Exams, Dissertation Topic and Authorship Issues

University of Southampton libraryUniversity of Southampton library/Jessie Hey © 2006/CC BY 2.0

Phew! Examinations and essay writing are now over for my MSc in Web Science course and I’m now preparing to start my summer dissertation project. Two supervisors have agreed to oversee the progress of my work, the main research question of which is: can comments related to Web-based learning objects be used to good effect in the evaluation of these objects?

This is essentially a learning analytics research project and my initial plan is to collect a suitably large dataset from FutureLearn MOOC’s and analyse this data using social network analysis and sentiment analysis tools. I aim to examine the learning objects and the topics discussed, the language used and what the sentiment polarity is towards these topics and objects. The objective is to identify characteristics of distinct participant roles, look for similarities in language and evaluate these in terms of established pedagogical frameworks (e.g. Dial-e, DialogPLUS) to support relevant schema.org descriptions (e.g. educationalFramework).

I’m in the process of working out exactly what I’m going to do and how I’ll do it. Because it involves ‘scraping’ web sites for people’s opinions, there are ethical issues as well as theorectical and practical hurdles to be overcome. However, I believe that this type of data can be profitably used to assist with learning object evaluation and think it will be useful to find out if there’s any evidence to back this opinion up.

The ‘authorship issues’ referred to in the title of this post aren’t strictly related to my studies as they have arisen from my previous employment as an Advisor at Jisc Digital Media. However, having just discovered that articles I wrote for my old employer are now being attributed to another person, I have been pondering the ‘web sciencey’ issues raised by this – like trust, provenance, the use of metadata and the nature of authorship in the digital age. By way of an example of what’s happened, here’s a link to an article I wrote about Khan Academy videos in March 2011 as preserved on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine (correctly attributed) – and here it is currently published on the Jisc Digital Media Blog (incorrectly attributed).

Joe Chernov discusses the issue of byline re-attribution in his post: Creators vs Corporations: Who Owns Company Content? All very interesting, and a topic that I will return to in a future post.

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