Tag Archives: ALT

Learning Technologist pt.15

What is a Learning Technologist? Pt. 15

In May 2015 I joined Warwick Business School, WBS, as an eLearning Consultant. In September the same year I was awarded the ‘highly commended’ Learning Technologist of the Year award from the Association for Learning Technology (ALT). The strange thing is, that was the last time I posted about being a Learning Technologist here. After 14 posts I stopped.

There’s no reason for it, I didn’t even realise I’d done it until a few tweets last night from Clare Thompson (@ClareThomsonQUB) and Sue Beckingham (@suebecks) reminded me about it. Yes, I’ve continued to write about work and wider reading of the industry we’re in, but this is Clare’s tweet that prompted me to write here again, about being a Learning Technologist:

In the last two years I thought of and collaborated on, edited and then self-published  The Really Useful #EdTechBook. I’ve developed, supported, mentored, facilitated, and bled/wept over the creation of two MOOCs for the University of Warwick (Big Data and Literature and Mental Health). I’ve facilitated a total of 15 runs/presentations of all five Warwick MOOCs. I’ve two other MOOCs in development at the moment, one of which took myself and colleagues to Italy recently to interview and film important individuals for case study and ‘thought’ pieces who were attending an event in Prato Centre, Monash University, Italy. Oh, and I’ve met & interviewed Sir Ian McKellen and Stephen Fry, all part of the day job!!

YouTube: Literature and Mental Health

Outside of work on MOOCs I’ve been included on the EdTech Magazine list for 2015 and 2016 lists for ‘Top 50 IT Blogs Influential Blogs in Higher Education’ and the 50 Most Influential HE Professionals Using Social Media list. I was interviewed for the published work on How has Apple transformed your classroom? Part I, the Teacher’s Practical Guide to the Flipped Classroom and wrote this article on ‘Facilitating the Unknown’ in a Special Issue: Open Facilitator Stories, based on the amazing online course BYOD4L, and been involved in multiple weekly tweet-chats from/on LTHEchat.

And these are just the thing I can remember off the top of my head. Perhaps I should be more organised and keep better notes? Oh, and I still Sketchnote.

The great thing is that I have the interest and passion to do all this, all the time. I love being connected and in a position to collaborate or share knowledge and experience. I love that I can swap roles and identities so quickly depending on what the day brings – technical support, pedagogic support, management or administration, etc. No day is the same. No email asks for the same thing. No meeting covers the same thing (well, not very often).

Like Clare I find that IRL meetings can be awkward, conferences can be draining, events can be difficult to get everything done I want and see everyone I want to see AND still have time for the event itself. I’ve been reading the Quiet Revolution, about introverts, and engaging in their regular tweet chat. Having the time to reflect on events and conversations is important, and sometimes events can be so hectic there simply isn’t the time:

Oh, one final thing .. there’s always room for Lego! Pictures of Lego, actual Lego kits, or just talking about Lego.

Image source: clement127 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Webinar Master

Book Review: Webinar Master from Donald Taylor

I downloaded Don’s Webinar Master eBook the day it came out and ready pretty much all of it straight away. It came at a time when I am becoming more and more involved in webinars, both at work at WBS, my involvement with ALT and Learn Appeal, and as an observer/participant in learning-related online seminars.

“There is no real difference between the intimacy and informality of a conversation with friends and what you say online. You still need to be engaging, and to know your audience. If you are also fully prepared, you will do an excellent job.” Donald H Taylor, 2015

Don writes from nine nine years experience of developing and delivering online seminars for the Learning and Skills Group (LSG), so it’s pretty clear to say that Don has seen many changes to the technology and features available in the systems on offer. What strikes me about the book and what Don has written here is that the basic skills needed to plan and run an effective webinar haven’t changed – you still need to carefully plan for an audience who will have many more distractions  that usual, that will be quick to leave unless they are engaged, that will be slow to react or reluctant to ‘chat’ unless they are displeased, and that you will never know how you’re doing until it’s too late.

“I strongly believe that an effective webinar relies on live contributions from attendees. If your platform does not offer a chat area which everyone can contribute to, and read, then I would change platform.” Donald H Taylor, 2015

It isn’t easy, however, to be a ‘webinar master’, I don’t claim to be any good presenting, whether in person or online, but Don’s book covers enough for me, and indeed anyone, to learn a few more skills and to be aware of what will help take a simple presentation and make it an experience.

MOOC quality

MOOCs – question on purpose, quality, student retention, feedback, etc.

