OxTALENT - Oxford Teaching and Learning Enhanced by New Technology
OxTALENT is an interest group bringing together representatives from the academic divisions within the University. Its activities are overseen by the OxTALENT Committee. The remit of OxTALENT is as follows:
- to act as a steering group to raise awareness, promote interaction, and stimulate the use of IT in teaching and learning across the University
- to assist PRAC ICT in formulating policy on matters relating to IT training
- to act as an advisory group to the Learning Technologies Group at IT Services.
OxTALENT is an interest group bringing together representatives from the academic divisions within the University.
Date of the next meeting: 1 May 2013
Committee minutes and reports:
- OxTALENT Jan13 minutes.pdf
- OxTALENT Oct12 minutes.pdf
- OxTALENT May12 minutes.pdf
- OxTALENT Jan12 minutes.pdf
- OxTALENT Oct11 minutes.pdf
- OxTALENT May11 minutes.pdf
- OxTALENT Jan11 minutes.pdf
- OxTALENT Oct10 minutes.pdf
- OxTALENT May10 minutes.pdf
- OxTALENT Jan10 minutes.pdf
- OxTALENT Oct09 minutes.pdf
- OxTALENT May09 minutes.pdf
- OxTALENT Jan09 minutes.pdf
- OxTALENT VLE report Jan10.pdf
You can enter your own work in our annual competition for the innovative use of IT in teaching and learning at Oxford. The OxTALENT awards are part of the University Teaching Awards Scheme.
Read the latest from the OxTalent Blog
In a year in which there has been much discussion of how Oxford might respond to global phenomenon of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), it is wonderful to see so many thriving open education initiatives which continue to push at the boundaries and innovate in their approaches to openness online.
Sophie Kershaw, Department of Computer Science for The Open Science Training Initiative
The Open Science Training Initiative (OSTI) is a dynamic new educational scheme devised and piloted this year at the University of Oxford. It aims to address the problem of reproducibility in modern scientific research, by training upcoming young researchers in the integrated use of concepts and techniques such as digital awareness, data management, version control systems and the role of the publisher. The goal, as Sophie Kershaw explained, is to train graduate students to be research producers rather than research users.
OSTI achieves this aim through a combination of first-hand learning and mini-lectures. The course is designed to be highly portable and adaptable, with its 20-30 minute “lightning lectures” designed to slot into any existing course in the sciences. The learning process adopts a novel, rotation-based structure, in which small groups of students work in isolation on separate scientific problems. Groups must fully document their findings through releasing code, data and a written report online before handing over the problem to a successor group who must build on their work. This approach is designed to provide a simulated research environment at a pre-doctoral stage, enabling students to encounter the challenges of modern collaborative research and hence understand the need to provide the scientific community with a coherent research story that provides a sound basis for further scientific investigation.
OSTI is the first scheme of its kind in offering fully integrated training in open science as part of a subject-specific taught course and is helping Oxford to lead the way in educational provision in the field. Course materials are being released under a CC-BY (Attribution) licence as open educational resources for other institutions to use, develop and benefit from.
The course has drawn great interest from the Open community and is poised for its official launch outside Oxford in early May 2013. It has also been showcased at the following universities in California: UC Berkeley, Stanford, San Francisco State, UC San Francisco, and UC Davis.
Cleo Hanaway, Humanities Division: OpenJoyce
OpenJoyce is a collection of resources and a community around the author James Joyce. It began in Oxford and grew out of the successful Great Writers Inspire project. Cleo Hanaway is a former student ambassador on Great Writers who has recently been appointed Knowledge Exchange Officer for the Humanities Division at the University. She explained:
Our title quotation is taken from James Joyce’s 1922 novel, Ulysses: ‘A great field was to be opened up in the line of opening up.’ Following Joyce’s lead, our OpenJoyce project is geared towards ‘opening up’ all things Joycean. Thus, being open is inherent to our development process.
Cleo combined her research on Joyce with open education and worked with programming experts to create a series of striking visualisations of Ulysses, based on word patterns, line length, and so forth. The visualisations have captured the imagination of the James Joyce community and are now being used in research and teaching across the globe.
OpenJoyce is an independent initiative and is not funded by any higher education institution.
Continuing Education Tutors Dr Steve Kershaw, Dr Pete Wyss and Dr Kate Watson: OpenSesame
The part-time tutors who teach on the Weekly Classes Programme of the Department for Continuing Education have been working to identify and create open educational resources (OER).
This initiative has produced a rich and sustainable collection of OER and other online resources. These are primarily aimed at adult learners and their tutors, but may also be of use to anyone who wishes to use high quality internet-based scholarly resources across a wide range of disciplines.
