Critical perspectives and collaboration in practice: ALT celebrates its 25th Annual Conference #altc

altc 2018 flyer

For ALT’s 25th Annual Conference we are bringing together different critical perspectives in Learning Technology from across our community that will examine the challenges ahead and question the shape of things to come. We are putting our values into practice and our Members at the heart of the conference, so in this spirit the event will be chaired collaboratively by the Trustees of ALT, led by Sheila MacNeill and Martin Weller. Sarah Sherman, Trustee of ALT, says ‘I'm excited to be celebrating ALT's silver jubilee by being involved in the most collaborative, community-driven Annual Conference yet.’

In the run up to the event, Martin Weller has authored the widely read 25 years of Ed Tech series, looking back at key moments in the history of Learning Technology, arriving in his final post in a new, critical age, which ‘includes being self-critical, and analysing the assumptions and progress in movements within ed tech. It’s important to distinguish critique[…] and just being anti-technology. These are not pro and anti technology camps – you can still be enthusiastic about the application of technology in particular contexts. What it does mean is being aware of the broader implications, questioning claims, and advocating (or conducting) research about real impacts.’

But how can we move beyond advocacy to a more critical approach? Too often we seem to revisit the same old questions about the efficacy of Learning Technology without really moving forward because we are just looking ahead at new innovation without making full use of what we already know. While the conference does represent an important national platform for sharing new research and practice, it is not just focused on looking ahead, but also on building foundations that everyone in the sector can benefit from, such as:

  • Peer-reviewed, Open Access research in Learning Technology, published since 1993, that now constitutes a strong body of evidence to inform practice and policy;

  • Contributions to policy developments informed by Members from across the UK that sets out how the relationship between policy makers, industry and practitioners has changed;

  • A widely recognised and well-established professional accreditation scheme, CMALT, that is expanding to offer new pathways, including one for senior and research staff, and is now enabling us to chart the development of Learning Technology professionalism for over a decade.

Drawing on this growing body of shared knowledge one of the sessions of the conference will present A personal, feminist and critical retrospective of Learning (and) Technology, 1994-2018 led by Dr Catherine Cronin (NUI Galway) and Frances Bell, which will explore how the conference ‘has reflected the structural and cultural changes of the post-secondary education sector with respect to changing funding models, widening student participation, increasing staff precarity, and rising internationalisation, marketisation and bureaucratisation across HE, and increasingly FE, secondary and primary education.’

Elsewhere, colleagues led by Professor Neil Morris (University of Leeds) will discuss Critical perspectives on unbundling and rebundling higher education provision online - a session which will share data from a University of Leeds ESRC Newton funded research grant conducted in collaboration with the University of Cape Town to show which UK universities are creating short online courses (e.g. Massive Open Online Courses) and online degrees, which platforms they are using, and which private companies they are partnering with to create online degrees.

Exploring another hot topic at the moment will be Open Textbooks: Access, Affordability and Academic Success, building on work by David Ernst of the Open Textbook Network to discuss to what extent the arguments employed to support the adoption of open textbooks in the US apply in the context of UK HE institutions.

These sessions and many others in the 140+ strong programme help us answer the question of how we move beyond advocacy and towards a more critical approach. The keynote speakers at the conference, Dr Tressie McMillan Cottom, Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University and author of the critically-acclaimed, “Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the U.S.”, Amber Thomas, Head of Academic Technology, University of Warwick and Dr Maren Deepwell, chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology, will set the tone for the conversation.

We are expecting over 400+ participants to contribute to the conference at the University in Manchester, with many more joining in virtually and on social media. In memory of Doug Gowan, former President of ALT, the Trustees of ALT awarded seven bursaries for participants from different sectors, including students, to take part in the event.

The conference runs 11-13 September and you can participate in many of the sessions mentioned above online or via the #altc hashtag.

Notes for Editors

  1. ALT (the Association for Learning Technology) is a professional and scholarly association which brings together those with an interest in the use of learning technology. As the UK’s leading membership organisation in the Learning Technology field, we work to improve practice, promote research, and influence policy.

  2. You can explore what we do via our strategy slides, download the full text in PDF or Google docs. Visual content is available on Flickr.

  3. We have over 3,500 Members across education sectors in the UK and internationally.

  4. If you are writing about, blogging or sharing images and videos about the Annual Conference using tools that support tagging, please use the tag #altc.

  5. For information about the Learning Technologist of the Year Awards go to and use #altc on social media.

  6. Our Sponsors are listed at

  7. More information about the conference:

  8. Association for Learning Technology, Tel:  +44 (0)1865 819 009 URL:

  9. ALT is a Registered Charity in the UK, number: 1160039