Disabled students in Japanese Higher Education – a time for change

The Open University of Japan (OUJ) hosts an annual international symposium on matters relating to higher education.  This year the theme was supporting disabled students in this context and in particular the role of ICT here.  [See:  http://www.ouj.ac.jp/eng/sympo/2015/eng/] This is timely because the Japanese Act on the Elimination of Disability Discrimination was enacted in 2013. From 2016, this means public universities are legally obliged to provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities, while private universities are expected to make diligent efforts to provide this for them.  The Japanese’s own perception is that they are about 30 years behind the USA and UK in this regard.  The symposium consisted of a presentation from the host organisation and four invited speakers, two from the USA, a Japanese leader in the field and myself from the UK.  Each presented on key themes from which the delegates from across the Japanese higher education sector could reflect and draw from in their own context.  Disabled students are currently very under-represented in Japanese higher education; in fact the Open University in the UK alone has more disabled students studying with it than across the whole of the higher education across Japan.

This blog posts discusses some of the lessons I learnt from this my first visit to Japan and impressions I gained.  It is the beginning of an exciting period in Japan that should see an increase in the representation of disabled people in the university student body and significant enhancements in the provision of appropriate support for them.

The numbers game

Takeo Kondo, of the University of Tokyo, gave some detail of the current situation in Japanese higher education and compared it with the USA and the UK.

The official 2014 published statistics showed Students with Disabilities (SWDs) in Japanese Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) numbered 13,449 out of 3,213,518 (0.42% out of all students including undergraduate and graduate students). [JASSO, 2014]

This was compared with  U.S figures for undergraduates in 2009 of  10.8% (19,155,000 out of 2,076,000) [US GAO, 2009];

and the UK figures  of SWDs among the 740,000 first year students enrolled in higher education in 2012 as 73,000 (9.8%). [HESA, 2014]

At the Open University in the UK  in 2013/14 there were over 18,000 undergraduate students declaring a disability: more than 14% of all OU undergraduates. [Internal Data]

The symposium chair, Prof. Hirose, stated that in 2013, there were 90,154 students studying with the Open University in Japan, of whom 698 had declared a disability (0.77%):

  • Visual impairment: 168 students
  • Hearing impairment: 32 students
  • Physically handicapped & sickly individuals (sic): 331 students
  • Others: 167 students

There needs to be some care when comparing such statistics as different classifications of disability may have been used. Further, all these figures are based on self-declaration of disability.  There may be cultural reasons why less disabled students declare their disability at Japanese universities and certainly, with much more limited support currently available for them, there is less incentive for them to do so.  Why declare a disability if it makes no difference to the university’s provision of support?

However, even given these caveats it is clear that SWDs are significantly underrepresented in Japanese higher education compared with the USA and the UK, maybe by a factor of 20.   Takeo Kondo’s presentation went on to give data on the changes of the Japanese data over time and a breakdown of the representation of different disability types.

Reflections on discussions

There was a formal discussion panel at the end of the symposium which addressed selected questions that had been submitted in writing during the day.  The fact that far more questions were submitted than could be addressed in the time was indicative of the delegates concern for the topic.  The speakers had spent 3 hours the previous day having a tour of the Open University of Japan and in less structure discussion with about 10 of their staff.  This section summarises and comments on key themes that arose in both these contexts.

Both from the organisers of the symposium and the delegates it was obvious there was a high degree of anticipatory anxiety about what the change in law means they need to do and whether they have the means to do it.  This could be compared to a commonly expressed anxiety in UK HEIs when the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was extended to include education with the coming into effect of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) in 2001.  As well as anxiety about what needs to be done and how to do it there is also an anxiety about how this will be funded.

It was noted that the pedagogic models of the Open University in Japan and the Open University in the UK were very different.  The former is much more of a transmission of expertise style.  There is little discussion between students and lecturers and they do not deploy tutors.  This has significant implications for how support is best offered to disabled students.  At the OU in the UK if a student with disabilities encounters particular problems it is likely to be their tutor that first aware of this.

The difference in disabled student numbers between Japan and the UK or USA is very marked.  More research would be needed to fully understand this.  Certainly the historical lack of provision of support is a factor.  However other factors may be more significant.  One area here is the impact of the Japanese school system.  From the brief discussions had this appears very proscriptive both in terms of curriculum and style of teaching.  There is a strong emphasis on tradition skills such as well-formed hand writing of Japanese characters.  It appears that if for any reason a school pupil does not fit into this well, which might be because of a disability, they are likely to fall behind educationally and not develop aspirations to go onto higher education.

Concluding Comments

The law is seen very much as a driver for change.  This may well be the case and it was a factor in the enhancement of provision for disabled students in the UK following SENDA in 2001.  However law alone will not affect a substantive change.   Meeting the agenda of widening participation of higher education to be more inclusive of disabled people will have to become part of the value system of Japanese HEIs.  It is going to require a commitment beyond meeting of the letter of the law.  It will need institutional change not just the setting up of specialist support units.  The Japanese perceive themselves to be 30 years behind the USA and UK.  However, it need not take them 30 years to catch-up if there is the political will to affect change throughout the educational system.  I mean to maintain a watching brief on this transition and hopefully undertake some detailed research on it with Japanese colleagues.


