Field Notes From…ALDinHE Conference 2024

13 June 2024 by Catalyst IT Europe

In this new series, “Field Notes From…”, the Catalyst team brings you firsthand reports from industry events, unpacking the latest developments and innovations shaping the future of education technology (ed tech) and higher education.

We dive into the key takeaways and insights gleaned from industry events, providing you with a front-row seat to the latest trends transforming the education technology and higher education landscape.

This edition features Sam Taylor’s insights from ALDcon24, an annual conference for those who champion the development of academic skills in students. Let’s jump in…

Field notes…ALDcon24

Briefly introduce yourself and your role at Catalyst Europe:
Hi, I’m Sam, Practice Lead for Pedagogy and Community at Catalyst IT. My role involves working with our partners to promote good practice in their use of educational technology, as well as supporting programme and course development teams in building great digital learning experiences. I am also the account champ for some of our University partners, and love talking about improving the student learning experience!

Tell us about the event?
I have just attended the Association of Learning Development in Higher Education’s (ALDinHE) annual conference in Glasgow, an event aimed at those who support the development of academic skills in students. The key conference themes this year highlighted the need to recognise that the student body is becoming even more diverse, but also is required to rapidly adapt and understand how AI will affect their learning experiences, assessments and possible future careers.

What were some of the key themes and trends you noticed at the event?
This year’s themes were:

  • Building Learning Development for the future
  • Building inclusive Learning Development spaces
  • Building empowering student partnerships in Learning Developments 

Lots of talks and discussions were around empowering students to drive their learning, rather than seeking support after a negative experience. One such session asked questions around Academic Integrity, and how we can encourage students to understand why it’s important to be honest in the creation of work to be assessed.

Another common discussion point was around the value of partnerships, and as someone who values learning from others in different teams, this really struck a chord with me:

  1. Between different departments and roles (librarians, lecturers, employability skills developers etc)
  2. Small scale between the learning developers and the student themselves – less ‘I’ll solve your problem’ and more ‘let’s work this out together’
  3. Between a network of local universities
  4. Between the wider ALDinHE group

Were there any specific presentations or talks that stood out to you? Why?

I had two that really stood out for me!

My favourite Tuesday session was on The 5 Ps of LD in Practice: Student partnership approaches in 1-2-1, workshops and online work by Dr Helen Webster – University of Oxford. In this session they talked about how approaching students as individuals, with their own set of skills, knowledge and experiences, could help shape and determine how to successfully help them to reach their own goals. We were tasked with identifying what knowledge each party brings with them to a 1-2-1 support session, which was very interesting; LD staff have a lot of knowledge around strategies for success as well as insider knowledge of processes and where to find resources, and the student has the subject matter knowledge and knows how best they learn! 

My favourite Wednesday session was a short talk on Where’s the fun in that? Building an authentic, inclusive, serious-yet-playful learning development framework By Vic Boyd, Alexander MacDonald; Caroline Fleeting; Fiona Gibson from the University of the West of Scotland. Here they talked about a pilot programme where they created a 20 credit module that ran across 2 semesters, to help improve students’ Academic, Professional and Personal Development (APPD). The activities and assessments required students to use the subject matter knowledge gained in their academic modules, and apply it to tasks set out in this module. The ‘products’ or ‘outcomes’ of the tasks were not accessed themselves, but their reflections captured in an ePortfolio were.

Did you attend any sessions related to Catalyst products, services or community? If so, what were the key takeaways? 

  1. Emerging trends or challenges for EdTech/Higher Ed.
    AI and correct application of AI – lecturers need to acknowledge it’s not going away, and to think about how they can support their students in the use of it to develop their skills, e.g. prompt engineering. Catalyst can work with LD teams, along with their Learning Technologist colleagues, to create online support and mini-courses on AI and the appropriate application of AI.
  2. Customer needs or pain points discussed at the event.
    More time, more resources, more people – however, 2024 is proving difficult to get approval for additional funding. Catalyst can help with the creation of online support and general orientation courses (such as the ones we help DCU with) for those students who are happy to use them, freeing up more time for existing staff to facilitate the very much-needed 1-2-1 sessions
  3. Interesting technologies or solutions seen.There’s been some discussion about designing delivery models that can be adapted for group learning sessions – these can be tweaked depending on the make-up of the class (eg all on the same programme, multidisciplinary, multi-levels, group drop-in sessions etc). I’m thinking about how Universities can utilise Moodle LMS better to facilitate all this.

How do you see these trends impacting the future of the edtech and higher education industry?
Closer partnerships between professional services teams within the university can really help to close gaps and better support students; new digital skills are emerging on a daily basis, and students (and lecturers) need to keep on top of them. Better collaboration will facilitate this, and technology can assist in the spread of awareness, support and creation of self-directed tasks to build up competence.

What are some key takeaways that Catalyst can leverage to better serve our client partners?
We need to raise awareness that we can help – we have expertise that can be tapped into to help many organisations make better use of their platforms. You don’t need to host with us to make use of our consulting and training services. We can save so many weeks of work with just a few short workshops with you!

Was there anything else relevant from the event that is not covered in the questions above?
Just to say this was a wonderful event, at 3 lovely locations (University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde, and  Glasgow Caledonian University), with a great supportive community, and a committee that knows how to organise a great conference! I hope to be back next year when it’s hosted at the University of Greenwich.

Conclusion

  • Key Themes and Trends:
    Focus on building future-oriented learning development, inclusive spaces, and empowering student partnerships; emphasis on academic integrity and collaborative problem-solving.
  • Standout Presentations:
    Dr. Helen Webster’s session on personalised student partnerships and the University of the West of Scotland’s playful learning development framework pilot program.
  • Impact on EdTech and Higher Education:
    Need for closer partnerships within universities to support emerging digital skills, leveraging AI appropriately, and adapting delivery models for varied group learning sessions.

A big thanks to Sam for sharing her insights! Stay tuned for more Field Notes From… as we continue to explore the ever-evolving edtech and higher education landscape.

Find out how Catalyst can assist your institution in making the most of your educational technology and enhance student learning experiences – talk to us today!