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ELearning@Ed Conference – 12 April 2013 – Just how flexible is flexible?

I and several colleagues from the Learning Services team, attended the annual eLearning@Ed conference.  This years theme was: “Just how flexible is flexible?”, which attracted a diverse and packed programme with Ray Land invited as a key note speaker and many excellent speakers from across the University. It was well attended and offered a great chance to catch up with colleagues.

A photograph of two leather bound books, their spines bent round into curves so the pages touch
Flexibility
This image is by J.Mark Bertrand is reused with thanks under a Creative Commons licence

My own small contribution to the conference was to put together posters about new features coming up in LEARN (our central VLE) when it is upgraded in the summer:

But enough about me, after a weekend to recover and reflect, these are the edited  highlights from the Learning Services Team:

Professor Ray Land of the University of Durham gave a thought provoking talk about the implications, meanings and risks of speed, including an entertaining video of Father Guido Sarducci proposing the Five Minute University to lead into his discussion question:  If universities are not about content then what then? This led later to a fascinating quote from Cable Green about the limited percentage of the population who could currently access Higher Education and the possibility of open education to ‘afford the opportunity to satisfy everyone’s right to get as much education as they desire’.

Ray introduced some interesting ideas such as MOOD (Massive Open Online Databases) and the importance of Learner Analytics and data democratisation. Analytics appeared to be a hot topic coming up in a later talk by Assistant Principle Ian Pirie and again in the final panel discussion. Ray also referred to the predicted post-humanist era and the notion of ‘conscious machines’, but commented on the very human characteristic of contemplation and reflection.

Dr Jo-Anne Murray spoke about the recent very successful experience of running a MOOC in Equine Nutrition. They hoped to use this to raise the international profile of the online distance Masters programme in Equine Science as Jo-Anne said they hoped ‘Like One Direction to break America’, applications are just starting to come in for the next intake of the Masters but Jo-Anne was confident that the MOOC had successfully raised both her professional  and the Masters programme profile.

Dr Sue Rigby (Vice Principal Learning and Teaching) and EUSA Hazel Marzetti both spoke very positively about the benefits of mainstreaming accessibility exceptions, such as allowing all students to audio record any lecture, or requiring all staff to supply content/reading lists in advance of lectures as this allowed students the flexibility to study in ways that best suited them.

Prof. Jamie Davies gave some interesting reflections on the flipped classroom from a low tech perspective, highlighting the importance of working with students as equals in a trusting, enquiring and exploratory environment.

I hope you enjoy our highlights, but of course this brief post can’t really do justice to the full conference experience, we are already looking forward to next year’s event.  Please feel free to add any comments you have about this post or share your own higlights from the conference.