Ahh, questions around the purpose, quality, value, etc. in and around MOOCs have started again, and justly so.

  • Disclaimer: Like many I have opinions, but not answers.

The recently raised questions, started by Fred Riley on the ALT mailing list, have produced a good set of resources for those of us who are starting to ask these questions, needing a more comprehensive or value-added answer.

Fred’s original query was:


Does anyone on this list know of any recent research and/or articles on the teaching quality of MOOCs? I’m thinking of things such as:

  • student retention, with MOOC drop-out rates being notoriously high (I plead guilty to that myself :( )
  • student surveys and qualitative feedback
  • how many students in a MOOC platform (eg FutureLearn) go on to take further courses in that platform

I’m sure that there are many other indicators of quality – those are just off the top of my head. I’m not in the MOOC game myself as yet, other than as a punter, but I’m looking to get into the development side of things.


In some instances, especially around the data of students/learners taking further courses (across MOOC platform providers as well as within) is difficult, but I hope we can get to a stage where this kind of data is available and open to interrogation (if only for the individual partner to  query their own courses).

Here are some of the resources shared, in response to Fred’s original query:

If you have any further links or resources that would help Fred and the ALT mailing list, please reply to the thread on the mailing list. If you don’t have access then please leave the link or your comment below for everyone to have the opportunity to read.

Yes, OK. Fred’s question also raises the question around the ‘quality’ of a MOOC, the validity in the data of learner retention or ‘steps completed’ as triggers for saying a MOOC is of a certain quality, or the student was ‘successful’ on the course, but these are for another post. Fred answered this quite clearly on the ALT mailing list that, for him “retention is IMO and indicator of quality as perceived by the student – the better retention, the more students are engaged with the course and its materials. If they don’t like a course, they’ll drop out.”

NB: I’ve helped run several runs of the Warwick/FutureLearn ‘Shakespeare and his World’ MOOC and use this as an example I use where the statistics provided for the 10 week course don’t necessarily match the actual experience. Case in point is the number of learners who complete the course, in that they take all the tests and mark at least one step as complete in each of the 10 weeks. We know from the learners themselves, from their comments, feedback, tweets, etc., that they take what they want from the course – one learner may only like Shakespeare’s comedy’s, another likes on his tragedy’s, so they will omit the plays/weeks they don’t like. They should still be viewed as a successful learner, and I’;m sure they think that of themselves, as in their own mind (and in ours!) they got what they wanted from the course, yet did not actually ‘complete’ it.

If there is one question for 2016 and MOOCs, it’s whether there is any way to really truly, honestly, understand the ‘value’ of a MOOC?

Image source: State Library Victoria (CC BY-NC 2.0)

2015 Winter ALTC

Showcasing different approaches to building a #CMALT portfolio #ALTC

As part of the 2015 Winter ALTC Conference I am chairing a session on CMALT portfolios, and the creative ways to design and publish them.

This session will showcase three portfolios from recently accredited Certified Members, Elizabeth Charles (Birkbeck), David Watson (Hong Kong Polytechnic University) and Daniel Villalba Algas (Sheffield University). Facilitated by David Hopkins (Warwick Business School) we will focus on exploring different approaches to building CMALT portfolios and discuss how different job roles can be reflected.

In preparation for this event we’d appreciate your stories, experience, or progress on your journey to CMALT (on-going, completed, passed, failed, given up, etc.) by dropping a pin on our Padlet notice board.

If you have the time please join us online for the webinar Showcasing different approaches to building a CMALT portfolio – Wednesday December 9th, 2015, at 9:30AM.

Image source: ALT (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Reading List

Reading list: November 27th, 2015

Two weeks ago I posted a short list of a few of the more interesting articles or blog posts I’d been reading. I intend to keep this up, hopefully every fortnight (so it’s not too onerous for me to write or for you to read).

Here’s my second list:

I’ve also started reading the following books – both are well worth your attention!

  • Donald H Taylor: Webinar Master
    “A step-by-step guide to delivering compelling online presentations from a webinar expert and coach.”
  • Ed Catmull: Creativity Inc
    “Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration”

Image source: Bernal Saborio (CC BY-SA 2.0)

ALTC 2015

The Interview Process #altc

From this year’s ALT conference I enjoyed (finally) meeting Wayne Barry, EdTechBook contributor, and chatting about his ALTC presentation.

