#BYOD4L and Blending Learning

Last week was a bit of a whirlwind of activity for me. As well as being one of the organisers for the latest iteration of #BYOD4L, and running a number of drop in sessions throughout the week here at GCU, I was also in Sligo on Thursday and Friday giving a keynote at Sligo Institute of Technology’s Learning and Teaching Symposium.

I was very impressed to hear about the way fully online delivery has been developing at the  Institute of Technology Sligo. They now have 55 fully online courses, nearly half their staff teaching on fully online courses, and  are one of Ireland’s largest providers of online learning. This has all been done from a very small beginnings with a very bottom up, pragmatic approach. Now their online courses are beginning to generate some considerable income, they are investing back into staff development and infrastructure which is always good to hear.  I think we could all learn a lot from their approach, and I’ll certainly be keeping in touch.

I shared some of the approaches we take to blended learning here at GCU which seemed to go down well. My slides are available below.

 

 

All I want for Christmas . . .

Towards the end of December last year I decided not to do an annual round up/review type of post and instead write about my dream scenario for the coming year. Re-reading the post I realise  that it could be my recurring annual end of year dream.  I don’t think there is much I’d want to change if I was writing the post today. So maybe I should just let it become like a (classic) Christmas song  and re-publish it every year . . . enjoy.

So this is the time when a lot of people are making predictions, sharing their views on developments and trends over the past year. When ever I read these posts, I tend to get a sense of plus ça change plus ça la meme chose. So I’m not going to critique any of these reviews instead I’m going to share with you, dear reader,  what I can remember of a dream I had last night about what my end of year post would be.

I don’t know if you have ever listened to Tenacious D (stay with me on this) on one of their albums they have a song called The Best Song Ever. It’s a cautionary tale of a rendezvous with the Devil, writing “the best song ever” or words to that effect, forgetting almost all of it the next morning but having the frustration and knowledge that they had indeed written the best song ever – if only they could remember the killer riff and the words. This post may be a bit like that . . .

continue reading here . . . or just watch this video

Where Sheila's been this week: Strategy, surveys and (open) licences

We’re moving offices this week but in between packing boxes and recycling I’ve been having a bit of an ALT shaped week.

This week ALT launched its annual survey (if you haven’t already please do fill it in, it’s a great barometer for what’s actually happening in the UK education sector).  Concurrently it has also published a strategy update highlighting the progress the organisation is making in terms of its strategic goals.  I wrote a blog post to help the launch of both, and I just want to highlight again the great work that the ALT full time staff and all its members do.

On Wednesday I represented ALT at a CLA FE Copyright Masterclass at the Lowry  in Salford (not Manchester).  I opened the session with a talk about OER and open education.  This was followed by some very informative talks by the BUFVC, The Intellectual Property Office, CLA, and ERA. All of these agencies have a wealth of material that can be accessed by the education sector, and it was great to see the support that they are all giving the currently quite battered FE sector.  I was particularly impressed by the Cracking Ideas site from the IPO – I think most of us could use those resources to help our students and ourselves become confident about IP.

A couple of other things have caught my eye and hopefully I’ll have time to have a proper look at them over the weekend.  Audrey Waters has begun her annual top trends in ed tech review. Audrey is always worth reading and the first in this years series is no exception, I look forward to the rest of the posts. Remember you can subscribe to HackEducation and help support Audrey’s work. A great gift idea for all ed-techie’s out there.

The Open University has also just published its 2015 Innovating Pedagogy Report.   I’m haven’t read it yet, but I am intrigued by stealth assessment and embodied learning.  Hopefully I’ll have time to do a more considered post on it in the next couple of weeks, once everything has been unpacked in my new office.

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Where Sheila’s been this week,#elesig, workshopping and nominations

It’s been another busy week. Do you find time in November seems to speed up? I’m sure last week it was still October . . .

I started the week at the Scottish #elesig meeting in St Andrews. Despite the wind and rain it was a great day. The focus of the meeting was on supporting staff development to enhance the learning experience.  Keith Smyth gave an excellent keynote in the morning  titled “investigating and enhancing the staff experience with e-learning and learning technologies: what do we know and what can we do to move forward?”

