#ALTC Blog

OER24 Guest Post: It s like watching someone else make out with your girlfriend Reflections on the first time I saw another lecturer use MY content

#ALTC Blog - 16/02/24

By Tony Murphy, South East Technological University

Aaron Sorkin was planning to watch episode one from series five of The West Wing, the famed and successful TV series he had created, but which he had left after producing series four. On hearing of Sorkin’s plans, Larry David, who had co-created the Seinfeld Show and left the series before it had finished its run, cautioned him not to turn on series five reportedly saying “It’s like watching someone make out with your girlfriend” (Parker, 2021).   I have always felt that this remark succinctly, if not misogynistically, sums up watching something you care about deeply because of a huge personal investment be handled, or mishandled, by someone else.  Contrast that with Bob Dylan’s reaction to being asked how he felt about Jimmy Hendrix’s now much more successful and famed version of the Dylan penned “All Around the Watchtower.  Dylan replied “It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using” (Dolan, 1995).

Please believe me that I know that putting my name in the same space as such creative geniuses as Larry David, Aaron Sorkin, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan is the equivalent of breaking the world record for self-flattery, however, many years ago, long before Open Education Resources (OER) was a commonly known term, I created a little reusable learning object.  The object detailed a model to help researchers and academics approach desk research.  It wasn’t particularly special. It was just a series of pre-existing tools and tasks that I put together in a slightly more systematic way than I believe they had been previously presented. But I was a bit proud of it because what I had done that I didn’t think anybody else had done, is that I had placed ignorance at the centre of the model.  I made the ignorant, unknowing person absolutely key to the process and to the model and, in doing so, I wallowed, a little more than I should have, in the delightful irony of celebrating ignorance in a room full of “all-knowing” academics.  

My comfortable smugness was beautifully pulled from beneath me one afternoon, when I was sitting in the back row of a lecture theatre watching and listening to a colleague discuss desk research with a room of academics.  My colleague proceeded to discuss my model. Using a slide deck I had created, he presented my approach to preparing for desk research.  In the back row, I started to squirm. My colleague was sufficiently gracious to acknowledge my presence to the room and the work that I had done, but it did little to deflate my uncomfortable and increasingly angry feelings.  Externally, I knew that it was not my content he was using. As an employee of a college, I was fully aware that the college was free to distribute any teaching content I created. Moreover, I worked for a publicly funded college, so the content was publicly financed and, therefore, publicly owned; anyone could and should use it.   Internally, however, I was livid.  This was my content, this was my model, this was my work that I had laboured and struggled to put together, that only I could do justice to, and he hadn’t even the courtesy to ask my permission or even give me a heads up.   

What made matters even worse was that he was presenting it better.  It wasn’t just that he was a more polished performer who lectured with grace and panache, but he had found insights in the model that I had missed.  He highlighted benefits and value in the approach that I had not seen.  By now, I was beyond livid; livid was in the rear-view mirror.  But the worst was yet to come.  He failed to make any reference to the value of ignorance.  He simply brushed over this aspect of the model.  Maybe he did not want to offend the academics in the room, maybe he thought it was not that important or maybe he simply forgot about it. I don’t know, all I did know was that, sitting in the back row, steam was bursting from my ears and my nostrils were flaring with rage.  

That uncomfortable episode occurred several years ago. Since then, I have created numerous OERs that, hopefully, have been reused by numerous people numerous times.  But I haven’t forgotten how I felt that first time I witnessed someone reuse content I had created.  Reflecting on my reaction, I note that there were a couple of things going on.   First, the misplaced sense of ownership.  We do not own anything regardless of which CC license it is published under.  Academic content, knowledge and ideas are there to be shared, which is the basis of how we progress.  Academia is not the TV or music business; academia is not about protecting and monetising ideas, it is about sharing them and freeing them from behind paywalls, no matter how much effort and personal investment has gone into their creation. 

Second is the misplaced jealousy.  Amid my resentfulness, I was blind to the second point of academic ideas; that they are there to be built on and reinterpreted, or misinterpreted, which again is how we progress.  The value and the reward comes from you and others knowing that you have played a small part in putting in place the next link in the chain that will go on long after you have stopped thinking about it.  This is why authorship and acknowledging authorship continues to be important.  We need to be able to take pride in what we do in order to put in the effort and that effort needs to be acknowledged, even as it is reused and reinterpreted.  

It would be great to think that, when it comes to OERs, we could always be as gracious with our creations as Bob, however, there is no harm in acknowledging our effort and allowing ourselves to feel a little bit like Larry from time to time.  


Parker, D. (2021). “Why Larry David Told Aaron Sorkin To Never Watch ‘The West Wing.’” The Things. Available at: https://www.thethings.com/why-larry-david-told-aaron-sorkin-to-never-watch-the-west-wing/

Dolan, J. (1995).  “A midnight chat with Bob Dylan”.  Sun Sentinel.  Available at: Fort-Lauderdale, Sun Sentinel today 29/9/95 (interferenza.net)

Registration is still open for the 15th annual conference for Open Education research, practice and policy will be organised by ALT, in partnership with Munster Technological University (MTU).

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

CEO Report to Members February 2024

#ALTC Blog - 14/02/24

By Kerry Pinny, Interim CEO

Dear Members,

A very belated Happy New Year! We have a lot planned for 2024 and I’ve tried to highlight important news and events in this update for you all.

Share your insights

Our work across sectors, serving a growing community with diverse needs and priorities, depends on your input and we invite you to complete ALT’s Annual Survey 2024.

Help shape what is ahead and contribute to our unique insight into how Learning Technology is used across sectors as well as identifying emerging trends in current and future practice. The survey provides an important insight into how professional practice within the field of Learning Technology is developing. The purpose of this survey is to:

  • Help map professional practice and development in Learning Technology;
  • Chart how Learning Technology is used across sectors;
  • Understand current practice to better meet the needs of and represent our Members.

The Annual Survey also helps ALT with monitor and report on equality, diversity and inclusion and helps us understand if different groups are facing different issues getting involved in ALT and to better support different groups of respondents.

The closing date for responses is 22 February 2024 . Complete the 2024 survey now.


Plans for OER24 are shaping up brilliantly thanks to the work of our Co-Chairs Dr Gearóid Ó Súilleabháin and Dr Tom Farrelly and the Conference Committee. We are really looking forward to welcoming delegates to beautiful Cork, 27-28 March. The conference has two fantastic keynotes from Dr Rajiv Jhangiani and Dr Catherine Cronin and Professor Laura Czerniewicz.

There is still time to view the programme and register.

The return of our CPD Webinars series

We are excited to bring back our very popular CPD Webinar series this year. CPD Webinars are open to ALT Members and aim to be as practical as possible. We already have a fantastic lineup announced with more to come! Register for CPD Webinars on our website.

  • Copyright Essentials for Learning Technologists – Tuesday 30 April 2024, 12pm – 1pm
  • Moving Away from SCORM: Using Metrics that Matter – Thursday 30 May 2024 2pm – 3pm
  • CPD Webinar Series 2024: Adoption of Graduate Attributes through the use of Badges – Tuesday 25 June 2024, 1-2pm
New events planned for 2024

We have a number of new day and half-day events planned for 2024 as well as one hour online webinars. We’re excited to offer our Members more ways to network and share practice this year.

Join our new CMALT Committee

In response to the growing number of Certified Members and CMALT Assessors, we will launch a new CMALT Committee in 2024. It is vital for ALT’s activities to be shaped with the input of ALT’s Members and CMALT will be no different.

The committee will contribute to the improvement of the CMALT accreditation scheme and assessment process, and we are currently looking for Members to form this committee.

Read the CMALT Committee call for more information on eligibility, the Terms of Reference for the committee and to express your interest.

