Thursday 25 June 2015

Anthony Watkinson reflects on Personalised Learning and Publishing Partnerships

"This is a personalised view of the recent (16 June) ALPSP seminar with this title. It was a memorable occasion if only for the really excellent and highly provocative introduction from Lorraine Estelle (alas now leaving Jisc Collections, but welcome to COUNTER which she will head up). She began with a description of the early days of Cambridge University Press where their attempt to provide a grammar for their students clashed with the monopoly of the Stationers’ Company. Part of the arguments against this suppression of a work needed was an attack on the high prices charged by the livery company. CUP won in the end, but it took fifty years.

Do textbooks now really give what the students actually want?

She instanced a medical student who spoke at a recent meeting and explained his need for a “textbook” that took advantage of the functionalities provided by the web. He wanted a “study buddy”. Textbooks are not this personal friend and they are anyhow too expensive. Do they talk to the students? This was a nicely crafted circle. Of course such functionality costs, as Lorraine accepted, but it is (is it not?) what we aim for that counts.

In her presentation Lorraine cited Coventry University as trying to provide core textbooks in a “no hidden extras” approach. This has done good things for them in the teaching rankings, but these are printed books – not really what her student was thinking of. She was pleased to see that the renewed UCL Press welcomed textbook proposals.

The best examples came from the next session. There were excellent presentations starting with the truly visionary Dr Phil Gee at Plymouth. His programme was a partnership with established textbook publishers and established texts offering access online to all the textbooks the psychology students needed for the first year – twelve in all. The project started in 2011 and he has successfully expanded in subsequent years with backing from the administration – and amazingly from the faculty - 90% satisfaction from your academic colleagues is something to write home about!

There are now 600 titles involved across a range of departments, but it is becoming harder to keep the project going. I am not surprised.

The second speaker from a university was Andrew Barker from Liverpool University Library working with the director of the university press Anthony Cond – the recent recipient of a number of awards. Their plans exemplified the concept of collaboration. Andrew pointed out that Anthony and he both saw the relationship of librarian and publisher as analogous to that of a dog and a lamppost. He suspected that each of them saw the other as the lamppost. They both put in for “the institution as e-book creator” RFP from Jisc and won two slots. Andrew was excited by the project and one of the books (history resources) was clearly something that had to be locally produced because it was the resources of the Liverpool library that were being incorporated. However a publisher might wonder (as a CUP staff member did) whether it was in fact cheaper to create a new book than do a deal over an old one. The jury is still out on that point.

For decades Jisc has been trying to find a sustainable model which envisages educational resources produced in one university being of any interest at all in other universities. Heron gradually led to Jorum and there was still the same hype and little take-up.

Commercial publishers had been invited to discuss more collaborative publishing initiatives. However, Springer offering e-books to be incorporated into MOOCs and Sage developing an interesting video series seemed to be niche products. Pearson, meanwhile, fielded a speaker from their Personalised Learning team. It did became clear from the discussion as much as from the presentations that after years of experimenting the big players are actually listening to the medical student and his friends and producing all singing and all dancing services, but at a cost. It was not obvious either whether what is available so far is always appropriate for the UK educational system that is so different from the US.

The two final presentations provided context and perhaps should have come earlier in the programme. Professor David Nicholas (who headed up the Jisc e-textbook experiment of some time ago) argued that librarians and publishers alike are not really engaging with the Google generation who are in bed with their smartphones. He thinks it is a step change in the learning process.

University teaching and learning are decoupled from real life. The students come to college trusting what they find through their mobile links to the world and have no thought for the library.

But are we in the business of converting the students with this background to real learning which needs concentration and thinking? Dr Frances Pinter, whose Knowledge Unlatched programme for e-books has been such a success, had clearly thought a lot about knowledge infrastructure. I would like to read her presentation. Some of the most important presentations need to be read and this was one of them. In particular she made some wise remarks about how the provision of teaching objects in higher education should be costed out properly.

Reading my notes I realise what a lot was provided for us in this seminar but it did end with a lot of questions. Is that a good thing? It is good that there are lots of models and a lot of those not really mentioned come from and are operating in the States."

