E-learning Group’s Reflections on the recent Mini Conference

E-learning Group

Following the recent Mini Conference on Inclusive Education, we have been reflecting on our experience of the event. Each member of the E-learning Group has written a short piece on one aspect of the Mini Conference.

Neurodiversity

Janet and Caroline’s session was interesting both in terms of the subject matter and the way it was presented. As a trainer, I’m always looking for new ideas and new ways of presenting information, and this session had lots of those. From matching exercises to group work, this was an incredibly active presentation.

As well as helping understand the human brains work very differently, and that those with neuro-diverse conditions often have to work very hard to achieve tasks that those who are neuro-typical take for granted. Whilst this has the potential for increasing stress and workload, its flipside is that those with neurodiversity can be resilient, creative and find new and innovative ways to work achieve their outcomes.

The session highlighted that may of the outward signs of neurodiversity are very similar, and small changes to the way in which we teach can help.

Janet and Caroline presented their session in an engaging and interactive way – and I shall certainly remember the exercise where we tried to explain a holiday without using the letter e! Try it … it will give you a very quick idea of how working around something that everyone takes for granted leads to very hard-work, a lot of false starts – but also a new and different way of expressing yourself.

Accessibility Checker

I have taken away a new attitude and approach to the tools I use and the materials I produce for my students as an educator.
I will endeavour to stop thinking about students with specific learning differences as individuals to whom I have to tailor my materials on a case by case basis. Students with specific learning difficulties do not have a unique learning style. They have a preference that is shared with the rest of the student body to some extent. It is better to think that their particular learning styles or preferences can benefit the student body as a whole.

I will utilise built in tools such as accessibility checker in word. I don’t need to send my work off to a specialist or use elaborate programs. Indeed, the simpler the materials I produce the more compatible they are with assistive technology. Accessibility does not mean I have to use comic sans for everything. Simple things like adding alternative text to an image, using titles and headers correctly rather than messing around with fonts. Everything I produce does not have to resemble a gilded manuscript. It just needs to be functional to serve its purpose of conveying information which is what my teaching is all about anyway.

What do you hope to do differently (part 1)?

Using Blackboard Tests to widen access to learning

Blackboard Tests are a great way to create a learning resource for students. As a learning technologist and someone who often only sees the technical side of tests, it was really useful to hear Jennifer Wood giving a first-hand account of the many benefits of using this tool. Jennifer teaches Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages and using tests has allowed Jennifer to free up precious class time to focus on more useful discussions. Before using Blackboard Tests, students would spend a portion of their class time being tested. Now students are able to test their knowledge and learning outside of class time in an environment in which they feel comfortable. Depending on the question type you select (there are many types of questions), means that the tests can be marked automatically and that feedback be released to the student after they have taken the test. Of course, tests do require some work and you need to be sure what you wish to use the test for to make it useful for yourself and students.

Just like most content in Blackboard, there are many settings that you can use to match the test to your learning need and requirement. The E-learning Group are always happy to check a test, run through settings or also assist in choosing the right type of question for your learning activity. Why not create a test to help your students with revision activities?

What are you going to do differently (part 2)?

Public Speaking and access to core skills

Rob Grieve’s talk helped me to appreciate how big of an issue public speaking can be for some individuals. I found the advice to be a ‘genuine speaker’ particularly useful. Not prioritising style of over substance, focusing on the information I want to convey and trying to speak in a natural for me way are strategies which I am planning to use to enhance my public speaking abilities.

I was also inspired by Debra Croft’s presentation on the Summer University. It is a project giving an invaluable opportunity to young people participating in it. I was particularly impressed with the variety of subjects covered during only 6-weeks, including not only academic subjects but also life skills. The flexible and creative design of the activities and assessment tailored to students’ needs was equally impressive. This presentation really showed how accommodating the differences can make a significant impact on peoples’ lives.

Submit a proposal for this year’s Annual Learning and Teaching Conference

There were so many useful tips and reflections that choosing one for each of us was quite a task! You can see a full report on the mini conference which is split into two blog posts (Part 1 and Part 2). A reminder that we currently have an open Call for Proposals for our main Learning and Teaching Conference. 

What are you going to do differently (part 3)? 

Academy Forum: Instilling Self-Regulation in Learners

The E-learning Group host several Academy Forums across the academic year. The aim of the Academy Forums is to bring together members from across the University to discuss a matter related to Learning and Teaching. Our last Academy Forum focused on Instilling Self-Regulation in Learners. This topic was suggested following last year’s Annual Learning and Teaching Conference. At the conference, Dr Simon Payne, Liz Titley, and Liam Knox gave a presentation based on Self-Regulation. In addition to this, the E-learning Group ran an Academy Showcase where Simon presented strategies for instilling self-regulation.

As always, our full notes from the Academy Forums can be found on a dedicated Wiki which can be found in the Enhancing Learning with Technology module which all staff have access to.

