ALT Webinar: Equality in Learning Technology

The Glass Ceiling

Another good webinar, two in a row, crikey, this one more for the ideas and thoughts it stimulated. So, ALT’s annual survey results came out in February, findings here, and this webinar was a follow-up discussion on a new area of focus for ALT, equality.

The webinar explored the differences in answers between survey responders who identified as male or female*, and asked questions about why there are those differences. For example, on the question of ‘What are the enablers / drivers for learning technology?’, there were significant differences in ‘Dedicated time’, which was ranked less important for women, and ‘Recognition for career development’, which women scored much higher than men. Maren and Martin then went on to discuss representation in ALTs governance and leadership (good, fairly balanced), and other areas including honorary lifetime member awards (very poor – 6 male, 2 female).

Slide 23, which I’ve cheekily screenshoted and annotated (above), is interesting. The number of women with ‘Senior’ in their job titles is quite a bit higher than men, but not so with titles that contain ‘Head’ and ‘Director’. Is this where our glass ceiling is then?

I asked a question in the chat, has there been any research into the gender balance of learning technology teams, and if they are imbalanced (my suspicion and experience), does that have an impact on the nature of the materials we develop and the services we provide? The answer was ‘not that anyone was aware of’. Very interesting… as I continue to inch closer to doing my own PhD and seek ideas…

Martin Hawksey’s blog post about this topic and a link to the slides can be found here, and are worth reading.

* No mention of the ‘Other’ category, which is highly problematic. I get why that is the case – relatively small survey size (c.200 responses per year) – but that doesn’t mean you can literally ‘other’ the ‘Other’. It’s not okay, and there needs to be an acknowledgement of this and justifications explicitly provided. There must be inclusion of people with diverse gender identities, even, and especially, when research splits people along binary lines. This feels rambly, a topic to be explored in a much longer post I think.

Web Accessibility for Leaders

GDS Posters - Link in Post

This was a really good webinar from Jisc and Government Digital Service (GDS) on the new accessibility regulations which are coming into force and which apply to all publicly funded bodies, building on our obligations from the 2010 Equality Act by adding a new, higher, standard for compliance with new levels of monitoring and enforcement. What this is going to mean for learning technologists is that we are likely to have to an increased burden on ensuring that learning systems and their content is compliant with the legislation. At Sunderland, I can see us being tasked with writing the accessibility statement, or statements, for the VLE and our other systems, as the University is far too complex for a universal statement covering all of our websites and apps.

Accessibility statements are the key new requirement, and are quite prescriptive about what they need to contain. They should detail how accessible the system is, what problems there are with it that you have identified, what end users can do to mitigate those or access the content in a different way, and most importantly the statement has to include a plan about what we are going to do to improve the current situation, however good, or bad, that may be.

There is of course some concern about additional workload requirements for us, but I’m fully behind this. It’s all excellent stuff and should drive an improvement on the quality of our learning materials across the board, something which will benefit all students. Jisc are putting together statement templates which HEI’s will be able to use, and GDS, who will be the monitoring body for the legislation, have a huge range of support materials on their site, including some excellent posters.

LTA Workshop: Transitions into Higher Education

Attended the Learning and Teaching Academy’s workshop which was given by an external speaker, Dr Debbie Porteous from Northumbria University. The talk was around her research in how to support nursing students in their transitions first to students and then into professional practice, and how to maximise their potential for success.

She began by leading a discussion on how the student experience differs for new students in the 21st century – that study is often now only one of many commitments which can also include work and caring responsibilities, and that the relationship between students and institutions has changed as a result of funding changes which have resulted in students becoming customers, consumers and partners also.

From that position she moved on to how best to support students and ensure their success at University, which includes quality of teaching, clear career pathways, student support services, and, most importantly, the availability of staff at the key level 4 stage. This led to a discussion about how, in reality, that is often the point at which the core programme team are least directly involved with their students in favour of TAs and contract staff.

