Tag Archives: University

Who are the Learning Technologists?

‘Who Are The Learning Technologist?’ by @HeyWayne

Regular readers will know I have written my thoughts and experiences about ‘what is a Learning Technologist’ for a number of years. Indeed the series of posts is into double figures now and consist of my own  reflections, posts I read, research, and conversations I have with others in my ‘profession’.

In these discussions and collaborations I have also been attributed as a spark for others who have also started to question the role, and their role, in ‘learning technology’in others. This is by no small feat, but an honour in that the conversations are widening and engaging many more individuals and helping to focus and drive a deeper understanding of the roles, the individuals in the roles, and the expectations placed on the role (from ourselves, our colleagues and peers, our networks and associated organisations – like ALT or SEDA – and our employers).

One such, ongoing, conversation is with Wayne Barry (@HeyWayne) who is himself writing a series of posts on ‘Who are the Learning Technologists?’ on his blog. Now on his fifth post I thought I’d add a little to the conversation here to highlight, broaden, and engage the question(s) further.

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The Challenge of ebooks in Academic Institutions

The Challenge of eBooks in Academic Institutions #edtech

The goal of the JISC Report into the  ‘Challenge of eBooks in Academic Institutions’ project is to help “orientate senior institutional managers and to support institutions in the effective adoption and deployment of eBooks and eBook technology. As a consequence the project helps to support the wider ambition to enable improvements in the quality and impact of teaching, learning and research and meet rising staff and student expectations.”

“At present, for academic institutions, the ebook paradigm largely remains one of PDF format ebooks consumed using PCs. This is now dissolving. The ebook landscape is changing rapidly, driven to a large extent by developments in ebook readers and tablet devices which have enabled better ways to consume econtent.”

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Reading: “Experience of developing Twitter-based communities of practice in higher education”

Research in Learning Technology

Lewis, B. and Rush, D. 2013. Experience of developing Twitter-based communities of practice in higher education. In Research in Learning Technology 2013, 21: 18598 – http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v21i0.18598

“This article presents the results of a case study of the use of a microblogging tool by a university academic to increase their knowledge and experience of social media for educational purposes. The academic had the role of digital steward in a university and attempted to use microblogging (Twitter) to increase professional contacts within the framework of a community of practice. Several types of data were collected and analysed. These included the structure of the network arising from the links formed with others by microblogging, the similarity of stated interests between the academic and others in the network, and the contents of postings such as their external references. It was found that a personal network had been established, with some of the characteristics of a community of practice. The activity demonstrated the utility of social media in supporting the professional development of academic staff using technology.”

Engaging and Motivating Students #edcmooc

What a great video with so much to say, but I’m concentrating on the elements of the “importance of teacher presence” section, especially given my recent experience with the Coursera / Edinburgh EDC MOOC:

YouTube: Engaging and Motivating Student

Darrall Thompson:

“The role of an academic now is really designing learning environments that engage students. If I’m saying that engagement is the Holy Grail I’d better be engaging in ways they enjoy, not that I’m used to.”

A. Prof. Emma Robertson:

“You have to be there, you have to be paying attention to what they’re saying. And what I find is if you do that effectively in the first two weeks the rest takes care of itself – you’ve established the benchmark that you’re expecting”

Prof. Matthew Allen

“Teacher presence is a very important part of the socialisation of students into online learning, and it’s not that you are therefore dominating and telling students what to learn, it’s that you’re playing the role of ‘guide-on-the-side’, the person who’s there to help the students along but not to become the one they rely upon.”

The rest of the video is also worth watching, for an insight into creating learning environments, strategies for motivating students, and sustaining participation and engagement. A good resource, as are others in the series ‘Learning to Teach Online’.


Reflection on the ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’ MOOC, Wk.3 #edcmooc

EDCMOOCWeek three and into ‘block 2’ of the five week Coursera / University of Edinburgh MOOC: ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’. Are we leaving the bliss of utopia behind, or will be building on the fear of a controlling and dystopian ‘master’ as we become ‘human’?

“What does it mean to be human within a digital culture, and what does that mean for education?”

This week is introduced from the perspective that “we tend not to question, in our everyday lives, where the boundaries of ‘the human’ lie”.  As with previous weeks we have a few videos to watch and criticise analyse as well as a few papers and web resources to read in order to define or answer what it means to be human in the future.

