lighting out for the territories


This week has been amazing already, so many people to see  and things to do before I go. I have been clearing out my desk and my emails and remembering again how much fun it has been to work here.

Edinburgh University have already been very patient. Time comes for me to go.

I am delighted to have had such a lovely venue for my leaving party, 6 years of working in a film set leaves you spoilt for choice for beautiful venues at Oxford but the Pitt-Rivers Museum is one of my favourite. I apologise for any sticky finger prints caused by our cupcakes.

Looking back, I had actually been to Oxford several times before getting the job as Head of LTG. I used to regularly attend the annual Shock and Beyond conferences. I’d come here to learn about new technologies and then take the messages back to Royal Holloway and Leeds.

One particular moment at one of the conferences sticks in my mind. A colleague in the assembled audience, after listening to the presentation, commented that she thought the particular use of technology being described was fantastic.  It took me a moment, but I realised by the tone of her voice, that she didn’t mean good.  She meant unrealistic and unlikely.  I decided then that I wanted to work in this place where words are used carefully  and the received wisdom around reasons for using technology in teaching  are rightly and roundly challenged.

Thank you to  Chris, Rebecca, Stuart and Paul for giving me this opportunity.

I must thank all my teams and team leaders for their hard work over the years: Pete, Adam, Dave, Grazyna, Howard, Kath, Kate, Liz, Joe and Lisa. Judy for keeping me in budget, Bernadette  and Sandie for making sure I was in the right place at the right time,  and my co-director, Sebastian for  many late night email conversations.

johnson12-ltd-0001-0Also the many colleagues from OUCS and IT Services who always went the extra mile to do the things around the edges and in between, things which can’t quite be categorised on spreadsheets as service enhancements or project management, but nonelethless  make this a cool place to work; more colourful, more accessible, more balanced.

As you know, I’m a woman who likes a theme.  Colleagues have indulged me and joined me in  finding new ways to deliver the engagement activities of Academic IT via the media of  Ada Lovelace Day, OxTALENT, Shock, Beyond,  Speak like  a Pirate Day, International Womens Day, Open Advent calenders, Art Weeks, Safer Internet Day,  Breakfast at IT Services,  World Book WeekOpen Education week and Learning at Work week.

I have special thanks to Alun for sending me to cover for him at a meeting where I learned for the first time about  the John Johnson Collection of digitized printed ephemera from which has followed so many happy twilight hours finding just the right image for my blog posts.

Thank you to John, Tony, Janet and Dom for building an entire blog service  in order to host me.

I am moving back to Scotland in time to vote in the independence referendum.  If you feel like arguing the toss and joining in the debate, I can recommend a very good just in time MOOC  which will welcome you and learners from all over the world.

The future for Academic IT here looks really positive.  Anne, Stuart, Darrell and the other senior managers have a new project methodology coming together and a clear capital plan for the next ten years with plenty room for learning and teaching innovation.  Look forward to new pilots and projects from all  the teams. I’ll be watching.

Posted in 23 things, conferences, DIGE, green IT, Kellogg, Learning Technologies Group, mobile, mobile learning, models, OER, OpenOxford, Oxford on ItunesU, podcasts, score, skills, WebLearn | Tagged | Comments Off on lighting out for the territories

i’m contents packaging

johnson30-jpp-0001-0I’m packing my bags.

johnson30-jsw-0001-0 I know that you have to take care in packaging content so that it can be easily transported to a new environment and opened easily.

As a woman with a lot of clothes and a lot of ceramics, my challenges mainly come from moths and bits of china.

Posted in models | Tagged , , | Comments Off on i’m contents packaging



In this stressful modern life it is nice to have one less decision to make.

I’m no foodie, and I get no particular pleasure from cooking for myself. I do enjoy eating though, so I am very lucky to have found good friends who do enjoy  making menu decisions, cooking and eating, and to have lived for  while in the south of England where the  weather allows for occasional al fresco dining. This has been a perfect weekend.

I am also confident that I picked the right college at Oxford (and lucky that they picked me).

The food is really good at Kellogg, for lunch and dinner. The tradition and experience of dining in college are a key part of maintaining a community of research and teaching practice at Oxford.  College life is where the shared language,  shared information, shared history and shared experiences are embedded. Within the group  the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally. Knowledge is embedded within a community as we eat* and stories are told and retold.

The five years I have spent at Kellogg have been great fun. Knowing that I can turn up there anytime and they will feed me has been a great luxury. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch, I’ve been worked hard in various roles: Dean of Degrees, Chamberlaine, Web Fellow and IT Fellow.

