Tweets from the East Midlands Deanery VLE Development Day

On Friday 22nd March 2013, Rakesh Patel and I attended the East Midlands Deanery VLE Development Day, and delivered workshops which were timetabled against each other. Rakesh's workshop was E-Resources for Learning; mine was Using Rich Media in Teaching: Big ideas, simple steps. Ale Armellini started the day with a keynote: Foresight and choices for 21st century learning. The purpose of the day was to help the East Midlands Deanery (the institution in charge of postgraduate medical training) to ease into its new Moodle VLE. My workshop emphasised and began at with learning design, introducing Grainne Conole's 7Cs of Learning Design. Some delegates were not sure why a VLE is needed, and some were not sure what a VLE is, so the day was full of interesting conversations such as whether a VLE's basic purpose is to be a learning materials repository or to be a medium for communication between students, tutors, and all practitioners. Emerging issues included the tension between the need for online security and the wish to see each other's learning environments and courses and share some of these, and the tension between locked-down computer networks and the wish to use bandwidth-hungry multimedia learning materials. The day concluded with a forward-looking keynote on social media in #meded by Anne Marie Cunningham, who confessed that her first-ever tweet referring to 'medical education 3.0' was actually a typo! I also include here some of the storify archive of the tweets of the day, collected on the term #eastmidsvle. (I'm still learning how to use storify...)

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and SCORE Research Fellow, University of Leicester

  1. Here are some bits and pieces which I think help show potential of social media in #meded scoop.it/t/social-media… #ukmeded #eastmidsvle
  2. @amcunningham enjoyed your presentation at #eastmidsvle day today. Lots of food for thought 🙂
  3. Using rich media in teaching: big ideas, simple steps – my workshop presentation for #eastmidsvle slideshare.net/mobile/tbirdcy… #elearning #meded
  4. this video has won NHS Innovation awards but YouTube still not accessible in the hospital it talks about youtube.com/watch?v=qj0PEn… #eastmidsvle
  5. this video has won NHS Innovation awards but YouTube still not accessible in the hospital it talks about youtube.com/watch?v=qj0PEn… #eastmidsvle
  6. #eastmidsvle @amcunningham gives a shout out to John and Ollie from @fgw great service and example of social media!
  7. Being shown Breakfast at Glenfield – The Educational Music Video about ACUTE ASTHMA youtu.be/qj0PEn79Cuw #eastmidsvle <-made with phone
  8. “@alejandroa: Lurk > Launch > Learn (on social media), suggests @amcunningham [hangout, start out, learn] at #eastmidsvle
  9. Lurk > Launch > Learn (on social media), suggests @amcunningham [hangout, start out, learn] at #eastmidsvle
  10. #EastMidsVLE Fantastic day – Thanks to all of our speakers, poster presenters, delegates and team.
  11. “@alejandroa: Lurk > Launch > Learn (on social media) #eastmidsvle” good advice
  12. Lurk > Launch > Learn (on social media), suggests @amcunningham [hangout, start out, learn] at #eastmidsvle

The End of the World-Wide-Web-Surf As We Know It?

Apple recently unveiled its new MacBook Air laptops as well as its new operating system, Lion. The combination of the two result in a product many see as part-way between a laptop and the iPad. For example, the MacBook Air, like the iPad, has all-flash storage, meaning that all of its storage space is made of the same technology as your USB memory stick as opposed to the traditional hard drive. It is also designed for long battery life and its new trackpad is meant to emulate the iPad touchscreen.

 
To me the most interesting feature is the new Mac App Store. Of course, computers ran applications in the 1980s. But an iPad app or iPhone/iTouch app is a version of an application or a website function that is specifically engineered for the iPad, iPhone, and iTouch. So the idea is that, just as with the iPhone and iPad, now with the new laptop you can go to the App Store and buy or freely download apps such as the eBay App or Angry Birds.