  • The advert from Toyota has had a lot of discussion in the Coursera forum but I have a more cynical approach to it – stop trying to intellectualise something that is pure marketing. Do you really think Toyota is trying to make some kind of moral message on the future of technology, or just trying to replicate other successful advertising or cinematic sequences? The end of the advert is very reminiscent of the end of The Truman Show, where Truman (aka Jim Carrey) has a choice to stay in the world he now knows is fake, yet safe, or leave to an unknown but world that allows freedom of choice and experience. Isn’t this also what education is becoming … isn’t this why we’re also doing this MOOC, for the freedom of choice?
  • The second advert, this time one of the adverts in the series from BT (UK) which is supposed to represent “authentic” human contact, taking a cheap shot at the Instant Messaging and Facebook generation in an effort to show how a simple phone call is the real thing. No, a conversation in person is the real thing, a phone call is the next best thing. If we take this scenario into the real world, into my day to day work, then I would rather walk along the corridor to someone’s office and talk to them properly than a phone call or email. In an online learning environment this is obviously not possible, and neither is a phone call (one tutor to ‘x’ number of students, that could be a lot of calls) – this is why Instant Messaging or discussion boards and/or conference calls (Skype?) are popular, and will remain so.

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David Hopkins

“Let’s change everything!”

I recently watched this ALT-C talk from Mark Stubbs (Head of Learning and Research Technology, Manchester Metropolitan University – @thestubbs) at this years ALT Conference

YouTube: “Using Learning Technology to transform a whole university’s curriculum”
Mark Stubbs at ALT-C 2012

Here’s what I liked (at minute mark 5:18) when talking about integrating technology (from the student feedback, NSS score, and improving the “student experience”) and the issues on an Institutional level at making these changes:

“We can’t change everything because we’d have to change ‘Everything’! … if you unpick all this you see lots of but’s, reasons why we can’t do something … we had what’s called a Deputy Vice Chancellor ‘out of patience’ error … this notion of we can’t do it because we’d have to change everything built up and up and up, so we ended up with” ‘well if we can’t do it because we’d have to change everything, and that’s what you’re saying to me, then let’s change everything!'”

Indeed … “using Learning Technology to transform a whole university’s curriculum”. Who’s with me?

Social Media Stats Oct 2012

Why do Universities use Social Media?

Just how are Universities using Social Media, and how do they measure ‘success’ of the channel? I haven’t heard or seen an adequate response to these questions yet, but this infographic does give a little hint of what is going on:

Social Media Stats Oct 2012
Goals Behind Social Media Use – Click to enlarge

  • By far the biggest effort is put into engaging their alumni networks and creating and maintaining the ‘brand’ image of the Institution.
  • Over 4/5ths of Universities use social media to engage their alumni network.
  • One in three Universities claim their use of social media is more “efficient” in reaching their target audience … but is this efficient in staff time or efficient in results?
  • Nearly 2/3rds of Universities say the number of likes or friends or followers is a measure of success, yet only 1/10th say the link between social media use and student applications is important.
  • 1/5th of Universities think they are “very successful” with their use of social media, so that leaves 80% who think there is room for improvement … I wonder what they think they need to do that they’re not already, and why they’re not doing it yet then?
  • While Facebook is the biggest social network the Universities studied are using, services like Flickr and blogs have had the biggest investment (time or effort) since 2010.

Reading: “Social Media in Higher Education for Marketing and Communications”

“The Use of Social Media in Higher Education for Marketing and
Communications: A Guide for Professionals in Higher Education”

by Rachel Reuben

This guide is worthy of more than just a re-tweet this morning, so I’ve linked it here.

And for those not interested in reading the whole report (shame on you!) here are a couple of choice quotes from Rachel;

“What if we opened up courses for student reviews on our site? New students would be able to view reviews on classes when trying to make their selections, especially for general education courses. Courses with great reviews will likely receive higher enrollments, without any additional cost to market these classes. Administrators would likely worry about the classes that would receive poor reviews – but whether you enable this feature or not, these conversations are happening elsewhere, likely on sites you have no control over.”

“Social media comprises of activities that involve socializing and networking online through words, pictures and videos. Social media is redefining how we relate to each other as humans and how we as humans relate to the organizations that serve us. It is about dialog – two way discussions bringing people together to discover and share information.”

