Project reflections

The end of the academic year (and more importantly the fact that we’ve recently submitted our final project report to the HEA) seems like a good time to consider the successes of the project, as reflected in the project summary: 

This HEA funded collaborative project between the Universities of Leeds and Hull has been highly successful, producing a number of innovative eBook publications in a range of disciplines which have been evaluated by student audiences and disseminated publicly as Open Educational Resources.  eBooks have been produced for biomedical sciences practical classes, medical students, biological sciences professional development courses, Japanese studies assessment and biology fieldwork courses.  eBooks have been produced in iBooks Author and Articulate Storyline and the advantages and limitations of both tools have been evaluated.  Students have been involved as co-producers and evaluators of content.  Findings from evaluation studies have shown eBooks to be highly appreciated by students, for the richness of content, interactivity, flexibility and look and feel.  The project has resulted in a number of outputs, including conference presentations, case studies and reports.

We’ve spoken at a range of events including:

Higher Education Academy Annual Conference 2013: Powerful Partnerships. Students as partners to produce digital learning materials and evaluate mobile learning approaches.

MELSIG (Media Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group) event: Smart Devices for Learning. Designing and evaluating eBook resources. Designing and evaluating eBook resources

Leeds University Student Education Conference 2013 Workshop. Assessing the impact of multimedia, interactive eBooks on student learning and engagement (upcoming)

School of Modern Languages and Culture Student Education Forum 2013. Using eBooks for assessment

Engaging students as Partners in STEM Disciplines HEA Workshop. Students as partners to produce digital learning materials and evaluate mobile learning approaches

We’ve submitted a range of papers and case studies including to the ALT online newsletter, our internal SDDU case book and to an international journal on physiology education.

The eBooks have been made available as open educational resources.

All resources produced as part of this project have been used in modules and programmes at the Universities of Leeds and Hull and have resulted in improvements in the student experience.  The outputs and dissemination activities have been widely praised and picked up by a number of colleagues at UK universities (evidenced by feedback at events and comments on social media channels).  The interest in eBook solutions across the institution has increased as a result of this project, and the Staff and Departmental Development Unit are now running focussed workshops on creating eBooks for academic staff.  Also, as a result of this project the University has established an Apple Bookstore for the external publication of eBooks, and these resources will be available on that site shortly.  The wider community has benefitted from this project in the following ways: (1) Open Educational resources available via Jorum, Apple Bookstore; (2) Guide about producing and publishing eBooks in ALT newsletter; (3) educational research evidence of the effectiveness of eBooks for student learning in Higher Education.

Copyright, Creative Commons and our eBooks

One of the responsibilities in the job description for my post is:

Provide advice and guidance on various Intellectual Property Right issues and advising around the legal framework in an accessible and understandable manner

This means that I’m much more versed in Creative Commons licensing than I used to be. I wish that I’d come across this infographic when it was made available over a year ago.
Creative Commons Photos

How To Attribute Creative Commons Photos by Foter

Making the eBooks available  as Open Educational Resources has always been part of the project plan, so this is something I’ve needed to be aware of. This has particularly been the case with creating the eBooks for the Medicine module ‘Nutrition and energy’ as we were using CC images as well as going on to make them available in this way.

Using Creative Commons Images

Dr Sue Whittle is an advocate of open resources and many of the images used within the Nutrition & Energy module had been sourced from Wikimedia Commons. In these instances all that was needed was to track down the original image to ensure that the author and title were correctly attributed.

Making eBooks available under a Creative Commons license

Sue has a positive attitude towards making her work available to others. She was completely open to making the eBooks available under a Creative Commons license. We used Jorum to share these materials and made them available under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license, as recommended by the University of Leeds OER guidelines.

Sharing knowledge students about Creative Commons

Part of the project, creating eBooks for a Neuroscience module, involved working with students. I needed to guide them in ensuring that any images they used were checked for copyright, and any new one were appropriately licensed. Having to discuss copyright and Creative Commons licensing with students, and having them ask me questions, really helped to consolidate some of my understanding. And, as it turns out it helped them to appreciate the ways that lecturers provide content:

I know I find it useful when there’s pictures and stuff but I know they’re hard to come by when you have to make sure they’re copyrighted, make sure they are relevant, going out and getting something, so it all takes time

Would I recommend using Creative Commons licensing?

Absolutely. A little knowledge is all you need to open up a wealth of resources that you can use. There is also satisfaction in knowing that the work that you have created could potentially be used by anyone else.

Here are our eBooks available through Jorum:

Gastric ulcer eBook
Immunology eBook
Human energy metabolism eBook
Diabetes eBook
CV eBook
Interview eBook
Human cutaneous eBook
Immunofluorescence eBook
Snail brain electrophysiology eBook

eBooks as a social tool?