#ALTC Blog Editors

Our #altc Blog publishes a wide range of posts and articles, including news, opinion pieces, project updates, case studies, book reviews, and ‘a week in the life’ summaries of the work of people in the Learning Technology field. All posts on the ALT Blog are written by ALT Members and we are always open to new submissions! Why not write a post?

Our blog editors are an integral part of the blog publishing process helping authors to shape and hone their posts.

With the popularity of the blog, we are looking for new editors to join our experienced editorial team.

Read the full call for blog editors to learn more about being an editor and how to express an interest.

I look forward to welcoming Members to our events and activities this year.

Kerry Pinny

ALT’s Interim CEO

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

ALSIG: Creating Momentum Around Transformative Active Learning

#ALTC Blog - 12/02/24

By Theresa Nicholson and Carmen Herrero, Manchester Metropolitan University

Dr M. Carmen Herero, Reader (Hispanic Studies), Director of the Film, Languages and Media in Education Group (FLAME), Senior Fellow HEA, University Innovation Scholar, Man Met Uni. Dr D. Theresa Nicholson, Reader (Higher Education and Pedagogy), AdvanceHE National Teaching Fellow and Principal Fellow HEA, University Innovation scholar, Man Met Uni.

Welcome to our contribution for the Active Learning SIG Blog in which we share our aspirations and strategy for developing an institution-wide Active Learning Community of Practice (ALCoP). A key aim is to foster engagement with active learning, and in this post we will explain the context for our activity and steps we have begun to put into place. Hopefully, this will spark your interest sufficiently to take part in a webinar we will be running in May, when we will report on tangible progress towards realising our ALCoP aspirations and discuss some of the challenges and opportunities along the way.


Manchester Met’s new Education Strategy commits to a future-focused and co-created approach to learning, with transformative active learning at its heart (Figure 1). Research shows that active learning is effective, but multiple surveys have also shown that active learning is what students want. It also engenders the range of future-thinking competencies and skills that employers seek. 

Figure 1: Transformational active learning community at the heart of our Education Strategy

The Challenge: Creating Momentum

Our institutional commitment to delivering education with transformational active learning at its heart is a laudable aspiration. We acknowledge, however, that many individuals and teaching teams are already achieving this at a local level. A significant challenge is in capturing the wide and varied innovative practice that already exists, and using this to help galvanise, drive and guide momentum for much wider engagement and implementation.

In a large and complex institution such as ours, success requires commitment at all levels; top-down, bottom-up, and middle-out. We believe that building an institution-wide, strategic Active Learning Community of Practice (ALCoP) is one of the keys to achieving this. We now outline three mechanisms we are using to help realise our ambitious aspirations; (1) establishing leadership, (2) seeking out the innovators, and (3) building our active learning community. 

Mechanism #1: Establishing Leadership

Under the leadership of Professor Mark Peace, a team of Education Innovation Scholars have been appointed in cross-institutional roles to empower innovation and to drive forward the implementation our university’s thematic priorities (Table 1). We, Theresa and Carmen, lead the Active Learning strand, but of course we recognise the inevitable intersections between themes and work closely with the other theme leads. 

Table 1: Institutional thematic priorities with aligned Innovation Scholars and CoPs

Thematic PriorityLinked CoPsActive, experiential and skills-based learningActive Learning (ALCoP)Authentic and flexible assessmentAuthentic assessmentEnterprise and entrepreneurshipSIG linked to ALCoPDigital fluencies (staff-focused)SIG ‘Digital Me’Belonging and matteringBelonging and Mattering CoPClosing experience and outcomes gaps‘The Collective’

In this short video, you can see our Innovation Scholars outlining key aspirations for the delivery of these aspects of the Education Strategy.

Mechanism #2: Seeking Out the Innovators

With thematic leadership in place, our first task was to unearth and connect those individuals and partnerships who are passionate about active learning and already doing great innovation. To this end we brainstormed multiple sources, building up a database of individuals including those connected with institutional innovation and leadership schemes, as well as contributors to our last learning and teaching conference. To these, many were added from anecdotal sources. Conversations with some 70 or more individuals and small teams thus far has captured some amazing exemplars of transformative active learning and enabled us to begin identifying some of the key themes (Figure 2) that may ultimately form part of our institutional signature pedagogy.

Figure 2: Key themes derived from conversations with innovators

Mechanism #3: Building Our Active Learning Community

We have been buoyed by the modesty of some of our ‘finds’ and through witnessing their delight at our ‘discovery’ of their work. This affords new opportunities for raising their profile and the visibility of their practice. We are finding that the mere fact of opening up a dialogue about active learning is beginning to create some momentum. To help capture this, we have established a MS Teams space to keep the conversation going, and this will provide a valuable mechanism for communication as the Active Learning Community of Practice (ALCoP) begins to grow. 

Intentions for ALCoP…..

So what exactly is a community of practice (CoP)? Well, Wenger-Trayner et al. (2023, p. 11) say:

“Communities of practice are group(s) of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” 

Wenger-Trayner, E., Wenger-Trayner, B., Reid, P. and Bruderlein, B. (2023). Communities of Practice Within and Across organisations: A Guidebook. Social Learning Lab: Portugal. Online at: https://www.wenger-trayner.com/cop-guidebook/ 

And how do we envisage ALCoP developing? Experience shows that CoPs work best when they develop organically and are resistant to hierarchies and formal regulation. That said, some formality is necessary for resourcing, and for promoting engagement. CoPs can be described in terms of their domain, community, and practice and we use these to explain our intentions and aspirations for ALCoP:

Domain (what is it about?)

ALCoP will bring together those passionate about innovative, active, experiential and skills-based learning. Two Special Interest groups (SIGs) have already been identified; (1) Enterprise, and (2) Education for Sustainable Development, but the others may emerge organically. The exact focus will be determined by members, but ALCoP will be well-placed to explore the potential for institution-wide practices, such as: 

  • Adoption of active learning models such as SCALE-UP, TREC, or Enquiry-Based Learning. 
  • Strengthened integration of our co-curricular RISE programme. 
  • A digital portfolio for supporting and showcasing students’ professional development.

Community (who will be involved?)

ALCoP will be a self-organising, staff-led, democratic, and distributive venture. We envisage that members come from all spheres of university life, including academics, professional services colleagues (e.g. technical services, student support roles), and students. 

Practice (what will we do?)

ALCoP will serve several crucial goals. For example, it will:

  • Catalyse broad institutional dialogue around active learning
  • Drive forward momentum and influence university policy and practice
  • Collaborate, curate and connect around good practice in active learning
  • Be an enabler for good ideas, providing a network of peer support
  • Support professional development of staff and students 

Practically, ALCoP will have regular meetings, host activities and events, create and share good practice resources, oversee pilot studies, and evaluate and disseminate outcomes.

What Next?

In the near future, the university is hosting two internal ‘soap box’ events around active learning and authentic assessment to begin to scope a signature pedagogy. These conversations will continue afterwards in our ALCoP, supported by the MS Teams space and regular meetings, and early outcomes will be presenting for discussion at our summer learning and teaching conference.

Maintaining momentum and continuity over time presents challenges for any community of practice. However, we have learned that one of the reasons for the great success of our longstanding EdTech CoP is the flat hierarchy of its distributed leadership model. Here, the formal CoP leadership is strongly scaffolded by a tight-knit team of highly committed, passionate expert actors who contribute significantly to agenda-setting and decision-making. Given in time, we aspire to steer the development of ALCoP along comparable lines.

Our Aspirations and Success Measures

Given our over-arching purpose to implement aspects of our education strategy, success will be measured from a growing institutional reputation for producing confident, highly skilled graduates, equipped as global citizens who will make a valued and lasting contribution to society. We have some specific aspirations; to curate and create enabling resources (e.g. a multimedia active learning resource, an open education collection of active learning practices at Manchester Met), and to embed Education for Sustainable Development, incorporating transformational active learning, in every programme.

