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Learning about Hospital Ward Rounds with 360-Degree Video


Post by Terese Bird

Still from the video ‘VR Mock Ward Round Scenario – End of Life Patient’ on YouTube. CC-BY-SA by MedRIFT Student Society, Leicester Medical School

Interest sparked in 360-degree video for learning

Since 2017, Leicester Medical School has been experimenting with 360-degree video for learning. Following the first live-streamed medical surgical operation done by Dr Shafi Ahmed (McGoogan and Murgia, 2016), medical students’ interest was ignited. Leicester Medical School’s student society MedRIFT (Medical Research into Future Technology), which I founded and oversee, decided to pursue this interest and find out how to maximise the affordances of 360-degree video for undergraduate medical education.

When Leicester Medical School first acquired its 360-degree video camera, an Omni Go Pro, the first idea was to capture live a surgical procedure, similar to what Dr Shafi Ahmed had done. In this use of the technology, the actions of nurses, operating department practitioners, and doctors, as well as all of the instruments and screens, are picked up on the camera, and all sound too. Students can learn from everything in the environment of the procedure before they are qualified enough to get that close to the action, acclimating them to aspects of the environment and human factors of surgery as well as demonstration of the procedure.

Rationale to create 360-degree videos of ward rounds

Filming surgical procedures was proving difficult in terms of getting permissions from everyone involved. We found that the patients were surprisingly willing, but not all the staff were, and it was hard to find time and situation to discuss this in advance and secure informed consent. So the students brainstormed other aspects of medical knowledge which could be helped by 360 video. They came up with the idea of filming ward rounds, in which the doctor visits the different patients on the ward, checking on them and administering and adjusting treatment as needed. Doctors teach medical students who join them on the round and teach them to document the patient’s case. But students often feel unsure of what to expect on ward rounds when they are just beginning clinical study. Anything can happen during a ward round, and doctors must deal with demands coming from all directions; hence students must learn this too. It was felt that the 360-degree camera would capture this aspect of demands coming from all directions and help acclimate students into the still-unfamiliar domain of clinical knowledge and practice, as in a model of domain learning (Alexander, 2003).

Initial research

When the Digital Innovation Partnership (DIP) scheme was launched by Leicester Learning Institute we saw our opportunity for supported research. The DIP scheme encourages staff and students to work together to trial learning innovations enabled by digital tools. We devised research to examine learning with 360-degree video, specifically learning to feel confident on the round, to document correctly, and to treat all patients and family members empathetically. The scenarios were actual events experienced by one of our teaching doctors. They were acted by members of a University of Leicester drama society and filmed with a 360-degree camera in the teaching area of the Leicester Royal Infirmary. Using actors to simulate the ward round solved the consent problem, and student actors brought a fresh energy to the project.

In the research, one group of students watched 360 video ward round scenarios using Google Cardboard devices. Another group learned about ward rounds by reading PowerPoint presentations, and a third group received no ward round information. All students were then sent into a live ward round situation simulated by actors. The participants were given the task of documenting patients in the live simulation, and then completing a survey which examined their confidence to face the real ward round, their level of empathy for the patients, and their impressions of how engaging the teaching material was. We then evaluated the documentation for accuracy, and also compared survey responses to responses to baseline surveys given before the intervention began.

Our research showed that all participating students found the 360 videos to be an engaging way to learn, especially when compared with more traditional methods like PowerPoint slides. 75% of participants felt that learning from the videos helped them to consider how they could show empathy.  Watching these videos were not seen as helpful to learn to document correctly, however. Because of this finding, the students decided to add into the 360 videos some further text which helps to ‘signal’ what they need to be noticing and learning about documenting, during that point in the scenario. This video is below. (Note: this is a realistic scenario of a patient at end of life.) You can experience the 360-degree view by dragging the image while the video is playing.

Bringing research findings into teaching workshops

We are now offering workshops to our year 1 and year 2 students, helping them to watch these videos with Google Cardboard devices and then discussing the aspects of confidence, empathy, and documentation accuracy. In our most recent workshop, after watching the videos, students put themselves in the place of the patient’s family, discussed all the ways the doctor showed care for the patient’s family, and came up with other ways to show empathy such as doing more to keep the scene private and alerting the other health care professionals to the condition and needs of the patient and family. Our next goal is to create an online learning environment offering this teaching wrapped around the edited ward round videos, so that students may watch and learn on their own.

