X Close

Digital Education team blog

Home

Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team

Menu

Archive for the 'E-Learning Events' Category

Event overview: “Mapping unbundling in the HE terrain: South Africa and the UK”

JoannaStroud14 November 2019

In this seminar, hosted by the UCL Knowledge Lab Learning Technologies Unit, Dr Bronwen Swinnerton presented outputs from the UnbundledHE project: “The Unbundled University: Researching emerging models in an unequal landscape”, a cross-institutional study conducted by the University of Cape Town and University of Leeds.

The project considers the intersection of marketisation, unbundling, and digital technology and its effects on educational inequalities in South Africa and the United Kingdom. The following blog post summarises some of the issues surrounding the concept of educational unbundling and the project’s report into the current state of unbundled provision in both countries.

Marketisation

Recent years have seen a growth in demand for HE internationally but this has occurred alongside global economic shocks, such as the 2007 recession. The economic downturn has seen greater pressure placed on universities to report on the impact of central government funding streams and a resurgence of debates surrounding education as a public versus private good. This debate has tended to foreground the benefits of higher education to private individuals and consequently prompted a shift towards funding by the individual, leading to increases in fees and application of exogenous market principles to the HE environment. Such pressures have led HEIs to look to generate third stream revenue and reach new or alternative markets to fill funding gaps.

Digital technology

Digital technology is now ubiquitous in everyday life and HE, with all universities making use of technology in teaching and learning to some extent. Alongside the need to reach new audiences many have also begun to engage with online education, which has seen dramatic growth since the introduction of MOOCs. These courses have been in great demand from non-traditional audiences, such as adult professionals, with platform providers and university partners now pivoting toward the use of short online courses to deliver CPD and widening access initiatives, enhance teaching quality, and promote ‘massification’ or scalable learning opportunities. It is agreed that while universities can undoubtedly reach more prospective learners with online education it is no longer a ‘second best’ or indeed cheaper delivery method.

Unbundling

Unbundling is explained by McCowan (2017) as being either ‘disaggregation’, where what was sold together is now sold separately, e.g. tracks from an album, or ‘no frills’, a basic version of a product, e.g. budget airlines. There now exists a definitive application to HE, with the project defining unbundling as a disaggregation of educational provision, e.g. degree programmes, into component parts, e.g. modules, for delivery by and to multiple stakeholders. This is often achieved using digital approaches, and is manifesting itself through alternative digital credentials, or microcredentials, often delivered via what were MOOC platforms.

Rationale for offering unbundled educational opportunities can be multifarious and their production and delivery at odds with existing or longstanding institutional processes. The approach is typically: 

  • Internal, whereby HEIs choose how and when to break apart existing provision and offer content to learners directly;
  • In collaboration with service or platform providers, in which an HEI procures services to support specific stages of the course lifecycle;
  • By working with online programme management companies (OPMs), frequently with full service or white-labelled delivery and revenue share arrangements.

The unbundling landscape in SA and the UK

Dr Swinnerton highlighted key findings from the project, including the outcomes of interviews with policy makers, HE leaders, edtech developers, and private company CEOs. Mapping information (delivered via kumu.io software) was drawn from publicly available data, such as university, private company, and online and distance education websites, press releases, and other media. 

Interactive mapping of the HE landscape in SA and the UK demonstrated HEIs, suppliers, and OPMs and the relationships between them across provision of unbundled online education. The maps could be filtered according to league table strata, and what was immediately apparent across both contexts was disparity in coverage, with partnership opportunities broadly unavailable to lower-ranked institutions. Private companies in this space, notably OPMs, chiefly target elite institutions with established brands to drive profit-making business models. This was particularly clear in SA, with historically disadvantaged universities having little to no opportunity to engage in the online education space with support from private sector organisations, and with the suggestion that this had the potential to propagate stark inequalities already inherent within the SA HE system. Similar issues were present in the UK context, but with acknowledgement that educational inequalities and the digital divide are not quite so strong outside the context of online delivery.

