Welcome to the Digital Transformation blog

Featured

Digital is the convergence of a variety of technologies and social changes that have led to a new way of living our lives. Our students are the epitome of this new digital reality – they create and consume content in a very different way to previous generations.

But what exactly is a digital transformation? The Enterprisers Project define it as:

“The integration of digital technology into all areas of a business resulting in fundamental changes to how businesses operate and how they deliver value to customers.

Beyond that, it’s a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment often, and get comfortable with failure.

Digital transformation is not solely about technology. In fact technology is only one part of the puzzle. Digital transformation is about meeting the needs of the new digital consumer – be they staff or student. It involves new understanding and cultural change. For more on this see Paul Boag’s Digital Transformation: The six questions you need to answer.

At the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) we are at the beginning of this transformation process. There is a commitment to develop and a will to act, but so far efforts have not been as co-ordinated as they could be.

However this is about change. We are working on a new digital-focused strategic approach to be integrated in our IT strategy and Learning and Teaching strategy.  It will form the backbone of our digital activity and allow progress to be made in a comprehensive and integrated manner.

We want to share our transformation with you and intend to blog about the journey, bumps and all.

Digital at the core: a 2030 strategy framework for university leaders

The Jisc learning and teaching reimagined report related to this framework is now available: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/reports/learning-and-teaching-reimagined-a-new-dawn-for-higher-education. It is an excellent report and one that we will be looking at closely.

As the sun rises on this new dawn for higher education it is illuminating new digital models of learning and teaching, while at the same time casting a shadow of darkness across some traditional, increasingly old fashioned, ways of working.

David Maguire
Interim principal and vice-chancellor, University of Dundee
Chair, learning and teaching reimagined

The report finds the biggest challenges facing our sector to be:

  1. Embed digital at the heart of university culture – Leadership and vision are essential for transformation as digital becomes a central feature of learning and teaching.
  2. Invest in the short term but with a long-term strategic view – Most university learning and teaching infrastructures need significant upgrades to support the expansion of online learning and teaching. As this is a rapidly maturing field, careful long-term planning is needed to ensure investment is strategic.
  3. Explore new economic models for high-quality blended learning at scale – Scaling up high-quality blended learning and teaching takes considerable time and investment. If the shift is to be sustainable, affordable and widespread, work is needed on the economics that will allow transformation.
  4. Embrace blended learning in curriculum redesign – Focusing on learning design, with student involvement, will ensure that it achieves high-quality outcomes and makes a difference by shaping fully accessible and inclusive learning.
  5. Expand the digital skills and confidence of students and staff – Significant and rapid progress has been made in improving the digital capabilities of students, staff and leaders but there is much more to be done, and increasing all-round digital confidence remains a priority.
  6. Communicate the benefits of blended learning – We have evidenced a significant increase in the acceptance of digital learning and teaching but further attention is required to understand and meet shifting perceptions, both within and beyond the sector.
  7. Strengthen the response to digital poverty – The digital divide was brought into sharp relief in 2020 with students’ differing levels of digital access. This remains a priority concern for all groups and additional resources are needed to level up opportunities.

We are facing many of these at the RAU. It has been a huge cultural shift to move online and there is still considerable work to be done in bringing the whole institution with us.

In order to counteract these challenges the report makes a series of recommendations. These make a good basis for any future planning.

  1. Universities to use their strategic and structural planning processes to effect the digital
    transformation of learning and teaching, ensuring that sponsorship is provided by
    governing bodies and executive teams.
  2. Universities to review their strategic investment in digital learning and teaching.
  3. Universities to make investment plans to mitigate the heightened cyber security risks
    that arise from greater dependence on digital technologies.
  4. Universities to think radically about the scale and scope of their learning and teaching
    activities, prioritising blended learning approaches wherever possible.
  5. Universities to accelerate the adoption of blended learning, with close involvement of
    students in all aspects from design to delivery.
  6. Universities to ensure inclusivity and accessibility are integral considerations in
    curriculum redesign.
  7. Universities to ensure their professional development plans include digital training, peer
    support mechanisms and reward and recognition incentives to encourage upskilling.
  8. Universities and sector organisations to establish research to remain in step with the
    changing digital preferences and expectations of prospective higher education students.
  9. Universities, government and funders to provide additional funding or means to reduce
    digital poverty as a barrier to students accessing higher education.

There is a recording of the accompanying launch webinar which features VCs from Edinburgh, Aston, Falmouth and Sheffield Hallam, the CEO of AdvanceHE, director of policy at UUK and others.

Thanks again to Jisc for the report and accompanying materials.

Creating Better Videos: Getting Started

In his last post Matthew Rogers-Draycott promised to share some of the tips, tricks and ideas that he has been using to improve his recorded material. He starts with looking at how you can create better videos.

Creating Better Videos: Getting Started 

Recording content for blended, flipped or fully online courses is a minefield. Not only do you need to shape it to fit a very different set of pedagogical and methodological considerations, you also need to ensure that it is recorded in a way which maximises the impact of material you are delivering. 

There has been a lot written about how to design materials for these contexts but, surprisingly, the same attention has not been given to providing clear advice on how to record for them. As someone who has some experience of this work and, is currently exploring how to improve my output, I felt that this was something I could contribute to.  

In my effort to address this topic I am going to write a series of blogs/vlogs that will discuss how to produce better recordings using varying levels of equipment. In this first piece I am going to explore the key factors that underpin the production of good recordings and make suggestions as to how these can be controlled with minimal equipment. 

In my opinion there are 3 key factors that you need to control to produce good recordings: 

  • your environment
  • your camera position
  • and the placement of your microphone. 

The Environment 

When choosing a place to record there are 2 things you need to consider, the first of these is the ambient volume. Managing ambient volume is not just about finding a quiet place that is free from other distractions or interference, that bit is quite obvious, it is also about ensuring that the room you are recording in is not too acoustically bright. A bright room is one that is tilled, has hard floors, and/or lots of hard furniture. Recordings in these environments will tend to sound echoey and tinny even with good quality equipment. This means that kitchens and bathrooms are not ideal, instead, try to record in carpeted rooms with lots of bedding and/or soft furnishings. Larger rooms with less furniture are also not a good choice as they can add an echoey quality all of their own to the recording. If you are stuck in a large or, acoustically bright space, putting a pillow behind your mic or, at the either side (just out of shot if you are using video) can help, as can hanging a blanket around the area you are recording in (to make it acoustically smaller). 