HESA, 2014 – Higher Education Statistics Agency (2014) Statistical First Release 197: 2012/13 first year students by Disability. https://www.hesa.ac.uk/stats

JASSO, 2014 – Japan Student Services Organization (2014) Fact finding survey on supporting higher educational opportunities for students with disabilities (in Japanese)  http://www.jasso.go.jp/tokubetsu_shien/chosa.html

US GAO, 2009 – U.S. Government Accountability Office (2009) HIGHER EDUCATION AND DISABILITY  Education Needs a Coordinated Approach to Improve Its Assistance to Schools in Supporting Students http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-33



Notes from CALRG Conference 2014

The Computers and Learning Research Group (CALRG) at the Open University (UK) has an annual conference.  Today and tomorrow is the 35th such conference.  This post is my notes on the presentations I attend (unfortunately I can not make them all).  There is a conference Twitter feed with hashtag #calrg14.  A temporary conference website is at: http://sites.google.com/site/calrg14/ with a link to the programme.

CALRG Annual Conference Day One – June 10 2014

Discussant: Prof Rupert Wegerif, Exeter University


Patrick McAndrew (Director of IET) – Own experience over 16 years as an induction to the university.  A catch-up point.  Today the theme is mostly on Open Education.

Session I – Chair: Doug Clow

9:45-10:15 MOOCs, Learning Analytics and Higher Education: Perspectives on a recent study leave visit to the USA
Eileen Scanlon

  • The Americans sometimes slightly hallucinate our experience of Ed Tech
  • First stop – ACM Conference on learning at scale (single track)
  •  Bestthing-keynotefromChrisDide, of Harvard. – “Newwineinnow bottles”
    • It is not about the platform but what you do on the platform
    • Use of metaphors from film
    • Going big requires thinking small
    • Micro-genetic studies of online learning
    • People had forgotten all the learning science previously done
  • DistanceLearningOERs and MOOCs (Eileen’s presentation at conference)
    • The Open Science Lab
    • Edinburgh experience – professional development of surgeons
  • Next stop Berkley (Invitational Summit of 150 people)
    • Impact on residential campus based universities
    • Relying on schools of education to measure student learning
    • ReflectiononEDX platform
      • Transforming the institution (MIT in this case)
      • Learn about learning
      • E.g. required physics course – group learning – lot of use of online assessment
      • Comparison of performance in MOOCs of those taking residential course versus those not
      • Drown in information if Google assessment of EDX
    • Simon initiative at Carnegie Mellon
      • AI and Cognitive Tutors
      • Broader than the institution
      • Global learning council
      • Spin out company called “Cognitive Tutors”
      • Individualized instruction seen as gold standard for education
  • Then visited Stanford
    • TheLytics Lab (Learning Analytics)
      • Using learning science with open educational delivery
      • Moving from fragmented approach to systematic improvement of this type of pedagogy
      • CSCL (conversation) ->MOOC space
      • Scale of work in Stanford on MOOCs is staggering
      • Still individual academic driven
  • Then various other conferences
  • Future Learn Academic Network
    • Originally 26 partners now expanding and going more global
  • ESRC proposal on future of higher education
    • Partners: OU, University of Edinburgh, Carnegie Mellon, Oxford University

10:15-10: 45 Squaring the open circle: resolving the iron triangle and the interaction equivalence theorem
Andy Lane

  • Visual Models
    • How visualization can help with understanding/sense making
    • They can equally conceal
    • The Iron Triangle – sides: Scale, Quality, Cost
      • If one dimension changed significantly it will compromise others
    • John Daniel – open distance learning could break the iron triangle
    • Interaction Equivalence Theorem (EQuiv)
    • Supply-side vs demand-side (what about the students?)
    • Adding a circle of success to the iron triangle
    • A student centred iron triangle
      • motivation, preparation, organisation
    • A student centred Interaction Engagement Equivalence Theorem

10:45-11:15 Exploring digital scholarship in the context of openness and engagement
Richard Holliman, Ann Grand, Anne Adams and Trevor Collins

See: http://open.ac.uk/blogs/per

  • Public engagement with a research mandate
  • Research councils fund catalysts
  • An “ecology” of openness
  • Action Research [Lewin 1946]
  • The Edge tool
  • How do we find ways if assessing where staff are and then support them?
  • Research Questions
    • What methods and technologies are researchers using to: make research public, make public research, enable the public to collaboratively research (citizen science)?
    • how do researchers conceptualize the role of students?
  • Scholarship reconsidered
    • discovery
    • integration
    • application
    • teaching
  • Awareness / Responsibility / Sustainability
  • Institutional strategy for open, digital and engaged scholarship
    • What should we try to change?
  • Types of researcher: the fully wired; the dabbler; the brave trier; the unimpressed
  • “The Open Scholar is someone who makes their intellectual projects digitally visible …”
  • Policies / Procedures / Practices

[The remaining  session of Day 1 I was not able to attend but the programme in included here]

Session II – Chair: Ann Jones

11:30-11:55 The OpenupEd quality label: benchmarks for MOOCs
Jon Rosewell

11:55-12:20 From theory to practice: can openness improve the quality of OER research?
Rebecca Pitt, Beatriz de-los-Arcos, Rob Farrow

12:20-12:45 Open Research into Open Education: The Role of Mapping and Curation
Rob Farrow

12:45-13:10 Strategies for Successful MOOC learning: The Voice from the World Record Breaker
Bernard Nkuyubwatsi
Session III – Chair: Rebecca Ferguson

