Month: September 2019

European Conference on Technology-Enhanced Learning, Delft

Vily Papageorgiou, PhD student, Centre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship

On 16-19 September 2019, I attended the 14th annual European Conference on Technology-Enhanced Learning (EC-TEL) which took place at the University of Technology in Delft, The Netherlands. This year’s theme was ‘Transforming Learning with Meaningful Technologies’. The aim of this conference was to engage researchers, practitioners, educational designers and developers, university leaders, entrepreneurs and policy makers to address current challenges and advances in the field of educational technology. In this conference, I had the opportunity to present my PhD project at the Doctoral Consortium via a short presentation as well participate in the poster/demo session where I discussed my work with researchers and practitioners in the field. My PhD project will explore the pedagogical decisions educators and university professional staff take when designing for credit-bearing online learning as well the factors that influence their decision-making. It will also seek to understand how the experience of designing for credit-bearing online learning may inform educators’ face-to-face teaching practice.

Vily standing in front of her conference poster

My engagement with the conference started in June 2019 when I submitted a short paper with my initial PhD plan. This was a very useful exercise as it enabled me to articulate my research and present it concisely within a limited space. Then, I received feedback from two senior researchers in the TEL domain as well as four additional reviews from other PhD students. At the same time, I had the opportunity to engage with and review others investigators’ work to provide them with feedback and understand their PhD projects. The latter enabled me to be involved in interesting discussions about the strengths, limitations and implementation aspects of their research designs. That was a valuable experience in this initial stage of my PhD journey as the feedback I received not only strengthened several elements of my research but also prompted further thinking on aspects that may need more consideration. As such, I would highly recommend to early stage researchers to engage with similar activities and present their work early on their PhD.

My overall experience at this conference was great. The conference consisted of a wide range of sessions including but not limited to interactive half day workshops, poster & demo sessions, keynote presentations, research presentations and after conference networking events. Key areas of research included social learning & learning analytics, learning design, deep learning & prediction, learning behaviour in MOOCs, digital skills and competences, adaptive systems and gamification. This year there was a profound focus on data and learning analytics and their application in educational processes, decisions and evaluation. For example, several projects were looking into how data and learning analytics can predict learners’ behaviour and performance, support students’ learning (e.g. via personalised suggestions, enhanced student feedback at scale) and evaluate educational practice so that more informed pedagogical decisions are taken.

The two keynote presentations I attended were inspiring and provided food for thought on important aspects of the TEL domain. The first keynote by Geoff Stead, Chief Product Officer at Babbel, leading the digital learning experience team, focused on the role and structure of the different specialist teams to enhance cross-functional collaboration around product ideas and speed up the development cycle. It also highlighted the pedagogical and technological elements that this language learning application is based upon and proactive ways to collect users’ feedback to further enhance the learning experience.

The second keynote by Professor Rosemary (Rose) Luckin, Professor of Learner Centred Design at UCL Knowledge Lab, focused on the development of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) mindset with EdTech entrepreneurs. Similarly to the first keynote presentation, it was highlighted that partnership between educational stakeholders (e.g. educators, researchers, EdTech Developers, learners) is essential to build capacity. Professor Luckin provided an overview of the potential of AI to transform education and presented case studies of the work that she and her colleagues have been doing at UCL EDUCATE. The aim of this programme is to develop “an EdTech ecosystem which has evidence at its heart, understanding what truly works for learners and how to use technology to serve its users effectively”. It focuses on helping entrepreneurs in the education and training domains develop AI technologies to leverage their products/ services for the benefit of teachers and learners.

The conference was a great opportunity to learn about the latest research trends in the TEL sector, share and generate new ideas, get to know other people in my field and engage in debates. The Conference Proceedings can be found here for those interested in having a better look at the research presented.

StudentShapers and the annual RAISE 2019 conference

Dr Mike Streule, Director, StudentShapers

Early September sees the annual RAISE (Researching, Advancing and Inspiring Student Engagement) conference, this time held at the Newcastle University. Two interesting keynotes provided further food for thought and debate, especially as StudentShapers at Imperial develops beyond its initial stages, and our new curricula are implemented.

An interesting debate by Bruce MacFarlane and Colin Bryson focussed on the effects – both positive and negative – of Student Engagement policy and practices. Such practices and the inevitable measures that follow can be all too simple and ineffective at heart and completely fail to recognise that students are adults, are attending Higher Education essentially in a voluntary capacity and are expected to be ‘independent’ learners. Yet, increasingly we see practices such as attendance monitoring, measurements of student library access, ‘forced’ participation in class or group work as measures of student ‘engagement’. But of course students could be highly engaged in their studies in different ways, and ways that cannot be easily measured or seen – does forcing students to ‘conform’ into certain ways of learning inhibit their academic freedom to engage in various ways that Higher Education is supposed to cherish? Moreover linking interventions with increases in ‘engagement’ is therefore highly speculative and we, as educators need to be reflective and considering of interventions we might make to drive increases in ‘engagement’ without hidden and unintended consequences.

A second keynote by Cathy Bovill considered student partnership practice. Many institutions now support student partnership initiatives in one way or another. Certainly from other talks and discussions over the conference I was proud to represent such a programme that is so well supported and is part of an institutional Learning and Teaching agenda. However whilst StudentShapers still does more than many in terms of the number of students we work with and the range of projects we support, and even though there are recognised broader ‘knock-on’ effects to broader student communities, it is still a relatively exclusive practice.  As an institution we need to consider how we can teach in a more ‘partnered’ way; so that whole classes and cohorts can experience the academic freedom (noted above) to be part of, and engaged with a learning community in which their lecturers or instructors are also part, i.e. in partnership. At Imperial we have some excellent areas where we excel in this and over the coming months we will be putting together a project call to invite staff to work with students to develop their teaching with a greater emphasis on a whole-class partnership.  Changing how our students are positioned in our community is part of the Learning and Teaching Strategy – but it is a process which takes time – see this short read for an excellent summary. Such a change requires providing multiple ways and approaches for partnership to be adopted – something which StudentShapers will support as the Learning and Teaching strategy advances and our education becomes more developed in this respect.

The conference also marked a first of (hopefully) many, with our StudentShapers project student Shivali Jain from the Faculty of Medicine presenting her recent project ‘The impact of a serious game compared to conventional e-learning on performance in managing simulated clinical scenarios’. The poster provided great interest from delegates, and an ‘almost-winner’ of the student poster award.

Imperial’s contribution to international discussion about developing medical education

Dr Jo Horsburgh, Principal Teaching Fellow in Medical Education

Last week colleagues from department of Primary Care and Public Health and I attended the Association of Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) conference in Vienna.

Attendees from across the world meet to share and discuss the latest innovations, thinking, and research in medical education. This year’s themes included Threshold Concepts and Activity theory with keynote talks from Professor Ray Land (University of Durham) and Prof Yrjö Engeström (University of Helsinki). In addition to a wide range of workshops and symposia, the conference also provided us with an excellent opportunity to meet with our collaborators from Australia, South Africa and the Netherlands to discuss shared projects.

I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to present some research from my doctoral studies on medical educator identity. This research explored the facilitators and barriers to professional identity development and prompted much discussion around how we can best support medical educators in their development.

There was a wide range of presentations from Imperial, including MEd in ULT alumnus, Dr Andy McKeown, who presented from his dissertation on educational authenticity in longitudinal integrated clerkships.

The conference was an excellent opportunity to share ideas and generate new projects in order to best develop medical education at Imperial.