Tag Archives: Learning technology

Developing MOOCs in Groningen

Between 31st August and 4th September 2015 I visited the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. I was fortunate to be able to do this as part of Erasmus+ training programme during which I worked at the University of Groningen looking in to how their MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are developed.

The MOOC project at the University of Groningen is handled by the Educational Support and Innovation Unit (part of the Centre for Innovation and Technology), which is similar to us here in Educational Development in the way that it is a support department and is not part of any faculty.

The Centre for Innovation and Technology has 164 full time members of staff, whilst the Educational Support and Innovation Unit has 19 full time staff, most of whom are teacher trainers and e-learning technicians. The priorities are teacher development, promoting and supporting e-learning and providing technical support.

In addition to developing MOOCs the Educational Support and Innovation Unit is involved in a number of other projects including:

  • Teacher certification
  • Assessment experts, student survey analysis
  • BlackBoard support
  • Technical support during student examinations
  • Video productions for flipped classroom projects
  • Curriculum redesigns

groningen 1

‘An introduction to Dutch’ MOOC

The University of Groningen is well known in the MOOC world for producing an extremely successful MOOC ‘Introduction to Dutch’. This offers learners basic skills in Dutch. This free online course was also used by the University of Groningen as a tool to promote paid online courses offered by the Language Centre at the University. 75 people joined the paid version of the course after the first run of the MOOC had finished.

I met the educators who developed the course – Jeroen van Engen, Birgit Lijmbach, and Margried Hidding – to discuss what made it so successful. I was particularly interested in how the course was marketed and what the secret was to recruiting 35,000 people on this course.

I learnt that in addition to the traditional course advertising done by FutureLearn, a variety of other marketing channels were used such as:

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Satisfying the 300+: The Challenge of Teaching Large Cohorts

At the Learning and Teaching Conference last month we were treated to an awesome presentation by Dr Ali Al-Ataby, the winner of the annual Sir Alastair Pilkington Prize for excellent teaching. In his presentation, entitled ‘Satisfying the 300’, Ali explained how he has turned what was considered to be a boring and difficult, yet required, module with a large failure rate into one of the most popular and successful in Electrical Engineering and Electronics (EEE).

Science and Engineering are really tackling the challenge of teaching large cohorts with lots of good practice across the Faculty. I was reminded that I attended another fantastic event last term. Run by Dr Kathy Johnson in Science and Engineering and introduced by Mark Bowen, a whole day was dedicated to large group teaching with invited speakers from within and beyond the University, giving thought provoking and entirely practical strategies for teaching modules for groups of up to 600 students.

Executive Pro Vice Chancellor for Science and Engineering Professor Ken Badcock opened, underlining the importance the Faculty gives to the quality of the student learning experience. He was followed by five speakers, from Liverpool, Manchester and The Open University.

teaching large cohorts

Key messages from the session emphasised the importance of:

  • Students having the opportunity to interact with one another, something that can be done very well online.
  • Students feeling connected to the lecturer. They will overcrowd a live lecture rather than sit in an overspill and they need to know their lecturer is concerned about their learning. This requires planning and insight that takes as much effort as all other aspects of the teaching. But, it can be done.
  • A blended approach with on-line activities and discussions which can significantly enhance the student learning experience because the very nature of the large scale course means that there are many ideas, points of view, and knowledge to bring to the debate and insights to share. Well planned online elements are valued by staff and students.
  • Module efficiency was a key consideration for staff – including excellent administrative staff and well trained teaching assistant support.
  • Selecting tools that work for students, not simply like for like replacements for those that work face-to-face, but approaches that meet the aims and intended learning outcomes of the modules.

The presenters were (click the links for short interviews):

Dr John Moriarty (Manchester) – Feeding the four hundred – case study with a large class.

Dr John Marsland (Liverpool) – 3000 students and counting! Assessing and engaging large cohorts.

Erik Clark (Liverpool student) – Strategies for large cohorts – a student perspective.

Dr Matt Murphy (Liverpool) – Using more than just lectures to teach classes of 500+.

Dr Anne -Marie Gallen (Open University) – Developing large scale undergraduate engineering modules using VLE-based approaches.

 

You can view Ali Al-Ataby’s full conference presentation here.

 

Anne Qualter, Centre for Lifelong Learning

Enhancing Learning and Teaching in Medical Education in Punjab

Drs Janet Strivens and Ian Willis from the Centre for Lifelong Learning have recently returned from Lahore, Pakistan where they were continuing the work of ‘Enhancing Learning and Teaching in Medical Education in Punjab’, Pakistan.