My farewell Chamberlaine’s speech has been published online by the college, and my leaving lunch is tomorrow.

*Lave and Wenger (1991)

Posted in Kellogg | Comments Off on wholegrain

just in time MOOCs

johnson30-fkl-0001-0 A few weeks ago I wrote about the next generation of extreme sport online learning ‘MOOCs X-games‘ .

I suggested that once an institution has mastered the production of MOOCs and has a few successfully under its belt there will be  a hunger to push forward and do more new things.

The ‘Towards Scottish Independence? Understanding the Referendum‘ MOOC from Edinburgh University is a fine example of a ‘just in time MOOC’ . It opens on 25th August,  three weeks before the referendum and also considers afterwards the implications of the result.

Unlike the vote in the actual referendum, you do not need to be resident in Scotland to take part in this course. It’s guaranteed to be lively and there’ll be  headaches the morning after, one way or the other.

( If you are not happy how the World Cup is going you might also enjoy ‘Football: More Than A Game‘)

Posted in models | Tagged , | Comments Off on just in time MOOCs

it’s no secret …

johnson30-jsy-0001-0 … but in case you hadn’t heard, my blogging time at Oxford will soon come to an end. I am leaving the University for a new job elsewhere. Hopefully they will host posts for me there.  The Registrar is very kindly organising a bit of a garden party  on my birthday after the UAS conference and I’ll be having a leaving do at my favourite museum on 27th. Let me know if you would like to come along.

Posted in Kellogg, Learning Technologies Group, mobile | Tagged | Comments Off on it’s no secret …

you are invited.. celebrate with us at the annual OxTALENT awards on the 18th June. I have just been ordering the prizes and champagne.
It’s always lovely to see you, contact me and I’ll send you a proper invitation by post.

Read about the event on the OxTALENT blog. 

The OxTALENT competition and awards ceremony is one of  my favourite activities in supporting technology-enhanced teaching, learning, and outreach in the University and people seem to enjoy it.

‘I just wanted to thank you for another lovely evening at OxTalent yesterday …  I hope you … are feeling justifiably proud of last night’s success’.

‘I was not aware of what a big event it was – and how fabulous to see all the innovative ideas that are around the University’.

‘I particularly enjoyed the quotes from winners about their experiences of their projects, and in particular the frequency with which we heard that the creators of such accomplished work had started out with only an idea and a can-do attitude’.

‘It’s nice to get recognition. We do all this work and we just assume everyone else is doing something similar. It’s nice to have someone else look at the work and recognize that its not being done everywhere else and the techniques are useful to others.’

I am leaving, but the team who really do all the work will still be here. Make a note in your diary for the same time next year.

johnson50-vul-0001-0Winners celebrate

Language Centre

Politics in Spires

Oxford Human Rights Hub

Thaddeus Aid

Oxford Dept of International Development

Staircase 12

Computer Science

Posted in Learning Technologies Group | Tagged , , | Comments Off on you are invited..

off the shelf solutions

johnson51-jbl-0001-0Eight reasons for colleges to use WebLearn:

•A simple way to put material on the web. Take a load off your IT Officer.
•Easily control access to your  student support information, you can create areas just for your students.
•Reduce photocopying – students can save information for themselves.
•Keep in touch with students using announcements and news.
•Save past versions of student handbooks if regulations or guidance changes for different cohorts.
•Provide a shared area for cross-college projects.
•Student surveys and feedback to gather views on college issues and facilities.
•WebLearn is  integrated with other systems  and supported centrally to bring you economies of scale.
Give it a try.
•Contact  the WebLearn team to book your college consultation.
Posted in WebLearn | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on off the shelf solutions

what does lecture capture entail?

johnson51-hsl-0001-0This Educational Media innovation project will focus on identifying options for departments and colleges within the collegiate University wishing to record lectures at scale.  In order to meet existing demand from departments and schools that have requested such a service, the project will carry out a number of live trials, and make recommendations as to possible ways forward for a scaled and widespread use of this technology, if appropriate.

Automated lecture capture is a new and evolving technology that allows learners to review online within hours what they have been taught and provides an archive for exam preparation and revision. Oxford students have frequently requested this facility and departments are starting to request advice in this area.  We are going to figure out how to record lectures easily and put them in WebLearn for students to access. Project outputs will document authentic Oxford scenarios and lessons learned.

