Innovation, innovation, innovation (Part Two)

 

louise

Earlier this month King’s Online’s Instructional Technology Manager, Louise Bennett (@aestivus) spoke on the topic of building innovative teams in digital education at the Open Forum Events (@openforumevents) conference, ‘Technology in Learning: Reshaping the Educational Landscape’.

Here the King’s Online Blog brings you the second half of Louise’s insightful and engaging talk, touching on what we at King’s Online have learned about innovation, its pursuit and its implementation, over the last year or so.

 *

So what have we learned? 

  1. Innovation is expensive 

‘Expense’ can mean a lot of things…and in this case we mean most of them. Innovation, you see, costs money. It also takes time (which also costs money). King’s Online use open-source tools almost exclusively, which means they are ‘free’ to use – free, however, as in puppies, not free as in beer. Yes, the software itself may be free, but everything else is not: someone has to maintain the product, install updates, keep the server running, manage backups, and resolve issues as they arise.

In addition to using and maintaining software, innovation can be expensive in terms of designing and building out one’s new ideas. It takes people out of their normal duties to spend time plotting out how to do new things. Sometimes, there are things we would love to create which, quite simply, aren’t possible based on the time and resource we have available – an inevitable part of the innovation cycle, alas.

  1. Innovation is exciting 

One of the wonderful things about King’s Online’s focus on innovation is that everyone is excited to be involved in the process, with ideas for new developments and projects coming from all across the team. This too, of course, can be a balancing act: We don’t want our team tied down by the structures currently available; yet we can’t have them designing all their work based on tools and capabilities that don’t, in fact, exist (at least, not yet).

One thing we’ve had to work on is building a structure and workflow for new innovation requests. Ideas need to go through an approval process: Are they actually worth pursing (based on timelines, costs and ultimate benefits)? They will, after all, need to be fully scoped out before they go into development. It’s very easy to get over-excited about new ideas and rush them into development without stopping to think about what is needed. Therefore, while still great fun, innovation needs to be managed systematically. 

  1. Recruiting non-traditional talent can be difficult

When King’s Online first started, we had a team that looked somewhat traditional: instructional designers, learning technologists and multimedia designers/developers. Eighteen months on, we still have a lot of instructional designers, but we have only one learning technologist and our multimedia has undergone some big changes. We also have a web developer, who writes code for us, and several web designers, who design UX and UI.

Instead of learning technologists, we’re now recruiting for a role that has been difficult for us to quantify: one part graphic/PowerPoint design, one part traditional content development, one part…well, everything.

It can, therefore, require a good deal of work to recruit on several different levels. Our content developers are often younger, relatively new graduates, most with a graphic design background. But we need more than graphic design – it takes an all-rounder, and finding them, and bringing them in to e-learning can be difficult. The same is true of web design/web development roles: these individuals potentially have a lot more experience, but most gain that experience in fields other than e-learning. How can we advertise in a way that encourages people to give a new industry a chance? I don’t have any obvious answers for this, but we’ve been very lucky in finding the people we have! 

  1. Testing and review

It’s very easy to get excited about prototypes and rush them into production before actually making sure that they work exactly as they need to. Several times, we’ve had to roll out last-minute fixes to things to make them function properly – this is clearly not the way we really wish to work! Building testing into the process is, therefore, absolutely imperative. Nothing should ever be released without going through a multi-stage QA process. (Something we have yet to put into practice, but look to do in the future, is actual user-testing. One day!) 

  1. Every project is different 

We’ve built at least four different workflows in the past eighteen months, and the sad truth is that even the latest version – which is comprehensive and well-designed, building upon all previous iterations – is not perfect for working with all our stakeholders. Each of our projects involves different faculties (or individuals within faculties), and the relationships are different every time. It is up to us to adjust to get the best out of our academics (within reason). It turns out that being innovative also means being flexible, too!

 

 

Innovation, innovation, innovation (Part One)

louisebadge

Earlier this month King’s Online’s Instructional Technology Manager, Louise Bennett (@aestivus) spoke on the topic of building innovative teams in digital education at the Open Forum Events (@openforumevents) conference, ‘Technology in Learning: Reshaping the Educational Landscape’.

