Workshop Day 2

The second day of the workshop explored the potential of the Oculus Rift and associated VR software (Janus browser and Unity) so the students could start to address how they might approach the ‘technical exhibition’ strand of the project. The day started with an introduction to the technology with LSFM Learning Advisor Mark Aldridge, who then tasked the students with heading out onto campus to film some footage with the 360° GoPro rig. Mark (with the help of KTP Jo Graham) then instructed the students of how to stitch this footage together using AutoPan for use within the Oculus Rift. This was an engaging activity designed to get the students out of the classroom and their hands on some exciting kit!

360 filming
360 stich

In the afternoon the student groups began generating ideas for both strands of the project. They were asked to ‘brain dump’ their initial responses to the brief in order to design both a workshop and some form of ‘technical exhibition’. This was a lively session, with the students coming up with lots of interesting ideas that could potentially be developed further throughout the rest of the workshop.

brain dump

They were then asked to pick one of their ideas from each strand to concentrate on, addressing how this might run at Southbank, how many participants might be involved, what resources they might need, what message or particular theme they are trying to communicate, etc. Tutors were available for ‘floating feedback’, dropping in on the discussions to offer advice and help the students approach their ideas from a fresh perspective.


In the final session of the day, the organisers of Frequency Festival of Digital Culture popped in to discuss the logistical aspects of exhibiting at the Southbank Centre, and to listen to the students present the concepts that had been developed throughout the day. It was great for the students to get some professional advice from an external stakeholder. It was also really useful for helping them to identify what they would require to turn their ideas into a finished product, and to focus on a simple message that could be easily  communicated to the public.



Workshop Day 1

After a welcoming cuppa, the first day of the @WebWeWant workshop started with an introduction to the key themes, outlining the schedule for the workshop and discussing the project brief. The students watched an interview with Edward Snowden (with John Oliver from Last Week Tonight), which was useful for addressing public apathy towards the mass surveillance of digital communications (in both a military and commercial context).


With the key themes resinating in the participants minds, we thought we’d launch straight into the first workshop task… Twitter Bricks!

Usually, when a group of strangers are to work together on something (be that forced or otherwise), there is usually some team-bonding task led by a facilitator that gets participants thinking and working as a unit. The idea is that communication becomes more fluent as they are all experiencing the same task simultaneously. These tasks traditionally take the form of some role-play scenarios, or if you’re lucky enough to be outdoors; building a raft out of planks of wood, string and some old oil drums.

We wanted to try something different. For a start, we (the co_LAB team) wanted to participate as equals with the students. After-all, part of the co_LAB intensive workshop ethos is to remove the notion of “us” and “them” wherever possible. Secondly, we wanted to introduce an element of creative problem solving, and we wanted to do this based on a recent experience when some of the team visited Copenhagen. Here, in the home country of Lego, they use the wondrous little plastic bricks to help with all kinds of business and creative problem solving. We thought we could take this a step further and use Lego for a collaborative creative problem solving task. Twitter Bricks was born.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 20.47.26

The idea is that 3 teams work together to recreate the co_LAB logo in Lego. They were assigned a third of the actual logo (see above) but instead of just recreating it flat, each group had to turn their “node” into a tower and their “connections” into a span. The 3 segments would then have to join together. Sound easy? Well if all 3 teams were to work together in the same room then yes, it probably would be very easy. However, here’s the twist! The 3 groups are separated by being in different rooms and so therefore unable to communicate. They all had the same briefing, they all saw the same plan (above) and all had the same instructions and rules.

Actually the rules were quite simple:

  1. no direct communication with the other groups BUT you can communicate with them via a Twitter hashtag
  2. the spans have to connect (denoted by the white lines in the diagram above)
  3. a Lego car has to be able to travel along the entire length of all the spans
  4. a Lego boat (which later became a camel) has to fit underneath each span

This still might not sound all the difficult but think about it, the spans have to be roughly the same width, have to be EXACTLY the same height and communicating even these simple dimensions using only Twitter isn’t as straight forward as you might think.

twit twit2 twit3 twitbricks

After the strict 1 hour time limit was up, each group carefully carried their segment back into the main room to connect the whole structure together:

lego structure

Incredibly, the structure did connect and the car could pass across the entire span with no problems. The camels could fit underneath the spans too making this little exercise a fantastic success. Yes, there were teething issues, but this was an idea that had never been tried before (to our knowledge) so there was no telling if it would work or not. I guess we were always going to get something which could be cobbled together but the success can be measured by how little modification it takes to connect the spans. In this instance, hardly any was required.

After bonding over pizza, the students groups discussed the research they collaboratively sourced during the pre-workshop phase. The students were asked to respond to a series of questions and present their findings to the rest of the group.

Collaborative Practice Based Research

To contextualise the co_LAB approach, it was important for us to situate the involvement of the students within a wider set of critical issues. To address this, postgraduate students Louise Lawlor and Andy West gave an insightful talk about their research and experience with the newly revalidated LSFM Masters programme (which explores an experimental approach to blending theory and practice).

lou andy

The use of practice-based research methodologies, collaboration and the utilization of public space are not only fundamental to co_LAB’s manifesto, but are also part of a more critical response to developments and approaches in Humanities research and also aligned to the Student as Producer initiative run by the University of Lincoln.

The talk contextualised a series of developments and symptoms mapped by a variety of scholars from the crisis of empirical research to the marketization of the University. Drawing upon the experiences from their own postgraduate research using practice based research methodologies and collaborative practice, which can breakdown the boundaries of a classroom. For the participants of co_LAB, the active and experimental approach to learning  can attune them to new ways of thinking about and understanding the themes of the project.

