The third day note of #ALTC 2017

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Keynote Speech

Peter Goodyear‘s keynote speech was about learning space. He talked about designing different types of knowledge. My understanding is what he mentioned here is explicit knowledge. Can we design implicit knowledge? He used five examples of learning spaces to state that learning space we create should be for students to shape their own learning spaces. It needs to be designed to be easy for individual learning, for staff supervision and for everyone in the room to connect to each other. He also mentioned the idea of different levels of learning spaces, and call our attention to the barriers such as languages and concepts we used. Peter also pointed out in research we often have findings that rely on correlations between two elements. However is this the reality of what students are doing in classroom? Student learning isn’t well supervised in the room! What we did was just not to disrupt in the environment. His research of using Activity-centred analysis and design (ACAD) framework to help learning design shows how the way changes from focusing on learning goals to focusing on learning activities. It’s quite true to use design as reasoning for what actually students do in the space.

Morning Sessions

A very useful session for me is to learn the ABC (Arena Blended Connected) curriculum design from Natasa Perovic and Clive Young’s (UCL) “Presentation: Our rapid blended learning design method is ACE! [1728]”. As they introduced, “ABC is built on University of Ulster’s ‘Viewpoints’ approach and based on Diana Laurillard’s notion of six “learning types” from her well-established Conversational Framework.” This is a practical approach to help people to work together to design learning activities. I need to spend time on knowing the background and understanding how we can design staff engagement workshops using this approach.

I’m impressed by the TRI_IT (The Technology Related Innovation-Implementation Tool) that the University of Nottingham has developed. Richard Windle and  Adam Pryor (Loughborough University) presented in the session of “TRI-IT. You might like it. A tool to support innovation adoption in Higher Education. [1782]”. I will certainly try it and see in which context, I am able to construct a learning pattern with technologies deploy within it. I quickly browsed their HELT Open website. Their evaluation toolkit called my attention. This is something I am thinking to develop in supporting our learning resources.

Afternoon sessions

There were not many people attending the afternoon sessions. The most useful session for me was Rob Cullen’s (Manchester Metropolitan University) talk of “Teaching and Learning Conversations (TLCs): Building and sustaining a webinar community of practice. [1740]”. As it said on the website “The TLC is an exciting informal cross-institutional collaboration to provide joint CPD opportunities for everybody teaching and/or supporting learning in Higher Education.” They use Adobe Connect to run a series of open, informal, monthly interactive webinars which have built an active online community of practice. I am interested in the approaches that they used for webinar activity design as this can be a good example for our ALT Wales community to form and grow.

In addition, 7 colleagues from Cardiff University presented their wonderful work.

Presenter Session Resources
Laura Roach Reuse repurpose, recycle: Utilising existing technology to reduce staff workload in Higher Education [1714] video (from 53:35)
Christopher John and Geraint Evans EasyPoll: Risks, obstacles and instrumental success factors to developing a bespoke learning technology tool within UK Higher Education [1752]
Dewi Parry, Matt Smith and Karl Luke The Phoenix Project – Interactive Learning [1691] interactive learning
Karl Luke Using actor-network theory as a lens to explore lecture capture practices in and across spatial (re)configurations [1661]  Slides
Rebecca Ferriday The way to Academics’ Hearts is Through their Minds [1602]
Geraint Evans and Dewi Pary Developing professional networks for Learning Technologists at Cardiff University [1774]


There are a lot of learning and reflection after the three days. I am sure I will check back my notes of resources from the conference. I noticed that many institutions are developing learning design approaches, including students experience-focused pedagogical methods, engaging academic staff, students as partners, CPD, and community of practice. I also noticed that designing new “learning space” becomes a trend; many universities are working on reshaping teaching spaces with requirements for developing a clear strategy at the same time. The ALT is really a useful community for me. It will be the 25th conference next year.

Useful resources and tools I learnt in the day:

One thing I learnt so far is to be impactive. I haven’t done this very well. I remember in 2014, I talked to someone I met in the conference that I don’t understand why people who I don’t know follow me on Twitter. She responded: I don’t know, I suppose they agree your tweets, or maybe they thought they get useful resources from your tweets. I am kind of person who do not like to be noticed, but I realised what “impact” means from this year’s conference. Through twitter, blogs, talks, and published papers, people become influencer. I think this is a leadership skill.

After writing my notes, I worked out what is in the canvas ball. It does not tell me the future, but it does call my curiosity, and make me wonder what’s inside by looking at it from outside.