Anthony Watkinson is principal consultant to CIBER which he helped to found in 2002 and is author of a number of publications in information science, He is a consultant to the Publishers Association, organises seminars for the STM, teaches at UCL and is a Director and Plenary Chair of the Charleston conference.

Tuesday 16 June 2015

The goals of expanding and improved learning

Frances Pinter on knowledge infrastructures
Changes in the knowledge infrastructures taking place in the academic ecosystem itself will have a profound effect on how learning objects for personalised learning develop in the future. How are publishers, large and small, coming to grips with this.

Frances Pinter, from Manchester University Press and Knowledge Unlatched, provided a concluding overview of aspects of the changing environment and what it means for publishing at the Personalised Learning and Publishing Partnerships seminar.

Knowledge infrastructures are an ecology of people, places and spaces in a discipline. The first iteration was in silos: humanities, social sciences and STEM operating in isolation. The second knowledge infrastructure phase is a Venn diagram of overlapping disciplines.

What are the changing features of these knowledge infrastructures? The borders of tacit knowledge and common ground are shifting. We used to use a lot of face to face contact, but now, that has changed. The complexities of sharing data across disciplines and domains are challenging, but increasingly interesting. There are new norms of what 'knowledge' is. The speed of change of is speeding up.

Selecting and analysing data has changed. In the humanities especially. Think about archaeology. You used to have go and dig to experience it. Now it is catalogued and experienced digitally. We're having to develop different methodologies to deal with the vast datasets that social media provides.

The control of dissemination is changing. Libraries have a much more central yet threatened role in helping with this. What about perpetual preservation, data protection, etc. There are still plenty of issues we haven't come to term with.

How can we reflect on all of this to enable personalised learning? What are the tools that passive recipients we have talked about will engage with and how can we get them to co-create? It's about a change in scholars and scholarship.

Pinter's colleague attended a recent conference in the US. They reported there's a lot of anxiety about careers, but actually a lot of recruitment in the field of digital scholarship. There's also the rise of the 'Alt-Ac' those who just want to research and aren't interested in tenure. Collaboration and interdisciplinarity are encouraged.

What do academics think is needed? A workshop at the Sloan Foundation found that they want to create and nourish mechanisms for large-scale, longer-term research with interdisciplinary collaborations across disciplines. They also want to develop analysis techniques.

What can publishers do? Be clear about the value of your brand. Co-create new forms, collaborate and take models from elsewhere for inspiration. Pinter cites the example of the Natural History Museum. they needed extra space for all their exhibits. their solution? Move the famous 'Dippy' dinosaur in the main hall and take him on tour, hang a whale from the ceiling for added interest and add in the additional exhibits below.

Publishers need to experiment with new business models and bring people with different skills into publishing (a work in progress). They also need to improve discoverability and interoperability as well as foster open access for books. Publishers need to sharpen how they see the future. Open access may be part of the solution.

The new business models that are emerging out of the push for open access do hold promise, particularly for books. Pinter's recommended reading is the Crossick Report. You can't hinder the development of one part of academia simply because academics prefer to work with long form content. The writing of the monograph has an important role to play in the development of knowledge.

Pinter's conclusions from the seminar are:

  • Although the Ebook Observatory report showed no impact on sales, does that still hold true today?
  • Technical changes are there, but the business models aren't
  • The idea of dropping prices to gain market share doesn't take into account the cost of development
  • The Jisc e-textbook projects are fascinating, but not yet costed. They are about seeing if it can work, not if it has a sustainable model (yet, we're in transition...)
  • Many of the big projects large publishers are developing are likely to be funded from the profits of the existing products so they are unlikely to disband the old model when the new ones are still so experimental
  • Digital is making some very fundamental changes to how students learn.

What do students (really really) want?

David Nicholas, CIBER Research
CIBER have been researching the reading, viewing and information seeking behaviour of the virtual scholar for more than a decade. Professor David Nicholas presented highlights from the main findings at the Personalised Learning and Publishing Partnerships seminar, showing what young scholars like, and don’t like.

We have been conditioned by the platform. Every time a new one comes along it conditions our behaviour. Again. We are getting smaller and smaller. Deep is no longer good. The digital generation have been conditioned by 18 years of digital. the foundations of behaviour are already in place.

