Thursday 8 September 2011

ALT-C 2011 Tuesday

Today was the first 'proper' day of the ALT conference although there were pre conference events yesterday including workshops.  The conference is held this year at Leeds University which location wise is good for me as it is relatively near home / work however the campus and buildings themselves are quite spread out and it takes a while to become orientated (& why do they have that gravel outside the EC Stoner building?).  Apart from that it's fine.  I had to go to College first as it is our inductions this week and I so didn't want to miss them as we have an exciting new format to the sessions and wanted to check that everything was set up and working ok.  I arrived luckily just in time for lunch which was really nice (goats cheese and onion tart and salad) much better than the usual conference food.  I sat and chatted to a few people and then headed off to a session.
The session was Emerging Practice in a Digital Age - institutional approaches to changing practice Sarah Knight, Clare Killen &Andy Ramsden.  It was a very popular session and the room was packed.  It focused on how universities and colleges can improve the learning experience.
The question asked to the audience was what challenges are there for institutions to get staff and students using technologies which was a 2 mins group activity.  The usual responses including IT depts, Lecturers - lack of skills, lack of time, time to develop digital literacies, different devices - awareness of and stability of technologies, senior management, budget - investment doing more with less, change.  
The presenters suggested that the drivers for change include inspections e.g. Ofsted, expectations, the need for personalisation, economic pressures.  
Behaviours changing lead to collaborative.  
The JISC guide has case studies about working with students, partnership with students, preparing for the future.  Focused on exploring and developing together collaborative.  
Then they moved onto to linking learning to location which was based on QR code activities at University Campus Suffolk. 
QR codes are a mainstream activity now - everyone in the room had used them, 50% had created.
I was really interested in this part of the session as we have done a lot of work lately using QR codes.

The purpose of the activity is low threshold and is a location aware activity.
Basically the first activity is to scan a code - download an App to do so if necessary.  
The second activity was to read a question, scan a code, pick an answer, submit.The results are fed back into a database which creates a leaderboard.  This is a great idea - they used Google docs I think and a Google site.  The only thing that could be slightly changed would be that you answer the question and submit the answer and then it sends you to a link to a video with information about the topic - would it be possible to look at the information before answering? 
The session was interesting and has some useful ideas that I'll try to incorporate into the things that we do. I think lots of people are using them but maybe just as links to websites with information not as a teaching and learning tool.  The fact that it was a simple but very effective activity means that we could definitely use some of it with our College learners.

The next session was short papers about managing change.  
First Fleur Corfield and Peter Bird.  Can technology save us? The experience of the Cascade project.  
A recognition that change needs managing.  Looked at Enterprise Architecture.
Curriculum design & development.  The issues were staff changes, a need to see information separate from IT systems, no Chief Information Officer and how to engage stakeholders.  Considered too difficult but not clear why too difficult.  Introduced pilots for curriculum change.  Change the VLE - admin- timetable - personalised timetables.  Create new system as well as curriculum content.
There is a need to engage with stakeholders at ground level - admin staff and academic staff.  Have to be nice to them 'touchy feely'  in order to build up trust with the project.  One way is to make the process anonymous
so no fear of being blamed.

Then Marion Manton Can technology save us? The experience of the Cascade project 
Cascade project.  Problem of ELQ students withdrawn funding.  Therefore need more efficient more lines of work.  The things that worked / appealed were those that are cheap to sustain and were obviously in need of change.  There needs to be some early winners in order to convince people that it is going to work and be of benefit.  One way is to pick the obvious people on the ground with influence which carries the project along.
Online payment and enrolment was a major success.
Staff savings are inevitable natural wastage or otherwise.
Discussion about Online marking - On screen marking - Grademark

The third part of the session was Not future-proofed but future-focused: graduate attributes and the digital university by Neil Witt, Helen Beetham.  
They discussed how practices are changing which has an effect on the learning literacies and digital literacies students & staff.  90% of all new jobs require ICT competency.  The results of the focus groups showed that students value eLearning experience when it is relevant to their learning.  It is important to ask students what they want.
Device neutrality is an important issue and also confidence in using technology.
Although students may own laptops they don't necessarily want to use it as it may be a family one or they may be worried about security if they carry it to University or College.  Students want access to the institutions computers and to be able to use them easily while studying.  A VLE is preferred for a central point for accessing resources and course materials.  It is the data / information that needs to be portable and mobile therefore use memory sticks to move from home to Uni etc. not necessarily the device.

This was a point that was brought up at some of the other sessions and was interesting to me although maybe obvious to others - when we are talking about mobile learning it doesn't necessarily mean that the device + content has to be carried around, what it means is that the information is mobile and therefore can be accessed from a variety of different devices and places and in a variety of formats.

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