Tag Archives: Learning Technologies

How technological change is shaped by people

Karl Luke
Business Change Officer, University IT
Cardiff University

ALTC 2018 conference reflections

Thanks to the UCISA 2018 bursary scheme, I recently attended the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) Conference 2018 in Manchester.
This post shares some themes and highlights from the conference, together with emerging ideas I am keen to take forward at Cardiff University.

Technological change is… inevitable

A common topic throughout the three day conference concerned technological transformation and how change is managed by organisations, divisions and individuals. In the keynote address on Day Two, Amber Thomas (Head of Academic Technology, University of Warwick) fascinatingly reflected on her personal and professional experiences of using educational technologies over the past two decades. You can read a summary on her blog: Fragments of Amber.
Amber highlighted that throughout history there have been many examples of disruptive technologies and offered parallels to some initiatives involving education (use of virtual learning environments, lecture capture). However, as Amber stressed, change takes time and is not about the technology, but the people. This chimes with my experiences as Business Change Officer at Cardiff University and reinforces the importance that Learning Technologists, and others involved in implementing learning technologies, need to carefully prepare and manage the “people side of change”.
Related to the topic of change management, Jessica Gramp and Tim Neumann offered a captivating insight into how UCL developed, implemented and reinforced an e-learning strategy. Their presentation is available here and highlights some key areas that need to be considered for successful adoption of a change. In supporting a change, the presentation stresses the importance of communities of practice. Intriguingly, UCL have established a Teaching Administrator (TA) Network, whose membership include staff who make a significant contribution to the student experience. The presentation highlighted many helpful change management strategies and I have obtained lots of ideas which I am keen to explore at Cardiff University.

Lecture recording is a popular topic

During the conference I presented on my experiences of working in partnership with students to research how lecture recordings are used by learners.  I have previously written about this subject here and my ALT-C presentation can be viewed here.

The area of lecture capture appears to be a current institutional priority for many UK HE institutions. During the conference I also attended five separate sessions devoted to the subject of lecture recording and capturing educational activities. These included:
Many of the themes arising from the sessions have been documented in Martin Weller’s excellent blog post here. However, any discussions around lecture recording cannot escape the obvious questioning around pedagogical value and possible negative effects on physical attendance. It is therefore essential that those involved in the implementation of technologies, such as lecture capture, maintain critical engagement with emergent case studies and original research. There were plenty of rich case studies presented in the ALT-C sessions and some compelling research which advances discussions. For example, Stuart Phillipson presented data from Manchester University which demonstrates no correlation between the introduction of lecture capture provision and actual occupancy of teaching rooms (using data on room occupancy between 2007 and 2016). You can watch Stuart’s talk here and read more here.
However, lecture recording is a contested area. As Tressie MacMillan Cottom’s keynote from Day One proclaimed, “context matters”. The arena of educational technologies is messy, and Tressie reminded us technological tools are non-neutral; they are socially shaped and negotiated by a range of actors and interests “both in their construction and procurement and in their realization and use in practice” (Selwyn & Facer 2013 p.10). As such, technologies should also be considered in a social, political and commercial light. Moreover, both the domains of “education” and “technology” are intrinsically linked with the social, cultural, economic and political aspects of society.
In the case of lecture recording, context does indeed “matter”. Melissa Highton discussed how recent employment and political issues have manifested itself within the implementation and adoption of widespread lecture recording. Learning technologies do not exist in a vacuum and we have a responsibility to critically unpack the assumptions embodied in technologies and their use.

Reflections on the role of a Learning Technologist

The event was full of insightful sessions. I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and the opportunities to network with professionals involved in using technologies to enhance teaching and learning. There are emerging opportunities for collaborations with other institutions on the subject of lecture recordings, arising from my involvement at the conference. In particular, it was great to connect with fellow UCISA bursary recipient, Marieke Guy. Marieke has written a great reflection of the conference here.
I also have left reflecting on my professional role as both a Change Officer and Learning Technologist. Technology should be viewed in terms of the “process and practices” that unpin the availability and affordances of devices, systems, software etc. Technologies can be the impetus for transformative change; helping human endeavour, agency and progress human activity. Technology should be used to enable us to explore otherwise impossible tasks, or do them more efficiently, however this is not always the case in practice. As mentioned, it is important those involved in implementing or supporting the adoption of learning technologies consider the human side of change.
Moreover, we occupy a unique position within institutions whereby we are not easily pigeon-holed. I could easily relate to Amber Thomas’ reflections that Learning Technologists suffer from imposter syndrome and we operate across many overlapping divisions. However, as Amber argues, we are increasingly occupying roles where we have to balance priorities between embedding technological practices which not only offer pedagogical value, but also offer scalability, sustainability, institutional benefits, and align to strategies and polices.

