Defeating ‘The Beast from the East’: How Collaborate was used to run a ‘blended’ conference

Blackboard Collaborate is an online classroom tool. It is designed to allow presentations and tutorials to be given to students while they are off-campus. In this blog post we look at an unusual use of Collaborate, as it was used to run a ‘blended’ conference.

Meg Juss: Could you set the scene for us?

Peter Beaumont: The Every Child Counts conference had been organised to run at Edge Hill University in early March 2018, with speakers coming from all over the country. However a day before it was going to run it was clear that due to snow, with red and orange weather warnings in many parts of the country, most of the presenters and many attendees were not going to be able to make it.

Welcome to the Conference Sign

MJ: Can you explain what we did?

PB: First we posted to the very helpful ALT-MEMBERS mailing list to ask for advice from the learning technology community. It was useful to read personal experiences of others, and the advice influenced some of the specific decisions we took.

The key thing for us was to enable the speakers to present from home, but we also wanted distance attendees to be able to experience and take part in the conference as much as possible. We decided to try and run the conference through Blackboard Collaborate. Speakers would present through it, and their webcam video and slides could be displayed on the big screen in the lecture theatre, as well as on distance attendees computer screens. Distance attendees could post questions in chat when it was time for post-presentation questions, and we used a Catchbox microphone to ensure that questions asked in the room, could be heard at a distance.

Welcome to Delegates

MJ: What were the issues and concerns?

PB: Because the conference was suddenly moved online, presenters’ slides were not created with Collaborate in mind. Animations don’t work as slides are converted to images, and videos need taking out of the slides and presenting another way. The presenters were fantastic and flexible and spent extra time changing to fit the limitations of presenting this way. Obviously in an ideal world we’d want to work with presenters to make the most of the technology, rather than be limited by it, but there just wasn’t time for that.

There were some distance attendees who were finding that slides were not updating, and we worked with Blackboard to identify that these users were not using the Chrome browser. Although we sent out instructions advising the use of Chrome, we identified two issues which we will need to consider in future. Not all users have an understanding that different web browsers are available, and I think their mental model of using the web is that they click on the ‘e’ to ‘open the internet’. The other thing to consider is the amount of pre-conference information that can you send to attendees before you get into a TL;DR situation?

Finally, even with wonderful, understanding and flexible presenters, unexpected things can happen. For example a presenter in the room might do something in the room which cannot be followed at a distance, for example writing on a flip chart. When that happened at this conference, we copied what was being written using the Collaborate annotation tools, allowing the distance attendees to follow. There are moments like that when you are a bit unsure what you are going to do.

Online Presentation

MJ: What would be your advice to others trying to do this?

PB: Running a ‘blended’ conference felt successful and we got good feedback from attendees, but we did have three people working on Collaborate all day during the conference, and spending the day before planning, and speaking to the presenters. One person was supporting the presenters, doing things like switching between the slides and the videos, switching the room mics on so distance presenters could hear the audience during discussion times, and operating the Catchbox mic. One person was at home, meaning they were aware of how the distance attendees were experiencing the conference, and they offered support to those having issues, as well as advising the people supporting the conference on campus of how it sounded and looked. The third person, was monitoring chat to collect questions from the distance attendees, welcoming and supporting attendees, copying what was written on flipcharts, etc. This sort of support, from people who understand the Collaborate system, is not often available.

You need to prepare online presenters in advance, so that their slides and planned activities are appropriate for the presentation method. Presenting online doesn’t have to be a worse experience than a face-to-face presentation, but you need to understand the strengths and limitations of the medium.

A lot of small things are quite important too. We found that putting some ‘elevator’ music on in the room between sessions, gave some feedback to distance attendees that they were in the right place. We made sure that Collaborate notifications are turned off on the presenter PC at the front, so that it was not bleeping as people entered and left the session.