Matt set up
Matt’s home set up

Assuming that you are videoing your content the second thing you will need is light, even a good camera with low light correction can be rendered inept with poor lighting. If you do not want to invest in lighting, which can be done relatively cheaply, the important thing is to try to make sure that your face is lit from behind the camera and that you do not have any bright light sources directly above, behind, or to the side of you. This should make sure that the visual tone of your recording is even and that you do not look washed-out, in shadow, or have any instance of flare from other light sources. A simple trick is to record during the day, and do so directly facing a window, this should ensure that you are lit by the natural light from the window without the need for any additional light sources. 

Camera Position 

Next, you need to consider where your camera is positioned. Wherever possible your eyes should be level with the camera and you should be able to speak directly into it as if you are looking at the audience. If you are using a webcam, putting it on a small tripod can help to get the right level, if you are using a laptop, I would advise you to lift it up using a small pile of boxes or books to achieve the same effect. When you see yourself on camera your face should be framed in the centre of the image, with a centimetre or so between the top of your head and the top edge of the screen. Making sure that your camera is at eye level will also help to reduce shadows and, if you are using an inbuilt mic, it should ensure that you are speaking toward it. 

Laptop stand by Jem Yoshioka
Laptop stand by Jem Yoshioka

Microphone Position 

To be clear, buying a good external USB microphone or headset is the quickest fix to improve the quality of any recordings you are producing vs. using the mic that is built into your laptop or webcam. The reason for this is that laptop and webcam mics are small, poorly filtered, and often badly positioned. 

When considering mic placement, it is important to understand that the further away you are from the mic, the thinner your voice will sound and the more the environment will affect the recording. That said, if you are too close to the mic you will sound overly bassy and the impact of your breathing will be exaggerated. Therefore, the mic needs to be close to your face, but not too close, about 15-30 cm away and just slightly off-axis from your mouth is ideal. If you have a pop-filter or windshield you should use this as it will further lessen the effects of breath sounds and aspirated plosives on the quality of the recording. Following these suggestions should mean that you can turn-down the gain on the microphone, which will in turn reduce the impact of any background noises. These tricks will help your voice to sound richer, fuller, and minimise any interference.  

Microphone set up

If you are stuck with only a laptop and in-built mic the best advice is to lift it up (as previously suggested), and get your face as close to the mic as you can while still maintaining a good framing of your face in the screen. Beyond this there is not much you can do to improve your audio unless you are willing to engage in some post-production with something like audacity

I hope these tips are useful, in my next piece I am going to focus in more detail on getting the audio right and will use some examples to illustrate the points I have raised here. 

Digital Approaches to Education During CV19, a Critical Perspective

Today we have a post from one of our lecturers, Matthew Rogers-Draycott, in which he offers his perspective on the digitisation of higher education, and the role of curricula such as the RAU’s blended learning model during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Matt is a lecturer here at the RAU specialising in Entrepreneurship and Marketing, and he acts as the Programme Manager for a number of undergraduate degrees in the School of Business and Entrepreneurship.

Between stints in business Matt has spent the last 16 years working internationally as an entrepreneurship educator and course leader in a wide variety of institutions. He is also a passionate tech geek with a keen interest in digital approaches to education. You can follow Matt on Twitter.

Matthew Draycott, lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Marketing

We hope that this this post will be the first in a short series in which Matt shares some of his experiences of digital delivery.

Digital Approaches to Education During CV19, a Critical Perspective 

When I was asked to write this blog it was hard for me to decide what to focus on. In institutions across the UK staff are coping with such a variety of pains and pressures I wondered how I could write something that would be useful and meaningful. In the end, I decided to try to summarise my thoughts about the RAU’s approach to online education in this phase of the CV19 crisis and how I felt about this in the hope that it might provide some useful insights for other colleagues. 

Unlike many in the sector I am not a newcomer to designing and building digital learning materials. I created my first online course in 2011 and, in a previous life, I often championed the use of flipped classrooms, virtual learning spaces and gamified delivery through projects such as Mashhop.com (a pretty glorious failure), eventsblogs and conference presentations

Having read this, I bet many of you are thinking that, in the current environment, I am getting exactly what I always wanted… Please allow me to disabuse you of that notion. What I have long hoped for is a planned shift toward a more digitally integrated curriculum which is not, in the main, what we are currently producing.  

Matt delivering content in the classroom and using lecture capture software (Panopto)
Matt delivering content in the classroom and using lecture capture software (Panopto)

At the RAU, for example, our CV19 delivery model is designed to provide a blended curricula, a middle ground between fully flipped and traditional in-class teaching.  

While I believe that this is a good model which has pushed me to create some impactful new learning materials and encouraged me to update many lectures in a fashion that I might otherwise have avoided, this is still a long way from the deliberately constructed ecosystem I would like to see higher education institutions such as ours embrace. 

The difficulty here is that our model, like many others in the UK, is treading a fine line between the need to build more structured, synchronous, online content while maintaining an element of asynchronous face-to-face delivery. Furthermore, its rapid introduction leaves me feeling that deeper considerations of philosophy, pedagogy, and methodology have been curtailed in favour of streamlined approaches which can react to our ever changing environment.

To be clear, I am not criticizing the model, I am supportive of it, and I think that its compromises are understandable given the competing pressures it must, pragmatically, mediate between. That said, I am also keen that we do not present this as something it is not, a major step-change toward the mainstreaming of digital education approaches in higher education. 

Matt's home recording set up
Matt’s home recording set up

If we are going to shift in that direction, temporary solutions, such as those that we are currently offering will not be enough. Students are savvy consumers of digital media, they expect content and delivery systems which have been designed from the ground up to engage, entertain and educate. I believe this will result in the need for new training programmes, better equipment, and a radically different conceptualisation of the curriculum design process. All of which will likely put the need for specialist support staff, training, and development time to create these kinds of experiences in sharp focus, especially when balanced against the myriad of other agendas institutions such as ours must seek to fulfil.

It is, therefore, becoming increasingly clear to me that we as educators need to make time and space in our ‘new-normal’ to share insights and ideas that will help all of us to develop our practice as. No matter how difficult that may be.  I know that is what I intend to do more of. I am going to commit to more blogging, posting and dissemination to share some of the tips, tricks and ideas that I have hit upon to improve my materials and I hope this will encourage others to do the same. 

Becoming a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert

Yesterday I attended my first Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) team meeting along with over 200 other MIEEs from around the UK. The MIEE global community is “a thriving community of educators who are working together to change students’ lives and build a better world“. Pip has been an MIEE before and wrote a great post on her experience, but I am a newbie.

MIEE October connection call

Being a member of the group means that we have access to support (through the MIEE Facebook group and Teams site), can host events in the name of MIEE and get free offers from Microsoft partners.

MIEE map

Yesterday’s meeting involved some general introduction to the support people by region, an overview of new Teams features and very brief introduction to Thinglink.

