# Open access is great but beware of the predators

Jeffrey Beall from the University of Denver has just published Criteria for Determining Predatory Open-Access Publishers (2nd edition). If you are thinking of submitting to an open access journal for the first time (or any journal for that matter),  a few minutes reading through Beall's criteria and lists will be time very well spent.

# SPEAQ workshop at European Quality Assurance Forum, Tallinn

Around 25 delegates at the European Quality Assurance Forum in Tallinn came to the workshop Ole Helmersen and I facilitated as part of our role in the Sharing Practice in Enhancing and Assuring Quality (SPEAQ) project team. The target audience of the conference meant that a majority of participants were in quality management roles. In contrast, the workshops I co-facilitated in Southampton and Edinburgh had mainly academic and student participants.

The project as a whole seeks to bring together academics students and quality managers in the Quality Assurance process. One of the ways in which we do this is through a dialogue sheet whereby people think of questions they would ask to assess the quality of everyday objects or services ranging from spanners to sofas to hospitals (my colleague Laurence Georgin has written more a detailed post about the workshop). They then go through the questions to discuss which questions they could also ask about higher education institutions or course programmes.

In terms of feedback from participants three emergent themes which struck me, which have been less evident in previous workshops. These differences are a consequence of both the fact that most of the participants were quality managers and the different academic systems in which they work.

1. Participants brought up the question of internal processes, which are, of course, a key part of their job role.  However as end-users of a product (whether as a patient in a hospital, a user of a spanner or a student on a higher education course), internal quality processes are not considered or addressed unless a problem emerges which gives course for an end user (or his/her representatives) to question internal quality processes.
2. The durability of a product: a sofa may seem to be good quality at the point of purchase, but what happens if it falls apart a year later? Is an academic course durable? What if fails after purchase, (e.g. during the course or after graduation), despite seemingperfectly adequate for a length of time?
3. Poor teaching: Is poor teaching quality a quality issue? On one hand the obvious answer is ‘yes’, but responsibilities for bringing poor performers up to standard usually lies with senior academics (Heads of Departments, Deans etc.,), not quality assurance managers. These questions also arise if ‘quality issues’ are a consequence of individual teacher illness or disability. In a multi-national setting cultural, historical and organisational structures can lead to different processes and outcomes.

The workshop powerpoint slide and files will be available in the few weeks.

# Lessons from the USA: Update from Tallinn

Sylvia Manning from the US Higher Learning Commission was this morning's keynote speaker. She began with an historical overview of accreditation in the USA. Historically government has played a lesser role in Higher Education than in Europe. It was not until after WW2 when the federal government began to supply funding for war veterans that government interest in accreditation really began.

One of the important tends in US higher education has been the rise of 'for-profit' universities. In order to receive federal funds universities has to be accredited in all the states in which they operate (accreditation is regional in the USA). This was not a problem for the larger 'for-profits' e.g. University of Phoenix, but an unexpected consequence was that smaller colleges, especially those engaged in distance learning were left in limbo. Professor Manning gave the example of a student in the armed forces taking a distance learning course accreditation in the state where the army base is located. However, if the student is then relocated to another base in a state in which their college is not accredited they are no longer able to access federal student loans.

Professor Manning asked her audience to draw their own 'lessons' from the USA situation. The keenness of the current UK government for expanding accreditation  in the private sector and the emergence of 'for-profits' present many challenges for quality assurance in the UK.

# Live from Tallinn: Does QA lead to enhancement?

I promised that I would blog and tweet from the European Quality Assurance Forum.

This evening we were treated to a keynote address from Jethro Newton (University of Chester) on the question, 'Does quality assurance lead to enhancement?' One of his central points is there has been very little actual research into this question.

Professor Newton also used the term 'Quality Revolution' to describe the changes in QA since the early 1990s. A member of the audience challenged him on this- it does seem to suggest something more radical than actually happened.

# Preparing for the European Quality Assurance Forum (EQAF), Tallinn

I will be heading off to the European Quality Assurance Forum in Tallinn, Estonia later this week.  I will be running the interactive workshop we have developed for our EU-funded Sharing Practice in Enhancing and Assuring Quality. I will be running the workshop with my Danish colleague Ole Helmersen of Copenhagen Business School. We have already run the workshop in Southampton and in Edinburgh, and other partners have run the workshop in their own institutions.

At the end of the project next year the materials will be made available online in the the languages of the project partners.

All being well I intend to tweet and blog from the conference.

# Using pgfplot LaTeX package for basic dotplots.

Amended 11 March 2016

I wanted to produce a basic dotplot using the LaTeX pgfplot package. I looked for guidance in the extensive manual but didn't find what I wanted (that is not to say it's not there). I managed to find a workaround, which I have shared here. The results are not perfect, but will do for now.

