The first day of Blackboard’s Teaching and Learning Conference has kicked off and there have been some really inspiring stories heard.

The opening address was led by Matt Small, managing director and senior vice president, international, of Blackboard followed by a keynote from Stephen Heppell, Professor at Bournemouth University, who pointed out that we’ve seen a shift in education in the last few years towards learner-driven education and we now need to take note of students’ learning preferences and adapt accordingly.

Professor Heppell also praised the knowledge and drive of students highlighting how they can be protagonists in building better learning experiences and better spaces to learn. This approach that puts students at the centre of the process really was a big theme of the day.

18 presentations were delivered during the session breakout. We picked up the following three as an example of the great content that has been discussed during the afternoon.

We heard from Brian Hipkin, Dean of Students at Regent’s University London, who called for other universities and institutions to be disruptive. In a world where technology and social media is embedded in our lives, especially for students, this can’t be ignored. Brian also provided tips on how to engage the disengaged and how we can incorporate SMS to communicate better with students.

Klazine Verdenschot, from The Hague University of Applied Sciences, and Jiska Bomans-Memelink, from Leiden University, discussed the dos and don’ts when introducing self and peer assessment and the importance of preparation. A study they conducted using 500 students saw some students strive for a more advanced and deeper understanding of the subject matter, and they also understood what was expected of them.
We also discovered how Aberystwyth University has incorporated Blackboard’s Mobile Learn and the way this has changed the students’ way of working. Kate Wright, the university’s e-learning development officer, surveyed the students and found that learners expect to use their device for studying and pleasure – they don’t see a divide. Students preferred the app interface and enjoyed the elimination of paper and the accessibility to past lectures.

Other highlights from the day include:
During the “Transforming Science Higher Education into Active, Blended and Online Learning using Blackboard, Web” session, Mikkel Godsk, Annika Büchert Lindberg, Rikke Frohlich Hougaard, Pernille Maj Svendsen, & Ole Eggers Bjaelde, Aarhus University discussed how learning design can be used to transform science higher education into active, blended and online learning using webcasts and Blackboard in an efficient way. In particular we heard about active learning, flipped classroom and socialisation of students.
“The combination of Blackboard, webcast and learning design is a flexible way to support the transformation process”

Manuel Frutos-Perez, University of the West of England presented “The elastic campus: enhancing social learning, collaboration and peer support in the digital era.” He pointed out that there is an emerging need for virtual learning spaces to become part of the campus fabric and develop professional skills and employability of students. He also illustrated a great use-case: a peer assisted learning project, where year 2 students are supporting year 1 students in small groups for some courses. Started as a face-to-face, the groups moved to the online classrooms with students getting an equal or better feedback.

“If it was not for the technology, the peer assisted learning program would be dead because it is not sustainable.”

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