Monday 15 February 2010

Durham reflections (post-Blackboard conference)

I attended the Durham Blackboard Users Conference back in early January, along with some other members of the BLE technical group, and having also attended last year, I once again found it well organised and well attended, so it was a great opportunity to hear and meet speakers from all over the UK and beyond. Highlights for me included hearing about how e-learning is being embedded into key skills training for bioscience students at Leciester (see Jo Badge's blog for more info), thus-far somewhat disappointing results from a promising Twitter project at Kingston (see Tony McNeill's blog) and a presentation from US academics about Blackboard's Exemplary Course Program, explaining why they believe student engagement is at the heart of exemplary courses.

Overall, I thought it was interesting (ironic perhaps at a Blackboard conference - though to be fair there was a social media theme) that the most interesting work being done by presenters is generally happening outside the VLE itself. It must be said though that most continue to regard their VLE as an important tool in the e-learning kit.

There was a lot of reflection on barriers to e-learning development, with major ones cited being:

  • many staff lack the time, and sometimes skills or willingness, to engage beyond creating course document repositories;
  • students often demonstrate an unwillingness to participate in tasks that are not assessed; and indeed sometimes also to participate in collaborative tasks which appear to hand advantage to 'competitors';
  • students are not necessarily the ‘digital natives’ they are often assumed to be;
  • some students, while confident in their use of technology, don’t see the relevance of it for learning.

This makes me wonder if too much of our focus as learning technologists tends to be on staff development, when we should perhaps be engaging with students more directly, and also engaging with the tools they know and like more.

Images courtesy of ewjz31 via Flickr.


  1. some students, while confident in their use of technology, don’t see the relevance of it for learning. - great insight right here...

  2. Thanks elearning guy. I just read an interesting piece by Jane Hart relating to this - she says:

    "This year's Top 100 Tools for Learning 2009 was also dominated by social media tools; the Top 10 including Slideshare, Wordpress, Google Docs, YouTube, Google Reader and Delicious, with Twitter ranking No 1 on the list. Often those looking at the list remark that "these aren't learning tools - just everyday tools" whilst others ask "how can Twitter (or any social media tool in fact) be used for learning?". As the use of social media for learning - aka "social learning" - becomes a hot topic, is it, as Maish Nichani succinctly put it on his blog posting from the DevLearn conference in the US in November 2009, a matter of just “get social and you’ll learn”?"
    - see: The State of Social Learning Today and Some Thoughts for the Future of L&D in 2010