Thoughts on Visualising the OU Twitter Network…

“Thoughts”, because I don’t have time to do this right now, (although it shouldn’t take that long to pull together? Maybe half a day, at most?) and also to give a glimpse into to the sort of thinking I’d do walking the dog, in between having an initial idea about something to hack together, and actually doing it…

So here’s the premise: what sort of network exists within the OU on Twitter?

Stuff I’d need – a list of all the usernames of people active in the OU on Twitter; Liam is aggregating some on PlanetOU, I think?, and I seem to remember I’ve linked to an IET aggregation before.

Stuff to do (“drafting the algorithm”):

– for each username, pull down the list of the people they follow (and the people who follow them?);
– clean each list so it only contains the names of OU folks (we’re gonna start with a first order knowledge flow network, only looking at links within the OU).
– for each person, p_i, with followers F_ij, create pairs username(p_i)->username(F_ij); or maybe build a matrix: M(i,j)=1 if p_j follows p_i??
– imagine two sorts of visualisation: one, an undirected network graph (using Graphviz) that only shows links where following is reciprocated (A follows B AND B follows A); secondly, a directed graph visualisation, where the link simply represents “follows”.

Why bother? Because we want to look at how people are connected, and see if there are any natural clusters (this might be most evident in the reciprocal link case?) cf. the author clusters evident in looking at ORO co-authorship stuff. Does the network diagram give an inkling as to how knowledge might flow round the OU? Are there distinct clusters/small worlds connected to other distinct clusters by one or two individuals (I’m guessing people like Martin who follows everyone who follows him?). Are there “supernodes” in the network that can be used to get a message out to different groups?

Re: the matrix view: I need to read up on matrices… maybe there’s something we can do to identify clusters in there?

Now if only I had a few hours spare…

Video Print

Sitting in a course team meeting of 6 for over 3 hours today (err, yesterday…) discussing second drafts of print material for a course unit that will be delivered for the first time in March 2010 (third drafts are due mid-December this year), it struck me that we were so missing the point as the discussion turned to how best to accommodate a reference from print material to a possible short video asset in such a way that a student reading the written print material might actually refer to the video in a timely way…

Maybe it’s because the topic was mobile telephony, but it struck me that the obvious way to get students reading print material to watch a video at the appropriate point in the text would be to use something like this:

By placing something like a QR code in the margin text at the point you want the reader to watch the video, you can provide an easy way of grabbing the video URL, and let the reader use a device that’s likely to be at hand to view the video with…

I have to admit the phrase “blended learning” has to date been largely meaningless to me… But this feels like the sort of thing I’d expect it to be… For example:

Jane is sitting at the table, reading a study block on whatever, her mobile phone on the table at her side. As she works through the material, she annotates the text, underlining key words and phrases, making additional notes in the margin. At a certain point in the text, she comes across a prompt to watch a short video to illustrate a point made in the previous paragraph. She had hoped not to have to use her PC in this study session – it’s such a hassle going upstairs to the study to turn it on… Maybe she’ll watch the video next time she logs in to the VLE (if she remembers…). Of course, life’s not like that now. She picks up her phone, takes a picture of the QR code in the margin, and places her phone back on the table, next to the study guide. The video starts, and she takes more notes as it plays…

Thinking about it, here’s another possibility:

Jim is in lean back mode, laying on the sofa, feet up, skimming through this week’s study guide. The course DVD is in the player. As he reads through the first section, there’s a prompt to watch an explanatory video clip. He could snap the QR code in the margin and watch the video on his phone, but as the course DVD is all cued up, it’s easy enough to select the block menu, and click on the appropriate clip’s menu item. Of course, it’d be just as easy to use the Wii connected to the TV to browse to the course’s Youtube page and watch the clips that way, but hey, the DVD video quality is much better…

This is quite an old OU delivery model – for years we expected students to record TV programmes broadcast in the early hours of the morning, or we’d send them video cassettes. But as video delivery has got easier, and the short form (2-3 minute video clip) has gained more currency, I get the feeling we’ve been moving away from the use of video media because it’s so expensive to produce and so inconvenient to watch…

iTunes in Your Pocket… Almost…

Having been tipped off about about a Netvibes page that the Library folks are pulling together about how to discover video resources (Finding and reusing video – 21st century librarianship in action, methinks? ;-) I thought I’d have a look at pulling together an OU iTunes OPML bundle that could be used to provide access to OU iTunes content in a Grazr widget (or my old RadiOBU OpenU ‘broadcast’ widget ;-) and maybe also act as a nice little container for viewing/listening to iTunes content on an iPhone/iPod Touch.

To find the RSS feed for a particular content area in iTunesU, navigate to the appropriate page (one with lists of actual downloadable content showing in the bottom panel), make sure you have the right tab selected, then right click on the “Subscribe” button and copy the feed/subscription URL (or is there an easier way? I’m not much of an iTunes user?):

You’ll notice in the above case that as well as the iPod video (mp4v format?), there is a straight video option (.mov???) and a transcript. I haven’t started to think about how to make hackable use of the transcripts yet, but in my dreams I’d imagine something like these Visual Interfaces for Audio/Visual Transcripts! ;-) In addition, some of the OU iTunesU content areas offer straight audio content.

