Professor John Traxler – Mini Conference Presentation

Mini Conference Logo

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is pleased to announce Professor John Traxler as the keynote speaker at our forthcoming Mini Conference. The mini conference will focus on Group Work and Group Assessment and will be held on Monday 16th December.

John Traxler, FRSA, is Professor of Digital Learning in the Institute of Education at the University of Wolverhampton UK. He is one of the pioneers of mobile learning, associated with projects since 2001 when he was evaluator for m-learning, the first major EU project. He is a Founding Director and was Vice-President of the International Association for Mobile Learning. He is co-editor of the definitive, Mobile Learning: A Handbook for Educators and Trainers, and of Mobile Learning: the Next Generation, available in Arabic, with Professor Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, of Mobile Learning and Mathematics, Mobile Learning and STEM: Case Studies in Practice, and Mobile Learning in Higher Education: Challenges in Context, and many keynotes, panels, papers, articles and chapters on all aspects of learning with mobiles. His journal papers have been cited over 6000 times. He has worked on many digital learning projects and missions. His current thinking is focused less on ’mobile learning’ as previously conceived but rather on the impact of the near-universal availability of connected personal digital technology on the ownership, substance and nature of knowing and learning in our societies. 

The full programme will be announced in due course. In the meantime, you can book onto the event online. If you would like to submit a proposal to this year’s mini-conference, please fill in this online form before Monday 18th November.

Mini Conference: Inclusive Education Summary: Part 2

This is the second blogpost documenting this year’s Mini Conference on Inclusive Education that was recently hosted by the E-learning Group. For an overview of the first half, please see this blogpost.

The second half of the conference began with Neil MacKintosh and Meirion Roberts from the IBERS BioInnovation Wales scheme discussing widening access to their modules. Recently, the team have sought to address high level and technical skills shortages in bio-based businesses, including AgriFood. One of the aims of the programme is to look into ways to engage graduates with a distance learning course who are currently working in industry but might not have time to undertake a postgraduate degree. It’s hoped that the scheme will increase productivity in Wales by emphasising the reciprocal relationship between industry and research. The BioInnovation Wales scheme works closely with industry partners to provide a flexible route for those in work to gain postgraduate qualifications. Neil gave an introduction to the scheme before passing onto his colleague, Meirion Roberts. Meirion is an associate lecturer at the BioInnovation Wales whose job it is to provide a bilingual learning experience for the postgraduate distance learning modules. The BioInnovation courses are solely delivered online using Blackboard with a whole host of different learning materials. Students registered on the course currently have access to the resources in both Welsh and English. One of the first tasks for Meirion when he started work with the BioInnovation unit was to create a bilingual course interface, course materials, and lectures. These modules use forums on Blackboard as a mode of assessment. One of the challenges that faces the bilingual delivery of these modules is how to moderate and facilitate bilingual forums. Following a discussion between attendees, it was felt that one way forward would be to encourage those posting on the forums to post their responses in both Welsh and English rather than responses in Welsh having to be translated into English. If the precedence was set to post in both languages then it was felt that this would be a more inclusive approach for creating a bilingual learning environment. If you would like to find out more about using assessed forums, we’ve got some information on grading the discussion board

After this presentation, Mary Jacob, lecturer in Learning and Teaching in CDSAP, and Nicky Cashman, accessibility advisor, at Student Support Services offered a demonstration on Creating Inclusive and Accessible Learning materials. The aim of the presentation was to give attendees some practical tips on creating more accessible resources for students, including items that can be downloaded from the Virtual Learning Environment. Giving some context, 16% of the Aberystwyth Student Population have disclosed a disability, which is slightly higher than a sector average of 12%. Mary and Nicky spoke through the following topics:

  • Microsoft Accessibility Checker – a tool that is built into Word
  • Using styles in Word to make the structure of your material clear to students
  • How you can best convert your Word document into a PDF file
  • Which colours might be most appropriate to use

Mary and Nicky also shared with attendees a resource created by the University of Hull on designing content for diverse learners. This resource is available online.  In addition to this, attendees were also given a handout of The Universal Design for Learning Guidelines, produced by CAST. Mary also maintains a Trello board which hosts lots of useful resources to learning and teaching activities. There’s a card on the Trello board specifically dedicated to Creating Accessible Learning Materials under the Projects/ areas of interest.

