Thursday, 25 April 2013

Implicit learning, Information bandwidth

eLearning Technologist Andrew Marunchak
eLearning Technologist
Andrew Marunchak
Andrew Marunchak, eLearning Technologist at the University of Hertfordshire looks at the challenges when adopting emerging technologies in learning and teaching. 

Something as nebulous as the notion of an ‘information age’ is perhaps best described by metaphor. Imagine, if you will, a raging river within the centre of which stands a protruding rock. Through erosion, this rock is shaped by the forces of an unrelenting torrent which it is unable to control and eventually its identity, insofar as it has one, will succumb to the ‘chaos’ of its surrounding environment.
rock and river

It is, without a doubt, overly dramatic but serves to communicate the principle that, every day of our lives, we are exposed to an ever increasing volume of information. Where we differ from the rock, which is inanimate, is via the means of taking action based on our own discernment; we decide whether something is worth paying attention to.

The role of the traditional educational establishment is changing rapidly, information is not quite as exclusive as it once was and, in the future, its prevalence will force us to question how best our time developing relevant subject knowledge is spent. We are no longer gathering around an oasis in the desert, we have a choice.

Restricting information is difficult given the number of mediums it is channelled through, whether that be in paper-based form, blogs, video sharing, text messaging or audio podcasts. We are on the verge of these aforementioned examples integrating almost completely seamlessly with our daily lives through innovations such as tablet computing, smartphones and perhaps even the imminent prospect of Google Glass.
Google Glass
Google Glass

In the history of our race, information has never been so accessible. The affordances it provides us with are numerous though, insofar as downsides are concerned, much of it is often ‘noise’ with a distracting influence. Therein lies the role of the modern university, to use as many vectors of dissemination as are available to us to their greatest effect - thereby informing the student of that which is useful.

circuit boardThere are exciting developments on the horizon. As the visual medium becomes more accessible to people through computing, we will begin to see a convergence of disciplines which have, traditionally, been deemed mutually exclusive by consensus. Everything from elaborate technical visualisations to explorable 3D environments are now within our reach. Such are the fruits of the unison between computer science and creative arts. Though as wonderful a vision it is, we need to take accessibility into account. What good is something so beautiful if it can’t be seen by the majority of users, what are the alternatives?

Those are some of the questions we need to consider when working towards future trends which, in practice, is something of a balancing act. At the forefront, new technologies exist in something of a niche area and being too far behind, in the past, is an exercise in redundancy. We have to be malleable otherwise we risk sharing the fate of that rock in the river. Rather than standing against overwhelming forces, we move with them and guide their flow. That in itself is a metaphor for cultivation and our progressive evolution.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

New editorial role in BJN Tissue Viability Supplement

The University’s leg ulcer management specialist, Irene Anderson, joins the new editorial board of the Tissue Viability Supplement – a new quarterly supplement published by the British Journal of Nursing (BJN) providing high-quality, topical and useful content for tissue viability nurses across the UK.

Irene brings her experience in tissue viability and leg ulcer management to this new editorial role.  She has been teaching tissue viability modules at the University of Hertfordshire for over fourteen years and was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2011.  Her work with the Leg Ulcer Forum has great influence on leg ulcer related education and she is currently undertaking a doctorate that looks at issues of competence in leg ulcer management.

As a prolific reviewer and author in tissue viability, Irene feels strongly that peer review is vital in ensuring accurate, high-quality content and encouraging career progression.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Older people and the internet – do they mix? Uncovering the evidence

© Creatista | Dreamstime Stock 
Photos & Stock Free Images
Are older people using the internet and related innovative devices?

People are living longer thanks to medical advances and better diets and living conditions.  But, is this ageing population keeping up to date with technology and devices that surround us and which are part of everyday life for the majority of the younger population?  For these young avid users of technology, life would be impossible – from connecting with friends, and looking up information online to catching up on TV shows or doing shopping online.  Their lives revolve around constant use of the internet and they cannot imagine it any other way.

But what about those older people?  Those who were not born into the age of technology and have never been online.  What impact does this have on their life?  Are they willing to accept this new technology?

Join Dr Jyoti Choudrie as she presents her research findings at the 5th Social Digital Research Symposium ‘Uncovering the Evidence of Digital Impact’ being held on Thursday 25 April 2013 in London.

Dr Choudrie leads the Systems Management Research Unit (SyMRU) at the University’s Business School.  She will present three cases to explain whether older people in the UK are adopting or using innovative internet related products and services. The first showcases a study of older adults and their adoption of e-government websites; the second is based on their use of online social networks; and the third on the use of smart phones. 