Finally, An Invitation…..

We will be hosting a follow-up ALT-C Active Learning SIG webinar in May where we will update you on progress and share and discuss some of our experiences thus far. We can also look at opening some of our soapbox events to external participation and you are warmly invited to join in the discussion around this. Meanwhile, if you’d like to ask questions or have any comments please get in touch with Theresa at d.nicholson@mmu.ac.uk or Carmen at c.herrero@mmu.ac.uk.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Our work as Education Innovation Scholars is part of a wider university initiative overseen by Professor Mark Peace (Director of Education Innovation and Initiatives, Centre for Learning Enhancement and Educational Development), and facilitated by his team, and to them all we offer our grateful thanks.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

ALT CoOL SIG Committee Elections: open call

#ALTC Blog - 05/02/24

We are looking for nominations for officer roles for the ‘CoOLest’ of all the ALT special interest groups

The ALT Copyright and Online Learning (CoOL) Special Interest Group was established in December 2020 as a response to the growing need to understand copyright issues with the shift to online learning. The SIG focuses on copyright issues associated with online learning, digital education, and learning technology. It also considers broader copyright issues associated with access to information, ensuring that copyright is not a barrier to the use of educational technologies.


  • The group operates as a community of practice and helps to support local communities of practice in the field of copyright, online learning and learning technology.
  • It looks to develop and recognise copyright expertise within the educational community
  • It advocates for copyright literacy within the community and more broadly.

In common with ALT Members Groups and SIGs this group will also:

  • Support activities in line with ALT’s strategic aims
  • Share ALT’s values of being participative, open, collaborative, innovative, inclusive and transparent

Our current priorities and ideas for 2024 include continuing with our popular Copyright and Online Learning webinar series, share regular updates via our newsletter and social media and publishing timely blog posts on copyright issues. All our webinars are recorded and made available via the ALT YouTube channel. The new Officers can help us shape ALT CoOL activities going forward but we are currently discussing issues related to copyright and accessibility, copyright and AI and copyright education initiatives. Further information about the work of the SIG in 2023 is available in our 2023 Annual Report.

Nominations for Officer roles

Nominations are invited for the following Officers of the Organising Committee:

Chair / Co-Chair;

Vice chair;


Officer/s (Other)

We encourage representation from across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland.

As per its Constitution, Committee Officers of ALT CoOL are unpaid posts and will be appointed for 3 years.

Individuals may nominate for more than one role and should submit separate nominations for each. Committee Officers need to hold a membership within ALT (either individual or work at an organisation with an institutional ALT membership). These roles provide great opportunity for developing and evidencing leadership for Advance HE Fellowships and other CPD avenues. More information on the work of the committee can be found on the ALT CoOL website.

Expressions of interest

Expressions of interest should include:

  • A statement of interest, experience and envisaged contribution in relation to the Role of the Organising Committee as outlined in the Constitution, and willingness/ability to attend ALT CoOL meetings. Maximum 200 words.
  • Proof of ALT membership (individual or institutional).
  • Submit expressions of interest to the form by 12:00 noon GMT 19 February 2024
Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

What does social media mean to me

#ALTC Blog - 31/01/24

by Dr Teeroumanee Nadan, PhD, SFHEA, Antiracism & Learning Tech SIG Chair

This blog was previously posted on Reshaping HE – International, Inclusive & Digital Ed.

I pen this blog in response to a request from the Association of Learning Technology on this topic to invite contributions and reflections on how the community is using social media following the changes that 2023 has witnessed in the use of social media.

What social media platform(s) I am still using?
  • Professionally, I use LinkedInYouTube, and X, and I am going to throw in Discord into this list, which is also massively used for ALTc and OER conference committees and the learning technologist community.
  • For community interests, I mostly use X.
  • For family, close friends, and a few students and ex-students thrown in, it is WhatsApp – somehow I am also part of a few professional groups and projects.
  • For friends and close friends, it is Facebook.

And no, I am not on Mastadon and joined BlueSky a few days back which I am probably never going to use again. And no, I am not on TikTok nor Instagram! I have not felt the need to be on any of those platforms.

What drew me to them, or what has put me off?

LinkedIn has been my go-to platform for professional connections for many years, at some point I have even been a premium user for over 3 years. But I do not find the cost-benefit worth it anymore. With LinkedIn having more edutainment and entertainment videos nowadays, I have significantly reduced my activity on that platform as well.

What puts me off LinkedIn? When people use LinkedIn in the same way that they use TikTok and Instagram. Recently, there has been a surge in people who are playing the expert role while using the listening-to-respond technique. They watch a video somewhere and then share a video of their own review on LinkedIn. It is either “Me too I love it” with no further valuable contribution or publicly bashing the original content creator (1) without contributing to any change and impact on that person and (2) purely for their own content creation, likes, and reposts – sadly not very valuable to me!

X is a bit of a different story altogether because it is more of a tool that is misused nowadays. Trump supporters and Brexit put me off Twitter for quite some time – I figured out it was better to reduce my use of the platform than having to click on “block” many times. There was also a situation where some ex-colleagues were witch-hunting since I had raised a formal complaint of fraud, nepotism, and extreme bullying of students and staff in an ex-department where I was working.

Since I joined the LTHEchat organising committee Jan-Apr 2023 (read my reflections), and then in Sep-Dec 2023, I became active again on X. Somehow it is different using X – with access to its API being suspended, there is no way to use platforms like Wakelet to curate the tweets, which was something really useful for the guests to have all the participants’s responses in one place to reflect on.

What puts me off X? It just sounds so bad for my mental health, checking my EX – could not Elon Musk and his team find a better name? And it just sounds worse for the society, with controversial accounts being re-instated.

WhatsApp is the cheapest way, and at the moment only way I communicate with my family and close friends – it is the only platform they all use at the moment.

It is said that is harder to maintain relationships than it is to create them! So, once every 2 months, I do a full round of connecting with my close friends.

I am also part of a few professional and social groups on WhatsApp, and recently used it for a project. It is also how exchange students to reach me for emergencies.

What puts me off X? The new feature for channels to stay updated is something I wish I could disable. But for the time being, WhatsApp remains a platform that I MUST use.

Facebook is valuable to me at a personal level. I joined Facebook only 4 years after it was created, and then at some time in 2009, started to reduce my activity on it, I even deactivated my account twice. Somehow during the pandemic, I used it to locate my primary school friends – found some of them and also found out one of them died and one is homeless. Then, about 7 months ago, I started to be active on Facebook again mostly to follow motivational speakers and consume their videos.

The reason Facebook is valuable to me, it connects me with my friends, I am not a believer that colleagues are friends, so have separated the two as far as possible – there are the odd 2 or 3 colleagues-friends who made it to my Facebook, but that it is. Most of my Facebook connections are to a deeper level and I feel they are more genuine.

What puts me off Facebook? Far too many changes to its terms and conditions and privacy settings.

Discord in my opinion is overrated and yet at the same time underused. I am part of 7 communities, where people hardly check messages or rarely interact. So, I ask myself, what’s the use? It is just another platform that people like to jump onto – like a 2-year-old who already has 20 toys in front of them and still wants the other kid’s toy?

What puts me off social media in general?

  • Advert – I propose a solution that has been working for me below.
  • Fake news definitely – however, from a psychological and coaching perspective, it is an interesting observation of how many other people can be easily manipulated and cannot think for themselves.
  • Asking users to pay for what they already had free access to – instead of creating added value and offering these as premium services, some platforms have removed free existing features which were moved into the premium packages – this is one of the worst business models for social media, as their success is proportionally driven by the number of basic users.
What have I found easy or difficult?

