#ALTC Blog

Could this be you?

#ALTC Blog - 18/05/18

A post from Chrissi Nerantzi, Academic Developer, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Manchester Metropolitan University.

The Association for Learning Technology has just launched the call for entries for the Learning Technologist of the Year Awards 2018 (https://www.alt.ac.uk/about-alt/awards). Very exciting! Especially, as this year we will see the addition of a new award, that for Learning Technology Research Project of the Year in addition to the Learning Technologist of the Year for individuals and teams and the community awards. Through these awards, ALT and its community recognise and celebrate together excellent practice and research in learning technology.

I am wondering how many innovating and highly effective practitioners in higher and further education in the UK and further afield who use digital technologies will read the details about the awards but then quickly decide not to apply. There are, of course, many reasons why we don’t go ahead with something. In this case, we might look at the criteria and the evidence we need to submit and ask ourselves… do I  really have time for this? We might think that we are not good in writing these things… We may even think that we are not worth it. Am I really a learning  technologist, really? Why would they pick me? There are also many practitioners who do ground breaking work out there but who find it hard or impossible even to think of nominating themselves. It is just not in their nature.

If you have asked yourself any of the above questions and other similar ones, and your answers leave you in doubt but you really feel that your work stands out and makes a positive impact on colleagues, your institution and the community more widely, please think again and consider applying for one of the ALT awards relevant to your work. Check the criteria! Speak with colleagues! Ask for advice. Get support! Submit an application!

And also, if you know colleagues who really deserve to be recognised for their work through one of the ALT awards, help them to step forward and apply. Support them on the journey! We all know at least one individual who excels in the use of digital technologies in whatever role that person operates formally. Suggest the awards to them! Boost their confidence and self-belief! Encourage them to apply.

  • I am one of those who needed encouragement… I struggle with self-nomination and self-promotion, which I find problematic myself. But if there are people out there who believe in you, it is very different. If somebody else sees value in our work, it is often easier to become a little bit more confident. Dr Cristina Costa (@cristinacost) helped me to see that I deserved this recognition. We had worked closely together at the University of Salford and she knew my work. Cristina believed in me and I am grateful that I listened and didn’t, in the end, dismiss her suggestion. Thank you Cristina.
  • … but these awards are for learning technologists… I kept telling Cristina… I was and am an academic developer (this is what my job specs said) but digital practice and technologies is not something that is separate from what we do in academic development. It is part of our job, fully integrated, embedded, actually interwoven. ALT is inclusive and not being a Learning Technologist by job description, does not mean you should not be applying for one of these awards. In the contrary! You might be doing some really ground breaking work in FE or HE around the use of learning technologies in your discipline or professional area. You might even be another academic developer or learning technologist! Step forward so that we can celebrate your achievements together.

And there are some further good news…

ALT has reviewed the criteria for the awards this year and aligned them much much closer to the CMALT framework and related requirements so you could upcycle some of the work you may have already recently submitted or would like to use for a future CMALT submission. The opportunity is now there to make this happen more easily also through an award application. What are you waiting for?

Writing the award application was an insightful activity. It did help me reflect on my work over the last few years, the collaborations I had initiated and supported with many others, little and bigger achievements and I felt grateful and fortunate to have worked with so many colleagues and students from my own institution, elsewhere as well as individuals outside HE. When writing the application, I found it useful to share a draft. Cristina became my mentor. In the past she was my student and colleague. If you are preparing your application, find somebody you trust and recognises what you bring. Getting honest, critical and constructive feedback will be invaluable in the process of putting a strong application together that provides rich evidence to how you meet the specific award criteria.

Apply for one of the ALT awards as an individual or a team and seize the opportunity to reflect on your practice and your achievements in the area of learning technology and digital practice and celebrate these with the wider community.

Could it be you this year?

Before sharing this post with the wider ALT community, I contacted a colleague I feel deserves to be recognised for their contribution through one of the ALT awards. I just hope they say yes, like I did to Cristina, in the end.  ​


Chrissi Nerantzi, Academic Developer, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Manchester Metropolitan University. @chrissinerantzi


If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Chief Executive Officer’s Report, May 2018

#ALTC Blog - 11/05/18
Dear Members

As I am writing this we are just beginning a particularly busy period for the Association, so my report to you this time will be a whistle-stop tour of what’s happening across our community. I am pleased in particular to welcome new member organisations who have recently joined ALT: Staffordshire University, Ajenta, MyKnowledgeMap, TES, Northern Regional College, University of Dundee and Wrexham Glyndwr University.

A global perspective on professionalisation in Learning Technology

On 3 May 2018 I was honoured to join the BOLT project organisers and partners at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University at their blended learning Symposium @PolyU,  a celebration and culmination of the BOLT project. As this 4-year University Grants Committee-funded project draws to a close, the Symposium celebrated at its impact so far – evidenced by its shortlisting for the Reimagine Education 2017 awards – and also looked to the future and its sustainable legacy. A particular highlight for me was being invited to present two members of staff, Seth Neeley and Arinna Nga Ying Lee, with their CMALT Certificates.

Congratulations to Seth, Arinna and the 20 other individuals who have achieved CMALT accreditation so far this year.  

Launching a new Award for the Learning Technology Research Project of the Year

One of our strategic priorities for this year is to enhance recognition for research in Learning Technology and the launch of this year Award helps us achieve this aim. The ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Awards celebrate and reward excellent research and practice and outstanding achievement in Learning Technology. Established in 2007, the Awards have established a benchmark for outstanding achievement in Learning Technology on a national scale and attract competitive entries from the UK and internationally. All entries are reviewed by an independent judging panel chaired by the President of ALT. We gratefully acknowledge the support from our sponsors Catalyst, open course technologists, for supporting the Awards this year. The Awards are now open for entries.

We seek Member input for UNESCO Recommendation on Open Educational Resources (OER)

ALT is collating a response for the following UNESCO consultation. Please use this shared doc to provide input https://go.alt.ac.uk/2FsAbBA . If you would like to provide input for the response, please use the heading structure provided. Alternatively you can also email your contribution to maren.deepwell@alt.ac.uk . The deadline for responses is 1 June 2018.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

As I’m sure many of you are aware new data protection regulations come into effect at the end of this month. We welcome these regulations as they will hopefully permit greater transparence in the use of personal data including in learning and teaching. In preparation of the new regulation we have updated ALT’s own Privacy Policy and carried out a number of actions in-line with guidance from the ICO.

We have also been supporting Members with a series of webinars to raise awareness around GDPR in learning in teaching. As part of this we were delighted to host Martin Dougiamas, Moodle Founder and CEO, along with Gavin Henrick, Moodle Business Development Manager to highlight actions the Moodle community have taken, Stephan Geering, Blackboard Global Privacy Officer and Associate General Counsel, and Mark Glynn, Head of the Teaching Enhancement Unit at DCU. If you missed any of these sessions recording and resources have been added to the event pages accessible from the past events section of our website.