This was originally a British Council funded project and is now funded through Pakistan’s ‘Visiting International Scholars’ scheme. The project is based in the University of Health Sciences Lahore (UHS), which controls the assessment of most of the medical and dental colleges in Punjab. This gives them significant influence over the teaching practices of 40 affiliated institutions and so developments at UHS can spread throughout the province.

The project is becoming genuinely locally owned and sustainable. The focus this time was the Certificate in Medical Teaching – our development programme for teachers in medical and dental education. It concentrates on student-centred learning and on developing local skills in mentoring and facilitation.

We were there for a week, and in that time UHS had organised three classes running concurrently over four days and a further three concurrent classes in the following three days, with a total of 146 students. At one stage we needed 11 rooms for mini-presentations; so an organisational marvel. Plus we had Dr Shazia Iqbal, who has just completed her MSc in Medical Education at UoL, recounting her experiences – both academic and cultural – whilst in Liverpool and Dr Masood Jawaid’s workshops on Technology Integrated Learning in resource-poor countries. This was a treat in terms of how to use technology when institutions don’t have the learning technologists or strategies for using technology. We heard case studies from resourceful staff and a plethora of open source software in use in different parts of Pakistan in order to meet the same learning aims we have in the UK with all our facilities and skilled support.

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Developing your online identity as a researcher

Digital identity as a researcher is becoming increasingly important, at least if you want others to take note of the research that you have conducted. We all know now that you can’t simply publish in a journal, and expect lots of key people to automatically find out and take note. But how does one actually take charge of one’s own digital identity as a researcher?

Here in the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Liverpool, two of us who are engaged in research have recently undertaken an informal project to review our own digital identities, and to support our colleagues and others in taking their own initiative in this area. Tunde Varga-Atkins is a Learning Technologist, with researcher interests around both learner experiences with technology and visual research methods. Peter Kahn is Director of Studies for the University’s fully-online EdD in Higher Education. His research interests centre on applying critical realist perspectives to the study of higher education.

There is certainly plenty of good advice out there, as with the short course at Imperial College London, Collaborating and building your online presence, or the 23 Things self-directed online course from the University of Oxford on using digital tools in academia. But it’s one thing that such resources exist; it’s quite another to take the course or read the material, and then act on it. This is especially true when one is trying to establish a digital identity that reflects the various roles one has to undertake, taking in both development and research. Rather than concentrating so much on these resources, we reviewed each other’s digital identity and also looked at the digital identity of several other researchers. Our emphasis was on understanding the actions that we ourselves, and others, have actually taken.

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Nick Bunyan and Stuart McGugan visit XJTLU

We recently spent two weeks at XJTLU supporting new staff with the Certificate in Professional Studies (CPS) in Learning and Teaching programme. The visit was hard work, but a very rewarding and stimulating experience.  Working with colleagues at the XJTLU Learning and Teaching Enhancement Office we were given a new purpose-built teaching room in the new ‘hub’ central building on the campus.

The visit consisted of:

  • Two introductory sessions about the  CPS programme.
  • 16 learning and teaching workshops.
  • Eight presentations/professional dialogues.
  • General support for questions and queries about the programme.
  • Wider discussions with  managers to discuss how XJTLU could develop its support for learning and teaching as the institution grows and develops.

Reflections on the programme delivery  

The workshops were well attended and typically consisted of between 12 and 24 staff. Giving participants time early in a workshop to get to know each other works really well in this context. Many staff are very new to the institution and can have limited opportunities to meet and discuss learning and teaching issues with peers.

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Implementing the HEAR: Supporting Student development

On 25th April 40+ staff enjoyed a presentation by Rob Ward of the Centre for Recording Achievement. We invited Rob as a direct result of discussion at a previous event exploring the role of the Academic Advisor. His extensive knowledge of the origins, development and current position of the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) made for an entertaining and informative session.

Rob described HEAR and its purpose, but also drew on the real experiences of other universities as they work towards  implementation. Most universities are developing a HEAR (only seven so far seem to have decided against doing so), and all are at different stages. Rob’s presentation can be viewed on the following page: https://stream.liv.ac.uk/cvs2r3ar.

A key message from Rob is that an inclusive HEAR should be part of a system to support students’ development throughout their studies and provide evidence to help them to move forward into employment, training or further study with confidence. Certainly all the signs are that employers see real benefits in the HEAR. The Association of Graduate Recruiters have developed a series of pamphlets in support of HEAR.

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