me and mendelay are mates

cartoon explosion

How much is too much? Or not enough? Overload warning – drowning not waving – data data everywhere. Explode. Head. Ready.

Weekends and bank holidays are for research. Any part-time researcher saying otherwise is lying!

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend a set of Nvivo workshops alongside an introduction to Refworks and Endnote. Been there before but you know how it is – use it or lose it. Guess which happened?

I’ve decided to work with Mendelay.

My relationship with referencing tools one of start but not finish. As a result my most comprehensive list of references is hand constructed. Not the way to do it. This time – I promised – once and for all – I’d face my bibliographic fears.

I like Mendelay.

logo for Mendelay

With so many research processes being online, the management of research data and literature has become a digital capabilities issue. You could say the same about learning and teaching but as TEL-People know, the link is more tenuous. Workshops are where TEL-People come face-to-face with the reality of digital adoption. This is often far removed from TEL-World – as you might expect – but the distances involved can still be a surprise. Coming face-to-face with low levels of digital knowledge is essential for designing support where it’s needed.

jisc digital capabilities model

The Jisc digital capabilities profiles include one for researchers. For me, it demonstrates how research processes cut cross the elements. Apart from data literacies and working with multiple formats, there’s the grey identity area (as both staff and student), dissemination through publication and conference plus involvement in a range of online networks. Social media and research are natural partners but not everyone is a natural online communicator while the most powerful research tools can also be the most challenging. SPSS and Nvivo are not for faint digital hearts.

computer screen with image of books

I like working with Nvivo. It fascinates me how interpersonal communications like interviews can be digitised, themed and linked, highlighting connections you didn’t see before. I’m self taught from the days of Nvivo 9 so the workshops were a useful opportunity to update to 11 and see what tricks I’ve missed. Nvivo Word Clouds are amazing!

Research software encapsulates all the issues around developing digital skills and one of these is the shift from customised, institutional help to generic, online resources. This goes alongside a move to DIY where you’re expected to RTFM (find things out for yourself); a policy which could only be imagined by the digitally confident or non-tech user, either a refusenik or with someone else doing it for them.

I know my way around the internet but still waste a lot of time trying to find things out for myself.

range of tools for DIY

Well made generic videos can show you where to click but are less successful with the why and the wherefore. Even the brilliantly made Nvivo Water project – custom designed to demonstrate all the options – can’t cater for every potential scenario. Ultimately there’s no off-the-shelf substitute for the experience and expertise of other people.

Back to data.

Back to Mendeley.

If you don’t use a digital referencing tool you should bite the digital bullet and give one a try. I settled for Mendeley because it’s more than a referencing tool. It offers social bookmarking (like Delicious or Diigo) and my bibliographies are not tied to an institution. It has all the features you’d expect i.e. cloud and desktop versions, citation options for Word etc. I can access it anywhere and get to take it with me when I leave.

computing technologies

My research data is already in digital formats; interviews transcribed and supplementary materials online. The next task is getting it all into Nvivo and start coding. It’s been over a year since I spent time with Nodes.  It will be a massive task but hopefully a rewarding one. My research explores how staff concceptualise teaching and learning in a digital age and I’m looking forward to seeing what Nvivo does with millions of words from three years of data collection.

Me and Mendelay plus Nvivo are going to be best mates this year or at least – that’s the plan!

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mini CAIeRO taster

flying blue cartoon bird

The Flying not Flapping workshop flapped a bit. Refreshments arrived – 10 cups, 20 bottles of water, no biscuits – for 30 people. Water is good for you but coffee’s essential on a Monday morning. The technology was dodgy too. Occasionally one of the five screens flashed into life but all five together wasn’t happening. Discovered the Support Desk phone discretely under the desk. Yes, right under the desk. It did get better.

Flying not Flapping was led by Ale Armellini, Director of the Institute of Learning and Teaching in HE at the University of Northampton. Ale introduced a mini CAIeRO (Creating Aligned Interactive educational Resource Opportunities) which is ‘time to talk’ about learning design (LD). CAIeRO can be applied to modules, programmes, short courses, anywhere which involves structured learning. Rather than a technology focused intervention, it addresses the learning activities of students which might or might not involve TEL. If TEL-People want to increase their reach and success rates an approach like CAIeRO is worth investigating.

