From the innovative to the norm(al): ALT-C 2017 conference

An attentive audience at ALT-C 2016

ALT-C is the annual conference of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), providing an international platform for learning technology research, practice and policy work from across all educational sectors. The 2017 conference will run from 5th-7th September at the University of Liverpool under the umbrella title Beyond islands of innovation – how Learning Technology became the new norm(al). It will be chaired by Pete Alston and Professor Helen O’Sullivan, both of the University of Liverpool.

The call for proposals has been published, and abstracts are invited to address the following themes:

  • Empowerment in Learning Technology: supporting students through staff/student partnerships, students as influencers, developing skills and supporting staff at all levels;
  • Learning Spaces: impact of Learning Technology on the physical and the virtual, strategies for enabling innovation, effectively managing change;
  • Moving from the practical to the ‘publishable’: reporting from the forefront of innovation and research, policy and strategy fit (or not) for what’s ahead, sharing practice and scaling up Learning Technology through large scale institutional projects;
  • At the forefront of innovation: ethical implications of ‘data’ for learning and teaching, making use of data in assessment, the hype around AI, machine learning and learning analytics and what’s beyond;

There is also a ‘wildcard’ theme, under which you are free to contribute any aspect of your research, practice or policy work.

Members of Academic IT attend ALT-C every year, and more often than not we present as well. We invite any member of staff or research student who has an idea to consider submitting a proposal of their own. Send an email to if you’d like to discuss it with us.

The closing date for submissions is Monday 20th March.

Image credit: CC BY-NC Chris Bull via Flickr

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News from the ELI 2017 annual meeting

The 2017 Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) Annual Meeting was held in Houston, Texas from 12 to 15 February 2017, with the theme ‘Transforming the academy: Building communities of practice’. This is a smaller meeting than the EDUCAUSE annual conference, focusing on teaching and learning in higher education. The ELI meeting was attended by 530 participants, predominantly from universities and colleges across the USA.

The most notable topics of discussion at the meeting were ‘shopping for a new learning management system (LMS)’, and ‘next generation digital learning environments (NGDLEs). The notion of a NGDLE was first proposed in an ELI research paper by Brown, Dehoney and Millichap (2015a). It is seen as a slimmed-down approach to the institutional VLE, allowing individuals and institutions to use a ‘Lego approach … to construct learning environments tailored to their requirements and goals’ (Brown et al., 2015a, p. 1). The term ‘teaching and learning ecosystems’ was frequently used at the conference. McGill University in Canada has developed a visual representation of an ‘educational technologies ecosystem’, showing core LMS tools (‘Tools Within myCourses’) at the centre, ringed by a collection of possible ‘plugin’ tools and activities. The infographic is reproduced below; for a description of it, visit the ‘Learning Technologies’ page on McGill’s website.

Educational technologies ecosystem (from McGill University, 2017). To see a larger version of this graphic, click on it.

Another major theme at the ELI meeting was the resurgence of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). VR technologies first appeared in the 1960s (or earlier!: read this history), but appear now to be emerging after a prolonged ‘winter’. Posters, presentations, workshops and vendors made the technology available in a ‘virtual reality playground’ which proved to be very popular. At one VR workshop participants were invited to download an app on their smart phone and use the ‘cardboard’ (VR goggles) to view the handout provided to them (see image at right). This produced a 3D view of various body systems, which the user could choose to view, such as the nervous system or digestive system.

It is clear that many universities are in the process of considering a change in their VLE. Caveats were expressed in terms of costs involved in switching systems and migrating content, as well as not ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ of the VLE that happens to have the biggest market share. One presenter stated that ‘… comparing open source systems with commercial ones just doesn’t work. It’s like vegetarians going shopping for sausages, or like trying out coffins for size: you just don’t do it!’