Debbie then talked about her research findings in which she has identified five themes in the journey of students’ first year of experience: uncertainty, the challenges of transition and developing coping strategies; expectations, how they match experience and, for us as educators, the need to set clear and realistic expectations of what support we can provide; learning to survive, in which resilience emerges and where peer support can be invaluable; seeking support, from academics, mentors and peers, as well as the student support services offered by the institution; and moving forward, at which point students have improved confidence, belief and efficacy. This was followed by an exercise in which we, in groups, tried to identify how students can be supported through each stage.

Finally, Debbie shared how at Northumbria they are using technology and learning analytics to engage with all students throughout their studies. This is going beyond targeting students who may be at risk to include positive message of support and encourage to students who seem to be doing well also.

How to Design and Deliver Successful Webinars, Part 2

As I suspected, this follow-up and primary session on webinars made frequent reference to part 1 which had been designed and delivered to serve as an exemplar of best practice, as identified by Emailogic from their experience in the field. It was a good session, very worthwhile, and I took a lot away from it.

On preparing for and starting a webinar, an idea I really liked was having an activity or exercise that you could pre-populate for people who join the webinar early, such as a simple word search with terms related to your content. It was recommended to start the webinar around 20-30 minutes before the official start time in order to prepare for early arrivals, test audio and video as required, ideally on a different computer, and to welcome people joining early. However, it was recommended that you don’t start for 2 or 3 minutes after the start time to account for people who may be having problems joining.

Once people are in, get them to engage early by checking-in using some of the available tools, such as putting a hand up or using the chat tool. There was a claim that research has shown that 92% of people multitask, by, for example, checking email or replying to texts during a webinar. This wasn’t cited, but it feels credible from my experience. To keep people’s attention it was recommended that you need to speak at a faster pace than you would use in a classroom setting, that you eliminate pauses and gaps as much as possible, use text reveals so that people only see what is immediately relevant in slides, and to persistently make people interact by asking questions via polls or using the chat. On the non-technical side, repeating good points and participant’s names was recommended, along with using personal disclosure and humour to create bonds.

Regarding the inevitable technical problems, they recommended having two people on a webinar, one actively leading it and the other person picking up any technical problems raised by participants, something which I have seen many times. To mitigate bandwidth problems they recommended using only slides, not live technical demos, and sending these out prior to the webinar so that in extreme cases participants can still join in via telephone.

We completed a number of exercises throughout the day also, including ones on how to design open and closed questions, and constructing a simple webinar based on a topic we currently teach face-to-face. Finally, we were given some good handouts for future reference – a standard opening script that’s content neutral, and a detailed checklist for preparing sessions.

ALT North East User Group – 2019

In a first, I didn’t just attend the meeting this time round, I hosted it at one of the University’s nicer enterprise suites at Hope Street Xchange. Working with Graeme and Julie who are the North East’s key contacts with ALT, I took care of the practicalities – venue, IT, parking, lunch – while they organised the agenda and speakers.

In the morning we had presentations from our regional Turnitin account manager who presented on their new Authorship Investigate tool which is designed to help detect instances of contract cheating, followed by a presentation and discussion from Jisc on changes to the EU’s Accessibility Regulations which we as an institution will need to respond to over the next year.

In the afternoon representatives from each institution attending gave a short presentation or talk about what interesting projects we have going on. I talked about using Trello with the team to better organise our workload, and the rollout of Panopto across the University which is now in full swing.

I’m pleased to be able to say it all went very well, with only one minor lunch hiccup which was quickly resolved. Hopefully this will be something we can do on a regular basis going forward.

How to Design and Deliver Successful Webinars, Part 1

Attended a one hour webinar which was meant to be about, as per title, how to design and deliver successful webinars. What was actually delivered was a session on how to get the most out of meetings, covering topics such as providing a detailed agenda, setting expectations prior to meetings, and getting minutes and actions out promptly.

Of course, that was the explicit content. I have a lot of thoughts about this and how it was delivered – it was a little bizarre – and I expect it is all going to be deconstructed at part 2 of this thing next Thursday.

