Sunday, 28 April 2013

opinion: Academic social networking tools


This is a social networking site for researchers to share papers, and probably it most interesting feature though is to ask and answer questions. It is free; you get a profile page; place for posting your papers, datasets, etc. 

My favourite feature is you can add questions to your papers. What I mean by that is you can post discussion questions about your paper, people often respond to them - for one question so far there have been over 65 replies/answers (admittedly some other questions have had no replies).

 There is a scoring system that is a little difficult to work out, but it is early days for this site, based on factors including: impact factor, your interactions and other users interactions with your papers.
You can track how many papers have been downloaded and your top three downloads in the last week.

How many people have viewed you profile in the last week?

In some respects, whilst it is free, why wouldn't you put some of your papers on it (I know time). The question posing is a great feature, the discussion when they happen can be really interesting (especially when you get an answer). There is also the potential for finding a collaborator. 

I certainly thinking any science doctoral student or early career researcher should give this serious consideration, even if all they do is post their papers (if copyright issues allow).
 can post papers, teaching materials, links

- really good for getting Google hits
- the range  disciplines of people who follow your work is actually very diverse. Is often from when you start using it.
- quite well established
-it has analytics features about where someone has googled one of your papers and the keywords used.
Not officially an academic social networking tool but a bookmarking tool, in a lot of respects it does have social networking elements that are suitable (and used by academics).
- following certain peoples posts
-commenting on what is posted
-others following you.
1. Scoopit(


Two examples sites used in my teaching are shown here:
artificial intelligence for students

Robot resource

The good feature of scoop.its is you have control over what content you present, you are the filter. Content suggestions are also made, but it is up to you if you select them. The aim is to increase the amount of student suggested content. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

Evaluating impact in the REF

Taken from:,81708,en.html

"An evaluation of the rewards and challenges for institutions in preparing submissions detailing the impact of their research for the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) is due to start shortly.

HEFCE has commissioned consultants, RAND Europe to undertake the comprehensive evaluation, which will look at the benefit and burden associated with impact submission preparation, recommend possible refinements of the process for future exercises, and identify good practice across the sector.

The evaluation will look at rewards and challenges relating to impact submissions among different types of higher education institution, and across the range of disciplines covered by the REF, by working with a sample group of around 18 institutions. Initial work will begin in May, and the main phase of work with institutions will start in December 2013.

This evaluation represents the first of a two-stage process to evaluate the impact element in the REF. The second stage will focus on the assessment of impact. The outcomes of the two-stage evaluation will be reported in 2015, and will inform policy development for the next REF exercise." (HEFCE,2013)

To go to the HEFCE site click here.

Related sites:

Conference Report - HEA STEM: Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2013

HEA STEM: Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2013: Where practice and pedagogy meet

  • Date: 17 Apr 2013 - 18 Apr 2013
  • Location/venue: University of Birmingham
Keynotes speeches
  • Martyn Poliakoff - Martyn is a Research Professor in Chemistry at the University of Nottingham. The keynote revolved around te experiences of producing several hundred youtube video on chemistry. 
  • Carl Gombrich  Programme Director, Arts and Sciences (BASc) since September 2010 discussed the experiences and challenges of running of an interdisciplinary arts and science course.

10 parallel sessions covering discipline specific areas (such as biological sciences, chemistry, computing, engineering, mathematics,physics, psychology) as well more teaching and learning related (such as students as partners, problem-solving, contract cheating, employability). See for more details.

Poster Sessions
32 posters covering similar subjects areas to the sessions. See for more details.

Two papers from University of Northampton were presented (oral presentation by Rachel Maunder "Forming new relationships with students: Exploring the potential of staffstudent partnerships for undertaking pedagogic research" and my poster "junkbots")

My own 'take home points'
  • Contract cheating - to help post your assignment on Turnitin before giving it to the students.
  • Problem-solving and programming - most universities struggle with this one to a lesser or greater extent. So in other words there still more work needed here.
  • Argument Mapping- reinforced the idea that I have been considering for a while about including argument mapping within my teaching (see whats-is-problem-with-problem-solving.
  • OpenSim could make a good tool for teaching - possible AI?

