Black Sabbath to Busted – Report on Blackboard Enhanced Assessment and Feedback Event

Leaving home under an early-morning starry sky and up over the misty, snowy Pennines to Sheffield, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Blackboard Enhanced Assessment and Feedback day to which I was travelling. I had a sketched outline of the themes for the day ahead but not much more, namely that we would engage in some way with:

Assessment and feedback – an institutional perspective

  • Examination of key drivers and challenges (reputations, quality of process, quality of data, legal, business efficiencies, risk etc.)
  • Placing use cases on a confidence/effectiveness model
  • Highlight relevant Blackboard solutions

 Assessment and feedback – innovation and organisational change

  • Identifications for drivers for change
  • Gap analysis of practice and stakeholder experiences
  • Prioritisation of opportunities for change
  • Highlight relevant Blackboard solutions

This kind of workshoppy day from Blackboard was something I hadn’t experienced before, so I was propelled by curiosity as much as that it seemed relevant to the work that our team are currently leading on e-submission and e-feedback at Liverpool. What I got was a useful day of frank discussion and sharing of experiences, ideas and commonalities, which was mostly reassuring, with colleagues from other institutions in the kind if depth you don’t often get. This is especially useful for a sense of the bigger picture in HE, to talk about the differently badged or described but largely similar activities, structures and strategies that are top of our agendas at the moment, e-submission and e-marking being one of Liverpool’s current strategic TEL focus. One universal and rapidly-emerging area of concern that became evident on the day was a need for a variety of programme-level views of assessment activity in the VLE for academic and administrative staff and students. This is a long-requested feature from Blackboard usergroups that’s time has come with the adoption of e-submission and e-marking policies across the sector of late and I hope this was the main takeaway message for the Blackboard team.

The event was run by our regional Blackboard Customer Success Team, in partnership with the BB North user group, recognising a need for a more extensive exploration of particular issues that get raised at user group meetings, where the format doesn’t allow fuller discussion. Whilst advertised as intended for senior leaders, learning technologists, TEL managers and academic staff, the majority attending today were learning technologist types. It was instructive to hear that on the previous day at Edinburgh a couple of PVCs had attended, sending some very positive signals about the depth of an institutions’ engagement and intent with the actual tools that students, academic and professional service staff use as a part of their everyday life at the University.

Music, sweet music…

Our first activity was to introduce ourselves telling the room the first piece of music that we had ever bought. An astonishing array of formats and first loves was paraded, from Now compilation tapes to Avril Levigne downloads, from Osmonds vinyls to Busted CDs. Blackboard’s Alan Masson and Gillian Fielding all admitted to their first purchases, but I’ll spare their blushes here. Top-trumping all these, however, was Blackboard’s Steve Hoole, whose overnight Novotel stay featured a vinyl deck (remember these, kids?) and a selection of Sheffield synth heaven albums to spin the night away.

Structure of the sessions

The morning and the afternoon were structured in a similar way so that we would first ‘brainstorm’ our thoughts in groups on a set of e-assessment themes, then work together on some specific ideas from those and bring something interesting back to the room. We’d finally end with a discussion of the potentially useful tools in Blackboard that could be a part of the thinking for some of these. I initially thought this last element was going to be a sales pitch but it was pleasingly nuanced in that the Blackboard team wanted to hear stories of how people are using these tools, where they’re working well and what the gaps are. A very clear point made more than once was that the recent Blackboard activity in developing the assignment tool to offer dual marking, moderation and anonymous marking had been excellent but it now seemed that the Blackboard focus had moved on from this, whilst the toolset still needs work, that there had only been one iteration of the process. Also that this process of close consultation should be constantly repeated for other areas as our needs are constantly evolving, not just for assessment.

Morning Session – what’s needed to enhance assessment and feedback practice?