Winging It

country_profiles

I’m having one of those periodic feelings that I’ve been neglecting the blog a little, so some updates on what I’ve been up to:

Ramifications of the department restructure in July continue, as the programme leader for our Academic Practice PG Cert – and my informal mentor – decided to leave the institution in December for new pastures. That has meant that I’ve been thrown out of the frying pan a little. I’m no longer the informal module leader on the digital technology module, learning the ropes, it is all mine. Officially. Now. Whether I know what I’m doing or not. I’m slowly coming to realise jus how much of academia is people winging it as best the can. So far it’s going well. Half the taught sessions were done last year, and the first assignment submission is due shortly. I’ve also continued to provide a number of bespoke sessions here and there, including digital skills for Sociology students and WordPress for postgrad researchers.

On the other side of my job I’m working on formalising exactly what work we can do for academics in terms of developing their content which will comprise of a new set of Service Standards for Learning Materials Development, a low-key project management system for organising the team’s workload similar to what we used to have when we had access to Jira, and a dashboard for reporting what we’ve done. That’s something we definitely need more of, we do a lot of good work that doesn’t get shouted about enough. I’m also pushing for hardware and software updates. We’re still on Storyline 2 which is getting on a bit, and an upgrade to 3 should be fairly straightforward to get through, and I would like to run a pilot of Adapt or Evolve.

I’ve been working with our Medical School again to source and integrate a series of anatomy and physiology eLearning content units developed by an external company into a number of our Canvas modules. I made an interactive world map in ThingLink to showcase country health profiles written by students for an assessment on a sociology module which will build up over the next few years (above). I was down at our London Campus again in October to help with the selection and recruitment of a new VLE support officer there who then visited us in December for a few days training with myself and the team here. Finally, getting outside of strictly work, I’ve reached the denouement of my social media alienation. On the 31st of December, to go into the new year fresh, I deleted Twitter and Facebook from all of my devices, consigning my accounts to the same dark cupboard where LinkedIn and Google+ lurk, still in existence but wilfully ignored.

Panopto Admin Training

panopto_settings

Second day of Panopto training covered everything we need to know in order to setup and administer the new system. This included a comprehensive run through of all of the configuration options and system settings, how to manually manage user accounts and the folder structure if required, and an overview of the various support resources which are available to us including the main support site and the process for logging incidents with their service desk.

Panopto User Training

panopto_nutshell

It’s official. Contracts have been signed, Canvas integration has been tested, and now we’ve had our first batch of training for Panopto, the University’s new lecture capture system which we’re branding internally as reVIEW.

This session covered how the system will be accessed and used by Viewers (students, essentially), and Creators (lecturers). There wasn’t a lot to cover for Viewers. We’re planning on having everything integrated through Canvas, so it’s just a case of navigating to the relevant item or accessing the reVIEW tool in the menu. Playback speed can be varied between half and twice speed which is nice, caption styles can be customised, and the search functionality is impressive – it doesn’t just work on text, but also for spoken terms thanks to a machine speech-to-text engine.

It is possible for students to be given access to create their own videos by using ‘Assignment’ folders which can be configured for them by module tutors, and simple quizzes can be added at any point throughout videos to check comprehension. Results for which can be fed back into the Canvas Gradebook.

There was much more content for Creators as would be expected, covering recording and editing. Recordings can include multiple sources, including any webcam and mic connected to the computer – and more than one source – PowerPoint presentations, and your entire computer screen. Recordings are uploaded to Panopto’s servers progressively which will help in a lecture theatre environment where people need to get out quickly for the next class. Editing and post-production is done through the web using HTML5, no plug-ins required, and it is possible to edit individual sources in isolation as well as the entire video.

Closed captions can be added automatically based on the speech-to-text engine which Panopto is using to drive the in-video search, but it is also possible for Creators to request a variety of human transcription services which are contracted for separately. We’ll soon discover how well it can handle academic language and the interesting range of accents we have in this neck of the woods.

HEA Fellowship Mentor / Assessor Training

Attended an internal training session led by our HEA panel leader covering what is involved in the process of mentoring people through our scheme and assessing claims. This was particularly focused on the new dialogic route for accreditation which we brought in last year. In a few weeks time I’ll be able to shadow one of the candidates on our next dialogic panel.