Through talks, discussion and other activities the seminars will explore how open and creative approaches to teaching and learning can help students navigate the complexity of higher education and the digital environment.
So why do I feel exposed?
As well as being delighted to be involved I feel somewhat nervous too, as I’m far from an expert in ‘open and creative approaches’. I’m fully signed up to openness of course but it’s just not a field or community that I’ve been heavily engaged with over the years.
I definitely wouldn’t be called on to run any of the main seminars for #teachcomUAL! Thankfully (for participants) it’s the digital fieldwork sessions I’ll be facilitating and I’m very much looking forward to planning those and assisting in some experimentation out-in-the-open.
The Heads of E-Learning Forum (HeLF) met at the University of Sheffield on 27 February. The theme of the Spring meeting was TEL Innovations and it included a visit to to two innovative spaces in the University of Sheffield’s Diamond Building: their Virtual Reality Suite and the iForge Makerspace.
There were several short presentations and lots of networking opportunities as well as a panel discussion. In no particular order, some nuggets from the day:
AmIHired? – Andy Beggan introduced a great social media awareness tool from University of Lincoln. This simple tool is worth a look. It produces an online CV of your publicly available social media activity: tweets, Facebook profile, Instagram pics, YouTube likes etc. A great tool to get students thinking about what they share and how they are presenting themselves to the world including potential employers.
iForge is a student-run, engineering Makerspace at the University of Sheffield. Peter Mylon explained that iForge is run by a group of 25 students and is available to all students for extra curricular projects, to prototype ideas as well as working on academic coursework. Read about the iForge.
iForge from above
Students in iForge
iForge CNC Laser Cutter
Virtual Reality Suite
VLE Learning Analytics – Phil Rothwell from LJMU explained how they are using Microsoft Power BI to extract data from their VLE to produce reports on usage of different tools. Power BI allows you to run reports without the need for much knowledge of computer programming. We have been doing something similar with Blackboard but via Tableau. It’s an area we hope to develop over the coming months , so Power BI will be worth a look.
Bluetooth Beacons – Brian Irwin from SHU showed how Bluetooth beacons have been used at their Institute of Arts. The beacons allow information to be highlighted to staff/students based on location. The beacon sends a signal to an App on your phone, allowing location-specific information to be flagged to students.
Nursing virtual reality simulations – At the University of Lincoln they are using a 360 camera to record scenarios in their clinical suites. The videos are available on YouTube but are primarily designed be watched on a VR headset by students taking on the role of patient in the clinical suites.
Loopd – although not demo’d the founder of Loopd, Jonny Driscoll, was a member of the discussion panel. I took a look and chatted with Jonny after the panel. He developed and launched Loopd following his frustration with traditional VLEs while studying as an undergraduate. It’s essentially a private social network. I’ve set one up to try out – just need someone to talk to… let me know if you want to join (Matt.Lingard@uwl.ac.uk). On a related note ALT published its Edtech Start Up guide earlier this month.
I gave a presentation about the development of UWL’s Learning Analytics policy at the Blackboard Teaching and Learning Conference 2017, held at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy in March 2017.
In the presentation I outlined the 10 Principles that form the foundation of our policy and the steps we took to develop and implement the policy last year. I also gave an overview of our project that initiated the need for a policy: a predictive learning analytics project aimed at maximising the continued success and retention of UWL’s students.
I kicked off our second meeting of the UK Poll Everywhere User Group at City University, London with a competitive quiz using Poll Everywhere’s segmentation feature.
It was a close run battle, ending in a fair 3-1/2 to 3-1/2 draw. The day as a whole went really well and I particularly enjoyed the team-based learning session expertly facilitated by Rebecca McCarter from the University of Bradford.
I’ll look ahead to the 2020s tomorrow but briefly it’s useful (for me at least) to consider the last 10-years or so.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly a lot of the consultation discussion has focused on the VLE. A student’s digital learning environment is, of course, much broader than institutionally provided systems (and today our institutional systems extend way beyond the VLE).
Looking back 10-years or so… could we ever have imagined today’s digital learning environment?
Err, yes. And no.
Ten-years ago I was at the LSE and for the majority there I’d say the institutionally provided digital learning environment was very much the VLE, some library e-resources and desktop-based software. From 2005-8 we investigated, piloted and implemented Moodle (replacing WebCT). Alongside that we dabbled with blogs, elgg (remember that??) and a little later I think, Second Life.
Ten years later and the 2016 VLE is little changed. Overall usage has grown, and the VLE’s use for e-assessment in particular, but what the systems actually do, look-like and enable… not so much. They are certainly recognisable. One area of change, in terms of systems, has been the arrival of new online tools and services, which have extended the institutional digital learning environment. I’m thinking of lecture recording and e-portfolios in particular.
Why not? It’s easy to blame the systems shortcomings and they could be better. But innovative practitioners who want to try new things, can do, even if it requires some clunky work-arounds. The inertia and lack of change ultimately comes down to people and the approach to teaching and learning at our institutions.
Two big changes
The big change we (certainly I) didn’t foresee in the mid-2000s was the social media (aka web2.0) explosion and the participatory nature of the Internet we have today. It was September 2006 when UK universities first got access to Facebook and not until 2008 that Twitter really took off. The bigger digital learning environment has changed dramatically in contrast to university provided tools.
A change we knew was coming, which is central to digital learning environments today was mobile. (Although personally in 2010 I suggested the iPad would never catch-on).
That will have to do for today. Tomorrow I’ll finally get to the #ngdle questions that Jisc are asking, the overarching one being:
What should the next generation of digital learning environments do?
Update: Never got around to writing that post and answering the questions. The time has passed. Oh well.