Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Winter TELFest - Day Two

Yesterday saw the second day of the three day Winter TELFest. The day started with some hands-on sessions, with introductions to the e-portfolio system PebblePad, led by Zafer Ali, and using Google Sites in learning and teaching, led by Graham McElearney ad Neil Everill.

The lunchtime session was on Making MOOCs Work for you. Dr Marie Kinsey, the University's Academic Lead on MOOCs, introduced the concept of Massive Open Online Courses, and a panel consisting of colleagues who have worked on recent projects, consisting of Dr Chris Stoke (Dentistry), Pamela Hafekost (Library), Dr Katherine Stevens (School of Health and Related Research), and Dr Adam Smith (English). All told of their experiences of devising, creating and delivering MOOCs for the University.

The panel talked through the very different MOOCs they've worked, on topics as diverse as Careers skills, Country House literature, Dentistry and measuring health. All panelists emphasised the enjoyment they had experienced as teachers, delivering their courses to thousands of users, with some interesting observations. Adam, who was a mentor on the Literature of the Country House MOOC, was surprised to see how students were as hungry for participation, and an insight into the University, as they were the content of the course. Pamela, who led the Careers Service mini-MOOCs giving interview and application skills, was impressed by how learners were both enthusiastic, and supportive and kind to other participants. Chris, leader of Discovering Dentistry, one of the University's first MOOCs, said he is now seeing UCAS applications from students who undertook the cause and were inspired to apply for a full degree.

Katherine, one of the most recent academics to be involved in MOOCs, emphasised how much she has enjoyed the process, and that academics do not need technical skills to launch their own MOOCs, with a dedicated central team that works to bring ideas to fruition. All emphasised that the innovation is not through the technology itself, which is using systems that have been around for a while, but its way of enabling this kind of teaching on such a large scale. Katherine described this as "making us think differently about how we see teaching", with Adam seeing MOOCs not as a form that will replace traditional teaching, but a "entirely new genre of interactive broadcasting". There was talk of MOOCs improving how we create e-learning material for all students, with Chris mentioning materials created for the Dentistry MOOC are being repurposed for traditional students in the forthcoming AchieveMore faculty-wide challenge.

The flexibility of how MOOCs are being used around the world was also discussed, with one notable example being a school in Bangkok where all students are undertaking the University of Sheffield Careers Service MOOC. The benefits of undertaking MOOCs seemed clear, using it to disseminate research, increase the profile of the University among a diverse range of people, and change the way we look at online learning. The panel closed with a prediction of where MOOCs are going, with a general consensus that whether we still call them MOOCs or not, they will become a normal, everyday part of the educational landscape.

Tuesday's TELFest ended with a session on getting started on Twitter, led by Farzana Latif. In this session, delegates explored the use of Twitter in their own context, identifying ways they can make the most of this dynamic teaching tool both inside and outside the classroom.

Another great day at TELFest, today sees the final day with a packed schedule. See here for more details.

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