2015 in review

As we come to the end of 2015, we’d just like to thank all our readers for interacting with our blog.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for us too which we’re more than happy to share. Looking forward to an even better 2016.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 45 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Edshare and Unconscious Bias: December Coffee Club Update

Earlier this week we held our final Blended Learning Coffee Club meet up for 2015.  As ever it was great to see new and regular faces at the meet up.  Our first presentation was from Toby Hanning, Digital Assets Manager in the Library.  Toby gave us an overview and live demo of our new digital streaming server/repository EdShare.  Edshare is a version of the Eprints repository service developed by the University of Southampton.

GCU has quite a history of sharing digital “stuff”, and it was good to be reminded of project such as The Spoken Word.

The new service is primarly for learning and teaching resources. It will allow upload of any file type, has “loads” of storage (hurrah for terrabytes) and once we get single sign on properly sorted will integrate seemlessly with GCULearn.

Open is at its heart and there is a lovely drop down meu of CC licences to choose from when you upload content. Of course not everything needs to be shared with the rest of the world, so again there are options to share just within the university or indeed with select users within the university.  The service will be launching early next year so look out for more information then.

You can find out more from Toby’s presentation.

Our GCU LEAD, Karla Benske, then gave a quick overview of some staff support materials she has been developing around unconscious bias. In terms of learning and teaching unconscious bias can have quite an impact on design decisions.  As we move to more fully online courses, we all need to be more cognisant of unconscious bias and the impact they can have on student engagement.

Karla has been experimenting with some of our favourite tools including Blendspace, Sway and Slate, and is going to write a guest post for us in the New Year about her experiences.

In the meantime why not take a couple of minutes to check out your unconscious bias by watching the Invisible Gorilla video.

Open Education in Europe

I was lucky enough to be invited to attend an OpenEdu workshop at the end of November, hosted by the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), part of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, in Seville. There were 25 participants from 17 member states, and I think it’s fair to say that a wide range of views on open education in higher education was represented. The working definition for IPTS is –


The main focus was the OpenEdu project which aims to ‘propose a framework for opening up practices in higher education institutions’. The purpose of the workshop was to ‘sense check’ the draft strategic framework, and to get feedback on the extent to which it could be useful for European universities. More details on the draft framework and its dimensions are in the workshop slides.

The framework was welcomed although we felt that it was probably a bit too complicated in its current form. I could see how useful it could be though in clarifying what is meant by open education and in challenging some current assumptions, e.g that open is just about OERs or Moocs.

Participants also gave short updates on developments in their own institutions and countries. It was interesting to hear that universities in Greece are looking into the possibility of a shared open platform, while in Slovenia the priority is increasing the numbers of fee-paying students in universities rather than opening up education. I was able to feed in some information about the open education developments in Scotland, including the Scottish Open Education Declaration and the SFC funded OEPS project led by the OU in Scotland.

For those who like facts and figures, the IPTS also presented the findings of an interesting survey on open education practices in HE across France, Spain, Germany, the UK and Poland. They show that overall, 39% of respondents currently provide open education, with the UK well ahead at 63%. Around 22% of respondents currently offer Moocs and another 19% are considering them.

Use of OERs was more widespread with 51% of institutions already promoting them. Only 32% had a policy on open education though, so GCU’s OER policy is still keeping us ahead of the game. It wasn’t surprising to find that the need for staff CPD and a lack of formal academic recognition were cited as the major barriers to engagement with open education. It’s certainly something we need to keep moving on in GCU.

All in all it was a really useful couple of days, helped of course by blue skies, sunshine and some very tasty tapas!

December Blended Learning Coffee Club

Riverford Advent calendar, organic chocolate

Our last coffee club meeting for 2015 will take place on Thursday 10 December at 12-1pm in the Insight Area, GCU LEAD.

This month we’ll be getting an update from the Library on our new open, digital repository and Karla Benkse (GCU LEAD) will give a short overview of new staff development resources on the topic of unconscious bias. We’ll also be previewing some coffee club activities for early 2016 including our involvement with the ever popular #BYOD4L open event.

As ever you don’t need to register but if you let us know you are coming we’ll send you a voucher for a free coffee/tea.