JISC Learning & Teaching Practice Experts Group Meeting

by Paul Maharg on 29/10/2008

The above JISC group meets around three times a year.  These are valuable sessions, keeping those of us who go in touch with each other, and in touch with what JISC are planning to do. Today's session was held at the Lakeside Centre in Aston U., Birmingham.  More detail below the fold…

Session 1: Learner Experience of E-learning

Interesting session where members of the JISC Learner Experience Programme gave us feedback on their findings.  According to them,what institutions need to consider is the following:

  1. Embedding the learner point of view into course design and evaluation.
  2. Allowing learners to personalize technology.
  3. Ensuring consistency of IT provision, with minimum requirements for course and module information, eg planning induction, diagnosis, early intervention in technology and awareness of skills. 
  4. Use of mobile, wireless, personal and social technologies to help learners fit learning into their lives. 
  5. Developing strategies to respond to the digital revolution
  6. Ensuring learners have access to high quality digital content
  7. Developing academic staff use of web 2.0 technologies
  8. Dealing with notion of digital literacy 

The resources being assembled for this project are impressive.  In a group activity, we were asked to consider a number of tasks that students could be given to do as part of their programme of study using technology of one sort or another, and asked to say how institutions could support those activities better. Eg bricolage or patch writing, where learners piece assignments together from a large number of sources, some of which may be existing work of that learner while others have been downloaded or borrowed from a friend.  Strategic learners will write over and rework these pieces to fit them for their new context and incidentally also to hide the fact of their being borrowed. I was attracted to this particular task because it describes quite closely what we ask students to do in the ALIAS project – Ardcalloch Legal Information and Advice Centre.

Mark Childs pointed out that many of the activities we were given have policy implications for institutions, no matter whether it involved controlling, managing, influencing, initiating within the institution.  Others pointed out that many activities needed strong programmes of staff development; and the team agreed. 

The problem of learners in a corporate environment was discussed – eg how can students personalize desktops, apps, ways of learning with technology?  RSC North-East has just developed a suite of apps that students can use on a memory stick, so that students can personalize corporate hardware – not a total solution (what is…) but a significant step. 

Interesting issues were discussed re access to content – eg several participants pointed out that medical students at their institution would freely use multimedia, Flash, innovative web stuff – then on placement in surgeries or elsewhere they would have to use locked-down, high security NHS hardware where they couldn’t get access to their earlier resources. 


Session 2: Grand Challenges for Technology Enhanced Learning

Next up was Richard Noss, from London Knowledge Lab and TLRP Associate Director for Technology Enhanced Learning www.tlrp.org/tel  He addressed what he called the Grand Challenges for Technology Enhanced Learning. 

One of the points he made regarding TEL aims was that of cumulativity – how the research is cumulatively built upon.  TEL aims to generalize findings, to develop 21st century pedagogy and technology, and bring together interdisciplinary approaches (social, cognitive, technological sciences).  In addition to his round up, he gave interesting examples, such as the Semantic Technologies at the Cambridge Lab  – combining semantic web technologies, Grid technologies, social software and digital repositories to support case-based learning in advanced education settings.  Another example – Learning Design Support – which develops an interactive environment to enable teachers to lead the discovery of innovative pedagogical designs that exploit the potential of TEL.

His idea of ‘re-visioning’ things was interesting – eg how is it we have got here?  How have we made the assumptions about technology and knowledge that we currently do?  When did this happen?  How?  In a sense (and this is my take, not his analogy) it’s like mountaineers looking behind as they move into the new terrain in order that they will recognize landmarks on the way back.  Except of course that we’re not re-tracking the terrain.  But at the same time, I can’t help think of the last words of The Great Gatsby – ‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past', and how apt they are for what we are trying to do with curriculum design.

The morning finished with an update from Myles Danson & John Winckley on the e-Assessment element of the e-Learning programme.

  As they point out, the National Student Survey continues to highlight both the quality and speed of feedback as a serious issue for formative feedback.  

Session 4: SIMPLE

After lunch I presented on the SIMPLE project, what we've learned, where we're taking it, now that we've finished the project – slides at Slideshare http://www.slideshare.net/paulmaharg. 

Next up was Ros Smith’s session on Effective Practice with E-learning update.  She started with an activity involving us in a redesign of the highly successful JISC handbook, Effective Practice with E-Learning.  Interesting session in that she asked small groups how they would re-design the second edition of the handbook.  Lots of good suggestions, quite a few going to the heart of the relationships between web and paper-based resources.  

A few more updates, and that was that.  Good day, lots of interesting ideas and concepts, and very practical in its focus.  Further information at JISC here.  

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