Festival of Learning and Teaching

serious_play

Last year we had a conference, this year it was a three day festival, run by our colleagues in Academic Development with support from ourselves in Web and Learning Technology Services. We are too cool to be involved in the main festival itself, so we had a fringe which included a Twitter treasure hunt, a stall where we enticed people in with fun stuff on the Oculus Rift and then hawked our services to them when they were captive, as well as providing live streaming of the keynotes from each day and the closing ceremony.

I was proud of the treasure hunt we put on, I thought it was very well thought out with some fun tasks for people which made them engage with our service, Tweet a selfie with a member of Academic Development for example (which we kept secret from them!), but there was little uptake unfortunately, which I think can be put down to the relatively low numbers and insularity of an internal conference. Our stall which was strategically positioned outside key sessions was more successful, attracting a decent number of people and even allowing me to connect with someone who has a project ripe for further development in virtual reality.

In spite of running various things in the background, I was still able to attend a number of sessions over the three days:

Lego Serious Play
Serious Play is an innovative and creative way to facilitate discussion about a typically difficult or abstract topic. In keeping with the theme of the conference, our discussion was focused around what it means to be a student. The foreground model shown in the photo above is a reflection on my experience as a student, thinking back to where I started from. I’m the skeleton, symbolising my lack of knowledge, and I’m leaning back slightly from an overwhelming fear of the daunting barriers in front of me – including a Stormtrooper boss level (my dissertation!) – before I can reach my goal of enlightenment and joining the educated and the successful.

Cultural Diversity and Effective Teaching
A discussion and workshop on the many meanings behind the word ‘internationalisation’, led by external guest Dr. Marita Grimwood, an educational developer. This was the keynote from day 2, and not a session I was originally attending, but due to a last minute room change we were unable to live stream this session, so I improvised a recording solution using my iMac instead of running the WaLTS stall. After the event I edited the recordings, inserted her slides as an overlay at appropriate points and then posted the resulting video to our streaming media server.

Showcasing Learning and Teaching in Arts and Design
A series of short ten minute sessions from various members of departmental staff who discussed approaches to learning and teaching in their area. This was a really interesting talk as it made me realise how many great art events are happening in and around the city of Sunderland, and how deeply involved the university is in almost all of it. A particular highlight was the session from the National Glass Centre who talked about the experience of an off campus event where students had to work with very limited resources and no access to their usual tools.

Spectral Visions Press: Engaging Students Through a ‘Real Work’ Environment
Spectral Visions is product of the university’s English and Creative Writing programmes which aims to give students real hands-on experience with all aspects of writing and publishing. In additional to the blog and a number of student-led projects, Spectral Visions Press has also now published two volumes of work which are available from Amazon – Grim Fairy Tales and The Collection: Volume 1.

Student-Generated Induction
The keynote session from day 3 was delivered by Nick Bowskill who has developed the Shared Thinking Consultancy, an off-shoot of his doctoral research at the University of Glasgow which was designed to improve student induction processes based on social psychology theory and practice.

Learning and Teaching Conference 2015

Inspired by the HEA’s ‘Framework for partnership in learning and teaching in higher education’ published in 2014, the theme and title of the University’s Learning and Teaching conference this year was ‘Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching: The pedagogical case for learning and working as partners’.

The conference began with an Opening Address delivered by Professor Julie Mennell, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), and was followed by the Keynote ‘Learning as a Team: Education that connects students, lecturers and professionals’ which was given by a guest speaker, Dr Marjolein Wildwater, Scientific Manager at HAN University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands, who presented a case study on her experience with involving students directly in the ongoing development of a programme. Next was the Internal Plenary ‘Crossing Pedagogic Borders: Adventures with sketchbooks and stories’ led by Dr Diane Westwood, Principal Lecturer Learning and Teaching, with assistance from two of her students who shared their experience in changing the assessment model in a Psychology programme to one which was based on artefacts and portfolios, an approach which required them to cross the border into the unfamiliar world of the arts. The final session of the first part of the conference was a Question and Answer Panel ‘Talking About Working in Partnership’ where three chairs, Dr Colin Bryson, Director of Combined Honours Partnership, Newcastle University, Andi Albrecht, one of Colin’s students on the Combined Honours Partnership and Gareth Hughes from the University of Sunderland Students’ Union, each gave a short talk on their experience of working with students as partners before being joined by the other speakers from the morning to take questions from the audience.

