I recently facilitated a workshop at the Institutional Web Managers Workshop (#IWMW12) entitled: Preparing for Mobile. This is a slightly delayed (by holiday) write up of the event and some of the things I took away from the session.
The aims of the session were:
- to share some of the resources JISC (and others) have developed for institutions attempting to understand, and adapt to ubiquitous mobile devices;
- give delegates an opportunity to share their current practice, experiences and tips, and finally;
- provide JISC with a perspective on how mobile is being addressed in institutions and its impact.
I began the session with a presentation of some of the resources and work JISC has done on mobile within a teaching, learning and research context.
Delegates were then invited to discuss the issues and experiences they have had in groups. The groups were arranged around four themes: content (this was a self-forming group by the delegates themselves); strategy; design and delivery; tools and techniques.
After a period of discussion, each group was asked to present back for 3 minutes on their discussions to the whole group, outline their top 3 tips for their area and their top disruptor for HE in terms of ‘mobile’.
Content (is King)
Content remains the bedrock of what web managers do in terms of their day-to-day job: The technologies and strategies may change, but delivering the content does not.
- You can use mobile as a driver for content change; its another driver to push clean, consistent user friendly content.
- Speed is no longer the issue, its the data. The costs of data access is high. Big images, fat videos, think carefully when delivering content.
- Let your content be free! Rather than lock it away, do everything possible to make it accessible by the user through whatever device or entry point they choose.
The seduction of delivery distracts us from the content. Content is King.
It was generally agreed that any strategy development should look beyond just mobile to a broader e-strategy or similar. But there is an urgency in institutions getting this right – access via mobile devices is growing exponentially.
The strategy group were also very clear about the need to engage and understand users. It was clear any strategy needs to begin with an understanding of the user and work from there.
- Utilise responsive web design rather than native web apps. If your institution gives you lots of money for app development use it to train the team in responsive design instead!
- Choose open formats
- Give users choices between web or desktop – don’t assume they’ll only want the mobile version.
Unhappy being restricted to just one, the group came up with three!
- HTML CSS future web techs will remove need for most native apps.
- Network speeds, cost will change things
- Apples standards become the de facto standards; watch it carefully
Design and Delivery
It was clear that for most of the delegates mobile was something they were ‘dipping their toes into’. This meant that few had useful strategies for adapting to the growing importance of mobile access and most mobile delivery was being done on an ad hoc basis.
Design and Delivery tips
- Understand and engage your users; understand what they use, how they use it;
- Test on real devices, not just emulators, speed etc will be different;
- There is a need for a clear and joined up strategy (that goes beyond mobile).
Design and delivery disruptor
Devices beyond mobile (the new desktop?): Impact of users accessing institutional content via plasma screens, Google tv (already get Xbox, PS3). What’s a TV anyway….?
Tools and Techniques
Much of the decisions being made on tools for delivering content are based upon the CMS that’s currently employed by the institutions.
The group also made it clear that as a sector we borrow from each other a lot (and there is always the need for those outliers and cutting-edgers). So it’s important to look out beyond the institution for support and advice, especially via blogs.
Tools and techniques tips
- Share work early;
- plug into the community, there’s lots of sharing between web managers;
- Do well structured HTML and CSS if you’re going to do mobile.
Tools and techniques disruptor
There will be something cross-platform that will disrupt all our current tools – something finally to end the debates and disagreements about formats etc.
Many thanks to my colleague Amber for helping facilitate the session and taking wonderful notes and photos!
As universities and academic institutions increase the focus and investment on improving the ‘student experience’, so the ‘user’ needs to find their way into the heart of everything the institution does, not just the teaching and learning.
Usability and user experience (UX) have become important considerations in the design and creation of new websites, software and systems for universities. With increasing investments in digital infrastructure and content, addressing the needs of the users is one of the best ways to ensure the uptake of these investments – be it in research, administration or learning.
UX should become a critical tool in the sector’s response to the challenges of rising student fees, the need to make every investment count in the light of reduced budgets and increasing expectations from students and staff who are used to new sleek gadgets and web 2.0 environments.
