CMALT: 2017 Review

Summary of recent work/practice / August 2017 (500 words) 

My current role is so vastly different to the work I was doing when I gained my CMALT back in November, 2013, that it’s quite difficult to ‘update’. This will be a good exercise in understanding how I have changed, within myself, as well as my work and professional outlook. 

I joined Warwick Business School (WBS) in May, 2014, as a Teaching and Learning Consultant, a world away from the role I held at Leicester. The main differences are in the line management of a team and the level of responsibility for core business school activity. 

Since first obtaining my CMALT I have

  • developed MOOCs for Warwick University and managed the partnership with FutureLearn,
  • taken an increasingly active role in WBS for aspects of teaching and learning on the world’s number 1 distance learning MBA and on internally developed and run SPOCs, and
  • written two further books on the subjects of educational technology. 

For the Warwick MOOCs I have:

These MOOCs have taken me, and my skills, further than I ever could have managed. Not only have I managed the development of these MOOCs (both technically and pedagogically) but I have developed my skills and responsible, across different faculties, for various aspects of the developing online courses, internally for WBS and externally on behalf of Warwick, including:

  • Line managing a team of four excellent videographers who have filmed, edited, rendered, tested and maintained consistently high quality of materials for the Warwick MBA and Warwick MOOCs, including audio manipulation, studio green-screen, on- and off-campus filming duties (author Stephen Fry, on-location filming at John Lewis Partnership and the House of Commons, and the wonderful Sir Ian McKellen).
  • Designing and implementing materials and activities for the Warwick online MBA, to match the course objectives, learning journey, and ensuring the intended outcome and assessment criteria are met.
  • Self- and team-management skills to enable multiple courses to run multiple times each year, as well as planning and maintaining the team’s ability to film and edit materials from multiple sources and for multiple courses.
  • Multi-discipline negotiations on course design and development.
  • Managing facilitator engagement in the run up to new course presentations as well as their engagement and input during each presentation and the differing experiences each cohort of learners bring. 

Internally at WBS I work closely with academic groups, module leaders and tutors to develop new modules, redevelop existing ones (based on changes to the subject area and student feedback), engage with the academic groups to share and collaborate across the MBA disciplines and report on developments to the School’s senior management team.
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Overview of CPD activities over past 3 years

My continued application of learning has led me to start several MOOCs myself, both from the perspective of furthering my own understanding the online application of materials for learning, as well as for my own interest in learning new things. I started out, over 30 years ago, in writing my own (basic) games on a ZX81, which is why the courses offered by the Raspberry Pi Foundation caught my imagination, and I hoped to be able to learn something I could use with my children. As with all these MOOCs, life and work got in the way and I’m still progressing slowly through them. I am not interested in the certificates or statements that are on offer through these courses, but appreciate they are of value to those looking to demonstrate the acquisition of knowledge if the courses are taken for proof of CPD.

I am still interested in finding out more about our roles. My search started in August 2009 when I first asked ‘what is a learning technologist?‘ It continues to this day. I question myself, I reflect on my own actions, activity, engagements, communications and collaborations (both internally and externally). The series of posts that started the journey, and my second eBooks, has 16 entries to date. I have more responsibilities now than I used to and I line manage a team of four – I find myself doing less of the work I love and in more management, strategy and meetings. It’s a new world to me, and one I’m embracing – I want to be better, not only for my own work and progress, but also to be better able to support and develop my team. They deserve the best I can be.

This led me to question myself, and others, on the choices we’ve made on what technology we use for work and home, and why. In February, 2017, I published my 4th book based on what we really don’t want, or can’t do without, our #EdTech ‘Emergency Rations: #EdTechRations’. Again, I turned to my network and asked people I respect just what devices to they need, want, have to have? I am honoured by the responses I had, and am pleased that the project elicited such a varied insight into the way we work with technology in learning environments. Throughout the process I reviewed each submission and reflected on my own use of technology, realising I was using devices and technology for, sometimes, the wrong reason (using my iPad instead of my desktop, just so I didn’t have to sit at a desk) or indeed a completely new technology and new approach to using it (Martin Hawksey and Simon Lancaster’s use of their smartwatches). I am also honoured that Maha Bali is going to use the different chapters as part of her teaching, as an ice-breaker activity for her Digital Literacies course. Thank you Maha!