Students are:

  • Hyperactive: love connectivity and massive choice, big information pipe, 24/7 with vast amount of use
  • Bouncers: most people view only 1-2 pages from thousands.
  • Promiscuous: around 40% of us do not revisit a site
  • One-shots: one visit, one page characteristic - it's all you've got
  • Multi-taskers: but not necessarily good at it. Always one eye on something else.
Of course not everyone is doing this all the time, but it does present challenges to how universities are set up to operate. All of this is because everyone using search engine searching, massive and changing choice and a lot of rubbish out there. People have poor retrieval skills (2.2 words per query, first page up on Google). People forget, they leave their memory in cyberspace. Neurologists have observed that our memories are shrinking. This is a direct result of disintermediation and end-user checking (with poor evaluation skills).

The digital conditioning of human behaviour means the horizontal has replaced the vertical in search and engagement. Students skitter with frequent light contact and change of direction. Nobody does much reading in the traditional sense: 15 minutes reading is now considered a very long time. Shorter content has a much bigger chance of being used, and it doesn't get much shorter than Twitter. Abstracts have never been so popular. We are conditioned by email, messaging, tweeting and Power Point to like short shots of information, with mobiles as the ultimate take-away.

And it's not just behaviour that is changing, so are our brains. They are rewiring. Memories are losing capacity because of easy search and digital is not so memorable. Levels of concentration and contemplation are diminishing. Levels of insecurity are rising and we have a problem with addiction. Smartphones are taking behaviour to another level. The first transition, from physical to digital, transformed the way we seek, read, trust and consume information, but the environment that scholars conduct activities has not. 

There might be an opportunity for the smart phone always-on information needs. But they're not in the way that publishers expect. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that the content equivalent of the 'Big Deal' can be accessed from a smart phone. What does that mean for publishers? Mobile also dissolves the divide between grey and formal literature. Patterns of mobile usage are different. Visits from mobiles are less interactive. There is limited screen real estate. People access day and night.

What then of e-textbooks? What are their characteristics? They offer condensed, distilled knowledge and are typically more accessible than journal articles. Libraries are hugely intense rationing systems. You have abstract and keyword, can be seen anywhere and at any time. They have also boosted the humanities, who were the last to make the transition, but are now making the most of it.

Nicholas cited data from the Jisc ebook observatory report here. With ebook usage 5% of users spent more than 5 minutes viewing a page and 85% spent less than a minute. Content is consumed in small chunks.  The typical super user - those who looked at least 5 ebooks in 4 weeks - tend to be older and good at using everything. Staff and students don't read whole books, they just read bits of them. Ebooks do meet information needs.

The bigger picture is one of topsy turvy and parallel universes. The world is upside down: we use a smartphone to read a book. It has gone from text to voice and back again. University education exists in a parallel universe in obsolete formations and denying reality. Even the most prestigious institutions have not evolved. Does that make any sense at all?

What is involved in providing learning solutions?

Fiona Done, Pearson Education
The publisher panel at the Personalised Learning and Publishing Partnerships seminar included three companies with three different stories to tell on providing learning solutions for HE.

Fiona Done, Learning Solutions Manager at Pearson Education, reflected on students entering tertiary education with much higher expectations of value and institution who are focusing on effective learner engagement to improve National Student Survey scores, recruitment and retention.

Pearson as a publisher is focusing more on how to work with institutions, libraries and learners so they are more effective learners. They are delivering learning to over 43,000 students using content that has been commissioned to be more digital and flexible. Their focus is now on working with the institution and the learner to come up with a personalised model with course materials whose effectiveness can be measured.

The student in 2015 is a different type of person to previous years. They are a consumer with a level of expectation of what education should deliver for them. They expect digital content that is mobile and accessible any time. Personalised learning materials are matched exactly to course content and the efficacy is measured on the individual's learning. Challenges for HE institutions include getting engaging and valuable content into the hands of students, understand where and how to source content they need, move from print to blended learning, and support required.

Kiren Shoman, Executive Director for Editorial at SAGE, outlined how they have recently developed and launched a new track in their programme: SAGE Video. She explained how three subject collections were developed with original and licensed video content.

