Crossing the border to the JISC South East Learning Network

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Today I’m visiting Guildford college and have joined the JISC South East Learning Network for Surrey and sussex. Not my local region (normally Hampshire and Isle of Wight), but hey – it’s great to meet a different group of colleagues. There are delegates here from Guildford, Chichester, Central Sussex and more, with Adam Blackwood leading (accompanied as always by his Mary Poppins style bottomless bag of gadgets).

Part of the South East Learning Network agenda is a ’round table’ series of informal reports from those attending. In other words, a chance to tell everyone else what you are (or have been) up to. Gary Musham gave us a fantastic perspective on how Guildford college is using technology in a range of ways to encourage innovative practice. With a huge number of staff (around six hundred) this is no easy task, particularly when spread around three campuses!

Gary showed us a great tool for building innovation across a large organisation, and linking this to strategic curriculum and quality objectives. Their planning tool enables staff to state the aims of their innovation project, and record the process through written commentary and other evidence. Beginning with a statement of action, regular updates are posted and integrated to an approval process for new ideas and key objectives that must be achieved along the way. Best of all in this system is it’s ability to collate the activities of a widely distributed group of users, and ensure their commitment by linking this to a quality process which demands evidence of outcomes that have been beneficial to the learner. You can see the console in the image at the foot of this post.

Later, up in the top floor of the Sixth Form Building on the Guildford campus is a really cool Lecture recording system. It’s all built around a console at the front of the room which holds some key equipment; desktop, DVD, audio in and out, plus a nifty little touch screen controller that operates peripheral system functionality. From this console, you can turn the lights up or down, control the projector, and even enable or disable recording through a ceiling mounted camera. Recordings taken during a lecture can then be streamed back to a viewer later – for review, analysis, assessment or reflection.

I had another opportunity to talk about how Alton College has used Drupal as a platform for delivering our web site, replacing a proprietary system that had formerly been used (more on that here). There was also a chance to briefly discuss our work with Mahara, sharing some of our fantastic experiences over the past year, and make another plug for the Mahara Guide.

Another emerging theme, which fits with something that was also mentioned at the LSIS event earlier this week: IT managers must be more open and responsive to the growing need for flexible approaches to learning technology. Maybe the subject of a later post, at which time I will explain more.

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