For the morning, we’d thought about quality, processes and workflows and where the opportunities for enhancement lay. We chucked all of our ideas at the first Padlet below. You’ll find all of the issues that we have encountered in the course of our work as learning technology developers and as part of the University’s EMA project, from how to handle video submission and feedback, to combining some functionality of Blackboard assignments (group tools, double marking, staged release of feedback, etc) with that of Turnitin assignments (Originality Checking, GradeMark, offline marking). In fact, this was another big ask on the day, that Turnitin and Blackboard align/integrate their products in ways that will help us, as you will gather from some of the posts in this Padlet.

Made with Padlet

What leapt out at me was a so-far un-encountered issue at Liverpool of needing a read-only external examiner access to modules. In some institutions administrative staff are packaging up content and assignments into a special section of a module, which only the external has access to, and making the rest of the module inaccessible to them. This is to meet an anxiety around externals potentially changing grades and altering content, but it costs hours of administrative time, essentially duplicating what’s already in the module, so re-introducing at a later stage of the assessment cycle serious administrative burden that the electronic submission process had originally taken away from the front end. What’s needed is a read-only access enrollment level, which is another development idea for the Blackboard team to add to the suggestions box.

Moving on to the next activity in groups again, we were tasked with listing and describing up to five assessment and feedback enhancements that would have significant benefits for the listed stakeholders and the degree to which it would require resource. This photo shows our effort…

dsc01104

…and for those who aren’t adept at reading the handwriting of people who spend their whole day attached to a keyboard our five enhancements (all pretty standard) were:

  1. External Examiner Access – read-only access for external examiners or a similar idea.
  2. Student Assessment Journey – programme level views of student assessment activity for students and staff
  3. Flexible innovative assessment – making the assessment and feedback tools at all points in Blackboard, not just for assignments, so that you can start thinking about using any tool for assessment purposes.
  4. Double marking – further work on the current functionality to take it to a robust, fully-usable level.
  5. Programme Level Assessment – looking at assessment practice across entire programmes and thinking about programme-level learning outcomes.

Hearing back from the rest of the room we discussed in more depth some of the already described above (external examiner access, programme-level views of assessment) and the Blackboard team promised to send round some case study examples of good practice for external examiner processes using Blackboard tools. In a discussion around whether and how institutions were using the Delegated Grading functionality, which was designed for UK HEIs, again the Blackboard team said they would gather together some case studies of where these are being used well. The feeling from the room was that this kind of functionality should be available across all assessment tools rather than locked to a single tool.

A few other interesting discussion points to end the morning session were that many institutions are thinking at programme level about replacing traditional assignment assessment. Video assignments and feedback are rapidly on the rise but also causing headaches as infrastructure and policy isn’t keeping up.

Afternoon Session

As I said, the afternoon session followed the same structure. So our post-lunch digestif activity was another Padlet , this time thinking about innovation and new practices that would enhance assessment and feedback in our institutions. I’ll let the Padlet do the talking so scroll around to see the ideas. I was interested in things like students being able to select the kinds of assessment that they wanted to do, and learners and academics developing assessment literacies through feedback dialogue and feed-forward as a continuous process.

Made with Padlet

As in the morning, next was a group task, where we were asked to think “aspirationally” about how we imagined assessment could look, if we had a free rein. What change or innovation in assessment and/or feedback would have significant impact and how would it benefit learners, tutors, courses and institutions? Essentially we were encouraged to go wild in the aisles of transformative assessment practice.

Our group went Back to Basics and offered the transformative potential of programmes where learning outcomes were mapped to assessment.  Well, someone had to. Other groups had some tidy, Tomorrow’s World ideas including:

  • An assessment wizard which built the kind of assessment you wanted with one view for staff and students (no more multiple systems or at least hiding these from you).
  • A tool that surfaced programme level assessment data.
  • A tool for personalised feedback and assessment routes – feedback raises flags on further help students can get and other staff can see that in later assessments.

