Equality, empowerment, accreditation and beyond. My fantasy conference proposals… #altc

Every year around this time when I encourage my peers to submit proposals to the ALT Annual Conference, I reflect on the fact that as one of the organisers I can’t submit a proposal myself. And given that as a Learning Technologist this is one of the key events in my diary each year, I have often thought about what I would submit if I wasn’t affiliated with ALT. So here are some of my fantasy proposals, ideas in the making, that I won’t be submitting (again) this year. If you have your own ideas then your chance to submit your 250/500 word proposal is still open until 20th (or soon to be 27th) March. Take your chance & make your voice heard.

Poster, Theme: Wildcard: Poster showing how peer accreditation for Learning Technologist works based on the CMALT framework, which is mapped to a number of other accreditation pathways including the UKPSF, the Jisc Digital Capabilities Framework and Blended Learning Essentials. CC licenced so that the model can be adopted by participants in their own contexts.

Lightening Talk, Theme: Empowerment in learning Technology: Empowered #edtech governance. A fast paced, visual take on how to work collaboratively with decision makers to build new strategies, using work with cross-sector stake holders as examples. Would include a 1 page “recipe” handout to take away and try out in your own organisation.

Presentation, Theme: Learning Spaces: this presentation would be led by three apprentices/interns whom I have worked with in the past year and they would take participants on a tour of their learning spaces, both physical and virtual. The tour guides would explain how spaces are used and lived in, why and for what purpose. We would reflect on issues like privacy and agency in different spaces and importantly what happens in the spaces and time periods between things, i.e. between institutions, between life stages, between qualifications. We’d question how Learning Technology can provide continuity for life long learning both online and in person.

Panel, Theme: Empowerment in Learning Technology: Working in Learning technology one of the things I am passionate about is equality. Particularly for those working as open practitioners there are so many ways in which inequality and discrimination can impact on our ability to achieve our aims. This panel would bring together 5 exceptional practitioners to share their own strategies for empowered practice in Learning Technology and to reflect critically on how their approaches are challenged. We’d invite participants to contribute their own tips and tools in advance and during the discussion, ending up in a series of posts providing practical information that would be useful to both learners and professionals.

Workshop, Theme: Wildcard: Learning Technology: top 10 complete failures. This is one of the sessions I’d like to go to but somehow it doesn’t seem to make it onto any conference programme. Presumably because no institution pays for their staff to go and share the details of how they lost money or worse when Learning Technology failed. And indeed because no one wishes to have this particular reference added to their CV. Still, other conferences now include specific sessions where we explore what happens when things go wrong. What happens when projects don’t deliver, students don’t use the tools or academics simply don’t co-operate. The list of forgotten, crumbling Learning Technologies is long. This workshop then would include the brave colleagues I have known and worked with over the years who would be prepared to share their perspectives so that we don’t have to make the same mistakes over and over again. Participants would be contributing their own stories. Ideally one or two policy makers and industry experts would be contributing, too.

You probably have your own ideas as to what sessions you’d like to go and see at the conference. Submit them… .

My #EdTechRations outtakes

I recently wrote a post about contributing to a new book edited by David Hopkins called Emergency Rations #EdTechRations .

Not everything I wrote made it into the final version and I wrote quite a bit about how I work in addition to describing the things I can’t do without. So below is my contribution with additional comments and images that shows what it looks like as work in progress.

When I wrote the intro I thought about what makes certain things indispensable to me and why.

As is becoming increasingly common, my place of work can vary a lot from day to day and mostly I work on the go, between meetings or on the way to give presentations. I don’t often meet the people I work with  in person. Instead we communicate virtually. Still, I have to be able to collaborate effectively, so most of the technology I can’t do without helps me to keep in touch and to work together.

I try to find a balance between being contactable and getting space to think and get things done. So while I do have a smart watch, phone or laptop with me most of the time, I often switch all notifications off or enable flight mode.

Chromebook & Google Apps for Education

For about two years now a basic Toshiba Chromebook has been my constant companion. Bought initially to provide short term support during large events I have ended up using it for everything.