In light of this context, Torsten and I recently held a two day workshop exploring usability in higher education.
The first day focused on JISC funded projects that were exploring the Usability and Adaptability of User-Interfaces. The second day involved a broad range of delegates from both within and outside universities, including the library, institutional web managers, systems managers, usability consultants and academics.
The workshop resulted in some very rich discussions from the delegates, and we have attempted to capture some of the themes and main topics of conversation below.
We have grouped the themes under some broad headings:
Affecting the project/development culture
It was clear that usability and considerations of the user are usually a ‘bolt-on’ to institutional developments and projects. The workshop reiterated the need for usability to be part of the project from the start – furthermore it should be the framework from within which you undertake your project. This point was echoed by a number of the projects that took part in the JISC usability programme (an example being the British History Online project).
Indeed during a ‘programme design’ session it was suggested that future usability project funding should aim to embed usability into the institution. This could be achieved by a kind of ‘pay it forward’ idea whereby the successful project then initiates its usability lessons into another of the institutions developments.
Connected to the above poin is the need to make strong arguments to the senior managers who make the decisions about resources as there may not always be a strong appreciation of the benefits of a user-centred approach.
An appeal to the usability of the product is a first step, but more may be required. One suggestion was exposing senior managers to the user’s pain – let them watch the UX sessions you undertake. Let them see every grimace and hear all the expletives!
Training and Skills
It was clear that there are a number of significant skills gaps within the current training and teaching of developers and project managers for usability practice and methods. JISC programmes of work are often addressing the skills gaps in their area specifically, and this may be something that any future work in the UX environment should confront.
However, there was agreement that it’s important to be able to share best practice, and enable institutions to have conversations with each other and experts to ensure they’re able to get hold of the right skills externally if necessary (one of the projects: UsabilityUK, has exactly this remit).
One of the most interesting discussions at the event was the difficulties involved in demonstrating the impact of usability. Functional requirements are easy to quantify (it either does or doesn’t do as requested), non-functional requirements (like usability) are harder to measure.
What potential does including metrics in the National Student Survey, as an example, have to demonstrating the impact usability could have within HE? Maybe more fundamentally having a clearer idea of how you measure impact more generally could help clarify how the user experience is evidenced.
Usability by any other name…
I am guilty of it in this post, and I even started day two of the workshop with an admission of guilt: I would use the phrase usability without unpacking it. Worse, I used it as a synonym for a group of similar terms (user experience, user-centred design, human computer interaction).
However, this may well be one of the issues that contributes to a misunderstanding of usability, and confusion around the different terms. A number of the delegates felt it would be beneficial to ensure terms were well defined. If you’re communicating with non-experts, such as developers, you need to be sure they’re able to understand you and your requirements.
On reflection, I do wonder whether this is a reflection of usability as a research discipline. Is the real message that the user needs to go at the heart of everything the academy does; it needs to become truly user-centred. Does the concern for semantics get in the way of this goal?
Connected to the above is the difficulty of communicating with the members of your team or project. While you might be able to capture the requirements of your users, it is essential you’re able to then communicate these directly and precisely to your developer.
One potential answer is a very agile approach to development that sees the developer coding with the user(s). This was an approach that the ALUIAR project took at Southampton, and it worked well for the project.
Not always talking to the converted
One of the interesting aspects of the workshop was that we had a pretty good mix of professional UXers, researchers, institutional system people, librarians and learning technologists. However, most had a very good appreciation of the benefits and importance of UX to their institutional mission.
Indeed, a number of delegates made the point that it was important that we addressed the un-converted.
Usability is dead, long live usability
Finally, two points seem to provide interesting conclusions to the workshops discussions:
In its practical application within an HE environment, usability is closely meshed with other similar issues: impact; accessibility; sustainability. The aim is simply to make software easier for users.
Usability should be the driving principle behind projects within HE (especially in JISC funded ones); but this doesn’t that the only way to address this is through a usability programme. Rather, usability should pervade projects without defining them.