And as per the morning session the Blackboard team led a discussion on how their products could work to do some of these things. One thing they did bring back to my attention was the Goals and Outcomes system which has a new dashboard view of the data and I think it would be opportune to review this in the light of programme development work that is heading the way of our team, as this could present an opportunity for offering programme-level views of progress through modules.

The end

So not a sales day, not your regular product roadmap/roadshow day, this represented a deeper dive into Electronic Management of Assessment, including the Blackboard tools that can be a part of that that environment. The Blackboard team wanted the day to be about sharing practice, raising awareness of what Blackboard tools we have already and encouraging us to get the best we can out the Blackboard tools and products that you have and I think this was more than achieved on the day. Thanks to the team and to the Bb North UserGroup for arranging and hosting. I had some very useful conversations (which is pretty much usual for the BB North User Groups meetings) and plenty from all of the above to take back for the project board overseeing the implementation of an e-submission policy at Liverpool.

What music did I first buy? The Muppet Show album. And I’ve never needed any other in my life…

Dan

Winter School 2017 report

winter-school‘Brilliant, engaging, authentic – thank you!’

This year’s Winter School, our sixth, has been the best attended of any we have run so far which was really pleasing for the team. We’ve met lots of new colleagues over the two weeks and been inspired by the kinds of things people want to do with technologies for their learning and teaching. Feedback from the sessions has given us some great ideas on how to develop our workshops and also the kinds of things people would like to find out more about, that’s why we collect it, so we’ll be scheduling in workshops on Evernote and technologies for polling over the next few months for starters. To keep up to date with when workshops are running you can follow us on Twitter (link below), follow us on this blog, keep an eye on the University Announcements page and also search the CLL Booking page here.

‘Lots of showing and sharing of experiences – colleagues sharing their use of various tools… Learning about those tools and trying them out.’

Our aim is to make the Winter and Summer schools a mix of introductory and more exploratory sessions, providing opportunities for staff to extend themselves. In the feedback we get, staff report a valued feature of the sessions is the opportunity to try out new tools and systems, to discuss the strengths and limits of these, how these can be trialed and then made a part of learning and teaching practice, and to share and learn from what colleagues in other schools and departments are interested in and are doing. We are also delighted to read about the wider impact and reach our sessions have in a range of contexts, from enriching personal practice, to staff championing in schools and departments the ideas and knowledge they gain, to applications for research groups.

‘I came to build up professional knowledge and skills for my own personal development and I think this will definitely come in useful in the future.’

‘This will quickly enable myself and other module leaders to elevate the skills of our students…’

Immediate use to help a research collaboration (2 UK sites, 2 European) meet and collaborate. I will include this system as a way of indicating how we will collaborate – thus strengthening a bid for funding. I will explore using this for T&L in a European meeting to demonstrate some of our T&L content.’

Another way we’ve responded to the feedback we get has been developing an advanced session on using Twitter, following a brace of well attended introductory Twitter sessions over the summer. We ran this in the winter school and knowing that it is crucial to include local examples of good practice we enlisted the help of Zelda Chatten, who is part of the team that supports the Library’s social media presence. Between us we were able to share practical tips and useful advice about our experiences using Twitter.

This was a fruitful partnership which extended the range of sessions we run collaboratively (we also run an Adobe Connect session with colleagues from CSD) and one which we will repeat and continue to build on, for example we are planning to develop a session jointly-run with CSD colleagues on Stream Capture.

‘The opportunity to explore some very useful tools in a supported way – I left with some great ways to make my slides more visual and engaging and will pass these tips onto others.’

It was also the first time we ran the session ‘Engaging learners visually’ in which Alex and Tünde shared a few tools that you can use to create more exciting, visual slides, including Notegraphy, Piktochart, Prezi, Haikudeck and some features of PowerPoint. We discussed accessibility considerations when putting together pictoral slides. Judging from the attendance and busy keyboard-working during the workshop, it was a lively and useful topic to cover!  We will definitely run this workshop again.

