Birthday Celebrations

Last week marked my 10th year at Oxford’s Learning Technologies Group, I joined just after it was set up, so the group is also celebrating a decade in the making. Feeling nostalgic *wipes tear from eye* I wrote a piece on the history:

Celebrating 10 years of LTG

This academic year marks the 10th anniversary of the Learning Technologies Group at OUCS. With a decade of experience as a leader in the field of educational technologies and higher education, the LTG now plays an increasingly important role in the teaching and learning activities of the University and contributes its own research to Oxford’s portfolio. Here we look back to the roots of the LTG and the work it has done alongside OUCS to raise the profile of learning and teaching with technology in Oxford.

The LTG was originally formed by bringing together Project ASTER (Assisting Small Group Teaching Through Electronic Resources), the OxTALENT Research Officer, and the Academic Computing Development Team (previously the Humantities Computing Development Team). A cross-disciplinary group, it was led by Dr Stuart Lee to offer the University a central point of advice for using computers in teaching and learning.

Over the following 18 months the restructuring of OUCS merged all training and teaching under the LTG. The IT Learning Programme (ITLP) offers University Staff and students a vast portfolio of face-to-face and online learning resources to develop IT skills, as well as ‘closed’ courses designed in collaboration with individual departments to teach specific subjects. Over the years it has also become a leader in the field of higher education in its promotion of the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) to staff and students.
With an increasing focus on both researching and advising on the effective use of technology in teaching and learning the LTG began to look into offering more generalised services to the University. In 2002, in response to a growing demand from academic staff a procurement exercise for a university Virtual Learning Environment began. A working group was set up consisting of academics, developers of in-house VLE systems, IT Officers, and other stakeholders. The group reviewed a series of commercial and non-commercial systems and selected the open-source Bodington system developed by the University of Leeds, later renamed WebLearn. Open-source meant that the system could be customized accordingly to Oxford’s model of devolved administration and that developer could respond quickly to changes requested by end users. A specialised VLE section was set up in the group and WebLearn became a production service in May 2004. With usage growing steadily across the University the LTG worked closely with academics to ensure the software met teaching and learning goals. In 2007, Leeds migrated their own VLE to a proprietary system. OUCS, keen to stay part of a vibrant open-source community, chose to migrate WebLearn to Sakai 3, the VLE of choice for many other Ivy League establishments.

As the group grew, the LTG proactively established networks of contacts with the divisions, colleges, and other relevant bodies within the University, collaborating on a vast range of initiatives that would go on to impact Oxford’s teaching and learning activities. On an annual basis, the Academic Computing Development Team undertook a series of projects in conjuction with University departments, services and individual staff members. In 2008, after the completion of 58 projects, general University IT services such as WebLearn, negated the need for many bespoke systems and the ACDT resources were reallocated.

Throughout the past decade it has been the LTG Services section that have provided the backbone to many LTG activities, offering advice on and expertise in the use of technology for learning and teaching to departments around the University. In response to changing needs and technologies the section has run popular seminar programmes, and annual oversubscribed conferences attracting international speakers. In 2007 the section developed the technical architecture for providing a University-wide podcasting service, allowing departments to adopt a standard workflow for releasing audio and video content into the web portal On October 8th 2008 LTGS launched the service in partnership with Apple as Oxford on iTunes U.

In order to promote and celebrate the use of technology in Oxford’s teaching LTG established the annual OXTALENT awards which now feed into the University Teaching Awards scheme. The case studies of practice which accompany the awards are disseminated widely across the University to share stories and support innovation. Melissa Highton, current head of LTG describes the award ceremony as ‘a showcase of creative, inspirational online content and teaching at Oxford’. ‘The technologies provided to colleagues to support their teaching are developed and tailored to ensure they best meet the needs of teachers and learners, each year brings new initiatives and projects to celebrate’.

Now an established centre of expertise the LTG has become increasingly involved in a vast range of ICT projects funded by external sources such as the JISC. Grants have been received for group staff to work on innovative projects that lead institutional strategy, develop digital research collections, foster public engagement, Green ICT, develop system interoperability and research student and staff experiences of digital technologies.

Responsive to change, the group runs a series of Working User Groups to share best practice and guide the development of Oxford’s educational IT services. Working alongside OUCS services, it will continue to adapt and change to meet the needs of the University and its members in the years to come.

Find out more about the LTG visit:

10 things you didn’t know about the LTG

    1. In 2001 the LTG consisted of just 7 members of staff, this has now grown to a body of 30 teachers, developers, researchers, and specialists.
    2. This autumn the University’s Media Production Unit will move from the Public Affairs Directorate into the LTG, widening the groups portfolio of services even further.
    3. Since its launch on October 8th 2008, Oxford podcasts have seen 12 million downloads from iTunesU , 3,000 podcast items processed consisting of 2,700 academic speakers and contributors.
    4. Over 1,000 podcasts have been released with a Creative Commons licence, allowing them to be openly redistributed and reused in teaching and learning across the world.
    5. In the 2010/2011 Academic year ITLP ran 509 courses, covering 199 topics, attended by 2727 distinct individuals culminating in 1487.5 hours of learning.
    6. You can tweet the LTG team at @LTGOxford
    7. The LTG worked with the Zoology department to run the Emerging Infections stand at Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition (celebrating its 350th birthday). The team helped 1000+ members of the public create agent-based computer model simulations of a viral epidemic. Queen Elizabeth came within ten feet of the stand but sadly did not stop by to build an epidemic game.
    8. If a course is not currently scheduled in the ITLP course catalogue you can also ‘express an interest’ and you will be notified when there is enough demand for it to become available.
    9. Over 16 weeks in 2008 a crowdsourcing initiative led by LTG staff saw 7,500 digital versions of previously hidden artifacts from World War One contributed by the general public to the Great War Archive.
    10. Far from being computer geeks, the LTG contains a number of closet artists. Staff members have displayed their talents in ceramics, photography, jewellery design and oil painting at the annual OUCS Artweeks.

