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ALT CoOL SIG Committee Elections: open call

05/02/24

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

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

Remit

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

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

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

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


Nominations for Officer roles

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

Chair / Co-Chair;

Vice chair;

Secretary;

Officer/s (Other)

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

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

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

Expressions of interest

Expressions of interest should include:

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

What does social media mean to me

31/01/24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What puts me off social media in general?

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

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend a platform to others?

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

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

Any tips, resources or advice for new explorers?

Get a feed eradicator on all your devices!

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

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

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

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

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

23/01/24

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

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

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

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

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

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

Antiracism a found-and-lost cause

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

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

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

Antiracism in HE

George Floyd, George Floyd, George Floyd! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18/01/24

by Jim Turner and Irina Niculescu

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

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

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

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

Questioning Mental Models

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

Integrating New Habits of Thinking

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Cork City in March

17/01/24

by Donna Lanclos

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

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

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

Undergraduate me, extremely enthusiastic.

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

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

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

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

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Generating inclusive images to represent students Animated Inclusive Personae Part 1

16/01/24

by Katie Stripe, Imperial College London.

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

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

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

Stock Photos

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

Representing ethnicity

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

Figure 1: Articulate 360 search ‘Black male student’

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

Figure 2: Shutterstock search ‘Black male student’

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

Representing gender

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 5: Medio.io AI generated images

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

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

Figure 6: AI Nero images from photographs

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

Online avatar creators

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

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

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

Figure 7: Bald crying man in disbelief

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

Figure 8: Get Avataaars images

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

Figure 9: Cartoonize images Bespoke images

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

References
Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

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

15/01/24

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

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

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

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

  • STEP 1 – RAISING AWARENESS
  • STEP 2 – REMEDIAL CHANGE

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

Two additional activities were included:

  • Building Momentum
  • Pledge for Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hearing those stories, participants felt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflection & Committment Activity

Two additional activities were included in the workshop:

  1. Building Momentum
  2. Pledge for Change

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

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

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

Moving forward

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

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

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

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

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

OER 2022: Not me not mine not myself

12/01/24

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

“Leaflet” by Liam Costello CC BY 4.0

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

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

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

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

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

(Holmes, 2020)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

Koseoglu, S. & Bali, M. (2016) The Self as an Open Educational Resource (2016)
Presentation at the OER 2016 conference. https://www.slideshare.net/edp05mab/self-as-
oer-selfoer-oer16

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

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

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

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

05/01/24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example using Chat GPT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

FE practitioners can get involved by:


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

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

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Third-space reflections on how we channel the explosion of generative AI into respectful active learning communities

19/12/23
Author bios

Dr Catherine Elkin, Experiential Learning Tutor, Rise, Centre for Learning Enhancement and Educational Development (LEED), Man Met Uni.

Leanne Fitton, Senior Digital Education Specialist, Senior Fellow AdvanceHE, Digital Education Team, Centre for Learning Enhancement and Educational Development (LEED), Man Met Uni

Dr Chris Little, Senior Lecturer in Academic Development, Senior Fellow AdvanceHE, Certified Member of ALT (CMALT), University, Teaching Academy, Centre for Learning Enhancement and Educational Development, Man Met Uni.

Introduction

Manchester Met has put showcasing and getting the most out of its transformational active learning community front and centre of its institutional Education Strategy and roadmap to 2030. As such, the university wanted to find the most appropriate path through the emergence of Generative AI platforms, balancing innovation alongside core values of inclusion, equity and fairness. This short blog post offers short reflections from three colleagues, all based in Manchester Met’s Centre for Learning Enhancement and Educational Development (LEED), in three different roles – an academic developer (Chris), a digital education specialist (Leanne) and an experiential learning tutor (Catherine). 

This piece charts the timeline of our support internally for staff and students, moving from the early days of fielding staff anxiety around the emergence of Generative AI, developing a university position, supporting early experimentation with different forms of Generative AI and finally supporting and understanding students use of it.

At the beginning of the Generative AI and the ChatGPT explosion, Chris and Leanne found themselves offering staff-facing ‘Let’s talk about Generative AI’ sessions, fielding questions about this contentious issue, jointly offering a digital education and academic development perspective on this issue. These webinars began in March 2023 and continue to this day, to give a broad overview of the technology and to provide a space for colleagues to ask questions and to highlight areas that any upcoming policy/institutional position might need to focus on. 

Reflection #1 – How could this ever be part of an equitable, respectful and active learning community? An academic developer’s reflection

“When the ‘Let’s talk’ sessions began, anxiety across the HE sector was high, with, sadly, a lot of focus on the potential for students to cheat with Gen AI and many early workshops were dominated by these questions. I found this position of distrust to be emotionally taxing as we know that the overwhelming majority of students do not cheat, and even fewer do it with intent. Here, this focus on student misconduct painted a picture of the HE sector that I did not want to acknowledge was true or that I belonged to. Added to this were various concerns about ethical use of such tools, and the tools themselves, and the implications for GDPR. This meant that, before we had an institutionally and equitably available platform, I worried that the barriers to access and upskilling required for staff and students, plus this overwhelming starting position of distrust, meant that this could never be a meaningful part of any respectful and active learning community. There were voices of positivity and trust, but often in the minority – much in the way many sector-wide open events played out in our experience. Additionally, it was hard to field questions and generate enthusiasm for tools that were paywalled and caused such ethical and data protection concerns. As such we had to frame much of our early workshops around understanding uses and barriers to equitable use but essentially discouraging use with students while these access concerns existed”.

The levels of engagement with the Let’s Talk Sessions was comparable to the demand seen during the pandemic. Having found that the conversations were often focussed on ChatGPT, we wanted to provide a safe space for colleagues to explore the capabilities and limitations of other AI tools, which led to the development of a series of ‘Let’s Explore’ workshops.