14:00-14:25 The role of feedback in the under-attainment of ethnic minority students: Evidence from distance education
John T.E. Richardson, Bethany Alden Rivers and Denise Whitelock
14:25-14:50 Evaluating serious experiences in games
Jo (Ioanna) Iacovides
14:50-15:15 Social media for informal minority language learning: exploring Welsh learners’ practices
Ann Jones
15:15-15:30 TEA/COFFEE
Session IV – Chair: Inge de Waard
15:30-15:55 What students want: designing learning to optimise engagement in digital literacy skills development
Ingrid Nix and Marion Hall
15:55-16:20 Recording online synchronous tutorials to support learning
Pauline Bloss, Elisabeth Clifford, Chris Niblett and Elke St.John
16:20-16:45 Open Education needs Education for Openness: a dialogic theory of education for the Internet Age
Rupert Wegerif
16:45-17:00 Discussant – Rupert Wegerif

CALRG Annual Conference – Day 2 – June 11 2014

Session V – Chair: Mark Gaved

9:40-10:05 ‘nQuire-it’: The design and evaluation of a mission-based web platform for citizen inquiry science learning
Christothea Herodotou, Eloy Villasclaras- Fernández , Mike Sharples

Notes from this presentation lost in the ether 😦

10:05-10:30 3D Virtual Geology Field Trips: Opportunities and Limitations
Shailey Minocha, Sarah-Jane Davies, Brian Richardson and Tom Argles

  • Can do things unable to d in a real field trips – e.g. drape maps over mountains, see geological cross sections
  • Us Unity 3D Game Engine to build a 10km x 10km area mapping and imaging the real world (around Skiddaw, England)
  • Can pick up rocks and examine under microscope
  • Includes a chat facility for tutor group communication
  • Leave these tools out of the application so as not to compromise the immersion
  • Addresses accessibility with transcripts and full keyboard only access
  • Able to “fly” and “teleport” (on a real field trip a lot of time wasted travelling between sites)
  • Avatar based environment
  • Students use a paper based notebook as they would in the field
  • Integrate the virtual microscope (existing facility) but now contextualized learning
  • Cloud server can handle up to 500 students at one time

10:30-10:55 Juxtalearn: From Practice into Practice
Anne Adams and Gill Clough

  • Large EU project
  • Driver – not enough taking science and technology at school – employment implications
  • Science and Technology engagement through “creative performance” and reflective learning”
  • Threshold concept (TC)
    • Where students find challenges
    • When they get it it is transformative
    • Irreversible – not readily forgotten
    • Integrative – brings concepts together
  • Learning Pathways and Threshold Concepts (different ways from introduction of concept to internalisation of it)
  • Develop understanding through creative video making
  • Tricky Topic Tool
    • Teachers identify tricky topic
    • Teachers create an example
    • Teachers write down student problems
    • Teachers fill in Taxonomy (linked to student problems)
      • e.g terminology, intuitive beliefs, incomplete pre-knowledge, …
  • Taxonomy scaffolds quiz creation
    • Tool to facilitate this
    • Integrates detailed feedback to the student
  • Demo

Session VI – Chair: Anne Adams

11:15-11:40 Citizen Inquiry: From rocks to clouds
Maria Aristeidou, Eileen Scanlon, Mike Sharples

  • Citizen Science + Inquiry based Learning -> Citizen Inquiry
  • Inquiring – Rock Hunters (Initial Study)
    • 24 participants
    • 12 rock investigations
    • discussion and feedback on chat and forums
    • Data collection – questionnaires, System Usability Scale [John Brooke, 1986], …
  • [Note taking interrupted]

11:40-12:05 Imagining TM351 – Virtual Machines and Interactive Notebooks
Tony Hirst

  • TM351 – New Level 3 30 point module on data
  • Two new things:

1. Virtual machines (to overcome the diversity of machines being used by students)

    • Interfaces increasingly browser based
    • Virtual box installed on student machine and browser used as interface
    • Virtual machine can be on cloud server – then can use on a tablet

2. Notebook Computing

  • Literate programming / reproduce-able code or research
  • Code should be able to be read as an essay (self documenting) – read well to human and executable by the machine
  •  Can’t reproduce data analysis from traditional academic papers – reproduceable research includes the tools to enable this
  • Using IPython
  • Corollary to spreadsheets
  • Task orientated productivity tools
  • Cells
    • write text
    • uses “mark-down” simple text based mark-up
    • other cells contain python code
    • e.g. the software creates the table – avoids errors in production and editing
    • similarly with maps and paths
  • IPython server in VM – interface in browser
  • Exploring using OpenDesignStudio so students can share and critique each others code in executable form (see: http://design.open.ac.uk/atelier-d/cdi1.htm)
  • Example shown


12:05-12:30 MASELTOV – mobile incidental learning services to support language learning and the social inclusion of recent immigrants
Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, Eileen Scanlon, Ann Jones, Mark Gaved

  •  Using smart phones to support language learning
  • Addressing those with low educational level and from different culture
  • Incidental learning approach
  • MApp: a range of services
    • Field local mapping
    • Social network
    • Information resources
    • Translation
    • Navigation guide
    • Language learning
    • Serious game
  • These are separate apps but integrated in the platform
  • High penetration of smart phone among target audience
  • Technology uncertainty period
    • Many purchase phone ahead of travel
    • Android phones most popular
    • May have multiple phones
    • Seek out free WiFi
    • Word of mouth expertise highly valued
  • Howdowe enable transition from problem solving to reflective learning?
    • relating immediate situation to broader context
    • Feedback and progress indicators
      • Study planning and goal setting
      • Indicating completion
      • Supporting sense of community
      • Building confidence
      • Gamified approach
      • Quizzes
  • What evidence that this approach to language learning is effective?
  • Are there clusters of tools use?
  • Demo

