The coffee is still usually better…

July 28, 2009

Those of you who know me will know that I quite like online conferences and have participated in a fair few over the years. JISC are running another of their innovating e-learning conferences this November.

The JISC Online e-Learning Conference 2009 takes place between the 24 and 27th November.

Train delays, expensive hotels and piles of notes are a thing of the past for delegates joining JISC’s latest e-learning conference – because the whole programme takes place online.

Researchers, practitioners and managers with an interest in technology for learning are being encouraged to sign up now for the fourth online conference ‘Innovating E-Learning’ on 24 – 27 November 2009.

Delegates can interact in real-time sessions, watch presenters on video, meet other delegates in the virtual coffee shop, and comment on the conference using Twitter.

Conference organiser Sarah Knight said: “Innovating E-Learning gives people a chance to take a step back from their everyday work and look at technology from a different and innovative angle.

“Perhaps most importantly, JISC wants to provide a space for researchers and teachers to discuss the challenges facing their institutions with the keynote speakers and delegates from all over the world.”

Keynote speakers include Helen Beetham, the author and researcher who has played a leading role in the JISC e-learning programme, Dr Rhona Sharpe, principal lecturer at the Oxford centre for staff  and learning development at Oxford Brookes University, and Peter Bradwell, researcher at the think tank Demos.

They will explore topics ranging from the basic principles of using technology in education, to helping overseas learners and meeting the needs of employers.

Sarah added: “By sharing ideas and good practice universities and colleges can make sure that they stay up-to-date on new developments.”

Four years from its inception, the online conference continues to receive positive feedback.

One delegate at last year’s event commented: “For me, it is the most wonderful experience to be able to sit back and listen to so many knowledgeable people chatting away in such an accessible way about things I care about. I normally follow a number of mailing lists, blogs and social spaces, but being here is like having all that up-to-date information condensed and available at my fingertips.”

To register and find out more, visit the conference website.

There are a few advantages of online conferences over traditional face to face conferences, feel free to add to them in the comments.

With an online conference it is feasible to go to all the presentations and workshops even if they are at the *same time*.

If you are a reflective person, then like me the question you actually want to ask the presenter is thought of as you travel home on the train, with an online conference you have a chance to reflect and ask that question.

You can attend a meeting at the same time as attending the conference.

You can teach a lesson at the same time as attending the conference.

You can watch Doctor Who at the same time as attending the conference.

You can attend the conference at 2am, useful for insomniacs and those with small children.

Having said all that it is useful too to make time for the conference, shut the office door, work from home for a bit, wear headphones, move to a different office, work in the coffee spaces in the college.

You can see presentations again, you can pause them, you can ignore them and (virtually) walk out without feeling you may be offending someone as their talk doesn’t relate to you as you thought it did.

No more do you have to stand on platform 12 at Bristol Temple Meads wondering if the delayed 18.19 is in fact ever going to arrive before you freeze to death.

The coffee is usually better.

The coffee is usually better...

A few disadvantages as well…

No bag, so nothing to add to that huge collection at the back of the cupboard in the office…

No physical freebies, no mouse mats or mugs…

Finally the JISC have asked if I will be the conference blogger again, hmmm, do they realise what they have done….

Go, you’ll enjoy it.

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Microblogging

July 25, 2009

Nice little simple video from JISC on microblogging.

Also available on blip.tv with more information on the project blog.


Libraries of the future

July 20, 2009

So what is the Library of the future, JISC have been having that discussion.

“To move from the present library to what is required in the future will be an immense challenge.  JISC will use the outcomes from the debate to guide institutions in how to plan their futures.”

Watch the video.

More from JISC on Libraries of the future


QR Coding

July 16, 2009

Today I was in Bristol for a meeting about QR Codes as part of a JISC LTIG project being run by the University of Bath.

We discussed lots of different uses of QR Codes, barriers to use of the codes and ideas for the future.

After lunch we visited an exhibition in Bristol city centre which makes use of QR Codes, whilst there I shot some video and made this short film.

Watch out for QR Codes at ALT-C this year.


100 ways to use a VLE – #7 Assignment Submission

July 4, 2009

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We often ask learners to submit assignments, often with a top sheet and to get it signed in. All this takes time and staff.