Reflection #2 Leanne – What can we do to provide safe spaces to explore an ever-changing landscape of AI tools, enabling academic colleagues to figure out how they fit into our active learning community? A digital education specialist’s perspective

“Given the issues already discussed about equitable access to tools, we decided to focus the Let’s Explore sessions on AI functionality that was already available in institutional software. We started by exploring the AI functionalities with Office 365, looking at the potential for tools such as PowerPoint Presenter Coach, Word Editor, Read Aloud and Transcribe. These well-established tools have clearly defined functionality, offering an opportunity for participants to build their confidence in having conversations about AI. When Bing Chat was made available within the institution at the start of 2023/24, we were able to explore the use of AI for generating text and images. Outside of Office 365, AI can be found integrated into a range of tools that we used at the university, such as in our Apps for Teaching and Learning. The sessions were developed to be flexible, to allow for them to be adapted as new tools emerged. Run as an online workshop, each session starts with an introductory explanation and demonstration of the tool, followed by a hands-on activity and concludes with a reflective discussion. We found that where we used breakout rooms for the hands-on activity, we were able to have a richer reflective discussion, highlighting the value of peer support when exploring AI tools. During the discussion, perspectives on potential opportunities and challenges that the different tools bring were based on the participants’ own experiences of using the tools, allowing for a more nuanced conversation. However, this was still tricky to manage at times due to the wide ranging and complex issues, so it was helpful to be able to signpost to the Let’s Talk sessions for detailed discussions.”

Participants of the workshops regularly asked about approaches to talking to students about AI. To find out more about this, Catherine and Leanne ran a series of extended curricular workshops to explore different ways of engaging with students on the topic.

Reflection #3 Catherine How can we initiate a meaningful dialogue with students to collaboratively shape the role of AI within active learning communities? Moreover, how can we uncover the subtle ways in which these tools have already integrated into our students’ everyday experiences?

“The rise of Generative AI platforms like ChatGPT has sparked a range of reactions, from optimism about their potential to streamline tasks to concerns about potential plagiarism among students. Amidst the growing discourse on the potential pitfalls of widespread use for academic dishonesty, it became apparent that rather than making assumptions about their actions, a more impactful strategy would involve opening a dialogue with students about this technology.

In collaboration with my colleague, Leanne, we developed a series of workshops designed to foster a meaningful conversation with students about these advancements. Our approach began with encouraging students to reflect on the incorporation of AI tools in everyday software, such as Microsoft PowerPoint. Gradually, we shifted towards explicit discussions on large language models like Chat GPT, exploring both practical applications and ethical considerations in their use.

To prompt a collaborative and reflective learning experience, we also presented students with scenarios involving Generative AI, encouraging them to consider responsible usage and share their own experiences. Surprisingly, the dialogue revealed that many students viewed these tools as aids for social interaction. This not only shed light on alternative perspectives beyond the concern of academic integrity, but also demonstrated how these technologies have become embedded into their active day-to-day learning and communication.”

Summary

The above reflections are a glimpse into the cultural change that has taken place and is still underway at Manchester Met University. The pattern of honest open discussions with staff, moving towards supported and scaffolded exploration of educational technology tools, finishing with positive and respectful awareness raising pieces with students is a good way of thinking about empowering others to use new educational innovations. 

We look forward to exploring this path and these reflections, as well as the lessons learnt, in a webinar for the Active Learning SIG in Spring 2024 [Date to be confirmed] and we hope you will join us then.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

How I transformed from CMALT to Senior CMALT in less than 2 years

15/12/23

by Puiyin Wong, Trustee of ALT, PhD candidate at Lancaster University and Digital Learning Producer, CSM at University of Arts London

Hello, I am Puiyin and my first day working in learning technology was Monday 19 August 2019. The significance of this date isn’t the date itself, but how recent it is. That’s right, I have only been working in this field for a little over 4 years and this month I have achieved my Senior CMALT. The purpose of this blog post is to reflect on my journey from gaining my CMALT in February 2022 to less than 2 years later, achieving my Senior CMALT. I hope this can inspire you to feel that if I could do it, so can you.

First things first, what is the difference between a CMALT and a Senior CMALT? To put it simply, a CMALT is about your own learning technology practice, your understanding and commitments to various aspects in this field. It’s about you as a learning technology professional. Senior CMALT expects you to showcase the same elements of your practice, but via the impact from your institutional and/or sectoral leadership. So, it’s still about you, but it’s about how you have inspired, supported, encouraged and led other people in learning technology.

I first had the idea of doing the CMALT in early 2021 when I was working on my Senior Fellowship (SFHEA) with Advance HE. My reason for doing my SFHEA was simple; I wanted to reflect on my almost 20 years worth of experience working in HE. As I was writing my SHFEA application, I realised a lot of what I have been doing, even before I became a learning technology professional, was around digital learning and digital spaces. This gave me confidence, despite still being a baby in learning technology, I had more than enough for a decent CMALT portfolio.

The feedback from my CMALT assessors was very complimentary and that was what gave me the idea to dream big. Maybe I could start thinking about what’s next! I was a learning technologist at the Royal College of Art when I first decided I wanted to try for Senior CMALT. I nervously went to my boss Emma Bayne and asked if I could have some money to apply for Senior CMALT. I fully expected to have to explain to her in great detail why I wanted to do it or worse be told I wasn’t ready for it. Emma only asked me one question – “Will it benefit you?”, to which I said hesitantly, “I think so?”.

I went for it without knowing exactly what my leadership impact is, but as I started collecting evidence and writing my reflection, I began to see a lot of the little things I have done in the last 2 – 3 years are impactful leadership. For example, the occasional well attended conference presentations, the #EdTechOutlaws community of practice I co-founded with Abbi Shaw from UCL, my #TELresearchers webinars series originated from Lancaster University where I co-host with John Brindle. Let’s not forget my everyday, mundane business as usual projects that range from curriculum development to leading a Moodle audit to writing a business case for a new platform. As I started reflecting on what I have done, why I have done them, how I have done them and who benefited from my work, I soon realised I am a leader in the sector. It is worth saying, if you are a senior manager, it might be easier for you to achieve Senior CMALT, but it’s not a given. Being a leader and being a manager are two very different things; a good manager is often also a good leader, but a good leader doesn’t have to be a manager of any kind. The key is to critically and sometimes forensically examine what you have done to date. Below are some of the questions I have asked myself when putting together my Senior CMALT portfolio:

  • What am I most passionate about in my professional practice?
  • What tasks or projects in the past have excited me that I still talk about now?
  • What have I done that I am most proud of?
  • What are the projects or initiatives I have been involved in that have affected a number of people?
  • What can I talk about with conviction and confidence that can be backed up with evidence?

As soon as you are able to start identifying these little nuggets of gold in your practice, you will soon realise, you are more of a leader than you give yourself credit for.

For me, I am most passionate about sharing knowledge and experiences with my peers in the community. This passion is what has always driven me to present at conferences, start a community of practice, host a webinar series and so on. I expect nothing in return when I do these things, but because these are shared interests with my peers, the byproduct of my passion is my accidental sectoral leadership.

