Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: learning design

AI and Higher Education: Is it time to rethink teaching and assessment?

On 22 February I took part in a roundtable debate on the topic “AI and Higher Education: Is it time to rethink teaching and assessment?”, the event being organised and facilitated by Graide, a UK-based Ed Tech company that uses AI to provide improved feedback in STEM subjects. (I dislike the term ‘artificial intelligence’ in this context, but I think I am fighting a losing battle here. In the interests of clarity, I’ll use the term AI in this blog post.) 

Given the recent furore around generative AI, and its ability to create human-like outputs, Graide thought it would be timely to bring together a variety of voices – senior managers, academics, developers, students – to discuss the potential impact of this new technology on higher education. I was joined on the panel by Bradley Cable (student at Birmingham University); Alison Davenport (Professor of Corrosion Science at Birmingham University); Ian Dunn (Provost of Coventry University); Manjinder Kainth (CEO of Graide); Tom Moule (Senior AI Specialist at Jisc); and Luis Ponce Cuspinera (Director of Teaching and Learning at Sussex University).     

It was fascinating to hear the range of opinions held by the panel members and by the 400+ people who attended the event (and who could interact via polls and via chat). If you are interested in my opinion of the technology then you might want to watch a recording of the debate; alternatively, in the paragraphs below, I’ll attempt to summarise my feelings about Bing, ChatGPT, and similar programs.

* * *

It is easy to see why there should be fears about this technology, particularly around assessment: students might pass off AI-generated content as their own. Critics of the technology have numerous other, entirely valid, concerns: the models might produce biased outputs (after all, they have been trained on the internet!); companies will presumably start to charge for access to AI, which raises questions of equity and digital poverty; the output of these models is often factually incorrect; and so on and so on.

But this technology also possesses the clear potential to help students learn more deeply and lecturers teach more effectively. 

I believe that if we embrace this technology, understand it, and use it wisely we might be able to provide personalised learning for students; design learning experiences that suit a student’s capabilities and preferences; and provide continuous assessment and feedback to enable students themselves to identify areas where they need to improve. The potential is there to provide at scale the sort of education that was once reserved for the elite. 

Note the emboldened if in the paragraph above. To obtain the outcome we desire we need to embrace and explore this technology. We need to understand that the output of large language models relies on statistical relationships between tokens; it does not produce meaning – only humans generate meaning. And we need to use this technology wisely and ethically. It is not clear at this point whether these conditions will be met. Instead, some people seem to want to shut down the technology or at least pretend that it will have no impact on them.

I have heard numerous academics respond to this technology by demanding a return to in-person, handwritten exams. (Would it not be better to rethink and redesign assessment, with this new technology in mind?) I have even heard some lecturers call for a complete ban on this technology in education. (Is that possible? Even if it were, would it be fair to shield students from tools they will have to use when they enter the workforce?) 

* * *

Fear of new technology dates back millennia. Plato, in the Phaedrus, a work composed about 370 BCE, has Socrates argue against the use of writing: 

“It will implant forgetfulness in their [the readers] souls. They will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks.”

Ironically, we only know about Plato’s argument against writing because it was written down.

More recently, some critics argued that the introduction of calculators would impair students’ mathematical ability. (The research is clear: children’s maths skills are not harmed by using calculators – so long as the devices are introduced into the curriculum in an integrated way.)  Even more recently, some people argued that spellcheckers would impair students’ ability to spell correctly. (It seems the reverse might be the case: students are getting immediate feedback on spelling errors and this is improving their spelling.)

Perhaps it is a natural human response to fear any new technology. And in the case of generative AI there are legitimate reasons for us to be fearful – or at least to be wary of adopting the technology.

But the technology is not going to go away. Indeed, it will almost certainly improve and become more powerful. I believe that if we are thoughtful in how we introduce AI into the curriculum; if we focus on how AI can support people to achieve their goals rather than replace people; if we produce a generation of students that use the technology effectively, ethically, and safely – well, we could transform education for the better.  

Credit Image: Photo by Stable Diffusion 2.1

Guest Blogger: Teach Well: Principles to Practice Module

Hi everyone, I’m Maria Hutchinson and I joined the Academic Development team back in June as a Learning Designer. One of the projects I was given early on was to create a professional development module to support the pedagogical upskilling of our Online Course Developers (OCDs), Seniors OCDs, Learning Technologists, Educational Technologists, Learning Support Tutors, Associate Lecturers, or other relevant roles related to supporting student learning.

The aptly named Teach Well: Principles to Practice module has been approved and we are actively recruiting for TB2 Jan-May. This new 30-credit L7 professional development module is FREE for UoP and will run TB1 and TB2.

Join us on a pedagogical journey through 3 pillars of practice for teaching well in higher education, and gain the confidence to critically evaluate learning and design approaches and reflect on what it means to teach well across different modes of study.

On completion of the module, you will be able to support colleagues in the fields of learning design and wider pedagogic practice, including supporting workshops such as enABLe, the University’s framework to support innovative team-based learning design. You will also engage with the UKPSF and be able to work towards an appropriate level of Fellowship.

This practical module focuses on learning design, teaching practice, and assessment and feedback, in the context of a solid pedagogic framework linked to blended and connected learning. A significant component of the module content and associated skills is practical teaching.

Academic teaching students in classroomYou will learn via a mixture of face-to-face away days* and online synchronous sessions, including workshops, discussions and guest speakers, where you will be encouraged to engage. Guided learning will include asynchronous online activities, in addition to which, you will be expected to engage in assessment activities and independent study. Key dates of online sessions and away days.