The second day note of #ALTC 2017

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Keynote Speech

Siân Bayne’s keynote speech encouraged us to rethink the value of anonymity and leave space for un-nameability and ephemerality through presenting her research study on Yik Yak. The Yik Yak was popular as an anonymous messaging app among youngsters and undergraduates, and it’s closed up in May 2017 due to the problems with cyberbullying which anonymity plays a key role. Surprisingly to know that “40% of students in Higher Education have witnessed online cyberbullying in their social media networks”. On the other hand, anonymity brings “unreachability” which can “enable particular  forms of equality” (see Siân Bayne’s references). I agree what she said “…not only they did this for branding themselves but also more or less compulsory to be on Facebook to function socially…” I gradually reduced my posts on my Facebook as I sometimes feel I was on Facebook only for keeping the connection with my friends all over the world, otherwise there is no better way of keeping the connections. I will read the article “You are the Product” to learn how personal data are used by Facebook. I came across the Tor project, which aims to protect people’s data against a common form of Internet surveillance. However, I wonder how secure of using services like Tor will be.

Morning sessions

It’s good to see Fotios Misopoulos’ presentation of “Effectiveness of Learner-to-Learner Interaction in e-learning: An instructors’ perspective [1776]” (University of Liverpool). It showed a study of dimension of interactions that proves students using discussion board get better grades if they are encouraged to participate in a way that (1) having questions lead to common interested topics, (2) having questions that bring different views to debate, or (3) having questions students link to their own experience and stories.

I was particularly interested in Vicki Holmes and Adam Bailey’s (University of Reading) presentation of “Right Here! Right Now! Placing pedagogy at the heart of web-conferencing [1783]” as I have been involved in the Blackboard Collaborate project in Cardiff University. It will be good to compare how they have supported the technology from early adoption stage to business as usual. They had a 2-year project and chose the early adopters who had impact on students learning experience by adopting the technology. From their online support resources, I can’t see many differences from what we have offered to our users. However, their three groups of use cases are something I can look at in depth as we didn’t list our use cases in this way. They suggested good practice from these aspects: clear purpose, design for interaction, presentation techniques and prepare students. They also shared the things they learnt from the project: the technology increased flexibility, improved communication, attendance is unaffected, positive student feedback, staff learning curve, and the importance of audio.

Redesigning the learning space seems one trend that most universities are working on. Although I didn’t intend to attend sessions about digital learning spaces, I learnt it briefly from the session of “Rethinking Lectures in Redesigned, Collaborative, Learning Environments [1784]”. Beth Snowden and Bronwen Swinnerton (University of Leeds) presented how they have designed the lecture theatre using three dimensions approach: pedagogy, space, technology and how user feedback was. Their case studies of the staff/students experience of the new lecture theatre can be seen online.

Catherine Naamani (University of South Wales) talked about a grounded theory study of students experience of digital classroom in the session of “It isn’t all about the technology: An exploration of the impact of learning space design on collaborative approaches in the digital classroom. [1803]”. I had a chance to be in the digital classroom as the part of the Digital Classroom Roadshow once. I liked the flexibility between changing groups to control presenting screens. I liked the easiness of accessing to an online group and team working. However, I dislike the fixed facilitates. It’s costy, immovable, and bonded within the space. The presentation included her findings such as staff perspective focused on technology rather than pedagogy; preparation is the key, and manage dominant groups in the classroom, technology barriers, staff development and confidence building and accessibility issues.

Afternoon sessions

In the afternoon, I attended two 1-hour workshops. I attended Thomas Cochrane’s “Mobile VR in Education Workshop [1641]” session because I am interested to see how VR can be used. I haven’t been involved in any work using mobile VR and it’s a good opportunity for me to understand its usefulness. The session details are accessible. Due to a poor WiFi connection, my experience of trying the mobile apps wasn’t as good as I expected. But I see the potential of using VR tools. I immediately thought we can use the technology to create open day virtual tour and the University maps and locations. We can also use it to create health and safety online training.

It was pity that not many people turned up in Julie Usher and Vicky Brown’s session of “EnABLing the Institution: a holistic approach to enhancing the student experience [1677]”. I quite like the activity in the session. Their work has been recognised and won the ALT team award this year. The session details are below.

More useful resources and tools I learnt in the day:

10 top tips for A.B.L. [Active Blended Learning], University of Nottingham

The first day note of #ALTC 2017

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It’s the second time I attended the ALT conference since the one in 2014. I’m glad to have the opportunity to join again.