The final presentation was delivered by Dr Jennifer Wood from the Modern Languages Department. Dr Wood teaches Spanish and reflected on her use of Blackboard Tests in her teaching. The aim of these tests is to check the understanding of students learning Spanish outside of the classroom. Using Blackboard Tests allows Dr Wood to free up her face to face lessons and contact time with her students. Before using the online tests, precious time in teaching sessions was given over to in class assessments. Dr Wood also gave an additional context to the presentation by discussing Foreign Language Anxiety and how Blackboard Tests can help combat this through their ability to be taken (and retaken) at a time that suits the learner in an environment that they feel comfortable in. One of the advantages of using Blackboard tests is that once you’ve built it, you can export, import and redeploy in a different module. In addition to this, tests can be marked automatically and feedback given to the learner upon completion of the test. Depending on the learning need, tests can be either formative or summative and can link directly to the grade centre. Counter balancing these advantages to using tests, there may also be some challenges. Tests can take time to build and create. They can, however, be created any time that suits you and can be imported and deployed into the module that you require the test for.  The trade off, however, is that you will have a resource that can be used year upon year. If you notice that a question is wrong, you can reallocate marks, change the grades or edit the question for all those who have taken the test. There are many types of questions that can be used in Blackboard quizzes. See the full list of question types that are available for Blackboard tests (please note, that depending on the type of question you select, depends on whether it can be marked automatically or not). There’s further guidance on tests on our FAQs. The E-learning Group are always happy to work with our academic colleagues to help you design, create and deploy your tests. We have a great deal of expertise in this area.  

This year’s Mini Conference had our highest attendance yet. Next year, we might have to look at switching rooms. If you would like to suggest a topic for next year’s Mini Conference then please get in touch with us. A reminder as well that we’ve currently got our Call for Proposals open for this year’s Academy Mini Conference. You can submit a proposal by going to this online form. We’d like to thank all of presenters for giving up their time and sharing their practices with all the attendees.

E-learning Group Image

Mini Conference: Inclusive Education Summary: Part 1

On the 10th April, the E-learning Group welcomed 26 staff members from across the University to this year’s Mini Conference. The theme for this year’s Mini Conference was Inclusive Education and the six presentations ranged from practical guides for creating accessible documents through to working with neurodiverse students. Over the course of the afternoon, there were six presentations. Given the breadth of topics under discussion, this summary will be split into two parts, with part 1 reflecting on the first three presentations. A summary of the final three presentations will be provided in our next blogpost.

The conference opened with a recorded presentation delivered by Dr Rob Grieve. Dr Grieve is a senior lecturer in Physiotherapy at the University of the West of England, Bristol. In addition to his academic research, Dr Grieve also runs workshops called Stand Up and Be Heard. The Stand Up and Be Heard workshops focused on assisting students who had a fear of public speaking which affected assessments that included presentation elements. Dr Grieve underpinned his presentation with research conducted by Marinho et al (2017) which identified that in a sample of 1,135 undergraduate students, 64% of them reported a fear of public speaking and 89% of them would have liked additional guidance and support on public speaking from their institutions. Closing his presentation, Dr Grieve identified strategies for staff that would help to support students with public speaking and assessed presentations. He suggests that:

  1. Recognise and acknowledge the fear of public speaking that many students have in required module presentation assessments and in general
  2. Apart from our subject teaching role, we can support students (or refer on) […] to reduce their public speaking fear
  3. Presentations and public speaking are transferable life skills, enhance employability and are not only used for assessment

Dr Grieve also noted that presentations do not have to be perfect. The key message to pass onto students is to be themselves in their presentations and to be authentic. The workshops that Rob ran were very successful for students, especially for those who were going on to give presentation assessments. You can find out more about the workshops online.