Kiren Shoman, SAGE
Why video? It's responding to developments in higher education. The market demands it with changing student expectations. There's a strategic fit with the area they call 'publishing as you don't know it' and adding value on their existing expertise.

Video can provide a different perspective. It can help reclaim lapsed attention, illustrate a point, change the dynamic in a lecture. It can be used to illustrate a point, instruct on practical skills and inspire curiosity. It can also encourage more reading and instruct on practical skills. They built up a series of student use cases which showed they needed to engage in a multitude of different levels.

Every year on Facebook, in just one day, there are 500 years worth of YouTube videos being watched. 

They found 79% of students voluntarily watch videos to enhance their understanding of a topic. Their preferred video length range from 5 to twenty minutes. Students are hesitant to use library video resources for fear they could be outdated.

They focused on quality, content and discoverability (they use DOIs on all their video content). Their product proposition is quality over quantity. Less is more. They support reference, research and pedagogical needs. Developed with author, editor and society networks. Resulted in launch of Counselling & Psychotherapy, Education and Media & Communication collections. Plan to launch 2016 Collections in six other core areas in 2016. Their content value is around expertise of SAGE, curricula matching, pedagogical focus, stability and a global view.

Their content strategy was two pronged. Part 1: work with authors and academic societies. Part 2: partner with the right content providers such as TV sector. They have branded original production including shorts, expert interviews, lectures, cases, tutor and in practice.

The platform has focused on user needs. They have social sharing tools, embedding and favourites that can all help you build up your own profile. They have speed tools to adapt to different viewer pace. So far, the feedback has been good. Any learning will be fed into the next few collections. You can view the short promotional video here.

Tom Spicer, Springer
Finally, Tom Spicer, Senior Editor at Springer, discussed how they have worked to support Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) instructors, book authors registered students, institutions and societies by offering a tailored approach.

MOOCs offer a mass and unlimited participation online learning and teaching environment. They can include traditional course material, videos, problem sets, readings, assessment and interactive user forums. the core principle is that it is freely available. Typically you pay at the end if you want to get a certificate.

Why do a MOOC? For a university, it is primarily about promotion as a home of exceptional teaching in order to increase the number of international on-campus students. It also helps develop new forms of teaching and learning. It can also generate data for research in education and assist with international networking.

The challenges are financial: costs are significant and there isn't really any business model. There's an accreditation problem, course completion rates are very low (typically less than 10%) as well as student authentication and logistics. MOOCs have a checkered history. They have a sometimes justifiable credibility issue. However, that is changing. There are now several hundred serious UG/PG MOOCs being offered.

Springer has been testing the water in several ways, one of which is by providing MOOC organisers with an access controlled URL that leads to the selected ebook. They have seen an increase in sales as a result spread across the period of the MOOC. They set up a reciprocal agreement with the institution and see MOOCs as potential new markets for existing products, but also as a source of new textbook content and new learning and teaching models.

Springer in Germany has piloted enhanced ebooks for MOOCs and Springer Spektrum has piloted distance learning courses. Springer Healthcare are delivering 'corporate' MOOCs which include smaller sets of content for communities in the field.

The University of Liverpool - ‘institution as e-book creator’ project with Jisc

Andrew Barker: Beatles fan. And librarian.
Andrew Barker is Head of Academic Liaison on Special Collections and Archives at the University of Liverpool. He talked through a partnership between Liverpool University Press and Liverpool University Library, with support from Jisc, that focused on finding a new way of fulfilling student need via a desire to challenge and complement long established scholarly publishing practices through the in-house creation of two bespoke e-textbooks.

Barker established a relationship early on in his time at Liverpool with the University Press (and ALPSP Council member) Anthony Cond. They tried to establish early on discussions about how they can move the discussion on to something more useful.

From a librarian's point of view, he has met a lot of publishers. They get on well with them, but there's always a suspicion they are trying to rip them off and not let them do what they want to do: that it's an unhappy relationship. What a publisher might say is that librarians just moan at publishers.

They have tried to get beyond the cynicism and suspicion of working with each other. There must be things they can do to generate a good partnership. Anthony Cond came to them to discuss an idea about setting up Modern Languages Open - an online OA journal. The was discussed with the Advisory Board. They then began to consider whether they should collaborate on monographs. The backdrop to this is that there is a growing perception that teaching and learning is not the most important thing with this view supported by the growing resources online. As a result, they decided monographs were not the right area to collaborate on.