The work by Steve, Pete, and Kate supports the under-represented group of part-time sessional tutors in their engagement with open educational practices, and the project saw over 150 part-time tutors learn about OER for teaching and learning. However, the Department would particularly like to recognise the ongoing engagement of its weekly class tutors in creating and curating materials. The site continues to grow and now includes over 2,000 resources associated with 50 courses and 25 subject collections. Even more pleasing is the growth of the number of unique visitors to the site, which more than trebled from 4,700 in October 2012 to 16,300 in May 2013.
In this category we invite students to show how they have used technology to enhance the experience of learning and studying at Oxford.
Our recent research into the student digital experience highlighted that students are increasingly using mobile devices for study. The prize winners in this category have worked to find innovative solutions to two problems of learning on the go: accessing interactive materials that work properly on smaller form factors, and finding out what talks and lectures are happening around the University.
Sanjay Manohar, Department of Experimental Psychology: NeuroSlice
Sanjay is a PhD student in Experimental Psychology. NeuroSlice is an Android app to aid learning and revising neuroanatomy, using interactive mapped images. Each slice has neuroanatomical regions mapped out so that students can familiarise themselves with nuclei and tracts of the brain and spinal cord. However, Sanjay intends NeuroSlice to be useful also to neuroscience researchers, and hospital clinicians who read scans.
Sanjay explained the origins of his app:
I wrote NeuroSlice to bring to the fingertips a set of images that my supervisor acquired from a 1943 out-of-print textbook. The app allows one to learn and revise neuroanatomy using interactive mapped images. The images were digitised by my fellow students in 2002.
Sensing that the data might be useful to many more people in the form of an app, in 2012 Sanjay wrote an Android app allowing the images to be explored from a mobile phone or tablet. The images include histology and MRI of the brain and spinal cord. The user can touch different regions to identify them and also select regions from a list to locate them. The app comes with a global search, a ‘test-yourself’ facility, and Wikipedia links.
The app is free and has more than 18,500 active users, with an average rating of 4.57 stars and very positive reviews. For example, one reviewer has written:
Portable Neuroanatomy at a Glance! This is an excellent handy quick reference tool for both medical students and postgraduates…..in fact for anyone familiarising themselves with Neurology/Psychiatry. It is also a valuable aid for teaching during ward rounds. The app has a small footprint and the working interface is fast and simple.
Sanjay attributed the success of Neuroslice to ‘the facility to conveniently carry this reference material around in your pocket. Interestingly 8% of my users have tablets—the app looks and feels quite different on a large screen!’
Sanjay offered this advice to students pursuing similar projects:
Make sure you get the right people on board. Work closely with people who teach the courses you are making resources for. I was lucky to have the support of departmental lecturers, who identified exactly what they needed, to fit into the curriculum. Ask a colleague in the department to round up the professors and lecturers for a short 20-minute presentation demonstrating your concept. Hopefully this will encourage them to find niches where the tool could fit into other lecture courses and practicals. Apply for funding early – when you have the idea! As I discovered too late, most universities have teaching innovation grants, and that would have been very useful.
Note: Sanjay was also a runner-up in this category for his project HOM Physiology: Interactive Teaching Simulation of Human Physiology.
Richard Hills, Linacre College: Oxtalks
Richard is a DPhil Student at the Said Business School and Linacre College. He spotted a problem in that Oxford’s departments and colleges tend to have different systems and policies for seminars. In order to keep track of seminars in a range of subjects, a student would therefore need to bookmark a dozen seminar listing pages and check them several times a week for updates, before manually adding individual events to their calendar. Richard explained:
While I was a student at Cambridge University I came across their wonderful site, talks.cam. It attempts to solve precisely the same problem, since Cambridge is also highly decentralised. When I arrived at Oxford, I was disappointed to find there was not anything similar or comparable, so I decided to make it so. The Cambridge website’s source code is available under an open source licence. I contacted the developers and Cambridge, and they were more than happy for me to use their source code as the basis for OxTalks.
OxTalks automatically pulling events data from multiple websites at once, combining the events into a single search on the site, and then offering personalised emails and calendar synchronisation to users.
Starting out as a demonstration website running on Richard’s desktop computer, OxTalks quickly became the single best source of seminars and events for the entire University.
After a few months his college, Linacre, took an interest. With the arrival of a new IT manager the college offered proper hosting, and OUSU helped with advertising among the student body. The site started getting thousands of unique visitors every month. It was later adopted by Medical Sciences and the Student Systems Programme’s Student Advisory Group, before being taken over by IT Services.
And what tips did Richard have for other would-be student innovators?