 

Even though these devices run browsers, often the app gives you a new way to do a browser-based function which is better suited to the small screen and keyboard and touchscreen — and lack of Flash— of the Apple devices. But the new laptops don’t have the size limitations. So why make an app store for laptops?

 
Well, obviously, Apple is a company and sees an interesting new revenue stream. But what does this mean for users?

 
Apps differ from browser-based applications in that they are not cross-platform. The eBay app for the iPhone must be downloaded from Apple, while to obtain the eBay app for the Android phone one must go to the Android Market. The new Windows 7 phone will be accompanied by its own marketplace of apps. But today users of different computer operating systems simply type into a browser the same URL to get to eBay by means of the browser. App proliferation feels like a step backward into separate platform silos.

 
Furthermore, the browser is the single place where we do lots of things. In the realm of e-learning, we search for information, save a reference into Delicious, Netvibes, or Mendeley, post onto a discussion board, watch an embedded video clip and read a document in a VLE (virtual learning environment) — all in the browser. There is also the traditional surf: search, click, read, click, read, search, click, read. Will the proliferation of apps remove us from the browser so that our surfing and other activities will look and feel and act drastically different a few years from now? Perhaps it will be the end of the world-wide-web surf as we know it. And if browsers decline in use, what of the VLE?

 
What do you think app proliferation will mean for the computing and e-learning experience?

 

Terese Bird,
Learning Technologist and Assistant Keeper of the Media Zoo

The Travelator Paradox

Educators, have you got a travelator under your belt?

A travelator is an automated moving walkway. If you think you have never seen one, think again – at some point one must have carried you and your luggage from one departure gate to another at an airport or a train station. There is one at the Bank Tube Station in London and at a number of other locations around the world. The fact is, however, that they feature more in old science-fiction visions of the future than in present day reality. H.G. Wells imagined moving walkways in his 1897 novel A Story of the Days To Come, and Fritz Lang put them in his dystopian 1927 film Metropolis. So did Isaac Asimov in The Caves of Steel and Arthur C Clarke’s Against the Fall of Night. Why did the “rolling pavement” from the retro futurist stories never really catch on and remained a feature of a handful of airports and train stations?

Two separate studies, reported last week by the BBC, set out in 2009 to look for an answer. What the researchers at Princeton and Ohio State universities found out was quite interesting. It turns out that travelator passengers tend to slow their pace or stop walking altogether once they step on the machines, defeating the purpose which the travelators are supposed to achieve – to save time.

People standing on a travellator instead of walking

I think of this as the travelator paradox and the story fascinates me. It has prompted me to think of the possibility of similar travelator paradoxes hidden in our arsenal of learning and teaching practices which we expect to carry us into the future of learning and teaching. It seems to me that part of the reason for the “rolling pavement” to fail is that it changes the role of people from travellers-navigators to passengers. Once they get onto the machine, people are guaranteed to reach their destination, even if they remain passive and put no effort. They do not need to interact with the others around them or even notice them. Also, the destination is unexciting, because the route is predetermined, obvious and uniform for everyone on the travelator – there is neither mystery nor adventure so again, there is no reason for people to be alert or take action.

Once I extended the analogy into the domain of education, travelators started emerging. An e-learning course, for example, can turn into a travelator if all it contains is text, posted online in a way in which learners can go through it without having to engage with the material or with each other, with only a single route leading them to the planned learning outcomes. Students, coming in for a lecture, knowing that their lecturer is going to tell them exactly what he or she has been saying to the students in the previous year and the year before, and exactly in the same way, are in for a travelator – they will get to their destination, but the journey will be one of boredom and dullness.

 

Students in a boring VLE or passengers on the trottoire roulant at the 1900 Paris Expo?

If I were to find myself 20 years in the future from now, I would want to see which of the learning technologies of great promise today will have remained sidelined like travelators, instead of changing the world of learning. Whichever these learning technologies turn out to be, I think their failure will brought by a lack of supporting pedagogies which could have helped learners to create their own learning journey rather than just be there for the ride.

