A couple of months ago, I blogged about a new project I’m working on this year, funded by the SRHE research grants. Through the project, I am looking at ranking by ‘relevance’ in academic literature databases; so for example, when you do a Google Scholar search, the results are shown to you listed with the ‘most relevant’ first. But, what does ‘relevance’ mean here? How is it being defined, and what does this mean for how we engage with the research literature?

Following the literature review and a review of some online databases, I’m keen to find out more about what you – anyone working in Higher Education whose role involves at least some searching for literature, including PhD students – think, and how you use online databases for literature searches. The survey is now open here:

It will be active until July 8th. Please do feel free to share the link with any of your own networks, online and offline 🙂 Many thanks for your participation and I’m looking forward to sharing the results soon!

I’m excited to be taking on a new role at the Journal of Interactive Media in Education; I have served as an associate editor for the past few years, and I’m now very excited to be taking up the baton of co-editor from Ann Jones, who is retiring from the Institute of Educational Technology. As an IET alum, it is a great honour to be following in Ann’s footsteps, and co-editing the journal with Martin (Weller). I have learned a lot from working with Ann at JIME over the years – particularly for our Covid-19 special collection last year, which it was brilliant to work together on – and will be greatly missed.

JIME is supported by IET, and the first issue launched back in September 1996. The journal was a trailblazer in open academic publishing, and innovation – and while routes to open access are now available at most journals, JIME remains a venue which does not charge authors an article processing fee. JIME is hosted by Ubiquity Press, who provide an excellent publishing service – at no expense to authors.

JIME operates a model which combines open calls for submissions, and special collections around particular focal topics or communities. JIME has just reopened for general submissions – so we would love to receive your papers. JIME considers a broad range of topic relating to the use of technology in Higher Education (not schools). If you have a paper which you are looking to submit, but not sure if it would be in scope, feel free to get in touch with the abstract. Further information about the scope and how to submit can be found here – looking forward to your submissions!

It is a decade since Pappano famously described 2012 to as ‘the year of the MOOC’. To mark this milestone, Fereshte Goshtasbpour and I are putting together a special virtual collection at the Journal of Interactive Media in Education, bringing together and charting trends across the MOOC-focused articles which have been published in JIME over the past ten years.

As part of the introduction to the collection, we have been working on a timeline to try to map some of the major milestones and trends in the field. It’s quite a challenge to try to map out the major developments over a decade; the current version of the timeline is shown below – but what are we missing?

Clicking on the figure will open a larger version in Google Docs. Any comments would be greatly appreciated – thanks in advance! 🙂

This month, I’m excited to be launching a new project (alongside my work at the EdTech Hub), which I’ll be working on during 2022. I was thrilled to discover in December that the project, ‘Sort by relevance’: Exploring assumptions about algorithm-mediated academic literature searches, had been awarded funding through the annual SRHE Research Awards scheme.

Through the internet, academics are presented with an increasing array of platforms which offer sources of academic literature and information sources. In contrast to more traditional scholarly databases, large-scale platforms – such as Google Scholar – often utilise algorithms in order to manage how search query results are prioritised and presented to searchers. This introduces an opaque layer to how academics engage with the literature, with potentially important implications for rigour and equity. This project will explore academics’ perceptions and assumptions of how processes such as the Google Scholar algorithm operate and influence their access to information. 

The project has just started, and I will be blogging as it progresses. The project will involve a survey, followed by a series of interviews. In preparation for the survey, I’m currently conducting a literature search for existing literature related to the topic. When the topic of study is Google Scholar itself, searching for literature is more challenging than a ‘typical’ project! I have started to uncover some papers on this topic, but if you have any recommendations they would be much appreciated – please do post a comment if so. (Note that I’m particularly looking for papers which relate to the algorithm, or users’ perceptions – not papers which discuss the size/coverage of different databases, for example).

“Google Scholar aims to rank documents the way researchers do, weighing the full text of each document, where it was published, who it was written by, as well as how often and how recently it has been cited in other scholarly literature.” (Google Scholar, 2021).

Also, while Google Scholar is the prime example of a portal which uses an algorithm to prioritise and rank results, any papers relating to other less well known platforms which use ranking would also be very helpful. Google Scholar dominates the landscape so any recommendations for other platforms to look at would also be very welcome 🙂


As a alumnus of the GO-GN network, I was fortunate recently to be able to take part in their Wiki Scholars programme

I had some experience of editing Wikipedia a bit before, but it was a long time ago, and the interface has much improved since then (about 12 years ago I think!). As well as showing us the technical nuts-and-bolts of how to contribute to Wikipedia, Will, our instructor, also showed us a fascinating range of tools that can be used to explore the content on Wikipedia in more detail. Lots of inspiration for things to dig into and follow up on! 

The course took placed in one-hour sessions over several weeks, and I would highly recommend it. Also, it was lovely to see fellow GO-GNers again too 🙂 



It’s the end of the academic year, and the end of this academic year also marks 20 years since I finished my first year at Oxford as an undergraduate. It was an eventful year, and the start of a difficult few years. I didn’t expect it to feel like a milestone, but it does.

I bet rooms in college still look like this.

There have been various announcements recently that conferences scheduled to take place in the coming months will be moving online. Some are now offering free participation, or at least substantially reduced fees, so I am planning to try to make up for not being able to travel by attending as many things as I can. This post is a round-up of all the things that are on my list; I will update it if there are any further announcements (note that BERA and SRHE have been cancelled). Hope this is useful for you too, and do let me know if you have any suggestions!