With a price tag exceeding £4000, the camera and software were not cheap; however, the videos created can be used and re-used repeatedly and in different contexts. There is therefore a reasonable measure of sustainability in this model of 360-degree video for learning.

On the premise that there is nothing that can prepare one for a ward round except going on a ward round, we think these 360-degree videos are showing promise as an engaging way to help students prepare, because they are the next best thing to being there.


Alexander, P. A. (2003) ‘The Development of Expertise: The Journey From Acclimation to Proficiency’, Educational Researcher, vol. 32, no. 8, pp. 10–14 [Online]. DOI: 10.3102/0013189X032008010.

McGoogan, C. and Murgia, M. (2016) Watch the world’s first surgery streamed in virtual reality live from London [Online]. Available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2016/04/14/watch-the-worlds-first-surgery-streamed-in-virtual-reality-live/ (Accessed 25 March 2017).


With thanks and acknowledgement of all the work of co-creating and carrying out filming and teaching sessions: Dr Nasif Mahmood, and students Vanessa Rodwell, Farhaana Surti, Ethan Tamlyn, Josh Sturgeon, Abina Dharmaratnam, Marcus Judge, Thanin Ong, Zarva Shahid, and Jakevir Shoker, and the members of LUTheatre

Terese Bird is the Educational Designer for Leicester Medical School, leading on the work of utilising iPads as a digital platform for learning, collaboration, assessment and feedback, and working with students to pioneer the use of 360-degree video and 3D printing for undergraduate medical learning. Twitter: @tbirdcymru


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

What we have been up to a strategic update from the Chair and Chief Executive of ALT


Dear Members

We about to embark on the third and final year of ALT’s Strategy 2017-2020. Together we have made strong, strategic progress putting our shared values into practice and meet our aims for Members and for public benefit, too.

We reported to Members and stakeholders from across sectors in ALT’s Annual Report and at the AGM in September about the changes to our organisational and governance structures. The transition to an independent, distributed organisation, has allowed us to make huge leaps in terms of meeting our strategic goals.

Since September,  much has happened and so we are are now sharing  more of what we have been up to in the year that saw ALT celebrate its 25th anniversary:

Open research

A key area for growth has been the Open Access research published in ALT’s journal. The full back archive reaching back to 1993 is an invaluable resource for Members at a time when reliable research is increasingly important for efficient use of Learning Technology and informed decision making.

Led by volunteer Editorial Team and Nicola Whitton, Vice-Chair of ALT, who chairs the Editorial Board, the journal has covered a diverse range of topics in recent months including TEL strategies in HE, playful learning, mobile mixed reality, students’ perceptions of Twitter and smart learning environments.

GDPR and Learning Technology

Member organisations from industry including Blackboard and Moodle as well as individual experts such as DCU’s Head of the Teaching Enhancement Unit, Mark Glynn, have led a series of webinars on GDPR organised by ALT’s Chief Innovation, Technology and Community Officer, Martin Hawksey.  Much of this work has been shared with other sector bodies such as ELESIG Scotland and also fed into ALT’s recent response to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Data Analytics inquiry into data and technology ethics.

Enhancing professional recognition

We have also completed the pilots for Associate and Senior CMALT. These two new accreditation pathways for Learning Technology professionals will launch later this month. Led by Operations Manager, Susan Greig, working closely with Certified Members and Lead Assessors, both pathways will be supported by a growing body of community-sourced resources and a baseline of example portfolios that set a robust standard for professionals at different stages of their career and across a broader range of roles than before. We invite you warmly to sign up for the launch webinars for Associate and Senior CMALT to find out more.

Postcards celebrating ALT@25 remixed by ALT Members ALT Assembly

ALT’s Membership has now grown to over 3,500 Members and as a result many of our activities are now scaling up to support the larger community. Alongside increasing our operational capacity, the Board of Trustees led Members in the effort to update ALT’s constitution, bringing it in line with best practice set out by the Charity Commission and also to ensure that in our governance our community is at the heart of everything we do. That is why as part of the updated governance structure the new ALT Assembly committee has been established. The ALT Assembly is the overarching committee advising the Board of Trustees, supported by Tom Palmer, ALT’s Membership Manager, it will be bringing together former operational committees, publication and events related groups and boards as well as Members and Special Interest Groups. We hope that the Assembly will help improve communication for Members actively involved in ALT as well as the impact of the work we do together.