Sandra Romenska

Creating Academic Learning Futures (CALF) Project

BDRA, 7 October 2010

Can Learning Innovations be Embedded and Sustained?

On 28 April, 2010, Gabi Witthaus and Terese Bird attended a CAMEL meeting sponsored by JISC and which took place at Middlesex University, the theme of which was to examine whether the developments of the DUCKLING project can be embedded and sustained. Once the project is over, can teaching teams continue to use the technologies, findings and deliverables?

In this meeting, Gabi and Terese looked at the sustainability of each of the three technologies implented in the DUCKLING project — ebook readers, podcasting, and Second Life — as well as the pedagogy underpinning the use of each. Since the project is a joint effort amongst the Schools of Psychology and Education, and Beyond Distance, it was helpful to consider how each of the Schools implemented each innovation.

Psychology used Second Life as a forum for role-playing and simulation, to give students a taste of the experience of living and working on an oil rig with its dangers and isolation, as preparation for their assignment to write a health and safety training manual for oil rig workers. Beyond Distance techies supported this work. However, the actual role playing and leading of the sessions was done by Psychology academics and could continue that way, with some tech support. To watch a YouTube video capturing some of the action of the students’ experience on the oil rig, click here.

Education sent their students into existing language class forums in Second Life, where students observed and could participate in the classes. This was a very flexible way of making use of Second Life — students simply went in and signed up for classes already taking place pretty much 24/7. Observing language classes in Second Life has now been embedded into themodule as an optional activity. As long as there are such forums in Second Life, this activity is sustainable.

Podcasts have been fully embedded into the Psychology curriculum for the masters programme in DUCKLING — especially as part of the dissertation-writing process. These podcasts been rolled out to all cohorts on that module. Psychology academics have been making and distributing (via the University VLE, Blackboard) podcasts without any help from Beyond Distance for months now. Education has especially recently begun to record podcasts for its Masters TESOL students, and again the work of recording and posting onto the VLE is straightforward enough to continue without difficulty after DUCKLING’s conclusion.

With the ebook readers, we learned from interviews with students that using the ebook reader is changing their study habits. To quote one student: “I now study more in my workdays using the e-reader. I’ve been putting it in my bag every day and taking it to work and after lunch reading a few pages. I’ve found that way it keeps the content fresh in my mind. Before with the paper version, I’d allocate my weekends for study.”  Another student commented, “I think that the e-book reader changed my way of keeping notes and makes my study more effective. Before, I used my laptop to write a lot of notes because I felt that I would forget the whole thing if I didn’t take them down. But taking notes is time-consuming and not that effective because I never really use the notes. With the e-book reader, it’s not very inconvenient to go back to the material on the e-reader and I can remember where the material was and go back to the module on the e-reader and look through it. As a result of that, I didn’t take a lot of notes and I don’t think it (not taking notes) makes a difference to my study.”

A further aspect of the continuing use of ebook readers can be viewed from the point of view of finance. One department saw savings over printing and shipping stacks of handouts to students, by instead shipping to the students fully-loaded ebook readers. In some cases the students themselves experienced the savings, realising that they did not have to purchase hard copies of notes and choosing instead to simply read these on their ebook readers. Converting module handouts from Word format into format suitable for ebook readers (epub format in the case of the Sony ebook readers we are using) is not a very difficult process — click here for our instructions to do this. The fact that the iPad supports epub documents, public libraries are beginning to offer ebooks for download in epub format, and students are looking for reading material compatible with smartphones, presses the point that the use of this technology will only increase in future. We predict it will be sustained by popular demand.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and Assistant ZooKeeper

DAY 6 at LFF2010

… with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore and Marcus Bentley

T’was the day after Monday, and all over town –
Many noses were frozen, and much snow fluttered down…

Good thing this is an online conference, because getting in to Leicester for 9 am on this Tuesday would have been a nightmare…

The day began  with Gilly’s daily address which through pre-recorded, went rather well. I found the idea – suggested by Gilly, that each educational institution was an enterprise that needs to evolve – to be quite interesting. Considering the different parts of the world that participants have been joining sessions from, the discussions, questions and comments related to experiences and observations from a range of varying contexts. An energetic debate focussed on an emerging trend of a more pronounced consumer mentality of educational ‘shoppers’ (students and parents) and that this might force forces HEIs to adopt adversarial business models because they have to compete more and more with each other.

