MSc Web Science: Week 0

FPSE Faculty Welcome 2013/Tim O’Riordan ©2013/CC BY 2.0 UK

Monday, 23 September

Faculty Welcome

  • Electronics and Computer Science (Prof Neil White – Head of ECS) – “we’re research-focused”
  • The Optical Research Centre (Prof Rob Eason – Deputy Head of ORC) – “we’re dedicated to Photonics”, “there’s going to be an Internet ‘capacity crunch’ in 2020”
  • Jumpstart 2013  (Joyce Lewis) – “I will contact you by email”
  • Health and Safety  (Mike Bartlett) – “the Mountbatten Building burned down in 2005 – and they’re still talking about it”
  • Jumpstart Challenge (Trishia Poplawska) – “an opportunity to get to know each other”

Tuesday, 24 September

MSc Welcome

  • Prof Kees De Groot, Prog Director
  • Practice past exams (available on sussed)
  • Use mentors.
  • Andy ‘Biscuits’ Newton
  • STACS (Student Teaching & Computing Support)
  • x24494 59/3207
  • Free software/hardware loans
  • Help with coursework, programming help, coding support, projects
  • They want to be given complicated programming questions
  • Free virtual machines for projects
  • “Learn Linux”
  • See:
  • Academic Integrity
  • Mark Zwolinski,  Deputy Head ECS Education
  • 2 students were ejected for plagiarism in 2012/13
  • See:
  • Faculty student office team
  • B59 reception.
  •, X22909
  • Eric Cooke, ECS Senior Tutors
  • email stutor (ask at zepler reception)
  • 12 modules, 6 per semester = 120 credits
  • pass mark 40%, must average 50% to progress to dissertation
  • Fiona Nichols, Library
  • see:
  • subject guide>ecs>info skills>taught msc>
  • 10 October – searching for pg’s
  • ECS books are on level 3 Hartley
  • Delphis – single search incls. journal articles

MSc Web Science Welcome

  • Met: Dr Sepi Chakaveh (ex Fraunhofer Society – “reading data files changes the arrangement of bits in the file”) and Manuel León, a  researcher who is starting first year of PhD exploring the use and reception of MOOCs by academics.
  • Ice breaker:
    Circle – toss ball of string around and give name, subject and ‘fun fact’ about yourself (my fun fact: I have no ‘fun facts’ – then immediately thought of several).
  • Team building:
    – Support a tennis ball as close to the ceiling as possible using items measuring no more than 30cms.
    – What extra curricula activities can WS do?

    Team 4 ideas
  • Les Carr: Don’t have to attend all lectures (these will be pointed out); Claire Wyatt is the fount of all knowledge; “Conferences are work – not ‘holidays'”
  • Not all WS MSc’s are on Facebook

Thursday, 26 September


Introduction to Digital Literacies Champions

  • Lisa Harris
  • Voluntary but some paid project work
  • Curation of archive for uni events
  • Media creation competition – winner goes to Digital Media Europe 2014
  • ‘Literacies’ viewed from marketing/business perspective. Reputation?
  • It should be more about reputation building – so use rss feeds, google scholar updates,, twitter, facebook, linkedin, wordpress blog (week notes), google apps (video, rss, screen capture). Think of it as building a portfolio…
  • Mozilla is collaborating with the world to develop an open badge ecosystem that makes it possible to recognize skills, literacies, and interests across the web.
  • Looking for project ideas that DCs can help with.
  • Volunteers to revamp website.
  • Meeting: 30 September. Practicalities of being a DC – with Fiona Harvey.
  • Workshop: 2 October. Use phones to create video – with Simon Morice.
  • Creative Digifest: 19 November at Grand Harbour Hotel

Vint Cerf: What’s happening on the Internet?

A few weeks ago I attended the launch of the Zepler Institute at the University of Southampton, where Google Vice President and Internet Evangelist, Vint Cerf gave a talk on his contribution to, and the future of the ‘net. I had my trusty little Kodak Zi8 camera with me and recorded his presentation from my seat near the front of the lecture theatre. I’ve uploaded the first 10 minutes of the video in two parts.

In the first part Cerf talks about his initial experiments with ARPANET with his colleague, Bob Kahn and the team at Stanford University in the early 70s – including sending video and audio over the network.

In part 2, Cerf talks about Internet connectivity, the significance of mobile devices, and current developments of the ‘net – including security, scale and the ‘smart grid’.

Please let me know if you would like to see some more of this talk.

A workflow to evaluate online tools for learning

Web 2.0 Expo Hall/TopRank Online Marketing © 2008/CC-BY 2.0

Web-based technologies are changing the way we live, work and learn at an unprecedented rate and in many unpredictable ways. YouTube, Facebook,, Pinterest and many other tools, all seem to hold out quick, easy and inexpensive solutions – solutions that don’t appear to require an army of IT specialists to support, and which promise much in the way of improved and relevant interactions.