Here the King’s Online Blog brings you the first section of Louise’s insightful and engaging talk, touching upon the reasons behind our unit’s focus on all things innovation.

 *

One of the things we’re truly focused on at King’s Online is building innovation into each and every single thing we do. We want to improve our methods continually, with fresh ideas and constant redevelopment.

But why this focus on innovation? 

  • We want control and adapt the tools we use day-to-day – It’s important to us that we can implement the changes we want, when we want them. Waiting for other people to develop something for us just doesn’t suit King’s Online’s fast-paced workflow.
  • We want to contribute to the wider community – Open source tools rely on community support, and we’re in the fortunate position of being able to give back to the community that gave us our original tools in the first place. We feel that as we can help make the tools better for everyone, we should.
  • We have design & development ideas – We at King’s Online have a lot of ideas: endless quantities of them, in fact. As we wish to make the best e-learning products possible, this requires moving and changing – and implementing our new ideas.
  • We want to be industry leaders in what we do – Being an industry leader, we feel, means doing more than ‘just what everyone else does’. We need to be the one that other people look to follow.

 As a result of all of this, building a multi-talented team that truly embraces innovation has been key.

 [End of part one]

IT’S PODCAST TIME!

NB ~ the podcast episodes described below were recorded some three months ago, so not all information discussed is necessarily 100% up to date. It is, however, 100% interesting!

_e_4Ppti

In the spring King’s Online’s in-house Wed Developer, Simon Date (@simondate), went to have a series of chats about all things instructional design with Kristin Anthony (@anthkris), recorded as part of her excellent podcast – Dear Instructional Designer.

Two of the three conversations have now been uploaded and are available to download. Anyone interested in the world of instructional design and eLearning should definitely check them out at this address: https://dearinstructionaldesigner.simplecast.fm/

In the first episode Simon and Kristin talk, chiefly, about massive open online courses, AKA  ‘MOOCs’. The discussion touched upon:

  • The range of MOOCs that King’s produces, including Shakespeare: Print and Performance, and Medicines Adherence: Supporting Patients With Their Treatment;
  • The challenges facing MOOC providers, such as low completion rate and difficulties surrounding making a profit; and
  • The values of MOOCs from a brand recognition perspective.

In the second episode the pair chat about King’s Online’s chosen design programme, Adapt. When the team were looking for the central authoring tool for their work, it had to fit several criteria:

  • Embracing modern web standards – traditional desktop based authoring tools do not meet the needs of today’s modern learner, who often demands a higher standard from a website than they did ten years ago. They, for example, expect scrolling pages that work with all devices that they use.
  • Enabling collaboration and flexible working – server-based tools enable multiple users to work on a project at the same time, without having to install software on one’s computer and bounce large files around.
  • Extendibility – certain members of the King’s Online team have grand ambitions for what our content should look like. Having an open platform for which we can create new plugins allows us to achieve anything we can conceive, rather being limited by a software vendor.
  • Theming – our web designers are able to create beautiful designs for courses and see these designs realized across all of King’s Online’s lessons.
  • Ease to use – the tool is very simple to pick up and understand. People can place content in a component and there it appears. But it also allows for components and extensions which add exciting interactivity which might increase engagement.

The third episode, which will be uploaded in a fortnight’s time and which will be downloadable from the same address, touches upon open source software. Keep checking the King’s Online blog and follow us on Twitter (@kingsonline) to stay up-to-date!

A VR VISIT TO THE NINETEENTH CENTURY

VR

The time had come, as it occasionally does, for a team outing. And what better way, we thought, to spend a Friday lunch-hour than attending Mat Collishaw’s Thresholds exhibit at Somerset House?

Billed as a ‘new virtual reality artwork’, this was a particularly exciting prospect to the team, as both virtual reality (VR – an interactive, fully computer-generated simulation) and augmented reality (AR – superimposing images onto the real world) are hot topics of conversation within the eLearning world. We at King’s Online are always keen to explore innovative ways to bring online learning to life – so off, as they say, we went.

