#ALTC Blog

MozFest Reflections

#ALTC Blog - 13/11/17

A conference review from Anne-Marie Scott, Head of Digital Learning Applications and Media, Edinburgh University.

This year was my fourth trip to MozFest – the annual global gathering of the Mozilla Foundation. The event has been held in Ravensbourne College in London for the last 7 years and is a nine stories high extravaganza of participatory sessions and speaker talks covering hacking, making, data, digital art and culture, ethics and privacy, the open web, open science, data journalism, social justice, access and inclusion and many other things too numerous to list. This year there were 338 sessions spread across two days. The programme is available online to browse for a flavour of the sessions on offer.

Sessions take place in themed areas within the venue, with each space aligning with an area of strategic focus for Mozilla: Decentralization, Digital Inclusion, Open Innovation, Privacy and Security, Web Literacy and a Youth Zone.

Photo by Erik Westra / Westra & Co. CC BY 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/mozfest/24140497258/

MozFest isn’t heavily marketed to the HE sector, and so I suspect a number of colleagues aren’t aware of it. However this event is the one that breaks me out of my Higher Education bubble and into thinking about open and the impact of the web in the broadest sense. I leave fired up and excited having learned completely new things and collected practical ideas and information that I can I contribute back into my own institution.

MozFest is also the most diverse event that I attend. Participants come from across the world and can be all ages and all languages. Although the event is conducted in English, participants are actively encouraged to flag other languages that they speak via stickers on their badges or in their session descriptions. Travel to London is surely prohibitive for many still, but there is usually better representation from the global south at this event than at any other I go to.

Each year there’s a slightly different emphasis, and this year the overall theme was about what makes a healthy internet.

“Today, the concept of Internet health reaches far beyond the realm of open source code: it’s linked to civil liberties and public policy, free expression and inclusion. Discussions about the state of the web include engineers, but now also teachers, lawmakers, community organizers and artists”. (Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation)

It was noticeable this year that there were more sessions on data sovereignty and combatting fake news. Online privacy and web literacy have been a strong focus of MozFest since the start, but it felt like this year there was a bit of an inflection point – the events of the past 12 months have brought these issues into sharp focus perhaps, making it clear that they are societal challenges and not niche issues. Developing information literacy skills has been a core part of learning in an Higher Education environment and digital literacy is probably in all our graduate attributes in some form or another. These talks and sessions brought into sharp relief how much more quickly we need to move on developing these skills within our institutions, particularly as we consider new areas of activity such as learning analytics.

There is so much choice in terms of sessions that it can be overwhelming, so on Saturday after an excellent first session crowd-sourcing ideas for pathways and career tracks into civic technology, I spent a couple of hours exploring each of the spaces. I picked up a copy of the Mozilla Internet Health Report and had an interesting conversation about how one goes about trying to measure such a thing and the feedback that they are using to develop the next iteration of it.

Photo by Erik Westra / Westra & Co. CC BY-NC 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/mozfest/37991479381/

I also picked up a Data Detox kit developed by the Tactical Technology Collective at a Data Detox Bar (part of the larger “The Glass Room” project – a series of interactive exhibits that pose questions about our relationships with technology). The kit is an 8 day program, beautifully designed, printed onto cards and packaged in a small box. Chatting to the “barrista” at the Detox Bar he explained that the kit is designed to tap into our emotional response to technology products, in particular the sort of “unboxing” pleasure that comes with something like a brand new Apple product. Part of the problem they had identified was the inaccessibility of many existing online InfoSec and privacy resources both in terms of language and design. In this case they had found that a well designed physical resource was getting more traction with less technical audiences. They also had a great tips sheet outlining how to run Data Detox sessions in libraries, based on some experience within the Swedish public library system.

I visited the Meme Lab (exploring how memes are made and a little about the relationship of memes to social movements) and the Humans of the Internet podcast lounge and then it was pretty much time to run my own session “Wikipedia Games” along with Alice White, the Wikimedian in Residence from the Wellcome Library.

Saturday was rounded off with a Virtually Connecting session featuring Josie Fraser, along with ALT’s very own Maren Deepwell and Martin Hawksey – both themselves fresh from running a session on professional development for learning technologists.

Sunday started (for me) with a series of short talks by Audrey Tang, Emily May and Nighat Dad covering topics around using technology for civic engagement, practical tips for combating online harassment, and a sobering reminder that access to the web is not available without consequence for everyone.

My next session choice was NefertitiBot – exploring the possibilities for museum artefacts to curate themselves via chatbots, rather than being constrained to the interpretation given to them by museum curators. We had a lively discussion about the extent to which bots could break free of being scripted and the potential for them to develop in ways that we might not like. With an increasing interest in chatbots in Higher Education in student support roles it was a useful and practical discussion and left me wondering about the extent to which we need to ‘perfect’ such bots versus be open about exactly what they are.

