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I run the Learning Lab, part of the Centre for Educational Research & Development at the University of Lincoln, UK. I focus on how technology can be used in Higher Education; working with both staff and students on the use of technology for research, teaching and learning (and fun!).

Currently, my time is spent developing the Learning Lab as a useful set of web applications that are valued by the university’s community of staff and students, are a pleasure to use and integrate well with social networking and other web services outside the university. I am also developing the Lincoln Academic Commons, a resource for open source and open access related projects. Here’s a list of my current projects.



Short description: University students are at least 18 yrs old (often older with the emphasis on widening participation) and have spent many years unconsciously accumulating or deliberately developing a digital identity. When people enter university they are expected to accept a new digital identity, one which may rarely acknowledge and easily exploit their preceding experience and productivity. Students are given a new email address, new authentication credentials, expected to submit course work using institutionally unique tools and develop a portfolio of work over three to four years which is set apart from their existing portfolio of work and often difficult to exploit after graduation.

I think this is unacceptable and will be increasingly resented by individuals paying to study at university. Both students and staff will suffer this disconnect caused by institutions not employing available online technologies and standards rapidly enough. There is also the legacy of institutions expecting and being expected to provide online tools to staff and students. This was useful and necessary several years ago, but it is now quite possible for individuals in the UK to study, learn and work apart from any institutional technology provision. For example, Google provides many of these tools and will have a longer relationship with the individual than the university is likely to. Many students and staff are relinquishing institutional technology ties and an indicator of this is the massive % of students who do not use their university email address (96% in one case study). In the UK, universities are keen to accept mature, work-based and part-time students. For these students, university is just a single part of their lives and should not require the development of a digital identity that mainly serves the institution, rather than the individual.

Audience: Students and staff will benefit. I am hoping that a class of animation students and their course leader will work with me. If not, I will develop some theoretical user scenarios which detail how these issues might be resolved. Institutions will benefit, too, as they will not be expected (nor required) to provide support for personally owned technologies. Costs may also fall as the above email case studies have shown.

Goals: Students and staff will benefit from a wider selection of available tools, which they may already be familiar with and can use to personalise their methods of learning; they will be able to import, export or merely link their portfolio of work, ensuring that the value of their studies is retained for later re-use.

To develop an online place where I work, independent of where I study or work, but compatible enough to identify and authenticate me (Goal 1: Identity management); contribute to collective work and receive feedback, assessment and other communications relevant to my work (Goal 2: Data Portability). This 'place' is personalised but interoperable with remote services, such as those used in a university or place of work. Underlying this is a legal framework (Creative Commons) that recognises a student's work is their own and promotes academic freedom (Goal 3: Legally underwritten academic freedom). In my model, a student's work will be licensed to the university, rather than the growing model of claiming IP ownership of student work.

How does it work?: Coming soon... It's basically an online publishing application and data store that is interoperable with other similar applications through the use of open standards and open licensing.

Similar projects: This is a mashup of many projects. UMW Blogs has gone further than any other example I know of to test the goal of data portability. I don't think they've done much with identity management (OpenID support), XML-RPC/AtomPub (remote publishing) and IP policy. Jim Groom will correct me.

Open Technology

OpenID, OAuth, RSS, Atom, Microformats, XMPP, OPML, AtomPub, XML-RPC + WordPress

Open Content / Licensing

I will propose CC licensing. However, currently my own university does not have a policy on CC licensing. CC licensing may be compatible with our staff IP policy. Student IP policy is currently under final stage review and does not appear to be compatible with CC licensing.

Open Pedagogy

Diagram / Sketch

Coming soon...