As a piece of kit it certainly has its limitations, but for me, there are significant advantages: to start with it is cheap, robust and data is not stored on the device so I cannot lose it. It starts up quickly, it is easy to use and provided you either learn or know how to use the apps it runs it delivers a great user experience. I have learnt some short cuts that really make a difference and the support documentation online is constantly growing. I am very partial to the mobile devices I have running iOS because I prefer the user interface, but on the laptop ChromeOS does a good job and is constantly improving.

Having limitations in what I software I can use has also had two other benefits: first, it has made my work more collaborative as practically everything I work on is shared. Secondly. It has forced me to take a simpler approach to complex tasks. I like the elegant simplicity I have become accustomed to.

I use as many different operating systems as possible because I like to keep in touch with what iOS/MacOS, Android and Windows feel like. Google Apps for Education help me switch between different devices and operating systems (nearly) seamlessly. Becoming more expert at using and administrating GAFE has had the welcome additional benefit of enabling me to support colleagues across the organisation better. I have also found it a useful tool for supporting professional development, such as building a shared, open CMALT portfolio .

I have written quite a bit in this blog about CMALT (you can see a list of previous posts here). One of the things I wish I had was a better way of recording evidence of professional development on the go. I have tried all sorts of apps and forms, but haven’t found anything that really fits the bill.

Headset, mobile data storage, power packs

Other bits and pieces that I usually have somewhere in my bag are a headset or headphones, a variety of options for data storage big and small and also at least one power pack to charge up mobile devices. I am not very good at carrying around the right kind of adapters for various things, so I rely on being able to plug in my Chromebook and everything else has to survive the day without top up. I am not choosy about which particular make I have as too often these small items get borrowed by co-presenters or colleagues and end up to need replacing.

Reading some of the other contributions to the book I was inspired by how much others think about the kinds of technology I described above. My shopping list has grown considerably since. These are often small essentials that can make a big difference.

The other things I reflected on was the non-digital items I have included. Obviously educational technology doesn’t have to be digital, but most of the time that’s what we seem to end up talking about. I am still glad I included things like pen, paper and shoes… .

Pen & paper

However much I use my watch, phone or laptop, I use pen and paper every day and it is something I could not do without. It doesn’t matter what kind of digital technology I have at my disposal there are always times when putting pen to paper is my first choice. Drawing, sketching, writing – there’s no substitute for me. I have a green Moleskine notebook that I take everywhere and solutions to some of the most complex things I do at work start life as a scribbly drawing on the pages of that notebook marked clearly by the uneven movement of the train.

Business cards, flyers or other printed materials

I  work with many people who are skeptical about Learning Technology or indeed technology in general. No matter what the context is there is always someone who prefers to have paper in their hand. So in that instance all of the digital technology I carry around can be useless and I have to have some form of paper back up. Business cards or printed postcards or flyers can be useful here. They are also a good alternative for when the technology or connectivity let me down. And you never know who you might meet on a train.

Shoes…

However much I work virtually, walking places is a major part of my working life. Sometimes it is simply between one room and another within a conference venue, on other days it is through a new city. My watch or phone might be measuring the distance or help me navigate along my route, but clocking up the miles is hardest on my feet. Shoes that are still comfortable 12 hours into my day and get me as fast as possible from A to B are essential. Shoes can say a lot about a person. They are part of making a first impression, everyone sees them when you stand on stage or at the front of a lecture theater. Just like stickers on a laptop or pin badges on lapels shoes can make a statement about who you are and where you are going.

Did I miss anything? Some apps maybe, stickers, pin badges like my CMALT badge for example… 😉 and I think there may be a whole section to be written on umbrellas – a technology four thousand years old that I cannot do without.

#LTHEchat reflections: metrics of success vs. stories of succeeding

img_4487This post is inspired by taking part in a recent #LTHEchat tweet chat. If you haven’t yet discovered this excellent chat and have an interest in learning & teaching, go and explore their website before reading this. The topic of the chat was ‘what motivates us to use digital tools for learning and teaching’ and while the conversation was thought provoking the exchange that set my mind on a different tangent was the tweets pictured here with David Hopkins (@hopkinsdavid). Incidentally, if you haven’t already done so, this is a good time to discover the ‘Really Useful Edtech Handbook‘ David has edited.