Of course, not everything in my Senior CMALT portfolio is about my extracurricular activities, I have also been involved in a number of key strategic projects in my learning technology roles. I am deliberately not using the word “lead” here, because you don’t have to be the project lead to have an impact in a project that you are involved in. For example, in my current role as the Digital Learning Producer at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, I was tasked to develop our brand new low residency MA Communicating Complexity with the Course Leader – Laura Knight. Is that something I would have woken up one day and go like, yap I will do that? Absolutely not. Am I the leader in this curriculum development project? Not exactly. However, my contribution that has led to the successful launch of the course and the early positive student feedback are classic examples of impactful leadership. Particularly, as this course is in response to our strategic plan to offer more low residency courses. Most things that are in response to an institutional wide strategy can be leadership examples.

I hope my little rambling here has given you some confidence that you too, can be a leader and can achieve your Senior CMALT. You just need to look deeper into your practice and reflect on your contribution to every little thing you have done. Be loud and be proud of your achievements in your Senior CMALT portfolios.

It’s very early days to know how the actual accreditation of Senior CMALT will benefit my professional development. However, the act of writing my portfolio and having a dedicated space to critically reflect on my practice has already led to measurable benefits. I have realised whilst I enjoy rolling my sleeves up and working as a “frontline” learning technologist/learning designer, my real passion lies in working with colleagues to examine and reflect on their achievements. I enjoy designing workshops, frameworks, contributing to policies that can help colleagues to realise they are more than they give themselves credits for. I am certain this actualisation is what drove me to explore a slight career change. As I embark on my new adventure in 2024 as the new Innovation & Scholarship Manager at the Queen Mary Academy, Queen Mary University of London, I will look back at my experience of writing my Senior CMALT fondly.

To conclude this blog post, I can say with 100% certainty, I would never have achieved any of this without the supportive leaders and colleagues in my professional life. This is why this post is full of names. It all began with Matt Lingard who gave me a chance in 2019 when I most needed it. In the four and a bit years that followed, the leaders who have supported and inspired me without ever asking for anything in return include Dr Julie Voce, Dr Martin Compton, Prof. Simon Thomson, Dr Mark Childs, Satanu Vasant, Regina Everitt, Dave Bracegirdle, Dave White, Dr Maren Deepwell and Lorna Campbell. I am pretty sure I have forgotten some names and will no doubt get into trouble. However, I want to show you this is a community full of love and unconditional support, all you need to do is reach out and ask. So, this is my open invitation to you, if you want to talk about your Senior CMALT portfolios or more generally exploring your leadership impact, my door is always open. All you have to do is make your first step and the rest will follow.

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

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

This house believes that Education has control of the technology policy and processes being used Part 2 of 2

15/12/23

The second part of the report on the live debate on (learning) technologies and Artificial Intelligence (AI) hosted by the ALT East England (ALT EE).

by Uwe Richter, Neil Dixon (Anglia Ruskin University), Rob Howe (University of Northampton)

This blog post concludes the debate to discuss the rapid pace of AI and related technologies and the extent to which institutions were still in control. 

This post concludes the question is AI a gift?, and discusses keeping up to date with professional development and reports on the final vote on whether education has control over technology. 

In the first blog post, the panel discussed is AI a curse?, with possible issues such as copyright, lack of AI explainability and possible bias. AI could also be interpreted as a gift. Many recent AI releases appeal to those who are time poor, and/or need additional assistance. The freemium model which allows free limited access to user-friendly functionality has encouraged millions of sign-ups. These users will view the systems as a gift to assist with work which may have taken time and effort to create. The integration in core productivity suites such as Microsoft 365 (such as Microsoft Co-Pilot) means that some functionality will be available without any further cost or sign-up. Students will use these tools with assignments set by institutions; researchers will use them to analyse data or conduct literature reviews; academic staff will use them to create new teaching resources; senior and professional staff will use them to create or summarise long documents. 

Finally, the two groups considered how we keep up with training/continuous professional training (CPD) as new policies or procedures are implemented. Staff and students do need to learn how to use technology to be digitally literate.  Otherwise, the risks are that technology is poorly used or misused(e.g., it was noted that there is a need to enhance AI digital literacy). There are many issues concerning the training and CPD around Chat GPT. It was noted that GDPR restrictions have meant that technology has been limited in certain countries. This encourages people to find and use the technology themselves rather than adopting solutions within the university.

Another challenge is that academics do not always have time for safe spaces to test these technologies. Although the training may be available, staff do not always have the time to prioritise this level of training.

However, education needs small groups of people who can go out and experiment, who are the innovators, testers and early adopters of new technologies. We need this group in every institution to  figure out how to use new tools. 

“if you’ve got a question, come and see us, come and talk to us. We’ll help you understand that technology. I think you need that small group in every university. That’s the best starting point. It’s ‘cause you always gonna have you always find those people [who] are interested in it” (Panel member)

Additionally, universities can customise some AI tools around their own rules. Technology evolves and universities need to invest more in their technological infrastructure such as data processing, so we can keep up. An example of data processing and categorisation is Named Entity Recognition which 

is a form of natural language processing (NLP) that involves extracting and identifying essential information from text. The information that is extracted and categorised is called entity […] NER essentially extracts and categorises the detected entity into a predetermined category (Turing, 2023). 

Modern AI uses complex algorithms to process and make sense of data. As universities generate more and more data, AI is increasingly required to make effective use of the data.

A final poll from the session indicated that participants felt that institutions had lost control of policies and processes due to the rapid pace of change during 2023. Teams are moving rapidly to put interventions in place which will impact forthcoming developments (these include upskilling staff and students on AI digital capability, and remodelling the assessment process to ensure academic integrity is maintained). As technology development rapidly accelerates, it remains to be seen whether institutions manage to catch up or whether new technology challenges will ensure that they are elusively out of reach.

ALT EE would like to thank all the debate panel members, both staff and students, and the debate moderator Michael Webb for making the event happen and their engaging discussions. 

References

Turing (2023). A Comprehensive Guide to Named Entity Recognition (NER). Available at: https://www.turing.com/kb/a-comprehensive-guide-to-named-entity-recognition (Accessed 17 October 2023)

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

This house believes that Education has control of the technology policy and processes being used Part 1 of 2

08/12/23

Report on the live debate on (learning) technologies and Artificial Intelligence (AI) hosted by the ALT East England.

by Uwe Richter, Neil Dixon (Anglia Ruskin University), Rob Howe (University of Northampton)

A panel of academic staff, professional service staff, sector experts, and students met on 21st June 2023 to discuss the rapid pace of AI and related technologies and the extent to which institutions were still in control.

