Futurelearn at Loughborough – MOOCs are here


Futurelearn depicting partner logos and, er, trees of learning (?). A pleasant image, nevertheless…

So what’s a MOOC? Massively Open Online Courses are the latest incarnation of online learning, this time not only for free but with the clout that top universities like, ahem, if I may say so, Loughborough are now offering.

If a MOOC is free, it’s likely you can’t get accreditation or assessment. However, you will gain a learning experience which will allow you to pick and choose your learning time to fit your studies, workload, lifestyle or just personal preference. Then there’s the opportunity to connect with learners all around the – networking is positively encouraged.

The Futurelearn offering is wholly-owned by The Open University, with partner institutions like Loughborough contributing high quality courses on topics currently as diverse as forensic science and fiction writing.

Loughborough’s current courses are Innovation and Enterprise and Getting a grip on mathematical symbolism. If they look interesting, why not give them a go?

Check out the background on these courses, bearing in mind duration and start date.

For what it’s worth, based on my own experience in my first MOOC, don’t go into this half-heartedly. This isn’t a cop out or an easy route to learning. It might cost nothing, but unless you commit fully and plan when you’re going to work on it, you’re going to disappoint yourself. You don’t have anyone pushing you except yourself. Unless you make some contacts and get yourself some study-buddies, it could be a bit of a grind. A little peer pressure can go a long way to keeping the motivation and performance levels up 🙂

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my.Quest – a short guide

Unless you’ve been living in your own little bubble on campus for the last few weeks, you’ll have spotted that our Library has been at the receiving end of a ÂŁ4.8million refurbishment. If you’ve not been there since before the work began, now’s the time to have a look around. Quite the transformation.

The Library still offers some interesting researcher-specific training (in new training spaces). Unfortunately, finding them is harder than finding your way around the new Library. Feels like a Tolkein-esque quest first time you do it 🙂

So until the my.HR online setup improves, here’s a short guide on how to find your way to Library-run courses:

  1. on the Library Research Support pages, hit the Workshops link for a nice pic of Frank explaining something complicated;
  2. Now hit the Staff Development Booking System link – as SD have ownership of the process at this point, you go to the Staff Development home page (I wondered if it might take me to somewhere where I could book something relevant, but ok, that was a bit optimistic of me);
  3. There’s a bit ‘Book on a Course’ link, that sounds good, let’s hit that;
  4. Now we’re at a page called ‘Instructions on how to book on a course’ – getting closer, I suppose (did you know that you needed to follow links called ‘Learning Activities’? When did you ever tell a colleague you were going on a ‘Learning Activity’?) – by a process of elimination let’s hit the ‘Visit my.HR’ link, even though it feels like I’m going further away from my initial intention to book on a training session;
  5. Aha, we have to log in, let’s do that – hmm, that’s an odd favicon in the browser tab – all Lboro pages usually have the crest part of the logo, but this is a non-standard ‘i’;
  6. Another non-standard page, another favicon – actually, no favicon, this is just the standard default. Anyway, I guess I’m going to hit the ‘Learning’ button on the left;
  7. Aha! Main window, first column, third one down: ‘Book on a course/waiting list’. Hang on, do I want to book on a waiting list? I’d rather just book on a course. Moving on…
  8. OK, unexpected. Now this screen had me thinking for a while. It had me thinking, what do I do next? I’m told “This form lists the available learning activities and their current status”, but that’s the one thing it’s not doing. There are no lists to be seen. A blank field, a random dropdown menu, a dropdown to search by date and a check box label I’ve never seen before and for which there is no explanation or definition: ‘Fuzzy search’. Oh, and a 16px x 16px gif of a spoon. Silly me, it’s a magnifying glass. OK, I’m not getting a huge amount of help here, so I’ll explore. Let’s hit the spoon. Magnifying glass. Whatever.
  9. Spoon disappears, Windows 7 twirly thing twirls awhile. Whoa! We have an alphabetically-sorted list. Wonder if the columns are sortable – ah, experimentation (but no graphical affordance) shows they are. Great. Anything from the Library for library-related training? Let’s put Library in that blank search field, if that is what it is.
  10. Nothing. My long list has gone.What about that second dropdown – that’s got the word ‘Type’ in it let’s select that – what the?! The interface changed. That text field has changed to a, what, dropdown? Ah, of categories that don’t mention the Library. Nor research. I’m getting a theme here. OK, back to the ‘Learning activity’ dropdown choice. Let’s put ‘research’ in the search box. Hmm, nothing. Ooh, what about the ‘Fuzzy search’ checkbox? Aha! Some hits! Let’s do a fuzzy search on ‘Library’. Nothing. Hit the browser back button to go back to the previous search results. What? I’m not trying to leave the page, I’m just stepping back. Won’t let me. Hit the ‘Back’ button in the dashboard on screen, expecting something bad to happen. And yes, there it is, I’ve gone up a level in the system away from the search screen. Grr.
  11. Give up. Got grumpy. Life’s too short. I’ll read a book or talk to somebody instead.

So, what now?

If you’re on the lookout for training, it will pay to be patient and persistent.

Alternatively, make contact with your academic librarian because they’re brilliant people and good to get to know. And they’re in very modern surroundings now 🙂

The obvious technical solution would be allow departments who offer training courses/learning activities to deep link to where you can actually book onto the course. Until that is the case, well, this system must be a step up for someone, but only if you’re not looking to book on a course…

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Elsevier to give free seminar on “Writing a world class paper”

Elsevier logo from WikipediaDate: Wednesday, 25th September, 2013

Time: 10.00-11.30

Location: CC.0.11

Presenter: Keith de Blanger, Executive Publisher at Elsevier

Book here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VYTH7V2

Here’s your chance to learn from the world’s leading publisher of science, technology and health science journals. Come along to find out more about:

  • The publishing landscape
  • Things to consider before writing
  • Choosing the right journal
  • Choosing the best writing style
  • Structuring your manuscript
  • The submission and review process
  • Content innovation
  • Publishing on Open Access

You’ll also get the latest on sensitive areas such as publishing ethics, plagiarism, duplicate publishing, and more. Don’t miss out on a valuable opportunity!


If you wish to stay on after the seminar, Michaela Kurschildgen will be giving a half-hour session (11.30-12) on getting the most out of Scopus and Mendeley.

Any questions? Email: m.kurschildgen@elsevier.com

This event is hosted by the Library Research Support Team, Loughborough University.

More detailed information:


Early career researchers and PhD students of ALL disciplines, anyone interested in the scholarly communication process.


Knowing the best way to structure your paper when writing it, and the most appropriate journal to send it to, really helps in getting your paper accepted. Also understanding how editors and publishers think, what they expect, and knowing how the peer review process works, is invaluable insight into the publishing process.


After attending this workshop, one in the Elsevier Publishing Connect Workshop series, participants will have a clear idea of the steps needed to be taken before starting to write a paper. They will be able to plan writing manuscripts using the logical step sequence – not the sequence in which the paper will be read. Authors are made aware of which aspects of their papers editors and publishers look critically, and to ensure that in taking care of these areas, their papers are much more likely to be accepted. Dealing with referees’ comments and the art of polite rebuttal are also described, so that these can be used to improve the submitted paper. Sensitive areas such as publishing ethics, plagiarism, duplicate publishing, etc are also clearly explained so that participants have a clear understanding of what is allowed, and what is not permitted.


These insights into the publishing process will enable the participants to be more confident as an author in the world of science publishing, and will help them to get their papers published more easily.


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One for the PIs – How to be an extraordinary boss?

Graphic - five people in silhouetteOK, so LinkedIn can be full of delete-in-a-millisecond content, but this caught my eye.

Jeff Haden, writing at inc.com suggests that “Good bosses care about getting important things done. Exceptional bosses care about their people.” So what makes an exceptional boss? Well, I’ve pinched the headings Jeff came up to give you an idea, but read his article for the full low-down.

If you’re an aspiring boss (any PIs out there?) you might want to file these away for reference.

Extraordinary bosses give their employees:

  1. Autonomy and independence
  2. Clear expectations
  3. Meaningful objectives
  4. A clear sense of purpose
  5. Opportunities to provide significant input
  6. A real sense of connection
  7. Reliable consistency
  8. Private criticism
  9. Public praise
  10. A chance for a meaningful future.

