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Sonya's Blog Posts

AI-Augmented Marking

Chart showing correlation of human and KEATH.ai grading
Accuracy of KEATH.ai Grading vs. Human Markers

This was a HeLF webinar facilitated by Christopher Trace at the Surrey Institute of Education, to provide us with an introduction to KEATH.ai, a new generative AI powered feedback and marking service which Surrey have been piloting.

It looked very interesting. The service was described as a small language model, meaning that it is trained on very specific data which you – the academic end user – feeds into it. You provide some sample marked assignments, the rubric they were marked against, and the model can then grade new assignments with a high level of concurrence to human markers, as shown in the chart above of Surrey’s analysis of the pilot. Feedback and grading of a 3-5,000 word essay-style assignment takes less than a minute, and even with that being moderated by the academic for quality, which was highly recommended, it is easy to see how the system could save a great deal of time.

In our breakout rooms, questions arose around what the institution would do with this ‘extra time’, whether they would even be willing to pay the new upfront cost of such a service when the cost of marking and feedback work is already embedded into the contracts of academic and teaching staff, and how students would react to their work being AI graded? Someone in the chat shared this post by the University of Sydney discussing some of these questions.

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Lumi H5P Editor

Screenshot of Lumi interface
Screenshot of Lumi Interface

Just a wee quick one to share Lumi, a new discovery I’ve made today via the always useful ALT Members mailing list.

This is an offline, desktop app for creating H5P content. All the content types of H5P are there, it looks and works exactly as it does through a web interface like WordPress, and content you create can be exported as either HTML files or as a SCORM package. That latter option makes it very useful for us, there are definitely use case scenarios for it here at Sunderland where we don’t have the direct Canvas integration. Viva SCORM!

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ALT NE User Group: June 2024

Northumbria Uni library ceiling with power 'blocks' from the ceiling, and a humours 8-bit Mario hitting one of them
I’m not the only one who sees this, right?

Northumbria’s turn to do hosting honours this time around. It’s been a while since I was on my old campus, and I was shocked to see that the Library refurb ran out of money to finish the ceiling. I did like the ceiling mounted power extensions that look like Mario coin blocks though. Solves the problem of tripping over or accessing floor panel extensions, but introduces new problems for the vertically challenged. Julie said she couldn’t reach them to pull them down, while I, on the other end of the spectrum, had to duck and weave to avoid bonking my head on them at times. I wouldn’t mind if they actually dispensed gold coins, but no such luck.

Anyway, that’s enough shade thrown at my previous employer, time to be serious. Generative AI once again dominated our morning discussions, with a presentation by Tadhg, an academic at Northumbria, who has revamped their Business module with content related to Generative AI, teaching students how to use it to help write research proposals. This was followed by Ralph in their learning technologies team who has been using D-ID and Elevenlabs to create animated videos to supplement written case studies for students in Nursing. Dawn from Northumbria’s Library service then gave us a talk on their experience of Adobe Creative Campus, and reported a much more positive experience than Teesside.

After lunch we had some open discussions on digital exams. Newcastle are using Inspera to facilitate a proportion of their exams, and have mixed feelings about it. I was pleased to note that they have strongly pushed back on using online proctoring on ethical grounds. Emma from Teesside led a discussion on WCAG changes which prompted us to discuss getting the balance right between supporting all students along the principles of UDL, while being practical and having to work within the technical and cultural limits of the systems we have to use and processes we have to follow. Student record systems only allowing one assignment per module, for example.

Finally, Craig from Northumbria gave us a demo of some interactive 360 degree content they have created, including surgical simulations, nursing scenarios, and examining crime scenes. They are producing this content such that the scenarios can be accessed via any web browser, at the expenses of immersion, but they are also exported into a format that can be used with their bank of Vive VR headsets for students to get the full experience.

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To Infinity and B-yound!

