Snakes and ladders, discovering my digital skills and other highlights from EUNIS19

Would you like to play a game?

One of my favourite sessions at EUNIS19 was the snakes and ladders game presented by Gill Ferrell and Eleanor Magennis based on the ucisa Learning Spaces toolkit. The presentation showcased some of the spaces in the toolkit and mentioned two items of interest:

Then in groups of five, we each took on a role of a stakeholder in a learning spaces project and navigated around the board dealing with challenges as they arose. How would you respond to an academic request for ‘state of the art and flexible’? What would you do when you find out the IT/AV budget is much less than planned? We made it to the end and had a good discussion about different aspects of learning spaces projects. Looking forward to playing this at City!

Understanding digital capabilities

Technology is an important factor of the campus for the future and with that in mind, we should be considering the digital capabilities of staff and students. The Jisc team of Sarah Knight, Lisa Gray and Ruth Drysdale ran a couple of sessions at the conference to promote the services that Jisc provides. City are already taking part in the Digital Experience Insights survey for both staff and students, so it was interesting to hear the results from the 2018 student survey and the 2018 pilot of the teaching staff survey. In one of their interactive workshops, delegates were given the opportunity to try out some of the Jisc resources. I chose to look at the Discovery tool which enables staff and students to check their own digital proficiency. For a subscription, institutions can get access to a dashboard providing an overview of the results by department as well as signpost staff and students to institutional resources. Definitely something we’ll be looking into as we review the results from the Digital Experiences surveys over the coming months.

Screenshot of Jisc discovery tool and sample results
Jisc discovery tool plus sample results

Designing learning analytics dashboards

One of my favourite sessions, and winner of the best paper, was about designing learning analytics dashboards by Alena Droit and Bodo Rieger from the University of Osnabrück. Alena presented a two-part study with students on a Business Intelligence course whereby students completed a questionnaire about the data attributes and functionalities of a learning analytics dashboard, followed by an activity to design their own dashboard. In the questionnaire, students expressed a preference for seeing learning activity data with some prior academic data (most commonly results of self-assessment tests, homework and mid-term exams). They felt that information about sickness, ethnicity, income, social media activities and wifi logins should not be collected. When asked why, the majority felt that it was either not relevant for academic performance, they had concerns about privacy or feared it could be abused. In terms of functionality they would like to see, the top four features included: comparison with other students, prediction of expected final grade, recommendations for elective modules and alerts at an early stage to warn students that they might be at risk.

In the design part of the study, students were given case study data and used Tableau to merge and analyse the data in order to create their dashboards. The students produced a wide range of dashboards and, reflecting the questionnaire results, the most popular data attributes used related to assessment scores. Over 50% of dashboards compared the data to that of fellow students, whilst 27% compared performance against course of study, gender and age.

Examples dashboards created by business intelligence students
Example dashboards created by the Business Intelligence students

VLE of the future?

My final highlight of the conference was taking part in a panel session chaired by Gill Ferrell with Sally Jorjani (Edinburgh Napier University) and Farzana Latif (University of Sheffield) to discuss virtual learning environment (VLE) reviews as part of promoting the ucisa VLE review toolkit, which officially launched on 3rd June. We each talked about our experiences of running a VLE review project; I presented an overview of the VLE review I managed at Imperial College London where the unique feature was piloting two VLEs before making the final decision. This was followed by questions from the audience via Mentimeter which focussed on procurement, the nature of open sources VLEs, involving students, minimum expectations and whether the toolkit would be of use to those outside of the UK (yes, definitely!).

Overall EUNIS19 was a great conference, with some excellent presentations and great social opportunities. Presentations are available on the EUNIS website. Next year’s conference will be in Helsinki and promises to be even better!


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