Alan Fletcher’s BizTech Blog: Digital Disruption for business models

Alan Fletcher, Head of Research and Enterprise Support in STEM and Lab Manager in KMi has written a thought piece for businesses regarding both threats and opportunities that the digital disruption from Covid presents to their business models.  The article appears in the January 2021 edition of the Biztech Blog. The Open University is an active member of Biztech, a business technology forum that has been at the forefront of technological innovation and education in the prospering Milton Keynes region for over a decade.


Related Links:

KMi at Brazil Week

On the 26th of January 2021, King’s College London and The British Council launched the STEM Education Hub targeting research and education in Brazil. The Hub’s mission is to act as a point of co-operation between the UK and Brazil.

As a member of the Hub KMi Researcher, Lara Piccolo, presented her research on technology design to promote social changes both in Brazil and in the UK, illustrating possible collaborations and contrasting both research scenarios. KMi’s Senior Researcher, Trevor Collins, was a guest speaker at the inaugural event, introducing The Open University’s Centre for STEM Pedagogy (eSTEeM) and illustrating practitioner-led scholarship that underpins the OU’s STEM Faculty’s innovations in distance learning.

From UNICAMP in Brazil, Prof Cecília Baranauskas was also a guest speaker introducing some interdisciplinary research projects in the context of e-inclusion and e-citizenship applying participatory and socially responsible approaches to design technology.

The STEM education hub will continuously promote debate around key research areas and teaching questions that require greater development, both in Brazil and the UK, in a way that promotes equality, citizenship, and sustainable development. It will also offer academic support to researchers and establish channels of mobility between and to the benefit of both countries. Certainly, it will be the host and trigger of fruitful international collaborations for KMi and the OU.

Related Links:

Polifonia, An EU Project Launch

The Polifonia project kick off meeting was held today.

The project aims to identify and recreate connections between music, people, places and events from the 17th century to the modern day. Funded by the European Commission under the H2020 Framework Programme, project partners such as, King’s College in London, and Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences met virtually, (due to COVID19 restrictions) to introduce their research teams and to set the executive working agenda for the next six months.

Polifonia will help create a vast resource of computational knowledge in the form of a knowledge graph network of interconnected data from all the main musical heritage sources with one single point of access, to uncover these phenomena systematically. Working in close relation with musicologists and historians of music, Polifonia will develop methods and tools to help understand the evolution of European musical heritage in space and time. Themes include the transition of music genres across borders, the experiences of music in childhood, and the tracing of musical ideas through musicians’ encounters in history. With the help of Artificial Intelligence, Polifonia will analyze sounds, texts and musical scores and develop novel approaches to interact with music content for the benefit of scholars, musicians, and citizens.

KMi leads the OU team, which have researchers from the Music Computing Lab and the Music Department. Enrico Daga will carry out the role of Technical Director for the project and lead KMi’s research on knowledge graph construction for Polifonia and the work package of Human Interaction with Music, in collaboration with Paul Mulholland and Simon Holland (Music Computing Lab). The project is coordinated by the University of Bologna and will run until April 2024.




Related Links:

Developing accessible network simulation software for the visually impaired

The Association for Learning Technology (ALT) blog has initiated a COVID special collection, featuring the latest news about the PT Anywhere network simulator. PT Anywhere, which has been jointly developed by the Open University and Cisco, has recently launched an accessible version for the visually impaired, in the context of the Open Networking Lab Accessibility project.

The Open Networking Lab Accessibility project, funded by the UfI VocTech Trust, allows visually impaired people to acquire basic computer networking skills through the use of accessible network simulation software. In order to achieve this, we have extended the PT Anywhere network simulation tool to offer an accessible interface for visually impaired learners. We have collaborated with instructors from the Cisco Networking Academy, visually impaired users, members of the broader disability community, and accessibility specialists, in order to identify user requirements and test the new software developments.

The accessible version of PT Anywhere can be accessed here, or by visiting the interactive learning activities of our OpenLearn course. Read the ALT blog post here.

Keynote and Special Track at eLmL 2020

The 12th International Conference on Mobile, Hybrid, and On-line Learning (eLmL 2020) took place online on November 21-25, 2020. eLmL is bringing together federated views on mobile learning, hybrid learning and online learning. The conference is dedicated to educators, eLearning experts, and students to exchange their ideas, experiences and lessons learned in different facets of modern learning.

Alexander Mikroyannidis delivered a keynote entitled “Emerging Technologies and Paradigms in Education”. In his talk, Alexander discussed emerging paradigms in education, notably decentralised education, practical education and social education, as well as the technologies driving these paradigms. Alexander’s keynote featured the outcomes and lessons learned from a variety of recent KMi research initiatives, including QualiChain, Open Blockchain, Institute of Coding, Open Networking Lab and more. The slides of the keynote are available here.

