The Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey has become a crucial part of university rankings and, with all surveys, there is a correlation between positive results and the numbers completing the survey. Analytics over the past few years at Sunderland have shown that we have a significant percentage of people who start the survey but don’t complete it. To help improve this our Careers and Employability Service asked me to create a video walk-through of the survey showing people what it looks like and how long it takes to complete. This was building on earlier work I’ve done for Careers using Storyline which has been very well received.
Month: November 2014
I recently stumbled upon Sheila MacNeil’s blog post asking for thoughts on what characteristics distinguish a Learning Technologist for a new #EdTechBook, by way of a discussion on the ALT Members Mailing List, and thought that I would share my own experience.
‘Learning Technologist’ is indeed a broad brush which covers people from different backgrounds and bringing different philosophies, experience and perspective with them, part of what I think makes it such an exciting and rewarding field in which to work. My own background is from IT support which I pursued due to an easy affinity with technology, the enjoyment I get from fixing things which are broken or finding ways to improve things, and because of a general desire to help people. But of course there comes a time when a wish to move your career on means you have to specialise in an area, and I was fortunate to stumble into the Learning Technologies team (LTech) at Northumbria University in order to provide second line customer support for people using the University’s learning technology systems, principally Blackboard. From there my role expanded to encompass, to a greater or lesser extent, systems development, learning materials content development and staff development covering both the ‘which button to push’ instructional element as well as pedagogic considerations such as ‘why you might want to push that particular button in order to make your learning materials more engaging’ and to help with that side of things I was supported to gain CMALT accreditation and fortunate enough to work with some really quite wonderful academics on the team who taught me a great deal.
My role now at Sunderland involves a great deal of project management and contributing to learning development policies and strategies, and finding ways to implement those. Everyone on the team has ‘Learning Technologist’ in the job title and most of us have at least one of CMALT, PGCE or HEA Membership, but in spite of this I find that many academics still think of us a ‘techies’ not realising that we have such teachings skills and pedagogic experience. I recall attending a training event some time ago, principally for academics, where, after introducing myself as a Learning Technologist, one of the other attendees was delighted and asked if I could fix the Wi-Fi on her laptop! (I was happy to help of course, and it did give me the opportunity to have a chat with her and talk about the ways in which I could really help her.)
Many of my colleagues have come from similar technical / IT backgrounds, but there are other common ‘types’ who come under the umbrella of ‘learning technologists’:
- Academics with an interest in learning technology or who research in the field to improve their own teaching. I find that many such people may not work in an LT department themselves, but in Faculties where they work with us as advisors, champions and ambassadors.
- Academic advisors, similar to the above, but based in the LT team with responsibility for providing in-depth academic support and pedagogic guidance.
- Content developers who perhaps start their careers as graphic or web designers but come to specialise in learning material content production.
- Systems developers, the real über-techies who manage the learning technology platforms and servers.
- Trainers who come to specialise in learning technology systems.
- And finally managers and project managers who may have progressed from any of these backgrounds.
The common thread bringing all of the people together under the umbrella of ‘Learning Technologist’ is a thorough specialist knowledge of the core LT systems where they work (the VLE, the ePortfolio, etc.), along with external tools such as iTunes, Google Drive or WordPress, combined with at least some knowledge and experience of how they can best be used to provide a solution to some teaching and learning need.
The whole conversation in response to Sheila’s questions has been interesting, but I particularly liked some of things which Amber had to say. I especially liked the neologism ‘para-academic’. In the past I have often described myself to people who don’t know what I do as being a bridge between technology and the academics who want to use technology in their teaching but don’t necessarily have the skills to do some themselves, but I may use ‘para-academic’ to start the conversation now. I also liked that comment that ‘Universities are multi-professional places and learning technologists, in all their flavours, have a rightful place at the table.’ A sentiment with which I can wholly concur as I have often felt, and seen colleagues feel, somewhat reticent about their own skills in the company of academics.
A webinar provided by Sebastian Bailey, co-founder of Mind Gym. The webinar began with the assertion that in traditional learning new practice only ‘sticks’ for around 15-20% of people, with the majority trying the new practice, or parts of it, for a little while before falling back into old habits and ways of thinking and working. The six tricks are all designed around the concept of reducing cognitive load, making it easier for what you are trying to teach to sink in.
1. Build belief in the early stages of change
Five stages of change were identified: Persisting > Contemplating > Preparing > Acting > Maintaining. Studies were then presented that showed that when people were given time to contemplate why the change was required or desirable the success rate was significantly increased.