‘Hands-on guidance through the set-up, recording, stream process. Also love the well-scaffolded and visual resources laid out on the VITAL page. Great!’

If you attended one of our the Winter School sessions you will be enrolled on our Workshop Resources module in VITAL which will contain at least the slides from the sessions and usually further links and support resources on all of the sessions we run. Our Summer School will be running from Wednesday 7th June until Friday 16th June 2017 and some sessions are already scheduled in to run and are bookable here: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/cll/booking/

‘Thank you – terrific, inspiring session!’

Thanks to everyone who came along and engaged so positively. We derive much inspiration and learn so much from all of our sessions, which we always strive to make a collaborative venture. But for now, the decorations are stowed back in the loft, the last green triangle Quality Street has reluctantly been scoffed, and the jumper from Santa exchanged for a Star Wars onesie, it can mean only one thing; the eLearning Unit Winter school has been and gone and the festivities over for another year. Hope to see you at the Summer School!

The eLearning Unit team

 

Old and New: Highlights from the Durham Blackboard Users Conference 2017 #DURBBU

Total Architecture

As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m no stranger to the Durham Blackboard Users Conference (now in its 17th year!) having attended and presented on number of occasions. However, this was my first visit in my new role at University of Liverpool and also the first visit to the new location at the Durham Business School. Very impressive venue located a little further out of town but close to the excellent Oriental Museum.  The conference began with a warm welcome from the new VC Professor Stuart Corbridge. Then we were back on familiar ground with Malcolm Murray introducing us to the conference theme (Better Assessment & Feedback) and using the Lego figures to settle us into a great couple of days.

The Keynote was delivered by Dr Susie J Schofield from the University of Dundee. Translating evidence-based principles to improved feedback practices” using the “interACT” study she co-authored. The main focus of the presentation was a review of the literature on a range of feedback models and principles (Gibbs, Nicol, Carless, Barton) and draw out some commonality. She shared the view that students can avoid bad teaching but they cannot avoid bad assessment. Stating how a shared understanding of assessment criteria is crucial to student success. I wonder how often there is the time and space in the curriculum to allow students to get a real grasp of this.  Sounds like a good opportunity for students to get involved and co-create their own assessments and criteria.

Wayne Britcliffe presented us with a useful overview of the breadth of tools being used at the University of York, to support assessment and feedback. Many of which are familiar to Blackboard users, although it was interesting to hear that they are a Google University He also shared some useful tips in and a few ‘gotchas’ This was a thought provoking and refreshing topic as it sums up the learning technologist experience at the moment. We are all dealing with similar issues and complexities of electronic assessment. This has certainly been the case for me. A deeper understanding of electronic submission and e-marking approaches have been at the centre of my working practice particularly as these methods gain wider adoption within institutions.

Patrick Viney from University of Northumbria presented a novel approach to using PebblePad V5. Not as an ePortfolio but to manage the dissertation proposal process for over 800 undergraduate students. A common problem to many institutions. The process was based on the workbook functionality in Pebblepad. This allowed students to submit proposals electronically and and select keywords to identify the topic and allow it to matched to an appropriate supervisor.  The effect of this change resulted in a speedier matching of supervisors to students. Reducing time taken from 2 weeks to 1 day! As well as time saving befits, this approach is paper free and auditable. Non submitters can easily be identified and contacted. I’m sure this process could be adapted to support a range of subjects at our insitution, and perhaps lead to greater adoption of the system.  Kudos to Partick for going live into the Pebblepad to demonstrate it. Always valuable to see it live if possible.
I’ve always been a big fan of screen-capture and I use screencast-o-matic a lot these days, since Screenr passed away a few years ago. I’m also very interested in visual learning, so I was keen to hear how University of Reading Lecturer, Emma Mayhew, used this technology to enhance student assessment.  Using Camtasia she developed a range of study support videos which quickly gained popularity, so she ended up creating more and using other tools such as Powtoon to get the message across.  Then applied this to her feedback on assessment. The video feedback reminded me of the useful qualities of audio feedback. Students get more feedback – quantity and detail, but also feed-forward suggestions about what can be done better next time. Staff demonstrate empathy and encouragement more clearly, but also visually identify issues where the student needs help. The process is necessarily efficient for the lecturer but is overwhelmingly receives positive responses from the students. An excellent presentation from an enthusiastic academic making positive changes.

Finally,  it has always been a bit of a tradition for Blackboard to share new advances in their technology at Durham. Nicholas Matthij was excited to share the work he’s been doing on a new product called Ally. This is another Blackboard acquisition and looks to be platform agnostic. The functionality that Ally provides is to make  course content within the VLE more accessible. The tool guides academic staff on how they can make their content more accessible and offers alternatives while keeping the original files. Clever eh? In addition it also has an interesting analytics dashboard that could make it easier for staff to recogise popular content and patterns of use. Developed in part as a response to the changes in legal requirements,  Blackboard will make this service available in Q2 2017. Sadly this will not be appearing in the product as standard but can be purchased separately.

Anyone that is using Blackboard or its associated products would be well served in attending this conference. I know I always have been. Its not just because I keep winning prizes (iPad mini in 2012, £50 amazon voucher this year), although that helps! The community is the crucial element of the conference. Enthusiastic people presenting, sharing and openly talking about issues they care about to help change and make things better. Now that sentiment never gets old.

Other blog posts
 Alex

Winter School 2017 – Week 2 Workshops – 16th – 20th January

The Winter School began today with a great session on engaging students visually in lectures with loads of ideas for presentation materials. There are a number of other sessions in the first week , which you can read about here and still book the last few places here.

This year we are also running a second week of sessions (Monday 16th to Friday 20th January) looking at technologies for learning and teaching beyond VITAL and a number of which are designed to tie-in with the online Bring Your Own Device for Learning 2017 events. All sessions listed below and bookable at: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/cll/booking/

  • Monday 16th Jan – An introduction to Twitter (2 – 4pm)
  • Tuesday 17th Jan – GoMobile user group meeting (1 – 3pm)
  • Wednesday 18th Jan – e-submission and e-marking workshops
    • An Introduction To Electronic Submission Of Coursework (9:30 – 11am)
    • The Turnitin Assignment Tool For e-submission (Part 1) And GradeMark For Feedback (Part 2) (12 – 2pm)
    • The Blackboard Assignment Tool For e-submission (Part 1) And Feedback (Part 2) (2:30 – 4pm)
  • Thursday 19th Jan – Student as co-creators (11am – 1pm)
  • Friday 20th Jan – Advanced Twitter (2 – 4pm)

Finally, after these two weeks are a couple of events which might interest you.

  • Wednesday 25th Jan – Building good VITAL modules – a practical session looking at ways of building on the VITAL Baseline to create well-designed modules.
  • Thursday 26th Jan – eLearning Network meeting. In this meeting we will be getting a first look at the new Turnitin Feedback Studio.

All sessions bookable at: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/cll/booking/

winter-school

Winter School 2017 diary dates

winter-school

A quick post to let you know about the eLearning Unit’s 2017 Winter School. All sessions bookable at: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/cll/booking/

We’ve scheduled the first full week of sessions as listed here.

  • Monday 9th Jan – Engaging Learners visually in lectures – tools, tips and tricks (1 – 3pm)
  • Tuesday 10th Jan – VITAL Essentials (10am – 12pm)
  • Tuesday 10th Jan – An introduction to Technology Enhanced Learning (13:00 – 16:00)
  • Wednesday 11th Jan – Running webinars and online classrooms with Adobe Connect (10am – 12pm)
  • Thursday 12th Jan – 2nd annual Pedagogic Research Conference (all day)
  • Thursday 12th Jan – Turnitin GradeMark (2 – 3:30pm)
  • Friday 13th Jan – Stream Capture for lecture capture and screencasting (1 – 3pm)