This is the table containing my data:

 Subject Marks out of ten Mean Average Median average French 2, 4, 5, 7, 7 5 5 Religious Studies 0, 5, 10, 7, 3 5 5 History 5, 5, 4, 6, 5 5 5

I used the scatterplot as the basis for the dotplot and worked out this code.

I did three of these. Here are the results. Not too bad.

 \documentclass{article} \usepackage{pgfplots} \pgfplotsset{compat=1.9} \begin{document} \begin{figure} \centering \caption{Dotplot: French} \begin{tikzpicture} \begin{axis}[ xlabel={Marks out of ten}, ylabel={},%no label for the y axis yticklabels={}, %no numbers displayed on the y ymin=0, ymax=10, xline, xmin=0, %sets the minimum of the x axis xmax=10, %sets the max of the x axis. %As the test was out of ten I have set max to 10. ] \addplot[scatter,only marks, scatter src=explicit symbolic] coordinates { (2,0) %the first number is the marks out of ten (the x axis). % Use 0 for the y axis until the second occurrence. (4,0) (5,0) (7,0) (7,1) %the second number here is 1 because we have already used 7,0. %This is because 2 people got 7 out of 10. }; \end{axis} \end{tikzpicture} \end{figure} \end{document} 

# LLAS Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies, 8th annual e-learning symposium 24/25th January 2013

I will be presenting about my open access language teaching research directory YazikOpen.

The LLAS Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies will hold its 8th annual e-learning symposium on 24/25th January 2013. The aim of the symposium is to seek to bridge the gap between the ‘techie’ and the teacher, giving educators ideas to help them integrate e-learning into their practice but also to inspire them to see where the online future could lead. The symposium is always well-attended by practitioners from a wide range of disciplines and institutions.

Main themes for the 2013 symposium are:

• Innovative tools for teaching
• Digital literacy for staff and students
• QR codes in teaching
• iTunesU
• Augmented reality
• Innovative grammar teaching
• MOOCS and language study

Keynote speakers:

Professor Mike Neary, Dean of Teaching and Learning at the University of Lincoln
Professor Allison Littlejohn, Chair of Learning Technology, Glasgow Caledonian University, Director of the Caledonian Academy
Professor Grainne Conole, Professor of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester
Nik Peachey, Associate Trainer Bell Educational Services

REGISTER NOW TO GET THE EARLY BIRD RATE: £150 for both days (standard rate £200)

This applies to registrations and payments made by 23.59hrs on 20 December 2012.

To register or get more information on the event, go to www.llas.ac.uk/events/6636

We look forward to seeing you there!

# Applying for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (Professional Recognition Route)

This post is only about becoming a Fellow by Application. The alternative route to Fellowship is through accredited provision (e.g. a Postgraduate Certificate course taken by early career lecturers). I do not discuss the Senior and Principal Fellowships here.

Disclaimer: I don’t work for the Higher Education Academy (HEA) or assess Fellowship applications. These are all my own thoughts/ opinions.

From time to time I have discussions with colleagues asking for my advice about applying for Fellowship of the Higher Education. In some cases they have been advised that it would be a good to get the Fellowship. The application route is aimed mainly at experienced teachers in higher education who have not yet got a fellowship through the professional recognition routes or through membership of the Institute of Learning and Teaching (ILT) prior to about 2005.

Why apply for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)?

There are many reasons why you might apply for the Fellowship. Some universities are aiming to ensure that all academic staff either have the FHEA or are on their way to getting it. After all students do not want to be paying up to £9,000 to be taught by people with have never studied teaching in some form.  An increasing number of jobs are listing FHEA as an ‘essential’ job requirement, as opposed to a ‘desirable’ attribute as was often the case in the past. Those without FHEA may find themselves being unsuccessful in applying for jobs and promotions they are otherwise well qualified for.  Even if your university has no requirements for FHEA there is the possibility that this could change or that you may wish to apply for a job in a university which does have the requirement. With many academics facing redundancy and re-deployment being FHEA-less at a time of great uncertainty could be a potential barrier to taking the next step.

Most of those who talk to me about FHEA are experienced academics or educational developers who have ‘never got around to it’. (Newer colleagues tend to get theirs through the accredited provision route). They find the application form somewhat daunting though it is only around 3000 words in total. Unless individuals are strongly encouraged/ forced by their managers, more pressing professional and personal activities take over and the FHEA application is always at the bottom of the ‘to do’ list.

The application process

The HEA website helpfully lays out the application process. The centrepiece of your application is the Account of Professional Practice (APP). This is laid out in five sections under which you need to write your evidence. It can seem daunting at first, but all you are really doing is writing about your own practice. Writing about the things you do shouldn’t really be that difficult. The sub-questions in each section are actually there to help and give ideas.

