Attended the ALT North East user group today at Durham Castle* to network and share practice with learning technologists from universities and colleges across the region.
A representative from Jisc was there to provide us with an update on their Learning Analytics project, which continues to look ever more impressive every time I see it. This was followed by a demonstration and talk about Special iApps which have been created to help children with special educational needs. Then we had two sessions on the use and value of Microsoft Teams in education, one from a Microsoft representative and one from a colleague at Teesside who have been using it in the wild with good results. Finally there was a demonstration of the survey tool BluePulse via webinar.
* The castle was nice. Really nice.
The results of ALT’s 2017 Annual Survey have now been released. Unsurprisingly interest in VLEs, content management systems, and eAssessment remains extremely high. I like looking at the changes more. Assistive tech, web conferencing, and collaborative tools all growing areas.
Interest in social networking on the wane. Interesting. Will social networks one day be regarded as some strange phenomenon that gripped people for a couple of decades? I’m seeing more and more disengagement on, well, social media mostly. But is that because I’m writing and reading about that kind of thing lately? Oh the paradox!
Joined the ALT South webinar on online learning materials and accessibility, in which Tharindu Liyanagunawardena, Chair of the Online Learning Research Centre at the University College of Estate Management, presented a case study of their experience in adapting online learning materials to improve accessibility for students. This was initially in response to students who were having difficulty with particular items within a MOOC, but the lessons learned were adapted and implemented in new templates which were subsequently shared across the institution.
There was some discussion about Blackboard Ally, a tool, or ‘revolutionary product’ according to Blackboard, which can validate the accessibility of learning materials and in many instances convert them into alternative formats such as audio, electronic Braille, and ePub. Ally is available for multiple VLEs, not just Blackboard Learn.
The webinar was also my first experience of Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. Well, it’s certainly an improvement as it no longer uses Java, unfortunately is uses Flash instead. I would hope that that is a stopgap measure in the transition to HTML5, but with Blackboard who knows. In keeping with the theme of the webinar, there was mention of a feature in Collaborate Ultra which allows an individual to enter live closed captions. That is a nice feature.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have experienced the pleasure of my little rant as technology utterly failed me for this webinar, but I was at least able to get the recording working a little while later. (I will not be defeated by Java!) It was a very enlightening session on the process and practicalities of assessing the portfolios of CMALT candidates. I’ve actually already done my first one for a portfolio review a few weeks ago, so this was timely, and I have as a result of this webinar now signed up to become an assessor of regular portfolios too.
Unrelated, but ALT have also recently released digital badges for use in portfolios, email signatures, etc. Not actual accredited digital badges with metadata, just nice image files.
I meant to write some posts relating to my CMALT and the LftM assignment as they came around earlier in the year, but work and life have been ridiculously hectic with the record breaking pace with which we are implementing the new VLE. The headline is that I aced both.
In 2012 I struggled with CMALT and had to submit twice, as my first submission didn’t contain enough reflection or detail relating to teaching. My revised submission scored ‘Adequates’ all round if memory serves. No such problems this time with my portfolio review – ‘Strong’ on every measure bar one ‘Adequate’. Furthermore, within a fortnight of receiving my feedback the lovely folks at ALT were asking me to become an assessor, to which I agreed, and have my first one due by the end of the week.
One piece of feedback I’ve noted was a comment that the page is very text heavy and it could have been improved with some relevant images to break it up. That is something I was conscious of, and not just in relation to the CMALT page, but to much of the content on the blog. I do try and insert images wherever possible, but it can be hard to source relevant images for much of what I write about. One can’t just go around inserting random images of bunny boos of dubious and uncertain copyright after all.
My assessment for the Leading from the Middle PG Cert was submitted on the 21st of April, and being the good responsible student that I am it was submitted well before the deadline. 7 minutes before to be exact. Those of you who follow my Twitter may have enjoyed the minor meltdown I had that evening as I hurried to get in finished off. In the end I wrote almost 7,000 words for the assignment which had a word limit of 5,000, so my Friday evening was spent editing and adding my references. All worth is though, as I got my provisional mark back last week and I nailed it – 75% – which on Sunderland’s grading scheme puts it well into the First territory had it been an undergraduate assessment.
Two down, two to go. Before the end of September I need to complete my second PG Cert, in Academic Practice. No big assessment for that one, just lots of little ones and a portfolio of evidence for the associated HEA Fellowship.
ALT has published the report and data from their second annual survey which can be dowloaded here. Interesting reading as they now have comparative data from last year’s survey so you can see the trends and changes.
No signs of the monolithic VLE going anywhere just yet, and interest in the field of data and learning analytics is continuing to grow. I was a little surprised to see open badges so far down the list, but as a colleague in another department said to me a few days ago, employers don’t know what they are or how to value them, and as a consequence students just aren’t interested.
Stumbled on the concept of #1MinuteCPD this morning via a helpful ALT tweet. Love it. I am so stealing this idea.
The full blog is available here and they are aiming to make one post a day for the whole of 2016.
Keen-eyed observers will note the new CMALT page on my blog. My portfolio is now three years old and due for review as per ALT’s new guidelines which have come into effect this year. I had assumed that my portfolio would need to be reviewed first before my membership could, or would be renewed, but I’ve just found out today that the review process is actually still in pilot.
In any case, in preparation for this, and as a first step, I have converted my original portfolio from 2012 from a Word document to a webpage hosted here. In doing so I have changed no content whatsoever as it is a historical document, but I have removed the guidance notes and instructions which formed a part of the Word proforma and removed the need for the appendix of evidence by creating inline links to the evidence, all of which is also now hosted on this site.
I did consider using Google Sites or creating the portfolio in Mahara, but I don’t like the results of content produced using Google Sites and both of these options restrict my freedom in different ways. Part of the benefit of having this website is that I have complete control and freedom to do what I want and have no concerns about access in the future. Interestingly, in 2012 I hosted all of my evidence in my personal Content Collection area in Northumbria’s Blackboard and I have found that everything still works, even though presumably my IT account has long since been deleted. Nevertheless, it will all disappear at some point. A further reason for hosting my CMALT portfolio here is because I have known about the need for this review for some time and built my blog with this in mind, and I anticipate that I will be citing many of the posts as evidence. I have presented the portfolio as a flat page rather than creating sub-pages for each section as it matches the design of my other pages and because I am a fan of flat, minimalistic design and navigation. My concession to the fact that it is a large piece of work has been to create an internal navigation menu at the top of the page and included links back to this after each section.
The next step will be to complete the new review sections but I will wait for guidance from ALT on when this is going to be due rather than ploughing ahead. I have however created the required headings and placeholder text based on the guidance documents that have been published on ALT’s website as I think they are unlikely to change much now.
Back in December I posted a link to ALT’s annual survey on the current use of learning technologies and their development priorities as an organisation. The results are now in and their report, along with anonymised survey data, has been posted to http://repository.alt.ac.uk/2358/.
ALT are running a survey exploring the use of learning technology across the sector and are looking for responses from the whole community, not just ALT members. If you complete the survey you get a badge. Yeah! Except the badge doesn’t appear in my Backpack, and I couldn’t upload it manually as it has ‘no backed-in metadata’. Boo! Similar to the problem I had with one of the ocTEL badges. Oh well. It’s a new technology still finding it’s way.