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Moving into the Centenary

Opening Slide of presentation The Great War Archive: How Audiences Engaged with WW1It’s been nearly three years since we launched the First World War Poetry Digital Archive, but this is one project that is not disappearing into No-Man’s Land. With the recent formation of the First World War Centenary Group, bodies from over the globe are joining together to look at how we commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the First World War between 2014 and 2018. The team of the archive are actively involved in discussing how best to share knowledge and best practice, and tackle funding to ensure that the digital remembrance.

Since its launch, the project team have been successful in winning funding to undertake spin-off projects to further develop our digital collections and models of engagement. Teacher workshops were run to develop OER for teaching First World War Studies, and crowdsourcing models were developed to run the Great War Archive in Germany and train others to undertake similar initiatives. Money was awarded to digitise other poets and we investigated the use of Web 2.0 to visualise archival data in inspiring ways. The great things all this has given us is time.

Projects need to have time to create an impact. Both research and resources need time to move into communities of practice and become known. As is the case with many grant-funded projects in HE, when project funding ends so do staff contracts and time that can be dedicated to evaluating projects and keeping them alive. Developments we completed in 2008 are only now becoming noticed by the relevant communities. This continuation of the project in various guises has given us the advantage of being able to look at and evaluate what we have done. We have had the advantage (and the pleasure) of being able to get to ‘know our users’ and gauge our impact. This is information we can share with others embarking on centenary projects.

We began this process by presenting to a selection of UK based organisations within the centenary group with a comparative audience analysis of those who contributed to the Great War Archive in the UK and in Germany. You can see the slides on slideshare.

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LTG Research

I have to give a shout-out to my colleague Liz Masterman who has had a series of articles published in the past couple of weeks on research undertaken by the LTG.

The first is a report on the impact of Open Educational Resources (OER). Findings highlight the need to support learners and academic staff alike in the referencing and the reuse of online resources. The report was commissioned by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), and authored by by Liz Masterman and Joanna Wild (LTG). Available online.

The second is an article published in Learning, Media and Technology with Jane Alexen Shuyska entitled ‘Digitally mastered? Technology and transition in the experience of taught postgraduate students’. Available Online. These are the finding of the Thema project which I worked on way back in 2007.

The third is an article co-authored with Marion Manton of TALL in Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 20(2): 227-246 entitled ‘Teachers’ perspectives on digital tools for pedagogic planning and design’. Available online.

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The ABC of Crowdsourcing a Community Collection

available from slideshareOpening slide of ABC of Crowdsourcing a Community Collection. The final report from the RunCoCo project is now available online from the RunCoCo Website. I presented the report at this year’s Digital Humanities Summer School, Oxford. Slides detailing the points made in the report are

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The 8 Question Comms Plan

Presentation opening-slide for 'The 8 minute Comms Plan'I recently gave a presentation for the Steeple project, in which I only had 8 minutes to deliver by talk on marketing and stakeholder by-in. It seemed appropriate to give the audience 8 questions to think about when designing their own project communications plan.

You can hear my rapid presentation online at

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OxTalent Red Carpet Awards 2011

The OxTalent Awards are given each year to members of the University who show creative use of technology for learning, teaching, impact and outreach. You can read about the winning enteries on the event website:

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What KT did next

I have returned to work with the Learning Technologies Group after almost one year leave. I’ll be continuing as the LTG Manager for Engagement working closely with teams and projects to support their engagement with stakeholders and outreach activities, and leading the group’s Marketing and Communications Strategy.

I’ll also be continuing in the role of PI for the RunCoCo project that has delivered a series of successful workshops on building community collections and crowd sourcing. Additionally I’ll be supporting the team in their work to take the Great War Archive initiative into Europe with Europeana.

We are always happy to hear about potential opportunities to collaborate with partners inside and outside the university on any aspect of engagement, community building and crowd sourcing.

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Publication update

Front Cover, War Poetry Review 2010

Front Cover, War Poetry Review 2010

Some recent publications, fit for posting on this Remembrance Sunday. Firstly, one of my own, written in collaboration with Dr Stuart  Lee entitled ‘Oxford University’s First World War Poetry Digital Archive’ in the 2010 edition War Poetry Review published by the War Poets Association. This article takes the reader on a tour of the First World War Poetry Digital Archive, highlighting some of its wonderful items, and looks at the importance of manuscript studies in the study of First World War poetry.

Second of all, one not from my own hand, a great article entitled “Digital curiosities: resource creation via amateur digitization” by Melissa Terras of UCL. The article features the Great War Archive in it’s discussion of the potential contribution that the general public can make to digitizing our cultural heritage. The article will be published in the next issue of Literary and Linguistic Computing, but is available via Advanced Access under Athens.

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Flickr Love

Flickr Love by Theresa Thompson on Flickr

Flickr Love by Theresa Thompson on Flickr

Last week I climbed out of the depths of my maternity leave to present at the fourth RunCoCo workshop  in Leeds. Here, a group of 30 people gathered to learn about, discuss, and share experiences of online community collection work and sustainability. I presented on the Great War Archive’s use of Flickr. the benefits, the methodology we used, and the lessons learned. A write up of the day can be found on the RunCoCo Blog along with a copy of my own slides. I’m particularly thrilled to find out through Hope Wolf’s project blog that my presentation has inspired the excellent Strandlines Project which explores one of London’s most famous streets through crowdsourcing the stories of its dwellers, past and present.

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Gone for a while….

cabbageI’ll be taking a break for a while to do another, very different job. In the meantime posts will be rather sporadic.

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