So where was the real need? Student expectation is key. Every book on a reading list is available in the library in sufficient numbers at point of need. Why does it matter? The student experience as reflected in the National Student Survey combined with £9,000 fees. They have almost miraculous 82% of books on reading lists available. This is very high and is a real challenge.

For Barker, student experience is key, the survey results will follow. Their users tell them resources are out of date or unavailable, there are limited resources. Expectations are sky high. Students will voice frustrations about seeing new buildings, but not being able to get library resources.

When a student can't understand why the library doesn't just buy an ebook, it is hard to explain that it is because the publisher won't sell it to them in the way the student wants it. They are not interested in that level of detail. Often, ebooks are also very flat PDF type. Publishers need to produce slightly more engaging ebooks.

When the Jisc call for proposals came out, they came together. They sent the proposal to the humanities and social sciences faculty. The LUP team put a call out to academics across the university. They turned round two bids for HSS in time.

The first project was a Financial Management book for a module that has 900 students in remote locations. The students currently use a book retailing at £56 and there was some dissatisfaction with it. The module is also taught in the Chinese partner university. Much of the material exists in lecture notes and VITAL. it will be OA and print on demand. They are using a platform called Xerte and should have a massive impact on a lot of students who won't have to chase access of one print copy of a book.

The second book is about primary sources that makes use of the special archives they have. It is one of the unique selling points they have (e.g. Roger McGough, Cunard archives). It will be used across taught schools. They are using Biblioboard tool which is good for images with sections on how to use primary sources. They are currently working at the writing stage.

Academics will create the text, the Press will select, shape, edit, credentials, produce POD, market and distribute. It plays to both their strengths. So far it has been well received by the Pro-Vice Chancellor and University Librarian. This will prove crucial to ensuring sustainability for the approach in the long term.

Andrew Barker spoke at the Personalised Learning and Publishing Partnerships seminar.

The Plymouth textbook project... paradise lost?

Phil Gee, Plymouth University
What are the challenges in providing 80% of your undergraduate student intake a full set of core e-texts? Phil Gee, Associate Professor in Psychology at Plymouth University outlined how they tackled this challenge in 2014 with the Plymouth eBooks Project.

Gee observed that it seems strange that often there are many barriers to students accessing ebooks. You should ideally teach knowing ALL students have access to the texts, anywhere they need them. There is a need to level the playing field to ensure universal access. Perhaps one day, there won't be any text books, but online resources.

At Plymouth, they have focused on note sharing. Students can subscribe to access the tutor's notes. His course book is covered in criticism and rants about the text, viewpoint or bias. Now, there is potential to build into the book so it is all there. You could potentially include interactive graphs, quizzes etc.

His focus has been on first year textbooks. They wanted to free up library resources. What they have tried to achieve with their project is to make sure the university funds the texts from a different budget. This should allow the library to focus on the core function: to cater to journals and specialist books (as well as nice comfortable places to chat).

The project started in 2011. They began by giving all first year students a set of 12 textbooks. They were given a code to download personal copies of all texts. It was so successful they decided to extend to second year students as well as six other programmes in the faculty. In 2013, they added a few more programmes. All this was funded from School, not library budgets.

In September 2014 they covered 4,062 students rising to c. 7000 including Plymouth Business School (reaching every student on every level of their course). There are 192 modules, 109 Programmes and 25,931 books (from c.600 titles) covered, plus the Business School. It's interesting to note that both Geography and the Business School have pulled back from it, primarily due to cost.

They post links to each of the books on the course website. The student clicks on the book link to open the online version to browse or set up an account to download (once authenticated through usual systems). The students download the books in perpetuity. If they don't set up an account they won't be able to access the books after they leave the university. Crucially, the books can be accessed offline e.g. when they are on their mobile and the signal is patchy (quite common in the South West).

It has been very successful, but there some issues when you come to scaling. He felt they didn't do as good a job of implementing it as he would like, so was pleased to see a student and staff approval level of over 90%. It's unusual to persuade a lecturer that change is a good thing, so the high staff approval was a real success!