ALT marks one year operating as an independent organisation

In our report above we have focused on the work our Members do and with that in mind it seems only fitting to add a final update on developments that have seen us increase our organisational capacity to support Members across the UK. Today’s date, 1 February, marks the first anniversary since ALT began to operate as an independent, virtual organisation and employer. Whilst major restructuring and transition have been ongoing for most of the last 18 months, disruption to services for Members have been minimal. In keeping with ALT’s commitment to openness, Members have been regularly updated throughout the process and ALT’s senior staff have shared the journey informally in a monthly series of blog posts on open leadership. Having successfully weathered the transition, we now look forward to the benefits the more agile and distributed organisation structure will bring.

Thinking about the year ahead, with the results from ALT’s Annual Survey due to be published soon and a packed calendar of activities already planned, we look forward to increasing the impact of what we do as the leading professional body for Learning Technology in the UK. Members will convene the Assembly (both face to face and online) in the next month to work together and this new development inspires and reminds us that each contribution to the work we do makes a real difference to our growing Membership.

Together, and on behalf of the Trustees and staff, we thank you for helping us making many small steps into one giant leap forward over this past year.

Sheila MacNeill (@sheilmcn), Chair of ALT

Maren Deepwell (@marendeepwell), chief executive of ALT

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

The PressED conference


Post by Pat Lockley,

Imagine you had to make the most accessible conference ever. What would you need to consider? Venue, Price, Location, Cost, Childcare, Catering, Event recording, Admission. Can you imagine plotting these on some spider graph and watching as the cost of providing X doubles Y, and decisions are made which trade on part of accessibility for another. Which requirements are legal, which requirements are moral, which requirements best reflect the spirit and soul of the conference?

On March 29th last year, Pat Lockley and Natalie Lafferty helped to organise PressEd conference. PressEd took place solely on twitter. Lecturers, educational technologists and students got together to share knowledge on how they used WordPress for teaching, learning and research. WordPress is an open source content management system which is estimated to provide hosting for 20-30% of websites.  Talk of doing a WordPress conference in the UK (wpcampus.org is similar) had been going on for over six years. Several attempts had been made, and returning to the criteria, a match of location and venue had proven to be too big a hurdle. Then, when one of the organisers heard of PATC, eureka! No venue, no location. Twitter conferences are relatively knew, and we believe PressEd was the fifth. The list (as far as we are aware) is #IconTC ,  #UPMTC,  #PressTC,  #PATC and  #PressEDconf18. PressEd was very much inspired by PATC.

Twitter conferences remain new and somewhat alien, however people seemed relatively keen to submit proposals (which in twitter style had a 280 character limit). We ended up with over 50 submissions for presentations, which with some peer reviewing we reduced down to 40. On the day this meant we had 46 sessions. We felt the conference could work with 20 sessions, and wouldn’t be sure if we’d had more sessions whether a twitter conference could have parallel streams like physical conferences do. We wanted to run for 12 hours on the day to create a broad time window for people in different time zones and with the scope to present outside of working hours, should that be necessary.

Each pressEd presentation was allotted 15 minutes (keynotes had 20 minutes) to share their knowledge, with guidance of one tweet per minute. PressEd ran for over 12 hours on the day. Our keynotes included two professors – one of whom has published research on the benefit of WordPress to academia.

The conference seemed to work very well. One presenter left the following review which summed up how many felt on the day:

How much did it cost – well ignoring the organiser’s time – there was $12 dollars for web hosting, $45 dollars to set up our email to avoid spam filters, £120 pounds of book tokens to thank the keynotes. So in total, we’d spent approximately 150 pounds to run a conference, which is comparable to the cost of conference admission.

Is this a fair comparison? Our first keynote tweet by Professor Gurminder K Bhambra was seen by over 11000 people, which are tedX level conference numbers. From the twitter analytics data we’ve seen, presenter’s tweets regularly achieved over 1000 views on the day, and those tweets still exist and are effectively instantaneously archived. On the day before the conference, one account had 688 twitter impressions, on the day of the conference that jumped to 6000.

The key question is – are twitter conferences comparable to “physical” conferences? How would we compare? I offered some possible metrics at the start but these could be seen as functional and not satisfaction based. However it remains valid to ask if the benefits of twitter (no travel, no catering, no venue, almost instantaneous networking, no fees, sessions recorded as moments – offer greater chances for participation that outweigh potential satisfaction measures for those able to attend. Open access has been facilitated by cost discussions, citation metrics and download stats, but these arguments don’t seem to have been applied yet to conferences. Some conferences are virtual, but there remains many technical issues with live streaming which twitter bypasses.

