  – ‘Can Virginia Woolf, modernist writer,  be classed as a feminist? ‘   It shows how educational materials, primary sources,  library catalogues, blogs and news sites can provide quality materials for learning about Women’s Studies.  For example, The Women’s Library in London (part of London Met University) has valuable collections about the Suffragist Movement, women’s employment, oral history and female emigration.  Other interesting websites in the tutorial include The F-Word – an online forum for feminists now, and Wikigender from the OECD which tracks progress of gender equality in the OECD countries.  Media websites include Radio 4’s Women’s Hour which has its own website with podcasts.  YouTube is also worth a look, in its EDU Women and Gender section, where there are currently about two thousand video clips on women’s health, leadership and more.

For the more rebellious, the Pink Stinks website looks at gender stereotyping and encourages discussion. And according to online sources, such as  Frassanito (2008), in the journal Child’s Nervous System,  vol 24, pp881-882, ‘Pink and blue: the color of gender’, there is evidence that in the early twentieth  century, boys in North America were often dressed in pink and girls in blue. Probably pink became more of a girl’s colour from the 1940s onwards.

Automatic attribution for images, audio and video

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Xpert Attribution is a new tool from the University of Nottingham that can help you credit your sources when using images, audio and video.

Much attention has been focused on citation and plagiarism advice about the correct use of textual material, but it is increasingly important to do the same when working with other types of media.

The tool searches open media (images, sound and video) from Flickr and Wikimedia and aims to automatically attribute the appropriate license.

Find out more about how to find, evaluate and use images, audio and video in this series of Virtual Training Suite tutorials produced in partnership with JISC Digital Media.

Internet for audio resources
Internet for image searching
Internet for video & moving images

Good or bad language

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Can the Internet help with language learning? Although language is primarily about humans communicating, the Internet can help a lot too.  More and more great resources are coming online, to join old favourites like the BBC Languages pages with their courses, teachers’ homepages and foreign language TV links to channels. Nowadays you find dictionaries, online language cafes, chat forums and video clips to help you practice or talk to other speakers.

And it’s not just better known languages – there are websites devoted to pidgins such as Tok Pisin, the pidgin which is one of three official languages of Papua New Guinea.  Endangered languages, which have few speakers and may die out, also feature online:  National Geographic has a hotspots map  called Disappearing Languages.

For those who want to brush up their German, French, Spanish, Mandarin or similar, there are some inspiring resources out there.  It’s not just a question  of language, either.  Language learning introduces speakers to other cultures, as the Think German campaign says.  Celebrities such as Stephen Fry,  Nick Clegg and John Cleese extoll the virtues of many things German on the Think German Facebook page.  A good way to find more language resources is from the Tour pages of the Virtual Training Suite’s tutorial Internet for Modern Languages. It guides users to sites like LiveMocha, a worldwide language learning community where you can practice with other speakers.  Or to YouTube, where there are countless video clips on speaking languages – although the standard varies!  Internet for Modern Languages also lists all types of academic and quality resources, with essentials such as Le Monde newspaper, Modern Language Association Bibliography and British Library Catalogues on the Web.  Most importantly, the tutorial shows users how to judge the quality of what they find online.

Finally, the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies mustn’t be forgotten – this is the key support centre  for teachers and lecturers., with activities, resources, and events all round the UK.  A final resource for fans of Germanic studies – the Dach blog is written by  experts at the British Library and is a wonderful mix of academic, entertaining and unusual materials.

Some German conversation from YouTube

Outstanding ICT initiative contenders

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

The shortlisted candidates for the Times Higher Education Awards 2010 have been unveiled for various categories including the Outstanding ICT Initiative that will be judged by JISC.

If you have not heard about all the six contenders, they are listed below with a few words on some of the innovative work that they have been doing.

Chemlabs logo

The University of Bristol ChemLabS is a CETL that also provides e-learning tools for chemistry and science subjects. They produce resources for individuals, schools and universities, via their LabSkills software and Dynamic Laboratory Manual.

iSpot logo

The Open University iSpot is a website aimed at helping anyone identify anything in nature. You can add an observation to the website and suggest an identification yourself or see if anyone else can identify it for you, as explained by Chris Packham.

Open Fields logo

The Harper Adams University College  Open Fields site is an internet library designed “to meet practitioner and student demand for knowledge that supports and stimulates the development of land-based industries”.

The University of the West of England  SHE (Simulations in Higher Education) initiative enables students to experience simulations of events and situations that are difficult or impossible to organise, before they put their skills into practice in the real world, by using Second Life.


The University of Ulster SLOODLE initiative is an Open Source project which integrates the multi-user virtual environment of Second Life with the Moodle learning-management system. It connects the two environments via chatrooms, quizzes, voting mechanisms, note writing tools and presentations.

Media Zoo screenshot

The University of Leicester Media Zoo is a research dissemination forum and a supportive, experimental environment for staff to understand the design of learning activities using learning technologies. It has physical, online and 3D manifestations, as well as someone with a very cool job title.

Good luck to all the nominated initiatives for awards night!