Monday, 20 April 2009

Post Easter tidings

First day back after Easter and time to start thinking about work again. I have thought of nothing but chocolate and more latterly sunburn for the last week or so but today had a very interesting chat with Hamza about the project.

I've been thinking about the project and how to sum up the outputs and write down what we've learned along the way. Hamza is looking at the Community of Practice and has been going round asking people what the think of the site, if they've used it and generally their thoughts on the project as a whole.

In retrospect I think that we have been thinking of Validation as a driver whereas it is really the end point of the design process. To think about the design process from a much more holistic point of view with validation being a component of it would be more helpful. With this in mind I have been thinking along the lines of the creation a central area that all the team who are designing the award create and store all course design materials (a wiki perhaps?)that could be used to automatically create the documentation for validation. Validation documents are created as a culmination of work around the course design. In practice, (certainly in my experience)the final documents are produced by somebody sitting down and gathering lots of bits of information together and cutting and pasting a lot. For example the rationale for the course is often put together based around a central idea that the rest of the team feed their opinions via email into? At some point the modules and their delivery timetable is organised in a diagram somewhere. The learning outcomes are written down and then cut and pasted into tables etc.

So one central area, organised so it can be searched – each award team gets an instance created for them and they work on a central document perhaps. This would also include administrative staff who could then feed information into it (feeding into time tabling systems?) and from this document the relevant validation documents could be created.

This is an idea in very early stages but worth looking into a bit more deeply, certainly worth having a discussion with our colleagues in QIS.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

The Jisc Conference

Earlier this week we went to Edinburgh to the JISC conference. We did a demo about the project which was a bit disappointing with only a couple of people at it, but it was the first session and people were still registering. Also, it can be a bit difficult selling a project on Validation, it isn’t the most glamorous subject at the conference though perhaps one that will help the unsung heroes of academia. After all where would our star lecturers perform if there were not awards to shine in!

There were the usual luminaries there, a keynote by Prof. Goodman, bafta award winning, globe-trotting, dancing guru at Smart lab, I have a vague idea of the content but I must admit I drifted off half way through with thoughts of “Raoul, my dance teacher”, and drifted back to some pretty amazing stuff done with technologies to support disabled people. I met lots of interesting people, including most of the other projects in the programme, lots of inspiring people who are doing some really clever stuff. I went to a couple of great sessions, one on identity which gave me something to think about. I certainly have a better idea of some of the issues of Identity Management that Sam and Co have been looking at, and another on Geo-Spatials, not something I’ve had much to do with in the past but certainly gave me a few ideas about using technologies in different ways.

The Conference timing was good, it’s kicked me off into thinking about the questions I need to ask about getting the project back on course, not that it’s drifted much but all projects seem to suffer a bit from time to time, thinking about what we’ve achieved has actually reassured me that we getting there. I’m not sure how anybody else achieves anything between twitters, the whole conference seemed to be filled with people posting one-liners, before during and after (I was going to type sessions but perhaps I should leave it there!)

It’s April next week and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in again so watch this space for more postings, off to do some twittering now, I feel drawn to find out what it’s all about!

Friday, 13 March 2009


Just realised I haven't posted about the meeting in March! We are just going through a bit of a tricky stage with the project, things are moving but because they are technical moves they don't seem very fast to those of us not directly involved. Sean has done wonders with the repository and now that things have slowed for me on the teaching front I will be able to dedicate a lot more time to the project and catch up with the plan.

I'm feeling quite optimistic about the project and looking forward to going to Edinburgh in a week or so. It must be the weather, in like a lamb and out like a lion or some such :)

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

February Meeting

We had the Feb meeting this week. A couple of people couldn't make it but sent updates. The biggest problem recently is that our HIVE guru has been on holiday for 3 weeks and so work has practically stopped, albeit temporarily. Things are back to normal now and so things should start moving on getting documents into Hive. This has got to a point now where we need to start playing with real data and working out if our descriptions actually work.

