Report: Pedagogic Research Conference #LivUniPedRes 2017

Newly arrived on our learning and teaching scene is the University of Liverpool’s Pedagogic Research Conference. Set up and run by Educational Development and eLearning Unit colleagues (including our own Tünde Varga-Atkins and Debbie Prescott) from tentative beginnings this event has rapidly grown in just a couple of years in size, scope and shifted venue to accommodate its blossoming. The original idea, about three years ago, was in the recognition that that there needed to be a next step from the annual Learning and Teaching Conference to support staff presenters who wanted to engage with pedagogic research theory, method and literature, ultimately to publish.

Here is this year’s conference brochure so you can get a full idea of the range of the sessions. There was a strong field of  papers with Technology Enhanced Learning as a component at the heart of the research. For me a couple of items from the day caught my eye, Pete Smith’s research into which learning resources students valued and utilised the most, and then Treasa Kearney and Chris Raddats’ work, which brought in the perspective of Marketing theories of value co-creation (which critiques ideas that service providers ‘give’ consumers value – not dissimilar to critiques of the model of students ‘receiving’ learning). They looked at an international cohort working together online on an assignment and what opportunities for value co-creation exist. We’ll look forward to reading these in their published form and blog more about them, and others, as they appear.

The rest of this post consists of a set of resources from the day, including:

  1. A recording of the keynote address by Professor Pauline Kneale, PVC Teaching and Learning University of Plymouth.
  2. A guest blog post from Professor Helen O’Sullivan, APVC Online Learning, who opened the conference.
  3. Tweets from the day gathered together in a Twitter Moment and embedded below.

1. Keynote address

Professor Pauline Kneale, PVC Teaching and Learning University of Plymouth, gave the conference keynote around experience and strategies for building capacity in pedagogy research. At Liverpool the PedRes conference is one such footing in the planned building of our own capacity. If you would like to watch the keynote address from Pauline then click the image below or follow this link.

Professor Pauline Kneale’s keynote address - click image to watch the recording
Professor Pauline Kneale’s keynote address – click image to watch the recording

2. Guest Post: Creating a culture of pedagogic research and publication

Highlights from our 2nd (!) Pedagogy Research Conference,#LivUniPedRes

(Originally posted on 23 January 2017 by Professor Helen O’Sullivan, APVC Online Learning in Education – thanks to Helen for permission to copy this.)

“I was absolutely delighted to open this year’s Pedagogic Research Conference on January 12th. Pedagogic research has been close to my heart and central to my practice since I saw the light in the mid-90s and switched from lab based research. This was the second time the event has run and the increased attendance and quality of the presentations demonstrates the increasing importance of recognising the critical value that researching the student experience and using an evidence base to support policy making has in our vision for Education at Liverpool. The key difference between the annual Learning and Teaching Conference and this Pedagogic Conference is that the former is mainly practice-focused, whilst the Research Conference supports staff with publishing their educational research rooting it in theories, rigorous research methodologies and contribution to literature. One of the key reasons for an event such as this is to cement the growing community of practice around pedagogic research and therefore provide support and fellowship for colleagues who can often feel isolated in their Department. The 100 or so participants at Thursday’s events are the research group and provide advice and expertise for each other. The buzz, the enthusiasm and the warmth was infectious!

Full conference
Image credit: Phil Walker

Guest post continued…

“Our keynote speaker was Professor Pauline Kneale  who gave a perfectly apt talk on how to build capacity around pedagogic research. This included some advice as to how to work smarter to develop #pedagogicresearch, the more neglected, Cinderella sister of research (Evans 2001). One idea suggested by Pauline was working with students as researchers and involving them both in disciplinary and pedagogic research. Pauline also stressed the value of collaboration of outside one’s immediate School, whether within or beyond the institution and reminded us that Plymouth’s PedRio is not too far to collaborate. PedRio’s activity is organised under theme-groups, including sustainability, medical education research, digital innovation, inclusive pedagogies, quantitative reasoning and community engagement. Quite a few of these parallel some of our #LivUni activities!

A real gem for organisers of this conference is seeing how colleagues’ presentations of full papers and emerging ideas (conference brochure link) have developed over the course of the year. It was excellent to hear all the great innovations and focus and enthusiasm on teaching evident from these sessions. What attendees found useful:

An appreciation of level of scholarship/research activities being completed in University.

Interacting with the like-minded.

Encountering a range of different ideas and innovations

Hearing how colleagues in other departments address student engagement. Finding out about experiences of international students.