Following this was Tessa Welch’s keynote address which suggested that the main value of OERs (open educational resources) in Africa’s context is that they provide momentum for the surfacing of good quality existing resources as OERs, which would otherwise remain undiscovered or remain locked within institutions or publishers. She drew extensively on SAIDE’s experience in a pilot OER project resulting in the adaptation and use of a module in the teaching and learning of mathematics in six South African institutions, and also on the lessons of experience in taking this to scale for a teacher education space on the OER Africa platform. The discussion sessions for this keynote followed later in the day.

At 1100 GMT, five bravehearts joined Simon, Terese and Paul (aka Johnson, Aallyah and PD Alchemi) in Second Life for the Oil rig evacuation, and though this was only the second time that this session was run in SL. Attendees found it to be most enjoyable. Some of them admitted to be scared by the ‘fire’ that led to the evacuation scenario.

The OTTER team led 22 attendees through the Open Wide workshop at 12 noon, which focussed on reward and recognition for academic staff for making teaching materials freely available as OERs. The presenters suggested that despite the recent, dramatic increase in the number of OER repositories in the UK HE sector and some altruistically motivated academics making their teaching materials freely available for re-use, concerns remain regarding appropriate reward and recognition for staff contributions of OERs.

The afternoon sessions began with Emma Kimberley’s presentation on the University of Leicester’s Graduate School Media Zoo initiative that supports postgraduate researchers. This paper took an overview of the challenges of supporting and connecting postgraduate researchers at UoL through the development of a physical and virtual ‘research forum’ based within the University  Library. An interesting discussion ensued, with reflections from several participants on their own experiences of support that they had as postgraduate students.

At 1500 GMT, David Wolfson’s (an independent education consultant) paper titled ‘Eight Years Old and Already Collaborating Online’ focussed on what the future holds for HE (considering that today’s 8-year olds will be entering HE in about a decade), describing a stepped approach to successful online teacher- and student-led learning in schools. Practical evidence  – from senior leaders and learners at over 100 schools of all types and sizes as they set out to use learning platforms – was brought to bear on the proceedings.

Later, Stuart Johnson, David Morgan and Matthew Mobbs from the University of Leicester shared their experiences of using social media (especially  Facebook and Twitter) to engage with students about issues deemed important for Student Development and the Students’ Union at the university of Leicester’s Student Support Service and Students’ Union. A lively discussion followed with a range of practitioners contributing their experiences from different aspects of providing and receiving pastoral and learning support for students.

Following the Second Life Campfire, the last paper of the day was from Dr Richard Mobbs, which challenged listeners to put the ‘PLE in to the VLE’. VLEs being more often than not designed to meet the needs of the institution, rather than the learner, the time – Richard claimed – had come to integrate new developments like online social networks, mobile technologies, widely-used social software applications and others to provide ‘more PLE’ within the context of the main VLE provision.

This is a screen-grab from Twitter on what people were saying about LFF2010 on Tuesday evening. One keynote from a previous day has proven inspirational and the attendees of the SL Oil Rig Evacuation from earlier in the day sound happy!!

That Was The Day 6 That Was … now Day 7 awaits. Enjoy!

– Jai Mukherjee / 13 January 2010

Day 5 at the LFF and still going strong…

Monday 11 January saw another series of extremely stimulating discussions at the Beyond Distance online Learning Futures Festival (Registration still open for late adopters who haven’t got on board yet!) We were privileged to have Professor Ian Jamieson, recently retired VC of the University of Bath, and recipient of an OBE in December, as our keynote speaker. He made a heartfelt plea for speeding up the pace of change in the higher education sector, to keep pace with students’ expectations and changing approaches to learning. An interesting side issue for me in this session was the back channel conversation about student satisfaction surveys, and the point that many students express dissatisfaction when they are being challenged or stretched in their studies, but on later reflection may state that exactly those moments were the most transformational for them.

