Learning Technologies in the UK HE sector: Some highlights from the ALT-C2012 Conference by Maria Papaefthimiou

The 19th international conference of the Association for Learning Technology ( University of Manchester, UK, 11-13 September 2012) was buzzing with 700 participants, where I had the opportunity to attend some excellent sessions and to keep a watching brief on what is happening in the HE sector in terms of learning technologies and pedagogy. Below are some highlights of the themes, the technologies and the pedagogies that are prevalent in the UK HE sector.

Student engagement, interactivity in the classroom, assessment and feedback, Open Educational Resources, and Digital Literacies were some of the main points of the presentations I attended. VLEs are still dominant in institutions, with increased use of Mobile Devices, and classroom interactivity systems;  Augmented Reality in Teaching and Learning has attracted attention as a powerful tool for learning.

Eric Mazur, in his keynote” The scientific approach to teaching: Research as a basis for course design”, provided evidence for the “flipped classroom”, where students’ interaction and engagement during the lecture had a significant impact on their learning. Appropriate design of course delivery and the use of voting systems has been instrumental for the learners.

An interesting aspect for me was the recognition of new roles within support staff in institutions (such as Teaching administrators) that have a major role to play in the student experience and are in a position to enable institutional change especially within a rich technological environment. UCL have presented on their project The Digital Department [Identifying new “blended” support roles: Identifying new ‘blended’ support roles to enable institutional change http://altc2012.alt.ac.uk/talks/28131] which is running in parallel to our own Digitally Ready project.

Two sector surveys were presented. The UCISA TEL Survey 2012, highlighted that knowledge of academic staff is considered far less of a barrier influencing technology enhanced learning (TEL) development than in other years but lack of time and insufficient financial resources are the top barriers to TEL. Although institutions had conducted studies on the impact of TEL on the student experience, the evaluation of pedagogic practices is less common (with Scottish universities appearing strongest in this arena). Finally, the survey highlights the notable progress of services for mobile devices by institutions, especially for supporting access to library services, email and course announcements for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. The second survey of 44 HEIs has revealed that 50% of HEIs are working on developing policies on e-submission, a topical subject among learning technologists.

Finally, in his talk “Research about Technology Enhanced Learning: who needs it?”, Prof Richard Noss, from the London Knowledge Lab, convinced us that “thinking about TEL is good at encouraging us to address deep educational issues that may themselves have little to do with computers – including reappraising what it is our learners need to learn, why, and how.”

More about ALT-C can be found on our Digitally Ready blog.

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