Collaborate is a good solution to enable people to present online, but you need to be aware of the risks. If the presenter’s home internet is poor, then the session could be frustrating for attendees to follow. The Every Child Counts team very wisely had back-up plans for an alternative session, in case something went wrong. However, there are risks with face-to-face presentations too, as we saw with this conference. There is no reason to be scared of online presentations, as long as you and the attendees are prepared.

All over

MJ: Can you share any quotes with us?

Distance Attendee: “The day exceeded my expectations. The speakers were fantastic [… it was] all very informative and useful. The online conference was exceptional. It was very easy and smooth. The moderators were very helpful. A fantastic experience – would be a great way to deliver a course/ conference in the future.”

ECC Team: “[The Learning Technology Development team] managed a mixture of onsite and distant presenters and onsite and distant audiences that worked beautifully, was roundly praised by all concerned … and [the Every Child Count’s team are] very grateful”

Learning Technology Team: “We enjoyed the challenge and learnt a lot in the 12 working hours we had to prep, as well as during the event.”

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

Playful Learning Conference 2017

I was fortunate enough to attend the Playful Learning conference over the summer. We explored how playfulness can be included in adults’ learning experiences, which involved things such as playing games that were being used in Higher Education, making things, and experiencing escape rooms.

We were all given cuddly toys with which we were to undertake certain activities, to encourage playfulness in the conference. One of the tasks was to create a twitter profile for the toys, and in the end it was pointed out that these toys had ended up acting as avatars for us on the #playlearn17 twitter hashtag, allowing behaviour that might otherwise have been considered odd or bad.

Nikki Woods talked about her work with Blast Theory, and their experiences of the consequences of play. It brought up ideas about how it is important to remember that not everyone knows when ‘play’ is taking place, and that people will perceive it differently.

There were quite a lot of escape rooms, which were fun. They have been used as ice-breakers, or as activities for the students to create themselves.

Geraldine Foley, Sarah Leach, and Aggie Molnar from LSE guided us through playing their ‘Capture the Market’ game. It presented some themes like monopoly and diversification, that could later be discussed. It brought out the tension between learning and gameplay, as some players wanted the game to be more complex and open to mastery through playing it several times, while others thought it was designed well for a game that was only played once to start conversations in the classroom.

Amid all the lego, sandpits, and giant playing cards, Rikke Toft Norgard was exploring the theory of play, how we can encourage play to connect “to the deep structures of pedagogical ‘how to’ designs” and to be “embedded in the virtues emanating from the ‘why-ness’ of education?”, and presenting a framework for a playful university. I recon everyone loved it, and Rikke’s slides are available.

Finally we heard from Deborah Bullivant, who set up Grimm & Co in Rotherham. She talked about their amazing work encouraging children to write through creative, playful environments. She talked about similar projects such as London’s Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, San Francisco’s Pirate Supply Store, and Brooklyn’s Superhero Supply co.

I’ve never had more fun at a conference, and it left me with plenty to think about. It is easy to be playful at a conference where it is explicitly expected. It’s unlikely that people attending will get annoyed, or be cynical and not pay along. How is that expectation set out in university? I’ve seen the occasional students say “I’m not doing that” when a session moved away from the standard lecture or seminar format. Is the solution to be clear about the reason for doing things differently?

Playfulness and games are different things, that don’t always overlap. Games can be taken very seriously, and some types of playfulness affect game mechanics in a negative way.

This year’s reading includes:

You can explore further using #playlearn17 on Twitter, or Alex Mosely’s Storify of the conference days (day 1, day 2, day 3)



All images from:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/144603711@N05/sets/72157686737802183.
Used under a Creative Commons licence.

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Peter Beaumont
Learning Technology Development Officer

ALT-C Conference 2015: Some things to consider

ALT-CALT-C is the main annual conference for the Association for Learning Technology. It is a great environment in which to see what others are doing, and to think about some of the big ideas that affect education.

In this post I’ll share some of the messages from the conference that I personally would like to consider further.

Keynote: Steve Wheeler
Key Message – Students could help us think in different ways.

Steve Wheeler from Plymouth University explored how learning is changing, and how we may need the help of students to help us think in new ways.