A summary of our discussions can be found below:

  • Strategies for encouraging self-regulation in learning and teaching activities
  • Students spend more time learning outside of class time so we should be teaching them how to learn
  • What skills do students arrive with and what do we need to teach them in order to be self-regulated learners
  • How might we emphasise and measure improvement

If you would like to explore self-regulation in further detail then you are able to view the recording from Simon’s recent Academy Showcase. In addition to this, the following articles might be of interest:

Our next Academy Forum is on 9th May at 11am and is focused on the topic ‘How do I know my teaching is working?’ The forums are a great way to share your experiences and learn from others whilst also reflecting on your own approach to the topic. If you’d like to suggest a topic for an Academy Forum next year then do get in touch with us. You can sign up to the Academy Forum by booking online.

Dr Rob Grieve – Mini Conference Presentation

The E-learning Group are hosting a mini conference on Inclusive Education on Wednesday 10th April at 1pm in E3, E-learning Training Room, Aber Academy. In addition to our previous blogpost announcing the line-up for the mini conference, we’re also pleased to announce that Dr Rob Grieve will be giving a recorded presentation entitled Stand Up and Be Heard: Student Fear of Public Speaking.

Rob is a Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy in the Allied Health Professions Department at the University of the West of England (UWE). In addition to his main research area and teaching activities, Rob is also a trustee of the British Stammer Association. As such, he has spoken at several events about the use of presentations as a form of assessment and equipping students with the skills necessary for public speaking. In this introduction, Rob will be drawing on a couple of his recent presentations that he has given at Advance Higher Education. Rob will also be reflecting on Stand Up and Be Heard workshops that he has been running for students with a fear of public speaking. The aim of the workshops was to support learning and teaching related to presentations and public speaking through specific strategies and a review of the overall benefits of public speaking as a transferable skill for university, life, and future employment. Rob builds on a survey conducted in 2012 which evidenced that 80% of students identified that they experienced social anxiety as part of assignments that involved public speaking (Russell and Topham, 2012). In addition to this, a further study (Marinho et al, 2017) identified that 64% of students had a fear of public speaking whilst 89% would have liked their undergraduate programme to include classes on improving public speaking. Further information on Rob’s work can be found on this blogpost. His Twitter handle is @robgrieve17.

We hope that you’re able to join us at the mini conference. There are still a couple of places remaining. You can book onto these online.

References

Marinho, ACF., de Madeiros, AM., Gama, AC., & Teixeir, LC. 2017. Fear of Public Speaking: Perception of College Students and Correlates. Journal of Voice. 31:1 DOI: 10.1016/j.jvoice.2015.12.012

Russell, G. and Topham, P. 2012. The impact of social anxiety on student learning and wellbeing in higher education. Journal of Mental Health 21:4. Pp. 375-385. https://doi.org/10.3109/09638237.2012.694505

 

Academy Mini-Conference: Inclusive Education

This year’s Academy Mini Conference will be held on Wednesday 10th April at 2pm in E3, E-learning Training Room, Aber Academy, Hugh Owen Building. Following the introduction of new Accessibility Regulations for online content in September 2018 and with an increased awareness of ensuring learning experiences are open to all, this year’s mini-conference theme will focus on Inclusive Education.

We are looking for expressions of interest from members of the University to give presentations, demonstrations, workshops and discussions on their inclusive teaching practices.

Potential topics might include:

  • Inclusive and creative assessments
  • Widening participation
  • Use of technology for inclusive learning experiences

If you would like to contribute to submit a proposal to this year’s mini-conference, please fill in this online form before Friday 15th March.

You can register to attend the Mini Conference by clicking on this link. If you have any queries, please email elearning@aber.ac.uk.

Academy Forum 2018/19

This year’s Academy Forums are now well underway. This year, our Academy Forums are structured around themes that emerged from the Annual Learning and Teaching Conference and were put forward by conference delegates.

The Academy Forums for the year are:

  • 03.10.2018, 3pm-4pm: Introduction to Academy Forum
  • 11.10.2018, 10am-11am: JISC’s Student Digital Tracker
  • 16.11.2018, 11am-12pm: Students as Partners
  • 17.12.2018, 1pm-2pm: Innovative approaches to feedbacl
  • 21.01.2019, 12pm-1pm: Learning Design
  • 28.02.2019, 3pm-4pm: Research-Led Teaching
  • 01.04.2019, 12pm-1pm: Instilling self-regulation in learners
  • 09.05.2019, 11am-12pm: How do we know our teaching is working?
  • 12.06.2019, 2pm-4pm: Using Learning Analytics, Summary and Close

You can book onto the Academy Forums via the CDASP booking pages.

Our Academy Forums provide an informal space for members of the University community to come together and discuss matters relating to learning and teaching and technology-enhanced learning.

Last year’s Academy Forums were based on JISC’s Enhancing the Digital Experience for Students’ Cards. Some of the discussions that we had last year. Within the E-learning Group, we started to develop our own Student Engagement Strategy and started to think about how we might work more closely with our student partners. In addition to this, we also started working with colleagues in the Careers service to talk about the digital skills that were required in the workplace.

The Academy Forums are held in E3, the E-learning Training Room. To access E3, you will need your Aber Card. Enter the Hugh Owen building via the Language Labs and proceed up the stairs to Level E. Swipe your Aber Card and E3 Training Room is just around the corner on the right hand side.

If you wish to join the Academy Forum mailing list, email elearning@aber.ac.uk. Notes from previous Academy Forums are available on the Academy Forum wiki.