We always aim to offer Oxford lecturers technology which support the ways in which they wish to teach; and students technology which supports the way they wish to learn.
‘Lecture capture will set you free’

The project will be delivered primarily by the Educational Media and WebLearn teams in IT Services, working closely with a small number of departments and units in response to their articulated needs. It is already clear that the recording of lectures to support academic practice (teaching, learning, conferences and new tools for an enhanced student experience) is the clear focus.

johnson51-msa-0001-0As a result of this project IT services will be better able to respond, advise and support departments who wish to record their lectures and offer a more efficient service to support conferences and events. The project aims to produce recommendations for a possible future centrally supported lecture recording service.

Tales told in other places places* report that:

  • Students largely use recorded lectures to catch up on missed lectures and as a revision tool for exams and assessments, and often find recorded lectures to be a useful learning tool.
  • Students prefer blended teaching methods which incorporate both lecture recordings and live lectures, and often do not view recorded lectures as a replacement for attending live lectures

We will explore:

  •  Issues of access control and integration with the Oxford WebLearn VLE
  •  Privacy concerns, legal issues and best practice policy
  •  Innovative opportunities for students to create, use and manage lecture recordings
  • Learning analytics to better understand how students use recorded lectures for study and revision
  • ‘Conference capture’ – for day long or several day events
  • A support model for running a centralised service for departments
  • A review of the issues involved in using a cloud service for hosting private content

We will need your help. The  channels for recorded lectures will include WebLearn and other teaching platforms.   This requires the cooperation of Local WebLearn Coordinators in setting up WebLearn sites, where necessary, with appropriate student access. Local AV teams and IT teams will need to be involved and prepared to support the lecturers/presenters after initial setup and implementation. They may also need to provide equipment (e.g. cameras, microphones, computers) and network points, if these are not already in place.

The anticipated benefits of this project include:

  • Enhanced support for learning and teaching
  • Engagement with AV teams across the collegiate university to solve real problems
  • Economies of scale by repeating a known model
  • Consistent approaches across the University
  • Model for supporting students unable to access rooms due to disability
  • Improve the overall offering from IT Services of a set of combined services that collectively support academic practice


Posted in DIGE, Learning Technologies Group, models, WebLearn | Tagged | Comments Off on what does lecture capture entail?

digital strategy

johnson30-gek-0001-0You may be aware that the University has a Digital Strategy out for consultation.

“The University will sustain and enhance its excellence in scholarship by embracing the opportunities afforded by digital technologies. The Digital Strategy will enable us to maintain a position of leadership by providing a foundation for the transformative enhancement of research, teaching and innovation through digital technologies and communications. Effective digital communications will also ensure that this digital shift benefits society on a national and a global scale.

We will enhance the creation and discovery of knowledge and content through digital means and improve the utilisation and exploitation of digital technologies within our teaching and research. In delivering these aims, the University will support and engage with digital initiatives generated by our staff, students, alumni, and those outside the University.

A strong and coherent online presence will direct those seeking knowledge about any area of academic activity to relevant work carried out at Oxford. We will develop our globally available teaching and learning resources. Access to the University’s research outputs and data will be open to all and access to collections will be improved through programmatic digitisation. This will extend and enhance the role Oxford plays in preserving and sharing the record of human existence and cultural achievement.

Strategic Aims

1.    To facilitate the creation and discovery of knowledge:

  • Enable new modes of research especially across disciplines;
  • Promote new ways of generating, curating, and engaging with data (e.g. visualisation, data analytics, digital collections, augmented datasets, health);
  • Extend the reach and effectiveness of scholarly communications.

2.    To improve utilisation and exploitation of knowledge:

  • Enhance teaching and research through effective use of digital technologies and data;
  •  Empower staff and students through the provision of digital skills training;
  • Develop online learning, educational resources and student support.

3.    To enable knowledge exchange in a digital environment:

  • Draw in new audiences and collaborators from across the globe;
  • Provide access to expertise and know-how;
  • Establish new communities involving industry, commerce, government, civil society both locally and globally.


johnson51-msa-0001-0To meet the vision and strategic aims above we will invest in:

  • Creating an Innovative Digital Community, focussed on significant innovations, cutting-edge thinking, and sharing and implementation of best practice e.g. through the creation of a university-wide conversation on digital innovation.
  • Training and skills for staff and students to broaden and deepen the capability of all members of the University to embrace digital.
  • IT infrastructure to support the digital enhancement of teaching, research and widening engagement that includes a digitization platform, digital collections management (including research data), and digital curation.
  • Facilitating access to research outputs and data, in order to support rapid and broad dissemination and take-up of the fruits of our research.
  • Rapid as well as slow experimentation to explore new ways to enable departments, colleges and collections to support teaching and research and to identify ways of utilising digital technologies and resources to enable the University’s mission.”