12:30-12:55 Knowledge Transfer Partnership: Booktrust and the Open University
Natalia Kucirkova, Karen Littleton, Teresa Cremin and Laura Venning

  • Ongoing project started this year
  • KTP-objectives:
    • Extending book trust work on promoting reading for pleasure
    • Contribute to digital literacy
    • New knowledge and understanding of digital technologies and the opportunities they provide
  • Synergy of two organisations
  • Looking at books created on iPads (created by children or parents using words and images)
  • The ability to search for meaning is enhanced by creating stories
  • Book Trust:
    • Charity founded in 1920s
    • Encouraging reading for pleasure among children and families
    • Run book gifting programmes
    • Book-start – packs delivered by health visitors and via libraries
    • Reception year programme
    • Now seeking to develop the digital side of their work
    • Undertake research on reading habits and how reading contributes to peoples’ lives
    • Reading Habits survey 2013-14

Session VII – Chair: ?

14:00-14:25 Flipped teachers’ views of the impact of open practices on students
Beatriz de los Arcos

  • Flipped teacher – move the instruction online more discussion and analysis in class
  • Help with “homework” given by experts
  • Survey of OER use by teachers and how impact on students
  • “I do not treat this curriculum as mine – it belongs to the class and the world”
  • http://sites.google.com/a/byron.k12.mn.us/stats4g
  • Example of a learning activity on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – kids turned in 82% of homework on time
  • OER enables new ways of teaching and learning
  • How do we measure the success of the flipped model?
    • A lot of teachers respond to do with student motivation and engagement
  • Most teachers informally adopt OER practice (e.g. uploading to You Tube) but don’t know about CC licenses etc.
  • Does flipping with OER give a better “flip” than working with closed resources?


14:25-14:50 The pedagogical design, user profile and evaluation of a Mobile app to teach beginners’ Chinese characters
Fernando Rosell-Aguilar and Kan Qian

  • Examples of tones in Chinese where same syllable means different things – but context means in practice mistakes not significant
  • About 10,000 characters in common use with typically 12 strokes
  • No space between characters to denote separation of words
  •  Stroke order is important – but this also aids memory of characters – in Chinese primary schools they would chant this
  • Pinyin (Roman letters) is used to teach pronunciation because no correspondence between character and pronunciation
  • Grammar very simple (no past or future tense) – verbs stay the same – no plural singular
  • Rationale
    • To provide an aid to learning
    • To raise profile of the introduction to Chinese course
    •  To fulfill KMi objective to produce revision aids
  • Pedagogical design
    • Bite-sized learning
    • Progressive Learning 20 lessons must be taken in order
    • Integrating writing, listening, reading and vocabulary
    • Gaming feature
    • Personalised learning
  • 4 Sections
  • Challenges of working with App Developers
    • What can be done with what desired
    • Timing issues
    • Technical affordences vs pedagogy
  • User profile and evaluation
    • More males than females (unlike other modern languages more males than females study Chinese)
    • Median Age 30-39
    • 91.9% describe themselves as beginners
    • 75% learning Chinese informally
    • Why learn Chinese:
      • Personal interest
      • Family ties
      • Non-Chinese living in China
      • Business use
    • False expectation of ability to learn fluent Chinese from app
    • App rated positively 86% very good or good
    • Good ratings for learning to write but better for learning to recognise characters
    • 82% app as additional to other learning but 18% using it as their main resource
  • Conclusion
    • Met objectives towards a large degree but no evidence of people using the app then signing up for the course
    • Varied mix of users (gender, age, etc.)
    • Android version limited character set iOS more comprehensive
  • App Chinese Characters First Steps – http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/chinese-characters-first-steps/id441549197?mt=8#

14:50-15:15 Models of Disability, Models of Learning, Accessibility and Learning Technologies
Martyn Cooper

My presentation so not noted but slides are available on SlideShare at: http://www.slideshare.net/martyncooper/models-of-disability-models-of-learning-accessibility-calrg2014


Session VIII – Chair: Canan Blake

15:30-15:55 Computer-marked assessment as learning analytics
Sally Jordan

  • Using in iCMAs in teaching since 2000
  • Ellis (2013) assessment often excluded from learning analytics but this is “stupid”
  • Assessment give deep information about learner engagement
  • Analysis at the cohort level
    • Look at questions that student struggle with (from hard data not student opinion)
  • Example of graphic illustrating number of tries students take to get correct question answer in a maths assessment
  • Look are reasons for repeated wrong answers
  • Measuring student engagement – “750 students used my iCMA”
  • iCMAs in formative use exhibit those that just click on it but don’t engage (about 10%)
  • WhendostudentsuseiCMAs?
    • Strong bias towards cut-off dates
  • Length of response to short answer questions – if say a word limit students tend to write near to that limit (see it as a hint)
  • Student engagement with feedback – comparisons between students and comparison between modules
  • Generally students do what they believe their teachers want
  • Engagement with computer marked assessment can be used as a proxy for deeper behaviour
  • Transcend the testing paradigm and see assessment for learning not assessment of learning

