E-learning: making it work
by Kevin Donovan
October almost 200 delegates attended another successful ALT event for practitioners in further, adult and community, and workplace learning. The conference was organised by ALT in collaboration with the Quality Improvement Agency
(QIA) and the format was similar to that in 2005 led by ALT and QIA’s predecessor LSDA. It had the support of LSC
Those present – mainly tutors, middle and senior managers, and e-learning and quality specialists – were a genuine cross-section of the range of institutions in the ‘further education and skills’ sector and from across the UK. What clearly united them was their interest in using the best of e-learning for good practice with real students. What was especially successful about the event was that it practised what it preached: most of the day was devoted to workshop sessions where colleagues could learn from good existing practice and from each other.
The conference was held in the very smooth surroundings of the National College for School Leadership in Nottingham. As many delegates noted, the College exemplifies the preferential funding for the schools sector. It stands in beautifully landscaped grounds and shares the campus with the University of Nottingham. It also illustrates post-industrial Britain; within recent memory the site was covered by bicycle and tobacco factories. Back then it was 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning'; now it appears more 'Notting Hill' than Nottingham.
Seb Schmoller opened the event, illustrating the range and types of staff making up the audience and the ways in which the whole sector was represented. Markos Tiris from QIA emphasised the day’s rationale: to support the movement of e-learning away from being the preserve of enthusiasts to becoming embedded in practice universally and appropriately. This theme was taken up in closing remarks from Margaret Bennett, a QIA director, who welcomed the collaboration between ALT and QIA. She looked forward to the day when ‘e’ might disappear and attention would be firmly on teaching and learning and seamless uses of technology. Part of this process was contained in Margaret’s concluding announcement of the new Becta/LSC Technology Exemplar Network programme. This aims to provide support and funding to encourage sector providers with a track record of embedding technology into their learning and teaching to create a forum to share best practice with other providers.
Forums and sharing were also central to the short presentation by Markos Tiris and Peter Jackson from QIA. They showed the latest version of QIA’s Excellence Gateway, the central portal and repository for sector information and resources – and now for Facebook-style peer networking.
The opening and closing sessions were neatly appropriate containers for the real buzz of the event: delegates spent most of the day in their four choices from twenty workshop sessions (chosen from a much longer list of offerings). All presenters had been briefed on the absolute necessity of maximum interaction and indeed the workshops exemplified good teaching and learning practice. Within each 45 minute session delegates listened, asked, discussed, debated, suggested – and used resources and materials which colleagues had found successful in real practice. It was obvious from conversations over coffee and lunch that people were learning and would take back to their own organisations ideas, experiences and stimulation.
A full report from the event, based on the standardised handouts used by each workshop presenter, will be published by ALT and QIA in the near future.
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