This is the first part of the blog post, which reports on the panel’s responses to the questions have we lost control, is AI different from other technologies, and is AI a curse?. 

The second part will discuss is AI a gift?, reports on keeping up to date with professional development and the final vote on whether education has control.

Debate moderated by Michael Webb (Director of Technology and Analytics) from the Jisc National Centre for Artificial Intelligence. The debate panel was :

FOR:

Dr Lee Machado (Professor of Molecular Medicine at Northampton)

Jatin Arora (Head of the Student AI Society at Northampton)

Prof. Simon Walker (Eden Centre, LSE )

Nirvana Yarger (ARU student studying MA Education with Montessori)

AGAINST:

Karl Downing (Digital Development Lead – IT Services at Northampton)

Dr Andrew Cox (Senior Lecturer, University of Sheffield) 

Dr Shaun Le Boutillier (Assessment and Feedback Practice Lead, ARU) 

Randall Lister (ARU student studying MA Education)

The discussion started with considering if universities have control over the technology they use. The FOR group felt that they do have control over the technology used but it takes time to catch up with some technological changes. Universities are long-standing institutions which have always adapted to new technological, economic and societal changes. To help with retaining control, there are several areas universities need to address. The first is how and where students can use their own technology, the second is developing standards that need to be followed, and finally the issue of academic integrity and assessment. For example, “for doing some really kind of proper work with students, which might include helping them with an ethical framework to interpret what they’re getting from AI, and of course understanding how the discipline will be involved in all of that” (Panel member). They concluded that change will take time, and universities need to adapt and possibly streamline their processes to gain or maintain control of the technology. 

The AGAINST group argued that institutions have lost control of the technology. There are factors which indicate that technology is beyond the control of universities. Firstly, we are experiencing emotions like confusion and helplessness, an immediate reaction which indicates that we have lost control. Secondly, we cannot say no to technology and do not have a choice in its use, therefore we are not in control. Technologies are “influencing what information we get and how we use it and maybe ChatGPT just alerts us even more strongly to that” (Panel member).

Technology advances such as translation and transcription services have been introduced over the years and have been improved, but these are not always sufficient for educational purposes. However, the group felt we seem to have lost control over plagiarism detection as this is currently insufficiently accurate and will become more so over time. 

Both groups then considered whether AI was different from other technologies – feeling that on balance it probably was. Artificial Intelligence such as chatbots seems to be easier to subvert and be influenced as a whole to regurgitate inappropriate content, whereas for traditional web technologies, it was easier to limit the distribution of this content. An example is Wikipedia, where we had more autonomy and editorial control over the content. On the other hand, personalisation is seen as a benefit of AI. This can be used to enhance education. For example, exams and teaching content can be more personalised, reducing standardisation. AI has made this a lot easier to achieve.

The panel then moved on to consider whether AI is a gift or curse.

“Generative AI poses substantial challenges to education, not least to assessment, but it also provides opportunities for supporting learners and learning. Unsurprisingly it has also acted as a stimulus for the education sector to examine all aspects of what and how it teaches and to reevaluate assessment practices, things that have remained largely static for a very long time”  Heidi Fraser-Krauss, chief executive officer, Jisc (Webb et al, 2023)

Whilst there is often a black-and-white discussion around AI, the answers are actually more nuanced. During 2023, there has been a proliferation of AI tools – some of which require a separate sign-up whilst others are integrated into existing products such as Microsoft 365. Most of these will have been developed based on certain datasets and have particular programming biases. The ‘black box’ (systems are developed that are not explainable) nature of some of these tools mean that they produce an output based on what information and questions are asked of them. The output may seem very realistic and valid but may contain biases based on the AI systems training data set. In some cases, the output could just be a hallucination (factual errors presented as truth) of the AI system. If these are not detected or checked by a human, they may be interpreted as real instead of fabricated by the system. If left unchecked these inaccuracies may become part of new information and then be referenced as a fact. In this respect, AI could be seen as a curse which has the potential to undermine existing knowledge sources and the credibility of anyone who relies on this information. Furthermore, many of the established AI companies such as Microsoft, Google and OpenAI are very protective of what data is aggregated within their systems and how it will be used. This leads to the possibility of unintentional data breaches where information submitted for one purpose may be shared in a way which was not intended or approved. Current discussions around copyright and intellectual property of the output created are also dominating, as material aggregated by AI systems may be repurposed for new outputs without any clarity about the original owner.

ALT EE would like to thank all the debate panel members, both staff and students, and the debate moderator Michael Webb for making the event happen and their engaging discussions. The second part will be available next Friday, 15 December.

References

Webb, M., Attewell, S., Moule, T., Nicholson, H. and Fraz, A., (2023). Artificial intelligence (AI) in tertiary education. (3rd ed). Jisc. Available at: https://beta.jisc.ac.uk/reports/artificial-intelligence-in-tertiary-education (Accessed 17 October 2023)

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Call for Officers for ALT s Active Learning SIG Organising Committee

04/12/23

The ALT Active Learning Special Interest Group was established in July 2020.  The AL SIG provides a platform for sharing practice across, primary, post primary, further and higher education sectors to learn what has worked and most importantly what hasn’t to give our staff and students the confidence and expertise to use apps appropriately, effectively and to also build their digital capabilities.

Remit
  • To support colleagues from UK and Ireland (and wider) across sectors in Primary, Post Primary, Further Education and Higher Education to appropriately adopt apps and emerging technologies into their practice that facilitate active learning pedagogies in face-to-face, blended and fully online delivery modes.
  • To explore the pedagogic affordances of apps in all learning environments as well as the barriers and opportunities for collaborative partnership in new, unexpected and remote online learning situations.
  • To increase colleague awareness of data protection regarding Apps and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) practice.
  • To support the adoption of appropriate apps through learning design and scaffolding student digital capabilities. Incorporating collaborative and inclusive practice as well as facilitating innovations in assessment design that help build and foster digital capabilities of students and staff.
  • To provide a platform for sharing and learning from excellent practice across the education sectors.
  • Our current priorities and ideas for 2023/2024 include continuing with our webinar series and blog. The new Officers can help us shape ALT ALSIG’s activities going forward.
Nominations for Officer roles

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

  • Chair;
  • Vice chair;
  • Secretary;
    • Officer/s (HE)
    • Officer/s (FE)
    • Officer/s (Primary)
    • Officer/s (Post-Primary)
    • Officer/s (Professional training)
    • Officer/s (Other)

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

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

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

Expressions of interest

Expressions of interest should include:

  • A statement of interest, experience and envisaged contribution in relation to the Role of the Organising Committee as outlined in the Constitution, and willingness/ability to attend ALT AL SIG OC meetings. Maximum 200 words.
  • Proof of ALT membership (individual or institutional).