15:55-16:20 Open Essayist: Opening automatic support for students drafting summative essays
Denise Whitelock, John Richardson, Debora Field, Stephen Pulman

  • The SAfeSEA Project, see: http://www.open.ac.uk/researchprojects/safesea/
  • Present summaries of students essays back to students to facilitate their reflection
  • Not tell students what to write (or what is right)
  • Identifies Intro, Main Section, Conclusions, Keywords
  • Generates different visual representations of the essay – one research question is what representations the students find most helpful
  • Nodel graphs represent repeated notions
  • Marked contrast between highly marked and low marked essays
  • Nodes closer together in the better essays – vector length represents the connectivity between sentences
  • In 2014 made available to students on MAODE, University of Herts and British University in Dubai
  • Non-native speakers expressed found it very helpful
  • A lot of students do not see how a computer system could help them with their essays

16:20-16:45 Findings from a survey of undergraduate use of mobile devices for OU study
Authors: Simon Cross, Graham Healing, Mike Sharples

  • ePedagogies of handheld devices
  • Document and analyse the patterns of use of OU students
  • Align with other surveys – e.g. OU Student Survey
  • Becoming a longitudinal study
  • Modules like a Lego set – what students do with it may be different than intended and may be influenced by the technologies they use
  • 82% students mobile phones, 50% tablets, 37% e-readers 8% none of these
  • 30% bought tablet for OU study
  • 16% bought e-reader for OU study
  • Evolving data set – resource for future research
  • Insights for module development
  • Evolving survey instrument
  • Evolving analytical framework
  • Technology barriers -> learning barriers

16:45-17:00 CLOSE

No discussant today – shame because I like this feature of CALRG Conferences.

IET Learning Analytics Workshop (15-05-14)

Today I attended and presented at an OU internal Learning Analytics workshop organised by my institute – the Institute of Educational Technology, at the Open University, UK.  This blog post is my notes from that event.

Eileen Scanlon

3rd in this workshop series – IET researchers joined by those from KMi and visitors from University of Amsterdam

Starfish – Networked Knowledge Sharing
Sander Latour and Natasa Brouwer (University of Amsterdam)

  • Starfish – finding a better way to disseminate best practice
  • (Video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6YrdOppk8
  • Community driven network
  • TPACK (Model of teaching good practice and technology) based labels.  See: http://www.tpack.org/
  • Entities linked into a network – aid to exploration
  • c.f. Google+ Communities
  • First working system in place – building network with other faculties/institutions
  • Potential for EU project
  • Research topics –
    • Dealing with difference in vocabulary
    • Effective search and exploration
    • Evaluating quality of information
    • SNA / Expert finding
    • Effect on Teachers of TPACK beliefs (Mishra and Koehler 2006) – e.g. technology used effects how we teach

Analytics insights into Epistemic Commitments in collaborative information seeking
Simon Knight, KMi

  • Link to epistemic games group in Maddison
  • Evolution in forms of assessment – moving away from pure summative towards performance assessment
  • Epistemic beliefs – a lens on learners views (Broome, 2009)
  • Removing the thought element – not decontextualised beliefs but situated and contextualised
  • Moving away from psychometrics
  • In “Search”
    • selecting sources
    • collating information
    • etc.
  • Epistemic commitments
    • The connections people make
    • Certainty characterised as …
  • Surface answers or deeper reasoning – use of search results
    • E.g. question on Marie Currie
  • Epistemic Frames for Epistemic Commitments
    • Views on how we see the world
    • described as skills, knowledge, values, identities, and epistemological rules
    • Discourse orientated
    • E.g. “we should try looking on Wikipedia”
      • select token, make connections
    • Epistemic Frames allows classification of activities in this process
  • Epistemic Network Analysis
    • Edge – indicates communication between nodes – edge gets thicker in proportion to level of discourse between the nodes
    • Move from log data – to keywords and concepts
    • Some maths happens – stanzas – don’t worry about how many times word occurs but how sourced
    • Principle Component Analysis (PCA) across stanzas
    • As analysis builds up some nodes become more central
    • Used a pair and two trios of 11-year-olds
    • Hypothesis – collaboration might be linked to number of sources researched
    • Some questions in exercise open – some closed – students asked to justify their answers and cite sources
    • Differences in groups
      • G1 – Successful “it has got all the important information” – i.e. less sense making more whether source had answers to questions
      • G2 – Also stressful but used different strategies and discourse was thus distinct from G1 (talked a lot about authority)
      • G3 – Poor results so discourse related to this
  • Claim that ENA offers a representational tools and can be used for hypothesis testing

Papers: http://oro.open.ac.uk/39254  http://oro.open.ac.uk/39181

Learning Analytics approaches to target support for disabled students in particular and to identify accessibility deficits in teaching and learning presented on the VLE
Martyn Cooper, IET

My presentation so not noted but slides on SlideShare at: http://www.slideshare.net/martyncooper/learning-analytics-and-disabled-students-iet-la-workshop-may14a

Learning Analytics for Academic Writing
Duygu Simsek, KMi

  • Machine code to identify good attributes in academic writing
  • How use this to support students and academics
  • Academic Writing –
    • Critical for students
    • Need to communicate validity of claims of automatic system
    • Meta-discourse analysis
    • Students find it challenging to learn academic writing but also find it difficult to understand meta-discourse cues
  • XIP – Xerox Incremental Parser uses NLP
    • Pulls out key features in academic writing
    • XML format output but not suitable for the learners
  • What are key features in student writing:
    • relevance
    • demonstration of knowledge
    • linguistic quality
    • argumentation
    • etc.
  • Argumentation:
    • mapping between good academic writing and XIP rhetorical functions
  • XIP needs a learning analytics approach to be useful in this context
  • Research Questions:
    • To what degree can XIP be used to identify good academic writing practice?
    • In what way shouldXIP output be communicated to students and educators?
      • Used a dashboard in a pilot study
    • To what extent to students value this approach?