MIEE support for south

My main aim for the following year is to get to know the MIEE community better and become more proficient in all things Microsoft. There are already Teams channels springing up for regions and different sectors (like HE). It’s clear that there is a huge amount going on and I’m looking forward to being part of it.

MIEE badge

Recording Educational Activities Policy

Our Recording Educational Activities Policy has now been approved and is available from the RAU Academic policies and procedures page.

The policy provides guidance for the recording by University staff, students or others, of activities delivered with an educational purpose by, or for, the Royal Agricultural University.

A while ago we shared guidance based on this policy including an infographic with tips on recording content online.

RAU Blended Curriculum

Over induction week students have been introduced to the RAU blended curriculum. The curriculum has been designed to:

  • Conform to guidelines for Covid-19 for a socially distanced campus
  • Provide all RAU students with an on-campus experience that includes faceto-face teaching
  • Maintain the high quality RAU learning experience

Modules have been structured to include a combination of online
and face-to-face teaching and learning activities

A week of comprises of:

  • An introduction to the week ahead – either synchronous or asynchronous
  • Online pre-recorded lectures, in chunks
  • Other online learning such as quizzes, further resources, activities
  • Face to face seminars which is meant to consolidate learning
A page on Gateway

As part of induction week we also supported our freshers and returners with online induction sites. These covered:

  • Blended curriculum introduction
  • Library introduction
  • Labs introduction
  • ITS induction including an introduction to Gateway, cyber security, Office 365 and Turnitn
  • Orientation – including a socially-distanced campus tour
  • Other – links to important resources
Induction support

Hold Your Digital Horses. Time for an Online Symposium.

The University of East London (UEL) hosted their Learning & Teaching Symposium on Microsoft Teams on Thursday 17th September. A slide from the final keynote delivered by Simon Thomson (@digisim) from the Centre for Innovation in Education exploring the Physical and Digital: Exploring places and spaces for hybrid teaching in a post-lockdown world.

Pivot within a Pivot. Digital Wheel within a Digital Wheel.

Both Zoom and Microsoft Teams have played an important role at RAU, a Zoom with the SDAU project which was the topic of a poster presentation delivered at the event by @digitalrau, Digital Learning Manager and @pipmcdonald, Learning Technologist. The event had different rooms with different themes where presentations were delivered simultaneously. Our room explored Teaching Principles in Practice. We successfully submitted a proposal to the symposium exploring the transnational online pivot relating to the longstanding project the RAU is involved with working with Shandong University in China. The transational pivot was almost like a pivot within a pivot, a digital wheel within a digital wheel.

A Learning & Teaching Symposium: Tech Incognita for Terra Incognita?

As a learning and teaching event, my initial concern was that both our roles and activity were concerned with learning technology and not pedagogy in an explicit capacity. Some Learning technologist roles are more technical and others are more focused on pedagogy. However, the more work I carried out on the project the more I realised the pedagogy was driving the narrative of the project rather than the technology. This was echoed In the Microsoft Teams chat during our poster presentation.

Never Mind the Buzztech. Putting the Learning in Learning Technology.

“When a ‘learner’ sits alone in front of a computer and engages with a text displayed on screen there is more going on than the interaction of that individual with the screen” (Jewitt, 2006: p76). An evaluation form in Microsoft Forms with a range a questions including using Likert scale and ranking was created and emailed to lecturers who taught on the project. The benefit of using Microsoft Forms is that the results are created in real time. One of the questions asked what types of learning took place during the interactive sessions? Lecturers identified that multimodal learning was form of learning that took place the most. Multimodality can be understood whereby “…all modes of communication are attended to as part of meaning making…” (Jewitt, 2006: p3 ). More specifically, multimodality can be seen as “…images, sounds, space, and movement representing and communicating meaning (Kress, 2010, in Miller & McVee). Multimodal approaches to pedagogy are becoming widely used in academia (Jewitt, Bezemer & O’Halloran, 2016). Having explored multimodality in education at the MFL Twitterati conference at the Ashcombe school  in Dorking organised by the Association for Language Learning (ALL) in 2019 and at the Missing Maps mapathon event at University College London (UCL) in 2019 – , I was keen to explore this more. Zoom could be argued to be a platform for “multimodal discourse” (Kress & van Leewen, 2001). It could also be argued that multimodality literacy could potentially help to move across any potential language barriers. Participating in a Zoom meeting is a multimodal experience – “When a ‘learner’ sits alone in front of a computer and engages with a text displayed on screen there is more going on than the interaction of that individual with the screen” (Jewitt, 2006: p76). A further study could be completed to explore the impact of multimodal approaches to learning and teaching.  

The Power of Research Informed Pedagogic Practice

Lecturers wanted to explore how to use the interactive features in Zoom included break out rooms, polling and whiteboard. The technology was a platform for the pedagogy. There is a well-known quotation that ‘When the student is ready the teacher will appear’. What about the Learning Technologist?  The truth is Learning Technologists appeared in a radical way particularly during lockdown to facilitate the online pivot.

When asked what approaches Lecturers took in the interactive sessions on Zoom, the majority used the chat function and share screen. What emerged pedagogically was that some teachers wanted to explore more features such as polling, breakout rooms and whiteboard. As a Learning Technologist, this was exciting to support and a model we hope to follow up on the next iteration of the project. Pedagogy driving the narrative of the project and not necessarily the technology was the critical thread we wanted to stress in the presentation.

With respect to how Lecturers engaged with students in interactive sessions, approaches included  team teaching or having more than one lecturer is a Zoom meeting. This seemed like an effective approach for example while one Lecturer presented content, another Lecturer could manage the chat. This approach makes sense particularly in virtue of the fact that over one time with a hundred students were in meetings at any one time.  Successfully engaging with such a large number of students is always challenge. Lecturers’ ideas were impressive, for example, one lecturer was going to do a live auction in Zoom which was a really engaging scenario-based approach.

Two Hats or Two Tribes: A Teacher & A Learning Technologist

From my experience in the role of a Teacher of English for Academic Purposes (EAP), one of the challenges is that few students speak up in transnational contexts. This was also a point that was raised as part of the research project.  One of the approaches one Lecturer took was to have smaller groups running consecutively where students had to work collaboratively to create a proposal on PowerPoint and each person would have a role assigned to them a bit like De Bono’s thinking hats (De Bono, 2000). We hope to take this model forward. Emergent pedagogies were important for us. We could move towards a model of De Bono’s Digital Thinking Hats. One of the questions we were asked about our research project was about this approach:

My response was to remind everyone that learning is always about relationships and explained how the approach worked in terms of smaller groups helping students to actively contribute. It was also meaningful to feedback to the lecturer who created the approach that the approach he took was shared and successful.

