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How you can get involved #altc beyond ocTEL

June 26, 2014 in CMALT, Commentary, Course Information

With much of the activity across the course winding down following the official last day of the course last Friday, here are some ideas to help you continue your active involvedment in our community post-ocTEL:

On Twitter and other social media, we, @A_L_T, use #altc as our main hashtag, so instead of following #ocTEL look out for tweets #altc to keep up to date with news, research and other developments. As well as continuing the conversation on social media, why not join ALT as a member, see for details.

While ocTEL is winding down, preparations fo our annual conference, #altc, from 1-3 September at the University of Warwick, UK, are well underway. Early Bird registration is now open .

ocTEL is only one way in which we work to support professional development in Learning Technology. If you or a group of you want to gain professional recognition in Learning Technology, build on what you have done in ocTEL with our accreditation scheme, CMALT. See for further information and how to register.

You can also read and contribute to our newsletter or watch or listen to ocTEL sessions or other videos on our YouTube channel .

Submit your feedback – and get the final ocTEL badge

June 24, 2014 in Commentary, Course Information

During this week we are particularly keen to hear from everyone who has participated in ocTEL in any way. So tell us what you think by completing this short survey about your ocTEL experiences and outcomes

Completing the survey will also allow you to claim your final ocTEL Participant badge at To receive this badge enter the activity code included in the final course email or contained at the end of the ocTEL Experiences & Outcomes Questionnaire mentioned above.


ocTEL 2014: What we built together – thank you!

June 23, 2014 in Commentary, Course Information

Week 6 is the last week of the formal running of the course and on 23 June is the officially the last day of the course. Before we get to the ins and outs, we want to acknowledge what our community of authors, tutors, presenters and participants have built together. ocTEL 2014 has reached 1000+ people from 50 countries, contributing a total of 5,600+ tweets, 1,600+ badges, close to 1000 forum posts and hundreds of blog posts over 6 weeks.

Thank you!

What next?

Tell us what you think – and help us make the next run of the course even better. We have a survey for you to share your ocTEL experiences and outcomes

Now, here is what we will do with the course, materials and the course platform next:

  • Until the end of July 2014, all materials and the platform will continue to operate as before, although we will be slower to respond to requests or approve badges. Activities like the daily newsletter will cease soon after the end of the course;
  • After the end of July and over the summer, we will archive the site, as we have done with ocTEL 2013, so that its content remains available, but you can no longer post to forums or groups. We will also publish the data from the course openly as before, so that you can use it for your research – similar to the way in which we have shared our platform developments openly.
  • all the materials we’ve originated are available for re-use under a CC-BY licence, and we’re interested to hear how they can be made more useful for re-uses.

Finally, if you have enjoyed participating in ocTEL you can claim your final ocTEL Participant badge at To receive this badge enter the activity code included in the final course email or contained at the end of the ocTEL Experiences & Outcomes Questionnaire mentioned above.

Keep in touch

Last, but not least, here are some ways for you to keep in touch and keep contributing:

Martin & Maren
on behalf of the ocTEL team

Evaluating ocTEL 2013 with this year: What do the numbers tell us?

June 18, 2014 in Commentary, Course Information

As we enter the final topic of ocTEL it’s perhaps not surprising that we, the ocTEL team, are also asking ourselves the question ‘Where do we go from here‘. Part of this answer is to look at where we have come from. Below is a graph I prepared recently comparing this year’s ocTEL with last year. It shows the number of ocTEL participants active in each week (active being classified as making at least one contribution to course reader or forum on ocTEL site). It’s interesting to see that compared to last year we had over 100 more active participants in the first week in 2014 than in the previous year (this is despite registrations being down from 1,400 to 1,000 – although the number of registrations is probably misleading). You could argue that this increased activity in the first week is in part due to how the course has been redesigned. In 2013 this week was a dedicated induction week for participants to find their feet. This year we combined induction with some course material and directed tasks. In the remaining weeks there has been a remarkable similarity in the number of active participants.