Submit expressions of interest to the form by 12:00 noon GMT 3 January 2024.

Express an interest in a role in ALT ALSIG Timetable
  • Call opens 4 December 2023.
  • Deadline 12:00 noon GMT 3 January 2024.
  • Voting process will take place in January 2024.
  • Votes will be invited from Group Officers and Membership.
  • February 2024 – April 2024 new officers take up posts. Members of the Organising Committee will be available to mentor and support new officers between February and April 2024.
Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

10 top tips for including immersive learning into your classroom

04/12/23

Written by the Metaverse team

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

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

There is no doubt that using immersive learning such as Virtual Reality (VR)**, Virtual Environments (VE)** and Augmented Reality (AR)** engages learners in active, experiential learning. The benefits in creating critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and a deeper understanding of subject matter are long proven, but how do you get started? And how can you successfully integrate immersive learning into your classroom?

With over 25 years of experience in education and technology, the Metaverse Learning team understands the challenges FE practitioners face when integrating immersive learning technology into the curriculum.   

We’ve spoken with practitioners who use our programs daily and collated our Top 10 Tips for educators for successfully including immersive learning techniques into your teaching practices. 

1. Define clear learning objectives

Before diving into immersive experiences, outline specific learning objectives. To do this, identify what you want learners to gain from these activities and how they align with your curriculum. Clear goals will ensure that the immersive learning experiences are purposeful.

Putting the learner at the heart of the immersive learning experience will ensure that you are finding the right technology and content to enhance their learning journey.

2. Choose the right technology

Select technology that suits your curriculum and resources.

When considering hardware, you don’t necessarily need lots of expensive headsets to get started. Using content based in virtual environments can give learners an immersive experience and place them in a realistic, work-based simulated environment via a laptop or tablet as an alternative.

Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), simulations, and 360-degree videos are all options to consider as part of the immersive learning experience. Choose technology that will enhance, not detract from the learning experience. 

3. Start small and gradually scale up

Embracing immersive learning doesn’t mean a complete overhaul of your teaching methods overnight. Begin with small, manageable class projects and gradually increase complexity. This approach allows you to evaluate the effectiveness of each experience and make necessary adjustments.

4. Encourage collaboration, blended learning, and interaction

Immersive learning isn’t just about the technology platform that you use. It’s also about creating or choosing the right content, fitting your curriculum, and learning objectives. 

Collaboration is essential for creating new content. Work with experts and peers to design and develop the content that fits your learners needs.

Look at ways to incorporate elements of immersive learning to complement other delivery techniques to create a blended learning experience. 

To support your learners, encourage them to use the immersive experience to collaborate, discuss, and problem-solve together, enhancing their understanding and developing their teamwork and communication skills.

5. Connect theory with real-world scenarios

Immersive experiences should mirror real-world situations to make learning relevant and practical.

Using content that incorporates case studies, simulations, and scenarios that learners are likely to encounter in a potential job role will enhance the value of the learning experience.

It gives them the opportunity to make mistakes without real-world consequences, practise their skills in a safe environment and understand what industry will require of them in a future career.

6. Provide clear instructions and guidelines

While the allure of immersive learning can captivate learners, it’s essential to provide clear instructions and guidelines. 

Ensure learners understand the purpose of the activity, how to navigate the technology, and the expected outcomes. This clarity minimises confusion and frustration.

7. Encourage reflection and discussion

Immersive learning doesn’t end when the experience finishes. Allocate time for reflection and discussion after each activity. Ask learners to share their insights, challenges, and how the experience changed their perspective. This reflective process reinforces learning and critical thinking.

It may also provide you with insights on the content that you are using and how it can be improved. Always remember to share feedback with your development partner or the company that provided your content. 

8. Accessibility for all learners

Consider the diverse needs of your learners. Ensure that the immersive experiences are accessible to everyone. Choose technology and content that is adaptable to various learning styles and abilities.

Ensure that learners have the time and space to complete their immersive learning experience, and that they have time to revisit learning to correct mistakes and solidify their understanding of the subject matter.

This technology can be accessible 24/7 and can really benefit learners with special educational needs, when they can access content to learn at a time that is right for them.

9. Embrace Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

Immersive learning technologies are ever evolving, and you can stay updated on the latest trends, tools, and best practices through continuous professional development. Attend workshops, conferences, and online courses to enhance your skills and knowledge.

Talk to your content or technology provider about any CPD workshops or staff training they can provide to support you as you start integrating immersive learning into your classroom.

10. Assess and Evaluate

Just like traditional learning methods it is important to assess the effectiveness of immersive experiences. Develop assessment criteria that measure both the learning outcomes and the impact of the immersive activities on student engagement and understanding and share these reflections with your peers so you can all learn and develop ways to use the resources in an effective way.

As the FE educational landscape continues to evolve, embracing immersive learning will empower learners to become active participants in their education and prepare them for the dynamic challenges of the future.

At Metaverse Learning, we have seen the benefits of immersive learning, with learners reporting increased confidence in their subject area and educators reporting increased engagement and retention in their courses overall.

To find out more about Metaverse Learning programs or to talk to us about creating new content for your curriculum visit: www.metaverselearning.co.uk

About Metaverse Learning 

Metaverse Learning is a global leader in the transformation of education, learning and assessment using Extended Reality (ER) including Virtual Reality (VR), Virtual Environments (VE) and Augmented Reality (AR). 

We convene industry partners to co-create sector specific learning content which develops learner skills and propels them in their chosen careers. 

Our programs are used by educators, trainers, and employers across the globe as part of a blended learning approach. 

**VR, VE and AR definitions 

  • VR: primarily experienced through hardware such as headsets, it is a simulated immersive audio-visual interactive replica of a realistic environment for the learner to inhabit and engage with as they would in the real world
  • VE: delivers a similar immersive experience to virtual reality, operated using the keyboard/mouse on a tablet, mobile, pc or laptop, without the need for additional hardware
  • AR: uses the existing physical environment and when viewed through the camera of a mobile device or AR technology, overlays it with virtual objects and information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual and auditory
Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

CEO Report November 2023

23/11/23

Dear Members,

I hope the message earlier this year reached you but in case it didn’t, let me introduce myself. I am ALT’s Interim Chief Executive (CEO) and Chief Operations Officer (COO). I joined ALT in 2022 as COO having worked in learning technology roles for over a decade in Higher Education. As COO, my role has been to manage the day-to-day running of ALT and now, as Interim CEO, to work with Members, the Board of Trustees and external partners to deliver ALT’s Strategy. It is a responsibility I do not take lightly and, as we begin the process of finding new leadership for ALT, my focus is on delivering all of ALT’s strategic and operational plans. We have achieved a lot this year and there is only more to come!