Amber Thomas ALT-C presentation available at: https://youtu.be/XOPkC311rvY
Finally, there was also personal celebration as I was awarded my CMALT certificate during the conference. If you want to know more about CMALT please read this post.

For further insights into the content of the conference search of #altc on Twitter
Reference
Selwyn, N., & Facer, K. (Eds.) (2013) The politics of education and technology: Conflicts, controversies, and connections Palgrave Macmillan
This blog first appeared in the Cardiff University Learning Technology blog
This blog is also available in Welsh: Myfyrdodau ynghylch Cynhadledd ALTc 2018

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Making the most of a UCISA bursary award at ALT 2018

Marieke Guy
Learning Technologist
Royal Agricultural University

Planning for ALT 2018

It’s only 12 days and 17 hours till ALT 2018 – ALT’s 25th annual conference and the biggest meet up of Learning Technologists this side of the Atlantic (possibly?)
I have been lucky enough to be funded to attend by the UCISA bursary scheme and I intend to make good use of my subsidized ticket.
There is so much on it’s hard to know where to start but in traditional festival fashion I have a list of potential topics and sessions, though who knows what will happen when I actually get there!
Student engagement – At the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) we really want to get better at asking the students what they think. This year we ran the Jisc digital student experience and it was both enlightening and a little scary. I’d like to hear more about how other institutions have been using their data so will be attending Rating their digital experience – what do our students really, really want?.   I might follow this up with What organisational variables support a positive student digital experience? – which also looks at the broader tracker data. The session on Students as partners in technology initiatives: How does the technology aspect affect partnerships, and how can we make the most of this? also looks interesting.
Staff  digital skills – We also need to improve our staff digital literacy so the session on Witchcraft to Wonder – My journey empowering staff with technology sounds like a definite.
Data – I’m a big data fan and it is an area we’d like to explore at RAU. The session on Getting to grips with Learner Dashboards: a research informed critical approach to understanding their potential will be useful as does the well-named session Honey I shrunk the data: small design steps towards a data-informed blended learning approach .  I might also attend the workshop session on Using learning analytics to inform evidence-based interventions on live courses. Hopefully we can get some dashboards up and running in the next year.
VR – Virtual Reality offers so much potential. I’m hoping the Creating VR: what we learned along the way session will give some good pointers on how to get started. There is also Virtual Learning Environments: Walking in the Park or Wandering in the Jungle?. Sounds appropriate for an agricultural university!
Multimedia – Video is where it’s at. If I get time I will take a look at OSCEs at the Oscars: how video assessment has stolen the show and I like the look of the workshop Capturing Imaginations: Why it’s important to consider alternative uses of (lecture) capture technologies .
Distance learning and course design – For the Catalyst project, we need to design four blended learning programmes from scratch so any ideas are useful. I might try OSCAR: A Structured Approach to Course Design. We also know that we will be using ePortfolios for a considerable chunk of the assessments and the talk on Eportfolios in placements: unlocking the potential through collaboration could prove useful.
I’ll also be catching the keynotes from the fantastic all-female line up: Dr Tressie McMillan Cottom, Dr Maren Deepwell and Amber Thomas.

I will be presenting a poster during the poster and talk session entitled From little acorns…growing a learning technology culture.  If you’d like to discuss what it’s like being part of a one-person team then please find me. As I explain in the brief the poster is “of interest to anyone who wants to hear about how ‘more with less’ is possible if you make the most of collaborations and outside help. There will be lots of useful tips and far too many agriculture analogies!” I’ll post up my poster as soon as it’s finished.
Of course, as we all know the networking opportunities are what really make a conference. The Awards Evening and Dinner at the Midland Hotel will be great and I’m looking forward to hearing who has been voted ALT Learning Technologist of the Year.
I’ll also be catching up with my fellow UCISA bursary winner Karl Luke (Business Change Officer from Cardiff University). Karl and I bumped into each other at the recent Panopto user group meet up in Birmingham. We’ll clink glasses on behalf of UCISA!
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

What’s the reality with Virtual Reality?

