Blogging has become a luxury of late – I meant to do ALT-C 2011 but never did. (Videos are now available by the way.) So, I have decided to blog ECEL more or less immediately while it’s still fresh and because I know some of this is relevant to colleagues. Of necessity, it will be rough around the edges but hopefully of some use. To speed the process I will make use of my tweets and the ecel2011 hashtag.
I enjoyed the conference this year because it seemed to hit a few more spots than in previous years. It also helped that my session was fairly well attended despite being scheduled in a track (Games) that I would not have chosen, being the last one of the final day and following an empty slot (presenter took ill). Note to sceptics – Second Life is still alive and well on the conference circuit.
Now to the practicalities. Donald Clark keynoted first and more or less repeated his ‘Do not lecture me’ lecture from ALT-C a year or so ago. He has some good things to say but a lot of it is negated by the hectoring style and apparent failure to recognise that the practices he is so determined to denigrate are probably not as prevalent as he thinks – at least not amongst the delegates at an elearning conference. For those unfamiliar with Donald, see his ALT-C 2010 video. See also his blog.
An early session that left an impression was on the use of wikiversity and other open channels by Estonian academic Kaido Kikkas, who according to my tweet (quoting him more or less), ‘…has a special contract with Tallin university to publish all his course resources as #oer‘. The same academic also mentioned in passing that he reads 300 blogs once a week in order to facilitate one of his open courses. When asked for an example of an English medium course (most of his are in Estonian for obvious reasons) he gave us this example Ethics and Law in New Media. Looks like a useful structure.
At the end of the first day I attended a couple of sessions on e-submission more out of duty than anything else but they proved useful not least for highlighting potential alternatives to Turnitin/Grademark – University of West of England have developed their own system which can be used offline and which is fully integrated with the student record system – details on their website. Sheffield Hallam have something similar apparently (will check it out when I get a chance). These are for Blackboard but similar Moodle tools are out there or in the pipeline. Some very valid points were made about the limitations of Turnitin and why we do well to keep alternatives in mind.
I had a conversation on the bus with Amanda Sykes from Glasgow university who was enthusing about Peerwise a student MCQ sharing & rating system which she has used very successfully with veterinary and biology students. Unfortunately her presentation clashed with mine but the paper ‘PeerWise – The Marmite of Veterinary Student Learning’ looks well worth a read. (Abstracts and information on how to request access to papers will appear on the conference website in due course I believe.) Amanda also recommended Aropa a peer assessment tool developed at Glasgow and a potential alternative to Turnitin’s Peermark.
Grainne Conole’s keynote on the second day was a whirlwind tour of the current elearning landscape. One useful reference noted was: Educause ‘ECAR National Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2011 Report. Another was to her blog where she has been posting draft chapters of her new book Conole, G. (forthcoming), Designing for learning in an Open World, New York: Springer.
A third keynote by Anne Boddington, Dean of Arts, University of Brighton urged us to resist the dehumanising effects of technology and value the visceral – a helpful counter balance to the technology laden programme though my experience at the breakout following which was standing room only and very cramped was possibly not the kind of visceral experience she had in mind.
A final goody that I detected via the Twitter stream after I had left the conference is this slideshare Putting Things in Context – Designing Social Media for Education by Jon Dron, Terry Anderson and George Siemens of Athabasca. Must read the associated paper.
This highly selective account of ECEL 2011 does not do justice to the wealth of contributions and may appear very pragmatic and superficial given the research focus of the conference but I hope it gives a flavour and will be of some value to colleagues with pressing learning technology issues at the ‘coalface’.