Our next big event is our Winter Summit on ethics and artificial intelligence.

ALT’s Winter Summit on ethics and artificial intelligence

Our online Winter Summit on ethics and artificial intelligence on 12 December is fast approaching. Registration will close on Monday 11 December at noon GMT so don’t miss out!

We have a fantastic programme co-chaired by Natalie Lafferty and Sharon Flynn who were part of the development of ALT’s Framework for Ethical Learning Technology on which the conference focuses.

Speakers include Helen Beetham, Dr Tarsem Sungh Cooner, Dr Olatunde Durowoju, Mary Jacob and Sue Beckingham and Peter Harley and their student panel. Each speaker brings their own perspective to the topic of ethics and artificial intelligence and it is set to be a great event. I hope to see you there.

Looking back at ALT’s Annual Conference

It was a joy to see so many of you join us online and in-person at ALT’s Annual Conference at the University of Warwick in September. Our Annual Conference was extra special this year (not only because of the extraordinary heat) but also because we celebrated two big milestones in ALT’s history.

First, we said thank you and good luck to ALT’s CEO of over ten years, Dr Maren Deepwell at our AGM. Maren’s contribution to ALT has been immeasurable and hers are big shoes to fill. She remains with us as Strategic Lead for the AmplifyFE project and has been a huge support to me. We wish Maren every success with her new ventures.

Secondly, we celebrated ALT’s 30th year. Founded in 1993, ALT and the learning technology sector has changed a great deal. To celebrate, we had the Museum of ALT, ALTC radio, Jisc Afternoon Tea and Gala Dinner. In true celebratory style, we had a live 90s cover band.

The Gala Dinner included our Annual Awards which celebrate the work of our community and acknowledge individual and collective achievements. Congratulations to Johnny Lee, City’s Digital Education Team, Julie Voce, Hull College and University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering for their awards. Honorary Life Membership, which recognises those who have made an outstanding contribution to ALT and its aims, was awarded to Lorna Campbell. Read about our award winners.

For the first time ever, we live streamed and recorded (almost) every session at the conference. It was no mean feat and not without its teething problems but it was important to us to broaden access as much as we could. It also enables us to share more of the conference with the wider community. 132 sessions to be precise.

A huge thank you to Santanu Vasant and Lawrie Phipps, this year’s Co-Chairs, and the entire Conference Committee for their hard work and dedication. A special shout-out to those on the accessibility sub-group for their invaluable input and to Dom Pates for making #altc radio a reality.

If you were unable to attend this year or missed a session, watch them on our #ALTC23 YouTube playlist.

ALT’s Impact Report

Alongside the Annual Report and Annual Accounts launched at the 2023 AGM in September, ALT’s Impact Report 2023 provides important information for all our stakeholders, especially our Members, and shows how we make an impact as an independent charity, how we serve Members across sectors and how we contribute to the public good.

The report charts how ALT has evolved over the last year and also sets out what’s ahead.

ALT and SEDA’s 30th Birthday

It was not only ALT’s 30th Birthday but SEDA’s (Staff and Educational Development Association) too. We held a joint event with other sector bodies that explored what challenges Higher Education will face in the future. A blog post will be released in December reflecting on the event and we have more joint activities planned for next year.

Open Education Conference (OER) 2024

At the Annual Conference, we announced that next year’s OER conference would take place in Cork, Ireland at Munster Technological University thanks to our Co-chairs Dr Gearóid Ó Súilleabháin and Dr Tom Farrelly. We had a wonderful response, as ever, to join the conference committee and an incredible response to the Call for Papers. Our committee are now in the midst of peer reviewing the papers and registration will open shortly.

We are really looking forward to bringing OER back to Ireland for the first time since 2019. The Co-Chairs and Conference Committee have a lot of fun planned so I hope to see you there in March.

Find out more about OER24.

AmplifyFE

The #AmplifyFE team was busy last week presenting and meeting practitioners online and in-person at Ufi’s Week of VocTech. The week was a huge success and they launched their Insights Report 2023 which provides valuable insights into ‘What really works’ in vocational education.

What’s next?

We still have plenty to do this year with our remaining events, CMALT in-house pilot and course, development of the Framework for Ethical Learning Technologies and planning for next year.

We now look ahead to next year and plan our strategic and operational activities. There is a lot to look forward to and I am excited to get started.

Of course, we look forward to the festive break and the rest and company of family and friends. We wish our Members an enjoyable and restful break and Happy New Year.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Redefining Attendance Tracking in Education: The Journey of FizzyNewt

21/11/23

Written by Rob Treharne (Founder and Director – FizzyNewt)

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

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

In my journey as a university lecturer, I’ve encountered the cumbersome nature of traditional attendance management systems, filled with inefficiencies and unnecessary complexities. It’s a task that, while essential, often detracts from the essence of education. This realisation sparked a passion in me: there must be a better way. 

I am a big believer in empowering students to manage their attendance, fostering autonomy and responsibility in their educational journey. When students are given the tools and trust to self-report and monitor their attendance, it instils a sense of ownership over their learning experience.  

This not only enhances their engagement but encourages a proactive approach to their education, making them more aware of attendance’s impact on their academic progress. Furthermore, entrusting students with this responsibility cultivates essential life skills such as accountability, time management, and self-discipline, invaluable beyond the classroom. 

Enter FizzyNewt, a platform born out of a desire to transform attendance tracking from a tedious chore into a seamless experience. My Co-Founders, Andy (my brother), and Simon, launched our innovative solution to simplify the attendance process, eliminating the need for intricate hardware and cumbersome administrative tasks. Our aim is to give time back to educators and instil a sense of responsibility in students. 

We envision FizzyNewt as more than just an attendance management tool; it’s a platform that enhances the educational journey for both students and educators. With its intuitive design, students can easily report their attendance, fostering a sense of ownership over their educational journey. This shift in approach not only alleviates the administrative burden on educators but also redirects focus towards meaningful learning experiences. 

