JISC Online Conference Day 1 – Part 2

There were several other presentations throughout the rest of the day.

Bill Rammell keynote: Tensions in collaboration in a changing landscape outlined the current position that the HE sector found itself in in relation to the Higher Education white paper.  Some of the key challenges outlined were

  • Pressure on budgets
  • Greater competition
  • Students expectations
  • Contestability

which are probably the things every university senior management team are exercising their minds over.  Bill discussed the current challenge of encouraging students to consider going to university despite the new fees system (see Plymouth’s promotional video )

In looking at the challenges facing HEI’s, Bill argued that there will still be a need for collaboration within the HE sector. I would concur but would argue that as status/brand is one of the key marketing points of institutions, the decsion about who to collaborate with will be more carefully debated.

Bill then went onto to look at digital literacy strategies and it was interesting when polled, that most participants didn’t know whether there was a strategy or not and, of those that did, the majority stated that their institutions didn’t have a strategy.

Bill’s conclusion to the challenges ahead for HE was that rather than consider students as consumers we need to treat them as partners (Certainly some of the later presentations by Uni of Exeter showed some good example of this in practice). I’m certainly happy to look at how, with a student-centred approach, we can enable this partnership and try and avoid the consumerist approach to education. I’m not convinced that these students’ parents, trying to fund the rest of their offspring’s higher education, will be so willing to take a partnership approach.

Following from Bill keynote, giving a bit more inspiration that staying in HE is worthwhile, was the presentation from University of Winchester and Bath Spa on ‘An evidence-based model to enhance programme-wide assessment using technology’ featuring the work of the TESTA project and the FASTECH project.

The projects highlighted case studies where the teams had gone in and look closely at why assessment practices within the programmes weren’t working as well as they should. The presenters described some scenarios where contrary to expectations students efforts with assessments was patchy. In this particular instance it was due to the bunching of summative assessments across the modules of the programme.

In another example, it was due to the feedback being given back to students 4 weeks after the assessment leading to it being too late for to be of any use for students and a wasted effort for staff.

There was some interesting discussion going on in this talk and it was interesting to hear some of the key elements regarding the principles of assessment being discussed in very practical terms, such as

  • A variety of assessments can be a bad thing if not sequenced properly
  • Tacit standards for feedback can be unhelpful for students
  • Need to be aware of technologies being used in module silos rather than across programmes
  • A lack of feed forward in assessment
  • Staff need to understand what feedback is as well as students.

Coupled with this were discussions regarding students recognition and use of feedback when given and consideration of how institutional practices can make it difficult in terms of providing feedback. There was a lot of discussion in the chat regarding external examiners and their acceptance of audio or video feedback.

A key question that came out of this discussion was ‘if we know from the evidence that feedback works really well in aiding learning, why as a sector are we still not getting it to work?’


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JISC Online Conference – Day 1 Part 1

This is the first time I’ve participated in the Jisc Online Conference so I was really interested in how the format worked.  It’s great to have the flexibility to dip in and out as necessary but on the other you need to get the balance right between focussing on the conference and the day job to allow enough focus on the conference and the topics.

The first day started with a cracking discussion with Lord (David) Puttnam who was very relaxed and open about he was learning to use the webinar technology. It was a wide ranging discussion but there was some key themes around what would be included in a ‘Digital pedgagogy’.

I’ll discuss the key themes shortly but from a personal perspective David’s talk was very much a plea for some strong political leadership in the area of education with a salient warning that our society risks getting stuck behind the emerging markets such as China if we do not seriously think about how much as a society we should be investing in ICT throughout all areas of the education sector.

There was a strong call to invest more in teacher training at all levels of the sector to ensure that our staff are properly skilled and immerse teachings in a learning experience where technology is used appropriately and creatively.

One of the interesting points that David Puttnam (as a ex film producer) would like is to turn lecture halls into copyright free zones. Educators are cautious of doing the types of mashups with audio and video that their students, less worried about the implications of copyright infringement, are doing at home anyway. The trade off, according to David, would be that the education sector would take on the responsibility to educate our students about copyright.

David also talked about what technologies would be important in the future and here he cited the main streaming of voice recognition and the associate skills of oracy and organising your thinking that would become critical for students and staff in the future.

David left the conference with three themes to think about:

  • How can we use technologies creatively?
  • That oracy and and organising your thinking are going to be critical skills
  • And that this is possibility at a ‘Gettysburg address moment for education’ (referencing Cathy N Davidson’s blog post about the protests at UC Davies)

In summary this was almost a call to arms for the education sector to be much more proactive in looking at it’s impact on society : “education must be a compelling experience for all students and we need to demand the resources we need to be able to do this”.


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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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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.


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NTU College of Science and Art – Learning and Teaching Conference

Early in September I attended the first learning and teaching conference held by our College of Science and Art. The theme of the conference was ‘Understanding and Shaping the Student Experience’, with the keynote by Aaron Porter, former President of the NUS.