Because finding the feeds is quite a chore (at least in the way I’ve described it above), I’ve put together an OU on iTunesU OPML file, that bundles together all the separate RSS from the OU on iTunesU area (to view this file in an OPML widget, try here: OU iTunesU content in a Grazr widget).

The Grazr widget lets you browse through all the feeds, and if you click on an actual content item link, iit should launch a player (most likely Quicktime). Although the Grazr widget has a nice embedded player for MP3 files, it doesn’t seem to offer an embedded player for iTunes content (or maybe I’m missing something?)

You can listen to the audio tracks well enough in an iPod Touch (so the same is presumably true for an iPhone?) using the Grazr iphone widget – but for some reason I can’t get the iPod videos to play? I’m wondering if this might be a mime-type issue? or maybe there’s some other reason?

(By the by, it looks like the content is being served from an Amazon S3 server… so has the OU bought into using S3 I wonder? :-)

For completeness, I also started to produce a handcrafted OPML bundle of OU Learn Youtube playlists, but then discovered I’d put together a little script ages ago that will create one of these automatically, and route each playlist feed through a feed augmentation pipe that adds a link to each video as a video enclosure:

Why would you want to do this? Because if there’s a video payload as an enclosure, Grazr will provide an embedded player for you… as you can see in this screenshot of Portable OUlearn Youtube playlists widget (click through the image to play with the actual widget):

These videos will play in an iPod Touch, although the interaction is a bit clunky, and actually slight cleaner using the handcrafted OPML: OUlearn youtube widget for iphone.

PS it’s also worth remembering that Grazr can embed Slideshare presentations, though I’m pretty sure these won’t work on the iPhone…


Jane’s list of “100+ (E-)Learning Professionals to follow on Twitter” (which includes yours truly, Martin and Grainne from the OpenU :-) has been doing the rounds today, so in partial response to Tony Karrer asking “is there an equivalent to OPML import for twitter for those of us who don’t want to go through the list and add people one at a time?”, I took an alternative route to achieving a similar effect (tracking those 100+ e-learning professionals’ tweets) and put together a Yahoo pipe to produce an aggregated feed – Jane’s edutwitterers pipe

Scrape the page and create a semblance of a feed of the edutwitterers:

Tidy the feed up a bit and make sure we only include items that link to valid twitter RSS feed URLs (note that the title could do with a little more tidying up…) – the regular expression for the link creates the feed URL for each edutwitterer:

Replace each item in the edutwitterers feed with the tweets from that person:

From the pipe, subscribe to the aggregated edutwitters’ feed.

Note, however, that the aggregated feed is a bit slow – it takes time to pull out tweets for each edutwitterer, and there is the potential for feeds being cached all over the place (by Yahoo pipes, by your browser, or whatever you happen to view the pipes output feed etc. etc.)

A more efficient route might be to produce an OPML feed containing links to each edutwitterer’s RSS feed, and then view this as a stream in a Grazr widget.

Creating the OPML file is left as an exercise for the reader (!) – if you do create one, please post a link as a comment or trackback… ;-) Here are three ways I can think of for creating such a file:

  1. add the feed URL for each edutwitter as a separate feed in an Grazr reading list (How to create a Grazr (OPML) reading list). If you don’t like/trust Grazr, try OPML Manager;
  2. build a screenscraper to scrape the usernames and then create an output OPML file automatically;
  3. view source of Jane’s orginal edutwitterers page, cut out the table that lists the edutwitterers, paste the text into a text editor and work some regular ecpression ‘search and replace’ magic; (if you do this, how about posting your recipe/regular expressions somewhere?!;-)

Enough – time to start reading Presentation Zen

Qualification(s), Recognition and Credible, Personal Vouchsafes

Via Downes, today, a link to a Chronicle of Higher Ed story asking: “When Professors Print Their Own Diplomas, Who Needs Universities?, and which reports on the distribution of ‘personally guaranteed’ certificates by open educator David Wiley to participants who were not formally enrolled in, but were allowed to participate in, (and were ‘unofficially’ graded on) an open course that ran last year.

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to ask David about that tomorrow. because I think this sort of ‘personal vouchsafe from a credible source’ could be a powerful ingredient in an “Open Achievements API”.

The post goes on:

But plenty of folks outside of higher education might jump in. Imagine the hosts of the TV show Myth Busters offering a course on the scientific method delivered via the Discovery Channel’s Web site. Or Malcolm Gladwell, author of the best-selling Tipping Point, teaching an online business course on The New Yorker’s site. Or a retired Nobel Prize winner teaching via a makeshift virtual classroom set up on her personal blog.

By developing credibility or ‘authority metrics’ (“AuthorityRank”?!) that reflect the extent to which there are legitimate grounds for an agent to ‘bestow an award’ on an individual on the grounds that the individual has demonstrated some competency or understanding in a particular area, we might be able to build a trust based framework for ‘qualifying’ an individual’s capabilities in a particular area with a given degree of confidence.