See also

Dr Bronwen J Swinnerton, Senior Research Fellow in Digital Education at the University of Leeds

McCowan, T. 2017. Higher education, unbundling, and the end of the university as we know it. Oxford Review of Education 43(6); pp.733-748.

Swinnerton, B , Ivancheva, M, Coop, T et al. (6 more authors). 2018. The Unbundled University: Researching emerging models in an unequal landscape. Preliminary findings from fieldwork in South Africa. In: Bajić, M, Dohn, NB, de Laat, M, Jandrić, P and Ryberg, T, (eds.) Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Networked Learning 2018. Networked Learning 2018, 14-16 May 2018, Zagreb, Croatia; pp. 218-226.

Alternative presentation delivered by UCT’s Sukaina Walji at WCOL19 with an increased focus on OPM relationships. “Degrees of (un)ease: Emerging relationships between OPMs and University Stakeholders in an unbundling landscape”

BLE/UoL User Experience Conference 2018

JessicaGramp12 May 2018

Thurs 28th – Fri 29th June

Hosted by Birkbeck, University of London

Following the University of London’s successful conference Demystifying User Experience Design & Testing last year, the Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE) in partnership with the University of London (UoL) is holding a free, two-day event for staff based at UoL member institutions on Thursday 28th and Friday 29th June.

On these two days, we are offering three distinct workshops, which are each focused on different applications of UX. Come along to all three or select those that interest you. Places are limited, so don’t delay registering your place!

Day 1: Thursday 28th June

am: User Research: focus groups, user testing and user feedback
pm: User Centred Content

 

Thursday 28th June: Morning workshop

User Research: focus groups, user testing, surveys and user feedback

A practical session with guest speakers sharing their insights into user research and associated applications.
Led by Naomi Bain, Web Officer (Training and User Experience) – Birkbeck, University of London

0930 Coffee & Registration
• Introduction (Naomi Bain)
• Keynote: conducting f2f user testing (Jane Lessiter, Goldsmiths)
• Case studies: sharing experiences of user research
• Practical session: how to conduct a web user testing session. This session will include tips, discussion, sharing experiences, questions and trying out the roles of tester and testee (Naomi)
End by 1300

Thursday 28th June: Afternoon workshop

User Centred Content

An overview of the online tools available to help you to plan and review your own content. Mapping users against online content – bring along a piece of your own content to review! Finishing with a panel Q&A discussion around content strategy and governance.
Led by Melanie Read, Head of Digital – University of London

1345 Registration, with a prompt start at 1400
• Welcome, Introductions and icebreaker
• Content planning – what tools do you use for planning content.
• Content mapping – against the difference users types and then creating content suitable to that user.
• Content strategy and governance
• Panel discussion: how to manage governance
End by 1630

Day 2: Friday 29th June

am: Moodle and Accessibility

 

Friday 29th June: Morning workshop

Moodle and Accessibility

This workshop will focus specifically on Moodle and the considerations and requirements to ensure courses are accessible to all users.
Led by Sarah Sherman, Service Manager – Bloomsbury Learning Environment

0930 Coffee and registration
• Welcome & Introductions (Sarah Sherman, BLE)
• Presentation 1: Birkbeck For All (Leo Havemann, Birkbeck)
• Presentation 2: Policy for Accessibility (Nic Charlton, University of London)
• Presentation 3: Working with Moodle (Nic Christodoulou, SOAS)
• Presentation 4: Accessibility initiatives at UCL (Jess Gramp & Paul Thompson, UCL)
• Presentation 5: Checking for accessibility in Moodle (Herve Didiot-Cook, Blackboard)
• Panel discussion
• Workshop activity: developing Moodle accessibility guidelines for practitioners
End by 1300

Book your place now.

 

For further details about the event, please contact Sarah Sherman or Melanie Read

Joint Faculty Best Practice Event on Digital Education, February 2018

MiraVogel1 March 2018

Arne Hofmann and Helen Matthews from the UCL Joint Faculty (Arts and Humanities and Social and Historical Science) have hit on a successful format for a practice sharing session. Speakers make brief presentations and then disperse to ‘stations’ around the room so that participants can circulate and discuss. At the end of the event is a plenary discussion.

