Y1Feedback and Assessment Conference

This brief post alerts readers to the Y1Feedback Project and provides some personal reflections on last week’s International Assessment in Higher Education Conference.

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The Y1Feedback Project is a collaborative effort between Maynooth University (Project lead), Athlone Institute of Technology, Dublin City University and Dundalk Institute of Technology. The project is being led by Lisa O’Regan with the support of a strong  research and development team. In brief the Y1Feedback Project seeks to improve and develop feedback dialogue in first year undergraduate programmes to support student transition by using digital technologies. So far the team is in the process of reviewing relevant literature and completing the analysis of a baseline staff and student survey of feedback practices in our respective institutions. We have already shared some of the preliminary findings of this survey at national and international conferences. To our surprise last week we won the “Best Poster” award at the International Assessment in Higher Education Conference. Our Y1Feedback website contains more information about this National Forum funded project and please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team should you wish to learn more about the project.

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Reflections on the Assessment Conference – Elaine Walsh

Last week several members of the Y1Feedback team attended the International Assessment in Higher Education Conference in Birmingham. The following reflections on the conference come from Elaine Walsh who represents DCU and the NIDL on the Y1Feedback Project.

“I kicked-off the Assessment Conference in Birmingham by attending a master class by Tansy Jessop (University of Winchester) on Transforming the Experience of Students through Assessment (TESTA). What a fantastic start to the conference.

The parallel sessions were full of so many great talks that I found it hard to choose between them. However, I wasn’t disappointed by any of the sessions I managed to attend. It was great to have issues around assessment being discussed by such knowledgeable people.

The opening keynote by Dr Maddalena Taras definitely got me thinking. The key aspect of this presentation, that I took away, was the importance of questioning. Also, we (as academics) should be mindful that our judgement on a person’s work can have a real effect on their lives. Therefore, we must be able to justify our judgement. We must make our implicit thinking explicit!

My take on the closing keynote by Professor Jo-Anne Baird was the increasing focus on assessment in teaching and learning and the need for transparency without creating dependency.

The competition was on as the battle of the posters commenced. There were 43 posters in the competition and we each had three minutes to get our message across. While my work on designing an assessment strategy and supporting assessment writers (Assessment Strategy: Online Distance Education) did not win!!! I was thrilled to be part of the winning poster.  The Y1Feedback Project is proving to be an excellent collaboration between Maynooth University (Lisa O’Regan), Athlone Institute of Technology (Naula Harding and Geraldine McDermott), Dublin City University (Mark Brown and Elaine Walsh) and Dundalk Institute of Technology (Moira Maguire and Gerry Gallagher).

It wasn’t all about assessment though as we had an hour to check out some of the local sights in Birmingham. We had a drink while looking out over the canal and toasted to our win. What a thoroughly enjoyable and exciting conference. Looking forward to 2017!”

Reflections on EdTech 2015

At the end of May over 200 Irish educators gathered at the University of Limerick for this year’s Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA) Conference – EdTech 2015. It was pleasing to see so many people at the conference as current efforts to build digital capacity, promote institutional collaboration, and support new models of teaching and learning, depends to a large extent on the health, vibrancy and level of activity of our professional bodies. While it is important for us to contribute to major European and international communities in the field this should not be at the expense of supporting local, grass-root, professional learning opportunities.

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The National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) is committed to supporting the work of ILTA, as evidenced by our successful partnership in developing and launching Ireland’s first Horizon Report for Higher Education. A large team of NIDL staff also travelled to Limerick in order to attend and contribute to this year’s conference. Notably, our people were presenters or co-presenters of 14 conference papers. Several other DCU staff and colleagues in our linked College also contributed to the conference over the two days with a variety of papers, posters and/or Gásta presentations.

We have embedded links to some of our presentation slides in this posting and the brief personal reflections on the conference that follow from Dr Mark Glynn.

Reflections from Mark Glynn…

There are numerous conferences on my radar every year with the ILTA “EdTech” conference always an interesting one to attend – one which I try to never miss. This year there seems to be more conferences than ever — or maybe just more that I have been aware of in the past — so I have become more fussy and discerning about which conferences I choose to attend. So why did EdTech make my list?

  • First and foremost it is an Irish conference bringing Irish educators together – which yields tremendous opportunity for collaboration. It is always exciting to see what our counterparts in other institutions are doing but when they are neighbouring institutions it makes the conference so much more relevant.

  • Second, with over 200 participants and 5 parallel streams there was bound to be several presentations that will be relevant

  • Finally, it is the informal atmosphere of the conference, combined with the openness of participants with respect to their willingness to share

These three factors ensure that EdTech will always appear high on my list. With respect to presentations that stood out for me: top of the list is the launch of the Horizons report. Having been involved with this since the start I was very excited to see the official launch and to quote Larry Johnson, CEO of NMC, “it is a catalyst for conversation”. Helen Beetham’s keynote resonated quite strongly with me too.

The talk from the team based in UL (Liam Murray, James Patton and Geraldine Exton) – “Gamification for education: rants, retorts, rebuttals and refinements” struck a chord with me. The Gasta sessions always throw up some good ideas and the thing that I like most about this format is that if you are not interested in what the current speaker has to say – you just need to wait 5 minutes for the next speaker. Our own Conor Sullivan raised a lot of interest with the use of Google drive for teaching practice.

The final presentation that stood out for me was the Assessment and Feedback presentation given by Lisa O’Regan from Maynooth University on behalf of a larger collaborative team – “Assessment Feedback Practice In First Year using Digital Technologies – A Baseline Review”. This is an interesting project funded by the National Forum with plenty of potential to make a significant contribution to the sector.

Follow up on National MOOC Symposium

A recent report shows that the number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) being offered by institutions, and the intention to develop more, is continuing to increase throughout Europe (Jansen & Schuwer, 2015). And last week around 350 delegates from around the world participated in the third European MOOC Summit in Mons, Belgium.

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On Thursday and Friday, and continuing over the weekend, the Higher Education, Research, and Culture in European Society (HERCULES) expert group of the Academia Europaea (AE) hosted a special Symposium in Stockholm at the Wenner-Gren Centre exploring new and emerging models of teaching and learning. A major focus of this event was on MOOCs. The Symposium attracted many of the leading researchers and thought leaders in the area in Europe and the United States, along with representatiives from countries as far as China and Japan.

While the future of the MOOC is uncertain, we should not underestimate both the local and global impact that the Internet, and online learning more specifcially, is having on the Higher Education sector. As Amara’s Law reminds us, “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

The level of interest that MOOCs have attracted from media, politicians and senior academic leaders throughout the world is unprecedented in recent times. Arguably, no other educational innovation in the past century has received the same level of media attention and ground swell of interest from millions of people expressing their willingness to explore, discover and learn through new technology. Of course, the hype of the MOOC movement must be unpacked from the hope.

Therefore, at the beginning of May, the National MOOC Symposium was an effort by the NIDL to facilitate more critical discussion about some of the claims, counter-claims and unresolved debates surrounding the rapid growth of MOOCs, with a particular focus on the Irish context. It is important to acknowledge the Symposium was supported with funding from two European projects which are designed to mature our understanding of the potential of new models of open and online education.

Many of the presentations (slides and videos) from the National MOOC Symposium are now available on the NIDL website. Highlights include the two keynote speakers, Professor Mike Sharples and Dr Darco Jensen, who provide contrasting perspectives on major MOOC initiatives underway in the UK, US and Europe. Mike provides the Academic Lead of FutureLearn and Darco is the lead researcher in several European funded Open Education initiatives.

Other speakers over the course of the day provided examples of local initiatives, such as presentations from IT Silgo and Trinity College Dublin (TCD). An analysis of the competing and co-existing institutional drivers behind MOOCs may be of wider interest along with a study we have underway in the NIDL of how MOOCs have been presented in the Irish Media. We look forward to hosting similar events and symposia in the future in areas of particular interest.