The central conceit behind Thresholds is that, before entering the exhibit space, visitors are equipped with an array of wearable devices: headset, earphones, backpack. Donning this futuristic attire, we were guided into the exhibition area, whereupon the virtual reality scene flickered astonishingly into view.

The white, box-like installation transforms before one’s eyes into a digitally reconstructed room, based exactly on scientist William Henry Fox Talbot’s photography exhibition in 1839. An opulent Victorian museum space now surrounds you, with high, vaulted ceilings, dark oak cabinets, and towering windows. Sounds from the era are piped into your headphones – including the echoes of Chartist protesters, rioting in the Birmingham streets ‘below’ – and Talbot’s exhibition cases ‘contain’ various priceless photographs and other fascinating items which would not typically be available to the general public. If one hovers one’s hand above these exhibits, one can bring them closer, offering a more detailed look.

As we began to move about in the room, smaller details started to emerge, such as a mouse scurrying across the floor under our feet, a spider crawling across a painting, moths flying about in the lights above. Moving across to the windows to take a peek ‘outside’, you see a Victorian street scene: a dark, grubby road, mist swirling, a soldier marching up and down.

vr2

As a team, we could immediately see the possibilities that virtual reality might offer the realm of online learning. Putting aside, for a moment, the cost implications of producing VR and AR to the level that Mat Collishaw has achieved; or the logistical complications of the kit itself, the opportunities for, example, healthcare education are enormous: Imagine being able to teach anatomy and neuroscience by immersing students in an experience where they can ‘see’ organs pumping and blood flowing; neurons and synapses working away.

All sorts of different disciplines could, we believe, apply VR techniques to their educational offerings, making use of simulation-based learning to improve learner engagement and real-world relevance. Mat Collishaw’s exhibit has definitely whetted our collective appetite, and VR and AR are technologies which King’s Online will certainly be exploring further over the coming months and years.

  • Photos and text by Lindsey Fulker, May 2017

First Adapt Meet Up Held at King’s

On Tuesday, King’s Online hosted the first Adapt Community Meet Up at King’s College London. Two concurrent streams saw more experienced users being dazzled by presentations on the Advanced Track, and newcomers taken through all the essentials on a Foundations Track.

Adaptaudience
Photo courtesy of @AdaptLearning

Adapt is a free, open-source e-learning tool that our team started using about 9 months ago. The Adapt community is a group of developers, authors and interested stakeholders who all use the free tool, collaborate to improve it and contribute new features to expand its functionality and usability.  We were delighted to be able to help bring this talented, enthusiastic community together in one room.

More than 80 people attended, and heard from a number of community members – from developers to instructional designers – looking at how the tool is being used currently and how it integrates with new trends, and how the tool may evolve in the future.

Whilst some of the more technical sessions went completely over this author’s head, one key theme persisted throughout the day– the strong sense of community and collaboration. Brian Quinn from Learning Pool used the phrase, ‘There’s no “I” in Open Source’ in his presentation. This collection of individuals, with different motivations, in different organisations, sectors and industry all put in the time and effort to make a product better for the benefit of all Adapt users.

brianquinn

Presenters spoke with passion; audience members participated by directing thoughtful questions and engaging in robust discussions. We hope this will be the first of many meet ups.

If we had our time over, we would have done away with our conference-style names badges, and instead opted for something like this, incorporating everyone’s individual Adapt avatar:

louisebadge

Thank you to Learning Pool and Sponge UK for sponsoring the event, and to everyone who attended. A video will be available soon. In the meantime, you can search #AdaptLondon on Twitter to see what some of the attendees were live-tweeting.

Introducing Dr Fabio Serenelli, Head of IDD

Dr Fabio Serenelli was recently appointed as the Head of Instructional Design and Development, the team within King’s Online that is responsible for developing online courses with faculties and departments at King’s.

Over the past seven years, Dr Serenelli’s passion for educational technologies has taken him from his home in Italy where he ran his own business, to South America, Malaysia and finally to the United Kingdom where he undertook research in e-learning, before settling into his role at King’s earlier this year.

Dr Fabio Serenelli, with his beloved sticky notes:

“I love sticky notes as they are probably the most effective way to visualise complex structures: they are perfect for brainstorming, card sorting, information architecture, etc.”