David Vince
Senior Product Development Manager, Learning and Teaching Innovation
The Open University

Realities 360

As a senior product development manager in the Learning Innovation team at the Open University, my role is to work with colleagues to enhance teaching and learning through developing new products (i.e. tools and platforms) and supporting processes.
Earlier this year, I received a UCISA bursary enabling me to attend Realities 360. It bills itself as a hands-on event for early adopters and learning technologists to investigate first-hand Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and other simulations for learning which fall under the umbrella term of Extended Reality (XR).

What’s the reality with Virtual Reality?

Here are my reflections from Realities 360:
  1. What’s the problem VR can solve?
VR technology is still emergent. So, how do we use this new technology to do something existing tools, tech and media, don’t already enable without risk of being accused of ‘technology drive’ (as opposed to ‘pedagogy driven’) solutions? My personal take is that neither are desirable and, in fact, they need to be mutually supportive which leads nicely on to the following…
  1. Human-centred design
Find your problem. Opt for a user centric approach. IDEO have a design kit to get you started developing empathy with users and gain better insights into their needs/context. If your product has value to your users, they’re more likely to adopt it.
  1. Start small, pilot, evaluate and (re)iterate
It’s easy to be critical of emergent technologies. Best practice hasn’t emerged so we’re all learning: start small, learn and then (re)iterate.
  1. ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’
This is something that has been said within our team but something Linas Mockus and Joseph Scott, Instructional Designers at Penn State World Campus, Penn State’s online campus, pointed out twice in their presentation entitled ‘Is online education ready for VR and 360 video’. Linas and Joseph are and plan to make their research findings public. In the meantime, you might want to take a look at the news pages of Penn State’s website.
Higher education has been slow to adopt VR but there seemed to be plenty of like-minded colleagues from higher education in this session. At present, AR/VR simulation conferences seem to have a bias towards the training sector but there’s an obvious need for mechanisms for educators to share practice and learn from each other.
  1. xAPI might be your new best friend
VR experiences generate a lot of data as they’re computer mediated. Some of this is structured data, such as responses to in-experience questions however, there’s also unstructured data, such as what users are looking at, determining the meaning of their responses (e.g. sentiment analysis) etc. The ‘x’ in xAPI is short for “experience,” and gives a deeper level of behavioural insight taking things that aren’t structured and giving them structure, e.g. by recording who did what, what was done, what it was done to (i.e. an object) and a host of contextual data.
xAPI is well worth considering to get a better insight into what your learners are doing and gauge that learning has taken place by designing in activities/tasks that you set out to monitor. This will improve the experience and reduce reliance on those in-experience questions which I’ve seen lots of over the past few days.
Thanks UCISA for the bursary enabling me to attend Realities 360. During my time here, I’ve met colleagues travelling from as far away as South Africa who, like me, haven’t found conferences closer to home that fit the bill.
This blog first appeared on the Open University, Learning Innovation blog
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

What does the digital age mean for teaching and learning?

Alice Gallagher
Senior Product Development Manager
The Open University

OEB 2017: Highlights and reflections

The talks and sessions I attended at OEB 2017, courtesy of a UCISA bursary, were hugely varied, and offered the opportunity to engage with different perspectives to my own. This can be fascinating and enlightening, but also challenging. There were talks that really struck a chord, and others that jarred for me. It can be difficult to reflect back on the latter, to try to understand where that disconnection comes from.
In these blogs, I’ve grouped my thoughts into the keynotes on the first day, some of the highlights, and lowlights, of the rest of the conference and my critical reflections.

Keynotes

Aleks Krotoski – The Tales they are A’Changin

Aleks is a familiar media figure and gave a very engaging and entertaining talk about the nature of storytelling and how it has changed. She moved though subject areas as varied as the Bible, Star Wars and My Little Pony! Essentially, the point she was making (I think), was that stories used to be guarded by gatekeepers, but the rise of the digital age has moved us to the extreme of fanon (fans creating new stories which then become part of the mainstream/canon). This made me think about the shift in power, and the democratisation of the Internet. However, how do you apply that to a learning context? Collaboration and co-design are wonderful democratising concepts in teaching and learning, but isn’t there always the role of a teacher in some capacity? Even if you move away from the traditional ‘imparting of wisdom’ teacher/student dynamic.
One message that came through loud and clear for me was that uncertainty can lead to reinvention. A central theme of the conference and a positive opening message.

Follow-up session (Aleks Krotoski)

I attended a follow-up discussion session with Aleks, which focused on how we might apply storytelling in our own professions. Although I went into the session thinking about how I might be able to use storytelling techniques in developing learning materials for students, it soon became clear to me in the session that the real story I needed to tell was to my academic colleagues. I work in learning innovation, and one of the biggest challenges of my role is explaining what the future of digital learning might be like. By making digital learning the subject of my story, I could use storytelling structural devices to get across my message.
Where was the world before we started?
What is going to change? What are your goals?
Raising the stakes (engagement)
Main event (answers question)
Resolution (world as it is now) – share truth in specifics
Until recently, I couldn’t see how I could use this kind of storytelling in my work. Sometimes you have to conform to familiar language to persuade people to listen, and sometimes you need to break the mould to be heard. It feels like the moment to break the mould might be around the corner. I have been keeping this storytelling structure in my back pocket for just that moment!

Abigail Trafford – Longevity learning technology

Abigail gave a fascinating talk about learning in later life. This is not an unfamiliar notion to me. At the Open University we traditionally cater for students in all walks of life. However, what I hadn’t really considered were the different needs of older people in preparing for the future. Abigail talked about the emergence of adolescence, and its role in helping young people prepare for adult life. As life expectancy increases we are seeing a new stage of life appear. That new stage comes after the tasks of adulthood are complete, but before old age. New, healthy decades in the middle of life that people need help in transitioning into. How can we help them develop new skills, prepare for their next career? How can we innovate in part-time, flexible study to cater for the needs of this age group?
I have recently been involved in some research with students into learning behaviours. One of the outcomes of this work is the dispelling of the notion of ‘digital natives’. Digital capability when it comes to learning seems to have no correlation to age. We looked at behaviours around digital preference and technological self-efficacy, and found a pattern in the behaviours of those new to HE and those with more experience, has nothing to do with age. The more we understand about students’ capabilities and needs, and the less we stereotype, the more we can innovate and help everyone fulfil their potential, at whatever stage of life they are.

 

Pasi Sahlberg – Myths and facts about the future of schooling

I really enjoyed Pasi’s talk. He is clearly a very skilled teacher and was able to entertain, inform and educate a huge room full of delegates very skilfully. His talk focused in on the OECD study of the education policies of different countries. From his Finnish perspective, he commented on the features of successful and not-so-successful education policies. As you might have guessed, Finland has been coming out on top! It was fascinating to compare the features of the education policies of Finland and England. Practical and research evidence shows the approach of Finland and others like it works better, not just in academic performance, but also health and well-being.
Finland England
Cooperation Competition (between schools)
Risk-taking and creativity Standardisation
Professionalism De-professionalisation of teaching
Trust-based responsibility Test-based accountability
Equitable public education for all Market-based privatisation
My reflections on this talk were perhaps more personal than the others. I have one child at school and another about to start. My daughter has just taken her first SATS, aged seven. I distinctly dislike the approach to education forced on schools in England: the testing, the focus on mental arithmetic and spelling. Although I support their schoolwork, at home we focus on creativity, problem-solving, reading for fun, emotional intelligence. I was so pleased to hear I was not alone in this approach, and to keep going, despite ‘traditional values’ government policies.
Videos of the conference can be found here including the Keynote presentations.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Learning behaviours and the development of new digital systems

Alice Gallagher
Senior Product Development Manager
The Open University

 

Making the most of the OEB conference


In December I was lucky enough to be awarded a UCISA bursary to attend OEB in Berlin, Germany. It is a vast, international conference that I would otherwise not have had chance to experience.

What is OEB?