ALT Annual Survey data & report

I will conclude my report with a reflecting briefly on the findings from this year’s ALT Annual Survey, the report of which was published in March by my colleague Martin Hawksey. As with previous years the Annual Survey is designed to:

  • understand current and future practice;
  • show how Learning Technology is used across sectors; and
  • help map the ALT strategy to professional practice to better meet the needs of and represent our Members.

With the survey in its fourth year we are able to record and report and number of changes. This year some of the biggest changes are in the enablers and drivers for use of learning technology. The insights gained go beyond the trends in technology and organisational change, but help us understand the needs of staff enabling students and building a more empowered relationship with Learning Technology. Themes that we can look forward to exploring more at ALT’s Annual Conference this September.

 Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), @marendeepwell

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Students’ learning responses to receiving dashboard data

#ALTC Blog - 08/05/18

Learning analytics is a burgeoning area of interest to the learning technology and wider educational community at the moment.  The hope is that by using data more effectively we will be able to support students better and improve their outcomes in particular retention (Johnson et al 2016; Sclater and Mullan 2017).

There are many claims made for learning analytics, including to better understand learners and the learning process, to provide timely, informative, and adaptive feedback, and to foster lifelong learning (see for example Gaešvić, Dawson, & Siemens, 2015).

Learner dashboards are one form of learning analytics, that takes a student’s data and presents it back to the student to help them to improve their self-knowledge and so it helps them to make informed decisions about their study behaviours.

The Society for Research in Higher Education, SRHE, funded a Scoping Study in 2017 to investigate Students’ learning responses to receiving dashboard data. The study aimed to understand how higher education students’ learning data could be used to support them in their studies.

A pilot dashboard was created using data from a range of sources:

  • attendance at lectures and seminars,
  • the frequency of visits to the library,
  • number of books borrowed
  • Assignment scores
  • VLE clicks
  • record of personal academic tutorials

The study involved 24 final year students, who came from a range of course within a single discipline area in one university. The sample included 14 out of a cohort of 16 students to that a full academic range were included to provide a comprehensive understanding, rather than those who might typically come forward for extracurricular activities.

The findings show that the way that learner dashboards are currently being designed needs to refined. Currently the dominant theoretical model that underpins the design of most Learner Dashboards is students’ self-regulated learning (Jivet et al. 2017).

However, the findings suggest that it would be valuable to think of dashboards as socio-material assemblages and that this would enable the messiness of the learning process, the complexity of individual dispositions and variety of contexts to be more completely represented.

Understanding Learner Dashboards using both self-regulated learning and socio-materiality leads to some practical recommendations for institutions who are taking forward development of these tools:

The Learner Dashboards (an illustration of what it could look like below) need to be designed to

  • Show personal trajectories;
  • Enable students to choose what they see;
  • Enable students to trust the sources of data by avoiding aggregating data;
  • Provide actionable insights
An illustration of what the learner dashaboard could look like. Click for a larger image.

Institutions who are developing Learner Dashboards need to consider

  • Mechanisms for ensuring that students engage in using them to reflect on progress and action planning. This might be a PDP process or academic tutorials.
  • How the dashboard is need to be presented to students eg via a student portal.
  • That they are driven by values that are student centred not just KPIs.

To learn more about the project:

The Final Project Report: https://www.srhe.ac.uk/downloads/reports-2016/LizBennet-scoping2016.pdf

Liz is leading an ELESIG webinar on 16th July at 12pm-1pm http://elesig.ning.com/

Liz is leading a TLC webinar on 18th May 2018 https://tlcwebinars.wordpress.com/


Fenwick, T. (2015). Professional responsibility in a future of data analytics. In B. Williamson (Ed.), Coding/ learning, software and digital data in education. Stirling: University of Stirling. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1NdHVbw.

Jivet, I., Scheffel, M., Drachsler, H., & Specht, M. (2017). Awareness is not enough. Pitfalls of learning analytics dashboards in the educational practice.

Gašević, D., Dawson, S., & Siemens, G. (2015). Let’s not forget: Learning analytics are about learning. In (Vol. 59, pp. 64-71). Boston: Springer US.

New Media Consortium. (2016). Horizon Report: 2016 Higher Education Edition. Retrieved from http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2015-nmc-technology-outlook-australian-tertiary-education.pdf

Dr Liz Bennett, University of Huddersfield, e.bennett@hud.ac.uk

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Ingredients for change

#ALTC Blog - 01/05/18

A video post from Paul Towers, Educational Developer, College of Learning and Teaching, University of Wolverhampton.


In the video post below, Paul shares how focusing on people and culture has been the key criteria to successfully transitioning from a deeply integrated Virtual Learning Environment to a new platform across the institution.



Paul Towers, Educational Developer, College of Learning and Teaching, University of Wolverhampton. @Towers1983


If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member


Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

The eight pillars of pain, some reflections on designing an online information literacy resource.

#ALTC Blog - 18/04/18

Last year at OER I was carried away on a cloud of enthusiasm and promised faithfully to write a blog post. This year’s OER is staring me in the face and I have done nothing about it! So here are my thoughts on designing and building a web based resource. They are derived from a chapter that I wrote called Parallel lines in Distributed Learning: Pedagogy and Technology in Online Information Literacy Instruction edited by Tasha Maddison and Maha Kumaran, Chandos, 2016 – but basically I have chopped it right down and dumped the literature review! I apologise in advance if it comes under the heading of “teaching Granny how to suck eggs!”

The issues that I’m going to talk about have been collated from a literature and my experiences in designing and building our online information literacy resources SMILE, SMIRK and PILOT. Basically it is a big shopping list of things to worry about when you are planning and building an online resource!

So, here are my eight pillars of pain (with apologies to the SCONUL seven pillars of wisdom)

  • Market scan or literature review
  • Planning: design and project management
  • IL frameworks
  • Development software
  • Hardware and delivery methods
  • Testing and piloting
  • Teaching: timetabling and delivery
  • Futureproofing

It may not be possible to go through all eight stages. But I have found after not doing so, that it helps to adopt a structured approach!

Market scan or literature review

Is a market scan necessary? Yes! Did we do it? No! Why? Even if you are adapting an OER it is worth finding out what resources exist and the best delivery methods. It is always worth learning from others. It can save time in the long run and you can make some friends along the way.

  • Define target users: consider stage of course, mode of study, language and IT skills? Broadband availability?
  • Decide on style: set up a style guide (this is very useful for teams!)
  • Look and feel: consider are all graphics necessary? they can slow loading and response, clear font, scrolling, institutional branding
  • Navigation: clear menus, location signposts, platform agnostic, Flash player?, test on variety of devices
  • Develop content: build from scratch or adapt OERs (or both?), create storyboard, copyright?
  • Accessibility: consult specialists at all stages, if none in institution, use external organisations. Build in from start!
  • Write project plan: with timeline (Gantt chart), build in time for revision!

OK, so this stage applies more to my subject area of information and digital literacy, but you could also build in some time to consider other appropriate frameworks or reports. They can make handy ammunition when preparing your case!

