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Category: 2024

To Infinity and B-yound!

This webinar was presented as part of the ongoing HeLF development series, and this time around we had Stephanie DeMarco and Alex Rey from Birmingham City University leading a discussion on the Office for Students Conditions of Registration, specifically the ‘B’ metrics on quality, standards, and outcomes.

Even more specifically, we were looking at B3 which is about delivering positive outcomes for students, and is the metric most directly under our sphere of influence as learning technologists and academic developers.

B3 has three measures underneath it, related to continuation, completion and progression, which here means that students have gone into graduate level employment. These measures are not open to any kind of interpretation, and HEIs must meet the set targets of 80% continuation, 75% completion and 60% progression.

B3 also contains within if four aims, which are open to some level of interpretation and debate. These are participation, experience, outcomes, and value for money. The last being particularly contentious in the climate surrounding HE in the United Kingdom of late. (Has my undergraduate degree in philosophy provided value for money? Absolutely.)

Stephanie and Alex then presented a case study of activity which they had undertaken to help academics better meet these outcomes, concentrating on areas such as authentic assessment, project-based learning, how to write programme validation documentation, etc.

And finally, there was a shared Padlet board in which we could all share thoughts and best practice. From this I have picked up the Curriculum Scan model, development by Alexandra Mihai, which can be used for auditing modules. This reminded me of storyboarding process done as part of instructional design before a module goes live, but for auditing and checking a module which is ongoing.

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Studiosity Partner Forum 2024

I attended my third Studiosity Partner Forum today, which kind of began last night with a dinner and discussion about generative artificial intelligence led by Henry Aider. Generative AI and Studiosity’s new GAI powered Writing Feedback+ service was of course the main topic of conversation throughout the event. Writing Feedback+ launched in February, and they have reported that uptake is around 40% of eligible students, which compares with 15-20% for the classic Writing Feedback service. The model has been built and trained internally, using only writing feedback provided by Studiosity’s subject specialists, no student data. The output of WF+ is being closely quality assured by those agents, and they estimate that quality is around 95-97% as good as human provided feedback.

David Pike, from the University of Bedfordshire presented on their experience with the service in the afternoon. They made it available to all of their students in February, around 20,000, and usage has already exceeded usage of the classic Writing Feedback service since September last year. The average return time from WF+ is around one and a half minutes, and student feedback on the service is very positive at 88.5%. However, he did also note that a number of students who have used both versions of the service stated that they preferred the human provided feedback.

On the flip side of AI, last year Studiosity were exploring a tool to detect submissions which had been written by generative AI. That’s gone. Nothing has come of it as they found that the reliability wasn’t good enough to roll out, especially so for students who have English as a second language. No surprises for me there, detection is a lie.

The keynote address was delivered by Nick Hillman from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), who talked about their most recent report on the benefits and costs associated with the graduate visa route. It’s overwhelmingly positive for us as a country, and it would be madness to limit this.

Other things which I picked up included learning more about Crossref, a service for checking the validity of academic references; a course on Generative AI in Higher Education from Future Learn was recommended; and Integrity Matters, a new course developed by the University of Greenwich and Bloom to teach new students about academic integrity.

Finally I was there presenting myself, doing my Studiosity talk about our implementation at Sunderland and the data we now have showing a strong positive correlation between engagement with Studiosity and student outcomes and continuation.

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ALT NE User Group: March 2024

GIF of Jonny 5 reading a book really fast
Now this is the kind of AI I was promised as a kid

The latest ALT North East User Group was hosted at Middlesbrough College, and had a very generative AI heavy agenda. But first, Tamara at Middlesbrough presented on ‘ED Tech and Pedagogy’ which was quite similar to a TEL and pedagogy session I do on our PG Cert, and I picked up a few points that I can integrate into future presentations. Including the argument that it is really Gen Z who are the first true digital natives which will be useful as I still use Prensky’s original talk to explore the idea that different generations approach technology differently.

Next we had a round robin session on how we are approaching AI at our respective institutions. I talked about the in-year changes we made to student regulations in response to the release of ChatGPT, something Middlesbrough College have also done, and Northumbria are using a cover sheet template for student assignments for them to delicate if and how they have used AI to help with their work. Quite a few of us are pressing forwards with Microsoft Co-Pilot now that it is available.

Ross from Durham then presented on an AI chatbot they have created using Cody AI to assist students on a large module where, for various reasons, information is located in different places, including Blackboard and SharePoint. Cody looks interesting. It’s using various models under the hood, I’m sure Ross said models from multiple provides were available, but I only saw OpenAI based ones in their demo. You train the chatbot on your own data which you upload to Cody, and sharing that data and use of the model back with OpenAI is allegedly opt-in. (Perhaps I’m being overly cynical, but I wouldn’t OpenAI on this.)

Finally, after lunch, I presented on something not AI, but EDI – the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Portal which I have created at Sunderland in partnership with our EDI team in an effort to widen access to our various EDI educational resources.

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Exploring Modality in the Context of Blended and Hybrid Education

It’s come to my attention, because I’ve just been writing about this for my CMALT portfolio review, that I don’t always record HeLF webinars on my CPD record, so here I am, doing just that. The ‘Heads of eLearning Working in UK HE’ forum facilitates regular CPD webinars for its members, and this one was exploring different kinds of attendance in a post-pandemic context.

Simon Thomson, of the University of Manchester, began with a discussion on how they have previously used the TPACK Framework in academic development, but found that people often got too caught up in the technology aspect to the exclusion of other factors. Simon has therefore adapted this model, replacing ‘technology’ with ‘modality’ to create the ‘Subject, Pedagogy & Modality’ Framework, or SPAM, instead. The models are captured in the first screenshot taken from the presentation, above. This led into a discussion on the rationale and value of specific modalities, and confusion over terminology. From the second screenshot, the idea of student choice resonated with me. I think it is very much the wrong tack when institutions, or worse, the government, dictate how students should be learning for non-pedagogical reasons. (Like checking visa compliance for example…!)

Sue Buckingham, from Sheffield Hallam, picked up on the confusing terminology in their part of the presentation. How many students would be able to confidently define ‘HyFlex’ learning for example, or explain the different between blended, hybrid, and hyflex? Could you? Could I!? HyFlex is exactly what I’ll be doing when my own module starts up again next week. It’s all been planned and designed to be in person, but I’m also going to stick a laptop at the front, pointed at me and the board, and have a concurrent Teams session running too. Students in 2024 have rich, complex lives. Jobs, school runs, caring commitments, so give them a choice as a reasonable accommodation and act of compassion.

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