eLearning Digest No 171 – November 2018

This digest contains:

  • UK conferences & workshops
  • Online learning and adult education MOOCs
  • UK HE news
  • Commercial news
  • Industry news
  • Short news items

Professional Development

UK Conferences & Workshops

4 Dec Huddersfield Physical and digital library spaces: the final frontier. [CILIP]
4 Dec London The future for higher technical education in England – delivery, simplifying pathways and establishing Institutes of Technology. [Westminster Forum]
5 Dec Birmingham Immersive Environments. [eLearn Hub]
6 Dec London Introduction to Higher Education.  [AUA]
10 Dec Online Best Practices in eLearning for the Accidental Instructional Designer. [eLearning Industry]
11 Dec Online 2018 ALT Online Winter Conference. [ALT]
21-23 Jan Oxford 8th Academic International Conference on Multi-Disciplinary Studies and Education – AICMSE 2019. [CONAL]
30 Jan London 13th International Conference on Language, Education, and Innovation 2019. [CONAL]
30-31 Jan Birmingham STEM Conference 2019: Delivering Next Generation Teaching in STEM. [HEA]
13-14 Feb London Learning Technologies conference. [LearnUpon]
22 Feb Belfast Academics in the digital university: current trends and future challenges. [SRHE]
2-4 Mar Cambridge IEEE–2019 8th International Conference on Educational and Information Technology (ICEIT 2019).  [CONAL]
7-9 Mar London International Conference on Advanced Research in Education. [CONAL]
12 Mar London Next steps for widening participation in higher education.  [Westminster Forum]
16-17 Mar London FEAST Conference on Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence & Technology (AIT-19). [CONAL]
27-29 Mar London 2019 2nd International Conference on Big Data and Education (ICBDE 2019).  [CONAL]
28 Mar London Technology in HE: the future of learning environments, the use of AI and the impact of online courses. [Westminster Forum]
9-10 Apr London 4th ICRTEL 2019 – International Conference on Research in Teaching, Education & Learning. [CONAL]
30 Apr London Next steps for degree apprenticeships in England – funding, quality assurance and widening participation. [Westminster Forum]
29-30 May Milton Keynes Change Agents’ Network (CAN) 2019.  [Katharine Reedy]
10-11 Apr Galway OER19 Recentering open: critical and global perspectives. [ALT]
18 Jun London EdTechXEurope 2019. [EdTechX]
3-4 Jul Manchester CILIP Conference 2019.  [CILIP]
10-12 Jul Durham 4th International Conference on Information and Education Innovations (ICIEI 2019). [CONAL]
24-26 Jul Belfast Twenty-Sixth International Conference on Learning. [CONAL]
25-26 Jul London Sixth International Conference on eBusiness, eCommerce, eManagement, eLearning and eGovernance (IC5E) 2019.  [CONAL]

Online learning and adult education MOOCs

19 Nov 4 wks Teaching Adult Learners, Central Institute of Technology [Open2Study]
19 Nov 5 wks Basics of Inclusive Design for Online Education, University of Colorado Boulder [Coursera]
20 Nov 3 wks x 5 hrs Learning Analytics in Higher Education, uc3m/Universidad Carlos III de Madrid [edX]
26 Nov 4 wks Learning, Knowledge, and Human Development, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign [Coursera]
3 Dec 2 wks x 2 hrs Learning online: reflecting and sharing, University of Leeds [FutureLearn]
3 Dec 5 wks x 5 hrs Learning to Teach Online, University of New South Wales [Coursera]
3 Dec 3 wks x 4 hrs Blended Learning Essentials: Embedding Practice, University of Leeds/UCL Institute of Education [FutureLearn]
3 Dec 5 wks x 4 hrs Advanced Instructional Strategies in the Virtual Classroom, University of California, Irvine [Coursera]
11 Feb 4 wks x 4 hrs The Online Educator: People and Pedagogy, The Open University [FutureLearn]

Self-paced online learning and adult education MOOCs and BOCs

A larger selection of short courses can be found on the self-paced learning webpage.  These can be studied at your convenience to fit in with other commitments.


