It’s been a really busy couple of weeks here at blended learning HQ at GCU. My colleagues are in the middle of preparing our annual blended learning report. There’s not a huge amount I can add this year, but it is a great opportunity to find out more about what is happening, so data and analytics have been high on the agenda. For the past couple of years there’s been an encouraging increase in the use and access to our VLE, which we call GCU Learn. This year the web accesses are down but the mobile accesses have increased exponentially with Apple devices far and away the most popular. Tuesdays also seem to be a popular day . . . We’re also seeing a significant uptake in use of turnitin and trademark. E-assessment and feedback is definitely something staff and students want and are using.
Last Friday we met with Blackboard about and they took us through their analytics platform. I was in that strange position of being quoted back to myself, as they were referencing the Cetis Analytics Series quite heavily. Still a great piece of work, and if you haven’t had a look, and are interested in analytics I would throughly recommend it. We are probably not at the stage to start working with their system yet. There are some key questions that need some really serious discussion, not least around benchmarking. But I am now taking a leaf out of my own book and really considering the who, what, where, why and how of data here.
Although I’m not exactly a newbie anymore, I am still finding my way around and getting to know what people are doing in terms of blended learning. Our Engineering and Built Environment School had a lunchtime “technology taster” session yesterday which gave me the opportunity to see some of the practice in that school. There was a really good mix of activities including the use of WebPA, screen capture and various student response systems packed into an hour. We’re developing case studies of practice just now so a few more names were added to my list of people to speak to. Library colleagues also gave a demo of BoB our national broadcasting recording service. You can easily create playlists of clips and or whole tv/radio programmes which can be embedded into webpages and most VLEs. The slight downside for us is that we don’t have complete single sign on and BoB uses Athens authentication so if we embed in our VLE students will have to login with their Athens details to view . . . but hopefully that will change relatively soon.
There is a lot of activity around new IT infrastructure as well as overarching discussions and consultations around a new institutional strategy to take us to 2020. I’m really pleased that I have the opportunity to take forward the work I’ve been doing with Bill Johnston and Keith Smyth on exploring the concept of the digital university as a possible way to link up a number of “things” that seem to have some kind of digital dependency.
Sharing and exploring practice is pretty much at the forefront of everything I’m doing just now. Although I consider myself an open practitioner, and an advocate for open educational practices, I am aware that my own practices, my networks and connections are changing in response to my new position. As you’ll be aware, dear reader, it’s Open Education week next week. David Walker has organised a brilliant week of events at Sussex. I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity to run a webinar with Catherine Cronin about the challenges of being open. The title of our session is “Open and online: connections, community and reality” and I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts and experiences along with Catherine’s research on openness, identities and online spaces.
I’ll also be blogging more about this next week and using the responses to my twitter question
Tweeps do you think I am an open practitioner? Your response will help me with a couple of things for open education week
— Sheila MacNeill (@sheilmcn) March 5, 2014
In the meantime tho, my good friend and former Cetis colleague David Sherlock has written a really thought provoking post in response to my tweet, which takes a different angle on sharing, data and who really benefits.
Random picture of a bit of welcome sunshine earlier this week.