As an individual, trying out a new online tool is reasonably straightforward, but, as educators, what should we be looking for? How should we start to evaluate these tools to see if they will work for us and our students? There are very many permutations to look at here. We all have our own approaches to teaching, and there are some areas of technology we may feel happier with than others. I think it’s fair to say that we are, each of us, unique in our approach to teaching and learning – and how we use these tools will reflect that uniqueness.

However there are some key principles we can apply to evaluation that can help us begin to choose what’s best for us and our students, and in this blog post I propose a workflow as a guide to how we can go about this. I suggest that there are two key questions we need to ask ourselves when exploring a platform or tool for use in teaching and learning. First and foremost is “Will it work?” – for our institution, ourselves as educators and our learners – and secondly within what learning context can we place this tool? I suggest three main considerations:

  • A technical test – including a pragmatic and a usability review
  • A pedagogy test – based on Chickering and Gamson’s ‘7 Principles of Good Practice’.
  • A learning design review – based on a modified Dial-e framework.

The technical test has two aspects – a usability review (which looks at how well the interface works), and a pragmatic review.

Pragmatic review

The pragmatic review includes consideration of 5 interrelated areas:

1. Does the service work equally well in the different browsers and mobile devices that you and your students use?
This is important as we want the opportunities for learning to be available in a timely manner and this means supporting the variety of devices that we and our students use on a daily basis.

2. Are the outputs re-usable? This includes the ability to download videos, slideshows, essays, notes and other outputs – so that they can be used in other environments.

3. Many online tools can accommodate different ways of learning – for example using video to record achievement instead of or in addition to reflective writing. However not all tools allow access to learners with disabilities. So you should consider:

  • Can you use it with a screen reader?
  • Can you easily add closed captions or transcripts to audio and video?

Consult your institutions’ Disability Support Team or contact the experts at JISC TechDis when considering new tools to support learning.

4. How reliable is the service, including:

  • Robustness of the service. Does the tool have a record of going off line? There have been instances of cloud services losing data – something that could be disastrous if you’re at the end of a module and have no fallback position.
  • Some free third party services have also been known to change to costly subscription services with little notice to users .
  • Many tools are in a continual state of development and may change the way they work to a lesser or greater degree without notice. When running a busy module, this type of change will add to your and your learners work, and could have a demoralising effect.

5. What are the terms of service?

  • You and your institution need to be aware of your obligations under data protection legislation.
  • You need to make your learners aware of the implications of sharing private data online and the risks associated with it.

This is an important area that is best dealt with by experts. I recommend JISC Legal’s advice on this.

Usability review

Alongside these ‘pragmatic’ considerations it’s important to look at how the tool actually works in practice. Although learning how to use online tools is important for developing digital literacy – some tools are easier to use than others and, when confronted with a new interface it’s worth spending some time exploring how easy it is to use.

The key questions you need to ask are:

  • Does the interface support all the tasks expected by the user? That’s in terms of help and support documentation, as well as the underlying functionality.
  • Are there conflicts in the functionality of interface? Although most tool developers engage in beta testing, not all wrinkles are necessarily ironed out before a tool goes live. You should robustly test the tool to ensure that it does what you want it to do.
  • Does functionality change the nature of the underlying task? If your students have to spend a significant amount of time learning the interface, are they going to have enough time on task? What can you do to reduce the cognitive load of learning how to use the tool?

Pedagogy test

I think Chickering and Gamson’s ‘7 Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education’ provide a sound basis for evaluating the usefulness of a tool to support teaching and learning. The principles highlight the importance of:

  • Good communication channels between learners, and between learners and staff
  • Opportunities for cooperation among students.
  • Time on task – ensuring that technology is employed to focus on tasks not on wrangling difficult and poorly designed tools.
  • Supporting diverse methods and means of learning. Online tools present opportunities to use digital media, video, images, sound, mapping and reflective activities that can enable a more diverse and richer approach to learning than has hitherto been possible
  • Setting high expectations. The facility of online tools and web 2.0 technologies to readily share practice and reflection has the potential to improve learners’ performance. The web affords access the best the world has to offer online and this can be used as a springboard for learning. But it’s equally true that digital technologies can be used for superficial activities that undermine academic standards. In Rethinking University Education, Diane Laurillard warns that:“…new technology easily supports a fragmented, informational view of knowledge…and is in danger of promulgating only that.” (Laurillard, 2002, p227).

We need to ensure that the elements that distinguish academic learning (the ability to analyse, evaluate, articulate and represent experience effectively) are made explicit when designing and delivering programmes of learning that incorporate these tools.

While evaluating an online tool to ensure that it will work the way you want (and demonstrate a real benefit to your learners) you may also assess what type of learning can take place and explore approaches to learning design.