Admittedly the guide is slightly old now, written in 2008, it talks about “the two most popular social networking communities are Facebook and MySpace” which we know is not the case as it is Facebook or Twitter now (reports of 10 million users leaving MySpace a month have been seen recently) but it should not be discounted just because of it’s age. We may be better at thinking and using Social Media than we were three years ago, and the world of Social Media and Social Networks have changed with Smart Phones and Tablets allowing us to be more mobile with “when and where” activities, but we all have a responsibility to check and re-check our online activity, individually or as an organisation.

Who takes responsibility for online or digital communications?

I was reading this article last week – Death of the Web Team – and it got me thinking about who does actually takes responsibility for online or digital communications in your Institution?

One of my previous posts was on the availability or presence of a Policy within your Institution on staff using Social Media and Social Networks (for professional or work-related personal reasons), so this post kind of carries on from that, in a round about way.

With previous employers it’s been quite easy to answer this, it would have been me (webmaster for a motorcycle dealership, freelance Internet consultant, web designer for several local companies, etc). All these places were either small businesses or me working on  my own … and I liked it like that. Small offices and small businesses meant that any question was easily asked, by calling across the desk and waiting for the answer. Any decision about anything (including pay, conditions, expenses, benefits, work, clients, business direction, etc) were discussed openly among the team and we all felt included. Sweet.

But in a large company, like a modern University, it might not be so clear cut. Yes, there is a Marketing department, but are they the ones who take ownership of the various ‘official’ Social Media accounts;  Facebook or Twitter or YouTube? I don’t know.

But what of the Schools within the larger Institution? Are we/they allowed to have their own accounts in these networks? Well, some do, and some are very successfully used – the Media School (obviously) use the different Social Media channels very effectively, I believe, both internal and externally/publicly facing elements.

But what about right down at the programme level, in a framework, within a School? Can we effectively use Social Media? Well, yes we can, obviously (here I am for a start) but the question is not “can we (technically)?” it’s “can we (pretty please)?”.

The question of “can we (technically)” is a resounding ‘Yes’. I/we can, as the whole ethos of Social Media is it’s available to everyone and, with some time and effort, everyone can learn what it is and how to use it. But what about using it to brand / advertise / inform / learn / etc about your programme or your reading / research? Yes, I can do it, but where do I fit in the whole Institution’s “responsibility” matrix for the ownership of that kind of information, and how do I/they know whether the message being broadcast meets the required standards set by the policy makers, and not overstepping the boundary?

While I may be slightly confused by all this, I’m sure (hope) there are many who aren’t, and know exactly how this all works, for them. If you’re one of them please let us all know where your boundaries are, and how you work within them. If you have implemented such a responsibility matrix, and would like to help the rest of us to work our own out, please et us al know how you did it, how long did it take, and what hurdles did you encounter (and overcome)

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Reading “Universities of the Future”

I was reading the post by @universityboy this morning and then I thought … blimey, what will out children do when they leave School? Will they go to University .. or even will there be Universities for them to go to?

Anyway, there were sections of the post that really made me think, see if they strike a chord with you too;

“But concrete does not a university make. It takes time to turn a smart school leaver into a plausible junior lecturer, and it takes time for research departments in the western model to mature and bed in. The old ‘first world’ model of the university will be hard pressed to scale to accommodate the surge of the new middle class youth of what used to be called the third world. Out of need, something new will take its place. The new ‘gigaversities’ of China, India and Brazil might not command much respect in the staff common rooms of the old NUI, but they will rise to meet that need. In time, they will enter first world markets with degrees that are faster and cheaper than anything we can deliver.”

“The death of distance as a factor in education has been predicted since the telephone was invented, but only now are remote classroom tools becoming usable, though fully immersive environments like Second Life are still fringe. Growth in bandwidth and processing power will move these tools into the mainstream over the next ten years, as telepresence suites currently sold to corporates as alternatives to private jets price down into the mass market.”

“Institutions reliant on local students and without a global draw will find themselves relegated, their reputation slowly crumbling as the cream of the crop goes elsewhere.”

And finally …

“The university my daughter attends may prepare her for a job no one today has thought of yet, working at the centre of a network of increasingly intelligent tools and services. But there is no law that says that new technology will keep creating new jobs for humans as it has in the past. It is an open question whether the university my granddaughter goes to will be able to prepare her for any job at all.”

I think (hope) that, on the whole, there will be Universities and our children will be able to attend them. I am planning that my children will have the same opportunities I was lucky enough to have … the option to take up Higher Education, even if they don’t want it!

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