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

Conference report: #ALTC2012, confronting reality

Attending our annual professional conference, the Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C), was special for two reasons this year. For one, this was the first time I was involved in presenting, and secondly, I was co-presenting with Jaye McIsaac, our colleague from Educational Development (see Jaye’s blog entry of the even here).

Venue of ALT-C 2012, University of Manchester
ALT-C at University of Manchester, instagram by sarahhorrigan

Our presentations involved a student evaluation method which we have been using successfully for curriculum and module evaluation for a number of years now. The technological relevance was that we tried a number of technologies to see whether we can improve on the process, called the Nominal Group Technique. (Slideshare links here to our presentation & demonstration.)

One of the most useful aspects of the conference is to be able to chat to other institutions and see what they are up to. Having seen plenty of engaging presentations, credit must go to our academic staff at the University of Liverpool, many of whom who could have been there presenting their innovative e-learning practices at ALT-C. In fact, if you are one of them – do consider presenting at ALT-C in 2013! The eLearning Unit can support you with the process.

Eric Mazur at ALT-C 2012
Eric Mazur at ALT-C 2012

My personal highlights

My highlights included (hard to keep list short):

  • Eric Mazur on active learning – covering how to work the lectures so that they reduce gender bias, ‘confusion’ as a sign of learning (i.e. if students are confused, it is a good sign that they are learning), and the ‘usefulness’ of demonstrations in science lectures.
  • Attending and presenting together with my colleague, Jaye McIsaac, as this brought a fresh perspective on what ALT is and why it’s useful.
  • The Digital Literacies projects presentations, including a session by Helen Beetham and others on ‘Tools of the Digital Trade’.
  • Getting to know the Pecha Kucha format (at ALT, it’s 9 slides with 45 seconds each).
  • A presentation on ‘session capture‘ , with the idea that through extending the naming from ‘lecture capture’ to ‘session capture’, comes the extension possibilities of using recordings in many more settings, such as induction activities, aiding a more institution-wide take-up of the practice. (Loughbourough has Echo360.)
  • The London JISC project, Generation 4.5, which uses virtual patients through multi-branching PBL (problem-based learning) scenarios.

Tools & tips

As usual, there are always tools or tips to pick up. Just out of interest, the trendy tool of the conference was the Instagram app that everyone seem to be using (see first image of this blogpost).

  • ScoopIt – a curation service which colleates content from blogs and other web resources on a given topic, e.g. see a ScoopIt for ALTC2012.
  • Articulate Storyline – an (according to the presenters) exciting e-learning authoring software which has Flash-like capability for animations.
  • Twitter tool – which combines twitter feeds in a PowerPoint.
  • Mobile Xerte
  • Khan Academy: free videos on various topics.
  • Clapometer: a tool that measures the applause level of an audience (one lecturer uses it as a fun alternative to a clicker indicating best response from students).
  • YouTube wraps: a tool that allows you to tailor an existing YouTube resource.

and finally, the awards: 

ALT-C Gala dinner
ALT-C Gala dinner: individual and team awards

I have never made it to the ALT Gala dinner before. It was inspiring to see the best of the profession receiving awards and recognition for their work.

One of the Learning Technologist of 2012 awards went to a close neighbour, Philip Taubman, Lancaster University, for his work on Open Educational Resources and their VLE. The runner up team award (joint second place) was awarded to the SCARLET team at Manchester for ‘their excellent development and implementation of the pioneering SCARLET Augmented Reality (AR) toolkit’ – enhancing learner engagement with artefacts and bring library special collections to life – and for Skills@Library, University of Leeds, for ‘their outstanding development and implementation of internationally recognised open e-learning resources’.

At ALT-C, prizes are also awarded for the Best Proceedings papers, which for the second year in a row was given to Tom Cochrane, this time for his paper on “Secrets of mlearning failures: confronting reality“. The two best Pecha Kucha Presentations were: “Transforming Learning Technologists into Design Researchers“ by Brenda Bannan, and “Engagement by stealth: Can a PG Cert get teachers excited about tech?“ by Lindsay Jordan who dressed as a miner for this: ‘at the coalface’.

So overall, a really good conference – and here at the eLearning Unit we have hatched plans for presenting at ALT-C 2013 as a team.

Tünde (Varga-Atkins)

Visit by Christina Costa – ALT Learning Technologist of the Year 2010

The eLearning Unit were delighted to welcome Christina Costa to their office today. Christina is the Association for Learning Technology’s 2010 Learning Technologist of the year. The burning question on our lips was “How do we get to be next year’s winner?” (!) but we were more polite in the end and quizzed Christina on the kind of work she did, how she was supported in the University and whether and how we might collaborate in the future.

Cris
Christina Costa - ALT learning technologist of the year 2010

Christina is based at the University of Salford (in the Research and Graduate College) and won her award for her work developing staff and student use of social media (blogs, wikis, Twitter, Facebook, etc) for teaching, learning and research. Christina is particularly interested in utilising new media for the promotion of collaborative research and for dissemination of research activity, and we spent a very useful hour in discussion with Christina.

You can read Christina’s Postgraduate Research Team blog here and find her web presence here.

Read about the other winners and runners-up in this year’s awards here. (The eLearning Unit hope to meet up with the Oxford TALL team this year to learn from this award-winning unit).

Read more about the Association for Learning Technology here.