This year we are also running a second week second week of sessions (Monday 16th to Friday 20th January) a number of which are designed to tie-in with the online Bring Your Own Device for Learning 2017 events. All sessions bookable at: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/cll/booking/

  • Monday 16th Jan – An introduction to Twitter (2 – 4pm)
  • Tuesday 17th Jan – GoMobile user group meeting (1 – 3pm)
  • Wednesday 18th Jan – e-submission and e-marking workshops
    • An Introduction To Electronic Submission Of Coursework (9:30 – 11am)
    • The Turnitin Assignment Tool For e-submission (Part 1) And GradeMark For Feedback (Part 2) (12 – 2pm)
    • The Blackboard Assignment Tool For e-submission (Part 1) And Feedback (Part 2) (2:30 – 4pm)
  • Thursday 19th Jan – Student as co-creators (11am – 1pm)
  • Friday 20th Jan – Advanced Twitter (2 – 4pm)

Finally, after these two weeks are a couple of events which might interest you.

  • Wednesday 25th Jan – Building good VITAL modules – a practical session looking at ways of building on the VITAL Baseline to create well-designed modules.
  • Thursday 26th Jan – eLearning Network meeting. In this meeting we will be getting a first look at the new Turnitin Feedback Studio.

All sessions bookable at: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/cll/booking/

News from the Blackboard Education on Tour 2014 event

University of Salford – November 6th

The annual Blackboard Education on Tour event is an opportunity to meet the people in Blackboard who are designing, developing and managing the product, and their team are keen to get our comments and ideas on where the product is going. It’s an important exchange as it’s one of the means by which we can have a direct influence on how Blackboard Learn develops, a recent example of this being the new workflows around anonymous and delegated marking for Assignments which we will see after our winter upgrade. It was good also to meet our new University of Liverpool client manager on the day, find out about their role and how they will be helping us in the future.

The attendant throng – spot the UoL staff!

A major part of the day is that we also get to see what is on the near and far horizon in the Blackboard Learn environment (subject to the Blackboard forward-looking statement that this is not necessarily what they will implement) and this year the hubbub was all around what we saw of the first phase of a radically redesigned user interface: responsive, intuitive, simplified, social being the key development ideas I picked up from what I saw.

Blackboard have looked at the range of things you can currently do in Learn and focused on the main interactions, use cases and workflows and redesigned around making these as easy as possible. I’ve linked to some screenshots here of what we saw from Eric Silva’s blog. Taking just a couple of examples, the homepage when you first log in is totally decluttered and now gives you selectable, cross-modular views of things like the latest key activity in your modules (new discussion board posts, content updates and so on), your grades, your profile…

BBUltraHome
Example home page

…as well as the usual jumping-off list of your modules. In essence the current ‘My Blackboard’ global navigation menu (accessed from the upper right of your VITAL Blackboard screen) is enhanced and becomes the homepage. It means you can see and start working directly in modules where there is a notification of activity, for example going straight from the home page to a Discussion Board where there have been some recent posts.

BBUltraModuleThe module space gets a total redesign. Navigation is simplified and there is a search box at the top of the screen so you can find specific content quickly. In the upper right of the page some icons link to key tools like the discussion board, calendar and messages. You can now instantly set up a discussion around any content or assessment item. And admin-wise course copy has been made amazingly easy at last.

This is only the first phase of re-developing Learn but what I have seen so far is very encouraging. It’s a responsive design meaning it will adapt to any device and screen. We can get a look at a test version in January next year and we will certainly be doing that. As I have blogged previously, we can as an institution also contribute to the development and design of Learn directly via the Blackboard Ideas Exchange. There are different levels of commitment and we will look again at the possibility of getting involved in some way this year. It was useful on the day to find out that very few UK institutions have yet gone down this route and so Blackboard are looking into making it easier for us to take part.