Photo by Erik Westra. CC BY 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/mozfest/26245741439/in/album-72157686681997682/


The final speakers session that I went to on Sunday was opened by Gillian Crampton Smith who talked about the emotional elements of technology design and where artists fit into the technology development process. It reminded me again of the Data Detox conversation the day before. She was followed by Sarah Jeong and Emily Gorcenski in conversation with each other talking about fake news and fake data.

It served to remind me once again of how vital events like this are, where not only are the issues discussed, but solutions are crowd-sourced, discussed and hacked out across various sessions.

Anne-Marie Scott, Head of Digital Learning Applications and Media, Edinburgh University. Email: anne-marie.scott@ed.ac.uk, twitter profile





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

Lived Open Educational Practices at #EuroCALL2017

#ALTC Blog - 07/11/17
The EuroCALL 2017 organising team caught on camera by @warwicklanguage CC0

The annual Computer-Assisted Language Learning conference, Eurocall took place this year in Southampton. Participant Martina Emke reflects on the role of openness to the success of this event:

When I decide to go to a conference, the key question for me is always: “What can I do to make this conference more accessible for people who cannot attend it in person?”. My first choice is always Twitter, mainly because the 140-character limit works well for me for conference coverage and for connecting during conferences. For many people blogs work well, too, but blogging doesn’t come naturally to me. So blogging now about the Eurocall 2017 conference is my deliberate attempt at trying a new medium to open up this conference to a wider public.

As a first time presenter and enthusiastic networker I didn’t know what to expect from #EuroCALL2017 in terms of openness, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that that openness played an important role before, during and after this conference. Before the conference, Parisa Mehran, a Japan-based ELT teacher and doctoral researcher of Iranian origin, made the EuroCALL community aware that she couldn’t attend the conference because her visa had been denied three times. This led to a number of initiatives, both by the conference organisers and by individuals to provide her and other people, who couldn’t attend, with opportunities for remote participation. Parisa’s blog post shows the variety of measures that were taken, as well as the positive effects they had.

Openness also played a role in the three excellent keynotes, which were streamed during the conference. In his keynote ‘Language, learning, the wild and rewilding’ Steven Thorne, called for ‘structured unpredictability’ as a way to open up the classroom to embrace language diversity. He later explained his key ideas very comprehensively in a Virtually Connecting session. The second keynote speaker, David Millard, traced the well-intended origins of an open Internet, presented the unintended consequences and argued for Internet users to take back control over their data. The third keynote, Shannon Sauro, tweeted her slides so that they were available to both on-site and remote participants. In her lively presentation “Looking for Fandom in a Time of Change” Shannon argued for teaching as activism and for learning to address current challenges of different forms of closure. Her understanding of learning as a way to challenge predominant discourses reminded me strongly of this year’s #OER17 conference theme “The Politics of Open”, which focused on the political elements that are central to openeness in education.

Shannon Sauro and friends preparing to Virtually Connect. Image: CC0 @warwicklanguage

In our own symposium on Twitter for language learning, teaching and professional development, Alessia Plutino, Eleanor Quince and I sought to connect on-site and remote participants with the help of a padlet, which will continue to be available as a resource. The posts from remote participants on the padlet and tweet feedback show that even a relatively simple tool like a poster wall can be a very effective tool for opening up conferences.

A more powerful tool for opening up conferences is certainly provided through Virtually Connecting sessions. The Eurocall 2017 conference saw two online sessions, which connected on-site and remote participants and provided an opportunity to discuss topics of interest around the two keynotes by Steven Thorpe and Shannon Sauro.


The next EuroCALL conference takes place in Jyväskylä/Finland. While I will probably not be able to attend, I hope for many ways to participate remotely. At a time when travel budgets are shrinking and travel bans and restrictions becoming more prevalent, the languages community is showing how it values diversity, enabling participation through lived open educational practice. This recent tweet gives me hope that EuroCALL 2018 will take place in this spirit.


Martina Emke, Doctoral researcher at the OU.,
email: Martina.Emke@arcor.de , teacher trainer, twitter profile





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

#HEBlogSwap – Sharing Practice and Building Community in Cyberspace

#ALTC Blog - 17/10/17

The idea of the #HEblogswap arose in September 2016 when Santanu Vasant approached me via Twitter to do a blog swap, where I would write for the Learning at City blog and he would write a blog post for QMUL’s ADEPT blog (ADEPT stands for Academic Development, Education and the Promotion of Teaching). I wrote a piece on social media in higher education and Santanu wrote one on the ‘peculiar practice’ of educational development. Having a guest writer brought a different perspective to both our blogs, and we thought: why not do this as an annual event, in mid-September, before term starts for universities? That way we could share practice, get our writing out to a wider audience and build a community in the process.

This year, we decided to open up the blog swap via Twitter, by asking people to find a writing partner, write a blog post for each other on a topic of educational development and to either send over the document or to have an account on the blog they were swapping with and post on 13th September, with the hashtag #HEblogswap. We also advertised it via the SEDA (Staff and Educational Development Association) mailing list, the ALT-Weekly newsletter and using the #altc during the annual Association for Learning Technology Conference in Manchester this year, as well as on both our personal and institutional Twitter accounts.


