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: 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


  • 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:
  • 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”
  • 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 –

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:


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:
  • 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.

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.

Random Quotes from JISC Digital Festival 2014

Here are a few random quotes I noted down while at the JISC Digital Festival 2014 in Birmingham this week. Apologies for when I didn’t note who said them.

Academics need to stay on top of the analytics movement and not get pushed around by it!

A related to the above:

How does technology get used in research -> What is this new “big data” and what can (can’t) it tell us?
[Prof. David Rowe, Oxford University]

From a different perspective:

Research and Teaching have now diverged at the Universities
[On Twitter]

From the presentation by the originator of the “Hole in the Wall Experiment!:

Children will learn to do what they want to learn to do!
[Sugata Mitra, Prof. Of Educational Technology at Newcastle University]

I will add to these as I review the archived talks that I did not attend which you can do by going to:

All Learning Theories are severely limited (“crap”)!

The following is a copy of my post in an interesting Facebook thread on Learning Theories

What Learning Theories try to model is nigh on impossible given the current state of our knowledge. We don’t understand how memory in the human brain works – from a cybernetics background I favour Neural Network models of memory and learning but our artificial Neural Networks are incredibly simple compared with the human brain. Philosophically learning raises the whole Mind and Body question. Some argue this does not exist or is solved but I maintain we have little idea of how the mind is really embodied. Further learning is much more than just memory – it sits within social and cultural contexts and is dependent on those. Then there is the whole issue of how we receive and perceive learning. We do this through our senses but Descartes et. al. taught us that we can not trust our senses – yet we still manage to learn through them. This raises the issue of Learning Styles already mentioned by Mark Childs. To my view Learning Styles are belief systems – memes if you like – and have little grounding in empirical science; yet there is a grain of truth in what they try to set forward. We learn differently through our different senses and individuals may have a preference for learning through one sense over another. In summary the brain is the most complex thing in the universe known to man – we kid ourselves if we think we understand how it works. Learning Theories are thus gross over-simplifications but if we accept that they can have their uses; but don’t ever think they come close to modelling what really goes on in the human mind when we learn. That all being said I have a soft spot for Diana Laurillard‘s conversational model – I give a brief account of this in the following blog post:

What have we learnt? – Transmitting knowledge, facilitating learning c1960-2010

29 November 2011, 10:30-15:30

The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA

Blog Post Introduction

I singed up for this seminar not because I expected that there would be a lot of content of direct relevance to my work on access to higher education (HE) for disabled students but because I think in all contexts it is important to know our histories.  Well my knowledge of the history of post war UK-based HE was greatly increased beyond my own experience of it, which begun in 1979, and a general awareness from current affairs coverage.  Then above that there were important highlights of direct relevance to my work.   The most notable being in all reports of studies of the experience of students in HE, there seems to be a total dearth of studies specifically looking at the experience of disabled students.

This fact is going to be both a challenge and an opportunity in a research project planned for next year looking at specifically the experience of Open University (OU) disabled students studying online.  It looks as if there is going to be much less work than I anticipated that we can draw on to contextualise what original research we can do within the scope of an internal project.   For OU colleagues this work is planned as part of the “Completing the Loop” project.

This blog consists of the title and abstract for each presentation taken from the official publicity available at: (Some readers may be interested in exploring other content on that blog of the History of The Open University project).  Then my bullet point notes of the presentation and discussions from most sessions.  My notes are in blue to differentiate them.  At a later date I will post another blog entry reflecting on the points of direct relevance to my work.  There should be a “pingback” in the comments below giving the link to this entry once I publish it.

Introduction (from the published programme)

Higher education has played a significant role shaping our culture and our social, religious, ideological and political institutions. Since the Second World War, in common with other western societies, the UK developed mass higher education from an élite format. New universities opened and existing institutions became polytechnics and later universities. In 1969 the Open University provided a new form of higher education institution. The existing universities developed new student bases and students engaged with a variety of communities

This one-day forum, organised by the History of The Open University project, brings together a range of experts to discuss elements of the history of higher education over 50 years.

The morning session will ask how have students been taught, looking at the move from traditional lectures and tutorials to the use of new technologies, a variety of pedagogies and the development of student-centred learning.

The afternoon session will reflect on 50 years of the student experience, placing learners’ perspectives at the centre.

Opening remarks:

Dr Dan Weinbren, History of the OU Project

  • How university learning has changed over last 50 years – exploring roots of changes towards a more helpful account
  • The importance of learners
  • Change in no. of students
  • Change in the range of students
  • Focus change – teaching to learning
  • Shift in nature of learning
  • New methods
  • Greater separation between research and learning
  • Team / multi-skill teaching
  • Shift in political landscape
  • Public purpose
  • Support of the nation
  • Root to stable social democracy
  • Contrast to limited training for a static labour market of Communism
  • Towards a human right
  • Globalisation
  • Quasi-markets and hollowed out state sector

How have students been taught?