The workshop was incredibly useful as a way to start thinking about how JISC might continue to help support usability practice within HE.
Indeed, it gave us a clear message that usability/accessibility is one area of the HE picture that is in real need of some focused activity. Torsten and I already have a few concrete ideas we’d like to start developing – if all goes well nthrough JISC-funded activities later this year.
Watch this space for more news!
Many thanks to the delegates and projects who made the workshop so successful and the discussions so rich. And to Addy Pope of Edina and the USED project for the use of his camera and pictures.
Yesterday saw the shared academic knowledge base (KB+) briefing day for approx. 60 library directors and senior managers take place in London, at the Wellcome Trust.
The project, known as KB+, is developing a shared community service that will improve the quality, accuracy, coverage and availability of data for the management, selection, licensing, negotiation, review and access of electronic resources for UK HE.
The aims of the day were to:
- Provide an update on the progress of the shared academic knowledge base project;
- Surface and share some of the questions, concerns and ideas participants may have about the project and the management of electronic resources in general;
- To let participants know what will be happening next with the project and how you can get involved if you would like.
The day began with Ben Showers (JISC Programme Manager) providing some context to the work and situating the project within the wider subscriptions management landscape. The presentation can be found here: Shared Academic Knowledge Base: Context and Landscape
The meeting engendered a large amount of discussion about the project, with participants freely sharing concerns, ideas and possible solutions to some of the issues that surfaced.
Extensive notes were taken from the Q&A sessions to help inform the project, but instead of repeating verbatim the questions and answers I have tried to highlight some of the themes that emerged during the meeting below.
A number of themes emerged during the day and, while this is not an exhaustive list, these are some of the recurring or critical issues that were surfaced:
Transformation of current practice
It was acknowledged that this project was potentially transformative; it has the potential to change what might be termed the bread and butter of library work. Therefore its impact on the community, and how it works, could be significant.
This means that the community, from senior managers to practitioners and beyond will be keenly interested in the developments and the project will need to build trust and facilitate the involvement of the whole library community. Which brings me on to another of the days themes:
This was a theme that seemed to surface at regular intervals during the day. There was a clear message that the project needs to be able to communicate regularly with the library community on both progress and developments as they take place. This might manifest itself in a newsletter such as that employed by the Discovery programme, or utilising existing communication channels from JISC, JISC Collections and other sector bodies (or indeed a combination).
The combination of communications channels is also important given the range of stakeholders interested in the developments, from commercial vendors and publishers to librarians in the UK and internationally.
Under this theme there were issues surrounding how the communication channels would allow for more interactivity than might otherwise be usual in a JISC funded project given both the high profile nature of the project, as well as the need for ongoing community engagement in the work.
Closely related to communications was the topic of engagement.
Specifically a lot emerged on how the community, especially ERM librarians and similar, could be engaged in the project in a useful and meaningful way.
In his presentation Liam made it clear that the project hopes to ‘recruit’ a number of embedded librarians where the project will pay for a proportion of their time to work on the project. It was made clear by the participants, however, that it would need to be made clear what expectations any involvement might have, from the skill levels and expertise of the person, through to the time length they might be involved.
Clarity on these issues would be key to maintain sector engagement.
It was also suggested there might be the need for something like an ‘advocacy pack’ so that library directors had the arguments to convince senior staff of the benefits of engaging with the project.
An interesting sub-theme within engagement was the power of the institutions themselves to help engage with the commercial companies and organisations they work with to put pressure on them to both work with the project as well as implement the recommendations and standards the project might recommend.
The message was clearly that this was a partnership.
Collaboration and leveraging other work
It was expressed a number of times how important it will be for the project to leverage this work and funding with other initiatives and projects that can help the KB+ project deliver its outputs.
It was acknowledged how much work was currently taking place around this area, such as national projects such as KBART , TERMs and JISC funded projects such as the journal usage statistics portal and e-journal archiving work including Peprs and the entitlement registry, as well as international projects such as the Open Library Environment.
This helped reinforce the projects own ambitions of engaging with, and where possible working with these complimentary projects and initiatives.