Keynote speech

In Bonnie Stewart’s keynote speech, the most interesting norm for me is “adaptive change”, which was originally defined by Ronald Heifetz (1998). He stated that change has technical and adaptive elements. Technical challenges require changes in our skill sets. The current knowledge, expertise and resources are enough to deal effectively. Adaptive challenges require changes our mindsets. The problem is not clearly defined, and there are no clear answers. The current knowledge and expertise cannot solve the problem, but require risk taking, creativity and the ability to use “failures” as learning opportunities. (Jillian Lohndorf and Patrick Sanaghan). This may be the reason why we are unable to resolve the challenges, as we keep using technical means in adaptive challenges.

Another interesting term is “Cyborg”, which Donna Haraway used as a metaphor in her essay “A Cyborg Manifesto”. Without knowing the background of Haraway and her feminism opinions, it’s hard for me to fully understand her essay. However, I have been fascinated to find the “Life with extra Senses – How to become a Cyborg” presentation. It makes a lot of sense for me to understand where Cyborg is from and why it is a norm. It opened my eyes up to accessibility. How amazing it would be if I could sense the nature as other creatures do? I will explore the cyborgfundation later. Right now, the colours on the website is a kind of harsh for me eyes. I don’t know if this is because I’m sensitive to certain colours.

It’s a busy day. I used twitter, offline Word document, and web browser bookmark to quickly make notes. The WiFi wasn’t good, so I switched from using Google doc to an offline Word document.

Morning sessions

In Cardiff University, we provide Staff induction module and Students induction module about Learning Central (our VLE platform). However, it is open only to the University users. What I like about the York TEL Handbook from Richard Walker and Wayne Britcliffe’s session “Facilitating student-led teaching and content creation through technology: Use cases, instructional design & delivery responsibilities [1623]” is that it has embedded in their University learning and teaching strategy, and the handbook is almost completely open to public. The session resources are accessible from

I was pleased to sit next to Fiona Handley (University of Brighton) at lunch time after attended her session of “Student technology ambassadors schemes: their impact on roles, relationships and digital skills training in UK higher education [1698]”. One unexpected finding from her research was students talked digital skills as general; they often relate to specific technology/tool, but they do not see knowing of using a technology/tool as gaining digital skills.

The findings from the Student digital experience tracker definitely help me to see the differences between students’ perception and my perceptions about students using technology and is useful for me to refer to when support staff to adopt a new technology in their teaching and learning activities. For example, we should be careful of giving suggestions when staff said almost all my students use their own devices according to the finding of 88% HE students are using personal laptops and 66% HE students are using institutional desktops.

Afternoon sessions

Daniel Roberts and Tünde Varga-Atkins from the University of Liverpool presented how they bench-marked the VLE baseline in their presentation “Are we serving from the baseline? Student and staff perspectives on an Institutional VLE Baseline requirement. [1637]”. We have released the minimum standards for Learning Central this year, and this is the University of Liverpool’s core VLE baseline. Aha, this video shows we were discussing our own practice about VEL minimum standards in the session.

My colleague Simon Wood was mentioned by Lawrie Phipps and Simon Thomson in their presentation of “VLE to PLE – The next generation of digital learning environment. [1678]”. Personalised User Learning Social Environment (PULSE) is a HEFCE funded project being led by the Centre for Learning & Teaching at Leeds Beckett University. I like the idea of changing “the ownership model of educational technology from predominantly being institutionally owned systems to ones which are personally owned by the student”. However, I think it challenges us to question how active and self–actualisation the students are to be able to take the ownership. The session polling results can be seen in the open document, and their findings from student feedback of VLE is very useful for other universities. For me, PLE is much wider than VLE which we seem to construct students’ learning in certain structure. PLE doesn’t need to be formal like the VLE which most universities are offering. It has been created informally and are changing of its forms with the learner tailors what are the most efficient ways for themselves.

I attended Peter Bryant, David White, and Donna Lanclos’ (The London School of Economics and Political Science) workshop of “Be in the conversation, not just the room – Hack your way to influencing pedagogical and technological strategy [1644]”. In the session, I learnt that Future Happens can be a practical method for helping learning technologists to propose changing solutions to steering groups and respond to questions from senior managers. I haven’t fully worked out how we can use it in our work, but I like it’s rules, such as “We are here to build not smash”.

