Sydney Teaching Colloquium on Blended Learning – Day 2


The second day of the colloquium kicked off with presentations by A/Prof Adam Bridgeman, Chemistry, and Dr Sandra Peter, Business School, who spoke about how they have flipped their classes. You can see a short video here on how Adam uses worksheets and demonstrations in his lectures – because when you put some of the lecture content online, there’s more room for fun stuff. Adam showed us some student feedback, including this memorable statement:

Sandra Peters has also had success flipping her classes. Her videos of industry experts are a great way to show subject relevance:

Sandra also encouraged people to take small steps towards flipping their classes. Just add some online resources, you don’t need to change the face-to-face classes at first – work towards it. She showed a great slide of herself at home recording a video using her smartphone balanced on a tower of containers!

During question time, Adam said that peer observation was a useful way for academics to develop their teaching. And research agrees (including my own research *cough, cough*). Adam said that sitting in the back row was a good way to see a class from a student perspective.

After the morning tea break, there was a choice of two sessions. I’m not sure what happened in the ‘Learning Analytics’ session, though one of the presenters, Dr Abelardo Pardo, kindly shared his slides via Twitter:

I was at the session on ‘Gizmos, apps, learning tools and personal devices’. We heard from three speakers:

Prof James Arvanitakis, University of Western Sydney (2012 Prime Minister’s Australian University Teacher of the Year), A/Prof Gareth Denyer, Molecular Bioscience, and Craig Smith, Autism Spectrum Australia & Apple Distinguished Educator

All three were inspiring speakers, and I’ll give just a highlight from each. James gave a definition of blended learning that didn’t mention technology:

Gareth, like Adam and Sandra, has also successfully flipped his classes:

And Craig told us about how he uses creatively uses technology such as iPads used to teach children with autism. He also gave us a bag of ‘digital candy’, which James Humberstone has helpfully collected:

The day concluded with a student panel and group discussions about students’ expectations and experiences of technology. The student panel said that they valued animation, simulations, role plays, online submission of work, facilitated online discussion spaces & the technology working. There was strong agreement that students want lecture recordings and lecture slides to be available online, which sparked an interesting discussion on Twitter:

Some of the notes from the table discussions were shared on Twitter, which is good because I was roving around with a mike and not able to take notes:

Then, finally, A/Prof Simon Barrie closed the colloquium with some comments on what happens next:

It’s fitting to close with a tweet from Tai, because she did such a fantastic job organising the colloquium. Thanks to Tai and all who presented and participated – it was a great two days.

Sydney Teaching Colloquium on Blended Learning – Day 1


Yesterday, Wednesday 2nd October, was the first day of the University of Sydney’s annual Teaching Colloquium. This year the theme is ‘Blended Learning for Engaged Enquiry’ . Here are a few of my impressions.

During the keynote address by Professor Pip Pattison I made a note to look up these reports on MOOCs: More than MOOCs by Austrade and Maturing of the MOOC, a literature review commissioned by the UK government. Pip also mentioned a recent paper that shows that non-tenure track academics are better teachers than those with tenure. In a group activity after the keynote, our table discussed possible outcome measures for blended learning, and came up with the following:

  • student assessment outcomes and quality
  • participation and engagement – students will participate if they see the value in doing so
  • ‘mastery’ – connects to intrinsic motivation
  • meaningful collaboration between students
  • students report that they are motivated to engage in the unit of the study (this data could be collected at the beginning, middle and end of the unit)

For the rest of the day we heard from Faculty leaders and academics on what they are doing in the blended learning space. There are some fantastic initiatives, and there were also thought-provoking questions and comments from both the live audience and those on Twitter. Here are some of my favourite tweets from Day 1:

This is turning into a bit of a Storify, so I’ll stop there! But perhaps this gives a small taste of the conversations that were going on, both in the room and on the Twitter back channel.

To conclude day 1, we heard from the Vice Chancellor (who had something perplexing to say about distancing assessment from teaching, but more on that another time) and then we celebrated our award winning teachers. Those who stayed for the team trivia had lots of fun, with the trophy going the Engineering and IT team ‘The Turing Testers’.

Off to Day 2 now, more later.