Inspiring meeting of the BeL research group today

The Business eLearning research group is part of CIMER research centre in Brighton Business School and today we had an update meeting, as always producing stimulating conversation over cake.

The group was established 12 years ago with a dual mission – to research areas of elearning in relation to business and management, and to support colleagues in the Business School with the use of technology in learning and teaching. We now have five academic members of staff involved and supervise 3 postgraduate research students in related fields.

Activities with which we are currently involved:

  • BSc Professional Development in Business – a part-time blended learning undergraduate degree for people in work, which is based on Open University course material and is assessed and supported by Brighton Business School tutors. This is a pioneering course combining the best online materials from OU and extra tuition and support from our staff plus assessments which are newly designed to relate to students in work. The course is due for validation next month and we are hoping to build it into a Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, open for admission in 2017.
  • Online taster programme for students considering coming to university to study business – Andrea Benn and a team from BBS successfully won funding from Widening Participation to develop an hour long online taster programme which has now been designed and handed over to WP. The process and learning from it have been written up as a paper which is to be delivered at the European Conference on ELearning 2016 in Prague by the team, and has also been accepted as an entry for the elearning Excellence Awards this year. The programme is based on Edublogs and can be accessed via any platform on any device.
  • One of our research students – Ibrahim Zalah – has had a paper accepted for the Doctoral Workshop at the ECEL 2016 conference on  The Acceptance and use of E-learning Technologies by Saudi Secondary Teachers.
  • Business School teaching and learning event – every summer, staff get together to review what they do, and this year we are proposing a number of innovations which have been pioneered either by or with the support of BeL group members, ranging from mobile applications which engage students in large lecture sessions, to the online taster session mentioned above, plus problem-based learning experiences, to using online business game simulations.
  • Student Social Media Showcase (SSMS 2016) – runs again for the third time this year. Originally established at the European Conference on Social Media hosted by BeL research group in Brighton in 2014, the SSMS was an event which offered an online showcase of videos in which students presented their research on or with social media, and which was shared with schoolchildren in 2014. Last year, the SSMS went purely online with new student entries and prizes for the best videos. In 2016, we are taking the SSMS entries and video showreels to the Big Bang event, focussing on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines, on 29th June at Ardingly Showground where thousands of schoolchildren will get a chance to see what kind of social media impacts students at uni are interested in.
  • Trevor Nesbit, a new member of the BeL group on the academic staff at BBS, is close to submitting his PhD which discusses interactive collaboration and questioning through mobile devices in the classroom.
  • We also have two other FT research students working hard on their respective research studies – one relating to the personal learning networks and environments of female university students in Saudi Arabia and another looking into SMEs and how they support the learning of key workers with dyslexia when so much learning is screen-based.
  • Members of the group also edit the Journal Interactive Learning Environments for Routledge, a journal for which the impact factor is increasing and submissions are so strong, we have doubled issues in size this year.

A bumper package of activity – well done the BeL group!

Triumph and Twitter at ECSM2014 and SSMS2014

Really successful Student Social Media Showcase and inaugural European Conference on Social Media hosted by Business E-Learning research group at University of Brighton in last three days. What’s the evidence of success?

Success counted on the basis of online footprint: so far we have some 1378 tweets sharing the #ECSM2014 hashtag, 656 outgoing links and 198 photos shared from the three days. Success also counted from some 170 participants from 35 countries – which for a first new conference was very strong. Success also judged by the positive and engaged conversations throughout a conference which mixed a diverse focus of research on data analytics, business and marketing perspectives of social media, e-participation and democracy and impacts of social media on learning at all levels of education.

Although the range of paper topics was far too wide to summarise, Asher Rospigliosi, conference chair, and I summarised five challenges arising from the research across the conference:

1.ubiquity – clearly social media is omnipresent, yet many academic researchers are not using many social media platforms – to what extent can we hypothesize without personal engagement and experience? to what extent do we use social media to share research? debate questions? just using it for checking flights or trains is not really enough.

2.Twitter focus – one of the easier social media platforms to use for research, but what kind of data are we getting? Farida Vis, keynote on Day One, alerted us to the immensity of the FIREHOSE and the strong chances that sampling was not what we might expect in standard datasets.

3.clash of worlds – as exemplified by the breadth of conference papers, social media influences and fuels political, economic, commercial, social and personal worlds as well as those of the academic and the learner – there is potential here for unintended consequences in research.

4.pace of change – social media platforms come and go with unpredictable speed, while institutional and research funding timelines continue to move at snail pace – the dangers of focussing on a suddenly extinguished platform are obvious

5.language – all our keynote speakers: Ben Shneiderman, Farida Vis, David Gurteen and John Traxler touched on issues of language in this fast expanding research domain. Shneiderman pointed out we don’t have much language to describe the shapes in visualised data yet, Vis pointed out the absence of language to compare and contrast visual images which are the increasing focus of social media – especially on instagram, pinterest, snapchat etc, Gurteen showed us we needed shared language to make meaningful conversation and Traxler highlighted the potential dominance of Western language through technology affecting and perhaps extinguishing local languages across the world.

There are lots of ways we can go back and reflect on the content and challenges of the conference – particularly through epilogger
and storify, found through the blogsite as well as twitter and flickr streams. Nicola Osborne of EDINA also contributed an excellent very detailed blog of all three days, for which many thanks Nicola.

When all have returned home to ponder on the events of the last three days, what will we remember? For me it was the dazzling diversity of thinking about social media and the sense of being on the brink of an exploding research domain. Look out for Special Issues and papers selected from the conference in related journals – details on the conference website:

Business Faculty e-learning programme

The Faculty programme is now launched in Brighton. This programme aims to inspire, stimulate and debate technology enhanced learning in the Faculty. The key areas of pedagogy in relation to Studentcentral, Community@Brighton and Web 2.0 applications, will be considered. We hope to stimulate staff engagement with e-learning and raise opportunities for online assessment.

Facilitated by the Business e-Learning Research Group, the programme will include three invited speakers, two internally facilitated workshops and a final symposium with experts and invited participants from faculty. After each session with an external speaker, six participants will be invited to an evening meal with the speaker hosted by BeL to continue the debate.

A Community@Brighton site will run alongside the programme and BeL will offer one-to-one drop in sessions after each internal workshop for staff who wish to experiment with a little help.

First event 3rd Feb 2010.