In the past, finding balance was hard to achieve – I had easily got distracted on Facebook and X. I now use a feed eradicator, the best thing I have incorporated as a tool on my devices for this year.

I use Social Media as an enabler of what I want to achieve, fortunately, I can now easily pick up whenever it hinders me from achieving my goals.

What has changed about the way I network, socialise or work?

I tend to focus on maintaining valuable connections, not much has changed in that sense. What has changed is that – the misuse of the freedom of speech – has given me more opportunities to observe patterns and distance myself from those who say one thing in one space and another thing completely different in another space. It has definitely been beneficial for my self-care regime to avoid toxic people in my professional life.

Would I recommend a platform to others?

None actually, I prefer to use what works best for me and with my pace of life, so it is reasonable for others to choose what suits them best, especially with their pace of life.

Irrespective of the platform I use, it is the content that matters most, along with the authenticity of the content and the reliability of the source of the information.

Any tips, resources or advice for new explorers?

Get a feed eradicator on all your devices!

As educators, we often think that all platforms will be useful to students, but we forget that information overload is of no use to students. As a researcher-consultant-mentor-coach in education in Africa and Asia, my experience has taught me that it is not the digital tool that matters the most, but the content and the way it is delivered by the person (not by the platform). KISS is the formula – Keep It Simple & Straightforward!

The digital world is the digital world, we have only one life; it might be better worth spending time with real people than on social media – Let’s be rational!

Did you enjoy reading this? If so, consider becoming a Member of ALT. If your employer is an Organisational Member, membership is free! Find out more: https://www.alt.ac.uk/membership

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

The antiracism agenda in Higher Education is it a showpiece or is there real impact

#ALTC Blog - 23/01/24

This blog was originally posted on 18 Jan 2024 on Dr Teeroumanee Nadan’s blog teeroumaneenadan.com.

Blog post ahead of my participation in LTHEchat on 7th Feb 2024, along with other officers from the Antiracism and Learning Technology Special Interest Group (ARLT SIG).

LTHEchat #284 will be led by guests Dr Teeroumanee Nadan @Tee_Nadan with Amin Neghavati @neghavati, Rachel Branham @ARLT_SIG & Dr Olatunde Durowoju @OADurowoju

The guest swill be joined by other officers of ARLT SIG: 

  • Roshni Bhagotra, Events Officer.
  • Chris Rowell, Events Officer. He will be tweeting from @chri5rowell

In this blog, we take you onto some initial reflections on antiracism in the Higher Education (HE) sector in preparation for some deeper conversations during our #LTHEchat session.

Antiracism a found-and-lost cause

Where do we even start with defining antiracism in the modern world? The more we dig in, the more we seem to notice people having discomfort after discomfort, thus avoiding to address the cause of this problem.

If it is not the discomfort, we witness the old age scheming of divide and conquer – we get labelled, we get boxed, we get dehumanised! Nowadays, of course, we have the added umbrella of Access, Belonging, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice & Respect which has unintentionally (or even intentionally in some cases) diluted the antiracism agenda. 

The past colonial history of the UK places British society in the hotspot for the need for change. Of course, with the digital era, we are talking more about it, but justice may never be served whether we look at it from a ‘justice as fairness’ perspective or a ‘meritocratic’ conception of justice! 

Antiracism in HE

George Floyd, George Floyd, George Floyd! 

By the end of 2020, this name echoed in very much every meeting in the HE sector. Since then, there has been a movement towards the creation of new roles around more diversity. Nonetheless, there are not many stand-alone roles solely dedicated to antiracism. There are of course the likes of the BAME network, which may be supported by a Race Equality Charter (AdvanceHE 2024a) – if you are lucky to have one in your institution (AdvanceHE 2024b); but this network is still largely seen as an optional practice and there is still a lot of argument on the naming of the network itself. It is more comfortable for most of us to prolong any discussion than to take action and create an impact!

If you are brave enough, we invite you to do further reading ahead of the LTHEchat session and to reflect on the discomfort of everyday actions from teams/departments/institutions in the sector:

In this chat, we will get take you on a one-hour journey of reflections on what role we are all playing in either perpetuating racism or transcending it. Within the HE sector, we have adapted to the digital era and use various forms of Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and other tools and platforms to either facilitate education or services needed on the journey. While staff navigate through the plenitude of platforms, there are the odds of creating inequity and letting racism seep into the HE sector.  We may have all come across one such example, but what we decide to do about it, is what matters the most. We invite you to check out some of our 2022 & 2023 blogs on what the ARLT SIG community thinks about antiracism in the sector.

  • Black History Month and what it means for Learning Technologists by Dr Teeroumanee Nadan. (Nadan, 2022d).
  • Anti-racist Approaches in Technology with Guest Speaker Liza Layne. (Nadan 2022e). 
  • Anti-oppressive Pedagogies in Online Learning with Guest Speaker María Miguéliz Valcarlos. (Nadan, 2023a). 
  • Achieving inclusive education using AI with Dr Olatunde Durowoju (Nadan 2023b). 
  • Why antiracism and why not something else? By Dr Teeroumanee Nadan (Nadan 2023c).
It is time to create impact!

It is clear that justice may never be served, neither in the HE sector nor in the society at large, anyway from whom do we get this justice? There is therefore a need to focus on action and impact, and this can only be done when we allow ourselves to feel uncomfortable talking about racism and feel empowered to dismantle it – but most importantly it is when White people allow the non-White staff to feel and be empowered!

This blog would not be complete without reflecting on our own reasons for doing what we do to reduce racism in the sector.

When I came to the UK, I realised that it was common practice to brush uncomfortable topics under the carpet. I have observed this in every academic institution that I have worked at. What motivates me the most is treating the cause rather than the symptom!” Dr Teeroumanee Nadan – Read the full blog

“.. technologies are being and will be used by a wide array of learners from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds all over the world yet there is a noticeable lack of diversity in the world of EdTech and digital education” Amin Neghavati – Read the full blog

“.. as a White woman, it is my responsibility to use my privilege to dismantle racist systems wherever it lives. For me, this work is about equal access to high quality education and without understanding limitations to that access, we just are not doing our jobs.” Rachel Branham – Read the full blog

“It became apparent, through some of my research projects, that the HE sector has still not fully explored the use of technology in addressing many of the racial inclusion challenges facing the sector. … My motivation is that I can contribute in a small way to centering this issue within the HE sector and Education Technology industry” Dr Olatunde Durowoju – Read the full blog

We hope to see you en masse on 7th Feb to chat about this topic with officers of the ARLT SIG!

