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    Archive for the 'Teaching and Learning Network' Category

    Rebooting Learning for the Digital Age (report)

    By Clive Young, on 10 February 2017

    hepireportThe HE ‘think tank’, the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), has just published Rebooting Learning for the Digital Age (PDF 58pp) written by three JISC leaders Sarah Davies, Joel Mullan and Paul Feldman. The report reviews best practice around the world to show how technology is benefiting universities and students through better teaching and learning, improved retention rates and lower costs and though a list of seven recommendations calls on universities to embrace new technology to meet the various challenges faced by the sector.

    While the actual approach is maybe less ‘reboot’ and more ‘refocus’, the report is an astute summary of the main issues and opportunities surrounding digital education in UK HE. It is more grounded than for example the OU Innovating Pedagogy 2016 report and provides a useful benchmark against which an institution such as UCL can gauge progress.

    A range of UK and international case studies indicate how digital initiatives can be used to improve student satisfaction, boost outcomes, retention and employability but still manage costs (so-called ‘win-win’ methods). However this inevitably requires strong leadership and the development of suitably-skilled staff.

    Two underpinning themes are threaded through the report, learning design and learning analytics.  On the first of these, the report comments, “when ‘designed in’ as part of the overall pedagogic approach, technology can be used to enable great teaching and improve student outcomes” and the first recommendation is Higher education institutions should ensure that the effective use of technology for learning and teaching is built into curriculum design processes. UCL has been particularly active in this area with ABC Learning Design, a bespoke rapid-development method that has already been very successful. The second recommendation identifies a real need, UK HE should develop an evidence and knowledge base on what works in technology-enhanced learning to help universities, faculties and course teams make informed decisions, plus mechanisms to share and discuss practice.

    Learning analytics which correlates patterns of student activity with learning outcomes and offer staff the opportunity to identify disengaged and underachieving students is the second main theme of the report. The next two recommendations suggest universities adopt learning analytics and research how the big datasets can be harnessed to provide new insights into teaching and learning. Digital Educaton has of course been looking into this e.g. From Bricks to Clicks: the potential for learning analytics and 8th Jisc Learning Analytics Network. Steve Rowett’s second post links the two themes of the report and the Open University published The impact of 151 learning designs on student satisfaction and performance: social learning (analytics) matters last year showing the remarkable potential of this combined approach.

    The third section of the report provides a useful reflection on the potential role of technology-enhanced in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). It recommends Digital technology should be recognised as a key tool for HEIs responding to the TEF. Providers should be expected to include information on how they are improving teaching through the use of digital technology in their submissions to the TEF. Recognising the risk involved in new methods and the sometimes conservatism of students it adds, “The Department for Education (DfE) and the TEF panel must ensure the TEF does not act as a barrier against institutions innovating with technology-enhanced approaches”.

    The final two recommendations reinforce the institutional prerequisites mentioned above to realise the opportunity of digital education HEIs should ensure the digital agenda is being led at senior levels – and should embed digital capabilities into recruitment, staff development, appraisal, reward and recognition and finally academic leads for learning and teaching should embrace technology-enhanced learning and the digital environment and recognise the relationship with other aspects of learning and teaching.

    2016 was a busy year for ABC LD!

    By Natasa Perovic, on 22 December 2016

    We facilitated ABC LD workshops in UCL, Glasgow, Aarhus (Denmark), Bruges/Kortrijk (Belgium), Santiago (Chile) and Brisbane (Australia). We presented at two conferences and published a paper about ABC LD.
    Colleagues from other universities also facilitated ABC LD workshops (with our guidance).
    A full list of activities (with nice images!) is available on the ABC LD blog, 2016 summary.

    It seems that 2017 will be an even busier year for ABC LD. Our community members and the workshops planned for 2017 are indicated on the map below.

    ABC_LD community map

    Best wishes for 2017 to all!

    ABC LD blog/

     

    An academic perspective on blogging

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 8 December 2016

    Words by David Bowler:

    I write a semi-regular blog (updated between weekly and monthly) which covers both interesting papers in my research area, and the teaching that I do to fourth year undergraduates and starting graduates (www.atomisticsimulations.org).  My research is in atomistic simulations, where we model the properties of materials at the nanoscale by taking into account their atomic structure; I apply and develop electronic structure methods, using quantum mechanics to understand the interactions between atoms.  I started blogging to support a book I wrote (Atomistic Computer Simulations, with Dr Veronika Brazdova, also at UCL) but it has developed.  The book is aimed at those starting to use atomistic simulations, and is, so far as we know, unique: it is the only book that contains practical advice on how to perform the calculations and analyse the output

    Last term (first term 2015-2016) I started to post blogs that summarised the discussions of background theory I had with my fourth year students.  I’m supervising four students, and wanted to explore whether posting the content of the sessions would help them, and the wider community.  The experiment has worked well, attracting interest both from my students and from further afield, with 50-100 views per month.