One of the more interesting themes from the feedback from students who used eBooks on the fieldtrip, is how they have been used, and how they would like to use them differently to enhance their study.
First let me cover some of the features that were available to them in the eBook. They had the ability to highlight and underline text. To add notes anywhere within the book.
Notes in eBook
Copy any word or phrase and check to see where else it occurred within the book, or search that phrase on the web or in Wikipedia. You can also search for any term to check whether or not it is in the eBook.
Search within eBook
You can even search within your notes. So far so good. These features replicate, or enhance,  ways of working with print books.
All great features. But the students wanted to add a social element. They wanted to be able to share all these notes quickly and easily between themselves. They wanted to be able to add to the eBook itself. So where they were gathering field data, especially photos, they wanted to be able to add these in. And again, to share.
There was another exciting social element that the eBooks brought about. Graham Scott, who designed and ran this fieldtrip observed:
in the past down-time at the end of the day (usually in a bar) tended not to include very much discussion about the field trip itself. But this time students sat with their iPads and seemed to be having parallel sets of conversations – the stuff they usually talked about plus field trip stuff – and the latter was clearly being stimulated by the fact that they were flicking through pages of the eBook or web sites/ social network pages related to the trip.
So eBooks could be an excellent tool for the collaboration, discussion and team working that fieldwork hopes to foster. Just think about the potential.

Can eBooks be used for fieldwork?

At this very moment 23 University of Hull students are in Scarborough on a fieldtrip. With iPads. With eBooks. Again this is a very different learning environment so we’re carrying out research into whether or not it is one that can be supported with interactive eBooks.

IMG_0146IMG_0147  IMG_0144IMG_0145

I designed an eBook for the iPad using iBooks Author. We had discussed whether or not this was an appropriate tool. Would it be more important to design something that students could access anywhere anytime (after all they’d be giving the iPads back at the end of the fieldtrip)? However the materials that were to be included were the type that needed to be accessed at the point of need (e.g. guidance on field techniques, IDing advice) and it was unlikely that they would be used otherwise. And as with all other areas, the original materials that the eBook was based on were all available online through eBridge (Hull University’s VLE).

So on Sunday I got the train to Scarborough, talked to the students about my research project and handed out the iPads. (It’s always pleasing to here mutters of “sweet book” when someone is looking at something you’ve designed).

We’re using surveys to capture data at various points throughout the week. The first batch of data is through and the free text responses are highlighting that students appreciate the mobility of an eBook on a tablet and the ease of use of all the information being available in one place. I’ll also be returning on Thursday to observe the students in the field and to follow up on the survey data with focus groups. Feedback from the staff on the fieldtrip is that they are being used a lot so I’m anticipating that students will have plenty to discuss.

Smart devices for learning

On Friday I attend the MELSIG (Media Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group) event ‘smart devices for learning‘. Not only was I there to learn myself but I was there to talk about the project. I had a 30 minute slot. Not long enough at all to cover everything about the project so given the audience I focused on the learning technology side and discussed the tools and the eBooks that were made available on tablets.

The talk was well received. Plenty of Twitter chat was generated, I had people wanting to chat to me all day long, the talk was referred to several times in the wrap up session at the end of the day (despite the rules that once a talk has been mentioned you weren’t allowed to bring it up for praise again), and it’s been suggested that we should submit to OER14.

What did I take away from it?

There are clearly a lot of people who are interested in creating eBooks for learning. There are also a lot of people who have been put off. People who are waiting for the perfect tool to come along. Waiting to find out the impact from others before they take that step.

I’ve had people want to see examples of the eBooks and people send me examples of their work, which is always great to see.

And finally, having a heckler isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means even more people come and talk to you!

HEA annual conference: students as partners to produce digital learning materials and evaluate mobile learning approaches

Two weeks ago, on Wednesday 3rd July Neil and I presented at the HEA annual conference on students as partners to produce digital learning materials and evaluate mobile learning approaches.

The theme of the conference was ‘powerful partnerships: defining the learning experience’. Rather than talking about eBooks per se it was a presentation under the strand ‘students as partners’ talking about our work with student interns, and final year dissertation students.

As is standard these days at conferences there was a Twitter back channel so I put together some of the feedback around our talk as a Storify (I think that this is also mandatory these days…).

The talk was well attended, there were more questions than we had time to answer so people had to grab us at the end (always a good sign in my book), I heard my talk name checked in a later session I went to and got plenty of positive feedback from people I met during the day. All in all I was pleased with how the day went.

Being interviewed by Zak Mensah

Zak Mensah Hayley Atkinson interview

Back in May Zak Mensah got in contact to see if I’d be interested in chatting with him about the eBook project, and recording the interview for his blog. Zak is interested in technology and education with a particular interest in eBooks. Zak and I chatted for ages about eBooks (he’s edited our chat down to about 20 minutes, I guess most of it was too geeky for most people!) and you can listen to that interview through the link at the top of the page, or on his blog. (The sound quality isn’t amazing at my end as it was a recording at Zak’s end of a Skype conversation).

We chatted about:

  • the project in general,
  • the elements of the project where students produced eBooks,
  • my personal use of eBooks,
  • the tools currently available.