Surprisingly, there was absolutely no talk at the meeting about MOOCs; such massive online courses must have passed the peak of their hype cycle! My take-away thoughts from the meeting were that NGDLEs and the possibilities they offer are worth exploring (as are the affordances of VR and AR for education); in all such initiatives, careful management of any change process is vital.

NMC Horizon Report 2017

The 2017 version of the annual NMC Horizon Report was launched during the final session of the meeting. The winners of the 2017 Horizon Report 2-minute video competition were announced. These videos show how institutions have implemented ideas that emerged in previous versions of the Horizon Report.


AR: augmented reality
LMS: learning management system (widely used in the USA)
MOOC: massive open online course
NGDLE: next generation digital learning environment
NMC: New Media Consortium
VLE: virtual learning environment (VLE) (widely used in the UK)
VR: virtual reality


Brown, M., Dehoney, J. & Millichap, N. (2015a). The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment, EDUCAUSE: ELI research report.
Brown, M., Dehoney, J. & Millichap, N. (2015b). What’s Next for the LMS?, EDUCAUSE Review.
Feldstein, M. (2016). What’s really to blame for the failure of our learning management systems? The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Finkelstein, A. & Goudzwaard, M. (2016).  The Trouble With Learning Management, EdSurge News.
McGill University. (2017). Educational technologies ecosystem. Teaching and Learning Services.
Petersen, R. (2016). Paradigm Shift: Detach thyself from ye olde LMS, blog post.

Image credit (VR workshop): CC BY Jill Fresen

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Courses Spotlight: Learn to make a video – 3 day, hands-on workshop

Video: Producing a mini documentary
13-15 March 2017, 9.15-16.15 each day
Cost: staff £180, students £90

Digital video cameraA comprehensive 3-day introduction to all the core skills needed to make a short documentary. You will have the opportunity to work on a project that reflects your interests with full support in filming and editing. We will go through all the stages of creating a mini-documentary and you will have the opportunity to obtain extensive hands-on experience.

  • Plan a video project
  • Learn techniques of filming
  • Practice front of camera skills
  • Equipment orientation and practice
  • Importing digital video
  • Edit and export finished projects

All equipment is provided. The course is taught using Macs and the iMovie software.

No previous video experience is necessary.

Further description | Bookings



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Taking control of media interviews and your online presence: upcoming courses

Engaging with the public is core to main of the University’s activities, informing research, enhancing teaching and learning, and increasing our impact on society. For example, we may inform and inspire the public about our research, consult with the public to find out theur views on our research or collaborate with the public on particular projects.

Effective public engagement requires training in specific skills, and the IT Learning Centre is pleased to announce two courses in March.

Media interviews: taking control
Thursday 2 March 9:15-16:15
Cost: staff £60, students £30

This one-day practical, hands-on course is for anyone who may be in the position of giving informal interviews to the media, or who needs to interview colleagues and others when creating a podcast or video. It will introduce you to simple techniques to help you with conducting an interview and being interviewed, for print, audio and video. The course will include:

  • What makes a good or bad interview
  • Preparing for the interview
  • Working with on-screen presence
  • Dealing with difficult questions
  • What to expect after the interview

You should be prepared to conduct interviews and to be interviewed as part of the activities.

Further description | Bookings

Online presence: taking control
Friday 17 March 9:15 – 12:15
Cost: staff £30, students £15

Creating an online presence can open up your research and teaching (or any interest!) to a global audience and is now essential in promoting yourself professionally to the outside world. This 3-hour workshop offers a comprehensive introduction to online presence and also gives a supported environment for you to plan, create, and add to your own projects. A number of relevant social media tools will be covered. The course will include:

  • What online presence is
  • Planning an initial strategy
  • Surveying the major outlets
  • Strategies to manage your presence
  • Phases in developing your presence
  • The challenges

The workshop section will be an opportunity for you to work on your own projects, so please bring any content including text, images, audio and video that you may wish to use.  Don’t worry if you are starting from scratch.