Keith really made us all think about how we currently evaluate the use and impact of technology on learning and the need to extend our approaches to research

 

I was one of a number of speakers during the day who shared their experiences of supporting staff particularly in developing fully online course. As ever it was re-assuring to hear that we are all facing the same issues of confidence, digital literacy and workload allocation.  The afternoon ended with a series of 2 minute presentations which worked really well and gave a great overview of “stuff” from reflective portfolios to byod to simple enhanced video apps.

Vicki Dale has shared this storify of the event (we even trended on twitter at one point) which gives a really good overview of all the goodness that was shared over the day.

Part of my presentation focused on the way we have been using Trello to support learning design. The more we use it with staff, the more I like it. More importantly my colleagues like it too and are really starting to see the value of it to help them plan not only their new fully online modules but their f2f/blended ones too.

It is really helping people to plan and share a visual overview of their modules. I ran two workshops this week where we used it. I had a couple of Cheshire cat grinning moment during them as people started to use it to really unpack, record and share what they need to do. It is such a good example of technology being easy and flexible enough for people to just use and not distract them from what they are trying to do, but actually help them focus. One example of technology FTW.

Although my blog is very important to me, I realise that it’s not exactly the most visited place on the inter-web. I am as the say not doing this for any kind of glory or prize.  However it is always nice to get comments and see that some people do read it. I was really touched this week when David Hopkins included me in his nominations for this years edublog awards.  So dear reader, do you want to be my campaign manager?

 

The angst of time, technology and VLE sediment #altc

As an additional #hashtag activities at this year’s #alt conference, participants were asked to use the hashtags #my #altc to highlight their “best bits” of the conference.

I had high hopes for the “are learning technologies fit for purpose?”  session, however despite Lawrie saying he didn’t want this to be a re-hash of “is the VLE debate” of a few years ago, it did seem to turn into a bit of VLE bashing, with the underlying inferences that learning technologies = VLEs and they weren’t fit for purpose.  I did have to have a bit of a rant at the direction of the discussion leading to #my #altc moment

screen shot of twitter message

(which did seem to go down quite well with the rest of the people at the session

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To VLE or not to VLE, that seems to always be THE question.  It is, imho, actually the elephant in the room. We have them, so can we just move on please.  It’s how we use them that’s important.  Martin Weller has a good post on the session too, and blame him for the VLE sediment phrase!

As all the keynote speakers either explicitly stated, our digital footprints, data and access are all changing.  Even our so called “learners 2.0” spoke about the ubiquity of technology in their lives but the scary moment when you have to use in “in the real world” in your job, in their case as they were trainee teachers, in the classroom. Confidence levels can swing dramatically from using digital “stuff” for your own purposes to when you have to use it in learning and teaching.  I know in my institution we have many new teaching staff who come directly from professional practice and their knowledge of “learning technology” is very limited, and based on their own experiences. What’s new there, I hear you ask dear reader. We know that all teachers just do what their favourite teachers did.  Well yes, but just now not everyone has had experience of blended, and or fully online learning. They are often still trying to figure it all out as well as cope with a very different working environment.

In the discussion the issue of time came up. Some people think this is a non starter as if someone wants to to do something,then they will make the time. Which is true to an extent. But, if staff member isn’t confident in using whatever their institutional VLE is, then the chances of them being able to find the time with increasing teaching loads gets smaller. New technologies (learning or otherwise) alone won’t solve this. If we want to create digitally confident learners and teachers we need to give time for digital experimentation and failure. A closed, (relatively) safe space such as a VLE is good place to start that.

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a post called “Living with the VLE dictator”, a year on my thoughts are much the same. However, I do see an opportunity to reframe the debate around people digital capabilities and use of (learning) technologies not just the technologies themselves.

Equity, digital by default, data and robots – thoughts from #altc keynotes

The annual #altc conference has yet again left me reeling.  This year it seemed bigger and better than ever, with over 500 delegates meeting in Manchester, with many more joining via the live streams and twitter, over 180 presentations and the addition of robot wars in the #altcgame.

altcrobotsWhen I got home on Thursday night, I did feel a bit jet, or conferenced, lagged. It’s always great to catch up with old friends and make new ones at the conference, but with so much going my mind was spinning and I’m only just starting to make sense of it all.