For more information on the symposium or to book a place please contact the organisers at

Old brews in new ways at the London Coffee Festival

Jonathan Morris, Professor of History in the School of Humanities, is a world-leading specialist on the history of coffee. So much so, that when LaCimbali, the Italian espresso machine manufacturer, was seeking a historian to work with in the development of their new coffee machine museum that opened last October in Milan, they turned to Morris.  Now, Morris has linked up with La Cimbali UK for this year’s London Coffee Festival from 25-28 April.

Each morning Morris will make a presentation on the history of espresso beverages, illustrating how changes in the nature of the brewing apparatus used have resulted in changes in the taste of the coffee itself.  After the presentation, the audience are invited to the Cimbali stand, where Morris will show them a selection of historic machines from the MUMAC coffee museum opened by Cimbali in Milan.  They will also be offered espresso from Cimbali’s new M100 machine which will be programmed to brew beverages to the old historical parameters. 

The talk draws on Morris’s contributions to two forthcoming books - Coffee: A Comprehensive Guide to the Bean, the Beverage and the Industry, which he co-edited with two American colleagues, and  Made in Italy, Rethinking a Century of Italian Design, co-edited by Dr Grace Lees Maffei, Reader in Design History in the School of Creative Arts.  In fact, one chapter has been ‘assigned’ to the La Cimbali staff to read before the show! 

Monday, 15 April 2013

How to apply for an online degree

Ryan Yems Programme Administrator for BA(Hons) Business Administration (online) at the University of Hertfordshire
Ryan Yems Programme Administrator for
BA(Hons) Business Administration (online)
Ryan Yems, UH Online programme administrator for BA(Hons) Business Administration (online) shares his tips on applying for an online degree...

So you have researched tirelessly to find the right course to study and have finally decided to take the plunge and apply for that aspiring degree by distance learning. However, before commencing your studies, there is the minor stage of the application. This can be a daunting process, but with five helpful tips, you will be on the road to completing your distance learning degree in no time!

As a Hertfordshire graduate myself, in Business and Tourism, I have had the invaluable experience of both completing a degree application, as well as now reviewing them as a Programme Administrator within UH Online, at the University of Hertfordshire. Here is what I believe are the most important tips to consider when applying for an online degree:

Tip one: The All Important Transcripts

Ensure you attach scanned copies of all previous educational transcripts and any further supporting information that you think will support your application. When Admission Tutor’s assess applications, they often can’t make an offer because they need to see further information. Reading the entry requirements is essential as these explain exactly what is needed to gain entry. For example are your required to demonstrate evidence of GCSE’S, IELTS, or maybe TOEFL qualifications? Providing evidence of how you meet the entry requirements gives you the greatest chance of being successful in your first attempt.

UH Online business lady distance learnerTip two: Getting Personal with a Personal Statement

Before you start remember this is a 'personal' statement, so it's about YOU! And also a way of showing off! In order to do this successfully, you need to convey your passion and enthusiasm for the subject, as well as demonstrate your suitability to the course i.e. explaining previous qualifications, interests and experience. Finally, detail any information which portrays your unique attributes and desire to study the degree.  The personal statement also provides a great opportunity to detail relevant work experience, especially if the formal qualifications you hold don’t fully meet the entry requirements. Remember each application is assessed individually case by case, meaning; valuable work experience may be just as vital!

Tip three: Providing two written references

This is similar to applying for a job! Admission Tutor’s like to see two detailed references, as they provide evidence that the referee can vouch for your previous qualifications, skills and experience. Again this is showing you off, but from the point of view of a former/current employer or tutor. But more importantly it cements the opinion of the tutor that you are capable to undertake the online degree. It is usually common practice to provide one academic reference and one employer reference (although it's two academic references in the case of BSc / MSc Computer Science online).

Student writing with a UH Online penTip four: Getting spelling and grammar spot on!

Although this seems quite a minor point, submitting an application form that is grammatically correct and doesn’t contain spelling mistakes could result in that all important ‘Unconditional Offer’, and the start of your online degree. If an application reads well, this shows great competency in English Language, which is a key entry requirement for UK Universities.

Tip five: Proof read, Proof read and proof read once again….

You have written your application form, completed an in depth personal statement, and included all relevant supporting materials; now to submit. Hang on though! Before submitting take the opportunity to have one final proof read over all of your application form to ensure it is as detailed and accurate as possible. Doing this now will save time in the future because if everything is to the right standard, you can simply relax and wait to hear from us!