PD Alchemy and Aallyah then led our intrepid Second Life delegates into the virtual Genetics Lab which is being developed by the SWIFT project at Beyond Distance. Unfortunately my avatar (Daffodil Moonwall) had some connectivity problems and so was unable to join in, but according to a couple of cryptic twitter posts, it seems that certain avatars underwent a spontaneous genetic modification during this session. Indeed in the Second Life Campfire session later in the day, Daff noticed that the general level of whackiness of the conversation had reached unprecedented heights – a possible result of whatever experimentation took place earlier in the day?

Returning to the mainstream programme: at noon Alejandro Armellini and Gilly Salmon led a session on “The Carpe Diem journey: designing for learning transformation”. Carpe Diem is the tried and tested workshop process developed by Beyond Distance at Leicester to support academics in using their VLE (virtual learning environment) effectively. Discussion here centred around the ways in which academics had responded to the training, and the transferability of this process to a range of educational contexts.

We were then treated to a fascinating description by Magdalena de Stefani from Uruguay of a blended teacher development project using Moodle for language teachers in provincial and rural areas of her country. Magdalena shared with us a dilemma she faced in terms of whether to view her students as “customers”, with the concomitant notion that “the customer is always right”. She felt that she had perhaps been too “respectful” of her students in this regard, thereby depriving them of some potentially transformational challenges. (This resonated nicely with the issues arising during the keynote address.)

Shiv Rajendran, a co-founder of languagelab.com, stayed within the theme of English language teaching by sharing his experiences in the use of Second Life as an EFL teaching environment. (See Shiv’s blog here.) The trigger for the establishment of languagelab.com in Second Life was Shiv’s online meeting with a German who could not speak a word of English, but learnt sufficient English within two weeks to be able to participate in online games. How did he do it? By playing online games… Some discussion ensued in the session about whether Second Life is a game or not (Daffodil thinks not, but that’s for another blog post), and this conversation continued almost seamlessly around the campfire in Second Life a couple of hours later.

Alan Cann then led a thought-provoking session on Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) and lifelong learning. He described how he and colleagues had taught students to use some basic Web 2.0 tools such as citeulike and delicious for social bookmarking, as well as Google docs for collaborative writing. This fitted in nicely with Stephen Downes’ Sunday keynote on pedagogical foundations for personal learning and Kathreen Riel and Tami Saj’s presentation, Survive and Thrive in a Social Media Workplace – as well as giving us another opportunity to use the great term coined by Matt Mobbs – the “Social Media Brain“.

The final session of the day was about learning support for mobile learning by Beyond Distance’s Samuel Nikoi and Palitha Edirisingha, with reference to the WOLF project. Sahm made sure we ended the day with a bang, culminating his presentation with a rousing call for 24/7 mobile learning support for learners.

Elluminate recordings of all the sessions are currently available to conference delegates in the conference environment (as mentioned earlier – it’s not too late to enrol!) and selected recordings will shortly also be available in the public domain.

Finally, thanks to our conference delegates who have been blogging about the festival:

Ignatia Webs – on Phil Candy’s keynote address last Friday (“Any Useful Statement about the Future Should At First Appear Ridiculous”: Discuss): http://ignatiawebs.blogspot.com/2010/01/lff10-phil-candy-concentrating-on.html, and on Nick Short’s presentation (“Androids in Africa”) http://ignatiawebs.blogspot.com/2010/01/lff10-androids-in-africa-by-nick-short.html

Brendan’s blog on his journey through the labyrinthine google-opoly task: http://malleablemusings.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/google-opoly-at-lff10/

And mickelous who mentions the LFF in his post about Technology in the snow.