How did you become interested in online learning?

For my whole life I have been interested in computers and technology, and later in life became interested in education; I studied my Master’s in Educational Sciences, with a focus on adult training. I had the idea to bridge my passion for education and technology, and I pursued a career in e-learning.

What actually is ‘instructional design’ anyway?

Instructional design is a learner-centred discipline that sits somewhere between science and arts. It aims to systematically produce effective, efficient and engaging learning experiences. 

Tell us about the Instructional Design and Development team:

We are fortunate to have the flexibility and the dynamism of a startup-like unit, while working within the solid parameters of King’s College London. We’ve gone through a period of rapid growth and change recently, having doubled in size. In terms of skills, we are bringing in experts from fields not strictly related to e-learning, like web design and development, cinema and motion graphics.

Tell us something nobody knows about you, not even your team:

Well, I can (or I could?) hold my breath for more than five minutes. Can you do that? : )

What is your favourite holiday destination?

In the past I spent quite long periods backpacking around the world but since I started working abroad, I prefer to spend my summer holidays in my country, ideally – as I love free-diving – in Sardinia.

Creating the MOOC ‘Shakespeare: Print and Performance’

Erica Moulton, MA student in Shakespeare Studies at King’s College London shares some of the treasures explored in the new MOOC, ‘Shakespeare: Print and Performance’. This MOOC was developed by King’s College London, in partnership with Shakespeare’s Globe and the British Library.

How do we get closer to Shakespeare? In a year dubbed Shakespeare400 in honour of the 400th anniversary of his death in 1616, we certainly hear his name a lot. But when we talk about the man and his plays, what do we really mean? As part of the Shakespeare: Print and Performance MOOC team, I was able to go behind the scenes both at the British Library and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in London to explore how his plays were printed and performed in his day.

Deep in the British Library archives are volumes and manuscripts, including the first printed book in English, William Caxton’s Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, which dates back to 1473. The book trade in England flourished in the next two centuries, and by the time Shakespeare was writing plays for the King’s Company to perform at the Globe in 1599, publishers and printers alike recognized the market potential of Shakespeare’s plays. Before 1600, there were over a dozen quarto editions of his plays published in London, many of them printed in multiple editions, including Romeo and Juliet.

However, Shakespeare likely had nothing to do with the printing and distribution of his own plays, and at first many of these printed editions did not even bear his name. For instance, Romeo and Juliet was printed in 1597 and then again in 1599.

Picture1

The “first quarto”, sometimes called the “bad quarto” is often thought to be a memorial reconstruction rather than based on Shakespeare’s own “foul papers”, a fact that the printer of the second quarto draws attention to when he writes that his edition is “newly corrected, augmented, and amended” in 1599.

Picture2

As Shakespeare’s name and reputation as a playwright grew, publishers and booksellers began to use his name on the title pages of his plays (and even on plays that he did not write). It was a full seven years after his death that two of the players from his company, John Heminges and Henry Condell, compiled his works for the First Folio in 1623.

picture3

During his lifetime, Shakespeare’s focus remained on the playhouse, or playhouses, as was the case when his company finally acquired the right to perform at Blackfriars in 1608. After that, they split their time between the indoor Blackfriars during the winter and the Globe in the summer. Next to the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London, a reconstruction based on drawings of an indoor playhouse was finished in 2014 and called the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Picture4

Photo credit: Shakespeare’s Globe.

In this intimate theatre, modern day actors and musicians discover how the conditions of performance, including the small stage, elevated musicians’ gallery and candlelight, influence the way Shakespeare and his contemporaries’ plays can be performed for a modern audience. We used the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, with the kind permission of the Globe, to film some lessons for the MOOC. I think this will give learners an insight into what it is like to watch a performance taking place in the space.

The performance history of Shakespeare’s plays is one of the main subjects of an exhibition currently running at the British Library called “Shakespeare in Ten Acts”. The exhibition contains many documents of performance from recent productions and films as well as documents regarding playhouses in Shakespeare’s London. The exhibition bridges the divide between print and performance, a task which the upcoming Shakespeare MOOC hopes to do as well.