Six different learning analytics metrics, but which one(s) best predict performance
Bart Rienties, IET

  •  Simon Buckingham-Shum: “We should move towards depositional learning analytics”
  • Learner Data vs Learning Data
  • E.g. from footballer tracker data
  • Study at Maastricht of students on compulsory maths/stats course presented on Blackboard
    • deep learner vs surface learner
    • motivation
    • diagnostic pre-test
    • demographic data
    • Blackboard data
    • Results on quizzes
  • Research Question 1 – to what extent predict performance?
    • Level of clicking in VLE poor predictor
    • More sophisticated tools shown to be better predictors
    • Combined metrics better predictors
    • Best predictions of assessment is assessment itself – so predictions get better after initial assessment on course
  • Research Question 2 – When should “coaches” intervene?
    • After first test good prediction but too late to intervene?
  • Research Question 3 – Dispositions or Learning Analytics?
    • Dispositions combined with early assessment provides good early warnings
    • Dispositions can be changed – feedback


— Close, drinks (Dutch treat) and onward discussion —



JISC Digital Festival – Notes (Day 2)

I have spent most of the morning interacting with reps of the various exhibitors here.  Now to rest my legs I have settled down in Hall 1 for the keynote by  Sugata Mitra, Prof. Of Educational Technology at Newcastle University.

Notes from Keynote

Sugata was the originator of the ‘Hole in the Wall Experiment‘. He plans to review the last 15 years of work and review trends.

The hole in the wall experiment

ATM like computer  in a hole in the wall. They (the slum kids in New Dehli) did not know English and the interfaces were in English. Street children were browsing within 6 to 8 hours and teaching each other.  Conclusion groups of children left with a computer would reach the level of the average office secretary in the West in about 9 months. [Video shown of this work].

The children’s achievement of their proficiency happened because not despite of the absence of an adult teacher/supervisor.  After 4 to 5 months the teachers reported that their English was much improved. Discovered they were using a search engine to find quality content and copying it down on to paper. Question – why we’re they copying down the right things?  They seemed to know what they were writing.  Then gave them educational objects.  Working in groups they seemed to be able to locate the right information and select it.  Groups of children could reach educational objectives of their own if they wished to. People supposed that when got to in depth learning or skills acquisition they would need human intervention. However, could not find the limits of this learning.

In England turned the hole in the wall upside down. Created the chaotic environment of the hole in the wall inside the clasroom with just a few computers. Made up some rules: free discussion and free movement allowed. In period 2008-2010 this led to the descriptor of self- organising learning events. E.g. For 7 year-olds “why is a polar bears coat white”.  Given the the choice between a hard and easy question the children opted for the harder questions. They were able to do GCSE questions about 6 to 7 years ahead of time. Called these Self Organising Learning Environments (SOLE).

In other countries around the world similar results.  C.F emergent phenomena or self ordering or spontaneous order in the Natural Sciences.  Tested limit of this method in Southern India. Research Question: can 11 year-olds learn the process of DNA replication?  Experiment was a failure but the students self studied why DNA replication sometime went wrong causing disease.  Pre and post testing showed those working 10 years ahead of their time. Used a non scientist and the method of the grandmother.  Using an older adult to stand behind and encourage.

[Slides: Schools in the cloud]

Constructing 7 pilots trying to level the playing field in primary education comparing India with UK.


Experience with older students?  – Used to think method applied to ages 6 to 14 but beginning to show that it is not restricted to this. Experiences reported with 16-18 year olds, in FE and he is using SOLE approaches in his university courses.

Ethics, Learning Analytics and Disability

Today I have been writing a contribution for a paper requested by the Open University’s Ethics Committee about ethics in Learning Analytics.  This blog post is adapted from that.

There are two broad use case scenarios where learning analytics approaches may benefit disabled students:

  1. Targeting support to disabled students or their tutors (Support)
  2. Identifying online activities that seem to be problematic for some disabled students (Accessibility)

As far as we are aware these approaches are yet to be deployed anywhere world-wide but we are actively researching them here at the Open University where we have approximately 20,000 disabled students.  We envisage that if the early promise of this research holds up, deployment on about a 3 year horizon.  These approaches, especially the accessibility one, are reported in more detail in Section 5. of Cooper et. al. 2012.