It can be difficult for us to notice the opportunities that new technology offers us; things change fast and we have little time. I was reminded that in around 2008 there was a short time when students often complained that they couldn’t get on campus computers to do work, because almost every computer was logged into Facebook. It was the consequence of a time just after the growth and adoption of social media, but just before everyone had smartphones that could be used to access the social media tools. These sort of odd things happen, and almost before we can react properly they’ve changed again. If these situations (both opportunities and challenges) are difficult to predict in the short term, then in the long term it is impossible to think what might change and how the collection of those changes working together might affect our context.

We could learn from each year’s intake of students about how technology could be used. Steve used the example of interactive whiteboards where early users just used them like blackboards, but someone without the experience of using blackboards who was given time to explore, might discover the possibilities.

In the past the learning technologies we had such as videos, and TVs, were primarily transmission tools, but now networked technologies can help move us towards student centered learning.

Teachers are often nervous about using technology, because there can be aspects of technology use that they think the students understand better than them. Even Steve’s students reported feeling like this when they went into school to do teaching practice and became the teacher, so the nervousness doesn’t seem to be related to age and experience with the technology. Personally I feel the same in induction sessions with the students when you advise a student to solve an issue one way, and other students come with other (sometimes better) solutions. I feel like I’m losing the position of ‘expert’, but as Steve is saying, perhaps we have to accept that in a complex changing environment there is no alternative.

On the topic of where the technological expertise lies, Steve pointed out that the ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’ theory is better than the much criticised ‘Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants’ theory if we are going to understand the way staff and students approach technological tools and spaces.

Keynote: Phillip Long
Key Messages – Cognitive Science can tell us a lot about learning. Performance and learning are not the same.

Phillip Long from the University of Texas at Austin spoke about the importance of using what we know from cognitive science when designing learning activities and environments.

First he talked about Soderstrom and Bjork’s work on the difference between learning and performance, where “Learning reflects the relatively permanent changes in behaviour or knowledge that support long-term retention & transfer” and performance is the “temporary fluctuations in behaviour or knowledge that can be observed and measured during or immediately after the first acquisition process”.

He discussed how there are different techniques for practicing in learning (e.g. distributed practice), and how some will work better for short term performance and some for long term learning. This can cause problems when working with students as they can really enjoy the results of short term performance gains and find aiming for these motivating. Long term learning methods with initially poor results can cause them to react badly.

He talked about EdX’s use of Cerego (see Jessie Brown’s overview) which is software that learns your personalised memory decay curve and aims to use this to optimise learning and methods of practice. Also if we want to encourage students to do important, but potentially tedious learning activities there is evidence that introducing transcendent purpose can help students, especially those with poor grades to start with.

He finished with the question “How can we bring good learning science into elegant learning environments that fit your institutional culture?”

Keynote: Laura Czeriewicz
Key Message – Online learning can play a role in reducing inequality.

Laura Czerniewicz spoke on the effects of online learning on inequality. She notes that we saw $1.87 billion (£1.22 billion) in ed tech funding in 2014, which means the effects cannot be large, including the effects on the developing world. She referred to Therborn’s 2013 book that looks at types of inequality to consider.

To face challenges in this area, she mentioned that we need to be aware of:

  • how online learning benefits some groups more than others
  • how learners need help so that they are prepared to learn in the online environment
  • how access to electricity and the internet affects any strategy
  • how mobile may be the answer if the price of data can be reduced
  • how verification of learning rather than learning alone is required for people to get jobs
  • how colonial attitudes need to be avoided and pluralistic epistemologies considered

Other Things of Interest
Key Message – Technology is not neutral.

The work P.A. Danaher was presenting was based on Affordance Theory (Gibson, 1979) via Actor-Network Theory (Wright & Parchoma, 2011). He mentioned how these theories say that technology is not neutral but shapes and is shaped by its users and occupants, and how effective research needs to respect that.

Key Message – Learning Technologists should be agents of change.

