Blended Learning 2007 (part 1)

Last week I attended the Blended Learning conference at the University of Hertfordshire. Since then I’ve been missing and AFK (visiting family), and then a bit under the weather. So here is the much belated part 1 of the post conference thoughts and reflections… just an overview of the day itself.

It was a long day for me… left the house at 5.15am to catch an early flight (and the flight back was delayed almost an hour due to an admin error!). Got to the conference in time for coffee and pain au chocolat.

A very busy schedule of talks – 6 streams for most of the sessions. This was a bit of a shame, and a number of times in the schedule one study on the use of blogs (or whatever) would be up against another.

Second Life made brief appearances in the introduction by the director of Hertfordshire’s Blended Learning Unit and again in Grainne Conole’s keynote. In sharp contrast to a year or so ago when I had difficulty discussing Second Life at all at an educational event, now it appears to be a must-do at an event like this to mention a Second Life project.

Nice touch in the introduction though when the audience were asked if they had tried Second Life. A fair sized scattering of hands throughout the audience. Then they were asked if they liked it. At least 3/4 of the hands went down. Given the difficulties with orientation in Second Life, I don’t think I’m surprised with those results, but it didn’t stop a good audience turning up for my talk later in the day. More on that later.

The conference made pretty good use of technology itself. Elluminate was used to make all talks available on the internet. In each session there was a PC under the speakers’ control, and another logged into Elluminate controlled by an online moderator. The moderator was there to set the video feed of the speaker and also clicked through a copy of the presentation for online attendees. It wasn’t possible to tell how many people were logging in to see the talks, and online attendees were only given an opportunity to ask questions in one of the sessions I attended, but it all seemed to go very smoothly.

Overall the Blended Learning Unit at Hertfordshire did an excellent job of organising the conference. I think they did let themselves down just a little though by dedicating a bit too much time and space to their own work at what is a national conference… sure I spotted one of their members with at least three posters on display. Hosts privilege I guess.

The theme of the conference was ‘Supporting The Net Generation Learner’, and the idea of the Net Generation Learner is clearly related to the idea of the ‘Digital Native’… but I think without the same set of connotations. I’ll try and expand on this in a following post, along with some more detailed reflections from the day.

5 thoughts on “Blended Learning 2007 (part 1)

  1. Grainne Conole

    Hi
    yes i too found the response from the audience in terms of their engagement with SL interesting too. I think we need to dig below the hype and really research and understand the true potential of interesting environments like SL. I worry that maybe there is too much surface playing with SL rather than really good and innovative attempts to test its potential for educational purposes

    Reply
  2. Dan Seamans

    I can assure you there IS published research (and within the UK) relating to the educational use of SL. I was at The University of Twente, Holland, last week speaking about a project I’m intimately involved with on the Teen Grid called Schome (www.schome.ac.uk). We’ve completed a pilot using an island called Schome Park and the report is now available at http://kn.open.ac.uk/public/document.cfm?documentid=9851. Naturally I’m happy to be contacted if anyone would like to know more.

    We definitely have much further to go with fully understanding and maximising the benefits of environments such as Second Life, but there are projects such as ours that are definitely up and running.

    Reply
  3. Daniel Livingstone

    Hi Dan, Grianne,
    I’ll download that report and look forward to reading it soon.
    There is a growing body of work looking at teaching in SL. If you know where to look. Mainly case-studies so far, but with around 150 participants I guess the Schome study is probably the largest scale study to date – so a must read, I think.
    Other than that, I think a collection of scholarly work examining SL and other virtual worlds really needs established. There is a small collection of academic publications listed at the end of
    this page on the Simteach wiki. Could do with being extended a lot!
    I haven’t yet written up my own teaching experience as a paper, and with a much more modest class size (11!) and sometimes patchy data collection I have accordingly modest publication ambitions. I did include some details from the experience in my BL conference presentation, and I’ll try and write that up in my next entry…

    Reply
  4. Daniel Livingstone

    ps Forgot to say… the impression I got (and I have to admit that I failed to delve into this) was that the people who had tried but hadn’t liked SL had only spent a small number of hours there. Which is why I *think* it is in part due to the variable and often unsatisfactory orientation experience in SL.
    I find it can take people quite a while to recover from it sometimes… hopefully as new orientation islands are created that are aimed specifically at educators this situation will improve.

    Reply
  5. Beth Gallob

    Thanks for the mention of Elluminate. If you want to try it out for yourself, there’s Elluminate vRoom, a free, 3-seat virtual room with all the functionality of Elluminate Live! except recording. No cost. No time limit. Just visit http://www.getvroom.com.

    - Beth, Elluminate Consultant

    Reply

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