Academic Digital Event

Peter Bullen, Keynote (#iblc10)

 Notes just taken at keynote, Blended Learning Conference, University of Hertforshire. 

Peter Bullen: Changing Practice – Reflections on the Blended Learning Unit

Still fears every time using technology, help others to overcome these fears.

What things are critical to the success of the BLU?


What was BLU built on?

  • University Strategy – university committed itself to exploiting technology, in the classroom & online.

  • Studynet (the VLE) – developed in house, personalised environment, works well, MLE, easy to use. Enables staff to do things not formally possible. Automatically loaded with modules/students.

  • A network of StudyNet champions – Faculty appointments, development group and a L&T Group (use of the technology). Use of technology was led by academics/practitioners.

  • Innovation in L&T fund.

  • A DIY not DIFM philosophy. Equip staff to use the technology, making it easy to use – allows the volume of activity to expand quickly.

  • Influenced by personal experience, especially engineering experience & other people – systems thinking, management & organisations thinking, learning organisations *universities – good at discipline level but not institutional level, managing complexity. Applying ideas across disciplines. E.g. on the car works – not focusing on end-product inspection, but on in process inspection – improved things greatly – such systems thinking making its way into the public sector.

What is the BLU?

  • Small core group + 12 per year practitioners seconded into the unit for 2 days a week – reflect all faculties – had contacts/developed networks across all levels of the uni.

  • Already had well developed links with SMG, etc.

  • Develop, promote and evaluate combinations of f2f & technology – emphasis is on benefits to students learning – increasing flexibility in how, when and where learning.

    • Minimising Barriers

    • BL innovation & development

    • Evaluation

    • Dissemination *communications and engagement

  • Investment in infrastructure & technology – tablet laptops *portable, write on student work, etc. How do the rest of the staff view the central unit – usually as a bit of a pest (deal with actualities & perceptions). Partnerships, what problems staff have & how we might help, NOT here’s what we have, try it!

    • People who like technology – can be seen as nerdish, so found using students in some of those roles helped overcome those barriers in uptake of technology.

  • Innovation & Development – focused on computer aided assessment, ca-collaborative learning & evaluating software

  • Not just about technology, but about good practice in learning & teaching. Chickering & Gamson (1987)

    • Encourages contact between students & staff

    • Develops reciprocity & co-operation among students

    • Encourages active learning

    • Gives prompt feedback

    • Emphasises time on task

    • Communicates high expectations

    • Respects diverse talents and ways of learning

  • Goal = evaluation – bringing the student experience to guide what we did. Pioneered use of video diaries for students. In BLU, Student Learning Consultant – liaise with students for their input.

  • Dissemination – lots of things, including podcasting & conferences. Developed case studies from it. Case studies for staff – evaluated use, then ran workshops ‘isn’t is wonderful’ – you will leave the workshop knowing how to use it & committed to use in module, with help from a digital co-ordinator. Support from BLU to know it works!

  • Moved from dissemination to transformation through a process of benchmarking. Led to CABLE. Most using e-learning IN ADDITION TO, rather than embedding..

    • Developed effective teams across disciplines

    • A focus on needs of the participating Schools

    • Academic led

    • Student involvement

    • Toolkit

  • Significant number of people involved, but also had a significant impact on there.

  • HEA: Enhancement Academy – works similarly to CABLE. Sophisticated, flexible & relevant change to the student experience – after 5 years of investment!

  • Critical success factors

    • Teams of academics – can-do attitude, understand how use of technology relates to good practice

    • Taking the lead in integrating with teaching

    • Working in partnerships

    • Modelling good practice

    • Continually developing networks & communities

    • Learning from each other, from students & from the sector.

  • Principles & Proceesses

    • Curriculum design – supports use of technology

    • Providing Blended Learning solutions to help the needs of academics

    • CABLE

    • Enhancement

    • Evidence of Impact

    • Institution – buy-in of all ‘stakeholders’ (strategy/infrastructure) to embed (otherwise it all stops when the money stops) – including peer-observation process – which expanded to look at the virtual. Engage with relevant committees – e.g. academic quality committees.

  • The future
    • We need to adopt a philosophy of continuous improvement & the culture of a learning organisation (adaptive learning system) – looking to always improve what we’re doing/learn from our past. NOT writing procedures & hope they’ll change, but adapting procedures.
    • Try to better understand the ‘value’ of every ‘learning activity’ – focus on VALUE not cost. If you can walk into a classroom and do what you would do with no students present – DON’T DO IT!
    • Be aware of and seek to adopt some of the more sophisticated tools currently being develop to support staff to develop the blended learning curriculum, move from an emphasis on QA and QE.
    • JISC Curriculum Design – Cluster C Institutional Learning Design (pedagogical design), including Strathclyde.
    • Learning Design Support Environment ( Effective technology-enhanced learning.
    • Concentrate on VALUE to the learner. Reduce the emphasis on committees and build BL communities, in the disciplines and cross-discipline. Focus on improving the student learning experience.

By Digital Fingerprint

Digiexplorer (not guru), Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing @ Manchester Metropolitan University. Interested in digital literacy and digital culture  in the third sector (especially faith). Author of 'Raising Children in a Digital Age', regularly checks hashtag #DigitalParenting.

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