Peter Bryant from London School of Economics talked about the ‘Middle Out’ approach to institutional change. This was a concept taken from politics about the importance of creating growth through the middle classes, but in his focus on institutional change he says that there is a problem when Learning Technologists end up just maintaining the status quo by just supporting existing practices and not innovating new ones.

Peter argued that Learning Technologists should see themselves as agents and leaders of change at a strategic level and that we should aim for “a role where the learning technologist argues, lobbies, supports and resources change and where they work to break down functional barriers and silos between academic and professional services, in order to seek change through the development and celebration of a collective identity”.

Key Message – Technology affects power dynamics between teachers and learners.

Jonathon Worth spoke about his experiences as a photographer, how he learned to take advantage of the open nature of the web, and the resulting open course he ran. He discussed ethics around loss of privacy, changes to power within a class, cultural and technological barriers that might emerge, and how technology might affect trust. The idea that students should be asked to give informed consent around their use of ‘the digital’ is a challenge.

Key Message – Virtual field trips are possible, but require a lot of initial development.

Work from the School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds was presented, where they had created a field trip environment (works best in Firefox) using the Unity game engine. This allowed field trip activities to be undertaken without the travelling, and allowed disabled students to participate more fully in them. The level of detail was only really suitable for undergraduate study, and they are looking at the possibilities of developing it in more detail for post-graduate learners. Adding hand drawn field sketches to the simulation alone took 80 hours work, which indicates the time taken up by the project.


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Peter Beaumont
Learning Technology Development Officer

Blackboard World Conference – Part 3

Washington DC – National Harbour Conference Centre, 20th-23rd July

Final day!
The conference has been interesting but in particular our colleagues from across the globe have been wonderful.  We’re still getting people coming up to us saying “your session was great” and “so cool what you guys are doing”.  This is fantastic feedback to receive.  When meeting various reps and peers many of them have said as soon as they hear the accent “Where are you from?” and as soon as we tell them they respond with “Oh wow – I’ve heard of you guys!”  So we really are making a name for ourselves! Well done the EHU Learning Technology team!

Keeping Peace in the House: Best Practices for Ensuring Faculty & Institutional Adoption of Technology – Harriette L. Spiegel, Instructional Specialist, University of Tennessee at Martin
The first session of the day was around how to get everyone on board with technology changes, developments or additions.  There was quite a bit of audience participation to discover how other institutions handle technology adoption.  The methods are all very similar.  There seemed to be quite some emphasis on using video technologies (Collaborate, Skype, Zoom, WebEx) to provide support.  I suppose this is mainly as US Institutions can be quite large or very spread out.  We’re very lucky in Edge Hill to be able to pop and see someone personally relatively easily! Even so, we could investigate more screen sharing to provide support in a timely and efficient way – especially if needed urgently!

Customising the User Experience, One Tab at a Time – Robert Torres, Blackboard Administrator, Berkeley College
A great session where Robert showed some of the fantastic work he’d been doing on the Berkeley Blackboard Community pages.  He has heavily modified the entry page with lots of great ideas on where to place social media icons and also (because they are self hosted) app server checks for help desks to use for troubleshooting.  He talked through the rationale of the tabs and contents and also some of the code that had been used to combine lists into menus.  Take a look below (apologies about the ‘phone’ picture quality!)

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Increasing Student Engagement with Digital Badges – Melissa Stange, Lord Fairfax Community College; Richard Shelton & Dr Donna Shelton, Northeastern State University; Megan Cole – Badge Labs
An informative session about using badges in education.  They’re still building their evidence but early signs shows it works – mainly playing on competition between peers to encourage everyone to get involved! They are also working with external agencies to recognise the badges and awards to be used as evidence in CVs or in particular for specialist skills that certain companies require.  There are a number of organisations out there who are taking badges seriously and supporting creation and use, so hopefully this will be something fun for us to consider in the near future!