Wayne’s presentation looked at a different way of interviewing candidates for Learning Technologist positions using standard questions and short presentations, but also the inclusion of a short role-play exercise. Each candidate is given advance notice that they will engage with an ‘academic’ who is interested in introducing elements of distance learning to their module. During the short exercise (many people took issue with the use of the term ‘role-play’) candidates will exhibit both knowledge of their discipline as well as the ability to listen, engage, problem solve, and debate with a member of the team taking the role of an academic.

So, how do you find out if someone will fit in to your office and team environment? Can you do this by just questions? Do competency based questions offer enough space for someone to fudge their way through the process, or rather offer the interviewers enough insight to see the tRuth behind the candidate?

This reminds me of this video, from Heineken: Job Interview. Slightly over the top, but you get the idea – by changing the process you find out many different things (hopefully good) about the candidates. Enjoy!

YouTube: Job interview at Heineken

ALTC 2015

Day 1 #ALTC 2015

This 10th ALT Conference is possibly the largest yet, hosted at the Universty of Manchester, over 3 days with 4 invited keynote speakers, 185 sessions (although some look to have been cancelled), and over 500 expected delegates.

Kicking us off today was an impressive session from Steve Wheeler and two of his students; Becca Smallshaw and Kate Bartlett. Steve covered the kinds of subjects I’ve heard him speak about before, but he stopped short of the usual keynote and handed it over to Becca and Kate. Using the time with them to talk about the expectations and experiences of students, they both handed the alien, and probably quite nerve wracking, experience of 500+ people hanging on their every word extremely well.

I spoke with Steve afterwards and he took great pains to explain that this part of the keynote was not scripted or rehearsed, that Becca and Kate knew very little of his slides; they kind of knew what he might ask them, but not in details. They were free to answer openly and honestly, which for me makes their performance and answers all the more credible and insightful. huge respect to them both for standing there today in front of us!   Continue reading

ALTC 2015

Gearing up for #ALTC 2015

So, with only two weeks to go before this years ALT conference (ALTC) it’s time to start making sense of the programme and sessions, see what’s happening and when, and then trying to work out how to be in several places at once.

So, after a first pass at the ALTC programme here are my plans, subject to change once I spend more time reading more of the abstracts and changing my mind. I think I may need to compare notes with someone who can get to some of the sessions I miss?  Continue reading

Sketchnotes

Preparing your #Sketchnotes

Note taking has taken on a whole new meaning for me since I started making Sketchnotes. For the uninitiated sketchnotes are all about.

If you haven’t already, I recommend you check out Mike Rohde’s Sketchnote Handbook.

If, like me, you want to sketch your notes at a conference or event, and worry about missing important details or not being ready, here’s a cheat-sheet for you.

  • Pens: Get your pens (including back-up pens if you think you’ll run out of ink) ready and somewhere you can easily get at them. Also worth keeping an eye on is where you can store them for easy access whilst you’re sketching – pocket, bag, table, etc. There’s nothing worse than dropping your pens, book, phone, etc. when you’re trying to pay attention. Try and use at least two colours, and be consistent in how you use them (shading, highlighting, etc.) across all your sketches.
  • Page-per-note: Prepare each page of your notebook with the details of the speaker and/or presentation. Include name, Twitter name, presentation title, etc. in your own design. This way you know what space you’re working with for the presentation, and who it is for. Be careful to make sure you check if titles change!

Continue reading

Interview with Sheila MacNeil and David Walker, #EdTechBook chapter authors

Interview with Sheila MacNeill and David Walker, #EdTechBook chapter authors

The Really Useful #EdTechBook, edited by David HopkinsAs part of a series of posts, I will be talking to authors of The Really Useful #EdTechBook about their work, experiences, and contribution to the book. In this sixth post I talk to Sheila MacNeill (Senior Lecturer, Glasgow Caledonian University) and David Walker (Head of Technology Enhanced Learning, Sussex University), who have chosen to co-author a chapter for the book on Learning Technologists as ‘digital pedagogues’.

DH – Hi David and Sheila. How does the use of technology, in all its various forms, affect your day-to-day working life?

SM – Good question. In reality, without using technology I wouldn’t be able to do my work. Almost everything I do at work relies on technology. Face to face communication is still very important, but I do all my “stuff” via technology, be that my desktop computer, my iPad or phone. If the “t’internet” is down at work I’m a bit stuffed! I would probably use up a months data allowance on my phone in a morning – or go home and work there. Luckily that doesn’t happen very often.  Continue reading