This webinar was presented as part of the ongoing HeLF development series, and this time around we had Stephanie DeMarco and Alex Rey from Birmingham City University leading a discussion on the Office for Students Conditions of Registration, specifically the ‘B’ metrics on quality, standards, and outcomes.

Even more specifically, we were looking at B3 which is about delivering positive outcomes for students, and is the metric most directly under our sphere of influence as learning technologists and academic developers.

B3 has three measures underneath it, related to continuation, completion and progression, which here means that students have gone into graduate level employment. These measures are not open to any kind of interpretation, and HEIs must meet the set targets of 80% continuation, 75% completion and 60% progression.

B3 also contains within if four aims, which are open to some level of interpretation and debate. These are participation, experience, outcomes, and value for money. The last being particularly contentious in the climate surrounding HE in the United Kingdom of late. (Has my undergraduate degree in philosophy provided value for money? Absolutely.)

Stephanie and Alex then presented a case study of activity which they had undertaken to help academics better meet these outcomes, concentrating on areas such as authentic assessment, project-based learning, how to write programme validation documentation, etc.

And finally, there was a shared Padlet board in which we could all share thoughts and best practice. From this I have picked up the Curriculum Scan model, development by Alexandra Mihai, which can be used for auditing modules. This reminded me of storyboarding process done as part of instructional design before a module goes live, but for auditing and checking a module which is ongoing.

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Studiosity Partner Forum 2024

I attended my third Studiosity Partner Forum today, which kind of began last night with a dinner and discussion about generative artificial intelligence led by Henry Aider. Generative AI and Studiosity’s new GAI powered Writing Feedback+ service was of course the main topic of conversation throughout the event. Writing Feedback+ launched in February, and they have reported that uptake is around 40% of eligible students, which compares with 15-20% for the classic Writing Feedback service. The model has been built and trained internally, using only writing feedback provided by Studiosity’s subject specialists, no student data. The output of WF+ is being closely quality assured by those agents, and they estimate that quality is around 95-97% as good as human provided feedback.

David Pike, from the University of Bedfordshire presented on their experience with the service in the afternoon. They made it available to all of their students in February, around 20,000, and usage has already exceeded usage of the classic Writing Feedback service since September last year. The average return time from WF+ is around one and a half minutes, and student feedback on the service is very positive at 88.5%. However, he did also note that a number of students who have used both versions of the service stated that they preferred the human provided feedback.

On the flip side of AI, last year Studiosity were exploring a tool to detect submissions which had been written by generative AI. That’s gone. Nothing has come of it as they found that the reliability wasn’t good enough to roll out, especially so for students who have English as a second language. No surprises for me there, detection is a lie.

The keynote address was delivered by Nick Hillman from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), who talked about their most recent report on the benefits and costs associated with the graduate visa route. It’s overwhelmingly positive for us as a country, and it would be madness to limit this.

Other things which I picked up included learning more about Crossref, a service for checking the validity of academic references; a course on Generative AI in Higher Education from Future Learn was recommended; and Integrity Matters, a new course developed by the University of Greenwich and Bloom to teach new students about academic integrity.

Finally I was there presenting myself, doing my Studiosity talk about our implementation at Sunderland and the data we now have showing a strong positive correlation between engagement with Studiosity and student outcomes and continuation.

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ALT NE User Group: March 2024

GIF of Jonny 5 reading a book really fast
Now this is the kind of AI I was promised as a kid

The latest ALT North East User Group was hosted at Middlesbrough College, and had a very generative AI heavy agenda. But first, Tamara at Middlesbrough presented on ‘ED Tech and Pedagogy’ which was quite similar to a TEL and pedagogy session I do on our PG Cert, and I picked up a few points that I can integrate into future presentations. Including the argument that it is really Gen Z who are the first true digital natives which will be useful as I still use Prensky’s original talk to explore the idea that different generations approach technology differently.

