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    From under the radar to under review: digital learning in a ‘face-to-face university’

    Havemann, Leo and Charles, Elizabeth and Sherman, S. and Rodgers, Scott and Barros, Joana (2018) From under the radar to under review: digital learning in a ‘face-to-face university’. In: ALT-C 2018: 25th Annual Conference, 11-13 Sep 2018, Manchester, UK. (Unpublished)

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    Session Description: In 2017/18 the status of ‘technology-enhanced learning’ (TEL) at Birkbeck, University of London moved up the organisational agenda from its usual position under the radar, to a new level of ‘under review’. Like the Open University, Birkbeck’s mission has been to create opportunities to study for groups who are usually excluded by conventional modes of provision. However, where online (‘distance’) mode teaching acts to take location out of the equation, Birkbeck opens access primarily through its timetable. The fact that our students give up the semblance of a normal life, dedicating many of their evenings to the classroom, has perhaps obscured the extent to which student life is increasingly the life of the computer, as well as of the mind. While the option of studying an entire degree via evening classes has proven a robust and popular model, the appetite to integrate the use of digital technologies into learning and teaching at Birkbeck has steadily grown since the introduction of its first virtual learning environment or VLE, WebCT, in 2003. Subsequent VLE migrations, first to Blackboard in 2008/09, and later to Moodle in 2011/12, appear to have both accelerated and slowed the pace of adoption; but in any case, some degree of modular presence on the VLE is now far more normal than exceptional. Evening, face-to-face mode teaching, while seen to a great extent as our ‘USP’, is only one element of our ‘student experience’ and digital practices have quietly gone mainstream. Although the question of whether blended learning is well-understood or well-defined remains unanswered (Oliver and Trigwell, 2005; Dziuban et al., 2018), it can nonetheless be described as the new normal. The typical blend at Birkbeck makes use of learning technologies to deliver learning materials and also usually to manage assessment and feedback processes including online marking, and increasingly to record lectures or create other audiovisual content. In spite of this, a narrative of the primacy of face-to-face (as well as budgetary concerns) has tended to overwrite past calls for more resource and development in the digital space. This appears set to change with the initiation of an institution-wide Student Experience Review in 2017, one strand of which focuses specifically on reviewing institutional provision, support and development of TEL. Session content: evaluation and reflection The proposal to review the current use of TEL came about in the light of an ’emerging appetite and opportunities for its enhancement’ (to quote the initiation document), and explicitly including both ‘people and technology – both the software solutions provided, but also the supporting arrangements in place to embed and facilitate their use’. Current usage and support structures, as well as an outward strand considering good practices across the sector, would be considered in order to inform the future vision and strategy. The review thereby identified a direction of travel, but not, at its outset, a destination, although an internal model of good practice might be proposed as a template (Havemann et al, 2013; Havemann, 2017; Havemann, in press). The TEL review consisted of two research strands: 1 Internal strand Existing use of TEL, including review of current support, taking the form of: Interviews with key academic staff Online surveys for (i) staff and (ii) students User testing for (i) staff and (ii) students Focus groups Usage data 2 External strand What is being done in other institutions? Pull together aggregated data from known surveys (such as UCISA and HeLF) and reach out to contacts at other HEIs. This session therefore proposes to review the review. We will discuss what data has been collected and examined and outline the main findings. Through this process we were able to identify where we want to go – the session will conclude with the discussion of whether we are finally getting there.


    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): technology-enhanced learning, digital education, learning and teaching, institutional strategy, education strategy, policy, higher education, birkbeck
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences
    Birkbeck Professional Services > IT Services
    Birkbeck Professional Services > Library Services
    Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Depositing User: Leo Havemann
    Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2018 07:02
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:44


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