We cannot claim to have unearthed a panacea. Although 50% of our presenters where female, only one presenter based outside the UK, USA and Canada. Only two presenters didn’t have english as a their first language. These are things we are working on (https://twitter.com/pressedconf/status/988788237912199168) and looking to improve. For pressEDconf19 we’ve got call for papers in 10 languages, we’ve got a mentoring site to help people develop their ideas and a top tips site to help people finesse their presentations.

PressEDconf19  is happening on April 18th 2019. The call for submissions is open and you can submit up until March the 9th. We’d love to hear your thoughts on pressED and we’d love a submssion too.

Pat Lockley, elearning developer and website builder : Twitter:@pgogy #pressEDconf19

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

DigiReady: Equipping our students for the modern workplace


Post by Chris Melia, Senior Learning Technologist, University of Central Lancashire

It has never been more important to prepare our students for the modern workplace by equipping them with future facing, digital skills. Following the Jisc Digital experience insights survey 2018, it was found that only 41% of students who were asked felt that their course of study ‘prepared them for the digital workplace’. In addition, only 40% agreed that they had regular opportunities to ‘review and update their digital skills’.  At the University of Central Lancashire, the Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching (TELT) team have worked closely with our academic community to address these ever-growing concerns.

“The 21st century demands ‘21st century skills’. Our students are embarking on career paths which are invariably changing at a rapid pace, particularly in relation to technology. Many of our students are aspiring to become teachers of Physical Education and being ‘digitally literate’ is a crucial prerequisite of employability in this domain.”

Andrew Sprake – Lecturer in Physical Education & Jess Macbeth – Senior Lecturer in Sport Studies.


It was identified across several disciplines that students were already demonstrating a number of digital skills, often without realising themselves and normally without any kind of formal recognition which could aid their future employability.


“At UCLan, the midwifery curriculum prides itself on allowing students to develop digital literacy skills and encouraging them to be ‘digitally ready’ when seeking employment.  With employers often stating that digital skills are an essential requirement for those applying for the role of a newly qualified midwife, the team see this as an essential component of the midwifery course. Lecturers lead by example, by ensuring that all teaching and learning resources are delivered using digital approaches, encouraging the students to engage with these methods of learning.”

Neesha Ridley – Senior Lecturer in Midwifery

Our approach was to look at developing ‘DigiReady’, a new student certification underpinned by the Jisc digital capabilities framework (image above) and adapted from a more recent Microsoft tool. Implemented at course level, it centres around eight core skills ranging from effective communication, to online safety/security and profile management.

Students build up their evidence of skill development across these areas, which they record into an e-portfolio using OneNote Class Notebook. Evidence can consist of annotated screenshots, audio/video reflections, and sometimes involves different participation in interactive activities. The e-portfolio provides tutors with instant access to each individual student space, where they can monitor progress and provide valuable feedback along the way. Students are also asked to build a short presentation or video answering three reflective questions, which draw on evidence from their portfolio and overall DigiReady journey and development. This final digital artefact aims to provide a valuable resource that will support students in their future employability.

Jean Duckworth and Hazel Partington – both academics at the University, lead a suite of online Masters level courses and modules. Students arrive to the course or module with a range of different digital skill levels. Some may have studied or worked in a technology rich environment, whilst others have not yet developed their skills in this area. The team start the course with a very intensive induction, which starts with using Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Adobe Connect and the University’s Virtual Learning Environment. By doing this, students get to know each other and have the tools to fully engage in their studies. These skills are further developed as a student progresses through the course or module.

While the initiative is still in an early pilot phase that will inform its future development, we know it it will play a crucial role in the digital development of our students.

“Employers often comment how ‘digitally ready’ students from our University are when they apply for jobs. By encouraging students to embrace and develop digital literacy, we are equipping them with lifelong skills that they will use throughout their careers, so they are confident and competent to provide care using digital systems in the work place.” 

Neesha Ridley – Senior Lecturer in Midwifery 

“We expect the introduction of the DigiReady programme will showcase the development of important 21st century skills to employers, stakeholders or course providers.”

Hazel Partington & Jean Duckworth – Senior Lecturers in the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing

“Initial feedback from the pilot programme has been overwhelmingly positive and will inevitably set our students apart.”