Zoom, Boom & Bloom

Both student and lecturer feedback was similar about not having a personal connection in a face to face setting, there was evidence of valuable personalised touches to pedagogy. The phrase I used in the presentation was that it was not the ‘ghost ion the zoom machine’. For example, one of Lecturers showed the students her garden and environment during an interactive session. Students of Agriculture as a curriculum area would find this helpful in real time. Additionally, a Lecturer allowed students to talk with her son who was a student studying Mining Engineering and they shared a valuable discussion on sustainability. Even given the contextual restraints of the transnational online pivot, unplanned valuable pedagogic moments can still take place. It is not just Zoom, doom and gloom, but rather Zoom, Boom and Bloom! Bloom’s taxonomy has been revised to include digital skills (McNulty, 2020). Perhaps a specific taxonomy could be created for Zoom or video meeting-based platforms.

Back to the Future, Feedback & Feedforward

The first keynote of the symposium was delivered by Dr. Naomi Winstone (@DocWinstone) from University of Surrey exploring moving feedback forwards in higher education. She showed a word cloud about how people feel about feedback and talked about embracing vulnerability in feedback scenarios:

The idea of feedback was also relevant to our research project. We wanted to explore the extent to which peer review of the interactive sessions would be helpful:

We also received some positive feedback from our poster presentation from one of the session Chairs, Ella Mitchell (@meatyloafy) on Twitter:

The Power of Blogging, Reflection and Digital Transformation

At RAU we have a digital transformation blog as a platform for reflection. One of the interesting parts of this project was the reflective blogs posts created by Marieke, myself and Bonnie Wang and Lola Huo from Sinocampus in China. Reflective blogs are useful tool particularly in a case study to dig deep and immerse in the complexities. The blog series can be accessed here. When working in a collaborative capacity with transnational patterns, it felt important to invite our colleagues, Bonnie Wang and Lola Huo from Sincocampus in China to reflect too.

The Dissolution of face-to-face learning. You have reached the end of education. Stuck between a digital rock and a digital hard place?

Lecturers are used to traditional face-to-face settings and one lecturer made reference to how they checked students faces for understanding in the online questionnaire. As Simon Thompson (@digisim) said in the final keynote, “We hold face to face very dear” (Thompson, 2020). Notwithstanding, the Lecturers’ ability to adapt content and deliver was impressive. In the final keynote of the Learning & Teaching symposium, Simon Thompson (@digisim) said “we have all had to learn new skills in digital space. [It’s about]…digital need not digital skills” (Thompson, 2020).  The need to adapt was undeniable. Perhaps we can change the saying ‘When the student is ready, the teacher will appear’ to ‘when the lecturers are ready the learning technologist will appear’.

Thoroughly Modern Technology. Unpacking the logistics of Online Learning

Other presentations were both relevant and helpful. For example, it was interesting to hear how David Murray, Dr Caroline McGlynn and Khadija Ahmed from the University of East London (UEL) had introduced welcome slides as a simple yet highly effective way to engage students and overcome what they called what they called ‘unexpected barriers’ to online learning and teaching. The Salsa music was an effective way to engage students.

Going, Growing & Knowing?

In conclusion, we hope to explore working with China within the JISC international community, we are keen to unpack how digital accessibility will have an impact on how we plan the delivery of next part of the project, more specifically with respect to captions. We hope to contribute to the #ChinaHE20 online event by University of Manchester exploring how to work with uncertainty – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/china-and-higher-education-navigating-uncertain-futures-tickets-112516945212. A key idea that resonated with me in relation to this project was that “We don’t just go through projects, we GROW through projects”. The opportunity to participate in this symposium in this capacity as a research informed model has undoubtedly helped us with this growth process. Pivots aside, let’s keep growing together.

It is possible to access the poster on Slideshare here.

The video recordings of the presentations can be accessed on YouTube here.

The recording of our presentation can be access at 19:04 here:

Bibliography

De Bono, E (2000) Six Thinking Hats (Penguin: London)

Guy, M & McDonald, P (2020) The Transational Online Pivot: A Case Study Exploring Online Delivery in ChinaIn: University of East London (UEL) 2020. Learning & Teaching Symposium. 17th September. Online.

Jewitt, C (2006) Technology, Literacy, Learning: A Multimodal Apprach (Oxon & New York: Routeldge)

Jewitt, C, Bezemer, J & O’Halloran, K (2016) Introducing Multimodality (Oxon & New York: Routledge)

Kress, G & van Leewen, T (2001) Multimodal Discourse: The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication (London: Arnold; New York, Oxford University Press)

University of East London (UEL) 2020. Learning & Teaching Symposium. 17th September.

McNulty, N (2020) Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy (Cape Town: HH Books)

Miller, S, M & McVee, M, B () Multimodal Composing: The Essential 21st Century Literacy in Multimodal Composing in Classrooms Learning and Teaching for the Digital World (Routledge: London and New York). pp1-13

Murray, D, McGlynn, C & Ahmed, Khadija (2020) The logistics of online learning. In: University of East London (UEL) 2020. Learning & Teaching Symposium. 17th September. Online.

Thomson, S (2020) Exploring places and spaces for hybrid teaching in a post-lockdown world. In: University of East London (UEL) 2020. Learning & Teaching Symposium. 17th September. Online.

UEL Learning and Teaching Symposium 2020 (2020) UEL Learning and Teaching Symposium 2020 – Room 1 – Teaching Principles in Practice [online video] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtvJB4KnO2Q&list=PLuuOV6nj7vpT9pbYj2Xy889O4C0X6_FoZ&index=4&t=1154s [Accessed 6th October 2020]

Winstone, N (2020) Moving feedback forwards in higher education. In: University of East London (UEL) 2020. Learning & Teaching Symposium. 17th September. Online.

 

Me, Myself, and My MIEE – A Microsoft Education Journey

It is Monday morning at 9am (or perhaps a bit before). You open your emails for the first time of the day.

Me, Myself, and My MIEE

Receiving this email from Microsoft really did brighten up a Learning Technologist’s day. It was the ‘digital iceberg’ of a great deal of work underneath.

My congratulations email

Marieke Guy (@digitalrau) our Digital Learning Manager and Pip McDonald, Learning Technologist-Support both successfully achieved the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) for 2020-2021. At RAU, we use a variety of Microsoft tools. Like many institutions, one of the most used tools is Microsoft Teams to communicate, message and carry out meetings, particularly during lockdown. When I joined RAU, I shared my experience of being a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) for 2019-2020 with the Learning technology team, and created a document to explain the application process and to highlight the main benefits of taking part.