If we can understand how print and performance functioned in Shakespeare’s day, as well as our own, we will become more perceptive and impassioned consumers of his plays. 

If you’re interested in learning more about Shakespeare, in print and performance, you can sign up to take our free, short course here: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/shakespeare

The course starts in September 2016.

A Learning Technologist: What’s that, then?

I’ve been working at King’s for almost 5 years now as a Learning Technologist. I started at the King’s Learning Institute before moving to the Centre for Technology Enhanced Learning (CTEL). I’m currently working for King’s Online as part of the Instructional Design and Development (IDD) team.

When someone asks me what I do, and I tell them I’m a Learning Technologist, I’ll occasionally get a quick reply to the tune of “When do you become a full technologist?”, or “When do you finish your apprenticeship?” Most often though I get funny looks followed by another question, usually, “What’s that, then?”

So for the uninitiated, here is broadly what a Learning Technologist does.

As the title suggests, the role focuses on learning technologies. These are tools that essentially enhance learning and teaching in higher education. These tools can be physical systems like Echo360 (lecture capture system used to record lectures) & polling or software based systems like Moodle (a learning management system that King’s uses to deliver e-learning).

shutterstock_92293909

My job is to make sure that lecturers at King’s use these tools appropriately to engage students with the learning content that they teach. I can do this in a number of ways.

At CTEL I would lead or support CPD sessions to teach staff how to use these types of technologies. These could include:

  • KEATS (Moodle) basic training
  • Blogging for beginners
  • Creating accessible learning resources
  • Bringing interactivity to KEATS (Moodle)
  • Podcasting
  • Video production
  • Polling.

Staff would then be able to embed the use of these technologies in their teaching or use them to help enhance their teaching material.

In my current role with King’s Online, I’m in a team of Project Managers, Instructional Designers, Learning Technologists and Video Producers, developing King’s Online postgraduate courses and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). My role here is largely content development, developing directly in KEATS, coding HTML and CSS. I also advise on the use of different learning technologies when necessary.

Online learning is a very different scenario than on-campus taught courses. Like on-campus students, online students are often paying a substantial amount of money, so the King’s Online student experience has to be as good as the on-campus student experience. I work closely with the Instructional Designers to make sure it is.

This is the job in a nutshell, though there are many other aspects of learning and teaching that Learning Technologists can get involved with, including assessment, feedback, research and quality assurance (QA).

The essential qualities for this role are communication skills, attention to detail, HTML/CSS, e-learning development tools and at times you will need to work well under pressure, well perhaps a bit more than ‘at times’!

Paul Gillary AFHEA is a Learning Technologist in King’s Online.

King’s Online Down Under

Last week, members of the King’s Online and Students & Education  teams represented King’s College London in a trip to Sydney, Australia to meet fellow colleagues in the PLuS Alliance.

The PLuS Alliance is a tripartite agreement between King’s College London, Arizona State University (ASU) and University of New South Wales (UNSW).

unsw2

The purpose of the visit was to connect colleagues from the three universities to discuss opportunities for online module exchanges and to explore the potential for future joint courses.

“One thing I didn’t anticipate, considering we all share the common language of English, was the different terminology we each use to talk about instructional design and development! There were a few quizzical looks around the table in our first meeting, as we all came to grips with the different meanings for programmes, courses, modules, degrees and units!” – Karen Greetham, Programmes Project Manager.

Besides enjoying the local cuisine, abundant sunshine and warm hospitality of the UNSW staff and students, the team benefitted by sharing best practices, challenges and opportunities, processes and potential improvements with their colleagues in UNSW and ASU.

Discussions around areas of study, potential courses to develop, logistical arrangements, assessment, marking, admissions and marketing made for a very busy schedule, in a short one-week visit.

“I’m really looking forward to the future development of this alliance; our commitment to this worldwide partnership is another great step as we continue in our mission to bring a King’s education to a global audience.” – Anna Wood, Director of King’s Online

KODownunder

Karen Greetham, Fabio Serenelli, Anna Wood and Tom Whitelaw from King’s becoming acquainted with the Australian way at UNSW in Sydney.

A behind-the-scenes look at online programme creation