Crowd Sourcing a Promotion Case…

So racked with embarrassment at doing this (’tis what happens when you don’t publish formally, don’t get academic citations in the literature, and don’t have a “proper” academic impact factor;-) I’m going to take the next 10 days off in a place with no internet connection…. but anyway, here goes: an attempt at crowd-sourcing parts of my promotion case….

In For a Penny, In For a Pound… My Promotion “Case for Support”

JUst before going away on holiday, I popped up a questionnaire asking for a little help working out what sort of impact – if any – I had on folk that could weave in to my promotion case for support… Thanks to all who took the time out to reply (it was very humbling:-)

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s a draft of the Case for Support, which I need to submit tomorrow. Whilst I haven’t been able to add direct quotes from the questionnaire responses – the word limit is set at 1500 words – your responses did inform what I wrote: some of the words are very heavily loaded and more densely packed, on occasion summarising whole responses…

Tony Hirst – Case for promotion to Senior Lecturer
My case for promotion is based around excellence in teaching and scholarship, with a strong theme of digital scholarship and community engagement.

Teaching & contributions to the teaching system
I have chaired three courses (production and presentation), and authored on four others, pushing the elearning agenda through technology and design innovation with a view to reuse.
In 2000, I developed two units for T396 delivered via a novel electronic study guide, providing a unified browser-based interface to online, offline and CD-ROM content, and a mobile website for course alerts. This work identified issues relating to authoring content specifically for browser based delivery on desktop and mobile devices that have informed my work ever since.
A major feature of my approach to the production of teaching materials relates to supporting reuse in other contexts. Whilst writing online material for the T184 robotics course, I commissioned several interactive browser-based activities that have been reused on courses such as TXR174, as well as for outreach. Using T184 software, I developed a range of activities for schools and OU regional Aim Higher/Widening Participation initiatives. These were delivered at over 50 events by the OU Robotics Outreach Group (which I co-founded 1 and whose members produced over 20 formal publications during the period 2000-2007, as well as press coverage). In turn, the activities informed the course material design for the TXR174 residential school robotics activity as a series of worksheets, some of which were consequently reused verbatim on T885. Interactives I developed for TU120 have also been used in wider reaching Library training activities.
As chair of T184, contributor to TU120, I used Google Analytics for discovering how students used online course and Library materials. This led, in part, to the OU Library website adopting and using Google Analytics for tracking Key Performance Indicators.
In both T184 and TU120, I lobbied for the used of embedded third party content from Youtube and flickr within course materials, working with the OU Rights Department to clarify issues around the use of such content, making it easier for other course teams to draw on similar resources in the future.
For T151 Digital Worlds, I created a flexible and adaptable curriculum of the sort that IET are now exploring using a structure that also informed the development of T123. An innovative custom search engine capable of searching over all and only the public web-based resources linked to from the T151 course materials led to a similar service being adopted in TT381; T151 also used an interactive mindmap (now being explored by LTS) to provide at-a-glance views over the whole course on one screen.

1 As member of the OU-ROG I helped organise a Blue Peter “Design a Robot’ Competition (>20, 000 entries); a national junk modeling event (sponsored by 20th Century Fox, funding I secured); the launch of an OU badged hobbiest robotics range sold via high street retailers; convened three conference workshops on artificial intelligence and robotics at UK based international conferences, as well as RoboFesta-UK, a series of five annual meetings attended by between 50 and 100 members of the UK robotics education community each year; I was PI for the EPSRC funded Creative Robotics Research Network (rated tending to outstanding).

Scholarly work
Throughout my career I have explored new methods of digital scholarship and ways of using technology to transform research, dissemination and knowledge construction, developing an international reputation as an advocate of emerging web technologies through community engagement.

Google Suggest (results based in part on frequency of searches around particular search terms) shows my name is strongly associated with The Open University. The line chart shows page views (excluding RSS subscription views) on the blog.

The heart of my scholarly activity is the blog, started in 2005. Since July 2007, it has grown to attract >2000 regular subscribers, c. 1000 views per day, contains over 500 posts (the most notable attracting over 20,000 views each), and has received over 1500 comments; over the last 12 months, there have been c 20,000 clicks through to external sites, including over 4,000 to a single site (Adobe Flash Privacy settings). Nominated for the 2008 Edublog awards, it is regularly listed in the top 30 UK technology blogs (wikio) and currently has Technorati rating of 426. Research conducted for Online Services ranked it as the 10th most influential site for ‘distance learning’ (above the BBC) and 2nd as a hub for connections around this term 2.

2 See

I have an active Twitter presence (>2400 curated followers, >5000 click-throughs on shared links per month (, >100 unique retweeters (klout)).
With an archive of presentations on Slideshare dating back to 2006, my top three presentations have drawn over 20,000 views between them and the twenty presentations posted so far this year have attracted >9000 views.
I am established as a prominent member of the global edu-blogger community, receiving a large number of online citations and credits, and many speaker invitations. As a prominent OU blogger, my work is used as a model for the development of digital scholarship within the University.
Reflecting evolving notions of digital scholarship, my reputation spans several disciplines, as evidenced by a public call I put out for feedback on the impact and influence I have had on others 3.

3 The web based form attracted 26 submissions (24 legitimate) and provides strong anecdotal and personally communicated evidence for the claims that follow. I am happy to provide access to the responses on request.

Since publishing the first MPs’ Travel Expenses Map visualisation in 2009, I have developed a strong reputation in the data journalism area at an international level: my blog posts are used to demonstrate good practice by several industry websites (e.g., my work is being shared in several different UK universities and referenced widely in others’ conference presentations (e.g. regularly by Simon Rogers, Guardian Datastore Editor); I have received several invitations to present at journalism events.
Building on the open source WriteToReply document discussion platform I co-founded in 2009 (as mentioned in the national press (BBC, Guardian)), I helped win JISC Rapid Innovation funding and further exploitation funding for JISCPress. JISCPress has been used to publish JISC Strategy documents and reports, and is currently being discussed as a potential tool for publishing commentable internal OU documents. WriteToReply has been used by several government departments (including DCMS, The Cabinet Office, ONS) to republish consultation and guidance documents in commentable form. WriteToReply has contributed to the development and adoption of “commentable documents” as a consultation strategy type within UK government and, via JISCPress, benefited from an accessibility review commissioned by the Department of Innovation Business and Skills.
In 2007, I brought together an informal team to develop an OU Facebook application, devising and leading the development of the OU Course Profiles application (> 6,000 users soon after it launched), following it up with a peer support application: My OU Story. To date, these remain the OU’s only Facebook applications, although more are now planned with VC support.
My approach towards rapid prototyping has resulted in numerous invitations to run practical workshops, as well as being referenced in several JISC funding calls. The “technology recipes” I publish have been widely adopted and reused by individuals within institutional contexts in the UK and internationally, both for service delivery (e.g. the use of RSS feeds and Yahoo Pipes for content syndication and information processing) as well as teaching (e.g. relating to the use of social technologies in both postgraduate and undergraduate courses).
I have advocated the use of interactive web technologies using lightweight approaches in support of OU/BBC broadcasts: in my role as OU academic supporting the BBC World Service’s Digital Planet, I set precedents in the use of embedded, user generated content from third party services, such as YouTube and flickr within programme support pages, and commissioned the development of an interactive map for listeners that allowed them to show where they were listening to the programme (to date, over 1100 listeners have done so).

open2 embedding
Examples of content embedding on

Following my Arcadia Fellowship with the Cambridge University Library (“the UL”), several of the recommendations I made fed directly into the UL’s latest round of strategic planning. Outcomes from my Fellowship also fed in to two future service delivery workshops I ran for the OU Library.
My approach towards “openness” is based on a deep belief in the idea of community engagement, and the role of the academic in supporting communities around them. My social networking activities provide an element of extended support to a wide ranging community, not dissimilar to the support provided as part of a PhD supervision process.
My willingness to share ideas means others are free to develop them. The iTitle and uTitle social media caption tools developed by JISC Regional Support Centre’s Martin Hawksey, and that have been used to annotate several conference video archives with backchannel commentary, are a direct result of ideas posted to

Word count: 1500

If you can track something back to what you said, and if I have misrepresented it, please let me know. If you think there are any glaring omissions, please also let me know;-)

PS interesting.. Impact Research Fellow, DMU. This post is a unique opportunity to analyse the impact of a group of key social media projects in relation to business innovation and the growing field of transliteracy research. It is ideally suited to a scholar wishing to examine the importance of impact in relation to a substantial example of social media practice" [via @ambrouk/@suethomas]

[UPDATE: the attempt at promotion turned out to be ouseless]

So It Seems I’m Now A Senior Lecturer…

…although I haven’t actually seen the letter yet, but our HoD announcement went round about the latest successful promotions earlier today, so I’m hoping that counts…!

I took considerable persuading to put a case in (again…) but thanks to everyone (particularly David, Karen and Mark, and Andy from attempts passed) who put the hours in improving on the multiple revisions of the case as it progressed through the OU promotions process and supporting me in the process – as well as those Deans and HoDs past who’ve allowed me to get away with what I’ve been doing over the last few years;-)

If anyone wants to see a copy of the case I made, I’m happy to let you have a copy…

Anyway… is this now the time to go traditional, stop blogging, and start working on getting the money in and preparing one or two journal publications a year for an academic readership in the tens?!