For the second part of the conference attendees were broken up into strands to attend two workshops and one ‘ignite’ session. The ignite sessions were short, dynamic presentations lasting twenty minutes each with a five minute PowerPoint presentation with slides set to automatically advance every fifteen seconds. Unfortunately I was unable to attend any of the ignite sessions as I had to prepare for the first workshop where I was assisting a colleague, David Archer, with his workshop, ‘Using Mobile Polling to Develop Partnerships’, in which he talked about how he has used Poll Everywhere for real-time interaction with students during lectures. David borrowed a number of tablets and mobile devices that we keep in stock and I was also there for any technical assistance if required. The second workshop I attended was ‘Beyond Feedback: Rethinking the role of students in enhancing teaching practice’ delivered by Dan Derricott and Emily Parkin from the University of Lincoln who presented on their experience with involving students which contained some really interesting ideas such as having everyone on their Executive Board shadowed by a student.

Web and Learning Technology Services were there too. Instead of delivering a session we had a ‘pod’ to ourselves for the entire day where people could come for a break and chat to us about the latest developments with SunSpace and other learning technologies.

The conference was organised and delivered by Academic Development with whom I have a close working relationship and I was able to contribute some ideas for the day. For example, we were initially asked if we could record the morning sessions but instead I recommended the use of our new live streaming service which gave the conference another 50 or so virtual attendees and we received some very positive feedback from viewers. Recordings were subsequently added to the Sunderland Media Library. Also, with a little encouragement from me, Academic Development created a Twitter account and hashtag for the event to encourage audience engagement.

SLS Innovation Event 2015

Some highlights from my second SLS Innovation Day where we celebrated the success of the department and all of the teams and services had the opportunity to showcase the best of their work to each other. Much more enjoyable and relaxing for me this time around as last year the event happened only a couple of weeks after I started work here and I was dropped into arranging the stand for the Learning Technologies Team in very short order.

Also this year, in the run-up to the event I was on the panel to chose the winners of the individual and team awards for innovation and I really enjoyed reading all of the applications and learning more about the fantastic work we do. All of the applications were of an incredibly high standard and it could have been really difficult to pick the winners, but I wrote a rubric for the panel to use in which we scored each nominee against the criteria the department was looking for in the applications. Once we had all done this individually, to try and eliminate any bias, we met to add up the scores and, though the results were really close, there was a winner by a single point in each category.

A tinge of disappointment that we didn’t win the award for best stand with our Oculus Rift, despite being a huge hit and generating some screams which could be heard clear across the room. I think we went too high-tech, as the winners this year and last were both bright, fun stands with games and prizes. Not from the best stand winner, but I did win the pink snake and a small orange teddy from the Careers stand who had a hoop toss game which I owned.

Kudos also for the range of vegan food on offer this year.

White Rose Learning Technologists Forum – Learning Analytics

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Attended a special meeting of the White Rose Learning Technologists Forum at the University of Sheffield which was opened up beyond Yorkshire for a themed event on learning analytics.

The principal speaker was Martin Hawksey who gave a dense and extremely informative presentation which explored the history of learning analytics, methodology, available tools, threats and opportunities. He then introduced us to two tools for social network analysis, TAGS which archives and analyses Twitter hashtag searches, and NodeXL which has similar functionality but which requires less technical knowledge to set up and can import data from other social networks including YouTube and FaceBook. Martin has written a blog post about his presentation which is available here and the presentation itself can be found here.