Andrew Sprake – Lecturer in Physical Education & Jess Macbeth – Senior Lecturer in Sport Studies

Chris Melia, Senior Learning Technologist, University of Central Lancashire: cmelia@uclan.ac.uk Twitter: @ChrisLearnTech @UCLanTELT #UCLanDigiLearn #DigitalUCLan

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

M25-LTG November 2018 Learning Design Workshop


I had the privilege to deliver a workshop on Learning Design to 20 members of the M25 Learning Technology Group (LTG) on Friday 16 November 2018 at City, University of London.

The workshop was sponsored by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT),  City, University of London: @julievoce, University of East of London: @santanuvasant  and Cambridge Education Group Digital: @CegDigital

The workshop involved all attendees applying the CoDesignS framework (Morton et al 2016; Toro-Troconis & Aleksiev, 2018; Toro-Troconis et al, 2016), focusing on one of the key aspects of the framework, which involves the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains (Bloom, 1956). The Learning Domains guide the selection of the right pedagogic activity and technical tools.

The video below introduces the Learning Domains and presents ways of designing online, blended and face to face activities, based on the principles of the taxonomy. The video compares the use of different journeys to the design of different learning journeys (online, blended and face to face).


Figure 1: YouTube video: Learning Design and Learning Domains  – https://bit.ly/2DUznbx

The CoDesignS cards used for the M25 workshop included several case studies from different M25 universities (Imperial College London, Queen Mary University of London, University of East London and the Royal Veterinary College). They can be download at: https://codesignssite.wordpress.com/m25-ltg/

A short Mentimeter survey was run at the beginning of the workshop to find out about the attendees’ motivations to learn more about Learning Design.


We’re at #m25ltg special workshop on #LearningDesign with @mtorotro from @CegDigital this morning @CityUniLondon, which we have helped organised for London #edtech (Thanks @A_L_T and @CityUniLEaD @julievoce for helping to organise the event), photos and tweets to follow. ^SV pic.twitter.com/LGwIbcYiQ4

— UEL CELT (@UEL_CELT) November 16, 2018



Figure 1: M25 Learning Design Workshop

Figure 2 below shows the main job titles of the people attending the workshop. ‘Learning Technologist’ was the most popular title as expected, since this workshop was targeted to the M25 Learning Technology community.

Figure 2: Job title of attendees at the workshop.

Figure 3 shows the majority of the participants engage with supporting learning technologies within their current roles, followed by Learning Design advice and support activities.


Figure 3: Activities attendees engage with within their current roles

Figures 4 and 5 below shows the majority of attendees have been involved in the design of a blended or online course.

Figure 4: Attendees involved in the design of a Blended Course   

Figure 5: Attendees involved in the design of an Online Course

Figure 6 shows the majority of participants have Learning Design experience with 14 people having more than 1 year’s experience in this area.

Figure 6: Years of experience in Learning Design

Figure 7 shows four out of 17 participants hold a CMALT qualification.

Figure 7: Number of participants holding a CMALT qualification

The participants were asked to type five words that described their motivation to join this workshop on Learning Design. Interesting words like inspiration, collaboration, curiosity and development stand out in the WordCloud presented in Figure 8 below.


Figure 8: Words that describe the participants’ motivation to join the Learning Design workshop

The workshop was very active and involved participants working in groups of four applying the CoDesignS framework.


Some active learning happening in #m25ltg workshop this morning with the mobile whiteboard too on Learning domains in groups #altc @mtorotro @CegDigital ^SV #learningspaces pic.twitter.com/cPsTSI8ppq

— UEL CELT (@UEL_CELT) November 16, 2018


Some active learning happening in #m25ltg workshop this morning with the mobile whiteboard too on Learning domains in groups #altc @mtorotro @CegDigital ^SV #learningspaces pic.twitter.com/cPsTSI8ppq

— UEL CELT (@UEL_CELT) November 16, 2018


Detailed presentations with discussions from the audience at the special #m25ltg #learningdesign workshop w/ @mtorotro @CegDigital, hope folks took things away they can action in their day jobs. Learning Design Bootcamp #altc https://t.co/yUBN6Jsl2K call opens 19th Nov. ^SV pic.twitter.com/ZdZ37wExkq

— UEL CELT (@UEL_CELT) November 16, 2018



At the end of the workshop, the ‘Learning Design Bootcamp’ organised by City, University of London, University East of London and Cambridge Education Group Digital was announced. The Learning Design Bootcamp starts in April 2019, finishing in July 2019. The call for proposals can be accessed at:


The deadline for submissions is Friday 15 February 2019 17:00.