  1. Advance HE (2024a). ‌Race Equality Charter. [online].  Advance HE. Available at:  https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/equality-charters/race-equality-charter
  2. Advance HE (2024b). Race Equality Charter Members. [online]. Advance HE. Available at: https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/equality-charters/race-equality-charter/members 
  3. Nadan, T. (2021). ‌Equity analysis of 6 job blurbs – a podcast for TalkingHE. [online]. Reshaping HE – International, Inclusive & Digital Ed. Available at:  https://teeroumaneenadan.com/2021/12/22/equity-analysis-of-job-blurbs-talkinghe-podcast/
  4. Nadan, T. (2022a). Navigating racism with pseudo-antiracists. [online]. Reshaping HE – International, Inclusive & Digital Ed. Available at: https://teeroumaneenadan.com/2022/05/26/navigating-racism-with-pseudo-antiracists/ 
  5. Nadan, T. (2022b). ‌Modern slavery in UK HEIs. [online]. Reshaping HE – International, Inclusive & Digital Ed. Available at: https://teeroumaneenadan.com/2022/02/01/modern-slavery-in-uk-heis/ 
  6. Nadan, T. (2022c). ‌Race equality in learning technology. [online]. Reshaping HE – International, Inclusive & Digital Ed. Available at: https://teeroumaneenadan.com/2022/02/06/race-equality-in-learning-technology/ 
  7. Nadan, T. (2022d). Notes from ARLT SIG 20th Oct 2022 meeting – Black History Month and what it means for Learning Technologists by Dr Teeroumanee Nadan. [online]. Association for Learning Technology. Available at: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/blog/2022/11/notes-from-arlt-sig-20th-oct-meeting-black-history-month-and-what-it-means-for-learning-technologists/  
  8. Nadan, T. (2022e). Notes from ARLT SIG 3rd Nov 2022 webinar –  Anti-racist Approaches in Technology with Liza Layne. [online]. Association for Learning Technology. Available at: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/blog/2022/12/notes-from-arlt-sig-3rd-nov-meeting-anti-racist-approaches-in-technology-with-liza-layne/
  9. Nadan, T. (2023a). Notes from ARLT SIG 9th March 2023 webinar – Anti-oppressive Pedagogies in Online Learning with María Miguéliz Valcarlos. [online]. Association for Learning Technology. Available at: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/blog/2023/06/anti-oppressive-pedagogies-in-online-learning-with-maria-migueliz-valcarlos-notes-from-arlt-sig-march-meeting/
  10. Nadan, T. (2023b). ‌Notes from ARLT SIG 7th June 2023 webinar –  Achieving inclusive education using AI with Dr Olatunde Durowoju. [online]. Association for Learning Technology. Available at: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/blog/2023/06/notes-from-arlt-sig-7th-june-meeting-achieving-inclusive-education-using-ai-with-olatunde-durowoju/
  11. Nadan, T. (2023c). Anti-Racism & Learning Technology SIG: Why antiracism and why not something else?. [online]. Association for Learning Technology. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXCoTQ1XgMo 
  12. Santanu, V. and Nadan, T. (2022). Episode 14 – Discrimination in Recruitment. [online]. TalkingHE. Available at: https://anchor.fm/talkinghe/episodes/TalkingHE—Episode-14—Dr-Teeroumanee-Nadan—Discrimination-in-Recruitment-e1clspi/a-a773mv3
Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Stepping Back to Move Forward: Applying Systems Thinking to Digital Education

#ALTC Blog - 18/01/24

by Jim Turner and Irina Niculescu

Tackling today’s multifaceted education technology challenges requires updated thinking capacities fit for dynamic systems and times. Systems thinking offers methods to help understand intricate dynamics, unravel assumptions, and chart integrated action amidst uncertainty. Read on to learn more. 

Last week, the latest ELESIG webinar was run by Irina Niculescu, a senior learning technologist from University College London (UCL). The event, tailored for beginners, aimed to uncover how systems thinking can stabilize analysis amidst complexity and guide clearer strategic direction-setting. As a far-reaching conceptual framework, systems thinking has evolved over decades, intersecting diverse fields from management science to sustainability. Irina is interested in its connections outside of Western science to connect with other cultural traditions such as Buddhist philosophy. During the session, Irina used Peter Senge’s view of it as a “framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static snapshots.” First emerging in the mid-20th century, it now permeates many disciplines and practices after half a century of development. With sociotechnical systems rapidly increasing in complexity, systems thinking has gained even greater applicability amidst today’s uncertain world. The table below helps us to see the differences between ways of seeing things. Both are important but sometimes linear thinking becomes dominant. Three key insights struck me during the session, which I would like to develop in the blog.

Linear / Analytical ThinkingSystems ThinkingReductive & separate elementsHolistic and integratedFocus on elementsFocus on relationshipsCause and effect thinkingEmergent thinking Seeing Wholes, Not Just Parts

Systems thinking helps learning technologists analyse educational challenges more thoroughly by looking beyond superficial events or technical issues to examine the interconnected structures, patterns and beliefs that shape what happens. As Irina put it, “It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things and also foreseeing patterns of change, rather than static snapshots.” Applying this holistic lens leads to better solutions that address barriers at multiple levels, not just tackling surface issues. Equipped with systems approaches, learning technologists can facilitate more meaningful analysis leading to impactful recommendations. The session analysed examples like online student disengagement and insufficient authentic assessments to identify associated patterned tensions and underlying structures. This style of joined-up thinking forces fuller consideration of the academic, technological and social ecosystems in which problems manifest.

Questioning Mental Models

Hands-on use of systems thinking tools like the “iceberg model” enables learning technologists to have more insightful collaborative analysis sessions about complex educational issues. Irina sees it as encouraging us to “acknowledge what’s seen from the outside what’s visible, as the tip of the iceberg, and go a bit underneath the surface and see what is happening that led to that ‘event’ taking place.” Facilitating this kind of reflective dialogue could lead to a more shared systemic understanding that could be invaluable when say co-designing educational solutions. So learning technologists skilled in systems tools could foster better idea generation and solution design. And by externally exploring our internal mindsets together, we gained practical experience in how systems thinking methods can reveal limiting perspectives and normalise continual collective reflection.

Integrating New Habits of Thinking

Applying systems thinking approaches alongside design thinking, learning design, futures thinking and other established methodologies enriches the capacity of learning technologists to operate effectively in digital education contexts. No one lens gives the full picture. Systems reveal interconnections between structures, mindsets and actions shaping how things currently unfold. Other frames imagine future possibilities or creative innovations. Layering these gives sophisticated multidimensional perspectives that are often missing when problems are treated superficially or in isolation. Developing your literacy in these multiple lenses expands our understanding of the complexities of being a learning technologist and how to think contextually, facilitate participatory problem-solving, and build connections across silos, all invaluable skills when guiding educational transformation.

As emphasized, systems thinking is an iterative journey that complements other forms of thinking. It is about opening capacity to see anew rather than perfecting strategies. Study resources were shared for those inspired to continue nurturing systemic worldviews.

The session left me excited to integrate fresh habits like looking longer term for patterns, surfacing assumptions collaboratively, and sketching concept maps to continue grasping systemic complexities underpinning digital education with more compassion and clarity.

Here are 3 key resources curated by Irina which can help you start or continue your learning journey with systems thinking:

If you want to discuss this topic further, collaborate or have any questions,  please get in touch with Irina via email i.niculescu@ucl.ac.uk

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Cork City in March

#ALTC Blog - 17/01/24

by Donna Lanclos

Cork City in March! Why?  In this case OER24. I am on the program committee.  I am in the program.

I’m ready.  It promises to be a good time, and a worthwhile time.  If you are going to go to the trouble of travel, it should be both.

I’m always ready to go to Cork.  I have been since I first got there, in the Autumn of 1990, ready for my undergraduate junior (3rd) year abroad.  Up until September 1990 I had only traveled in North America (the US, with some day trips to Canada and Mexico).  As of September 1990 I had my first international home away from home:  Cork.

Undergraduate me, extremely enthusiastic.

I grew up on US Air Force bases, and so big urban centers have always seemed fun to me but were not necessarily always my comfort zone.  I went to college in suburban feeling low-rise town Santa Barbara, CA.  Cork was a big enough city to have Things to Do (Concerts!  Films!  Museums!  Restaurants! Festivals! etc.) but also small enough to walk around (or occasionally take the bus) and feel like I could get to all of the important parts easily.  And it was (and still is) well-placed as a base to explore the countryside, and occasionally get over to other cities like Galway and even Dublin…

My mental map of Cork City remains very much that of an undergraduate in the 1990s, complete with pubs that are no longer there (RIP the Western Star), a focus on the university I attended (UCC), and a sense of how long it would take me to walk with all of my shopping from the city centre to my house (RIP Quinnsworth’s, although the Dunnes is still there I think…)

Since the 90s much has changed in Cork, and there is much that I recognize as the same.  I can still walk around the Lough, cruise by the Abbey pub (and cruise in for a pint), walk past St. Finbarr’s on my way to the city centre, and criss cross St Patrick’s St and the Grand Parade, eventually winding up on the North side of the river in range of the Shandon Bells.  Or I can walk along the Mardyke to Fitzgerald Park along the Lee, and take the paths across to Franciscan Wells, which was not there in the 90s but is one of my new favorite places to eat, drink, and hang out in the city.  I can walk past “the Wash,” The Washington Inn, one of the extremely student-y pubs that I don’t go in anymore but that is very close to Costigan’s, where I am likely to encounter a music session if I get there on a weeknight.

