Reflecting on ALTC 2019

The UCISA bursary that I received, allowed me to attend the Association for Learning Technology conference in 2019, held at the University of Edinburgh.  Having never been to a conference of this length or intensity and never having been to Edinburgh, this was a fantastic opportunity to meet and network with fellow colleagues and to stretch my knowledge of learning technology.

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My role at the University of Kent at Canterbury, is in the Commercial Services department, looking after core IT systems and development.  Commercial Services is the largest department in the organisation, managing accommodation, catering, sports & leisure facilities, and arts & culture facilities for the university.  My background is in IT Management but I am also a qualified teacher of Computing and currently a Master’s student.  Attending ALTC 2019 has allowed me further to develop my knowledge in the field of learning technology and extend my network of contacts.

Within my role in Commercial Services, I managed a project to trial LinkedIn Learning within the department as part of a wider university initiative.  Along with my experiences as a teacher and postgraduate student, I have been familiar with a wide range of learning technologies and I was keen to extend this.  One of the primary motivators for my interest in attending this conference was to see what technologies could be employed within my own department to support the training needs of staff members.  Our finance team make use of a set of courses available through a Moodle site run by the British Universities Finance Directors Group (BUFDG) and our housekeeping teams have been developing their own training inline with that of the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICS).  Through my role, I have gathered a set of courses including the ACT (Action Counter Terrorism) awareness course from the Home Office and PCI-DSS awareness courses from the PCI-DSS special interest group.  It was my hope that I might be able to get a better understanding of the current learning technology field, so that I might be able to create an offering for our staff to include all of this training.

McEwan Hall at the University of Edinburgh
McEwan Hall at the University of Edinburgh, where many of the talks to place

Although my background is in IT Management and Commercial IT, I have a passion for learning and attending ALTC 2019 has enabled me to get a better understanding of where I want to develop my career.  Many of the talks and demonstrations at the conference, were directly relevant to what I wanted to learn about, with some of the talks stretching what I thought was realistically possible in a learning environment.

Professional Development

The talks on Learning Analytics were very interesting, particularly in relation to measuring and encouraging the engagement of learners.  The LinkedIn Learning trial within our university produced some useful statistics but they were not that easy to report on and the statistics for courses that I had curated, were non-existent sadly.  I found it useful to see what others were using and trying to achieve with their analytics.

There were a lot of talks related to Open Education and what that means for the future of learning.  One of the talks inspired me to take a FutureLearn course by the authors, so that I could learn more about their experience with open education.  In fact, I have been getting more and more interested in open education and have continued to take many other courses on the FutureLearn platform from the Open University.

One of the most fascinating talks that I attended was a very brief overview about the use of holograms by the London School of Business.  The hologram technology from ARHT Media allows the projection of a lecturer or guest speaker into an auditorium where they are physically not present.  The person being projected is able to move around the stage or sit on a chair in a line with other people who are physically there.  This was particularly relevant to Kent because our Business School is split between our Canterbury and Medway campuses but we also have campuses in Brussels and Paris.  The potential of being able to collaborate with the London School of Business in lectures as well was very interesting.

HE and FE IT community

ALTC was a great opportunity for meeting colleagues from other universities and to make new connections.  When I have attended conferences in the past (particularly as a teacher), it was the informal discussions and opportunities to make new connections that I found most valuable.  This was indeed true of ALTC.  In fact, I attended a talk by two of my colleagues from Kent; I didn’t know that they were going to be doing a talk and had not previously met them (having only been working at Kent for just over a year).  Ben Watson and Dan Clark presented the work that they had been doing on accessibility at Kent for the new regulations coming in for public institutions.  Not only was this a great presentation but it enabled me to connect with my Kent colleagues and we went on to enjoy some Haggis and Whisky together later in the evening.

UCISA is probably familiar to most of my colleagues in our Information Services department but a lot of us in IT, including myself, work outside of this department and are not so familiar with the organisation.  I have been working with colleagues on the implementation of the Technicians Commitment at Kent and our new technical services structure will hopefully enable more interactions with bodies like UCISA.


Jason Townsend

IT Systems, Development and Support Officer

University of Kent


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