It is probably unfair for me to pick highlights but I was particularly impressed with the work that Ricardo Tejeiro and Alex Whitelock-Wainwright have done to investigate why some online students don’t participate in course evaluation and I was also interested in Sarah McKernon’s work in Dentistry looking at non-technical skills development.

roundtable
The conference included roundtable Q&A session with editors from educational journals

Guest post continued…

“The day’s focus was supporting colleagues towards publication of their scholarship and research. For this reason, four editors from different educational journals contributed and answered questions on how to get published in the form of a roundtable session. Delegates valued their input on getting tips and ideas, advice from them: “focus on publication was also particularly useful for me”. Networking, sharing practice over a sandwich or cake was a highlight for many attendees.

Where next?

For those wishing to pursue their presentation towards publication, the organising team offers further formative feedback; on request we are happy to arrange a writing retreat. As our keynote observed, pedagogic research is receiving more attention because of the TEF. We were heartened by the success of the conference.

And finally, huge thanks to the organising team who has made the event  happen:

  • Charles Buckley, Educational Development
  • Debbie Prescott, eLearning Unit
  • Julie-Anne Regan, Educational Development
  • Tunde Varga-Atkins, eLearning Unit (who also put together the structure and visuals for this blog post)
  • Ilona Walker, Educational Development

with credit to Amy Jackson, eLearning Unit, for conference design materials.

This conference is now firmly established in the University calendar and we will be building our formal capacity and structures around the research and scholarship of learning and teaching as we set up the Centre for Innovation in Education.

Save the date

Thursday 11 January 2018, 3rd Pedagogic Research Conference. Make it a date for your diary next year and start preparing your contribution now!

3. Tweets from the day #LivUniPedRes 

Finally, Here’s a Twitter Moment for the conference created by Alex Spiers from our team which you can also explore here: https://twitter.com/i/moments/819833189959135232

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VLE minimum standards evaluation – looking around

This second post to stem from our VITAL Baseline evaluation work this year tells some of the story about looking outwards to the sector for policy seeking to understand best-practice around minimum standards for VLEs.

As a part of our original work developing the VITAL baseline the working group thought it would be useful to see what, if anything, was happening with VLE minimum standards across the HE sector at that point in time. With a pressing timescale and clear directive that a) we had to have a standard and b) of what it should consist this time round, the most we could look at was who had some kind of minimum standard or expectation for their VLE and what was in it, so get some simple benchmarks and reassure ourselves that we hadn’t missed anything that we could include whilst we had this opportunity to shape our own set of standards at the development stage. As a low-cost way (for us) of gathering some rough and ready data a call went out to the ALT mailing list asking people to contribute to a Google Sheet to say whether their institution had any kind of minimum standard or expectation, or were looking to develop one, and what was in it. As a group we didn’t engage at any further level with this work (although one of us, Peter Reed, wrote up and presented some of his own analysis of the original data at a few conferences and usergroups for which you can find an entry point to here). I had always hoped to return to this work with some questions I had about the sector-wide landscape as a part of any evaluation and that what I learnt from this exercise would also inform any recommendations we would make for future development of the standard. The main areas I want now to examine are:

  • In terms of the original data gathered we should re-examine what we can understand from this. I was anxious about how crowdsourced data stands up and what the implications were of this approach for an evaluation so would like to review this methodology in some detail as well. 
  • I wondered what results we would get if we more closely defined the group(s) of institutions against which we wanted to benchmark and actively approach these. I felt at the time that the original data might encourage a view that minimum standards policies were a standard feature of the topography of Technology Enhanced Learning strategies and policies in HEIs and I wanted to test this. 
  • Then as well as asking who has a standard and what is in it the more interesting questions would include why one exists for that institution, how is its rationale contextualised (e.g. is this linked to a learning and teaching strategy?), what kinds of processes were involved in its development, is it compulsory and has any evaluation taken place?
  • For those institutions who don’t have one, what is the story, if there is one, here?
  • Beyond approaching institutions we would look at any literature, conference proceedings, blog posts and mailing list discussions around minimum standards as a part of the evaluation work more generally but specifically for this information about why institutions do or do not have a VLE baseline.

In picking this work up again for our Baseline evaluation project I thought an obvious although simplistic initial sampling strategy would be to survey the rest of the Russell group which would make for a manageable, quick desk-based web-search. I looked for what could be discovered from the websites of the Russell Group institutions for any indication of an institutional VLE standard in place and what further detail was available publicly. A first-glance review found that in December 2015:

  • Six definitely have an institutional standard with compulsory/required/expected elements.
  • Three offer institutionally recommended good practice guidance.
  • Fourteen seemed to have no institutional standard requirement or expectation.
  • For one institution I couldn’t find any detail one way or another.