Firstly, a few definitions:

IMS Global Learning Consortium offered education-specific definitions of both disability and accessibility when introducing its work on the development of technical standards for accessibility in e-learning:

[…] the term disability has been re-defined as a mismatch between the needs of the learner and the education offered. It is therefore not a personal trait but an artifact of the relationship between the learner and the learning environment or education delivery. Accessibility, given this re-definition, is the ability of the learning environment to adjust to the needs of all learners. Accessibility is determined by the flexibility of the education environment (with respect to presentation, control methods, access modality, and learner supports) and the availability of adequate alternative-but-equivalent content and activities. The needs and preferences of a user may arise from the context or environment the user is in, the tools available (e.g., mobile devices, assistive technologies such as Braille devices, voice recognition systems, or alternative keyboards, etc.), their background, or a disability in the traditional sense. Accessible systems adjust the user interface of the learning environment, locate needed resources and adjust the properties of the resources to match the needs and preferences of the user. (IMS Global 2004)

Thus disability is not an attribute of a person, but an attribute of the relationship between that person and the tools they are using to meet their goals; in this case online learning.  And, accessibility is a property of the learning resources that makes is usable by all, including those traditionally labelled as disabled.

The principle ethical dilemma when approaching learning analytics and learners who might experience a disability in the context of online learning is:

  • For what purpose has the individual students declared their disability to the university or other educational establishment, and is this consistent with how that information is to be used in the learning analytics approaches?

No other literature has been found explicitly addressing this issue.  So this blog post might represent the first public statement of the problem.

At the Open University students who declare a disability so that they can be provided with support in their studies.  This is consistent with the first use case scenario (Support).  It is a moot point if it is consistent with the second use case scenario (Accessibility).  More critically at this stage of development of these approaches it is not obvious that it is consistent with research into these approaches.  Is it ethical to use historic or current data relating to students with disabilities to undertake research into future approaches of applying learning analytics?


Cooper, M,Sloan, D., Kelly, B.,  and Laithwaite, S. (2012) A Challenge to Web Accessibility Metrics and Guidelines: Putting People and Processes First, Proc. W4A2012, April 16-17, 2012, Lyon, France. Co-Located with the 21st International World Wide Web Conference.

IMS Global Learning Consortium (2004), IMS AccessForAll Meta-data Overview. Available online at: http://www.imsglobal.org/accessibility/accmdv1p0/imsaccmd_oviewv1p0.html (accessed 17/02/14)

The future of accessible ICT – Notes

[These are just rough notes ahead of a proper blog post on this event.]

These are notes from an event hosted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology on the future of accessibility in ICT on 22 Jan 2013. Event of an EU project CARDIAC. A near live blog.

Presentation 1 – Research Actions to Facilitate Inclusion

Results of the CARDIAC project – main result a research agenda roadmap.

See project website:

To advise the EC where to direct future research funding.

Used a process called Structured Dialogic Design Process (SDDP) to gather collective wisdom of a wide variety of stakeholders.

Triggering questions:
What mechanisms would ensure successful technology transfer?
What type of research is missing?
Another question?

Roadmap produced from 90-100 Reseach Ideas.

Research Actions organised in 14 Research Lines that are time distributed.

Comment – a broad research roadmap covering human factors and social issues as well as technological ones.

Trends on Inclusive Network Based Applications

Based on the model of ambient intelligence

Web 2.0 / Semantic Web

Use of social media to reduce isolation

Do people understand ambient technology, do they want it?

Inclusive user interaction

Example of research line of ambient technologies accessing ubiquitous environments.

Technology Transfer

How can users be integrated into technology transfer process?

Market and business theme.

Public procurement

Internet for All

Mike Short, IET President

Going trend for mobile and tablets.

Mobile is a key factor on accessibility to the Internet.

Social Networks

Growth of Apps

Mobile OSs have “rules” for developers that could influence accessibility.

Taking accessibility from a sense perspective

6th sense – e.g. Location based services.

Infrastructure challenge – e.g. better online customer care and support.

Networks now about speed, ease of use, and support.

A human/user centred view required.

Research Challenges:

Global standards / user inputs – accessibility community not effectively inputting to standards.

Better understanding of data protection.

mapping Interoperability Requirements in Assisted Living

Graham Worsley – UK Technology Strategy Board

Assisted Living Innovation Platform (ALIP)

Challenges in assisted living – interoperability

4 successful projects funded 2012 on with a total of 169,000 users across the 4 projects.

Problem of non conformance with Medical Devices Directive when seeking to use customer’s own devices to deliver telecare.

The biggest challenges are organisational not technical.

What makes systems accessible?

Grunela Astbrink

What makes systems accessible is people!

E.g. Champions, Researchers, Company Designers, ….

Hardware and Software working seamlessly with network based services accessed by accessible interfaces.

WCAG 2.0, Equality Act 2010, Inclusive Design, Industrial Products – there are people behind all these.

Measuring Progress of eAccessibility in Europe (MeAC) – EU project:
Deficit Gap and Patchwork

Latest Study on telecoms, broadcasting and Internet
URL on slide see CARDIAC website

Examples of accessibility challenges:

– railway ticketing machine and people with intellectual disability (and all of us!)

– person with CP using a mobile phone (speech and dexterity problems)

Positive aspects:

Business Taskforce on Accessible Technology (BTAT)

– accessibility maturity model
– Accessibility Technology Charter

Investment in accessible ICT met a range of business goals.

Examples of easy to use mobile phones marketed for older people – initially a challenge to get business to see the opportunity.

Public Procurement:

Increased industry awareness.

EU Mandate 376

US and EU working towards harmonisation but challenges because of different perspectives.

Knowledge Sharing – a global community – need to include developing countries

“Nothing about us without us” including disabled people across research, standards development, etc.

Listening and heeding the lived experience of disability

Training and Mentoring.

Realistic end user focus.