But now, back to my thought tangent. We tweeted about how reflection is useful and how reflecting on and sharing when things don’t go well is important. David then suggested that we can sometimes learn more from things that went wrong than what worked because we reflect more. And that got me thinking, because I reflect on why things worked or didn’t work all the time and and my working life is filled with ghantt charts, project plans and risk assessments that are all designed to help me understand and shape processes and why they work or otherwise. But I don’t think I reflect more on things that don’t work, because often I cannot afford for something to go really wrong – there aren’t a lot of spaces in my work where it is safe to fail. I am in a leadership position where a big failure can have serious consequences and my job is to make sure that this doesn’t happen. Instead, I think most about the things that went right for all the wrong reasons. And that is what this post is about.

It’s a bit like the ‘known knowns’, the ‘known unknowns’ and so forth. There are things that go to plan and succeed, those that go to plan but fail, things that don’t go as planned and fail and then there are things that don’t go as planned but still succeed. You can easily imagine a pie chart that would show how all activities or projects can fall into these categories. If my plan is a good one it probably has enough flexibility built in to ensure that it can adapt to changes or unforeseen circumstances and still succeed. But it also happens that we arrive at the desired outcome, be that a successful project, resource or lesson, despite things going wrong. For example, if you end up having fewer people to work on something than expected, you might identify non-essential tasks and eliminate them. Or when faced with a problem someone might come up with an innovative solution. Or you might be able to reach your goal in a way that’s more efficient. The key for me is not in following the plan, but to reflect on the reasons why it had to change and to learn from them for next time.

Yet, there is a difficulty when you succeed despite things going wrong I find, because when you report on success your audience will not question it in the same way as they would failure. Whether it’s a colleague, a customer or an Executive Board – successful outcomes are  noted and sometimes recognised, but also they can be taken for granted. When something works out we are quick to move on to the next thing, the bigger project… without really understanding why something has succeeded. Often the metrics of success do not reflect what it took to really deliver a successful course or new technology. The measures we set out are often reflective of impact, engagement, income… not usually of the number of times things had to change, how often plans amended or approaches adjusted. In very few instances do you wish to highlight to your audience all the things that went on behind the scenes to make what they are looking at possible. The final presentation, event or report is usually a sanitised version of what we went through, lessons learnt showing what we did right rather than wrong.

I am generalising to a degree, but I do think it’s valuable to consider how we can learn from what succeeds and what doesn’t in a manner that is not as focused on outcomes. Openly sharing practice takes a lot of confidence and determination. Openly sharing the stories behind success AND failures even more so. Taking part in communities like the LTHEchat or indeed those organised by Members of ALT, the organisation I work for, can help with that I find. There is strength in numbers and reflecting on our experiences together can make it easier to share the more personal, less polished stories of we have in common.

 

#23things: taking a “flaneur” approach to discovering digital knowledge

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Illustration from Walter Benjamin’s Passagenwerk http://margininversi.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/walter-benjamin-i-passages-di-parigi.html

The Flaneur is one of my favourite figures, in particular in the writing of Walter Benjamin whom I discovered as an undergraduate. I was, and am, interested in the Flaneur as he is a useful device for exploring a city, for thinking about how urban life changed during the industrial revolution and beyond it – and because of the idea that walking with a tortoise as a fashionably slow accessory/pet one could discover the pace of observation. The Flaneur discovers the world at his, and I think it is a predominantly male, pace and directs his gaze where others may not even glance. I was thinking about this because I have been finding that my own engagement in the 23 things of the course by the same name has very much proceeded at my own, slow pace, sometimes on my own and sometimes in company. That is because I am taking part as part of a team (and I have written earlier posts about our approach) as well as spending time exploring some of the things that I have a particular interest in.