Throughout 2019 and in the role of a Learning Technology Project Manager working in London, I made the most of the opportunities and events Microsoft and others including Google for Education conference, a TeachMeet event at Google Digital Academy, various events at Twitter and Facebook for Education event. It is possible to say that I intentionally sought a form of ‘EdTech Tourism’ or a working ‘EdTech holiday’. For example, I visited the Microsoft Reactor for the Augmented Reality Meetup to explore a range of mixed reality approaches. One of the participants attended in a virtual presence capacity which was exciting on a tablet on wheels. Reactors are community spaces for learning and meeting (Microsoft, 2020)

t Microsoft headquarters in the Paddington office
A visit to Microsft Reactor, London 2018

Additionally, I also went to Microsoft headquarters in the Paddington office in London to a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) event in June 2019. The event included a spotlight component where Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) shared their journey, explored new updates, discussed Minecraft, Flipgrid, artificial intelligence (AI) and we explored using Teams as a digital learning environment (DLE).

Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) event at Microsoft HQ in Paddington, Londopn in June 2019.

I visited Dell headquarters where Nicola Meek from Microsoft Education (@MeekNicola) presented on how to use Immersive Reader. Watch a video about the Immersive Reader here.

Meeting Nicola Meek
A selfie with the inspiration Nicola Meek (@MeekNicola) from Microsoft at Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge at the LearnED Roadshow in February 2019

What does it mean to read in an immersive capacity? How is immersive reading different from traditional reading? I was inspired by her presentation and the powerful capabilities of the tool in terms of making me really reflect on the impact of working towards digital accessibility. In the Dyslexia Awareness Part 1 Module 4 Inclusive Classroom, a headteacher, Josh Clark was interviewed. He said “Everything we do for a dyslexic learner, benefits all learners…hurts no one helps everyone and can be transformative…”. For me, this really opened my mind how technology could be sued a transformative capacity for every learner. This really made me think. Check out the course here.

Josh Clark
Inpsiring words from Josh Clark, Head of School, The Schenck School, Atlanta, USA

As a result of this, I went on to present to teachers on how to use this tool in the MFL Twitterati conference organised by the Association for Language Learning (ALL) at the Ashcombe school in Dorking in April 2019 exploring multimodal approaches to teaching and learning a language. Check out the hashtag #MFLTwitterati on Twitter to find out more and follow @joedale and @helenMyers to explore technology enhanced language learning (TELL).

At the LearnED event organised by the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) at Fitzwilliam College at Cambridge University, there was a live demonstration classroom where students used OneNote in a collaborative capacity to explore fake news. Callum (@Callum_MSFT) from Microsoft demonstrated the Microsoft Translate mobile phone application.

Microsoft Education Roadshow
LearnEd Roadshow at Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge

I participated in the Microsoft Education Roadshow organised by Hackney Learning Trust in June 2018 which took place in the Tomlinson Centre in London. A teacher led the sessions and we used surface books. One of the most interesting takeaways was how to use Paint 3D and Windows mixed reality. I am sure that a 3D dinosaur was and exciting addition to any 21st century classroom.

Microsoft Education Roadshow
Microsoft Education Roadshow at the Tomlinson Centre, London in June 2018

At the Office 365 Microsoft Training Academy organised and delivered by CTS, I was introduced to the Microsoft Educator Centre (MEC). The MEC is an online platform providing free resources, professional development opportunities and learning pathways. It is possible to redeem a code to earn digital badges. We also explored Whiteboard as a tool for real time collaboration.

Office 365 Microsoft Training Academy
Office 365 Microsoft Training Academy at Microsoft HQ in Paddington in London in December 2018

As a result of the ‘EdTech Tourism’ learning technology working holiday approach, I also discovered the how to become a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE), the first step in the Microsoft Education journey. In order to achieve Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE), joining the Microsoft Educator Centre (MEC) and completing 2 hours of learning are required. In order to become a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE), a self-nomination form is required involving the creation of a 2-minute video or Sway that demonstrates how you integrate technology into teaching and learning answering four key questions. Find out more about the self-nomination process here.  I successfully submitted my first application in June 2019.

MIEE
My MIEE Application

Throughout lockdown, Microsoft Education offered option weekly support meetings which was very helpful in addition the monthly calls with guest speakers and we explored new updates which took place on Teams for example with Merge Cube, Wakelet and Flipgrid.

Merge cube
Tweeting about new developments from the MIEE monthly call
Wakelet
Getting excited about Wakelet and Flipgrid news from the MIEE monthly call

One of the highlights of the MIEE journey was the UK MIEE End of Year Celebration for 2020. In addition to hearing from Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Education at Microsoft (@AnthonySalcito), the Microsoft Education team sent a party pack with an iced brownie. It is possible to have your ‘digital cakes’ and eat them!

Have your digital cakes and eat them?

What is being an MIEE really about? For me, it is not about perfection, it is about being passionate about learning. Most meaningful discussions about learning technology are just about learning.  My passion for both learning and technology was consolidated by the MIEE experience. It is wonderful to find a community who genuinely celebrates this. Check out the video exploring making connections here. “Microsoft supports a thriving community of educators who are working together to change students’ lives and build a better world. The Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) program (Microsoft, 2020).

So perhaps it is not about ‘Me, Myself and my MIEE, but rather, “We are MIEE” (Microsoft, 2020).

Congratulations to the new MIEEs 20-21.

Bibliography

British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) LearnEd Roadshow (Online) Available at:  https://www.besa.org.uk/events/learned-roadshow-2/ [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft Education (2018) Make Lifelong connections in the Microsoft Educator Community. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PC0xb-7OoN4&feature=emb_logo [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft Education (2019) What is the Immersive Reader? Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHJJCLV-DNg [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsft (2020) Microsoft Microsoft Educator Centre (MEC) (Online) Available at: https://education.microsoft.com/en-us [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft (2020) Join the new class of Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts. Educationblog.Microsoft.com. Education Blog. [blog] May 6. Available at: https://educationblog.microsoft.com/en-us/2020/05/join-the-new-class-of-microsoft-innovative-educator-experts/ [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft (2020) Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) Teams Site (Online) Available at: https://teams.microsoft.com [Accessed: 3rd October 2020]

Microsoft (2019) Dyslexia Awareness Part 1 Module 4 Inclusive Classroom (Online) Available at: https://education.microsoft.com/en-us/course/30a7b5e8/overview [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft (2020) Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Programs – MIE Expert (Online) Available at: https://education.microsoft.com/en-us/resource/1703c312 [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Microsoft Reactor (2020) Reactor (Online) Available at: https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/reactor/ [Accessed: 3rd September 2020]

Association of Language Learning (ALL) Association of Language Learning (ALL) (Online) Available at: https://www.all-languages.org.uk/ [Accessed: 4th September 2020]

When a Learning Technologist became a DJ – For One Night Only

micThe Association of Learning Technology (ALT) organise an annual conference to celebrate and share practice in how technology enhances learning. In 2019, the conference was held at the University of Edinburgh. A range of poster presentations, workshops and keynotes were delivered. You can see a summary here from our Digital Learning Manager Marieke Guy. One of the unique modes of presentations was the GASTA presentation chaired by Tom Farrelly, a Social Science Lecturer at the Institute of Technology in Tralee.  I co-presented a GASTA talk to launch the ALT Mentions and TEL TALE audio drama podcasts. A GASTA talk is a short 5 minute talk with a countdown in Irish. Tom was interviewed on the podcast and talked about GASTA on episode 8. Find out more about Tom on Twitter – @TomFarrelly. Originally, the conference for 2020 was due to take place at the Imperial College in London. However, due to the pandemic, the conference made the pivot to an online summer summit using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra platform. The theme was Learning Technology in a time of crisis, care and complexity which many learning technologists can relate to. There were some relevant topics from trauma-informed pedagogy to feminist approaches. Keynotes were delivered by Bonnie Stewart, Assistant Professor in Educational Studies at University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) (@bonstewart) Dave Cormier, University of Windsor in Ontario (@davecormier) and Charlotte Webb from University of the Arts London (UAL) (@otheragent) , in addition to the journalist, author and broadcaster Angela Saini. The summit included a range of online events for example a virtual café for conference attendees here – https://altc.alt.ac.uk/summit2020/cafe/, and a series of asynchronous events.

summit

As part of the social programme for the summit, a number of pre-summit activities took place. Music has been a crucial way for people to connect during the lockdown. We saw people in Italy singing form their balconies (BBC, 2020). It was about finding alternative ways to express and connect. Music also played an important role in the summit.  For example, there was a KareOERke session where conference participants could sing a song in Zoom with engaging virtual backgrounds and costumes in both an induvial and group capacity. OER stands for Open educational resources (OER). Music has been argued to play an important role in helping people during lockdown (Loughborough University, 2020).

kara

Radio stations have been argued to have played a fundamental role during a crisis (Radiocentre, 2020). One of the most exciting events was the ALT Summer Summit Radio Show on the 25th August 2020 as a pre-summit session and an after show party on the 27th August hosted by The Thursday Night Show – https://www.thethursdaynightshow.com/ and ALT Members. Dominic Pates, a Senior Educational Technologist (Relationship Lead) London City University organised ALT members who hosted a 30-minute show each. Having been involved with podcasting and a pop-up radio station experiment called Pivot FM before, online see previous blog post, moving to presenting live was a new challenge.

dj

The Thursday Night Show is an internet radio Collective with weekly internet radio show with a range of DJs playing a mix of music genres. The is a mobile phone application for IOS here – https://apps.apple.com/us/app/thethursdaynightshow/id1441356423.

thursday

Live chat takes place alongside the live show with a community. We organised changeovers, gave feedback and checked microphone levels live in the chat:

thursday2

The Thursday Night Show has recently been on the on BBC News highlighting the importance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhAsjcBjtsg&feature=youtu.be. There is also a Zoom room alongside the live show so you can dance along to your favourite tunes. We carried out a technical setup involving connecting to the Icecast server and tested the connection supporting each other using an ALT Radio Folks WhatsApp group. Mixxx – https://www.mixxx.org/, Adobe Audition and royalty free sound effects DJ were used.

mix

First up was Anne-Marie Scott, Deputy Provost at Athabasca University in Canada (@ammienoot). I was second up. Dominik Lukes Dominik has a account Digital Learning Technologist at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford (@techczech), and Thomas Buckley, Digital Learning Manager at University of the West of Bristol (UWE) (@bigbadbuckley) and additional sets by regular DJs on The Thursday Night Show and a London themed set by Dominic Pates.

My idea was to use the opportunity for a radio show to ask learning technologists to request a song that got them through lockdown and to provide a short explanation of how the song links to learning technology – ‘Quarantunes’. Marieke Guy, the Digital Learning Manager at RAU selected ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ by Daft Punk and said: 

At times we Learning Technologists have felt like robots on overdrive. We’ve been creating, supporting, listening, guiding, fixing and generally making things work. At times it has felt like being part of an assembly line but we have created some great things and are keeping students learning. This Daft Punk song makes me smile. The lyrics feel like an instruction from up above: “work it harder, make it better, do it faster, make us stronger”. It also ends with the warning “our work is never done” – things can always be improved and perfected (through technology). But despite this it is still upbeat and I love electronic music!”

Husna Ahmed, a Learning Technologist at the RAU requested ‘With a Little Help from my Friend’s, the classic song by the Beatles. She said:

The song sums up how we work in our learning technology bubble, as we learn form one another and support each other all the time”.

Music became an important part of the lockdown experience. It has been argued that listening to music during lockdown while working from home can have a positive impact (Flach, 2020). My ‘quarantune’ which was ‘In My House’ by The Cornshed Sisters (@Cornsheds). As I said during the show, the song is a lockdown classic! The experience of both being in a house and working from home during lockdown was a reality for many learning technologists and particularly for my role at RAU operating in a remote capacity. We also sang this song in the Pop Choir led by members of The Cornshed Sisters which took place online on the Zoom meeting platform throughout lockdown. Radio has its own language and literacy. For example, I also created some audio ‘stings’ or “short musical phrases” to be used to personalise the content and put an ALT stamp on the radio show (Audionetwork, 2020).

Ultimately, the Association of Learning Technologists (ALT) online summer summit proved that it is still possible to engage people in an online capacity. I asked myself how the experience of DJ-ing live helped me to become a better Learning Technologist. Being a live DJ involved preparing music, reflecting on how to create an engaging show, learning how to use new software and tools, working as part of a team, communicating effectively, learning from others, solving problems quickly and making mistakes and learning from them. These are all activities that effective Learning Technologists do on a daily basis. Pedagogically, using audio in learning and teaching can improve the digital student experience in a variety of ways. Students could create their own radio stations and podcasts. A lot of the DJ software is free  which helps to make wokring with audio more accessible. My radio journey has just begun. When I lived and wokred in London, I visited Abbey Road Studios in May 2018 and hoped that I could get back into the studio again.

