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For those who might not be familiar with it, EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of information technology. The EDUCAUSE Annual Conference claims to unite “the best thinking in higher education IT.” EDUCAUSE 2013 was held in mid-October, 2013, and I was there to investigate learning analytics.

Analytics is the use of data, statistical, and quantitative methods, and explanatory and predictive models to allow organizations and individuals to gain insights into and act on complex issues. The use of digital tools, especially Learning Management Systems (LMS), like Blackboard, for academic data and Student Information Systems (SIS) for demographic data, can create mounds of digital data that could be mined for discovering trends or predicting outcomes. Examples:

  • Marist College is developing a predictive model using Banner (SIS) and Sakai (LMS) to deliver intervention notices to identify students unlikely to pass a course. A model was built using grade book data across a broad set of courses. They built their own system out of mostly Open Source tools. They found the most powerful predictor to be student’s GPA. Presentation.pptx [3 MB, Powerpoint slides].
  • University of California Chico built a system from server log files and Excel, Tableau, Stata, and SPSS and looked at one large course (373 students). They found LMS usage to be the best predictor of success (not GPA), using these LMS usage variables: total course website hits; total course “dwell time”; administrative tool hits; assessment tool hits; content tool hits; and engagement tool hits. summary of results [455 KB, PDF]; presentation slides from EDUCAUSE 2013 [3 MB, Powerpoint slides]
  • University of Kentucky uses a hardware “appliance” from SAP (HANA) to look at data in near realtime, push out administrative reports to administrators, and “how am i doing” reports to students via a custom mobile application. Academic advisers get an iPad application that compiles advisees’ data, giving both advisor and student a better idea of where they are and where they are going. Using Groundbreaking Analytics and Fast Data [7 MB, Powerpoint slides]
  • South Orange County Community College District  built the mobile app, “Sherpa,” a recommendation engine similar to Netflix or Amazon that helps students choose courses, services, and get information based on previous enrollments, major/minor declarations, and grades. It pushes out warnings and reminders to students via email or text message. Powerpoint slides.
  • Coppin State University implemented Blackboard Analytics for Learn, providing a slew of dashboards for deans, chairs, faculty, and students using data from the Blackboard Learn LMS alone. Mesa Community College has taken it one step further, using Blackboard Analytics to also ingest SIS data. University of Maryland, Baltimore County is using Blackboard Analytics for Learn to explore the LMS in much finer detail and assess the impact of faculty course redesign training.

Barriers? Sure. Analytics are hard. The people who developed Sherpa called in three outside mathematicians to help design their statistical model. Kentucky hired three PhDs. Analytics require buy-in and many of the presenters were CIOs, provosts, presidents, or vice-this-or-thats. There is a lot of missing data (e.g., classes that don’t use an LMS), and a lot of inconsistent data (e.g, variance in how faculty use LMS gradebooks). Statistical models are still in an early stage of development and proprietary software, like Blackboard Analytics, is expensive.

For more on learning analytics, visit The Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR), an interdisciplinary network of leading international researchers who are exploring the role and impact of analytics on teaching, learning, training, and development.

My conference event this year found me in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the “City of Lakes”, for the MERLOT International Conference (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching). Serving as a multimedia developer for the Center for Teaching & Learning I felt right at home amongst my peers. On the menu this year at MERLOT was WEB 2.0 technologies, collaborative online tools (blogs, wikis), digital archives and the hot-topic of the year, online 3D communities as educational spaces.
The conference, which began August 7th and ran through August 10th was attended by faculty and instructional design staff from across the US and North America, as well as many international attendees. Having only attended a few conferences in my life and MERLOT being the biggest and the first professional conference I left the Green Mountain State to attend, I was almost shocked by how friendly the other attendees were, I was delighted to discover that my greatest learning tools were not as much the materials being taught at the conference, but the attendees and presenters I interacted with. The conversations that occurred after and between sessions were often just as informative as the actual instructional sessions.
However there were several sessions that I attended that I found of particular interest, one such session, Understanding Web 2.0 Technologies: Using Wikis, Blogs & Podcasting which was presented by Cris Guenter (California State University, Chico) stuck with me through the entire conference. The workshop focused on introducing various types of WEB 2.0 collaborative tools to the audience and giving everyone an opportunity to try for them. In my personal situation most of the tools Dr. Guenter introduced to were ones we are currently running workshops on at UVM, the value of the session for me came from learning how Dr. Guenter chose to instruct her audience. Her particular emphasis on “mash-ups” was exceptional, essentially tools on the web that incorporate data from more than one location into a single integrated tool; an example would be del.icio.us, a social bookmaking tool, combining social networking with bookmaking links.
In addition to hosting the conference, the MERLOT organization itself is an excellent repository for educational resources. I would suggest checking out their site to see what materials are available for use!
http://www.merlot.org/merlot/index.htm
Many of the lectures from MERLOT 2007 have also been posted to the website so that those that didn’t have an opportunity to attend a lecture can still benefit from them. I would be more than happy to discuss MERLOT and their academic offerings, feel free to email me cwwebb@uvm.edu or visit me during my Doctor is In Shift in BHL 303, every Tuesday from 12:30 – 3:00.
Regards,
Will Webb
Center for Teaching and Learning