As a team we are in the middle of block 2 of course content and in our weekly team meetings talking about the course has become a useful focus point for discovering common questions, exploring interests and discussing areas for professional development. We, as a group, continue to benefit from the course as a joint venture in learning new things and that in itself is extremely useful.

But beyond our common participation I have been having a look at what the next few weeks of course will bring, what things I might discover… and to return to the Flaneur, I feel very much that there is a host of wonderful things waiting to be discovered in the arcades of digital knowledge before me. One topic in particular that I am interested in is Digital Curation. Not something I am overly familiar with and also a topic that encourages us to explore Tumblr, a tool I don’t use as yet.

So, #23things, while the first 12 things have been very rewarding to encounter and discover so far, I am looking forward to the next 11 even more. With my trusty tortoise at my side I shall proceed at my own pace.

#23things: twitter archive, no facebook… social media reflections

I am using thing no. 7 (Twitter) and thing no.8 (Facebook) of #23things to note some reflections on how I use social media. This is about my individual professional or personal use, rather than any organisational perspective.

So, starting with Facebook, I find I have little to share. I am a reluctant Facebook user, strictly using it for personal relationships with far flung friends and for keeping in touch. Reviewing my Facebook timeline since I joined in 2007 reveals three clear trends: I post about the weather, the weekend and my cat. You could probably write a programme to auto-compose posts for my timeline and no one would know the difference.

Over the past two years I have also had to use Facebook for a project, more reluctantly still, and I have to admit that I have a lot to learn if I ever want to leverage that network for my professional aims. Moving on…

marentags
Twitter archive using TAGS

Twitter I joined a few years and 3k+ tweets ago – to provide holiday cover for someone who was travelling. It took me some time to get the hang of it, but since then it’s become a most useful space for me and I would echo many of the observations made by other participants in their posts about how valuable it can marentags2be. It’s easy to forget how few people in general are using it however and I find it irritating at times when media becomes to referential to what people have tweeted instead of finding other sources. Last year I installed Martin Hawksey’s TAGS twitter archive (read more about how to make your own) and ever since then I have been happily archiving my tweets and conversations. This is actually the first time I have had a look at the “top hashtags” in my own little universe of tweets and while it’s predictable to me it’s also interesting and useful and will probably be more so over time. I like tweeting about my own work as well as interesting or useful things I come across, but there is always a lot more on Twitter than I can follow. I dip in and out and enjoy the random things I find. Unless I am at an event I rarely tweet at high volume and I have plenty of days when I don’t use it at all. There isn’t always something to say.

Omni-directional expansion of the ‘Google me’: exploring my digital footprint in 10 screenshots

Hello, and welcome to thing no.3 of the #23things course (also, this is my 100th post on this blog)… As I mentioned previously I am taking part in this course together with my team. If you are curious about our approach read the post, but here it is in a nutshell: we have given ourselves permission to lurk, audit, explore or participate in each thing as we deem fit on an individual basis. So… this is my attempt to contribute:

img_4038This task starts with searching for yourself on Google and that’s where I have paused. It feels strangely personal writing about my own search results, but then of course that is the point of the exercise. This information is already in the public domain and easily discoverable by anyone. Why did searching for myself give me reason to pause? I want to explain why, using 10 screenshots I took:

Front page: The most public version of ‘me’ is on the first page of results. Like most of you I monitor the information about me online regularly and the results presented here are what I expected. It’s sometimes surprising how high events I participate in appear in the search results, but so far, so good.

img_4036Old News: In contrast to the first search results, this is not a list I look at frequently, but I’m already uncomfortable. Giving interviews or quotes is a circumspect business but no matter what I say it can read badly after a few years  (or sometimes far sooner). Looking at this list also reminds me that I am not consistent when it comes to archiving news items, so I suppose one advantage of having whatever you say archived and indexed is that you can compile at least a partial list at a glance. Next!

Videos: I often ignore how much video there is now of img_4037me. Granted, it’s a tiny amount in comparison to others, but not even 10 years ago there was no video of me at all. In most cases the video is a recording of a live event either in front of an audience or online. It’s often improvised, never polished and can make for cringe-worthy watching for me. On the other hand, some of my favourite moments in my professional life have been in front of an audience, so on balance I think I am glad to have these videos and hope that some are useful or interesting to others.