micThe Association of Learning Technology (ALT) organise an annual conference to celebrate and share practice in how technology enhances learning. In 2019, the conference was held at the University of Edinburgh. A range of poster presentations, workshops and keynotes were delivered. You can see a summary here from our Digital Learning Manager Marieke Guy. One of the unique modes of presentations was the GASTA presentation chaired by Tom Farrelly, a Social Science Lecturer at the Institute of Technology in Tralee.  I co-presented a GASTA talk to launch the ALT Mentions and TEL TALE audio drama podcasts. A GASTA talk is a short 5 minute talk with a countdown in Irish. Tom was interviewed on the podcast and talked about GASTA on episode 8 – https://altmentions.podbean.com/e/ep8-getting-the-word-out-there-with-gasta-tom-farrelly-part-2/. Find out more about Tom on Twitter – @TomFarrelly. Originally, the conference for 2020 was due to take place at the Imperial College in London. However, due to the pandemic, the conference made the pivot to an online summer summit using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra platform. The theme was Learning Technology in a time of crisis, care and complexity which many learning technologists can relate to. There were some relevant topics from trauma-informed pedagogy to feminist approaches. Keynotes were delivered by Bonnie Stewart, Assistant Professor in Educational Studies at University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) (@bonstewart) Dave Cormier, University of Windsor in Ontario (@davecormier) and Charlotte Webb from University of the Arts London (UAL) (@otheragent) , in addition to the journalist, author and broadcaster Angela Saini. The summit included a range of online events for example a virtual café for conference attendees here – https://altc.alt.ac.uk/summit2020/cafe/, and a series of asynchronous events.

summit

As part of the social programme for the summit, a number of pre-summit activities took place. Music has been a crucial way for people to connect during the lockdown. We saw people in Italy singing form their balconies (BBC, 2020). It was about finding alternative ways to express and connect. Music also played an important role in the summit.  For example, there was a KareOERke session where conference participants could sing a song in Zoom with engaging virtual backgrounds and costumes in both an induvial and group capacity. OER stands for Open educational resources (OER). Music has been argued to play an important role in helping people during lockdown (Loughborough University, 2020).

kara

Radio stations have been argued to have played a fundamental role during a crisis (Radiocentre, 2020). One of the most exciting events was the ALT Summer Summit Radio Show on the 25th August 2020 as a pre-summit session and an after show party on the 27th August hosted by The Thursday Night Show – https://www.thethursdaynightshow.com/ and ALT Members. Dominic Pates, a Senior Educational Technologist (Relationship Lead) London City University organised ALT members who hosted a 30-minute show each. Having been involved with podcasting and a pop-up radio station experiment called Pivot FM before, online see previous blog post, moving to presenting live was a new challenge.

dj

The Thursday Night Show is an internet radio Collective with weekly internet radio show with a range of DJs playing a mix of music genres. The is a mobile phone application for IOS here – https://apps.apple.com/us/app/thethursdaynightshow/id1441356423.

thursday

Live chat takes place alongside the live show with a community. We organised changeovers, gave feedback and checked microphone levels live in the chat:

thursday2

The Thursday Night Show has recently been on the on BBC News highlighting the importance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhAsjcBjtsg&feature=youtu.be. There is also a Zoom room alongside the live show so you can dance along to your favourite tunes. We carried out a technical setup involving connecting to the Icecast server and tested the connection supporting each other using an ALT Radio Folks WhatsApp group. Mixxx – https://www.mixxx.org/, Adobe Audition and royalty free sound effects DJ were used.

mix

First up was Anne-Marie Scott, Deputy Provost at Athabasca University in Canada (@ammienoot). I was second up. Dominik Lukes Dominik has a account Digital Learning Technologist at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford (@techczech), and Thomas Buckley, Digital Learning Manager at University of the West of Bristol (UWE) (@bigbadbuckley) and additional sets by regular DJs on The Thursday Night Show and a London themed set by Dominic Pates.

My idea was to use the opportunity for a radio show to ask learning technologists to request a song that got them through lockdown and to provide a short explanation of how the song links to learning technology – ‘Quarantunes’. Marieke Guy, the Digital Learning Manager at RAU selected ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ by Daft Punk and said: 

At times we Learning Technologists have felt like robots on overdrive. We’ve been creating, supporting, listening, guiding, fixing and generally making things work. At times it has felt like being part of an assembly line but we have created some great things and are keeping students learning. This Daft Punk song makes me smile. The lyrics feel like an instruction from up above: “work it harder, make it better, do it faster, make us stronger”. It also ends with the warning “our work is never done” – things can always be improved and perfected (through technology). But despite this it is still upbeat and I love electronic music!”

Husna Ahmed, a Learning Technologist at the RAU requested ‘With a Little Help from my Friend’s, the classic song by the Beatles. She said:

The song sums up how we work in our learning technology bubble, as we learn form one another and support each other all the time”.

The song received a positive reaction on Twitter.

With a little Help from my Friends

Music became an important part of the lockdown experience. It has been argued that listening to music during lockdown while working from home can have a positive impact (Flach, 2020). My ‘quarantune’ which was ‘In My House’ by The Cornshed Sisters (@Cornsheds). As I said during the show, the song is a lockdown classic! The experience of both being in a house and working from home during lockdown was a reality for many learning technologists and particularly for my role at RAU operating in a remote capacity. We also sang this song in the Pop Choir led by members of The Cornshed Sisters which took place online on the Zoom meeting platform throughout lockdown. Radio has its own language and literacy. For example, I also created some audio ‘stings’ or “short musical phrases” to be used to personalise the content and put an ALT stamp on the radio show (Audionetwork, 2020). It felt important to curate a show that would be relevant to the listeners, who were working with learning technology so I included the Windows Song which was well received.

Tweet

Ultimately, the Association of Learning Technologists (ALT) online summer summit proved that it is still possible to engage people in an online capacity. I asked myself how the experience of DJ-ing live helped me to become a better Learning Technologist. Being a live DJ involved preparing music, reflecting on how to create an engaging show, learning how to use new software and tools, working as part of a team, communicating effectively, learning from others, solving problems quickly and making mistakes and learning from them. These are all activities that effective Learning Technologists do on a daily basis. Pedagogically, using audio in learning and teaching can improve the digital student experience in a variety of ways. Students could create their own radio stations and podcasts. A lot of the DJ software is free which really helps to make working with audio more accessible. My radio journey has just begun. When I lived and wokred in London, I visited Abbey Road Studios in May 2018 and hoped that I could get back into the studio again.

Abbey Road

The Abbey Road Institute identified a list of free music tools to help people create music during lockdown here. One of my favourite tools was the Minimoog Model D Synthesizer IOS mobile application.

MoogTaking part in an online radio project enabled me to create music and content from a home studio. In future, I hope to create further shows and support other educators to work effectively with audio in their pedagogical contexts. What types of stories can we tell with music and radio? The pandemic has been an opportunity to explore different ways of engaging and connecting with people. Radio is a creative way to do this. If necessity is the mother of invention, then radio was the Learning Technologist of innovation.

You can listen to the show here.

Explore some of the tweets from the summit by following the hashtags: #altc and #altcsummit. Check out the Wakelet collection for the summit here.

Listen to The Thursday Night Show here.

