Tag Archives: student

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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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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