Here’s How To Win The JISC Supporting Technology Startup Competition (With Infographic)

I’m currently involved with a JISC Supporting Technology Startup Project, aimed at improving the ways in which students learn computer programming.

The idea behind the JISC competition is a strong one, involving taking existing technologies that support education and putting these through a robust startup and development programme so that they can benefit from large scale trials. Teams submit both a video and written pitch about their technology. The successful teams receive financial backing to move their ideas forward.

I’m working with a team of students as partners.  I enjoy collaborating in this way, as it matches well with my teaching and learning ethos and the overall direction in which I feel higher education should be moving – a win, win.

This isn’t the first year that JISC has run the Supporting Technology Startup Projects competition. I’ve analysed the competition entrants from 2015 to see if I can identify what look like fundable trends. Clearly, this isn’t a complete solution, as it does not have the details of the full pitches from the interview process, but it does raise some interesting ideas.

The results are shown in the infographic (click the graphic to view it at full size).

JISC Supporting Technology Startup Projects 2015

The sample size is relatively small, and unfortunately the data isn’t there to identify which teams were invited to interview (a process from which the winners were selected), but it’s interesting to see that the number of votes doesn’t seem to have mattered too much. One winning team gained only 72 votes, under the usual target of 250 votes that were requested.

The 2016 competition has many more entries and what looks like a stronger field overall, so I suspect that the voting threshold will be important. But, the question exists if the same areas still be considered of importance and be judged successful.

All of the winning projects from 2015 are interesting. The range of ideas there are diverse, including a project that focuses on electronics and computer hardware. There is no clear indication of whether staff or students team fair better, or if there are any benefits to partnerships (my personal belief is that there are).

Some quick notes about data collection. Out of the 12 entries in 2015, one of the unsucessful entries has also since hidden the video pitch, which slightly reduced the sample size for this aspect, but I don’t believe that this has changed the results. I have also only processed the written pitch in detail. If any additional information was included only in the video pitch this hasn’t been seen.

Some projects mentioned that they had access to a team of developers, but as these people were not named or included as official participants, I have assumed that these were essentially developers for hire. They have not been included in the team size analysis.

There is a lot more potential for further analysis to determine what makes a winning video pitch, as well as how closely the video pitches and written pitches are aligned.

Are All Of Our Students Completing Their Own Work? Examining Contract Cheating Within The Computing Discipline

During a research and learning seminar presented at London Metropolitan University, I focused on the technology behind contract cheating and the related issues behind it. A number of examples showing how Computing academics could be involved in creating the software solutions needed to prevent and detect contract cheating were presented.

The slides for talk are available to access online. These can be viewed on my SlideShare account. You can also see the slides embedded below.

There are several examples of interest embedded with the slides, but in particular I looked at a Literature Review assignment produced for the Fake Britain TV programme. I also demonstrated a number of other ways that that a student could have that same assignment produced for them. Since this process involves the creation of original work, it is very hard to detect.

Afterwards the discussion focused on the people producing work for students. It was pointed out that many students do not need to use technology at all to get their work done. There are known groups of individuals working and in and around universities providing original academic assignment writing services, which students hear about through word of mouth.

This development is nothing new and just continues to demonstrate the wide range of personal, social, pedagogical and technical responses needed to reduce contract cheating. Continued vigilance is always necessary.

Contract Cheating and Academic Misconduct in Examinations and Tests

The format of the Higher Education Academy STEM Conference changed rather this year from previous years, with the submission of papers becoming the submission of an abstract and the presentation of a set of slides.

This change worked out well for me, as it allowed me to present an overview of an important area that Robert Clarke and I have been working on – the people who are paying money to cheat on exams. There is some scope to work this into a full paper, but it will be challenging to make it work in a traditional style. Many of the examples of contract cheating in exams aren’t easily found or available to the public, so although we can show it exists, our database of exam cheating examples is limited in number. The presentation format allowed me to work the exam cheating issue into an example filled talk.

The slides for the HEA STEM Conference talk are available for access online. These can be viewed on my SlideShare account, or you can also see the slides below.

In the talk, I looked at some of the challenges facing the examination assessment method, particularly where impersonators are hired to take exams on behalf of students, or online exams are taken by a third party. There were comments raised expressing surprise about how cheaply such cheating could be done, provided the right worker was hired to help with the job.

There was a lot of post talk discussion (as well as tweeting) about the role that technology now plays in student cheating. Wearable computing is becoming a particular issue, with students having access to minute mobile devices allowing them to communicate with the outside world through pictures or audio. Exactly what equipment students are allowed to take into the exam room with them needs to be carefully considered and the items brought in do now need to be checked.

There was also some interesting discussion about the sites available for students to sell their completed work to, forming a database of “model” answers available to other students to purchase. Although I’d hope that these would be detected by Turnitin, there was discussion about whether these sites should exist and whether students had the rights to sell their work in this way.

A good chat about regulations was included and some of the difficulties of putting cheating cases forward were discussed. I was reminded of the need to ensure that attempting to cheat and attempting to outsource work are both unacceptable in university regulations. I was also reminded of how some cases, particularly those of exam impersonation, can actually lead to criminal charges. Cheating in exams is most certainly not recommended!

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