I’ve collated a list with details of what each standard or recommendation above consists but one immediate thought on the above is that there might well be standards at faculty or school/departmental level where there is no institutional requirement. It would be useful to uncover this information as my own feeling is that handing over standards to more local levels is probably the way to move in the future, which we’ll discuss in a later post on any recommendations that emerge from our evaluation work. 

Also immediately what we would want to do next is to contact institutions directly and try to confirm whether what we have found accurately reflects their situation and to get a little more detail on the whys and hows as listed above in this post (and we’ll also first need to look into ethical approval around this if we are intending to publish our results) and if there might be more local standards that aren’t found on central websites and I’ll make this list available when it is as complete as possible.

Another question this simple snapshot of Russell Group institutions raises for me is whether Liverpool is leading in this area, as we appear to be in the minority here, or alternatively whether we were late-arrivers to the debate around minimum standards and have taken a different direction to the majority? Obviously the snapshot view is unconfirmed and looking at a bigger group of institutions would give better data but as I began to discuss in the first Baseline evaluation post we want to look at the evidence used that informed the decision to make this one of the first initiatives to comprise our institutional TEL strategy to assess its strengths and its limits. Does this snapshot view tell a contrasting story to that of other sources of evidence used to develop TEL strategy and the Baseline originally? Are there any similarities between Liverpool and the other Russell group institutions that have a standard in place? I’d be interested to discover the extent to which minimum standards policies feature in Technology Enhanced Learning strategies and policies in HEIs when measured in a larger sample group. Thinking further about the sample group I wondered whether we should follow this 2014 UCISA report and look at all pre-92 institutions for a greater mix of institution types and with time post-92 institutions. More work but valuable for developing our understanding.

In a similar fashion to that of the original Baseline development representing an opportunity to look at some of the internal evidence of the ways in which the VLE is being used within the institution, this outward-looking work also offered the opportunity to richly inform our thinking and strategic approach by looking to the sector and the experience and evidence here. We want to assess the extent these sources of evidence were exploited in the original development and how they could be in the future as part of our recommendations for any future institutional TEL initiatives.

As an almost tangential sign-off, when thinking about what I’d write for this post I realised that I have been using the terms ‘benchmark’ and ‘benchmarking’ unthinkingly. Then I panicked, what are they and why would you want to do this? This panic didn’t last long as found this useful-looking JISC resource what is benchmarking? If anyone knows more about this guide we’d appreciate your thoughts and advice but I think I am going to use it for writing up this sector scene-setting aspect of our evaluation work.

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.

If you ever need to find a research participant: check out ‘Call for Participants.com’

If you are a supervisor, a postgraduate researcher or into research in one way or another, then this website may be of interest. It helps you find a participant for your research, whether it is a survey, interview or something else. The website is entitled ‘Call for Participants’. It’s been developed by students at Nottingham University and was supported by the JISC Summer of Innovation programme.
Call for Participants
Call for Participants
The live website will soon superseded by a more improved version which can be customisable to institutions or departments. So for instance, if you are a Psychology department at University X, you will be able to design your own landing page, listing all your current research projects’ “Call for participants” area. This site may also be useful if you just want to have a quick view on the current research going on in your field.
The departmental and institutional customisation is a new offering and is currently being piloted.  Matt Terrell who presented this project at the JISC learning and teaching experts forum, asked if any institutions are interested in piloting these new features. It is currently free, so why not try it out?
Tünde (Varga-Atkins)
If you are interested in hearing about university related developments in technology enhanced learning, please subscribe to our University of Liverpool eLearning Unit blog (bottom right).

An invite for the North West: Researching the learner experience – Inaugural Symposium

ELESIG North West

Researching the learner experience

Inaugural Symposium organised by ELESIG North West

Thursday 15 May 2014, 12.00 – 16.30

Are you interested in sharing knowledge and practice around
researching the learner experience and technology?

ELESIG North West is a regional group aiming to
promote networking and the sharing of good practice
in learner experience research within a collegial setting.
Come and find out more at our inaugural event.

Speakers include Dr Paul Ashwin, University of Lancaster.
Paul will lead an interactive session on researching the learner experience
to inform teaching and institutional practices and add to the existing literature on this topic. During the session, you will have a chance
develop your own idea and turn it into an action plan for research.