More useful resources and tools I learnt in the day:

Good and bad:

  • I know it’s impossible to attend all sessions. The good thing is some session videos or slides are available soon, and I can view them after the conference.
  • I wonder if it’s just me who think there is little time for reflecting on each session I attended. Four sessions in an hour are a lot to take on. I would prefer to see more in-depth discussions/debate between similar work from different universities and hand-on workshops. I also wish the programme instruction provides the author’s institution.
  • The WiFi keeps disconnecting. Eduroam should work in most universities, unfortunately it isn’t. I have been in sessions required a quick online poll and Google doc group writing. No good Internet connection interrupted people. The lesson I learnt is to always prepare a Plan B of non-online activity to quickly resolve the problem of being unable to take online activity that is caused by poor WiFi.
  • Funny enough, we thought people have mobile phone or watch to check time. The reality is, people including presenters do look for a clock in the room to check time. Must be something psychological relating to this behaviour.

Good online courses – related teams and design examples

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When we support staff to deliver effective online activities using technology, we inevitably help them to review their online course design. We want to know what’s the purpose of the online activity, what are the objectives of the course, and what are their expectations for learning outcomes. I read the article “Teaching the Principles of Effective Online Course Design: What Works?”. A diagram of Members of the Course Development Team in the article has attracted my attention. I asked myself questions “Where is the role of learning technologist in the this diagram?” “Is learning technologist a general term that covers the four areas in the diagram?” Thinking of my work, it seems the Instructional Designer work area closer to the Learning technologist.

Then I spent a bit time to read the article “What’s the Best Job Title for Those Who Build E-Learning Courses?” and the discussions underneath, and Multiple Skills that are required in developing e-learning courses. I prefer to focus on what skills we need to have and develop in order to support/deliver successful e-learning courses.

Back to the point of effective online course design, there are many excellent course examples to inspire us to create something original. Have a look at the available course tour, to see which design ideas will be the most helpful for your own course design.

“The Blackboard Exemplary Course Program (ECP) began in 2000 with the goal of identifying and disseminating best practices for designing high quality courses.”

Blackboard Inc.

“AU Exemplary Course Award (ECA) is to support staff in enhancing their modules on AberLearn Blackboard and to share good practice across the university.”

Aberystwyth University

What and How to Teach with Video – Week 2-4

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In week 2, I learnt pedagogically Effective Design for video, which is the essential knowledge in order to achieve the potential of the pedagogic roles. The Week 3 and Week 4 are design exercises. As I was late to register this course, I did this exercise without a peer group.

The Design Principles includes 30 principles defined in 8 categories (Hook, Signpost, Cognitive Engagement, Constructive Learning, Sensitise, Elucidate, Reinforce and Consolidate). This framework is based on the educators ideas at the BBC Open University Production Centre.

As Jack has said that “It’s often necessary to complement video with discussion, printed guidance, practice, formative evaluation”, I can see this course is designed in such way. I really like Jack’s demonstration in each video. In each unit, he provides learning materials underneath the video. In the video, he explains the concepts with examples and used colours to highlight the principles he was talking. His presentation alongside the content does help learners to follow and understand better. For example, the explanation about “control pace” and “word-image synergy” helps me a lot. As when I made a webcast, I spoke slowly because I knew users can change the play speed themselves, but I didn’t think wording and how can I say it in different ways to make the indicate syntax, or where should I pause longer or short due to indicate a new topic, etc.

I like the exercises about which pedagogic roles overlap with the design principles too. The difficult ones for me are:

  • “Concertise/Activate their knowledge” overlaps with “visual representation/analogy/metaphor” and “illustrating concepts”;
  • “Control pace, depth, breath” overlaps with “composite images”, “modelling”, and “condensing time” , and
  • “Maximise cognitive clarity” overlaps with “animated diagrams”.

It’s not easy to remember all 30 design principles and 33 pedagogic roles. However, it’s easy to remember some of the video clips that Jack used to explain the concepts. I will definitely consider what I learnt from this course, and apply the principles that I think the most beneficial for learners when I prepare to deliver video content.

Thanks for Jack Koumi run this open course. Jack Koumi’s latest publications:

At last, I have to say that I found that navigating a course on EMMA isn’t easy. I missed a few assignments, and later I realised that I can go to the course – My Dashboard to view all units and assignments/quizzes linearly, so I can see which section I have missed.  Also the Unit sections should have a number like 1.1 to help learners to browser. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t notice Jack’s blog if I didn’t read his comment in a discussion. He has summarised assignment answers and key notes in his blog, which is very important.