There are some caveats when interpreting this graph. One important factor to bear in mind is that the data is based on activity collected on the ocTEL site. This includes activity such as blog posts and social network updates collected in the Course Reader. Given the vagaries of this type of data collection including matching the author profiles to different sites as well changes in the way we collect this data the numbers should be interpreted as an indication rather than a statement of fact. Hopefully you are encountering similar questions as you consider the evaluation of your own TEL projects.

OcTEL week 4: Reflections

June 8, 2014 in Commentary, Course Information

We’ve now come to the end of week 4 which seems to have passed by unbelievably quickly. The high point of the week was undoubtedly the very informative webinar on Assessment and Feedback presented by Lisa Gray of Jisc, ably supported by Peter Chatterton. The live webinar was attended by 58 OcTEL participants and I’m sure the recording will be a popular one. Lisa provided an excellent overview of projects carried out as part of the Jisc Assessment and Feedback strand of work, and synthesised key outcomes which were very relevant to this weeks’ discussions. The idea for the Tech Trumps activity from the Collaborate project went down particularly well, proving that you can inject some fun into staff development!

Thanks to Martin Hawksey for his useful summary of the webinar in his blog post, which includes a link to the recording and the list of resources.

There have also been some very interesting forum and blog posts on supporting students through assessment and feedback. In the week 4 forum, Worldexpos highlighted the challenges in overcoming resistance among colleagues to marking and giving feedback online, to which Rose Heaney responded with a useful list of advantages for both students and staff. The benefits of online MCQs were also debated, with arkmba sharing creative ways of using them to engage learners in the classroom as well as online, and Tom Franklin exploring the possibilities of designing them in a way that would also address deeper levels of learning. Other approaches were also considered, such as the reflection by Fern Faux in her blog ‘Thinking Space’ on the use of InStep, an Open Source video database assessment tool. Grant Douglas used his blog ‘gdougblog’ to summarise the key points he had taken from the reading for week 4, including the quote from Race, Brown and Smith (2005) which aptly summarises the importance of this topic:

‘Nothing that we do to, or for, our students is more important than our assessment of their work and the feedback we give them on it. The results of our assessment influence our students for the rest of their lives and careers – fine if we get it right, but unthinkable if we get it wrong.’ Race, Brown and Smith (2005), 500 Tips on Assessment

It’s been another interesting week on ocTEL – please do keep those comments, tweets and blog posts coming!


Linda, Sheila and Jim

The changing face of assessment and feedback: How technology can make a difference

June 4, 2014 in Commentary, Course Information

Today we were treated to a tour de force of assessment and feedback outputs from the Jisc Assessment and Feedback programme. Presented by Lisa Gray and assisted by Peter Chatterton the session touched upon:

  • the assessment and feedback landscape
  • feedback and feedforward
  • assessment and employability
  • electronic assessment management; and
  • the use of assessment and feedback principles as a driver for change

A welcome theme from the session was the usual of visual aids to explore and explain assessment and feedback practices. From assessment loading:

Lisa Gray_ALT_Mooc21Lisa Gray_ALT_Mooc08 Lisa Gray_ALT_Mooc14

to system design.

Lisa Gray_ALT_Mooc27 Lisa Gray_ALT_Mooc28

My favourite has to be COLLABORATE Tech Trumps

You can watch the Blackboard Collaborate recording or the live stream recording of Blackboard Collaborate session on YouTube (also embedded below). Lisa has also kindly prepared a document of all the links mentioned in the session:

Week 3 Midpoint Summary

May 28, 2014 in Commentary, Course Information

Here we are in the midst of the ocTEL reading week. For some, this is a catch-up week, for others, a holiday week. Posts and submissions are still coming in steadily for Week 3 topics, and a trickle here and there from Weeks 1 and 2. The theme for Week 3 has been Resources and platforms, and the activities challenge us to consider our selection of tools and resources, what we consider when making selections, and different ways of thinking about licensing.