Last but not least, thanks to suchprettyeyes for creating a twapperkeeper archive of the tweets: http://twapperkeeper.com/lff10/

Please do post comments here or tweet to let us know if you have blogged about the Festival 🙂

By Gabi Witthaus, 12 Jan 2010

PLE or VLE?

Inspired by Scott Leslie’s PLE Diagrams wiki, I just had a bash at illustrating my own PLE, organised according to the things I want to do in it:

My personal learning environment (Click on the image for better resolution.)

My personal learning environment (Click on the image for better resolution.)

Then I asked myself:

How many of the functions listed in red, that I currently carry out using the Web 2.0 tools noted in green, could I carry out as effectively in a VLE using the VLE tools? (I was thinking particularly of the virtual learning environment used at our institution – Blackboard 7.)

The answer? Strictly speaking, none – although with a more generous definition of “effectively”, the networking and sharing ones might be addressed. That’s two out of 14, at a stretch.

PLE or VLE? No contest.

Gabi Witthaus

The beckoning Wave

‘You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment’, wrote Henry David Thoreau.

Though really torn about using Thoreau’s name and that of Google in the same piece, I could not think of a more meaningful quotation with the term ‘wave’ in it.

Not happy with just being the undisputed leaders in online searching, Google has unveiled Google Wave, a system aimed at improving online collaboration. Perhaps I should say ‘revolutionising  online collaboration’.

Beware Microsoft and Apple. Google, whose company mission is ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’ has just hit a home run!

Like the legendary Macworld Expo, where the Applemeister Steve Jobs has annually held court, Google launched the Wave to developers at the Google I/O Conference in San Francisco.

With the unveiling of one piece of groundbreaking technology after another at this humdrum convention venue, the Moscone Centre, has become the choice of site for ‘revolutionary stagings’ –  not unlike a Runnymede or a Bretton Woods of the technological age! 

After displacing the AOLs and the Yahoos of the ‘search world’, and then emerging from the shadow of the Apple vs. Microsoft struggle for ‘net-world domination’, the not-so-subtle message now is that ‘Google has arrived’ and it appeared to be received loud and clear.

Maybe Google staffers are just hitting back because Google was nudged from the top spot (sliding to number 4 in the rankings) of Fortune Magazine’s list of the 100 best companies to work for!!

Google software engineering manager and the man behind Google Maps, Lars Rasmussen pointed to previous communications advances such as email and instant messaging as the starting point for Google Wave – essentially, posing the question: What would email look like if we developed it today? Read it here in his own words.

With Wave, Google are proposing a new communications model, and appear keen to find out what the world might think. Though Google don’t have a specific timeframe for public release, they are  planning to continue working on Google Wave for a number of months more as a developer preview. If you’d like to be notified when Google launches Wave as a public product, you can sign up here.

Just a scan of the available reviews from the blogsphere reveals generally gushing praise – with terms like ‘how frighteningly integrated’ and ‘an absolute game changer’ liberally used to greet the Wave.

Google hopes Wave will cause a rethink about what a single communications platform might look like and be able to support when it is built from scratch, but with access to the online technologies most users take for granted in this day and age.

Wave will allow multiple users to exchange real-time dialogue, photos, videos, maps, documents and other information forms within a single, shared communications space known as a wave.

Users of the system should be able to see instantly what fellow collaborators are typing and even publish a wave to a blog or web site, where the content will update instantly as the wave changes.

Google said the aim is to allow people to communicate and work together in an infinitely richer, more instant and integrated way.

Google Wave will introduce features such as concurrent rich text editing, whereby users will be able to see, ‘almost instantly, letter-by-letter, what fellow collaborators are typing into a message or document in a wave,’ according to Rasmussen

There will also be a playback feature, and Google said the technology can integrate with the rest of the web. And supporters of ‘open sourcing’ need not fret as Google also said it was planning to open source Google Wave in the coming months. ‘Developers can build extensions to Google Wave using our open APIs, embed waves in other sites, or build applications that interoperate with Google Wave,’ said Rasmussen.

