Weaving our way around the complex tapestry of strategy, practice and policy, in learning technology: ALT Scotland meeting

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This week saw the annual ALT Scotland group face to face meeting. This year’s years location was the stunning new City of Glasgow College campus. What a learning space that is!  You can see more here – it really is every bit as good as the video illustrates.

As well as chairing the morning sessions, my colleague Professor Linda Creanor, also presented an overview of institutional strategic developments on digital learning here at GCU.

Linda use the analogy of weaving to describe the way our team (Academic Development) has to move across the institutional loom weaving  between, above, below the various threads of strategies and policies that support enhancing practice and the adoption and the effective use of learning technology.  As the day progressed I think this analogy became more resonant for me. A lot of the threads we are working with are quite delicate, and to create an effective pattern we need to be quite expert weavers. That expertise can’t just be replaced by automated services. There maybe some high level patterns that we can share across the sector, but as they say but devil is always in the detail. And it’s the details, the human interactions, that really matter in providing effective learning.

As ever there were a really good mix of presentations from across the sector, touching on some key issues many of us are facing including: VLE procurement, with updates on the recent Scottish national VLE procurement framework; GSA (Glasgow School of Art)  also shared their decision and plans to change their VLE; copyright (this time from my library colleague Marion Kelt).

The first two presentations of the afternoon focused on lecture recording.  Presentations from the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow shared their developing policies and practice.

Edinburgh are in the process of developing an institutional wide policy and share some of the issues they are grappling with including opt-in or opt-out, copyright, is it capture or recording? longevity  and storage to name but a few.  This work is being driven as part of their overall student enhancement and engagement work.

From Glasgow, we actually got to hear the student voice about lecture capture.  Students want it. They can’t understand why, if the tech is in place, lecturers wouldn’t want to do it. Students will record parts of lectures anyway as revision aids.  Conversely though in the discussion it became apparent that students prefer more active, participatory forms of learning and teaching – not just traditional passive lectures.

This illustrated so clearly to me some of the underlying tensions around the use of technology. Lecture capture can be really useful, but it isn’t a magic wand. It costs a lot to provide a comprehensive system, and unless there is equally investment around thinking about the most effective ways of using that technology there is a danger of perpetuating the same old, same old.

Effective use of video is much more than just recording the traditional 1 hour lecture. Lecture capture sh/could be the catalyst for more flipped approaches, for more blending of shorter (at times) video based resources, for more in class active engagement.  But that requires rethinking of time, preparation, f2f, and online time. Many people are doing just that, but again they are weaving in and around of the neat 1 hour time pattern. 1 hour prep, 1 hour delivery (or maybe 15 minutes) , 1 hour follow up.   That needs to change.  Increasingly I am having conversations about rethinking of time in relation to learning and teaching.

The final presentation of the day came from Joe Wilson who gave us a round up of a number of open education conferences and events he has attended recently as part of the Open Scotland group. You can read more here and here .

Joe also highlighted some of the international open initiatives that are growing apace and have significant government support. Oh,  the irony of hearing that the Moroccan government have just published an open education policy based on the (community led)  Open Scotland Declaration, yet here in Scotland we are still finding it so hard to get the Scottish Government to engage in a meaningful way around open education policy.

All in all a really interesting and useful day in a great location. Presentations will be online from the ALT website over the coming days.

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