Next we had a round robin session on how we are approaching AI at our respective institutions. I talked about the in-year changes we made to student regulations in response to the release of ChatGPT, something Middlesbrough College have also done, and Northumbria are using a cover sheet template for student assignments for them to delicate if and how they have used AI to help with their work. Quite a few of us are pressing forwards with Microsoft Co-Pilot now that it is available.

Ross from Durham then presented on an AI chatbot they have created using Cody AI to assist students on a large module where, for various reasons, information is located in different places, including Blackboard and SharePoint. Cody looks interesting. It’s using various models under the hood, I’m sure Ross said models from multiple provides were available, but I only saw OpenAI based ones in their demo. You train the chatbot on your own data which you upload to Cody, and sharing that data and use of the model back with OpenAI is allegedly opt-in. (Perhaps I’m being overly cynical, but I wouldn’t OpenAI on this.)

Finally, after lunch, I presented on something not AI, but EDI – the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Portal which I have created at Sunderland in partnership with our EDI team in an effort to widen access to our various EDI educational resources.

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Exploring Modality in the Context of Blended and Hybrid Education

It’s come to my attention, because I’ve just been writing about this for my CMALT portfolio review, that I don’t always record HeLF webinars on my CPD record, so here I am, doing just that. The ‘Heads of eLearning Working in UK HE’ forum facilitates regular CPD webinars for its members, and this one was exploring different kinds of attendance in a post-pandemic context.

Simon Thomson, of the University of Manchester, began with a discussion on how they have previously used the TPACK Framework in academic development, but found that people often got too caught up in the technology aspect to the exclusion of other factors. Simon has therefore adapted this model, replacing ‘technology’ with ‘modality’ to create the ‘Subject, Pedagogy & Modality’ Framework, or SPAM, instead. The models are captured in the first screenshot taken from the presentation, above. This led into a discussion on the rationale and value of specific modalities, and confusion over terminology. From the second screenshot, the idea of student choice resonated with me. I think it is very much the wrong tack when institutions, or worse, the government, dictate how students should be learning for non-pedagogical reasons. (Like checking visa compliance for example…!)

Sue Buckingham, from Sheffield Hallam, picked up on the confusing terminology in their part of the presentation. How many students would be able to confidently define ‘HyFlex’ learning for example, or explain the different between blended, hybrid, and hyflex? Could you? Could I!? HyFlex is exactly what I’ll be doing when my own module starts up again next week. It’s all been planned and designed to be in person, but I’m also going to stick a laptop at the front, pointed at me and the board, and have a concurrent Teams session running too. Students in 2024 have rich, complex lives. Jobs, school runs, caring commitments, so give them a choice as a reasonable accommodation and act of compassion.

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ALT NE User Group: November 2023

My turn to do the hosting honours today, for the first time since before we had that pesky pandemic. My carefully planned agenda went completely out the window during the first item, but everything still managed to run pretty smoothly, and splurging the boss’s cash on the catering after getting the venue for free was a result, as the food was roundly praised.

We began with institutional updates from attendees. I thought as it was the first meeting of the year a quick round of updates would be good to have. I asked for one slide or five minutes each, got something like 17 slides from one bod, and this half hour item ran to well over an hour. But it was good, and I learned that we are all dealing with the problem of digital skills of staff and trying to make improvements there, and what the Blackboard and Anthology merger has done for AI in Blackboard. Staff now have access to an AI Design Assistant which will create entire course outlines and structures which serves as a great starting point. Middlesbrough College are trialing Microsoft’s Copilot tool in Bing, and have made it available to all staff and students, and Newcastle have seen a big increase in digital exams which are now at 40%.

After the roundup, I had one of my team do a demo of the Clevertouch boards we rolled out last year, then a learning design / content development showcase which provided an opportunity to share examples of best practice. In the afternoon we had a discussion on the role of ALT and where we sit within it, and a tour of Sunderland’s new anatomy suite. We have a new Anatomage table with a number of additional models, including some fine detail scans which have digitised certain features down to 0.1mm.

