Last week, I had the pleasure of attending and participating as a finalist in SETS (Southeast Technology Showcase), JISC’s annual awards scheme, designed to identify, promote, reward and disseminate the best e-learning practice taking place across the Southeast of England (SETS was formally known as the HiFi Awards). Each presentation was awarded points (1-10) by everyone else in the room according to 1) benefits to learning and teaching and 2) benefits to the university. Along with UCA colleagues, we witnessed some truly amazing work, which I’ll attempt to highlight below. I’ll also have a stab at what UCA can learn and apply from this innovative practice.
Notably highlighted are some of the methodologies and mechanisms employed by UCA’s Learning Technologists to enable Library and Faculty staff to ‘centrally manage’ content residing in over 1000 courses and units. The submission also looks at how the learning technologists audit e-learning activity across the university, which in turn informs UCA’s seven Schools of their course’s strengths/weaknesses and gives each the ability to share and learn best practice collectively.
Swim UK the SETS winner presented a very effective use of the iPad. The swimming instructor would simply video the learner swimming underwater which then allowed playback at the poolside to look at areas of improvement for stroke and technique…
…Personally, I was surprised this submission won compared to some of the very clever and innovative entries I saw. It really does demonstrate the importance of applying the appropriate use technology to the right context – and I guess this was spot-on – simple but extremely effective.
Reading College came runner up with 4 students talking very enthusiastically about their experience of using a Google+ Community as their virtual learning environment and how it served as a vital mechanism for honest peer-to-peer feedback. Studying Object Orientated Programming (OOP) the students consisted of 3 separate groups who are never in college at the same time. In place of the college’s Moodle LMS, a Google + Community was chosen as a virtual classroom to encourage collaborative working. Set up as a private community with only the students and staff as members, this online space enabled a secure and supportive environment. The G+ community contained the assignment material, noticeboard and links to resources, students were asked to share their work at different stages throughout project and peer-to-peer feedback was encouraged. With the G+ app being available on range of devices it meant that students could gain access to the community anytime and anywhere….
…For me the most striking comment came from a student who said that learning on a tool they used everyday (their phone) and building applications such as game design, the use of Google + was second nature as this was the technology of their generation. Social media platforms do indeed provide a very strong aspect to peer review and feedback in a less formal manner. This informality might even prove to be more effective to student learning than traditional forms of peer review – be it blind or formally arranged by their teachers.
Students from Reading College presenting their ideas at SETS
Eastleigh College showcased their use of iPads and help videos students used inside workshop from benches and some seriously big machinery. Designed and produced by students, these iPads were encased in metal covers and perspex fronts that stood on workbenches or could be secured to lathes….
…Having these iPads to hand in a workshop situation in-situ proved beneficial to both students and staff as you can imagine. Technicians can easily locate demonstration videos to show learners – freeing up time to attend to all the other duties that videos cannot replace.
Kent Community Learning and Skills, a learning provider for Kent County Council presented their Virtual Classrooms using Blackboard Collaborate to deliver ESOL to social workers recruited from other EU countries. These learners required support with understanding English grammar and British slang. Being spread across Kent the virtual classrooms provided an excellent and cost effective learning/teaching tool. Indeed, this was one of our favourite showcases…
…For UCA, this practice would certainly be useful for group tutorials or one-to-one tutorials especially with International students. The spanner in the works is JAVA, a technology Collaborate uses. JAVA updates frequently, but without updating the plugin, Collaborate will not work. The computers at UCA are managed by IT Services and students/staff cannot update the JAVA plugin, as they do not have the admin rights. Therefore practically speaking, if we wanted to use this technology, our IT processes would need to change. Students with their own devices would of course not be affected. I remember at the OU, we also used Collaborate (with Moodle) and part of the orientation process was to get set-up, explore and check everything works before an actual live session so all the potential hiccups were dealt with.
MidKent College presented an extremely smart, user friendly Virtual Coach for use in Medway and Maidstone staff rooms to provide cross-site teacher learning resources, videos, communication and information. Built in HTML and Metro UI CSS, the tiled web resource also included a Skype video calling feature, which allows communicate between both sites by touching the relevant tile. This resource was obviously built around a need and demand premise. It allows virtual communication between 2 campuses and provides a learning platform to boot…
MidKent College presenting their Virtual Tutor at SETS
…For UCA, I don’t think this model would work so well as very little use is made of staff rooms and a good of majority of academic staff are sessional. Therefore a 24/7 anywhere, anytime web-based resource would work better. However, there are a few lessons to be learnt from the very slick user interface and ease of use MidKent
Hadlow College project focused on the support they given to help learners turn their newly acquired skills into opportunity for self-employment. It is more common for Florists to be self-employed rather than find employment working for others. The Facebook business page is seen as a good and cost effective method of presenting Floristry that helps to attract and retain clients. With a view to helping learners finding or improving self-employment on completing the course, the Floristry teachers decided to make effective Facebook presentation part of the curriculum starting in August last year. Consequently, recognition of this end point of study for many learners required the development of self-promoting technologies to help learners understand, design and prepare for developing a client based of their own…
…For UCA, the approach to use social media for self-promotion is not new. However I was interested in the Facebook business pages Hadlow students were encouraged to create under the guidance of their teachers. The many hurdles of using social media can be addressed at course level so the entrepreneurial efforts of these emerging Florists can bloom and grow into professional and successful businesses…. WELL DONE!
Havant Sixth Form College presented a Web-based system to enhance differentiation in teaching and learning. Used by the Learning Support Department, the system allows academic staff to be informed about each student’s learning needs. Very detailed information is held about the learning ability of each student such as the learning style, working memory, sequencing/processing skills, reading/writing speeds, etc. as well as information about the type of aids/techniques that would help improve learning. The system also contains various reports for the Learning Support Manager so that she can track the administration processes and ensure deadlines are met. The system integrates with the college MIS database and Moodle LMS to provide a subset of data relevant to academic staff…
This screen shows details of the student’s Nature of learning difficulty / need along other notes and strategies
…This system works rather like Caseworker but is relevant to every student. Built very much around the needs of the College, it certainly impressed the people sitting on our table. Having such a system at UCA would bring great benefits to learning and teaching, meaning we would all be on the same page and no doubt retention figures would improve.
Southampton Solent University showcased their Reading List Project which provides students from foundation level to taught masters with reading lists that link to required readings, fully embedded in their VLE unit pages in the correct referencing style. The software enables the reading list to be linked to the Library catalogue for print materials and ebooks, and hyperlinks to online material such as ejournal articles, digitised chapters, videos and webpages. Lists are easily accessed on and off campus and via mobile devices. The system is very flexible so reading lists can be quickly amended or moved at any time once live. Multiple reading lists can be provided for each unit allowing staff to take different approaches (such as core, general, topic-based and weekly lists). The project, now in its 4th year, is a bespoke open source development integrating Moodle and RefWorks based on the Open University Telstar codebase…
…UCA has some of these elements but more work is needed to unify unit reading and embed this into myUCA. We subscribe to RefWorks but students do not employ it heavily. The work Solent has done gives us plenty to follow up on. Currently, unit reading lists are given within the unit handbook which is a print-based document uploaded to the VLE, having a referenced style hyperlinked reading list embedded within each unit is certainly an aspiration for UCA that’s not too far off from happening.