This is a shared service, but it will be important that when issues are surfaced by an individual institution, or indeed a problem is resolved by someone, that the whole community can be made aware of this.
What tends to happen now is a problem will be reported to a supplier and that problem is then normally resolved, but no one other than the originating institution knows about this.
Further points of discussion
There were a number of other points of discussion including:
- The potential conflict between aiming for quality of data and ensuring its timeliness. It’s essential that quality doesn’t impact on the ability of libraries to deliver services to users as and when they want them.
- Print subscriptions: The briefing day concentrated largely on electronic resources, but it was clear that participants wanted to see print incorporated in the work. The project is taking a unified approach so this won’t be an issue, although electronic will remain the focus for much of the work.
- The Identifiers elephant! It was clear that participants also felt that the issue of how the project deals with identifiers (be those institutional, journal title etc) will be a critical.
- Decision making and workflows will be two potential aspects of the final service, but it is important to recognise that a focus on the decision making components that the service will deliver could help strengthen potential business models, and demonstrate real value to institutions.
As the event demonstrated, there will be a lot more work going on over the next few months to get the project into a position where it can successfully transfer to a service.
In the meantime, this won’t be the last you’ll hear of the project, with plans already in place to start communicating and engaging with the community over this important shared service.
If you would like to find out more about the project, or have any questions them please feel free to contact Liam Earney at JISC Collections.
Tomorrow I am flying up to Edinburgh to attend the Mashed Libraries: Open Edge-Open Source event which runs Tuesday and Wednesday. This particular mashed libraries event (Haggis and Mash) is being supported by SCONUL and JISC, and has been developed with the Enhancing Library Management Systems programme (JISClms) which recently came to an end.
The JISClms projects investigated a number of issues that libraries currently face and the systems they use, including: The usability and enhancement of interfaces; management of electronic resources (ERM) and the feasibility and implementation of open source library systems.
The open source library strand of the JISClms work was relatively small, yet it has been extremely prescient with recent developments of institutions adopting open LMS alternatives (such as Staffordshire University).
But the event also ties in with broader issues that form part of JISC’s strategy, and specifically the aims of the Digital Infrastructure programme (the IE Team and eRsearch Team are now working together as a single programme under this new name). Some of the more obvious examples include:
- The joint JISC and RLUK work on Resource Discovery as well as all the work on Open Access that JISC has undertaken (from Open Educational Resources to Open Bibliographic Data).
- The event fits nicely with JISC’s developer work and the aims of DevCSI (the developer support and innovation project) and Dev8D (the series of developer community building events). Developing skills and capacity in the sector is key to these projects.
- The event also highlights the potential for systems and interfaces to be enhanced and adapted at a local level, quickly and effeciently, following on from work in JISClms. Allowing institutions to be both agile and innovative, but always within the context of delivering a service to users.
- Day two of the event begins with an articulation of some of the benefits and opportunities afforded by open source library systems. Like much of JISC’s work with libraries, including the eJournal usage statistics and the recent work of Salford and the JISC/SCONUL Shared ERM project, exploring cost reduction and avoidance are central to much of this work.
This isn’t meant to be a very comprehensive list, instead I wanted to highlight some of the connections between the mashed libraries event and work in JISC and the Digital Infrastructure team.
With so many links I intend to write another post upon my return and flesh out some of these connections, and add new and more interesting ones!
- Overview of the call, Neil Jacobs – presentation - Owen’s notes
- Policy Requirements, Joseph Hutcheon – presentation
- Identity Management Toolkit, Chris Brown – presentation – Owen’s Notes
- Research Information Management Strand , Neil Jacobs – presentation (starting at slide 9) – Owen’s Notes
- Identifiers and Geospatial Strands, David Flanders – presentation – Owen’s notes: identifiers; geospatial
- Infrastructure for Resource Discovery, Activity Data and Repositories Take Up and Embedding, Andy McGregor – presentation – Owen’s notes: infrastructure for resource discovery; activity data; repositories take up and embedding
- Preservation tools and Preservation of complex digital environments and Sustaining resources, Neil Grindley – presentation – Owen’s notes: preservation tools; preservation of complex digital environments; sustaining resources
Owen also made notes on these presentations and the discussion that followed:
Some people may be interested in browsing the twitter stream from the event.
