Category Archives: conference

Augmented reality as an entry to learning experiences – Jisc Digital Festival 2015

I enjoyed this session at the Jisc Digital Festival 2015 on Augmented Reality


This demo will look at how augmented reality can be used as an entryway to learning, not just as a simple overlay of video content.

Augmented reality platforms have come a long way in the last three years and now offer far more interactivity options through simple drag and drop interfaces.

Examples were showcased to show how the technology can potentially be used. Advice was available on the range of platforms for development and their suitability for you. Selecting the correct platform for development is an important step on the route to effective deployment of the technology.

As with any technology, the key decision you really need to consider is how will this impact on teaching, learning and assessment and what difference will it make.

Merging the Distance

Yesterdays sunrise in Iceland near Bifrost University

One of the interesting talks I listened to at the BETT show was from Bifröst University who had merged their distance online courses with their campus based courses.

From a learner’s perspective they received the “same” experience regardless if they accessed the course online or on campus.

The learner feedback was very positive as it allowed them to pick and choose how they accessed the learning on the course depending on their personal circumstances and context. You can imagine how one week due to snow or holiday they accessed the course online, the following week they were in a face to face session on campus.

In this blog post I am going to look at and discuss some of the technical issues that Bifröst University had to consider and out into place before moving forward on merging online and campus based courses.

Bifröst University in their presentation made some key points on the technical requirements. They needed to have in place a robust IT infrastructure in place to host and distribute the various types of content and video for the courses. They also needed to ensure there was solid scalable WiFi available to all users, taking into account the changing landscape of devices that learners would be using. As well as campus connectivity there is the issue of external internet access and bandwidth, as far as Bifröst University are concerned, they see really essential for learners to have access to high speed internet.

The other main consideration, that Bifröst University mentioned, was the need to have a robust Learning Management System (or VLE) and interesting for this to be backed up by good communication software and group productivity tools.

This is a very similar concept that I have spoken at length about in various bog posts and conference sessions, notably the VLE is Dead debate back in 2009 at the ALT Conference. What I said was that the VLE was an important portal for learners, but that didn’t stop organisations from adding in external tools. These tools could be Google+, Twitter, Google Docs, Office 365, or other communication and productivity tools. The tools that the learners use would then be accessed or linked to from the VLE.

Bifröst University also embraced the concept of BYOD and making sure both learners and teachers understood the limitations of this, but also ensure they re was a willingness to cater for the variety of devices that learners would be using.

One aspect that Bifröst University put a lot of emphasis on was on the importance of training and the large amount of training that would be needed. They certainly understood that even with a so called digital generation there was a need to provide training for learners before the start of the course, and this training would need to be repeated throughout the year. Training sessions were also run for staff at the start of the year, with additional micro sessions run throughout the duration of the course. Bifröst University also made sure they had good support materials for all key systems backed up by a range of guides and handouts.

In a future blog post I will look at the curriculum design implications of merging online and campus based courses.

Photo Credit: Iceland by Jakub on Flickr

Down at the Festival

JISC Digital Festival

After a brief absence, the JISC, sorry Jisc Conference, sorry Jisc Digital Festival is back. The last JISC Conference was a couple of years ago and it has evolved in the Jisc Digital Festival.

It was a two day event in Birmingham looking at many different aspects of technology enhanced learning. There was stuff for learning technologists, library people and IT managers. For someone in my role there was a lot of choice.

In some ways it was reminiscent of past JISC Conferences and in others it was very different and new. There was a lot happening and it can be challenging to find the stuff you want to see and listen to.

I did like the festival theme, which really gave the event a very different feel. Two days also made a difference to the rushed single day there use to be.

With such a packed programme it was inevitable that there would be some clashes. I was torn for example about going to the digital storytelling session or the one on visitors and residents.

I was pleased with the vast majority of the sessions I attended, they were stimulating, interesting, informative and made me think. There was a lot of stuff to take away. With recordings and resources online, there’s a substantial amount of stuff to refect on and take away.

One of the key benefits for me of attending a conference such as this is making contacts, talking and networking. There wasn’t a huge number of people from FE, but I certainly spoke to many of them. Finding out what they were doing, the issues they faced and what they were planning. Finding out what others are doing is a critical factor when implementing change, for benchmarking and aiding discovery.

It was also useful to speak to contacts at Jisc, Janet, TechDis, as well as some of the exhibitors. I have a bundle of business cards, flyers, web links and even the odd QR Code.

JISC Digital Festival

I got a lot out of the conference, I took a lot away and it has made me think. I am glad to see the return of the conference and in many ways I think it was much better than previous Jisc conferences. Now that’s back, I hope that Jisc will also bring back the online conference, as I really missed it this year.

Loose Change

This is the presentation I delivered at the RSC Wales Encouraging Innovation Conference.

Change is all around us and the modern teacher needs to be adaptable, innovative and willing to take a risk. Flipped classrooms, MOOCs, wearable technology, cloud computing, mobile, tablets, 4G, internet TVs, social learning, learning analytics, game based learning, augmented reality and e-books are all been used now or are just on the horizon. Change is all around us and the modern teacher needs to be adaptable, innovative and willing to take risks. The rate of technological change appears to be getting faster. Can our existing cultures allow us to take advantage of the potential of emerging technologies? Or do we need to change the way we change?

The focus of my presentation was that change is constant, we’ve always had change and that dealing with change is more of a cultural issue than a technical one. Change can be an opportunity and can be exciting, as well as being challenging and daunting for some.

Read more about the conference on the RSC Wales Blog.

Maharing It

Mahara Logo

If I was doing one thing this week, the one thing I would be doing is attending the Mahara UK Conference. Alas I can’t go, but I have sent a member of my team.

One of the success stories this year at Gloucestershire College has been Mahara. Learners have been using it in a variety of ways for learning and assessment.

Teams really like how it can be used for many different purposes and one of the things I hope we can get from the Mahara conference is how other institutions and organisations are using Mahara with their learners.

So how are your learners using Mahara?