During the Covid-19 pandemic many of you will have experienced academic conferences being cancelled, postponed or hosted on-line.
Prof Debbie Holley and I (Anne Quinney) were scheduled to present at the Association of Learning Developers in Higher Education conference (ALDinHE) to be held at Northampton University but found ourselves presenting remotely last week.
The conference had moved online, using Google Hangouts. We had to change the focus of the paper for the online environment as the workshop format would not be possible. Our online conference presentation proved very memorable – in unexpected ways. Our first challenge was the unfamiliarity of the format. We participated in some other sessions to get a sense of what it might look and feel like, updated our material and worked out how we would approach this new experience. We uploaded the slides to slideshare, so we could share more widely with the audience, and shared them with session Chair – a good idea as unexpected technology glitches happen to all of us working online and this created another layer of ‘back-up’.
Assessment and Feedback is our favourite topic! We talked about the principles of assessment underpinning the revision of the Bournemouth University Assessment Design strategy and policy, drawing on the work of Professors Dai Hounsell (ongoing) and Kay Sambell (2011) for enhancing assessment and feedback practices. We used slides interwoven with questions to encourage participant chat. We shared the BU Assessment and Feedback Toolkit; talked about the options for moving assessments online with a specific focus on examinations. We discussed the student perspective, and the opportunities and challenges online assessment can raise.
The chat questions came thick and fast, and the Chair was really helpful in summarising.
We did have some technology glitches; at the start my camera switched off and I couldn’t configure the screen to see both the slides and my co-presenter. I quickly turned the computer off and started again….still only the slides in view but the camera light was back on! Quickly improvising we decided that as Debbie’s screen was working as expected we would manage with whatever screen view we each had! We carried on, with self-deprecating humour, commenting that this was a real-life, live and improvised experience of the unfamiliar challenges that so many of us, staff and students, are dealing with.
It felt strange not to talk with participants informally afterwards, not to be able to ‘read’ the audience from their body language and facial expressions. Questions and responses came in very fast in the chat box and it was not possible to give time to them all. At the end of the screen time, it was helpful to FaceTime each other to reflect on the experience, as we would have done if we were physically at the conference.
Whilst we didn’t have to travel upcountry to Northampton, sleep in an unfamiliar bed and eat communal meals at pre-set times, we missed the camaraderie of informally meeting with other delegates, the stimulation of two days focussing only on the conference themes and the opportunity to visit another university. The learning with and from one another that comes from the shared experience of co-presenting was still possible, and we certainly learnt more about improvising with the technology and equipment, about adjusting to a live but distant audience, and to ‘keep going and keep smiling’.
Quinney A and Holley D. 2020. Moving assessment online; resources to support staff in an unexpected distance learning scenario.May 6th. ALDinHE.
Link to our slides
Sally Brown’s blog (UK). See the piece by Sally Brown and Kay Sambell as a response to Covid-19.
BU Technology Enhanced Learning Toolkit
Transforming Assessment (Australia)