Ascilite Conference Report

This year’s ascilite conference was held in Auckland, New Zealand at Auckland University’s campus. The conference started on a Sunday with a traditional Maori introduction in an interestingly designed building at Auckland University’s city campus.

Monday 7th December 2009.

The conference was opened with a keynote from Dr Scott Diener followed by presentations from Mark Nichols and Mike Keppell. SecondLife was spoken about at some length and, like last year, was the subject of quite a few of the presentations. Full sessions were 25 minutes while concise sessions were 15 minutes. The guidelines suggested that at least one third of this time should be dedicated to questions and discussion, however I do not think this occurred. Like Thomas\, I found most of the sessions too short to explain much about the research. The first session I attended was an hour long symposium by Sebastian Fiedler, Terje Valjataga, Robert Fitzgerald and George Siemens talking about cascading change and the role of social networking and social media in educational intervention and transformation. Whilst an interesting an informative presentation, a highlight for me was the fact they displayed the back channel twitter feed on one of the two projected displays behind the speaker. So even though the conference guidelines recommended that folk do not twitter during presentations, most people did and this group in particular embraced the concept of the back channel by incorporating it into their presentation. There were some interesting comments made on the back channel during the conference and mostly they were informative and positive. However there were some negative or impolite comments as well which was disappointing. If you wouldn’t make such a comment out loud during a presentation, I don’t believe you should make it on the twitter back channel.

The middle session on Monday is where David presented our paper on the Indicators project. It was well received and led to some potential future collaborative projects with other universities who are interested in doing similar things. More on this later. The afternoon breakout sessions were quite good and was representative of the diversity of research and experimentation that is happening in higher education.

Tuesday 8th December 2009.

The morning keynote was by Grainne Conole who spoke about cloudworks and the concept of embracing clouds of interactions in higher education. Following this was an invited speaker from Auckland University, Peter Mellow who had an engaging presenting style and used the dual projector setup nicely by running two separate but complementary sets of slides on each projector. The first break our session included Ken who presented our paper about online learning networks. Later that afternoon Thomas Duggan presented a paper reporting on the use of Moodle to support indigenous Australian students which was well presented and received.

The conference dinner was held at the SkyCity casino conference room in the CBD. It featured a live band and an excellent buffet dinner where we all over-indulged. Unfortunately for Wednesday morning, most of us over-indulged in the red wine that kept magically appearing our glasses.

Wednesday 9th December 2009.

Whilst somewhat jaded from the night before, the morning sessions in my breakout group were interesting and featured a presentation by Dr Shane Dawson who spoke about the use of academic analytics in predicting drivers of student motivation. He spoke about the tool that he and Aneesha have developed that maps the social interactions within an LMS discussion forum. The afternoon keynote was delivered by James Clay who spoke generally about teaching and learning with technology.

The following are links to papers that were presented at the conference that I found especially interesting:

Social networks adapting pedagogical practice: SNAPP
E-learning in industry: Case studies from New Zealand
Learning or performance: Predicting drivers of student motivation
Developing competence portfolios in engineering undergraduates
Identifying the use of online social networking in higher education
Lightwork: Managing marking effectively
Benchmarking across universities: A framework for LMS analysis
Creativity and constraint: Understanding teacher beliefs and the use of LMS technologies
Peer review of teaching practice and resources: Exploring new spaces to embrace cultural change

Fellow CQUniversity presentations

Bachelor of Professional Communication learning network: Creating an online community for lifelong learning
The indicators project identifying effective learning: Adoption, activity, grades and external factors
Supporting ways of learning for Indigenous Australian pre-undergraduate students using Moodle
Moodle and the institutional repositioning of learning and teaching at CQUniversity
Blended spaces, work based learning and constructive alignment: Impacts on student engagement

Photos from the conference can be view in the flicker feed to the right.

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