Saturday, 9 September 2017

BLE Digital Student Survey 2017

Over the summer – in collaboration with Moira Wright, UCL’s Digital Capabilities Officer – we pulled together a detailed report summarising the findings from the BLE Digital Student Survey. The survey, which feeds into Jisc’s national student tracker research, was conducted in March and asked students about their experiences using and accessing digital tools and materials to support their learning. The findings will be of particular interest to colleagues in TEL/e-learning, learning support, IT Services, Library and Careers services.

The report can be downloaded from the BLE website, here:

Monday, 4 September 2017

The CMALT Zumba class

“Zumba at People's Park Davao City” by Jeff Pioquinto cc-by-2.0
Next week, the BLE kicks-off its third CMALT cohort - with a whopping 22 candidates. CMALT is the Association for Learning Technology's Certified Membership scheme providing professional accreditation for anyone whose work involves using technology. Accreditation is achieved by successful submission of an online portfolio, which details examples of practice in the use of technology. Over the past two years, 30 staff members from across the BLE partners have set off on their CMALT voyage - and so far we have had nine colleagues successfully accredited. Colleagues work across all areas of the institution including TEL/e-learning, library, teaching and support, careers, administration and IT services.

Although anyone can register for CMALT and work independently, being part of a cohort offers scaffolded support to get candidates through completion of the portfolio. In this way, it's like joining a gym or a Zumba class, where peer support and a little peer pressure can make a big difference to a successful outcome.

This week, I'm heading to ALT-C - the Association's annual conference to present a paper about the BLE Cohort scheme - you can see the slides below. The paper will be jointly presented with Susan Greig from the University of Edinburgh, who also runs a cohort scheme in her neck of the woods. You can see out slides below.

Later in the year, we will be running a webinar to expand on our paper and offer further insights into managing cohorts, which will be particularly useful for other institutions thinking about doing the same thing.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

What have YOU been doing this summer?

Me? Well, with Leo Havemann, I have spent a fair bit of time this summer putting together our long-awaited e-book, Assessment, Feedback and Technology: Contexts and Case Studies in Bloomsbury. The book is a amalgamation of the written outputs from the Bloomsbury Enhancing Assessment & Feedback project, which closed last year. The collection of research papers and case studies included offers a snapshot of the progress our Colleges have made in the processes around the Electronic Management of Assessment. This will (we hope) be of interest and real benefit to the education community at large.

The book will be freely available to download in the next few months - more details can be accessed here, including reserving a copy once it's available!

Monday, 14 August 2017

Working with learning technologies may mean that you have come across CMALT (Certified Membership of ALT), which is a portfolio-based professional accreditation scheme, usually completed within three to six months of registration. CMALT enables people whose work involves learning technology to:
  • have their experience and capabilities certified by peers
  • demonstrate that they are taking a committed and serious approach to their professional development.

More and more employers are now making the accreditation an essential or desirable criteria for learning technologist job specifications, since it demonstrates an individual is committed and places importance on his or her development as a learning technologist. It’s important however to note that the accreditation is not limited to learning technologists as the current cohort of CMALT candidates includes school teachers, researchers, technical support and teaching staff, administrators, managers, trainers, students, Further Education practitioners, consultants and lecturers from across the UK and a growing number of countries worldwide. You can find the list of current CMALT holders here.

As the E-Learning Officer at SOAS, I viewed the accreditation as a way to enhance my career prospects as well as gaining recognition of the work I have completed over a number of years across a number of universities. I was fortunate being part of a unique partnership to complete my portfolio with a cohort of colleagues from the local Bloomsbury Colleges (learn more). The Bloomsbury cohort was set up to assist and guide colleagues through each section over the course of six months from the initial introduction session.

Plan and set deadlines
During the six months, I worked through each section and collated as many examples as possible to provide evidence in each area. I aimed to have a draft ready to discuss with colleagues during our monthly face-to-face meetings, which helped to provide me with a set of mini deadlines.
Tip: don’t rush to submit your portfolio otherwise the assessors will just ask you to resubmit if sections are unclear or incomplete. Give yourself time to understand what is required using the guidelines, then collate evidence, write the sections and check your work.