Even more encouraging was the 38% who said they were influenced to come to Plymouth when making their course choice. It was a factor that helped with the cost, but also as an innovative approach to finding a way to help students succeed.

They have focused in on evidence of ways to improve performance on a course and have found this to be the case. It is good for them, the lecturers, to help them do their job more effectively, but also for the university, who have happy students.

Unsurprisingly, there have been challenges. Libraries are learning to negotiate with publishers in this way: negotiating from a point of view of 'this is all the money I have.' They also prefer ePub format as it is a better experience for multi-devices.

Gee believes this is good for publishers as income is much more predictable. Students are used to getting content for free, so dealing with institutions is a more reliable deal. Multi-year deals have cost and market advantages. Inertia can set in and universities are less likely to pirate content.

They have buy-in at a senior institutional level who are keen to continue. The biggest barrier to this is getting the right price. Gee believes price is a key deciding factor for universities to buy in to this if the price is low enough (talking c.£50 for an entire student list). He feels the sales will come. He also sees this as a way to halt declining student sales - 58% of first years buy a book. The mean number of books = 2.2, median = 1. the mean spend per student = £62.33 retail.

However, he feels this is a window of opportunity that is closing. Many institutions have now ended all their incentives such as free iPads. People are less worried about recruitment now the higher fees are established. There is more interest in the university as publisher and in alternatives to textbooks. A lot of publishers are investing in adaptive learning systems, but these won't get beyond the niche. PLEASE put the technology in ePub3!

Gee closed by saying they want to develop new partnership and ways of thinking about content and the best way to do this is via collaborative partnerships. But be warned, the moment may be passing.

Phil Gee spoke at the Personalised Learning and Publishing Partnerships seminar.

The institution as e-textbook publisher

Hazel Woodward (L) and Lorraine Estelle (R)
All students expect access to the core text that will support their studies whether they study on campus or via online distance learning. While e-books have been a qualified success across further and higher education, how can librarians meet this expectation in an effective and sustainable way?

Lorraine Estelle, Executive Director for Content and Discovery and Divisional CEO at Jisc Collections, outlined a number of institutional initiatives that are trying to tackle this dilemma at the Personalised Learning and Publishing Partnerships seminar.

The national ebooks observatory project 2007-10 was established to see what would happen when all UK students had access to 36 core textbooks for 18 months. Within this limited timeframe, there was no conclusive negative impact on UK print sales. In one or two cases, print exceeded. The findings come with the usual caveats. The resulting report encouraged publishers to make all their course texts available to libraries electronically.

The economist Mark Perry on the American Enterprise Institute blog in 2012 calculated the price of primary college textbooks from 812 per cent since 1972.

A recent report published in Insights UKSG's journal by S Duan and C Grace identified what librarians like including multi-concurrent access option, clear and easy to understand options for printing multiple pages, no personal login needed, books downloaded to mobile devices, clear options for purchasing additional copies when usage limits reached, ePub format, fully accessible platform and content, excellent MARC records and data available in Open URL resolve and discovery. When these requirements aren't met, it is deeply frustrating.

Joshua Harding in a 2013 issue of Insights asked for a ebook 'study buddy' to help him with his work. Student expectation have changed enormously with advent of £9,000 per year fees. Not only students, but also parents as well. Coventry University tried to become a 'no hidden extras' university. There are a number of challenges around physical distribution. They are still persevering and exploring more e-texts.

What do librarians really really want?
UCL Press has just been launched again with a particular call for textbooks for their open access business model. Open SUNY Textbooks is another open access text publishing initiative established by the State University of New York. Their associate provost, Carey Hatch, identified the annual cost for core texts ($1,200) as a driver. Their aim was to bring this down and save students money.

Inspired by some of these projects, Jisc Collections set up the HEI as e-text book publisher project. It's aim is to provide evidence for higher education institution to assess the feasibility and economic benefits (if any) of the HEI as an e-text book publisher and to assess the impact on authors' and students' satisfaction. It will run for several years and includes the University of Liverpool, Nottingham University, University of Highlands and Islands and Napier University, and University College London.

It's not specifically about open access, but a variety of business models are being explored including OA, freemium, Amazon self publish etc.