We plan to post a set of frequently asked questions on this blog later in the week.
Business intelligence resulting from ‘user activity data’ could help universities to manage resources more efficiently, budget more effectively, make smarter purchasing decisions, improve their services and demonstrate impact. The likes of Amazon and Tesco use activity data to make business decisions and to also provide recommender services on top of this data. They know a lot about thier customers’ purchasing habits. How does this translate to the academic environment? Are we able to utilise this use data for our benefit? This is a very timely and exciting area of investigation for the sector.
We invite you to attend a workshop exploring the potential of this data which is derived from services such as library systems, virtual learning environments and student registries.
As well as informing people of the potential of this data, we are looking to generate ideas and use cases to help plan for future work in this area. So please come ready to participate – I promise it will be an interesting day!
This workshop is suitable for senior managers and practitioners working in libraries, teaching and research. It will be chaired by Professor David Baker, Deputy Chair of JISC, with contributions from practitioners who have practical experience of using user activity data in higher education.
Date: 14 July 2010
Venue: The Hatton, 51-53 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8HN
For more information and registration go to: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/events/2010/07/businessintelligence.aspx
On the 8th and 9th June JISC and UKOLN hosted the Survive or Thrive conference in Manchester. This event hadn’t been without its challenges in the planning stages but it came together brilliantly over the two days (give or take the occasional AV problem) with an agenda full of interesting talks and an engaged and knowledgeable audience eager to debate the issues.
I’m not going to report on the event here but rather point to the quite incredible live blog that Owen Stephens produced during the event (I swear sometimes he had published his posts before the audience had finished clapping the speaker!).
You can also check out an analysis of the Twitter tag on the Eduserv Labs Summarizr site (a bit of a disclaimer here is that we did end up clashing tags with a Spanish fishing event of all things but it doesn’t seem to have made much difference to the analysis!) .
We also videoed all the talks and have started to make them available on the Survive or Thrive site.
If you attended the event I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and if not I do urge you to check out the videos.
Greetings from Blue Ribbon Meeting again. http://brtf.sdsc.edu/index.html
Some interesting angles emerging from a variety of participants. Heard from Thomas Kalil this morning who works as a policy staffer at the White House in the Office of Science and Technology. (Is he perhaps what they call a ‘policy wonk’ … I don’t know. I should have paid closer attention to the West Wing). Anyway – he talked about how the preservation community might be able to get this whole area of digital sustainability onto the Presidential radar. What we don’t do is to present this as a problem that needs to be tackled in ten different ways, at different levels, by diverse stakeholders. We need to realise that the White House is in the business of saying ‘no’ most of the time, so we need to make it as easy as possible for them to say ‘yes’. We need to be realistic about what we’re asking for and we need to be very directed about who in the Presidential office we approach to champion the cause.
What we probably do is get a message to the President that person x at trusted organisation y, has a low cost/high benefit measure that the President really needs to hear, which fits with his broad agenda, and has the backing of many thought leaders across the expert community.
I’m assuming we can transpose that to Downing Street.
Right … we’re back in session. More later.
I’ve now had a couple of weeks to reflect on the busy and interesting JISC developer days event (also known as dev8D) that was held in London on the 24th – 27th of February. The purpose of the event is to get software developers from across higher education and related sectors put them in a room and give them opportunities to network, learn and sink their teeth into challenges posed by new software or datasets. We believe that this approach leads to interesting new ideas and approaches to issues, better trained developers and better connected developers who are more effective because of those connections.
I don’t propose to review the event because you can get an impartial review from some of the many blogs written by people who attended the event. This post is meant to collect the interesting things that were done at and after the event into one place so people can easily find out more about what the event produced.
Despite this not being a review, reviews are an excellent way to get an overall flavour of the event. So here are a few of the thoughtful reviews produced by people who attended dev8D.