Blog swap! Find a blog partner, write for each other, post on 13 Sept! Tweet #HEblogswap (and find a partner on the hashtag!) pic.twitter.com/T8IYVALvsy

— Ed Dev team at QMUL (@Ed_Dev_QMUL) August 29, 2017


The blog swaps that occured Chris Jobling (@cpjobling)and Rebecca Jackson (@chasing_ling)

Rebecca’s post for Chris’s blog: The Importance of Showing Your Enthusiasm in Large Group Maths Sessions

Chris’s blog for Rebecca’s blog: Transferring Enthusiasm

Chrissi Nerantzi (@chrissinerantzi)and Sue Watling (@suewatling)

Chrissi’s post for Sue’s blog: My PhD Journey

Sue’s post for Chrissi’s blog: Anyone for T?

Emma Kennedy (@EmmaKEdDev) and Santanu Vasant (@santanuvasant)

Emma’s post for the Learning at City blog: Stress-Free September? Starting the New Academic Year

Santanu’s post for the ADEPT at QMUL blog: Pedagogy First During Learn Time

We also received a lot interest from individuals and departments up and down the country who wanted to take part, some of which can be seen via the #HEblogswap hashtag on Twitter, but didn’t have a public blog or a person to swap with. We hope to run this again next year, so if you don’t have a blog, then either set one up or ask to be a guest on someone else’s. You could use this as an opportunity to either start your own blog, restart a dormant one, or bring more interest to your own.

In both instances, I found it really enjoyable and intellectually stimulating to write for Learning at City. I had to consider the slightly different audience (Learning at City covers more issues of learning technology than ADEPT) as well as making sure that my blog was explicitly aimed at a cross-institutional audience. It was also an opportunity to select a topic on which I wanted to showcase my thoughts and write for a wider audience.

I’m planning to extend this among my colleagues next year, encouraging them to write a guest blog post for another site. Many of my colleagues are theoretically enthusiastic about blogging, but their participation is limited to ADEPT – which although outward-facing, is still run from within QMUL. This means that writing for ADEPT feels like yet another internal job, rather than a chance to really connect with people in the wider educational community. The HE Blog Swap offers a chance to reach beyond one’s own institutional network, swapping ideas and connecting with a wide range of other educators.

One thing I’m also considering is extending beyond the binary of the ‘swap’ and allowing people to host multiple guest blogs on their site – this would help accommodate guest bloggers who didn’t have anyone to swap with. I considered it this year, but didn’t have a number of posts to give in exchange for guest posts. I felt it would be unfair to have multiple guest posts on ADEPT without giving guest posts back to those who had taken the time to write theirs. However, this may be a chance for us to swap multiple posts: the colleagues I mentioned above, for instance, might be willing to write guest posts on behalf of ADEPT that we could give out in exchange for multiple guest posts from others. However, it’s important to maintain the element of reciprocity and fairness that was present in the original. The blog swap is about extending networks and strengthening relationships within the wider educational community, and we can only do that with equal give and take.



Dr. Emma Kennedy, Education Advisor, Academic Practice, QMUL. Email. @EmmaKEdDev. Blog





Santanu Vasant, Senior Learning Technology Adviser, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). Email. @santanuvasant. Blog





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

How and why should Learning Technologists engage with start-ups?

#ALTC Blog - 09/10/17

A conversation between Anders Krohn, CEO at Aula Education, and Dr Maren Deepwell, CEO at ALT.

At the recent ALT Annual Conference in Liverpool we started a conversation about how Learning Technologists can engage with start-ups and we quickly came across a whole range of barriers that stand in the way. The way in which colleges and universities procure, implement and develop their use of technology for learning, teaching and assessment doesn’t easily align with working with small, agile businesses just getting started at the cutting edge of innovation.

Anders suggested that together, with contributions from ALT Members, we could draw up a guide that helps bridge the gap and provide a starting point for working together. Here is what we are thinking we’d like to achieve:

MD: Anders, tell us what are the key reasons why ALT Members should engage with start-ups? What in your experience are some of the biggest benefits?

AK: The main reason educational institutions in general can benefit from working with startups is that startups are defined by their ability to have a laser sharp focus on solving a specific problem and quickly iterate to ensure the product fits the reality of the first users/partners/clients. That means the first adopters can have a huge influence on ensuring that a product adapts to their specific needs and problems.

For the learning technologist community this is an interesting opportunity because there are clear synergies in terms of startups giving e-learning/TEL teams ‘digital super powers’ and e-learning/TEL teams providing startups with pedagogical knowledge and feedback from years of experience working with educators.

MD:  We have been working with start ups in a number of ways in recent years including having a launchpad exhibition zone for start ups at our Annual Conference, we promote initiatives like Bett Futures and we also have active engagement with consortia like Edmix. In my view professional bodies like ALT form an important network via which innovators and developers can engage with professionals who have a wealth of experience in research and practice. What made you engage with the ALT community?