By intelligently analysing attendance data, FizzyNewt also serves as an early warning system, identifying students who may need additional support. This proactive approach ensures that no student falls through the cracks, contributing to their academic success and overall wellbeing. 

Finally, we have introduced a unique “micro-feedback” feature, allowing students to share their thoughts and feelings about their learning experiences in real-time. This immediate insight is invaluable for educators, providing a clearer understanding of student engagement and comprehension, and informing future teaching strategies. 

In my experience, it’s the small changes that make the most significant impact. FizzyNewt is a testament to that belief, transforming a mundane administrative task into an opportunity for empowerment and engagement. 

We are currently seeking partner institutions to help test the system and would like to invite you to join us on this journey. As a partner institution, you will have the opportunity to use the full application for free.  

This is a fantastic opportunity to evaluate the benefits of FizzyNewt for your institution and see how it can improve attendance reporting for your students, teachers, and administrators.  

For more information, get in touch with our Head of Partnerships simon.bell@fizzynewt.com 

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Lecture Capture in an AI-Enabled World

20/11/23

Author Dr Jim Turner Learning Technologist and Current Chair of ELESIG

Intro

Educational video policy is up for review, better see what’s new. Hold up!”. That was my internal monologue a few days ago when looking at that week’s jobs, one of which is to review our current policy. For years, lecture capture has been implemented at universities to increase access and flexibility for students. This routinely involves recording the live presentation of materials, slides, audio and lecturer.  Complex infrastructures have been built, expensive technology rollouts undertaken, and even more complex negotiations held over video policies. But with the rise of AI, we have to ask – is lecture capture still relevant? 

Lecture capture has helped make lectures available anytime, enabling flipped classrooms and broader access. Whether you were opt-in or opt-out or something else, institutions have utilised this flexible technology at scale to seemingly meet many external and internal pressures (Ibrahim, Howarth and Stone, 2021). But in a sense, lecture capture took a surface approach to educational technology. It digitised lectures, but didn’t fundamentally reimagine teaching and learning. While lecture capture provided some student benefits, it was arguably a sticking plaster solution. The deeper, more difficult work of leveraging this technology to truly transform pedagogy rarely happened. Change was incremental rather than revolutionary (Morris, Swinnerton and Coop, 2019).

Now with the rise of AI services, we are beginning to see new ways of creating learning focused videos. With the speed of development, any mention of a particular tool will become rapidly out of date. However, an interesting example is Synthesia, UCL start up company which achieved ‘unicorn’ status in June 2023. This system allows you to develop talking head video content driven through text. Yes, things are a little wooden, but as the current saying goes ‘this is the worst it is going to be’. It doesn’t take much imagination to think through what might be coming in the near future. So let’s indulge in a little speculation.

A little speculation

Ownership: during the past 10 years careful negotiations around performance rights have helped distinguish lecture recordings from say lecture slides. One, being owned by the ‘performer’ the other, just part of normal work. The script for AI video creation, I’m guessing, would probably fall into that second category. But the video image and audio might end up under licence. Synthesia have tried to make their rights and data protection clear in their terms and conditions. This may become more complex as companies try to monetise their technology. Resolving these issues will require new policies and legal frameworks. However, as I review my university’s educational video policy, I’m conscious that AI-generated video disrupts the status quo. 

Authenticity or efficiency: The mirror of AI content might help us identify the uniqueness of our own creative and quirky selves versus the current more ‘wooden’ AI self. Students might value the distinctive human qualities. However, taking a cue from Meyers research into video enabled learning perhaps there will be a more scientific data-drive and efficient learning process on offer. This also links with the ‘uncanny valley’ effect and the importance of developing trust between tutors and students, and a reduced sense of value in this type of media.

Rethink lecture capture’s role: This is a pivotal time as we rethink lecture capture’s role. Thoughtfully applied, AI-generated lectures provide scalability and access. But we must balance innovation with protecting what makes learning profound – the human connection between educators and students. If we keep sight of this core principle, then the AI revolution offers a chance to evolve into a new, human-centred era for teaching and learning.

Student experience: Students might have reached peak video consumption. This recent tiktoc shows how a student is trying to create their own efficient revision notes from transcripts of lecture videos run through ChatGPT. All of these stages are highly questionable, but it illustrates a frustration with learning from “boring lecture recordings” and balance other aspects of their life. For students, AI-generated lectures can increase flexibility even further. Videos could be customised to individual learning needs, with adjustable length and examples. Passively watching lectures, while sometimes necessary, is inherently less engaging than live participation.

Active learning: However, we have to consider the implications for student engagement and learning. Watching a video, no matter how slickly produced, is inherently more passive than participating in an interactive live lecture. There are concerns students may retain less and feel less connected to instructors and fellow students. Does this now open up more possibilities for video assessment, student-generated content, and open course resources to support learning beyond the institution.

Is video just too static: Except for very specific cases, such as demonstrations, will the AI assistant, possibly enhanced through visual avatars, just mean the talking head video is replaced with the AI talking head. This is probably a little further off, I think, he says tentatively, but at the very least it offers some level of interaction beyond play/rewind.

Conclusion

So just as AI has changed our relationship with text, we now have to address its impact on video creation. But was lecture capture technology always a bit of a lazy answer to a deeper, more purposeful use of technology that complex institutions couldn’t achieve at scale? Perhaps it’s time to go back to first principles. My view is a balanced model combining the best of both approaches is ideal. Use AI for foundational concepts, freeing up resources for human-centred sessions focused on discussion, problem-solving and collaboration. While AI-generated videos offer many benefits in terms of flexibility, cost and scalability, challenges remain. As with any technology, it is not a magic solution. Thoughtful integration and policies around rights, ownership and student experience will be needed to successfully leverage AI video in education. “Right blog over, must get back to that policy”

References

Ibrahim, Y., Howarth, A. and Stone, I. (2021) ‘Lecture Capture Policies: A Survey of British Universities’, Postdigital Science and Education, 3(1), pp. 144–161. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-020-00102-x.

Morris, N.P., Swinnerton, B. and Coop, T. (2019) ‘Lecture recordings to support learning: A contested space between students and teachers’, Computers & Education, 140, p. 103604. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2019.103604.

Authors: 

Dr Jim Turner Learning Technologist (LJMU) and Current Chair of ELESIG

Alex Spiers, Build and Visual Design Manager, King’s College London 

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Looking backwards 2022- 2023 and looking forwards 2023-2024

14/11/23

Written by ALT South

Now we’re fast approaching the end of the Autumn term, it seems a good time to take a breath and to take stock of where we have been, and where we’re heading as an ALT special interest group.

