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Educational Design and Engagement

Educational Design and Engagement

Enriching the student learning experience & supporting development of on campus and online courses.

eLearning@ed Conference 2014

The 12th annual eLearning@ed Conference took “Authenticity Online”  as its theme – this allowed for a very broad interpretation and therefore a wide range of presentations. It attracted almost 100 staff from across the University.

The speakers’ presentations and some posters from the day are available from the eLearning@ed Forum site, and Nicola Osborne from Edina has provided an excellent live blog of the whole day.

This year may be especially memorable for the keynotes and the hands-on opportunities – I personally treasure the memory of looking around the room after Lindy Richardson’s finger-knitting tutorial and seeing some quite senior staff struggling with their knotted yarn.

Participants getting to grips with Finger knitting

Photo: Courtesy Marshall Dozier

Ross Galloway gave an engaging and thought-provoking keynote, asking if we are guilty of “cargo-cult” mind-sets when designing our courses. I was delighted to find that one of my personal heroes, Richard P Feynman, was responsible for introducing the notion of cargo cult science to the world, so double thanks to Ross for sending me off on a whole new train of reading and reflection on some of my own practice.

The afternoon keynote speaker, Bonnie Stewart, also provided much food for thought in discussing her research on how academics manage their identities online and engage with peers and collaboration through social networking. How should the academy acknowledge and reward activity of this sort? How can we use these emerging properties to improve the links between individual staff, the institution, and the wider community?

International students from the School of Education (who had made a special effort to prepare their presentation the day before an assignment deadline) received a warm welcome and gave a fresh and valuable perspective on the online educational space. Other speakers from across the university, presenting their own work on a smaller scale, nevertheless managed to place their work in the wider context of the conference theme and gave all the delegates an overview of the scope of activity in this institution. The afternoon ended with another striking metaphor, when Anne-Marie Scott used the old Scots tale of The Cock and the Jasp from Robert Henryson to illustrate some of the perils and contradictions of working with learning analytics.

At the start of the day Professor Jeff Haywood pointed out that it is quite unusual for an internal staff development type event like this to persist in substantially the same form for so many years. I take the longevity of eLearning@ed conference as an indicator of the lively and eclectic range of work at the University of Edinburgh, and the interest of staff in sharing each others’ achievements and interests. If the lively buzz at the end of the day is anything to go by, there will be an appetite for another such event next year.


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