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The joy of stats

The title is somewhat borrowed from a recent TV series by Prof Hans Rosling, the swedish master statician, and someone I imitated poorly in a couple of recent presentations we have done on the LfI project. One of which you can now see on the Steeple website – the other was at the Diverse 2011 conference in Dublin (the recording of which isn’t yet available).

However, another article has appeared today that contains some germane points when it comes to looking at numbers and the trend to try and make stories from them. Michael Blastland writing in the BBC News Magazine has these points to make (amongst others, I recommend reading the entire article):

There’s danger as well as genius in the ease with which people construct graceful narrative arcs from any two things that grab their attention, like tennis on telly and the business bottom line.

We find this happens all to easily when we look at some of our graphs and the desire to explain them overwhelms the actual information available. Also…

Doing good stats means exercising a pathological interest in the story that might have been missed. Doing politics can seem to mean a near pathological interest in telling us why your story was right all along.

It’s a simple trap to fall into, especially if you’re under pressure to justify your performance under whatever measures you can. As is often the case, stats and numbers in general can be open to a wide degree of interpretation when the actual understanding of their origin and their derivation isn’t understood by those discussing them.

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The impact of Cookie law

You may or may not be aware of recent changes to EU and UK regulations regarding the use of Cookies on websites. Cookies are small text files sent out to user’s machines and posted back to the server with each webrequest. These tend to feature on nearly every website for one purpose or another, but they are fairly common on websites that are trying to track their user’s actions – e.g. through some form of analytics.

Andrew Cormack from JISC’s regulatory team has written a fairly clear update on the current situation which can be read on JISC’s blog at Whilst the situation is still a little in flux, institutions are going to need to be aware of how they use cookies on their various web portals and be prepared to defend their approaches if challenged from May 26th onwards.

Posted in JISC, Tech-Moderate, WP3: Website Enhancement, WP6: Publishing to more channels, WP7: Embedding Toolkit | Comments Off on The impact of Cookie law

Impact and Embedding of Digitised Resources

The LfI project is one of the seven JISC funded projects as part of the Impact and Embedding of Digitised Resources programme.  Last week at the OII event, Eric Meyer (from OII) presented a report (drawn from the reports of the seven projects): Splashes and RipplesSynthesizing the Evidence on the Impacts of Digital Resources.

In the report, a set of recommendations are presented to suggest ways how to potentially increase the impact of digital resources.

For Digital Resource Providers

1. Plan ahead to measure impact.

2. Use the media to your advantage.

3. The media and the public are influenced by numbers and metrics.

4. Make your resource easy to find.

5. Give your resource an unambiguous name and acronym/initials. Continue reading

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What Staff think of Oxford’s Podcasting Activities

The Listening for Impact project team conducted student surveys to find out their views on Oxford’s podcasts. Those survey results were analysed in other blog posts.  The project team released that it is equally important to consult the staff who are involved in producing the podcasts, so this blog post attempts to address this issue.

A survey was designed and sent to 76 people (50 academics and 26 support staff), majority of whom were involved in producing Open Education Resources (OER) podcasts at Oxford .   They were given one week to complete the survey and 38% of them responded.

The key findings

The first survey question asks what role(s) does the respondent play in podcasting: A. I am a presenter (e.g. my talk/lecture was recorded as a podcast);  B. I am a publisher (e.g. recording the podcast, editing the files, putting it online, etc); C. I am involved in both A and B. The following summarises some of the answers received. Continue reading

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