The third event in this series had a digital education focus. Sanjay Karia who heads up IT for SLASH kindly contributed display screens for the stations. I matchmade colleagues in Digital Education with the presenters based on interest; they made notes of the conversations (using MS Teams as recommended by IT for SLASH) and I largely owe this blogpost to them.

The splendid presenters and their presentations, some of which include links to examples of student work:

  • Mark Lake (Senior Lecturer, Archaeology) described undergraduate students blogging for ARCL3097 Archeology in the World  – a particularly gutsy initiative given it was a compulsory module for final year undergraduates in the NSS zone [Mark’s slides as PDF].
  • Riitta Valijarvi (Senior Teaching Fellow, Finnish) talked about her Wikipedia Translatathon, a cultural and linguistic event marking the centenary of Finland which brought together students, Finnish or Finnish speaking staff from UCL, members of the public, and Wikimedia UK staff.
  • Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (Senior Lecturer, SELCS) discussed students producing digital objects for the Qualitative Thinking module of the BASc [Jakob’s slides as PDF];
  • Jacky Derrick (Deputy Module Convenor, History) described how first year undergraduate student groups produce web sites together on a subject which gets them engaging with London;
  • Nick Grindle and Jesper Hansen (Senior Teaching Fellows, Arena Centre) reviewed their experiences organising peer feedback via the fearsome-looking but actually wonderful Moodle Workshop activity [Nick’s slides as PDF];
  • Maria Sibiryakova (Senior Teaching Fellow, Russian) talked about how the multimedia discuss app VoiceThread can advance the four skills of language learning [Maria’s slides as PDF];
  • Jonathan Holmes (Professor of Physical Geography) and Nick Mann (Learning Resources Coordinator, Geography) on designing digital multiple choice exams [Jonathan’s and Nick’s slides as PDF];
  • Clive Young (Digital Education Advisory Team Leader) on meeting the UCL minimum quality standard known as ‘the UCL E-Learning Baseline‘.

Here are some of the themes from the event.

How should students be inducted to new technical platforms? For some cohorts this was hardly an issues and staff soon felt comfortable abandoning the training session at the beginning of the module in favour of a drop-in as the deadline approached. However, there are disciplinary differences and not all groups can be guaranteed to have somebody particularly comfortable with using technologies, so the drop-ins are important.  Based on my own experience inducting some large cohorts to Mahara, if it’s done at all then it’s best done when the students have some vision about what they want to do there – i.e. not at the very start of the module, and close enough to the deadline that there is no hiatus between the induction and putting the knowledge to use. In addition, students seemed to know less about copyright and intellectual property than the technologies, so some modules had incorporated sessions on those.

How do we assess digital multimodal work? Formative assessment was considered very worthwhile, especially where students were new to the activity. Currently there is sometimes a criterion related to appropriate use of the mode or format, such as “use of text formatting and good quality images and/or multimedia which clearly enhance the text”. Often there is an element of writing in the work which would be run through Turnitin according to departmental policy. I think it is probably fair to say that (like most of the sector) we are in transition to explicitly recognising the distinctive qualities of digital multimodal composition. I have seen how, in many cases, new and potentially challenging practices need to be eased through teaching committees by anchoring them to the accepted standards and criteria – at least for the first few iterations. With time and experience comes new awareness and recognition of distinctive practices which work well in a given context. Jakob’s slides are particularly detailed on this – the BASc have been giving this kind of thing consideration from day one.

Where should digital multimodal work be positioned in the curriculum? There was a general sense that modularisation tends to isolate digital activities within programmes. This could lead either to them not being built upon (where they happened early) or having their academic validity questioned (where they happened later). Support includes showing students exemplars of blogs and creating opportunities for them to carry out guided marking to help them grasp standards and apply the assessment criteria to their own work.