Among other things, online teaching and collaborative learning potentially stands to be revolutionised in ways we only imagined before. How long before a system incorporating Google Wave gets adapted as a VLE, with opportunities for online collaboration that other VLE platforms can only wonder about?

– Jai Mukherjee (3 June 2009)

With inputs from online news sites and print news publications … since Google invited neither Thoreau nor me to the launch!

Looking at Blackboard V 9.0

Several days ago, I attended an IT Services campus presentation on Blackboard 9, as the University will be moving from V 7.3 to V 9.0 later in the summer.

If given a choice, I much prefer to watch an experienced user demonstrate software before I dive in myself. In fact, I’m pretty sure the most useful PC stuff I’ve learned (e.g. alt+Tab in Windows) has been while looking over someone’s shoulder.

This presentation was no different, as Richard – who’s forgotten more about learning technologies than I’ll ever know – took several hundred of us (developers, academics, administrators) on a whistle-stop tour of the main features of 9.0.

V 9.0 does look significantly better. I’ve never seen V 8.0, but our V 7.3 has always seemed a little constricted to me, especially from a designer’s viewpoint, and – to put it bluntly – pretty ugly. (Think of the illegitimate love child of a website circa 1998 and an uninspiring accounting package. It even has the option of chunky menu buttons!)

V 9.0 is far more customisable, has plenty of drag and drop functionality, and, overall, is far better looking; it definitely has a ‘Web 2.0’ thing going on.

More importantly, the addition of blogs and journals allows students to be more than passive recipients of content pushed at them by the tutor. They can now generate content of their own, plus BB9 provides a central area where all this can be accessed by tutors and students alike. ‘Inclusiveness’ seems to have been at the forefront of designing this upgrade. Assessment capabilities and control in BB9 also seem much stronger.

Because he was talking to an experienced Blackboard audience, Richard was able to focus on areas of change that will affect how all of us do certain things on campus, about which he has detailed knowledge. The talk was snappy, clear and directly relevant: it was a great shoulder over which to look.

I’m looking forward to getting my BB9 test account next week.

Simon Kear

Learning Technologist

Uninstitutionalising Institutions

The numbers of years undergraduates spend in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are relatively short compared to their entire careers throughout which they will carry-out lifelong learning. This leads to the question: ‘do institutions need to change the way they deliver learning and manage their learners?’

To explore this question further, it means, in these times of Cloud Computing and large amounts personal data being stored in the Web Cloud, should institutions continue locking learning and personal development processes behind institutional passwords which expire when students leave the institution. Do HEIs need to adapt their delivery to enable students to continue using their learning (materials) after graduation?

This question isn’t just related to post HEI learning, but also learning and online activities students are involve in before and during University. When students arrive at an institution it is likely they have an email account on Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo (other services are available), that are attached to online services such as social networks. Therefore this provokes the question: ‘should students be asked about a preferred email address?’ This will not only make it easier for their course tutors and alike to make contact, but also ensure students are receiving their learning where they want it to be delivered.

This approach will also enable learners to organise their learning in a way that suits them. Instead of delivering learning via institutionally structured, formal Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), student can organise their learning within Personalised Learning Environment (PLEs). These environments can then be integrated with other online activities outside of the institution structures and systems.

Furthermore, if institutions were encouraging students to carryout Personal Development Planning (PDP) in non-institutional environments are students are more likely to continue the process post-university?

This became more evident to me whilst at the Centre for Recording Achievement Residential 2008. During the Residential there was a question and answer session with a recent graduate, she described how she carried PDP activities in an institutional VLE. When I asked the question “what has happened to all that information now?” she answered “I don’t know” and went on to say how she can no longer access the materials because her account had expired. I found this shocking – valuable developmental material was lost due to institutional processes. This could be easily resolved by allowing her to manage the process herself by using tools that are familiar.

To come back to the original question, I can only conclude, for students to get the most value out of their learning, institutions are going have to become more flexible in the use of Cloud Computing to accommodate the way which learners manage their online materials.

Matthew Mobbs

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