I am sentimental about Cork.  To me it’s a city that feels easy to live in, at a scale I can handle on a day to day basis, and with a rich list of things to do.   My experience of the people in Cork, my friends, my teachers, colleagues, and the folks I encounter when I am  out and about, is that they are generous and hospitable and especially keen that you remember where the real capital of Ireland is even after you have left it.  

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Generating inclusive images to represent students Animated Inclusive Personae Part 1

#ALTC Blog - 16/01/24

by Katie Stripe, Imperial College London.

Developing Inclusive Curricula Using Digital Personae’ (Imperial College London, 2024b) is a workshop run by the ‘Attributes and Aspirations’ (Imperial College London, 2024a) (AA) team based on their work using inclusive personae to make their course more inclusive. This workshop was also run as a CPD webinar for ALT in 2021 (Stripe, 2021). The Graduate School at Imperial wanted to use the theories presented in their workshop in their provision. However, much of their content is delivered as animations. This raised a question around how to source appropriate imagery for different educational scenarios.

The personae created for AA are represented by photographic headshot style stock images, which are hard to source. They also do not offer the flexibility needed for transferral to other scenarios, such as animation. However, bespoke graphics and animations are expensive and have a long development period. This makes them challenging for use in most teaching and learning scenarios.

The Animated Inclusive Personae (Stripe and Meadows, 2024) (AIP) project aims to address some of these issues by developing a solution that, by using templates, will enable any user with minimal training to create an inclusive character. It will also enable them to develop a representative digital image that goes with it. This project started in August 2023. There will be more to share when characters are developed. In this post, we share some of the issues with ‘off the shelf’ content that led to this project.

Stock Photos

The stock photo route has been used so far in the creation of the personae for AA (Stripe, 2024). Due to the nature of the programme, we not only had to find images that were diverse, but also to find images that would be suitable for a LinkedIn profile of our hypothetical students (it is a career skills development programme). This is challenging for a number of reasons and has led to feedback that all our personae look very similar in terms of body shape and style.

Representing ethnicity

Finding appropriate images to represent different ethnicities is challenging. For AA, we use the Articulate 360 content library (Articulate 360, 2024), as it comes as part of the package which we use to develop the content. Searching for ‘Black Male Student’ returned the images shown in fig 1. One of these images is clearly female (and Asian), one of them is white, and one of them is a firework. Some of the issues shown in this selection are created by the way images are tagged and databased rather than the images themselves. Nevertheless, there is limited choice.

Figure 1: Articulate 360 search ‘Black male student’

Shutterstock (Shutterstock, 2024a) produces a slightly better array of images (fig 2) for the same search term, at least they are all people and all present as Black males. Nevertheless, the images all show people of a similar body type.

Figure 2: Shutterstock search ‘Black male student’

The ability to purchase vector image cartoon characters does offer an element of flexibility and a range of poses.

Representing gender

Finding images that present as either male or female is relatively simple. However, within the AA programme we wish to be as diverse as possible and required images that do not represent an obvious gender. The first issue to navigate is what search terms to use. Searching for ‘androgynous student’ and ‘non-binary student’ return similar results none of which are appropriate (fig 3), and in the Articulate content library, one of them is a burger.

Figure 3: Storyline 360 search ‘non-binary student’

While it is true that anyone of the individuals pictured may use they/them pronouns, if the aim is to show someone that does not present with an obvious gender, then these do not work. As above, this is an issue of image tagging but highlights some significant gaps in the image banks.

Shutterstock (Shutterstock, 2024b), again, produces slightly better results on the same search in terms of diversity (fig 4) but there are very few images of a person on their own and none are really appropriate for the ‘headshot’ image that would be ideal for the purposes of AA. Furthermore, the cartoon style image portrays a very odd body shape and could be seen as perpetuating stereotypes.

Figure 4: Shutterstock search ‘non-binary student’ AI generation from a photo

It is possible to create cartoon style images from a photo using AI tools. While this approach would never be appropriate for the AIP project, it is nevertheless worth exploring the graphic styles that could be produced, and looking at the positive and negatives of AI image generation.

Media.io (Media.io, 2024) is an online tool which takes a photographic image and converts it to a variety of different styles, some ‘realistic’ and some cartoon style (fig 5). Below from left to right show the original stock image and the filters ‘Disney’, ‘Kawaii’, and ‘Big Eyes’.

Figure 5: Medio.io AI generated images

While obviously cartoon images, they all reflect the original image quite well.

AI Nero (Nero AG, 2024) also offers an option to translate a photograph using AI to create a semi realistic digital avatar. The results here are not ideal (fig 6). The avatar generated from the image used above, which in AA represents a student from Singapore, returned an avatar with light hair and blue eyes. Similarly, the image used in AA that represents a student of Black heritage returns an avatar that has a completely different skin tone.

Figure 6: AI Nero images from photographs

While this was done on the free version, it shows how AI tools can misrepresent racial profiles.

Online avatar creators

There are numerous websites available that offer the ability to create a digital avatar the ones discussed next are those which are free and do not require an account of any kind, although others have been investigated and offer the same general options but on a wider scale, including in some cases the ability to design a body as well as a head.

The first issue is that most tools request you start by selecting a gender. Get Avataaars (Stanley, 2024) does not, it works on a single, generic, head shape and allows you to change the hair, accessories, and clothes within a set of limited parameters. This kind of create your own kit highlights the second issue, which is the limitations of using anything that has defined sets of characteristics.

Get Avataars allows you to change eyes, mouth, and skin tone which allows me to generate a pale, crying, bald man, who is in disbelief (fig 7).

Figure 7: Bald crying man in disbelief

Which may be fun, but with seven skin tones – one of which is Simpson’s yellow – this definitely does not give you the ability to represent a range of students. While in an attempt to create something to represent the two personae shown above produced slightly better results than AI (fig 8) it still does not produce something representative and is certainly limited in the ability to scale up and create more images.

Figure 8: Get Avataaars images

Avatar Maker (Avatar Maker, 2024) and Cartoonize (Colorcinch, 2024) both work on the same set of parameters and offer a wider range of options than Get Avataaar including 15 head shapes (with options for eyes, nose, mouth and ears). They also offer hairstyles and outfits, but these change, depending on the gender. The main benefit of these creators is the availability of a full colour palette, allowing skin tone and eye colour to be changed by HEX colour codes. Using these tools, I was able to create something that was more representative and with more variety (fig 8), but still limited the headshot style of image.

Figure 9: Cartoonize images Bespoke images

All this leaves us at a point where we have decided to create our own using artists. Watch this space to find out what happens.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Notes from ARLT SIG 11th Dec 2023 discussion Strategies for Change by Dr Teeroumanee Nadan

#ALTC Blog - 15/01/24

This blog was originally posted on 18 Dec 2023 on Dr Teeroumanee Nadan’s blog teeroumaneenadan.com.

On 11th Dec, members of the Antiracism & Learning Technologies Special Interest Group (ARLT SIG) (https://bit.ly/3zqImwT) community met around the theme of “Strategies for Change” – in direct response to the community’s Have Your Say survey from the summer, where people-centric strategies were top suggestions from the community.