External News

UK HE

[BBC; Wonkhe]

A recent news story that three UK universities are on the verge of bankruptcy is concerning for staff, but risks creating extra stress for students. Among these, young people – in the process of applying for a place – may even be put off committing tens of thousands of pounds because the government can’t write a blank cheque to guarantee a bail-out if the worst happened. What would happen in reality may be a different story, but the risk of sending a shockwave through the sector is a reminder of the banking collapse.

Adding additional uncertainty to the financial stability of universities, a review of tuition fees is underway and may result in a reduction of c.£2,500 for students—bringing fees down to £6,500 p.a. (£13,500 for STEM subjects). Analysing the impact of this is a question of supply and demand, but no doubt there will be winners and losers. However, a decision is not due until early next year so there is still time for some joined-up thinking.

Returning to the rising controversy over university offers this summer, one UK University will no longer make unconditional offers. The aim is to maintain entry standards after they discovered that a number of their newly enrolled students did not get their predicted grades. A spokesperson at the University and College Union talks of: unconditional offers forcing students to make snap decisions, inflated grade predictions and the system making a mockery of exams.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Commercial News

[Campus Technology; Tech Crunch]

YouTube has announced a plan to make an investment of $20 million in educational content called YouTube Learning. The initiative will support education-focused creators by supporting the production of multi-session educational series. Conditions for funding include the requirement to have at least 25k subscribers and an intent to “teach in a factual, informative and trustworthy manner”. This is likely to increase the quality of site content and add to credibility.

Samsung has revealed a prototype of the long-rumoured folding smartphone, the ‘Infinity Flex Display’ also billed as a ‘Phablet’. Despite critique that it’s probably doomed from the start, it’s a technology that would make online study even more portable so it’s definitely one to watch.

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Hologram Lecturers

[BBC]

Imperial College London has revealed plans for lecturers to teach from afar using hologram-like apparitions. The effect that has previously been used to transmit images of Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley will work like video-conferencing, except the technology is expected to give lecturers a greater sense of presence. The real benefit is the ability to invite guest speakers from all over the world without the need for expensive travel. Other advantages include simultaneous presentations to students in more than one location.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Trial and error creation of 3D experiences

[Inside Higher Ed]

Since cycling through several approaches to 3D innovation, Yale has started a new project to explore the development and application of 3D experiences for teaching and learning. Their ‘hub model’ partners instructors with technologically capable students and uses a centralised pool of equipment and funding.

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The future of podcasting

[Mike Collins; TechCrunch]

After a slow start, initial academic interest in podcasting peaked in 2008 due to low listener numbers. However, in the last ten years listener numbers have quietly risen enough to increase the potential for using podcasting in higher education, helped by the massive growth of smartphone usage and a surge in user-generated content. Listener numbers have increased to such a level that the podcasting industry is potentially headed for a Netflix-like approach to paid streaming services for exclusive content—an approach that, based on TV streaming, is likely to popularise the technology and make it part of everyday life.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Distance learning promotes success

[Audrey Watters]

Distance learning breaks down the barriers caused by life’s complications. There is no ‘typical’ distance learner—everyone has their own reason. When Afghanistan Veteran Jeremy Haynes, a paraplegic following a terrorist attack, told his psychologist he wanted to go back to school he was told to be realistic, he wouldn’t operate mentally like he did before. Happy to prove the psychologist wrong, Jeremy is now studying for a doctorate in business administration and flourishing as an online learner.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Is standardisation really more important than excellence?

[Inside Higher Ed]

ExtensionEngine’s Scott Moore puts excellence before anything else. He reports on the number of conferences and workshops he’s attended where excellence has been overlooked in favour of standardisation, adoption rates, faculty impediments and limited budgets. Standardisation hinders innovation, and this doesn’t work in an age of rapid technological change. You can’t meet student needs, now or in the future, if you don’t make the most of what’s available and plan for what’s yet to come. Excellence is continuous improvement and that can’t be standardised.


Shorts


 And Finally…

[Edsurge]

The ‘Edvation x Summit’ in Tokyo has revealed the latest innovations that could be enhancing Japan’s educational future. Among them, two stand out:

  • Robots that look like cute marshmallows and attend school on behalf of students who may be unable to attend in person.
  • Headsets with cat ears that measure brainwaves to gauge the wearer’s state of attention—alerting teachers at a glance when attention wanders. The fuzzy feline ears perk up when a student is at full attention and fall flat when they’re not.

eLearning Digest No 170 – October 2018

It’s almost time for the clocks to go back in preparation for what has been forecast to be a very cold winter, so it must also be time for the October edition of the eLearning Digest.  Other recent editions are listed here.

This digest contains:

  • UK conferences & workshops
  • Online learning and adult education MOOCs
  • UK HE and BrHExit news
  • MOOC news
  • Apprenticeship degrees
  • Digital accessibility
  • Commercial news
  • Industry news
  • Short news items

Professional Development

UK Conferences & Workshops

5-6 Nov London Wonkfest 18: two solid days of cutting edge debate and endlessly interesting discussion. [Wonkhe]
7 Nov London An Introduction to Agile Project Management for Publishing. [ALPSP]
8 Nov London The future for the legal education and training framework. [Westminster Forum]
15 Nov London Next steps for improving STEM delivery at university. [Westminster Forum]
22 Nov Online Action Learning Sets: what on earth are they? [CILIP]
23 Nov Loughborough Making Educational Escape Rooms. [CILIP]
29 Nov London Association of University Administrators (AUA) Autumn Conference 2018: Rising to the challenges of change. [Clayton Wright]
29 Nov London Higher Education Data Conference. [HESA]
4 Dec Huddersfield Physical and digital library spaces: the final frontier. [CILIP]
6 Dec London Introduction to Higher Education. [AUA]
11 Dec Online 2018 ALT Online Winter Conference. [ALT]
21-23 Jan Oxford 8th Academic International Conference on Multi-Disciplinary Studies and Education – AICMSE 2019. [CONAL]
30 Jan London 13th International Conference on Language, Education, and Innovation 2019. [CONAL]
30-31 Jan Birmingham STEM Conference 2019: Delivering Next Generation Teaching in STEM. [HEA]
2-4 Mar Cambridge IEEE–2019 8th International Conference on Educational and Information Technology (ICEIT 2019). [CONAL]
12 Mar London Next steps for widening participation in higher education. [Westminster Forum]
16-17 Mar London FEAST Conference on Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence & Technology (AIT-19). [CONAL]
27-29 Mar London 2019 2nd International Conference on Big Data and Education (ICBDE 2019). [CONAL]
28 Mar London Technology in HE: the future of learning environments, the use of AI and the impact of online courses. [Westminster Forum]
29-30 May Milton Keynes Change Agents’ Network (CAN) 2019. [Katharine Reedy]
10-11 Apr Galway OER19 Recentering open: critical and global perspectives. [ALT]
3-4 Jul Manchester CILIP Conference 2019. [CILIP]
24-26 Jul Belfast Twenty-Sixth International Conference on Learning. [CONAL]
25-26 Jul London Sixth International Conference on eBusiness, eCommerce, eManagement, eLearning and eGovernance (IC5E) 2019. [CONAL]

Online learning and adult education MOOCs

22 Oct (4 wks x 3 hrs) Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching, University of Southampton [FutureLearn]
22 Oct (5 wks) Basics of Inclusive Design for Online Education, University of Colorado Boulder [Coursera]
22 Oct (8 wks x 6 hrs) Instructional Design and Technology: Learning Theories, University of Maryland [edX]
22 Oct (8 wks x 8 hrs) Instructional Design: Digital Media, New Tools and Technology, University of Maryland [edX]
29 Oct (3 wks x 2 Hrs) Using Virtual Scenarios to create Effective Learning, St. George’s University of London [FutureLearn]
29 Oct (5 wks x 4 hrs) Foundations of virtual instruction, University of California, Irvine [Coursera]
29 Oct (4 wks) Learning, Knowledge, and Human Development, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign [Coursera]
30 Oct (6 wks x 5 hrs) Digitizing Higher Education, University of Texas Arlington [edX]
5 Nov (2 wks x 2 hrs) Learning online: reflecting and sharing, University of Leeds [FutureLearn]
5 Nov (2 wks x 3 hrs) Digital Learning: Learning meets service design, Deakin University [FutureLearn]
3 Dec (3 wks x 4 hrs) Blended Learning Essentials: Embedding Practice, University of Leeds/UCL Institute of Education [FutureLearn]

Self-paced online learning and adult education MOOCs and BOCs

A selection of short courses can be found on the OU Learning Design self-paced learning webpage. These can be studied at your convenience to fit in with other commitments.


External News

UK HE and BrHExit

[The Times; THE]

Further to the news over the summer about the massive increase in unconditional offers made by universities for 2018 entry, the headteachers of leading independent schools have raised concerns about the impact on A level performance.  When pupils know they don’t need to pass, a reduction in effort results in poorer grades for students and, according to the umbrella group representing 285 private schools that include Eton, risks damaging schools’ reputations.

Following an announcement in the summer about The University of Glasgow signing a deal to open a European study centre in Germany, further UK—Europe collaborations are planned.  Imperial College London has signed a partnership with the Technical University of Munich to have staff jointly appointed by both institutions.  The aim is to prevent barriers in the European scientific area and to keep access to EU research funding.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

M(O)OC News

[Audrey Watters; EdSurge]

Fifth largest MOOC-provider FutureLearn, owned by The Open University, is looking to raise £40M to invest in platform improvements that will provide better support for online degree students.  The platform has previously announced over 20 Masters degree and graduate certificates, and more recently a new Bachelor of Arts Undergraduate degree from the University of Newcastle that starts in February 2019.

In contrast, The University of Michigan is encouraging on-campus students to engage with MOOCs it has previously developed.  The purpose varies from personal enrichment to fulfilment of prerequisites, and it is expected that some professors may use parts of MOOCs as homework or as a background reading exercise to support learning technical subjects.

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Commercial News

[Goldie Blumenstyk; Google; TechCrunch]

Four years after setting out to build software to save instructors time with marking, AI-assisted grading company Gradescope has joined the Turnitin family.  Both companies share a similar background story, founded by UC Berkeley graduate students who saw inefficiencies in student feedback.  The combined offering promises to make the lives of instructors and students ‘better and better’.

After seven years of operation, Google has announced that consumer Google+ will close.  The social networking platform was Google’s fourth attempt to break into the market after their earlier attempts with Orkut, Google Friend Connect and Google Buzz.  In the early days, growth looked promising but despite best efforts spam became such a major issue that even in 2017 users complained that the level of spam made the platform unusable.

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Apprenticeship degrees

[Wonkhe; OfS]

The Office for Students (OfS) has carried out research to help with improving degree apprenticeship opportunities.  Looking at the profile of apprentices, using a sample of 1,750 enrolments in 2016/17, the OfS found the greatest density of degree apprenticeships in the North East and North West of England, a greater uptake by men than Women, and comprising a lower proportion of students from minority ethnic groups than similar HE courses.  The split of younger and mature entrants is roughly split, with under 21s more likely to opt for STEM-related apprenticeships.  The real advantage seems to come from the higher proportion of students coming from disadvantaged neighbourhoods, demonstrating the benefit of apprenticeships for social mobility.

If learners are to fully benefit from apprenticeships, a clearer strategy is required to offer a full range of opportunities from entry-level to degrees and higher levels.  In order to broaden the scope of apprenticeships and to enable progression, there is a need for credit transfers and a mix of work and study-based modules.  Although not a solution to the HE fees crisis, better designed apprenticeship degrees could play a part tackling the collapse in part-time and adult student numbers, but the quality of what is offered relies heavily on strong partnerships between apprenticeship providers and universities.

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Digital accessibility

[ALT; Wonkhe; HEPI]

New UK legislation now requires universities to meet accessibility requirements and to publish an accessibility statement on their websites and apps.  While the Equality Act (2010) protects disabled students from discrimination, this new legislation specifically targets digital accessibility to ensure that content is designed to be compatible with assistive software.  This compatibility requirement is not just technical, but also covers the effectiveness of steps taken to ensure users are not hindered in their interaction with digital content.

Modern technology plays a massive part in supporting disabled students, and this may have contributed to increased participation of dyslexic students in HE over the past twenty years.  Between 1996-7 and 2016-17, the percentage of students with dyslexia increased from 1% of all students to 6%.  The recent Public Sector Bodies Websites and Mobile Applications Accessibility Regulations (2018) will ensure that more institutions support even more students with a range of different needs.

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Student debt and mental health

[Wonkhe]

World Mental Health Day may have passed but that doesn’t mean issues affecting mental health go away for another year.  For many, the reality of student debt is a source of ongoing distress—not just during their days of study, but well into their future.  Even with staggered repayments for current graduates in the UK, having a figure of up to £57,000 hanging over them is a huge burden.  In some cases, the problem doesn’t end there.  Increased social mobility often leads to the poorest students also turning to commercial finance, or worse, resulting in debt repayments that are not linked to income and cannot be deferred in the same way.  These pressures need to be taken into consideration with timetabling and when planning student workload.

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The world’s first ‘blockchain university’

[THE]

There have been whispers of using blockchain in education for a while, and the world’s first blockchain university is due to start teaching early next year.  A team of Oxford academics are working with the pioneers at Woolf University to provide a system that is more affordable for students while paying more for teachers.  However, touted as a ‘borderless university’, there are doubts over how the concept will fit with European data protection laws.  Only time will tell.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Face-to-face versus online

[University World News]

Amid disagreement over what disruptive innovation in education looks like, personalised online learning and meeting individual students’ needs is likened to Swiss cheese, where students are left with holes in their learning.  While it cannot be denied that online education reduces peer contact and the social benefit of campus-based learning, online courses offer something more.  The ability to use real-time revision tools gives students more control, enabling them to identify specific gaps in their learning.

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Free tuition initiative at Cambridge

[University World News; THE]

Cambridge University plans to offer a year of free tuition to disadvantaged students who fail to meet the required A-level grades to meet their offer.  The ‘Transitional Year’ will be funded by philanthropists and aims to widen access to students who may otherwise be put off applying.  Participation will not guarantee the students an automatic place at Cambridge at the end of the programme, but Cambridge VC, Professor Troope, claims it will get them into a top university.  One Oxford College, Lady Margaret Hall, is set to offer a similar programme.


Shorts


And Finally…

[Wonkhe; BBC]

If you’re considering studying for leisure, you may like to consider one of the niche courses on offer around the world, such as Puppetry and bagpiping, Bruce Springsteen’s theologies or a whole course about Lady Gaga—among others.

Elsewhere in the news, a woman was kicked of a flight in the US because her emotional support squirrel was considered outside the realms of what is considered ‘acceptable’ on an aircraft, unlike the emotional support turkey who had his own special chair, a kangaroo and a miniature horse.

And it’s not just us humans who need emotional support.  Paradise Wildlife Park’s snow leopard had a bit of a shock recently when she woke from her nap to discover a new camera.  Luckily the said captured her reaction—available for you to watch on the BBC news site.

Where is podcasting in higher education?

Podcast: An audio file made available for automatic download via web syndication. Typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.

During the years following the coining of the term in 2004, the world started exploring the potential of podcasts. YouTube was an independent curiosity, MySpace was the social media site of choice, and domestic broadband was allowing increasing numbers of people to download and engage with media in new ways. As with most manifestations of the technological zeitgeist, universities hopped on board, and started eagerly exploring the educational potential of the new box of toys.

The result was that academic interest peaked in around 2008, and then settled down as it became clear that listener numbers weren’t increasing at the same explosive rate as the rest of the internet. YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter crashed in to the space, and have justifiably taken up head-scratching time with regards to their application and impact on learning and teaching.

In the background though, podcasting has quietly but steadily grown, and is once again tickling against the edges of University awareness. Several factors have conspired to contribute to this. Reports published by RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) show that more than 11% of the UK population listen to a podcast each week. In the US, the numbers are even higher, with Edison Research’s Podcast Consumer report giving a staggering 26% of the population as monthly listeners.

source: https://www.edisonresearch.com/podcast-consumer-2018/

The steady rise can be at least partly attributed to the following trends:

Technology – Smartphones have passed from luxury to ubiquity, and have transformed the concept of on-the-move media consumption. More storage, cheap mobile data, and built-in podcast support on newer devices allow consumers to fill car journeys, gym sessions or the washing up with their on-demand entertainment of choice.

Directories – Apple Podcasts, accessed mostly through iTunes, has been a dominant force in podcast visibility over the last few years, and although the market share is shrinking (estimated to currently sit at around 50% according to BluBrry’s blog) it is still the most comprehensive aggregate of podcast content. So much so in fact, that nearly all of the other podcast aggregate services supplement their own directories with Apple’s. This counteracts the challenge of the decentralized and scattered infrastructure of podcast hosting services by pulling the disparate elements together in to one, accessible place.

User generated content – Many of us will have had our first encounter with user generated content in the form of the shaky VHS  footage in ITV’s ‘You’ve Been Framed‘. Since then, YouTube, Facebook and Tumblr (to name but a few) have given everyone a platform to broadcast home made content to the world – with cheap, easy to use cameras and tools letting them capture it. Broadcasting has moved from the domain of the few, to something done unthinkingly by the many, each time we post a picture or video to Facebook or Twitter.

So with the environment having moved on, where does that leave education? Universities have hopped on the bandwagon in some regard, with Oxford University in particular publishing encouraging statistics on engagement with their own podcast content. This however, and the majority of other Universities output consists mostly of recorded lectures, seminars, interviews and discussions. Indisputably valuable, but mostly exist as an alternative method of presenting ‘traditional’ content. The golden bullet of bespoke HE teaching through podcasts remains elusive.

The Open University and others have used the medium of online learning to create new ways of educating. Lynda.com and others leverage videos and screencasts to great effect for training and teaching. Codecademy offer guided simulations for programming and web development. Each of these emerging mediums has presented new opportunities and directions for teaching. What can podcasts offer?

Here in the Learning Design team, we’d like to give podcasts another look, to see what the unique advantages of straight-to-student syndication and casual consumption enable in terms of new ways of teaching. Its early days at the moment, but we’re looking forward to sharing what we find with you.

Perfect partners

Over the last year I’ve been reflecting on how much the success of our work depends on effective partnerships with a range of people – within and external to the Open University. As Learning Designers, it’s inherent in our role that we work collaboratively with curriculum teams to elicit and capture ideas for module creation. There are also many others – staff and students – with whom we form productive and fruitful relationships. All this is with a view to achieving the best possible outcomes for students.

In this blog post I have set out some of the ways that Learning Designers work in partnership with others, and what the impact is…

Defining partnership

According to Healey et al. (2014), “Partnership is a relationship where everyone involved is actively engaged in – and stands to benefit from – the process of learning and working together.” The key here is parity between partners, with all concerned having a stake in what happens. They go on to say that “Working and learning in partnership with students is a specific form of student engagement and is a way of doing things rather than an outcome in itself”.

Students as partners in curriculum design

I will start with students, since they are the whole reason why we do what we do. However, it’s only in the last couple of years that we have been able to engage students in the design process at an early stage, in the way that we would like to.

The Curriculum Design Student Panel was set up in 2016 to provide a means for staff involved in curriculum design and innovation to gain student input more easily. Over the two years of its existence, the panel has more than trebled in size, to around 1900 students. Recruited twice-yearly, panel members get the opportunity to take part in surveys, workshops and various kinds of usability and experience testing. The interaction is intended to mimic face-to-face student-teacher informal discussions. Activities are run via the panel’s We Learn workspace, through OU Live, and on occasion face-to-face. A Community Forum provides a space for panel members to get to know each other and share experiences.

Over the last year, students have been involved in around a dozen projects. For example, they have:

  • contributed their own ‘learner profiles’, which have fed into development of the OU’s new Online Student Experience student personas as well as being used in Learning Design workshops and academic staff development sessions
  • provided input on the terminology and vocabulary used in learning and teaching materials, which has fed into a glossary for OU staff to use when developing learning materials and module websites
  • shared their experience of informal learning through platforms such as OpenLearn and FutureLearn. This data is being used by colleagues in the Open Media and Informal Learning team to inform development
  • expressed preferences for the type of additional formats of online module material they prefer, which will shape future decisions about what we make available, and ongoing development
  • taken part in the Jisc national research project exploring how students use digital technology to support their learning, the results of which – when available – will feed into decisions the OU makes about its digital environment.

The findings from all these pieces of research help us to understand the study habits and preferences of OU students better.

OU staff partnerships

I have already referred to our partnerships with OU faculties. Over the last year, we have:

  • run 15 Learning Design workshops
  • worked with around 100 other modules (at various stages of production) on the more detailed design that follows a workshop
  • supported over 40 module teams with use of data and analytics for their modules, as well as training around 130 people.

As part of this two-way relationship we have been able to get feedback on our workshop format and bring in some improvements that should help academics with the design process. Our analytics work forms a really key part of module design evaluation and is much-valued by academic colleagues.

In addition, we work proactively with the Academic Professional Development team to develop and deliver an expanding portfolio of training, including sessions on:

  • Introduction to Learning Design
  • Selecting online tools
  • Learning analytics.

Within Learning & Teaching Innovation (LTI) we have many partners in module production – editorial staff, graphics media developers, interactive media developers, video and audio, online services and Library colleagues. When it comes to development, we work with the other TEL teams who are engaged in Learning Innovation, Online Student Experience and Learning Systems.

Our team supports the Enhanced Employability and Career Progression (EECP) project and has made input into the Employability Framework. Over the last year we have developed closer links with the Careers & Employability team – again, all with the student in mind, so that employability skills and attributes can be well integrated into the curriculum and the role of different experts clearly understood by those involved in module creation.

One group with which we are planning to develop closer working links during the coming year is the Associate Lecturer (AL) community. We will be taking opportunities to participate in AL Staff Development events, with a view to exploring AL perceptions of curriculum design as well as sharing the learning design approaches we use.

Partnerships in research

A rich body of research on learning design and learning analytics underpins our practice, and we maintain close connections with the IET Learning Analytics and Learning Design team, as shown by some of the joint scholarship and research which has been published over the last year or so, listed on the Learning Design publications page.

Learning Design is a key strand of the IDEAS project, an international collaboration between the University of South Africa and the Open University. As well as piloting OU Learning Design approaches with two UNISA module teams, three workshops have been delivered to staff at UNISA and at the University of Pretoria. There is potential to extend our work with African partners in future, as well as in other parts of the world.

External and commercial partnerships

The Learning Design team engages regularly with commercial opportunities. This can include running workshops and training for visiting groups (for example, from China). It also involves visiting other institutions and over the last year we shared Learning Design approaches with universities and education providers in the UK and overseas (for example, Denmark, Turkey, Spain).

Professional partnerships

We have active partnerships with colleagues at other institutions across the sector, including UCL, Northampton, Greenwich, Guildford, and the University College of Estate Management, as well as with Charles Sturt University (CSU) in Australia. OU Learning Designers are involved in organising the regular meetings of the Learning Design Cross-Institutional Network – a national and international special interest group that provides a stimulating forum to share Learning Design research and practice. We are also connected with the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), with good opportunities for networking and sharing practice.

Conclusion

It takes time and effort to nurture and maintain the connections that will lead to truly ground-breaking work. In my experience though, cross-boundary partnership working is where the magic really happens. Learning Designers are ideally placed to bring together different stakeholders in the design process, facilitate mutual learning, and generate creative and innovative solutions which benefit student learning. In fact, we are the perfect partners.

References

Healey, M., Flint, A. and Harrington, K. (2014) Engagement through partnership: students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. Higher Education Academy, UK. Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/resources/engagement_through_partnership.pdf (accessed 29 August 2018).

 

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