Development and software
  • How do you present your course: simple HTML web pages or presentation software like iSpring, Xerte or Articulate?
  • What about gamification: what type? tabletop or online? single user or groups?
  • Do you use plugins, Flash player, or Camtasia?: consider browser issues, VLE, and technical limitations
  • How interactive does the resource need to be: include quizzes or interactive games?
  • Mobile device compatibility is a must!: what looks good on PC, may not work at all on a smartphone
Hardware and delivery methods
  • Closed or open? How accessible do you want to be?: consider institutional VLE (LMS) like Moodle or Blackboard or an open web site
  • Do you REALLY need a login? Users are easily deterred!
  • Shared server?: not a good idea. Think of peaks in user demand
Testing and piloting
  • Decide what you are testing: usability or skills developed, or both!
  • Feedback: keep detailed notes
  • User testing in labs: select a range of differently abled users with various language skills, test on as many different devices as possible
  • Focus groups: good for qualitative feedback
  • Surveys: keep them short!, check institutional policy, consider paper surveys (retro can be good)!
  • Implement changes fast: or inform users why
  • Allow time in project plan for: pilot phase, inevitable delays, and revision
  • Wide uptake of any online resource follows adoption into institutional policy which forces formal timetabling. This is especially true for Information and Digital Literacy, but also other skills.
  • Module structure: long thin or short fat?
  • Course structure: online only, hybrid or face to face.
  • Assessment: consider quizzes, automatic grading?
Future proofing

No easy answers on this one, my psychic powers are not great! But consider:

  • Licensing issues
  • Copyright
  • Speed of developments
  • Presentation systems
  • How open is your OER really?!
  • What about changes in fashion, we are all fashion victims, whether we like it or not!
And finally …

So, all this makes me sound like an organised individual. Do I follow this plan? Did I hee, haw! That is how I discovered it. I am the queen of how not to do things! So, don’t be discouraged if you don’t follow planned steps. We are all different and as long as your resource ends up built and running, that’s the main thing!

Some handy texts (full literature review is in the book!)

  • Crawford, N. & Broertjes, A., (2010). Evaluation of a university online Information Literacy unit. Australian Library Journal 59(4), 187-196.
  • Stubbings, R. & Franklin, G., (2004). A critical analysis of the INFORMS project at Loughborough University. JeLit 1(1), 31-41.
  • Thomas, J. & Gosling, C., (2009). An evaluation of the use of “Guides at the side” Web-based Learning activities to equip students in health sciences and nursing with information literacy skills. New Review of Academic Librarianship 15(2), 173-186.
  • Yang, S., (2009). Information literacy online tutorials: an introduction to rational and technological tools in tutorial creation. The Electronic Library 27(4), 684-693.

Marion Kelt, Research and Open Access Librarian – Glasgow Caledonian University

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Review of Radical Technologies by Adam Greenfield  

#ALTC Blog - 19/03/18

It has been a few months since I finished reading Adam Greenfield’s Radical Technologies: the design of everyday life.  In that time, a robot called Fabio was hired and fired by a supermarket in Edinburgh, Stylist magazine published an AI issue featuring algorithm authored articles and a fashion shoot with Sophia, a humanoid robot and Boston Dynamic’s robodogs mesmerised us all with their door opening abilities.

The glut of AI related news succumbs to a confusion that, as some would have it, not only serves the aims of techno-capitalism but has been deliberately orchestrated to do so.   The main reason for this claim is that, whilst over the years AI has referred to different technologies, the latest iteration is a rebranding exercise by major Silicon Valley companies which conflates several different developments (machine learning, deep learning, virtual reality and so on) under the single term and whose ‘common denominator is the use of expensive computing power to analyze massive centralized data’. AI is now synonymous with Big Data, a definition that now informs both academic research and mainstream discourse.

Yuval Harari in Homo Deus, an often frustratingly glib but ultimately hair raising account of the new ‘religion’ of Dataism, invites us to think and behave differently in order to circumvent a future whereby ‘unenhanced humans’ will become obsolete as technology is increasingly harnessed in the deterministic drive towards efficiency and profit.  For lay people, like myself, knowing how to think and behave differently sounds appealing but is fiendishly problematic in the current AI infused zeitgeist. Not only is there an elision of technological terminology in the term AI but a lack of agreement as to what ‘intelligence’ means in the first place.  Add to this the fact that much mainstream material on the subject is what Judith Squires describes as ‘technophoric cyberdrool’ or downright terrifying (think Black Mirror) and we could be forgiven for self-medicating with videos of baby rhinos.

What a relief then that Greenfield’s Radical Technologies is ready to hand offering a measured counterbalance to all of the above.  This is a highly readable, informed and reflective overview of the key technologies at play in our lives today. In each chapter he offers an explication and analysis on the uses and, crucially, an ethical consideration of a range of key technological developments –Smartphones, Machine Learning, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and so on.  Thanks to Greenfield’s patient explication I have (almost) understood Bitcoin (maybe too late if recent reports are to be believed).

In a chapter on the Internet of Things, Greenfield borrows Bradley Dilger’s phrase ‘the ideology of ease’ to describe what underpins the lure of increased connectivity. ‘The tendency towards laziness, is near universal throughout the internet of things world’ (p42).  A case in point is the Amazon Dash Button, a Wi-Fi connected device that reorders your favourite product when it is running out.   With its plug and play hyper-connected functions, the Dash button makes a whole series of technical decisions for us, something that appeals not only to our laziness but to our lack of knowledge (and frequent dislike of) technical processes.

As someone who works in education, I often hear that the main barriers to the use of educational technology is that it is not ‘intuitive’. The desire is for a seamless user experience with no ‘pain points’ for lecturers in setting up activities on the VLE.  Greenfield asks what is being effaced in this drive for ease or intuitiveness?  What decisions might we be best retaining authorship over, pain points and all?

Vulnerability is one price we pay. Greenfield reports being able to effortlessly ‘spy’ on two women working in a stockroom in Davao City and, chillingly, sleeping babies, only some amongst countless unwitting subjects live streamed onto the web through cheap, unsecured plug ‘n play webcams.  It is not that we are consciously prepared to sacrifice privacy for peace of mind but that, ‘for our own convenience’, these devices set themselves up and, in the process, enable us to bypass all the settings that give us some control over the information we share with others.

Greenfield adds a much needed ethical dimension to discussions around technology. Central to the ideology of ease is that for the sake of convenience we forget our connection and responsibility to others. For many of us, our lives intractably bound up in our phones. Many people I know use them to tweet about misogyny, Trump, animal welfare or the evil of plastics.   I’m typing this on a Mac laptop.  Yet we know about the exploitative conditions that workers in Shenzhen City and Congo mines endure (including many children) to produce our smart devices.  We know and yet forget on a daily basis.

Finally, what we relinquish in our quest for ease is the fact of being human in all its messiness – the inconvenience of other bodies in shared physical spaces, miscommunications, illness, suffering and, ultimately, death. As Greenfield says, it is hard to argue against a technology that ‘glimmers with the promise of transcendence’ but any democratic aspirations that technology can end conditions of deficit for all –  material, physical, psychological – would pose ‘a grave challenge’ to the model of scarcity on which capitalism depends.   It is easier ‘to see the end of the world than the end of capitalism.’