I summarise in this blog the questions that I had set for this topic and the group discussion. I had initially planned to run through 4 out of the 5 strategies to create change, but since attendance altered on the day, we went through only 2 steps, which were in themselves very powerful to kick-start some changes.

Let’s delve into activities, experiences shared, and general feelings. The first 2 steps covered in the workshop were:


The 2-hour discussion was limited to these two steps with 1 question each, as this discussion is a difficult one, in particular being open to talk of one’s experience and to transcend one’s own limits – which is key to creating the potential for change.

Two additional activities were included:

  • Building Momentum
  • Pledge for Change

I provide below a summary of what was discussed around those questions and activities and share my personal views on some of the topics as well. Whilst this was not a recorded session, I commend the participants in attendance who contributed to the group discussion and the ARLT SIG officers who took the time to join in the discussion and provided backend support in the smooth running of the session and took notes in the discussion groups.

Anonymised summary of STEP 1 – RAISING AWARENESS
    • Share one example of racism you have been through, or witnessed or dealt with. What happened? Why it happened?
      • Participants were then requested to share how they felt hearing the different stories shared within the small group.

Two main themes came up from group discussion: students’ experiences and international staff’s experiences. To maintain anonymity, these are summarised briefly below:

It is common for students of X ethnicity to plagiarise – it is part of their culture

Lack of diversity in students’ online discussion groups leads to racism

Int’l non-White lecturers perceived as incompetent by students

Int’l non-native English speaking lecturers bullied by students

Int’l non-White Staff with qualifications & competence not recognised

Hearing those stories, participants felt:

  • Uncomfortable
  • Embarrassed
  • Difficult to express their feelings
  • Annoyed
  • Not surprised

Participants recognised the power of personal stories from those who have lived experiences of racial injustice. An additional observation was the need for cultural awareness and being open to different cultures. Participants appreciated the opportunity to increase their cultural and historical awareness, and global understanding of racism by hearing the stories shared.

My personal thoughts: I believe participants found this exercise powerful for two main reasons:

(a) POC who never had the opportunity to share their stories finally found a safe platform to do so. One participant shared that they did not know that this group existed, and extended support to the ARLT SIG committee especially for similar workshops or even in-person events. However, this was not the case for all POC, a few had resistance and were not ready to embrace the first step for change. One powerful comment that came out was that many POCs have to constantly ”defend” their existence.

(b) White people in the room realised and acknowledged their lack of first-hand experience. One participant shared they felt the session was informative but was uncomfortable as they did not have any “real” story to tell. The willingness of the White people who attended to be in a virtual room only to listen and widen their understanding is much appreciated since they are the missing links for real change and impact.

Anonymised summary of STEP 2 – REMEDIAL CHANGE
    • Taking a step back, discuss what should have happened to avoid the situation at a team/departmental level, line managerial level & personal level?
      • What structural change is needed at each level?

Participants were invited to pick one or two of the stories shared in the earlier group for discussion in this part of the session.

  • Disciplinary procedures to stop repeated racist behaviors.
  • Redress or rebalance power – Who makes decisions?
  • Identify what hinders people from following procedures

It was important for participants to discuss and acknowledge that remedial actions are to be taken at various levels.

The participants identified the need for equity and dignity for everyone. It was discussed that we need to be more intentional and purposeful in our efforts to apply the same standard to everyone and to leverage bureaucracy to promote equity.

At a higher level (institution-wide), a lack of disciplinary procedures was flagged as a key component that needs to be re-visited to successfully address racism. Participants discussed:

  • Are there clear procedures on where/how to escalate in efforts to do the right thing?
  • Are disciplinary measures in place and applied to avoid the perpetuation of racist behaviours?

At the managerial/team level, it was recognised that there was a need to redress and rebalance power. Participants questioned:

  • Who is making the decision?
  • Is there adequate clarity on individual remit – who has the authority to make certain decisions?
  • Is there accountability and transparency?
  • What is the impact of power? What is intentional or what is not?
  • Could procedures be a good segue way to level out power?

When it comes to equitable approaches, the question arose as to who is the expert on equal opportunities related to antiracism. It was recognised that there is a need to level the playing field for an individual who may be holding onto more feelings/ideas. The need to diversity and expand teams would bring more perspectives in decision making.

At a personal level, our own readiness to “See it – Say it – Sorted” was discussed. Participants considered the need for:

  • Opportunities to be reflective, in particular, to check one own privilege
  • The need to “unlearn and relearn”
  • The willingness and courage to speak out about injustices, question decisions, and acknowledge the gaps/lack of accountability!
  • Opportunities for self-retrospection to answer (a) What hinders us from implementing the procedures? (b) What feelings impact our ability to do the right thing/the equitable thing.

My personal thoughts: The discussion was very intense, particularly the remedial steps at a personal level. One thing that was also discussed was to have procedures to support those who do not have a voice or who may not be aware of their rights. Unfortunately, even a 1000-page procedure cannot bring a victim of racism to take steps towards justice for themselves. Having a voice and being aware of one’s rights sits at the self-development level. There is definitely a need for a follow-up of this workshop, as personal-level change is detailed further in Step 4 of the strategies for change.

Reflection & Committment Activity

Two additional activities were included in the workshop:

  1. Building Momentum
  2. Pledge for Change

I was keen for the conversation to continue beyond that one-hour meeting, and provided the participants with a commitment, which was to email me with any personal commitment they would take to change things in the future:

  1. An immediate action you will take this week/this month
  2. An action (or commitment) you will take in the next 3 months (on your own or in your team)
  3. An action (or commitment) you will take in the next 6 months (on your own or in your team)

My personal thoughts: The “Building Momentum” was sadly not understood by all participants, it was meant to be a self-reflection, but there were a few respondents who deviated from the intended outcome. With regards to the “Pledge for change”, I am used by now that people omit or forget this activity, as it is very hard to openly commit to changes and be accountable and follow through.

Moving forward

I hope you have found some of the discussions that emanated from this event useful and hope you can discuss some of them in your own team, department, and institution.

Committee members who attended the event appreciated the content of the workshop, so we may run it again!

One suggestion we received in the past has been to run longer sessions expanding over 1 hour. Whilst longer workshops include more free labour from officers involved, it was noted that not all registrants attended on the day. It was decided to ensure that unpaid antiracism works are not taken for granted in the future.

Along the line of longer workshops, in-person workshops are planned for this academic year to cover these topics in more detail.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

OER 2022: Not me not mine not myself

#ALTC Blog - 12/01/24

by Dr Eamon Costello, Associate Professor of Digital Learning at Dublin City University.

“Leaflet” by Liam Costello CC BY 4.0

What is in store for OER24? I gave a glowing review of OER23, in the form of a satire, but I must warn you that there are no jokes in the post you are about to read here. That is because OER 2022 in London was a strange post-pandemic experience for me. The world seemed a lot bigger than before. I remember realising what a giant melting pot London was, how Dublin seemed a spoon of cold soup by comparison. I remember a woman outside a tube station handing me a leaflet about the word of God. On the back they said, don’t pay for this leaflet. It should be distributed for free. Spread this word.

“This is street-level open publishing”, I said to myself, “We are so back!”

People sometimes look down on religion, see it as backward, a type of weak belief. People can believe in all sorts of things – God, Science, Education – but whatever you believe one thing is certain: all knowledge is provisional. Beliefs are strange things. We need to hold them in a particular way. If you believe in your beliefs too much they can start to feel like actual things. You might forget altogether that they are just beliefs. They might start to feel solid, real, superior to the weak beliefs of others.