As ever the keynotes gave contrasting but complimentary views on not just issues around the impact of technology in education, but the impact of new distribution models (often owned by the establishment) on global developments and society.  Whilst Steve Wheeler, very ably assisted by two students, discussed “learner 2.0”, Jonathan Worth added a set of very considered  challenges facing young people today.

Whilst we may have a generation of “digital by default” learners, who as Steve illustrated have their digital footprint created before they are even born, are we in education creating as state of “statutory vulnerability” for our learners? How can we take ownership and control of the right to forget? (see speakingopenly for more on this)  Whilst sharing and connecting are incredibly powerful for learning, the channels of control and ownership of data are increasingly important.

I know that I am in many ways far too ambivalent about my data. For ease of access and connectivity I all too readily tick those terms and conditions boxes.  I don’t think I’m alone in this digital paradox of knowing the dangers and big brother aspects of data ownership, but I go along with it anyway and console myself that the benefits outweigh the risks. Listening to Laura Czerniewcz’s quietly assured keynote on equality, I internally vowed to do more to be part of reclaiming the connected society. I hope that my sharing of thoughts and practice does in some small way add to that.

Again data was central to many of the issues around equity of access to education Laura highlighted. It is the cost of data not the device that is key, particularly in the global South, where increasingly people have mobile phones (and in fact mobile commerce in Africa is far more advanced than in Europe), but the cost of data can exclude many from participating in education. If you can’t afford to access data heavy educational resources then you are excluded. I don’t know if this requires a new type of pedagogy (tbh I think we have enough “gogies”) but it definitely requires more thought in our learning designs to ensure equity of access and experience.

Phil Long the final keynote brought another aspect of data use in education around  learning sciences, technology and learning activities. He questioned why so many existing learning and teaching practices don’t consider what we know about learner motivation and success, and the differences between learning and performance.  It could be that we are at a stage now where there digital tools can actually provide more personalised learning pathways. I’ll need to check out the  Cerego personalised learning tool/service he highlighted. In one of the best online exits ever, Phil’s video connection cut out as he was about to tell us what “the reality is . . .”

You can catch up with all the keynotes via the conference website, all worth another look and my visual notes of each are available on flickr And whilst we need to think about data ownership, sharing data can lead to great visualisations of our community like this one from Tony Hirst.

ALTC network diagram

Students, customers, service user?  What's in a name?

image (image https://pixabay.com/en/marketing-advertisment-ads-791202/ : CC0 Public Domain)

The thorny issue of students as customers has been raised a notch over the past month. Firstly at the Jisc Student Experience Creativity Workshop  and in matters closer to home that I will expand on later in this post.  Due to undergraduate fees, my colleagues in Universities south of the border are probably slightly more comfortable with the term, it does still irk me a bit. However we do have fee paying students at my institution, we need more to survive, and whatever way fees are paid, we certainly all need to be meeting and exceeding our students expectations of their university experience.

Last week I was lucky enough to meet and spend some time with Jim Groom along with some of my favourite ed tech commentators including Audrey Watters and Martin Weller at the Eden conference. Not surprisingly, lots of our conversations centred around, APIs, the domain of one’s own project and Jim’s new venture reclaim hosting.

A couple of years ago whilst doing some work for the OER Research Hub , I used the API analogy for researchers within the project.  Just like APIs, researchers provide hooks into research and its applicability in the real world. Or in the case of any educational research, the classroom.

Of course we can think of the university in a similar way. It could be seen as a massive API providing links between numerous services including learning and teaching, research, support, administration and many more.

Just now at GCU our new CIO is starting work on developing our Digital Strategy. Unsurprisingly there are many references to the “customer journey” usually preceded by words like  “improving” and  “transformation”.  Ensuring our student facing customer journeys are aligned with our establishing and constantly evolving learning journeys and curriculum development journeys is going to be crucial. This is where I think the term service user may be more appropriate.

