Bharti Gupta spoke about the Landmap GeoSpatial Education Resources project. She’s based at MIMAS in Manchester, one of our nationally designated data centres. Landmap is a MIMAS service, running until July 2012, working with geospatial data and satellite imagery. It negotiates licenses for, and purchase, datasets on behalf of UK institutions, providing this data freely to end users via Shibboleth.
Four datasets are available: optical/thermal, radar, elevation and feature. Optical imagery includes satellite, infra-red and aeriel photography (both historic and modern). Thermal data and radar data both allow investigation into many areas, such as the type and health of vegetation. The Elevation collection retains height, volume and 3D information. The feature collection covers the age, type and height of specific buildings, usable in estate management, fire prevention, network planning and CCTV location. The service also holds UKMap data, a multi-layered map base accurately locating buildings, garages, boundaries and trees.
Landmap is supported by a learning zone which supports users in accessing and working with the provided data, via 15 free courses. These courses cover basic, immediate and advanced applications in image processing, resource creation and interpretation within a web-optimised pedagogic framework, and are currently in the process of being enhanced. The learning resources are currently accessible to UK HE via a Shibboleth authentication, but will shortly be made available under a Creative Commons license, and the team are working to include resources suitable for schools use at “A”-level.
Thanks to Bharti (@dulcet_bg) for adding additional details to this section of the post. Her slides are available on slideshare.
Martin Hamilton posed the question “what happens after e-learning?”. eLearning used to be a niche activity, but many of the tools and approaches have now become mainstream in institutions beyond learning. Learning technologists should be digital literacy champions, dealing with social media and online practice, project management and other tools. Can we kill off the idea of an “eLearning” expert? Are these people now something else?
A discussion around the room suggested that a decreasing focus in technology (other than legacy stuff like VLEs) mean that the need for a technical “service manager” is decreasing, and the role is now more centred on staff advice and support. There was a lovely anecdote (which I won’t cite to save blushes) about a top-down initiative to install electronic whiteboards in every room leading to another expensive project to re-instate traditional whiteboards. This was a great example of where technology is expected to lead pedagogy – the consensus was that this should be the other way round.
Gill Ferrell covered the “redesigning the higher education data and information landscape” project, which she is working on with HESA (with UCAS, NUS, OFFA, HEFCE and others). This is a large scale, high-profile project looking at improving data quality and collection efficiency. Currently a large HE instituion can expect to be making up to 500 data returns to statutory and professional regulatory bodies, the project aims to streamline these multiple conversations. She offered an interesting perspective on the reactions of institutions to the idea of open student data. Questions seem to boil down to “who needs to see this data” and “how accurate does it need to be”. Scott Wilson drew an important distinction between data used for individual feedback and summary data for decision making (much as we did in yesterday’s session) – he made the point that data protection issues are often (wrongly) based on the assumption of the ability to drill-down at any level. He said that there are a series of interlocking mandates and quasi-mandates that mean standards-compliant data is a de-facto mandate in order to complete required data returns efficiently. Martin Hamilton further evidenced this, showing an image based on UCISA survey data around the ways in which the various institutional systems that can produce this required data need to link together.
Fundamentally, institutional data is used both for knowledge and planning, and for funding. A certain amount of institutional control is expected over data linked to income, especially where projections and assumptions are required. Data attached to “big” funding will be collected however it is requested due to the stakes involved, but for lower-return returns (ahem) the temptation to just offer a take-it-or-leave it “this is our data. Format it how you like” approach must be enormous. It’s all a good case for open institutional data. I narrowly avoided a #UserDataBubble rant (which Scott W linked to Stafford Beer’s 70s rants about the backwards megaphone.) Generally we should only give people data that they actually want to do something useful with.
Rob Englebright described the XCRI-CAP project as allowing people to “fix their plumbing” regarding the content and utility of course data. Drawing on Dave White (and teams) OLTF-linked assertion that information on courses is (Rob’s paraphrase) “bloody hard to find”. XCRI-CAP 1.2 (a format for course data feeds) is becoming BS8581(-1 and -2), a conformant profile of BS EN 15982. The programme is currently running, but there are a number of interesting things emerging around it, one of which being an XCRI-CAP validator and another being an aggregator. This aggregator now has an API, and Rob is looking for a small number of projects to “show us something interesting” combining this API with other data. As an example Scott Wilson showed us UCompare, which mashes up XCRI-CAP and fees/OFFA data.
Shane Sutherland from Pebblepad offered an update on the ways in which the Pebblepad system complies with the Leap2A standard, in terms of allowing data around forms to be exported to other systems. By using a central repository, the system can allow particular forms and templates to ensure that customisations can be shared. However, Shane is keen that forms could be shared beyond Pebblepad using an open standard. He asked – “does anyone know of any existing standards that could be used to describe a form?”.
Significant standards related conversations followed, most of which went entirely over my head and over the head of many other people in the room. But I think Shane got some ideas to investigate.
Mark Power offered an Augmented Reality “rant” (cheers @Lawrie for the quick mashup). He quickly brought us up to speed on the early days of AR, showing points of interest on a live camera overlay regarding “points of interest”, which is available to consumers but not yet in wide use. There are some similar general tools around image recognition. Generally he felt that AR needs to find a niche, and that enthusiasts who are becoming discouraged through lack of uptake would agree with this. It is in danger of being “buzzworded out of existence”.
Rob Englebright brought up the “Scarlet” JISC LTIG project, that uses AR to show details of manuscripts, but Mark felt that the actual user experience is still lacking. Comparing the area to QR codes, he drew the point that AR is still dependent on individual applications, and the ability of a user to know that something is there. There are also simple technical engagement issues such as screen size. Generally, there are links both to continuing improvements in geospatial data sets (see Landmaps above), and image delivery.
Lawrie suggest that AR data needs to be opened up, allowing for user created data and an end to the locked in “app experience”.
Lawrie Phipps then reported that after a detailed assessment of conference beard activity that he has yet to see any evidence of badgers passing TB to academics over the conference wireless (this could be linked to ongoing wireless connectivity issues). There was a clear link to AR facial hair recognition research, and the potential display of clouds of angry and dangerous badgers around academics at conference on military grade head-up displays such as the Apple iPatch. And audio. But not location-tagging tweets, as such behaviour can lead to funding proposal based holiday discussion.