Last week I made a trip to the University of Warwick for the Association for Learning Technology conference (ALT-C 2016). I joined on the final day of the three day event. Even attending for just one day, there was a packed programme. I chose to attend lots of short presentations so I could hear about innovations in lots of different contexts.
I always find it interesting to visit another university campus. I noticed lots of open spaces among the buildings (like mini courtyards or town squares) and plenty of indoor social spaces. This contrasts with the linear layout of our campus, where buildings are oriented along the parade. It felt more like the space outside the Limes and in the Edge. The campus environment seemed to encourage informal meetings.
The short presentations gave an insight into learning and teaching developments in different settings. Some key themes ran throughout the sessions. The messages which seemed especially relevant for us at University of Bath were:
- How can we work together to ‘join up’ support for the use of learning technologies? How can we make support roles and services more clearly defined and easily accessible? Ongoing work on a new Teaching and Learning Hub, and the development of a Technology Enhanced Learning Strategy are moving in this direction.
- How can we engage students to share their study strategies and skills? There is a need to open up conversations around staff and student expectations. This could help us to understand how initiatives such as lecture capture can be used in ways that encourage a more critical approach.
Designing for user needs in the Virtual Learning Environment
A demonstration of a Moodlerooms theme which
- removes redundant links
- improves flow from one learning activity to the next
- makes activity completion much easier for students to track
The theme moves away from the standard Moodle architecture where the course page acts as a central hub. This allows more flow from one activity to the next. (Leonard Houx, Senior Instructional Designer at Cass Business School)
- How to deal with the problem of ‘clutter’ in the VLE
- If the VLE doesn’t meet user needs, how to support best practice in other online environments (e.g. staff or student created Facebook groups)
- How to make sure the VLE supports different user needs
Designing physical learning spaces, and spaces for blended learning
- A presentation on the use of webinars to expand access to learning, for example to students on placement. This included some top tips on designing interaction into the online experience. (Daniel Metcalfe, Senior Learning Technologist, Plymouth University)
- A new approach towards ‘joined up design thinking’ at the institutional level, to support staff in their use of learning technologies. This includes
- prompt cards which neatly summarise and highlight all the supported technologies at the institution
- a common framework and roles (such as student digichamps)
- ‘design thinking’ events involving students
(Amber Thomas and Robert O’Toole, University of Warwick)
Student engagement in assessment
- Insights into different experiences with peer assessment
- Involving students being in writing their assessment criteria. (Sara Hattersley, University of Warwick)
Further resources at www.bit.ly/2caoVxA
- The importance of the ‘social space' for discussion around peer assessment activities – to help build up trust
- The need for expert presence and intervention to guide the activity – it’s not a time-saving exercise
Student engagement in their learning
- A fascinating presentation on coordinating lecture capture. This involved engaging with students to find out how they use recorded lectures, for example during revision time and during term time. Video guides were developed to share with all students, showing how they can make use of lecture capture in a focused way. (Matt Cornock, Lecture Coordinator and E-learning adviser, University of York). https://www.york.ac.uk/staff/teaching/support/recording-lectures/student-advice/
- A presentation on using mind mapping with undergraduate students to help them develop a ‘learning design’ plan. The idea is to encourage independent learning and help students take charge of developing their study skills. (Asanka Dayananda, Middlesex University)
- The final keynote (Donna Lanclos and David White) considered the dilemma between technology for efficiency, and the potential it offers to open up a more transformative, ‘messy’ and human dimension
- How can we provide reliable access to technologies and support digital skills, and at the same time move beyond this to help develop practices, behaviours and new identities?