Another offering which got the room enthused was an offline module tool for students where they can select resources to download and view on a laptop offline. When they next log in online they will be notified as to whether any of those resources have since been updated. Blackboard have been surprised and pleased to find that there is an appetite for this application in the UK and elsewhere as it could answer certain problems such as those experienced by students in remote, rural locations with poor connectivity, hospitals with strict internet access policies, and even where the VLE has to be taken offline for annual upgrades as an example so that students can still access key resources. A version of this is being made available soon and it will work as a browser applet.

During the rest of the day we had a look at a few other products from Blackboard which we don’t currently have at Liverpool such as the Blackboard Collaborate (a tool for running online meetings and classrooms) and Blackboard Analytics. Analytics is a fairly new product and is intended to allow institutions to interrogate institutional data at scale for a whole range of purposes, one of those data sources being the activity in the VLE itself. There is a rapidly growing field of research interest around these kinds of ‘learning analytics’ and ‘big data’ and an example of such an application is the Learning Futures project at the University of Westminster, who are using Analytics for Blackboard Learn to help inform decisions they make about the future shape of learning and teaching. The University of Derby were also looking at Blackboard Analytics as a potential tool for helping them understand their online-only provision and the enagement and behaviours of this body of students whom they often never meet in person. Other applications suggested included dashboards of data for academic advisors bringing together data about students from multiple sources including the VLE dashboards of data, and students having dashboard views of this kind of data as well.

For the last part of the day I swapped over from the ‘product development’ sessions and attended a workshop on assessment practice with Blackboard Learn to pick up any useful advice from those who know the system best. All in all a very informative day from the Blackboard team – we’re now looking forward to getting our hands on the trial version of Blackboard Ultra and ‘giving the tyres a kick’ as one of the Blackboard team put it. More updates on this to follow in the new year.

For some other reports on the day which have details on other aspects of the day have a read of:

http://learntechgalway.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/blackboard-education-on-tour-comes-to.html

http://staffblogs.le.ac.uk/telsocsci/blackboard/blackboard-education-on-tour-2014/

Dan

Learner experience research: report from our second ELESIG Northwest event (Oct 8 2014)

The early start of the day and autumn cold didn’t deter our ELESIG NW participants! ELESIG is a Special interest Group of those interested in Learner Experience Research with a focus on technology. There are a number of regional groups now: in London, Midlands, Scotland. Wales and with an ELESIG South forming in December this year. Thanks to all the speakers, participant contributions and Roger Harrison, ELESIG NW co-conveyor, University of Manchester, who ensured the smooth running of the day.

ELESIG NW - audience participation
ELESIG NW – audience participation

Note: presentations available under ‘Podcasts’ athttps://www.softchalkcloud.com/lesson/serve/XNvZFLDt5uzRfI/html

Presentation

Damien Keil & Adrian, MMU on their iBook development for sport science students presenting at ELESIG NW symposium
Damian Keil & Adam Palin, MMU, photo credit Sarah Copeland

Damian Keil and Adam Palin from MMU started off the day talking about their development of e-learning resources in a sport sciences course using iBooks. Each student worked with the electronic learning materials on an iPad. We got an insight into the development process, the scale of the investment and benefits for the students. These were evidenced by observing exam results, surveys and focus groups. Participants interested in developing quality resources or engaging students in a distance learning course all took an interest in this initiative.

Members’ corner sessions

In the Members’ corner section, a ten-minute appetiser format allowed ELESIG members to talk about their research plans or table ideas for feedback and discussion.

First, we heard from Huw Morgan in the Salford Business School, who developed video resources and adopted a flipped classroom approach with his students. We got an insight into student patterns using these videos for their learning. Jim Turner, our  #elesig tweeter on the day even had his tweet about Huw Morgan’s #elesig presentation retweeted by Eric Mazur! This was another example of developing an active learning approach with some useful learning points from Huw.

