Last Thursday saw me venture down to the University of Exeter for the JISC RSC SW Annual Conference. I have been to all of the conferences and presented at many of them, keynoting at last year’s with David Sugden.
This year I was just a normal delegate, which was nice and different. I rarely go to conferences as just a delegate these days.
I also took the chance to try out just using my iPad as my main note taking, blogging and twittering device. It worked out just fine as you can read here and here. Following on from my earlier blog post on using the iPad at a conference I can see the iPad now replacing my laptop at these kinds of events. For longer events such as ALT-C or Handheld Learning I will take my laptop with me, but leave it in the hotel room so that I have use of it in the evening for video editing or audio editing.
Well back to the content of the conference…
I didn’t get much from the two opening keynotes, they were interesting, but didn’t in my mind inspire me to change my practice. Others though did find them more inspiring.
The opening keynote talked about the enterprise culture at the University of Plymouth and how it was changing what they did.
The second keynote was on Business and Community Engagement, which was by JISC.
The first session I attended was on Social Enterprise and how many business organisations now have a social motive over a profit motive. The second session was from JISC TechDis on engaging with SMEs. Gloucestershire has a large number of SMEs compared to somewhere like Bristol and often they can not “afford” to send their staff on training and staff development. In an interesting discussion we looked at the issues and challenges facing SMEs in the South-West and how FE providers (and others learning providers) can engage them and use technology to meet these challenges and break down invalid assumptions. One of the key conclusions was that there are cultural barriers both in the SMEs and in learning providers that need to be broken down before we can really provide solutions.
After a good lunch and lots of networking, it was time for the afternoon sessions.
I (with a little reservation) attended the session on Second Life by Bex Ferriday from Cornwall College.
She gave a very entertaining and informative trip through Second Life, lessons learned and some really good ideas on how to use Second Life for teaching and learning. I liked the idea of how it can be used with some groups to break down barriers and enhance communication – and once Second Life goes browser based I think this could see much more use being made of Second Life.
I also liked the idea of the underwater art gallery that contains student art that couldn’t exist in real life.
After more tea, it was Vicky Weavers from Weston College and their VLE Bronze, Silver and Gold standards. In many ways their standards are similar in concept to the five stage VLE model I put forward in an earlier blog post. One aspect of their model I did like, was that you only gained the standard if learners actually used the VLE.
What I was also interested in was the implementation, the carrot and stick approach. Weston College like most had tried the softly softly approach with limited sucess. The enthusiasts had certainly used the VLE effectively, but the use was sporadic and whole areas were not using the VLE. The college did feel, from student feedback, that access to online resources and learning was a “student entitlement” and that provision of such was patchy and lacked consistency.
By using a combination of clear standards, senior management, quality, other college processes and importantly middle management; the college was able to increase use of the VLE by staff and to increase use of the VLE by learners.
Some good ideas to take away.
I then popped to see the Futurelab demonstrations, some nice new technology there.
The final keynotes were on cloud computing, specifically Google Apps. I can see many FE Colleges moving over to Google Apps as a way of both enhancing student provision and saving money.
Overall a very information and interesting conference with lots of useful stuff to take away.