What if students question the academic validity of a digital activity? Where new forms of digital assessment are introduced later in a programme, expect students to query whether it is really necessary for their degree. The challenge, summarised by Mark, is to pre-emptively “tackle student perception” by advocating for the activity in terms of student learning and success. Archaeology in the World saw their evaluation questionnaire results slowly improve as the tutors learned to advocate for the activity, and students came to recognise it as useful.

When can students’ work be public? In cases like the Wikipedia event, the work is born public. In other cases this is something to be negotiated with students – but there is often groundwork to do beforehand. Students need guidance to use media that is itself licensed to be made public. Where the work happens in groups, licensing their work needs to be a joint and unanimous decision with a take-down policy.

How can different skills levels be accommodated? The intermediate Russian language students were at different levels, which meant that multimedia production such as recordings of poetry read aloud helped them practice speaking (one of the four skills of modern language learning), and the individualised recorded feedback they were given helped them with listening (another of the skills). VoiceThread brought a privacy and timeliness to the feedback which had not previously existed – exposing students to the risk of embedding their mistakes. Another approach to different skills levels is to create groups of students on the assumption that they will either sustain each other in acquiring the skills or divide the labour according to skills, and a third is to give extra guidance to students who need it (as with the Finnish-English Wikipedia Translatathon).

How can the new practice be made to work first time? When the Arena Centre pioneered large scale use of the Moodle Workshop activity for peer feedback, they worked closely with Digital Education – we made those early deadlines our own, and together we prepared for different contingencies. As well as working closely with Digital Education, Geography subjected their digital examination to a number of rigorous checks involving academic and professional services colleagues, students, and internal and external examiners. Digital Education has produced the Baseline to support the quality aspects – these are not intuitive. One participant remarked to me later that he had been skeptical, bordering on resentful, of the Baseline until he started working through it, at which point he realised how useful it is.

