Digifest is our annual must-attend event that celebrates the power digital has to revolutionise learning and teaching. Each year the event is packed full of exciting talks and debates, and the chance to investigate ideas and explore sector issues, and a buzzing atmosphere fuelled by people ready to learn and share ideas.
This year promises not to disappoint. I’m particularly excited to be involved in Digifest 2017, as we’ll be celebrating the power of digital, its potential to transform and its capacity to enhance learning and teaching.
For me, at its core, Digifest is about people. It brings together sector experts and peers to discuss real issues and breakthroughs, try out new technology, and network, and support connections. This year’s sessions are set to inspire as well as challenge the way we currently do things. This year we’ll be focusing on: digital content and resources, data and learning analytics, digital (and physical) spaces, and digital skills.
With so many exciting opportunities available, how do you decide which sessions to attend? They all sound fascinating and thought-provoking. I’ve chosen my top five to give you an idea of what I’m looking forward to most this year:
1. Institutional visions for a digital student experience
I am privileged to be chairing this debate, and am looking forward to hearing all the panel members share their visions for a digitally-enhanced student experience. They all have very different contexts in terms of their institutions, so it should make for an interesting debate. Panel members include:
- Professor Helen O'Sullivan, associate pro-vice-chancellor for online learning, University of Liverpool
- Darren Moon, senior learning technologist, LSE
- Jane Harvell, head of academic services and special collections, University of Sussex
- Ros Parker, director of learning, Prospects College of Technology
- Karen Spencer, principal and chief executive, Harlow College
- Simon Barrable, vice principal, Portsmouth College
It is so important to hear senior leaders champion technology and to share how they see their institutions supporting students with a digital student experience. We have been interviewing senior leaders for our new thought leadership interviews for our evolution of FELTAG guide.
2. Building digital expertise in your organisation
This covers such a crucial topic and is a workshop not to be missed – digital capabilities are key in enabling us to live, learn and work in a digital society.
We know staff need to have the confidence and capabilities to fully utilise the affordances technology offers and require support from their organisation to be able to develop their skills. I’m really looking forward to hearing from Elaine Swift, Nottingham Trent University; Fiona McNeil and Fiona Handley, University of Brighton and Ross Anderson, North Lindsey College on how they are supporting the development of their staff.
In addition, Helen Beetham will present an overview of her research into the current state of play for digital capabilities and we will also launch our new suite of resources on organisational approaches to digital capabilities to support others with their practice.
3. How does technology-enhanced learning contribute to teaching excellence?
As the Teaching Excellence Framework is on everyone’s minds for those working in higher education, this talk will offer insightful perspectives from highly regarded experts Dr Rhona Sharpe. Deputy HR director and head of OCSLD (Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development), Oxford Brookes University and Professor Paul Bartholomew, pro vice-chancellor student experience, Ulster University.
Having followed Rhona and Paul’s work over many years I know they will bring fresh thinking to this topic and share from their experiences how the effective and pedagogically sound use of technology is contributing to teaching excellence.
4. Learner engagement - how can you overcome the challenges and develop opportunities to create a creative curriculum?
This workshop interests me as I am keen to hear how practitioners are designing their curricula to encourage learner engagement.
In this workshop I am looking forward to hearing from staff at Forth Valley College on how they are using a range of technologies, including virtual reality, to bring the curriculum to life and to offer authentic learning opportunities across a range of subject areas. Dr Ken Thomson, principal and chief executive of Forth Valley College, shares his vision for supporting a digital student experience.
5. What are students’ expectations and experiences of technology?
I have saved my favourite session until last! I am delighted to be chairing this workshop where we have six FE and HE students sharing their views and experiences of how technology is supporting their learning. We will hear how Epping Forest College, Bexhill Sixth Form College, Stirling University and Northampton University are gathering students’ views of technology and importantly how they are working with students to co-develop their digital environment.
It is becoming more evident that student–staff partnerships are driving forward digitally enhanced curriculum change. You can read our digital learner stories on our blog. So don’t miss this session as if we are talking about the power of digital – our students should be there leading these discussions.
I am hugely looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible at Digifest and to have conversations and hear about innovative practice which will inspire us to do things differently and harness the power of digital.