PhD students in educational research are encouraged to think about their beliefs and reflect on them (reflexivity) and in this process are invited to disclose themselves somehow, with the aim of conducting better and more honest research (positionality). As Holmes (2022) warns however, this is not in itself a panacea and nor is it easy or unproblematic:

No matter how critically reflective and reflexive one is, aspects of the self can be missed, not known, or deliberately hidden, see, for example, Luft and Ingham’s (1955) Johari Window – the ‘blind area’ known to others but not to oneself and the ‘hidden area,’ not known to others and not known to oneself.

(Holmes, 2020)

One of our core beliefs is that we have a self. This is a very persistent and, it must be said, useful belief. It comprises narratives of the past and the future: our goals, our dreams, our vendettas and grievances, fantasies and fears. The near constant inner narration of one’s life, this selfing, is actually a painful process. It is only when we become absorbed in the activity of our work, or drop into some space of other appreciation, that the story of the self temporarily stops. In these moments of no-self we experience a type of peace. For some reason we feel more like ourselves at the point when we have forgotten ourselves.

A great presentation at OER16 – The Self as OER, by Suzan Koseoglu and Maha Bali (2016) – called attention to openness of people rather than open content and resources. We could equally open doors to the concept of no-self as OER. We could consider the idea that there is no stable self when we really go looking for it and rather there is merely a tangle of thoughts, bubbling up from a pot of emotions, that arise from the body. And, that if that is true, then all of this – is not me, not mine, not myself.

An important part of life is not allowing the mind to overtake us with useless thoughts. From the perspective of no-self you are not your thoughts. Thoughts are just here. You can give up thoughts when they do not serve you. Conversely, when you have good thoughts, you can pass them on.

In one sense Open Education is just giving. It is not something to make us feel clever or superior. It is not even something to make us feel good. Indeed, a lot of the time it might make us feel uncomfortable. It may be giving students “opportunities to unpack their cherished worldviews and ‘comfort zones’ in order to deconstruct the ways in which they have learned to see, feel, and act” (Zembylas , 2015). But its promise is that once we give something we get something. It is the hope that we can gain some release from that which we think we cannot do without. It is the promise of liberation from whatever it is we hold too tightly; of education as the practice of freedom (Hooks, 1996).

The other half of Open Education is receiving. Sometimes to give is the easy thing, and it is much harder to receive. In this sense being open is being able to receive and accept something. Being open to new ideas, possibilities and beliefs. Being open to the possibility that “what we have fully available to us as we wake up each day is stranger, deeper and more beautiful than anything we could imagine” (Costello, 2022).

I wish I still had that leaflet from the lady at the tube station in OER22 with its sharealike message. The memories of that day seem really vivid. In a strange city, heading to an exciting conference, I was more open to experiences than I usually am.

I remember putting my hand out, and as she gave something to me, I tried my best to receive it.


Costello, E. (2022). Rewild my heart: With pedagogies of love, kindness and the sun and
moon. Postdigital Science and Education, 1-17. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s42438-022-00318-z

Holmes, A. G. D. (2020). Researcher Positionality–A Consideration of Its Influence and
Place in Qualitative Research–A New Researcher Guide. Shanlax International Journal of
Education, 8
(4), 1-10.

Hooks, B. (1996). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. Journal of
Leisure Research, 28(4), 316.

Koseoglu, S. & Bali, M. (2016) The Self as an Open Educational Resource (2016)
Presentation at the OER 2016 conference. https://www.slideshare.net/edp05mab/self-as-

Zembylas, M. (2015). ‘Pedagogy of discomfort’ and its ethical implications: The tensions of
ethical violence in social justice education. Ethics and education, 10(2), 163-174.

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Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Jisc helps college staff unlock the power of AI to improve the learner experience

#ALTC Blog - 05/01/24

by Sue Attewell, head of AI and co-design at Jisc’s national centre for AI, advises on generative AI tools and how to use them

>> Thanks for reading this AmplifyFE post! AmplifyFE is a strategic partnership between ALT and the Ufi VocTech Trust. AmplifyFE connects over 2500 professionals in Further Education and Vocational Education, providing a strong networking community to share, collaborate and learn. We connect innovators, industry and educators, therefore, AmplifyFE posts may include contributions with a commercial focus.AmplifyFE’s posts are included on the #altc blog to support networking, collaboration and sharing. For more information, please check AmplifyFE’s dedicated submission guidelines.

The #altc blog submission guidelines detail who can post and the type of posts accepted to this blog. 

These days, college staff face a new challenge: embrace AI and its potential to improve efficiency, or ignore it and risk being left behind.

Education is one of the fastest growing areas when it comes to the use of AI, but many teachers are still understandably anxious about adopting the technology. Keeping up with its rapid advances is difficult, and balancing its use with academic integrity is increasingly complex. 

Jisc’s national centre for AI can help
Since it was set up in 2021, Jisc’s National Centre for AI in tertiary education (NCAI) has been helping members unlock the power of AI in order to deliver a fantastic educational experience to every learner. 

We believe that giving college staff a basic understanding of how it works enables them to lean into the technology with confidence and use it to their best advantage.

Not all FE providers are at the same place on their journey to understanding and adopting AI-based tools, however, so the first priority must be to address the knowledge gaps. As AI experts, my team and I are uniquely placed to work together with colleges to help them understand and leverage the benefits of AI as part of wider digital strategies.

AI will transform teaching and learning
The reality is that we will be using AI in further education: avoiding it is impossible and banning its use is not an option, since its capabilities are already built into software that we all use every day such as document text editors, social media feeds, google maps directions, and Netflix, Spotify etc recommendations. 

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Google Bard certainly have a place in further education. Teaching is full of tasks that lend themselves to automation – and that’s what AI does best. Creating learning materials, designing courses, assisting with lesson planning: AI tools can help with all these things quickly and without friction.   The teacher will still need to review all outputs before using.

They can provide new ways to learn – for example, by suggesting ideas on how to start a piece of writing – and are often good at simplifying complex text. Teaching learners how to fact-check what they get out of them is always a valuable exercise.

They can also help assess how students are learning, suggest triggers to incentivise learners, and identify individuals who might be struggling. In addition, they have a vital role to play in both making learning more accessible for those with disabilities.  For example tools such as Teachermatic can help teachers design and deliver more inclusive and engaging lessons and Century tech provides personalised feedback and recommendations.  AI tools can help with converting text to speech and providing transcripts.

Example using Chat GPT:

Leaning into AI technology
Jisc’s NCAI provides a range of resources – reports and primers, online courses, webinars and pilot projects – to give a solid grounding to colleges considering their approach to AI. 

A good starting point is Jisc’s Generative AI primer which is updated quarterly to provide the very latest information on generative AI technology and tools, and their implications for education.  

Jisc’s AI maturity model makes it easier for institutions to understand where they are, where they want to get to, and what sort of activities might be needed in order to progress towards effective AI implementation.

The newly published AI in tertiary education 2023 report gives an overview of what AI can do for member organisations, where it can add the most value, and what to consider in order to implement it ethically, while A pathway towards responsible, ethical AI is designed to help navigate these complex issues with confidence. Jisc also provides a free mini MOOC to help members explore AI and ethics.

In addition, the NCAI regularly runs pilots with colleges, enabling staff to test the efficacy of new tools like TeacherMatic and AnyWyse while increasing their own familiarity with generative AI. 

Leveraging the power of the AI community
Empowering communities is a vital strand of the Jisc strategy for 2022-25, and Jisc’s NCAI has set up an AI community group where members can share best practice, learn more about AI and its uses in education, and connect with each other to find common solutions to shared problems. Facilitated by Jisc, the community is open to all members who are interested in the applications of AI in education.

FE practitioners can get involved by:

Laying the right foundations for AI use
Once the right foundations have been laid, AI can start delivering on its promise to transform the teaching and learning experience by alleviating the burden of administrative tasks for staff and providing personalised learning for students.

And FE colleges will be ready to take advantage of new AI applications as they emerge – which they will undoubtedly do.

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