OEB (formerly Online Educa Berlin) is an international learning and technology conference that spans corporate, education and public service sectors. It lasts for three days and attracts more than 2,000 participants and over 100 exhibitors. There are more than 100 sessions across the three days, including hands-on workshops, plenaries, interactive breakout sessions, discussions and debates, labs, demos and performances.
What most attracted me to the 2017 conference was the conference themes of ‘Adapting for Action’, ‘designing to Engage’ and ‘Enhancing New Skills Learning’ and how these relate to the work I am currently involved with. Most notably, research into learning behaviours to inform the development of new digital systems and tools at the Open University.

Where is it?

It is held at the Hotel InterContinental, on the western side of Berlin, around 20 minutes from Tegal Airport. It’s quite a busy area, with shops, restaurants and Berlin tourist attractions not too far away. In December there are also the Christmas markets nearby, which are well worth a visit at the end of a busy day of conferencing.

What’s it like?

In a word, big. It is a packed programme of events, with thousands of delegates descending on the Hotel InterContinental. There’s a great, buzzing atmosphere and loads of opportunities to connect with people who have different perspectives on learning and technology. The sessions are really varied and there are tons of stands to visit. The hardest part is working out where to spend your time.

 

Getting the most out of it

If you can, arrive the day before the main conference starts. You need a bit of time to acclimatise, and read the conference programme in detail. There are also pre-conference events the day before, but you need to pre-book those. Some are free, but most are extra on top of your conference ticket price.
The app is really useful, so download that when you arrive. You can choose your session and create a timetable for yourself. You can also find other delegates on there. Really useful for when you’ve forgotten the name of the person you’ve just been talking to!
I was able to attend on an OEB-plus ticket, which enabled me to attend extra sessions, as well as access to a quieter lounge and restaurant. Perfect for networking opportunities!

OEB 2018

The overall theme of the 2018 conference is ‘Learning to Love Learning’, with a focus on its changing role in our future society. Some of the more focused themes include ‘Instilling curiosity’, ‘Dynamic learning, training and future-oriented skills’, ‘Nascent technologies to change learning’, ‘Developing learning professionals’ skills and implementing complex change’ and ‘Measurable results and data collection pay-offs’. The keynote speakers have been announced as Ulrich Boser (The Learning Agency), Geoff Mulgan (NESTA), Ben Williamson (University of Stirling) and Esther Wojcicki (Educator, journalist and IT and OER consultant). It looks a fascinating conference.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.
UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA

Mobile learning

julie120Julie Adams
Academic Skills Tutor
Staffordshire University
UCISA DSDG (User Skills Group)

 

 

Learning Technologies 2015: Day 2 – Geoff Stead: Mobile delivery – putting the device in your hand to work

Geoff Stead is from Qualcomm, who make the chips in our phones. They are a huge organisation with 31,000 employees. Geoff described the work they have done to create an internal ‘app store’ for their employees and highlighted the most relevant parts of this. Qualcomm purposely avoided squeezing elearning modules onto a smaller screen and focused more on linking to performance support resources and apps that were free, or resources already subscribed to, as well as content developed internally. More information on the work of Geoff’s team is at the WorkLearnMobile site.

Qualcomm are obviously a very different type of organisation to HE – there were 15 people in Geoff’s team that worked on this and there are many more staff – but there were some lessons we could take from what they have done.

Some of the drivers for the development were ‘guerilla learners’ – those who don’t like to wait for corporate learning and development activities, but like to find stuff for themselves using Google, LinkedIn, social networks and mobile resources. I think we can all recognise these people, and are maybe like that ourselves! As more staff (and maybe students?) adopt this method of professional development we will need to look at how we can best support it.

There are already a number of institutions who have run one-off or regular ‘app swap’ events (for an example see one of the case studies within the UCISA Best Practice Guide from 2013 ‘Changing landscapes: The challenges of IT and digital skills training in the changing HE landscape’) and build resources to promote useful apps from these. These are useful and help to engage staff, but maybe don’t touch all who could benefit. Looking to see how we could bring useful apps to the attention of all staff is definitely an area worthy of further consideration.

Developing a resource for staff or students that highlights the apps available for various resources and systems we already have – library resources, systems such as lynda.com, free news/journal sites amongst others – would be something that we could do, even if this was not as comprehensive as our own app stores. I am certainly planning to see what I could do for my own institution, beginning with a LibGuide page as a starting point.

Learning Technologies 2015