Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Key messages from the 2016 UCISA TEL Survey

With thanks to Richard Walker from the University of York for providing the content for this post; the original can be accessed here.

At this year’s ALT-C conference, Richard Walker led a discussion session on: ‘Open and flexible learning opportunities for all?  Findings from the 2016 UCISA TEL survey on learning technology developments across UK higher education. The slides for the workshop are available here and as the title of the workshop suggests, they cover some of the key messages emerging from the 2016 Technology Enhanced Learning Survey of the UK higher education sector. The full report for the Survey has been published on the UCISA website at:  https://www.ucisa.ac.uk/tel
The Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Survey is the eighth of its kind that UCISA has conducted, and offers a longitudinal perspective of TEL developments over a 15-year period within UK higher education, focusing on the provision already in place within institutions and the current, emerging and planned patterns of learning technology use across the HE community. Of particular interest in this year’s Survey was the progress that institutions were making with the implementation of lecture recording and learning analytics services, as well as developments in open learning provision. The Survey also sought to keep track of longitudinal developments in strategies and drivers for centrally managed TEL services, focusing on the range of TEL tools used by students, as well as staffing provision in support of these services. The Survey is typically completed by institutional heads of e-learning and for this year’s Survey 110 out of a possible 160 UK higher education institutions responded – a response rate of 69%.
So what were the headline findings?

(i) Drivers and barriers to institutional TEL development

The principal institutional driver for TEL development remains unchanged since 2003 with a continuing focus on the use of learning technologies to enhance the quality of learning and teaching.  Unsurprisingly student expectations have a key influence on strategic thinking when it comes to the development of institutional TEL services. Meeting student expectations, improving student satisfaction and establishing a common user experience for TEL services all appear in the top five list of driving factors for institutional TEL development.  Indeed Student learning experience and engagement strategies now represent the second most commonly cited category of institutional strategy informing TEL development after the Teaching, Learning and Assessment strategy, and have a higher profile than Corporate, Library or dedicated TEL strategies in this respect.
Lack of time continues to be the leading barrier to TEL development, with departmental / school culture rising up the list to second place. Institutional culture also features, along with Lack of internal sources of funding and Lack of staff commitment in the top five barriers to TEL development. Lack of support staff remains one of the lowest ranked barriers  with the majority of institutions reporting an increase in TEL support staff since the last Survey; further staffing changes are foreseen over the next two years, primarily relating to increasing numbers as well as the restructuring of their services.

(ii) Modes of course delivery supported by TEL services

How then are TEL tools being used by institutions to support the various modes of course delivery?
Blended learning delivery, focusing on the provision of lecture notes and supplementary resources, remains the most common mode of course delivery using TEL. The key change from 2014 has been the increasing institutional engagement in the delivery of fully online courses, with over half of the responding institutions to the Survey now supporting some form of delivery through their schools or departments.  This represents a key change from previous Surveys, where fully online delivery has previously been reported as a niche activity conducted by specialist distance learning providers.
In contrast, institutional engagement with open learning delivery has not progressed from the picture recorded in 2014, and only 11 institutions confirmed that they have an open learning strategy. The most popular open online learning format is online courses for all registered students at an institution – commonly referred to as OOCs! Despite the increasing adoption by institutions of open learning platforms such as FutureLearn and Open Education by Blackboard, less than half of responding institutions to the Survey are currently engaged in the delivery of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Where MOOC delivery is taking place, it tends not to be integrated with campus-based course delivery, with the majority of institutions opting to use a separate platform from the main institutional VLE to deliver their public courses. For a fuller discussion of the TEL Survey findings on open learning developments, take a look at the YouTube summary video by Martin Jenkins (Coventry University).