    I recently moved the blog from a local server in the department running WordPress, which I maintained, to GitHub, which provides simple, markdown formatted blogging with LaTex/MathJax for equations and symbols.  This was largely pragmatic (free, low maintenance hosting) but is also tied to the electronic structure code that I develop, CONQUEST (www.order-n.org).  We moved the source code for CONQUEST to GitHub, and having a single site and interface for all my teaching and research activity has been very helpful.

    Blogging and my associated Twitter account (@MillionAtomMan) has introduced me to new people in my research field, and educators across a wide area.  It helps me to keep track of the research literature, and to focus my thoughts within the very broad area that is relevant.  It should also help me with future teaching, focussing the sessions that we cover, and helping my students to know what is coming up.  I would like to explore having my students blog about their research, and the difficulties and interests of doing research, as a form of outreach, as well as giving them a forum for reflection.

    Innovating Pedagogy 2016 report

    By Clive Young, on 2 December 2016

    ip2016Innovating Pedagogy 2016 is the fifth annual report from the Open University (this year in collaboration with the Learning Sciences Lab at the National Institute of Education, Singapore) highlighting new forms of teaching, learning and assessment with an aim to “guide educators and policy makers”.

    The report proposes ten innovations that are “already in currency but have not yet had a profound influence on education”. In other words they are at an early phase of the Gartner Hype Cycle. Whether any will become, in the current idiom, ‘normalised’ remains to be seen and some scepticism would be advised. However, as I noted when the 2015 version was published, such reports often frame the discussion around technology in education, even if initially only at the level of “buzz-word bingo” for enthusiasts.

    The current list “in an approximate order of immediacy and timescale to widespread implementation” is;

    • Learning through social media – Using social media to offer long-term learning opportunities
    • Productive failure – Drawing on experience to gain deeper understanding
    • Teachback – Learning by explaining what we have been taught
    • Design thinking – Applying design methods in order to solve problems
    • Learning from the crowd – Using the public as a source of knowledge and opinion
    • Learning through video games – Making learning fun, interactive and stimulating
    • Formative analytics – Developing analytics that help learners to reflect and improve
    • Learning for the future – Preparing students for work and life in an unpredictable future
    • Translanguaging – Enriching learning through the use of multiple languages
    • Blockchain for learning – Storing, validating and trading educational reputation

    The usual fascinating mix of familiar ideas with novel concepts, the report gives a quick overview of why these may be important and includes handy links to further reading if you are interested

    A next generation digital learning environment for UCL

    By Stephen Rowett, on 7 November 2016

    At UCL we’ve been pondering what a future learning environment might look like now for about two years. And we are starting to reach some conclusions.

    Our analysis of our VLE – and pretty much all of them out there – is that it suffers from two fundamental limitations.

    Silos – staff and students see the courses they are enrolled for, and generally can’t look over the fence to see something else. In real life, if a student asked to attend lectures for a course they weren’t registered for, we’d welcome their interest, their breadth, their love of learning. In the VLE we tell them that this is impossible. The VLE limits a student’s education to just what they have paid for, just what they deserve, and just what they need to know. All curiosity is lost.

    Control – the teacher sets things up and students do them. No questions asked or even allowed. Forums lay devoid of posts for fear of asking ‘dumb’ questions, or fear of making mistakes. Assignments are submitted with perfunctory duty with the best that a student can hope for getting a green pass on Turnitin and some feedback some weeks later which is ignored anyway as the triumph or the disappointment of the grade awarded is processed. All love of learning is lost.

    So we’re looking for something different.

    And our inspiration came from an interest place – Brockenhurst College in Hampshire. Now they have a very rural catchment area – some students travel over from the Isle of Wight to attend classes. So of course, they don’t travel if they don’t have classes and therefore feel disconnected from the university.

    We realised that part of the challenge at UCL is the same. The distances may be much smaller, but when you are travelling from home or commuting on the Central Line means that the disconnection is just as real.

    So we need an environment that promotes connections. It just so happens we also have the Connected Curriculum initiative which will encourage interdisciplinary research-based education, where students do real, authentic work, not just essays for a teacher to mark. Where group work is the norm, not the exception. Where students are not passive recipients, but actively engaged in enquiry.