Much of the work that needs to be done in our context is around our technical infrastructure and improving the integration and interoperability of our existing systems – our basic service provision if you like.

At this stage, the focus is very much on the “digital ” too. As we still have to come to consensus about what being a “digital university” means in our context ( I have one or two thoughts on that as you, dear reader will know and that was the reason I was at the Eden conference), why not be a bit more up front and talk about “service users” just now instead of customers?

I think that would be more meaningful and help us frame some of the conversations around just what being a digital university means in our context.

As part of the research that Evelyn McElhinney and I did last year around students use of technology, highlighted that we need to be thinking more about how we interact with what we called boundary spaces – the spaces we all find useful (e.g. youtube) – but don’t own and our bounded spaces (e.g. VLEs) in terms of learning activity. You can read more in our final case study.

If the first step on this journey is to improve our technical service offerings, get the quick wins to our essential service then why not make the shift to thinking of our IT infrastructure as an API?

Once that first layer is in place, then we can start to think about the more complex learning and teaching, research, administration journeys in the wider context of digital transformation through  digital participation and our mission for the common good.  Just like with software, the Universiy API provides the basic connections that allow the really exciting stuff to happen.

At the ALT Scotland SIG meeting this week, it was interesting to hear that GLOW (the Scottish Schools digital environment) is taken the API approach too.

I realise this isn’t ground breaking stuff, and it’s one of the reasons I like Mark Stubb’s tube map. I think that pretty much sums up the journeys most universities need to be thinking about.

“Customer” or “service user” may appeal or oppose in equal measure. But just now, I think the latter might be more appealing and engaging for where we are at in GCU.  It might also help separate the technical infrastructure from the people driven transformation that we aspire to.

Dave White has also written another take on this, the student as product. Even more food for thought.

Storyboards: flipping storify and the classroom

Screen shot of storyboardIt’s a common plea within HE, can’t we just get rid of the lecture?  But there is safety and comfort in the lecture so getting rid of them is easier said than done. I was delighted then to hear from the mental health nursing team here at GCU this week who have actually taken a unanimous decision to ban lectures in their models and move to a more directed study, reflective, workshop approach.

Starting from wanting to create an learning experience that really engaged students, and just as importantly worked to the strengths of the team in sharing their experiences of actual practice, the team now create weekly “storyboards” which provide resources, readings, videos, guidance and questions for students. Lectures have been replaced by workshops. These start with a  debrief of the week’s study board following by small group work focusing on key areas of knowledge for that week.

The students have individual learning logs (using the campus pack blogs within our VLE) and are encouraged to reflect on their own learning/experiences and resources they have found during their pre-workshop activities.  The module has a #hashtag, and students are encouraged to tweet through out the module.

The team are using Storify to create the storyboards.  Mainly because they find it is easy to use, and students can access it in and outwith the VLE. It also does look a tad nicer than a page within the VLE!  The team can easily update the boards, and update resource/tweets.

I’m a big fan of storify but I hadn’t thought about using it this way. Until I saw this I had it boxed in my mind as synthesis/ after event tool.  But of course it works just as well, if not better, in this way. Another really neat flip!  You can check out the team storyboard dashboard here.

The team have found that this change has really increased engagement in the workshops. The enjoy the workshops much more as they feel it allows them to facilitate learning far more effectively. The can see more engagement, vicarious and peer learning.  The team did admit that it did take time to “let go” and adjust to this new way delivery, but now they would never go back.

Each storyboard is carefully planned, and is very explicit about the time, topic, resources and most importantly questions for students to consider and reflect on each week.  It has taken time to develop the storyboards, but the effort has been worth it.  The storyboards can easily be updated for each new cohort, so the initial effort pays back with time saved in the longer term. The team have also found that this approach allows them to provide more personalised guidance, particularly when dealing with some of the very challenges issues involved in mental health.

Although the team haven’t done used it yet, the embed functionality in storify means that boards/stories can be embedded within the VLE, as can #hashtagged twitter widgets.

In terms of open practice this is also a fantastic example of sharing approaches to learning and teaching with the wider community.