ALDinHE annual conference in Leeds – day one

Earlier this week I headed up to the University of Leeds for the annual conference of the Association of Learning Developers in Higher Education. Helen Webster, who worked on the second phase of the ANCIL work had suggested we put in a paper at this event and I am so pleased we did. The conference actually started on Monday, but I arrived in time to catch the very end of Helen Beetham’s keynote on Digital Literacy. From what I heard she was making a lot of sense, and Helen worked on the LLIDA project as well as carrying out the evaluation and synthesis for the JISC OER programme. She was talking about the problems students have of developing an online presence and how they use social networks such as to rehearse being an academic.

The first workshop I attended was from the Skills@Leeds team, Helen Howard and Michelle Schneider, who were helping us not reinvent the wheel. Their website is impressive and we got some time in the workshop to explore the resources they have put together for academics to help them embed skills into the curriculum. They also have a wealth of resources for students and we had some really interesting discussions in small groups.

After lunch I attended a presentation by Bryony Ramsden from the University of Huddersfield, who is doing research on how space impacts on learning.  Bryony had worked on the Huddersfield library impact data study, which aims to link student attainment with library usage. Observation is going to be important in her research which is really an ethnographic study because how you actually measure learning is difficult. It’s also clear that we base library designs often on what people like, but just because they like a space, does it actually make it a better space for learning?

Other talks I attended in the afternoon included Martin Sedgley from the University of Bradford talking about developing a new online MBA with induction and interactive exercises embedded in the course. Martin has also been undertaking webinars for students based all around the world. The materials help student understand the expectation of studying at a UK institution and also get advice about study methods such as effective reading, referencing and critical thinking.

In finished the afternoon in the lightening talks, which were broadly similar to pecha kucha we have done at LILAC. It was a great way of waking people up and we had some short but concise presentations from five speakers. A few stood out, including Liz Garston in the School of Design at Leeds, who has been giving students an audio recording of their feedback sessions. I also really enjoyed hearing about PowerPoint Kareoke from Roger Hewitt, which is a way of students practising their presentation skills without having to worry about the academic content. A student has to talk unprepared to a set of slides on a pre-defined topic such as cake baking or the city of Manchester. One lucky delegate got to try this out and the result was impressive and highly entertaining!

The conference dinner was held on Tuesday evening at the Royal Armouries in Leeds – which was actually where we held the conference dinner for LILAC back in 2006! It was a fun evening. We had a seating plan so it was a chance to mix with other delegates. We also were given a quiz to complete during the meal and the evening finished off with dancing until the small hours!


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