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I attended the Campus Technology conference this year. The topic was WEB 2.0 technologies in Higher Education. I was excited to attend and learn more. Surprisingly I learned the most participating in the “back channel” of the conference on Twitter. I had never tried this before at a conference and I was pleasantly surprised by the comradarie and knowledge that developed between strangers. Before the conference, I signed up to network with people at the conference. One person on the list developed a twitter feed and google site for the group.
I found this so helpful. People would post notes and links from the various sessions they were attending to the feed. This way you really could be in more then one place at a time.
One session I found to be well delivered and informative was about Second Life use in Higher Education Sarah Robbins from Ball State University was the presenter. She posted a link to her PowerPoint file from the presentation on her blog.
She started the presentation by talking about the 7 principles by A. Chickering and S. Erhmann, as well as the belief that she has the I happen to agree with which is “Learning first and technology second!
Creepy Treehouse is a term that Sarah referred to in her presentation. Second Life is an application that students already like and use for fun, so why not try seeing how they can learn from it as well? Sarah has experienced a ton of success using this tool to teach a variety of concepts, including discrimination. I look forward to exploring Second Life more and talking with faculty on the UVM campus who have used it. We will be holding a Colleague Tea on the use of Second Life in a Higher Education course, this semester.
Cheers,
Holly Parker
Center for Teaching and Learning

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The ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia is the acknowledged venue for high quality peer-reviewed research on linking. The web, the semantic web and the Web 2.0 are all manifestations of the success of the link. … One of the most exciting recent developments in Web science is the rise of social annotation, by which users can easily markup other authors’ resources via collaborative mechanisms such as tagging, filtering, voting, editing, classification, and rating. These social processes lead to the emergence of many types of links between texts, users, concepts, pages, articles, media, and so on. We welcome submissions on design, analysis, and modeling of information systems driven by social linking.

ACM Hypertext 2008 will be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 19th-21st 2008 and is hosted by the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Sciences. The conference is co-located and scheduled directly after ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (http://www.jcdl2008.org/).

Details may be found at http://www.sigweb.org/ht08/home/soclinking.html

Image from Howard Rheingold, Friendster (Beta): Social Network Web of Trust. The Evolution of Reputation, December 26th, 2002. http://www.smartmobs.com/2002/12/26/friendster-beta-social-network-web-of-trust/

Why don’t we see more crossover between higher education and K-12 professional and academic conferences? My feed reader brought me news last week of the upcoming Open Minds Conference: Open Source in K-12 Education:

The Open Minds Conference is the first national K-12 gathering for teachers, technicians and educational leaders to share and explore the benefits of open source in education. Virtual Learning Environments that provide 24X7 access to teaching and learning resources, cutting-edge and easy-to-use desktop applications, coupled with powerful management tools and low-cost computer strategies make the classroom of tomorrow available today!

This would be an interesting conference to attend from a higher education perspective. It’s not just that many of the tools to be discussed there are those that work just as well in a collegiate environment – in fact, most probably got their start in higher education. The real benefit for those in academia will be the insight into how our future clients (students) are using these tools, and how that shapes incoming student expectations, learning styles, and attitudes. I wonder what other K-12 conferences are out there that might provide more of this type of insight.