Amongst other things, ALT South’s remit is to support the activities of ALT Members in the South East and the South West in line with ALT’s strategic aims.  Restricting our reach with geographical boundaries when we live in a virtual world seemed a little odd, so we welcome anyone to our community and talks – the more the merrier! We are an informal, supportive community which comes together to explore issues and best practice in our day-to-day working lives. It’s a safe space to find knowledgeable colleagues to run your ideas by and vent your frustrations with, and an interested, kind audience to which to present your work.

Primarily, we run Tech Thursdays, a series of presentations and discussions based around a yearly theme usually on the last Thursday of a month. Last year’s theme of Assessment: Innovation and Inclusion was very well received, with a talk on AI, Chat GPT and assessment including an introduction to GRAIDE from Dr. Manjinder Kainth, garnering an audience of 130 people and over 328 views on our youtube channel. Over the year, representatives from over 40 different institutions worldwide attended one or more Tech Thursdays.  

Our 2023-2024 theme is ‘Humanising Learning Technology’. We’re exploring how learning technology can be given a more human touch, encouraging engagement and minimising learner isolation, as well as the role emotions play in online learning. We’ll be considering online student friendships and top tips for engaging online learners amongst other subjects. 

New for 2023-2024 we’re also running two projects – a systematic review with Manish Malik (Canterbury Christ Church University) and Lucinda Bromfield (BPP University) is compiling an open access toolkit of engagement techniques for online learning. The resource will be published on the National Teaching Repository and all contributions will be appropriately credited.

If you’re interested in getting involved with the systematic review (subject to be determined depending on participant interests), please email e.rigby@henley.ac.uk.

If you’d like to contribute (and receive the credit for your contribution) to The Big Open Resource of Engagement Techniques for Online Learning, please fill in this form or use the QR code below.

Don’t forget to include your job title, email and institution so we can credit you appropriately. Contributors will get to see a copy of the resource before it goes live to check their entries.

Get in touch with us:

Web: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/groups/alt-south/#gref 

Join us on: https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/wa.exe?A0=ALTSOUTH 

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Celebrating ALT s Trustees for #TrusteesWeek

10/11/23

It is Trustee’s Week, 6-10 November, and here at ALT we are celebrating the invaluable work of our Trustees, past and present. ALT’s Trustees set ALT’s direction, and are responsible for ALT’s strategy, and for the overall performance of the Association.

Trustees are an integral part of ALT’s governance and we celebrate them this week and thank them for all they contribute to ALT.

Meet some of our current Trustees and learn what being a Trustee means to them.

Meet David Hopkins

David is the UK Director of Content Services for LearningMate.

How long have you been a Trustee at ALT?

I joined ALT at the beginning of my career as a Learning Technologist in 2007. From attending events and conversing with ALT members on LinkedIn and Twitter over the years I’ve taken a more active involvement, achieving my CMALT in 2013 and joining the group of CMALT assessors simultaneously. Being a committee member for several ALTC annual conferences over the years gave me an insight into the activities behind the scenes and, in 2022 I chose to put myself forward for the post of ALT Trustee and, alongside Puiyin Wong, joined the Board after the membership vote.

What made you become a Trustee?

Having an opportunity to take so much from ALT and the ALT membership over the years through conversations, meetings, tweets, etc has always meant I want to be able to give something back to the organisation and community, and becoming a Trustee was a logical next step for me.

What does being a Trustee mean to you?

A huge amount of trust has been put in me by the ALT community, to help guide their representative organisation, and this is something I take seriously. My activity with and through ALT over the years has enabled me to develop skills and knowledge, about myself and my capabilities, the roles I have had, and those I have worked with. Becoming a Trustee is a different direction but ultimately one that is enabling me to learn new things.

What have you learned about being a Trustee?

It’s still quite early days for me as an ALT Trustee, so I am still learning. I will say that I am very impressed with the governance that ALT operates, and have enjoyed the regular conversations the Trustees have.

What have you gained personally, if anything, from your experience as a Trustee?

I have gained quite a lot from being a Trustee of ALT, along with my previous role as a Trustee of Learn Appeal between 2015 and 2019. My development as a learning professional has seen me move into more senior roles, to my current one as Director of Content Services, and I believe my Trustee status has helped me demonstrate my abilities concerning these more senior roles through the application process.

Meet Puiyin Wong

Puiyin is the Digital Learning Producer at Central St. Martins, University of the Arts London

How long have you been a Trustee at ALT?

About a year, since 7 Sept 2022.

What made you become a Trustee?

The opportunity to represent our members and being able to support ALT with various projects and initiatives etc that leads the development and direction of travel for learning technology.

What does being a Trustee mean to you?

Having the confidence from our members that I can be a voice for the at the Board meetings. A year later, to date, I still get members coming to me to say they voted for me in the election. It’s been a very humbling experience. Also, the support network with the other Trustees and the ALT staff team, I have learnt a lot already.

What have you learnt about being a Trustee?

How important decisions that could affect a large number of people are made. How such a small but well organised team at ALT manages everything so well. Joining the “staff side”, I honestly thought ALT was a big team with dozens of people. So hats off to the hard working staff team! I am only too glad to have the opportunity to work with other Trustees to support what the staff team do.

What have you gained personally, if anything, from your experience as a Trustee?

I think I am probably the most junior person in terms of our day jobs among all the Trustees, so learning from others in Board meetings, leadership and strategic experience has been very valuable. Also, the friendships with other Trustees and the staff team has to be the absolute highlight! :-)

Meet Peter Bryant

Peter Bryant is Associate Dean (Education) and Professor of Business Education at the University of Sydney Business School (Australia).

How long have you been a Trustee at ALT?

Just over six years

What made you become a Trustee?

To help find new connections for ALT within our every expanding and changing community.

What does being a Trustee mean to you?

It means engaging, hearing and bringing together our community through outreach, research, practice sharing and connection.

What have you learnt about being a Trustee?

The challenges of finding commonality, the challenges of recognising our development, fracturing and expansions that came from the pandemic and how different we are from six years ago (and then how different we will be in six year’s time)

What have you gained personally, if anything, from your experience as a Trustee?

I was able to hold a lifeline to people, place and space that for three years felt a long way away (I live and work in Sydney, Australia). I was able to see that the work to support and engage students that we all do transverses the impacts of the crisis and the shrinking of our worlds.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

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