Thursday, September 10, 2009

ALT-C '09

For the past three days I've been tootling to and fro going up to Manchester for ALT-C 2009 and although I'm a bit shattered (understatement of the year) it was a really useful experience. While it is still fresh in my head, and before I crash out, here are my five highlights from ALT-C:

1. The VLE is Dead debate. Okay, not so much debating as a good ol' e-learning ding dong with no winner declared... but the best thing about that? Hearing people getting really engaged and passionate about e-learning! So often we get stuck in the mire of everyday institutional / academic battles and forget that e-learning has the capacity to really grip you and get you thinking. About its complexity. Its potential. Its issues. Its benefits. Drawback. The whole good, bad and ugly shebang.

2. Jonathan Drori's talk on making successful pilots and 'being mighty'. A super talk and he came up with 10 great pieces of advice about projects, so, in reverse order, here's his top 10:
10. Understand the barriers - cost, relevance, ease of use, experience, talent, resources, coherence. Be honest about the talent! This one is hard to do!

9. Think about who are you trying to impress!

8. Sort out project management from editorial leadership

There is a confusion between what is project management and what is editorial leadership and you need to know the difference between the two. In other words, you need someone to say 'that's a bit crap' and take that role in the project - it can make or break a project!

7. Ensure everyone understands the pilot! Seems obvious but so often we skip straight into what the project is now doing rather than giving it a background and contextual description

6. Understand where your pilot fits in

Whereabouts on this chain...

stimulate interest > engage > guide > communicate > create or 'do' something

... does your project sit?

Try to create virtuous circles

5. Choose good measures of success - make the measures make sense!

4. Partnerships - on this... when encountering new partnerships ask this question...

- what does each partner say they want?

then work out this one...

- what do they actually want?

No matter what they say, they may well also want a mix of the following: political influence / power / limelight / money / credit

Universities want some combination of the above - but contextualized
Personal agrandizement is also important!

3. Know everything you can about your audiences - don't just look at the known

2. A word on new formats and services - sketch it out using a storyboard. It's cheap, efficient and can open dialogues with people who should then be able to understand what your project is about

1. Is something missing? Ask yourself this question! Are you testing the wrong thing?
A useful and interesting talk and grounded in lots and lots of experience of projects, which was excellent. I loved his closing thought:

"Meet your audiences. Fiddle. Be curious!"

It should be every e-learning bod's mantra.

3. Excellent opportunity for putting faces to names - even though I did get the carbon footprint conference guilts from Terry Anderson's keynote you can't beat a bit of face to face stuff and I wish that the packed timetable and stupid amount of commuting I was doing had allowed for more chatting. :o)

4. Some great keynotes from Terry Anderson, Michael Wesch and Martin Bean and following the #altc2009 hash tag throughout their presentations gave a good sense of what was relevant to the audience too. Nice way to capture the 'relevance flavour of the month'.

5. The CrowdVine site - worked well and was a useful way to network pre-conference. Liked it and good to see that it was used by most people attending ALT-C.

Okay, so those are my five main highlights. What made the not so good list?

1. The catering!!! Absolute rubbish! Well, unless you like a queue, cheap biscuits, limited drinks and soggy pasta o'course.

2. The lack of quiet spaces to chill out. A seriously noisy venue and for little ol' me who has a bit of a struggle with tinnitus at the best of times, it made networking tricky.

3. PowerPoint overload. I came across presentations with too many slides. Too many notes per slide. Too quick transitions. Presenters simply reading out the contents of their slides. And a generally uninspiring PowerPoint-fest. There has to be a better way than PowerPointing everything. And I can feel a PowerPoint boycott coming on while I work out what that might be.

4. Hashtag spam on the Twitter feed for the conference. Must try to find ways of filtering spam when using hashtag aggregation for events... it's not good on any level.

Okay, am slinking off to collapse. Hopefully will get my 'thinking about it all' head back on soon once I've got a tad of energy back! I'll leave you with my twice-daily view of the Peak District which I had the pleasure of seeing on my gargantuan commute!

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