Venue: G-Flex Room, Central Teaching Laboratories (building number 802 on campus map), University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 7ZJ

Register: It is a free event open to staff at North West England HEIs/FE colleges. You can register at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/elesig-north-west-researching-the-learner-experience-tickets-10988965291 (For those outside the North West, we will post details of the event after.)

Twitter: #elesig

Full programme detailsELESIG North West Symposium flyer.

Contact: Tunde Varga-Atkins, tva@liv.ac.uk

An Eye on the Future

Orthoptics LabThe eLearning Unit have been working closely with the Directorate of Orthoptics and Vision Science within the School of Health Sciences over the last few months.

The overall aim of the collaboration is to enhance the student experience within the department with the effective use of technology. We hope this will have an impact on attracting new students to the Orthoptics course and produce a more stimulating and innovative teaching experience for existing undergraduates.

During an Orthoptics post application visit day event in February pen drives were distributed which Touchscreen Computerscontained a variety of files and resources highlighting the enhanced learning experience offered at Liverpool. Prospective students will be able to view a video advert, an eye test flash animation, a recent range of photographs taken in the Orthoptics lab (some of the images displayed in this post) and a presentation which contains interviews with current students and alumni from the course.

The interactive animations currently being developed will allow students to practise and simulate the range of tests performed to detect a wide variety of eye defects and conditions. Some of the conditions can be quite rare so a student may never have an opportunity for the real life testing experience during placements. The animations will assist a student in refining their core skills and becoming familiar with rarer conditions.

The animations have been designed in consultation with Dr Anna O’Connor who eye animation demoapproached the eLearning Unit for support after seeing a range of oncological surgery animations produced for a postgraduate module. A test version of the Orthoptics animation is available here. The resource is still under development but this version should give an indication of the range of interaction and functionality aimed for.

Future plans include potential extra funding to support the production of more advanced animations, 3D eye modelling creation and a NHS bid to fund the purchase of a suite of tablets which will help to enhance undergraduate student placements.

The resources produced could become commercially viable as theeye website planned functionality would be unique in the HE sector. At the moment there are only a few resources publically available such as this website which simulates eye motion and demonstrates the effects of disabling one or more of the eyes muscles and one or more of the cranial nerves that control eye motion. However, resources like this only highlight a few elements of the eye movement disorders and do not completely reflect a true clinical picture. Any online resources produced at Liverpool would be a welcome addition to the current material available supporting academic staff and undergraduate students.

If you are interested in further details about these developments or if you would like to share an idea, request support or ask a related question please get in touch with the eLearning Unit at elearning@liv.ac.uk.

Ophthalmoscope Digital Letter Chart 9 times moving light_7 big eyes

(Photographs by Phil Walker)

Here are some further images captured by the eLearning Unit, in the Orthoptics lab on the Liverpool campus, which will be used as the background for future interactive animations.

Paul Duvall

Digital pens and multimodality, revisited

At the 6th International Conference on Multimodality I gave a paper on behalf of Muriah Umoquit and myself on using digital pens in a research context for drawing.

Prezi
Using digital pens – link to prezi

The paper summarised our experiences with using digital pens. Three conference highlights related to educational technology were:

  • Cheryl Ball talked about a multimodal journal, Kairos, which, breaking with the tradition of publishing articles with static writing and images, uses multimodal forms such as hypertext and multimedia such as videos, links and web-pages. The premise is that each article chooses the ‘right’ kind of modes, which can best communicate the given argument, rather than the journal’s format restricting the mode of the argument. They work with authors to use various digital tools to produce their multimodal texts. See for instance one of the articles organised as a website using the metaphor of the Shakespeare’s rose relating to the theme of definitions.
  • Marthe Burgess from Norway talked about a school project in which students were asked to construct a video narrative (as opposed to a traditional essay). In this case, students producing ‘multimodal’ texts a bit like when our students in Engineering or in Music are asked to produce wikis ( websites ), in which the form (site design) of the site is an integral element in the way the content is constructed and understood.
  • One of the articles that I read in preparation for the presentation by Luff et al (2007) entitled, “Augmented Paper: Developing Relationships between Digital Content and Paper“, which examines the ‘affordances of paper’ as a form of technology, arguing how versatile it is and why we still don’t have a paperless office. One of its features is that it is very mobile . Luff and colleagues’ project looked at, probably before the appearance of QR codes, how paper can be augmented to link to digital media. I just love the arguments as the digital pen operates the same way, it combines the graphical with the digital in a symbiotic way. (You get a drawing or written note, which can be tapped by the pen which evokes a digital audio file. Or you can digitise the written note or drawing in the form of a pencast, which can be played on the computer.)

Tünde