The information received at the workshop shows evidence of great interest in Learning Design from the Learning Technology community. It also shows how this sample of Learning Technologists across London has already had experience in the design of blended and online learning courses. The majority of the universities represented in the workshop seem to have embraced Learning Design at a strategic level. However, further support seems to be required to bring strategy and practice at the same level.


Bloom B. (1956), Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, The Classification of Educational Goals, Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. UK: Longman Group.Morton, C., Saleh, S., Smith, S., Hemani, A., Ameen, A., Bennie, T., Toro-Troconis (2016), ‘Blended Learning: how can we optimise undergraduate student engagement?’. BMC Medical Education Journal; 16:195. DOI: 10.1186/s12909-016-0716-z

Toro-Troconis, M., Hemani, A. and Murphy, K. (2014), ‘Learning Design in the 21st Century – Blended Learning Design Tool (BLEnDT© & MOOC-it©). In Proceedings of the #designforlearning: from blended learning to learning analytics in HE. Open University (OU), Higher Education Academy Conference, The Open University Milton Keynes, UK, 26-27 November.

Toro-Troconis, M., Bridson, JM., Halawa, A., Prescot, D., Edwards, S. (2016), ‘Course Design Sprint (CoDesignS) Framework’. In Proceedings of the Association for Learning Technology Annual Conference 2016 (ALT-C 2016), Coventry University, UK, 6-8 September.

Maria Toro-Troconis is Head of Academic Research and Quality at Cambridge Education Group Digital. Maria provides academic leadership to CEG Digital, embracing the range of partners and disciplines, by providing a coherent vision for research and scholarly activities. Maria contributes to the delivery of CEG Digital’s strategy, promoting pedagogic excellence in the delivery of existing and new programmes. Maria has almost 20 years’ experience working with Higher Education institutions across the UK. @mtorotro mtroconis@ceg-uk.com 

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

What Learning Technologist s said the key challenges would be for 2019: ALTC Word Cloud


Post by Ben Waugh, Meetoo Ltd.


The ALT Conference back in September celebrated its 25th birthday and offered an abundance of content for Universities wanting to learn from other educational institutions and speakers. One topic area that was covered highlighted the challenges that Higher Education establishments face with digital learning tools and general challenges that Learning Technologists are likely to come up against in 2019.


One of the main polling questions run by the application Meetoo during the conference was “What are the biggest Learning Technology challenges for the academic year 2018/2019?”. Once participants had voted, this poll was displayed in a live word cloud to show all the responses that Learning Technologists gave (either in the room or remotely). Here is the word cloud that was produced live in the moment during the conference:


Please feel free to save this word cloud image for your own use or share this with colleagues or on social media.


The word cloud displays the most popular responses by increasing the font size, so (as shown by the image) the words “staff”, “learning”, “new” and “VLE” were submitted the most times from participants.


To reflect on the main challenges highlighted, I thought I would provide a breakdown of the top 10 word cloud responses from the ALTC conference. So, in the style of Top of the Pops, let’s take a look at the top 10 countdown:


  1. Implementing – For the sheer amount of work and considerations that need to be reflected upon when implementing Education Technology, it’s no wonder that Learning Technologists voted this as a main challenge. This EdTech e-book by the Strategy Institute (2016) looks at a few of these implementation challenges including orchestration, complexity, adaptability, getting buy-in and addressing concerns.


  1. Engaging – This word can have several meanings or uses. One meaning of the word ‘engaging’ within a learning technology environment, is that it’s a challenge to engage teaching staff. Your teaching staff might have a very busy schedule as it is, so making tools or support available and easily accessible to them is significant. As mentioned by Matthew Lynch (2018), it’s important that the internal communication channels that you use to keep staff up to date are suitable for communicating effectively with your staff.  Another meaning of ‘engaging’ might be how to increase student engagement in lectures and outside of them. As the University of Washington states on their teaching resource page, student engagement is often achieved by the process of active learning and by making it a memorable experience: “active learning requires students to participate in class, as opposed to sitting and listening quietly” (n.d.). There are several digital tools that can help with engagement such as live voting apps, student Q&A apps and quiz tools, all of which can be used on a student’s own device. Virtual Learning Environment’s and other learning platforms that are easily accessible to students make it easy for them to learn at their own pace. Several research studies have shown the positive impact that these learning tools can have in increasing engagement (e.g. Weller, 2007; Koskela, et al., 2005; Meetoo, n.d.) but it’s choosing the right tool for your University and adapting to the needs of your staff and students that can add to the pressure.