I guess it’s a bit like treating others how you’d like to be treated yourself (without any of the theological rhetoric 🙂 .


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Update on BOS, the Bristol Online Survey

Bristol Online Survey logo

Time for a brief update on BOS.

  1. The Research Office is happy to announce that the licence will continue for another year. Don’t worry that on the My Surveys page it says that your BOS licence will be due for renewal on 1st September 2013 – this refers to the campus licence, not your user account.
  2. The BOS team is trickling out a few details about the update that is due later this year, specifically validating and routing. More info on the BOS News page.


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Collective voice

textures-black-honeycomb-mesh-free-stock-photoI attended the inaugural meeting of the East Midlands Learning Technologists group yesterday, held in a mighty fine lecture theatre in the new Loughborough Design School. As soon as we started talking it struck me, and I’m sure others, that this group is an absolute no-brainer. I mean, WHY wasn’t there an East Midlands Learning Technologists group before.

There are five significant universities in the immediate vicinity of Loughborough, plus goodness knows how many FE colleges and educational consultancies, so the numbers of learning technologists (LTs) in the region are sufficient to create a lively core group of members. The need for input from learning technologists to support teaching, administration and research doesn’t feel like it’s going to go away (although, ironically, if you’re a learning technologist in the Research Office in Loughborough, you will have discovered that senior management have decided this is not the case – more on that anon).

The inaugural meeting, expertly chaired by the lively Sarah Horrigan of Derby’s Learning Enhancement and Innovation institute gathered together the challenges, modes of communication and questions we want to answer as a group. In effect, it made us a group. I now have an instant network of like-minded professionals who are geographically close by should we wish to meet face-to-face (and we do, given the feedback in the meeting), with whom I can share ideas, bounce questions, offer good practice and if necessary whinge at.

If you’re a researcher at Loughborough, you’ve already got that at hand: the Loughborough University Research Staff Association, LURSA. It’s your opportunity to meet up, network, make friends, share your experiences of being a researcher, and have a collective voice.

Believe me, that’s something that will increase in importance as we follow the meanders of the HE timeline.

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Summer Elevenses – Hot information!

Each Wednesday at 11am, from 10th-31st July, why not down-tools and get some hot information on a variety of  research-related topics? As the Library is currently ‘on tour’,  the Careers and Employability Service are kindly helping us to provide these sessions, which will be held in the Manzoni Building in K1.23. Each slot is a manageable coffee-break-sized 30 minutes – just enough time for a breather before you return to your desk refreshed and informed!

The sessions are aimed at academics, research staff and postgraduate research students and the following topics will be covered:

  • ResearchGate-  – Good, bad or…?
  • LinkedIn – Can it help?
  • Career Health Check
  • Twitter – To tweet, or not to tweet?

To find more information, including links to the booking system, please see the Library’s list of workshops.

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Careers in Research Online Survey: CROS 2013 (it’s about our future development together)

croslogo_web_medThe 2013 version of the Careers in Research Online Survey is now a week into its launch at Loughborough. It’s traditionally quite a detailed production, but is actually 10 questions shorter than last year (no doubt in response to the howls of protest at its length in 2011, and the years before that).

Please, all you Loughborough researchers, check your email for the message from Katryna Kalawsky containing the link and grab yourself a suitable beverage during whenever you have a bit of a break and let us know what you think. The researcher development process needs this brief input of yours to ensure the right things happen to continue researcher development.

I’m not going to repeat the survey link here, as it’s just for Loughborough researchers, and the blog is open to all, but if you’ve deleted the email and you need a reminder, email Katryna with this link.


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Data Visualisation tips

datavis wordle.net magazine has been going for ages (centuries in internet years, I’m sure…), and is a useful resource about all things, well, net-related.

The article on data visualisation tools by Brian Suda (3rd May 2013) caught my eye, with categories on:

  1. cleaning up data
  2. chart creation and inspiration tools
  3. mapping
  4. timelines
  5. learning more (including a link to a wonderful film on teaching to see)
  6. practice makes perfect

Worth a look, imho…

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