Further description | Bookings

Image credits:
    Top: CC BY-SA Christian Siedler via Flickr
    Bottom: CC0 (public domain) via Pixabay

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Enhancing teaching and learning with technology: two events for your diary

Enhancing teaching and learning with technology
Wednesday 1 March 14:00-17:00

Student looks at a tablet computer outside the Blavatnik School of Government University of OxfordJoin Dr Xavier Laurent and Emma Procter-Legg for a hands-on workshop that explores how to integrate technology in teaching to enhance student engagement.

In this session you will learn how to:

  • improve in-class communication;
  • check students’ understanding of key concepts and adapt your lectures on the fly;
  • support collaborative learning activities in class or at a distance;
  • embed mobile devices that many of us carry in a classroom setting (phone, tablet, or laptop);
  • share resources quickly, straight to your students’ devices.

Examples will use simple low-cost/free apps and technologies. Bring along your own device (BYOD) to make the most of this session.

Booking link

If you’re interested in hearing the experiences of other teaching staff, come along to this lunchtime networking session:

Diversify your teaching with digital tools
Monday 20 March 12.30-13.30

Are you curious how you can use digital tools for in-lecture polls, to engage tutorial students, to enhance feedback or to tackle learning challenges? Whether you already have experience with digital tools or are a complete beginner, join us to learn how you and your students can benefit from adopting new techniques and/or to share your own experiences.

The session will be led by Jocelyne Hughes (Continuing Education) and Lucy Tallents (Zoology) from the SHOAL project, and by Xavier Laurent and Steve Burholt (learning technologists, Academic IT). It is organised as part of the #OxEngage series.

Booking link

Image credits: by kind permission of Xavier Laurent

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No peace and quiet for learning with

lyndaLogoBreak away from your office and come to a Lynda Lab!

We know that at times offfices and labs (and even your college or home) can be very distracting environments when you want to focus on a course.

If that’s the case, why not book one of our Lynda Labs?

Lynda Labs provide a quiet place where you can concentrate on your learning.  There will always be someone there to ask for guidance about which course might suit you best, and answer questions about your training. We provide computers and headphones, although you can bring your own if you prefer.

Our free Lynda Labs run most weeks at the IT Learning Centre at 13 Banbury Road and you can see the available sessions, and book on to one or more via the CoSY booking system. Once logged in click on Course Search and search for “Lynda Labs”.  To see a list of available dates and book, click on the green Action button.

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Engage up and running

oxengageOur Engage programme on the use of digital technologies in impact, outreach and engagement is now well under way. Slides are now available online from last week’s presentation on the OxReach crowdfunding platform project, and the considerable engagement required for successful crowdfunding and crowdsourcing (download slides [PDF]).

Slide from OxEngage Crowdfunding presentations showing lots of postit notes with recommendations

Recommendations from OxReach’s slide deck about crowdfunding [link to PDF]

To find out about forthcoming Engage sessions, read on.

Continue reading

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Events calendar on the Digital Education at Oxford website

DES logo from websiteCan you help build a calendar of events for all in Oxford who are interested in educational technologies and techniques, for students, for teaching, and public engagement and outreach?

Chris-Bull_070916_ALT_187-707x530 cropped LM 130217We have started to add events to the Digital Education at Oxford website. These include the #OxEngage series, other events hosted at the IT Learning Centre and national conferences such as ALT-C.

Please send details of future events (including links to relevant websites) to

Image credit: Chris Bull at ALT-C 2016 (CC BY 4.0).

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Learn to program with the IT Learning Centre

ProgWith the IT Learning Centre you can learn to program either in a class or online.

Below you’ll find a list of our upcoming classroom-based programming courses. We like to keep the classes small so that you get the chance to benefit from the teacher’s expertise; they are all programmers, past and present (and great teachers!). Spaces are limited, so book quickly.

If you are not sure if programming is for you, or you just want to get a handle on ‘this black art called programming’, come along to one of our Programming: Concepts workshops.