And now… images: this is where you can go down all sorts of rabbit holes and find surprises. First up: pictures in weird settings or combinations:

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Images I have no control over and that are ranked highly, can feel like an annoying part of my digital footprint. In other instances the images are not of me, but made by me or posted by me at some point in the past. It can be fun to rediscover a former self , but it strongly reminds me that each time I publish anything, this post included, I make a decision to add to this expansion of stuff about or by me:

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Some images, like this one above for example, I posted at some point and thought I had removed. Others, like the one below, are a blast from the past. In this instance it shows an outdoor trade-show of funerary wares, mainly coffins, that I visited as part of my doctoral research.

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Finally, there are also images I post on sites like JustGiving, when I was raising money for Cancer Research. I am not sure how I will feel seeing this in a few years time, particularly if my personal circumstances or those of my family are different by then. What if you find images of raising funds for someone who is no longer with you? img_4035

All of this information about me is on the surface. I haven’t really started digging into what else you can find about me online and there are dire warnings about what can be done with personal information that isn’t safeguarded. That’s one reason why I am taking part in this course. Being online, particularly as an open practitioner, is making yourself vulnerable. Josie Fraser gave an inspiring keynote at ALT’s Annual Conference this year and I’ll end this post by encouraging you to watch it. Don’t let trolls follow your digital footprints…

#23things: Getting started with a team

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Team-made biscuit plate…

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve signed up for some new open courses this autumn. Since then, I’ve encouraged my colleagues from the ALT staff team to join the 23things course and we are now embarking on it as a team.

Like many organisations we are always looking for effective ways to provide CPD opportunities around use of technology and I think the course looks like a great way to meet that need. Given that we are a small, distributed group a course that is wholly online and has some flexibility as to when and how you learn seems ideal.

As we want to take part as a team, we have set up some additional “taking part” support, including adding a discussion about our experiences to our weekly team meetings and a shared Google folder and doc “scratchpad” for everyone. While we are taking part in an open course I also want to create a safe space for everyone to experiment and share their views without them being public.

So, I am joining in with this first post about what I’d like to gain from the course and also some reflections on the social media guidelines that we follow:

First, social media guidelines: that’s something I think about quite a lot and as well as the guidelines of our host institution we publish our own policies governing our different platforms. Some of us are very active on social media, others less so – but events and membership activities are increasingly finding their voice on different platforms. So, as well as developing various digital literacy skills, the course will provide an opportunity for us to talk about our approach to social media as a team. I found Eric Stoller’s talk at the Jisc Digifest very inspiring on this topic.

Secondly, what do I hope to get out of the course? Learning new things is definitely the top aim, but this time round I hope we can learn something new together. In our organisation we move very quickly from one project to the next and sometimes there isn’t enough time to enjoy the process of finding a solution to a problem or implementing something new. I hope the course will provide a way for us to share more of that experience.

Open/closed? I have thought quite a bit about writing this post, because in the past when I have shared my practice openly I haven’t written directly about the colleagues I work with daily. There is a lot to consider when you share your practice openly and my own participation should support and contribute, not hinder anyone else’s progress. So I think the approach I will take is not to write about anyone’s personal experience or journey – or at least not without their express permission. I won’t share anything unless it is already in the public domain (and intentionally so) and with my colleagues’ consent. And I will contribute, just like my colleagues, in our internal spaces as well as this more public forum.

CMALT CPD Log: tracking professional development using Google Apps

Since gaining my CMALT accreditation in February, I have been struck by how much of a difference it has made to me (and I am not just saying that because I work for its awarding body…). As well as providing useful evidence for my work day to day, it’s made me take a more focused and considered approach to my Learning Technology work. Part of it is developing a habit to reflect, about learning to pause and take stock before moving on to the next thing. I’ve also started being a peer assessor for other candidate’s portfolios and that has been an interesting process in itself, making me feel more connected with other professionals working in the same discipline.

