Tag Archives: Learning Technology

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)

student experience

What is the student experience?

It’s that time of year again when we hear more about things like the NSS survey (and results), teaching and learning showcase, graduates & graduation, league tables, and of course the student experience. But what is this ‘student experience’?

Is it the application process, the hall of residence, the equipment, the availability of books in the library, the quality of teaching, access to support, timely assessment feedback, employability, skills, digital literacy? Is it this? Is it more?

For my perspective, and from my own experience working in HE for the past 10 years or so, it’s all the above and more. The student experience starts at the open day (or before if you include the planning the institution puts into it, as well as the prospective student looking at where to go). It really starts in ernest as soon as the application is accepted and a place is given, right through to the actual 3 or 4 years of study, all the way to graduation and the alumni network.

From end-to-end the student will experience the whole institution, not just their own course or department, and not even their own building or campus. Is the university spread across multiple campuses, across different continents as well? How the university manages this will impact on a single student and their time of study. Is the course modular and pulls different departments together for delivery? Then the culture of each department will impact and affect those students, and needs to be carefully managed (no one wants one module to be vastly different or better/worse than another). Is the student body multinational and diverse? The support and teaching needs to reflect and involve the different cultures and expectations of these individuals too.

The list can go on and on. It’s fair to say that everyone working in further or higher education, whether it’s front-line teaching or research, administration, management, estates, etc. has an important role to play in how the students view and experience the course, the department, the campus, the employability, and value of the course. For someone to say that the student experience is not part of their role is not pulling their weight and is making everyone else’s job far harder than is necessary.

Here are a few articles I’ve found useful over the past year or so when looking at the student experience. Please feel free to add your own favourites in the comments box below:

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



So, I’ve heard a little recently about Slack. I’ve heard it’s good for improving communications between and within teams. I’ve heard it’s cut down on the amount of unnecessary or unwanted communications. I’ve also heard that, unless everyone embraces it then it will complicate your working practices and be a huge mistake.

So. what is Slack, and could/should we use it? Slack is ‘team communication for the 21st century‘, or a tool (not an app, although there is an app, and web client, and website) to make you ‘less busy’. Using channels, messages, files, integration with other online systems, etc. this has the potential to de-clutter your working practices, enable a cleaner workflow .. all the stuff that surely we could do with our current systems if we worked at it and used them effectively and efficiently?

So, I ask again. Why Slack? Is this just another tool that, if used badly or half-heartedly, has the potential to make even more of a mess of where we are, than we’ve already made in getting here? Is it that one wonder-tool that we’ve been waiting for to kick us into gear to streamline our efforts, to remove unwanted distractions, and to efficiently work collaboratively?

You know what? I have no idea.

Here are some resources I’ve found, and have found interesting. See what you think:

And these less-than complementary articles too are still worth reading, trying to find a balance in the slack-or-not debate:

Continue reading

what happened to all the MOOCs?

What happened to the MOOCs?

MOOC = Massive Open Online Course

You knew that already, yes? Here are my thoughts for a Friday afternoon.

Massive – Yes, these courses are usually large. But anything that isn’t constrained by the number of chairs in a room has this potential. A course that has 200 people on it from a provider that has rooms that can cope with no more than 150 people would call this ‘massive’. We know that FutureLearn has had the largest ever online course (I’m not calling them MOOCs anymore) with 440,000 registered for one course, but we’ve yet to see the stats about how many who signed up actually started it, completed more than one week, even completed the course? I wonder if the larger numbers are reflected in the percentages of these ‘completors’ and whether they’re better/worse than those with (much) lower numbers (e.g. 5-15k sign-ups) or figures from other providers?

It’s a little strange that the Guinness World Record website has no mention of FutureLearn or online course, does that still make it a valid record?

Open – Yes, they’re open, but it’s increasingly difficult to find the ‘open’ version (especially on Coursera), you’ve really got to hunt for the link in amongst all the ‘specialization’ and ‘pricing’ links. If you didn’t know what to look for you’d be forgiven for thinking these MOOCs are not free. Open is also about the lack of requirement/prerequisites to already be educated to a particular level. Open, in this way means we can all try something we’d otherwise have to complete an application for (and pass).

Online – Yes, they’re online. Well, they are available to everyone, so long as everyone has access to a computing device and an internet connection. I would like to say personal access to a device and access to a reliable internet connection, but I appreciate this isn’t always the case.

Course – Yes, they’re a course; a collection of articles, videos and activities, maybe with discussion points dotted here or there (for social learning), and probably a test or end ‘assignment’ to prove you’ve learned something to qualify you for a certificate.

My point here is that I am seeing less and less, on the courses or platforms I see, that resemble MOOCs I saw two years ago. MOOC providers have to make money, yes, so there needs to be a way for them to make it, and statements and certificates and the like is a good way to do this. I’m just not sure we’re creating MOOCs for the reason we started – are we trying to force the learning into a model that is, essentially, for-profit now? What about courses that are really just about learning something new, not for CPD or to further a career, those that don’t have something that can be tested? Do you force a test or assignment just so an arbitrary mark can be assigned, therefore completing the numbers & stats in order for a mark/grade or completion rate for a certificate to be awarded?

Are MOOCs (and what we used to refer to as MOOCs) about learning or, as it seems now with exams, tests, assignments, certificates, etc. about the testing and payment options?