Product Innovations for International Clients in 2015 and Beyond – an overview
This session was much of the same that we’ve already heard.  Blackboard are trying hard to include all customers in their decisions – not just the US – and we have seen this effort in the development of some new features (although none that are particularly useful at the moment but hopefully could hold some potential in the future).  UK versions of Mobile for example come a little later than for the US but this has been explained that it is to ensure that localisation is done properly.  Good job we are a patient lot!

Overall, the conference was a fantastic experience.  We are doing lots of great work and will continue to do so so that the student experience is the best we can possibly offer when it comes to technology in education.

If you wish for any further information about what we saw, then please get in touch!
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Carol Chatten
Learning Technology Development Officer

 

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John Langford
Learning Technology Development Systems Officer

Blackboard World Conference – Part 2

Part 2 of the Blackboard World 2015 conference in Washington DC – National Harbour Conference Centre, 20th-23rd July

Product Roadmap – Jim Chalex, Director of Product Management (Blackboard)
This morning (or afternoon in BST!) we heard from Jim Chalex, Director of Product Management at Blackboard. He outlined the product roadmap for Blackboard Learn 9.1, in particular the next generation ULTRA interface.  This was heavily Tweeted by a number of people in the room as they gave details of how long 9.1 will be supported (or at least the service packs) and also which features of ULTRA are available now, which are in development and which were in ‘Research’.  It was particularly reassuring that Tabs and Modules – the focus of our presentation – will be included in ULTRA in the future as this is currently in ‘Research’. More to come on that shortly…

ULTRA sees a big change in the way users will interact with Blackboard Learn, with anticipated improved workflows and navigation.  If you want an early sneak-peek and a chance to evaluate the new interface, take a look at try.blackboard.com

Collaborate ULTRA
Our colleague David Callaghan is currently looking in to the new aspects of this revamped product.  The main change is the move away from having to install any Java applets before launching a session. There is also a ‘swishier’ minimalist interface, with easy access tools. The whole product has been rebuilt and quite frankly looks great, although some features are currently missing such as break-out rooms and polls.  These are promised soon!

The Collaborate ULTRA Building Block (B2B) was released last Friday (17th) which is great news as this was holding up our testing.  We look forward to incorporating it soon.

Mobile
The new student version of Mobile Learn (UK) has been promised by Q3 (although we suspect we may not actually see it until the end of the year).  The very final session we’ll be attending is the International Product update, so more to come on our final post.

The new Instructor app is ‘coming soon’.  This will be a dedicated app to support academic staff in using Blackboard on their mobile device.  There is currently available a Bb Grader app for iOS but this is purely to mark papers.  The new Instructor app will incorporate most tools but specifically for Instructor use with Instructor functions.  There will also be an Android version.

Respondus Lockdown Browser

While looking round the exhibition hall, we took some time to speak to vendors of proctor (or invidulator) free testing environments. One that stood out was Respondus Lockdown Browser and Respondus Monitor and it’s something we will be feeding back to our colleague Martin Baxter who is working with the Business department to evaluate online testing environments.

And finally…  “They Loved The Tabs!”

Well that was the feedback from colleagues in the audience, following our presentation. Carol and myself presented on the customisations Edge Hill University had implemented to Blackboard Community Engagement over the past 24 months.

The presentation was well received and many institutions both applauded the customisations we had delivered and empathised with the challenges we faced; from Tab and Module administration/management to the particulars of sourcing reliable accurate data for staff secondary institutional roles.

One particular section of the presentation that stood out was our implementation of the NEW_STARTER role for new students joining the institution. Colleagues were fascinated to find out how the data was sourced to facilitate this role. We also suggested alternatives, such as an adaptive release for those who didn’t have technical support readily available, to implement a data feed.

During our Q&A session, a discussion took place surrounding the future of Tabs and Modules and how they will fit in following the announcement of ULTRA. Fortunately, Matt Franks From Blackboard was able to provide some guidance on the UX in the next version of Blackboard.

