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Dundee – much more than Jute, Jam & Journalism August 26, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Musings.
Tags: , ,

Perhaps it was greater familiarity with the format, venue and location, but my second visit to the eAssessment conference hosted by the University of Dundee proved even more enjoyable and informative than the last. Although I arrived for the day conference last Thursday, proceedings proper actually started a few days before that with online offerings. Sadly the Adobe Connect meeting rooms and our school network didn’t want to play ball, so I wasn’t able to participate in the sessions for which I had registered,  but hope to do so belatedly when the recordings sessions are posted. My appetite for what was to come was sufficiently whetted however, since I managed to join the Wednesday evening discussion hosted by the EDUtalk crew with guests Cristina Costa and David Walker.

Jumping back to the future, our first speaker at the Conference live was Catherine Cronin who set the scene by talking about ‘Assessment in Open Spaces;’ or rather she did once the technical problems had been ironed out. I’ve come across my fair share of presentation issues whilst at work, but never one where only certain slides caused noise through the audio system! Catherine’s resilience (and the Dundee tech team!) saved the day and she offered for consideration the idea of ‘open’ in terms of the tools we use, the resources we access (and produce) and the spaces we inhabit. She also entreated us to consider how openness can change the interactions and relationships between educators and learners, whatever their ages.

Being inspired to muse on possibilities by the opening lecture, contrasted with the second session which was much more nuts and bolts. I see why the seminar options are doubled up here, with a pair in an hour. However it’s not always possible to find a couplet where both offerings appeal. It was with some delight then that the opener on ‘Inclusive Assessment’ proved incredibly informative and helpful, rather than simply having to be endured, as I thought I might. Alistair McNaught opened my eyes to several aspects of inclusivity of which I was unaware, but also pointed us towards the JISC TechDis resource riches. Although produced for HE, I’ve often found JISC resources to be most enlightening and look forward to poring over the TechDis site in the coming weeks. The second half by Sue Milne et al considered how Uniqurate (a QTI-based open standard for question authoring) can offer different question types for online tests, but focused particularly on the variety of feedback responses which can be provided. Although colleagues in some curriculum areas at work back home have realised the potential of self-marking tests, they have been less enthusiastic about the feedback processes. Whilst there is clearly a lot to be gained (particularly where assessments are used formatively) from crafting elaborate response rubrics, the impression I get is that the investment of time is so huge, that they feel their effort would not be well spent.

Helen Keegan

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Ian Guest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/9583813001/

After lunch with the chance to peruse the posters and examine the exhibits, Helen Keegan kicked off the afternoon session with ‘Structured Chaos, Learning Webs.’ I’ve heard Helen talk about this project delivering a module of study supported by immersing the students in an ARG (without their knowledge!) via an online video from PeLeCon12. I found it fascinating at the time and hearing Helen talk live about it only served to further illustrate the passion she has for this and her gift as a storyteller. Given the effort needed to plan, prepare and deliver this project, the ethical concerns, difficulties replicating the process and challenges likely to be encountered when moving beyond the specific circumstances, I wonder whether this presentation lends itself to a more discursive format. Whilst there may be neither the time nor space to undertake this kind of activity within the ‘live ‘ conference, given that it spans two weeks, I wonder whether more controversial (?) topics like this lend themselves to further discussion and debate online? A way of increasing participation and or involvement of conference delegates, extending the debate and perhaps even informing the topic?

Next another pair of seminars, the first of which Sally Brown chose to eschew an electronic presentation in favour of text handouts and tweeting her session. She posed (and responded to) a series of issues with assessment in general which eAssessment might help address. Interruptions were both invited and rewarded (!) and whilst the format might have appealed to the more technosceptic amongst us, perhaps again there was a missed opportunity here? If the issues Sally offered had been posted in advance and responses solicited, then during the seminar she could perhaps have summarised and responded to the preceding discussion/comments.
I wasn’t quite sure in advance what I would be getting from the second of the two seminars where Jon Hilton (a medical student) explained how interactive online stories could be used as tools to deliver case or problem-based learning opportunities. This was another of those serendipitous moments. I’d heard of interactive stories of course,  but hadn’t yet explored how they might be used in an educational context … at least not beyond the curiosity these activities clearly stimulate. The effort needed to set up a scenario is prodigious, but I’d always argue that effort directed in this way is an investment which becomes worthwhile when the resource is shared amongst a number of colleagues and across student populations. In thinking about a means by which that workload might be reduced, I got one of those rare (for me!) light-bulb moments. What if the students were responsible for producing the story? All the processes and skills Jon had brought to bear are exactly the capabilities we are looking to engender in our students. How much more powerful a learning experience might it be if they were crafting the stories and subsequently reading and critiquing each others?

The closing keynote was ‘Anyone need a can opener?’ by Fiona Leteney, who introduced me to ‘Tin Can.’ I have no idea how this initiative has slipped under my radar, but indeed it has so I’ll forgive Fiona the constant references to BUPA her employer, for remedying the shortcomings in my knowledge. Even from this brief introduction, it appears that Tin Can might offer a powerful mechanism through which learners can track, record and publish their learning paths … and keep that as a lifelong record.

So with what did I come away from eAssessment Scotland 13? Well gaps in my knowledge like Tin Can, inclusive technologies and interactive fiction etc have been closed and though I’ve more to learn of these, that too will be a rewarding process. I picked up a bunch of links to sites and resources I need to explore more fully. I also need to process further some of what I’ve learned to establish how it can be tweaked to become more applicable to our context. In essence, #eASc13’s added mercilessly to my ‘In’ tray … but I’m so looking forward to getting stuck in!



1. John Johnston - August 30, 2013

Hi Ian,
Thanks for this, I only saw the keynotes, so now have a better idea of the conference as a whole. The links will have added to my in tray too. Valuable stuff.

ianinsheffield - August 30, 2013

You’re of course welcome John. There are some real nuggets beyond the headline keynotes; such a shame that they’re not recorded in some way so we (and absent friends) can’t play catch up.

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