Birthday, minimum VLE standards, lecture capture, metaphors and MOOCs: report from the ALT conference 2013

ALT (Association of Learning Technology) is 20 years old, so this year’s conference (ALTC-2013) themed as  ‘Building new cultures of learning’ was marked by firework celebrations at the lovely green campus of Nottingham University. The 3 conference days were well spent networking, presenting our work and observing what others are up to in the field of learning technology in UK and global HEIs and other educational institutions. Naturally, with the 20 year-anniversary came an element of reflection.

One of my highlights of the conference was seeing one of our very own academic member of staff, Dr Tim Bullough (Engineering), amongst the presenters. We have so many innovative good practices at Liverpool worthy of being shared with others. Tim presented Kritikos, a customised visual media search tool for students, in front of a captive audience (see our earlier blog post on Kritikos being presented at a uni e-learning network meeting).

The main flavours of the conference were: institutions presenting data and insights on their minimum VLE requirement programmes, such as Jess Power from Huddersfield on ‘Blockages in relation to VLE use’, or Suzanne Wright from Nottingham on ‘Maximising Moodle’. Lecture capture was another much-spoken-of topic, typically presenters sharing their experiences with institution or department-wide lecture capture implementations, such Leonie Sloman from King’s College London’s medical school using echo360 who collected some impressive rigorous data both from students and staff on their preferences and experiences with it; or Ben Steeples from University of Essex, who shared with us a fast-pace whole-scale implementation of a lecture capture system within 30 months, using Panopto as their chosen system. Many universities in the audience had institution-wide lecture capture systems. Ben pointed out a legal guidance document by JISC on recording lectures. Essex will be looking at guidance on writing rights management and license awareness of staff and implementing a more gradient way of guiding rights of recordings from staff opting out from recordings through to enabling the creation of OERs and anywhere in-between. I also went along to a demonstration of Lecturetools (an echo360 company) by Prof Perry Samson, USA, who demonstrated his use of this as an in-class tool. An impressive aspect of it was not only that in-class polls can be asked after slides, but also the fact that each student can add their electronic notes/marks on any slide which are recorded for each student and can be retrieved by them later – saving on having to make notes on paper!

Of course the conference couldn’t happen without the mention of MOOCs, which others have documented amply, perhaps just to mention an award-winner example by Nottingham Uni who have developed their own ‘NOOCs‘ (N for Nottingham, rest is the same as in MOOC), the one on sustainability has won the prize.

Talking of award-winners, each year a ‘learning technologist of the year’ is announced, with Sheila McNeill from CETIS winning this year’s title amongst warm support of the ALT community. The Best Proceedings paper was won by Richard Osborne and colleagues at Exeter Uni on ‘Integrating technologies into ‘‘authentic’’ assessment design: an affordances approach‘.

A useful session was given by Lesley Gourlay, Martin Oliver (and sorry, I forgot the third presenter’s name!) on how to get your research published in the Research in Learning Technology journal – if anyone is interested in this contact me (Tunde) for more details. It’s a great journal to be published in: it is a high quality peer-reviewed, open access and free journal! See also two of our staff’s recent publicatons in it:

Susanne Voelkel’s (School of Life Sciences, University of Liverpool)  on “Combining the formative with the summative: the development of a twostage online test to encourage engagement and provide personal feedback in large classes” and

Peter Reed’s Hashtags and retweets: using Twitter to aid Community, Communication and Casual (informal) learning

And finally, last but not least, I wanted to mention our own presentation by our eLearning Unit team, which Phil Walker and I (Tunde) presented on everyone’s behalf entitled ‘eLearning Unit, can we help you?’. It was about our team development. The session was well attended – people were buzzing with activity and we got many positive comments afterwards. A separate blog will follow on this shortly.

So the overall impression of ALTC? It is definitely a useful forum to benchmark in our role as learning technologist. I just wish it wasn’t so expensive as its high costs is getting preventive wiping out one’s annual conference budget! And one of the best unexpected bits: not only meeting and getting to know national and international colleagues but also having a chance to catch up with one’s very own colleagues (yes, Peter Reed and Tim Bullough!). 

by Tünde Varga-Atkins, eLearning Unit

Further links and resources

Tools mentioned at the conference – may be worth checking out? 

  • Speed Reader: paste your text and turn up your reading speed (I just tried it and was able to enhance my speed!)
  • Audioboo : audio sharing tool
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