After the discusion he asked for our feedback on a beta design of Tabs and Modules. As we have extensively customised our environment.  Matt asked if we would like to be part of the client consultation process so we exchanged contact details and will now be feeding directly in to the research and development of the new Blackboard user interface, in particular Tabs and Modules!

Our final post from the conference will be coming soon!

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John Langford
Learning Technology Development Systems Officer

Blackboard World Conference – Part 1

Washington DC – National Harbour Conference Centre, 20th-23rd July

John Langford and myself were invited to present at the Bb World Conference this year, demonstrating all the good work that Learning Services have been doing to customise and target content for our students by Faculty and Department.

We thought it would be a good idea to blog whilst attending the conference so as to ensure we keep in touch with our keen blog readers and also report back whilst very much fresh on our minds!

We’ve seen a number of great presentations today;

Using Template Variables and Creating Your Own – Brett Stephens, Systems Analyst, University of Miami
Brett demonstrated ‘template variables’ which are included in the main Blackboard platform and how he created a script that allowed the Institution to target a specific, unique to each user URL to complete a national student survey just to the students that it concerned.  This then also linked into a building block that could be deployed on Blackboard to activate or deactivate it.
This rings with what we are aiming to achieve with our own tabs and panels.  Being able to target content to unique users is a very powerful feature and one which I hope we can investigate further.

Leveraging Web Analytics in Blackboard Learn – Terry Patterson, LMS Application Administrator, University of Missouri
Terry is a highly entertaining Technologist with enthusiasm for analytics.  He has deployed a piece of software called Piwik to help gather useful statistics and data on student use of Blackboard including (but not limited to): Visitor barometer, Real-time map, real-time visitor count, visits over time, browser use, visitor platform and browser, track users flow of page clicks (so from which internal pages to other internal pages), hot spots on pages and also break this down into the tabs and tools used.
We would need to work out if it offers more than what Google Analytics currently offers us, but the dashboard looks really good and so could be a powerful tool to help educate others on the trends and habits of our users to help inform us to enhance their experience.

Best Practices for Implementing Blackboard Communities – Adam Voyton, Instructional Technology Project Specialist, Wilmington University
Adam gave a demonstration of their Communities integration covering how the Institution has developed and organised their tabs and modules (panels) and also how they handle Organisations.  Wilmington, interestingly enough, uses entire webpages for some of their tabs so as not to duplicate content.  It would be interesting to see what our students thought of that approach and whether it would work!  Overall, it was great to see very similar practice to our own occurring ‘across the Atlantic’ and we’ve picked up a few ideas that we’ll be bringing back to improve our own management and development.

Opening Keynote – Jay Bhatt, Jon Kolko, Annie Chechitelli and Stephanie Weeks, Blackboard
So the sessions above were the close of DevCon and the opening of the main conference, so now was the opportunity for Blackboard to speak.  The recording will be up online soon and we’ll provide the link as soon as possible but here’s a very brief summary:
The main focus was on the idea of ‘The New Learning Experience’.  This involves; focus on the learner; connected workflow; user experience; accessible and always on environment; and data analytics.
We always strive to provide the best experience for our students and of course there’s always room for improvement but it looks like Blackboard will be providing products that will support this…watch this space!

I suppose the last thing to mention is that we filmed our session for the online conference community today.  I must say it was very odd having to have your hair and makeup done for filming (just to powder off the shine – and I don’t just mean me but John too!).  We’re so used to being the voice behind the screencasts!  Anyway, we had to trim it to keep it concise but we hope we got over what needed to be said.  See what you think once it’s available.  Again, we’ll let you know the link.  (I won’t be watching it though!)

Here’s a photo of the film set…I won’t post the photo of John having his makeup done – he might never speak to me again!

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That’s it for today – off to the Welcome Party, so more to come tomorrow where we’ll be presenting!

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Carol Chatten
Learning Technology Delopment Officer

Blackboard Catalyst Award: How Learning Edge helped the win!

