Report on the Blended Learning Consortium – 2020 Vision conference (27/06/2017) from Lee Badham, IoHS

This conference report relating to the Blended Learning Consortium established by Heart of Worcestershire College, includes links to resources, including free software for learning design, YouTube resources, a self –assessment tool to ascertain staff digital skills and much more …..

Background

The Blended Learning Consortium (BLC) was established by the Heart of Worcestershire College in August 2015 to serve the Further Education (FE) sector. The consortium provides access to high- quality learning resources through a dedicated Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). As of 2017, 40% of general FE colleges in the UK have joined the BLC, paying £5000 per academic year for membership. Benefits for members include:

  • Access to high-quality content developed by the Consortium
  • Efficiency savings through shared development costs
  • Development of in-house skills in writing, editing and developing content
  • Support and training from the experienced content development team at Heart of Worcestershire College
  • Discounted software from partners and sponsors

Following a democratic voting process and consultation period, in which all member colleges participate, learning resources and content for subject areas and topics are developed to agreed specifications and standards. Once completed, all source files for the content are made available to individual colleges, this ensures that any course-specific content can be added alongside institute branding and logos.

For more information on the consortium, visit: http://www.blc-fe.org/

Presentation 1 – Peter Kilcoyne “2020 vision for the BLC”

Peter Kilcoyne gave a presentation on the achievements of the BLC to date and outlined his vision for the future (up to 2020). He explained how the BLC had rapidly grown and exceeded expectations, new members are joining year-by-year and the BLC are planning to achieve an international presence. Several colleges in the USA were impressed by the BLC’s delivery model and are hoping to work with consortium leaders to develop a similar system tailored to suit the American educational framework. The amount of resources available to consortium members is growing and new consortium members have been given the option of purchasing access to content from previous years. Peter finished his presentation by handing out awards to teams from BLC member colleges for innovative content and best use of technology.

Presentation 2 – Professor Diana Laurillard – “Building Pedagogic Knowledge of Blended learning”

Diana Laurillard gave a very interesting and inspiring presentation on the pedagogy of blended- learning and, more generally, TEL. She started her presentation by conveying the importance of how educators should understand how students learn, before considering how technology can help and enhance this process. Central to the talk was the idea of adapting the scientific method to a blended-learning environment. She further explained how the building of pedagogic knowledge (with regard to TEL) is built incrementally from the successes and failures of past endeavours – feedback from a community of educators paying a crucial role in this process. There was a brief demonstration of software developed for use in multiple educational sectors called The Learning Designer. Learning Designer allows teachers to share their good teaching ideas through the use of lesson plan templates – it is intended to help a subject teacher see how a particular pedagogic approach can be migrated successfully across different topics.

The software is free to use, and accessible through a browser: http://learningdesigner.org/

Breakout session 1James Kieft “My top tools for creating flipped learning content”

James is the Learning and Development Manager from Activate Learning – a consortium of FE colleges based in Oxford. In addition, he writes a blog called James thinks it’s worth a look and creates videos for his YouTube channel. James gave an energetic presentation on software that he considers to be essential to the creation of modern, engaging, educational content. The software that he demonstrated was mostly freely available, although some did have restrictions or paid options, and more of use to FE. However, I would recommend browsing his YouTube channel – there are very useful guides on a wide range of educational software tools alongside practical tips and tricks.

Breakout session 2Bev Jones & Andrew Jones “Developing digital pedagogy – developing staff skills in learning technology”

This was a very interesting session from Bev Jones who is the Director of Operations and Digital Development at Career Colleges. Bev began by presenting findings from a study concerning literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments. This was an ambitious study that collected data from 5000 participants per country in 33 countries (aged 16 to 65). Bev explained that 75% of adults have < Level 2 digital skills – a very basic skillset for using technology.

Further, large UK studies reveal that:

  • Less than 3% of participants felt they had high levels of staff competence in using learning technology
  • 70% of teachers do not have high levels of confidence in their own use of technology
  • 60% did not have CPD in place to address shortcomings
  • No analysis of digital skill for new or existing staff Detailed analysis suggests that:
    • Practitioners over 35 are less confident and competent in use of technology in teaching and learning
    • Practitioners in Health, Construction and Hospitality are least confident
    • Little use of technology for own personal and professional development

Bev then gave a demonstration of an online self-assessment tool (edtech access) that has been used successfully by the NHS, colleges and skills providers in the UK to assess and ascertain the digital skills of staff. Andrew Jones, a Learning Technology Manager from Northumberland College, spoke about how he had used the edtech access tool to establish the training needs of his workforce and target CPD resources appropriately.

My view is that edtech access can be useful tool and not only for FE. I am planning to deploy it within the Institute of Health and Society at UW and have secured funding from our Learning and Teaching budget to finance access for all Institute members.

Breakout session 3 – “Post VLE landscape from digitisation to Technology Enhanced Learning– AULA education

This was an interesting (and somewhat informal) session that generated a lot of debate and audience participation. Anders Kohn from AULA spoke about current education software before describing an online environment that he considered to be an agile, modern alternative to more traditional VLEs. Anders’s premise was that “The VLE has done a great job in enabling administration and the digitisation of content, but has been less successful in enabling learning.” He then gave us a technical overview and demonstration of Aula, an intended replacement. Using a more “conversational” approach akin to that of Social Media, Aula’s interface is less cluttered and more dynamic than other environments – but it’s hard to see it as a serious replacement in an educational setting.

More details: https://aula.education/

Lee Badham, Psychology Technician, Institute of Health and Society

July 2017

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