  1. Change and development – Technology can advance quickly and keeping up with the pace of it is important, especially within an education setting when other things come into play such as educational legislation and institutional decisions.  This is where digital learning teams are vital. They are there to explore the best digital tools that are right for their University and to encourage staff to adopt the chosen technology. Not all staff will be keen for change, so providing them with support, useful information (i.e., why they should adopt this technology) can help them realise the benefits of the technology and to create buy-in. Getting the advocates of this technology to vocalise their support for it will help their peers to be naturally intrigued as to how it can benefit their teaching.


  1. Support When offering technology tools and open-source learning platforms it is vital that you have the support in place for the users of those digital platforms. Like a few of the other challenges mentioned in this word cloud, support is an ongoing challenge for learning technology as Universities need to cater for all kinds of support levels and support for different digital tools. This might include supplying workshops for teaching staff or by making the right kind of support resources readily available. As the Lynch states “the more use of technology means more stress on the IT department” and it’s important to have the right support infrastructure in place (2018).


  1. Digital/Technologies – Utilising technology can be quite demanding in itself, especially in a large educational organisation where multiple digital tools are being used. Not all tech is complex – but it can be, and sometimes it can come with its own barriers along the way. It’s important that the technology that you offer teaching staff is aligned to your strategy and compliments your current IT infrastructure. You can find lots of helpful resources for digital strategy reviews on the Jisc website, such as their guide to Developing organisational approaches to digital capability (Killen, Beetham and Knight, 2017).


  1. Students – It is no surprise that this response appeared quite popular within the word cloud, as ultimately learning technology will impact the student experience. An International Data Corporation (IDC) research paper conducted last year indicated that “the student experience was one of the top priorities for institutions in 2018” and that “students expect to be taught and learn in ways that are better suited to their personal preferences and at a pace of their choosing” (Pennel, 2018).


  1. VLE – In at number four it’s VLE. VLE’s are becoming “central to the mass delivery of HE” (Normand and Littlejohn, 2006). They have many uses and are crucial to the student experience due to the rise of e-learning. These sites have been useful for managing learning resources and enabling self-paced study outside of the lecture hall. David Biggins from Bournemouth University explores some of the challenges of VLEs such as considerations around unit design and learning analytics, as well as the coordination and implementation of VLEs (2018).


“Today students are not just looking for handouts and resources stored on their VLE. They want to participate, communicate and collaborate much more with staff and each other through the learning environment.” (Barton; cited in Pennel, 2018)


  1. New – One of the challenges of working in learning technology is keeping up with the speed of new technology, features and developments. As we all know, the world of technology can change quite rapidly and ensuring your staff and students are up to date with the new technology that is appropriate for your University can be daunting sometimes.


  1. Learning – It’s in the question so there is no doubt it has to be up here at the top! Everything revolves around this for HE institutions. Making learning successful for students and giving staff the best tools to facilitate learning and opportunities for their students is vital.


  1. Staff – This was the most popular response and for good reasons indeed. Most of the main challenges will involve staff in some way; this might involve managing technical support for teaching staff, collaborating with different teams or departments or even trying to increase staff adoption of a certain digital learning tool. Learning technology is there to support staff and to help enhance learning. Staff will always be essential for facilitating learning, making decisions and being key stakeholders in any digital learning process.


If you would like some tips on student engagement, please visit our blog site.



Biggins, D. (2018) The challenges of learning analytics and possible solutions, CEL Blog. Available at: https://microsites.bournemouth.ac.uk/cel/2018/05/14/the-challenges-of-learning-analytics-and-possible-solutions/ (Accessed: 5 November 2018).

‘Challenges in Implementing Edtech’ (2016) in The Future & Challenges of Education Technology. Toronto: Strategy Institute (6th Annual Summit on Education Technology Strategies). Available at: https://www.educationtechnologysummit.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/EdTech_ebook3.pdf (Accessed: 5 November 2018).

Killen, C., Beetham, H. and Knight, S. (2017) Developing organisational approaches to digital capability, Jisc. Available at: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/developing-organisational-approaches-to-digital-capability (Accessed: 5 November 2018).

Koskela, M. et al. (2005) ‘Suitability of a Virtual Learning Environment for Higher Education.’, Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 3(1), pp. 23–32.

Lynch, M. (2018) ‘How to Overcome 10 Digital Learning Challenges’, The Tech Edvocate, 12 May. Available at: https://www.thetechedvocate.org/how-to-overcome-10-digital-learning-challenges/ (Accessed: 5 November 2018).

