Biggest Queensland TELedvisors Meet-Up yet at Griffith

TELeds workshop

By Iwona Czaplinski, Vikki Ravaga, Briony Wainman and Henk Huijser (QUT)

It appears the Queensland Meet-Ups of TELedvisors are steadily growing in popularity. Starting out early last year with about 20 people at QUT, the second event, held at UQ (organised by Sam McKenzie and Ailsa Dickie), boasted more than 40 people in attendance. For the most recent event at Griffith, the organisers (Mary-Ann Shuker and Jenny James) actually had to cap attendance at 80, as the room was at capacity!

Workshop with many people watching presentation
© Iwona Czaplinski

So what’s the secret to its popularity? There appears to be a genuine desire amongst TELedvisors to meet up, share experiences and exchange practice stories. This is partly because most of us work in central units and across faculties; in addition, many of us have different job titles and position descriptions which come with different expectations. This diversity of roles, which includes job titles like educational technologist, learning designer, educational designer, curriculum designer, and academic developer, among others, can create a sense of a role in constant flux. These Meet-Ups, as part of the TELedvisors SIG more broadly, create a very immediate sense of a community of practice and a meeting of like-minded people.

However, what may make these Meet-Ups popular as well is the fact that they have a structured element to them, which is run like a workshop of sorts. This means that it is not just a social get-together after hours (although the social element is important, as is the food!) but that there is strong professional development element to it as well. The latter comes in the form of interactive structured workshop-like activities through which we learn from each other’s successes and challenges. What follows are some reflections on different elements of the Griffith event. In the meantime, a big shout-out to ASCILITE and Professor Michael Sankey for their generous support of the event. 

Reflections on activities

There were five activities we were invited to participate in:

  1. Pre-session Instructional Design Methodologies activity (using blue tac and uni logos on the wall).
  2. The random grouping of participants via playing cards.
  3. Discussion about the current state of tools/technologies available, including restrictions, usage tracking and so on.
  4. Demonstration of the Griffith ExLnt and Tech Ecosystem website.
  5. Devising a methodology to choose the most appropriate tools/tech for purpose

The Pre-session activity involved participants reflecting on learning design models and choosing their preferred model from a list of 13 models and theories of instructional design. Whilst Backward Design received the most responses, ADDIE received wider representation from each of the universities represented. (On a side note, there is a view that ADDIE should be extended to ‘PADDIE + M’; a Planning phase prior to Analysis and Maintenance after the end of a course.)  ADDIE then became the backbone of the final activity where in small groups, we each took a phase in this model, to help devise a methodology for choosing the most appropriate tool/tech for purpose. There were some excellent responses provided, and a sense of confusion in this activity but the real winner was the quality of the discussion that took place in each small group.

The  current state of tools/technologies activity raised more questions than answers but overall, the universities represented all seemed to be grappling with the same issue – how to keep track of, evaluate and share experiences of the tools and technologies being used in their respective learning and teaching environments; whose responsibility is it? The demonstration of the Griffith ExLnt and Ecosystem websites gave participants a chance to see one approach to helping manage, maintain, share and communicate a university’s choice of tools and technologies for learning and teaching. Any process for evaluating tools and technology from a data security and risk perspective is going to take time and resources and in doing so may only increase levels of frustration for end users and design teams. The consensus was that ‘compromise’ may be the key in this decision process.

Reflections on networking

I’m always a bit suspicious of ice-breaker activities, so when I was presented with a playing card on arrival, I did a little inward groan, but it turned out to be a very neat, efficient device for randomly assembling and reorganising groups – a critical feature in a networking event like this. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many familiar faces in the room and pleased that the schedule gave me plenty of opportunity to catch up with old and new colleagues and make some new acquaintances. This was the strength of the event, for me. Each configuration brought new opportunities to learn from a diverse range of specialists who all work under the banner of learning and teaching and helped me to gain different perspectives on the work we do. I’ve enjoyed having a network of colleagues across the other universities that I could call on for guidance on how they have solved common problems, but TELadvisors has formalised this community of practice and given us a structure to better access the brains trust!

Workshop with many people reading individually
© Chris Campbell

Suggestions for future events

As noted, one of the biggest successes of the event (but not the only one) was the networking opportunity for professionals representing many ‘specialisations’ of learning and teaching, working at different institutions. The cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional nature of the event made us reflect on this potential: sharing our specific, contextualised challenges, methodologies, solutions and experiences with colleagues. Such a broad, interdisciplinary forum of specialists encourages rich discussions about difficulties we all are facing, sharing our contextualised challenges, and varied ways of addressing them. Furthermore, the event is also a natural platform for reflection about innovative and creative solutions, which we might not consider in our daily practice. Thus, for the next Queensland Meet-Up event, which will be at QUT, we propose a ‘sharing experience and creating innovative solutions’ session to share our experiences and promote evidence-based practices.

Workshop with many people watching group presentation
© Iwona Czaplinski

However, our practice is also research-underpinned. The activity about preferred learning design models successfully motivated us to reflect on this aspect of our work. It forced us to consider: what are other, less frequently applied learning design models and how could/should they be adapted in our practice? Thus, as a second suggestion for the next Meet-Up, building on an excellent idea of bringing into the scope the theoretical models of learning design, we hope to create some discussions around the theoretical underpinnings of these models and their practical applications in our practice.

That’s enough from us! The social element is a great way of capping off these events and will continue to be an integral part of future events. May the numbers continue to grow.

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