A big thank you to Dominic Pates for his support and to the Association of Learning Technologists (ALT) for the opportunity to contribute to the online summer summit.

This blog post is featured on the Association of Learning Technologists (ALT) Summer Summit resources here. Check out some of the recordings of the sessions. An innovative session was Have I Got TEL for You by Dr. Julie Voce (@julievoce).

Bibliography

Freesound Download List

Downloaded on August 24th, 2020

Module design on the Catalyst project

Background

2½ years ago the RAU, in collaboration with UCEM and CCRI, started on the development of four new postgraduate and undergraduate programmes in what’s called the “Catalyst project”. The new programmes are designed to stimulate and support enhanced leadership in the land management and agri-food sectors, especially suited to the post-Brexit era that meets the unprecedented combination of challenges posed by the rapidly changing political, economic and natural environments.

The first stage of the Catalyst project was to write the programme and module specifications. The programmes have been created in conjunction with CCRI and RAU’s industry partners, including the National Trust, Waitrose and National Farmers’ Union, to carefully tailor the programmes to meet skills gaps and respond to changes in industry trends.

Once the specifications were in place, the Learning technology team worked on developing processes for the pedagogical and technical design and development of the programmes and modules.

 

Development of processes

Prior to starting module development we worked with UCEM, who specialise in online education, to develop processes for the design of our modules, taking best practices in pedagogy and online learning into account. Extensive research and conversations with other education organisations has gone into the development of module templates, design processes and academic training.

 

Postgraduate programmes development process

During the second stage of the Catalyst project, we developed two online postgraduate programmes: MBA Innovation in Sustainable Food and Agriculture and MSc Sustainable Food and Agriculture Policy.

We designed a 12-week module design process, with “on-time” training sessions to support the academics in their design and development. This process has been adapted from UCEM’s module development processes and works in stages.

This process uses UCEM’s model named “Student Outcome Led Design (SOLD)”; meaning that the final assessment is designed first, focusing on assessing the module learning outcomes, and the module is designed to develop the skills the students need to complete the assessment.

To kick off the design and development of the modules, the Learning technology team hosts a “Start-up day”, a day-long workshop consisting of multiple stages:

  1. Introductory training in module design, accessibility, design processes, online learning tools.
  2. Module conversations based on question cards designed to stimulate the thought process and familiarisation with the module
  3. Assessment design based on the module’s learning outcomes
  4. Planning “themes” based on the learning outcomes and final assessment
  5. Planning formative assessments – working towards the final assessment
  6. Planning weekly “learning points” i.e. what will the students learn this week?

The Start-up day is hosted with around 6-7 module leads and two Learning technologists in a room to allow for easy sharing of ideas and experiences.

startup day

After the start-up day, the academics go and speak to colleagues, library etc. to gather ideas and resources for their module, prior to a 1-1 design & planning session with a Learning technologist to flesh out the content further into learning activities and to write an action plan for development. This module design is written out into a templated sheet for a Quality review meeting with the programme lead, an additional academic with an interest in the subject and where possible one of our external partners. This meeting is an open discussion to discuss the module design prior to its development.

Once the module design has gone through the Quality review, the module lead, contributors and the Learning technologists develop the online learning activities over the next 10 weeks. The Learning technology team provides academics with templated sheets to write their content in, so it’s ready to be turned into online learning activities and consistent with other modules on the programme. These templates have clear instructions for the academics and links to short training pages. During the whole process, each module has a lead Learning technologist the academics are able to contact when they get stuck, need guidance or would like to brainstorm ideas for an activity. The learning technologists will also create the activities on the VLE.

The full design templates document consists of five steps:

  1. Learning outcomes and questions to think about
  2. Summative assessment(s)
  3. Themes: plan topics and put them in a logical order
  4. Learning points and activities: what will the students learn each week? What activities can be created for the students to learn that and how can they check their learning?
  5. Full activities: write out the content and gather resources and media, to be provided to a Learning technologist using a templated sheet.

During week 7 of the development stage, the Learning technology team hosts an informal “Show & Tell session”, where the module leads get to show off what they’ve done so far and share ideas with other academics going through the process.

Show and tell

In the final week of development, the Quality review team for the module comes together again to discuss the final result.

This process has been repeated twice to develop all modules on the post-graduate Catalyst programmes within an academic year. These programmes have now successfully run for their first year and the programme team has received great feedback from the students.

 

Adapting the process to development of new Undergraduate Catalyst programmes

The third stage of the Catalyst project consists of developing two Undergraduate programmes: BSc Rural Entrepreneurship and Enterprise and BSc Environment, Food and Society. These programmes are more campus-based and focus on innovative teaching methods as well as a proportion of online learning.

For this stage, we used the previous processes and adapted them based on lessons learned, as well as redesigning the templates to work for campus-based teaching. Additionally, we combined our previous processes with UCL’s ABC Learning design methods.

To adapt to the Covid-19 situation, we’ve had to scrap our Start-up days and are now using an online version of UCEM’s Design jam model on a module-by-module basis. For each module, we schedule in an initial three-hour Design jam with two Learning technologists, the module lead and one or two academics with an interest in the subject. As we are all currently working from home, we are using MS Teams and Sharepoint to facilitate the Design Jams: we use a Teams call to be able to discuss and share ideas as a group, while we all have a synchronously updated Word template opened up on Sharepoint to write out the ideas we have for the module design.

The Design Jam consists of a few stages:

  1. Introduction to the process by a Learning technologist
  2. Module basics: Learning outcomes and questions to think about before designing your module
    Module basics
  3. Writing the summative assessment task(s)
  4. Learning overview: weekly topics, learning points (what will the students learn this week) and opportunities to check student learning. Academics are asked to highlight the relevant learning outcomes for each week.
  5. Learning design: the activities, media and resources to be used or created for each week. Activities are designed within four to five weekly stages: Online introduction, Online lecture, Online activities, Face-to-face seminar and Online knowledge check (optional). UCL’s ABC learning design method is used at this stage to provide an even balance of activity types: Acquisition, Collaboration, Discussion, Investigation, Practice and Production.
    ABC
  6. Action planning: an action register is created for the development of the module.

After the Design jam, the academics have some time to discuss their ideas with colleagues, library etc. The module lead, collaborators and Learning technologists work according to the action plan to develop their content. The programme team regularly comes together to check progress and quality of each module.

These programmes will run starting from September ’20.

 

The future

Over the last two years, academics and Learning technologists have learned a lot about online teaching & learning and learning design. A lot of the lessons we have learned during the project have been heavily used during the pivot to online for all RAU programmes when the Covid lockdown started.

Academics who have taken part in the Catalyst project are already using what they’ve learned and the design processes for the modules they run on other programmes. We plan on further expanding the use of the processes to all new and old RAU programmes.