Those in Silicon Valley want us to believe in algorithms as the only objective ‘intelligence’ capable of gleaning sense from the limitless data delivered through connected devices but this is based on a diminished view of human intelligence. It is the ‘view from nowhere’ that pervades AI research (Adam 2006), bereft of embodied subjectivity and assumed to ‘be motivated by rational pursuit of goals’.  By relinquishing accountability to algorithms, we make way for ‘AI experts’ and entrepreneurs to present themselves ‘the architects of society’ (Katz)

With care, thought and an informed perspective, we can plant the seeds of a more generous and wise future but only if we ask ‘What do we choose to do with our technologies’ instead of ‘What does our technology let us do.’ Greenfield reminds us that this all too human intelligence is still within our reach.



Greenfield, Adam (2017) Radical Technologies: The design of everyday life. Verso, London.

Harari, Yuval Noah ( 2016) Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Harvill Secker, London

Katz, Yarden, Manufacturing an Artificial Intelligence Revolution (November 27, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3078224 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3078224

 Squires, J (2000) Fabulous feminist futures and the lure of cyberculture in The cybercultures reader. Routledge, London.

Dr. Isobel Bowditch works as a Educational Developer at the Centre for Research Informed Teaching, London South Bank University , i.bowditch@lsbu.ac.uk

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Book Review: Design of Technology Enhanced Learning Integrating research and Practice. Matt Bower

#ALTC Blog - 15/03/18

In this book, the author Matt Bower sets out to examine research findings relating to the use of TEL which can be used to enhance our design thinking.

Bower begins by offering a set of motivations for integrating technology within education, noting in particular an intrinsic desire to improve learning outcomes for the student.  He asks the reader to reject simplistic and ‘mythical’ ideas that can undermine TEL design, offering the examples of digital natives and technological determinism, instead imploring us to adopt a critical approach to TEL design.

In the early part of the book, Bower lays the conceptual foundations of pedagogy, technological affordances, content, and learning design.  We are introduced to the TPACK (Technology, Pedagogy And Content Knowledge) framework which is characterised as a “useful conceptual tool” rather than a learning theory; “the what, not how”.

In chapter three, Bower gives an overview of prevailing pedagogic perspectives, including; behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, social-constructivism, and connectivism.  These are summarised in a table rating their attributes across several dimensions which is a useful reference point.  The chapter concludes by underlining the point that the choice of pedagogy will influence the type of technology used in TEL design.

Chapter four is split into two halves; the first examining the ‘affordances’ of technology in the selection-process, and the second discussing the principles of multimedia learning, and how these two areas mutually influence each other.  These are presented as further conceptual foundations for the use and design of TEL by the critical-educator; one who can take a range of factors into account for their context rather than taking a mechanistic approach.

Chapter five includes an interesting overview and discussion of open educational practice including OER, MOOCs and CC licensing, and how open education is changing the role of the educator from designing educational content, to designing the learning environment through “structure, sequence and scaffolding” for their students.

Chapter six introduces the reader to the field of learning design and the concept of “design thinking.”  It summarises research on design thinking in 10 points, and discusses how we, as educators, can develop design thinking.  Bower describes three ‘educational design models’ and offers a critical reflection on these, and of the “intractable problem” of creating learning design models that are either so inclusive that they become unmanageable, or so general that they are of no use.

We are given an evolutionary journey through the ways in which educators have sought to share learning design and descriptions, with accompanying examples (e.g. visualisation tools [Compendium LD]).  This is again followed by a critical reflection and a strategy for the future development of learning design; that is to take a reflective approach, to collaborate, and to adopt a ‘design mindset’.

The middle part of the book (chapters 7 – 10) is given to a detailed overview of current educational research in four key areas: web 2.0, social networking, mobile learning and virtual worlds.  This overview includes a discussion of the benefits and constraints of each of the technologies, including case-studies and examples throughout.

The final part of the book follows this examination of current educational research by abstracting 20 principles of TEL design.  These principles, along with related benefits and constraints are mapped into 13 ‘clusters’ to effectively organise the relationships contained within.  Bower completes the book with the conclusion that learning design is both an art and a science; one that requires creativity and flair, but that should be grounded and informed by empirical evidence – “a creative application of design knowledge.”  Bower ends with a personal reflection of his enjoyment of being an educator, and about the importance of practicing design.

Overall this is a book which is written to bridge the perceived gap between educational researchers and practitioners, and it succeeds by being extensively researched and referenced whilst providing real-world examples and case-studies throughout.

I found this book to be an enjoyable read, with the structure, layout and aesthetics making each section very accessible despite some of the complex ideas being discussed.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interesting in learning design and the design of TEL as a practising educator or educational researcher.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Setting up an online collection of educational resources: some practical tips

#ALTC Blog - 10/03/18

Over the past three years, I have been working with colleagues to develop a series of [Subject]on theBox blogs, promoting the use of the TV and radio archive Box of Broadcasts in discipline-specific teaching. At the present time BiologyOnTheBox is the best established site, with AstrophysicsOnTheBox  as the newest member.

This post is not, however, about the specifics of that project. I thought instead that it would be valuable to share with the ALT community some of the lessons I’ve learned more generally about the establishment of any online educational resource. I worried initially that this was “teaching grandma to suck eggs” but having bounced the idea off a couple of critical friends they assure me that there are important insights here. I therefore hope this checklist will enable members to save themselves from making some of the errors that I have, and allow them to develop useful resources. I’m sure this list is not exhaustive, but I believe there are seven interconnected questions on which anyone considering setting up an online educational resource should reflect.

  • What is the purpose of the site? This is crucial, but easy to overlook. For example, in the context of [Subject]On TheBox collections, is the intention only to raise awareness of particular footage, or to comment on potential applications? There are also issues relating to the breadth and tone of the content; e.g. will the focus be on Physics in general or Astrophysics? On Geography in general or on Urban Studies?
  • Who are the anticipated primary audience? At the start of the development of a resource, who do you consider as the most likely to use these materials? For example, will it be fellow academics, undergraduate students, or maybe even the general public? Also, are there issues with access to third party materials for some users? In the case of BoB, for example, footage is only available to students and staff at subscribing institutions. Clips cannot be seen by students based outside the UK (for copyright reasons) hence this is not suitable for overseas DL students.
  • Who will be authoring articles and reviews for the site? Who will be the authors for your resource? Do you anticipate the post will be written by: A single academic? A broader set of colleagues? Postgraduate students? Undergraduate students? And/or Graduate interns? Do you envisage that the authors will all come from a single HEI or from multiple universities? These questions have important consequences relating back to the purpose of the site. For example, it is unrealistic to expect undergraduates to write “lesson plans” detailing teaching activities based on a TV clip, but they might write an excellent summary of how the content dovetails with other aspects of their course. The question about involvement of other universities is important – intuitively I would favour development of one shared resource for the sector but this is harder to manage and means your site loses some of the fringe benefits, such as giving your institution a unique selling point when recruiting new students.
  • Why would someone contribute to the resource? What will incentivise authors? This is a particularly apposite question if the intention is for students to write reviews. Will they be paid for their contributions? Will authoring posts potentially be an assessed task? As an enthusiast for “authentic assessments” I find this an attractive model, and one which naturally provides exemplars for subsequent years (a crucial factor in assuring students about expectations when the task is not something they have done before). On the downside, however, it does mean that any material on which a post is written cannot itself be the subject of a similar assignment the following year, so there needs to be sufficient fresh material available. Or is the promise of CV development and experience that may bolster future employability sufficient reward?
  • On what platform will the resource be housed? This is linked to purpose; if the collection is only considered useful for members of the producing institution then it could be within a VLE. In the spirit of open access, however, I would advocate hosting on a platform where all potential users can benefit. Blogging services WordPress and Blogger remain very popular due to their user-friendly interface for both authors and readers.
  • Who will be responsible for curation and sustainability? Who will be in charge of uploading material and for quality control? The more authors (and from the more HEIs), the bigger the task this will be. You also need to reflect on whether it is essential that fresh contributions are added on a regular schedule (e.g. at least one per week), or whether sporadic publication is acceptable for your overall goal.
  • How will the site be promoted? Having gone to the trouble of produce a new resource, how will you alert potential users to its existence? Methods might include plugging on social media, discussing at conferences, formal and informal publications, and word of mouth.