AK: Most of the institutions we have been in touch with or are working with are very active in the ALT community, so it was a natural place for us to get product feedback, learn more about institution-specific innovation initiatives and find partner institutions.

I think what is particularly interesting about ALT is that it bridges the ‘human’ part with the ‘tech’ part and enables us to understand the actual problems educational institutions have (funnily enough writing ‘innovation’ into their education strategies is not one of them :-) ). For example, I participated in Dave White, Peter Bryant and Donna Lanclos’ session “Hack your way to influencing pedagogical and technological strategy” at the ALT conference. When you spend all your waking hours thinking about how to place the buttons in the right position (the most exciting part of my job) in order to enable people to drive pedagogical change, engaging in those communities is very rewarding.

MD:  It was your idea that we could produce a guide for how Learning Technologists can engage with start-ups. Tell us more about what you’ll be contributing and your thinking behind it?

AK: Over the past year I’ve had some fantastic experiences working with educators, learning technologists, CIOs and decision-makers at universities. However, I’ve also had some surprising experiences where it is clear that there’s a disconnect between educational institutions and startups.

I think learning technologists can play an important role in bridging the disconnect and I think building that bridge starts with being more transparent and having some very very practical guidelines on ‘how universities can get to work with startups’ and ‘how universities should work with startups’ as well as the other way around.

For example I imagine the guide(s):Covering specific advice such as: If you want to work with startups ensure that your institution doesn’t put prohibitively high revenue requirements into the procurement documents.

Covering general strategic advice to enhance the strategic position of e-learning/TEL teams in working with startups such as: Raising to the PVC/DVC/Dean that it would make sense to allocate discretionary funds and approve a standard set of data requirement terms that allows learning technologists to run small pilots without having to go through the full procurement shabang. There’s sometimes a tendency to make small decisions big and big decisions small, which is a barrier to innovation. “We definitely need a Shanghai campus ASAP because Coursera, but God forbid that that browser extension doesn’t pass through our SSO-accessed bicentennial HEFCE-reviewed third party security assessment brand review committee.”

And then topped up with all the cute examples that make all of it worth it:

  • Like that time they asked for support tiers and all the teachers just got the phone numbers to the entire team
  • Like that time a CIO helped me edit our framework agreement
  • Like that time a teacher said in front of hundreds of students: “Today we will use this super visionary product that will probably not work, because, well, that’s how great products are built.” So much for risk management.

MD:  One of the ways I hope ALT Members will contribute is by posing questions they have and sharing examples of their own experiences. Our community brings together professionals from across sectors and it’ll be valuable to have a dialogue to inform the guide and collaborate on it.

What we plan to do is to share a draft Google doc of the guide, work in progress, and invite the community to contribute. We’ll have a dedicated session at ALT’s Online Winter conference, 12-13 December 2017, at which we will have a final opportunity to get input and after which we will finalise the guide for its publication under a Creative Commons licence.

Keen to contribute? Tweet us #altc or email us enquiries@alt.ac.uk or anders@aula.education and look out for more information coming out soon.


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

The Association for Learning Technology (ALT) represents individual and organisational Members from all sectors and parts of the UK. The ALT community is made up of people who are actively involved in understanding, managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of Learning Technology.

Anders Krohn, Co-founder and CEO of Aula, @anders_krohn

Aula is a communication platform for education – a ‘conversational’ alternative to traditional Virtual Learning Environments.

Anders founded Aula during his studies at University of Oxford. In addition to working on Aula, Anders is advisor to the educational non-profits Project Access and Young Global Pioneers and a member of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers Community.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

ALT contributes to the world’s leading festival for the open Internet movement … #MozFest

#ALTC Blog - 06/10/17

From 27-29 October, the Mozilla Festival or Mozfest, the world’s leading festival for the open Internet movement takes place at Ravensbourne College, London and this year we are looking forward to taking part.

Members might recall that earlier this year, Chad Sansing (@chadsansing), who works as a curriculum developer for the Mozilla Foundation and contributes to teaching and learning projects across the organisation led an ALT webinar on Developing communities and curriculum around web literacy and internet health (access the recording and slides here). The webinar enabled Members to discover some of the work the Mozilla Foundation are doing developing curriculum for web literacy as well as privacy and security on the internet. This work Chad was focusing on is being conducted as part of Mozilla Learning, which rallies and connects leaders who want to advance the promise of the internet for learning in a networked world.

Now, in the eighth year of celebrating Mozfest, Mozilla’s Executive Director, Mark Surman, describes how the event has grown: ‘Since that 2010 gathering, MozFest has grown significantly. In size, yes — but more importantly, in scope. … In 2013, we focused on web literacy, inviting educators from around the world to craft tools and curricula for teaching the web. And in 2016, we talked about digital inclusion: who isn’t unlocking opportunity online, why that is, and what we can do to fix it.’

If you are interested in finding out more about what’s happening at Mozfest, explore the spaces and themes, read about the speakers and find out what to expect on the festival website.