Learning Design

In this area I would like put forward the Dial-e Framework as a good starting point for modeling your approach. This framework was developed by Simon Atkinson and Kevin Burden to support the use of digitized archive films held by the Newsfilm Online collection – now part of JISC MediaHub. They identified 10 discrete learning designs, which I have simplified to 4 main categories:

  • Stimulus
    The use of tools and content to stimulate interest and engagement – something that quickly engages learners to consider a new concept or approach.
  • Investigation
    Which would typically involve using digital technology to research, understand and apply processes or concepts – for example watching and engaging with an online ‘how-to’ video.
  • Analysis
    Exploring textual qualities in, for example, film or media studies, where learners analyse editing, framing, lighting, sound design etc – as well as alternative perspectives, where tools and content are used to understand and empathise with others.
  • Creation
    Which involves the evaluation and application of tools, content and methods to create a project – either using original content or from re-usable sources or both.

New technologies call for new approaches to pedagogy – and I think that this modified approach to the Dial-e framework provides a good starting point for considering the uses to which we can put both digital tools and content.

What’s your approach?

In this post I’ve attempted to provide a workflow which I hope you will find useful. This is important and evolving subject and I am very interested to hear how you approach evaluation.


  • Diana Laurillard (2002). Rethinking University Teaching: a conversational framework for the effective use of learning technologies, 2nd edition. Routledge, London.
  • Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. In American Association of Higher Education Bulletin vol.39 no.7 pp.3-7

Further reading:

The Centre for Learning and Performance Teachnologies: The Social Learning Handbook
Edudemic: Facebook Guidelines for Educators
JISC Legal: Facing up to Facebook
Terms of Service; Didn’t Read – A user rights initiative to rate and label website terms & privacy policies, from very good Class A to very bad Class E.
We-Share – an infrastructure that collects descriptions of ICT tools available at the Web of Data and adapts them to be used for educational purposes.

Why am I doing Web Science?

Day 1 – 079/DIVERSE2012 ©2012/All rights reserved (permission granted)

Last week I posted the “What is Web Science?” statement I submitted as part of my application to join the IPhD Web Science course at the University of Southampton. Along with this statement I was asked to provide a statement about my specific research interests – to indicate why I wanted to do Web Science.

My interests are primarily in finding ways to make it easier for teachers and learners to find useful video on the web to support their teaching and learning. This came about through 3 main influences: my experience of running a documentary film production module for Film Studies at the University of Southampton, the research I carried out for my Masters, and meeting researchers at the DIVERSE 2011 Conference in Dublin.

Essentially, not only did I find it difficult to discover useful content to share with my students, I also found out (through carrying out a case study) that learners had similar discovery issues, and that actually it appeared to be a universal problem.

This eventually led to my developing a prototype web platform ( to try out a means of enabling teachers and learners to share the web-based video they found useful. Running this project gave me some insight into the issues around knowledge sharing and developing communities of practice, and has led to my interest in pursuing studies in Web Science.

Which brings us back to the research proposal I provided to support my application to join the Web Science IPhD course. This is what I said:

The Evaluation of Knowledge Sharing Practices to Enhance Web-based Video Learning Resource Discovery

Web-based video is a valuable resource in supporting teaching, learning and research. However, due to the large and growing amount of video available on the Web, searching for and finding useful content is extremely difficult and is restraining the use of these resources. The following aspects have crucial roles in aiding the discovery of relevant and useful content.


Initiatives led by the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI, 2013) and (, 2013) to extend metadata vocabularies that include educational terms are aimed at facilitating the discovery of learning resources via search engines and other services. Specifically, a newly adopted vocabulary includes the opportunity to align resources with an ‘established educational framework’. This is a critical development that has the potential to significantly improve discovery by allowing users to refine searches based on how they intend to use the resource in teaching and learning. However, despite initiatives to develop frameworks that elucidate the pedagogical use web-based video (e.g. Burden and Atkinson, 2008 and Young and Moos, 2012), an ‘established’ means of describing this activity has yet to emerge.

A more user-focussed approach may provide a better means of describing the pedagogic use of web-based video. Studies show that taxonomies developed from the collection, analysis and evaluation of vocabularies used in the social annotation of learning resources (referred to as ‘folksonomies’) have been shown to have the potential to improve resource discovery (Pirmann, 2012).

Knowledge sharing:

Although extremely useful in providing the means to facilitate the discovery of relevant digital content, creating useful metadata requires community involvement on a large scale in order to have a significant impact on improving learning resource discovery. In this context, the engagement of the academic community in using, rating, recommending, commenting on, and tagging relevant digital content is vital.