Presentation from Rob Grieve

Following on from Dr Grieve’s presentation, Dr Debra Croft gave us a presentation on the work that the Centre for Widening Participation and Social Inclusion have done around embedding Core Skills in their curriculum at Summer University. The Core Skills module is delivered primarily in Week 1 of the course and is a module in and of itself. The aim of the module is to equip students with the study and life skills that they will need over the rest of the Summer School and beyond. Given the time constraints of the Summer University programme, it’s not possible to embed the core skills in the subject specific curriculum so all students need to take the Core Skills module.

The team completely re-designed the module in 2016-17 based on the feedback that was given by students and staff and low satisfaction score. Following their redesign, the Core Skills module increased its satisfaction to 80% in 2016, high 80s% in 2017 before receiving a 94% satisfaction rate in 2018. The success of the module was attributed to the changes that were made by the teaching team. The biggest difference in 2018 for this module was the change in the delivery of the module. Closed Facebook groups were used to communicate with various students, as well as making full use of Blackboard and Turnitin for assignments. The Core Skills Module emphasised inclusivity and learning differences, which allowed tutors to build  requirements into their teaching. Assessments are standardised and designed to be inclusive from the beginning which means that everyone does the same assessment. They also use Blackboard quizzes which are marked automatically for training and IT skills. More information on the work of the Centre for Widening Participation and Social Inclusion is available their webpages.

The third and final session in this half of the conference was delivered by Janet Roland and Caroline White from Student Support and Career Services. Their presentation, Teaching for Everyone: Neurodiversity and Inclusive Practices, equipped attendees with practical skills for creating learning and teaching activities for neurodiverse students. The workshop started with an ice breaker exercise. In pairs, participants had to label themselves A and B. A’s were first asked to talk about their last holiday to B’s for 1 minute. Following this, B’s were asked to tell A’s about their last holiday but they weren’t allowed to use any word that contained the letter ‘E’. Participants were then given an envelope containing terms of neurodiverse behaviour and their characteristics. Attendees then had to match the label to the characteristics. This presentation gave participants the chance to think about the various neurodiverse profiles and strategies in which a more inclusive learning experience can be created. 

References

Marinho, ACF., de Madeiros, AM., Gama, AC and Teixeira, 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.

Call for Proposals – Group Work and Group Assessment

Mini Conference Logo

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit are pleased to announce that the first of this year’s Academy Mini Conferences will be held on Monday 16th December 2019. This Mini Conference will explore the advantageous and complex nature of group work, in and out of the classroom, and as a mode of assessment.

We are looking for expressions of interest from members of the University to give presentations, demonstrations, workshops and discussions on their how they approach group teaching. If you would like to submit a proposal to this year’s mini-conference, please fill in this online form before Monday 18th November. 

Potential topics might include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Group assessment design and marking (including peer marking)
  • Approaches to embedding group work into teaching (large and small teaching)
  • Use of technology in group work
  • Managing and supporting different group dynamics

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

New Distance Learner Forum

Distance Learner BannerWe’re excited to announce a new Distance Learner Forum for staff. These Forums are specifically aimed at those who deliver Distance Learning teaching or are considering delivering via Distance Learning in the future.

The Distance Learner Forum was established at this year’s Annual Learning and Teaching Conference. Book your place on these courses online.

This year there are 3 Distance Learning Forums:

Distance Learning Forum 1: Strategies for Monitoring Student Engagement

Tuesday 22nd October 2019, 1pm-2pm, E3 E-learning Training Room

In the first of these special Distance Learner Forums we will be looking at how you measure student engagement with learning activities in Blackboard. Blackboard has many different types of learning opportunities and activities. In this session, we will be looking at how we can measure student engagement with Blackboard for Distance Learning students.

Distance Learning Forum 2: Creating a Podcast

Tuesday 18th February 2020, 1pm-2pm, E3 E-learning Training Room

In the second of our Distance Learner Forums, we will be looking at Creating Podcasts. Podcasts are a great way to keep your students engaged with the content that you are creating as well as giving them opportunities to build activities into the podcasts. We’ll look at successful podcast design whilst also looking at the practicalities for creating your podcast and embedding it into your Blackboard course.