Meetoo (no date) ‘The Benefits of Student Response Systems’.

Normand, C. and Littlejohn, A. (2006) Flexible delivery: A model for analysis and implementation of flexible programme delivery. Gloucester: Quality Assurance Agency.

Pennel, C. (2018) Digital Transformation in UK Higher Education:  How a Modern VLE Can Drive Change. London: IDC UK. Available at: https://www.canvasvle.co.uk/viewer/pdf/Digital-Transformation-in-UK-HE-White-Paper-IDC-Web.pdf (Accessed: 5 November 2018).

Teaching resources | Center for Teaching and Learning (no date). Available at: https://www.washington.edu/teaching/teaching-resources/ (Accessed: 5 November 2018).

Weller, M. (2007) Virtual Learning Environments: Using, Choosing and Developing your VLE. Oxford, UK: Routledge. Available at: http://www.routledge.com/shopping_cart/products/product_detail.asp?sku=&isbn=9780415414319&pc= (Accessed: 8 November 2018).



Ben Waugh is the Content Manager for the Meetoo App and graduated from the University of Southampton. He is a fanatic of the Creative Arts, be that journalism, art or music and he even composes film music in his spare time. @BenWaugh4 



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


Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Chief Executive Officer s Report November 2018

Dear Members

With so much going on across the ALT community this autumn, there is much to update you on.

I’d like to start by highlighting the changes to our governance which Members approved on at the AGM in September and as part of which we are now working to establish the new ALT Assembly.

Monthly webinars are running between now and February and everyone is welcome to drop by and find out more about the Assembly and how to get involved. We are also communicating with all Member Groups and Special Interest Groups individually as well as the groups that lead on research in ALT, such as the journal’s Editorial Board and Conference Committees.

Chaired by our President, Prof Martin Weller, the first full meeting of the Assembly will take place on 20 February and during ALT’s next Annual Conference in September 2019.

It was great to see so many Members actively participating in this year’s AGM and you can find the minutes, the full annual report and highlights summarised on the AGM page. Alongside voting on important governance decisions, Members also celebrated Prof Linda Creanor, who received Honorary Life Membership of ALT, Martin Hawksey, who became the first recipient of the Chair’s Award and all Certified Members who achieved CMALT accreditation this year.

There are so many highlights from this year’s, our 25th, Annual Conference, that I encourage you to revisit photos, blog posts and resources shared on the conference platform.

Coming up before the end of the year is the Online Winter Conference, which has established itself over the past 5 years as an important highlight for all Members and which remains free to attend and open to all. Members are invited to submit proposals for webinars, tweet chats, edit-a-thons or wildcard sessions, experimenting with new technologies and platforms whilst showcasing their work in Learning Technology.

In the run up to December we also have a varied cpd programme of webinars, which recently featured three researchers, Caroline Kuhn, Dominic Kimani and John Traxler who discussed their perspectives on a workshop that took place in Kenya in June of this year, funded and supported by the British Council Researcher Links programme. The workshop focus was the exploration of innovative and appropriate social science methodologies to develop learning technology systems and support for rural African communities (read more).

And we are looking forward to the next Open Access special collection of articles on Mobile Mixed Reality Enhanced Learning being published later this year in ALT’s journal, following the very successful collection on playful learning published earlier this year. The collection is being edited by Dr Thomas Cochrane, Centre for Learning And Teaching, Auckland University of Technology, Associate Professor Helen Farley, Digital Life Lab, University of Southern Queensland, Dr Vickel Narayan, Centre for Learning And Teaching, Auckland University of Technology and Dr Fiona Smart, Department of Learning and Teaching Enhancement, Edinburgh Napier University.

Alongside new research the #altc blog has seen a surge in submissions this year and the Editorial Team have started to include podcasts and videos in the content of blog, making this popular publication channel even more engaging for Members and the wider community of its readers.

Elsewhere, I have represented ALT at the FELTAG – 5 years on Symposium, highlighting the work of our Members and contributing the insights we have gathered through the Annual Survey and the work on accreditation pathways for Learning Technology professionals with the CMALT framework and its mapping to the Blended Learning Essentials courses.

I’d like to close my report by welcoming all the new Members who have joined ALT in recent months and also say thank you to all who have renewed their Membership, updated their CMALT accreditation and otherwise actively engaged with the work of the Association.

Your input helps ensure that we are on a strong footing for the next 25th years of leading professionalisation in Learning Technology.

Thank you.

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

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

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT