Today marks my last month of working with Beyond Distance and the University of Leicester. Looking back nearly three years ago when I first joined this prestigious and internationally renowned research centre, I count myself lucky to have been given the opportunity to share in the Beyond Distance vision. I started as a WoLF working on a mobile learning project collaboratively with Leicester College. WoLF was both interesting and challenging, opening up my world to technology mediated mobile learning. The HP pocket PCs we gave to Teaching Assistants who participated in the project at the time are today dwarfed by the power of the I-Phone. One key thing I learnt from the WolF project is that, with the right kind of contextualised learning support, the “techno-stressed” can overcome their fear of technology and go on to achieve excellent grades.
Like a chameleon, I changed my colours from a WoLF to a GeCKO. The GeCKO project compared the environmental impact of blended and face-to-face learning. A key outcome of GeCKO was a framework for measuring the carbon footprint of teaching and learning in higher education.
The IMPALA projects had been ongoing long before I joined Beyond Distance. In a bid to extend the endless possibilities of podcast technology, IMPALA4T investigated the use of student generated podcast to support student transition into higher education. One of the major findings of the this project was that a “hot and cold knowledge” menu, served in the right doses and at the right temperature can make the difference between students dropping out of University or going on to achieve a degree.
In my time with Beyond Distance, the project which perhaps captured my attention and sustained my interest most was perhaps the OTTER project. Before OTTER, I had always been a proponent of “Education for All”, and a great believer in the fact that Open Education “provides people around the world with an opportunity to access high quality learning opportunities”. The OTTER team was fantastic. With a “butcher” (apology to Ale) as a project director, a nit-picky copyright officer, savvy learning technologists and a contemplative project coordinator, my work as open educational resources (OER) evaluator was bound to be enjoyable. I am convinced that the CORRE framework, a key outcome of the OTTER project, is bound to make the work of academics who are interested in turning existing teaching materials into OERs much easier.
Looking back, I am amazed at how my contact with Beyond Distance has challenged my own thinking on what learning should be all about, and how to envision learning futures. Apart from the already-mentioned projects, from CHEETAH to DUCKLING, OSTRICH to MOOSE, and SWIFT to CALF, the world of learning in higher education is a world of possibilities.
I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Beyond Distance team, especially Prof. Gilly Salmon. Without doubt, the knowledge and experience I have gained from working at Leicester will be invaluable in my new role as Information Literacy Officer at Aberystwyth University. To me the acronym BDRA means more than “Beyond Distance Research Alliance”, it also stands for “Britain’s most Distinguished Research Attraction”.
Adieu, farewell to you all.
Samuel Nikoi (30 September 2010).