As noted above, I’m sure this is not an exhaustive list, and colleague will have additional suggestions. If you do, please pass them on.


Chris Willmot, University of Leicester, email: cjrw2@le.ac.uk, blog twitter






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Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Edtech Start Up Guide

#ALTC Blog - 01/03/18

An update from Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive of the Association for Learning Technology.


Over the past six months we have been working on a guide about how Learning Technology professionals can work together with start-ups and now we are ready to report back and launch the first edition of the guide we have written together.

At the outset of the project, we wanted to find out what makes a successful collaboration between Learning Technology professionals and start-ups, what barriers may get in the way and what experiences we can learn from. We also asked the question why this is important and how it might be useful to the wider community, both individuals and organisations.

We have since had many contributions and ran an edit-a-thon session as part of ALT’s Online Winter Conference in December. The resulting guide document is the first version of what we hope will become a growing collection of case studies and lessons learnt, that not only share glowing examples of when everything went right, but also critically reflect on the risks, setbacks and issues we may encounter along the way.

In his foreword to the first edition of the guide, Peter Bryant writes:

Communities come together to apply tools to problems, sharing and swapping expertise and experience to enhance how we use those tools, or invent new ones. This is one of the key reasons to consider how or why you might engage and interact with start-ups. Institutions have the capacity to shape and influence a solution for their specific problems as opposed to bending critical interventions such as delivery and assessment to the requirements of the platform or technology.

This guide provides a starting point, a blueprint for collaboration. It is the result of consultation with and contributions from ALT Members and the wider Learning Technology Community and was produced by ALT in collaboration with Aula and with particular contributions from:

  • Ayse Kok Arslan, Google (Contractor), Mountain View, CA
  • Samuel Butcher, Scientific Collaboration Specialist at Labster, @samuellbutcher
  • Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), @marendeepwell
  • Dan Harding, Learning Technology Officer at Keele University, @danielharding
  • Jenni Hayman, Program Manager, eCampusOntario.ca
  • Anders Krohn, Co-founder and CEO at Aula, @anders_krohn
  • Mikkel Lauritzen, Director of Partnerships at Aula, @mik_lauritzen
  • Kate Nicolson, Education Technologist, UK @KateNicolson
  • Sarah Sherman, Bloomsbury Learning Environment Service Manager @BLE1
  • Lucy Tallents, freelance educator & visiting academic at Oxford Uni, UK @lucytallents

You can now access the guide http://bit.ly/altcstartupguide .

Reflecting on the collaboration from my perspective, I am struck by how much our ability to collaborate, to work together effectively in Learning Technology, is about our ability to communicate with professionals from different contexts.

There are so many competing priorities, problems for technology to ‘fix’ for the organisation, the individual or the learners, that it is challenging to manage the risks associated with trying new things. On the other hand, the rewards of being agile, or learning new things, being comfortable with taking risks and manage change, are significant.

This guide starts to chart the journey of bringing innovation into practice and we will expand it over time into new editions with more contributions and case studies that help us gain more insight into this undertaking.


Maren Deepwell


Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) @MarenDeepwell.

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member


Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Chief Executive Officer’s Report, February 2018

#ALTC Blog - 22/02/18

Dear Members

I’d like to begin my report with a personal welcome to all the new members, both individuals and organisations, who have joined ALT in recent months and who have helped grow our membership to over 3,000 members for the first time.

We have worked hard to realise ALT’s activities across sectors, reaching out to and representing Learning Technology professionals wherever they may be based and I am particularly pleased to see such a diverse range of organisations taking up membership in the past year:

Learning and Work Institute; St Mary’s University, Twickenham; INASP; Blackpool and The Fylde College; Plum Innovations Ltd; ExamSoft; DigiExam; Aula; Pearson; Inspera AS; Catalyst IT Europe Ltd; University of Roehampton; UNIwise; Panopto EMEA; London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Dublin City University; OpenStax; Anglo-European College of Chiropractic; International Powered Access Federation; King’s College London; London Business School; Queen’s University Belfast; Moodle; Winstanley College; Ulster University; Edinburgh Napier University; Candle Learning; Bradford College; University of Chichester and Wrexham Glyndwr University.

To each and every one of you, a warm welcome to our #altc community.

Making strategic progress

Earlier this month the Chair of ALT, Sheila MacNeill and I wrote to you, to update you on the progress we have made as an Association putting our strategic aims and values into practice. As well as celebrating big membership milestones and new developments we also wanted to look ahead to what’s coming up this year, such as new pathways to CMALT accreditation and the ALT Research Awards.

ALT is growing

Members will have also seen our announcement of a new partnership with Oxford Brookes University, which marks ALT’s move to fully virtual operations. I am pleased that the move was achieved with only minimal interruption in late January. Speaking of operations and the ALT staff team, our Events Manager Jane Marsh is now on maternity leave, with new staff member

Emma-Jane Brazier taking the lead on ALT’s events for the coming year. As we grow activities across the board, we are also looking to recruit a new member of staff in the coming months.

Influencing policy and improving practice

A new Strategic Journal Working Group to help steer the development of the journal now being published by ALT in partnership with Open Academia has been established. We are grateful that representatives from other scholarly bodies who are publishing in a similar model, have agreed to join the group to share best practice and support each other. The group is chaired by Prof Neil Morris, who also chairs the Editorial Board, and we are delighted to welcome colleagues from ASCILITE, ILTA and the OLC alongside our Editors.

Also focused on helping us increase the impact of Learning Technology, and in particular Open Education Resources and practice for public benefit, is the work around the upcoming OER Conference in Bristol in April. The conference links closely to the wider policy debate ALT has been contributing to in Open Education and OER – A guide and call to action for policy makers.

Charting the Learning Technology landscape

My colleague Martin Hawksey will shortly report on the findings from the recent ALT Annual Survey. We are now able to compare several years of survey data, which is beginning to chart changing trends and priorities for Learning Technology professionals across sectors. The survey’s findings also inform our priorities as an Association and help set priorities for the coming year, this time in conjunction with feedback gathered via the first survey specifically for CMALT Holders.

The next 25 years in Learning Technology

This year marks ALT’s 25th year and also our 25th Annual Conference. Whilst it is important to celebrate our history, our Members’ achievements and the progress we have made, I feel that this is also an opportunity to critically reflect on where we are and what we are heading toward. I welcome the input from Trustees in particular to the Call for Proposals for this year’s conference, which places a particular emphasis on critical, historical and political perspectives, research and analysis that questions the purpose or impact of technology used for learning, teaching or assessment.

With over 90 volunteers this year we have the biggest conference committee to help us deliver what I hope to be an outstanding event: put 11-13 September in Manchester, UK, in your diary.

There is much to look forward to in the coming months, and I’d like to end my report with a heartfelt thank you to all ALT Members who contribute to the work of the Association and make it possible for us as a professional membership body to increase our impact in the UK and internationally. Over the past decade I have seen ALT grow in reach and influence and your contribution makes a real difference to our shared endeavour.

Thank you.

 Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), @marendeepwell

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member

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LTHEchat – The story of a Community of Practice through Twitter

#ALTC Blog - 19/02/18

Introduction: The Story / How it Happened


The original idea for an ongoing tweetchat for professional development came from Dr. Chrissi Nerantzi. The idea emerged through the success of the #BYOD4Lchat, a daily feature of the 5-day openly-licensed course Bring Your Own Devices for Learning (BYOD4L), first offered in January 2014 and based on flexible, distance and online learning (FDOL) Offered Monday to Friday from 8-9pm UK time #BYOD4Lchat always created a real buzz. Chrissi saw the potential for a tweetchat on its own, outside a course that would have the potential to develop a community around it. Courses have such a short lifespan, she thought. What about a community approach to professional development? If we want our academics engaged in ongoing professional development could a weekly tweetchat be an attractive option? Could it work? She wanted to give it a go! When the idea matured a little bit in her head, she shared it with Sue Beckingham over a Skype meeting and then with Dr. David Walker and Peter Reed in an email signing as Chrissi and Sue. She wanted the tweetchat to become a truly collaborative project from the outset and therefore creating the conditions for co-ownership were important to her. The Learning and Teaching in Higher Education tweetchat, or #LTHEchat, came to live. The name came from a core module Chrissi led while working at the University of Salford. Chrissi, Sue, David and Peter became the steering group and decided to run a 3-month pilot and see how it went. The first #LTHEchat was in 2014, on the 29th of October that year. Hundreds of tweetchats later, the tweetchat is still offered, growing and evolving. After a year of operation, rotating organising teams were introduced to share the workload and develop a participatory community where diversity, inclusivity and openness as well as organising responsibilities are shared among those who participate regularly and volunteer to help to create an offer that could potentially be sustained for some time. These teams work with great autonomy, each time supported in the background by a member of the steering group. There is an online form anybody can complete and express an interest to join a future organising team. What we hear again and again is that individuals would like to join an organising team to give something back to the community. This is truly heart-warming and we are very grateful for all individuals who have so far been members of the rotating organising teams. The #LTHEchat joined forces with the #HEAchat, the RAISE Network and communities that have come together to share, discuss and debate learning and teaching in higher education. The agenda is emerging organically by those invited or volunteering to be guest facilitators. This has included some students, but perhaps not enough. We had many guest facilitators and are grateful for their time, their expertise and engagement with the wider #LTHEchat community. We have been fortunate to have our very own #LTHEchat designer, Ellie Hannan, and our very own doodler, who draws all our pre-tweetchat drawings of the topics to be discussed, Simon Rae. Ellie and Simon have made the #LTHEchat recognisable and sprinkled artistic flair over it.


The Format


Sue’s interest in social media for learning goes back to 2009 and led to a funded study visit to the US in early 2011, where she learned more about the use of Twitter in teaching and for CPD. As a regular participant in tweetchats such as #edchat, #SAchat and #hootchat, Sue had seen the potential for using Twitter to develop personal learning networks and create a forum for rich discussions. She introduced the idea of the tweetchat to BYOD4L in 2014 and also led with David Hopkins a guest tweetchat for Chrissi’s FDOL course and a guest webinar on Collaborative Learning and Communities in 2013.

During BYOD4L the tweetchats took place each evening for one hour over 5 days and were themed by the 5C Framework. Six questions were composed relating to the theme of the day. The concept of posting questions at regular intervals with a shared hashtag enabled participants to give answers or ask further questions in response to these. By searching for the hashtag, all relevant tweets were pulled together and could be seen by all. Sue set up a Storify account to curate the tweets. After each chat the link to the ‘story’ could be shared on the blogpost.

Taking this successful model forward for LTHEchat as with BYOD4L, a bespoke Twitter account was set up for @LTHEchat, the #LTHEchat hashtag was chosen and a new Storify account was created. These then linked back to the LTHEchat website created on WordPress, and the domain name LTHEchat.com was secured. A regular time slot was agreed as Wednesday 8pm. We felt this was important as we wanted people to easily remember the ‘same time same place’.

Our initial plan was to ask the participants to vote for a topic to be discussed the following week. Chrissi and Sue led the first chat and then our first guest Dr Liz Bennett volunteered to lead a chat. From there on we reached out to our shared networks to find guests and before long volunteers came to us! Each provided a topic of their choice along with six questions. As facilitators we checked the questions for clarity and also for length to make sure they would fit within the 140 characters along with the Q1, Q2 etc and the hashtag. Quite a challenge!

The pilot was extended and over the first year the steering group shared the ‘behind the scenes’ tasks. Chrissi then suggested we look to invite volunteers to form a rolling organising committee. This was a great opportunity to mentor others and for them to bring new ideas to LTHEchat. For example creating some ‘Hawksey magic’ (TAGSExplorer) visualisations of the tweets. Fast forward and there have now been 21 amazing people help to make LTHEchat what it is today! These plus the amazing contributors to the chat have been the essential ingredients to make this project a success and sustainable. Most importantly it has provided a vibrant and supportive community of practice where everyone can continue to develop digital skills and learn about different aspects of learning and teaching.


The Experiences of the Organisers who have helped in the past 100 LTHEchat tweetchats


Organising group

Jenny (Associate lecturer, 25 years’ teaching experience in HE): I started participating in the LTHEchat in 2015, cautiously at first, just reading and observing, and then gradually contributing. It soon became a weekly priority, to the extent that I felt very disappointed if my teaching schedule meant I couldn’t join in the live chat. I was hesitant at first about volunteering to go on the organising team, as it felt like a huge step up for me on the tech front, but I wanted to put something back into the community that had been so welcoming. I joined Scott and Rebecca on the Sept-Dec 2017 organising team, and it has been a great experience, with a lot of “firsts” for me – using WordPress for the blog, getting to grips with Storify, a group Skype, running the tweetchat…. and actually it wasn’t anything like as daunting as I expected. The community of the LTHEchat has given me the courage to take the leap, gain new experiences, get fresh ideas and try out new things. It’s an invigorating community of inspiring and supportive people.