Looking forward to research that will have a positive impact on making systems accessible!

Research Priorities for Accessible Smart Living

Peter Ball, Building Research Institute

Not noted because not relevant to my current role on access to education and the web.

How Fond Hopes Became Reality

Alan Newell, University of Dundee

Not a democrat – anything he has ever achieved has been done against popular support!

We need to improve our communications.

Book: Design at the Digital Divide

Mainstream technologists over-estimate the problems and underestimate the benefits of inclusive design

Data and guidelines are necessary but not sufficient – an empathy with potential users is required

How do we make mainstream designers to be a little bit more committed to inclusive design?

(c.f. Our paper on a challenge to web accessibility guidelines – for W4A – putting people and processes first)

Simple messages we put together forcibly – data and statistics are not that powerful at changing minds – what we need is stories! Data informs a good story changes minds. C.f literature and theatre. Appreciate disabled people as people not as statistics and stereotypes.

“The excellent is an enemy of the good”

Need rewards not guilt.

Inclusive design is:

– achievable with modest effort
– scientifically and technically challenging

Design for everyone is not a good design brief!!!

How to deliver the message?

Need narratives to build around our data – c.f. Scenario based design

Reality can be far too complex but fictional stories based on reality can help.

A good story is safe context for design.

Enlist the help of good communicators – film makers, advertisers, marketeers etc.

E.g. Dundee’s use of professional theatre in user based research.

(Note to self – how to employ in LA requirement capture work?)

Scriptwriters and actors are ethnographers.

Focus on the people rather than the technology.

A pragmatic solution is to offer trained actors as surrogates for disabled people. More easily available, can present particular combination of characters, skilled in think allowed – most general public are not, removes ethical problems, suspension of disbelief – therefor work with early prototypes before huge design effort has been invested.

The use of professional actors and scriptwriters needs to be budgeted into projects as much as other professionals e.g. developers and psychologists.

Note – Alan inspired me when I first started working in accessibility and still does!

A path forward

Greg Vanderheiden

There is a widening digital divide.

But many can’t use the modern interfaces for various reasons.

Access solutions are so complex that people who need then can’t use them.

Vendors of AT can’t serve all platforms and all devices. Many are in crisis.

We are currently loosing ground – only 3 – 15% of people in developed countries who need access technology are needing it.

Decreasing social resources – never been good at serving the tails.

We need something that is simpler, costs less per person,works across ICT, …

What if we have access on any device, anywhere? The GPII vision. Cloud based and using the power of everyday devices.

Cloud for all project EU funded

US funding for needs and preferences work (check out relation to IMS AfA)

Engineering Policy

Brian Collins

Note – engineering policy is ambiguous in English but both meanings are relevant.

Very little engineering policy as opposed to science policy in the UK.

Misalignment between accountability, authority and responsibility.

Digital Economies Programme of the UK research council.

Guido Gybels ICT Innovation Expert formally of RNID

Mainstream for most, specialised where needed – sometimes a tension here.

Many advantages of using mainstream technologies.

AT needs to be allowed to evolve.

AT as extension of the mainstream.

The technology is not the objective!

It is about citizenship/participation in society. This is not for a parallel society but for our society.

What are current technology drivers.

– social networking
– content is king
– connectivity + networking -> smart solutions
– cloud based storage and processing
– alternative input solutions e.g. Wii, Connetic

Get beyond requirements and pilots

Research Topics:

– battery technology
– ubiquitous user preference and ability profiling
– true smart (connected) solutions
– AI
– IPv6
– spectrum sharing, co-existence, new wireless technologies


– open standards, part of mainstream track
– insist on real-world business plans
– actively share and adopt best practice

Panel Discussion:

Not noted

New paper on planning for professionalism in accessibility

Just published in journal Research in Learning Technology is a paper I am a co-author on entitled:

Adapting online learning resources for all: planning for professionalism in accessibility

This blog post is a bit of shameless self publicity for this paper but is shared because we believe it contains important lessons for those seeking to address accessibility for disabled students especially in Higher Education.  The abstract and link to the full text follow:

Adapting online learning resources for all: planning for professionalism in accessibility

Patrick McAndrew, Robert Farrow and Martyn Cooper

Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK

(Received 7 May 2012; final version received 24 October 2012; Published 19 December 2012)


Online resources for education offer opportunities for those with disabilities but also raise challenges on how to best adjust resources to accommodate accessibility. Automated reconfiguration could in principle remove the need for expensive and time-consuming discussions about adaptation. On the other hand, human-based systems provide much needed direct support and can help understand options and individual circumstances. A study was carried out within an EU-funded accessibility project at The Open University (OU) in parallel with studies at three other European universities. The study combined focus groups, user-testing, management consultation and student survey data to help understand ways forward for accessibility. The results reinforce a holistic view of accessibility, based on three factors: positioning the university as a positive provider to disabled students; developing processes, systems and services to give personal help; and planning online materials which include alternatives. The development of a model that helps organisations incorporate professionalism in accessibility is described, though challenges remain. For example, a recurrent difficulty in providing adequate self-description of accessibility needs implies that a completely automated solution may not be attainable. A more beneficial focus, therefore, may be to develop systems that support the information flow required by the human “in the loop.”

Keywords: inclusion; students with disabilities; services; personalisation; evaluation; virtual learning environments; EU4ALL

The full text is freely available under a Creative Commons license at: 

Your comments would be most welcome!