Jorum Blog

The Value of Statistics: Guest Blog Post by Brian Kelly

Posted by on 13th February 2012

This guest blog post is written by Brian Kelly. Brian works for the JISC-funded Innovation Support Centre (ISC) at UKOLN, University of Bath. Brian is a prolific blogger on the UK Web Focus blog and last year was runner-up in the Computer Weekly annual Social Media awards in the IT Professional Blogger of the Year category. Brian is also a member of the Jorum Steering Group.

What could statistics about the Jorum service tell us (and by 'us' I mean not only the Jorum team and JISC, who fund Jorum, but also users - and even non-users - of the service)? I recently read an article entitled "Zeitgeist 2011 - Trends for presentations" published in Slideshare's newsletter and realised that insights from outside the education sector may be useful for Jorum in their plans for analysis of their service. The article discusses evidence which provides a picture for one particular type of learning resource - slides. This may be of interest to the Jorum team (and also to users and potential users) who may find that analysis of large-scale usage patterns of slideshows provides insights into best practices for use of slides in teaching. The article also illustrates benefits which can be gained from aggregation of resources to support large scale data analysis - and this should be of particular importance to a national repository service supporting the UK's higher and further education sector. In the article the author describes how:
Every year we [Slideshare] dive deep into the data to find the biggest and best uses of SlideShare. In our annual Zeitgeist for 2011, we found that “business” is still the most popular tag used in presentations.

Presentations are getting a bit longer, but they are using less text. Men still use a few more slides than women, but both have increased the length of their presentations. Take a look at the Zeitgeist slideshow to find out about trends in image use, file types and more. You’ll see the most favorited presentations and the most popular in technology and business. Which tech blog sent the most traffic to SlideShare? TechCrunch, that’s who!

Figure 1

From the article, and the accompanying figure, we learn that:

  • Women use fewer slides on average (22 per slideshow) than men (26).
  • PowerPoint is by far the most popular format for slides, being used by over 95% of all slides. The Open Office Presents format is used for 2.9% and Keynotes by 1.7% (although it should be noted that these percentages do not include slideshows which are uploaded as PDFs - which could have been created by a variety of authoring tools).
  • Keynotes is used by almost 8.2% of the most popular slides.

Looking at the content covered by the slides we can find that:

  • The most popular tech companies mentioned in presentations are Facebook (39.9%), Twitter (28.6%), Google (19.1%), Microsoft (5.7%), and Apple (3.8%).
  • The mobile operating system mentioned most in presentations is Android by a wide margin (69%) with iOS trailing with 25% of the slideshows and others barely registering at 4%.

If we assume that popular slides (i.e. those which have been favourited) will provide examples of best practices we can see that:

  • Popular presentations contain more images (37, on average) than other presentations (which contain 22).
  • Popular slideshows have lots of slides but sparse wording on each.

However there will be a diversity of uses for the large number of slides hosted by Slideshare; these figures will, for example, include presentations given at business meetings as well as those used in lectures in a university or college context. It would be of more interest to get a picture of how slides are being used across the higher and further education sector, including an understanding of variations across disciplines, institutions and, indeed gender. Such statistics might also provide evidence to inform the debate on the shortcomings on traditional approaches to lecturing described by Donald Clarke in his "Don't Lecture Me!" keynote talk at the ALT-C 2010 conference and his recent post that Lectures selling students short: evidence from 'Science'. Alternatively it would be useful to gather evidence which supports the view that "Great lectures can be motivating if their “information acquisition” effect may be rather small" as argued in a post on "Putting lectures in their place with cautious optimism".

Evidence from UKOLN

Back in February 2007 a post entitled "Slideshare – It’s Working For Me" outlined the benefits of using Slideshare for an individual. But what of the bigger picture? An example of insights which can be provided by examining evidence of use of slides across a range of events can be seen from the post on "Evidence of Slideshare’s Impact".

This post summarised usage statistics for slides used at UKOLN's annual Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) from 2006-1010. In May 2011, when the article was published, there had been over 238,000 views of the slides which seems to suggest that there is significant interest in accessing slides which previously would only have been accessible to the event attendees. From the viewing figures for the most popular slides it seems that slides which are the most popular do not use an institutional template. This evidence may concern those with responsibilities for organisational branding!

The data which was collected from Slideshare has been published on a Google Spreadsheet as open data which scan allow others to analyse the data and draw their own conclusions. But imagine the insights which could be gained by analysis of slides used in teaching across the sector rather than the 80+ slides which have been used at recent IWMW events.

What Next?

In a post entitled "My Story of O(pen)" published on the JISC Digital Infrastructure Team blog Amber Thomas described how:

"the 'many eyes' principle of sharing open data and the open innovation model encourage others not only to view but to comment, to feed back, to engage. This speeds up the process in hand and improves the quality of the resulting work."

Such ideas are explored on the UK Web Focus blog, with the openness category providing access to a number of posts which explore issues relating to various aspects relating to open practices. A post on "Numbers Matter: Let’s Provide Open Access to Usage Data and Not Just Research Papers" published in June 2011 argued that the sector should be providing open access to usage data as well as teaching and learning and research content. The post cited the JISC-funded report on "Splashes and Ripples: Synthesizing the Evidence on the Impacts of Digital Resources" which described how:

"The media and the public are influenced by numbers and metrics"

and went on to point out that:

"Being able to demonstrate your impact numerically can be a means of convincing others to visit your resource, and thus increase the resource’s future impact. For instance, the amount of traffic and size of iTunesU featured prominently in early press reports."

Within the context of Jorum, I would encourage the Jorum team to not only increase the volume of open educational resources (including slides) available in the repository, but also to provide open access to data about the resources which can help provide a better understanding of the diverse ways in which the resources are being used to support teaching. Perhaps in December 2012 we could see a Jorum blog post which provided a similar analysis to that provided in the Slideshare article. Note that the slides on "SlideShare Zeitgeist 2011" are available on Slideshare.

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