Scott (Associate Professor, 17 years’ teaching experience): My participation in the LTHEchat started in 2016, using that horribly phrase ‘lurking’ seeing what others were saying; but very quickly started contributing a bit. The community is supportive and so I felt I could contribute and have a critical discussion about something I am passionate about. It has become a fix point in my week, I look forward to. I was lucky to join a good organising team where everyone had a go at everything, friendly, taking the lead one week, supporting the others and the host on other weeks. Great experience and would recommend taking part in an organising team.

Rebecca (Learning Technologist, 5 years Staff development experience): My awareness of LTHEchat occurred as I was originally working in an isolated faculty position and was searching for a way to connect with a learning community. LTHEchat offered me a way to learn and connect with a wide and diverse community without feeling my lack of experience was a hindrance as everyone is treated equally regardless of role or experience. Joining the organising committee was scary but the team and Sue as our guide were supportive and encouraging throughout. We had different skills and experiences but the shared workload and the collaborative nature of the committee meant there was always someone to ask if you had a question or reassure you when something wasn’t going as planned. It was an invaluable experience that has led to new contacts and a greater understanding of the LTHE community and its value to the sector.

Neil (Associate Dean, University of Salford): I have been an avid contributor to #LTHEChat from the very beginning as I was familiar with Chrissi and Sue’s work and was keen to take part in what promised to be a worthwhile and educational new venture. Twitter chats are a fun way to connect and discuss important topics and I found myself looking forward to Wednesday evenings. When the request came in to ask if I wanted to be part of the organising team (September to December 2015) I quickly jumped at the chance as I wanted to see what happened “behind the scenes”. I was very fortunate that there were a group of us and we could share out the “tasks” which were engaging and enjoyable, not really tasks as such but the chats don’t run without a bit of background work (blog, posting the questions, Storify). The whole experience of being part of the organising team was great fun and I learned some new skills – always a bonus. If you get the chance to join the organising team my advice is……..go for it!



The Experiences of the Participants of the Tweetchats


#LTHEchat can be a bit like the gym in a good way: sometimes I forget, but when I remember I'm always glad I did, feel energised and inspired! (And unlike the gym, I can do it with a cup of tea in hand…)

— Emma Kennedy (@EmmaKEdDev) January 25, 2018

#LTHEchat a joyous and easy way to engage in friendly, energetic and enthusiastic dialogic PD. The one hour twitter storm inspires with its diversity, multidisciplinarity and humour. I love the always informed and provocative Q&A – and the sense that we are all welcome & valued.

— Sandra Sinfield (@Danceswithcloud) January 25, 2018

I agree, but i get so much from connecting with this community, its revitalising isn't it. and if it was during office hours -would we be able to schedule it successfully? though do bear in mind there are teachers everywhere teaching part-time evening classes #LTHEchat https://t.co/RWRjfiNscm

— Jenny L L (@jennywahwah) January 24, 2018


The Future of the Tweetchat


So far the #LTHEchat has attracted overwhelmingly practitioners from across the UK and only some from other parts of the world. And the vast majority of chats have been in English. We would love to explore ways to work closer with other communities from around the world and join-up. Tweetchats in different languages is something that would be of value and bring more diverse individuals and voices together. Furthermore, there is an opportunity to work more closer with students. Perhaps we should focus on this in 2018. We would love to hear from Student Unions and individual undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral students who would like to engage.

Finally, while there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that the #LTHEchat is of value, there is a need for a study to be conducted on the tweetchat so that we can make informed and evidence-based decisions for its future.


Santanu Vasant

University of East London

Chrissi Nerantzi

Manchester Metropolitan University

Sue Beckingham

Sheffield Hallam University

Jenny Lewin-Jones

University of Worcester

Rebecca Sellers

Association for Learning Technology

Scott Turner

Leeds Beckett


If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Quality Assurance of MOOC-based curricula: a project report from Kiron

#ALTC Blog - 19/02/18


Kiron Open Higher Education (gGmbH) is a non-profit edtech organization that provides access to higher education (HE) for refugees through strategic partnerships with higher education institutions (HEIs) and online education providers. Kiron’s program consists of tailor-made curricula, a digital collaborative platform and support services for refugees to begin their studies online while they prepare to apply to a HEI. Our goal is to provide MOOC-based curricula that are recognized at partner institutions. A key requirement for partner institutions is quality assurance (QA), and so in this blog post, we report on the multi-layered QA approach we are developing at Kiron.

Kiron’s academic model

Kiron studies are suitable for learners who are either seeking asylum or do not yet have the required documents to apply to university in their host country. At Kiron we bundle massive open online courses (MOOCs) into curricula, and deliver them via the virtual Kiron Campus platform, adding live online tutorials. Once learners have met admission requirements, we assist them in applying to an HEI. If accepted, learners may apply for recognition of up to 60 ECTS of completed Kiron coursework, and continue studying offline towards an accredited Bachelor’s degree.  For more information about Kiron’s Model see the Kiron website and Suter & Rampelt 2017.

Kiron’s academic model (reproduced from https://kiron.ngo/our-kiron-model/the-academic-model/ with permission)

To enable recognition of credits, HEIs need proof of QA procedures and the assurance that internationally accepted quality criteria have been applied. At Kiron we believe that a strong network of institutions combining their quality processes can enable equivalence of non-formal curricula with traditional quality-assured programmes.

Layers of quality assurance

Kiron’s network (graphic by Hannes Niedermeier)

Curating MOOCs from different institutions and platforms, and relating them to modules, demands rigorous coordination. Kiron works as an intermediary between learners and partner institutions as well as the MOOC platforms, facilitating communication to enable the recognition of MOOC certificates when a learner transfers to an HEI. Our curricula therefore have to abide to high standards, secured by multi-layered QA (see the figure above).

MOOC-providing institutions

Kiron mainly uses MOOCs from established HEIs. To date, we have incorporated 233 MOOCs in our curricula. These MOOCs are provided by 52 different accredited HEIs, and four other institutions. The non-HEI institution used most in Kiron’s curricula is Saylor Academy, a nonprofit organisation that curates free and open online resources. Saylor is transparent about its QA approach, which involves review cycles and an external review of parts of its courses.

At Kiron we sought information on institutional support for online learning at the HEIs that provide our MOOCs, and found this information for over 91% of the institutions. Support reflects in three, often connected, strategies:

In summary, the institutions involved in Kiron’s curricula provide a consistent level of QA through course design procedures based on recognised good practice, regular external review cycles, and institutional support structures.

MOOC platforms

While the general QA is secured by the MOOC-providing institutions, MOOC platforms have also developed standards for courses, and often offer learning analytics and other information to MOOC providers. EdX, for example, provides not only a MOOC development checklist (MDC) to ensure consistency on its platform, but also educational services such as “training, onboarding, high-level program management, learner technical support, course strategy” (edX website), and collects data for MOOC providers to analyze their learners’ learning behaviour and iteratively develop their courses.