LER & Uses of technology using action research – Week 1

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I started my third MOOC course “Researching learners’ experiences and uses of technology using action research” on EMMA.

This is an interesting topic, which I expect to refresh my knowledge of action research and learn the latest research in this area. Hopefully I will take this opportunity to review a learner experience investigation design I undertook two years ago.

Working in the area of supporting VLE and learning technologies, it’s important for us to know what users’ experience is, especially to know:

  • What’s their views about using technologies in learning activities?
  • What are the benefits and barriers for them when using technologies in teaching and learning?
  • What are their expectation for learning technologies support?

Here the “user” include both staff and students who are using the learning technology. By knowing users’ experience, we will be able to understand users’ needs better, improve our support, and have evidences to help make decisions when we recommend changes. And the fundamental point is if we don’t try to understand our users, what do we have learning technologies for?

I’m glad to read some good resources of learning experience research this week.

  • JISC Digital Student project to explore students’ expectations and experiences with digital technology. Looking forward to seeing more findings.
  • JISC Learner voices in further education videos show that technologies have been used a lot in students’ study. I think it’s necessary that there are investment for students who don’t have fast devices to be able to use technologies easily. Meanwhile, staff and students who are not familiar with the technologies need to have training and well supporting.
  • LSE 2020 Vision – Students on the future of learning found that “A strong belief that technology could overcome the problems of a one to many educational paradigm and help to personalise their learning (students expected this technology to be innovative, seamless and easy to use)…”  Looking forward to reading their Stage 2 report at the end of Summer term.
  • Sharpe, R. and Benfield, G. (2005). The Student Experience of E-learning in Higher Education: A Review of the Literature. Brookes eJournal of Learning and Teaching, 1 (3).
  • Sharpe, R. and Benfield, G. (2014). Reflections on ‘The student experience of e-learning in higher education: a review of the literature’. Brookes eJournal of Learning and Teaching, 6 (1). This review shows the research changes of e-learning in HE, from ‘teacher-centred’ to ‘student-centred’, from “effective learner” to “digital literacy”, from “e-assessment” to “students as assessment partners”. I wonder how the research has impacted the teaching and learning practice?

One inconvenient thing is that this course hasn’t made all learning materials of following weeks available, which is different from my other two MOOC courses that learners can decide their pace.

What and How to Teach with Video – Week 1

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The Digital Accessibility course I took on FutureLearn is very useful. It took my spare time but I enjoyed to learn new things that I can bring into practice immediately. I noticed a course “What and how to teach with video” on EMMA, another MOOC platform. I think it will be interesting and useful too as using video is so popular nowadays. Thus I decided to register. Although I was far too late, it’s still good to have the opportunity to learn it.

Firstly, I list some of the comparisons between EMMA and FutureLearn in terms of my experience.

  • Both websites are easy to use.
  • EMMA is beta version, so loading the course pages is slow.
  • EMMA provides blog functionality. However, this blog area is not course-based. It is a public blog opening to all EMMA users.
  • EMMA blog does not have spelling check feature.
  • EMMA blog – Add New Post – New Post Content – does not support Font and Colours settings.
  • EMMA comments do not support paragraph spacing, so make comments hard to read.
  • EMMA does not have ‘like’ feature option for comments, and can’t reply to a reply.
  • Both websites provide Progress for me to check. EMMA provides more details in one picture so I can see which one I have done, which one I haven’t easily.

The course has a clear structure and it uses videos in an excellent way because it’s topic is Teaching with Video.

The first week is about what to teach with video, leading to robust learning outcomes. It’s presented as four domains: Cognitive, Experiential, Affective, Skills and 33 Potent pedagogic roles. I watch videos every day and make videos occasionally, but never really summarised what I use video for. Taking this chance I will learn it systematically from Jack Koumi.

I really like that it has been separated between techniques (you facilitate learning by using video and you use video to provide realistic experiences) and teaching functions (what you try to teach by using video). At the beginning I was a bit confused between some of roles and a video example could play multiple roles. However, after using the guideline to check some of the videos I watched on Youtube, the 33 potent pedagogic roles do make sense.

Also I quite like the handout for each lesson, and the video in each unit was broken down by explanation and examples. As I registered late, reading other people’s comments are interesting. However, there are other languages in it, which is difficult for me to understand. I don’t know if EMMA can provide automatic translation for these non-English languages.

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