Studies of Web-based knowledge sharing within the academic community are rare (Ismail and Ashmiza, 2012), but those that have explored this area find that knowledge sharing is intrinsic within this group (Fullwood, Rowley, Delbridge, 2013) and that altruism, identification, and reciprocity have a significant and positive effect on knowledge sharing (Chang and Chuang, 2011), all of which present opportunities for motivating engagement. However, initiatives that attempt to build online communities to encourage educators to share their knowledge have not achieved the widespread adoption that would ensure long-term usefulness, and this is hindering the potential of the Web to effectively support learning, teaching and research.

My thesis is that online knowledge sharing practice related to the use of web-based video in academia is poorly understood. Because this engagement is crucial to the improvement of learning resource discovery, finding out what works in this area is vital to the future development of the Web for the benefit of education. Developing taxonomies that facilitate effective web-based learning resource discovery are dependent on the motivation of educational practitioners to share their knowledge and contribute to the trustworthiness and reliability of these resources. Further research in these areas can aid the development of effective and appropriate measures to enhance learning resource discovery.

The aim of this project is to design and implement a research strategy to find out the barriers and enablers that influence academics when engaging with online knowledge sharing communities, and to explore and evaluate the usefulness of emerging folksonomies in facilitating the discovery of web-based video learning resources.I anticipate spending part of the taught stage of the IPhD programme in exploring the potential for combining qualitative and quantitative research methodologies in this study. One area I am particularly interested in exploring is the use of paradata collection and other ‘data mining’ tools as a means of gaining insight into behaviour in online knowledge sharing environments.

  • Burden, K, and Atkinson, S (2008). Beyond Content: Developing Transferable Learning Designs with Digital Video Archives. University of Hull, UK. [pdf] Available at: [Accessed 22 May 2013].
  • Chang, H and Chuang, S (2011). Social capital and individual motivations on knowledge sharing: Participant involvement as a moderator. Information & Management, 48 (1), pp 9–18. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 22 May 2013].
  • Fullwood, R, Rowley, J, and Delbridge, R (2013). Knowledge sharing amongst academics in UK universities. Journal of Knowledge Management, 17 (1), pp.123 – 136. [Online] Available at: 10.1108/13673271311300831 [Accessed 22 May 2013].
  • Ismail, M and Ashmiza, N (2012) Key determinants of research-knowledge sharing in UK higher education institutions. PhD thesis, University of Portsmouth. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 20 May 2013].
  • Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (2013). The Specification. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 22 May 2013].
  • Pirmann, C (2012). Tags in the Catalogue: Insights From a Usability Study of LibraryThing for Libraries. Library Trends 61(1), 234-247. The Johns Hopkins University Press.[Online] Available at: [Accessed 20 May 2013].
  • (2013). Thing > Intangible > Alignment Object. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 22 May 2013].
  • Young, C and Moes, S (2012). How to move beyond lecture capture: Pedagogy guide (Draft), Rec:all Partnership, University College London. [pdf] Available at: [Accessed 22 May 2013].

This is what I hope to work on over the next 4 years. It will evolve as I find out more about the subject, and gain a more thorough grounding in Web Science. I’ll keep you posted…

What is Web Science?

“Entrance to the Web”/© J M Tosses/CC BY-NC 2.0

I have recently enrolled on the 4 year Web Science integrated doctoral programme at the University of Southampton. “What is Web Science?” you may well be thinking. As part of the application process I had to answer that question. This is what I said:

The interlinking of documents and data via the Internet facilitated by the World Wide Web has ushered in a new age of global communications. The reach of the Web, its sophistication and rate of adoption is unprecedented. It has enabled new ways of sharing ideas and working, and is rapidly transforming society in many, often unexpected, ways. Some of these changes are generally desirable (e.g. improved methods of academic collaboration), while others offer challenges (e.g. new opportunities for criminal activity) which may threaten the beneficial evolution of the Web.

The success of the Web so far has been brought about by the interaction between Web technologies and policies, and the people who have adopted, used and developed them. However, while designing and building applications for the Web is relatively straightforward, our understanding of how people interact with applications, content and the rules that govern their use is poorly understood. In order to ensure that initiatives aimed at enhancing the desirable effects of the Web enjoy some success, it is vital to better understand human behaviour in this environment. It is this understanding, and with it the improved ability to predict the outcomes of Web-centred initiatives, that the study of Web Science aims to achieve.

This exploration of the web as a co-created entity means that Web Science takes on more than a traditional Computer Science or Information Science approach and expands its reach across the academic disciplines.The need to improve trustworthiness, security and privacy; to enable commerce to continue to thrive, to encourage continued innovation and provide social structures that allow users to work creatively, collaborate, and to participate in solutions, requires the input of researchers from a broad range of subject areas.

As the Web grows and becomes increasingly interlinked with society, our understanding of how the Web works and our ability to provide agile solutions is crucial to the development of a Web for the benefit of all.

The programme starts with a one year MSc course which starts in a few weeks time. My plan is to write a little something about my experiences of the programme once a week over the next 4 years.