Second up was, Roger Harrison, who proposed the question ‘What strategies can we use to evaluate PG distance learning programmes?’  Finally, Carol Wakeford, University of Manchester, Life Sciences also put forward an evaluation challenge in their third year undergraduate module. This module has students design, create and evaluate an e-learning resource. Carol wanted to elicit strategies from ELESIG participants on overcoming the problem of not having enough student volunteers to do the evaluation of these resources. The discussion that followed the appetiser presentations showed that this was a helpful and engaging format. It’s always useful to hear what colleagues are working on and how they are formulating and overcoming challenges of curriculum design and evaluation of learner experiences.

Just-before our tea break, Roger managed to engage us in a vibrant discussion: we had to imagine how we would evaluate our ‘student’ (a dog) if they couldn’t speak? This inspired activity certainly made us think of a repertoire of evaluation strategies available to us!

Professor Allison Littlejohn – keynote

Professor Allison Littlejohn keynote
Professor Allison Littlejohn keynote

Professor Allison Littlejohn’s ‘Seeing the invisible: understanding learner experiences’ challenged us to think of the meaning-making process of student learning data. Utilising Zimermann’s theory of self-regulation, their team of researchers investigated the activities and strategies that adult learners use to self-regulate their learning in the context of a MOOC. Resources arising from a project on investigating professional learning in MOOCs are also available on their website – a useful resource for anyone interested in professional learning or in MOOCs (see also References below). Conclusions were drawn examining learning behaviour of those who perceived themselves high- and low self-regulators.  For instance, high regulators focused on the learning and performance, low regulators focused on the participation in the MOOC! The study also concluded that the learning environment had an effect on the way participants learned, irrespective whether they perceived themselves high- or low self-regulators. To me, the keynote was an excellent demonstration how quality insights can be gained from research underpinned by theory.

Professor Allison Littlejohn’s summary of the day:

“The NW ELESIG was an example of a network of practitioners striving to ‘do things better’ by capitalising on and contributing to knowledge of how students can take forward their own learning. Theories and concepts generated in other arenas can inform what we do in higher education, though they have to be tested and (sometimes) reimagined. The key message I hope people take from my presentation on ‘Seeing the Invisible’  is the importance of theory and methodology underpinning data gathering and interpretation. All too often rigour is missing from technology-enhanced learning, yet there are lots of theories, methods and conceptual tools for us to draw from.

For just the One Small Thing: Take a look at the design guide and recommendations for MOOC design from the PL-MOOC project, which was part of the Gates Foundation MOOC Research Initiative http://www.gcu.ac.uk/academy/pl-mooc/outputs/ ” 

Reflections from Jim Turner, ELESIG NW co-convenor, LJMU, on the day:

“The experience of helping to run and attend these this events have galvanised my initial reasons for getting involved. There is an incredible amount of innovative practice which could lead to a significant understanding and development within this area. However, the problems of time, evaluation expertise and organisation leads to a sporadic release of interesting yet disjointed body of evidence in this area. Herding cats comes to mind of course, and there is a limitation in trying to over manage the process. But if at least a few connections are made at these events I hope it leads to a growth in all our understandings. Perhaps the most radical step taken in this last event was to have presenters actually ask for help and suggestions in how to evaluate quite complex scenarios. I have attended many of these types of events over these, and welcome a greater openness and direct calls for help, rather than listen to experts present their answers, without seeing any of their ‘working out’. “

For your diary: next ELESIG NW event: 25 Feb 2015 – Keynote from Professor Martin Oliver, hosted by Liverpool John Moores University & Jim Turner, co-convenor of ELESIG NW.

If learner experience research is an area you are interested in, do join the ELESIG ning site and come along to one of our events. You can also follow @ELESIG on Twitter!

Tünde Varga-Atkins, co-convenor of ELESIG NW, University of Liverpool

Links & References 

ELESIG NW Mendeley group – we are adding useful references here, please do join the group and contribute to the resources too.

ELESIG – we have a ning site with resources and details of funding, do join and have a browse.