We feel this gave the students a critical insight into a range of problems when approaching methodologies and gave them a chance to not only see the project of co_LAB as something creative and collaborative, but as a wider response to important developments in academic research and public engagement.

The day ended with a lively discussion, recapping some of the core themes and research that was covered throughout the day. This resulted in the formation of some initial ideas which the students will be developing throughout the project.

OnCreate Update – Create Design Styleguide and Templates

co_LAB’s participation in the EU Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership project: OnCreate has started to produce output beyond the scope of the internal project framework.

One of the tasks we are contributing heavily to is: Create Design Styleguide and Templates (O1-A4). The core outcome is to have created the identity and branding of the OnCreate project ready for when we are required to output work officially.

This task was designated to run from December 2014 – February 2015 with TAMK as lead. Early on in the project, we put forward the idea that we should set this as a competition brief for students who are enrolled on creative programmes within the partner institutions. This idea was suggested due to the success and enhanced participation encountered when we ran a similar task during MC2020.

All partners involved with this task agreed that this was an excellent idea but noted concerns that the students might not have the required grounding and knowledge of the subject of branding in order to produce work of a high enough standard.

During one of our all partner online meetings, a breakaway group suggested that it would be a great idea to collaboratively produce and deliver an online programme of 4 weeks to help educate and guide the students through the process using a mixture of blended and flipped learning pedagogies.

The Programme

The original intention was for 4 different institutions to work on each of the 4 workshops that represent a phase in branding research, design and development:

  1. Branding analysis/research
  2. Mood board creation
  3. Logos, Fonts, Images & Layouts
  4. Styleguide creation

Sadly it didn’t quite pan out the way we would have liked, and in the end only 3 institutions contributed to this task, but what was positive about this approach, is that now, all the partner institutions have access to a 4 workshop intensive programme on the subject of branding design that they are free to use and participate in whenever they like.

One vital lesson learned was to ensure communication was as clear as possible as it is clearly difficult in some instances to ensure all partners are fully aware of their expected contribution and participation in a task.

Distribution Platform

As each institution utilises a different Learning Management System (LMS) there was no possible way we could select one in particular to host the programme due to difficulties in providing appropriate levels of access.

Those institutions who participated in the IDEO HCD MOOC favoured the NovoEd platform as it provided intuitive access to workshop content and excellent integrated synchronous and asynchronous tools for collaboration. However, it is a commercial platform and, as such, we did not have the time, or inclination to explore that route. After-all, this is as much an experiment in collaboration as it is a useful programme of study.

In the end it was decided that we use the OnCreate Google Drive as a means to store and deliver the programme’s contents as it is free, provides plentiful storage, natively handles a good range of files formats and allows excellent access control. Folders for each workshop were then created as repositories for related content:


We even created extra content that introduced using Google tools for synchronous collaboration.

Workshop Content

Using the HCD programme as a model, which we all agreed seem to work well, it was recommended that each workshop consist of a video introduction or screen-cast of the content, a PDF that contains in-depth content on the topic, a task that requires demonstration of knowledge and provide each participant with an opportunity to discuss their responses to the task set.

We then uploaded our content to the appropriate folder and viola! a coherent programme about branding design, created by 3 different institutions:



Of course, the driving force behind this workshop programme is to provide students with the tools they need to enter their branding ideas for OnCreate to the competition brief. This is going to be published very soon.

In the meantime

While we are waiting for the students to participate in our collaborative branding programme, and then enter their responses into the branding design competition, the OnCreate project requires an online presence.

As co_LAB have experience in web design, we drafted up a basic placeholder webpage with the required vital information on it, outlining the key aims and objectives of the project:



Swivl ‘Flipped Learning’ Pilot Study

Alasdair is currently leading a pilot study on the Swivl (automatic tracking camera mount) for the Senior Teaching Oversight Group and the Disabled Students Allowance Working Group. The aim is to assess the effectiveness of this technology as a video content capture device and how it can be used to support students. This is especially pertinent for International students and those with mild learning differences. The Swivl device may also prove a useful tool for ‘Flipped Learning’. This is an blended learning framework that provides opportunities for students to engage with learning materials outside of the classroom prior to lessons, freeing up teaching time for more student-directed learning and the independent application of the taught content (as opposed to the traditional model in HE, whereby lecture content is delivered in class while students are left to fend for themselves outside of the classroom). The Swivl represents an opportunity to capture lecture content and enhance the videos with additional material (slides, interactive assessment points, etc.)

Martyn, Graham and James are all taking part in the study and have been recording content for the past few weeks, feeding back our experiences to inform a university-wide approach. Once the practical issues have been addressed the next step is to investigate how the ability to record teaching can impact on our pedagogy and potentially look to rethinking how we use our contact time with our students.

E-Learn 2014 – World Conference on E-Learning

Martyn recently had the honour of presenting at E-Learn 2014 – World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education, an international conference organised by the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE) and co-sponsored by the International Journal on E-Learning. The conference was held in New Orleans, US and featured delegates from all over the world, with over 60 nationalities represented.

The paper focussed issues of best practice and methods of ‘blended learning’ piloted throughout 2013 during the EU Erasmus Intensive Programme ‘Media Culture 2020’.  Martyn’s paper also demonstrated how the methods piloted during MC2020 have been influential in developing co_LAB and Lincoln School of Film Media’s online learning strategies, informing and underpinning a number of recent collaborative projects. The article was published in the conference proceedings and is available through the EdITLib online academic database