The Struggle is Real: Missing Opportunities in Higher Education

“We are told we lack aspirations. No, we don’t. We lack opportunities.”

                                                                                   –Sumeya Loonat, 2021

The Open & Inclusive Special Interest Group from OpenTEL featured presentations from two external speakers in an online seminar on Wednesday, March 24th, 2021. The speakers covered interrelated topics about language, race, mental health, and financial hardship in higher education. Sumeya Loonat, a senior international student lecturer in the Business and Law faculty at De Montfort University, was the first to deliver her presentation on Language and Learning: Breaking Barriers to Success’. Sumeya’s experience as an English teacher for Academic Purposes who provides academic support for international students has contributed to her research on the intersectionality between language and race. Under the Equality Act 2010, race can mean colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins. Sumeya’s PhD focuses explicitly on students of colour who use English as an additional language within a teaching and learning context.

She has identified key barriers bilingual students of colour face in higher education, including:

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FLAN: FutureLearn Academic Network Meeting

FLAN Meeting
Wednesday 17th March 2021
14:00 – 17:00

The meeting of the network was hosted by The Open University in conjunction with OpenTEL last Wednesday.

The international research event gathered a total of 39 people, including researchers, PhD students, course developers, educators and practitioners who were interested in learning about five presentations on the following themes:

  • Supporting people who are learning at scale
  • Training and supporting educators working at scale
  • Assuring the quality of MOOCs and microcredentials

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Dear reader… “It’s okay to play.”

Academics, researchers, and PhD students have to search, select, and submit their work to peer review journals and conferences to disseminate their research to the world. “Think of your audience”,—they say, but how often do they think of making their research projects and findings more accessible to the targeted audience? Regardless of their disciplinary specialisms, they forget to play with how they share their work beyond academia. “It’s okay to play” were the words Dr Martin Glynn told us during his seminar last Wednesday hosted by OpenTEL. Before scrolling down to find the recording of his talk, allow me to give you an intro of Martin’s background and how he ended up writing a book on ‘Data Verbalisation for Researchers’.

Martin came to academia late. In the beginning, he did not harmonise with academics because he did not understand their world. Working with prisoners and the community was his reality. Nevertheless, he pursued a PhD because, as many academics, he saw in education an opportunity to make a difference. “When are you going to publish your findings?” —people used to ask him. Well, the truth was that he was never comfortable with the subtle pressure around attending x number of conferences or having his work published in academic journals.

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CALRG 2020 Evaluation Report

The Computers and Learning Research Group (CALRG) held its 41st annual conference solely online for the first time in 2020. With some funding from OpenTEL, CALRG were able to collect extended feedback on the experiences of organisers, presenters and participants about attending an online conference. The findings have been compiled into a short report with practical recommendations that you can find here CALRG 2020 Evaluation Report!

Recommendations include:

  • For organisers: Take accessibility into consideration when selecting the platform for your conference and in the options given to presenters (e.g., some may prefer to send in a recording of the presentation and just take live questions)
  • For presenters: Set a timer next to your screen as it is hard for the facilitator to give you a discrete reminder about reaching your time limit.
  • For participants: Mute your mic when not speaking.

The ongoing pandemic will mean that CALRG2021 is likely to be held at least partly online. This report will inform the planning and running of the event, and the organisers will use this report’s evaluation methods as a starting point for an upstream evaluation approach to understanding the benefits and challenges of CALRG2021 (scheduled for 15-16 June 2020).