What do students get out of the digital side of things? Some indicative comments from Jakob’s students: “learnt to consider digital content in a very different way”; “through creating a Digital Object rather than a traditional essay, I was able to engage with our topic at a much deeper level”, and “I have also developed transferable skills”. Mark received correspondence that the activity “really made me think and synthesise in a new way”. Nick’s and Jesper’s Arena participants have been very positive about giving and receiving peer feedback.

~~~

There are a few things I’d change about how I organised the event. One is that either it should be extended by half an hour (to two hours) or else the number of speakers should be reduced. As it was, we overran and I was very sad to have to cut off a very interesting plenary discussion just as colleagues were beginning to really want to talk with each other. Another is that teaching languages has a distinct set of needs which justify a dedicated event. I might also consider asking the presenters to circulate rather than the participants (though I can see pros and cons there).

That aside, it was a lively, spontaneous, humorous, sophisticated event which balanced different sets of needs – educational, disciplinary, colleagues and students. It is so often the case that when colleagues have the opportunity to seek each other out based on mutual interest, the fruits soon make themselves evident. One participant told me he went from the event straight to his department’s Staff Student Consultative Committee where he proposed an idea which was accepted. “That’s impact”, he said.

Developing Digital Scholarship at UCL

MoiraWright23 January 2018

The next UCL Digital Literacy Special Interest Group (UCL DL SIG) will be taking place on Friday February 16th from 2pm – 5pm (ticket link at the end of this post).

Digital content is increasingly being used in learning, teaching and research across the Higher Education sector. This has led to a significant change in research practices across disciplines, which include knowledge creation and dissemination through social media and repositories. Complex software tools are being used for data analysis in Arts and Humanities as well as Sciences, and large data sets are being made available to the research community, leading to a blurring of the organisational and support responsibilities of academic stakeholders. This timely event takes a look at digital scholarship at large, and considers new initiatives and opportunities within UCL to address the challenges associated with this disruptive shift.

Event Programme

Developing Digital Scholarship: Emerging Practices in Academic Libraries – Alison MacKenzie, Dean of Learning Services at Edge Hill University and Lindsay Martin Assistant Head of Learning Services at Edge Hill University.

The impact of digital on libraries has extended far beyond its transformation of content, to the development of services, the extension and enhancement of access to research and to teaching and learning systems.As a result,the fluidity of the digital environment can often be at odds with the more systematic approaches to development traditionally taken by academic libraries, which has also led to a new generation of roles and shifting responsibilities with staff training and development often playing ‘catch-up’. One of the key challenges to emerge is how best to demonstrate expertise in digital scholarship which draws on the specialist technical knowledge of the profession and maintains and grows its relevance for staff, students and researchers.


From digital scholarship to digital scholar  – Alison Hicks, Lecturer UCL Department of Information Studies.

Drawing on her experience working as an academic librarian in the United States, Alison’s presentation centres on the capacities that are needed to participate in practices of digital scholarship, as well as the inherent risks and challenges of engaging in open and networked spaces.


Introduction to Digital Scholarship and Open Research – Daniel van Strien, Research Data Support Officer UCL Library Services.

Daniel will be presenting on a session which aims to help participants make a practical start in practicing open science and digital scholarship he is a Research Data Support Officer within UCL Library Services with an interest in digital scholarship and new approaches to research.


Where’s your digital at? – Moira Wright, Digital Literacy Officer, UCL Digital Education.

With an interest in student digital and information literacy skills for employability. Moira will be talking about the Jisc Digital Capability Discovery Tool and how to get involved in the UCL beta pilot.


Research IT Services – Tom Couch, UCL Research IT Services (RITS).

Whilst many of the existing users of Research IT Services are pushing for more of the same but better, the broadening base of digitally engaged researchers from different disciplines requires more experimentation with new technologies and services. Tom Couch reports on some recent projects that have helped RITS to engage and support new groups of researchers.


Please use this link to book your ticket via Eventbrite

We’re using the Jisc definition of digital literacy: ‘the capabilities which fit someone for living, learning and working in a digital society’.
The UCL DL SIG was created for UCL staff to promote the use of technology in learning, provide a platform to ask questions, exchange ideas and also to get support from colleagues beyond UCL Digital Education.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Where’s your digital at?!

MoiraWright22 January 2018

Discover your digital capabilities! The Digital discovery tool helps you to reflect on your digital expertise and confidence. Find out how to make digital technologies work for you – and get noticed for the skills you have already.