*NOTE: Attendance at face-to-face away days are mandatory, therefore, you should ensure that you have prior approval from your line manager to attend them.

For more information and for details on how to enrol, please contact: maria.hutchinson@port.ac.uk

TEL in 2021

Twelve months ago I reviewed how TEL had navigated 2020, the strangest year I guess any of us have experienced. The TEL team, by implementing several new technologies and enhancing existing technologies, helped support the University’s pivot to what the literature now refers to as “emergency remote teaching” (ERT). Now, at the start of 2022, it is worth reflecting on what we learned during 2021 – a year in which Covid carried on posing problems.

The first point to make is that technology continued to be used heavily. As the University’s “blended and connected” approach to teaching and learning bedded in, and we experienced the welcome sight of students once again milling around on campus, I expected Moodle use to drop compared to last year. September 2021 did indeed see a drop in monthly users compared to September 2020. But almost the same number of users accessed Moodle in October 2021 as in October 2020. And 10% more users accessed in November 2021 compared to November 2020. In part this use pattern will have mirrored the waves of the epidemic, with online offering a safe environment for teaching and learning. But in part it shows, I believe, that technology has become embedded in teaching and learning, in a way that was not the case just two years ago.

The increasing use of Panopto provides another example. The last time I looked (which was six weeks ago; these figures will already be outdated!) staff had created 87,410 videos and recorded 35,442 hours of content. Students had racked up 2.23 million views and downloads. These are large numbers, and again they demonstrate that staff and students are engaging with technology in a way we could not have predicted two years ago.

Nevertheless, we need to ask: in 2021 did we fully embrace the opportunities offered by a blended and connected approach to teaching and learning?

I suspect the answer is “no”: to a large extent we were all still operating in ERT mode.

The reasons for this are understandable. It takes time to redesign a course or module so that students can get the most out of a blended and connected environment. Effective redesign takes the skills and experience of a mix of people. And the process requires support from professional services. That broad, team-based approach to the redesign of courses and modules has not been part of the culture at Portsmouth – so although it is possible to point to numerous individual examples of good, innovative practice, I believe the University as a whole has been unable to take full advantage of a blended and connected approach.

One of my hopes for 2022 is that we will see a much more considered use of technology in teaching and learning. In some cases that will mean more technology, in some cases different technology, and in some cases less technology. The key is to identify the best blend of activities to ensure students can learn and can demonstrate mastery of that learning. In other words, I hope in 2022 we will see much more emphasis on learning design.

In order to further this ambition TEL, AcDev, and Faculty colleagues, working under the leadership of Professor Ale Armellini, are developing enABLe – a framework based on well established and well researched principles, but one that is new to Portsmouth. The intention is to offer structured and collaborative workshops, at the course or module level, around learning design (and learning re-design). These collegiate, student-focused, needs-driven workshops are flexible: they can be used for new programme development, for programmes needing attention around learning and teaching as flagged in the EQUIP process, and for programmes simply requiring a refresh in a specific area such as feedback. In each case, the workshops are founded on the key principles of Active Blended Learning. If you would like to learn more, please contact Sarah Eaton.

At some point the pandemic will become endemic and, as politicians tell us, we will “learn to live with the virus”. But when that happens we should take care not to forget the lessons – both positive and negative – of 2020 and 2021. It would be foolish for us to try to return to our teaching practices of 2019. Amanda Gorman, the poet who read at President Biden’s inauguration, ends her latest poem, New Year’s Lyric, with the following lines:

“So let us not return to what was normal,

But reach toward what is next…”

I think that is a perfect sentiment for education in 2022.

 

Episode 11 – John “Hack” Hackmeyer from CyberCrocodile

TelTales Podcast
TelTales Podcast
Episode 11 - John "Hack" Hackmeyer from CyberCrocodile
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Building Effective Digital Training Courses for Onboarding and Enablement

John Hackmeyer – LinkedIn

Nowhere Land – Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Design for Digital Learning

Back in 2005, Gráinne Conole and Karen Fill developed a learning design toolkit. Conole and Fill were concerned that, despite the increasing use in society of “Information and Communication Technologies” (as people used to refer to our connected world), educators weren’t embracing the opportunities of e-learning to enrich the student experience. Their learning design toolkit was intended to guide teachers through the process of creating “pedagogically informed learning activities which make effective use of appropriate tools and resources”.

In the 12 years since their learning design toolkit was developed, technology has continued to improve steadily – but I’d argue that learning design has failed to keep up. Perhaps a new JISC publication will go some way towards improving matters. Their new online guide to technology-enhanced curriculum design – Designing learning and assessment in a digital age – collates the most significant R&D outputs over the past decade in curriculum and learning design in a digital context. It also includes examples of good practice.

The guide is based on a model with four elements:

  • Discover – understanding of where you are now, and what you want to happen
  • Dream – your vision for what learning, teaching and assessment could be like
  • Design – understanding precisely who you are designing for and the pedagogic purposes that are appropriate to those students
  • Deliver – creating the right environment and culture for high-quality digital learning and assessment

If you are interested in learning design in a digital context then I can recommend reading the guide. Whatever your level of proficiency, you’ll be sure to find something to take away!

 

 

The discover, dream, design deliver model with improving student outcomes at the centre
©Jisc

 

 

Feature image: JISC Learning Design Toolkit by Graninne Conole and Karen Fill is licensed  under CC BY-NC-ND

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