Progress and successes with media-enhanced learning

I’ve had several messages from people who attended the MELSIG event on Tuesday at the University of Nottingham observing, not only how stimulating the day was, but how much things have moved on in recent years in terms of the spread and capability of digital and social media in higher education. I am not sure where this puts our special interest on the Gartner Hype Cycle, but it feels like we’re well on our way after several years of dogged commitment by MELSIG-ers.

This message from Rod Cullen captures the mood, and my own thoughts, very well:

“Just a quick note to say how much I enjoyed, and how valuable, yesterday’s event was. I go to a lot of events and come away thinking ‘that was interesting but I haven’t come away with anything particularly new’. Yesterday’s event was one of the rarer occasions where I have come away buzzing with ideas.
Reflecting on the train on the way home I was struck by how far thing seems to have come since the we first worked together on the ASSET benefits realisation project which seems a long time ago but was actually only 2010/11. The technologies for audio and video production are clearly well on the way to making the transition from cottage industries and being primarily in the tutor/teacher domain to being part of the mainstream teaching, learning and assessment toolkit in many HE institutions. What was particularly exciting and inspiring were the number of people who are getting their students to use the technologies themselves to demonstrate their creativity, skills development and learning in new and interesting ways. Furthermore, I was really encouraged by the quality of the evidence that presenters were providing in relation to the tutor experience, student experience and student learning. Back in 2010, I remember a significant part of the discussions being about how to work around the technical limitations of a lot of the technologies. There are clearly some still issues in that respect, but the focus yesterday was very much on evidence based teaching, learning and assessment practice. Perhaps this is a reflection on these technologies starting to come of age in many of our institutions, regardless it is really exciting to see and be part of this progress.”

If you want a glimpse of that buzz see the Storify from the event and hear the plenary recording featuring 59 people who stayed on to the bitter end – bitter only because of the icy cold weather outside and imminent snow.

But have we made progress? Why does it feel as though we have. Hear are some general thoughts from me:

  • Yes, I think we can see significant progress since we last took a hard look at innovation with digital video in about 2010 (actually we’ve never had a special focus on this but the topic was close to what we were doing then with the ‘digital voice’ focus). We have absolutely no difficulty in finding academic innovators doing good things with digital video when we run events and activities and fill a programme nearly as quickly as we fill an auditorium (a day and a half this time).
  • Widespread adoption of social media and personal technologies means that the ‘fear of technology’ comments have nearly faded away (though we must always be keen to ensure we look after usability, inclusivity and accessibility in our interest area).
  • Following on from this, and evident in many case studies, personal technologies rather than institutionally provided technologies are increasingly the trigger to innovation with digital media.
  • We talk much more in HE about academics being innovators. If academics aren’t labelled innovators then mostly they will not realise the importance of risk taking to enhance and transform practice.
  • And following on from this, senior management in HE now know how important it is to support their staff in taking reasonable risks with media like these to develop the way we engage learners.

I could go on, and you might like to suggest further thoughts in the comments, but yes. So our challenge remains to support each other and do everything we can to add to the momentum rather than obstruct this progress. Why? Because this is all about creating a thriving learning environment.

I am bound to say, I think the MELSIG community has made an enormous impact on this. It is our commitment to community and mutual support for innovation (as much as sharing tips!) that I really value.

About amiddlet50

Educational developer working in academic innovation in higher education in the UK
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