Make use of your department, college and student societies in promoting and assisting with your idea. Be very patient, and start early. The longer you have for the project before you leave the University, the more likely it is to succeed and become sustainable in the long run. Be very persistent, and do not take anything personally. Departments often have unknowable internal reasons for making decisions, so do not worry if one turns you down: there are plenty more. If you are convinced you have a good idea, and other people agree with you, just do it.
Jamie Miles, Magdalen College, & Simon Clarke, St Peter’s College: OxTweet
Bridging the gap between the university and its students and potential applicants, OxTweet brings together Oxford students from a variety of subjects to share what it is like to live and study at Oxford. It allows potential applicants to gain an honest representation of life at Oxford, pose questions, and have them answered by students on the courses that they are planning to read.
Jamie (above) studies PPE, and his colleague Simon Clarke (right) is a physicist from St Peter’s College who won an OxTALENT award last year. Other members of the OxTweet group include a musician, a chemist, another physicist, a mathematician, a computer scientist, a fine arts student, an archaeologist, a biologist, a classicist, a medic, a lawyer, a biomedical scientist, a linguist, and an engineer.
As the first student from my school to go to Oxford, I felt that information on what it is like to live here was lacking. I wanted to see what rooms looked like, the food, the people and what an average day entailed. When you are considering a place to study or you have your offer confirmed, this information is invaluable. There was official University material; however, one is always sceptical about the degree of honesty in these publications, as it is inevitably biassed.
OxTweet provides this reality by creating a forum in an informal and interactive environment. The aim of the project was to dispel the myths about Oxford: for example the fact that people don’t walk around speaking Latin, or that students from comprehensive schools can’t get into Oxford. Jamie continues:
To make the project a success, I needed OxTweeters from a variety of subjects with a variety of interests, so the first thing I did was contact my friends. In no time, the OxTweet flock was formed and we began to document our lives. The project then gained fantastic momentum through advertising via the social media of various colleges, the student press, and word of mouth, which led more people wanting to become OxTweeters.
The OxTweet project is now a thriving community of Oxonians who reach out to Oxford-curious tweeters. It has created a discussion in which both parties can honestly say what they think without the fear of saying too much or asking a ‘stupid’ question.
As well as tweeting, Jamie and Simon blog consistently through the term, from their college rooms and on location. Each has several thousand followers who eagerly await the next installment and ask questions about their lives.
When the project ends, all the tweets will continue to exist in cyberspace, providing a rich and extensive resource about the reality of attending Oxford. Jamie concluded:
We have the tools to connect people, but these tools are only as impressive as the uses we put them to. One should never feel limited by resources. There are a wealth of free tools available to everyone and we are only limited by our creativity to find new and amazing ways to use them.
Also, never underestimate the impact a great team can have on ensuring a project’s success. I am always thankful for the energy and time my friends continue to contribute to the OxTweet initiative.
Scott Billings, Oxford Natural History Museum: Darkened not Dormant
The Museum of Natural History is new to Twitter, and decided to take the plunge as one of the ways to maintain its profile during 2013 while it is closed for refurbishments to the roof. Scott Billings, the museum’s newly appointed Communications Coordinator, explained how a few social media-savvy members of staff came together for initial discussions to decide whether the museum should have a social media account and how to approach it. Brooking questions such as ‘Does anyone really want a digital Dodo?’, they secured buy-in from other staff, arguing that ‘Not being on social media is like not having a telephone.’ As a consequence, the museum is now keeping the public abreast of its activities – as well as the behind-the-scenes story of the refurbishment – through both Twitter and its blog.
Pip Wilcox, Bodleian Libraries for Sprint for Shakespeare
Pip used crowdsourcing techniques in order to raise money to fund the digitisation of Oxford’s copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio. In this way, her use of social media represents the latter-day equivalent to the ‘crowdsourcing’ methods which were used back in 1905 to raise funds to purchase the printed copy.
Oxford will be marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016. However, this project is also important because it marks a further step in Oxford’s commitment to open educational resources.
The images of the First Folio are released under the Creative Commons license (CC BY 3.0). This allows anyone to:
- Share the work (i.e. to copy, distribute and transmit it),
- Remix (that is, adapt) the work; and
- Make commercial use of the work.
IT Team, Said Business School: GOTO
GOTO – Global Opportunities and Threats: Oxford – is a new concept: community-based learning and discovery in the context of a business school, which draws on Oxford’s great depth of expertise and research.
The course was developed as a new element of the School’s MBA programme and as an innovative way of connecting with Oxford University alumni. The first module, launched in Hilary Term 2013, considers the impact of increased longevity and falling fertility on the ageing of the global population. The second module, to be launched in Hilary 2014, will focus on the global significance of Big Data.