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Day two at ALT-C 2012

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Day two at ALT-C 2012

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Another excellent day was had by Microsoft at ALT-C today, with lots of great sessions and  discussions.

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In the main theatre, the day started with Kirstie Coollin from Nottingham University, talking about ePortfolio for employability. Kirstie began by explaining how the Centre for International ePortfolio Development (CIEPD) supports students, including giving them access to placements and internships, experience, and access to employers, SMEs and social enterprise.

Students from Derby were quoted “ePortfolio is a tool for marketing ourselves to differentiate us to employers’’. Kirtsie then went on to describe what students and employers want, and how employer engagement is important.

Next up was probably my favourite session of the day from three guys (sorry didn't catch your full names!) from Bridgend college. Their presentation was about using Facebook to create learning communities without the cost of a hosted solution.

The college are using Facebook groups as an alternative to Moodle to communicate with students, and they described many reasons why this works for them. They explained that all of their students were Facebook users anyway so they were familiar with the platform and were logged on regularly. Closed Facebook groups were the best way for the college to use social networking.

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The advantages included that there was access to the Facebook groups 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it is a free platform. There is great availability from mobiles and devices which means that the groups are really accessible for the students.

Bridgend college create the groups in a way that there is no friending needed between students and teachers (a concern for many), and the groups are managed by tutors to make sure they are being used in the correct way.

The college said that in some ways using Facebook was better than face to face as it meant continuous learning, and less vocal students in class could express their opinions more comfortably within the online groups. They also showed a nice video of a student saying how the Facebook groups had worked for him.

There were some passionate discussions following questions from the audience, but in general I think everyone agreed the college showed that social networking works really well in education.

Brian Mulligan followed with Open learning Badging. He started by explaining that education assessment is currently weak and that grades don’t guarantee competency. He showed  examples of the badging system and explained that employers are driving this concept. They like it because of the ease of verification, the detailed info they can get and that it is mastery / competency based.

Another great session before lunch was Guy Saward from the University of Hertfordshire on integration of social media in to learning environments – desire, opportunity or threat? Guy has implemented a lovely system where he has connected VLE to social media feeds to give information to students in a place they are regularly present, for example Facebook and Twitter.

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Guy gave us a cool demo on how this works using RSS feeds and dlvr.it, which then sends the information to social networks he has set up on Facebook and Twitter, which students regularly view. It was a brilliant demo and another nice example of how social media is working in learning environments.

After lunch, Natasa Milic-Frayling from Microsoft research gave a keynote speech on Network analysis - why it matters, how we do it, and what we can learn from it. Natasa is a qualified mathematician and is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research.

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Natasa made some excellent points about social media and how building social networks requires good hardware infrastructure as well as human engagement. She showed lots of ways in which networking is measured and how we can extract networks. She showed us how we can analayse Social Media Networks withNodeXL and gave us a good example of how networking works on social site Flickr.

The Microsoft sponsor session in the afternoon was led by Mauli Arora from the University of West London. Her presentation was on UWL’s journey into the cloud.  She explained how the university had completed an excellent rollout of Office 365 for education, and she started with a product demo of Office 365 for SharePoint, a portal used by the university.

Mauli also showed us my site, which is a personalised website for students where they can access their own email, blog, marks and more. They can also have links to ‘my school’ which sends them directly to content about what they are studying.

My site helps with collaboration and encourages students to discuss topics in groups online. The feedback from staff and students has been phenomenal, Mauli explained, and she also linked to a nice video about Office 365 at UWL.

So a very interesting day again, now time for the drinks and the gala dinner awards ceremony!

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