With over 800 proposals being submitted (you can read more about the triumphs and tribulations of mozfest curation here), we are delighted that we are contributing some of the work of the ALT community to the programme, in a session about putting professionals at the heart of education in the internet age (read about the session on the Mozfest Github page). Lead jointly by Maren Deepwell (@marendeepwell) and Martin Hawksey (@mhawksey), and with a contribution from Bryan Mathers (@BryanMMathers), this interactive session we will be exploring how we can put people, and more specifically educators, at the heart of learning, teaching and assessment with technology. As part of this we will introduce the work of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) to the Mozfest audience, share our strategy and talk about how our members have a space to contribute to the development of edtech. An important aspect of this is recognizing our members contributions. We will share work on our expanding accreditation scheme for participate discussion and contribution. We want to practically explore how we empower professionals who work in education to make use of the internet and technology more broadly to help meet some of the biggest challenges in education.

In addition to this session, Martin Hawksey will also be running a workshop “Machina a machina: An introduction to APIs through Google Sheets” as part of the web literacies space. An API is an interface that can be used to retrieve or interact with other applications. This workshop is designed to let participants see the usefulness and the empowerment of APIs, gaining practical skills in API wrangling. As well as the opportunities of APIs this session will hopefully also highlight privacy and security issues such as the availability of data from services like Twitter, see how much data is easily accessible from APIs will hopefully let people make more informed decisions about the type of information they share on the web.

Are you a Member of ALT taking part in or contributing to Mozfest this year?

Then we invite you to share your experience with us via the blog or by tagging posts with #altc on social media. Two years ago we had ‘MozFest is our bonfire’ which was contributed by J Gregory McVerry, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Southern Connecticut State University (@jgmac1106) and we are looking for posts again this year to help share the outcomes and insights from Mozfest with the ALT community.






Authors: Maren Deepwell is the chief executive of ALT and leads its work on professional recognition and development. Martin Hawksey leads on innovation, community engagement and technology for ALT. 

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

BYOD Digital Exams at Brunel University

#ALTC Blog - 04/10/17

Since 2015 Brunel University London has been running a pilot programme testing the feasibility of digital written exams.  The approach we have taken is a “Bring your own device” (BYOD) model where students bring their own laptops etc to the examination venue.  We are fortunate to have received HEFCE Catalyst funding to help support our project and share our experiences with the UK sector.

In the first year of the pilot we identified a potential technology supplier WISEflow and ran one digital exam to test the system.  This was an interesting exercise where we discovered what support the university would need to put in place to make digital exams a success.  Following on from this in winter 2016/17 we ran a further four digital exams, giving us a chance to refine our procedures. In our most recent exam period of May 2017 we ran nearly all of the exams for the department of Computer Science digitally, a total of 18 exams with over 1500 submissions.  Our plan is to continue to scale up until we reach the full capacity of our current venue (250 seats x 30 exam sessions), and to investigate what would be required to scale up into our larger venue (1000+ seats).

IT and Estates Support

There were a number of infrastructure issues we needed to overcome to transform our Sports Hall into a venue capable of supporting digital exams.  All solutions needed to be temporary so that the venue could return to its original use for the rest of the year.


Relying on students own devices means having to cater for a variety of makes/models and ages/conditions of laptops being brought in on the day.   New laptops are currently being advertised with batteries that can hold a charge for up to 17 hours[1] but battery life deteriorates over time and students might not bring the laptop fully charged. Based on reports from Norway and Denmark (where digital examination is used extensively) we originally catered for additional power on 20% of the desks.  In practice we noticed on 3hr exams we were trending closer to 30% of students needing to plug-in their laptops.  To accommodate this, our Estates team added more temporary power.  We suspect that the percentage of students needing power may reduce as new cohorts arrive with newer laptops, but we will continue to cater to this ratio for now.



WiFi connection is needed as the exam system is hosted in the cloud. The laptops need to be connected throughout the exams as the WISEflow system frequently saves exam progress. Our Sports Hall usually hosts basketball games etc. so on an average day it does not require much WiFi capacity. To ensure a good connection for 200+ students our Information Services team installed 2 temporary WiFi boosters giving capacity for over 600 internet connections. Over capacity is required to allow for devices automatically connecting as people pass by the venue and for additional connections in the room e.g. invigilators and devices in bags.

Preparing Students

It is essential to provide students with opportunities to try the exam system and pre-install the lock-down browser used for making the exam secure.  We provided a number of opportunities for this including: visiting lectures for briefings, drop-in sessions and an online resource within our VLE. What we have discovered is that prepping students before their exams increases their confidence and speeds up the process of starting the exam on the day.

Examinations and Timetabling

Successful implementation of digital exams requires effort from across the university. Our examinations team were included from the early stages of the project to ensure the correct venues were booked for the main cohort and for students with additional needs.  They also assisted with training invigilators on new procedures.  As we increase the number of digital exams we will work closely with the examinations team to create more automation of the system.

Technical support during exams

Our Information Services team were on hand to support the use of university owned laptops (for students without devices) and were on-call in case of any WiFi issues.  We also used a team of graduate students hired as assistant learning technologists.  This team were responsible for guiding students through the exam start-up process and troubleshooting any issues along the way.  During the exam they helped students to move desks if their battery was running low, answered any technical queries and helped monitor the hand-in process at the end.

Future plans

We have now chosen WISEflow as the university’s digital assessment platform.  We will be carrying out a staged implementation over the next three years, after which time we expect most of our coursework and exams will be handled through the WISEflow system with complete end-to-end digitisation of our assessment processes.

Additional information

On March 17th 2017 we hosted a sector wide digital examinations event where colleagues from 20 different HE institutions came together to hear about our experiences and discuss the opportunities and challenges digital exams pose.  Here are some outputs from the day:


Intro to the day by Professor Mariann Rand-Weaver – Pro-Vice Chancellor (Quality Affairs):


Keynote by Rasmus Blok – Executive Director UNIwise (Download PowerPoint slides here):


Keynote by Dr Simon Kent – Director of Teaching and Learning Brunel dept. of Computer Science:

To keep up to date with our progress take a look at our pages on the Brunel University website.  http://www.brunel.ac.uk/about/education-innovation

Alice La Rooy, Head of Digital Education @Alice_LaRooy
Prof Mariann Rand-Weaver, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Quality Affairs)
Dr Simon Kent, Director of Teaching and Learning (Department of Computer Science)
Brunel University London

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

[1] Source: https://www.laptopmag.com/articles/all-day-strong-longest-lasting-notebooks

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Chief Executive Officer’s Report (Q3 2017)

#ALTC Blog - 03/10/17
Dear Members

I’m starting this report by looking back briefly at the 2017 Annual Conference which took place in Liverpool in early September. If you haven’t already, I’d like to encourage you to explore the inspiring list of posts and resources shared by participants to get a flavour of this year’s highlights and read posts about the conference by keynote speakers and award winners. Equally recommended reading is ALT’s Annual Report which was approved by Members at the Annual General Meeting and this year contains a new report written jointly by Trustees reporting on progress made delivering ALT’s 2017-2020 strategy. I am proud to see how much progress we have made in the last twelve months.

A personal highlight for me was the Honorary Life Membership awarded to Josie Fraser, a richly deserved honour for an outstanding member of our community. As always, I am grateful that alongside the hard work and time contributed by everyone involved, my colleagues, Martin, Jane, Kristina, Tom and Jane, were recognised for their efforts making it all happen. You can read my personal take on organising the conference on my blog.

The Annual Conference sets the tone for the next few months at ALT and one of the outcomes of this year’s event is a renewed focus on policy, which was reflected in David Kernohan’s Wonkhe article ‘Edtech? It’s all about policy’ and my keynote contribution to the FELTAG 2017 Forum, on workforce development to maximise Learning Technology impact . Also this month, ALT Trustee Lorna Campbell and Ambassador Joe Wilson alongside others took part in the 2nd World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress in Ljubljana, Slovenia, sharing their insights via social media and reporting back to the wider community. This focus on policy across sectors will continue in the run up to this year’s ALT Annual Survey and the now established Winter Online Conference in December.

The work of ALT is largely led by Members who give up their time to get actively involved and lead ALT’s governance and activities across sectors. It is always important to acknowledge how much Members contribute, but sometimes a special thank you is in order. That is why I’d like to join the Trustees of the Association led by Prof Neil Morris, Chair of the Editorial Board, would now take this opportunity to say a thank you to the Editors of the journal, Lesley Diack, Amanda Jefferies, Peter Reed, Fiona Smart and Gail Wilson. Throughout the unprecedented difficulties with the journal the Editors as a group have played a key part in supporting the journal during this year of transition and their tireless efforts have ensured that we have weathered the transition as well as possible and supporting authors and readers throughout. Having published eight articles since July and processed dozens of new submissions I am glad to say that the journal is now operating fully.

In October we convene ALT’s Operational Committees and the Editorial Board of the journal as we begin the work of the new academic year. More Members are now actively engaged in the work of the Association, taking part not only in our governance, but leading activities and establishing new Members Groups across the UK, most recently in the North East of England.

This year’s Annual Report reflects that alongside our efforts to meet our strategic aims, we must continue to put our values into practice. In addition to what we set out in our strategy, that we value participation, collaboration, openness and independence, we also work to achieve greater equality and diversity in our community of Members and helping us champion this are this year’s winners of the Learning Technologist of the Year Awards .

Leading professionalisation in Learning Technology is about setting standards and recognising achievement on a national scale. It is also an opportunity to shape our professional identity and this year’s conference really brought home to me how powerful an example our Members are setting.

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

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Who am I? Reflections on the identity of a learning technologist.

#ALTC Blog - 28/09/17

People who know me a little bit, may have noticed that ideas pop into my head all the time. These ideas don’t just stay in my head or disappear, but are followed up by actions. They have led to seeding a range of alternative open cross-institutional professional development initiatives that are engaging regularly HE practitioners and students nationally and internationally and bring diverse and cross-boundary communities together to learn and develop.

However, the idea to apply for the ALT Learning Technologist Award was not mine. As a person who has over the years supported many practitioners to open their wings and fly, I have encouraged others to apply for a range of teaching awards. Nurturing relationships, leading from the back and helping others become leaders has been my approach. Seeing the success in others, knowing that my tiny little contribution is making a difference to some and us collectively means a lot to me and powers my internal little engine.

When Dr Cristina Costa (@cristinacost), who won the ALT Learning Technologist Award in 2010, sent me a message saying that I should apply… I wasn’t sure at all. But I am not a Learning Technologist… but I have encouraged others to apply… but what have I done to deserve this… loads of buts…my initial response to Cristina was no. But Cristina didn’t let go… Thanks to her, the application went in…

The process of writing the application was an opportunity to reflect and celebrate some of the work I had done over the last few years, as an open practitioner and researcher. In parallel with a busy day job, I have also been studying towards a PhD in the last four and a half years and have a family too. The timeline of activities, initiatives and courses I put together and took with me to the interview when I was shortlisted, really helped me visualise my journey in front of my eyes. I could clearly see how one led to the other, where the ideas came from and how they evolved over time. It was a good feeling and one that helped me realise that I had achieved a little something while also being committed to my PhD, and working at the same time on a range of courses, projects and initiatives. The fruits of my passion where all there, and I shared these with the interview panel. The interview felt like a professional discussion among peers who were genuinely interested to find out what my driver was and who I really was as an open and digital practitioner. Later during my viva I felt very similar, despite the fact that I was terrified about what could happen there. Maybe these feelings also explain why in some of the pictures from the award ceremony I look a bit lost… forgive me.

The whole process of applying for the award for the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year has been worthwhile for my professional development. Being awarded it in 2017 signalises a milestone in my career and is helping me now to look ahead into the future and think about what I would like to do and what next, especially since I have also just completed my doctoral studies.The following might seem disjointed but please keep reading…

A while back David Hopkins (@hopkinsdavid) asked me to write a review about his edited book What is a Learning Technologist? Remembering some of the contributions even today, four years later, I could see that “proper” learning technologists, individuals who had this as their job title, had a desire to work more closely with academic developers. From my own experience as an academic developer working in the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University, I know that academic developers feel the same way, while in institutions we are often separated… organisationally and/or physically. I read somewhere that increased specialisation is what generates boundaries and that cross-boundary working is therefore needed more than ever. This observation makes me think about where I sit… am I a learning technologist in disguise, a sort of secret learning technologist? A chameleon technologist? Do I work at the intersection of academic development and learning technology? Who am I? Can I be a learning technologist and an academic developer? Am I both or is the definition of a learning technologist far more wide reaching? The answer might be in David’s title as he refers to what is a learning technologist instead of who is a learning technologist. Whatever the label, or job title, what I do is in the area of digital and open professional development.

I have made little discoveries through being playful and experimental, as well as inquiring into my own practice. I implemented ideas, practices and initiatives with many others in the open to give us all the opportunity to experience something different. Something that disrupts and breaks free from traditions. Something that gives us a taste of what is possible. Something that takes us into new terrains to explore. Something that creates alternative opportunities for professional development and learning and teaching. Something that connects us and is collaborative.

Thank you for believing in me Cristina and thanks ALT for being inclusive and for this special recognition for my work in open professional development. I would love to continue the conversation around bringing learning technologists and academic developers closer together and identifying opportunities for more joined-up working within and across institutions together with academics, other professionals who teach or support learning and students.

… and if you would like to experience open professional development within a diverse community of practitioners, students and the wider public, join us on the 2nd of October 17 and for four weeks to discuss, debate, discover more about Flexible, Open and Social learning. All you need to do is join our community.


See you there. ;) The #FOS172 team


Chrissi Nerantzi, Principal Lecturer, Centre for Excellence in learning and teaching, Manchester Metropolitan University. C.Nerantzi@mmu.ac.uk, personal blog 

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ALT Learning Technologist of the Year: a note of thanks.

#ALTC Blog - 25/09/17


A note of thanks to ALT Members from the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust.

“Being shortlisted for the Learning Technologist of the Year award has been great for us here at the Tavistock & Portman. To be perfectly honest, I was surprised we were called for interview by the panel. I wrote the submission at the eleventh hour thinking it would be nice if the rest of the team were acknowledged for the work they had done but not really expecting a result. The interview panel were great and very informal, which put Horatio, Louie and Jas at ease. They had been quite nervous. For those that know me, talking endlessly about TEL has never been a problem! But it was a new experience for these three young learning technologists – absolutely invaluable.

I was very proud of how they engaged with the panel in the interview. We didn’t get a gold, silver (like you, Rob) or bronze but we were finalists alongside some incredible teams. For me, it’s a bit like the Olympics. You might not get a medal but saying you were an Olympic Finalist is still pretty cool. It was a shame that Jas couldn’t stay for the award on 6th but I’m afraid a pre-booked train back to London prevented that.

