Technology for the sake of it’ This is one of the most common statements I hear when running learning design sessions with academic and support staff at Ulster University. It’s a valid one and I couldn’t agree more. Technology should not be used without sound pedagogic reasoning and relevance to learning outcomes. My challenge as a curriculum design consultant is to encourage the appropriate, scalable and accessible use of technology that is pedagogically sound which not only meets an educational need, but also enhances it. In the past, I have used Jisc’s viewpoint cards in learning and curriculum design workshops to start the debate and encourage reflection, this has been very successful, however staff often leave with the start of a plan to work on themselves due to the time bound nature of the sessions. When designing the workshop for the Apps for Active Learning pilot which focussed on Nearpod and Aurasma I wanted staff to leave with a plan for at least one session, the confidence to deliver it (Plan A, B and C) and a support network around them. How did I achieve this? The session was planned around 4 aspects: Mind map of tools based on viewpoints cards – encouraging reflection of current practice and how to enhance it; Storyboarding – planning based on reflections; Technology training – putting the plan into practice; Coffee for continued support – regular catch-ups creating a community of practice (the most important bit).
This workshop session will utilise Nearpod with ALTC delegates using their own devices (BYOD) to share the practice I have gained over the last 2 years to encourage Ulster staff to utilise technology to enhance the student learning experience in face-to-face, blended and distance learning environments. Participation in this session will be facilitated using the interactive tools within Nearpod, such as polling, quizzes and the draw it tool. It’s not just about staff, students have to be on-board too, I will also reflect on inducting students, feedback from students and the challenges to engagement with using technology in the classroom, such as not all students having a device, battery issues, Wifi issues, aging infrastructure, environments and a passive learning culture.
Session content: evaluation and reflection
Students’ expectations are rising year on year and they expect to see digital technologies throughout their journey in ways that are relevant to their academic success (Beetham, 2013). Using active learning apps is an ideal way to address these expectations and raise the digital literacy of both staff and students in the process. As part of the Digital Futures Strategy the Office for Digital Learning, within Ulster University organised a ‘Apps for Active Learning’ pilot for academic year June 16 to June 17. The pilot was extended for a 2nd year, however my post was also moved to a new department, the Centre for Higher Education Research and Practice and so did the second year of the pilot, June 17 to June 18. At Ulster University we are in a period of change, with a new campus under development in Belfast, we are exploring changes to curriculum delivery, there is also the Learning Landscapes project, the Teaching Excellence Framework and the Digital Futures strategy all of which combined have created an opportunity to enhance the student learning experience. This however has a flipped side and brings challenges with it and in particular how to meet the added expectation of technology integration. Our statistics have highlighted that each student has 3 devices on average, they already have the technology in their pockets (BYOD), the pedagogical opportunities that these devices bring to a collaborative and active learning experience are immense. Nearpod gives us a platform to test the technology integration. Ulster University is now at the end of the second full academic year of Apps for Active Learning. This has had a significant impact and for the second year running Nearpod has had positive student feedback via the Jisc Student Tracker with students mentioning it as an example of a digital tool they found useful and named it as one thing to improve the experience of digital teaching and learning at Ulster. There has been an 258% increase in student joins this year from 12400 active student joins in AY 2016/17 to 32000 in AY 2017/18 in 537 sessions in over 70 modules across all levels and delivery modes. 85% of staff indicated that their students like using it in their teaching. 89% felt student engagement had increased. This session explores the early interactions with students and academic/professional support staff, their concerns, training needs and case studies of enhancing their teaching using apps for active learning and how it has evolved over a 2 year period, lessons learned and the plans for the future. Evaluation is based on based on the qualitative and quantitative evidence from the last 2 years of the Apps for Active Learning pilot.
Beetham, H. White, D. (2013) Student Expectations, Jisc. [online] http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/5572/1/JR0006_STUDENTS_EXPECTATIONS_EXEC_SUMMARY_v2.pdf Accessed 15 July 2015.
McClean, S. Crowe, W. (2017) Making room for interactivity: using the cloud-based audience response system Nearpod to enhance engagement in lectures. Microbiology Letters, Volume 364, Issue 6, FEMS 1, [Online] https://academic.oup.com/femsle/article/364/6/fnx052/3063743 Accessed May 2018.
Resources for participants