Kiron chooses MOOCs based on their learning outcomes, learner-centered learning approaches, and the sustainability of modules. We have also established innovative tools to provide transparent descriptions of MOOCs and to supports our partners in analyzing the courses. The Learning Outcome Comparison Matrices show how each MOOC contributes to Kiron’s module-level learning outcomes. Additionally, Kiron MOOklets (MOOC Booklets) provide detailed information on learner workload, course design, assessment and authentication, and key facts about the MOOC-providing institution and its accreditation status. The data collected in these tools allows HEIs to judge the quality of the courses, thereby addressing the recommendations in the EAR (European Recognition Manual for Higher Education Institutions, Nuffic, 2016: link to PDF), and helping HEIs to ascertain the quality dimensions of online courses.

The fit between Kiron’s module requirements and the quality of MOOCs implemented in its curricula is reviewed repeatedly. Feedback by partners is an important element in constantly developing the curricula. More information on Kiron’s QA procedures is available at Rampelt & Suter 2017 and via our Quality Handbook, which was developed through funding from the Bertelsmann Foundation and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Finally, recognition by Kiron’s partner institutions is also a step in verifying the different layers of QA (see figure below). In 2017, Kiron piloted its university transfer process. Three students received recognition by partner institutions while a fourth student was preliminarily enrolled in a Master’s programme and was given the missing Bachelor-level credits via recognition of Kiron modules. This shows that, under certain quality measures and with transparency, MOOC-based curricula can be comparable to offline curricula.

Layers of Quality Assurance (Graphic by Hannes Niedermeier)


The combination of lack of transparency from MOOC providers and the difficulty in assessing learners make recognition of MOOC-based learning challenging. Through this multi-layered approach, Kiron aims to fill the gaps. However, this model does not imply a general recognizability of MOOCs by HEIs, since MOOCs at Kiron are carefully selected to meet quality criteria and are combined in modules to reflect specific learning outcomes.

Kiron still faces obstacles, especially in implementing assessment models that meet university quality criteria. While some MOOCs already include assessment with authentication and verification, this is not always the case. Assessment methods at Kiron have to address the target group and its limited capacities in terms of mobility and finances, as well as discipline cultures and demands of partner institutions. Through funding by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Kiron is continuing to seek ways to address this issue, together with our partner universities, RWTH Aachen University and Lübeck University of Applied Science.

We welcome feedback and comments on this post.

Hannes Niedermeier is Quality Assurance Manager at Kiron Open Higher Education, and has worked in TeacherEducation at the University of Passau, Germany. Contact: hannes.niedermeier@kiron.ngo, or follow Hannes on Twitter.





If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Emerging Learning Technologies

#ALTC Blog - 13/02/18

Along with DevLearn in Las Vegas, Learning Technologies in London shares the top spot for largest learning technology exhibition and conference in the world and I had the privilege of attending again this year.

Learning Technologies is my favourite conference of the year (sorry ALT!), from the incredible industry-leading speakers and keynotes, to the fantastic social and fringe events, I always come away feeling inspired, energised and with loads of ideas. After 19 successful years, this year’s conference and exhibition was held at its regular base of Olympia for the final time before moving to ExCeL in 2019, where no doubt it will become even larger.

First opened in 1886, architect Henry Edward Coe’s impressive glass concourse at London’s Olympia, where the Learning Technologies exhibition and conference was held.

Chair of the the Learning and Performance Institute, Don Taylor opens the 19th annual Learning Technologies Conference in London.

The learning technology industry will be worth an estimated $331 billion (£234 billion) by 2025 (R&M, 2017), so it is no surprise that vendors spend so much exhibiting and showcasing their latest products. But beyond the enticing exhibition stands, the reason this is my favourite event is the real sense of community, greeting old friends working in the sector and meeting new learning technology evangelists. The fringe events are arguably the most valuable part of the week where you can have a drink with some of the industry’s great though-leaders from around the globe. A highlight for me this year was sharing a glass of wine with one of my e-learning heroes, Shannon Tipton of Learning Rebels who developed the concept of micro learning. In previous years, I have also has the privilege of sharing a beer with my xAPI heroes Mike Rustici and Aaron Silvers who were both instrumental in the design of the xAPI standard.

So, what were the emerging learning technology trends identified through discussions with friends and colleagues in the industry, speaking to vendors and keynote speakers?

1) Virtual and Augmented Reality seem to have finally come of age.

Each year, the conference has an emerging technology trend which vendors and speakers are keen to discuss. For several years VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) have featured heavily but I have been unimpressed by the offer, either because of the high cost or poor quality of the learning experience. This is the first year I felt that the technology has matured sufficiently to make it a viable means of delivering education and training. The NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) recently announced support for upto 50% of undergraduate nurse education to be delivered through simulation (Merrifield, 2017), of which it is conceivable VR and AR will form an important part of this training modality.

2) Artificial Intelligence was this year’s fad

Artificial Intelligence will undoubtedly have a profound impact on every aspect of our lives over the next 10 years and delivery of education will not be immune to its influence. There are exciting opportunities for the personalisation of learning and tailoring the learning pathway to the individual but the reality is that despite all the talk, I saw very little real-world use of the technology despite many vendors and speakers extoling the virtues.

Having said that, there was some interesting work coming out of companies like Global Filtered and while not true-AI, this is certainly a step towards machine learning and tailoring the learning to the learner.

IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence engine powers this adorable robot on show at Learning Technologies – fun but is there an application in education and training yet?

3) The importance of Learning Analytics finally recognised

I was disappointed that xAPI did not feature extensively for any of the vendors or speakers. xAPI is the technology which tracks informal learning activities and micro-learning, and is often billed as the successor to SCORM. In the US, the standard is in widespread use but that is definitely not the case in Europe, with only a small number of suppliers genuinely adopting the technology (most notably Ben Betts and the brilliant team at HT2 labs).

However, learner analytics were certainly top of the agenda for many presenters and there was a growing recognition that demonstrating the impact of training and using data to be better support learners in the workplace was fundamental. Certainly, I would like to think that an interoperable data standard like xAPI will be essential for the successful implementation of any learner analytics over the next year.

This is certainly not the end of the conversation about learning technologies and this is why events like this are so important as they give time to engage with fellow learning and development professionals and to give time for reflection about how we deliver education and training.

Attributed to American futurist Alvin Toffler, this quote was shared with me by another delegate at Learning Technologies and for me, sums up why investment in technology to continue development of the workforce is so important:

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”


Research and Markets (2017) Global E-Learning Market Analysis & Trends – Industry Forecast to 2025. [Online]. Available from: https://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/qgq5vf/global_elearning (Accessed: 4 February 2018).

Merrifield, N. (2017) ‘Draft nurse education and assessment standards unveiled by nursing regulator’, Nursing Times. [Online]. Available from: https://www.nursingtimes.net/news/education/draft-nurse-education-and-assessment-standards-unveiled/7018152.article (Accessed: 4 February 2018).


Richard Price works as a Learning Technologist with the NHS, Health Education England and the Yorkshire Ambulance Service , richard.price@yas.nhs.uk

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