If you prefer to learn to program at your own pace, remember that some of the most popular courses in are about programming. Just visit, sign in to Lynda using your SSO credentials and search for the programming language in which you are interested.

Programming: Concepts for new programmers
Date: 27 Feb 13:00 – 16:00
Cost: Staff £30/Students £15
Read the course description
Book and pay

Programming: Concepts for project managers
Date: 3 Mar 9:15 – 12:15
Cost: Staff £30/Students £15
Read the course description
Book and pay

C++: A comprehensive introduction (2-day course)
Date: 1-2 Mar 9:15 –  17:15
Cost: Staff £140/Students £70
Read the course description
Book and pay

Databases: MySQL introduction
Date: 3 Mar 14:00 – 17:00
Cost: Staff £30/Students £15
Read the course description
Book and pay

Databases: MySQL further techniques
Date: 10 Mar 14:00 – 17:00
Cost: Staff £30/Students £15
Read the course description
Book and pay

JavaScript : An introduction
Date: 17 Feb 09:15 – 17:15
Cost: Staff £70/Students £35
Read the course description
Book and pay

Matlab: A comprehensive introduction (4 half days)
Date: 6, 8 ,13 ,15 Feb, 14:00 – 17:00
Cost: Staff £120/Students £60
Read the course description
Book and pay

PHP: An introduction
Date: 17 Mar 09:15 – 17:15
Cost: Staff £70/Students £35
Read the course description
Book and pay

Pure Data: An introduction to programming
Date: 27 Feb 14:00 – 17:00
Cost: £30/Students £15
Read the course description
Book and pay

Image credit: CC BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons 

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Technology on tour: coming soon to your department

Version 2

Discussion with a member of Social Sciences at Manor Road

Learning technologists from Academic IT have been giving staff and students a taste of technology at specially organised roadshows around the University. Designed to raise awareness of the Digital Education Strategy, the roadshows allow staff and students to ask questions and try out new technology such as virtual reality (VR). The emphasis is on technologies that have applications for teaching and learning; enhancing the experience in face-to-face, online, or blended scenarios.

Steve and Xav (also known as the ‘WISE Guys’) started by organising fortnightly roadshows at the Manor Road Building and the Mathematics Institute. Each session takes place from 11am-2pm.

Steve and Xav demonstrated a number of technologies:

Version 2

Trying out a VR headset in the Maths Institute

So far, the response has been very good. Sixty people have attended the roadshows, including eight academics. Staff and students suggested some excellent ways to use VR, such as field trips, historical scenarios, spatial environments, and visualisation of topology in mathematics.

So, why virtual reality? The learning technologists chose VR as a ‘hook’ to attract interest and let people play with technology. Small groups in the University are already working with this technology for teaching or applied research. During the roadshow, Steve and Xav were also accompanied by Richard Smith (Radcliffe Science Library) who brought along the Library’s VR headsets which have proved popular with students and academics. Richard ran a competition for the best ideas on how to use VR for teaching and learning; already good ideas have emerged, such as data visualisation in 4D applied to social science.

Lessons learnt and next steps:

  • The majority who attended the roadshows were students, partly due to the location near lecture theatres in the Maths Institute.
  • VR was a great hook. However, it tended to overshadow other technologies and methodologies that the team wanted to promote as part of the DES. At the next roadshow, it is planned to use touch-screen technology to demonstrate interactive models.
  • Several staff asked for a mailing list or group (perhaps VR@Oxford?) that could answer questions such as ‘Is VR being used for teaching at Oxford? Who’s doing it? Are there opportunities for collaboration?’
Version 2

Communicating the message

The next roadshows takes place in Maths (on Thursday 2nd February) and in the Manor Road Building (on Thursday 9th February). For more information, read Learning technologists out and about in Maths and Social Sciences.

Image credits: Steve Burholt, Xavier Laurent

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