Chair/commentator: Prof Mary Thorpe, The Open University

The doubts expressed about the equivalence of degrees from some universities compared to others have often been framed in terms of teaching methods. Others have promoted the validity and efficiency of a variety of methods including broadcasting, correspondence, telephone and online self-help groups. This session aims to promote discussion about how we understand the development of the current interest in student-centred learning.

Widening Participation: the post-war scorecard

Prof Malcolm Tight, Lancaster University.


Widening participation – though it has only recently been labelled as such – has been a continuing concern for policy makers and higher education institutions in the United Kingdom since 1945 (and before). This presentation will review the evidence for four key target groups – women, lower socio-economic groups, mature adults and ethnic minorities – to produce an overall assessment, a score card, of what has been achieved, and what remains to be done. It concludes that, while progress in the recruitment of women, mature adults and ethnic minorities has been substantial – though with some qualifications – it has been much less for lower socio-economic groups.



  • Longest standing concerns about participation in HE
  • Post WW2 uninterrupted progress in women’s participation – now arround 60%  – the problem now is men  😉
  • Problem of representation in STEM disciplines (only partially true e.g. not in biology and medicine but yes in physics, chemistry and engineering)
  • Under represented at highest levels
So fairly positive!
Ethnic minorities
  • More recent concern
  • Not as under represented as think but issues for particular minorities and gender/ethnicity issues
  • Concentrated at particular institutions (urban newer universities)
  • Although done well their experience is different
Mature Adults
  • Long history 1870s or before
  • Only became a group of focus in 1970s/80s
  • Close relation between mature study and part-time study
People from lower socio-economic backgrounds
  • A concern for a long time (mid C19th)
  • Do so much a tale of discrimination but the structures they live in (e.g. get away from education to get a job)
  • When attend tend to have different experience
  • Where universities could be said to fall down most
  • Not really catching up
Giving the sector a mark: Women 5/5,  Ethnic 3.5-4/5,  Mature Adults 3/5,  Lower socio-economic groups 1/5
We need non-graduates as well!
What further might we do?
NB – Disability did not appear as an issue in the literature until 1980s so not included in above analysis.
[I would like to check that out further]
Oxbridge still seen as a norm.
Widening participation vs widening access

Supporting isolated remote learners

Prof Judith George, The Open University


This presentation focuses on the challenge of meeting the needs of learners in the remote and isolated communities in Scotland, and the needs of ALs (tutors) on the ground who supported them:

  • developing structures of support which met affective as well as cognitive needs
  • the use of technologies as they came on stream
  • developing tools for confident professionalism for the equally isolated ALs (tutors)
  • the use of action research to evaluate innovation
  • creative interactions with the wider educational context and a developing identity for the OU in Scotland.

This was a period of great change in adult education in Scotland; the Alexander report on community education, for example, the Scottish Committee on Open Learning, pilot work on credit rating and transfer, the impact of nationalism and local demands for university provision – leading to the creation of the University of the Highlands and Islands, and of the Dumfries Crichton Campus provision.  The OU played a significant role in all this, building a distinctive identity and making a unique contribution within Scotland and the wider educational context.

Presentation not noted (but very interesting)

Discussion points:
  • Increase of technology (internet) does not seem to have increased reach  – but many remote areas can not yet receive broadband.
  • Also strong link to local cultures re: comparison with University of Highlands and Islands (is UHI a success?)
  • Everybody is a remote learner
  • Radio is underused (OU now only uses it as it does TV  – not specifically course linked)

‘Redrawing the Map of Learning’? The Experience at the First Plateglass University

Prof Fred Gray, University of  Sussex


The University of Sussex, given its Royal Charter in August 1961, was the first ‘plateglass’ university. Five decades ago it was seen as part of ‘the greatest single expansion of higher education England has  ever known’.Sussexand the other new universities that followed it depended on critical elements of state intervention.

There was substantial new government funding for universities and students. And in place of the old apprenticeship system of university colleges controlled by the older and established universities, the new institutions began life as full universities – hence the Royal Charter – conferring their own degrees, ‘controlling their own curriculum and free to experiment as they think right’.

These new possibilities and freedoms allowed universities such as Sussex to innovate. To use the phrase of the first Vice-Chancellor, John Fulton, the Sussex mission was about ‘making the future’ for students and society by developing a radical new curriculum based on interdisciplinarity and using new organisational forms (departments were dispensed with). The purpose was to ‘provide undergraduates with the combined benefits of specialized and general education’. Asa Briggs, the driving force behind the developments at Sussex, saw this as ‘redrawing the map of learning’. But Sussex also drew on elements of higher education orthodoxy and could never (even if it had wanted to) throw off the tag of being ‘Balliol By The Sea’.

Just what was done at Sussex? What was the impact on students and faculty? How do we measure the success of the Sussex experiment? And how did the experiment change over time?