So why don’t we use the tools that we have in the VLE?

Most VLEs like Moodle, have the option of allowing learners to submit assignment electronically. The student uploads their assignment (as an electronic file). The VLE records the time and date of submission and more often then not, gives the student a receipt of their submission.

The tutor can very easily see which students have submitted and which haven’t. Some VLE assignment submission systems can be configured to not accept late submissions, but even if you do, you will be able to see which were late and which were on time.

Using tools such as Turnitin, it is possible to add automatic plagarisim detection to the submission process, flagging up assignments which may or may not need to be checked.

So why don’t we do it more often?

Well there are lots of reasons and some of them are quite valid.

If you submit electronically, then you need to mark them electronically, and some staff have reservations about marking on a screen. Either they don’t like looking at a screen for a long time or they don’t have easy access to a computer. Also though tools such as Word do allow for commenting and annotation, they are not the most intuitive of tools to use. As a result they will often print the assignments out, this means instead of twenty learners printing out one document each, the lecturer will be printing twenty out, which takes time, the time which was supposed to be saved by the learners submitting their documents electronically.

The learner will need access to the VLE to submit their work. If they don’t have access from home, will they be able to do so from college. It makes sense to think about the deadline for assignments as a result.

What about when the assignment submission process fails? The VLE doesn’t work or falls over. Well common sense approach works here, in the same way if the member of staff who collects physical assignments was ill, you just work around the problem and provide the students with a different way of submitting work, or change the deadline.

What about if learners don’t want to submit electronically? If as a institution you are embracing the concept of personalisation, then electronic submission may be just one way in which students can submit work, you may want to offer them a choice.

One solution which staff may want to think about is changing the way they mark electronic documents, stop thinking of them as electronic paper documents that you “write” on, but as digital files and as a result use digital technologies to mark them. What about using audio or video to provide feedback? Record your thoughts and feedback as you mark the document; then the student will be able to listen to your feedback as a virtual you and they go through the assignment. The JISC Sounds Good project did some interesting work on this. One of the tutors at Gloucestershire College has also undertaken a trial with recording feedback, and has had very positive feedback from the learners, who have taken more notice of the audio feedback and found it more useful.

Of course some assignments just don’t fit electronic submission, a poster for example. However just because one format of assignment doesn’t fit, doesn’t mean we should never use electronic submission. Electronic submission actually makes it possible for a wider range of assessments to be submitted than just written assignments. Learners can submit videos, audio files, muti-media presentations. With tools such as Google Docs, wikis, Prezi, Slideshare and other online presentation sites it is now much easier for learners to demonstrate their understanding.

Submitting assignments through the VLE is one way in which you can increase use of the VLE and make it easier for learners to get a better understanding of how it works and more choice on what and how they submit their work.

Photo source.


Open Educational Resources

June 25, 2009

Those who know me know that I am a huge fan of sharing and collaboration. It was a key part of my role at the Western Colleges Consortium and I have contined to promote sharing of practice and resources.

Back in 2002, MIT launched their OpenCourseWare, and I on this blog reported in December 2007 about Yale’s entry into this field.

Yesterday, JISC officially launched the Open Educational Resources programme.

Open Educational Resources (OER), funded by HEFCE and run by the Academy and JISC, aims to make a wide range of learning resources created by academics freely available, easily discovered and routinely re-used by both educators and learners.

OER could include full courses, course materials, complete modules, notes, videos, assessments, tests, simulations, worked examples, software, and any other tools or materials or techniques used to support access to knowledge. These resources will be released under an intellectual property license that permits open use and adaptation.

As well as providing a wealth of resources which can be used (and much of the material can be used in FE as well as HE courses) it also sends a message to universities and college that it is okay to share and good to share. It should have a positive impact on your reputation and enhance and enrich the learning experience of your learners.


RSC SW Summer Conference

June 23, 2009

Despite earlier problems with embedding a Flickr slideshow into a WordPress.com blog, Vodpod appears to have resolved the issue.

Here is a slideshow of photographs I took at the RSC SW Summer Conference.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “RSC SW Conference“, posted with vodpod