We have been concentrating more on the "models" and "fast-track" side of the project recently. Christa has come up with a set of starting points or categories for her approaches or models based around the follwing:
• Structure
• Delivery
• Content
• Interactivity
• Assessment
• Resourcing
• Support
We think it'll be a good idea (given the time left on the project) to concentrate on delivery, interactivity and support for now. We can see how the interactivity planned on a course will influence the support needed. If we can marry this to templates then we may be able to see a "real" way in which it may work and we could present it to our QIS and ask if we can pilot it. The idea being that we target a validation of an award being led by an experienced team that have previously validated a similar award. I need to think this through more as it is still formulating as an idea, it may take some time!

I also sent a short description of the project to Rob at Netskills so we can demo it at the JISC meeting in March in Edinburgh. We should have something to actually demo by then, the Community of practice is up and running and it shouldn't take much to put in the links.

We also have started to look at evaluation and I had a quick look at the final report templates. I ran away.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Snail's pace but still moving!

Last week I showed the DIVAS presentation to people from Ashton and Burton Colleges as part of an Enable project meeting. They seemed interested so I've sent them invitations to the Validation Support Network (VSN)in NING. Interestingly this week we found out that not all the colleges can see the VSN site properly, at one of the SURF colleges no pictures were displayed.

Things are still moving, albeit slowly, I wish I could spend more time on the project but I suspect all people involved in projects wish that! I'm going to a Computing & Engineering faculty meeting to talk about the project next week. I have already sounded some of them out about the idea of auto-populated validation documents and they were very keen so it'll be interesting to speak to them. I'm changing the presentation to reflect the change of direction so I'll see how well it goes.

I also have a meeting next week with Fleur to talk about how exactly she wants the colleges to use the VSN to support the Enable project. It may mean somebody needs to do some training, it may mean talking to the colleges about how they let their staff use social networking software, it may mean trouble at' mill!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Happy New Year!

Bit belated I know, but meant nonetheless.

Not as much to catch up on as time suggests what with the xmas break and all, but still we have progress. Things on the HIVE front are looking good. Sam and Sean have worked really hard and Hive has initial version of xcri installed , (it can't cope with attributes only elements so if we need to export as xcri we will need to work on this, this is the royal "we" of course!) They think it'll only be a matter of weeks until they can release a version to Chris and his colleagues in Quality to have a look at.

The meeting with the AMD academics didn't go ahead, in fact the response to my email asking for meetings with academics who are planning validations was very disappointing. I will try once more and if it still doesn't work I'll put plan B into action.

Plan C on the other hand has had a very good reception. Everybody I've spoken to about populating pre-formatted validation documents from Thesis thinks it is a brilliant idea. I suspect its because it isn't 1 persons' idea but an idea formulated over time by everyone. I've asked Ian Watts (he knows Thesis better than the rest of us)if he'll give us a hand and he has agreed so I think this is the way to go.

Christa is now in a position to start thinking about the models side of the project so things should start moving on this soon.

At the Jan meeting people seemed quite happy with what they need to be getting on with and I'm planning on meeting with individuals this month to make sure everyone has everything they need to get on with things.

New years resolution is to get back to writing the blog regularily so don't forget to come back!!!!

Friday, 28 November 2008

What can we do that would really help?

It's been a frustrating few weeks with people unable to get to meetings and too many scheduled meetings at odd times of the day! One interesting meeting Sam and I had was with the Corporate information team in charge of THESIS. The good news was that the information we want is stored in Thesis and it's relatively easy to get out. The bad news is that the information isn't put into the system until after it's been through validation.

I can see why administrative staff don't want to enter information into the system if it's going to need to be edited later and would rather wait until it's signed off. But you can change the information in Thesis (well most of it) and I wondered if it would actually save them time in the long run if it means updated documents can be easily run-off? I think the only way to find out is to have a go.

I have a meeting with some people from the AMD faculty in a couple of weeks and wonder if it may be worth asking them to work with us on this? It may mean quite a lot of work for us as we would have to run the system alongside their normal processes and we couldn't expect them to do it on their own. If this works it will be brilliant and with a shift in working practices around the university could make life so much easier for the people who have to actually collate all the validation materials.

The other courses we have targeted haven't replied yet so I may send them a gentle reminder this afternoon and see if we can get them on board.

Next week we have a DIVAS team meeting and Christa, our new team member will be joining us properly for the first time. Christa will be looking at building models based around good practice for the project.

The interim report for the project for JISC is due and I've made a start on it. As it's due in by Dec I may have to get a move on!