Monday, December 10, 2007

A personal summary of ASCILITE 2007

Now that I have been home a couple of days, I have reflected on what the ASCILITE 2007 conference meant for me. For one thing, it was very successful because it was a culmination of nearly a year's work with my mentor in which we wrote and presented a paper about designing an e-mentoring system. The other big stand out is that I caught up with a friend, and I learnt more about what it means to live in Singapore.

As for the conference itself, there was no one presentation that really stands out. The value of the conference for me was more about giving me time to reflect on my own teaching and research practice, and consider ways of incorporating e-learning into my teaching. The main thing that came across was that I should take every opportunity to research and evaluate all e-learning interventions that I use. This will be one way of increasing my research outputs without having to worry about getting involved with huge research programs - a cheap, convenient way of carrying out research. And, obviously it goes without saying that evaluation of teaching techniques is crucial to the success of an education program.

The key word of the conference was 'scaffolding'. This term denotes the resources and supports that are put in place to support students in their learning, and is key to e-learning techniques. The more scaffolding that is put in place, particularly with an e-learning activity, the more successful that activity will be.

A major theme of the conference which goes along with that of scaffolding is getting students to engage with e-learning in a meaningful way. Time and time again presenters said that the only way they could get students to engage with e-learning in a way that produced work of both quality and quality was to attach marks to the work. I find this really depressing - surely students enter higher education to learn, using whatever means is necessary? Having said that, maybe students are telling us that e-learning is not effective as it cannot attract student attention without bribing them? But thinking about face-to-face classroom teaching, do students not say the same - I have heard students say that they will only attend classes if they are connected to assessment. So what does that say about our education programs? Are students really learning anything? How can teachers overcome that attitude? How can we encourage the notion of lifelong learning to people who only see learning as a means to a certificate? Answers please on a postcard and send to......

So this begs two questions about my e-mentoring research: how effective is the scaffolding I have put in place and how can I promote the valuing of this means of professional development and learning when there is no discernible reward in the form of a certificate or qualification?

On a less serious note, I got to go to M&S which for an English ex-pat was a highlight. But my goodness, hasn't the price of knickers gone up (only ex-pats will understand the reference to M&S knickers)?!


Bronwyn hegarty said...

hello sarah
wonderful to read your reflections about ASCILITE. Oh how I wish I could have gone to Singapore - the shopping pic looks great.

If you are interested in doing another online course in the Grad cert in applied elearning there is one which sounds like it might be right up your "path". Evaluation of elearning for best practice - exactly the thing you need to get those research evaluations of your teaching innovations underway.
Yeah yeah I know - the thesis.:)

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Bron, I'd love to do something again and that paper sounds good to get this PhD done!! I just cant take on any more work this year. Will definitely do it next year.

David McQuillan said...

Reading your post reminds me of the conversation we had in the staff cafe the other day - students & assessment.

My observation is that the younger students tend to be motivated by assessment, and the more mature students tend to be more motivated by learning. A gross generalisation, but I think it's true on average.

Sarah Stewart said...

Ummm....Not sure I agree, David. I would have thought so but my experience has not been that. Not even at postgraduate level. Maybe it is the type of programs I teach in.