The webinar last week with Cable Green from the Creative Commons spawned many excellent questions about Open Educational Resources and how the CC licenses work. To be considered an OER, the resource must meet two criteria:

  1. It must be free of charge, and
  2. You must have legal rights to reuse, revise, remix, redistribute, and retain the resource

(If you weren’t able to attend the webinar “live” last week, you can view the recording at ) The webinar segued with Activity 3.3 which asks us to consider the different nuances to ‘open’ and what it means in our practices. Some discussion around open access to journals, which is different from an open journal, and how museums and libraries embrace the open movement.

Many of you have been exploring some new tools or communities as part of Week 3, and as part of the ocTEL course overall. Several have found the Google+ space to be helpful, Twitter remains popular, and has seen some new users as a result of ocTEL. Feedback and blog posts around the One Thing activity for Week 3 have been lively as well. It is interesting how individual perspectives differ; some tried out Khan Academy and found it a good resource, others tried it and found it to be lacking. The E-learning games from the example also had hit-and-miss results. The only resource that was generally positively reviewed by most people who tried it was the iEthiCS patient simulator.

In Activity 3.1 the challenge is to create a resource using a new tool. Screencast-o-matic seemed to be a ‘winner’ here, easy to use with a gentle learning curve and friendly entry (freemium model).

The consideration of learning styles and tool/resource selection in Activity 3.4 remains contentious, as with many discussions involving learning styles, and Activity 3.5 raised questions about university branding and OER use and re-use.

Entries, posts, and submissions continue to flow in for all the weeks! We ask that you take a minute or two and fill out the mid-course survey ( ). Whatever you use this reading week for, be sure to check in when Week 4 starts on 2 June!

Jim Kerr

Approaches, activity design, and a glass o’ wine – an initial look back over Week 2

May 17, 2014 in Commentary, Course Information

During Week 2 of ocTEL our theme has been Understanding Learners and Learning – a broad and multidimensional topic, and one that the ocTEL cohort and tutors are still tackling as I write this on a sunny Friday May evening. Not always a guaranteed thing in Scotland! Such has been the richness of the contributions and exchanges this week that I’ve still got much I want to read and respond to, and so this summary is a pre-cursor to an ‘end of week 2 wrap-up’ that will come later in the weekend as attention turns to Week 3 Materials, platforms and technologies (to be led by James Kerr starting on Monday the 19th May).

So, what to say for now?  Well, we began the week with our ‘If you only do one thing’ activity which was focused on the concept of ‘approaches to learning’. Views have been divided  on the nature of the deep/surface/strategic distinctions, whether they actually represent a continuum, and how they might manifest themselves online. We seem to have a consensus on ‘deep learning’ as something to strive to support as educators, but to be tempered by a realism when it comes to appreciating the competing demands on learners’ time and attention, and the need that they may often have to be more strategic in their learning.  Our discussions in this area have been a moving feast though, with different perspectives continuing to be offered on participants’ blogs and on the discussion forum. Let’s see what the last two days of Week 2 bring, from the weekenders among us!

On Tuesday we had a very well attended, and well received, webinar from Dr Panos Vlachopoulos who joined us online from Macquarie University in Sydney – at 9.30 in the evening Oz time. Strewth!  The topic of Panos’ webinar was ‘Learning design for student-directed learning – opportunities and challenges’, and it encompassed an exploration of learner agency, tutor roles, activity design, and the implications for providing a truly engaging online learning experience. For those who missed the webinar, or who like others want to revisit it, you can view the recording and a supporting research paper by Panos.

Our activities in the last day or so have seen many of the group turn their attention to the other tasks for this week, around exploring learner diversity and activity design for effective online learning. Martin’s round-up of blog posts from Friday afternoon is a great way in to the most recent posts, as well as those from Week 1. You may also want to check out the rest of the Week 2 forums, which have seen a number of thought-provoking contributions and great examples of practice over the last couple of days.