The tool is a self-administered quiz about professional digital practices in education. Workshop participants will receive a personalised report based on their responses with links to resources and guidance. The tool is designed to be reflective, informative and developmental – it’s not an objective measure of an individual’s digital performance.

UCL staff are invited to participate in one of three workshops of the beta pilot with an opportunity to use the tool and provide your feedback to JISC.

Places are limited for these sessions and a sandwich lunch will be provided.

Sign up via Eventbrite use the links below:

Thursday 8th February 2018 from 1 pm – 2pm

Tuesday 20th February 2018 from 1pm – 2pm

Monday 26th February 2018 from 1pm – 2pm

A version for students is planned for March 2018 and we’re keen to give students at UCL an opportunity to participate in the pilot. If you would like to discuss running departmental workshops (either staff or student) please contact Moira Wright.

Links:

JISC digital capability discovery tool

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

What I saw at ALTC 2017

MiraVogel8 September 2017

I’ve been at ALTC , the Association for Learning Technology Conference 2017. To come, a harder piece to write where I make sense of it all – but for now I’m going to summarise each session I attended, mainly because I really enjoyed hearing from everyone else about what they went to. Incidentally, the keynotes and all of the sessions which took place in the largest room are available to watch on ALT’s YouTube (where there will hopefully be a playlist in due course).

Day 1

Bonnie Stewart, a keynote speaker from a non-traditional background, spoke about the exclusions which ensue from only planning for norms. Among many insights she shared was Ronald Heifetz’s about actively distinguishing between problems which technology can solve and problems which require humans to adapt their behaviour.

Helen Walmsley-Smith introduced eDAT, a tool for analysing the content of online learning activity design. The data  could then be analysed with feedback and retention data to allow a learning design to be evaluated, and successful types in different contexts to be identified. eDAT is freely available. There are early signs that interactivity is related to improved retention.
Emma Mayhew and Vicki Holmes from Reading described the shift from paper-based to digital assessment processes. Part of a major programme of EMA funding. With eight academic and student secondees, they aim to improve each part of cycle, from better awareness at the ‘Setting’ stage to better monitoring of progress at the ‘Reflection’ stage. They found that the idea of ‘consistency’ was problematic and might refer to satisfaction rather than practices. Their review of other institutions found that the most successful outcomes were in institutions which consulted carefully.
Peter Alston (Liverpool) discussed how ‘the academy’ does not mean the same thing when it discusses e-assessment. This highlighted the differences between professional services and academic perspectives. Adopting Whitchurch’s (2008) ‘third space’ approach, and the contestation, reconciliation and reconstruction (Whitchurch 2010) around practices, rules, regulations and language.
Why are the rates of e-submission and feedback at the University of Essex so high? Ben Steeples looked back at a decade of electronic submission and feedback on a platform built in-house, which designed out a number of problems affecting other platforms. Maintaining the in-house system costs £75k a year, but the integrations with e.g. calendar and student records are excellent and the service is very reliable. They expect to develop analytics. I love hearing from in-house developers making large strategically important institutional systems which work well.
Daniel Roberts and Tunde Varga-Atkins #1637 discussed the minimum standards (‘hygiene factors’) for Liverpool’s VLE, and the development of an evaluation model involving students which could be used with other initiatives. Students are a transient presence who can be hard to reach; different evaluation approaches to involving them included as auditors and in focus groups. Between staff and students at Liverpool there was little mutual recognition of the respective effort which goes into using the VLE.
One of the stand-out sessions for me, Simon Thomson and Lawrie Phipps summarised Jisc’s #Codesign16 consultation on needs for a next-generation digital learning environment. There was a sense that the tools drive the pedagogy, that they exist to control the academy, and that administration processes were de facto more important than education. Jisc found that students were using laptops and phones had almost equally (only 40% used a tablet). Students arrive at university networked, but the VLE currently stands alone without interfacing with those networks. At Leeds Beckett PULSE (Personalised User Learning and Social Environment) set out to address this by letting individuals connect spaces where they had existing relationships, allowing them to post once and selectively release to multiple places. The data within PULSE is entirely owned by students. When they leave, they can take it with them. Unsurprisingly, student’s expressed no strong desire to integrate personal tools with uni platforms – as ever, educators needs to design use of PULSE into the curriculum. However, the VLE vendor would not give access to the APIs to allow the kind of integration this would require.
Helen Beetham and Ellen Lessner introduced video accounts of learning digitally from 12 students not all of whom loved technology. The institutional technologies do not come out well in Jisc’s ‘Student digital experience tracker 2017’, but we have no idea whether that is to do with the task design, the support for new ways of learning, or the technologies themselves. Find resources at bit.ly/ALTC17digijourneys.