Martin was followed by Patrick Lynch from the University of Hull who gave a talk about his work and experience with learning analytics using Excel and Tableau, a more powerful tool for analytics analysis. Patrick also talked about his experience with issues of privacy and ethics which he found varied wildly among students, with some fearing Big Brother while others found the analytics extremely helpful in informing their own learning, and shared other lessons learned such as the fact that you cannot necessarily infer meaning from action. The example he gave was of a report which identified students who had not accessed certain content items at the expected times, but investigation found that in some cases this was because they had downloaded the entire course content at the start of the course.

Finally, Jamie Lepiorz from the English department at the University of Sheffield talked about his experience of using analytics and student feedback to inform the development of the Animals in Film Archive and related module.

Photo is courtesy of Danny Monaghan. More photos and Tweets are available from the #WRLTF hashtag on Twitter.

SLS Mini Conference

A short update from the Director and Assistant Directors of SLS on how we are progressing towards meeting our targets as a service which, as we are nearing the end of the three year service plan, has largely become a statement of fact. This was followed by group workshops where we discussed some examples of how we are meeting our shared behaviours: Teamwork, Customer Satisfaction, Continuous Improvement, Customer Focus and Information Sharing.

SLS Innovation Event 2014

The Student and Learning Support Innovation Event is an annual showcase of the work done by each team within SLS. It is an opportunity to both meet and network with other teams and find out what they do, and to demonstrate work which we have been doing. At two and a half weeks in the event was perfectly timed for me and was a wonderful opportunity to learn about the other teams and how we collectively contribute to the enhancement of the student experience. As to our own stand, we ran two live demonstrations, the first was an interactive quiz – with prizes! – using a student response system running on a portable SMART Board and the second was ClassLive (Blackboard Collaborate).

While I feel that my contribution on this occasion was rather minimal for obvious reasons, I was at least able to obtain a small budget for giveaways and small prizes for our quiz in order to attract people to our stall, and I hope that I was a positive influence on the team and encouraged us to showcase some really nice tools we can help people with.

e-Fest 14: An e-Ventful TALE

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Organised by Jisc RSC Northern and held at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, eFest 2014 was a conference bringing together staff from FE and HE institutions across the North East, with an emphasis on learning technologists and people from related fields, with service providers such as Turnitin, OneFile and MoodleRooms.

The whole day was fantastic, I got to meet lots of interesting new people, discovered some new services, many of which I went away and read up on, adding the best to my personal toolkit, but the highlight of the day was the presentation of Paula Kilburn from Stockton Riverside College who presented three case studies on the use of video marking. The first was the simplest, an academic using an iPad to record him as he annotated a student’s written work. In the second the academic used the screen and audio recording functions of QuickTime to record him as he worked through an audio file the student had created, demonstrating in real time the changes required which would have got the piece up a grade. In the final example an academic was watching a video while recording audio feedback, pausing or going back as required. In all three cases the resulting videos were uploaded to the College’s Planet eStream account with no, or minimal editing, the idea being to deliver better, faster feedback, not a polished video. In all three cases the academics reported that it was faster and easier for them to give better and more comprehensive feedback than would have been possible to write. The whole pilot was a huge success with students who received video feedback showing substantial improvement compared to the respective cohorts from previous years.

As always at these kinds of event, there was a open marketplace for tea, coffee, mingling and for various providers to demonstrate their wares, trying to attract people to them with the usual games and freebies. Turnitin, however, set the standard to beat with their Rubrics Cubes, very droll.

Finally, I would just like to say that with regards to the ‘Stadium of Light’ Metro station, I would humbly suggest to Nexus that to improve accuracy this station be renamed to the ‘Random Tesco car park over a kilometre away from the Stadium of Light, with no clear sign posting’ Metro station. My unexpected journey humbly reminded me to be grateful for smartphones, satellite navigation and the company of fellow wayward souls. In all seriousness, to anyone who needs to go to the Stadium of Light on the Metro, get off at St Peter’s station instead as it is actually closer.

http://www.jiscrsc.ac.uk/northern/e-fest-awards.aspx
http://www.planetestream.co.uk/
http://submit.ac.uk/en_gb/
http://www.onefile.co.uk/
http://uki.moodlerooms.com/
http://edina.ac.uk/