DIVERSE: A new JISC-funded project

I’m pleased to report that this week, Dr. John Murray and I were awarded one of JISC’s Teaching and Learning Innovation Grants. As usual, you can read the full bid to JISC on Google Docs. Very roughly, it’s a study of what happens when Social Bookmarking and Learning Analytics meets Student as Producer. I think it’s going to be a really interesting project, and I’m looking forward to working with John, the Principle Investigator, and two of his students.

This project will undertake a cross-departmental study of the use of ‘resource clouds’ for subject research, peer-review and validation of materials. It will build on DIVERSE, a tool for crowd-sourcing relevant subject resources, to determine student understanding of lecture and assignment topics. Through an analysis of qualitative and quantitative data, it will examine why students favour particular resources, determine how reading lists can be more effectively created and provide case studies of how students can contribute to lecture design.

This programme of funding requires a different application process, using a template and interview format. I think this is to improve the efficiency of bidding and judging, although in my case I spent more time on this bid and then preparing for the interview than any previous application! I quite enjoyed it and the online interview afforded me a bit more confidence than sitting face to face in a room as I was able to refer to written notes a lot more than if were I in right in front of the panel.

While talking to the interview panel I realised that I am in a fortunate position to be working in the Centre for Educational Research and Development, which leads the University’s Teaching and Learning Strategy (Student as Producer), as well as sharing the responsibility for technology for research, teaching and learning with the Library and ICT department. It’s these close working relationships with all the right people and the great support and enthusiasm we have from the Vice Chancellor’s Office, the Dean of Teaching and Learning, Head of ICT and the University Librarian, that allows me to talk with confidence about undertaking and sustaining our work.

As you’ll see from the full grant application, development of the DIVERSE tool was funded internally by the Student as Producer project under our Fund for Educational Development. I’m happy to say that DIVERSE will be the first project that our new group provides support for as we intend to do for many other projects. We’ll be ensuring that John and his students are able to integrate the DIVERSE tool into our CWD+Nucleus+OAuth framework over the summer in time for the new academic year.

This is exactly the model that I hope we can keep repeating: students and staff with good ideas around the use of technology for education (it doesn’t have to be software development!)  bid internally for a small amount of funding where required and, if successful, then we provide the appropriate institution-wide advocacy and support (technical integration, training, joint research, etc.). If such projects are also able to attract external funding, it suggests we’re doing the right thing.

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