  • Focus on 10 years period
  • Sussex first post-war university
  • Postwar consensus – labour and conservative – re-construction after the war
  • HE should expand for family aspirations / international competition / to educate managers for new Wealthy State
  • “Education as the new universal religion” [Fulton VC Sussex]
  • Importance of HE to Brighton’s regeneration
  • Campus based – transforming landed estates c.f. York and even OU
  • Royal Charter critically important – degree awarding powers – control content of degrees
  • Backed by substantial Government funding / and funding of Students!!!
What happened at Sussex?
  • Focus on students, little focus on research
  • Prospectus – generalised and specialised
  • Great quotes from David Diaches and Asa Briggs (sorry not noted)
  • Radical elements – new curriculum – abandoned faculties, interdisciplinary
  • “Balliol by the Sea” [Times] copied from Oxford – tutorial and essay based
  • “Be still and know” motto
  • Sussex students selected and self selecting
  • Early interest in what we now call “widening participation”
  • Growth 3,000 – 12,000 students
  • Scientists not interesting in the tutorial model
  • Disciplinary strength threatened Sussex model
  • Research funding unsympathetic
  • The post war consensus eroded

TV broadcasts: the public face of OU teaching – what did we learn over three decades?

Prof Andy Northedge, The Open University


Three decades of Open University TV broadcasts present a kind of family album, offering fascinating glimpses of the university’s growth and development as it learned the craft of distance teaching in full public view. We see the various faculties working out how to use television to teach, how to design compelling programmes and how to speak to students in their own homes. The History of The Open University project commissioned a review of thirty OU TV programmes, spanning the 1970s, 80s and 90s to provide an overview of the range and variety of broadcasts and the ways they changed over the years. The review reveals rich variety, sharp contrasts and impressive ability to adapt and develop. This presentation will offer selected highlights and some general conclusions.

  •  Presentation based on lots of video samples so not noted.
Link to full report on History of  OU blog site:

What’s it like to be a student? Reflections on fifty years of change

Chair/commentator: Prof David Vincent, The Open University

Having considered the changes in how learning was supported over half a century, the emphasis this afternoon will be on reception. Some of the themes of the morning will be revisited but from different perspectives.

Students in places: general and particular

Prof Harold Silver


What the research on students and higher education (HE) tells us and does not tell us, e.g. history of sectors and structures, institutions, change and reputations.

Meanings of student ‘experience’: expectations, perceptions (what kind and of what), the learning environment, outcomes, identities.

Students, HE, Elites, leaders, participants, professionals, occupations.   Examples from 1960s – Robbins, Latey, choices, new universities, towards the OU, student movements – and late/end/turn of century, e.g. CNAA, polytechnics, colleges, policies and spokespersons

Types of research on students (UK, US) and categories of students (full/part-time, mature, gender, ‘adolescent’), persistence, success and failure, social class, statistics and people. A particular case – students with disabilities.

Possible implications for the history of students in contexts (competition, marketing, policy….) and the history of the OU.

  • A shame nothing said so far about outside UK
  • Will mention some American research but will not be talking about America
  • Focus on the experience of students
  • How do we know the aim, and perspectives of students
  • What do you know, how do you know it?
  • Talk mainly about research on the student experience (an apology)
  • Begins with the Robins report (admirable descriptor of students in HE in – 1963)
  • Hale Committee on Teaching and Learning in University (1963) did not get the publicity but v. good.
  • Most important of many discussions in 1960s: Peter Marris, “The Experience of Higher Education” (1964)
  • “While the growth of higher education has questioned its aims the aims of its students remain unconsidered.”
  • In 1968, 3 years after Warwick University opened students reported valuing an independent university in contrast to state organised polytechnic sector
  • 37 years later “What’s a former polytechnic and why is it so bad?” – Quote from an Internet chat site
  • What research can we identify as being important?
  • 1960s students in their “deferred adulthood”
  • Later adulthood on political agenda
  • Student hostility to exclusion from the academic side of the university (part of 1960s radicalism not often highlighted)
  • Students in the 1970 perceived as having lost their idealism
  • Students anxiety about their learning processes – they want to succeed, feel their views need to be taken account of
[Some of presentation not noted]
Concluding point:
NB  – the published research almost totally does not ask of disabled students their views and aims!  Talks about support but not the student perspective!
[MC to check with research from Leeds, Southampton, John Richardson’s work, etc.]

Internationalisation and the University of Nottingham

Prof John Beckett,University of Nottingham


The Times has described the University of Nottingham as being ‘the closestBritainhas to a truly global university’. The University first began to consider developing international campuses, rather than simply attracting overseas students to study in Nottingham, in the early 1990s. The need to attract overseas students in a competitive market came together with an internationalisation strategy involving both teaching and research. By 2006, two campuses in Asia had been established, in Malaysia and China, and today Nottingham recruits more international students than any other UK university. This paper will examine internationalisation in terms of curriculum, teaching and student experience with particular reference to the campus at Ningbo, China, and will consider also the extent to which the UK higher education model has been successfully implemented in China. It will also address the question of inter-cultural understanding and the development of an international focus in teaching and learning for home students at Nottingham.

