Grand Challenge LfL: Cath Jones, Denise Whitelock, Martin Beer

March 18, 2008

The first presentation was by Cath Jones. She is from Glamorgan and her talk was focused on how she is working with U3A – she started with a reminder that Logan’s Run film from the 70s had been based on life is over at 30. I think that  probably means that all those in the room would be doomed!

Technology could be dividing or it could be inclusive for this older age group. She commented that research had shown that the period 3-10 years after retirement are very interested in return to formal learning. The work she described with Virtual U3A project and work with NIACE overlap with OpenLearn. The proportion over 60 will double from 8% to 16% by 2030.

The lack of take up could be contented stagnation or unhappy stagnation (limited resources available). Active learning can offer a kind of vaccination against neuro-degeneration. Cath covered a range of technologies that included “open source resources” free software and content.

She ended with three main thoughts:

  1. clarifying needs and perceptions
  2. technology for those who lack confidence
  3. build up informed choice for older citizens


Denise Whitelock

Used pictures to tell the story of how from the telephone onward of the move has been towards communication and the need for links between systems. She showed some cartoons from Chris McKillop’s work drawn by students that show how daunting the assessment process can be. She also showed work that tries to apply the computer to assessment in a sideways manner: staged assessment with ints, the Open Mentor system – which I have always liked. Using LSA to help tutor coments. And the Open Comment system – analysis of stats, comprehension of set text, similarities and differences. In this case there will be automated marking of about 10,000 students and linked to feedback that will be based on praise for effort. Denise cited work from the US that says that is the most effective – though last week I know someone mentioned that research was showing that negative feedback led to improvement.

Tools for comparing student performance – ranking based rather than score based.


Martin Beer

Draws on the situation they find in Sheffield – with students form poorer area and with difficulties. The result is that they have users with very different needs. The example of accessibility changes enhancing the experience for all was the use of audio-description which was used by both the sighted and the blind to enhance the programme. What we need to do is:

  • Separate presentation from content
  • Adapt to different learner styles
  • Adapt for enhanced user and student outcomes

Standards e.g. W3C still need to be developed and researched to support this.

Barriers he then cited were:

  • Lack of tested techniques
  • Authors needs v user needs
  • Lack of understanding
  • Lack of adaptive content techniques

Standards that help are SCORM and IMS AccessForAll – though these will only work if there is alternative content available.

The conclusions were that we do need:

To enable content for better interfaces but with assumptions that we can adapt across cases and scenarios. Josie pointed out this included the aim to “capture … the core concepts in human knowledge”. Colin explained that this meant that the representation had to cope with the tensions in this or it would be a flawed model.

Bridget suggested that these were affective issues – based on support and feelings as much as cognitive.


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