1. Evidencing A1: Design and plan learning activities and/or programmes of study
2. Evidencing A2: Teach and/or support learning
3. Evidencing A3: Assess and give feedback to learners
4. Evidencing A4: Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance
5. Evidencing A5: Engage in continuing professional development in subjects/disciplines and their pedagogy, incorporating research, scholarship and the evaluation of professional practices

Things to remember.

Essentially the guidance notes and sub-questions are telling you exactly what to write, removing some the ambiguity in the previous form (I got my fellowship in 2008).

‘Learners’ are not just 18-22 year old undergraduates, but could be academic colleagues, evening class students, community learners.  I was not involved in teaching undergraduates when I applied and my ‘learners’ were the academics I ran and organised workshops for.

Similarly assessment and feedback are not just assessed summative assessments, but also formative assessment and feedback. This might include feedback to colleagues, evaluation work or providing academic support to students outside the formal boundaries of their course.

Most importantly the FHEA is a benchmark for all those who teach or support teaching in higher education. In short this is not about being the best, most popular or innovative teacher, but about showing that you are competent to teach in higher education. Awards such as the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme exist to recognise and reward excellent learning and teaching. The FHEA is about competence, not greatness .

Finally

Crucially, this is about you and the things you do and think . Writing about yourself, your experience and your practice can only be beneficial for your development as a teacher in higher education.  Don’t see it as a burden. See the Fellowship application as a great opportunity.

# Converting tables from Excel 2010 to LaTeX using excel2latex add-in

Building all but the simplest tables in LaTeX is not a particularly intuitive process. I’ve just been trying out the Excel2Latex add-in for converting tables from Excel (2010) into LaTeX. I eventually got it to work, but it look a lot of on-line detective work to work it all out. It appears that it was easier to use in Excel 2003.

1. First of all you need to download the add in file  The file has the extension .xla
2. It will tell you to open the file in excel. When I tried to open the file in Excel nothing happened, but the file got saved under username/temp rather than in username/downloads. (as I was opening it up online).
3. In early versions of excel this might have been enough and the Excel2Latex add-in would appear under the tools menu. This was not the case in Excel 2010.
4. I then opened Excel and clocked on “File”, then “Options”.
5. I then selected Add-ins from the left hand side.
6. A list of available Add-ins came up, but Excel2Latex did not appear.
7. At the bottom of the dialogue box you should find the word ‘Manage’. Select Add-ins from the drop down menu and click ‘Go’
8. A list of available add-ins will appear. If Excel2Latex is there select it, but in my case it was not there. If this is the case click ‘Browse’ and find the file excel2Latex.xla. Select it and it should be added to your list of add-ins.
9. Now close Excel down.
10. When excel is re-opened a new heading will appear at the top of the Excel window labelled ‘add-ins’ . Click on this menu item and you should see two new buttons. “Convert table to LaTeX” and “Convert all stored tables to LaTeX”.
11. Open up an excel file (if you have not already done so) and Click on “add-ins”, then “Convert table to LaTeX”.
12. Excel will then generate the LaTeX code for your table.
13. Export or copy+paste into your usual .tex/ LaTeX editor

14. The final result in my .pdf file! Looks nice I think.

Notes

Excel2latex can cope with formats such as italic and bold,but not colour at present.

# No open learning without open access: a portal for open access research into teaching modern languages.

My abstract for the LLAS 8thannual elearning symposium next January has been accepted, so all begin well I will be speaking about YazikOpen and broader issues surrounding open access there. The symposium will take place in Southampton on 24-25 January 2013.

Abstract

The effectiveness of Open Educational Resources (OER) and Mass Open Online Courses (MOOCs) can be seriously undermined by lack of open access to original academic research. Copyright restrictions and subscription fees mean that most research is completely unavailable to those who are not staff or students at a university, or who work in institutions or countries where financial resources are very limited. At best, those with limited access to original research are forced to rely on the summaries and interpretations of others.

This presentation showcases YazikOpen.org.uk a portal for open access research into the teaching and learning of modern foreign languages. The portal catalogues language teaching research published in open access journals or on open websites. This research is available to anybody, anywhere in the world with access to the internet without viewing or subscription fees.

Those teaching on courses relating to language teaching (e.g. TEFL, Applied Linguistics, Teaching Training etc.), whether face-to-face or online, can search YazikOpen to identify course readings which will be available to all students, irrespective of institution, geographical location or access to financial resources. Open access also means that original research is accessible to practitioners such as schoolteachers, Teachers of English as a Second/ Foreign Language, teachers at language clubs and teachers of languages in the community. Bringing down access barriers also means that practitioners and other interested parties can engage in debates and publish their own research with fewer disadvantages.

The presentation will also explore the wider discussions currently taking place about open access from the ethical as well as the financial and organisational perspectives. Open access to research is also crucial in ensuring that MOOCs are genuinely open and inclusive and do not perpetrate the current privileges of students and staff in well-resourced institutions.