  • Not noted

Student Community Action and Social Education, c. 1970-1985

Dr Georgina Brewis, Institute of Education


Student volunteering in the UK has a long history, from university settlements and missions in the nineteenth century to workcamps for the unemployed in the interwar period to CND protesting and Student Community Action (SCA) after the Second World War. However, there has generally been greater historical interest in the more overtly ‘political’ activities of students, ignoring other forms of social action that have shaped students’ lives. This paper will show that a study of student volunteering, fundraising or campaigning can deepen our understanding of the changing ‘student experience’ in late-twentieth century Britain. Based on Student Community Action publications and a witness seminar with the movement’s former leaders, this paper will focus on SCA and its contribution to the social education of university students in the 1970s and 1980s. It explores the educative function of participation for students themselves, arguably of greater value than students’ contributions to local communities. It shows how involvement in SCA was connected to a wider critique of the function of universities and course content, contributing to debates about broadening access to higher education.

  • Drawing on students own words and own writing
  • In UK little formal citizenship programmes (different from USA)
  • Student movements shape youth culture more broadly
  • Successive generations of students seek to distance themselves from the previous generations
  • Overseas volunteering schemes emerged in 1950s – impact on their return to university on subsequent volunteering
  • 1960s radicalism – wider questioning of the value of higher education – student volunteering used in these arguments
  • Boundaries between fundraising, volunteering and activism blurred from late 1960s on
Notes on Student Community Action:
Course content:
  • SCA demanded changes in course content
  • Role of social studies
  • View that volunteering in past had been separate from studies and this was a cause of failing
  • Students questioning if courses relevant to the social needs they become aware of through SCA

Community relations

  • Students express acute awareness of separation from surrounding community and the demands the university put on them
  • How about making university resources/facilities available to the community?
Educative function for participation in SCA:
  • Awareness raising remains essential
  • Skills development, project management, etc.
Cross curriculum volunteering modules developed across many universities not just pre 97
  • Controversial – not proper volunteering; not proper learning

Distances and distance technologies. A review of rhetoric and reality

Dr Janet Macdonald, Higher Education Consultant


How successful have distance technologies been at meeting the challenges of study at a distance?  To what extent has the rhetoric met the reality of life as a distance learner?  The OU has a long and proud history of deploying distance technologies to support learners and has developed a wonderful array of online tools with the potential to extend traditional methods of distance learning into new and exciting territory.  This presentation will focus on the student experience of learning with distance technologies over the past few years, drawing on studies of the practicalities, joys and perils of life as a distance student.

Janet has 20 years’ experience as a tutor of remote students, a remote research student studying student perspectives on online learning, and finally from working with fellow staff in a “remote” national centre at the OU in Scotland. She has now retired from the OU and undertakes consultancy in online and distance learning.

  • 1985 – OU guide to communicating remotely – including telephone techniques
  • Horizon Reports – forecast emerging technologies however …
  • So much depends on the context
  • What do students need to do
  • What are the constraints
  • What do the technologies enable?
  • Reading and listening (large number OU courses still using print)
  • Some students find electronic format particularly helpful
  • Online quizzes one way making sense of content
  • But depends on people writing the module for seeing the issues
  • What do tutors do? e.g. history tutors very different from maths tutors
  • When is staff student contact important (e.g. the tricky parts of the course? – How technology and or face-to-face used facilitate this?)
  • 1990 “No new conference messages” in online tutor groups
  • Development of plenary groups – Module wide – a Major headache for staff – too many messages – no one knows who is not taking part
  • Peer groups have grown up on university networks and Facebook etc.
  • Use what is appropriate to the context
  • Students can be in touch with Alumni
  • Note-takeing – old lecture theatres might not accommodate laptops
  • Fulminating from George Orwell on writing by cut and paste (1946!):

George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language” 1946

… modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy.” 

  • Searching and researching user generated content is not new – example of Chinese ancient annotation on poetry
  • Online systems made a big difference to how much students are exposed to – but behoves to us to remember that an awful lot is to be learnt from what has already happened with past technologies/approaches that is applicable.
Much to reflect on – not time to reflect or note reflection now – but I will revisit this.

Near Live Blog from the Universal Learning Design 2011 Conference

Logo of Universal Learning Design conferenceI am attending the Universal Learning Design 2011 Conference this week, in Brno, Czech Republic, see: I will attempt a near live blog of the highlights of selected talks and my thoughts on them. Links to the details of each session from the conference programme and live webcasts are given. (I don’t know yet if the webcasts will be made available after the conference.)


Wed, 9 Feb 2011

[all times CET = GMT+1]