Comments on the draft strategy, whether from collective bodies or from individuals, should be submitted to Charles Shaw ( no later than Tuesday 27 May 2014.

Posted in DIGE | Comments Off on digital strategy

MOOC X-Games

johnson51-cqo-0001-0In the last couple of weeks I have spent some time off-piste with academic colleagues from other universities who have been delivering MOOCs this year.

Engaging in MOOCs was always a bit of a leap into the unknown, these colleagues look like they have been engaging in a high adrenalin extreme sport. They  have come back grinning from ear to ear. For them it has been a total rush.

Perhaps this is what the X actually stands for, these are the new education  x-games and there’s a hunger for it.

Putting yourself out there, not knowing how it will feel, managing the experience of mediating learners in their thousands and surviving unscathed*. They want to do it again and again, and they want to know ‘what’s next?’

They also recognise the role of support teams who made it possible.   The striking benefit for institutions, beyond the increased dopamine levels of the individual  teaching academic, is the renewed boost to the engagement of academic colleagues with the learning technology/ edtech/ instructional design/ media production teams on campus.

When you are standing at the top about to jump, the support teams play a vital part in getting you there safely and supporting you when things get hairy.  They do the heavy lifting, they test the equipment,  they’ve got your back. They do their best to  help you manage the the high number of inherently uncontrollable variables. They give you the best advice they can on environmental conditions based on expertise and the best data they have.

Once you have  had that experience together,  you want to do more, you spread the word, you tell others how much fun it is, you encourage them to try too.   There is now  a queue of people, mustered, kitted up and ready step out into the void.

Given Oxford’s key role in the development of extreme and dangerous sports**, and colleagues’ interest in rejecting authority and the status quo, I  do think it is a shame we are missing  this opportunity to  push new boundaries. But there’s still time.

As with sport, whilst traditional educational success criteria may be adopted when assessing performance, extreme teaching performers tend to reject unified judging methods, with different MOOCs employing their own ideals and having the ability to evolve their activities with new  developments in the space. That is what makes it edgy, the experience will be different every time.

Some new variations of adrenalin MOOCing I predict we will soon see include:

Team Moocs:  There are not many extreme team sports, they tend to be solitary pursuits, but while at the moment  most MOOCs are delivered and badged as individual institutions,  colleagues will increasingly work together across disciplines and institutions to team teach, probably on several MOOCs in parallel.

Rapid response MOOCs:  MOOCs have broken free of traditional course approval timescales. Once the production processes are established, it is just a matter of how agile and cutting edge your content can be, and this is what the elite universities really have to offer***. Need a global food security expert today?  Just pop across the campus. Need a ‘History of the Crimea’ MOOC? No problem.

Just in time MOOCs: Looking ahead, MOOC-able moments abound. Which Scottish university has a referendum MOOC up its sleeve?  Will the BBC and FutureLearn launch a raft of Great War centenary MOOCs ? Who amongst us will charm the Irish diaspora family history market with an Easter Rising MOOC this time in 2016?

21st Century MOOCing:  Who will harness the power of the crowd to think on the big global questions? MOOC learners (and teachers) are predominately smart cookies with time on their hands, enquiring minds and a motivation to  venture into new lines of enquiry. Lets go there with them.

South-South MOOCs:  At the moment MOOCs are predominately global northern in language, pedagogy and presumption. There is no reason why this should not change.

Relationship MOOCs:  Currently most institutions are offering a spread of single-topic MOOCs. MOOC learners are showing an appetite for taking one after another. Clusters of  topics and themes  for progression will offer  opportunities for increased ‘hook in’ to individual institutions. Institutions will begin to establish lasting relationships with their MOOC alumni.

Big data MOOCs: Hands up who has big data sets they think the public could do interesting things with?

Maker MOOCs:  With a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them creatively, ‘Maker MOOCs’ will teach new and unique applications of maker technologies (3-d printing, robotics, constructive textiles etc) to encourage invention, sharing, collaboration and prototyping.

Rolling bungee MOOCs:  What do you do if you are getting slated because you have high attrition and drop-out on your MOOCs as they approach the end of the presentation?  Make it a never-ending presentation. No final week. No final metric. Just keep stretching until they reach the end and bounce back.

Skeleton MOOCs: Ditch the fancy kit and padding, put on a pair of goggles, a lycra suit and head down the mountain chin-first on a tea tray.

*There have been casualties, some  have crashed and burned.

** Invented bungee jumping you know.

*** This is something I enjoy very much about the Oxford podcasts- we can turn around new content in a matter of hours.

Posted in Learning Technologies Group, models, OER | Tagged , , | Comments Off on MOOC X-Games