TEL-People do tend to preach to the converted and can rely on the same faces turning up to events. It’s a fact universally acknowledged that labelling an initiative with ‘digital’ or ‘technology’ can be an instant turn-off. Rather than TEL first, it’s helpful to adopt learning design first. Not as snappy but design for learning should be something we all have in common – how can learning be enhanced without it?!

A full CAIeRO  usually takes two days so a mini one has to be prescriptive. It goes like this – choose a blended six week course from a given selection, create a mission statement and two key learning outcomes (revisiting ye olde Bloom in the process), decide the topics to cover, the activities the students will take part in (examples on Monday included critically assess, reflect, peer review, evaluate), build in assessment points, formative as well as summative (bearing in mind they don’t need to be all bunched up at the end) and… breathe.

trianble shwing blooms taxonomy stages

When it came to choosing activities most  included different TEL-Tools like blogs, portfolios and discussions. Just because CAIeRO isn’t technology-first doesn’t mean it gets missed out – it’s just a different way to bring it in.

There’s an emphasis on shifting culture. CAIeRO critiques content-delivery and asks students to take part in activities. You often hear staff say ‘students won’t do that‘ but if they’re arriving expecting to be lectured and given content then maybe this expectation needs to be challenged.

image showing a full lecture theatre

Adopting a LD approach is also fresh opportunity to join up the different elements of HE; to embed learning development, employability, Internationalisation, even TEL. The aim is to offer an inclusive as well as holistic experience through the programme rather than as disparate bits and pieces where students risk missing out by not realising skills support is in the library, or employability awards are in the building at the back of the campus. When you know your way around it’s easy to forget how mysterious and intimidating a university can be.  LD is about linking subject expertise with opportunities to become creative, critical and reflective while also encouraging staff to be scholarly i.e. research informed and engaged, look for evidence of impact, evaluate their teaching practice and be reassured they are doing a good job.

Poster showing full CAIeRO process

Like it or not we’ve moved into the arena of teaching excellence. Agree or not with the measurement criteria, the TEF offers a rationale for revisiting and reviewing the learning design of programmes. The T in TEF isn’t Technology.

We have to be brave to be different and TEL-People can lead the way. We can start to reach the hard to reach by leaving tech behind and talking about design instead. Find new ways to share practice. Move away from determinist approaches where technology is seen as the answer. Forget force feeding content; it isn’t going anywhere so we can focus on what students can to do with it instead. Introduce activities which involve searching, selecting, sharing and summarising content rather than being handed it on a plate like a roast dinner. Knowing what’s coming can get boring. Learning should be exciting and – dare I say – value for money. As soon as we start to see students as customers buying a degree rather than investing in a learning experience then all is lost.

Ale worked with Gilly Salmon (of emoderating and etivities fame) at the University of Leicester where the idea for CAIeRO was originally conceived as Carpe Diem. To find out more about CAIeRO at Northampton visit this blog post by Julie Usher Demystifying CAIeRO. At Hull we’re planning to put something similar in our Toolbox for Leaning Enhancement.

cards used to develop designs for learning

The cards used during the session (originally called Course Features Card Sort can be downloaded from the OULDI Learning Design Toolbox on the Jisc Design Studio   Jisc’s take on LD is a few years old but still well worth a browse around.

Jisc Design Studio logo

It feels like LD has taken a back seat in recent years, or at least gone under cover, but if you scratch the surface there’s the 7 C’s model of learning design, the D4 Appreciative Inquiry approach  and Learning Design at the OU for starters. They all involve technology – it should be hard to find learning which doesn’t in 2017 – yet you don’t often see LD on the ALT Jisc mail list or TEL on the SEDA list suggesting there’s still a divide between the worlds of education development and TEL-People.

computing technologies

TEF may be the opportunity to narrow the gap between them, prioritise scholarship and highlight the importance of evidencing impact. A LD approach to TEL could tick the TEF boxes as well as enhance the learning experience for students. Watch this space. We’re developing some exciting new ways of working and will be sharing them here.