Tuesday, 9 September 2014

TELFest - Day Two

It was day two of TELFest today, continuing the talks and workshops helping university staff explore the use of technologies in learning and teaching.

James Goldingay once again started proceedings, giving a practical introductory session on Turnitin. This gave staff the opportunity to see behind the scenes of electronic submission and marking, and see some of the features available to academics. Further training is available, including forthcoming sessions on the Turnitin iPad app, so do get in touch with the team if you have any questions or requirements.

Next up was Marie Kinsie, the academic lead on the University's MOOC project, giving a talk entitled 'Learning & Teaching in MOOCland'. Marie started by explaining what MOOCs are, and discussed the differences between MOOCs and conventional learning. The emphasis was on learners being in the driving seat of the course, and the opportunities for community-building. Marie saw the role of MOOCs to use a narrative to tell stories; to take learners on an adventure.

Questions of why the University is creating MOOCs were discussed. It’s the University’s job to innovate and try new things, and to find new learners and new markets. As well as this, these online courses are creating engaging content to enhance the experience of existing students, and not just new, online learners.

Marie showed the FutureLearn platform, which hosts the University’s MOOCs, and trailers for the forthcoming MOOCs the University are launching soon. This includes an intriguing module on Exploring Play, and a series of three-week “mini-MOOCs” developed with the Careers Service. As well as this, there are others in the pipeline on songwriting, robotics and criminology. The talk showed the breadth of topics that can be covered by the MOOC platform, and the fascinating way this new way of providing educational content is engaging learners around the world.

This was followed by a session on using Twitter in learning and teaching, chaired by Rene Meijer, with short talks by Dena Shah (Information School), Gary Wood (USE) and Ruth Stirton (Law).

Dena began, talking about how academics are increasingly using Twitter to meet complex challenges of communication, networking and knowledge dissemination. As well as this, academics are increasingly using Twitter to improve communication with students, and Dina demonstrated that the principles of good practice of student engagement.

These themes were continued in Gary’s talk, in which he ably demonstrated his impressive use of Twitter in the classroom, during his work at the Department of English. Gary used hashtags extensively during sessions, and as the main form of communication outside lessons. His conclusions were that this led to a great rapport with students, who perceived Gary was more available and accessible due to his interaction on Twitter, but in reality he was saving time by replying to fewer emails, as he could give quicker answer to questions, repeating himself less, and queries were answered by students were replying to one another.

These points were reiterated by work Ruth undertook in the Law School, where a two hour revision Q&A session held on Twitter saw her successfully fielding questions from a large number of students. She was surprised by the level of complex discussion held under the 140 character limit, and student feedback was excellent.

The theme from all three speakers was that when facilitated correctly, students really engage with Twitter in this way, and bringing academic discussion to online spaces the students already use, rather than using systems new to them, works well.

After lunch Farzana Latif led an interactive workshop on social media, discussing the learning and teaching benefits of Twitter, blogging and Flickr. The day ended with a practical session by Trish Murray on peer review within MOLE via WebPA.

Another packed day at TELFest, with much more to come. Wednesday’s session sees sessions on PebblePad, iTunesU, flipped learning and engaging students in teaching spaces. See you there!

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