The second six months of 2009

Following on from a post during the middle of 2009, I thought I’d give a summary in a similar vain about the meetings and conferences I attended during the second part of year.  As before,  I thought that this might be a good opportunity to summarise where I have been and pick out one highlight from each trip.

July
Universidad de AlicanteDuring the summer vacation, I participated in a staff exchange programme which saw me spend a month learning Spanish at la Universidad de Alicante. This was a truly memorable experience, and I am now studying for a GCSE in the language. During my time in Alicante, I also met twice with members of the e-Learning team there learning about the institutions’ move to OpenOffice, and their involvement in open source projects.

September
Unfortunately, I missed out on ALT-C 2009 as I was diagnosed with viral meningitis just before the event. Not a good time!

November
In mid November, and as part of the steering group for the recently formed Special Interest Group (SIG), Engaging Students Through In-Class Technology (ESTICT), I ventured to the first  event at the University of Leicester [blog post]. With the event aimed at those both those with experience of EVS who wish to share their best practice and those with an interest in the technology that would like to know more, the steering group was delighted that delegates ranges from Learning Technologists in e-Learning teams, to practitioners who used the technology within their teaching. Importantly, it gave a more rounded feel to some of the conversations that emerged over the course of the day.


Delegates were keen to see the EVS focus retained for the time being at least. It really does serve quite a niche… but one that we all wished to continue learning more about with a view to developing both individual and departmental practice.

December
I attended the first ALT LERSIG Event at the University of Bradford [blog post]. This one day workshop was organised to enable a variety of participants to share experiences on effective methods, processes and procedures for evaluating whether their current institutional learning environments are fit for purpose. The key outcome from this event was for me to begin discussion with other HEIs such as City University London, the LSE and UCL about how they use Moodle and about how we might share good practice. Indeed, since the meeting, colleagues from both City and UCL visited the University of Bath to learn about our Moodle-SITS integration work.

So – that’s it for 2009. See you all next year folks! ;-)

ALT LERSIG Event: Review the VLE – Sharing Experiences

Earlier on this month, I attended the first ALT LERSIG Event at the University of Bradford. This one day workshop was organised to enable a variety of participants to share experiences on effective methods, processes and procedures for evaluating whether their current institutional learning environments are fit for purpose.  With around 50 people attending on the day, and a similar number participating remotely via Elluminate, I found the day incredibly useful even though my own institution, the University of Bath, evaluated their VLE provision in 2005 and subsequently moved to Moodle from Blackboard.

The key areas of interest that I took away from the workshop were as follows:

  • A number of other HE institutions (City University London, the LSE and UCL) are currently, or will soon be, running Moodle as their institutional VLE (or SLE, in the case of City). Like the University of Bath, these institutions have already come across some of the key issues occupying our thoughts at the moment, e.g. service performance (e.g. server architecture, load balancing), database technologies (MySQL vs. Oracle) and the issues arising from Moodle’s ever expanding log tables. These conversations have moved on since, and working relationships between the institutions are developing with a view to sharing good practice.
  • Some of the speakers talked about their institutions having a vision for their VLE provision. Our recently published e-Learning Operational Plan might cover this as an overarching statement for e-Learning, but what about Moodle specifically? Are there benefits of having a vision?
  • Dr. Susannah Quinsee from City University London and Steve Ryan from the LSE spoke about their managed process about moving from one VLE to another, and the challenges arising from migrating content. Whilst we don’t have a migration of this type to contend with currently (the move from Moodle 1.9+ to version 2.0 in summer 2011 will be an upgrade), they both promoted and illustrated the benefits of having a good, solid project plan. In the case of the LSE, they even hired external consultants to support part of the process.
  • The value of staff and student focus groups (or similar) cannot be understated. At the University of Bath, we’re already seeing the benefits of putting together a Moodle Advisory Group, which consists of a number of the campus community.

Overall, the day proved to be an excellent fact finding and networking opportunity. My only hope is that the next LERSIG event isn’t so far North! :-)

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