Last week’s Association of Learning and Technology (ALT) Conference, also known as altc, was a great opportunity to catch up with learning technologists.
This event and Digifest are our two big opportunities to meet with practitioners, look at developments and share ideas. And altc 2017 certainly delivered!
Here are four key thoughts we’ve taken away after three packed days.
Learning technologists are helping to shape better learning spaces
Peter Goodyear's ‘shaping spaces’ keynote talked about the ways in which “we shape our spaces and then they shape us”.
The ongoing transformation of how learning takes place means that learning providers need to look again at physical delivery spaces – what learners actually do in these spaces (not what we think they do in them). This will, he argues, help to make sure that people can learn optimally and also ensure that the best use is made of available space.
Good examples of this kind of thinking emerged in several other sessions including one in which the University of Leeds showed how its lecture theatres are being redesigned to support more group work and interactive learning.
Partnerships with students are bringing about big changes
The idea of students as agents of change within colleges, universities and skills providers isn’t a new one but at altc this year, for the first time, we heard many excellent examples of developments that resulted directly from collaborations with learners.
Speakers on this subject included Fiona Handley who talked about her research into the role of student technology ambassadors in three universities and Chris Gratton, who described the good and surprising things that can happen when you recruit postgraduates to help in developing learning materials for undergraduate and graduate students.
If you’d like to find out more about student partnerships and how they can drive curriculum change explore the Change Agents' Network.
Gathering data is easy – it’s what you do with it that matters
The current buzz around learning analytics reflects the fact that it’s a powerful tool for learners and teachers, as well as other professionals within an organisation. It enables students to benchmark their progress and set themselves targets and helps teachers to tailor interventions with individual learners so that their experience of learning meets their needs better. But it also raises new challenges for both staff and students.
Sian Bain’s keynote, 'the death of a network: data and anonymity on campus' encouraged us to think about learning spaces and data from a different angle. She has been looking at how students respond to anonymity online and how this can encourage more creativity and different behaviours.
The emerging tension between students having safe spaces to be anonymous if they want to, and the tracking and monitoring which learning analytics enables, is one that institutions are starting to explore. The emotional impact that can result from constant oversight and frequent exposure to data is an area that needs more research.
The important message here is that it is becoming easier to develop working dashboards that offer valuable data but we need to think carefully about how staff use them, what resulting interventions are made, how this affects the design of the curriculum and how learners respond. Our learning analytics network provides a forum for institutions working on learning analytics to discuss these issues – find out more on the learning analytics blog.
Technology-enhanced assessment is still a hot topic
Sessions looking at technology-enhanced assessment were popular and talks from the universities of Essex, Liverpool and Reading described the strides each is making towards fully electronic assessment management and the challenges of scaling up their practice.
It emerged that, while the language around assessment still needs to become clearer to help learning providers make better use of technology for assessment, this does seem to be happening now. The University of Reading is just one institution that said it has been using the lifecycle developed by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) to enable conversations about electronic management of assessment and to support transformation.
If you missed the presentations about this at altc there’s a useful MMU case study that can fill you in on the details.
So that’s it! A brief round-up of four messages from this year’s ALT Conference that resonated strongly with us.
If you weren’t able to attend, you can find out more and catch up on the sessions that were recorded on the ALT Conference website.