Reflections on ALT-ELESIG Scotland Meeting – The Learner Experience: Moving Forward – Using Lessons Learned
Who are ALT-ELESIG Scotland?
Before we jump right into our reflections on our latest meeting, for those of you who are not familiar with ALT-ELESIG, we are an ALT Special Interest Group (SIG) with a common interest in how we use technologies to support learning and evaluate the effectiveness of our practice. We are the co-leads for the ALT-ELESIG Scotland regional group, this is our first regional blog, and we would be delighted if you would like to join ALT-ELESIG-Scotland.
Remembering our last face to face meeting….
Our last face to face regional meeting was in November 2019, (it is difficult to believe it was so long ago) and it was held at the fantastic UWS Lanarkshire Campus.
Our academic practice, and life with it, was then hit hard by the pandemic and our members all went into survival mode to find ways to best support students remotely. While ALT-ELESIG Scotland itself was quiet, our members were not only developing new resources and ways of teaching, but also found time to undertaking some user experience research which we can all benefit from moving forward.
Planning for the future, using our experiences – online meeting November 2021
Fast forward to November 21 and everyone was excited to hear about how teaching has changed as a result of the pandemic, what has been learned from student evaluations and how those have informed plans moving forward.
We were very pleased to see some familiar faces as well as some new ones attending our first online meeting. Thanks to everyone for sharing the event through your networks, it really makes a big difference in terms of extending the reach of the group which is great.
Welcome to all our new members, we look forward to getting to know you.
For any members who could not attend the day – you missed a great series of presentations – and we have included some of our reflections in this blog post. The slides are also available to download from the ELESIG website and recordings of each of the presentations are available on our YouTube channel, so there is no need for you to miss out.
We started the meeting with some reflections from our Keynote speaker Professor Jo-Anne Murray, who highlighted the importance of careful planning when charting the way forward beyond the pandemic. Jo-Anne discussed the importance of involving students, the need for a balance between on-campus and online learning which provides flexibility, and always being mindful that students require appropriate place and space to work, study and learn. Jo-Anne was somewhat of a hero on the day, dealing with several technological challenges as she was fighting against Storm Arwen. The storm eventually won but not before her presentation was complete, thank you for your perseverance, Jo-Anne.
The level of work that had gone into the planning, rethinking, repurposing and developing new resources to support the learners and staff to provide the best student experience possible was evident from all presentations. As an overall reflection, we felt that Peter Hartley really hit the nail on the head when he said the pandemic resulted in a “we are all in this together approach”, with there being both an ‘emergency phase’, concentrating on core technologies, followed by a more structured ‘planning phase’, which involves supporting both students and staff.
Enhancing the student experience and making best use of technologies to support learners was evident in all presentations. This included Nicola Veitch and Clare Donald highlighting the innovative use of VR in teaching labs at the University of Glasgow and the students’ experiences of this approach. Nicola and Claire demonstrated how VR has been embedded into courses and how it can be used by students to support their understanding and practical experience. This led to lots of discussion on how this could and should be implemented for teaching and linked to how VR is already being used at City of Glasgow College for assessment. Sharen Toner-Saunders also highlighted the importance of allowing students to use technologies, in this case one that they would require in their own professional practice to help student teachers in preparation for placement. Jenny Crow then described the difficulties with implementing online social activities and the surprising level of facilitation required which is something which resonated with all participants.
Graeme Brewster discussed the need to embed inclusivity in our teaching practices at the planning stage and during each step of resource creation through his presentation on how he developed the college digital learning spaces to specifically support students with learning difficulties. Michelle Welsh and Ourania Varsou discussed their student-centred approach and evaluation of their interactive online resources and live lab demonstrations. Student preferences from this work have shaped the blended approach to lectures and face to face practical labs currently being used.
Not only did we hear about how staff were supporting learners, we also heard how staff were supporting each other. “Test, test, test” was the take home message from Tina McCarthy, who described supporting staff in online proctoring of exams. Joe Wilson told us how they have supported staff through national digital competencies on an institutional scale. The importance of using technologies is emphasised by making it a requirement for staff to show how they embed technologies in their teaching and learning and supporting them to do that by having a learning and teaching academy. Peter and Joe both mentioned how they made use of the JISC digital experiences survey to support staff.
We were amazed just how much information the presenters managed to squeeze into a Petcha Kutcha style presentation, again Peter summed the tension that that timing brings with the quote of the day “My first Pecha Kucha … I survived!”.
We feel the meeting went really well, technical difficulties arose but were manageable – thanks Storm Arwen! Discussions were engaging, inclusive and welcoming and everyone was very supportive.
So where do we go from here? We hope to continue the conversations, find out more about what our presenters are doing next and follow up on their work, so look out for future blog posts as we start planning our next early summer 2022.
We are looking forward to the next meeting, so please think about what you would like to share with others. Thanks again
Co-Leads Avril Edmond (UWS) and Mary McVey (University of Glasgow)