09:00 – 09:45

Welcome Addresses
Opening address (in Czech with simultaneous translation) from Jan Svatoň Vice-Rector for Student Welfare and Lifelong Learning of Masaryk University (the host university).  A public university striving to make education accessible to all.  15 years since took first organisational steps towards this.  Providing accessible courses requires commitment from all teaching staff.  Also provides accessible accommodation and meeting other needs.  Committed to continuing to develop this policy.
Making university education accessible is the responsibility of the whole academic world!
Thank you for sharing your experiences!
Second opening address from Zdeněk Škromach, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:
Recognises the leadership of Masaryk University in this field nationally and in Europe.
The creation of a favourable support network very important.  Attitudes in society need to be modified as well as access legislation.
Third opening address (!!!) by Jiří Nantl Director General of the Higher Education Section of the Ministry of Education.
The contribution to legislation, Making higher education is expensive, government support for these additional costs required, planned in Czech Republic for 2012 on.  But most of the job needs to be done by higher education institutions.
The fourth opening address (!!!!) by Václav Krása Chairman of the Czech National Disability Council:
Particularly providing support for people with visual and hearing impairments.  Support for disabled students at tertiary level has been lower than at school age education and this is a major barrier to equality in employment.
Fifth opening address (!!!!!) by Petr Peňáz Head of the Support Centre for Students with Special Needs of Masaryk University:
Quote from university senate minuets before the centre was founded: “Member of academic senate: Please tell me do the other universities establish such centres as well? – Rector: yes they do, at least one does” – represents the hesitant initial attitudes.
Welcome and thank yous!


09:50 – 10:20

Universal Design and Disabled Students: From Inclusion to Excellence

Prof. Alan Hurst (Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities, UK)

[Powerpoint on conference website]
Most difficulties encountered created by staff not realising the importance of teaching inclusively.
Want to move away from fighting fires to preventing fires; from reaction to pro-action.
We are all responsible for disabled students if we claim to work in an inclusive institutions.
Course and study programmes need to be barrier free.  We need to anticipate need – therefore less need for individual adjustments.
Universal design:
  1. Shifting from a medical (deficit) model to a social model
  2. Trying to encourage disabled students to live as independently as possible and enable choice
  3. Focus not on equality (treating everybody the same – we are not the same) but on equity (treating fairly).

E.g. Teachability Project in Scotland.

What are the core requirements every student must be able to do?  Then can define reasonable adjustments.

Curriculum requirements

In UK obsession with facilitation of attendance – but UK university doing best for disabled students requires little attendance – The Open University [thanks for the plug Alan!]

What about assessment?  How much scope for flexibility? What information do we give students and how early?  Difference between modified assessment (e.g. additional time) or alternative assessment (e.g assessment in sign language).  Who is responsible fr making assessment arrangements?  It must be a mainstream task to do this not the task of a disability unit.

What about quality?  The role of the professional bodies.  The danger of the “we have always done it that way” syndrome!

Information provision to disabled students before start university – accessibility of web based information systems.

Students participation in social life.  E.g. integrated accommodation.

What about carers guidance, access to higher level study?

The Law

  • Reasonable Adjustments
  • Anticipatory Duties

Good course delivery practice anticipating needs reduces need to reasonable adjustments – cost and time savings!

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) – Code of Practice Part 3 (Disabled Students)

(Examples given but not noted here)

“A law cannot guarantee what a culture will not give” (Mary Johnson 2003)

More important than the law is changing people attitudes.

Evidence of major progress:

When disability services are seen as value added provision  in universities rather than additional institutional expense


11:15 – 11:25

HEAG – A Survey on Accessibility and Universal Design provided by European Higher Education Institutions

Andrea Petz (Johannes Kepler University of Linz)
Klaus Miesenberger (Johannes Kepler University of Linz)

Results of research project HEAG
Institute Integriert Studieren, Linz University
Supporting disabled students since 1991
(In Austria people with dyslexia and learning disabilities not acknowledged in terms of funding)
HEAG – Installed 29 national agencies for gaining information
Supported by EU LLL and Jean Monet
Going abroad as  student an important part of student experience – important for disabled students too!
But a huge amount of reliable up-to-date information needed
What did
Core Issues:
Key Data
Available Institute Support
Access to built environment
Support for Teaching and Learning (including exam conditions)
Finance issues
Access to social life
What found
Tower of babel – even 3 different German versions because of variations in technical terms
Different definitions of disability
Difference in structure of HE
Services and funding totally different
Found formal generic data some with contact numbers but little more
Resultant project database available via website:
What is missing is the use of access for disabled students to the information.
See also Study Abroad Without Limits project (no co-operation to date)


13:30 – 14:00

Meaningful Means of Making Universities Accessible and Their Meaning(fulness) in Practice

Petr Peňáz (Teiresias Centre, Masaryk University)

Some Historical Background
Example of historic inclusion of disabled people – e.g. court jesters, painting of Velásquez …
Monumental institutions arose in industrial Europe in 19th century. Lead to development of tactile languages and sign languages.
Impairment was combined with war politics. E.g. Hotel des Invalids in Paris.
Still depending on historic reality and repeating considerations.
Dark side of monumental projects was the everyday reality inside was much worse than their external publicity.  E.g. First criticism of special education known to presenter – Rutebeuf, Les ordes de Paris (1260)
The modern situation
Generally throughout Europe acceptance in policy of information needs of the blind in 1980s and the recognition of sign languages in 1990s.
Different concepts of disabilities with respect to education in different countries.
Demonstration from different concepts uploaded to diffident language versions of Wikipediea [MC: Nice high level demonstration]
Many European countries skipped the technological stage of instructional design.
All encompassing concept of design for all or education all accepted but often with no factual basis
Problematic Stereo types:
  1. We know what special educational needs are? – Issue of individual needs – responses to the needs of different people can conflict. General approaches do not work!
  2. Education offered separately is a sin of our fathers! – Idealistic, ill conceived inclusion can be a step back. Let us not criminalise special separate education
  3. A person with disability is the only arbiter of accessibility – Democratic education principle of Europe.  Let us not delegate to student what should be the role of the professional
  4. The main guarantee of accessibility is that of an educational counsellor – counselling does not cover most part of the service – it directs to the services – network of service providers to be created c.f. networks of counsellors
  5. A personal educational assistant must be provided when counselling is not sufficient. – Let us make sure university’s do not provide personal assistants unless there is evidence for reasons

Meaningful investments in accessible tertiary education conditioned by professional services.  Setting the boundaries between universal design and reasonable adjustments.  Admit what are the tasks of the school and what of the student.  Accept that there are limits to accessibility. Sharing services between schools and creation of servicing networks.

Question from MC on balance between Student and Institution in defining their educational needs and how best met.  Answer – need an offering and then feedback but often teachers ask what should I do for you.  Students often tell stories about their own case but not really facilitate analysis of how needs best met.


16:05 – 16:35

Universal Accessibility of Documents: Workflows and Tools for Efficient Service Provision

Klaus Miesenberger (University of Linz)

16:45 – 17:00

ICT revolution -> Digital media enabling us to present documents in different ways – design for all documents. Conversion to alternative formats. With digital rights management – different business models.

That was the big promise – but! (Holistic approach needs more than just access to documents) Fear from existing service providers not founded.

We are struggling to make fully accessible documents.  Review of documents from publishers shows metadata and structure not there to extract text in a linear form (footnotes, bibliographies, etc.)  Colour used to order text.

Challenge is for new co-operations to efficiently integrate different resources into service provision systems.

Looking towards multi-channel publishing. – Guidelines and examples, in their tool. Conversion to Daisy.  Still no text order.  The publishing process is changing and this defeats the process – handed out to cheapest bidder – not aware of structured documents.

Need to take process into our hands.

Much effort goes into diagrams and the metadata.  Need an efficient work flow.  With Library community METAe project.  Structured content – XML wrappers around OCR documents

Workflow management tool – docWORKS[e]

Image processing supported

Export to existing standards

Working on conversion tools


To be outlined in Access to Documents Sessions but in summary:

End-user devices are changing – e.g. Kindle (lead to changes in publishing process to benefit accessibility)

New Assistive Devices

Publishing Sector is changing

Copyright question – Memorandum of understanding in Europe been signed but not yet in force at national level.

Teaching and Learning is changing – lots of use of electronic material, VLEs, social-networks (see EU4ALL)

New Services – crowd-sourcing, e.g.

No-linear content – maths, chemistry etc.  Further effort needed to come to proper solutions

Pen based interfaces – hand written notes – how to deal with?

Clients are charging – designed for different target groups

Easy to read

Captions and sub-titling – how to extend printed document to multimedia document with video using these?

Lip-reading – how to integrate

From Access to documents -> Total conversion

eAccess+ network – European stakeholder exchange.

A big challenge but no need to fear!

Need holistic approach!

Requires evolving management skills.

Questions: – metadata engine – tool from CCS, Hamburg Germany – metadata created automatically with 85-90% accuracy.


17:35 – 18:05

“Guidelined” and “Principled” Web Content Accessibility – What It Means in Practice of Universities

Ing. Svatoslav Ondra (Teiresias Centre, Masaryk University)

My blogging fingers are flagging but very interesting presentation about provision at Masaryk University which included the provision of specialist IT skills courses for disabled students – this is a big challenge for the Open University made harder by being a distance learning university.


Thur, 10 Feb 2011

[all times CET = GMT+1]

09:00 – 09:10

The Guide to Accessible Digital Content

Afra Pascual (University of Barcelona)
Mireia Ribera (University of Barcelona)
Miquel Térmens (University of Barcelona)
Llúcia Masip (University of Barcelona)
Toni Granollers (University of Barcelona)
José Luís Gonzàlez (University of Barcelona)
Marina Salse (University of Barcelona)
Jorge Franganillo (University of Barcelona)
Bruno Splendiani (University of Barcelona)

Basic Concept:
Accessibility in digital documents benefits everybody
Particular benefits for those with special needs
Poor practice found among teachers
Guide to accessible digital content -13 guidelines
Support to digital content editors
Simple step by step guidance
Chapter organised by document type and editing tools
Templates – with structural guidelines, model of semantic markup to facilitate tagging, use of macros to create alternative version
Doc->Basic Accessible Model->Adapted versions->selection by students
Currently in Testing Stage
Propose to integrate templates into Moodle, translate to different languages, and roll out
Solution for University of Barcelona
Guidelines (Spanish/Catalan) available online:


09:15 – 09:45

Access to Maths and Science for Print Impaired People

Dominique Archambault (University Pierre et Marie Curie)

Always been a problem for visually impaired people – assume blindness does not prevent understanding maths – e.g. some blind mathematicians – currently only the best.
Problem access to the content –
  • Linear nature of speech  and Braille
  • Additional use of graphics to visualise and explain the maths
Consequences  are dramatic – harder for blind children to learn – barriers to science
Example fractions in algebra: representation changes c.f. computer science changing a tree
Braille representation much longer
Different math codes per country developed according to culture of the countries
German formal, French good for simple maths, American built on others but very complex
Ambiguity in interpretation of spoken maths. (ref to US study but detail not given)
E.g. product 1st order algebraic terms – visualisation helps students process the product – same for simplification of fraction
20 years research of group:
reading, understanding,
doing (manipulating, calculating, solving)
Create Braille docs – converters – LeTeX/MathML to different Maths Braille, and visa versa for sighted teachers to read Perkins Braille created by students.  Some work on DAISY and similar features (later presentation)
Universal Maths Conversion Library
(International collaboration) – OS library in C
Based on Canonical MathML
LaTeX to MathML
Outputs to multiple Braille versions including British
Maths Player (Internet Explorer Plug-in)
Layout and some formulas to speech
Will convert to Braille (UMC) – within a few months
dots plus [View Plus]
Provides two-dimensional tactile representation
Paper presentation but can’t manipulate/modify
Anticipate hardware project with dynamic tactile display (e.g. tactile iPad)
Maths Genie [Karshmer]
Formula browser
Set of prototypes extend formula browser approach to Braille – supported by UMC
Research prototype
Lambda Project
Manipulating calculating and solving
Working prototypes
Accessible Maths Documents
Direct Braille limits possibilities
New Software allows conversion MathML to various formats
Use valid MathML representation
Different Solutions depending on situation
Document Design
Accessible format not enough
LaTeX orMathML bust be used appropriately – common practices break accessibility approaches
Need accessible guidles for document creation
Summer School:
Some tools exist
Little knowledge by teachers
Create Hands on workshosp
This year July 29-Aug 3 at Masaryk University


09:50 – 10:20

Accessibility Issues in a Digital Mathematical Library

Petr Sojka (Masaryk University)

Building something like Google Scholar for Maths that is for all but includes Accessible Maths
Mathematicians dream of all mathematical knowledge on a laptop hard drive (2003 project to NSF not funded)
EuDML project pilot recently started 2010:


10:25 – 10:35

odt2daisy: Preparing Accessible Documents at the DTBook Format with

Dominique Archambault (University Pierre et Marie Curie)
Jan Engelen (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)

DAISY now widely used worldwide
DTBook is accessible book format part of DAISY and maintained by its standards
How produce accessible book?
Manual XML, DAISY authoring Software,  Authoring/Production Tools
Produced an extension to Open Office  (OS) [MC comment – it is horrible to use for editing large documents IMHO]
OO has introduced various accessibility features
->LibreOffice (totally free including of rights!)
odt2dtbook is an OO extension developed by University Pierre et Marie Curie then further by University of Leuven in Aiges Prject see:
Includes page numbering – reference original book
Supports maths and alternative content.


11:15 – 11:45

Specific Learning Disorders – Principles for an Equal Opportunity Learning Environment

Prof. Willy Aastrup (The Danish School of Education, Aarhus University)

A learning perspective approach – seeking to go beyond the perspective of accessibly towards usability which implies transformation from social model approach to … (a new model to be described)
This does not mean the social model approach is not relevant and accessibility is not important.
Counselling and Support Centre should focus on productivity and quality:
Supports 1400 students, 1100 with specific grants
Target students with specific educational difficulties including disabilities and dyslexia (not responsible for access to buildings, transport)
Local function, region function, research centre. – A part of academia not an administrative service. Part of Faculty of Arts which includes education.
Challenges for the universities (political drivers):
  • Higher productivity (more candidates (for same money!)
  • Quality focus (Bologna Process)
  • Inclusion
  • Diversity
Objectives for Education:
  • Good quality in own right
  • Qualifications
  • Employability
Bologna Process: Emphasis on employability.
How combined in Inclusive Higher Education?:
  1. No special curricular
  2. Obtaining the required competences
  3. Evaluation documented

Models of disability:

  1. Medical
  2. Social -> accessibility & usability (a quality issue)
  3. Possibilities approach (conf. UN) ->
  • Nature of impairment
  • Available resources
  • The individual

Student potential -> an option if they live up to the academic skills/

Disability Policy for AU:

Equal Educational Environment

Counselling and Educational Practice Centre:

  • Creates compensation options in relation to educational difficulties.
  • Evidence based

E.g. for students with dyslexia – social counselling: for academic practice, study support

“learn to learn!”

Assistive technology – laptop loans and scanning software and Dictaphone and synthetic speech/spelling programmes – The package!

Students instructed 1:1 on use of equipment concerning specific field of study 6-8 hours – so can use in a productive way the package

N.B. diversity of students with dyslexia

Individual assistance – 9-12 sessions per semester, also 1:1, the academic basis is what the student is studying, co-operative effort, student must be active, adapted to individual need.  Note taking, time management, aural presentation, etc.

Pycho-social “illness” in learning context

Aims again to facilitate process of identity formation

“Don’t have students with diagnosis”

If need therapy done elsewhere.

Aim to make there learning more effective specific to their context – so can self regulate their learning processes.

Holistic approach coordinated with teaching subjects focussed on the study issues not their “illness”

Aim is employability on open labour market and live independently

After 2 years study performance is average (grade points)

Drop out rate – better than average

Student progression slower although grade scores comparable with other students (studies sometimes delayed by treatment or study half-time to meet their needs)


About funding –

Test for dyslexia done by centre (accredited).  Those with psycho-social conditions need certificate from doctor but centre then evaluates further.

If pass qualifies for support.

Who pays – most comes from ministry of education (very bureaucratic).

Foreign students pay for the service but university pays for initial assessments – dealt with on a case by case basis depending on their source of funding.  Provide support within 5 days of arrival.  (Does not cover deaf-students)


13:30 – 14:00

The Hybrid Book – One Document for All

Petr Hladík (Masaryk University, Teiresias Centre)
Tomáš Gůra (Masaryk University, Teiresias Centre)

Started in 2002 as solution for blind and VI students for textual content – further developed.
Screen-readers etc. can give access to information but can make access to structure and navigation difficult.
Hybrid book to synchronise between two types of content -electronic text (HTML) plus audio recording of the text (human-voice)
Human voice has special advantages – e.g. language learning – other special content.
Complimented with navigation functions.
[Very similar to Open University’s DREAM / ReadOut – which now being phased out and being replaced by web (VLE) content or DAISY talking books as appropriate]
Navigation types:
  • sequential
  • block
  • outline (headings)


Hybrid-book3 – dealing with the needs of other users – especially hearing impaired

Now adding video recording with translation of text to sign language.  Using structures to enable synchronisation.  Can do this for any content that is readable sequentially. Audio and video records linked by XML descriptions in metadata. Web based App in PHP/Javascript, video recording played in Flash, audio compressed.  Simultaneous playback possible but not a priority – better for user to be able to switch between playback formats. Navigation structure simplified.

Demonstration of 1st prototype (still under development)

Further development – quality web based hybrid-book app, improving quality of multimedia output (still using human voice, human signers), Authoring tools only currently exist of synchronising audio so area for further development.

Question – why not DAISY – Answer:  video recording, synchronising other types of records and descriptive system different from DAISY – from outside the document, every record, data stream described separately so can add, at any stage, a new record.


Live-blog discontinued to attend EU4ALL Workshop the leave for the airport
For information on EU4ALL See:


The Laurillard Conversational Model & Accessibility

The following is based on an extract from a paper in preparation for “Computers and Education” – “E-learning, Accessibility & Pedagogy: In search of the missing tools of practice” by Jane Seale (University of Southampton) & Martyn Cooper (The Open University) –

The Laurillard Conversational Model
Contemporary accounts of student learning accept that it is an active process and depends on interaction. Laurillard [1] offers a model of student / tutor / courseware interaction, and this is outlined briefly here. Laurillard offers a classification of educational media based on a conversational framework (after Pask and with due deference to Socrates), which identifies the activities necessary to complete the learning process. She considers the learning process as a kind of conversation, and asserts that this process ‘must be constituted as a dialogue between teacher and student (or student and student), operating at the level of description of actions in the world’. Her classification system is based on the type of interaction between instructor and student when a particular medium is used. She classifies educational media as discursive, adaptive, interactive and reflective, and raises issues about the nature of feedback, goals and control of student learning. Her review of media asserts that currently only tutoring systems and a combination of tutorials and simulations can claim to address the entire learning process as specified in her model. However her conclusion is not that these are the only worthwhile media, but that educators should consider media combinations to construct learning packages that combine complementary features. Summative and formative assessment can form one aspect of the interaction referred to in the model (although the author has predominantly used it when analysing practical work in science and engineering education, which of course in itself can be assessed). The teacher constructs the assessment, the student interacts with it and there is feedback via the marking and review process.

The Laurillard Conversational Model
Figure 1 - The Laurillard Conversational Model

In her 1995 summary of these ideas Laurillard highlights how different modes of learning map onto the conversational model. For example “Learning through acquisition” (teacher as storyteller or lecturer) maps to a left to right arrow in Figure 1 from the teachers conceptual knowledge to that of the students. In assessment teacher can implement a wide range of leaning modes depending on the types of examination and question chosen. This could include “Guided discovery” that requires all the conversational components indicated in Figure 1.

Accessibility and the Laurillard Model
Key in the Laurillard Model are the various conversations it embodies. Laurillard uses these to analyse the use of media in learning. However this can be further extended to analyse the accessibility of all the media used to support these different conversations. One aspect of the Laurillard model points to practical forms of assessment where the teacher sets up something in the “real” world for the student to examine, interact and reflect upon. Practical exams are not specifically a topic of this post however there is a growing trend to make practical available as part of an eLearning context. The author led a major EU funded project PEARL [] that argued such remote controlled labs could increase access to practical work, particularly in science and engineering subjects, for disabled students.

[1] Laurillard, D. (1993) Rethinking university teaching, Routledge, London