For us, ALT is a very important part of what we do here. Louie was awarded his CMALT in June this year (he’s now left us to do a Masters in Amsterdam) while Jas and Horatio will be starting theirs in October. Within the NHS Trust where we work, colleagues have been very complimentary about the award. I feel it has raised our credibility here even more, which is always helpful when we’re asking them to make quite significant changes – for example, around online marking and Turnitin. More generally, I believe there is more the NHS can learn from ALT and vice versa.

The NHS and further and higher education have been intertwined since the beginning of the health service: clinicians often have a foot in both sectors; collaboration is strong (the forthcoming NHS Digital Academy involving Harvard, Edinburgh, Imperial and others being a good example); and the NHS is quick to exploit new technologies. There is a high expectation of TEL transforming training in the NHS. The world-class eLearning for Healthcare platform has trained hundreds of thousands of NHS staff. Health Education England’s TEL Hub, launched in 2013, is making progress in areas such as digital literacies. HEE is a member of FutureLearn where there is an increasing number of healthcare MOOCs; and the development and use of apps for health care on the ward is well embedded.

But possibly there are two areas of TEL where we could bring across the experience and knowledge of ALT members as I haven’t come across much evidence of either. (More knowledgeable members, please correct me if I am wrong.)

Firstly, the application of learning design and the benefits of social learning to augment the predominantly slide based (instructional design) approaches used in most NHS elearning courses. Secondly, a greater realisation of the benefits of OER repositories, Creative Commons and the sharing of learning materials.

There are understandable reasons why both these areas might encounter blocks – even in a training organisation such as ours that replicates the professional services of a university (we had a QAA full review in 2016), some of the challenges we face are quite different to FE and HE. Perhaps discussion of these blocks is for a future blog post.

So thank you ALT for our award and needless to say, I hope we’ll be punting for the gold medal in a couple of years!”


Simon Kear, SKear@Tavi-Port.nhs.uk Head of Technology Enhanced Learning Department of Education and Training (DET), Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.





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Geographical Information Systems in the classroom – Digimap for Schools

#ALTC Blog - 24/08/17

The Geography National Curriculum for England states that students should be taught to “use Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to view, analyse and interpret places and data,” (DfE, 2013). While it can be agreed that proficiency in GIS is a valuable skill of Geographers, implementing its effective use in the classroom can be both ambitious and daunting to teachers.

GIS has revolutionised the way in which we view land on Earth and has been noted as one of the 25 most important developments for human impact in the 20th Century due to its powerful analytical abilities. Students who are familiar with its uses not only have a better understanding of their environment but are better equipped to enter the technological business world.

Traditionally, GIS software was quite complex with time-consuming downloads and processing. Indeed, GIS was not initially created for use in the classroom but rather as a decision-making tool to be used by government and business. Unfortunately, such characteristics made the use of GIS unsuitable for the contemporary classroom that is under increasing curriculum and timetabling pressures. So how do teaching practitioners effectively implement GIS in our classrooms in a way that both fulfils the criteria of the National Curriculum and acts as a tool to promote learning among our students?

Digimap for Schools offers a solution to this problem. As a collaborative venture between EDINA and Ordnance Survey, Digimap provides an online mapping service to both students and teachers. The online nature of this service instantly makes it time-effective to implement in the classroom. With no need for downloading software or mobile apps, maps can be accessed at any time and on various platforms (e.g. laptops, iPads or mobile phones) and all that students require is internet access. A far cry to the bulky and time-consuming GIS software that I became familiar with at university!

During a GIS club run by the Geography Department at The Mountbatten School, students were asked to create a proposal to identify the best locations for bins and recycling centres on the school grounds. Using Digimap for Schools, students collected raw data which was uploaded to their own maps. Students then used buffers and their personal understanding of various environmental and human factors to analyse and interpret the data to make justified decisions which would then better inform their proposal. Something that soon became apparent was how Digimap can allow differentiation by outcome in that students had complete control over what went onto their maps and what functions they were going to use to make their decisions. The only premise was that their decision would need to be justified; both an important command word in the new GCSE specification and a skill used throughout personal and professional life.

The user-friendly layout meant that students quickly became familiar with the functions and confident in its uses. As such, students could complete complex GIS functions in a short period of time and view the results instantly, which further motivated them to challenge their data by processing alternative solutions leading to better-informed decisions. Other features that students enjoyed included being able to upload their own images to maps, annotating their choices and using historical maps and aerial images to view their map area in different settings.

From a teacher’s perspective, the service is very simple to use and, as many classrooms and IT suites are now fitted with interactive whiteboards, it is easy to demonstrate to students how to perform functions. Overall, its value is efficient as a tool in promoting geographical inquiry and independent decision-making. Its layout is easily familiar and the outputs of functions are immediate, which allow students time to process and manipulate data as they feel appropriate. It is a service that puts as much emphasis on the process as it does on the output, providing an authentic learning experience for both students and teachers.

Megan Roodt is a Geography teacher @geography_meg

Digimap for Schools: www.digimapforschools.edina.ac.uk    @Digimap4Schools

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