An Open Achievements API would provide a structure for declaring such achievements, and different ‘qualification platforms’ could compete on the efficacy of their authority ranking mechanisms in terms of positioning themselves as ‘high worth’ qualifying engines (cf. “good universities”).

It’s late, I’m tired, and I have no idea if this will make any sense to me in the morning…

Time to Build Trust With an “Open Achievements API”?

I had a couple of long dog walks today, trying to clear a head full of cold, and as I was wandering I started pondering a qualifications equivalent of something like the Google Health Data API; that is, a “Qualifications Data API” that could be used to share information about the qualifications you have achieved.

A little dig around turned up the Schools Interoperability Framework, a bloated affair that tries to capture all manner of schools related personal data, although that’s not to say that a subset of the SIF wouldn’t be appropriate for capturing and sharing qualifications. And all the security gubbins covered in the spec might provide a useful guide as to what could be expected trying to actually build the API for real (the Google Health Data API also covers security and privacy issues).

I also came across an old mapping between various UK educational levels of attainment frameworks (UK Educational Levels (UKEL)) which I put to one side much as one might put aside a particularly distinctive jigsaw piece, (under the assumption that any formal qualifications described in a qualifications data API could probably be usefully mapped to an appropriate, standardised attainment level); a similar thing at a European level Bologna Process – Qualifications Framework and ECTS) – which got me wondering whether the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) has a standard XML format for recording qualifications attained by an individual?;and a simple XML format for Uploading Qualifications and Statements of Attainment to the CQR from some Australian Training Agency or other:

Field Name Description
RTONationalID The Registered Training Organisation
National Code. Either this National Code or the State Code below must
be present and valid.
RTOStateID The Registered Training Organisation
State Code. Either this State or the National Code above must be present
and valid.
CourseNationalID The National Course Code for the Course
the Student completed. Either this National Code or the State Code below
must be present and valid.
CourseStateID The State Course Code for the Course
the Student completed. Either this State Code or the National Code above
must be present and valid.
StudentID The Student’s identity number / code.
StudentFirstName The Student’s First Name. Required.
StudentLastName The Student’s Last Name. Required.
StudentMiddleName The Student’s Middle Name. Optional
StudentDOB The Student’s Date of Birth. Optional.

Format is: DD-MMM-YYYY. eg. 03-JAN-1976

ContractID ID for the Student’s Contract if apprentice
or trainee. Optional.

Format is: 9999/99

ParchmentNo A unique number / code that appears
on the Parchment / Certificate. Optional.
IssueDate Date the Qualification was Issued. Required.

Format is: DD-MMM-YYYY. eg. 27-MAR-2004

(This sort of thing would also naturally benefit from an association with details about a particular course pulled in from an XCRI course description…)

Looking at the above format, it struck me that a far more general “Open Achievements API” might actually be something quite useful. As well as describing formal awards, it could also optionally refer to informal achievements, or “trust measures” such as eBay seller rating, Amazon reviewer rank, World of Warcraft level or Grockit experience points.

In a sense, an Open Achievements API could complement the Google Open Social API with a range of claims a person might choose to make about themself that could be verified to a greater or lesser degree. The Open Acheivements API would therefore have to associate with each claimed achievement a “provenance”, that could range from “personal claim” through to some sort of identifier for securing an “official”, SSL transported verification from the body that presumably awarded the claimed acheievement (such as a particular formal qualification, for example).

By complementing Open Social, the Open Achievements API would provide a transport mechanism for associating CV information within a particular profile, as well as personal and social information. If it was supported by informal learning environments, such as the School of Everything, OpenLearn, or SocialLearn, it would allow informal learners to badge themselves with a portable record of their learning achievements (much as OU students can do with the Course Profiles Facebook Application).

What Google Thinks of the OU…

More and more search boxes now try to help the user out by making search completion recommendations if you pause awhile when typing query terms into a search box.

So here’s how you get helped out on Youtube:

And here’s what Google suggest is offering on a default (not signed in) Google personal page:

Here’s Yahoo:

Google Insights for Search also provides some food for thought from a free tool you can run against any search terms that get searched on enough. So here for example is the worldwide report for searches on open university over the last 90 days:

Tunneling down to look at searches for open university from the UK, I notice quite a lot were actually looking for information about university open days… Hmmm… do we have a permanent “open day” like web page up onsite anywhere, I wonder?

Let’s see – after all, the OU search engine never fails…

… to provide amusement…

Google comes up with:

Would it make sense, I wonder, to try to capitalise on the name of the university and pull traffic in to a landing page specifically designed to siphon off Google search traffic from students looking for open days at other universities? ;-)

“The Open University: where every day is a university open day. From Newcastle to Bristol, London to Leeds, Oxford to Cambridge, Birmingham to Edinburgh, Cardiff to Nottingham, why not pop in to your local regional Open University center to see what Open University courses might be right for you?”, or somesuch?! Heh heh… :-)