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The University of Northampton opens a new state-of-the-art thermo-fluids laboratory

Taken from:

The School of Science & Technology is delighted to announce the opening of a new state-of-the-art thermo-fluid laboratory, at a cost of nearly a quarter of a million pounds.
Thermo fluids lab
Equipped with a range of specialist and modern equipment and experiments to allow students to explore thermodynamics, fluid flow, sustainable engineering and alternative energy, the new laboratory adds to an expanding resource facility in engineering at the University.
Dr Jonathan Adams, Head of Department, said: “The new laboratory adds vital practical resources to enable students studying our HNC, HND and BSc Engineering courses and our recently validated BEng/MEng in Electromechanical Engineering to explore and reinforce practically the engineering principles which are learnt theoretically in class.” 
Professor Kamal Bechkoum, Executive Dean of the School of Science and Technology, commented: “The new thermo-fluids laboratory is part of the University’s commitment to providing our students with a vibrant and business-relevant learning environment. The student experience is at the heart of what we do, and we strongly believe that this kind of investment is crucial for a high quality student experience and for better preparing our graduates for tomorrow’s jobs in the engineering sector.”
The new laboratory further adds to the expanding research capability of the Department for local, national and international engineering companies.  The Department currently has contract research projects for international companies; knowledge transfer partnerships and a number of sponsored research students.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Novel Teaching: University to create MMOG with students

Taken from:

BSc Computer Games Development lead by Martyn Simmons is the focus of an article by the Magazine EDGE about plans to develop a massively multiplayer game ( MMOG) with the students. The MMOG is just one of the aspects considered, a game involving Stoke Bruene Canal is discussed as is the Games courses multidisciplinary nature.

BSc  Computer Games Development
HND Computer Games Development

Also mentioned in the article is NVision and the advantages of having on-site immersive environment equipment.

For more details see:  University of Northampton to create MMOG with students
The article can be found at:

Return to South End

Taken from:

During National Science and Engineering Week 2013, as part of the activities provided by the University of Northampton, the Junkbots project returned as part of programme of activities to South End Primary School, Rushden, northamptonshire, UK. 

National Science and Engineering Week is annual event celebrating science and engineering activities (

Last year during the same week Junkbots also formed part of the activities (see

This time we worked with two classes - a year 2 and a year 5 class; building the drawing junkbot. Examples of previous drawing junkbots are shown above. Approximately 50 children took part across the two 45 minute activities.

Essentially a drawing junkbot is based around a drinks can that:
- draw patterns without anyone touching it;
-carried the battery pack or not depends on the age of the group;
-moves by shaking a can using an unbalanced motor with 'legs' make from pens.

Related links

If you would like to know more about the Junkbots project contact

HEA partnership awards 2013

Taken from:

Partnership Awards

Powerful partnerships: enhancing the student experience

This year’s Higher Education Academy (HEA) annual conference, Powerful partnerships: defining the learning experience, is examining how partnerships within higher education affect the student experience and educational outcomes. Partnerships may arise in many forms and might include interactions between students, employers, teaching staff, research staff, and wider organisations.
To recognise and celebrate partnerships with students, the HEA is launching two awards which will be presented at the Annual Conference, 4 July 2013.

HEA student and staff partnership award

How do local partnerships between staff and students impact the student experience?

The HEA invites joint submissions from staff and students who have worked together to effect change and enhance the student experience. This could be through a formal research or enhancement project, or locally developed working practices. Each submission should be co-authored by a staff member and student from the institution (though it can reflect the work of a larger team of staff and students).

HEA and NUS joint Students’ Union and institution partnership award

How do strategic partnerships between students’ unions and institutions impact the student experience?

The NUS and HEA invite joint submissions from representatives of institutions and their students’ unions, associations or guilds that have developed strategic approaches to partnership working to effect change enhance the student experience. This could be through joint institutional initiatives around key learning and teaching priorities, development of strategies or policies, and governance. Each submission should be co-authored by someone from both the institution and students’ union (though it can reflect the work of a larger team).
Each award comes with a prize fund of £500 (with conditions on how these funds may be spent). Completed applications should be e-mailed to thestudents as partners team by 5 May 2013.
Full guidance on how to apply may be found in the following documents:
If you have any questions about the awards contact the students as partners team.

What do students thinks of exam?

Ajit, S.  (2017)  Exam as an assessment instrument in computer programming courses: student perceptions.  Poster presented to:  6th Internat...