2. Create emotional arousal
Demonstrated how learning retention and performance improves when someone is under positive stress, e.g. by making people do an exercise which is outside of their comfort zone. Care has to be taken to get the balance right, as too much stress leads to anxiety and reduced performance. To be successful with this approach you need to both sell the need and the positive consequences while providing people with concrete steps they can take immediate action on.
3. Use stories over facts
Demonstrated that retention is significantly improved if you use an emotional story rather than facts and figures. Cited a case study on how to get people to donate to charity, with one group being given facts and figures about poverty, the second group the story of an individual who was affected by poverty. The second group were shown to retain more information and donated more money.
4. Use written, shared, implementation intentions
Encourage learners to reflect on their goals and add implementation intentions such as ‘I am going to update my CV on such-and-such a date’, preferably phrased as ‘if-then’ statements which reinforces that there is a fall-back position. Finally, encourage learners to share their intentions, while noting that the act of sharing is not itself a significant step to completing the goal or task.
5. Set specific ‘missions’ built into the workflow
Demonstrated that people can only spot a limited number of changes in a given scenario, and to help them improve on this give specific cues and prompts, set specific missions or tasks in the workflow, and encourage mindfulness.
6. Prime the right mindset by providing tools
Showed that people’s behaviour adapts to match that of those around them and that you can take advantage of this by priming people into believing that they are better learners. In an example IQ test three groups were given the same test, with the second and third groups being primed to ‘think like professors’ and professors’s assistants respectively. Both groups scored higher than the control, with those who were told to think like professors scoring 15% higher.
Keen-eyed observers will have noticed the new Qualifications page above, where you can see my certificates and details of the courses which I studied. I ummed and ahhed about adding this page as I’m always wary about putting too much information online, but part of the purpose of this blog is to serve as a portfolio so it is very relevant, especially as I will be citing my qualifications when renewing my CMALT and will almost certainly be hosing the submission here. And yes, the images are quite low-resolution as I don’t want any nefarious types downloading them and using them to fake their own certs.
At an event at Durham University Business School, Waterstons provided three case studies of how Microsoft Lync can be used in a teaching and learning context, following by a hands-on demonstration of some of the equipment that had been used along with the client software running on a number of different platforms: a Windows PC and Surface tablet, an Apple MacBook and iPad, an Android tablet and a number of smartphones.
Lync is the latest version of what was Office Communicator and includes a number of enhancements, adding video, screen sharing and collaboration tools such as a whiteboard to instant messaging and VOIP functionality.
The first case study was a boardroom exercise, a simulated assessed committee meeting for MBA students which was recorded using a Polycom video recorder, with the recordings then exported and uploaded to Blackboard. The second case study was of a BSc Accounting Programme where students spent a significant amount of time on placement with KPMG. Lync was used to host regular meetings between the university, KPMG and the students. The third case study was on how the Business School had further rolled out Lync following these successes to conduct Viva examinations, overseas student reviews and for general meetings.
In all of the case studies Lync was chosen over the in-house Blackboard Collaborate tool as it was less problematic, not requiring Java to run, and easily available to partners who did not have access to the VLE. Feedback received citied the ease-of-use of the software and hardware, and the quality of the video and recordings.
The case studies were followed by a live hand-ons demonstration with the Polycom video recorder which was used for the MBA boardroom exercises and a large range of mobile devices to demonstrate the client software in action, including a web client which does not require any software to be installed.
Finally we were given a quick overview of how Waterstons are developing the software to find new use case scenarios to further enhance the experience for students, including full Outlook and university timetable integration, VLE integration, and use as a lecture capture tool.
I’ve delivered a couple of training sessions lately where I’ve been plugging Storyline to people and how we can use it to enhance their learning materials. To help with this I have created a very comprehensive presentation showing all of the major features including all of the quiz and survey question types, interactions and screen and video capture options.
Watched a recording of Pearson’s PAB webinar which was held in lieu of the conference in Denver, where they demonstrated many new features which have either been made live recently or are due for release over the coming year. Highlights were the new look Threaded Discussions tool which is being rolled out piecemeal now, the new course dashboard which is going to replace Social Learning Module Home (here’s hoping for a catchier name this time round), the Android app, and the long overdue notifications centre – something which our students are clamouring for. Also tucked away, but of particular interest to me, is the new ‘External Tool’ menu item type which should make it easier for academics to deploy the new version of Turnitin we have been working on, which uses the standard LTI from Turnitin instead of the Dropbox integration which Pearson developed but that doesn’t work terribly well.
Stumbled upon this today, a tutorial on how to create interactive videos on YouTube and some use-case examples of how it could be used to enhance teaching and learning. I particularly like the first one with it’s possibility to reimagine choose your own adventure books for the 21st century!