The first session I attended was on ‘Perceptions of Professional Tutoring: How a programme of individualised support enhance the undergraduate student experience’ by Sarah Hindmarsh and Cath Gripton. This session explained how tutors on an education programme supported students with their progression through the programme and their placements at schools.

Some of the key points from the sessions were:

  • Professional tutors helped students make sense of their experience. Taking on at times the role of critical friend.
  • Professional tutors can help students decipher or interpret feedback from other tutors.
  • Professional tutors can get a sense of the whole programme and can feedback to the whole programme team about the general student experience.
  • Professional tutors need to be flexible in terms of times of communications from students.
I think one of the most important things I took from this session was the potential for professional tutors to assist students with the interpretation of feedback from their module tutors.
Level, frequency and consistency of feedback has been a consistent concern that has been raised by students via such mechanisms as the National Student Survey and in listening to the session I raised the concern on twitter as to whether the intervention of a professional tutor would help more generally with assisting students with their feedback.  It was interesting to receive feedback that colleagues in our School of Social Sciences had conducted some research in this area and had found similar results.

Aaron Porter’s keynote was stimulating in the way that he presented an analysis of the demographics of students currently attending university and the impact that the introduction of the Higher Education white paper and the increase in tuition fees will have on the demographics of those attending university. In analysing this, Aaron looked at the demographics of students attending the various common interest affiliations such as the Russell Group, University Alliance etc.

Interestingly,  I think the most significant point that Aaron Porter made was not in relation to these demographics and the potential impact of increased fees but in the removal of the funding for the support structures that encourage students from lower socio-economic groups to attend university.  E.g. the removal of the Education Maintenance Allowance and the withdrawal of funding for the Connexions advisory service (see for example: http://www.cypnow.co.uk/go/connexions/).  I’m sure the change in demographics changes over the next few years within Higher Education will be pooled over by political parties and think tanks alike.

Another interesting session that I attended was a presentation of the WikiMaps project that has been developed by Dr Chris Reynolds and Phil Pierce.  This project was initiated to support students going on sudy placements abroad and provided a means for them to get up to date information.  The wikis used in the project are created by current placement students in the language of the country they are studying in. The cover subjects such as travel, accomodation, what to study and can give help and advice on culturally specific issues.

The project has gained increasingly popularity and current placement students are assessed on their contributions while students preparing for a year’ study abroad can be assured of more up to date information.

The project is now looking at the potential of utilising the wikimaps concept with different types placements and pull them  into one place to help share information across all NTU placements.

Overall, this was an interesting conference and it was good to see such a broad range of subjects being discussed with reference to the student experience across a quite diverse college.

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Thinking about #Change11

I’ve had a bit of catching up to do recently due to other matters taking precedent but I’ve finally got some time to try and articulate why I want to be involved in #change11 and what I hope to get out of it. These come down to a few things

  • Better understanding of connectivism – I’d like to really engage with a course delivered with this as an underlying principle and experience this style of course for myself
  • Engagement in online course, get a real student experience – I work within the Higher Education sector but it’s been a while since I’ve really been a student for any length of time. It will be good to remind myself what being a student again is all about. There are differences between engaging in a course like this and my day to day role of leading a team that offers staff development courses about the use of learning technologies.
  • Opportunity to update knowledge and skills – I’ve been away on maternity leave for a year. Twitter and a few blog posts have kept me engaged at some level but it’s time to develop a deeper level of knowledge in some areas.
  • Chance to enlarge network – I have to take a deep breath with this one. It’s something I find a challenge to do but I sure that it’ll pay off.
  • Challenge myself – I have come to understand that learning technologists rather  enjoy change. We wouldn’t be doing this type of role if we didn’t. Hence part of that involves delving into things that are new and perhaps initially a bit daunting.

So how will I measure my engagement with this course?

  • One blog post at least every other week
  • Leaving at least two constructive comments on other MOOC members contributions every other week
  • Engaging in one other activity each month.

This may sound a little light in terms of engagement. I think at this stage I would rather be a little under-engaged than try and set myself up with too high a goal and feel disappointed that I didn’t meet up to my own expectations.

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So here I am. This is my last post of Lent. I’ve pretty much made it through. I’ve been looking back over my posts and particularly my aims at the end of Lent.
They were:
Not too eat too much chocolate after Lent. – Well, this remains to be seen but I’m positive that this will be the case.
Hopefully loose so weight – for once I surprised myself on this one. I’ve actually lost a few pounds. Some inspiration to keep to the aim above.
To write some more meaningful posts. – A bit of a mixed bag on this one. Not as thoughtful as I’d hoped but I am really pleased I’ve managed to blog every night.
Have I learned anything?
– Blogging has helped me examine my relationship with food more and identify the triggers for the chocolate cravings.
– I need to blog earlier in the evenings if I do want to write something meaningful.
– A good night’s sleep shouldn’t be underestimated.

Tomorrow I’ll write the last of the Lent posts about what I plan to do next.

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