    So it’s all coming together. What we want for UCL is an Academic Social Network.

    What do I mean by that? Let’s take each word at a time.

    First, it’s Academic. That means it is designed for education. There are plenty of social networks around – Facebook, LinkedIn and Yammer spring to mind – but they are designed for different things, typically business. Whether it means allowing people to ask questions anonymously, embedding LaTex in messages so mathematicians can speak in their own language, or structuring data to be able to find final-year projects, the platform needs to speak to teachers and students as being something for them. It’s about work, but also all of the other things that happen at university; social clubs, sports, societies, volunteering. It’s a safe and trusted place to be because the user trusts the university and knows they are not the product to be sold and re-sold to the highest bidder.

    It’s Social. Because learning is social. I don’t just mean group work, but the full gamut of human social interaction. If you talk to students in our learning spaces, they are often working ‘alone, together’; that is they are doing individual tasks but just looking after each other. A student who is tired will be offered a coffee; someone will look after your laptop while you go to the toilet. Students are friends with each other on Facebook, but having staff friends is just ‘weird’. We want a space without complex meanings or difficult relationships but where everyone can connect with each other as part of the university community.

    Finally it’s a Network. Universities are big places, and UCL is bigger than most. Networks are a place where you can meet like-minded folk, but also get exposure and understanding of those who study different things, think in different ways, have different approaches to the same challenge. That network extends beyond current staff and students to pre-entry students, alumni, industry and charity partners – all of those that have a stake in the vibrancy and excitement of what a university can be.

    So what are we going to do?

    We’re going to get one.

    That’s quite a lot of work, as we have to do a lot of procurement activities to get what we want.

    But for now, we have students and teachers on the ground talking to peers, understanding needs, working our what it means to be part of the UCL community.

    We’ve done a lot of thinking, some talking and even more listening. It’s an experiment. We don’t know if it will work. Even if it does, it will probably take many years.

    We characterise what we want as follows:

    Characteristics of our platform

     

    It’s our shot at what a Next Generation Digital Learning Environment will look like.

    Many thanks to Eileen Kennedy for her work in developing and evaluating these ideas within UCL Digital Education.

    ABC has reached 21

    By Natasa Perovic, on 24 March 2016

    (For latest news about ABC LD, visit ABC LD blog)

    Digital Education has now run 21 of our popular rapid learning design workshops. ABC uses an effective and engaging paper card-based method in a 90 minute hands-on workshop. It is based on research from the JISC and UCL IoE and over the last year has helped 70 module and course teams design and sequence engaging learning activities. It has proved particularly useful for new programmes or those changing to an online or more blended format.

    To find out if ABC is for you this short video captured one of our workshops earlier this year.

    Participants feedback remains encouragingly  positive 

    “I thought the ABC session was really helpful.  I had been a little unsure ahead of the session what it would achieve – but I genuinely got a lot from it.  Going back to the basics of methods etc really helped focus on the structure and balance of the module.  I thought the output was very useful.”

    “Thank you for convening the abc workshop today, i  found it thought provoking and challenged the way we think about our teaching. It is too easy to stick to what we have done previously and I found today gave me different ways to think about how to evaluate our current teaching and to bring in different approaches. It will definitely improve my thinking and I will continue with the approach to incorporate some of the ideas into the modules.”

    “Thank you for the workshop today- it was an eye opener. I found it really useful to think about categorising how the learning objectives will be delivered and assessed, and examining the variety of ways that these can be achieved. It made me think more deeply about what skills the students can develop by making them responsible for their learning journey and not simply the content that needs to be delivered to them. We will let you know how it goes!”

    “It was great and many initiatives have emerged from it.”

    abc workshop group work

    For questions and workshops contact Clive and Nataša

    cy_np

     

     

     

    For more information see :

    ABC Curriculum Design 2015 Summary
    http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/2015/12/02/abc-curriculum-design-2015-summary/

    ABC workshop resources and participants’ feedback http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/2015/09/30/9169/

    ABC beginnings http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/2015/04/09/abc-arena-blended-connected-curriculum-design/

     

    ABC News:

    We are currently developing an online toolkit to support the workshop, have been working closely with CALT to embed the Connected Curriculum in designs and we are developing collaboration projects with The University of Glasgow, Aarhus University (Denmark), University of Leiden (Netherland) and Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (Chile) in order to look at the learning impact of this method. Our colleagues in Chile are even translating the workshop into Spanish.

    ABC also featured on UCL Teaching and Learning portal as a case study: Designing programmes and modules with ABC curriculum design http://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/case-studies-news/e-learning/designing-abc-curriculum-design