The 41st annual Computers & Learning Research Group confernce at the OU will take place online, 15th-17th June. Free to register, here:


The EDEN conference is scheduled to take place from 21st to 24th June. Fee is 150 Euros, for non-members; some concessions are available:

Web Science Conference

Scheduled for 6th to 10th July, this will now take place online. This is a very interesting inter-disciplinary conference, which usually includes some sessions related to Education (I haven’t checked, but the programme is available on the website now). Fee is £50:

Social Media and Society

One day event in July (22nd). Free of charge to attend, no need to register, streaming information on the day:

Learning @ Scale

12th – 14th August, online. No information on the website at the moment about fees (I’ve wanted to go to this conference for years and not been able to afford it, hoping this is my chance!):


The Association for Learning Technology’s annual conference usually takes place in September, but has been replaced with an online ‘summer summit’ this year (26th & 27th August). Fees are £99 for non-members, £49 for members:


This conference had been scheduled for 14th to 18th September, and will now be held online. Early bird (until 14th August) non-member rate is 150 Euros – some concessions available.

Association of Internet Researchers

The AoIR conference will now be online and held over a two week period in October. The website states that the online events will only be open to members of the society, who must hold membership by 1st August – this is very cheap though (and even cheaper for students):

CSCW (Computer Supported Co-operative Work)

This is another one which I’ve not been to but have always thought would be very interesting. It’s going to be held online from 17th to 21st October. There will be a fee – as yet not specificied, but will be substantially reduced:

OE Global

16th to 20th November:


Will be held online, 30th November to 1st December. Note that the Call for Papers hasn’t opened yet so there is still the opportunity to participate as a presenter (deadline 6th July):


Past conferences

Networked Learning Conference

Took place 18th to 20th May. Not sure if the recordings will be made available yet – here’s the link to the conference website, for reference:

So much has changed about everyday life, for so many people, in recent weeks. As part of the measures introduced this month to try to curtail the spread of Covid-19 as much as possible, school closures have been introduced across the globe. At the time of writing, UNESCO estimates that around 87% of the total enrolled learners – that’s over 1.5 billion learners – are currently affected by school closures.

Consequently, there has been a wave of interest in distance education approaches, which are often associated (but not synonymous) with some form of educational technology. But which topics have been the focus of internet searches? This is something which I wanted to explore a little; it’s potentially useful to know in order to tailor support for the searchers, and also to document part of the massive shift we are seeing in education at the moment.

To do so, I’ve been looking at Google Trends. Below is a chart of the relative levels of interest worldwide, over the past month, for five terms – e-learning, online learning, distance learning, remote learning, and homeschooling (below). A ‘live’ version of the chart can be found here. Note that this list isn’t exhaustive, and I did search for some other terms and variations but didn’t include them here as interest was low or continued at its usual rate (e.g. “distance learning” is included here as it had a noticeable jump in interest, whereas “distance education” did not). However, these were terms which showed a marked spike during the week in which many school closures were announced.


I also looked into trends around particular types of educational technology, although this was more challenging as there are so many possibilities to search for. With a bit of trial and error, the following struck me as quite interesting: learning apps, online course, educational resources, mooc, and educational games (below). Again, the live version of the chart can be found here.

There are a few things to note here. First, “educational resources” (which is also a truncation of “open educational resources”) showed a modest peak but then declined, which may suggest that searchers aren’t looking for OER, although these could be really helpful. Second, interest in online courses and moocs doesn’t demonstrate a marked uptick at the time of school closures, but interest is growing gradually; I wonder whether this is related to more adults being at home as ‘lockdowns’ increase. Also, I had tried to include Zoom on the same chart, but couldn’t as it had increased so much in popularity compared to all the others that it distorted the scale too much.

This is only a fairly limited look at the ways in which people are seeking to adapt educational provision in this unprecedented situation, but it is quite interesting to start to think about what people are searching for, and how to try to help. I’ll be thinking more over the coming weeks about the issues for education through my work with The EdTech Hub, and will be sharing things through my blog and the Hub’s website.

Like many others, I find myself now in the position of needing to juggle academic work with also facilitating the education of a primary school-aged child, and looking after my nursery-aged child too. It is a fairly overwhelming prospect.

The number of links and resources I’ve received – via friends and family, and Facebook groups – has been a pleasant surprise though. Initially I was rather sceptical of what would be available, given that my children are very young.

I’ve added the collection of links I have so far to an Exhibit tool – which can be found here: . Note that I haven’t been through the list properly yet, but my plan is to look through them (with my daughter!) to check them out and populate brief descriptions and useful information to filter on (such as suitable age, subject, whether it is free or not, etc.) as we go.

If you have any suggestions to add, please do post a comment here! And if you’d like to help speed up the process of adding information to the database (it runs off a Google Sheet), also please do let me know and I can give you access (I think this would be a useful resource, when developed, for lots of people).

Uploading the author accepted manuscript to my institutional repository is now pretty much the first thing I do as soon as I have a new paper accepted (before even tweeting about it!). But – something which I have been thinking about this week, but had never really considered before – is the question, is it OK to reformat author accepted manuscripts/preprints for sharing?

Journal submission guidelines usually mean that the author has little leeway with formatting (e.g. must be 10 point Arial, double spaced text, that sort of thing). Some simple formatting tweaks would make things easier for the potential reader – for example, reducing the page count – and give the author more creative control over the presentation of the product of their hard work. But is this permissible? I’ve not got a definitive answer yet. For example, the Elsevier article sharing policy states that preprints and accepted manuscripts:

not be added to or enhanced in any way to appear more like, or to substitute for, the published journal article

My question is not motivated by wanting to imitate the formatting of the journal. But does this mean that it is OK to enhance a manuscript in a different way, such as applying your organisations’ in-house style guide, for example? I’d be very interested in hearing peoples’ views and experiences on this. Thanks!