Category Archives: Staff Development

Leading the way for all? Thoughts on ALT-C 2014

Photo of Club BiscuitsSo my visit ALT-C was slightly shorter this year. Bringing the conference forward clashed with a significant milestone in our house so while enjoyable I needed to leave after two days. I felt quite positive about ALT-C in terms of the programme. The quality of the presentations was good and while, as always, there is never enough time for debate, there was a good atmosphere. There were some interesting discussions and clearly some concerns about impacts of certain policy decisions.

For me, I came away with two clear messages. We need to continue to invest in staff and ensure that they have the tools at their disposal to help with using technology in their learning and teaching. And secondly, support those who would lead, not necessarily in terms of being experts in TEL, but from module leaders through to senior management, we need to be thinking about enabling those leaders to navigate the myriad of issues that you face when looking to do something innovative or just different. Simon Kear put it quite succinctly in his discussion looking at electronic management assessment at Goldsmith’s. Whether staff like it or not, the eAssessment wall is coming and if they’re not prepared it’s going to hit them smack on. Rather robust but a fair assessment of what will be here in the next five years.

If there was a scenario where leadership and staff skills were going to needed to be at the forefront, it was Jeff Haywood’s opening keynote where he announced Edinburgh’s ambitious plans to have a core unit/module in every course fully online by 2020. Such a plan will mean a significant investment in staff and a radical overhaul of curriculum for some. On the plus side, timetabling might be a little easier and with the cap coming off student numbers in a short time, Edinburgh’s decision to go fully online may also be born out of a projected necessity. How those leaders choose to move forward with those plans interests me and Catherine Cronin gave an inspirational keynote on Tuesday about one way in which to tackle that with her engaging talk about openness and our perceptions on what it means to be open.

This particular keynote struck a chord with me, as it appeared to do with many in the lecture hall. Catherine asked some challenging questions for us as educators about how open we are with our students and how being open addresses thepower dynamics between educator and student. I’m interested in what it may mean for our leaders. The panel discussion on TEL leadership across the globe focused on the differences in leadership in different localities and the need for succession planning. There was less discussion on management style and ways leaders, at any level in an organisation, leading on TEL might be able to influence and impact on policies. Nor on enabling strategies to tackle our ongoing challenge of moving on from pockets of innovation to TEL being adopted at scale.

Finally, but certainly by no means least, this year the biennial UCISA TEL Survey report was published in time for ALT-C. My colleague, Richard Walker gave a quick overview of the report but 20 mins is no time to go over it in detail. A far more lively, and distinctly noisy discussion happened between the M25 and East Midlands Learning Technologists Groups where Julie Voce provided some comparative data. There were some clear and surprising differences between the groups not necessarily answered by looking at the demographic of the institutions represented. For example, there was a significant difference between the M25 and EMLT region when it came to ranking TEL Barriers. Interestingly, Lack of Incentives and Lack of  academic staff commitment was ranked a high barrier for the M25 region but for the East Midlands it was much less so. Why would this be the case? I don’t have the answer but when the M25 LT group noted that the East Midlands group always have cakes or biscuits at their meetings, it was suggested that that in itself might be part of the answer. I’ll leave you to come to you own conclusions on that one.

So overall, a short but targeted ALT-C this year. Warwick University is a lovely campus but it was hard to get to and perhaps the conference venue wasn’t the best. Certainly the timing for the conference was a challenge this year being a week earlier. Next year it’s back in it’s usual time slot and back in Manchester. I might be able to join for the whole shebang next year.


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Filed under Conferences, Leadership, Staff Development

Changing the Learning Landscape

Yesterday I attended one of the Changing the Learning Landscape events promoted by the HEA on Influencing strategy and change processes to enable the embedding of digital literacies, hosted at  University of Leeds. As we’re starting out on our own small Changing the Learning Landscape project, this was a really opportune event to attend as we start put the flesh on the bones of our proposal, working with Myles Danson from JISC.
I certainly came away with plenty of food for thought in terms of some examples of how Digital literacy has been taken forward at different institutions, see for example the Digitalis project and Leeds Met Student Union working with the Head of eLearning to explore the use of Google Nexus tablets with staff and students on a non-techie course.
Some of the discussions sessions led by Lawie Phipps from JISC around student engagement and some of the tools and models introduced will be of help with the project team discussions with Myles as we take our own CLL project forward.

Equally useful were the sessions from Elizabeth Cleaver, University of Hull and Susannah Quinsee, City University around strategy and change processes; getting us to think about the levels through the organisation that we need to deal with and a thought provoking look at change management with HE institutions and how flexible those processes really need to be.  Sometimes a challenge in an institution as large as NTU.

Overall a really useful and constructive event.

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Filed under Changing the Learning Landscape, Digital Practice, Staff Development

Reflections on a Micro teach

I’m currently participating in a small course on learning and teaching in Higher Education. As part of the course we were required to prepare and deliver a small micro teach session. The micro teach could be on any subject we liked and last about 15-20 mins.

I decided to do my micro teach on Online Objective tests looking at how online objective tests could demonstrate the principles that underpin assessment. I also decided to try and use some assessment technology, namely EVS clickers to a) demonstrate how learning technologies can support teaching, b) to try and make the session more engaging for the ‘students’ (who were observing and giving feedback on the micro teach) and c) demonstrate how the EVS clickers could be used in a diagnostic way.

Before delivering the micro teach I reflected what I found most challenging about designing and planning of the session. For me it was ensuring there was the right balance between content and activity. I wanted to ensure that it was engaging but not too overwhelming.

In terms of delivering the session I was most concerned about the technology working (which turned out to be a well-founded concern) and ensuring that I kept to time.

Unfortunately, the technology didn’t work and, for once, I felt it did throw me though this didn’t apparently come across. Reflecting on this now I’m glad it did and I reacted the way I did. It was a pertinent reminder that for staff who are not necessarily that experienced at negotiating the ‘quirks’ of technology that it can be a) daunting to introduce it to students b) undermining if it doesn’t work.

I personally felt that the micro teach didn’t go that well because I let the failure of the technology throw me but looking back threw the feedback I did get some positive comments even about the technology.  I do need to focus on the language I use, however, as I apparently used too much jargon and had maybe a little too much content.  Plenty to look at for the next session.

So in summary three things that did work well for me were:

– exposing students to some different technology. Even though it didn’t work well it was appreciated and could be seen how it could make a session more interactive

– The slides were clear and there was plenty of supporting information given verbally.

– And I spoke clearly and kept good eye contact which surprised because I was convinced I was babbling and incoherent.

And three things that didn’t work so well

– The technology for some reason the EVS system only registered one vote before polling closed. I’m looking into that at the moment.

– The language I used at times needed more explaining. I made some assumptions about the knowledge of the group that perhaps I should have.

– Coupled with the above was the amount of content presented.  Perhaps a little less would have allowed for more interaction.

Certainly if I were to repeat this again, I would still like to use the EVS technology again but would perhaps try and reduce the content down and be more focussed in what I presented and also included some handouts, – perhaps a glossary of terms that would be useful for students in aiding them with some of the particular language that this topic area talks about.

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Filed under Assessment, Staff Development, Uncategorized

Thoughts about MOOC as an model of engagement for staff development

While participating in the #change11 MOOC, I’ve been considering the model of engagement with MOOCs as a possible for model for engaging staff with technology enhanced learning and teaching.

From an early perspective with my current engagement with the #change11 MOOC there are some key principles of engagement that might be useful.  These principles are:

  • The level of engagement is up to the participant – it’s entirely up to the individual to determine for themselves, how often and to what extent they wish to engage with the discussions that are ongoing at that time. My own level of engagement is not as extensive as others participating in #change11 but as I hope this post attests I’m still able to learn and apply what I have learned so far.
  • How participants engage is entirely up to them. There is very little that is prescribed in these terms, other that subscribing to the daily newsletter which outlines the topics up for consideration.  After that it’s up to individuals to engage as much or a little as they would like.  Blog posts, twitter posts, Facebook and Google hangouts are all out there. The onus is on the individual to find what interests them and participate in whatever way they wish. Obviously, the inference here, is the more you put in the more you can get out.
But above and beyond those two principles, that’s it.  Well that’s not entirely correct, I might summing up George, Stephen and Dave’s model a little too concisely. And a better summation of the principles of connectivism and networked learning underpinning a MOOC can be found here, for example.
But the question I wanted to ask myself was could this model be applied to assisting staff with developing their use of learning technologies in their learning and teaching and how could we foster engagement with the topics and a culture of sharing and would it work in developing a community of practice.
So how could it work?
  1. Set-up 2 meetings per term of particular subject areas of interest to the academic community
  2. Publish agreed schedule of meetings and topics
  3. Email/publicise to interested individuals schedule of meetings.
  4. Distribute ‘principles of engagement’ including agreed hashtag
  5. Collate list of blog post, twitter feeds etc.
  6. Use the newsletter as the facilitation mode for connecting participants with each other’s contributions.
There are some considerations, all familiar to those currently studying on a MOOC but I wonder whether they would be amplified more by the broader spread of digital literacy skills amongst staff at an institution.  Would it end up being, yet again, an amplified arena where the converted are all talking to each other?
I would be interested if anyone else has tried applying the concepts of a MOOC to encourage/facilitate engagement with learning technologies and will see if the idea has any interest from my current institution.


Filed under #change11, Staff Development