Old Bailey Online celebrates its tenth anniversary with a 'Blogothon'

Today marks the tenth anniversary of The Old Bailey Online – a searchable archive of proceedings from the Old Bailey trials from 1674 to 1913, co-founded by researchers from the University of Hertfordshire and the University of Sheffield.

With an audience of millions, the archive has been used by scholars, students and the general public over the past decade to uncover multiple hidden histories and has inspired TV and Radio series such as BBC One’s award-winning drama Garrow’s Law, as well as several similar online resources.

To help celebrate the anniversary, the Old Bailey website is hosting a ‘Blogothon’ where accounts of researchers' and teachers' experience using the site will be posted - everyone is welcome.

If you have a blog, all you need to do is publish a post and let the team know about it by emailing  or by tweeting @OldBaileyOnline telling them a little bit about what you might post about. (This won’t commit you to anything)

Posts will be linked here: Why not have a read and find out how others have used the site to uncover the hidden histories behind London’s central criminal court.

For more information on the ‘blogothon’ event visit:

Friday, 12 April 2013

Depression in South Asian patients with kidney disease

Kidney dialysis image 
courtesy of bejim at
People from several black and minority ethnic (BME) groups are at a significantly increased risk of developing kidney disease than the general UK population – and for South Asian people this risk is up to five times greater.  This is because they are more likely to have diabetes and high blood pressure – both of which are common causes of kidney disease.

Living with kidney disease significantly affects the lives of patients as well as their family and friends.  The treatment regimen is taxing and includes dialysis, fluid and dietary restrictions and taking medication. Unsurprisingly, patients often report stress associated with illness including fear over the future, change in work and family roles, restriction on time, to name but a few concerns. At times, the pressures seem overwhelming – such that depression is common in patients with kidney disease.  Depression is problematic in kidney disease since research suggests that outcomes for patients are poor, including increased likelihood of medical complications and higher risk of early death.

Dr Shivani Sharma

Dr Shivani Sharma, from the University’s School of Life and Medical Sciences, has been awarded a grant from the British Renal Society in collaboration with the British Kidney Patient Association to investigate the psychological distress of South Asian patients whose mode of communication is primarily, or exclusively, in Gujarati, Punjabi, Urdu or Bengali. This project recognises that a considerable number of people being treated for kidney disease in the UK are from a South Asian background and often have limited or no English language skills. Little is known about how depression affects patients from a South Asian background. It is hoped that the project will shed light on improving access to psychological support for patients from specific BME groups.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Interviewers’ gestures mislead child-witnesses

Children may be required to remember events particularly where they may have witnessed a traumatic incident which they may have to confront again during questioning.  But how reliable are children’s recollections during these interviews?  And can their recollections be influenced by the interviewer?

According to research presented at this week’s British Psychological Society Annual Conference by Dr Liz Kirk, children can easily be led to remember incorrect information through misleading gestures from adults.  And this has serious implications for child-witness interviews.

In the study, children watched a video and were then questioned about what they had seen. After showing children a film of a woman wearing a hat, the researcher asked them “What was the lady wearing?” while performing an action similar to putting on a hat.  When the questions were accompanied by gestures that mimicked the correct answer, children got the answer correct.

But when the researcher asked the same question and pretended to put on a pair of glasses, ninety-three per cent of children ignored what they’d seen in the video and insisted the woman had been wearing glasses instead.

All the children were highly susceptible to gesture and spoke about extra information fraudulently planted by the interviewer.

But most surprising was the fact that the children even incorporated the adult’s misleading gestures into their stories of what they’d seen on the video.

So, interviewers need to think very carefully not just about what they say, but how they say it!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Head movements of police interviewers can influence confidence ofwitnesses

Guest blog by Dr Daniel Gurney, Department of Psychology

Dr Daniel Gurney
Simply nodding in response to a witness as they give their testimony can make them more confident in their story, regardless of whether it is accurate or not.

In my recent study, participants witnessed a piece of mock-up CCTV footage and were asked questions on this afterwards. As the participants gave their answers, the experimenter either nodded or shook their head deliberately in response to these. The head nods and shakes were only given during some of the questions and were given regardless of whether the witnesses were accurate or not.

The participants reported being significantly more confident in their answers if the interviewer nodded while those given head shakes were considerably less confident. These differences were found even when there were no differences in accuracy between the groups.