Carina Dolch asked whether students are getting used to learning technology. She described the massification and diversification of Germany’s higher education system, and how students’ media usage was changing over time. A survey of 3666 students confirmed that while there was an increase in time spent online since 2012. However – which is hard to explain – the frequency of text media use has been decreasing, as did the use of both general tools (search engines, Skype, etc) and e-learning tools and services (Moocs, lecture recordings, etc). Non-traditional students tend to use technologies functionally tied to their institution, whereas traditional students tended to use technologies more recreationally. Students expressed reluctance to be at the forefront of innovations, and there were more active decisions to be offline.

Day 2

I loved Sian Bayne’s keynote about anonymity. She used the demise of Yik Yak the anonymous hyperlocal networking app, to talk about campus networks and privacy. Yik Yak’s high point in the download chart was 2014. In 2016 they withdrew anonymity, which is reflected by a plunge in usage at Edinburgh. Yik Yak restored anonymity shortly before closing in 2017 to no particular regret in the media. It had not been able to use personal data to finance itself. Moral panics about anonymous social media served platform capitalism by demanding that everyone be reachable and accountable. Edinburgh students discussed student life (including mental health), sex and dating, with some academic and political issues. Most students found it a kind and supportive network. Anonymity studies notes the ‘psychic numbing’ which allows most social media users to join up their accounts in the interests of living an “effective life”, inuring them to the risks of surveillance capitalism. Some users resist surveillance by cloaking one’s identity – however this seems over-reliant on other users not cloaking theirs, otherwise the enterprise, relying as it does on personal data, inevitably folds. I can’t see any other way to escape platform capitalism than to organise sustainable resourcing for open platforms such as Mastodon and Diaspora.
Fotios Mispoulos took a University of Liverpool instructor’s perspective on the effectiveness of learner-to-learner interactions. Most of the research into learner-to-learner interactions happened in the 1990s and found improved satisfaction and outcomes, though there are some counter findings. As usual the particulars of the task design, year group etc were glossed so we may be trying to compare apples and bananas.
Vicki Holmes and Adam Bailey talked about introducing Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (which we have at UCL) for web meeting at Reading. I thought their approach was very good – to clarify purposes and promote commitment hey asked for formal expressions of interest, they then ran workshops with selected colleagues to build confidence and technical readiness (headphones, the right web browser). These refined designs for meetings around placement support, sessions between campuses, assessment support tutorials, and pre-session workshops, among other purposes. Participants from Politics, Finance, Careers observed positive outcomes. Recommendations include avoiding simply lecturing since students disengage quickly,  designing interactions carefully (rather than expecting them to happen), to develop the distinct presentation techniques, and to prepare students (again around technical readiness and role). 87% of students felt it was appropriate to their learning.
Beth Snowden and Bronwen Swinnerton presented on rethinking lectures in three redesigned tiered theatres at the University of Leeds. Each ‘pod’ has a mic, top-lighting, and a wired-in thinkpad device which can be used to send responses and also to present via the data projector. Lecturers observed how students who had chatted to each other were more likely to chat with him and to ask questions. Another doubted he could continue referring to the session as a ‘lecture’. Responses to the evaluation survey found that the average time listening to the lecturer was 49%, which was assumed to be less than in the other lecture theatres. Just over half of staff felt that the new lecture theatres created extra work, but more felt they were a positive development. Future evaluation will focus on educational uses.
[See YouTube University of Leeds “upgrade of teaching spaces”]
Catherine Naamani looked at the impact of space design on collaborative approaches at the University of South Wales. The flexible spaces had colour coded chairs round triangular tables with their own screen which students could present to using an app, and which the tutor could access. The more confident groups gained more tutor attention while the least engaged groups tended to be international students, so more group-to-group activity needed to be designed. Staff tended to identify training needs with the technology, but not developmental needs around educational approach using that technology.
Another stand-out session – as digital education strategists and academics at their respective institutions, Kyriaki Agnostopoulou, Don Passey, Neil Morris and Amber Thomas looked at the evidence bases and business cases for digital education. Amber noted academic, administrative and technical don’t speak to each other until the top of the organisation. How do digital education workers influence their organisations strategies? There are four distinct origins of evidence: technology affordances, uses, outcomes and impact. The former kinds of evidence can be provided through qualitative case studies while the latter through quantitative independent control group studies. Case studies are abundant, but far rarer are studies which show evidence of impact over time. Amber urged us to learn the language of ITIL and Prince 2 to “understand them as much as you want them to understand you”. Return on investment, laying out true costs (staff time, supply costs, simultaneous users), use cases (and edge cases), capital spend and recurrent spend) strategic alignment, gains (educational, efficiency and PR), options appraisals, sustainability and scalability, and risk analyses are a way to be ready for management critique of any idea. Neil Morris (Leeds) took the view that using evidence is the most powerful way of making change. Making the academic case first gets the idea talked about.