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The End is Not Nigh


Pecuniam populo antepone

Yesterday I had the dubious pleasure of catching a bit of Rishi Sunak’s chat with Elon Musk about the future of AI, and it was dreadful. Absolutely no criticality whatsoever, Sunak just blindly accepted everyone Musk told him. This is something which bothers me so much that over the past few months I sort of accidently wrote 2,500 words on why the robots will not be taking over anytime soon, but instead of publishing it here I sent it on to the ALTC Blog for consideration, and it was published today – you can read it here. I should think of the ALTC Blog more often and try to get more of my ramblings published there, it’s been a while. They even gave me a badge.

Anyway, the short, short version is that no matter how impressive ChatGPT may seem, it’s not doing anything very new or revolutionary, and that particular kind of artificial intelligence has pretty much gone as far as it can. There is absolutely no path from where we are today to general artificial intelligence which can rival or surpass human intelligence. None. Whatsoever. The real threat of AI we should be worried about is how it is being used to displace and make precarious workers in certain industries to further increase the capture of wealth by the top 1%. This is one of the issues which SAG-AFTRA are striking on, specifically the practice of replacing background extras in film and TV with AI generated images. This is the time to be fighting back and supporting campaigns like this, because our politicians are certainty not up to the challenge, even if it does mean you have to wait an extra few months for Dune: Part 2.

ALRC Blog Contributor Digital Badge

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UoS Learning and Teaching Conference 2023

Learning and Teaching Conference, 2023
The big boss up on stage, doing the introductions

Another out of this world conference this year, but alas nobody who was one degree of separation from walking on the moon this time, as our attention instead turned to… yes, you guessed it, generative artificial intelligence.

The morning keynote was given by Thomas Lancaster of Imperial College London who has done a lot of research over the years on contract cheating, and who has now turned his attention to the new AI tools which have appeared over the past year. Interestingly, he commented that essay mill sites are being pushed to students as much as they ever have, but I suspect that these agencies are now themselves using generative AI tools to displace already low paid workers in the developing world who were previously responsible for writing assignments on demand for Western students.

The first breakout session I attended was ‘Ontogeny: Mentoring students to succeed in a world of AI’ by Dr Thomas Butts and Alice Roberts who discussed how medical students are using GAI and the issues this is causing in terms of accuracy, as these models are often presenting wrong information as truth, which has particularly serious consequence in medicine. There was an interesting observation on culture and social skills, that students now seem to prefer accessing the internet for help and information rather than simply asking their teachers and peers.

The second session was ‘Enhancing the TNE student experience through international collaborative discussions and networking opportunities’ by Dr Jane Carr-Wilkinson and Dr Helen Driscoll who discussed the Office for Students’ plans to regulate TNE (trans-national education), though no-one quite seems to know how they are going to do this. Including the OfS. This was an interesting discussion which explored the extent of our TNE provision (I don’t think I had appreciated the scale before, over 7,000 students across 20 partners), and the issues involved in ensuring quality across the board.

There was also a student panel discussion who were asked about their use of GAI and understanding of the various issues surrounding plagiarism. They demonstrated quite a robust level of knowledge, with many of them saying that they are using ChatGPT as a study assistant to generate ideas, but I did groan to hear one person talk about the "plagiarism score" in Turnitin and how "20% plagiarism is a normal amount", and they don’t worry until it gets higher. The myths penetrate deep.

The final afternoon keynote was given by Dr Irene Glendinning of Coventry University who talked about her research on the factors which lead to plagiarism and cheating. This included a dense slide on various factors such as having the opportunity, thinking they won’t be detected, etc., but nowhere on there were cultural factors identified, and the way that higher education in the UK has been marketized over the recent past. I’ve certainly came across comments along the nature of, if students are paying £9,000 a year on tuition, why not just pay a few hundred more to make assessment easier or guarantee better results? But I’m noticing more and more that people don’t seem to be willing or able to challenge the underlying political decisions anymore.

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