Use of the VLE or any online environment for students to work in and work with is still growing. After three years at WBS I am heavily engaged in both the FutureLearn platform and internally-developed WBS ‘my.wbs’ platform. Despite, as mentioned earlier, being more involved in strategy and management of teams and the development of modules, I still find that I cannot leave the investigation, development and implementation of new tools or techniques alone. In October 2015, I investigated and successfully implemented the ‘throwable microphone’ (CatchBox) to the School and have seen it in action on numerous occasions. The students have increased their engagement (link removed), realised they have a valid voice, questions are a valid part of their learning journey and that cultural differences often mean some are more vocal than others. 

Using two different platforms, FutureLearn and my.wbs, enables my own reflection and the ability to try ideas and techniques across them, being able to see similar tasks or activities in use in different environments and different audiences is a valuable design tool for me – is it the activity that worked, or the cohort of students, or the platform itself that made it work? In Appendix 1 (images inline) you can see the difference between these two platforms, and how the same type of activity changes depending on the presentation of it. In this example, we highlight a ‘talking point’, a point in the course where we expect the learners/students to interact with the learning materials and each other on a specific topic. The mechanism of leaving comments will obviously be different on the different platforms, and can be made on all resources/pages, but this a specific point we expect their engagement. In my.wbs these ‘talking point’ activities also form a ‘gate’ which, once the students has made their comment, will unlock the next resource.
Note: I am currently collating the evidence to support our observations that this new ‘talking point’ has increased engagement in both our MOOCs and online MBA modules. 

I have attended three ALT conferences now since joining WBS in 2014. I have blogged and tweeted my way through these, with notable posts like this one and this one for 2014, and this reflection on the CMALT session I gave at the last minute in 2015. In 2016, I changed my approach to note taking, using sketchnotes less and using Twitter for note-taking instead. From the networking that occurs at these events, as well as attending the sessions and talking with the session leads, has resulted in subtle shifts in my approaches to areas such as copyright, open education, online v. campus lectures and the use of video materials both online and in classrooms. I have especially enjoyed hearing from students at these events (Steve Wheeler in 2015) and hope to hear more like this in future.

I have been on the ALTC Programme Team Committee for the 2015 and 2016 conferences, and am also involved in the same way for this years’ (2017) event. Being able to help shape the conference and its sessions is both very fulfilling and satisfying, again I’m able to give something back to the community as well as develop my own critical skills and reflective abilities. Not all proposed sessions seem to be adding anything new to the field/world of learning technology, despite being new and innovative for the individuals or organisation who’s bringing it to ALTC, but I hope I have been able to respond to these and asked for a re-submission where a slightly different angle would help make the session more engaging for the ALTC delegates. One example has been the use of clickers or audience response system. We have seen quite a few of these at events before, so how about changing approach and presenting on what happened next, after the initial trial? What did you learn from the trial, what worked or didn’t work? What did you have to do to get form trial to implemented across the department or institution? These are the things that would interest me, so I hope would also interest other ALTC delegates. 
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Updated future plans (300 words)

Plans for the future centre around taking my understanding of learning technology and the academic impact it has further. By continuing to work on the Warwick Online MBA I am exposed to top level learning: top level in both learning design as well as the competitive market of online MBAs.

The future is going to enable me to bring my work and experience in designing seven Warwick/FutureLearn MOOCs, like Literature and Mental Health and Leadership for Healthcare Improvement and Innovation, internally. I have learned a lot about the use of videos in learning, about how to ‘encourage’ students to engage and interact online and how to design these activities to make them enticing for the student, to remove the feeling of either enforced activity or completing a chore.

I continue to learn about my role and the wider (and growing) world of educational technology, and have signed up for a couple of new courses/MOOCS, namely ‘Why We Post: the Anthropology of Social Media’ and ‘Get Interactive: Practical Teaching with Technology’. Both these courses, I believe, has something to offer me, even though I’m not interested in the certificates on offer, and will enable both reflection and development on and of my skills.

I have also started looking into more management and strategic opportunities, as a way of developing my skills in this area to take my role profile into the next level and looking forward and role progression. To this end I’ve booked to attend the ‘Warwick Introduction to Management’ course and will attend the taster session of the WBS Graduate Diploma in Applied Management to see if this is a qualification I want to pursue.

I will remain actively involved in ALT and the ALTC events, as well as trustee to Learn Appeal, the learning capsule charity.
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Appendix 1: Learning point activities

Appendix 1 – FutureLearn Talking Point learning activity:

Appendix 1 – myWBS Talking Point learning activity:

Portfolio pages: