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    Down at the Festival

    March 12th, 2014

    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.


    Valuing CPD

    November 6th, 2012

    Victoria Street, London

    I’ve recently (been) signed up for a one day event in that London town.

    The event cost is £325 and the train ticket is over a hundred pounds.

    That isn’t cheap!

    I think it will be an useful event and (probably) value for money.

    However when you consider the costs of the JISC Innovating e-Learning Online Conference at just £50 and what you get for that, you might want to consider attending.

    As one delegate from last year said:

    “I think it is a brilliant return for the investment and consider this to be a major part of my CPD each year.”

    There is a packed programme and in addition to the usual week of presentations and discussions, there is the activity week, a chance to have a go at stuff.

    For £50 you aren’t probably going to find something of similar value anywhere else in the UK.

    Of course also as it’s online there are no travel costs either.


    Virtually

    October 31st, 2012

    Conference

    Virtually every conference you attend will have keynotes and presentations. One of the strengths of any conference is the level of debate and discussion that takes place, however symposiums aside, most of the discussion at a physical conference, aside from the few minutes for questions, takes place between small groups over lunch or coffee. There is little time for reflection and of course these chats over coffee are never recorded or noted down, making it difficult to refer back to them when back in the office. Also though they are happening across the conference, there is very little or no interaction between the different conversations; so people are not learning from each other or building on the discussions of others.

    With an online conference however you will find much more discussion and debate takes place than at a traditional conference. Not only that, the conversations happen over time, allowing for reflection and checking sources. It’s also all written down. This makes it very easy to check back and see what someone said before making a different point. Sharing links and ideas is also so much easier too.

    For me this is the real value and one of the key advantages of an online conference. It’s one of the reasons I look forward to and enjoy the JISC e-Learning Online Conference.

    Due to the textual and asynchronous nature of the discussion it is possible to engage in the conversation either immediately or after a period of reflection over the days of the discussion.

    It’s a real opportunity to take the time to debate the issues that arise out of the presentation with fellow practitioners and experts. You can challenge the experts as well as yourself and other practitioners. In many ways it can be easier to engage with the presenters than it would be at a physical conference.

    You know the conference where the chair asks, “are there any questions?” and it can be intimidating to put your hand up. Even if you do, there are usually others and there is very little time for lots of questions. Keynotes can be even more intimidating especially with six hundred odd delegates in the auditorium.

    It’s not that an online environment is not as challenging, more the online environment evens the playing field for delegates and presenters. It is, according to people I have spoken to, much easier to ask questions in an online conference than at a physical conference.

    Also sometimes you don’t want to ask questions of the presenter, but ask questions to the delegates. This is virtually impossible to do at a traditional conference, but is very easy to do in an online conference.

    Another advantage of the online conference is that if you do have a question for the presenter, however you want to check something first, you can. Before you ask your question, you can go back and read that paper you referenced last year, check with a colleague via e-mail that the evidence for the study is online, etc… try doing that in the “few minutes for questions” you get at a physical conference.

    So if you haven’t already can I suggest you sign up to the JISC e-Learning Online Conference 2012: Shaping the Future. If you have never attended an online conference before, now is an ideal opportunity (and great value at £50). If you have attended a JISC e-Learning Online Conference before, but didn’t engage, maybe time to give it another try.


    Open to Open

    October 23rd, 2012

    Nice video from JISC on openness including a few familiar faces.


    Still, the coffee is usually better

    October 15th, 2012

    Still, the coffee is usually better

    It’s that time of year again, yes the JISC e-learning team are running their online conference again, and once more I will be blogging at the JISC Innovating e-Learning online conference, Shaping the Future.

    So what is it about an online conference?

    Well it has all the features you find when you attend a physical conference, but it is all done online. With the JISC Online Conference, you get live presentations (through Collaborate), an online platform for asynchronous disucssions and sharing (through Moodle). There is the innovative thinking space (again) and an opportunity to try out new tools and techniques.

    For me the main reason for attending an online conference, as well as the excellent presentations, is the engagement between the delegates. Most physical conferences I have attended have in the main been passive affairs, I sit, I listen, I think, digest and reflect. Discussion and debate does happen at these conferences, but usually informally over coffee. At the online conference the debate and discussion takes place using a textual asyncrhonous discussion forum over the days of the conference. As a result it allows for reflection, it enables delegates to refer and check other papers and sources, and for all delegates to read that discussion and if they want to, add their own comment.

    Other reasons why I like online conferences, is that I can attend the conference even when doing other things. I can still attend meetings, see people in my office, teach, even go to other places. At the last few online conferences I have had to go to London during the week of the conference, and have using 3G and coffee shop wifi hotspots continued to take part in the conference even though I am away from my desk.

    Having said all that it is useful too to make time for the conference, shut the office door, work from home for a bit, wear headphones, move to a different office, work in the coffee spaces in the college or university.

    You can see presentations again, you can ignore them and (virtually) walk out without feeling you may be offending someone as their talk doesn’t relate to you as you thought it did.

    Unlike a physical conference, the JISC Innovating e-Learning 2012 Online Conference remains open for reading until well after the conference has finished to allow participants to catch up on what they missed. So unlike missing the train to a physical conference or falling ill, it is possible to still get a lot out of the online conference.

    There are advantages to attending the conference, but reduced travel and accommodation costs, no travel time and no need to leave the office, are additional advantages that you really need to consider. The conference has always been outstanding value at just £50, but in these tough economic times, when even finding the funding for train fares to free events can be a challenge, there is something about paying just £50 for five days of presentations and discussions.

    There are advantages to attending the conference, but reduced travel and accommodation costs, no travel time and no need to leave the office, are additional advantages that you really need to consider.

    Combine that with the activity week, no need to miss too many meetings and you might need to start asking yourself why you’re not going?

    Of course the real value of the online conference is the programme, one that will inspire and challenge you. It has variety and interest. In some future blog posts I will look at the programme in more detail. However I am looking forward to the opening keynote from Dr Sue Black.

    Oh and the coffee? Well you and I both know that the coffee at conferences often leaves a lot to be desired, at least at an online conference you can attend while drinking a decent coffee in your local coffee shop, now that can’t be all bad?

    So if it is proving difficult to attend all the conferences you want to, one you shouldn’t miss is the JISC Innovating e-Learning 2012 Online Conference, maybe you too can help shape the future. Register now.