Additionally, Alexander organised a QualiChain special tack entitled “Decentralised Qualifications on the Blockchain”. The special track investigates the creation, piloting and evaluation of decentralised solutions for storing, sharing and verifying education and employment qualifications. The submissions received address a wide range of educational and employment use cases and applications of Blockchain technology. The special track proceedings are available here.

Watch the recordings of the special track presentations:

KMi Has Joined The I4OA Stakeholders Group

KMi has joined the I4OA Stakeholders’ Group, adding its support to their Open Abstract Initiative. This action, launched on 24 September, aims to advocate to all scholarly publishers to open the abstracts of their publications, and specifically to distribute them to trusted repositories where they are open and machine-accessible, in order to facilitate large-scale access and promote discovery of critical research.

This is a joint collaboration between scholarly publishers, librarians, researchers, and infrastructure organisations and KMi is very proud to be part of this large group who are promoting Open Abstracts. Indeed, our Scholarly Knowledge Modelling Mining and Sense Making (SKM3) team, relies heavily on abstracts for their analyses and access to such information is important to achieving their results.

Take, for example, the AIDA Dashboard which is one of the latest products developed by the SKM3 team, a tool for exploring and making sense of scientific conferences. This dashboard allows users to assess the research challenges that a conference is actually addressing, examine the trends of its relevant research topics and how its focus changed over time. To enable this functionality, all research papers published and presented to a conference were annotated using the CSO Classifier. This tool takes as input abstracts and titles and through Natural Language Processing and Semantic Web techniques identifies relevant topics drawn from the Computer Science Ontology. Abstracts have played a key role in the development of this innovative application.

Currently, I4OA is supported by more than 60 publishers, including Cambridge University Press, MIT Press and others, which are committed to making their abstracts openly available by depositing them in Crossref. However, many major publishers like Elsevier, the American Chemical Society (ACS), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Springer Nature and others are still hesitant. On the other hand, more than 60 stakeholders, including Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, CORE, Center for Open Science, Harvard Library, UK Research and Innovation and many others, have expressed support for this initiative.

KMi recognises there is a need for unrestricted availability of the abstracts of the world’s scholarly publications and is thrilled to support this Open Abstracts Initiative.

Related Links:

Citizen science data reveals the need for keeping pollinator-friendly plant lists up-to-date

Our latest paper from BeeWatch Planting for Pollinators citizen science data has just been published in Nature Scientific Reports.

Widespread concern over declines in pollinating insects has led to numerous recommendations of which “pollinator-friendly” plants to grow and help turn urban environments into valuable habitat for such important wildlife. We used data gathered through our UK-wide citizen science programme (BeeWatch) to determine food plant use by the nations’ bumblebee species, and show that much of the plant use recorded does not reflect practitioner recommendations. Whilst communicated widely by organisations and readily taken up by gardeners, “pollinator-friendly” lists fail to recognise the stark differences among species and pollinator groups, or adapt to changing phenology or gardening practices. Our paper calls for the provision and use of up-to-date dynamic planting recommendations driven by live (citizen science) data to support pollinator-friendly management of garden spaces, and in the process transformative personal learning journeys through gardening.

The research was partially funded through the ongoing EPSRC Grant "Human-computer collaborative learning in citizen science" (EP/S027513/1). Principal Investigator Advaith Siddharthan said:

"Planting for Pollinators pioneered the use of AI technologies such as Recommender Systems in Citizen Science projects to offer data-driven pollinator-friendly gardening advice, and previously demonstrated its value in bringing about attitudinal change in citizens (Sharma et al. 2019). This paper additionally demonstrates the scientific value of the data collected through citizen science."

To find out more, read the paper below:

Citizen science data reveals the need for keeping garden plant recommendations up-to-date to help pollinators (2020) Helen B Anderson, Annie Robinson, Advaith Siddharthan, Nirwan Sharma, Helen Bostock, Andrew Salisbury, Stuart Roberts and René van der Wal. Scientific Reports volume 10, Article number: 20483 

KMi at Open Education Global 2020

The Open Education Global 2020 conference took place online on November 16-20. The Open Education Global conference is the most internationally diverse conference devoted exclusively to open education, attracting researchers, practitioners, policy makers, educators and students to discuss and explore how open education advances educational practices around the world. This year’s conference was held online, featuring a packed programme across multiple time zones. Presenters from 36 countries delivered 183 sessions, the recordings of which amount to 55 hours of viewing. 

Alexander Mikroyannidis represented KMi and delivered a hands-on workshop entitled “Decentralising Open Education Using Blockchain Technology”. The workshop explored the different aspects of open education that are affected by decentralisation. Participants had the opportunity to try out and evaluate the tools offered by the QualiChain project for the Blockchain-based award and verification of education and employment qualifications. The outcomes of this workshop will provide useful feedback for the QualiChain pilot led by Alexander.

Watch the recording of this workshop: