Activity Data Synthesis

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Tabbloid: 27 July 2011

In true tabloid vernacular I think it's fair to say that this week's Tabbloid is 'a whopper' and I can tell that the OU RISE project team are certainly back from their holidays.

Some of the projects have posted their official 'final blogpost' {wipes tear from corner of eye} but I have a feeling that we will continue to see further blogposts from them in the weeks to come. Here are the project's final blogposts, no doubt there will be another flurry of them before the week is out:
Other newsworthy news (ahem) this week:
  • I know I use the phrase 'thought provoking' a lot in these synthesis posts but that is the perfect descriptor for Leeds Met STAR-Trak's post on the domain knowledge chasm that they discovered in the course of running feedback workshops with students and staff.
  • Both the OU RISE and the SALT projects have been thinking deep thoughts about licensing this week (which is handy for me as I'm just finalising the draft guide on that very topic).
And finally, some other links of interest regarding activity data within academia and without the wider world:

Monday, 25 July 2011

Online Exchange #4: Event Recording [21 July 2011]

The fourth, and most likely final, Online Exchange took place last week and the topic this time was data visualisation (or 'visualization' depending on which side of the pond you reside).

The session was an opportunity for the JISC AD projects to share information about the data that they're wrangling as part of their project and their thoughts on/experience of the challenge of presenting that data visually. The main attraction though was a presentation from Tony Hirst who gave a very useful (or should I say 'OUseful' {nice pun Helen!}) overview of the tools and techniques you can use to create data visualisations.

You can playback the whole session by following the link below. [Note that you'll need to run the Java application that launches in order to watch it] The playback is slightly crackly on my machine but hopefully it won't detract from your listening pleasure:
You can see Tony's accompanying slides below and the good news is that he hopes to build and openly release a data viz 'uncourse' along the same lines later this year:

Tony's tour of the various data visualisation tools was great and brought the tools to life in a very engaging way with lots of examples showing how Tony's used them with real data. Personally speaking, the really interesting part for me was listening to Tony talk about the purpose and process of data visualisation. Tony is the first to admit that he is not a statistician and when he describes the process of using visualisation tools as 'having a conversation with your data' and 'exposing the hidden shapes, stories and messages within the data' it strikes me that working with data in this way requires an artistic / poetic / craftsperson mind-set as much as it does an analytic skill-set. I'll be mining Tony's talk to improve the data visualisation Draft Guide we've written but please do add your thoughts and tips below.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Tabbloid: 20 July 2011

It's been a fairly busy week on the project blogs and no doubt will continue in that manner over the next few weeks as the projects publish their final blogposts.

The AGtivity team in particular have been busy and are producing some interesting stuff, including a couple of hot off the press posts that aren't included in this week's Tabbloid:
  • Ahead of tomorrow's Online Exchange on the subject of Data Visualisation there's a timely post on the different ways that activity data can be visualised and the challenge that presents when choosing which visualisation to show the end user.
  • A breakdown of the numbers of data items the project has processed.
  • A first pass at writing up the project's Wins and Fails - no doubt the various data headaches they've had to deal with will chime strongly with a fair few of the other projects.
  • The 'Tale of Two Rooms' case study the team have compiled gives a good insight into the stories that the AGtivity data can tell - it also demonstrates how important contextual information is for making sensible interpretations of the data.
The LIDP project have been delving further into the data behind *that* graph (you'll recognise it when you see it) and have come up with the interesting conclusion that the differentiating behaviour is replicated year by year. It's got me wondering about what type and scale of intervention would be needed to buck the trend. I'm also wondering whether the students with higher outcomes might also be going to the library earlier in each term (and therefore having a wider choice of books) than their course mates.

These sorts of wonderings are some of the things that the LIDP team have been discussing while they've been out on the road sharing the project outcomes so far.

On their blog there's also a (slightly stolen) guest post from one of the LIDP project partners - Paul Stainthorp looks back at what they had to do to get at their data, how they wrangled it into one giant .csv file and how they discovered one of their datasets was missing.

On Twitter, Amber Thomas shared a link to an interesting article about how some of the for-profit universities in the US, such as Kaplan, APUS and Phoenix are surprisingly open to the idea of sharing data on student success with their not-for-profit competitors.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Online Exchange #3: Event Recording [13 July 2011]

Last week we held the third of our Online Exchange sessions. This time we opted for Elluminate as our conferencing weapon of choice and it served us well.

You can playback the whole session by following the link below. Note that you'll need to run the Java application that launches in order to watch it:

Ross MacIntyre introduced us to the Journal Usage Statistics Portal (JUSP) service and gave a live demo of the JUSP portal itself.

Nicole Harris talked about Cardiff University's Raptor (JISC-funded) project and their recently launched software. Nicole's slides are below.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Tabbloid: 6 and 14 July 2011

It's a double header blog round up as I look back over the past two weeks of blog and twitter activity within the Activity Data programme. Amazingly there's a Tabbloid for both weeks (wonders will never cease!). It's been busy couple of weeks for the synthesis team with multiple events in Milton Keynes, plus our third Online Exchange session - I'll talk more about those events in separate posts.

6 July update:

  • The UCIAD project are continuing to do some deep thinking about user-centric activity data and have drawn up some concept diagrams which show (I think) that the organisational-centric activity data is simply an aggregation of user-centric data. Which means that an organisational-centric approach shouldn't preclude the potential that exists for releasing activity data to individual users too. It's got me thinking about what would happen if users were fed metrics about their usage such as 87% of the books/resources you've borrowed are off the reading list; 24% of your returns have been x days late etc - would it feed into a sense of self-responsibility or have a negative impact on under-achieving students. Would students welcome the additional data?

14 July update:

This week's issue might more accurately be called the OU RISE Weekly, since nearly all of the content comes from their blog:
In addition to these posts on the OU RISE project blog, Richard Nurse was also pondering activity data and open metadata over on his personal blog.

Some other items of (leftfield) interest that I've stumbled across in the last couple of weeks: