- Edge Hill Campus
Yesterday I attended the Sostice Conference at Edge Hill University near Ormskirk. It’s a small, friendly conference, in its sixth year, and was born out of CETL funding. It runs over two days, with a different focus for each day. Yesterday’s focus was Technology Enhanced Learning. The focus for today (which I am not attending) is Learning and Teaching Practice.
The first keynote Enhancing Learning, Teaching and Student Success in Virtual Worlds was by Dr. Mark Childs of Coventry University. For the past few years, Mark has been conducting a range of different learning activities in virtual worlds (Second Life), and in this talk he discussed his findings and presented some strategies for supporting students in virtual worlds. I found all this rather too evangelical but it led to an interesting discussion about the relationship between feelings of presence and perceptions of the effectiveness of the student’s learning experience.
There was a view from the audience that Second Life is somewhat dated now – that it’s ‘clunky’ and regarded by students as being ‘for old people’. The feeling is that Second Life is probably in decline and likely to be replaced by other technologies (though this was largely peripheral to the points Mark was making).
The second keynote, Engaging and Supporting Students: is technology an answer?, was by Becka Colley, Dean of Students at the University of Bradford and a committed technophile. Becka talked about the challenges ahead for universities to attract, retain and satisfy students in the post £9,000 per annum fees era, and how ‘technology focused solutions could help enhance the experience for all’. This was a fast and vibtrant ‘no holds barred’ presentation that Nick Clegg would not have enjoyed.
There were five groups of six or seven parallel sessions throughout the day. I tended to focus on those that were looking at some element of assessment.
Most interesting (pedagogically) presentations
Demanding Feedback: Supporting the few not supplying the many, Ollie Jones and Dr. Andrea Gorra, Leeds Metropolitan University.
This talk described an experiement in providing assessment feedback to 260 L2 students on an Operations Management module. The background to the research was the well known problem of students not accessing and reading the feedback given. In this experment, all students were given some generic feedback two weeks after the assessment deadline followed a week later by some individual feedback (about a sentence) and their marks on each criteria . Students then had the option of requesting additional feedback, given as recorded audio, written comments or f2f. 23% of students accessed the generic feedback; 45% accesed their individual feedback with marks; 22% requested the additional feedback, but only half of these subsequently accessed it. Those engaging most actively with the feedback were the high achievers and those at the fail or near-fail end. The majority of students in the middle appeared to be uninterested. Conclusions: focus feedback where required, reallocating time saved to formative feedback.
Using Electronic Voting and Feedback: Developing HOT Skills in Learners given by Trevor Barker of the University of Hertfordshire.
This talk described the development of HOT (higher order thinking) skills in some Masters students studying web design, through the requirement to critically analyse (as a group and in public) the work of their peers and then vote to agree a grade. This grade contributed 20% to the final grade, with the tutors’ grades (on the same work) making up the remaining 80%. Students were also marked on how close they were to the tutors’ marks, and there was a surprisingly close correlation between them. The whole experience of (a) examining and publicly discussing their peers’ work (with tutor input), (b) grading the work (and therefore having to internalise the grading criteria) and (c) comparing their awarded grades with those of the tutors appeared to lead to a much higher engagement with the assessment task than in previous years. A watered down version of the exercise was tried with Year 1 students, with similar evidence of improved engagement (evidenced by higher module scores).
Most engaging presentation
Augmented Reality – Unblocking a hidden curriculum by Stephen Rose, University of Exeter.
(In fact, I meant to go to the presentation in the next room, but walked in through the wrong door – then didn’t have the heart to walk out again. I’m so glad I stayed!) Stephen was describing a JISC project he was involved in on the use and deployment of Augmented Reality on a new generation of SmartPhones and tablet PCs, and how this can create opportunities to reveal hitherto hidden layers of information about the world around us. Amazing! I’d no idea all this was going on/possible. (Another reason to put an iPad on my wish list.) If you don’t really know what Augmented Reality is (I had only a vague idea) then look at Wikipedia
, this BBC news item
and Exeter University’s site