Originally, I started by writing each section individually and then searched for examples to provide evidence of my practices however I found this method time consuming and tedious. So I decided to locate all the various pieces of evidence first and then brainstorm how each of them would fit into each section, which I found made it much easier. One of the areas that I remember struggling with at times is the reflection part which we all often neglect in this busy working life, so it was quite rewarding to take a step back and reflect how your practices have had an impact on teaching and learning.

Tip: go through your emails or ask people to send you a message as evidence if required. Provide screenshots, links to webpages, photos, videos etc. Ensure whatever you upload has the sufficient access privileges, i.e. not password protected.

Google sites and Google Docs
Although the guidance stresses that you can submit your portfolio in a number of forms ranging from Word document to a website; I found a useful Google sites CMALT template. I decided to use Google sites to present my portfolio as it was easy to use and I could utilise Google Docs to upload my evidence.

Tip: don’t spend all your time making your portfolio look nice as the assessor’s main marking criteria is the content. Make sure the sections are clearly labelled and navigation between them is obvious.

The future
I received my CMALT award on 5th August 2016; read my portfolio here.

CMALT registration remains valid for two years. After this point you will have to re-register if you wish to submit your portfolio. I have started collecting evidence in preparation for the validation of continuous professional development, which takes place three years after accreditation is awarded.
Tip: create a folder and save emails, screenshots etc so when you need to update your portfolio it will be much easier to draw upon the evidence contained here rather than having to search from scratch.

Twitter: @SOASBLETech 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

BLE Digital Student Tracker 2017

survey clipboard
Together with UCL, the BLE partner Colleges participated in the 2017 Jisc Digital Student Tracker Survey back in March of this year to collect feedback about our student's experiences of digital learning - both personally and at their respective Colleges. In total, 74 institutions across the UK education sector ran the Tracker, which elicited 22,593 individual student responses; while 10 international universities collected an additional 5,000 responses.

In Bloomsbury, the Tracker had to compete for student attention alongside other institutional surveys, such as the National Student Survey. This meant that the time available to run it was tight (only a month) and we therefore felt that since our individual sample sizes would be too small, we would join forces and conduct it as a consortium. It turned out that ours was the only consortium-approach in the UK. We treated the survey as a pilot and advertised it via a link on each College’s Moodle landing page as well as organising some social media promotion via the Colleges' library and student union Twitter and Facebook accounts. The survey generated 330 responses, which given our constraints was much more than we expected.

The survey comprised four broad areas: digital access, support, activities and learning. Most questions were quantitatively recorded, but there were four open questions, which produced qualitative data. We were also able to choose two additional questions to the survey, and we selected e-assessment, since that was a previous shared enhancement project (see and Moodle, since all members of the consortium use the platform for their Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

Once the survey had closed and we were granted access to Jisc's national benchmarking report, we ran a workshop in July for representatives at each of the Colleges. It was during this session that we started to explore and analyse the results corresponding to the survey’s open questions. The workshop facilitated interesting discussions over commonalities and potential implications.

Moira Wright, UCL's Digital Literacy Officer and myself, have been working to produce a report
which will examine our collective responses to the survey in comparison with the national survey population. For confidentiality, each College will be presented with its own version of this document, containing the relevant data for their institution only and not the complete dataset. Each College will therefore be able to independently examine their own results in more detail. A disadvantage of the consortium approach was that we were not able to benchmark our individual Colleges against the national survey population as resources would not allow for this. In the future, the participating Colleges may wish to run the survey individually rather than as part of a collective as it was not possible to conduct deep analysis with this dataset.

Although the sample size collected by the Bloomsbury Colleges was small and not statistically viable, there is much we can extract and learn from this exercise. For the most part, our collective responses tended to fall within the margins set by the national survey population, which means we are all at a similar phase in our student’s digital capability and development.

In the next few weeks, the final report will be delivered to key members of staff within the Colleges - and we're hoping to make a generic version publicly available. For now, you are welcome to view the key findings from Jisc in this two page report, 'Student digital experience tracker at a glance' or the longer report, available here. Finally, you can see this collection of case studies, which features the Bloomsbury Colleges consortium, here.

Moira Wright
Sarah Sherman