In the second week of November we (Maartje and Julia) went to the Dutch education days, which were held in Rotterdam. During these days the attendants were informed about trends and developments in technology-enhanced learning. There were workshops to attend, presentations and lightning talks to listen to, demos of drones, 3d printing and virtual reality and of course a lot of networking possibilities.
The first day (or pre-conference afternoon) was dedicated to learning analytics, which is rapidly finding its way to educational institutes, because of it’s potential as a predictive and reflective tool to enhance the quality of education. The sessions gave an interesting overview of learning analytics in general and the way this data can be of use for several purposes and layers of an organization in educational settings. One of the presenters was Dr. Hendrik Drachsler, one of our colleagues, who has been using learner data for over a decade now. By using a generic framework for learning analytics he guided the audience past all the factors that should be or can be taken into account when an organization wants to start using this data. The closing keynote of this day was by Ionica Smeets and was a nice contrast with the other presentations on learning analytics. By means of practical examples she provided us with a lot of food for thought on the pitfalls of learning analytics. More specifically, if data is not analyzed and interpreted in the correct way, the outcome will not at all be useful and in worst case scenarios even trigger unnecessary interventions. As learning analytics will play a prominent role in several SOONER studies, this day was very interesting for us.
The second day was specifically aimed at higher education institutes and community colleges. Besides a vast offer on best practice presentations by various educational institutes sharing their experiences on using technology in their educational programs, there was also the final round of the SURF Innovation Challenge. This session proved to be very inspiring. It’s great to see the creativity out there and the wonderful connections these minds can make between IT and education.
In addition to attending some of these practice oriented sessions, we also attended the keynote of Tony Bates who wrote several books on online learning and distance learning. This was especially interesting as it made us very aware of the fact that not everyone is up to date regarding MOOC research and aware of the potentially added value of this specific form of online education. We also noted that the definition for MOOCs is still ambiguous.
In conclusion, this event was more practice- than research oriented, but as new kids on the Open-and-Online-Learning-PhD block, it was a great orientation opportunity to see and hear what’s actually out there at the moment regarding technology-enhanced learning and open education.
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