I found that people are very trusting of witnesses who claim to be very confident in their story.  However, in this research we show that a witnesses' confidence can be manipulated by a very simple nonverbal behaviour. Giving a witness a false sense of confidence in their story can have some big implications when obtaining accurate evidence.

This study adds to research showing that a police interviewer's nonverbal behaviour can influence the creditability of a witness. As simple head nodding and shaking are very common in everyday life, this research has implications for other social situations where individuals' confidence can be manipulated.

Monday, 8 April 2013

UH Online Student Blog Archives- Introducing Gareth..

Gareth started his MSc Computer Science (online) in Autumn 2011, we asked him to capture his distance learning experience through a series of blogs, here is his first post...

Introducing Gareth..

I knew I wanted to work in Web Development pretty much as soon as I graduated 6 years ago. The problem was I’d just spent 3 years studying psychology – hardly perfect preparation. So I carved out a career that was more closely related to my degree.  That feeling that I should be doing something else never went away though and last year I decided to do something about it!

I felt genuinely stuck for a while, thinking my only options were to:
  1. Quit my job to study full-time for a year.
  2. Start at the very bottom and work my way up.
Neither of these appealed. So for a while I attempted option c) a DIY education. This might work for some, but I found devising my own curriculum and the lack of deadlines a challenge. It was time to think outside the box.

Gareth - an online student at the University of HertfordshireWhen I found the Online Computer Science MSc with UH I felt like I’d been handed a lifeline. I instantly knew it was right for me: the course content was perfect and I could develop my skills without having to say goodbye to most of my salary. The friendly and insightful advice I received from the tutors when I had some questions about the course reassured me that I was making the right decision. I was starting to get excited!

Leading up to the start of term I was a bit nervous about how studying would impact on my time. The tutors obviously know we lead busy lives though and the course material is split into manageable chunks, so it’s amazing how you find time you didn’t even realise you had to fit the work in. For example, this week I’ve read a book chapter over breakfast, studied code examples on the train and watched a video lecture while eating my lunch at work.

I think time management will be the key to successful distance learning – I’ll be giving my hints and tips on this in my next entry.

Ciao for now!



Gareth is from Belper in Derbyshire, UK and is currently studying MSc Computer Science (Online) with the University of Hertfordshire.

Blaming it on the Boogie in Harrogate!

Dr Peter Lovatt aka Doctor Dance!
It’s not a Jackson 5 tribute in Harrogate – it’s the University’s energetic and very enthusiastic Doctor Dance (Dr Peter Lovatt) giving an open lecture at the British Psychological Society’s 2013 Annual Conference taking place in Harrogate.

Doctor Dance will share his research into the different affects that dancing has on our minds as well as our bodies.

Dancing can make us feel great – but it also has effects on the way that we think and feel.  Not only can dancing help us to solve problems – but, according to Doctor Dance, different styles of dancing can help to solve different problems!  Wow, did you know that freestyle disco dancing helps to make us more creative?  Or that cha-cha-cha can help to solve problems and puzzles much faster?

Doctor Dance will also be strutting his stuff – showing how people move and how it is influenced by their hormonal and genetic makeup.

Doctor Dance’s open lecture is free – come along to find out how the way you dance affects your level of attractiveness and perhaps strut your own stuff.  Register your attendance here.

“Dance Psychology: Health, thinking and Hormones” takes place 6-7pm Tuesday 9 April 2013 in the Ripley Suite, Harrogate Holiday Inn.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Breaking the low-metallicity barrier – molecules in dwarf galaxies

Guest blog by Professor Elias Brinks, Centre for Astrophysics Research

Studying the formation of stars has been a fascinating topic for astronomers and laymen for decades – providing important clues about the creation of our own solar system.  Our Earth and the Solar System are over 4.6 billion years old and our knowledge about its formation is incomplete - so we look to the birth of other nearby stars and stellar systems to better understand our own beginnings.

Carbon monoxide provides the primary tracer for interstellar clouds where stars form, but it has never been detected in galaxies which have a low level of oxygen compared to hydrogen – such as dwarf galaxies.  Yet we know that these low-mass galaxies often form stars.  But an international group of astronomers, including researchers from the University’s Centre for Astrophysics Research, has managed to break the record for the detection of the important carbon monoxide molecule, CO, in dwarf galaxies.

These small, low-mass galaxies are some ten times smaller than their larger cousins, like our Milky Way galaxy or the galaxy in Andromeda. In these larger galaxies, stars form continuously - many ending their lives as supernovae ejecting processed material such as carbon and oxygen into their immediate environment, rather confusingly called “metals” by astronomers.

In contrast, star formation in dwarf galaxies, and subsequent ejection of material, occurs at a much lower rate and, as a consequence, the abundance of carbon and oxygen is very low. This has prevented the detection of carbon monoxide in dwarf galaxies where this abundance is lower than twenty per cent of the Milky Way value. Observations with the APEX telescope in Chile, which is co-owned by the European ESO observatory, were successful in detecting carbon monoxide in the dwarf galaxy called Wolf–Lundmark–Melotte (WLM) which has an abundance as low as thirteen per cent, setting a new record. These results, published in Nature, form an important step towards understanding star formation under conditions that prevailed in the early Universe.

Figure: The dwarf galaxy WLM is a small, gas-rich galaxy at 3.2 million light-years distance from the Milky Way. The image on the left is a colour composite image where red represents emission from neutral atomic hydrogen gas, green traces light emitted by the stars in the visible band, and blue corresponds to ultraviolet light. The locations where carbon monoxide was detected are indicated with black circles, labelled A and B. The two panels on the right show the detections obtained with the APEX telescope corresponding to region A (top panel) and B (bottom panel). The black line is the detection of carbon monoxide (CO). The red line gives, for comparison, the much stronger detection of neutral atomic hydrogen (labelled HI)
“Carbon monoxide in clouds at low metallicity in the dwarf irregular galaxy WLM” was published in Nature on 28 March 2013.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Food labelling know-how for lifestyle magazine

Image courtesy of Ambro
Where does our food come from?  What do the labels really mean? Do you know what you’re really eating?

The need to know what is in our food and where is has come from has never been as high a profile as it is now.  With the recent issues of horsemeat finding its way into the food chain, consumers are demanding greater knowledge over their food sources. This, in turn, demands that food retailers have greater control over their suppliers.

Dr Kathy Lewis at the University’s Agriculture and Environment Research Unit has been invited to be a food expert for the lifestyle magazine Woman & Home.  Through her wide research experience into food labelling and food assurance schemes, Kathy has provided regular comments to the industry as well as speaking at conferences.

Freerange eggs courtesy of
Fir0002 on Wiki Commons
Kathy will be giving expert advice on a number of articles that helps Woman & Home readers to understand their food better, including labelling, food scares and where food comes from.  Her first article, “Food labelling know how – do you know what you’re really eating?”, is published on page 122 in the April issue of Woman & Home.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Clear skies for Pan-STARRS comet at last!

Guest blog – Dr Mark Gallaway, Technical Officer, Bayfordbury Observatory

Finally, after weeks of bad weather, astronomers at the University’s Bayfordbury Observatory have managed to image Comet C/2011 L4 (better known as the Pan-STARRS comet) as it makes it way out of the solar system, maybe to return in 106,000 years' time!

Pan-STARRS comet - David Campbell
This image, taken by David Campbell, is a colour composite of images taken through red, blue and green filters using one of the Observatory's 40cm telescopes. The coloured trails are caused by the telescope tracking the comet which is moving against the more distant background stars.

The comet was spotted about two years ago by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) based in Hawaii.  This system surveys our skies on a continual basis – its primary mission to detect “Near-Earth Objects” such as asteroids and comets.

The Pan-STARRS comet is still visible with the naked eye in the west just after sunset in the constellation of Andromeda moving into the constellation of Cassiopeia in early May.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Can’t wait until September? Why not start your online BusinessAdministration degree studies in May?

1951web_businessman_studyingWhen you’ve got the enthusiasm and eagerness to start a new venture, having to wait for it can be a little frustrating. Studying is no different.

Studying your degree online gives you that extra bit of flexibility, fitting studies around work, family and life commitments. Having more options when to start your studies can also be a big help.

Have no fear, here at UH Online we have set up an extra intake in May especially for the BA(Hons) Business Administration (online) degree, so you can start your studies sooner.

This business course studied by distance learning gives you an excellent broad understanding of key business elements and studying at University of Hertfordshire we also include a module dedicated to boost your employability.  ‘Enhancing Employability’ will equip you with the knowledge and understanding to help enhance your employment prospects and develop a career plan.

So not only will you be qualifying with a BA(Hons) Business Administration degree with the University of Hertfordshire, you’ll also be on track to finding a job and developing your career.

Find out more about this online business administration degree, visit the: UH Online website