As well as these reviews you can also see the feedback that delegates left about the event on the wiki.
One of the benefits of dev8D is the networking. Dave Challis of Southampton has used the twitter accounts of people attending the event to illustrate how people’s networks grew during the event
If you have a hankering then you can access all the dev8D tweets from before during and after the event.
The dev8D blog also talks about networking and why it’s important.
We were lucky at this year’s dev8D to have a really diverse bunch of attendees, here are some examples of the people who attended:
- Katie Pekacar – MLA
- Ian Mulvany – Nature
- Chuck Severance – University of Michigan
- Keiran Marron – Eduserv
- Alex Bilbie – 2nd year undergraduate- University of Lincoln
Adrian Stevenson has also posted some video interviews with some people at dev8D over on the eFragments blog.
The event was jam packed with opportunities to learn. These came in the form of guided sessions to learn new languages, quick 15 minute intros to topics, freeform workshops and ad hoc meetings.
All this learning activity is neatly summed up in Milly Shaw’s post on the dev8D blog. You can also get a flavour of how the delegates felt about the training from the review posts linked above.
What does this kind of event produce? Well, not finished software but demonstrators and new ideas abound. This year at the event a number of organisations offered prizes for developers who came up with an interesting solution to a problem or did something interesting with their technology. There were 9 of these prizes offered by people as diverse as Microsoft Research, MLA, IMS, Edina, Memento and the Internet Archive.
A description of all the entries to these competitions is available on the dev8D blog The prototypes produced for these challenges are often worth much more than the prizes offered. Sam Adams, the developer who won the Memento challenge, is going out to visit the Memento team in the US as a result of his entry and Rob Sanderson who ran the Memento challenge commented to me that Sam’s entry was likely to have a real impact on the work of the Memento team.
In a similar vein, the winner of the Microsoft Research challenge has been asked to do a show and tell on his entry at the Open Repositories conference in Madrid.
The ideas weren’t limited to those entering the competition for prizes. There were fascinating ideas people bought along to the event or worked on while they were there:
- Overview of achievements at dev8D
- Reprap – the astonishing 3D printer
- Ben O’Steen’s experiments with the format of books
- Emma Tonkin and team’s DIY electronic whiteboard
For a complete listing of event outputs see the happy stories page of the dev8D wiki which collects interesting ideas, experiments, thoughts, etc.
In summary, it was an amazing event, so much happened and I missed far more than I managed to see. The enthusiasm and energy that organisers and attendees put into the event was astonishing and I am still digesting a lot of the things I saw and learned. The devCSI project who organised this event as part of their remit to support a community of developers in UK HE did a fantastic job and keep an eye on their blog for more events like this.
Yesterday I attended one of the current JISC eResearch Roadshows at the OU in lovely Milton Keynes with the great hashtag #oujisco. It was an interesting day with talks from David Ferguson from NeSC and Graham Pryor from DCC both speaking but my real reason for attending was to find out more about the work that the Open University is doing around Digital Scholarship.
[For a general report on the day Doug Clow liveblogged the event.]
The Digital Scholarship project at the OU is led by Professor Martin Weller and Dr Nick Pearce and is focused on researching just what Digital Scholarship is but also promoting the uptake of Digital Scholarship within the OU. This obviously leads to a slightly schizophrenic project as on one hand they need to be slightly sceptical about things whereas on the other they are acting as cheerleaders. That said it seemed to me that the two of them were a good balance in this respect as martin was obviously a committed cheerleader whereas Nick demonstrated a little more scepticism!
The main aim of Digital Scholarship is to find a way to give academic activity on the open web the same weight as outputs in more traditional scholarly outputs (book chapters, conference speaking, journal articles etc). In order to do this it is closely following the principles of Boyers Scholarship – 2MB PDF here and mapping digital activity against them.
A standard issue that they have been facing with the evangelism element of the project is that there remains a lack of trust in the stability and sustainability of many of the social web tools. Will they be around in a month, year, decade, longer. I think in alot of ways this argument isn’t quite as relevant these days – there is rarely any need for a single point of failure. A presentation has every chance of getting considerably more views on Slideshare but that doesn’t mean that for preservation reasons it might not be best to have a version in another location (i.e. an institutional respository). One of the strengths of the UKOER programme was the insistence that OERs were released to a minimum of two locations – one of which had to be JorumOpen. This allowed projects to release resources out into the wilds of the open web if they wanted – greatly increasing the possibility of takeup but also having the peace of mind that the resources would be properly preserved (though perhaps digital preservation is more of a preoccupation for JISC than the creator of the resources.) Currently this does increase the workload for staff tasked with depositing resources and maintaining them but tools that allow deposit in multiple locations via one interface are now more than possible and hopefully just around the corner.
A case for the speed of digital outputs against the slower processes of traditional publishing methods was made when Nick discussed the fact that he research the use of technology (particularly web tools) by academics in 2007 and he has a paper due to be published based on that work later this year. However the original research does not feature one mention of Twitter as it was barely a blip at the time of the research whereas now it has a much higher profile. That fact will immediately date the paper.
There are alot of parallels between this activity and many of the ideals of openness that JISC supports across our work. It certainly seems to be close to both the Open Access and Open Education agendas. [I actually like the idea of the Open Scholar as defined in this quote.]
“the Open Scholar is someone who makes their intellectual projects and processes digitally visible and who invites and encourages ongoing criticism of their work and secondary uses of any or all parts of it–at any stage of its development.”
The OU is seeking to build this kind of concept into the ‘personality’ it portrays externally. It has already taken the (unusual?) step of adding participation in the open web to the promotion criteria for academics alongside more traditional measures (though they admitted they were still working on appropriate measures for this kind of activity.)
Currently they are working hard on developing appropriate metrics for contributions to the social web and are asking questions like:
- What makes a good blog?
Can you map traditional scholarly outputs against digital work? (i.e. Podcast vs Keynote)
How can a young academic at the start of their career make an impact in the digital space?
How can this work make an impact if the REF does not currently even acknowledge it?
It was briefly mentioned that perhaps what was needed is something like the famous Google 20% time (or the less famous BBC Radio Labs 10% time ) that allowed academics the time to participate and experiment on the open web to find their voices and their communities.
Alot of the talk around creating metrics and perhaps build up an ‘online reputation’ score (despite fears that this could be ‘gamed’) made me think of some of the work around ‘whuffie’ that Cory Doctorow wrote about and the upcoming book from O’Reilly. It is an interesting and hugely difficult area of work that many people are trying to crack for different reasons on the web (in a previous job it was a constant topic of conversation in the office). Finding a reliable way of doing this for the academic community would be really very impressive and potentially important. Again I think it is the sort of thing that would be of equal interest to the OER community as the digital scholarship one. Recognition and reputation should never be underestimated as a driver for contributing to the open web.
It was pointed out that one side-effect of a high profile in the world of digital scholarship was increased opportunities to take part in more traditional scholarship activities! Well respected bloggers are often invited to speak at leading conferences and contribute to books & journals.
Not surprisingly Micheal Wesch was pointed to as the poster child for Digital Scholarship. The success of his YouTube videos has been amazing and massively enhanced not only his own reputation but also that of Kanses State. To some extent though this is a dangerous comparison as the huge success of Wesch is unlikely to be something that can replicated any time soon.
Throughout the presentation(s) a list kept popping up that covered the most common issues/barriers that the project had identified for academics to really make the jump to digital scholarship. One of the things that immediate struck me was that it could be exactly the same issue for anyone looking to take part in the OER movement – or in fact just become an active participant on the web with any kind of work related focus. None of these issues are insurmountable and for many of them the perception is a bigger problem than the reality but they do continue to be identified as obstacles time after time;
This brought to mind the work Forrester did around identifying how and what people actually contributed to the web and actually how few of them were actually creators rather than consumers.
I found it to be an interesting day that left me with a great deal to think about – not to mention a couple more blogs to read. I’ll be following this work closely in the months to come particularly looking out for opportunities to join it up with both OER and open access work.