Online submission continues to outstrip e-marking at the University of Nottingham. Helen Whitehead introduced ‘Escape from paper mountain‘, an educational development escape game through which staff would understand how to use an online marking environment [see ALT Winter Conference]. The scenario is an assessor who has completed his marking but then disappeared; the mission is to find his marking and get it to the Exam Board in 60 minutes. The puzzles, to be solved in groups, are all localised, sometimes even at the subject-specific level. There are plenty of materials at yammer.com/escapehe.
Kamakshi Rajagopal from the Open University of The Netherland ran a workshop on practical measures to break out of online echo chambers aka filter bubbles – people from similar backgrounds and strata of societies in the context of an egocentric, personally and intentionally created personal learning network. One group came up with the idea of a ‘Challenge me’ or ‘Forget me’ button to be able to serve yourself different feeds

Day 3

(The amount of notes reflects the amount of sleep).
Peter Goodyear’s keynote was very good. He talked about the designing physical spaces for digital learning, which he called ‘multidimensional chess’. He introduced these as apprentice spaces where students learn to participate in valued practices. While STEM subjects require a lot of physical infrastructure, arts, humanities and social sciences require cognitive structures to learn to use knowledge and work with others. Designers reduce complexity by concentrating on what learners will do in the spaces. The activities themselves are not designable, but the guides and scaffolds are. Active learning risks cognitive overload due to the mechanics of the tasks – the instructions, navigating the task. The activity-centred activity design framework set out how to mitigate this.  Find the slides at petergoodyear.net.
John Traxler described initial thoughts about an Erasmus+ project to empower refugee learners  from Middle East and North Africa through digital literacy. Few Moocs are oriented to refugees, and those which are depend on the availabilities of volunteers. Engaging in a Mooc obviously depends on digital access and capabilities. Other challenges include language, expectations and cultural assumptions. Digital literacy can be interpreted as employability skills, or alternatively with a more liberal, individualistic definition to do with self-expression. The group is very hard to reach, so it is hard to carry out a valid needs assessment. The project is moonlite.
Lubna Alharbi talked about emotion analysis to investigate lecturer-student relationship in a fully online setting. Emotions which interfere with learning include isolation and loneliness arising from lack of interaction. To motivate students it is very important for the tutor to interpret and react to emotions. The International Survey on Emotional Antecedents and Reactions (ISEAR) dataset consists of sentences related to different emotions. Synesketch tool.
Another stand-out, Khaled Abuhlfaia asked how the usability of learning technologies affects learners. In usability research, usability is conceived as effectiveness, efficiency, learnability, memorability, error handling and satisfaction. The literature review was very well reported, and he found that there is far more evidence about the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction dimensions mostly questionnaires and interviews, while the other dimensions, while important, have been neglected.
Academic course leaders choose textbooks in a climate of acute student worries about living costs (not to mention the huge debts they graduate with). Viv Rolfe, David Kernohan and Martin Weller compared open textbook use in the UK and the US. In the US open textbook use has been driven by student debt – and in the UK nearly 50% of students graduating in 2015 had debt worries.
Ian McNicoll talked about the learning technologist role as a ‘fleshy interface’ between educators (who view LTs as techies), technies (who view LTs as quasi-academic), students (as helpdesk staff) and the institution (as strategic enablers).
John Tepper and Alaa Bafail discussed ways to calibrate designs for learning activities in STEM subjects. These are currently tied to outcomes statements, where outcomes are constructivist – teachers create a learning environment supportive of learning activities appropriate to the outcomes. Quality was operationalised as student satisfaction, which I thought might be problematic since it does not itself relate to outcomes. I also wondered about the role of context for each activity e.g. demographic differences, level which I missed in the talk. The presenters took a systems approach to evaluating quality, through which designs which elicited high student satisfaction were surfaced. Anyone interested in designing educational activities will probably be interested in Learning Designer, which was mentioned in the talk, is really good, and is still being maintained. It’s increasingly rare for software developers to talk at ALTC, so it was good to hear about this. I found this talk fascinating and baffling in equal measures, but fully intriguing.
Sam Ahern discussed learning analytics as a tool for supporting student wellbeing. One fifth of all adults surveyed by the NHS have a longterm common mental health problem, with variation between demographic groups. The numbers reporting mental health problems on entry has jumped 220% as students numbers have climbed. Poor mental health manifests as behaviour change around attendance, meeting deadlines, self-care and signs of frustration. Certain online behaviours can predict depressive episodes.