I’ll hang my hat firmly on the peg and say that, in the original and purest ‘ideal’ of a MOOC, MOOCs should be about expanding your knowledge, in any subject, for your own reasons and in your own time. Whether there is a paid-for option at the end (provided it’s still free for all at the start and everything inside the course is the same) shouldn’t matter. But it feels like it does. It feels like the commercial aspect is taking over. I hope not.

Image source: ms.akr (CC BY 2.0)

Sir Ken Robinson

Teachers are like gardeners …

Another wonderful sound-bite from Sir Ken Robinson:

” A great gardener, a great farmer, depends upon plants growing under their care, otherwise they’re out of business. But the irony is that every farmer and gardener knows you cannot make a plant grow. You cannot do that – you don’t stick the roots on, paint the petals, attach the leaves, you know. The plant grows itself. What you do is provide the conditions for growth. Great farmers know what the conditions are and bad ones don’t. Great teachers know what the conditions of growth are, and bad ones don’t. With bad teaching all this potential of students shrivels in the face of it. With great teaching all this stuff starts to flourish and flower. And that, to me, is the great gift of teaching: to recognise that growth is possible, at any time.”

Sir Ken Robinson – Teachers are like gardeners

Image source: Sebastiaan ter Burg (CC BY-SA 2.0)

MOOC success

Making a MOOC ‘successful’

Designing a ‘successful’ MOOC is one thing. Making a MOOC ‘successful’ is something completely different.

Much has been written by far better and more eloquent people than me (here and here and here and here and here) on what makes a successful MOOC – all about interactions, journeys, optimum length, appropriate materials, platform, etc.. But what about making a MOOC successful? To me, there is a difference.

This isn’t about making / building / designing a MOOC, it’s about making / encouraging / promoting / informing people about the MOOC.

The argument about MOOC success, learner retention, completion numbers, registrations, etc., is one that will rage on and on, everyone has an opinion, everyone looking at something different, all very valid, and all very important questions. There isn’t a definitive answer – each MOOC is different, for a different audience, for a different demographic (maybe), and designed in a way that different learner ‘profiles’ can get something different out at the end. If indeed they reach the end, which of course they don’t have.

No, making a successful MOOC requires more than a lead academic(s) subject knowledge, learning technology, instructional/education design, assessments, an appropriate learning goal/journey, working platform, etc. You need all the other stuff as well.

The other stuff you need? Well, try:  Continue reading

The Really Useful #EdTechBook, David Hopkins

One year on: The Really Useful #EdTechBook

It’s been an eventful year in the life of The Really Useful #EdTechBook. I wanted to just look back and collect my thoughts, and give you an insight into what it means to me, and to others.

The idea
My original idea was to write about my thoughts on the use of learning / educational technology. I then realised that, for me, the world of learning technology or technology enhanced learning (or just ‘learning’, as some prefer now) is about the people I connect with and learn from. Plus, you’ve probably read enough from me these days!

So, my original idea morphed into a collaborative project where contributors brought their own experiences, knowledge, and unique perspectives to the fore, for you to learn from.

From initial conversations, tweets, emails, etc. came the idea and concept for The Really Useful #EdTechBook. Each chapter was set aside for each invited contributor to have for themselves, no real limits were imposed, but ideally between 2,000-5,000 words. I wasn’t asking for anything in particular, I didn’t want to direct or control the flow of ideas or perspectives, other then each author’s own words on their own interpretation of the book title. I was hoping that, once the chapters came in, I could apply a narrative to their order – thinking of (1) the background / history to the use of technology, (2) the current field and areas we work, and finally (3) looking forward to what we can expect or hope for in the future. As is turned out the stories and experiences were echoing and supporting each other that it became obvious there is an underlying thread of our work; that technology has not only enabled us but also constricted us in our outlook – from repeating mistakes to growing concepts and inclusion of stakeholders in all aspects of our work.  Continue reading

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)

Customise me

Don’t give it to me unless I can customise it

My first car was a 1993 Rover Mini Cooper 1.3i, in British Racing Green (obviously). I bought it second hand in ’97 from John Cooper Garages (JCG) in West Sussex, and the legendary John Cooper himself handed my the keys (and made my mum a cup of tea while I did the paperwork).

Like so many people who own a Mini it didn’t stay ‘standard’ for very long, as I read through the Mini magazines on the kinds of things I could do to personalise the car. I went to Mini events, like the London-to-Brighton Mini Run and the 40th anniversary party at Silverstone, and looked over the show cars and private cars that were parked up, as well as the stands and auto-jumble traders. I bought the whole set of JCG brushed aluminium door furniture (window winders, door pulls, etc.) and chrome accessories (bling!), as well as doing more mechanical upgrades like vented discs and four-pot calliper for both front and read brakes, and a full-length straight-through (manifold to rear ‘box) DTM-style exhaust system (ooh, that was awesome!).

This was the start of my love affair with tinkering and messing with anything that’s standard to make it personal for what and how I like it.  Continue reading

Reading List

Reading list: November 14th, 2015

Like many in my line of work (eLearning, Educational or Learning Technology) I read. I read a lot. I read books, articles, blog posts, journals, etc. I sometimes tweet them, I sometimes print them, I sometimes actually finish them. Sometimes I bin them (those are the ones I wished I’d not started).

I’m going to try and keep a diary (a web-log, or blog, if you like) of the more important, or rather more interesting things I read, at or for work. I’ve also decided to up my game regarding my general reading habits … here is my side project of books I’m reading outside of a work setting.

So far this month I’ve been reading, in no particular order:  Continue reading