Thursday, 8 January 2009

Durham 2009, Day One

So another year, another conference at Durham for Blackboard Users... Except this year, one of the keynotes is a user of Moodle! If that doesn't give Blackboard cause for concern...

The title of this year's conference is "e-Learning: A Reality Check - Do We Practice What We Preach?" and Andy Ramsden from Bath kicked the official proceedings off with a really stimulating and entertaining talk on whether or not e-learning has lived up to its early promise. A lot of his slideshow was made interactive by the use of PRS, which turned out to be an effective way of passing the main question on to us.

After letting the audience decide which way he should steer the talk, he went on to give us an outline of Collis and Moonen's 4-E model. As I understand it the model looks at the drivers behind the adoption of a new technology or approach at an institution and then compares these with factors in the institutional environment to determine a threshold, past which those drivers must push if adoption is to be successful. The drivers looked at include Educational Effectiveness, Ease of Use, and Personal Engagement, while institutional factors are all clumped together in the Environmental category - and there we have our four E's!

Andy went on to explain what practical steps they are taking to make sure these drivers are in place and strong enough - such as doing fewer case studies, and working more with a project blog. I also liked the suggestion that members of the e-Learning Team sit in on actual lectures and get a sense of teaching styles in place as well as what technologies are being used! And his tip to make the time to blog is something I'm following up at this very moment...

This was a good start to an interesting day. There were quite a few presentations on e-portfolios (my own included) a couple of which sought to readdress the definition of an e-portfolio, presumably because the lack of tools that actually meet the requirements mean learning technologists are now seeking Web 2.0 solutions. (My colleague Robyn and I have done some work on this too.) Peninsula Medical College are using Learning Objects' Expo wiki tool on their Emily Blackboard system for example.

Tim Neumann from the Institute of Education outlined some scenarios in which the requirements of an e-portfolio were very different and the work he has done provided some kind of explanation as to why there isn't yet a killer app when it comes to e-portfolios.

One final handy tip from Andy Cree who teaches Business Ethics at Teesside Business School. He talked about his course and about he used video podcasts to direct students on his course to areas of the reading list that might normally be overlooked. The short infomercial type videos he produced seemed to be a simple but innovative way of getting students to engage with other points of view.

The tip here is how he provided visuals to his audio commentary on the books - by using a site called morgueFile (I think he called it PhotoMorgue but I couldn't find that so I'm assuming he was mistaken). It's a site where artists, professionals and amateur photographers and upload their photos for anyone to use for free -so if you're looking for some images to enhance a presentation, be sure to have a look!

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