The Learning Technology Development (LTD) Team has had a very successful 2014.  We’ve implemented and seen some great things happening with technology enhanced learning throughout the University.  More noticeably the faculty specific tabs and resources generated on Learning Edge and of course the continuing success of all the iSpring resources for staff and students. With this in mind I can’t help but think ‘where we would all be without the training and development to understand and support its use on a daily basis?’.

 

Cast your minds back to early May this year when you might recall that Edge Hill University received a Blackboard Catalyst Award for the Developing Digital Excellence (DDE) series under the University’s Staff Development programme.  Blackboard commended the DDE programme for its dynamic approach and good practice based on its blended provision of staff development with its use of TEL related tools.

 

As part of the award, Blackboard invited myself and Carol Chatten to present a live webinar to an international audience on 16th October 2014.  Here we had the opportunity to share our experiences on creating and managing the Developing Digital Excellence series and of course highlight the areas that enhanced the sessions delivered. The webinar itself was recorded and so you can now have th opportunity to watch it for yourself if you didn’t manage to make it on the day.

 

Access the recording here.

 

If you’ve haven’t attended one of the DDE sessions yet, what are you waiting for? Why not try one of the award winning sessions now by exploring the ‘Staff Development’ area on the staff GO portal today! We have a number of events coming up in the Digital Office and Practitioner strands.

 

Enjoy the recording and hope to see you very soon…

 

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Mark Wilcock & Carol Chatten 

Learning Technology Development Officers

 

 

Games for Health UK Conference at Coventry – 14th May 2014

1On Wednesday 14th May I attended the Games for Health UK conference, held at Coventry University’s Simulation Centre. This was a satellite event linked to Games for Health Europe, which is an organisation based in Amsterdam.

Jurriaan van Rijswijk spoke first, talking about Games for Health’s vision of using games as a way to change education, promoting active learning and behavioural change. As an organisation they want to help game creators in institutions to share their work more widely. He also said that the ‘Games for Health’ book that they had published, which contained proceedings from their 3rd annual conference, encouraged people to take the organisation more seriously.

Next, Sebastian Yuen talked about wearable technology and how this can be used to change patient behaviours. He was able to talk about his own experience using Fitbit and talked about the possibilities around using badges.

Charlotte Lambden who is a Research Therapist at Newcastle University spoke about a game that they had developed to help with the rehabilitation of people such as stroke victims. It is called Limbs Alive and encouraged people to perform a range of movements and tasks, helping the patient see their progress.

Paul Canty from Preloaded spoke about a range of games for health. You can explore further on the Games with Purpose and Games for Change websites, but examples were FoldIt, Family of Heroes, The Walk, Dys4ia, Actual Sunlight, and Touch Surgery.

Pamela Kato talked about the future of games for health. She says we need research to help us understand if games work, for whom, when and how. We need quality games, and distribution channels so there are places where people know that they will find high quality games. She also gave advice on making games saying to be precise about what you want when dealing with game development studios, because they cannot do your job as a medical professional or academic. She was keen on people hiring artists to work on the game to make them look better, and including the target group in development at each stage to make sure there is nothing that would prevent that group using the game. Games she mentioned were Re-Mission 2, and Plan-It Commander.

Jamie MacDonald from Fosse Games shared from his long experience in the games industry, again pointing out the importance of quality and customer recommendations in making a game a success. He said a key area to look at is innovation. This can be leading in new categories of games, with new audiences, and in using new hardware, but it can also be smaller scale evolutionary innovation within an existing genre.

Finally Adrian Raudaschl spoke about gamification, John Blakely spoke about games to improve the training of Junior Doctors, and Alex Woolner about growing Games for Health UK.

Over all I was impressed by the organisation and its aims. There was a focus on the importance of producing quality games, and on sharing games that have been created. Because of the cost of creating quality games, the reuse and sharing of what has been created seems vital if the use of them is to grow and make the investment worthwhile.

It is certainly going to be useful to keep in touch with what is going on in this organisation, to know what sort of educational games are being created and how people are using them in health contexts.

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Peter Beaumont
Learning Technology Development Officer