As the portfolio has to be updated every 3 years (as explained here) I’ve been considering how I am going to track my own activities. Three years is a long time and I think I would dread having to compile everything in 2019. So, like other CMALT Holders before me, I have tried to devise an approach to help me keep everything in one place and link easily into my portfolio that I built using Google Apps for Education.
CMALT_Log

Main aims: keep a running log of CPD activities, make it as easy as possible to log these, keep the format linked to my portfolio so that I can transfer content at the review stage and keep evidence.

First steps: I set up a Google sheet and a form initially, but found that I didn’t like it because typing longer text into each cell didn’t work for me and the form felt too impersonal. I wanted to give myself the flexibility to add reflection and expand the format whenever I want. So I started a new Google doc instead, with a table, free text sections and an appendix section with guidance from the ALT website. I also set up a folder for additional evidence to be stored.

Collect evidence or risk loosing it: it became quickly apparent that a lot of evidence I was logging is contained in my blog. As I now host that on my own domain (thanks, Reclaim Hosting 🙂 I feel that this works even in the long term. However one course I participated in this summer has published my work only behind a log in. So I took screenshots of the key information and stored them in the folder in case I loose access in the long run. Certainly the process of logging the evidence was the reason why I did this – otherwise I don’t think I would have.

Where’s my CPD heading? As well as aiding reflection and encouraging me to keep my work properly backed up colour-coding different categories of CPD (e.g. events, blog, course… etc) made it very clear what I have been focusing on and areas in which I could do more.

Tags, categories, images… couldn’t I do all of this in a more elegant way? I am sure I could. There are apps out there that would certainly make it look and feel a lot more glossy. If you have found a way that works for you, I’d love to see how it works. For me, sticking with the same format as my portfolio works for now.

My last week as a #DigitalScholar?

PeerTomorrow is the last live session of the Digital Scholar course. In this post I will share my experience of week 4 and look back briefly at the course overall. So, last week was all about the peer review process and reviewing each others’ course outlines. At the end of the week, we each received the feedback provided by our peers and mine was definitely useful. Some comments were very factual, pointing out a typo or missing information, while others made me think about how a particular section of my proposal could be re-framed or re-ordered to make it clearer. What I found particularly useful:

I know what I am talking about, but will my audience… : I think that is a key benefit from being part of a course with such a diverse group of participants. At least one of my reviewers was completely unfamiliar with what the course I was proposing was about and their comments made me want to improve my outline to make it easier to understand.

Where, what, when… : I have a tendency to repeat things when I write and using 100 words where 20 will do. Some of the feedback prompted me to be more strict about where information was included and where it could be omitted. The Scholar interface and the course rubric also helped with that.

No one knows who you are… : I rarely get blind feedback on work that I produce and as I have a senior position it can be hard for others to give me critical feedback. Even if you try and take a very collaborative approach, those kind of barriers make a difference. So I appreciated my “blind” feedback in particular because it was rather blunt.

Is this the end of my #DigitalScholar journey?
While this week is the last week of the course I am not sure I am ready to leave things behind. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s live learning moment, a meet up which has established itself quickly in my weekly routine as something I look forward to. I’ve also made some good connections with other participants and I hope they will continue to develop beyond the course end date. In terms of the work I did during the course, developing the course outline has been a really interesting undertaking. I think I have a good idea for how to develop it further in a work context, applying some of the ideas to my day job – and I also have come to realise that I have some other ideas, the bread crumb style course I mentioned in a previous post, that I might explore in my own time. Both have helped inspire me to engage directly  with open course design and delivery for the first time since my work on the ocTEL course finished.

If you would like to read more, you can find all my previous posts about the course: starting with the first one looking ahead at the course, followed by the week 1 post about meeting the community and joining in, then my post for week 2 which focused on my process of designing the course outline and imaging another and also my post for week 3, which was about the peer review process.

An open course as a tool for change: reflecting on Blended Learning Essentials

One project I am currently involved in is a course on FutureLearn called Blended Learning Essentials.  In this short blog post I want to think about how this course, or others like it, can be used as tools for change.

A bit about the course
UntitledThis is an open course about using blended learning for vocational education and it runs for a total of 8 weeks in two parts. The first part covers the ‘essentials’ and the second focuses on ’embedding’ blended learning. Content and in particular the videos are created in collaboration with teachers/learners in vocational education contexts and shaped by current practice. If you’d like to see what it’s like for yourself, parts of the course are accessible without signing up: Going beyond reflection to data https://goo.gl/cwGRtQ, collaborative learning to improve learner support https://goo.gl/LwnCnA, sharing and re-using teaching ideas https://goo.gl/gHdsp9 and managing a culture change https://goo.gl/j7q17q.

Change for learners and teachers
One of the aims of the course is to provide an entry point to using learning technology effectively regardless of what participants already know or feel confident about. While that is a big ask it also highlights the fact that there is a big disparity in the relevant competencies across the sector. At one end there are enthusiastic individuals or institutions whose learners are benefiting from technology-enhanced innovation and at the other end of the spectrum are those who don’t know where to start. Learners may or may not have access to devices and networks, but once they do, they need to gain skills that will be useful for them in what they do next and teachers need to be able to support them in that. So one way in which a course like Blended Learning Essentials can become a tool for affecting change is to provide a path to building competencies and confidence for those who deliver learning. It could be incorporated into existing internal provision, to enhance what a provider or group can offer internally – or it can act as a way to start scaling up CPD.  Similar to another course I worked on in the past, the Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning (ocTEL) it can provide flexible chunks of CPD depending on what the participant is most interested in.

Decision makers who manage change
While learners and those who deliver learning can make use of the course, I think that those in decision making roles also have something to gain. To begin with they can participate themselves, online and at their own pace, to refresh or supplement their own skills and knowledge. Particularly if you don’t get much time to have hands on experience with learning technology, the course can help bridge the gap. The case studies and discussion forums meanwhile can be used as a frame of reference for establishing where a particular organisation is in terms of making intelligent use of learning technology, what common barriers are or how to solve problems. Particularly the second part of the course (the last 3 weeks) are relevant in this context. Given that the course is free to attend and most of its resources openly licenced, it can be an efficient tool for up-skilling and provide paths to accreditation (accreditation is the part of the course that I have worked on most, so I am going to point to further information and in particular its mapping to CMALT for those who are interested).

Some limitations
I think this course can be a useful tool for affecting or managing change, from introducing blended learning, to scaling up provision or enhancing it. But there are also some limitations:
It’s online: this is a free ONLINE course about blended learning. It requires you to get online, supports you to develop the skills to engage with it and while you can certainly participate with a group of colleagues and support each other face to face, being able and willing to learn online is a key requirement. If this is a major barrier for you or your institution the course could be a useful way to build your capabilities in this area;
Accessibility: actually, in my experience the FutureLearn platform excels at making courses accessible and if you are in doubt it’s definitely worth exploring the “how to learn” resources they provide or make an enquiry;
It’s not advanced enough: as the course is aimed at those who don’t already have advanced skills it can seem too basic for some. The discussion forums and social media conversation may be more interesting to those who find some of the content too basic or it might be a useful tool for supporting colleagues;
So what?: One of the most interesting aspects of the course for me as to see how strong a driver learners’ future success is for getting individuals and providers do more or better blended learning. As everyday life and work require more skills for using technology it becomes more urgent that we use it effectively for learning, teaching and assessment. Other drivers for using blended learning might be providing more flexible provision, broadening access, scaling up or enhancing delivery, improving feedback & assessment…

Things I’m thinking about next
Working on this course has made me reflect on the conversation about open courses, what they can be used for, what they achieve in terms of creating communities, scaling up provision and supporting professional development.
This course is a first in more ways than one, it’s the first course on this particular platform for the vocational education sector, to my knowledge it’s the first open course in this context that has attracted over 20k participants and it’s the first time we have seem a large scale response to the policy agenda in UK that is supported by some many organisations.
It’s a tool we can make use of to affect change and we can probably use every bit of help we can get in achieving effective use of learning technology across the sectors.