(iii) Centrally supported TEL tools and services

Have there been any notable changes in the range of TEL services that institutions are now offering to support the student learning experience since the last Survey?
The key change since the last Survey has been the increasing deployment of e-submission tools within HE institutions. After the main institutional virtual learning environment, e-submission tools are now the most common centrally-supported TEL service across the sector, rising above text-matching (plagiarism detection) services in the list of supported services. Over half of responding institutions now deploy e-submission tools in 75% or more of the courses that they deliver to students. There have also been notable increases in the adoption of formative e-assessment and document sharing tools and a broader implementation of lecture capture solutions across the sector since the last Survey, with at least 50% of members from all university mission groups now supporting such a system.
In contrast to these developments, only 20 institutions reported that they have established learning analytics services which are used by students, with 17 institutions linking their services to the main VLE. These services typically have only been deployed across 1% – 4% of their courses, representing a small-scale implementation at this stage. However, we may expect further developments in service provision in the future, with 29 institutions confirming that they will be reviewing analytics systems over the next two years. If you would like to find out more about what the Survey tells us about learning analytics developments across the sector, take a look at the following YouTube summary video. (For a summary of the discussion on Day 1 of the 2016 ALT conference on the current state of play with learning analytics across the UK higher sector, take a look at the following blog post.)

(iv) Approaches to TEL service management and support

Outsourcing of institutional services continues to grow, primarily for student email, e-portfolio systems, VLEs and staff email. The type of outsourcing model is dependent on the platform being outsourced, such that institutions are more likely to use a Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud-based model for email services, and to use an institutionally managed, externally hosted model for TEL related tools, such as e-portfolios and the VLE for blended and fully online courses.
There has been little change since the last Survey in the optimisation of TEL services for access by mobile devices.  The percentage of institutions optimising access to lecture recordings has stayed at the same level as 2014, despite the steady investment in lecture capture systems which has been taking place across the sector.  This may be largely due to commercial solutions providing users with their own mobile app, as is the case at York with our own hosted Panopto service, which comes with a dedicated app for iOS and Android devices to support the viewing access and the upload of video recordings.  Course announcements, email and course materials are the leading categories of services which have been optimised for mobile devices (iOS, Android and Windows), with Russell Group institutions leading the way in optimising access to library services.

(v) TEL developments making new demands and future challenges for TEL service management and support

Finally, what are the TEL developments making new demands on support services across the sector? Taking the increasing implementation of e-submission services into account, it comes as no surprise to see that the electronic management of assessment (EMA) now tops the list of TEL developments making new support demands.  Lecture capture is the second most commonly cited development making support demands, with mobile technologies dropping down to third place. Distance learning and fully online course provision and learning analytics enter the top-five list of developments for the first time, with MOOCs dropping out of the picture.
Staff development is identified as the leading challenge to TEL development over the next two to three years, and no doubt this is related to increasing academic staff engagement with new TEL services such as EMA and lecture capture, which are becoming central to learning and teaching activities across the sector.  As we observed after the 2014 Survey (blog post here), teaching staff are now expected to use a wide range of technologies as part of their academic practice, well beyond the uploading of course notes to the institutional VLE platform. This finding underscores the importance of investment in staff development in future years – specifically with the development of digital literacies for teaching staff.

To access the full 2016 UCISA Survey findings, please download the report at: http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/tel

Monday, 19 September 2016

Top Tips: How to Record Your Screen and Create Engaging Screencasts

Maddy Bentley, former support guru at MediaCore, wrote this excellent guide on how to create a screencast. Huge thanks to Maddy for letting us share her guide here!

Friday, 16 September 2016

BLE at ALT-C 2016 - follow-up

Leo Havemann and Sultan Wadud
The themes at last week's ALT-C were Connect, Collaborate, Create. Over 460 delegates attended the three days of rich, illuminating and inspiring presentations about how technology is ever-evolving to support learning and teaching across the education sectors.

The three papers that the BLE was involved in were well-received, contributing to the collaborative and sharing ethos of the conference, and fitting in tightly with the conference themes.

On Day 1, A collaborative approach to improving online assessment and feedback opportunities, presented by Leo Havemann and co-written with Sarah Sherman, described the BLE's eAssessment and Feedback project. You can see the slides here: 

On Day 2, Manoj Singh from QMUL led the workshop, Risky business: A workshop to examine what happens when learning technologies vanish and how we can work together to mitigate disasters. The workshop was co-authored with Sarah Sherman and supported on the day by Sultan Wadud from SOAS. Attendees were first shown the following presentation:
Following that, they were asked to work in groups to consider the impact if specific learning technologies were suddenly pulled. They completed a shared spreadsheet to capture the risk analysis of such occurrences. You can access the spreadsheet here

Manoj Singh, QMUL
 Attendees working in groups

Finally, on Day 3, Manoj, with Sultan, gave the paper Pulling the plug(in): Dealing with a technical crisis by sharing knowledge, resources and experience: a companion presentation about the experiences of QMUL and the BLE members when the MediaCore service was given a year to be decommissioned. Manoj described how this required an intensive needs analysis exercise to be conducted to identify feasible replacements, then a migration project. This unexpected yet massive piece of work had to be undertaken at the detriment of other projects at all the affected institutions.

Presentation slides:

And the video of the presentation:

Leo and Wadud holding up their certificates to the camera
Leo and Wadud holding up their certificates to the camera

At the annual ALT awards ceremony, which celebrated 10 years at the conference, the BLE TEL Support Team's 2010 accolade of a highly commended Learning Technology Team was remembered as representatives were given a special certificate.

Photos via Flickr:
Chris Bull CC-BY-NC ALT

Friday, 2 September 2016


Remember the BLOOC - the Bloomsbury Open Online Course, which launched in June 2014? No? You can read about it here. The BLOOC was designed for Bloomsbury-based teaching staff to provide creative and inspiring ideas to make their Moodle courses more engaging for students. 230 participants registered on the BLOOC which ran for 4 weeks and covered one topic per week:

Week One - using audio and video
Week Two - encouraging student production with wikis and blogs
Week Three - teaching synchronously in virtual classrooms
Week Four - subverting multiple choice questions for deep learning

A year ago in August 2015, we adapted the BLOOC as an 'on demand' course and opened it up to the wider world; to date, with hardly any advertising, 96 participants have signed up. You can register for it here.

Then in March 2016, the BLE responded to the University of London's International Academy's invitation for proposals to collaborate on the development of a new phase of MOOCs. We were delighted to be accepted and our joint MOOC will be part of a series which will be launched in 2016-17 on the Coursera platform. Based on the original premise of the BLOOC, this MOOC will be specifically for people who teach online and who want to discover new approaches and tools to increase the ways in which their students engage and interact to enhance their learning. The working title for the MOOC is Get interactive: encouraging student engagement in online learning.

Watch this space for further updates!

The BLE at ALT-C 2016

The Association for Learning Technology (ALT)'s annual conference, ALT-C, kicks-off on Tuesday 6th September at the University of Warwick. This is the biggest and most important conference of the year for staff working across the education sector with an interest in technology enhanced learning. This year, the theme of the conference is Connect, Collaborate, Create - topics very close to the heart of the BLE - and I am very proud that we will be presenting three papers.

The first is all about our BEAF project - a collaborative approach to improving online assessment and feedback opportunities. In the paper, we will describe what prompted the focus for our work, what we achieved and what it all means to the consortium members. You can read the abstract here and view the presentation here.

The second paper is a workshop, co-presented with colleagues from Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL) and is based on our shared experiences of losing MediaCore: Risky business: A workshop to examine what happens when learning technologies vanish and how we can work together to mitigate disasters. The workshop is a hands-on session where delegates will have the opportunity to share and discuss similar stories of losing relied-upon tech due to providers being taken over or deciding to ditch the technology they supported. Moreover, delegates will be able to consider risk management plans. Read the workshop outline here and view the presentation here.

Finally, to complement the workshop, a standard paper co-presented again with QMUL will describe in more detail what happened to us when we were given just short of a year to decommission, replace and migrate to a new media repository - Pulling the plug(in): dealing with a technical crisis by sharing knowledge, resources and experience. You can see the abstract here and view the presentation here. This presentation was also filmed; the video can be viewed here:

Much of ALT-C will be live-streamed, so if you're not attending in person, you can tune in remotely. More information is available on the excellent conference website, https://altc.alt.ac.uk/2016/