Learning technology enthusiasts from all over the world descended on London’s ExCel Centre last month for the 2016 Bett show, a gigantic four-day annual festival of education-facing IT that regularly attracts over 35,000 visitors from every sphere of education.
Amidst the buzz, hype and the glint of shiny new kit, the Technology in Higher Education Summit attracted some big names from the HE sector, and raised some important issues.
Keynote Speaker Diana Laurillard, Professor of Learning Technologies at UCL’s Institute of Education, kicked off proceedings with an overview of the challenges we currently face in the sector, and how technology might help us to navigate and thrive in this rapidly-shifting landscape. Inevitably, the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) emerged as a hot topic of debate. Diana pointed to the role that technology will play in negotiating, interpreting and meeting the goals of this forthcoming policy, especially in the areas of employability and digital literacy. For the TEF social mobility aims, Diana pointed to the value of offering short online taster courses to attract more students from diverse backgrounds. As our taster course initiative at Greenwich is already underway, our university has an opportunity to emerge as a sector leader in this space.
The What Drives Successful E-Learning? session brought the conversation around to strategies for creating effective TEL.
Marion Manton, E-Learning Research Project Manager at Oxford University, shared insights gleaned from the hundreds of online courses delivered by Oxford’s Department for Continuing Education over the years. Oxford is known for its small group tutorial model of teaching, and this seems to have been critical to the sustained success of its online courses too. Through the extensive use of OERs and discussion forums, collaborative learning has always been an important goal. “The bottom line with making collaboration work,” Marion concluded, “is making it absolutely fundamental to your learning design.”
Dave White, Head of Technology-Enhanced Learning at the University of the Arts, agreed. “Getting students to collaborate requires very elegant pedagogical structures, and good teaching,” he said. “At the heart of successful e-learning is good pedagogy.”
Blended Learning and Flipped Classroom models were the focus of the Moving Away from Traditional Lectures session, in which our own Zoe Swan, Senior Lecturer in Law at Greenwich, shared insights from her team-based flipped learning approach. Zoe uses Panopto to provide students with digital content in advance of the lectures, so that when they come to class they are ready to engage with a range of activities she has pre-prepared. This approach, when combined with a team-based pedagogy, ensures that each learner is accountable for putting the effort in, and is ready to work collaboratively with peers for deeper learning experiences. Nevertheless, working with a group of over 140 first year undergraduates has not been without its challenges. “Most of them just want to rock up, sit there and have a traditional lecture with lots of knowledge put towards them,” Zoe explained. “This approach is very different. They have to actually engage with the Panopto app, and we’ve had really good experiences with it because students like to be able to take their learning around with them.”
Zoe believes that success with innovative approaches to teaching and learning depends upon the teacher’s personal commitment, willingness to try new things, and support from peers. “At Greenwich, our learning technologists have set up a fantastic resource on Basecamp, a Community of Practice for Flipped Learning, and it’s full of tips and ideas,” she said. “I think most teachers need to feel comfortable with their own materials, but there are great advantages to working as part of a team of colleagues who are exploring innovative practices.”
Don’t miss the Bett Show 2017 for more glimpses of the future of education. It will run from 25th to 28th January, and you can book your free ticket now at bettshow.com.