There will be more to come as we enter the close of Week 2, and I’ll capture all I can in my summary post for the end of the week. In the meantime my head hurts (in the very nicest of ways) from all the reading and thinking, and a Friday evening glass of something has my name on it!

Many thanks for all your contributions so far this week, and many thanks for the learning!


Life, learning and technology: this week on the open course

May 10, 2014 in Commentary, Course Information

Life in the forums this week has been full of, well, life. Some of the activities for week 1 involved reflecting on a learning situation and consider the teaching method. Rose Heaney and James Kerr wrote a nice reply to Gary Vear’s post on central learning, directing us to transactional distance theory, explained by James here and there is an interesting post about assessment in vocational subjects by  ilearninguk here. Moira Sarsfield also described a positive interactive experience on a EdX MOOC which we’re sure some people will find interesting.
Everybody on Twitter seemed to like the blog post by Hybrid Pedagogy on Best Practices: Thoughts on a Flash Mob Mentality detailing how to ‘mix up’ learning situations, including turning the lights off!!
So we all progress into Week 2 starting on Monday, “Understanding learners and learning”, led by Keith Smyth, and this segues nicely from our reflections on the dimensions of the learning situation. As has been pointed out several times in the forums, learners themselves are a key dimension and what works with one cohort may not necessarily work with another.
Finally we saw this link retweeted here asking what Socrates would think about MOOCs which is very entertaining and made us smile – “Think again about our supposedly ideal model: master and student, sitting together, talking. It’s not as perfect as it seems. Even the smartest person in the world knows far less than what he doesn’t know.”
Elsewhere on ocTEL, this week’s webinar with nearly 100 participants and presentations from Kyriaki Anagnostopoulou, University of Bath and James Little, we explored different contexts for strategies including involving staff, engaging senior management and working in partnership with learners. If you missed this session recordings are available.
So, after the orientation of week 0, this week was all about your practice – and your strategy. Since the start of the course we have issued over 1,000 badges across different categories, with 40 participants earning explorer badges. Next week is about understanding learners needs and learning and there will be more activities to engage in, blogs to write and badges to earn.
As a participant, we hope that you have started making some useful connections and keep on tweeting, blogging and sharing #ocTEL
Phil and Maren

Breaking it down into manageable steps

May 2, 2014 in Commentary, Course Information


During Wednesday’s webinar, someone asked asked about a recommended technique for identifying and forming groups of like-minded participants. The gist of my reply was that we don’t have a ‘silver bullet’ for managing this process online, any more than we do offline. Imagine turning up at the opening reception of a conference with 900 delegates. There isn’t a method for finding just the right people to talk to in the first 90 minutes. You have to go through an initial period of randomness and multiplicity of options, and then, maybe, at the end of three days, you’ve found a handful or two of people with whom you’ve made connections and learning strides. Probably you’ll also have a vague awareness that, if you had the time again, you’d have found a quite different set of people to talk to, sessions to attend, and lessons to learn. That’s life.

Starting a collaborative Open Online Course is a bit like that, but worse. In a conference reception, the laws of physics mean you can only deal with the people and conversations immediately around you; it takes time and effort to break off and start anew with someone else. Online, all the conversations feel close to you, and they can start to drown each other out, Babel-like. Other options are only a click away.

While the bumble bees and butterflies among us enjoy this buzz and the cross-pollination it affords, most of us find it a bit daunting. This is natural. Part of the advice is the same as if in a large conference reception: start with the people and issues in front of you, and work from there. More advice like this is in the guidance in the handbook (we may keep reminding your about this throughout the course).

If you feel a little overwhelmed at this stage of the course, don’t worry. Most of us do. It’s definitely not you that’s at fault, and I’d argue it’s not the course design that’s at fault either. I hope you take away the lesson that Emma Coles did from the webinar, “Seems I don’t have as many issues as I thought I did”. And remember the mantra that emerged from last year’s ocTEL (quoted here by Ted O’Neill, who is one of several people we welcome back, doing the course a second time):

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