Durham Blackboard Users Conference 2014 – my highlights

Conference Theme: personalised learning

90% MOOCS are didactic – why bother!
The opening keynote by Professor Patrick Carmichael challenged the use of video being inappropriately used in 90% of MOOCS saying this practice amounted to a didactic learning model devoid of any real and meaningful pedagogy… No lecture notes, discussion, context and meaningful conversation – just a one-way dialogue which could be better served at TED or Khan. He argued for video to be embedded within a pedagogic context involving critical discussion and reflective activity that took learning to a deeper level. He showcased a video/discussion type software he co-developed which evolved from his Ensemble project which focuses on Semantic Technologies for the Enhancement of Case Based Learning.

UCA could create a similar model by using embedded video (eStream, Vimeo, YouTube etc) into a discussion tool or wiki even, this would then allow for associated learning materials and dialogue to take place.

Using eStream to help assess video work
Chris Boon from City College Norwich presented work around handling large video files for assessment. His students are uploading their video course work to defined categories within eStream and then using the mashup tool within blackboard assignment to submit their work for assessment. By using eStream, the videos ‘stream’ as opposed to slow clunky downloads, they are able to be presented within context and the tutor is able to view/feedback on the same page. The uploaded video in eStream are made private to the student and thereby only accessed/embedded by that student.

Chris also spoke about the pedagogic role video assignments have at City, whereby video production and role play are offered as alternatives to written assignments. The example given involved a group activity (3 per group) tasked with creating a video production relating to a work-based scenario (around child care), with each person acting out a particular role. Tutor feedback stated the collaborative activity greatly enriched learning outcomes from a shared perspective and greatly improved students confidence.

Currently at UCA, videos are either uploaded to the Blackboard assignment or linked/embedded from Vimeo/YouTube. Having the video hosted externally brings it’s own set of problems such as students developing the work remotely after the hand-in date, copyright and IP issues. So using eStream to assess video work at UCA is definitely worth investigating.

Derby’s VLE’s Threshold Standards and Staff Digital Literacy
Sarah Horrigan and Laura Hollinshead from Derby university presented their work on how they developed their own TEL benchmarking matrix to evaluate how well staff use the university’s VLE. This slightly differs from the annual learning technology audit we run at UCA which measures engagement with elearning by the level of activity found. Interestingly, they audit the VLE from a ‘student perspective’ by turning the edit mode off. Certain elements from this practice would be good to employ at UCA in terms of measuring staff digital literacy – perhaps employ students to define what constitutes a good course area which would then help determine the UCA’s threshold standards (formally known as minimum requirements).

The closing keynote by Robin Goodfellow spoke about how statistical data can (but often can’t) measure student learning. He has concerns technology can be used too elaborately trying to do too much and overly complicate systems. He gave the former MyStuff portfolio system (operating circa 2008 at the OU) as being a classic model of a system trying to do too many processes which results in an overly complex tool turning students off. Ironically, I was one of those students studying for a MAODE and having to use such a system only encouraged me to find my own Portfolio tool (Google Docs) which was a very good thing, as I am a firm believer in student ownership which converts to student empowerment. Here’s a grab of MyStuff in all it’s glory.


Finally, I should also mention my own presentation which showcased how the logistical attributes of UCA (University for the Creative Arts) has shaped the growth and management of learning technology with respect to Blackboard the university’s VLE and making learning material available via course templates and module pages.


1 thought on “Durham Blackboard Users Conference 2014 – my highlights

  1. Pingback: Durham Blackboard Conference 2014 | UCA Library & Student Services Staff Development Hub

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