Dr Suzanne Nolan recently presented at Abertay University’s ‘Seeing Learning Differently’ TEL conference in Dundee. It was a great opportunity to find out about some of the initiatives being developed at Abertay and other institutions and speak to HE professionals across the sector about the challenges we face.
Suzanne presented on designing a Virtual Learning Environment- VLE – for attainment and engagement, and offered some practical embedding second party applications into the VLE to ensure students don’t ‘click away’ and help minimise distraction. Designing a VLE to reflect the learning outcomes of a course and provide accessible and flexible learning can be difficult, and very often lather can become static and dull. Using the HTML functionality (without having to know anything about coding) can be an interesting way of including more interactive teaching styles in what is a virtual environment.
Throughout the day, it became clear that, as HE professionals, we need to think more carefully about the transformation of our teaching practices, rather than simply translating our current methods for a digital environment.
Kerr Gardiner, Head of Learning Technology and Media Production at the University of Glasgow, gave some eye-opening statistics:
Despite social media, smart phones, and the technology driven world we live in, only 50-60% of students are comfortable using technology in their academic studies
Simply translating our current learning and teaching methods for digital technologies are not going to help students develop the kind of academic digital literacy’s that we are coming to expect. Replicating what we have always done, but for a new medium, is not enough. We need to create a digital landscapes for learning on a course and institutional level; create authentic assessments; design courses in and for the digital environment.
Dr Kenny McAlpine wrote an excellent blog post summarising the issues from the conference, ‘Why do we still struggle with technology in teaching?‘
She concluded, as we all did, that there is no ‘quick fix’, and that – just as important – we need to change the culture of the organisations in which we work in order to keep ourselves up-to-date and relevant. Kerr Gardiner talked about the need for change management as part of this process – perhaps we should be looking to our Business School’s for support in embedding progress of this kind at an institutional level?
Dr Suzanne Nolan is the Lecturer in Employment Development at the Suffolk Business School, helping to develop student and graduate employability. She also works as a consultant on digital marketing.