Distance Learning Forum 3: Gauging Student Opinion from a Distance

Tuesday 26th May 2020, 1pm-2pm, E3 E-learning Training Room

In the third of our Distance Learner Forums, we will be looking at how you can gauge student opinion from a distance. We’ll discuss and present strategies on how to allow distance learning students to feel part of a community and also to learn from each other. We’ll introduce activities that can be done in Blackboard to support this as well as other technologies such as online polling and Skype for Business.

We hope that you’ll be able to attend these forums. Please contact us with any questions.

Exemplary Course Award: Winners

We are pleased to announce this year’s recipient of the Exemplary Course Award run by the E-learning Group. Come and see the winners present their modules at next week’s Learning and Teaching Conference. Further information here.

Alison Pierse, Lifelong Learning Tutor in Art, has been awarded the Exemplary Course Award for the module XA15220 Figuratively Speaking: The History of Western Figurative Sculpture. The panel commended this module for its innovative approach to co-design with students as well as its ability to create a 3 dimensional learning experience for students who might not be studying on campus, in addition to ensuring all aspects of this module was fully accessible.

In addition to the winner, the following modules achieved Highly Commended:

  • IBERS Distance Learning Team for BDM0120 Research Methods
  • Stephen Chapman for BDM1320 The Future of Packaging
  • Alexandros Koutsoukis for IP12620 Behind the Headlines
  • Jennifer Wood for SP10740 Spanish Language (Beginners)

The diverse range of teaching and learning styles evidenced in this year’s applications reflects the innovative work that is taking place across the institution.

The aim of the Exemplary Course Award, now in its sixth year, is to recognise the very best learning and teaching practices by giving staff members the opportunity to share their work with colleagues, enhance their current modules in Blackboard, and receive feedback on their modules. Modules are assessed across 4 areas: course design, interaction and collaboration, assessment, and learner support. The self-assessed nature of the award gives staff the opportunity to reflect on their course and enhance aspects of their module before a panel assesses each application against the rubric.

The panel and the E-learning Group would like to thank all of the applicants for the time and effort that they have put into their applications and modules this year.

We’re looking forward to receiving more applications next year and many congratulations to the recipients of this year’s award.

Annual Learning and Teaching Conference Keynote Announcement: Helen Beetham

We are very excited to announce that this year’s keynote for the Annual Learning and Teaching Conference will be Helen Beetham.

Helen is an education consultant, researcher, writer, and digital project leader, with a particular focus on learners’ digital literacies. Recently, Helen helped to develop the Jisc Digital Insights survey. Aberystwyth University was one of the Universities that took part in this project (you can read more about the digital insights findings and the project on our blog).

The third edition of Helen’s co-edited collection with Rhona Sharpe is due to be published in July this year and happens to coincide with the dates of the conference. The book, entitled Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age, brings together recent developments and critical theories on designing learning activities that are learner-focused and accessible, and incorporates case studies and research from across the sector.

In addition to delivering a keynote on the topic of curriculum development and digital learning, Helen will also be offering a workshop to delegates so that they can apply what they have learnt to their own specific contexts and curriculum. We will be using the data and findings from the Digital Insights project to support this work.

The conference is running 8th-10th July 2019 and delegates can book onto the conference here.

A draft conference timetable will be available on our webpages shortly.

Helen tweets at @helenbeetham and blogs (sometimes) at digitalthinking.org.uk.

Conference Registration now open

Registration for the seventh annual Learning and Teaching conference is now open. This year’s Learning and Teaching conference has the theme Learning from Excellence: Innvate, Collaborate, Participate! and will be taking place between Monday 8th and Wednesday 10th July 2019.

You can register for the conference by filling in this online form: https://aber.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/7th-annual-learning-and-teaching-conference-registration

This year, we’ve got an exciting and varied programme with activities, workshops and presentations demonstrating the innovative teaching practices that are taking place across the University. A draft copy of the programme will be available on our webpages shortly.

If you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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)? 

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