The presentation list for the K12 Online Conference doesn’t look all that different from the 2007 EDUCAUSE program. I do recall the annual Blackboard conference having k-12 tracks – however what few sessions there were seemed more product specific. Are there K-12 conferences out there with higher education tracks? What about other events that serve both groups?

A few of our colleagues are in Vancouver this week for ED-MEDIA, the World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications. Holly Parker and Paul Martin are presenting today.
You can follow Holly, Paul, and Steve Cavrak on Twitter.

Connectivism Online Conference is an open online forum exploring how learning has been impacted by ongoing changes. The conference, hosted online by the University of Manitoba, runs from February 2 – 9, 2006. The daily conference schedule is.

Friday, Feb 2: George Siemens, Connectivism: Learning Conceptualized Through the Lens of Today’s World
Monday, Feb 5: Will Richardson, Connective Teaching: How the Read/Write Web Challenges Traditional Practice
Tuesday, Feb 6: Diana Oblinger, Balancing Agility and Stability in Higher Education
Wednesday, Feb 7: Bill Kerr, A Challenge To Connectivism
Thursday, Feb 8: Stephen Downes,The Recognition Factor
Friday, Feb 9: Terry Anderson, Research and Net Pedagogies

All sessions begin at Noon, EST or 11 AM CST.
If you blog or use social bookmarking sites, please use the conference tag: OCC2007.

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The evolution of teaching and learning is accelerated with technology. After several decades of duplicating classroom functionality with technology, new opportunities now exist to alter the spaces and structures of knowledge to align with both needs of learners today, and affordances of new tools and processes.

Connectivism Online Conference is an open online forum exploring how learning has been impacted by ongoing changes. The conference will run from February 2 – 9, 2007.
Key themes: trends in K-12 sector, trends in higher education, research and net pedagogy, technological and societal trends, and connective knowledge and connectivism.
Format: Presenters will deliver a 50 minute presentation followed by 10 minutes of questions. After each presenter, conversation will occur online in Moodle, allowing participants to challenge, critique, explore, and extend ideas presented.
More information and (free) registration: http://umanitoba.ca/learning_technologies/connectivisim/
Spotted by: Charles Rathbone

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How will higher education evolve to accommodate digital technologies in the classroom, changing sensibilities among students and new forms of knowledge, learning and expression?
This panel discussion will address some emerging challenges posed by the use of digital media, social networks and games within educational contexts. Panelists will speak from a wide range of recent experiences with teaching in virtual or hybrid learning environments and suggest strategies for the future.
Panelists include Rebecca Nesson of Harvard Law School, Douglas Thomas of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication, Michael Eisenberg of the University of Washington Information School and Henry Lowood of Stanford University. The panel will be moderated by Steve Anderson of the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Please join us on Berkman Island in Second Life on November 13 at 4:00 (PST/SLT). This panel is sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation’s Initiative on Digital Media and Learning and generously hosted by Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
Participation is limited to 45 audience members, so sign in early.
If you already have a Second Life account, use this SLURL to teleport directly to Berkman Island http://slurl.com/secondlife/Berkman/114/53/24
Accounts in Second Life are free, but they take a few minutes to set up, so you should plan on signing in, creating your avatar and doing some exploring well in advance of the panel. To start your second life, login here: https://secondlife.com/join

acm-sigweb.jpgThe ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) has issued a call for participation for Hypertext 2006 : Tools for Supporting Social Structures. Scheduled to be held in Odense, Denmark, August 23 – 25, 2006, this is the 17th Hypertext conference.

Hypertext and hypermedia are technologies for supporting structured knowledge work. The Seventeenth International ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia: Tools for Supporting Social Structures (HT 2006) will focus specifically on tools that help us represent, model and interact with social structures, including cultural, literary, linguistic, and other types of social structures. Recently, in fields ranging from anthropology to linguistics, there has been an increasing focus on representing complex social phenomena using networks or other structure-intensive models. HT 2006 will bring together social scientists with hypertext and hypermedia researchers who specialize in building tools to build, manipulate, and manage structure-intensive models

For more information, visit the conference website at www.ht06.org